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Thursday, 20 January 2011

Small Things

(Mandal Norway)

I never really knew what to do with myself.

At around 8 years old, I wanted to be an artist and wear straw hats and live in the south of France. At 16, I wanted to be a writer and a poet and only achieve fame long after death. Lead a tragic sort of life but the problem with that was that I was irrepressibly happy most of the time so there went that grand ambition. At 21, I toyed very briefly with the idea of being a nurse but at the age of thirty I still cry when I have to get a needle and pass out cold when I get a vaccine and just last week I screamed when I was at the chiropractor's so physically, I'm a wimp and nursing wouldn't suit me. In between all these great career plans, I worked many jobs in several countries. I have a good work ethic but there was no job I did that I wanted to do forever.

Except travel which isn't really a job I suppose. At every age, I wanted to be a globe-trotter and at that at least, have been somewhat successful. (But not very because there is a lot of the world left to see.) When my husband first suggested buying a house, I was dead against it because "Then what would happen if we wanted to go travel the world for a year or two?". Thus spake the voice of maturity, responsibility, and logic. ;)

I won't say I always wanted to be a mother. Not that I didn't want to be a mother, it was simply something I never doubted so there was no need to want it too badly and I didn't really think about it aside from enjoying the reaction I got when I would tell people I wanted to have seven children. Of course, I desperately wanted to be a mother when I found out that my husband and I couldn't have biological children. That is when I really discovered what I wanted. Everything else paled in comparison after that. I had an excuse to feel tragic. (I'm not making light of it but it is amazing how mourning the loss of something you can't have gives you a sense of purpose.) So we pursued adoption with purpose. It became our goal, our hope and our dream. The transformation was incredible. I went into adoption with an angry heart, with words destructive and ugly, with huge, encompassing sorrow that we would never have a little boy with my husband's smile or a little girl with my eyes but also with a lot of desperate prayer. Very gradually my heart changed until I could say honestly that I wanted nothing different than what I had. That even if given a choice between pregnancy and adoption, I would still choose adoption and choose it joyfully. I still feel this way.

So now I am a mother. I spend these days with William. Sometimes they are lovely, full of laughter and fun, sometimes they are frustrating and feel far too long. Many days I wonder if I'm any good at being a mother at all.

Sometimes that question of what should I do now winds its way back into my mind, plays havoc with my peace for a short while. The quiet, persistent "Yes you are a mother, but what else Colleen? What else?" And I sit and think "So much else. Leave me alone."

I don't have a career. I don't even want one. I know how unfashionable that is today. I don't care. I am still trying to figure out what I want to do and probably always will be. (At least I always have wearing straw hats in the south of France to fall back on.:)

Sometimes the things that matter are very small things, "to do small things with great love". Last week I wrote about William having such trouble sleeping. I was so frustrated and impatient because I didn't want to spend hours helping him get to sleep. I wanted to do other things. Important things. Like watch "La Dolce Vita". So as I sat in his room, rocking him and feeling slightly resentful, like I was really getting a bad deal, this wasn't what I signed up for when I thought about being a mother, all those sorts of thoughts...I looked at his small, beautiful face, his eyes closed and listened to him breathing softly against my chest and felt the Lord press words on my restless, impatient heart.

"This is what I want you to do Colleen. I want you to rock him to sleep. Your job just now is to love him."

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The Saint Of Impossible Things Or Hopeless Cases

William is stubborn.

Imagine if you will, a four and a half month old baby not sleeping a wink on the flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka to London. Eleven hours, his dark eyes wide and staring, not shutting for even one blissful second. I imagine it would have been blissful at least. We longed for sleep but sat there zombie-like instead murmuring nonsense and cooing to the small bundle of a boy in the cot in front of us.

This was only a dark foreshadow of things to come. Alright to be fair, he has been a very good sleeper up until now so I guess that's why it's a shock for me the nights he does choose to lie in bed screaming fit to wake the dead...for hours and hours amen.

Of course I go to him...feed him...change him...rock him...but he is not the sort of child who tires himself out crying. No. Not for William you see. He can scream with the best of them from ten in the evening until almost five in the morning so there is no option here of "letting him wear himself out". It's we who pay dearly for his lack of sleep. What does he care? He can nap the next day. :)

Fast forward to Saturday, he is 18 months old. I tried all the things I listed above. He is awake until well after five in the morning. I feeling like screaming myself, tearing my hair out, running away...

Sunday, he sleeps fine.

Monday, back to the same old tricks. I do cry in frustration, tear a bit of my hair out but not so much that it hurts and plan what I'll take when I run away to camp out in the woods across from our house.

Tuesday. I begin to dread the evenings as one does something awful that happens to them repeatedly. I feel a growing sense of panic in my chest. Sure enough as I sip my peppermint tea a piercing shriek splits the air. "No God...please..." (And this is a prayer not taking the Lords name in vain. :) as I put my head in my hands and begin to rock slowly back and forth at the mere contemplation of another night like this.

I go in, determined to be patient. I wrap a little blanket around my own shoulders for comfort and speak quietly to him. But every time I think he's asleep and try to leave, his eyes fly open and his shrieking resumes. Finally I remember. I'm Catholic. We have patron saints for everything! So I run out to the living room and grab my rosary and go back in and make a solemn vow. I will pray it until he falls asleep. I prayed it two times and finally...his breathing becomes heavier and lo, the child sleeps. I don't dare breathe. I get up as quietly as I can and flee the room only pausing at the door to offer up a last, desperate "St Jude, please intercede for us! This is a potentially hopeless case and I need sleep tonight! You are the saint of impossible things! Have fun with this one!"

And he must have because William slept, I hesitate to say "like an angel" but I will, all night.