Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Where does the love go?

Have you ever loved somebody who didn't love you in return? Have you longed for their acceptance and their favor? Have you dogged their steps and made them out to be more than they are?

It's unrequited love. Love that is unreturned. The other person doesn't NOT love you, but they just don't love you in the way you need.

Children need their parent to love them in a way that is their and theirs alone. Not to love on the paretns terms, but to love on the child's terms. To see them as an individual who has needs, and fufill those needs. Some children need cuddling. Some need books and intellectual pursuits. Some just need time and contact.

Even if you love them immensely, but don't SHOW them in a way that is real to them, they won't feel it. It will create a vast void in them.

I was giving Lily lunch the other day. She was sitting at the table while I perused the mail. I looked up, corrected her for not chewing with her mouth open, and went back to the mail. When I glanced at her again, she had tears running down her face. Her hands were folded in her lap. She was sobbing quietly. I asked her what was wrong and she whispered "Mommy, I don't think you love me anymore."

My world stopped. It shattered like glass, and I lost my footing. I had created in my child a feeling of emptiness. Not on purpose, but through simply ignoring her needs. I saw her sitting there, heartbroken, but I also saw myself as a child, sitting and wishing for a love that I could feel.

I immediately held her, rocked her, and let her be a baby for a little while. I stroked her hair, rubbed her back, and let her simply soak up all of my love. And after, she was a different child. I realized just how much she NEEDED that, and how I have been giving her all of the wrong kind of attention- negative.

It's hard. I love my Lily with everything in me. But our relationship is a challenge sometimes. She is stubborn (like me). She is sassy (like me). She is prone to drama (like me). And so, through our similarities comes alot of angst. I find myself favoring Sam, God help me, because he is just...easier. God, that hurts to say. I don't want to play favorites. I don't. I love my Lily. I would die for her. She saved me from a lifetime of sadness.

And in all of this, there are circles. I cannot parent her and not think about how I was parented. And just when I think I have a handle on things, something happens with my father and the wound is opened again. I don't know how to heal this. And it effects all of my relationships- especially with Lily. I want her to know she is loved, but I don't want to spoil her. I want her to be secure but not clingy. I want her to be everything I wasn't...to bloom. To take the world on because she knows she has all the support she could ever need, not because she knows she in it alone and has to do for herself.

You put so much into somebody that you love, especially your children. And with this love, they blossom. They love you in return. Love you and challenge you and drive you crazy. But they love you.

But what about when this cycle is broken? When the love you give is simply tossed away or ignored? When the person you love disregards your efforts to love them? What then?

Where does the love go?

That's how I feel about my father. I have loved him my entire life. Loved with desperation to be loved in return the way I NEED. I have no doubt he loves me...but it has never been in a way that is real to me. There has never been any time invested. No effort to see me and love me like I need to be loved. And there's the problem. I LOVE HIM. I can't stop. And I don't know what to do with this love and care and anger and sadness. It just dissolves in his sickness and selfishness. So where does the love go? It hurts to cast it out and never reel it in. It hurts.

So he sits in the hospital. He is covered in sores. He is underweight. He is going through withdrawls. And still we have not spoken. Do I want to call him? Yes. But will we have the conversation I need to have? No.

So where can this love go?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Of all of my accomplishments as a mother, breastfeeding is the one I am most proud of. I nursed Lily until she was nearly two, and imagine I will do the same with Sam. Everytime I sit down to nurse, I realize just how wonderful my body is. How wise my body is. And how much of a miracle this thing called motherhood is.

I was reading an article a few weeks ago in which women who had chosen not to breastfeed listed their reasons. Among the many, one stuck out- "breastfeeding is too primal". Primal. Can you believe that? The most beautiful function of our body- to give life, and then sustain it with only ourselves. Primal. Yes, it is primal. Not in the way this woman was speaking of, but in a way altogether different.

When I nurse, I realize that I am connected in a profound way with all women who have come before me. Every woman who has awakened just a bare 10 seconds before her baby, knowing with internal certainty that the cry for milk was coming. I am connected to all women who have suffered through infections, mastitis, low milk supply, and thrush. I am connected with all women who have looked lovingly down at their baby as they fell asleep with warm rich milk in their tummy. There is nothing more primal. There is nothing more beautiful.

I cannot keep from smiling when I bathe my children, and see their beautiful soft skin, count their little rolls of chub. I can't help but sigh with relief when Sam settles down for a good nursing after a stressful day. My body must rest and relax for the milk to come. And so I sit, several times a day, and enjoy my son. I put my feet up, I read, or sit in silence. I watch Lily play. I stop the world for my child.

Life moves very fast these days. Society is based on immediate gratification. I can see how formula would be appealing. After all, breastfeeding takes time. Nobody can do it for you. You have to be present, and willing to be with your baby at all times. It can sometimes be frustrating to be so depended upon.

But all I have to do is look at my daughter, to see her face light up when I walk into the room. To see my sons little feet kick when he realizes we are going to the nursing chair. To see Sam stop nursing to smile at me, and then go back with half closed eyes. The bonding is deep as the ocean, and as endless as the tide.

The sweet is sweeter

We were in NYC to christen Sam last week. The day before the ceremony, I found out my dad was in the hospital again. He fell and laid on his floor for 2 days before being found. He is underweight, dehydrated, has sores on his back, and a very swollen shoulder. He is also going through withdrawls from alcohol.

It is all the same as before. And all different somehow. I am angry that he is throwing his life away with both hands, when a very close friend of mine is going through a huge medical scare and would give anything for health. I am angry that he continues to hurt his children, or worse yet, drive them into a state of just not caring anymore. I am sad for him, that his life has shrunk to a bottle and a chair. I am sad that he is waiting to die, when he could live.

I was struck by the parallels between the two facets of my life- my new existence, and the one I left behind. Celebrating new life, faith, and joy...and leaving behind the pain and destruction my old life simmers in. There is absolutely no similarities to my new realtiy and my old, and for this I am so so grateful.

But I also have to remember that this is where I come from. This, for better or worse, created me. And I am the person I am today because I chose differently than my parents did. Who would I be without the family I was born into? Would I be as willing to love, to be compassionate, to give until it hurts? I don't think you can do those things unless you realize the great vacuum that happens when you don't recieve them. I've realized something in the past week- the only way to fill the void my parents created in me is to love MORE, to give MORE, and to be MORE than they were.

I also spent the week watching Mark with his parents. How they laugh, argue. How they love even without saying it aloud- through food, through actions, and through respect. I've seen how good parents give love to their children- by listening, by offering advice, and by doing for them without asking. I've watched my sister in law with her mother- how they cook together, every movement like a dance. They have created so many meals together that it is second nature for them. They call each other several times a day. They spend time together. They shop together.

I used to be so envious. I tried not to be, but watching Mark with his family was like a slap in the face. It hurt. But this time I had both of my babies with me, and I realized that even though I didn't have the abundance of love in my pervious life, I have it now, because I GIVE it. I create it. And one day, Lily and I will cook together. Sam and I will sit together and laugh. I will offer advice and they will roll their eyes. And it begins now, with my two little people. And it is sweet, so sweet, because of the bitterness that came before.

What comes, comes. I cannot make my father value life. I cannot make him give up alcohol and love me enough to live. I can't change his mind, and I cannot give him faith. The only thing I can do is go about my life, and love as I wish I was loved. I can call him and tell him I love him. And I can wait for what comes.