On Love and Demands
I feel like any person who discovers they are going to be a parent experiences a little bit of frightened sobriety.
I know when I saw the little red lines signifying Leo’s grand entrance into the world, I felt all the rush of joy. But I also felt a tad terrified, because my reality had suddenly transformed from the inside out.
And while I had a very easy pregnancy, the sluggishness in the mornings when I usually was bounding full of energy and my widening belly were constant, daily reminders that my life was not my own anymore. Being a parent to a newborn is so wildly different from the responsibilities of marriage with another grown adult; it is a relationship that grows on the vine of self sacrifice, but the stakes are a thousand times higher and more demanding.
And, again, while I knew instinctively that I was a selfish person before I got married, the nuances of marriage taught me lessons that i could navigate on my own terms. There is really no such thing when your body is in the midst of labor or when a newborn is screaming in the middle of the night. There is no exercise of my autonomy; the love just demands relentlessly.
Certainly, my dad’s death prefaced my entrance into parenthood with dramatic, deeply spiritual shifts. Every time a powerful event happens in your life, who you are is sort of cast into a deeper and more alert mode of living, and the year I buried my dad and gave birth to Leo did that to me in the most radical way.
So when I saw that dancing blue line a few weeks ago, yes, I knew that such powerful, rippling changes were coming my way again. It’s not that I’m scared to become a mother of two or really doubt my abilities to do the job well. It’s the inward gaze within me that sighs a bit and wistfully mourns the remaining shreds of my freedom that will inevitably become less. With two small babes, I will have less time for workouts in the morning and weekends spent painting and even simple trips to the grocery store will assuredly require more effort than I can fathom right now.
All this to say though, I must remind this inward gaze of the true and raw power that comes with deeper sacrifice. The most profound, the most moving and transformative moments of my life have been drenched in utter self sacrifice. Having Leo violently birthed from my body, kissing my dad’s forehead in his casket, holding onto my siblings as they said final goodbyes, giving gifts that were packed full of personal effort and requiring nothing in return: it is in those moments of self donation that I gloriously find over and over the real Theresa. That person is the best person. That person of radical giving is the one who is equipped to use freedom wisely and thoughtfully, able to fill my own cup and those of others without becoming downtrodden.
John Paul II’s words almost shout from the page into my ears:
“Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands of you.”
But really, for all my fears and hesitations, the more demanding the love and sacrifice, the greater, almost reckless joy and fulfillment are not far behind. For as i so naively prayed as a child, “It is in giving that we receive.”