(originally posted May 2012)
as i sit feeding zuzu this morning, i notice out the sunroom window the shoots of new growth on our tallest magnolia are marked by a brighter green than the old. you can see that everywhere in our yard; the wife who lived here before me was a gardener and planted the right things so that something would always be blooming no matter the season.
i doubt i’ll ever have such natural timing. in our sloping front yard you can see that luminous new green where the flowers have fallen away from the pink and white flowering bushes that i don’t know the name for.
i don’t think such growth is as evident in human beings. as much as life has changed in the past year, i look for the most part the same. not the same the same but similar.
last night was a long night. bryan moved to the guestroom around 2 because his rls was keeping us both up. zu woke up sometime in those murky hours completely soaked through–her jimmy-jams, her diaper, her cribsheets–and crying. i changed her automatically, without turning on the light, then held her. i love the heavy feeling of a sleeping baby against my chest. i kept her with me in our bed for a little while, something i rarely do, since she woke up everytime i tried to set her down. at some point she ended up in her bed, and i went back to sleep.
not so enjoyable in rapid succession, the occasional night up with the baby can be a pleasure, i’ll admit. the weariness in the morning redeemed by the purpose behind it. the satisfying ache of motherhood.
when i couldn’t breastfeed zu, it wasn’t guilt over giving her formula that bothered me. she’s healthy and happy as can be, formula-fed since 2 months old, so i don’t feel like it hurt her in any way. the hard part for me was that i was naturally incapable of caring for my child.
you know those “motherwomen” (as Edna from the Awakening calls them). the women that have always always wanted children, that babysat, that the babies always smile at, that said their career goal was mother, homemaker. i was never one of them. though i worked at a daycare and enjoyed children, i never thought much about having my own, not even a few years into marriage, before the baby bug bit. i was a little scared of them. i held a newborn baby carefully as a snake at the zoo.
then when i couldn’t breastfeed i felt like it was nature’s way of saying i wasn’t meant to do this. that i have already been proven incapable of mothering. the weight of that failure. the elaborate post-partum hormones wouldn’t let it go, for a long time. incapable, incapable. i held that word close.
even though what i was feeling and thinking wasn’t truth, it felt like truth at the time, it felt inescapably real. the dark confusion after having a child is the one thing i am afraid of about having more.
i think there is an obsession in mothers, an obsession of capability. we measure ourselves with unfair measures, mostly against the yardstick of our friends, families, neighbors. like comparing your very best orange to her most complex math problem.
i’ve worn myself out on such comparisons the past few months and i would like to let them go now. to stop gauging my parenting by how i feed my baby, my beauty on how much i weigh, my motherhood by how much i’m home. by God’s measurements i am utterly lacking but paid in full.
redeemed, how i love to proclaim it.
new growth and inexperience go hand in hand. i would like to take joy in my lack of expertise, the learning how to become a mother, the shaping constant shaping, clay on the wheel.