Thursday, January 2, 2014

Defined by Kids

About a week ago, I went to a baby shower for a first-time mom, a friend of mine who is expecting her son in February.  I took Maggie with me, as she received a special invitation too, and as soon as I walked in, I felt completely on display.  Not because I was the only other pregnant woman in the house, but because my reputation preceded me.  

What is my reputation, you ask?  What am I famously known for, wherever I go?  How am I introduced to people who haven't heard about me yet?

The one with all the kids.

Seriously, you guys, I am a walking freak show.


Phil and I take our kids everywhere - to the store, to the gym, to Mass, to parks, etc - and everywhere we go, we can see heads turn and people whispering to each other about the number of offspring we have.  We just blow their minds.

Now, as I've aged and possibly matured, the looks and comments don't usually hurt me anymore.  I understand we are a rarity, and I know I still love to watch other big families in the real world.  Some people are just honestly curious, not judgmental, and even supportive of us.  So I understand that the gawking isn't always a negative thing (though that's also very evident sometimes), it's just human nature.

We love our family, we are pro-life and hope that we impart some kind of positive example of what a big, happy, normal, Catholic family looks like.  I find support in other big families who have shown us how it's done with grace and love and sacrifice, and believe it or not, we adore the beautiful chaos of family life.

But.

But.

That day at the baby shower was just so painfully obvious that the most interesting thing about me was the fact that I'm a mother to many.  Not that I have degrees, or a career, or a happy marriage, or like to run and write and cook.  I felt like nothing else I did mattered.  I am just a baby factory.  Here for other people's wonder and amusement.  Yes, people, I'm super good at loving my husband, who is super good at impregnating me.  What talent.

I knew the hormones were running especially high, and I came home and complained to Phil that I spent the whole time fielding questions of newborn advice from a young mom, held a crying baby because after all, I had "so much experience" (doesn't mean I enjoy holding crying babies), was predicted winner of the Price is Right baby item game we played as I had an "unfair advantage with sooooo many kids", and was asked the most popular question: "How do you DO it?" which was met with my exasperated sighs and "I don't know, one baby at a time" responses.

I was still pondering all of this when we attended the funeral Mass for the son of my friend, Marijanna.  As I sat in the pew, crying softly to myself, I felt the pain of Marijanna's mother's heart preparing to bury her sweet, saintly son.  I couldn't even glance at Gabriel John's teeny casket for fear of hyperventilating at the tragic loss.

I looked down the pew at my heroic husband and handsome sons and beautiful daughter and realized nothing else mattered more than being their wife and mom. Nothing.  

In Marijanna's loss I found such love.  The love she and her husband share in their grief, the love they have for their daughters here on Earth, the love they have for their son in Heaven, the love their family and friends have for the gift of life, the love they have for their faith that is the only thing helping them through this tough time.  And I have found a renewed sense of love for my family.  I have hugged each of my kids a little longer, realizing how short and sweet life here can be.  I have rubbed this big old belly of mine and been so thankful for the little kicks while others have such difficulties in conception and gestation.

Today on Mary's Solemnity as the Mother of God, I received the grace to see how lucky I am to be defined by my children.  Let us not forget that Mary was defined by her child too, a role that changed the course of history, and one she graciously accepted.


The most important person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral------a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby's body.
"The Angels have not been blessed with a such a grace. They cannot share in God's Creative miracle to bring new Saints to Heaven. Only a human mother can. Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creatures. God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation."
"What on God's good earth is more glorious than this: to be a mother?"
------Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty

22 comments:

  1. Oh gosh, I have to wipe the tears away while reading this. They are just streaming down my face :). I am so glad that I've been blessed to witness you as a mother and wife - you are one of my fave freaks ever!!!

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  2. This was so beautiful, it brought me to tears! It was something I needed to hear today. Sometimes I feel defined by my vocation as a mother too, I just never considered that Mary was too!

    Colleen you have helped me to begin my journey with NFP and become more comfortable and accepting of my vocation! I know that God has worked through you and your blog to help so many like me to grow closer to God. Be assured of my prayers for your friend and her family.

    Shelley

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  3. Ripples. We send out such ripples into the future by "just being a mom".

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  4. So beautiful!! And eye opening! Thank you for this.

    I always look at families like yours and mothers like you and think "wow, how lucky, I hope I have that someday" big families are so rare that they are a great sight to some!

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  5. There is no such thing as "just a mom," even if that's all we ever feel known for. And the longer I am known as the crazy mom with all the kids, the more I am comfortable with it. I also notice that more people tell me things like "I wish I had more" or "you're so lucky." Don't I know it.

    Lovely words about Marijanna and her family, as well.

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  6. Tear jerker for sure! You are such a gifted writer. Thank you.

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  7. I love this. Let me be defined by the people I have loved most in this life.

    As my mother's heart year's for more, it's beautiful to read about an understanding and appreciation of such blessings.

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  8. This was great post! My mom had 14 kids, so she/we got bombarded with the same questions all the time. I think what I find so interesting is that even parent's of large families don't have all the answers. My mom wasn't a "good with kids" even though she had many. Anyway, I'm afraid of the same thing happening to me (we only have 3 and not planning anymore soon). However, within weeks of getting married people began a million questions! Are you going to have a ton of kids like your mom??

    Wow, can't imagine the loss your friend is going through. Events like that really put everything into perspective.

    P.S. Major kudos to you for being a working a mom with a big family!! You hardly EVER see that. I'm so impressed. I'm a working mom too, but you have almost double the kids I do. Go you!

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  9. The fact that the women at that shower were so enamored of your family and feminine abilities is proof positive to me that having children is wonderful and miraculous. Of all the things they could comment on, that was the thing they were the most interested in, the most curious about. What a blessing your presence was to all of them! Such a beautiful reflection.

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  10. The next time anyone says anything, you can always reply, "Well, Paige Kellerman thinks I'm fabulous. And she has almost ten whole people who follow her blog, so put that in your pipe and smoke it."

    ...or you can respond with something more charitable. That's up to you...;)

    I'm from a family of ten and I've heard it all, sister. Rock on.

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  11. I "only" have 5, but I get that all the time. My 4 youngest are all boys, so you can imagine the "boy" comments, because I'm sure you get those too! I think people ask so many questions because they, deep down, know that this societal pressure to "stop" natural fertility is wrong, wrong, wrong. You're a living testament to the wonder that God gave us in our ability to bring life into the world.

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  12. You are wonderful, Colleen, I mean it. I am also such an introvert and I have felt through the years that one of the greatest challenges for me as a mom of many is that I am a walking spectacle. I finally said after my last was born, "so be it," and made peace with it. Funny how such a small thing can turn your attitude around.

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  13. What a wonderful grace to have! Thank you for sharing!

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  14. What a wonderful grace to have! Thank you for sharing!

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  15. This brought me to tears, Colleen. I too chafe at the idea that I am "just a mom" in other people's eyes. but then I try to bring myself 'round to thinking that if more people truly lived that way, we might have a healthier perspective on how truly wonderful "just being a mom" is.

    I LOVE that quote at the end. And I'm praying hard hard hard for Marijanna and her family.

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  16. just now reading this one... beautiful!

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  17. Goodness this was beautiful. You are so right, there is just nothing more magnificent than being a mama. I pray every day that I might be blessed with another precious child {or rather, that Jeremy would share my desire for another child}. And though I am only a mama of four, I do get the stares. Mostly because we have all girls :)

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