“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." ~Elizabeth Stone
A couple of months ago I was in the bathroom getting ready and Payson came in to chat with me. My arms were up in my hair trying to fluff and volumize. My shirt had rolled up and exposed my stomach. Payson was standing in front of me and he softly rubbed one finger across my belly. "Mom, what are those stripes on your belly?" Stripes? I had never thought of, or heard them referred to as stripes. This was the first thing that came to mind. "Well Bubs, those are Mommy's tiger stripes. I earned them for being so strong and brave like a tiger while you were growing in my belly. Those stripes were my reward for helping you grow healthy and strong before you were born." Silence. Then, his eyes grew big as it sank in. "That's AWESOME!! My Mom has TIGER stripes!!" Then he ran out of the bathroom. As I finished getting ready I thought about that quick conversation and how in less than 30 seconds I made him think that those "stripes" were not the gross scars of pregnancy, but the honorable marks of carrying a child. ONE child. My WHOLE life, amongst being a country music singer, a psychologist, etc, The only REAL thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a Mom. I would have 5 kids by the time I turned 30. With my Prince Charming by my side, we would raise a big Family. My kids would have lots of siblings just like I did. Best friends for life! I never planned on the pain of infertility to come stabbing its way through my life. Lots of years trying to help our Family grow and two miscarriages were not in MY plans. Then I started thinking about my siblings. One sister who has had multiple miscarriages and was told after her 2nd and 3rd baby that she would probably not be able to have anymore. Now she has FIVE beautiful girls. Another sister who for 8 years has unexplainably been unable to get pregnant, but has now, through adoption, been blessed with the sweetest little miracle. I think of these 6 little girls and my heart swells with love. My heart. I think of my sister and the stress and fear she went through and the love that she (and we all) had for her, and all of these little ones before they were born. Our hearts swelled with love, stretched, to make room to love each new one who came along. Tiger Stripes. On our hearts.
“When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.” — Sophia Loren
When I think of women, like my Mom, who have raised a lot of children, I no longer look at the "crows feet" around their eyes and think of them as a sign of aging. I think of them as the "tiger stripes" they earned from all of the constant worry, the staying up late waiting for kids to come home, the helping with home work, putting a bandage on a scrape or a kiss on the forhead trying to help mend a broken heart, when in fact her heart is also broken because yours is broken. Once you become a mother, every selfish bone in your body disappears, or at least it should. You find yourself thinking of your child before yourself and are CONSTANTLY trying to keep them safe. Tiger stripes. On our eyes.
I will be 30 this year. I don't have 5 kids like I had planned. But, I do have my Prince Charming and we have ONE amazing little boy who I wouldn't trade for a house full of kids. Someday, he may get that brother or sister, and someday, my sister my bear a child of her own. But for now, I am grateful for my "Tiger Stripes". For the physical ones that you can see on my body, but most importantly, for the ones on my heart. Any human can grow a child inside of them, but it takes someone with a real open heart to truly love someone more than themselves.