Sunday, August 12, 2012

Can I get a witness?

I read a blog the other day on the ideal spacing between children.  I did not read that blog because we are eager to become pregnant again (our hands and bed are very full at the moment, thank you) but i was curious as to what the article would say.  The writer stated the usual 18months to 4 years to become pregnant again - having less than 18 months or more than 4 years between birth and a new pregnancy can increase risks of complications in baby and mama.  I know this, in fact I've taught many a women in India and East Africa on this subject, women with difficulty accessing the nutrition that is readily available to those of us living in the west.  I remember being a bit stunned when talking with a group of Sudanese women about how they space their children; when one lady shouted, 'you have your husband take another wife', most of the group agreed.  Well, that's one way to do it I guess.

My children are 17 months and 4 days apart.  I would have never planned it this way.  If you talked to me during the pregnancy at all, while excited I was a bit stunned and also slightly terrified.  We panicked about our son's night nursing habits, I imagined long days with both children crying, the clock ticking extra slow and my husband coming home from work late.  It would probably rain everyday.  I really didn't know how I could do it. 

The first two months were a bit crazy, although we had family and friends surround us with so much support that we more than survived, and by the time Miss J was 3 months I was really enjoying it.  Now that she's 7 months (what?!) I absolutely love the closeness of my children and most of the time it's so good that I can't believe we were hoping to wait a whole 'nother year to become pregnant. 

Two children, in our family, is easier than one.  I think it's because my son Safran, now two years old, has someone to witness his life who otherwise doesn't have much else to do.  Oh I'm his witness of course, but sometimes food needs to be prepared and the floor needs to be swept and I do have fun playing with him but I just can't meet his need to be seen as much as he, well, needs to be seen. 

But Jubilee can.  She doesn't really have much else to do.  She watches him, in fact if he's in the room that's about all she watches. From early on she enjoyed tummy time and would play with a small toy next to her brother, frequently pausing to see how he does it.  As soon as she could sit up well she began to dance herself a bit as he pranced around with his guitar and shook a tambourine on the coffee table.

And he loves her - when she starts to fuss he often runs to her with a toy, or to pat her on the back.  He puts his new soccer ball in her lap and yells, 'Boobie did it!'  (Perhaps we should have considered how our young son would say our new baby's name before we gave it to her?)  She squeals with delight.  He hears her first stirs and squawks upon waking quicker than anyone - 'Boobie up!  Boobie up!'.  They meet with huge smiles reunited, their hearts at rest.  And I'm suddenly free to wash some dishes.

I noticed last week that my son asks (demands?) to be 'up' less and less these days, how he seems to be outgrowing that need - which gives me hope that there are other needs, like nursing and night-waking, that he will eventually outgrow as well.  I'm pretty sure his new love of independent play is because of his little sister's engaged presence and adoring eyes.  The boy has a witness.

I too want a witness.  I was always a 'teacher's pet' type in school - I so wanted the teachers to see my hand (semi-permanently) raised to answer the question they had thrown out, and I wanted them to see my work and tell me it was good.  That's probably why I write randomness and publish it on the internet for people to read, and maybe that's why there are 4 million 'mommy-bloggers' in the United States.  Please, tell me that I'm significant, tell me that my days are seen at least through my words, that I'm not simply toiling away here unappreciated.  So few of us are content to live as recluses, many of us want a good chunk of the world to know the most minute details of our day via Facebook status updates.  Blame it on social media and unlimited internet access but maybe we just want a witness. 

One of the holiest parts of marriage is our witnessing of each other in the sleeping and eating and laughing and sobbing and playing and doing it all again and again.   With that comes all the ugliness of course, the things we wish weren't seen, but isn't that the truth of us all anyway.  And isn't that the call of friendship and community in our lives, we aren't meant to do this all alone, we aren't meant to trudge along unnoticed.  True loneliness is a dark place and few of us could survive that way for long.  We need each other for at least this seeing, this acknowledging our existence, hopefully telling us we are loved, at least a little bit. 

I spent some months in Cape Town, South Africa and the greeting among the beautiful Xhosa people is 'Molweni' - literally meaning "I see you".  And that's it really, more than we want people to know even how we are, we want them to know that we are.

Quickly my focus can spiral inward especially with stats to check and texts to receive, compliments and Facebook likes to hope for.  Can I get a witness?  Do you see me over here?  The truth is, the eyes of the whole world will never be enough, it's a black hole this soul of mine and I will swallow it all up and still be so hungry.  Even sharing a bed, morning coffee and the evening hours with the kindest boy I know isn't enough attention for me, although as a single woman I was convinced it would be.  As much as I want to be seen and acknowledged, my deepest joy and satisfaction comes in using my own eyes to see others.  My husband and children, people in our community and neighbourhood, even friends and family far away -  they too long to be seen.  Some solid eye contact and kind words to the man ringing up my groceries, a look of compassion towards the other mom with rowdy children  at the quiet library, my full attention to my baby girl as she nurses to sleep in my arms.  It's in the giving, in the seeing others that I find my sense of place and right and love.

My son waves and says 'Ha-roe' to most people that we pass on our street.  He's good at seeing them, even when I prefer he didn't.  Sometimes that's shop owners we are getting to know but just as often it's men lurking in the afternoon doorways of our local pubs (the kind that have exploited top*less 'waitresses' on Friday nights).  Saf waves, the man smiles and we make uncomfortable eye contact.  Even you are worthy of love and belonging. Molweni, sir.  Even you are seen.


  1. I remember going through a period of feeling so insignificant in my own bubble. I longed to "be seen" as you so eloquently put it. God has taught me a lot in the last two years about my significance in the passage of days around me. For this time he has placed me where I am going to be the most the mother/nurturer/teacher of my girls. My voice may only be heard by a three little pairs of ears, but because of them, I matter and I am seen. My job may seem minuscule to the world, but it is the world to my children.

    1. so true - i feel like i still have a lot to learn about my significance as a mother spending most of my time in my children's lives... trying to have eyes to see the holy all around as well as grace for myself when i make (lots of) mistakes. it's always nice to know there's others that feel the same way! (your girls are beautiful by the way - i guess they are my kids second cousins?? :)

  2. After reading your posts I often find myself silently saying in my soul, "Ahhh..." as I stretch silently on the inside, too. Like I am full agreement with what and how you just said "that", happy to know words put to things I love, like understanding, in all its meanings.
    "Ahhh...I can rest now. Yes. That was good and right, indeed. I am edified like a little one who's just been tucked in to bed for the night. Relief so sweet."

    1. :) thanks laurie. and I cannot cannot cannot wait to see what precious little baby is tucked inside of you - and almost ready to come out!!! xx b