Sunday, November 15, 2015

rebuilding our village

Today I enter a new public writing territory -- motherhood.  It is a territory I have thoroughly explored in my private writing, but not one I have ventured out to publicly.

Motherhood is a tricky topic, and this is certainly not due to lack of material.  Moms are a wealth of stories to suit any crowd and any mood.  We're ready at any moment with the tear-jerkers, the tender moments, the terrifying, the hilarious, the disgusting, the melt-your-heart, the weird, the confusing, and the "so-cute-I-could-just-scream" stories.

But writing about mama life is very different than living mama life.  

A couple months ago, I wrote about surviving in our landominium that had long exceeded maximum capacity.  In this post, I explained that my perspective about overflowing out of our home gains much clarity when I'm writing in the early morning hours and all the darlings are still sleeping.  In those calm moments, I can find humor in the cozy chaos, but there are many moments I find no humor. The struggle is real and ugly.

The same goes for motherhood.

Days after our nine hour road trip with minimal napping, dozens of "I have to go potty" claims, whining, seat kicking, and no less than 247 requests for a snack, the rough edges have softened.  I can chuckle, turning that nightmare into an amusing story that would prompt any parent to nod along and feel my pain.  But there is no chuckling in that car; there is frustration, crabbiness, self doubt, and even tears, wondering how to pull myself up from the current exhausting moment and move into the next.

This is the balance of writing about motherhood.

It is my hope to bring out the humor, absurdity, and joy in it all, while carefully giving full weight to the struggles, questions, fears, and doubts.

And it is for that reason I have steered cleared.  But Andrew turned one a couple weeks ago, so my maternal walk down memory lane is in full stride as I recall exactly what we were doing one year ago today.  The transition to two children was much more difficult than either Stephen or myself expected.  This wasn't due to lack of sleep or an extra needy big sister (well, not entirely), but because welcoming our second child were some of my loneliest days.

Our first child, Charlotte, had been born two years earlier, and within hours of her arrival, our hospital room was filled with at least a dozen friends, all of whom were bubbling over with love and excitement for our new daughter.  During our two-day stay in that room, there was a steady stream of visitors with lattes, cupcakes, Jimmy John's, and pink onesies in hand.  We arrived home to pink balloons decorating the porch and meals lined up for weeks.  There was hardly a day someone didn't stop by to just chat, check in, and keep us company.

I recognize that for many new moms, I have just described your worst nightmare. But for Stephen and me, this village of people celebrating with us was a showing of love that we will always treasure.

Two years later, nearly every detail surrounding Andrew's arrival differed from his sister's, but the most impactful difference was the absence of that village.  It was a harsh reminder that so many of our dear friends, as if almost on cue, moved away from Oxford over that past year.  This mass exiting from Oxford spread our closest friends all over the country from California to New York to Florida to Hawaii.  But this is the nature of a college town.  Very few people, particularly those in their twenties and early thirties, expect to stay more than five or six years, ourselves included. 

I remember sitting on the couch nursing Andrew and thinking about how I'd possibly survive the upcoming cold months of maternity leave with limited friends.  Who would I talk to?  Who would Charlotte play with?  Where would we go?  What if we didn't leave the house for weeks?  Would anyone check in on us?  My tremendous joy was being overshadowed with an intense state of loneliness.

I wasn't looking for someone to watch Charlotte or hold Andrew or fold my laundry.  I didn't need someone to relieve me so I could nap or shower or spring for a latte.  I was just looking for friends.  Friends to patiently listen to every boring detail of how my new baby spent the past twenty-four hours. Friends to scold me for trying on regular jeans far too soon.  Friends to remind me that the outside world was still in motion, and I would rejoin it again someday.

I slowly lowered myself to the ground and asked Jesus for friends, and more specifically, mom friends.  Not just mom friends to make small talk with, but mom friends I could really connect with, laugh with and be real with during this season.  I prayed God would slowly rebuild that village we missed so dearly.

I have prayed dozens of prayers on that living room floor.  There are requests I have been laying before the Lord for years, pleading with Him and waiting to see how He will work. But there have also been times God fulfills an immediate need almost before I've picked myself up off the floor.

This was one of those times. 

Within days, I received an invite to come over to a friend's house for a pancake breakfast, yoga pants expected.

A few days later, a young mom from our church invited Charlotte to join her and her girls at the library story hour so I could have time with just Andrew.  Her kindness led to multiple doughnut dates and a few day trips to the children's museum.

A month later I connected with another mom during Charlotte's toddler gymnastics class. This friendship led to playdates, some great conversation, and of course, doughnut dates. (Should I be embarrassed about all the doughnut dates I schedule?)
Those winter months chugged along, and I soon found myself laying out those work clothes I hadn't seen in months. I sat with Stephen on the couch processing the jumbled mess of emotions every mom feels at the end of maternity leave. 

God had been so faithful.

Andrew's arrival didn't come with the crowds and balloons that his sister's had.  The enormous community we had surrounding us at that time was unique, a precious season of our lives.  A village would have been great.  I always prefer a house full of people,  but what I learned so deeply in those months after Andrew's birth was that I didn't need an entire community.  God didn't rebuild that village of friends we'd lost, but instead He taught me the simply beauty of someone who would just say "come eat pancakes at my house," or "let's meet for doughnuts."

After all, no one, especially a new mom, is saying no to pancakes or doughnuts.

And in honor of Andrew Boston...

"I'm one!"

1 comment:

  1. I must've missed this one from last month. You're a wise woman my friend and you are not alone in your loneliness. Miss you so much! And would never think You could have too many doughnut dates!