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Monday, May 15, 2006

Belated Mother's Day Thoughts

This morning my children gave me a card for Mother's Day. The outside of the card said, we were going to get you the best present of all for Mother's Day. On the inside of the card it read, but you already have us. Oh how they laughed at this. And oh how I laughed when I reminded my husband that Father's Day comes after Mother's Day for a reason.

A few weeks ago we went on a field trip to an old cemetery. It was cool, in a morbid kind of way. It is an historic site with most of the graves from the late 1700's to mid1800's, families who lived in the area where I now live. The older kids were listening to a presentation about the people who were buried there and interesting facts that were known about them and their lives.
People now aren't buried with their entire families often anymore. We have all spread out to different parts of the world. I know my inlaws were talking about the cemetery being filled and so when my sister in law died my mother-in-law bought a plot so she could be buried right next to her.

My father in law wants to be cremated and have his urn of ashes placed inside my mother in law's coffin when she dies. We all agreed. Though I did point out that he may not be as keen on the idea should she die first. And it could pose some difficulties finding someone to cremate him while he is still alive, but we're still willing to try.

I walked around holding my youngest son. Mostly I was holding him because when the woman had said to be respectful, quiet, and not to touch the gravestones because they were fragile, he thought she said, Scream like a wild banshee and run at the gravestones full force, slamming into them with your body like you are linebacker.

As I walked through I found myself overwhelmed. I don't often go to cemeteries... Thinking about the people. Real people, who lived near me, had real lives, loves, and children. And there were so many children who died so young.

That is where my eyes go first to the dates of birth and death. My eyes are drawn to the tiny headstones where the ages are measured in months and days.

Two brothers, roughly the age of my oldest two sons, both died when they fell into a frozen lake and drowned.

And then a few years later their sister.

I often think I would not be able to go on if something happened to one of my children. How did they?

I think about how difficult it must have been to carve out an existence in a place where I find the winter weather unbearable and we have central heating, polar fleece, and indoor plumbing. How many times I have I wrung my hands while my children were sick waiting for the tylenol to give them some relief, or for the anitbiotics to wipe out whatever it is. And my God how did people survive without modern dentistry? I would be toothless.

Since I have had children, I can no longer look at all the flags displayed for Memorial Day and not think of my sons. While I used to see the flags at cemeteries and see old men, I now see boys who are closer in age to my sons than I wish to acknowledge.


My one year old reached out his chubby hand to grab the flag of a soldier that died during the Civil War, I think of my six sons, each one precious to me. All those small American flags blowing in the wind next to their gravestones have a gut wrenching effect on me.

I think of another mother who gave birth, rocked her baby, kissed his fuzzy warm head. I think like a mother who must have rejoiced when her son first began walking, told her a joke, and picked her the heads off of flowers. This is how becoming a mother has changed me. While I didn't like to hear stories of children who were hurt before I had children of my own, now suddenly every child that I hear about who has been murdered, abused, hurt, has the face of one of my children. I am haunted by these kind of stories.

I paused with my son in front of a set of tiny little grave markers. All of them babies from one family. None of them lived to be more than 3 yrs old. They were someone's baby. Someone who sat here in this exact spot, just like us 150 years ago, yet they were mourning their child. It's too much. I hugged Miles tight and the look he gave me said, "Did you take your medication, woman?". I say to him, "They were loved, just like I love you." And I cry big fat tears. And Miles headbutts me.

I think back on our busy morning, punctuated by me yelling too much. Me snapping at my children. Me exasperated by their annoying yet age appropriate questions. And I feel guilty for all that I take for granted.

It's too much. Sometimes being a mother is too much. And the card is right, I do already have the best present of all.


Blogger Eli's Mom said...

Quite a thought-provoking post. I had a similar conversation with a friend this week. We were discussing how much harder it is to see movies, news stories, etc. involving kids and horrific circumstances now that we are mothers. Before it was sad, but now it's unbearable to hear about a beaten child, or shaken baby and what that child must feel like. It is impossible to not place myself in the shoes of a mother whose baby was kidnapped, or whose toddler was 'lost' for a few hours.....

7:54 AM  
Blogger Meg said...

I've had similar thoughts,'s amazing how death takes on an entirely new dimension once you have kids.

8:17 AM  
Blogger Kari said...

It must be a Mother's Day thing because yesterday we started talking about my father-in-law's great-great-great grandparents who lost lost 8 of 9 children to diptheria. Could you even imagine? Nothing like that on Mother's Day to make you realize what's important.

9:10 AM  
Blogger Karen Rani said...

What a great post. It's amazing how having kids makes your heart that much more vulnerable.

9:13 AM  
Blogger SB said...

it's true. Your heart grows with each child.

My MIL once told my husband something profound, shortly before I made him a father for the first time.

She said "once you become a parent, every child is yours." (meaning that when you see a child being hurt, you feel it. when you see a child in need, you matter if you bore that child or not)

I know what you mean about the flags on the graves. My husband is a soldier and he works near Arlington National Cemetary, which is one of my favorite places in all of DC. By not turning away from the sadness, I am honoring the loss of many mothers. I walk through there often and I always think "they were someone's baby once."

I love my babies.
All of them.

9:16 AM  
Blogger Frauke said...

Your children are so lucky to have you.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Lilly said...

Beautiful post.... I feel the same way. Since my son's birth I've become so sensitive to sadness in other people's lives, especially anything to do with children. I don't know how other mother's have been able to cope with any harm coming to their kids. To tell the truth, I've been working on my son since babyhood to sway him towards conscientious objector should the draft come back when he's about 18. Losing a son in a 'conflict' that isn't justifiable is not something I think I could stand.

9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stop. Making. Me. Cry.

I'm glad I didn't read this on Sunday.

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You made me cry. Thanks for the reminder of what I have also!

10:00 AM  
Blogger Al said...

You are so right. I find myself frustrated every day by the kids, yet minutes later, consciously hating myself for letting it get out of hand.
You are a great writer. I can FEEL what you write about. Thank you for your journal.


10:23 AM  
Anonymous Maliavale said...

Whew! The headbutting was necessary comic relief -- you had me tearing up! I love the way you write about your kids, and it's clear you appreciate them every day.

10:25 AM  
Blogger onetallmomma said...

Crying here too! I lost a sister to leukemia when she was 5 years old and I was 9. It wasn't until I had my own child that I truly understood why my mother slept for a year after her death. I have to go now...I have an overwhelming urge to find my children and give them each a big momma hug.

10:31 AM  
Blogger owlhaven said...

Great post.


10:46 AM  
Blogger Oh, The Joys said...

Thanks for this post. It is so strange and miraculous that when we became mothers we became the mothers of all the children.

11:16 AM  
Blogger Lauren said...

That was beautiful! We used to live near an old cemetary, I'd walk thRough occcasionally and wonder about the people buried there.

11:17 AM  
Blogger TBG said...

Happy Mother's Day!

You are a great mother and it is so wonderful you appreciate and consider yourself lucky for your precious children!

11:18 AM  
Blogger liz said...

Beautiful post. Thank you.

11:20 AM  
Blogger Melanie said...

I read your blog almost daily but don't often post. This one compelled me to though. Such a beautiful post! I grew up in 2 different houses, both right next to cemeteries. It's neat to wander through them, looking at dates and imagining what those people's lives were like.

11:27 AM  
Blogger meredith said...

This is an excellent post about how becoming a mother forever changes our sensitivity to all children. I can hardly watch the news anymore, I cry for all the hurt inflicted on young people everywhere.

11:45 AM  
Blogger oshee said...

This reminds of why I can't watch some TV shows anymore. If a show is using a child's misery to make the show heart wrenching, then I figure I don't have to watch. There is so much heartache for children in the real world, I don't have to watch some writer's attempt to make me nauseous.

It is a beautiful post. You did a great job of mixing in the innocence of your son with your full realization of your own heart.

1:10 PM  
Blogger "D" said...

That tenderness we feel when we are mothers is what helps to save more children, our own outrage and desperation to save our own helps us to save others too... and we all need a headbutt once in awhile!

1:17 PM  
Blogger InterstellarLass said...

I also can't watch/read anything about kids having cancer, going hungry, or being abused. Why can't I just have a bajillion dollars and adopt all the kids that have crappy homes?

1:38 PM  
Blogger Autumn said...

This is the first time that I have been to your blog, and I was very touched by this post. I love old grave yards, and like yourself often think of who is buried there. I live near historic Williamsburg/Jamestown Va. and feel very drawn to the history. I often think of the people in my family who have come before me and how they must have lived there lives and how hard it would have been in days with out the modern things we have now. I am book marking you and I will return again. you have a great blog.

2:21 PM  
Blogger eko said...

WAH and sniffle - oh such a poignant post!

2:35 PM  
Blogger Antique Mommy said...

I remember visiting a family graveyard as a child with my parents and seeing a row of tombstones of a family of children who were taken in the flu epidemic of the early century - ages 2, 4, 7, 9 and 13. Even at that young age, I remember wondering how their mother withstood that kind of crushing blow. Now that I have a child, I really wonder.

2:37 PM  
Blogger ABC Momma said...

You write beautifully.

3:24 PM  
Anonymous tammie said...

Another great post. Thank you for sharing your day with us!

4:33 PM  
Blogger Nicki said...

We didn't go to a graveyard but my Mother's Day was filled with the same thoughts and reflections. Not the happiest Mother's Day I've had but definitely the most reflective and grounding. Thanks for sharing.

6:01 PM  
Blogger halloweenlover said...

Woman! Stop making me cry. I'm already having a rough day.

This post is too much, and that picture of Miles is too beautiful. We are certainly blessed.

6:22 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

We have lost 2 babies, one was a 7 week miscarriage, and the other a 31 week stillbirth....both were hard....but harder still is going to our daughter's grave....I didn't go for mother's day, instead I focused on my living miracle children from God....but yeah, seeing the tiny grave sites just breaks my heart all over again.

8:02 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

This was such a beautiful post. I, too, think about these things so often now that I am a mom. I could totally relate to every word you wrote.

8:31 PM  
Anonymous T in HD said...

I could have written that. At least I know I'm not the only mom with those kinds of thoughts. I can never look at a child's grave or hear tragic story without putting my children's faces on those little victims. I feel morbid when I think like that and don't admit those thoughts to many people. I used to visit the small graveyard of the tiny 1,000 year old church in our old neighbourhood back in Munich with the kids and envied how they could frolic among the graves so light-hearted, free of the heavy thoughts that would always dog me. Losing five babies to miscarriage was hard enough. I can't imagine losing them after holding them in my arms....

I don't know if this is the appropriate place to bring this up or not but...has the story of the disappearing newborns in the Charkow hospital ever been aired in the U.S.? It is a horrible story and I am surprised there has not been international outcry and investigation but it doesn't seem that the story has made it outside of Europe. :-(

8:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post... Your last paragraph made me cry. It's true. Children are the best present of all.

It's nice to know you here.

Cinnamon Leaf

10:22 PM  
Blogger Lady E said...

I think the same way now that I am a mother. Before motherhood it used to be that I couldn't watch any movie where a dog or cat died. I worried more about the animals than the people. Now if I watch even a kid who is sad or missing its mommy let alone hurting or kidnapped It breaks my heart.

10:48 PM  
Blogger Belinda said...

Thanks for this. You hit the proverbial nail so precisely on the head, and so eloquently.

11:17 PM  
Blogger Heth said...

Beautiful photo and beautiful post.

11:24 PM  
Blogger EvaRob said...

As much as I hate confronting death, much less talking about it....your post was really thought provoking...thanks

11:27 PM  
Anonymous Heather in AZ said...

Beautiful post Chris. You said exactly what I feel about my children.

My mothers friend lost her just turned three year old son, while they were camping. His mother assumed the father had him and vice versa. The child happened to wander away from the campsite and into the woods. 2 hours time elapsed until the parents figured out that neither one of them had the baby. The mother a 12 year old little girl, where the baby was, the little girl responded he went with the men to get more fishing bait. The little girl had confused him for another child, in which the mother should have made sure thats where he was. They found the baby the next morning, huddled under a log. He had died in the night. This mother had to endure the details of this little guys last moments. He had covered himself with leaves, but it wasnt enough to keep the cold from taking him. She will never be the same woman again. I havent been the same since watching her go through that tragedy. I helped search for him, and it was the most heartwrenching experience. Seeing his little grave stone, brings this heightened state of anxiety to me regarding my own little ones. I thank God everyday for the blessings I have.

11:44 PM  
Blogger Mary Tsao said...

Cemeteries are creepy, but in a thought-provoking way. I'm always intrigued by the headstones that have pictures of the kids who died. So many more childen died "in the olden days" of things like polio and smallpox.

Um, Happy Mother's Day?

1:17 AM  
Anonymous Maddy said...

While researching our family tree I have found many families had 8 and 9 children only to lose many to disease. I just can't imagine the lose of a child let alone many family members in a short time. One of the family members I researched lost the father, mother and then baby with an only child going to live with an aunt.

It gives me chills and makes me appreciate my boys health and happiness a lot more.

3:23 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Thanks for such a beautiful, thought-provoking post! I've lurked here a little, and I really appreciate the way that you share about your family! Now, I'm going to go and hug my kids!

8:00 AM  
Anonymous cassie-b said...

I stopped watching the local news years ago. I got tired of hearing about children being gunned down by drive by shooters in their own homes. It's just to painful to hear how many children died last night.

I lived in Ticonderoga NY on Lake George some years ago, and knew a mother who lost both of her children in the lake (through the ice) I don't know how she managed to survive such a tragedy.

8:00 AM  
Anonymous Carola said...

How true! when my now 3-month old baby was born, we rented a movie "Turtles can fly" not knowing it was about children living in very VERY harsh conditions...the movie is extraordinary but not suited for new moms...I couldn't stop crying during the whole movie, and since then I realized that what you so eloquently wrote about is true. Now I avoid movies or news that talk about children suffering.

12:36 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

I'm like a few of your commentors, where I avoid the news and such because of all the things going on that shouldn't be. I look at my son everyday and want to cry because I'm so glad to have him here to hold and hug and I feel so guilty when I yell, because I think of all the mommies that wish their kid was here to even yell at...
Few days late, but I'm glad you had a good Mother's day. That card was the perfect gift, along with those beautiful kids of yours.

3:03 PM  
Blogger maverick said...

I really enjoyed looking over your blog. I stumbled across it while I was looking for baby gift to compare to some of the baby gift I make. If you get a chance, go to and let me know what you think. I will be coming back to vist your blog often. Good Luck!

10:16 AM  

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