Why I Don’t Push Past Regret

I’ve been a horrible teacher and admit it readily here and there. The other day a friend said doubtfully, “Really? How so?” as if she didn’t believe me, which isn’t an uncommon response.

An early example is when Claire was 7 months old, I taught her to keep her hands down in her highchair. I thought after showing her once or twice she would get it, but of course not. I was frustrated with her “defiance” after that. I eventually trained her to do it, but this was the way with most things I tried to teach her. I was doing my job and she wasn’t learning fast enough. I missed the big picture that learning doesn’t happen in a day.

Picture3

Skipping over a plethora of times I trained without understanding or joy, we came to addition at 5 years old . . . “One plus one equals two. “One plus two equals three” is the gist of how I introduced the first concepts of math.

I might have drawn something on paper, used some beads. After a couple of explanations I let her do a worksheet. She couldn’t. I didn’t get beads out again. I didn’t let her use fingers, she just had to think and try harder. It went this way for a while and she still twitches at a new math lesson, as do I.

I have lamented this time in my life and hers when out of utero she was still forming and needing patient instruction. My heart sags 6 inches and weighs twice as much when I think of it.

Picture1

I’m told I did the best I could and she’ll turn out fine, but why don’t those words cradle and hold up my heart?

My best has been tainted by ignorance, selfishness, busyness, impatience, and fear. How can it be good enough or even okay?

You’ve been there, right? Your child hurts and your best has done it. When you’re alone and all comfort and encouragement from others is gone. You’re left with a saggy heart, a bowling ball stomach, the truth. The four walls know your best is unacceptable.

If we’re out for coffee and my failures come up I’m not looking for a pat on the back and, “It’s ok!” Please don’t pull out that sign “My Best” for me to hide behind and feel falsely better. I’ll try to do likewise for you. I’m ok with regrets.

I’m ok with them because the bitter truth, while painful as it shoves me low, has revealed the dwelling place of grace. Squeezed through a cavity of darkness and thin oxygen I discover a hidden and marvelous world.

It’s like a birth.

Standing up, dressed in my best, fighting the wrinkles and refusing to bend from the pain never took me to a world so unexplained. Passing through such a door hunched low however, my grievous heart lightens. For a moment there’s a feeling that I’m imposing and don’t belong, but it’s just then I remember, the girl who knows she doesn’t belong at the ball gets chosen to dance. So if letting my regrets push me down leads me to another place I can stand for real, I guess in a curious way I see them as friends.

Picture2

Are you weighed down by regret? Are you trying to keep yourself up and missing out on really seeing what grace is like?

Slippery Hands, Slippery Life

When Hiro’s gone on business, Claire sleeps with me.  She’s too big to fit otherwise.  Turned all long and gangly right in front of me.

The other night, just before the sun rose, she was there and I was between sleep and awake.  Two memories surrounding her birth popped in.

She was born in Japan amidst sweet, calm nurse voices.  I understood quite a few of the words around me then, but not all.  From the hushed voices and the checking of the monitors, I knew something was not quite right.  There was talk of taking me to another room to labor as things were progressing slowly but also talk of cutting open and rescue.

When it was clear she was ready to be born, her stress was more obvious.  Her heart rate was even lower, she had to get out.  I was told there would be cutting and a vacuum, both things that were not on the birth plan.

Baby Claire

The moment came, we waited for the cry.  It always seems like a long few seconds I suppose.  They handed her to me slippery.  I was flat on my back and couldn’t keep hold of her.  She kept slipping into my armpit, rooting around for food.  I kept looking to Hiro and the nurses to help me figure out how to hold this little creature.  This was not my ideal beginning.  I was sure I was going to be a pro, but instead I felt like an animal without arms to cuddle my young.

. . . A couple days later, still in the hospital and sharing a room with three other moms , it was 4 am.  All beds were tucked behind their curtains, a low light above my bed.  I read in a book to undress your baby when nursing them so young, to keep them awake and interested in eating.  I unwrapped her terrycloth kimono and admired her with saggy, red skin as she worked to get her fill with eyes big and black as marbles.  I smiled at her, loving the quiet moment,  but then I looked down . . .

Her feet were purple as eggplants.

Slippery 2

If any of the other moms were awake I wonder if they heard my shock.  I was horrified, opened my robe putting her skin to mine and wrapped us both with as many layers as I could and cried with my head back on the pillow as she kept working at her part to stay alive.

So helpless, both of us.

There I was with a plan for birth.  It didn’t go too far off, we ended up not needing the vacuum, but in the end it didn’t really matter.  I think back to the whispering and wonder how close she was to not making it.  Even her daddy who understands every word . . . How much was he told?  It doesn’t matter now, she’s here in my bed, all long and gangly.

slippery 4
And then there was the plan for how she was going to fit into things.  All with good intentions, but the heart is deceitful.  To get her to fit, she had to eat a certain way, but what about purple toes, freezing and numb?

I don’t know quite how to express it.  But you know those moments you remember and shudder . . .

I reached over in bed to touch that filled out skin, my eyes welling.  Her curls fall pretty on the pillow.  She doesn’t let me hold her much, never really has.  How much of that is just who she is and how much of it is me dropping her all slippery so many times?

It can be a complex, this regret.  Wanting her to lose her gangliness, go back almost a decade and start over.  Surely I’d know how to hold her this time, wouldn’t I?  And I don’t mean just the first time, but all the times between 0 and 9 I’ve tried to be the mom that knows how to love.  What do you do with a story that’s written and can’t be edited like a page in a word processing software?

 Slippery

The artist who paints the sunsets, makes rough rocks smooth, spoke monsters into the deep and galaxies too far to find gave me, with slippery hands, a slippery little life.  Her first breath happened in His grip, not mine.

They passed her to me and I thought I had it, holding onto her, but there can still be purple, oxygen-starved limbs.

In a few hours, I think to myself, I will wake up encouraged after watching her sleep, a whole nine years bigger.

“Surely this time we’re going back, I’m starting over, I’ll never drop you.”

And a couple hours later, will drop her again.  It’s Grace that shows me if I could go back and hold her small once more, it’s never been about my grip.

The only comfort I have sometimes is that while she is in His grip, I have been too, all along.

Slippery 3