I wanted to have children. I prayed for them. I loved them from the moment I saw their little bodies, all bloody and gross. I thought they were gorgeous. Just wipe ‘em down and hand ‘em over.
However, as the children aged and as our family grew, I could not fathom how other families were so put together. Each Sunday Russ and I just wanted to enjoy a cup of coffee and read the paper and get kids ready. Oh. My. Stars. The battles! One child didn’t want buttons to touch his skin; another would throw tantrums at the drop of a hat OVER NOTHING. And my sweet baby, Mitchell, had an “immature” flap on the top of his esophagus area; it didn’t really flip or flap. So every time I nursed him he spewed milk. All. Over. The Place. We would hunt for shoes, belts and socks that had somehow gotten misplaced. UGH. Each Sunday we walked into church, all smiles, but we knew the chaos that had reigned the previous hour.
I knew my inner emotional house. That is where I lived. But here is the deal: I compared my INSIDES to others’ OUTSIDES. And as I watched all the perfectly groomed families strolling into Mass, all smiles, I felt disheartened. Depressed even.
I felt like I had missed some parenting class that discussed how to raise children.
Then Russ and I went to a Valentine’s dance (around the year 1997) for our parish and met a nice young couple. We had a longish conversation with the beautiful wife; their children were the exact ages of our three kids and a part of me was happy to have found a new potential friend.
Early the next week I heard that this quiet and perfectly composed woman had killed herself.
Now, I don’t know her back story or even her side story. I don’t know if she suffered from postpartum depression. I know nothing. The only info I had: a mom of three children, married and seemingly happy, had killed herself.
Her death pierced me. Again, I don’t know the inner workings of her heart, but her actions validated (IN A PROFOUND WAY) that motherhood is challenging. Marriage is crazy hard at times.
Out of all the events in my life, her death became one of those pivotal ones of change. I knew nothing could remain the same. Armed with my deeper understanding, I knew I had to be real, open and honest with my own struggles and try to make sense of the absolute senseless aspects of parenting. (Would it have changed anything if we could have connected on a deeper level? What would have happened if I told her about how my three year old was in a strange stage of “holding his bowels” and then would poop down his leg at the most inconvenient times? Would if I would have made her laugh over the craziness of it all? Perhaps I should have invited her over for lunch.)
I knew I could not change the past. But I could absolutely change the future. I began to write letters to my mother friends. I shared from the pit of my soul. I allowed them to see my real. And you know what happened? My mother friends revealed their struggles, their fears and their inadequacies. Through that exchange, I realized that WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER! And that, my dear friend, has given me a sense of joy and security ever since.
So I promise to NOT give you the Facebook version of raising children. (Wow, look at my perfect child with his gold medal!)With my children’s permission, we will allow you into our inner world. May it help you feel less isolated and more able to connect with the beautiful souls that are in your life and home.