Monday, November 10, 2014

Frankie's birthday

Today is Frankie's 9th birthday, which means I have been a mother for nine years. I clearly remember that first night after he was born. It was an overflow evening in the hospital, so we were sharing a room with another family. Two newborn babies, four parents, one hospital room = lots of crying and zero sleep. At one point, as I was lying awake, still in enormous pain from the birth, Frankie was screaming, the other baby was screaming, and Joel was somehow asleep on the couch. I grabbed my pillow and with all the strength I could muster, heaved it towards Joel, in a desperate attempt to wake him up. I missed. And so I lay there, now pillowless, trying to reach a screaming baby in the dreary, drugged stupor of someone who has been a mother for seven hours.

In the days that came, I found that my exhaustion and overwhelming feelings of incompetence were only matched by the intensity of my wonder and love. Figuring out the puzzle of a brand new human being was an amazing task, and when I felt that tiny person sleeping on my chest, I breathed in awe and gratitude. At the same time, whenever the baby monitor began to sputter the little noises that indicated that Frankie was ready to eat, yet again, my awe often turned into despair, and my gratitude fell towards desperation. I needed sleep. I needed time. I needed to not be a 24 hour feeding machine.

Nine years later, I cannot believe the person that Frankie has become, and I feel far more awe and wonder than I did in those early days. He is kind - so very kind - always willing to help and love and care for others. He is so generous that I worry, as he gives away his favorite possessions without hesitation. He is polite and thoughtful and insightful and easy to talk to. Conversations with Frankie make me think, and he often challenges me to be a better person, through his observations and concerns. I am astounded by the opportunity to be his mother, by the blessing of knowing this child.

It is still true that there are hard days; days when I worry that he is so sensitive that he will be hurt in a world that is not always so kind. There are times when he is so hard on himself that I want to require him to misbehave, so that he can learn self-forgiveness. I want Frankie to love Frankie as much as I do, and that is hard for him. The intensity of my love for him has only grown and this brings the agony of hurting with him whenever he feels pain.

There are ways that this reminds me of life in Zambia. The awe and beauty of being in a place full of faithful, generous, loving human beings. The wonder of being welcomed into a community, despite my difference. The honor of walking with friends through tremendous pain and incredible challenges. The privilege of working with colleagues as they transform communities and share the love of God in powerful ways. It is a deep joy and an amazing opportunity.

At the same time, there is the anguish that comes from love, from vulnerability. The struggle of wanting change, and knowing that it will be too slow. The fury of seeing injustice and abuse and poverty and hunger, and not having the power to stop it. The heartache of violence and suffering that emerges when we dig deep in our walk with one another.

Whether or not we are parents, I think this is our reality when we choose to love deeply. We have the blessing of awe and wonder. We have the blessing of joy and relationship. But we also have vulnerability and struggle. We also have wounded hearts and painful realities. It is not easy.

Frankie's ninth birthday reminds me that it is worth it. That first night, those first weeks, were excruciating. And I didn't even mention the labor...I was tired. I was in pain. I was overwhelmed. And I would do it over and over and over and over again, to have this amazing child that I am so honored to parent. It is worth it to love, to make yourself vulnerable, to experience pain, to allow for suffering, and to recognize that love will win. It will win in his life, it will win in my life, it will win in this world.

I am so grateful for all the ways that Frankie reminds me that love is always worth the risk, always worth the pain, always worth the vulnerability....Happy birthday, my darling boy. Thanks for all you teach me!

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