Thursday, 27 November 2014

Of mindfulness and mourning

There was a passage in the book I'm currently reading that snagged my attention and my heart, exactly the way such sentiments do when I encounter them in real life:
Time was when I cooked for four. Time was when I chafed and grew fretful and said 'I can't bear this business of having to think of supper every night'. Time was when I dreamed of all the things I could do, all the lives I could lead if I wasn't tied down, beset, beleaguered. And time was - I'm glad to say - when the clasp of small arms around my neck and the feel of a soft face against my own stilled the restlessness and made me grateful and glad for the moment. 

Glad for the moment.

Although all too often my real life encounters omit that last thought - the only one that really matters - it's a sentiment I think many of us in the ALI community can relate to, we who have longed for the clasp of small arms and the feel of a soft face against our own. No restlessness about it.

We are fond of saying (perhaps to stay the tears?) that this is a silver lining, a blessing in disguise of infertility and loss: that these heartbreaking experiences will make of us more mindful parents. That when the chance comes our way, we won't whine about being tied down, about the loss of glamour or about sticky floors, having to be home every night for dinner at six, about the curtailing of dangly earrings or picking stray cheerios out of the bed sheets. And even if we cannot always keep to our own heroic parental standards of constant gratitude and mindfulness - for we are human, and there will be moments taken for granted - we remain, I believe, acutely aware. Perhaps more mindful than most of just how precious and ephemeral every beautiful moment is, as each new day presents us with new versions of our children, exceeding all the long-held dreams our hearts would conjure. Moment on top of beautiful (or infuriating, or scary, or prosaic, or tedious) moment, as these little beings we seem to have dreamt forth change, develop, astound, evoke pride and gratitude and wonder.

But what if this mindfulness, as much as it reminds us to savour, brings with it such awareness of the fleeting nature of everyday life that it tears us away from the moment, tempting us instead to mourn for that which is passing before we've had the chance to fully appreciate its perfect bounty in the right-here-right-now? The knowledge that every first in their developmental trajectory is matched by a last. Our babies wrenched from our grasp by the children they will become, and the adolescents those will become, and so on, before we have time to say our goodbyes.

Because that, too (at least for me), is the legacy of loss and infertility; each moment fiercely, irrevocably, painfully precious.

I fret over the days that pass too quickly (while also being uncomfortably aware of just how unlike the parenting experience of my firstborn). Five months old! Six months! Now seven! I flail and try to grasp. I chide myself for not making note of each infinitesimally adorable thing. I take hundreds of pictures, and then feel awkward guilt for placing a lens between me and my daughter, capturing rather than living in the moment.

Mindfulness can and does nurture gratitude, but it can also overwhelm with, well...mindfulness. Awareness of just how real it all is. Just how impermanent.

I know it sounds melodramatic, but it's a question I've been ruminating on a lot lately, even before the passage from the book spelled it out for me. Girl Wonder will be my last child, the only one I get to raise. And while the knowledge of that and the arduous road we had to travel in getting her here are vital reminders to cherish each moment of joy, those same moments also encapsulate a strange kind of mourning (albeit one I know I am supremely lucky to experience).

And how do I truthfully balance that in my heart?


  1. Oh my gosh. You so perfectly said my feelings. (Ungrammatical but true!) Love this.

  2. This is perfect indeed. Just beautiful Sadie!

  3. Yes. This. Exactly this. And in the moments when she's at my breast, looking deep into my eyes and my breath catches, thinking of her as a one day walking, talking little girl, I have to remind myself that all we've been through wasn't merely to have a baby, but a child. One who will grow up and too soon not even be that anymore. Bittersweet, for sure.

  4. Wow, so well said. I struggle with finding a balance. She is growing so fast!

  5. Yes. A thousand times, yes. Every day that passes, I see my daughter change, and I am reminded that this is the last time I will have a little one this astoundingly little. My life has a heartbeat of "this is it, this is it, this is it", it feels.

  6. Yes, I struggle with this too. Sometimes to the point where I feel almost incapacitated. I don't know what the cure is or how to better find balance. It's individual and dependent on the moment.

    But I will say this. Though those firsts rapidly become lasts, there are also moments where it is amazing simply to get lost in them. Like finding a binks in your pocket when you least expect it or those lone Cheerios on the floor after they've gone to bed for the night. Those moments bring with them happiness and smiles.

  7. I can only image this mixture of feelings you are living. Though I am so glad there are so many moments that inspire a snapshot - that must mean there's a lot of happiness going on.

  8. Thanks for articulating this so beautifully.

  9. This gave me chills because I have been struggling with these same thoughts--about time passing, trying to be mindful and grateful but also live in the moment, trying to document everything and then feeling guilty. You articulate it so well.

  10. YES! I can't remember where I saw this phrase, but I once heard it called "nostalgia for the present." So, so true. We were gifted a book for my baby shower called "If I Could Keep You Little," and I seriously cry every time I read it to her. It voices that internal struggle that parents face - I want you stay little because I love you just how you are, but if I could keep you little you'd never grow into who you are meant to be.

    This post was so beautifully worded. Thank you for sharing. Know that I feel exactly like this every single day!

  11. This is beautiful. I struggle with this a lot. I want to capture every moment, but then realize I want to be present in the moment and not always looking through a lens. I am trying to stop and enjoy the present because it all goes by so fast. I love watching them grow and learn and I am excited for the "kid" stuff we'll be able to do soon, but I long for the snuggly newborns. It is bittersweet, indeed.

  12. Everyone has already said it (and so much better than I can) but these are feelings I think most every mother deals with. I know that ache when you realize how fleeting every new stage of growth really is. It doesn't matter the age of your child or children. They will never again be exactly the same as they are today.

    This is an awesome post! A solid reminder to live each moment (the wonderful and the stressful alike) as if it will never happen again, because no two days are exactly alike. It's a universal truth that can be applied to many areas of our lives. Thank you for articulating it so beautifully.


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