In the monotony of life with babies, mothers and caregivers need to find ways of being that are important to us; how to live out this life of service in line with our core beings. We then gravitate towards others who share these principles, who take on the actions in their everyday, too. It’s just how things are. In and out of parenting; I went from being a science student to a theology student, a radio announcer. I’ve worked in pastoral care and so found ways of being in relationship which reflected that vocation. We then get labels (are labelled by others, or self-labelled). We label so we understand this stage of life we’re in. But all too soon, those labels can become walls enclosing the person you now think you are. They become limitations, not because the labels are inherently bad, but once you start thinking in labels, you start thinking in boxes and eventually those boxes appear to hold everything you are.
Please join me in this exploration of the labels, the walls, and the boxes I’ve come to understand as me in the last 3 years of parenthood. Stay to grapple with these labels as we entertain the idea of not having anymore babies.
All of my adult life I have cared about reducing my carbon footprint; caring for the environment we are so blessed to live with but have so selfishly ravaged. Children raised in the disposable nappy era produce a deplorable level of waste. So I became a cloth nappy mum.
Sleep training ‘experts’, professional and otherwise, claimed to know my children better than I do. My intuition told me to keep my babies close to my heart. So I became a babywearing, cosleeping mum. Now I’m a cloth nappying, babywearing, cosleeping mum. Let’s shorten that to a CNBC mum.
I struggled with postpartum anxiety, grew up an anxious child, and never quite learned how to sit in overwhelm and frustration. Next thing I know, I became a CNBC mum who yells when she’s stressed and smacks when she’s overwhelmed. I could do away with this label; I don’t like the way it fits. (CNBCYS mum).
After a traumatic first birth in 2019 and a complicated pregnancy, in 2020 I became a mum who births at home. One day you wake up and realise there may not be any more babies to birth at home. What do I do about that label? I’ve only had it for a year, and I like the way it fits! (CNBCYSBH mum)
I followed my intuition, listened to the overwhelming voice of like-minded mothers and medical practitioners and so became the breastfeed on demand mum. Now I’ve realised that my baby, perhaps my last baby, has most likely had her last breastfeed. I feel sadness but a peace at that. That peace gives me sadness. What’s happened to this label? I was briefly a tandem breastfeeding mum. With the drying up of my milk, with the absence of little hands making the “milk please” sign, I am no longer the breasfeeding on demand, tandem breastfeeding mum.
CNBCYSBHBF (and so many more) mum.
If we chip away at these labels, there’s a common stream feeding them all; intuition, compassion, faith, passion and love. Even the negative labels have these undercurrents. Even the shameful parts that are labelled (or not labelled) have the undercurrent of love, of fierce desire to make the right choices, to raise up people of compassion and responsibility.
My intuition is telling me that it is better to love few fiercely than to struggle in loving and raising up a small army. Is this the limit of our family; do we leave the baby days and the associated labels behind us? Maybe…probably. The pang of sadness is so quiet, so distant that I’m not entirely convinced it isn’t in my imagination. Maybe it will rise in a few years, months, weeks, or days. We will face that sadness head on if it does.
For now, we wade through the pieces of identity strewn around the house, woven between the fabric of piles of laundry, we rummage under the couch to find the pieces we had forgotten entirely.
Did I enjoy the baby days enough? I certainly tried to. They were hard. Confronting a closing door on more babies, has me confronting thoughts of
Maybe I thought “If I don’t enjoy this enough now, there will be another later. I can try again then.”
“Everyone says these days go so quickly, but more babies means I’ll be stuck in this baby loop for years to come. I couldn’t possibly enjoy this for that long.”
“The next one will be better.”
I’m the CNBCYSBHBF mum.
But these babies I have napped, worn, slept with, pottied, breastfed through the night…they are not just placeholders for the next. They’re not simply a practice run for baby number 2 or baby number 3. They are Reuben and Esther. They are children who have knitted pieces of myself together that I could have never thought possible. They have also displaced parts of myself which I grieve the loss of, don’t fully understand yet, and have waved goodbye to, happily. They have made me so much more complex than I was before, so much more complex than CNBCYSBHBF mum.
These things I know; I am a woman who breathes into life, and breathes life into my world. I am vulnerable and powerful, I am loved and have learned to love in a fierce, consuming fire which does not burn but wraps arms of comfort and security. I am a gift with gifts begging to be shared.
I am the me hidden under the labels, just waiting to be found and explored. What runs beneath the labels on your surface? In the words of my son
“I count, you hide. 1…2…7, 9, 10 HERE I COME!”