Tonight, I lay down in the bottom bunk of my son's beds. I snuggled up to Ryan as he tossed and turned and violently surrendered to sleep. He's always fallen asleep violently. Never one to drift peacefully, he flails about his mattress in protest until sleep eventually overcomes him.
He finally fell asleep and I lay there in the quiet room, surrounded by children's toys and tokens of days past (gumball machines, lego creations, art drawings). I started to reflect on a topic that my mind frequents these days--what it will mean to bring a third boy into the world.
I started to feel overwhelmingly vulnerable. For many reasons. The most tangible and obvious reason is the fact that I'm facing my third C-section. Even though this will be my third, the fear of not surviving is as strong as it was the first time around when, after two hours of pushing, my doctor's words harshly cut across the anxiety-ridden delivery room to announce, "C-section in five minutes." Her voice was calm and matter-of-fact, but they erupted intense feelings of horror and helplessness. Up until that point, I had never anticipated that I would ever require such major surgery and I knew nothing about C-sections. It turns out that knowing brings little comfort.
So I look to my due date with a mix of excitement and fear. Hoping to hope that I will survive another one. Staring down the very unlikely but still real risk of death. I know the chances are more than great that I will be just fine. But nothing is guaranteed.
But even greater than this vulnerability is the vulnerability that is inherent in being a mother. It's taken me a while to fully understand the consequences of motherhood. Six years into this adventure, I think I can finally put my finger on it. Occasionally, usually prompted by the news headlines of some tragic event, I go to a morbid place and I imagine what would happen if I lost my children. Just the thought makes me feel vulnerable and helpless. I imagine that if I were to lose my children, I would break down. I'd shut down. I'd crawl into ball on the floor and want to never get back up.
Before I became a mom, I was an individual. Untied, untethered, in charge. I controlled my feelings. I controlled my future (or so I believed). I was strong and independent. But the second my first baby was born, everything changed. And I didn't even realize it. Suddenly, I was tethered to this new soul, an impenetrable tie that could not be seen.
My body has created two boys (three boys). They are individuals, with their own choices to make, their own lives to live, their own paths to travel. They will grow up, severe their ties to me, and move onward. But I will never be free again. I am no longer an individual in charge of my own fate and my own future and my own feelings. My will to live is and will forever be inextricably tied to them. They are my first thoughts every morning and my last thoughts every evening. My life is now governed by their well being and their very existence. And this is scary.
If anything bad happens to them, I will feel it tenfold. I survived just fine before them. But now that my heart has known them, I don't believe I could survive in their absence. I can't imagine wanting to. They make me vulnerable. Each one adds to my vulnerability. Before they were born, I could hold my happiness close and keep it carefully guarded. But now, my happiness is tied to them. Everything important in my life now exists outside my own body (well, I guess 2/3rds of everything important in my life). This exposes me to an entire new world of dangers and harms and horrible possibilities.
Sometimes the vulnerability is so overwhelming that I feel like I'm suffocating in it. I read blog posts and news headlines and Facebook statuses of tragedy and sadness and I feel like I am standing on a tiny plank hovering above a deep crevasse. All it would take is a strong wind to knock me down. Strong winds appear to be randomly knocking down people around me. Even those who are faithful to God are subject to these tragedies. No one is safe from sadness and hardship and tragedy. And being a mother only ensures one thing: the pain of tragedy will be stronger.
I've been trying to think of a way to end this post on a happy note. But nothing feels genuine. Despite the darkness of this post, however, my heart is happy and full. The boys make me that way. They have given me a type of love that I never knew until I became a mom. And yes, it's a selfless, vulnerable love entirely dependent upon things beyond my control, but it's also the most fulfilling love that there is.