Guest Post: Kristen

December 13, 2012

Hello, Dear Readers! Mama is recovering and in good spirits; thank you all for the kind words and thoughts coming my way. I forgot to bring my handy donut to the surgery center, so I spent SEVEN hours in the waiting room on bad chairs. The good news is that I’m now walking like the Penguin again, much to the delight of the Minxes. QuackQuackQuack.

 

Today I share with you the words of the wonderful Kristen. She is a beautiful writer, a kind soul, and I consider her a friend, even though we’ve never met. Please give her a warm welcome!

Sunday I sat on the floor in the living room, kids napping behind closed doors, my husband watching football, and went through pilesof outgrown baby clothes.Like an intake nurse in the emergency room, I busied myself with triage: the impossibly small polka dot sleeper my eldest wore home from the hospital saved in a big orange Tupperware bin with his name on it; the baby blue fleece penguin-themed suit my toddler was wearing when he first sat up in another one; many more items whose significance never rose to the level of the sacred stacked less carefully in a third pile.And then I did something I’d never done before.  Instead of placing that third group of items high up on a shelf in the boys’ closet in boxes boldly labeled, “NEWBORN” or “6 MOS,” I put them instead in giant garbage bags, threw them in the the trunk of my car, and drove them to the Goodwill collection center next to the grocery store.Up until now, there had always been another little one in our family – or at least the idea of one – ready to inherit his or her sibling’s clothes.  But now we know, or are pretty sure at least, that Baby Sister is it, the seal on our family.  So those tiny onesies and zip-up sleepers with extra fabric that fold over a baby’s hands are being passed on to other families, to clothe babies smaller than anyone in this house ever will be again.

I’ve reveled in my daughter’s babyhood more than I allowed myself to with my sons.  And that might be because I am a more experienced mom now and I tend to worry less and let more things just be.  Or it may just be that she’s an easy baby: quick to flash one of her gummy grins, happy to go with the flow of life in our crazy household.  But I suspect that my savoring of these months has even more to do with my realization from the first moment I met her that hers will be the last infancy I ever get to experience as a mother – the last first teeth, the last first words, the last first steps.

With the moment of her arrival came not a sense of panic that these moments were slipping away as quickly as they arrived, but one of completeness – of fruition – as if all the work and worry of the past five years was meant to culminate in that single moment.  Like there was some cosmic force that meant for us to have three kids, these three kids.

I know some parents fear having more kids because they can’t imagine loving another child as much as they love their first. But I realized when I saw my daughter, as I’m sure those parents do too, that having a third child would make me love my other two even more.  It would lend more dimensions to my love (now Big Brother isn’t just my first child, he’s my oldest child, the big brother to his little siblings), just as I love my husband more now because I now know him as the father of my children.

Despite this feeling that I still have that we are just where we are meant to be, with each step forward there is both a celebration – more sleep! – and a quieter, more subtle mourning.  And I felt those paired sensations when I dropped off those bags of clothes on Sunday, as though in depositing those bags into the giant bins at the Goodwill, I was throwing away moments from my children’s babyhoods, moments we would never get back.

I got home from my mission feeling both heavy and empty.  The kids still napping, my husband now doing some work of his own, I went downstairs to my desk and opened up the copy of Katrina Kenison’s The Gift of an Ordinary Day that had been sitting there since I read it last month. As I had several times before, I looked through the passages that I had marked with neon pink Post-It notes and happened upon one whose wisdom felt like just the balm I needed at that moment.

Katrina writes

Being alive, it seems, means learning to bear the weight of the passing of all things.  It means finding a way to lightly hold all the places we’ve loved and left anyway, all the moments and days and years that have already been lived and lost to memory, even as we live on in the here and now, knowing full well that this moment, too, is already gone.  It means, always, allowing for the hard truth of endings.  It means, too, keeping faith in beginnings.

I put the book down then and went back upstairs.  I stood in front of the bins of clothes I had kept, the most treasured items that I will save for the kids and myself.  And I said a silent benediction: not for the sweet, too small strawberry-shaped knit cap that will never again grace the head of my daughter, but for the baby she was when she wore it and for the girl and the woman she will grow to be.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Jane December 14, 2012 at 8:58 am

So wonderful to see you here, Kristen. And such a bittersweet post. My two youngest are 10 months apart in age. Their “babydom” was such a whirlwind – and I was an older mom, so I knew they would be the last. Pure exhaustion kept me from relishing this last time. How I wish I could go back. But, instead, it taught me to make the most of now.

(Hugs, strength, good health, peace and love to you Kitch, and your mom.)

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Arnebya December 14, 2012 at 9:33 am

I am trapped in the desire to have another and the likelihood of our last being the last. It is a relief to be done with diapers, done with night feedings, done with babyness. It is heartbreaking to be done with diapers, done with night feedings, done with babyness.

This is a beautiful exploration of how the end of the baby years affects us. But it is also a gorgeous reflection on all that is to come from the nonbabies. Imagine, just imagine, how it will feel if one of your children has a daughter who wears that hat. I’d have to say all these feelings we have now will have come full circle.

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Kristen @ Motherese December 17, 2012 at 11:20 am

Hi there, Arnebya, it’s very nice to meet you.

Thank you for your kind words about my post and for your wise reflection on what we all have to look forward to. It seems enough, especially right now, to grab on to this very moment and not ruminate about the past or glance ahead to the future, but I love your reminder about everything coming “full circle.” May we and our children all live lives long and healthy enough to witness it.

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Alexandra December 14, 2012 at 10:24 am

I love motherese. It’s easier said than done, not grieving the baby days. I look at my almost 6 foot tall first born, and yearn for just one day of playing trains with him again.

Except this time around, I’d never say, “later. Wait till I finish the dishes.”

Not if given a second chance.

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TKW December 14, 2012 at 10:38 am

So glad to have you here, my friend! I get the yearning for those baby years, too. Often, in fact. They were such a blur…I wish I had appreciated them more.

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BigLittleWolf December 14, 2012 at 10:47 am

I love everything about this post, Kristen. (Thank you, Kitch, for inviting Kristen over to play here…)

That “completeness” you mention. I had wanted three children (crazy, all things considered); I am not certain I will ever feel the sense of completeness you speak of, relative to parenthood. Then again, I can look at my sons, their adulthood still emerging, and be glad of the young men they become.

A good deal of their babyhood and childhood is a blur, unfortunately; happily, I have pictures and drawings and videos that bring moments back to life.

I also know to a large extent “the rest” – whatever that means – is up to them. There is relief (among other things) in knowing that.

A beautiful post.

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Caitlin December 14, 2012 at 8:02 pm

im not sure if it was in lieu of the tragedy that occurred in connecticut today or just the pure authenticity of kristen’s words, but this post brought some tears to my eyes. xoxo

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Kristen @ Motherese December 17, 2012 at 11:24 am

Hi Caitlin – Dana and I chose to share this post before we knew what was to come on Friday, but in some ways I feel their truth is even stronger in my heart after hearing about the horror that unfolded in Newtown. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in holding all of my babies that much more tightly this weekend, both mourning the lives lost and profoundly grateful for the living, breathing, squirming children on my lap. Thank you for your nice words. It’s a pleasure to meet you.

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Privilege of Parenting December 14, 2012 at 11:50 pm

Hi Kristen & Dana,

Just a note to say I hear you, love to see you together in either of your spaces, and send love in resonance with all we lovingly hold and relinquish—and in ever growing clarity of how we all dread loss and aloneness of myriad flavors, and perhaps it is this very ache that also draws us together and toward all that makes life so great when it is great.

XO

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Kasey Mathews December 15, 2012 at 5:42 am

What a wonderful way to start my day, sharing in your memories, Kristen, which triggered many of my own. Thank you for such a thoughtful post and introducing me to Dana!

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TKW December 15, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Bruuuuuce! (POP)

How are you? You have been in my thoughts–

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Pamela December 16, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Love it Kristen! Thank you so much. I am going to be 40 in a month and I am thinking a lot now of last firsts as both my babies (and I!) grow. Beautiful writing as always! xoxo

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Wolf Pascoe December 16, 2012 at 11:39 pm

Ah, Kristen, how sweetly do you make the ordinary luminous. It’s lovely to see you here.

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Katrina Kenison December 17, 2012 at 8:57 am

The comments here feel like a gathering of dear friends — all these names I’ve come to know and love through our ongoing online conversations. What a beautiful post, made sadder and more resonant by the events of these last days. Thanks to Dana, for creating this space for kindred spirits and varied voices. And Kristen, even now, with grown sons, I feel these moments of ending and transition acutely. Always hard. Always, I remind myself how blessed I am to have these moments.

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