On Tenderness

I would never call myself a tender person. Ever. I can’t recall a time in my life when I could have been described as tender. Gentle, perhaps. Kind, maybe. But tender …

Tenderness contains clear connotations of softness, lightness, and depths of sensitivity as yet untouched by me. It implies an absence of rough edges and sharp corners and hardness, all of which I carry in abundance in my soul.

How does one reach tenderness when it lies beyond such a harsh environment? Better to leave it alone, untouched, unexplored. Better to not reach so deep for something I have yet to find necessary or useful.

Until now.

It seems that when I had my daughter, she popped up on the other side of my hardness and sharpness in the sweet, flower-filled field of lavender tenderness. For the last four weeks she’s invited me, called to me, and ultimately demanded me to reach beyond all I dislike about myself in order to meet her there.

To do so, I’ve had to put down plenty of fear, anger, guilt, frustration, worry, self-doubt … baggage too heavy to make the journey to tenderness where the new young soul of my infant basks in the untainted sun. The journey isn’t easy. The terrain is ever-changing. Just when I think I’ve conquered one dark thought, another pops out from around the corner like the nightmare version of whack-a-mole.

But do I have a choice? Don’t I want to see my daughter for who she is, not who I see through my broken and wounded glasses? Isn’t she worth it, to meet her in all her divinity, her pristine, youthful beauty? She’s tiny and intelligent, aware and opinionated … a small but fully-fledged human being who deserves my respect, my love, and all the best of me.

Yet all she asks is a little tenderness. I’m proud to say … I’m doing my best.

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On Being a Provider

heart in handsI recently gave birth at home to an 8lb 6oz baby girl who slipped eagerly into her papa’s hands as soon as she emerged into the world.

As the main income generator of our now 3-person household, I’m used to the idea of being the “provider” … the one who makes the money, pays the bills, brings home the bacon, etc. When I began breastfeeding it occurred to me that I’ve become a provider in a different way. I was literally built (or made, or born) to provide for this child by creating her most perfect food, something precisely calibrated for her needs, her immune system, and the growth and nourishment of her magnificent body and brain. I take great pride in this ability, as a woman and as a mother. How amazing are our bodies!? How magical this relationship we can have with our children!

But when the night came that, for various reasons, she refused both breasts over and over and hubby had to bottle feed her, my hidden feelings of inadequacy … uselessness … and helplessness relentlessly took hold. I felt broken, the wholeness of me reduced to a defect, a failure. This ability of mine to create and provide my child’s most perfect food had failed me. No, I had failed her. And it was an all-consuming failure.

Through no fault of my own, sure. And she WAS still drinking breast milk from the bottle, yes. But the thing about how my brain works, this brain with its depressive tendencies and dark, dark, scary corners I try to stay out of … the thing about this brain is that it’s blind to my many successes but quick to point out failures in their slightest forms.

Add to that the incorrect assumption that I AM what I DO, suddenly one tiny incident turns into a horrible declaration in my mind which screams, “I cannot breastfeed, therefore I am not a good provider … or a good mother. I AM a failure.”

It took me hours to call out all the fallacies that led me down this dark mental path into the sobbing, whimpering shell of a woman I became that night, to tear myself away from their cruel and bloody hold on me. Later, when the daylight came to scare away my darkest thoughts, I remembered … I can still provide love. And care. And compassion. And patience. And appreciation. To myself as well as to my daughter. I am still a provider. I am still a mother. Someday, I might even declare myself a good one.

Until then, I’m reminded of hubby’s kind and constant words … I am not alone as a provider, or a parent. We’re a team. We’re doing this together, tackling every strange and challenging moment that arises as it comes.

I had no idea my greatest challenge as a new parent would be the fight with my own demons. I should’ve known.