Last night I read "Time for Bed" by Mem Fox and "Goodnight Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown to a very attentive baby boy who didn't even try to eat the books. Not once. That was a new record for him. He snuggled in and flipped through the pages from time to time and laughed a little laugh when I did the animal noises. Then I nursed him and I watched his eyes grow heavy until he finally gave up the good fight and fell asleep. I watched him sleep in my arms. Heavenly, I tell you.
Then I walked into Elliot's room and said that I had something to tell him that I wasn't sure I'd ever told him before. He sat up big and important and intrigued. "Being your mama is my favorite part of every day." "Really? Just me?" he asked, spoken like a kid from a fairly large family. "Well, you and your brothers and your sister. But, being your mama is my very favorite and the time I spend with you is the best."
He hugged me and kissed me and asked me more questions about how much I love him and told me how much he loves me and how I'm the best mama and teacher EVER.
I went and had a similar conversation with Audrey who said she would never want any other mama and she wouldn't even ever let anyone else be her mama if they wanted to. (Audrey is not accepting applications for fill-in mamas. So there!)
Finally, I chatted with Isaac about the great privilege it is to be his mama and how I'm so very glad he was my first baby. He shrugged his big 10-year-old shrug then hugged me nice and tight and told me he loved me, too.
Here's what I didn't tell them. I didn't tell them that mothering them leaves me raw. Exposed. Broken. That it brings my greatest fears and inadequacies to the forefront. That loving another person this much is, of course, beautiful and wonderful, but also dangerous and frightening.
Because my milk supply is dipping for no apparent reason and Asher won't take a bottle or a cup or anything else that has milk in it and I feel like I'm failing him. I keep telling myself that our relationship is about so much more than the way I feed him. I keep telling myself that I don't care how any other woman feeds her baby so why is this making me crazy. I keep telling myself that he is obviously getting adequate nutrition or he wouldn't be happy and growing and thriving. I tell myself those things, but usually I don't listen because sometimes he wants more than I can give him and I only feel failure. I only feel like my baby wants something from me that I can't provide.
Because Audrey tested positive for Lyme's disease and so far my conversations with doctors have yielded far more questions than they do answers and the possible short- and long-term effects of it are daunting. The more anecdotes I hear, the more confused I am and my mind is swimming with what I think I know and the magnitude of what I need to know in order to get the best care for my daughter. When really, the only thing I want to do is to take it from her, lock it in a box, and throw it into the deepest depths of the ocean so she doesn't have to deal with this.
It's what mamas want to do. And it's what makes it so hard because we know we can't.
I want to be so much for them. Mostly I want to be just enough that they know my love and support is a constant in their lives that they can come home to, fall back on, cry out for any time they need me, but that they are strong enough, smart enough, and ready for almost anything the world throws their way.
Being a mama is the best, hardest, most fun, most challenging, most beautiful, most frightening thing I've ever done. Balancing my desire to shield them from hurts with my desire to prepare them for this world is not an easy task and it is one I work on and pray about daily.
I didn't tell them all of that. I told them I loved them. Loved them with a big, fat, capital L-O-V-E. And I do. Goodness knows I do.
Mother's Day may be over in its official capacity, but this is a shout-out to all of the men and women who are loving and caring for kids so hard that it hurts. Thanks for being awesome!