Monday, July 29, 2013

Thoughts On a Third Child

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There is something sacred about the demands of a newborn.

In my church, young people can choose to devote eighteen-months or two years of their lives to living in some new part of the world, talking to people, doing service, and spreading the message of Christ to anyone who wants to hear it. Missionaries follow strict rules. They wake up early. They go to bed on time. They wear certain clothes, they don’t listen to music or go to movies, they pursue almost no leisure, and they communicate with their families only via writing, save Christmas and Mother’s Day. They put everything else—relationships, schooling, work—on hold.

It’s a time of sacrifice, of dedication. Of committing to something bigger, something that does not revolve around yourself and your own needs. I’ve often wondered what that would have been like, but these last few weeks I’ve realized I already know. In the tender dark hours of the night, holding a baby to my chest, soothing his cries and filling his tiny belly, I have no illusions. I have done this twice before. For the next few years, his needs are my life.

My first two beautiful children were different. I was so young with our daughter. I spent most of the hours frantic, starting with when we brought her home from the hospital and I stared down at her, terrified. What had we done? I didn't know how to take care of a baby!

Then we welcomed our son two years later, and everything was colored with exhaustion so deep I couldn’t do anything but make sure my two little ones had everything they needed and were surrounded with love, and then try my best to survive.

This time, I know how quickly that seemingly endless stretch of time actually goes. The whole goal of motherhood is to raise children like mine—happy, healthy, increasingly independent little people. But that’s the catch, because now I really can’t be everything they need. There are things that make them sad, that hurt their tender hearts, that I can’t do anything about. I can’t fix it. I can only try to help them along the way to figuring out how to feel better. It is the worst part of motherhood, knowing that your children move beyond your ability to keep them absolutely safe, and also the best part of motherhood, watching the people they become as they stretch and grow beyond you.

But this tiny new life? I can still fill every need he has. I hold him close. I rock him. I sing an infinite loop of Baby Beluga. I could sing it in my sleep. I think I occasionally do, passed out at 3 AM holding him in the rocking chair.

Sometimes I feel claustrophobia setting in. I find myself researching exotic vacations we will not take. Looking at listings for homes I don’t want to buy. I am on a two-hour leash, tied by my very body to this absurd, beautiful little creature that grew inside of it.

And then I remember how very short this eternity-of-infancy really is.

So when he is sleeping, and when he is awake, we gather around and stare at him, marveling over this little boy who has joined our family and changed it forever. And I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to devote the next few years of my life to him. A marvelous sacrifice that really isn’t any sacrifice at all.

16 comments:

Doreen McGettigan said...

Beautiful post Kiersten.
Congratulations and God Bless your new little one and your family.

Julia King said...

Great post! I went on one of those service missions you're talking about. It WAS exhausting but ever so worth it. I hope I have the chance to serve as a mother one day. What a sweet experience it will be, yet tiring as well. Congrats on your new child. Hold him close and love him... forever! :D

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Congratulations! I know how long you've waited to add a new baby to your family. What a gift this little guy must be.

I'm curious if you've read ELDERS, an adult literary book about two LDS missionaries. I found it fascinating. Though I'm not LDS, I've been involved with short-term mission trips, though nothing that asks such dedication of its participants. As a former exchange student, I could really relate to the cultural complications being an American in another country can bring.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful and touching. Although I have yet to become a parent, I can only imagine that holding your child is the purest form of love. I wish you and your family all the best.

Megs said...

Ah, you have such a way with words. Good thing you're an author. ;) I'm relating exactly (even the passed-out 3 am singing...), and truly relishing this baby this time around. Why it takes at least three, I don't know...Love you all!

Dena BooksforKids said...

You captured motherhood perfectly! I'd never compared it to missionary service before, but I can see the similarities now that you point it out. Congrats on your beautiful little boy!

katherinemarie said...

This is such a lovely statement of motherhood.

Anonymous said...

Inspiring post. My 2nd child just turned one, 2 weeks ago. I know exactly how you feel. Thank you for putting in words the ethereal experience of enjoying a newborn. (And to think you managed to write that on so little sleep!)
Love your books, btw - I've just discovered your Paranormalcy trilogy and am reading "Endlessly" now. Even though I'm 36. Hee!

Megan Larson said...

I love, love this. So beautifully put. Thank you for validating so powerfully the sacrifice we give as mothers. I am LDS and didn't serve a mission; I've never even thought to compare the relentless-yet-wonderful demands of a newborn to it. Thank you for reminding me how precious and sacred those newborn moments really are.

Lori Folkman said...

Beautifully written. Babies are the best ... and then before you know it, they grow into teenagers.

Sarah J. said...

Beautiful.

The Blogger Girlz said...

Hi Kiersten!

What a beautiful post! How you feel about your son is exactly the same way I feel about my nephew. They take up so much of your time and energy, but in the end you can't imagine your life without them and all that lost time and energy becomes totally worth it when you get to look down at that beautiful, innocent little face and see them smiling up at you! :)

Babies are definitely a lot of work, but such a blessing! HUGE congrats again, I'm so happy that you finally got to have the third child you've always wanted! :)<3

~Ella

Whirlochre said...

It's great news all round, and though you're likely to spend much of the next few years in the haze of a sleepless dream, it's a great dream to have close up.

Hoorah for the otter.

Tara Maya said...

Beautifully put, Kiersten. I'm on my third as well. And it just goes so fast. My oldest is going to turn seven at his Sharknado-themed birthday party in a week. Every time they make a fart or poop joke, I remind myself to enjoy this stage--when they are teens all their jokes will be about boobs.... Not sure I'm ready to hear that from my sons!

Madeleine said...

I missed reading your blog. You have a way of making me feel optimistic on my worst days. Congratulations on your little miracle.

keegan said...

It really is a beautiful time of life that you have captured perfectly with your words.