Dear Younger Me, sometime in your mid 20’s you will have a crisis period. It won’t be a nervous breakdown exactly, so you will name it “the episode” but you won’t capitalize it, because that’s giving it too much head. It will find you leaving the teaching job you love and becoming agoraphobic. You will spend your days listening to relaxations tapes and wondering how you’ll ever possibly be ok again. You will leave countless full carts near the check out when someone hems you in from behind and all you can think to do is escape to your car and do your deep breathing exercises. You will think about dying often, but you won’t be suicidal. It’ll be more that you can’t imagine how you can live like this forever because you will daily buy the lie that this will never get better. You will become a shell of yourself and will lay awake nights waiting for the crack that will never come. You will find Jesus in the Japanese soaking tub in your little farm house, right there in the pages of the Psalms and all the stories you’ve been told by lip and flannelboard will come to life and you will believe.
The terminus of this dark time will be that you will throw yourself wholly into getting pregnant, something you’re not entirely sure is the best idea, but which you feel you’re supposed to do anyway. You won’t tell a soul because you’ll be terrified that they will look at you with soft eyes and say, are you sure that’s the best idea right now? And that when they do, your uterus will shrivel up and dry and you will never have babies. So you will get quietly pregnant, with no fanfare or advice asked or given. You will find out for certain after you are sick sick on your alaskan cruise and your first thought will be joy, but it will be followed closely by terror. The Zoloft that is keeping you sane, surely that isn’t good for your baby? This nugget of fear will take root and will grow a terror tree so big you get lost in it’s branches. You won’t wait to find a clever way to tell Dan because he will read it on your face when he gets home from work. Shortly after, you will be at your parent’s cottage, watching a show with your nieces and nephews and the news story of a woman who had a psychotic break with reality and drowned all her babies in the tub will come on and you will kiss those soft heads and excuse yourself from the room and you will run to the beach and fall on your knees and cry out to Father. You will ask him for a sign that you won’t be that woman, that you won’t do that terrible thing to this baby. You will listen to the waves and you will wish they would swallow you up. But instead you will surrender to the Father who promises to keep even the sea under his foot. You will put yourself there too. It’s safe there, you’re pretty sure.
The very next day, you will drive your black Jetta to a new doctor, trembling like the leaf you are, still praying for that sign. A kind, so kind woman named Sally will check you in. Behind her on the wall will be a clock with the name Zoloft on it, all in black. This, and the assurances from your new doctor that the Zoloft will not harm your baby in any way, will be like the softest balm on a blistered hurt. Joy will chop that fear tree right down and will take root in it’s place. You will find that joy is always stronger if you’ll let it be. You will grow that boy run your tummy like it’s what you were born to do because it’s actually what you were born to do. Those dark days of the episode will recede into the past and you will wear strength and peace as your favorite outfit. They look so good on you, fit you so well.
You will push for two and a half hours and then the doc will say that she needs to use forceps. You will remember seeing a picture in a book of forceps and how it scared the snot out of you. The thought of your baby’s head being squeezed in those metal tongues will give you superhuman strength and you will push that baby out and she will say, it’s a boy, and you and dan will both cry and look at each other in wonderment. This boy, he will make you a mother and in doing so, will show you your purpose in life. Not your only purpose, not even the most important purpose, but one of your favorite. You will take to mothering like a duck to water. You will play by all the rules at first, recording all his feeds and diapers on the chart the nurse gave you, even when your wise sisters tell you to just follow your instinct. You will have no faith in instinct at first, but soon it will become your constant companion and you will eat, sleep and breathe this mothering thing. The middle of the night feedings will be your favorite, the rest of the world sleeping and you and him in a moon puddle, watching his cheeks suck that beautiful milk in as you run your finger over his curls and whisper prayers into his teeny ears. You will ask for three things over and over in those sweet nights and the ones to follow: Jesus, make him fall in love with you, keep him safe, grow him up to love others more than himself.
Today that baby boy up and drove away, his new license in his wallet and confidence and pride etched on his beautiful face. You cried when you ordered his gift: a silver key chain that is engraved with the GPS coordinates to 9000 on one side so he can always find his way back home, and the word “mama” on the other so he knows who will always be waiting for him, keeping his supper warm and dying to hear his stories. You’ve done it. Not that your work is even close to finished, but you’re off to a good start. And this motherhood role has morphed from the constant touching and caring and diapering and guiding to a more hands off role of prayer and advice, but only when asked. You are in a role that is less babysitter and more guidance counselor, more spiritual advisor. Those long long days of pouring yourself out physically will give way to pouring yourself out emotionally and spiritually and they will be almost more taxing. You can’t keep him safe like you did when he was four and you had to keep him out of the creek. He has been released to the world and you can’t control what they do with him. This is terrifying. But then you remember that dark night on the beach when you cried out to a Father who had control of a world in which you had none and how He brought you peace and you trust him to do it again. And the instant you whisper his name, you feel it flood in and you realize that this is how you parent older children, with wisdom and lots of whispered prayers to the only one who loves this boy more than you do. And don’t worry, there are like a billion Smalls left to be totally dependent on you, so you will always have that. You might think for a minute that, as Jen Hatmaker said, perhaps it would be better for you to crush their dreams so that they grow up and live in your basement with their emotional support ferret, but you would be wrong.
Dear Younger Me, suck the marrow out of those early days of yoga pants and library story time when they come. Run your fingers through downy curls and breathe in the smell of sunscreen on baby skin all day long. Because there is a day coming far too soon when those curls will drive off taking their person with them and you will be standing in your kitchen (which is fab, by the way) and will weep at the sight of it, will feel like maybe that boy will never truly be yours again. Maybe. But then he will come home for dinner, bringing friends with blue lips from gas station slurpies and you will listen to their banter over roast beast and pavlova and you will think that maybe these days of letting go and driving off aren’t so bad after all. You will also think that perhaps you will spend every day of the rest of your bloody life giving something up. That the Father who planted that baby in your tummy, bids you constantly to lay his and your life down. And that when you get cocky and forget ( you will do this often), he will send a reminder that this life is a blip on the radar screen and not at all worth holding on to so you’d better let go. The things you hold on to the tightest were never yours to begin with. And someday you will sit at Judith, your laptop, committing these things to memory via blog and you will think that maybe letting go isn’t the worst thing after all.
this is me being real.