Ours: Part Two

Sunday~ January 17, 2010

He woke himself up with a yelp from the flailing of his out of control two month old limbs. I fought my c-section pain and was up from the chair in a stumbling rush, hurrying to see what was wrong. Through his pumping arms and fists, I saw the damage his sharp little fingernail had done to his face. There was a line of blood that started between his eyes, trailing down under his eye and running over his cherub chubby cheek, finding its resting place in my heart.

Then he cried and cried as I bounced my normally calm and peaceful little boy, a screeching kind of sound coming from him. The sound of a surprise hit of pain.

Oh I'm sorry Oh I'm sorry Oh I'm sorry, I said.

I thought I'd failed him, that's what I thought. Not cutting his fingernails right or some such thing.

And now I look back at myself in that memory, and I'm a bit confused at my own capacity to feel every little thing with him. It was only the beginning and yet I wore myself out with his every movement and experience.

I've only been a mother for about five years, but here I am already a bit calloused, a bit shut down to the constant intense emotion of this gig. Because there is no end to the things that will hurt my children, things that will go missed by me or things caused by me or them, things that will leave me wondering how I could have failed. How did I miss it? He's mine. I'm his mother, how could I?

Now, he turns to me and he shouts NO I WILL NOT as we fight, and his tears are like his blood hitting my heart and yet I'm so mad, so mad, so I just shut it off and try to think clearly about what to do next and how to keep him from thinking he can act this way. Then we fight some more and he kicks and screams until he's just too tired. He gives me a half-hearted apology while I hold him, wiping his tears and going numb because I don't have a clue if I'm doing even one thing right.

I can't and won't always be able to pick him up and hold him. After it, whatever it may be. I suppose this move toward feeling less is a natural step back, so he can grow up. I suppose going numb sometimes is serving its purpose. But here's the thing: I'm afraid of it.

I'm afraid of turning into one of those mothers that shuts down completely, waving her hand in the air like a white flag, rolling her eyes and saying oh I guess they'll be fine, what else can I do? Isn't all this cleaning and laundry and cooking and driving enough? There's just too much to worry about. So she stops feeling. So rarely does she feel that it surprises her family if she finally loses it, crying and rushing off to her room.

Yes, I know her. I know many of her.

I know it. I see it. Because I do it, too. I feel so much, so much...that sometimes I have to just stop. Just go numb for a while.

And it's exhausting. This roller coaster of connection and then swinging to disconnection. This push and this pull.

More than anything, I want to keep feeling for them, keep trying to understand. I want all of their wounds to hit my heart.

But of course, I could not survive that.

Oh yes, there you have it. Yet another of the thousand ways a mother looks to find balance and can't.

The balance of sharing her heart completely or just enough or not at all.

Pick one.

Finding just the right balance is as impossible as sprouting wings and learning to fly.

How did I miss it? He's mine. I'm his mother, how could I not know? That's what I'll say, whatever the balance, that's the thing.

And like that small cut to his head I will wonder, did I do it wrong?

Even if it's not my fault, I'll blame me. Because even now, I watch him sleep and see the way he clenches his jaw, grinding his teeth and I wonder...is he anxious because I'm anxious? And I wonder...is my impatience making him feel like he can never ever do even one thing right?

Paralyzing. Terrifying. Numbing thoughts. Many that have no grounds but creep in.

Those thoughts are there because even though I'm not entirely responsible for his actions today or in ten years or twenty, I still feel so entirely responsible.

I so badly need the thoughts that bring peace, some hope...

This hope is in a balance that I can actually count on, one that I cannot see and would never predict. It is of all things working together, my failings and my strengths, his failings and his strengths, until there is a completion that I never thought possible. A beautiful mess. A person growing up who learns to feel deeply for others even when his mother could not always do the same.

Two small people, growing up to be exactly who they were intended to be, no matter what my failings.

That is my hope, and I know it's all wrapped up in grace.


The first post with the title Ours is about the feelings of mixed grief and joy a mother has when first bringing her baby home. You can find that here.

33 clicked right here to comment:

Robin Arnold said...

Heather, it's going to be fine. You go through this stuff so by the time your kids are ready to leave home, they're ready to leave home, and so are you. I promise you, you want them to grow up and leave home. Really. In the mean time I'm praying for you.

Erin said...

Mothering is so much bigger than all of us, and that makes it scary. You can read a million books and talk to others, but you never really know if you're doing it right. You never know if your children will turn out. You never know if you're too patient or not patient enough, but I think the fact that you're aware of it and you worry and doubt and want your babies to never hurt or cry shows what a good mother you are.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

I wish we mothers all got this: WE ARE ENOUGH. (I'm not pompous; it's a lesson I need to learn and relearn myself over and over.) We just need to give grace a chance... it fills up the space left by our okay-because-they're-there-for-a-good-reason failings.

I read another post today that said something that hit me: (paraphrased): If I were everything to my children, what would they need God for?

And I just can't get over how adorable Asher is in those glasses!

Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

"Two small people, growing up to be exactly who they were intended to be, no matter what my failings."

Yes! This. Totally. It was God's design from the beginning for those two little ones to be entrusted to the two of you. You were never meant to be perfection for them, for if you were, they would have no need for the One who is perfect. Your failings pave the way for discussions on love and forgiveness and redemption.

It is in our homes that we teach our children what it is to be in relationship with others. It's messy, it's imperfect, and it pants for grace. They are learning. You are learning. You are teaching. They are teaching.

It's beautiful, really.

Corinne said...

I think everything you brought up is why I've turned more towards my faith since I've had the kids. Because there is so much out of our hands, but hopefully someone's got it under control...
But everything you wrote about, I know. I feel it too. And it sucks, and then it's good again. Ahhh motherhood. Loved this Heather.

Ann's Rants said...

Like Diapers and Divinity says, these are the moments we have to have faith and

Let Go.

Trust in your instincts. Honor your limits. Breathe.

Everytime we are imperfect with our kids is an opportunity to say humanity is imperfect and here is why. Here is what I wish I could do. Here is what I wish I did. I wish I had all the answers, and none of us do.

Like I always do in your comment section I talk to you, but really I'm talking to myself of course.


Boy Crazy said...

I liked reading the first comment in this post. I could tell she was of a different generation than those of us who have been at it for 5 or 6 years. She sounded like my mom. My own mom, who when I tell her what a wonderful mother she was, tells me there's so much she'd do differently, that she thinks we turned out well in spite of her.

And I sit, slack-jawed, at her hindsight. Because I see it so differently. And that even though I remember her yelling and crying and stressing, I remember her listening and caring and laughing and you get the picture.

I look back at my mom and I see a person, not a saint. And there are ways I want to be like her, and ways I hope I'm not. But that's what therapy's for, right? ;)

Anyway, just saying -- keep caring, keep breathing. Live each day and then let it go when your head hits the pillow. Fresh start with each sunrise. With each moment, actually.

Love you.

This Heavenly Life said...

I know. The above comments are so well-put, that all I can say is, I know.

Why do we have to overanalyze every move we make? I see mothers who seem to not care in the least about the future impact their decisions will be making...am I wrong about them? Are they just shutting down because they don't know how to move forward?

And how can I guarantee that won't be me? Is there a difference between thoughtful intentionality and crazy overanalyzation? Where's the line?

Kazzy said...

I have to go numb sometimes too, for different reasons than you since my kids are older. But mommy numbness is the same in many ways, no matter the ages of our children.

Anonymous said...

Oh man, Heather. Your words are my heart. I'm keeping this open in my browser so I can read it again in the morning. I'm so afraid that I'm shutting it all out-- going numb-- because it's all TOO MUCH.

So thankful for grace.

Elaine A. said...

Sometimes I read your posts like this and I don't know how else to respond except to say that your words truly move me. Because they SO do.

Em said...

It never occured to me that other mothers worried about this, the feeling deeply part.

The unspoken worry. At least for me.

Thank you.

Kelly said...

I try to remember that my children will be who they are. I will shape them and life will shape them, but in the end, they will be who they will be.

Some days I have to bend because I worry that if I don't, I'll snap. For me, bending means sometimes not fighting that battle or not taking on that pain. But there's no snap, and therefore we're all gonna make it.

I just remember to love them, fiercely, even when I don't necessarily like them. It's the best I can do.

Rebecca said...

Heather, I completely understand the numbness. I FEEL TOO MUCH. I don't know how to find balance either, but the Lord has reminded me lately that I am not relying on Him enough. Every day I wish that there was some kind of balance between it all, that my kids won't grow up to be short something I should have given them or lacking something I should have.

I have to take comfort in that I know I was supposed to have these children for a reason. I just hope what I do will be enough.

kirsten said...

Wow, you've got some wise & wonderful commenters here.

My mom is someone who has spent her mothering career Feeeling. It. All. and it exhausts her. She constantly worries that it all comes back to her mistakes, her lack of knowledge, her lack of foresight.

So I'm not sure what kind of mom I am - I'm afraid I do choose the 'go numb' approach maybe too often. But I love that you see it as part of that never-ending search for balance, and my most most most FAVORITIST part is this: "...I know it's all wrapped up in grace."

Indeed it is my friend, indeed it is. Grace is ours for the taking.

Jen said...

The way you use words is just so powerful.

Brianna said...

YES! YES! YES! I feel it too. Thank you for sharing.


Gale said...

"I suppose this move toward feeling less is a natural step back, so he can grow up."

You're four years deeper into this parenting gig than I am. But I sense that the evolution you describe has a larger purpose. In addition to sparing us, as mothers, from drowning in the pain of every skinned knee, it helps our children learn to express their pain. As infants they are wholly dependent on us to find and fix the source of their pain. But as they grow up they need to be able to say it for themselves. And ultimately, they need to be able to fix it (or ask someone for help) for themselves as well.

You feel callous now. But it's an incredible coping mechanism your children will learn from your thickening skin.

Tina Dee Books said...

I agree with Brianna. We're all in this laundry basket together! God smooths out the wrinkles.

Sending a big hug to ya.


Kori said...

I don't have anything inspirational about faith or god to add here, no words of wisdom that are somehow going to shed light and help you find what balance means to you. All I know from my experience is that kids are resilient, and a lot of the things that you worry about doing wrong are not EVEN going to register in their minds. And none of us are going to do everything right, no.matter.what. And there WILL be things that happen that you can't fix that are not your fault, and all you can do is love them as best as you can.

Kimberly said...

Once again you have me in awe. You've put the feelings of my own heart so beautifully and eloquently into words that I'm practically speechless.

I wish it didn't have to hurt so much. I wish the temptation to go numb wasn't so strong. I don't know how to find the balance some days. Some seem exactly right, and others...I just feel like I'm falling and falling...

Julie said...

You really are an amazing writer! I am struggling with the same lately and you put it so beautifully into words. Thanks for letting me know I am not alone!

Lindsey said...

Oh, thank you for putting into such exquisite words the very push/pull that frames much of my life ... the vulnerability of being really there, and the exhaustion of that, and the withdrawal that follows ...
I agree with you, I don't ever want the calluses to get too big, I don't want to be checked out all the time. That is the bigger risk, I think, actually, than the risk of having my heart broken.

Laura said...

Yes, it will be fine and only because of grace. You're so right.

I see too many of those moms who shut down, too, especially boy moms. (I have four, and I know how crazy that can be!) The answer is in balance...and that's only found through grace.

Enjoyed your honesty. There's encouragement for moms on my blog -- come see!

Blessed said...

"...Many that have no grounds but creep in."

That says it for me - most of my self-doubt, urgent beating up of myself with a mental rolling pin - most of that stuff it really does "have no grounds" but it still creeps in. I'm so thankful for Grace and Forgiveness and most of all - Love.

Amy@Bitchin'WivesClub said...

Really wonderful way to put into words what I think so many of us feel. It is hard to not think about how all our failings and missteps contribute to a child's future well-being or maladjustments.... Sometimes it is easier to pick apart all those not-so-great moments than to look at all the things we have done right and just nod in satisfaction, knowing that we did the best we could and that there wasn't/isn't anything more that you can do for your children.

When I fall into the line of thinking that my distance from the children is hurting them, I just remind myself that if I don't push them away then they can't grow up to their full potential, either. It's not healthy for me or them.

I also think to myself that I will bail them out when they need it, but I won't take responsibility* for what they've done.

*Unless the law says I have to.

Angie said...

Oh, yes, it's so very exhausting and so easy to shut down, but I feel your fear and your struggle. I just had a huge NO I WILL NOT night with my oldest, and I got so angry. Then I looked at his little face and realized how much I loved him... how deeply I loved him. So I sat down and told him. And he melted. Sometimes I think they just need that, to know that we love them no matter what, no matter how we have failed, no matter how they have failed.

I am so thankful for grace wrapping our lives... all of us. Thank you for this.

amanda said...

i can't believe i really met you. i never knew i needed too. and then i read this? i sooo needed you.

at four o'clock in the morning. doesn't matter. i heart you.

Mammatalk said...

Just gorgeous. You and I are always going through the same stages.....It must be b/c our little ones are the same ages....Whatever it is, I so get you!

LutherLiz said...


L.T. Elliot said...

This is JUST what it feels like being a new mommy. Every little thing is my fault. Every little thing should have or could have been prevented. And yet...I'm growing and they are too and we're finding that there's so much more room for joy in our lives.

Lee of MWOB said...

Heather - I'm taking some time to read some blogs and I wanted to come back and read this again. I loved it the first time. Understood it the first time. And it means even more the second time around.

I know, for me, I can not go there completely - my heart all the time - feeling the weight of this job - feeling the responsibility that these little souls of mine demand - feeling the pressure to make sure I am understood by them - I don't want them to misunderstand me. If I went there completely - the love, the immersion, the everything that is being a mommy, I would cry all day long.

And I can not survive that.

So I let my brain take over for a while and I tell them over and over that I am not perfect. That mommy makes mistakes all the time. That I yell too much - that I want to do better - that being a mommy is something I am learning about more each and every day - and then the tears may fall for a minute and I tell them it's my love for them filling my heart up so much that it pushes up through my body and falls out of my eyes. My love for them....

The point is - there is no perfect balance - for just as much as I try to be the "right" mom in one way, I am the "wrong" mom in another way. And I remind myself that it doesn't matter because I am "their" mom and that is all that matters.

I hope they believe that throughout their life. I really hope they do.

Thanks for always keeping it oh so real...

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I spent most of my life feeling numb - so this mother love has been like a punch in the face. I often wish I could retreat - but that would be impossible. BUT I do have this talent for distancing myself - and I have to keep it in check every day.

This was really insightful.

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