Crestone, CO. January 17, 2016.
This morning my 3 year-old, Odin, wanted to help put his 6 month-old brother, Angus, down for a nap. He brought in a Thomas the Train book, read it in about 10 seconds, then climbed into the rocking chair. I explained to him that mama needs to sit in the rocking chair to feed Angus. He got down, instructing me to bring Angus over to the bed, as he was “growing booboos” just like mama’s to feed Angus with. “See”, he said, “they’re popping out already!”. And he proceeded to lay down on his side to feed the baby.
Laughing, I convinced Odin to sit in the small rocking chair next to the big one, and sing a song with me while I nursed Angus. Needless to say Angus didn’t end up falling asleep until I was able to get Odin interested in something outside the room. And, after the monumental project of getting him down, Angus woke up 30 minutes later.
Parenthood involves a great deal of work that doesn’t create any footholds to launch you on through your day. Especially not with two (or more, I would guess) kids. It’s kind of like the walls are falling in on us and we’re constantly working our way out of the rubble. Or like we’re walking all day in dry sand.
A friend of mine — mother to two young daughters — was unable to attend the Blessing Way for Angus’s birth last summer. She sent this note in her stead:
“How do you make room for another? How do you find the time? The space? There is a secret…Your heart expands wider than you could ever imagine. Even wider than before. The rays of bliss crack you open into surrender. And when that space of love spreads wide? Time fills in. Trust.”
I have thought back on that note many times since I became a mother of two. Every word is the truth, discovered through my six months of mothering these two boys. Along with the indescribable joy of welcoming a new being into life, there is also grief in the path through this transition. Something I’m learning about grief is the power it holds to “crack you open into surrender”, more each day, and over again. Surrender to what? In the case of my two children, it’s love that is always enough to go around. It’s great, big love that is limitless by nature, and that we can see best when the containers we put it in are broken open. If my sons and I wrench through a particular day with trampled spirits, this love remains as grand as ever. I don’t have to be enough, because there is simply enough love, for two or twenty children (good heavens and god forbid).
The grief…well, upon arrival of a new baby, the older child must make space for another who is equally intimate with mom. Odin responded to Angus’s intrusion in ways that reflected a very pure brokenness of heart. He once told me to leave our home and go live in another house a few blocks away, that burned down. He and I had actually watched it burn down together, from our car, while Schuyler helped fight the blaze. There are lots of places Odin could have told me to go, and the fact that he ordered me to the “burned-down house” was apropos of the turmoil in his heart. I also recall one morning early on when Odin and his dad went to town and returned with a new “High Five” magazine from the mailbox. They dumped their other packages and immediately snuggled into the couch to read it from cover to cover. Odin and I used to do that! My own heartbreak was real, and I shed many tears for the lost intimacy with my older son even as the intimacy grew with the younger.
In truth, no intimacy is lost. Like energy, it changes, and we can see this particularly when commitment to one another remains as a container. Odin is now a big brother and I am mother of two. Angus is the little one, ever assaulted (or bolstered) by sound and chaos! Odin and I have been through a lot of challenging times since he was born, and every now and then I make eye contact with him and realize I barely know this complex being. It catches me by surprise. Angus also has this same depth in his eyes, and in it I feel the tricky nature of love. The coyote quality of actually being impervious to our advances on its territory, while we think we are shaping it this way and that.
At the end of another day, I regret the weary impatience I can’t seem to stop modeling for my sons. I wish I could have more energy at this juncture in life — isn’t that the irony of welcoming new life, that along with it we experience unprecedented (I hope) sleep deprivation and find ourselves nearly mad with fatigue. My heart is lightened though by my husband coming through the kitchen with Odin, on their way to bed, and my husband asking Odin to tell me something he likes about me.
Odin: “I like eating cardboard cookies for real. Goodnight mom!”.
Originally published at https://www.tumblr.com on January 17, 2016.