Tuesday, April 2, 2013

On Becoming a Parent

Um, this post is slightly about Clare. The connection ends there.
I've been a parent for something like 18 months. Almost 9 months to an outside baby and another 9ish to a sweet (at least quiet) inside baby.

Today, though, I became a parent. It's not the first time I've felt that way. I'm sure it won't be the last.

I've think I've mentioned before that when I thought about sacrificing as a parent, my thoughts were far too obvious. I thought about giving up sleeping through the night (oh, how I under-appreciated sleep my whole life!). I thought about never driving a "cool" car in favor of vehicles that holds car seats and strollers and groceries. I thought about passing up fruity-drink-with-umbrella trips to the beach in favor of juice-boxes-full-of-sand trips to the beach. Staying up late to finish science fair projects and edit term papers. Making lunches when you'd rather be making another cup of coffee. Changing yet another diaper.

I'm not really sure what happened today. Clare had been whiny all day, going from happy to "ehehehehehe" whiny and back again every 39.7 seconds. She slept terribly last night. I chalked it up to yesterday's emergence of tooth #2. I planned my afternoon cup of coffee. We were getting through our day. Playing with Mama. Playing alone. Wanting to be held. Wanting to be put down. Wondering if it was too soon for that extra cup of joe. Eat lunch. Nurse. Wonder if 2pm is an acceptable bed time.

Then, Clare was playing with the door on the TV stand behind which the DVDs are stored. I heard the bonk and jumped up to rescue her just as the tears emerged.

And emerge they did. In the next 35 minutes of rocking and holding and hugging and shhhhing and snuggling and walking and laying down and patting and back rubbing, Clare cried. She might be a baby, but you could tell it was one of those good, cathartic cries that all of us emotional girls need every now and then. She let out all of the pain and frustration and anger and whatever else she's felt all day. And, vocabulary gap aside, there was nothing I could do for her but be there.

As I did everything in my power to calm her, my mind kept drifting forward, armed with the sure knowledge that this would not be the last time that I was powerless to do anything to "fix" my baby. That all I could do was be there and love her with all I had. I remember a few years ago sitting with a distraught seventh-grader and her best friend, experiencing the kind of pain and heartbreak that only seventh graders can truly feel. I remember letting her cry and rubbing her back, and hearing her tell me in that moment that I would be a good mom. I had no idea what she meant by that. I get it now. I'm sure I'll get it again, more fully, in the future.

I'm sure I've said before that I wish I could keep my children from ever feeling pain -- whether physical or emotional. I know I can't. I know that there will be challenges -- challenges we face alone and those we face together. I know there will be times when the pain is caused by one another. I know it, but today, I felt it.

Finally, I took my baby to lay down in my bedroom. I snuggled her into my arms and decided that I would make myself feel comfortable and safe, and maybe it would seep into her. Sure enough, 5 minutes later, she her crying had stopped and her breathing had calmed to normal and after another 5, I was keeping her from crawling off the bed (oh, depth perception, how I take you for granted!).

That's parenthood, the mercurial swings, the agony of another's anguish, the giving of yourself in ways you can't imagine for the benefit of another. The trusting of your heart to someone who hasn't promised to love it "all the days of our lives." That's the sacrifice. You sacrifice that piece of your heart.

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