On Friday mornings, I often go to the gymnastics club for open gym hour with my two boys. It’s perfect when the weather is nasty, as it’s full of entertaining activities for both ages. There are trampolines, balance beams, a rope swing, pull-up bars, hula-hoops, a maze, balls, and soft cushy mats everywhere. Within minutes, the large room fills up with excited children running, shrieking, chattering, and arguing. It is all-out chaos and a full-time job trying to keep track of two kids in the midst of all that.
The room is also full of the slew of parents that always goes along with a pile of kids, mostly stay-at-home mothers with a couple of dads. They are just as busy as the kids – giving chase, wiping snotty noses, breaking up fights, wrapping little babies in front carriers, picking up toddlers learning to walk, bouncing kids on their hips, asking about due dates, rubbing big pregnant bellies, calling out encouraging comments to a performing child, talking about school, nursery school, playgroup. My own conversations and actions follow along those lines, too, because this is the life I inhabit right now.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve been sucked into a gigantic maternity bubble where nothing exists but the creation and maintenance of new life. The pre-children chapters of my life are a distant memory and a post-small children future is almost impossible to imagine. There are pregnant bellies everywhere. It seems that everyone is either trying to get pregnant, is pregnant, has recently been pregnant, or is done with being pregnant. Every conversation revolves around children. There are those parents who talk about things objectively and give helpful advice. Then there are those parents who won’t shut up about their kids’ accomplishments. Human relationships are so interesting.
The maternity bubble is not a bad thing; in fact, it’s a wonderful thing, and something I feel honoured to be a part of. But there are times, like last Friday, when I feel strongly hit by the intensity and immensity of this strange world and wonder where everything else has gone. It’s fascinating to me how life pushes us along through new places, new relationships, and new experiences. While I’m in each different stage, it seems static; it defines my life, and almost feels permanent, but it never is.
My eighty-five-year-old grandma described an afternoon when she was a young mother with four children under the age of six and everything was going wrong. The climax hit when the three youngest smashed a few jars of canned peaches in the cellar. Grandma said if someone had come to the door looking to adopt a child, she would have happily given one up! Now, by contrast, she spends too much time alone. Time has swept her through so many decades that the definition of her life has totally changed. She once felt like I do now – that life is utterly comprised of child raising – but look at how it’s changed for her, and inevitably will for me, too.
Even though there are days when I feel slightly suffocated by the maternity bubble and think longingly of the things I’d like to be doing or would have pursued if I weren’t here (oh, you know, like a dream career in diplomacy, working for the UN, travelling and translating, cooking food professionally, writing books on a Mediterranean island, backpacking through Asia, working as a midwife in East Africa, to name a few), I remind myself that this, too, is fleeting. Someday even this stage will be but a memory and I’ll wonder where the time went. And I will miss it, because it’s definitely the strangest, toughest bubble I’ve ever been caught inside.