On Wednesday, our baby will be 21 months old. Time is sure flying!
To date, I have not had my fertility return (he’s still breastfeeding,) but I am starting to wonder if there’s been a wee shift in hormones recently. I’ve become so sensitive and easily crushed. Simple things bring me to tears. An offer to help rejected or a need for help not met sends me running for the tissues. So maybe it’s hormones. Or (more likely) it may just be the weight of life in general.
I have had an overwhelming feeling of isolation growing since the boy was born (don’t misunderstand… I would not trade life with him for anything!!!) Add to that my husband being out of the country, in a dangerous place, for the past almost 5 months and my oldest son being in a combat zone for well over a year and I’ve become quite a mess. Maybe it’s my own fault. Maybe I ought to just break out of the “norm” and find ways to be less isolated. The truth is, though, it is overwhelmingly difficult for me to do that.
The boy tends to hate his car seat. He’s gotten much better over the past several months (thanks to Joe Scruggs and my in-truck entertainment system!) but it is still a challenge to even make it to daily Mass or walmart, let alone anything else. The boy also seems to always be between naps or meals, which makes the idea of packing up to go anywhere to do anything quite daunting ~ even the things I need to do!
Having a large family has been more than I ever hoped it would be. I am blessed beyond measure. Yet I find that, within that blessing, comes sacrifice and difficulty. Sometimes we forget about that part, or we gloss over it so as not to frighten young couples who are just beginning their families. The beauty of this way of life is real and deep, but the sacrifice is real as well. It is right to focus on the good and the beautiful. It is also right to acknowledge the rest of the story. After all, it is in the trenches, in the mud and the chaos, that victories are won.
Being an older mother of a large family, with kids ranging in age from 22 to nearly 2, I sometimes feel like the team mascot! Don’t get me wrong. I am proud of my brood, I love them dearly and really, it is a wonderful life. If even one time in my life my family and I inspired even one other person to embrace life and be open to God’s blessings, that is more than I could hope for. If even one time we reached someone with the message that family and motherhood are worthy of our full time and attention, a good greater than I imagined has been achieved. If even one time someone can see the reality that the blessings of being open to life far outweigh the burdens of it, good has been done.
And still I cannot help but think of all those who stand on the sidelines cheering without ever understanding that while the good far outweighs the bad, that it comes with a price.
For me the price has been isolation. There is a loneliness that cannot be fully understood by those who are not experiencing it. It is a certain type of burden to spend so much time at home with the children, going over math and grammar day in and day out, cooking enough to feed a small platoon each and every day (okay, most days!) facing the laundry piles that seem to reproduce over night ~ making the washing seem to be a never-ending task. And, for me, the very real difficulty of being unable to do much of anything away from home and especially not without the children.
I have a few friends whose children are all grown and those grown children bring with them a new kind of mothering burden (I know, for I have those kids, too!) I have some friends whose children are all fairly young. I don’t fit with either group very well. My friends who have grown children are going to school or working a job outside of the home. My friends with younger children are younger themselves and seem to have greater ability and energy to manage living a “full life” even with their young ones. They do everything the homeschool group offers, make it to daily Mass almost everyday and get together socially pretty regularly. They seem to have time to volunteer and be actively involved in various groups and associations. I, on the other hand can barely make a run to Wally-World when the kids need new socks!
I know this is beginning to sound a lot like a long-winded complaint. It is not. I would not trade my life for anything. That, however, does not make the reality that my life is sometimes difficult any less true. I get the guilts regularly. When there is a call for religious ed teachers, I do not volunteer. When there is a very deliberate and determined pro-life effort, I only offer to join with my prayers. In trying to be a good Catholic and remain open to life,, I am becoming a “bad” Catholic. Being mother to this large family is sometimes difficult for me. More rewarding and beautiful than anything else I can imagine, but oftentimes difficult. It is not difficult in the sense that I don’t like it. On the contrary! I love it!!! But it remains difficult. Isolating. Lonely. And I don’t feel understood.
I know in my heart of hearts that the Lord does understand and he sees every tear I shed, He knows every moment I struggle through, He accepts every sacrifice I make (or try to make.) Some days, though, it is hard to see all of that. It is hard not to weep over the loneliness and isolation. You know, it’s not as though I have not been blessed with friends, either. I most certainly have. In a big way. Still, some days it is hard for me to see (no matter how much I know and understand) the blessing that is among the burdens I feel so pointedly. But I also know that in the blink of an eye, this season of life will be over (really, it will!) and I will wonder where the time went. I will wonder how I will fill my days when I find that attending daily Mass is easy and that I have the time and the ability to go back to school or find a job or volunteer in my parish (or become a midwife.)
One thing that I don’t think I’ll wonder, though, is whether or not it has been worth it. It is absolutely worth all of this and more.