No stone unturned

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It is occurring to me more and more lately – especially as I begin anew with an attempt to lose weight associated with pregnancy – that having children requires more than I ever imagined when my husband and I began this journey.

If you look at it from a purely physical standpoint, the effects are staggering. I think about it as I brush my hair at night after (or more accurately if) I shower and strands come out by the handfuls. I think about it as I flip through my closet looking for my favorite ancient pair of yoga pants and see all the clothes that once slid onto my taught body. I am reminded of it as I rifle through drawers of lacy things in search of comfortable cotton briefs. There it is as I shove aside cute shoes that pinch or make my feet sweat in favor of a stained pair of Vans slip-ons, beat up Ugg boots, or better yet slippers.  My skin – once tight and dewy and pliable and low-maintenance – fusses for expensive creams and hangs willy nilly in odd places. Even my jewelry has betrayed me; the diamond rings my husband once delivered to me in fits of romance wait in my drawer for my fingers to slim down with the rest of me. Necklaces are too tempting for grabby little fingers so they hang silently on the bookcase out of reach. There is no part of my body that's untouched by this. Even my feet are fat and cracked and tired. I crash into my bed at night knowing full well that there's no way to tell if I'll sleep for eight hours or one. My husband has learned to, er, approach my personal space only with severe caution.

And this is not to mention how my days have changed. Once I ventured out of the house daily to meet with other grown people, to work, to contribute to my household financially in some small way, to by God lazily peruse the aisles at Target without a care in the world. Now if I so much as pick up a phone call I find myself cutting it short as a two-year-old hollers into my free ear. I feel accomplished if I manage to run the dishwasher, bring the laundry in, and get everyone fed (changing out of my pajamas is not required). If I attempt to write or read on my computer I spend 75% of that time protecting my laptop from tiny banging fingers or chucked sippy cups or attending to a small person's need for attention (all while Dora or Diego or Barney drone in the background. Even though I swore I'd never let television babysit my children).

Even now I have a three-month-old baby in my lap and a two-year-old on my knee as I bang these words out one-handed. Neither is happy with my distracted key-punching. And truth be told I will probably end up saving this as a draft to which I never return.

There is financial pressure. There are marriage challenges. The list goes on and on. Nothing in the life I knew before remains untouched.

But then there's this.

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There are moments upon moments that I wish I could bottle up and keep forever. I was in tears a few days ago as my daughter danced around the room in a little leotard and ballet shoes that we'd been gifted. She smiled and twirled and exclaimed "Look Mama! I a ballerina!" She was so beautiful I couldn't help but cry. I couldn't help but wonder at the fact that, yes, I am her mama. I get to tuck that away in my heart. It is mine forever and no one else's.

And then there's this.

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Don't even get me started on the miracle of this boy. He is alive and whole. He is unapologetically himself. Already he has accomplished so much. I can barely believe it when I look down and find his warm body curled into my breast.

I am weirdly aware that these times in my life won't last. Right now my children are innocent. Our family and our home is the center of their lives. My husband and I stand shoulder to shoulder in this new bond. We can keep them close to us. We are the place where they look when they need comfort of any kind and better yet? We are in a position to provide it. How it stretches me spiritually to care for their little souls, to know that their lives are precious gifts and there is not a single moment to waste. I think of those who want children and cannot have them. I think of the children who need parents but do not have them. My expanded waistline, the lack of sleep and time to myself, the professional life I left behind … it all pales in comparison. It is something I cannot explain to someone who does not yet have children and it is something that those of us who longed for children and have been blessed with them know by heart.

This whole experience is changing me. It is separating the wheat from the chaff and purifying my heart. It is ridding me of things that I no longer need. It is explaining things to me about life that I never understood before.

It is mostly rewarding.

It is sometimes difficult.

I am grateful for it all.

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9 thoughts on “No stone unturned

  1. Heather Ben says:

    I think this best thing I have ever read from you. I have a 2 yr old and 4 month old and your post made me cry – in a good way.

    That picture is precious.

  2. Sarah in Ottawa says:

    Manda, you have captured EXACTLY what I have been thinking lately (in so many ways, as I have children who are the same ages as yours). THANK YOU for articulating what I haven’t been able to. What a beautiful post.

  3. Shauna says:

    SUCH an amazing, beautiful post! Seriously, one of my favorite posts from you. I’m so favoriting this and going back and reading it when I need a reminder that life won’t always be like this. Thank you for this!

  4. Clara says:

    Thank you. That was beautiful. I am going to bookmark this post and break it out when my day is going to the crapper and I need a reminder 😉

  5. ANNIE says:

    Manda. Wow. I think that was the best thing you’ve ever written. Absolutely beautiful. And I totally know what you mean – the thing that kept coming back to me, is your statement “there is no part of my body that has been left untouched by this.” Back when I was pregnant with Jake, I remember reading a great post by Kate over at Momopoly (katewicker.com – do you read her? She’s great.) Anyway – she wrote a beautiful reflection on Jesus’ words – “This is my body, which has been given up for you.” Ever since then, I’m constantly struck by the Eucharistic nature of motherhood – everything that we have, everything that we are, is given to our children. And it’s hard – so very hard. Hard in ways I never expected it to be, both emotionally and physically. But when I feel that emotional pull to get down on the physical stuff (the exhaustion, the body changes, the whatever) to look at my child and remember “which has been given up for you,” fills my heart and encourages me to keep giving, always, to my boys.

    Your children are so beautiful. And so blessed to have you for their mother.

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