Today I am very tired. Last night, I lay in bed awake unable to drift off to sleep. Hour after hour passed until it was time for my husband to get out of bed and start his day. Then, just as he disappeared into the shower, I fell asleep.
When the girls heard I’d had a bad night they said, “You’re to rest today, Mum. We’ll take care of everything.” Imogen drove Charlotte to her piano lesson. Sophie made me a bowl of porridge for breakfast. Gemma-Rose gave me a hug.
Quite often I have bad nights. There are many days when I feel overtired. It’s hard facing the day knowing I haven’t got enough energy to do all I need to do, let alone all I’d like to do. It reminds me of when we had babies and toddlers in the family. In those days, I used to dream of a time when I’d be able to sleep the whole night through, without anyone waking me up. I wanted to get out of bed feeling refreshed. I wanted to be able to enjoy my children without feeling weary all the time. I wanted to be able to give them my best.
After Sophie was born, I hit an all-time low. I’d had seven children, five miscarriages, and years and years of having a little person constantly attached to me. I thought I couldn’t face any more. I talked to a priest: “I’m so tired. I don’t think I can accept any more children. I just want a break. I want to enjoy the children I have, give them more without spreading myself too thin…” Do you know what the priest’s reaction was? He laughed, and then he said, “Surely you can accept just one more?” Oh, I felt misunderstood. I was confused, and hurt. I felt so sorry for myself. I hadn’t got the response I’d been hoping for. The words stung, but it was the laughter that hurt the most.
A few months later, I fell pregnant. Yes, I thought, maybe I could accept one more child after all. Except I didn’t have that baby, at least not here on earth. I miscarried again and I had to deal with more sadness and turmoil, while still caring for our other children. But I recovered and one day I found out I was expecting another baby. This baby was Gemma-Rose.
I can’t describe adequately the love I feel for Gemma-Rose (and all my children). What would my life be without her? What if that priest hadn’t laughed and made light of my situation. What if he’d agreed with me? I might have missed out on so much.
Motherhood isn’t easy. Sometimes it even seems impossible. We lose control of our lives and often wish things could be different. Surely we won’t survive? We wonder if our children will end up suffering because we haven’t enough energy to be the perfect mother to them.
I have lots of time to give Gemma-Rose because she is the youngest child in our family. In a way she is getting a perfect childhood, despite my tired days. I can read to her without being interrupted by the cries of a baby. I can give her my full attention. Is she better off than my older children who had to share me, who had a rather frazzled mother? Do my older children wish they were the youngest? No. They had their own share of delights. They grew up in exciting time: babies joined our family, they enjoyed little siblings who adored them. Gemma-Rose has never known that. My older children had many natural learning experiences she will never get. They didn’t really suffer. They saw Andy and I accept more children into our family and hearts, despite the difficulties. They knew they were loved.
So I muddled my way through the baby and toddler years when everyone seemed to need something from me all at the same time, on days when I had little energy to give them. Yes, it was a muddle but I survived. And looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. I would make those sacrifices all over again. I would give up my time, my freedom, my sleep, my arms… You see, every one of my children is a blessing. I now know perfection isn’t necessary. A spirit of willing self-sacrifice is far more important.
Times change. My children are now the ones making sacrifices. They are the ones who are looking after me. They are freely giving back what I gave them.
“Did you enjoy your morning tea, Mum?” asks Gemma-Rose.
I smile. “It was delicious. Thank you for cooking the biscuits for me. Thank you for looking after me.”
Today I’m very tired. But that’s okay, because today I feel especially loved.
Image: memories of a time when the house was full of noise and mess, a baby and love.