On a plane a couple months ago I couldn’t help but notice the cutest ever baby across the isle from me.
I tried not to gawk, but his sweet lolling head and drunken milk smiles made my heart sick for my own babies. I watched his mother interact with him and it made me miss not only my babies, but my motherhood of those babies.
I sat there with tears welling up in my eyes thinking of all those moments I had with them that are trailing quietly into the vast expanses of forgetfulness. How I wish I they would hold on tight and scream for my attention like some of my children do instead of drifting so softly away from me.
I thought about how I used to curl those babies up on my shoulder and listen intently to their breathing. How I would watch them sleep every night and feel like my heart would burst right out of my chest with how full it felt of love for them. I thought of the night-time feedings sitting in my hard rocking chair, my body cold in the cool, still air but the warmth of their tiny bodies next to mine. And then the night-time feedings when we moved back west and invested in a soft rocking chair. Those nights are still crystal clear…sitting there bathed in the moonlight filtering through the blinds and a defined slice of orange glow creeping softly toward us from the cracked open closet door.
Sure, it was not all sweetness and light. There were moments where I thought I just might keel over and die with exhaustion. There were the spit-up escapades and the diaper explosions. There was the colic from Grace and the schedules and naps to maneuver with the big kids when I got to the younger ones. But oh how I loved those babies of mine. (Much more about mothering toddlers back here.)
As I sat there pondering across from this new mother, I had phrases from Allison Tate’s Huffington Post article swishing around in my sentimental mind. I loved that article. Loved how it reminded me how important it is to “get in the picture.” And I sat there and wished with all my heart I had more pictures of those moments with those babies of mine. Pictures of me loving them. Being with them. Mothering them. At least that way I would have something to help spur those memories when they fade deeper and deeper as the years pass on.
I couldn’t help myself from slyly snapping a picture of that mother and her baby. I know, kind of stalker-creepy of me, but that mother-love just had to be captured some how! I almost got up the guts to ask if she wanted me to email the picture to her but wimped out. I wish she had that picture though.
I mean, how can she know at this point that years from now she will crave for some part of physical evidence to soak in of how much she adored that baby of hers. Sure, she will know she loved him. But oh to have that picture on her nightstand when that baby turns eighteen and goes off into the big world.
And then my thoughts wandered to how much I’m going to miss THIS stage. I mean, if I miss my babies so much, boy how I’ll miss the inside jokes, the late-night talks, the heart-ready-to-burst moments on the volleyball or tennis sidelines and the hilarious things they say.
I do write down my fair share of memories and moments thanks to this blog, but right there on that airplane that day I made a commitment that I’m going to get in the picture more with these kids. I want us to remember their life was not just them standing smiling at the camera. I was with them. And I adored *almost* every minute of it.
I was there helping with their homework at night. I was there pouring over the internet searching for something to remind me how in heaven’s name you divide fractions. I waited up for them late into the night and listened to their stories of triumph and dried their tears of failures. I laid awake nights in agony as to what would be the best way to support them through their heart-aches. And I tried to chisel into their minds things that I know will make a difference in their lives.
I came home from my trip and poured over old pictures. And thankfully my love is documented in a few of them.
WHEW! I did love them after all!! :)
This is the most recent one I found: I know I look goofy, but how grateful I am for pictures like this that capture a little inkling of the vast expanse of my love.
Now, I know that it would still be ok if I found NO pictures at all.
I know I don’t have to be SO dramatic. I mean, it’s really ok if the evidence of that love isn’t in hard copy. I believe that mother-love seeps from a mother’s heart into her childrens’. And then it starts to glow within those childrens’ eyes. From there it sparkles clear as day. And every time I see that sparkle in their eyes, that mother knows they know it: they are adored.
But in any case, I re-read Allison Tate’s article when I got home. Here’s part that hit me the most:
“…We really need to make an effort to get in the picture. Our sons need to see how young and beautiful and human their mamas were. Our daughters need to see us vulnerable and open and just being ourselves -- women, mamas, people living lives…too much of a mama's life goes undocumented and unseen.
Someday, I want them to see me, documented, sitting right there beside them: me, the woman who gave birth to them, whom they can thank for their ample thighs and their pretty hair; me, the woman who nursed them all for the first years of their lives, … me, who cried when I dropped them off at preschool, breathed in the smell of their post-bath hair when I read them bedtime stories, and defied speeding laws when I had to rush them to the pediatric ER in the middle of the night for fill-in-the-blank (ear infections, croup, rotavirus).
I'm everywhere in their young lives, and yet I have very few pictures of me with them. Someday I won't be here -- and I don't know if that someday is tomorrow or thirty or forty or fifty years from now -- but I want them to have pictures of me. I want them to see the way I looked at them, see how much I loved them. I am not perfect to look at and I am not perfect to love, but I am perfectly their mother.”
Although these kids won’t have any pictures of me slamming doors or getting in-their-face-mad or forgetting them at carpools (those are a little harder to get), I’m sure they probably won’t need any reminders!
But I just hope they also remember how much I love my job--the best one I could ever ask for: being their mother.(Not sure where Elle and Lu were that day…)
Much more about my feelings about pictures of my mother back here.
Challenge: Get in more pictures with those kids of yours. (That’s one of my fav. motherhood pics…it’s my sis-in-law.)
You’ll never regret it.
And you’ll thank your lucky stars some day down the road when it is YOU sitting there observing a new mother with her darling baby and realize, tearfully, those babies are gone.