I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a mother lately. This year in my Mothering Matters group I’ve been convicted many times of my shortcomings, and encouraged to try some new things in my parenting. This month in particular has been a time of reflection for me on my relationships with my children.
Elise turned 8 this month. That means I’ve been a mom now for 8 years, or slightly longer if you count my pregnancy with her. A lot has happened in those 8 years. Elise is the only one of my children who lived through the short life and loss of our daughter Emma with John and I. Sometimes I think that should be a special sort of bond I have with her, but more often than not, I feel that instead, that time in some way damaged our relationship because of how often I was gone from her. Elise was only 2 1/2 years old when Emma was born. She had turned 3 just weeks before Emma passed away. She was around the age of my boys now, and I can’t imagine being away from them for long periods of time, yet that is what we did. I had to make a choice, even though it wasn’t conscious at the time, to parent Emma instead of Elise. When Emma was at the hospital, so was I. And because John was working, that meant Elise was usually with either his family or mine.
Now, not all of that was bad. I love the fact that Elise built such wonderfully strong relationships with her grandparents and aunts and uncles while I was gone. I love that she is fairly independent and strong because she didn’t have to rely on having me with her at all times. But I can’t help but wonder if by missing that key bonding time I somehow missed something important in her life. Sometimes I think it is all in my head, but there are times that I see that she too feels something is missing in her relationship with me. I don’t think she traces it back to those early years, and perhaps I shouldn’t either. I don’t know. But I have recently come to the realization that instead of focusing on what I cannot change, I need to work now at discovering exactly who this child is and how best to parent her now.
I want to do that with all my kids. Mothering is hard work. I am finding it takes a lot of mental planning, emotional strength, and physical choices to do it in the best way. And even then, there will always be pieces missing, but I think God did that on purpose so we would learn to rely on him, who is the true parent of our children.
Yesterday, I did what I have now done every year since Emma passed away. I fasted my computer time on February 21st. It was a restful relaxing day. I didn’t do as much reflection time as I have in the past, I just merely tried to relax and enjoy my kids. It was a wonderful day and I wish every one of my days could be as relaxed and restful as that one was. Today is Emma’s Heaven Birthday. She has now lived in heaven 5 years (well, I don’t think they keep track of years in heaven, but for us here on earth, we have missed her now for 5 years). It isn’t a sad day, not entirely. It is a joyful day, a day to remember God’s provision, his grace, his love, and his care. God walked alongside us closely as we cared for Emma and also as we mourned her loss. I cannot regret what we went through, because I would not give up the benefits we claim because of it.
As I got the kids ready to leave to go pick out flowers for Emma’s grave today, Will wanted to know more about our plans and the reasons behind them. “Today is Emma’s heaven birthday,” I told him. “It’s the day we celebrate her going to heaven.” “Celebrate?” asked Elise. “How can you celebrate when you are sad?” I tried to explain that we celebrate because Emma is happy in heaven, even though we miss her here. But I know it isn’t always that easy. Even though we knew that we were happy for Emma from the very day we lost her, we also were very very sad. But that overwhelming sadness doesn’t fill me anymore. No, today I can truly celebrate. I’ve thought a lot about a family I know that recently lost their baby and though I don’t wish I could take away their sadness, because I know it is a path they must walk, I do wish I could show them a glimpse of the future. A glimpse of their family and the joy that will fill their hearts if they let it. But it is a long way down the road.
We added our blooms to some beautiful flowers someone had already left at the cemetery (Thank You!) and took our annual picture of all our kids. Thank you all for praying and asking me how I am the last few days. We truly are very happy.