Friday, May 15, 2009


The lift is on, the sun is creeping above the horizon as the day has passed and somehow, although six years ago I could not lift my head above my shoulders, the light is returning.
But even with the release of the anticipation, the agony of knowing that she could have been saved over, I still retain the grumpiness of May-- the critical eye that seeks not to place myself above others, but to feel affronted by much that I see and hear around me.
Sometimes I find it hard to be around other mothers in May. Quite hard. Now, let it be said, to each his or her own, and this I do believe, truly and wholly. Of course I take exception to extremes that might constitute abuse, but I truly do believe that parent-child relationships seek a balance, and while there are certain practices that I believe are in the best interest of a child, I also respect that those same practices might lead certain parents to not be the optimal parents for their child, and so compromise is justified and called for.
But in May, I just hear it all around me. I hear people chastising their children. I hear impatience. I hear parents who sound, from a listening ear, as if they'd really rather not be parenting. (I realize this is not actually the case). I find myself in situations where I want to yell and scream and grab a child and take her with me, when a parent is scolding her child for not being good enough at something, instead of encouraging her for what she's doing right. I want to grab the child, hug her tight, and tell her it sometimes takes kids a long time to learn new things. To tell her to keep trying, that she's doing such a great job and I'm proud of her, even if her mom isn't at that moment. I see babies crying while their mothers talk on cellphones on the park paths. I hear complaints about children who are too loud and too slow and, for all intents and purposes, acting exactly as children should (which is different from how adults act and therefore annoying)
I hear these things, and instead of just walking past, or laughing along at the complaint and offering my own version of the story, I feel sick to my stomach. I want to take all these children home with me and appreciate all of them for exactly who they are. I want to hug them when they cry, and let them walk as slowly as they want to, and let them learn new skills at their own pace without being told they obviously aren't good at it. I want to take them to my home and feed them homemade cookies we have made together, while getting messy and dirty and spilling ingredients without reprimand, and wrap them in cozy blankets and read to them and kiss their soft cheeks and give them nothing but goodness, nothing but sweetness and love and whatever it is that I can offer to them because they are alive, their hearts are beating and they are breathing and they deserve a chance to be the best to someone.
This, all this, even though sometimes my own grief, and shadow grief six times over, pulls me to the point of impatience with my own brood, makes me wilt and cry and handle situations less than skillfully, and causes me to question my own worth as a parent.
But my misgivings about myself are in the moment, are gut reactions to one specific moment or behavior, I never question the worth of my child. If my words caused her to sit down quietly and hang her head, defeated, I would feel by crushed my actions. Children are miraculous, no more, no less. They are absolutely amazing. To think of the physical and cognitive skills that a child masters in five short years is staggering. Now think of the emotional skills they are capable of if only we allow it. How they can flourish and shine when we tell them not just that they are "good", but that they are worthy, and capable, and amazing. How they glow when they realize that we are truly proud for exactly what they are doing, which is learning and growing, and aren't just pleased by the successful perfection of a specific task.
So I think the long and the short of it is, that however one chooses to parent, it seems only fair that one should prioritize the self worth of one's child. This encompasses the simple, basic necessities of loving ones child, respecting ones child, and allowing him or her the individuality that we are all due. How one then chooses to go on and feed, or discipline, or whatever else goes into the daily ritual is off my radar. I just wish I could see people letting their children be children, like beautiful daisies growing in a summer field, each so beautiful in his or her own way. I wish more children could have a half-full glass, could have the benefit of the doubt, could be given something to grab onto to inspire them to reach to higher places.
And I wish this in part, of course, because my daisy was plucked much to soon, and never had a chance to dance to her own breeze, and develop her own strength of character. Her glass is empty. So couldn't those who are here fill up with some of what she lost?


Someone commented to me the other day that May seemed much less heavy this year, that the posts here were much less dragging and sullen. Truth, yes, but it dismays me to think that through the nausea and exhaustion and incredible sense of purpose from a fundraising walk last weekend and a conference next week, that I was perhaps slightly distracted from it all, and we all know how effective it can be to shelve emotion for later (hem, hem). So perhaps there will be days upcoming which are heavier than those that have passed, and for those days I will be grateful.

It feels nicer for me to be sad than to be angry, but it is so much easier to feel angry.


Birdies Mama said...

what else can i say Carol but, you are so amazing. the passion in this writing, the love for Charlotte, Liam and Aiofe seeps through my screen and into my heart. I can feel every word here, your so damn in tune with how you you connect all of this together. does this make sense?

you inspire me in so many ways. to keep on parenting my dear sweet boy to the best of my fill his glass full everyday. fill it with love, wonder and encouragement to be the little baby that he is.

you continue to show me the way...

blessings upon you my dear, dear friend.

Hope's Mama said...

I'm lost for words on this one Carol. But I do wish to say, you are one incredible Mama. I feel blessed to "know" you.

THAT GIRL said...

I want to be this mother you write about. I want to love my children that much.
I want so much for all mothers to love their babes so much... would love to just print out that entry and pass it out to all the new mothers I meet.

Heather said...

That was a beautiful post.

doctorjen said...

I haven't commented here before, and I hope you will forgive me for being late - I usually check in here every month or so, but have been so busy I didn't get here before Charlotte's birthday this month. I'm mother to 4 beautiful children, incluing my own May, 2003 girl, Caroline. I am also a family doc who attends births, and a few days after Charlotte was born, I attended the only full term stillbirth I've had in my own practice. I was 38 weeks pregnant exactly the day I caught still baby girl Kaleigh, in the most silent birth room I'd ever been in. My own baby girl was born on her due date, 2 weeks later - and somehow the awful pain Kaleigh's mother survived has always influenced my own relationship with my little girl. A few years later, I read about Charlotte in Mothering, and found you here, and your exquisite writing has always given voice to that grief I am fortunate to only imagine.
I've wanted to write you for a long time - and to tell you that your loss, and your continued honest and vulnerable sharing about it, push me to be a better mother. I'm lucky to have 4 wonderful children, from 20 to just about 6, and I try to remember to be beyond grateful for them every day. My joy in my littlest, especially, is always magnified by knowing that I'm just lucky that I have her in my arms and in my life - instead of living for ever with what ifs and could have beens. And so I kiss her apple cheeks, and tuck my nose in her hair to smell her, and tell her again that I love her so much, and I try to be worthy of the gift of my little girl (and my bigger girl, and my wonderful sons, too.)
Thank you so much for your writing - I hope you know that you make a profound difference in people's lives, even in strangers you've never met and will never meet.