Sometimes it feels too long. It feels like too much. I heard so many times that the third child is the hardest adjustment so anxiety crept up and took over as the Grandmas – the helpers, the burpers, the diaper-changers, the laundry doers, the meal makers, the baby holders, the soft word speakers, the hair strokers – prepared to go home. And I sent out an S.O.S. to the Women. To my far-away tribe a prayer request, to my locals a plea: help.
So they made a sort of pact over me that I wouldn’t have to be alone before I was ready. Because my having children wasn’t their choice, but loving me is. One of them stocked my freezer with meals for when they stopped coming to my door and one of them texted before my day even started to see when she could come over and one of them cleared my little kitchen of all dishes and crumbs. We are a portrait of messy love – our childreen fighting and sharing, laundry piled on the sofa being sorted and unsorted by mothers and toddlers, glasses half full of water on various tables, laughter and barefeet.
This time is fleeting. And sacred. Because fading things are full of holy – reminders of the life-death cycle that is unavoidable and all-consuming (literally, consuming all). This time of milk stains and wordless wailings and diapers… so many diapers… is short, but it doesn’t always feel that way. It is tempting to usher it quickly, to fill the spaces with distraction and hurry out the mundane. It’s tempting to only engage in the events – the birthdays, the milestones, the family outings – and just get throught the rest of it. But God help me if I shush the song out of her or turn down even one of his requests to cuddle. God help me to engage in the non-events.
Two weeks into mothering three I feel brave enough to venture a whole 1.4 miles from my house to the one of the sister I met 4 years ago. I walk in and carve out my space for the day with bags and baby blankets and her couch might as well be mine. Our children form their motley gang quickly, their squeals and squabbles an ambient prescence. The mothers soak in our reprieve – busy children, ahhhh… – and drink our coffee hot. We start reading from this book about being grateful. Being really grateful. Being grateful in the dark and in the ordinary.
As I pack up my van to leave hours later, she looks at me over the car seats and the basket full of diapers and the fruit snack wrappers that I would hide from their doctor if she walked by and we both relax our shoulders into half-laughs while she waves a banner over me: “You’re doing it, K.” She permits me a sabbath in this working moment – pause, reflect, give thanks.
Every day I see a little red dot with a white number on it and my spirit smile-sighs. We are linked in the background of our days from too many miles apart and when stuff gets real we cannonball in with encouragements, jokes, scripture, memes, and most important: solidarity. My Person keeps walking with me through the hardest parts of my life (as well as the rest of it) and she introduced me to more amazing women who walk, too. We stroll with hands held over state lines through all the ache and wonder of living under Heaven.
I send photos of the babies to the family and get floods of emoticons. My mom loves emoticons. They tell me how my children make their day – a mother needs to hear that her children delight other people, too.
I need my people for this. For all of this. I need their perspectives and their insights. I need their humor. I need them to hold space for me when I don’t have the strength to do it myself. I need to be able to fall back, but not get left behind. I need them to clean my house wile I heal from childbirth.
And they need me. That’s the trick, I think. Realizing that we need each other. And that we need to be good to each other. Because sometimes this doesn’t only seem like too much, it is too much. It’s wonderful and it’s hard and it’s boring and it’s invigorating and it’s all the things all at once. And I will miss it without these people to anchor me. I will lose my way if they don’t carry me once in a while. And they might miss it if I don’t carry them sometimes.
The grandmas, the Women, the tribe… We talk a lot in Christian circles about leaning on Jesus, letting God carry us… And I believe he does, but I believe the arms he uses are the ones which belong to the people.