Growth as a mother

Growth as a mother. It's there all the time, this growth, this change, this evolution that motherhood works on my soul. I see it. I see it when first time mom's desperate for sleep reach out on facebook or twitter and all I can say is 'Yes, you are tired, so tired. I know. It's hard, I know. But I promise this too shall pass.' And I do know. My first baby never slept, or more correctly he never stayed asleep, he just never did. And I worried about it all the time. ALL THE TIME! Of course I did, I was tired and was told many times that unless I did something, things would never change. (Never change! Oh the melodrama of it all!) He's seven now and he sleeps great (and has for many, many years). So I don't worry anymore, when someone is up at night or has a string of bad dreams or trouble falling asleep. I know one day they will sleep again. And there it is right in front of me on this small little matter - the growth. Are you a mama or a daddy? If so, there it is for you too, look for it, you're growing, right in front of you. This parenting gig it shapes us, it molds us, it grows us. If we let it, I'm convinced it is one of the easiest ways to serve and love others and let those little scales of selfishness fall, one at a time. Parenting can help us burst into full bloom one day, even if right now we only see our little green buds starting to peek out among a whole bunch of winter bare branches.

Two nights ago my husband discovered watching home videos with the kids. (Why we haven't done this before I'm not sure.) I came home and my two year old said 'I saw me born in swimming pool mama, I saw you holding me in da kitchen.' And thus they were hooked.

I promised them more tonight and it was Liam's turn, my firstborn. I am there in very early labour sitting at the island in our Saskatchewan house, a whole lifetime and three houses ago, after my water had broken. Aaron and I are excited. There is hospital footage of early arrival, I'm still upbeat, then fast forward many, many hours and a swollen, tear-faced me trying to get some sleep post epidural. Then boom, I'm holding Liam all happy and we have a room full of family. They have driven from another province (and several different cities) once they heard I was at the hospital to get there, spent a night at our (empty) house and come the following evening to wait at the hospital for this new babe to be born.

It's the beautiful hour right after he has been born and his bottomless navy blue eyes that remind me of twilight are wide open and instead of holding him skin to skin, and staring in his beautiful face, or nursing him, I am busy with a room full of company. I don't think of asking anyone to leave or of holding him closer, I'm so overwhelmed by labour and relieved it is over. Then next scene is several more hours later and he is getting his first bath before we are moved to our room as per hospital policy. I'm sitting in a wheelchair in the empty nursery while Liam screams his head off, arms in the full startle position shaking the whole time, while a nurse and Aaron try to gently bathe him, too woozy myself to stand.

(This picture makes me feel so sad.)

My kids are mortified. 'Why he crying mama?' Haven (two years old) repeatedly asks in a panicked voice. Raine who is five asks where I am (holding the camera) and why aren't I stopping them. Liam says 'Being born in a hospital is harder because they are rougher.' I can hardly watch. I want to reach out through that screen and back in time and pick up my baby and say, no bath thank you, just take us to our room so we can snuggle.

But I can't. I didn't have it then, this compassion, this level of wanting wellbeing for babies and now other humans in general. It was being a mother that did it. Thank goodness it is slowly stripping my selfishness and starting to layer on the caring when someone is crying, the tenderness, the gentleness. The desire for wellbeing.

My kids are obviously worried (frankly my two year old is distressed) and sad about this frantic newborn and want to know 'Why is no one helping?' So I gather them on my lap and hold them close. I tell them. I tell them that no one told me that new babies aren't supposed to cry. No one told me that new babies like to be held on their mama or daddies chests. No one told me that babies like it best quiet after they are born. No one told me I didn't have to do what the nurses said. I tell Liam I am sorry and I wish I would have known. But you do know. So you don't have to give your new babies baths. You can hold them close and quiet. You do know different.

And there it is - the greenĀ peeking through. Because just seven years ago I didn't know. But they do, their little two and five and seven year old souls. Even though I just told them out loud with words, they already knew because this is how we try to love them.

The next scene shows Liam all swaddled, but he is snuggled in with Aaron. All the family has left and driven back to their own province and their own cities and we are blissfully alone. Finally I am holding Liam just in a diaper, on my chest covered by a blanket, all snuggled in bed. Still no one told me, but it just felt right. Raine says 'That's what babies like mama.' Yes darling, that is what babies like.

Living and breathing right in front of me is the growth.