I’ll be the first to admit that I used to be one of those annoying pregnant women who believed that she could will herself into having a natural birth – no medicine, no struggle, no problem. That was, of course, my first pregnancy.
I once read that the pain associated with giving birth is comparable to several bones breaking in the body at once, and I would have to agree. Every sense and pulse in your body tells you that you might be dying (and, truthfully, you kind of wish you were), but the catch is that you must deliver a sweet, innocent, and vulnerable being that is, in ways both known and unknown, a part of you. This is the best motivation I can think of to persevere.
When my body collapsed from sheer exhaustion after seven hours of unmedicated labor, I realized that what I had secretly been denying for nearly nine months was actually true. I cannot do this alone.
Two hours and one epidural later, we welcomed our son into the world with a fragile smile that seemed to say: “We have no idea what we’re doing.”
I think our biggest battles in life are the ones we face alone. It is a blessing to fall asleep and wake up each morning with a partner, and the idea of tackling parenthood alone terrifies me to my core.
I am, however, offered a glimpse into such an endeavor when my husband travels for his job. Before we had children, I actually embraced the extra time his absence granted me to rest and catch up with girlfriends. Of course, those days of freedom now feel surreal as a mother.
To prepare for my husband’s most recent conference, I knew I would need reinforcements given how very small my daughter still is. Luckily, my mother has the heart of a servant and a flexible job that affords her the ability to be grandma, even when several hundred miles separate her from our little ones.
In many ways and on many days, we mourn the role that grandparents cannot play in our children’s lives given the geographical divide. This is particularly acute during special celebrations at my son’s preschool and when our kids fall ill. By some miracle, my husband and I always push through to be present for our children.
[Insert loss of sleep here]
This past week with my mother and my children reminded me that I still largely have no idea what I’m doing as a parent. Every day and circumstance is different, and there is no go-to solution for anything. My mother’s selfless love and patience never cease to inspire, and I caught myself at times listening with wonder at the laughter that can only be shared between grandchild and grandparent.
When you are a scholar and teacher, you furiously and passionately seek out new information. In parenthood, if you are to stay sane, you must rest in what you do not know and secure at least a few individuals who will shepherd you. In this way, you are learning, alongside your children, that no one has all the answers and that family was designed to fill in the uncertain, often lonely spaces.
And what a gift it is to know that when my son picks up his pretend cell phone, he dials with the peace that, although she cannot be seen or touched, somewhere grandma is waiting to listen with love.