My brother and sister-in-law just had their first baby last week. This is the first niece/nephew of mine to be born (on both my side and my husband’s side) in 5 years. And the last 2 grandchildren to be born in those past 5 years (on both sides) have been my own daughters. So it had been quite a while since a baby (that was not my own) had entered our family.
It was fun to go to the hospital and meet my new niece, straight from heaven and congratulate the new parents. I am really excited for them to start this next phase of life.
But it was also kind of emotionally painful for me. Why is that? Why would it be painful for me? I already have 4 kids of my own. It was painful because of the ache. Sarah Bessey talks about the ache in a post that she wrote and when I read this post, it spoke to me and I really resonated with it.
“But there likely won’t be anymore Bessey babies for us. Our family is complete, it seems, we’ll always be a Five-Family, as the tinies call us. There are many personal reasons why we’ve come to this decision as a family.
In my head, I know that this is the right decision. In my heart, I know this is the right decision. Brian and I are in complete agreement.
And yet there is The Ache.
Always The Ache, right underneath my lungs, in the pit of my gut, the ache of what that means and the grief of moving on, of love, of knowing: No more babies. No more nursing quietly in the night. No more flour sack of milk-drunk baby bliss. No more gummy smiles. No more tiny diapers. No more baby clothes. No more crib. No more baby wearing. No more new baby smell. No more of the millions of moments that knit your heart so completely to another small soul.
The season of having babies – the one that so radically changed me – is over. I’m okay with that. Most days, I’m even very happy about it, relieved perhaps. It’s an intense season of life, make no mistake. We’re ready for this new season, looking forward with anticipation to new things. Other days, it’s hard.
I know we like to pretend like we can have everything all at once. It’s a nice illusion. But there are transitions in our lives: times for certain seasons and times when those seasons end. Are we happier for pretending that we can have everything anytime we like? Or are we better when we acknowledge the end of one chapter of our lives, grieve and sing and give weight to the passing of it, and move forward? To everything, there is a season.
I am starting to think that, no matter how many children we have, no matter the reasons why, no matter how old we are, when you’re done having babies, we always carry The Ache.”
The ache is also captured in one of my past instagram posts from when we gave away our rocking chair a few months ago.
Tonight, we gave our rocking chair to My brother and sister-in-law so they can use it when they have their baby in May. We don’t use it as much now that Roxanne is getting older so I figured that they could use it more than we can. . I felt a tinge of sadness when we were taking it out of the room, and I almost just suppressed the feelings and tried to just not think about it. But then I decided that I should lean into these feelings. I should open up my heart and just allow myself to mourn. . So that’s what I did. I went into my closet and sat in the dark and cried my eyes out for quite a while. And it’s not over yet. The tears are still coming off and on. (I look like that last picture… boogers streaming down my face. Haha) I know that it sounds ridiculous, crying over a chair, but that chair holds a lot of memories for me. . I sat on that chair as I practiced my hypnobabies tools and prepared for Roxanne’s birth and imagined holding my baby. I slept on that chair for the first few nights of Roxanne’s life – holding her as she slept, because she didn’t want to sleep anywhere but in my arms. I sat in that chair and rocked Roxanne and held her for many naps up until she was a good enough sleeper to nap consistently in her own bed. I sat in that chair and nursed her multiple times a day for the first 15 months of her life. . It feels like a real sacrifice to give something away that has so many special memories tied to it. . I think that another big part of this sadness that I am feeling is that giving away our rocking chair is a big reminder to me that my baby (and potentially my last) isn’t really a baby anymore. 🙁 . I’ll probably regret posting this because being vulnerable isn’t comfortable. But I’m just gonna be vulnerable and sit here and open up my heart and really feel. It’s not pleasant. But I know that it’s good for me. . #feel2018goodmorningshelly
Since feeling and recognizing the ache so deeply after the experiences of giving away our rocking chair and meeting my new niece, I have been thinking about the question “why do I love the baby phase so much? What is it about the baby phase that I just can’t get enough of and that causes me to have so much of “the ache,” especially now that that phase is over (and quite possibly will never happen for me again in this life)? What is it that makes me want to just keep having babies (but know that it’s not realistic because they don’t stay babies forever) and to feel jealous of other women that are having babies – especially women that are close to me?”
After some soul searching, I came to a conclusion… I think that the answer is that during the baby phase, I feel freedom. I feel freedom to do what my spirit longs for. I feel freedom to feel what my spirit longs to feel. And that is love. To love unconditionally. To just feel love. Love is the best feeling. It’s the blue sky. The sky is actually always blue, it just looks gray sometimes because the clouds are in front of it.
When my children were in the baby phase, it was so easy, so effortless, to see the blue sky. There were only occasional clouds but they didn’t stay long. It was so easy to love with open abandon. And that felt sooooo freeing. It felt like home. My true home. My Heavenly Home. Because that’s all that exists in my true home – it’s just constant, indescribable, love.
Loving with abandon comes from a blog post that my cousin’s wife wrote and ever since I read it several months ago, it has left an impression on my heart. Here is an excerpt from her post…
“Both of these books deal with pregnancy loss and infertility in magnificent and different ways, but there was a passage in The Snow Child that particularly took my breath away.
“For years, her arms had ached with longing. It was self-indulgence she didn’t often permit herself, but sometimes she would sit in a chair, her eyes closed, her arms crossed against her breast, and she would imagine holding a small baby there–its trusting warmth against her body, its tiny head smelling of milk and talcum powder, its skin softer than flower petals. She had watched other women with infants and eventually understood what she craved: the boundless permission–no, the absolute necessity–to hold and kiss and stroke this tiny person. Cradling a swaddled infant in their arms, mothers would distractedly touch their lips to their babies’ foreheads. Passing their toddlers in a hall, mothers would tousle their hair or even sweep them up in their arms and kiss them hard along their chins and necks until the children squealed with glee. Where else in life, Mabel wondered, could a woman love so openly and with such abandon?”
I read this passage while sitting in my chair, distractedly nursing my own perfect, sweet little baby. But this passage gave me pause because it made me question whether or not I’m appreciating this permission, this necessity, to love with such abandon in my life right now. So much of my interaction with my baby is distracted: my mind in a book while I nurse her, swaying her on my hip while I cook or change out the laundry or pick up toys, praying she’ll just sleep a little longer so I can get one more thing done. I keep looking forward to when she’ll be sleeping through the night, to when she’ll be done nursing, to when she can crawl and walk and play on her own and not need me so desperately.
I do this with all my children–look forward to the time when they can do this or that or the other on their own, without my help. I often joke that my affection for my children directly corresponds to their level of independence from me.
But reading that passage, reading of Mabel’s simple and heart-breaking yearning, was a timely nudge for me to treasure my sweet present, to stop reading and snuggle that sweet baby, kiss her plump cheeks, smell her milky breath, and revel in my opportunity to love with open abandon. I know this, but I also need to be constantly reminded of this. I need to treasure my present moment.”
I miss that. That boundless permission, the absolute necessity, to love so openly and with abandon.
Of course, I still have those moments where I really do love my children with open abandon, but it’s not as constant as in the baby phase.
As my kids get older, it can get harder and harder to remember that the sky is still always blue. It’s easy to feel like the sky is gray sometimes and it’s easy to become overcome by the clouds. Of course I still love my kids as they get older, but I don’t feel loving feelings all the time. The feeling of love isn’t always as potent or constant or intoxicating. I get irritated and annoyed by my kids sometimes. I get frustrated. I get angry. And that doesn’t feel good to me. My spirit notices the disconnect. It doesn’t feel like freedom. It doesn’t feel like home.
So what am I to do? Just accept that I will never get to feel those intoxicating feelings of constant love again?
That sounds depressing.
But what if I could learn to love with more abandon, even after the baby stage has passed? It may not look the exact same way – my 8 year old probably doesn’t want to be constantly kissed on the cheek and held on my hip. 🙂 But what if I could figure out how to adapt those same “love with abandon” feelings to the changing circumstances? What if I could love my 4 year old and 6 year old and 8 year old (and on and on as they get older) with more abandon? What if I could remember more that the sky is STILL blue and that the irritations/annoyances/frustrations etc. are just clouds. They aren’t the sky. They are just clouds. And clouds come and go. They pass away.
What if I could remember that at the core, I am just love and my kids are just love and the only thing in the whole world that everyone truly wants is to give that love and to receive that love?
What if I could allow and invite more pure love for everyone into my heart?
I want that. I want to feel love more consistently. It’s an amazing feeling.
This connects with a podcast episode that I listened to recently by my friend, Whitney. Here is an excerpt…
“However, the idea that my reward was to be like God sounded like an eternity of drudgery.
I think I established pretty clearly last episode that I definitely was in a place of depression for a stretch of time. I would say this struggle landed smack dab in the middle of it all. I had three toddlers at once and while they are so cute—the “Mom!” “Mom!” “Mom!” constantly felt like having three birds pecking at my face (thank you Jody Moore for perfectly articulating my feelings with this description).
All I could think was, “Who needs or wants worlds without ends when you can’t even handle your kids “pecking” your face?” All I could think was that being God would be like being a mother of billions of toddlers at once. All these people who have demands for you. Some who completely disregard you. Some who curse you. Some who only come when they want something. Some who take, take, take all the blessings and then when things don’t turn out their way—they stop talking to you. Little toddlers who really don’t have much to offer you aside from a lot of work and responsibility. Goodness—God is perfect and a whole third of His children left Him because they wanted to follow Satan’s plan (no choice) and not Christs (choice in all things). I just couldn’t see how this was appealing.
I would say everything shifted when I began thinking of love differently. I have come to learn through the years that the commandments we are given are definitely life hacks from Heavenly Father. They really are short cuts to feeling happy. Sometimes we resist because they seem illogical, too simple, or maybe more work than necessary. However, I started seeing the heavenly “magic,” more or less, that occurred in my life when I began understanding and more fully embracing some specific commandments. I remember when “getting it” about forgiveness was a life changer for me, for example. You guys—I have even had a title of a book I have wanted to write for about 15 years at this point having to do with the blessings associated with keeping the commandments. But for some reason, I was late to the party in applying it to the greatest commandment to love one another. I don’t know why, but for some reason I think I held onto a subconscious idea that loving our neighbor was totally to bless our neighbor. However, within the last 18 months it clicked. I finally “got it.” When I feel love—I am at my best. When I feel pure love for another person—I am operating at the highest level I think is possible to me. And I have learned that it blesses me WAY more to feel love for someone else than it blesses them. First of all—I can sit in my house and have an experience feeling totally overwhelmed with love for someone that is completely unaware of the feelings and thoughts I am having about them. It is an incredible gift and experience and I am so grateful for it.”
Once this clicked for me—I thought about my kids. Yes—especially as toddlers there were moments when I felt I was going crazy with birds pecking my face. However, I think anyone who has felt love for a child—whether their own or someone else’s—can identify with those moments when you are looking at that child and you feel like your heart my burst out of your chest. The love you feel for them is so overwhelming—if you are anything like me—if you are alone with them—you feel a desire to FaceTime a family member or friend to share the moment. If there is no one available, you may snap a picture and share it on social media. It is simply a feeling that is overflowing and you can’t contain it. It feels euphoric and you want it to spill out from within you so everyone can have a taste of the amazing-ness (is this sounding familiar to anyone in terms of a tree whose fruit is more desirable that anything else—so much so that you simply want to share it with those you love—the fruit that comes from the LOVE of CHRIST?). When this clicked for me, I could finally fit the pieces together. God feels this love all of the time—His desire for us to feel the same way was so overwhelming—He chose to sacrifice His only begotten son so we could have this feeling. Can you even imagine wanting others to have something so much because it was so incredible that you would give up your own child? Wow. Mind blowing. But maybe not when you have experienced pure love. Instead of getting glimpses once in a while, I think becoming like God is having the opportunity to always feel that incredible. You operate out of a place where you desire what is truly best for everyone. That is how God’s love for us is perfect. Like the discovery I shared last week in episode 013—you cannot do anything to earn or loose the love of God. Why? Because it isn’t dependent on you. It is dependent on him and he is perfect.
Faith crisis solved. I finally understand the appeal. For me it isn’t worlds without end. It isn’t any material eternal inheritance. It is the appeal of feeling love perfectly and at all times. I cannot wait for that day. In the meantime, I am working really hard to do what I can to feel those things now as often as possible. Join me! I have not yet found a downside to feeling love!”
What amazing truths! God gets to feel pure love All The Time! I’m looking forward to that. And I’m grateful that He continues to lead me and teach me how to feel that same love, even now. He wants that for me. … Because He loves me.
When I feel love I feel truly at home. When I don’t feel love, it’s like I experience an inner homelessness.
So, I’m on a quest to invite and embrace more pure love in my heart. I like the feeling of home.
I’m grateful to my new niece for already teaching me some important life lessons. 🙂