Gerald asks the question. It’s an honest one. A single child of single children, he doesn’t know any kids, doesn’t have friends who have kids. He knows all the objective answers, Church teaching, etc. But he wants the subjective stuff, what is your experience of parenthood?
Here’s the answer I posted. Feel free to drop over to his blog and leave your own reasons. The great thing about parenthood is there are as many different reasons are there are different children.
how did your individual life change ?
Suddenly the most beautiful person in the entire world was looking at me as if I were God. And to her I am the face of God. That’s completely overwhelming, humbling. As much as I love my husband and he loves me, and I love him more than anyone else, there is so much that gets in the way, both of us are sinners, imperfect. But the love my daughter has for me is pure, unspoiled, completely trusting.
I learned as never before that I am completely helpless and that without God I cannot take a single step. I never knew what it meant to be dependent before. “I can’t do it!” I cried so many times at 3am. And I needed God more than I ever needed anything. And he was there. I’ve learned how to play again. How to delight in simple things like dogs and bananas and the wetness of water. How to laugh at nothing, at anything. How to see the miracle of the ordinary. The joy in opening a door or putting on a shoe.
I read on a mom’s blog recently that the pains of labor rip open a place in your heart that never heals. Suddenly every mother’s pain when her child is hurt or sick or in trouble is your pain. That is so true. Being a mother makes you more empathetic to everyone you meet. I’ve learned patience and courage and selflessness.
– how did your life as a couple change ?
We became so much closer. On my wedding day, I thought I could never love my husband more than I did then. I was so wrong. Watching him look at our daughter, watching him smile at her, care for her, cry over her, I fell more and more in love with him.
I learned I needed him to protect me and to protect her. I learned to lean on him, to let him care for me, physically, emotionally, materially. When he cleaned up after I threw up because I had bad morning sickness, I knew how much he really loved me.
We learned how to not take each other for granted. How to cherish the small things about each other, how to cherish the seconds and minutes because each one is so precious.
Children don’t get in the way of your togetherness as a couple, they bring you so much closer than you can ever imagine being when there are just two of you. Your love for each other becomes so real that you have to give it a name, it’s a person.
– what were the best times ?
Hearing her cry as the doctor pulled her out of me. Seeing for the first time the face of my beloved that I’d been dreaming about for nine months and for so much of my life before that. Hearing her call me mama and my husband dada. Watching her face light up when I walk into the room or when her daddy walks into the room. Feeling her throw herself down a flight of stairs and into my arms even when I’m not ready because she trusts me to catch her.
Caring for her physical needs. To me changing diapers isn’t one of the bad things. It’s one of the best. Diaper changes are a wonderful time when it’s just her and me and she’s looking into my eyes. It’s a chance to perform one of the corporal works of mercy, to care for another person’s most intimate needs. Anyone can smile at a cute baby, it takes love to wipe her filthy bottom.
I think of God who became a baby and Mary who wiped up his messes. And this is what God does for us. We crap all over him and he just smiles and wipes up the mess and loves us all the more even when we are completely ungrateful for what he’s done for us.
Co-creating an immortal soul with God, not once but twice. I’ve never seen the face of my second child and I won’t until I die and get to heaven (God willing) but I know that my babies will both live forever. And I pray every day that they will live their forever in the presence of God, in the beatific vision.
– what were the worst times ?
The spinal, waiting to be cut open, lying there completely helpless while the doctor pulled my daughter out of me and not being able to hold her during the first hour of her life, watching her be wheeled out of the OR and away to the nursery.
Being awake and helpless and alone at 3 am with a baby who won’t stop screaming and not knowing what to do, feeling like it will never stop, like I’ll never sleep again, like how the hell am I going to cope with this helpless little human being who is so completely dependent on me for every single thing except breathing. (But you know what, it did end. I did cope. She’s no longer quite so helpless. I learned the wisdom of: This too shall pass.)
Mom guilt. Second guessing myself at every turn and every time I hear about or read about someone who made a different parenting decision than the ones I’ve made.
Regret. When I screamed at the helpless baby because she wouldn’t stop crying. That was one of the worst moments of my life. I wish I could take it back and I can’t. The great thing: she forgave me completely and doesn’t remember it at all.
– would you do it all over again
In a heartbeat. Wouldn’t change a thing. I want a dozen more. The worst moment was when I had a false diagnosis of uterine cancer and thought I’d never have another baby, that my daughter was the only one. That was the absolute worst moment of my life. Not the prospect of cancer, the possibility of a terminal illness, the worries about chemotherapy and pain and suffering. No, it was the thought that I’d never be pregnant again, never co-create with God again, never give birth to another baby, never witness the miracle of my love and my husband’s made manifest.
– did you notice that your parents were cackling behind your back when your kids did something to you that you once did to them ?
No. But I understand my parents so much more with each passing day and each time I hear their voices coming out of my mouth. I love hearing them share all the stories of my childhood in a way they never could before. I love being their peer in a completely new way.
– those of you with a lot of children (say, more than 3), how does one deal with a whole pack of children?
I’ve only go the one so far; but I’ve got plenty of nieces and nephews (from families with four and six kids each) and know plenty of large families. The best word of advice: They (usually) come one at a time. All you have to do is deal with one more. One day at a time, that’s all we ever can do.
You find strength you never knew you had. And you get strength you never had before because God sends more grace, more capacity for coping with each new kid he sends. You can’t do it now. You will be able to do it then. That’s why marriage is a sacrament. Alone, we can’t do it; but with God all things are possible.