All the Advice I Didn’t Give

They didn’t ask, and I didn’t tell.  Well, much, anyway.

The couple stood in my living room.  Well, The wife did, bent over the chair, eyeing it with fierce delight.  The husband smiled at her from the doorway, approvingly.

I sold my rocking chair that day.

To a couple, five-ish years younger than me. They came into my weekend living room: cartoons on the TV, my little girls still running around in their jammies with hair un-brushed, long, and wild. The baby gnawing a toy and rolling around the baby-mat a few feet away.   I still nurse him, but its more at the couch now, with a throw pillow stuffed under one arm.  Utility trumps sentiment.  And I need more space.

I bent over the chair beside the wife, explaining how I bought it new, 6 years ago, to nurse my first baby.  I talked a bit more about the chair, glanced at her slender belly, and  asked nonchalantly if they were expecting.  After all, you don’t buy a gliding rocking chair with matching ottoman off of Letgo.com just because you’re redecorating.

She breathed out, “No, but we are trying.” She said and looked over at her husband.

And suddenly, there we were: past and future, together in the same room.

I wanted to say so much. I wanted to scoop them up in my arms, like two big stuffed bears, and squeeze them tight. I wanted to give them every scrap of advice, as well as warn them not to listen to anyone’s advice at all.   I wanted to encapsulate all of my 6 years of motherhood into one, easy-to swallow pill – a magic drug of wisdom. So they could be instant parents – just add baby.

I wanted to look her in the eye, and say that motherhood is the land of extremes and conundrums. It brings out your best and your worst. It shows you how tender you can be, and how impatient you can be. It’s so strange, and also so natural. It’s so unlike anything you’ve ever done before, and also the fulfillment of how your very body and mind were created to be. It utilizes all the systems in your body, from your uterine production of a placenta, to the milk glands in your breasts. Your nipples will be unbelievably sore those first weeks nursing.  You will cry gigantic tears from hormone surges, love, and sleep deprivation.  You will feel like the personal subject in every nature documentary: sniffing and mouthing your cub, brooding over your chick, and holding your joey snug in your pouch as you clean and fluff your nest.

Motherhood tears you down and put you back together again. It’s the boot camp for growing up, which is essentially the practice of getting over yourself. Becoming a mother is life’s formal education in family, in love, in fidelity, and legacy. Babies are not puppies.  It’s so much more than that.  In time, these tiny people will grow, and at the end, will gather around your elderly bedside. They will bear the same features as you: hold your hand with knuckles that look like yours, massage your feet that have their same arches, and kiss your forehead that slopes the same as theirs. Just as you kiss that forehead now, small and fresh and smooth.

But I didn’t say any of that. I simply smiled way too broadly, trying not to stare at her belly.

I wanted to, but instead I got down on my knees and turned over the gliding foot-rest and showed where a screw was missing.

I wanted to, but instead I demonstrated how the arm-rest covers could snap off to be thrown in the washing machine.

That old chair helped nursed three Lenox babies. And now it’s going on to help nurse many more, God willing.

She handed me the cash, and her husband hefted the chair out the door. I glanced back at my litter of kittens wrestling on the couch and fighting over the baby.  Then I took one last look at the chair, and waved the couple out.

Good job old girl.  Your time has come.  Now you may nurse another, God willing.

“There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens”  

Ecclesiastes 3:1

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Steph Lenox thinks women need tools to build the unique lives God designed them to live. She suspects there is a way to feel better - a deep peace, and an abiding love - that is both a gift from the Lord, and a skill to cultivate and share. To this end, she loves sharing her emotional tool box with moms in these intense little years.

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