Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Hazards of Love

I'm thinking this morning about love.

I'm thinking of two of my very special friends, two of my Saying friends, who became mothers last week.  One of them traveled halfway around the world to meet her two sons.  Another welcomed her daughter in the very city where we met and became friends eleven years ago.

I'm thinking of Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach," a poem that Husband chose as a reading at our wedding.  At the time, I found it an unusual, but fitting pick - being wed in a time of war, it felt important to acknowledge the ways in which love insulates us from the cold uncertainty of the world.  Now, as I revisit the poem as a mother, I recognize a new dimension - one not just of romantic love, but of parental love as well.  An acknowledgment of the risks of bringing a child into an imperfect world.  A promise of tireless protection. 
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
I'm thinking of Ann Hood and her remarkable piece in the New York Times Modern Love column, "To Nurture Again, With Courage."  Hood, her husband, and their son adopted a daughter from China after losing a child to a sudden illness.  She beautifully details the small acts of bravery it takes to be a parent - the learning how to let in and the learning how to let go.  She writes:
What I do know is this: there is no safe route through parenthood, or through life. When we offer our heart to others, we do not know what will happen to it. It may break. It may grow. It may take us places we never imagined.  But isn’t that the risk of love? To be willing to stand on the stern on a beautiful summer day and, not knowing the outcome, to leap?
I've written before about the impossibility of preparing for the shift between our preparenthood and postparenthood selves.  I'm thinking again now about the leap of faith we all make when we choose to open our hearts to our children.

I'm thinking of my beloved friends, these incredible women, these powerful educators, these new parents. I'm thinking of the ways in which their hearts will now explode with motherhood - borders expanding infinitely to try to contain the impossible boundaries of love and rupturing again and again with every scraped knee and every disappointment.

I'm thinking this morning about love.  The hazards of love.  The audacity of parenthood.

What advice can you offer these new parents - simple or profound or perhaps even both?


  1. I read Ann Hood's book about the death her daughter (Grace), Comfort. I read it on a short flight in Europe and I had sluices of tears rolling down my cheeks the entire time. It is beautiful, brave, heartbreakingly sad.
    I both awed and not surprised by her decision to parent again. Awed, also, by her determination to share her experience with the world - we are enriched by knowing her story and reading her words.

  2. First of all, Dover Beach is one of my favorite poems! I love that your husband chose it for your wedding (good taste in poetry and women, that man).

    Hood's book sounds so brave and heartbreaking at the same time--I'm wondering if I'm brave enough to read it.

    Advice to new parents: Date night. :)

  3. I would tell your friends to enjoy it. The crying, the sleeplessness, the loss of control. Yes, even these tough parts. All of it. Because it doesn't last. There is an exquisite beauty in the nascent days, in the early and sublime struggle.

  4. Congratulations to your friends! Advice? Well, I'd say trust your instincts, take care of yourself, take care of your relationship with your spouse, and savor the new love of your life :)

  5. I would tell them to TRUST themselves before any other advice or book or TV show or...

    TRUST themselves. They will come to know their children and only they will be the ones that hear that small voice that speaks to parents. The gut voice, I like to call it. :)

  6. Take lots of pictures, because you sure aren't going to remember much about these early days!

  7. I want to echo Heather's advice. There is so much "advice" out there that it can get tricky and frustrating when things don't work "just right" (sleeping through the night anyone?).

    One other thing, try not to get caught up in the small things. Remember the big picture and that you are raising the next generation. Remember that everything their children need to learn they will learn in Kindergarten : ).

  8. In light of what Heather said and Ambrosia agreed to, I want to paraphrase that "you know your child best." As babies grow into toddlers and school-aged children, parents need to remember that they know their children best.


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