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I am thrilled to share with you the series of guest posts appearing here in the first weeks of June, as I take a little extra time to settle in and soak up my family and the new life among us. "Soulful Mothering" is a series of written words, photographs, craft projects and thoughts on mothering from some of my favorite ladies on the web. I'm so grateful to each of them for sharing their time with me, and their hearts and words in this space. I have been inspired by the gifts they've shared, and I'm sure you will too. Enjoy!
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Connections in the undercurrents (or Behind the Scenes)
A recent day started out with electrical cords lying across the floor of our bedroom like snakes, ready to jump up and give me a whopper of a bite who-knows-where. Sometime that same day my toddler had tripped on one and fallen right on top of the 300 mls of breastmilk that I had just pumped.
“Don't cry,” I reminded myself. “It's just spilled milk.” Then I thought to myself that whoever coined this phrase was certainly referencing cow's milk, and not the human variety. Before I could let myself have a cleansing sob, I noticed that the puddle of milk was nowhere to be seen on the wood floor. I got down on my hands and knees and pulled a vagrant slipper out from the clumps of cat hair underneath the bed – still no milk. It had simply seeped through the floorboards to the basement below. That was when I started laughing.
The cords, you see, are from the following: a breastpump, a baby scale, a feeding pump attached to an IV pole, and the occasional charging laptop. Motherhood took a turn down an unknown-to-me path on October 4th of last year – the day we found out that our second baby would be born with a serious heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome. I'm so grateful that he is doing well after the first in a series of three open-heart surgeries, but his is a future of question marks – a future of medical challenges.
After the first overwhelming shock of his diagnosis, I let the news soak in a bit before telling other mama friends and acquaintances. Imagined dialogues sprouted up in my head:
“Yeah, we've been pretty busy – been working on a few new sewing patterns, my parents came to visit – oh, and did I mention that only half of my son's heart works?” How's that for bringing a friendly conversation to an awkward, screeching halt? Such a party pooper I would be. But I couldn't really think or talk about anything else.
What happened instead, when I started sharing my sorrow with other mothers, was a revelation. Time and time again, through comments on my blog, conversations at the park, and phone conversations with aunts and sister-in-laws, I found that all mothers share an undercurrent of sorrow. With joy comes sorrow, with sorrow comes joy – and the cycle continues. The yin and yang of mothering, if you will. So many of us have lost babies, had a child with medical challenges, social or learning difficulties, or have worried about a child for various reasons. Often, we don't talk about it. Sometimes we don't talk about it because it's too painful, or we fear that, in reaching out, we will find ourselves alone. But we also don't talk about it because, eventually, we heal. Life becomes livable again. We become comfortable with our “new normal.”
As mamas, we are never alone in joy, and we are never alone in sorrow. Behind the scenes, we are all the same. Some of us, at any given time, feel like things will never get better. And then things do get better. We mamas befriend each other and reach out with understanding, and a clear message: it will get better. You will belly laugh again. We get by with a little help, and reassurance, from our fellow mamas.
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Meg McElwee blogs about motherhood and creativity at sewliberated.typepad.com. Her second book, Growing Up Sew Liberated, just hit the shelves this month. Her collection of sewing patterns is available at her website, sewliberated.com.