My grandmother combined two years of high school into one so she could jump ship at seventeen to marry her sweetheart. Nine months from the honeymoon she held her baby daughter in her arms; ten years from the honeymoon she held her seventh child.
My grandmother had nine pregnancies and seven live births by the time she’d been married a decade. Before she hit her thirties, she had a toddler, a teenager, and five more children in between. And when I think of her, I think, man, she must have been tired.
Because this is tiring, this mothering thing. It wears you to the bones and it wears you to the soul, if you’re not careful. It can wear you straight out of your joy. But it doesn’t have to. No, it doesn’t have to.
My grandmother was a hard woman by the time I knew her, and she died before I could know her well, but I see those pictures of her when she was young, that wide smile and those deep, dark laughing eyes, and I miss her like a could-have-been friend. I want to know what it felt like, for her, to bear children without break one after the other, what did it do to her body? What did it do to her heart? How did it feel inside? When money was tight and food was scarce and there were seven small mouths to feed, did her spirit raise up? Did a part of her die?
These are the crunch days. And though mine are happy ones, regret-free for the most part and full of smiles, this is nevertheless a grueling season. When the number of children rises, the length of the season extends, and it is this I’m really thinking of. It’s a long haul, to have “so many” kids. It’s a bit like running a marathon compared to, I don’t know, a few hard laps around the track.
I feel connected to my grandmother in a way I never expected, as I carry my sixth child. I share a common bond with her and there is a sense of solidarity in knowing I am treading a path that a woman of my blood has tread before.