When I met him, my husband was a baseball player--not just a pick-up game kind of guy, but a serious ball player, the kind who looked ahead to college baseball and talked with Major League scouts. We watched a lot of baseball during our courtship, snuggled on a couch in his parents' basement, eating Haagen Das ice cream and rooting for the Baltimore Orioles back when both Cal Ripken and Mike Mussina were in Balitmore. My husband grew up, but he didn't leave sports behind. Now he's a "player" with ESPN and his real life job is still games. We watch a lot of television sports in this house. We tell ourselves it pays the mortgage.
I guess it only makes sense that major sporting events stand out in my mind as benchmarks along the way in the history of our family. We announced to the world that we were expecting our first baby at a Super Bowl party, 1988 (the Redskins won). Patrick was born on a Redskins-Dallas Sunday. Stephen was born hours after Super Bowl XXXIII; Mike barely made it to the hospital. And Mary Beth stayed awake her first night in the hospital for the second longest game on record at the time--an Orioles-Yankees postseason heartbreaker. I have never been so tired in my life, but she was determined not to sleep until she knew the outcome.
Really, postseason baseball has permeated the homecomings of five of our babies. It just seems that babies and baseball are what we do. One night last week, I settled in with my little boys to watch grandma's team (Detroit) win a World Series berth. I fell asleep to Tommy Lasorda exhorting us all to watch postseason baseball. In a voice that sounded eerily like one of my uncles from Brooklyn, he intoned "I live for this. You live for this. We all live for this." And I was out like a light, baby Karoline snuggled on my chest. I awoke two hours later to a squirmy baby and Tommy again: I live for this he insisted. I sure do, I thought as I bent to kiss a sweet-smelling downy head and then to settle my newborn at my breast. I sure do.
I live for the way she makes a perfect "O" with her mouth, the way she shudders a bit and sighs contentedly when she has finished nursing. I live for the tiny hint of a smile I see when she sleeps and the promise of grins and giggles to come.
I live for the two little boys who stayed awake while I took my baseball nap and are eager to fill me in on the details, since it is now the eighth inning and I've missed almost the entire game.
I live for the chance to watch my four-year-old former "baby of the family" cuddle her new sister and croon, "I just love, love, love Karoline." I live for a twelve-year-old tough guy who acts like all he cares about is soccer, but tries to hide his tears when it's not his turn to hold the baby. I live for the daughter who witnessed her little sister's birth and still reflects that unparalleled joy.
There was a time when "I live for this" was not a television slogan; it was not hyperbole. There was a time when I left a tow-headed baby and went to the hospital again and again to be drugged with poison in order to save my life. And every day, I'd wake up and face those challenges with a single vision: my baby. I live for this. I live for him. All I wanted was the privelige of watching the baby grow into a little boy and then a big boy and then a man. All I wanted was to get him to eighteen.
And I did. We did. God did. I was granted the great gift of being present for my child, the gift of mothering the baby. The baby is eighteen now. We made it! And there is a new baby. Her lifetime stretches before me like a story begging to be written. I know now how foolish it is to think I just need to get to eighteen.Mothers are never finished mothering their babies. I also know that God has a plan and that there are no guarantees--we don't know how long we have to live for this.
I have a better understanding of vocation than I did way back then. I know that these children are God's children and His plan is what I want to live. I know that as important as I thought I was to that baby all those years ago, the children that God has entrusted to me are my path to salvation, not the other way around. Sure, I will teach them diligently and I pray that they will know, love, and serve God, but it is me who will learn the most in these relationships.
I know the sweetness of a newborn. I know the joy of seeing a child grow. And I've seen all the stages between brand new and full grown.
I also know the gift of every single day, each little tick in time. Every moment, really, every breath. It's all such a miracle--that I'm here, that she's here. It's utterly lovely. I live for this. I really do.