16 September 2010

How I Know I'm a Mama

Little faces haunt my TV screen. Hungry faces, faces stretched old by illness and strains that small people shouldn't have to carry. Sobs rise, unbidden and uncontrollable, hardly mine yet coming from my mouth and shaking my teeth until they chatter.

Pictures, online, of little people chained to beds. We don't always handle disability well in my country, but we often do better than some places, where the sheer workload disabled babies create overwhelms. I see them, and I can hardly speak for hours. I pray, over and over, "Jesus, be with those babies," because there's nothing else to say that makes any sense.

A friend, one of the first I connected with in blog-world, writes of her own broken-hearted baby. Safe now, still inside her, soon that will change as they're whisked into the world of surgeries and tubes and heart monitors. There's a hard ball in my stomach when I read her posts, anguish that words and tears and even pounding fists can't ever, ever say.

I'm not one of those girls who always knew I'd make a great mama. I wanted kids, wanted to hold little hands and change little diapers and play silly games, but I never felt quite sure that I'd be any good at it.

The feeling only intensified when my daughter was born in January. I've written before about the bewildering months after she was born, months where I knew I loved her but I couldn't feel it for all the anxiety and fear that crept in. 

I didn't feel much like her mother at first. I didn't feel like I knew her better than anyone else did, and I wondered, in the quiet stillness of many dark nights, if she should have been given to someone else, to a mama who was meant to be a mama, to someone who could hear the difference in her cries (I still can't), and to someone who spoke "baby" as a native, because it was all I could do to fumble around and ask for the bathroom. 

As the bewilderment wore off and I began to find my way around motherhood, I thought the intense feelings surrounding children's pain would wear off. They began with my daughter's birth, with the flood  of hormonal changes that accompanies it, and I thought they'd wane as things settled. I thought I'd lose that sensitivity, extreme even for a soul that's been sensitive since the beginning, as my heart settled in.

Feelings, though, are a gift. They hold something for us, even when they're negative and overwhelming, some kernel of truth that we need to know and accept to life a life rich and full. My feelings haven't waned, haven't even lessend in intensity, and so I went hunting for that kernel, for something to make sense of the fact that seeing or feeling children in pain can send me reeling for days. 

When I see babies hurt, I want to take them in, to my life and my heart and my home, and ease their pain. And I see my own girl's eyes in their faces, her hands and her ears in theirs, and I can't stand the thought of her hurting that way. And I think of mothering hurting children, of holding hands and trying to ease pain and confusion when you can't take it away. 

Turns out, I'm a mama, as deep and wide as any that's ever been.

Linking with Emily and (a day late) with Ann . . .








holy experience

12 comments:

Brian Miller said...

i think us daddy's suffer from this as well...wondering if we will be a good dad...you never know what to expect honestly...and i hate to see kids hurt as well...which is why i work with the ones who have to help them find their way...nice write.

BLOOMING PARIS said...

this is a gorgeous heartfelt post! I feel this way with orphans. ;) In this category I think I would be a great Mama. ;) Thank you for sharing with us. hugs, Jenn

Kati patrianoceu said...

I don't have a baby of my own, but I know so well the feeling you speak about. I don't know where it comes from or what to do with it. Pray? Find a baby to love on? I'm glad that God has given you peace about where you are right now; may that stay and become stronger as the years go by!

thesavingmomparents said...

Wow...what an amazing post. I could feel all those gifts rising up within me as I read it. Thanks for sharing. ~Jessica

emily wierenga said...

oh sarah, you've captured it here: the angst of a mama. and i know, i didn't think i could do the mothering thing either, but it's something God plants in you with the birth of a child and it only grows until it affects everything and everyone you see... it's like this over-encompassing plant that feeds thousands... sigh. it's late. but i loved this post and i felt it with every fiber. well done friend. :) xo

SY said...

Aww. I don't have any children but my niece is very dear to...

I fear her getting older and going through life lessons of education, sex, and the mystery which is life.. but I don't fear her going hungry and for that I know she is blessed. Hopefully one day we can say that about more little children

terri said...

yes, i know this feeling. once you have a child of your own there's no such thing as an abstract child. i'm feeling it again as a grandma, a new round of risky love, and the rippling out of that love. that's what love does.

i love your voice.

Sharon Wang said...

Once again, your writing has moved me to tears. I wish I had the guts to write as honestly as you do. I did not feel a connection to my daughter when she was born, and in fact my husband noticed I wasn't holding her except for when I had to feed her and quickly tried to remedy that. Everything has changed since then. I love her so intensely that I'm pretty sure I could not go on living if anything happened to her. I too am sensitive to the sad and wrong things in life. I will probably never forget a baby that I saw at the mall on oxygen when I was pregnant. Or the baby at my daughters doctors office that was on oxygen. It is so sad to see innocent children suffering. I am so blessed to have a child that is perfectly healthy and that we can provide for.

Stacey @ Entropified said...

I felt intense pain at the plight of small children too when each of my kids was an infant. You just so close to how much they need real love and touch and you realize there are so many who don't have it. So painful.

That e.e. cummings poem is one of my favorites. Makes me happy to read it.

Flower Patch Farmgirl said...

Isn't motherhood wonderfully scary?? Beautiful write.

Karen Peterson said...

You definitely are a mama.

This is such a beautiful post. I'm not a mother, but I feel the pain of those suffering children as deeply as you do. And you're right. Sometimes all we can do is pray for them, even though we long to do so much more.

Sarah said...

Thank you all so much. I love reading your comments here, even when I'm too frazzled to reply to each one.