18 December 2008

Cracked up open

When I was a mother to a precious little 7-month old baby girl who slept quite a lot and nursed quite a lot, smiled and laughed, and never, ever talked back, I remember reading a blog entry by a woman who was parenting 3 little ones. Her children were about 1.5-2 years apart and her youngest was just a baby. She was writing about how she felt as though her life was breaking open. That she was leaving the past behind and that somehow in this family-with-three children, an outward casing that she had always imagined was herself was being cracked and chipped away to reveal something she hadn't realized was her true being.

I had no idea what she was talking about.

Over the last three years, things have changed a bit. And now I, too, feel as though I am breaking open -- peeling and cracking and sloughing off what I have been to become this thing that I didn't see before and didn't know and yet, am, at the most real level. I don't know how to describe it in my own words except to say that I am at this parenting precipice that I have been approaching for a while -- a ledge off of which I have been leaning, slowly shifting more and more of my weight forward, to the extent that now I am quite certain that my center of gravity is before me, not behind me, and it is out of my control. I'm going over the ledge.

Behind me, lay my past life -- one that was largely self-centered and self-directed and self-controlled, to the extent that one can ever control one's life. That life was self-ordered by ideas I almost completely understood and was most certainly right about. It was my life -- mine, mine, mine. And what it was or wasn't was my creation --my credit, my fault, whatever -- mine. It may have been largely illusory, but it was my illusion! :)

Before me, off of this parenting precipice, is this life that I can't quite imagine. It feels like it is this completely real place compared to where I have been and that ownership of it just doesn't and won't ever belong to me. That life out there before me is largely one of sacrifice and service. It is other-centered. And from this place, I don't know how to create it. I don't know how to manage it. It is something I don't understand and can't grasp and know that I have no ability to navigate on my own. It feels as though "out there" is where the Spirit is, though. And so that's where I need to be.

Over the last three years, I have seen this precipice approaching and I've been terrified of it. In many ways, because I can't see it, I am scared of it. But I have a sense that when I let go of whatever life (or death) line it is to which I am clinging from the old life, I will have a choice to either fall into the new life and as I fall, see this great beyond as some sort of void -- dangerous and scary and overwhelming and thus, be resentful of the lack of control. Or, and obviously this is the better choice -- I will have a choice to jump forth in faith and allow myself to be caught up in a wave of grace which I know -- I know, I know, I know -- will buoy me with wisdom and resources and guidance. I have this sense that the wave is not only there, but if I choose to ride it, that I will feel a joy and freedom that I've longed for all the while slogging through the life up above the cliff. But it won't be of my own making. And it is just a matter of whether I will have faith enough to trust it.

So. Did any of you other moms out there feel like this at some point? Is there just a point when you crack up, or open, or take the leap, or don't?


Sarah S-D said...

beautiful reflection, april. but as my baby is two weeks old today, sleeping a lot and eating a lot... i don't think i'm there yet... but in some ways the birth took me there... and for that matter the long journey to conception took me there... it was a lot about letting go, releasing control... check back with me in three plus years, k?

Anonymous said...

It took four children for me to get there, April. I guess I am still "getting there" in some respects.

This was very beautiful - He will be with you, under you, over you, around you....He promises!

Meredith said...

I think I am standing there right now, feeling wobbly and unbalanced, aware that a major shift is about to happen but scared at the same time.

You put into words what I've been feeling all month.

Tonya said...

Oh yes, I have been at this place numerous times. It gets easier to leap off the precipice after you do it a couple of times. Try adopting. That one will REALLY put you over the edge - there is so much uncertainty and scary letting go in that process that it would be dizzying if you didn't know who was in control. Moving from 2 children to 3 children is a big step because all the sudden, there are more of them then you have hands to hold on to them with.

You know those whacky verses in 1 Tim (I think?) where Paul says "a woman will be saved through childbearing"?. Well, obviously, I dont think he meant literal salvation since the rest of the Bible points to Christ as our only means of being saved, but I think I know what he meant. People can argue about those verses until they are blue in the face, trying to make sense of them, but I think a mother who muses over that passage for a little while will be the only one who really, truly understands it. I would not be where I am without the stretching and growing God has done in me through the medium of my children.

April said...

I had a feeling it must be a common experience. Thanks for your solidarity. It's good to know that others experience it, too.

Tonya, I think I know exactly what you mean about those versus. Childrearing has shaped me in ways nothing else has or could. It's amazing, miraculous...and painful sometimes.

Thank you all.

A. Lin said...

I felt it first 2 weeks before my first was born. It was my birthday--the last birthday that was solely mine, a day for me. I've never had that since. No one prepared me for the selfless way a mother has to be. I think it is something that is not realized until a woman is already there.