Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cartography


My brother and sister-in-law have a new baby boy, Abe.  I am so happy for them, and so excited.  There is nothing like becoming a parent for the first time, is there?  It's such a scary love that you never knew existed.  There is no preparing anyone for it.  Oh sure, advice can be given about breastfeeding, or burping, or sleeping, we've all heard "your life will change so much", "you'll never sleep again", and "they get big so fast", but there is no way to describe that love, until that love is bundled up in your arms and you are thinking, "I would die for you in a heartbeat, rip apart with my bare hands anyone who threatens you, sacrifice sleep, nourishment, anything and everything, just so you are comfortable, and how crazy is this, I just met you in person this instant."  

I was thinking about my own experience with my first, and how each age and stage, infant to soon-to-be-adult, I am shocked by how much I have had to learn in the thick of it.  With my first, whether it has been umbilical cord care, or college planning, I have been constantly learning on the job, and truthfully, scared to death to not do it right.  I read, I ask, I think about everything.  There are so many books to read, experienced mothers who I trust to glean information from, and professional experts in everything from infant care to college planning to consult, but in the end I've concluded, as parents, we walk alone .  That sounds awful and I don't mean it to.  I mean that as scary as it is sometimes, we have to make our own best decisions, trust our instincts, trust our child, and forge ahead.   Sometimes I feel I am so worried about getting it all right, I have robbed myself of some of the enjoyment of raising that sweet first little baby of mine.  

I've come to realize that we all have to create our own map of parenthood as no perfect map exists to follow.  There are as many maps as their are children.  Each child deserves his own. We start the journey at the same time they do, not knowing what we will encounter. What mountains we will climb, or rivers we must cross.  There are beautiful meadows we can catch our breath in, of course, but we can't always anticipate what is around the bend.  We are always right there with each child..in front of them in the beginning, and then as they get older and grow, we are by their side, and then of course even older, we walk farther and farther behind, watching and nudging, and oh, cringing sometimes I'm sure.  We must let them complete that journey we started.  We let them grab that pencil out of our hands and map their own life and watch from a distance, and try to zip it, and find peace with their choices, and hope and pray that by their own accord, they create a beautiful life on their own.

And sometimes, depending on how many children we have, we do it all again and again and again.  Some of it gets easier I suppose.  I can do new belly buttons now...just a walk in the park, where with my first I thought I'd mess up for sure.  I'm pretty good at potty training having been through it five times, and I think I have learned to navigate elementary school well enough. Talk to me in about 15 years, and I'll have a decent grasp on some of what goes into the teenage years.  (If  I'm still standing.)  It's darn scary sometimes though, isn't it?  Exciting also.  And if I let it, if I can learn to forgive myself easily, stay open to new experiences, be brave, and humble about those surprises, trust myself and my husband and my children, by the end of it all, I think I might have this wealth of knowledge about how to raise my own children.  Of course, after they are all done and raised.  That's the kicker.  

I struggle through all this day-to-day mothering to remember this: It isn't the destination I should be looking forward to, but the journey I should be enjoying.  Over the last 16 yearsI have been slowly teaching myself to just jump in and enjoy this map-making, stop reading, consulting, doubting, worrying, and just enjoy it all, the joy, the frustration, the heartbreaks, the fear, knowing that the scary love I felt with each new baby, is enough to guide me along the way.

28 comments :

  1. Nothing more life changing than that first born baby! What an amazing experience. I think I read every book I could get my hands on! Finally with my last I was much more relaxed and tried to just enjoy the ride :)

    "scary love!" That's exactly what it is.

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  2. Well said, and just perfect for me to read as I go to bed tonight...I wake up at 5:30am to be induced with my 4th baby. Thank you Sarah.

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  3. Sarah, you always say it so perfectly.
    I love the quote about the journey and oh what a wonderful journey it is.
    You just never know what is around the next corner and that is all part of the fun.
    Are you planning on having anymore babies?

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  4. This is beautiful and true. No more babies in my future, but still a lot of parenting.

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  5. What a beautiful post. So well said. Got me all teary eyed this morning as I think back and look forward to my journey with my 5 "babies".

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  6. Sarah, I couldn't agree with you more. I, for one, have never been a big reader on raising children; being a bit cocky perhaps, I trusted my gut from the very beginning at a very young age. I had my first when I was 23, and then two more in two more years. This was actually the first year I've gone without being pregnant (I'm hoping to change that in the coming months, I think 4 would be a lovely number). :o) Anyway.... back on track.... I'm not discounting the "experts" but I just always felt that my gut would tell me best. If I read about parenting I read it from you, or other mothers out there that have so much to offer, and I think that is good reading!

    Don't be scared about making the right choice for Isaac going to college- remember that it is his choice, essentially his first choice as an adult, and good or bad a great learning experience will go with it! From what I know of you from your blog I know that every single choice you have made raising your children will lead them in the right direction. You Sarah, are a good mom- trust your gut and let him soar! Hugs from Kansas!!!!

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  7. So beautiful and so true. I have learned that is is a journey. As much as we would like to map it out, we have to be prepared for detours. You have such a gift of articulating what so many of us feel. Keep on writing!

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  8. That first baby is just magic! Best wishes to the new addition to your family!

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  9. "Scary love"...so true. My first thought when they laid my son in my arms was, "I can and will kill someone and not think twice about it." Kind of scary, but that momma bear instinct did get tamed a wee bit.

    "Enjoy the journey"...great reminder. For me, the best thing was that we didn't stop after one. It forced me to not be so neurotic and start enjoying the little things...like when they spit out the dirt covered worm.

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  10. I love this - and needed the confidence as I am experiencing parenthood for the first time. Thank you for such a gorgeous post.

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  11. Congratulations to your brother and SIL!

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  12. SUCH a good post! I needed the reminder to enjoy the journey -- thank you!

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  13. I loved this. I'm always re-reminding myself to enjoy the journey. This was a beautiful post to read and start the day.

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  14. I love this post. It's crazy how deeply you love your babies, but that's the best part :)

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  15. Every mom can so relate to this post. You explain our feelings so perfectly Sarah. i've loved all of your last few posts. Andrew is a doll - Ellie's age and yes - 7 is magical. I feel like all of my kids are at great ages/stages right now and I need to just enjoy them and not stress about what's coming. You always remind me of that.

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  16. Beautifully written! And I agree with everything you wrote... except one part: we aren't alone! God is there to help us along the way if we let him! He is our Father in Heaven and knows each us of (including new babies) better than anyone, so who better to ask for advice? :) Happy Wednesday!

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  17. Beautiful Sarah....simply, beautiful :)

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  18. I am a first baby. I remember when my oldest was born telling my mom that the first born is the practice baby. You are never quite sure what you are doing. Now that there are more kiddos in our family I realize each comes with its own wonder and excitement. Good luck with this next step of the journey. He will make his decision and you will begin the handoff of the pen

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  19. What a beautiful post. My oldest will turn 18 in May. It scares me knowing I will not be able to protect him from all things anymore but I know he has had a wonderful childhood in a loving home. You said it so well about standing beside them and then further behind to let them map out a beautiful life of their own. This somehow makes me feel better about May and celebrating the journey that brought us to this day. Wow and I thought 10 and 16 were hard birthdays!!

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  20. Beautifully said. I am a cancer survivor and my "first" born is actually adopted. She could not be more "ours" if I would have carried her for 9 months in my own belly. The love I had for her on that first day was just the same... a kind of love like NO other!! A don't you EVER hurt my baby kind of love. (and I only had a month and a half to prepare for a newborn...wow) Scares me to know that I can't always protect her from the hurts of the world...but I will do my best like most Mamma's do and I too will continue to learn along the way.

    Just started reading your blog yesterday and love it! Thank you!

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  21. Eloquently written and oh so true. I don't have as much "mommy experience" as you yet since my oldest is only 6, but while advice was (sometimes) appreciated, it took the real life experience to know how to handle and muddle through all that the kids have thrown at me. I look forward to each of their ages with happiness, trepidation, excitement, and a little sadness and pray every night that they just grow up to be good people.

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  22. I agree with every word. Thanks for saying it so well.

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  23. That is a wonderful post...and so true..and then you get to experience it all over again with grandkids and your are even MORE fiercly protective. Diana

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  24. You should submit this...to some magazine or something.

    beautiful.

    sandy toe

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  25. Hello,

    I've been reading your blog for about a year now and I just felt compelled to post to say thank you. I am expecting my first child in August and really appreciate your words of wisdom! I can tell you are such a centered mother - Keep the great posts coming. Thanks for your hard work... both as a mother and blogger.

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  26. Such a beautiful picture and words of wisdom. Thank you.

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