My 10 year-old boy yesterday handed me a water bottle from his backpack, leftover from several days ago. I’m sure in all the excitement of summer vacation he neglected to think about emptying his belongings. At least until he was packing for a sleepover (a bit heavy a half-full water bottle is you know). His simple, “Here mom” as he handed it to me sparked a rare moment in my heart where I melted into myself.
Usually the words would have passed right through me as I continued to think about my grocery list, check my latest e-mail, or curse out the thunderstorms that are wreaking havoc on my newly planted flowers. But I happened upon a moment in which I was fully present, and was able to accept this simple exchange from him, feeling so full and grateful in my heart.
So brief and yet so profound. How many women are just aching inside to be blessed with those few simple words, and yet through every effort imaginable cannot concieve a baby of their own? How many have held their children so briefly, without opportunity to hear their voice at all? Even still, those grief stricken mothers who will never hear it from their children’s precious lips again?
How easy it is to take for granted those everyday moments.
Working as a labor nurse is an open invitation to bear witness and experience with other families great joy…and great pain…when it comes to bringing their own children into this world. It’s like looking at a photo; a snapshot moment of someone’s life. I am allowed to be in that labor room as their little miracle arrives, sometimes even when her own mother is not. I am there too as she delivers her child by c-section when things don’t go quite right, wiping some tears of dashed expectations away, helping them focus on the joy of their birth despite the unexpected route.
And I am there with them when we cannot find the heartbeat. When they hear instead their newborn baby will not breathe with the life of this world. I witness the visceral screaming of a mother’s heart torn to shreds. I hold their hands, watching as the child is placed into their arms, looking heartbreakingly perfect…except for the missing rise and fall of the little round belly.
I have three boys.
Occasionally I will be asked if I will try “one more time” for a girl. Or someone will look at me with pity, that my third was not the girl I had presumably hoped for. My middle son even asked me one day if I was ever sad that he wasn’t a girl.
I will never deny that I had visions of fairy princess parties, giggly girl sleepovers and wedding dress shopping with my unborn daughter. I learned to french braid my own hair in the seventh grade, a skill that has yet to be proven valuable. I torture my young niece to come sit next to me so I can run my hands through her long locks, satisfying a small piece of a deeply rooted craving for that mother-daughter connection.
But I have three boys. I will tell you with my entire being I was nothing but thrilled when my husband announced as such to me at their births (all three were surprises, the one really good surprise I feel is left in this life to choose).
They are energetic. They wrestle, love trains, cars, video games, and football. I can barely keep up with their energy, constantly telling them to “quiet down” or “take it outside”. I cannot keep a single pair of jeans without a tear in the knee for more than a few weeks at a time (even the good brands). There are no barbies. No quiet moments of coloring. No frilly tu-tus or ballet lessons in this house.
And I love every moment of it.
I was pregnant once between my second and third son. It took my husband and I a long time to reconcile to the idea of a third child. I was ready, he was done. We talked. We fought. I cried and he resisted. We had finally chosen, together, to try and bring one more child to this world. I was thrilled to have it finally come to fuition. It was a dream come true.
Seven days later she was gone. I know in my heart it was my daughter that had rested so briefly in my womb. As devestated as I was, I will forever be grateful for the short time we had together that summer. She taught me so much. She taught our family so much. One of the most feared but valuable lessons in life is one of great loss and grief.
The day she left me I had been helping other women become mothers. I watched my own child’s life drift out through my blood, and yet there was no choice but to contiune on through my day. I will never forget the moment I returned home, knelt to the floor and held my entire family with all the stregnth I had left. My two beautiful boys and my husband encirlced around me as we all cried helplessly together for this lost piece of us.
When I realize I have allowed the moment of being called “mom” to be taken for granted, I do not chastise myself. It is such a normal part of my day there is no reason to believe it is anything but an ordinary moment. Instead I find gratefulness for that glimpse of bliss being present afforded me. I relished in the sound of my son’s voice calling me the most beautiful word I am privledged to be known as.
When I scrub the mold off my next forgotten water bottle, or pick up the dirty gym socks off the floor, I hope a fragment of that gratitude will return to me. As fiercely as I wanted a little girl to care for, the universe gave me the boys I really needed. My baby girl was with us as long as we needed her to be. To show us the healing power of release and comfort found amongst those you love in times of great sadness and loss.
For those of us who desire to, are fortunate enough to now be, or have ever been known as “mom”, there is not a more powerful, more beautifully spoken word. It is the challenge of us as mothers to see the greatness of what we have through the the pain of what is lost, or what might have been. But the journey of becoming mom is where the love is let into your heart.
It is only in the act of releasing through our grief that we are able to see life’s greatest gifts. For me, the blessing of my boys will never be lost in the shuffle of everyday life, even if I hold that in my heart without much conscious thought.
And when my son asks me if I am ever sad I got a boy instead, I can vehnemently and honestly reply,