When I announced to the general public that I was pregnant with Umberto, one of my favorite professors said "You've been longing for a family so I'm happy for you." At the time, I was a bit insulted. Not sure if this professor whom I admired was insulting me or complimenting me, I felt as if she was accusing me of wanting a child for my own selfish need to be loved. But like most phrases that carry those rather ambiguous messages, they followed me through not just this birth but the birth of three other children. Was I trying to recreate a family that I had not had in my young life? Was I birthing people to give me love that I felt I had somehow missed out on? And if so was this a valid reason to have children? To create this large family?
But the funny thing about love is that it is hard to receive it if you don't put it out. I came to my marriage wounded and not quite whole. I wasn't confident that I deserved love or attraction or even decent treatment. Deep inside I believed was a rather sordid unlikable person who was ultimately unlovable. When H seemed to be in loved with me, it took me a long to get over feeling a bit skeptical. I was never quite sure he really loved me and because of this was a black hole of need that kept sucking more and more from him and from others around me.
I wish I could have that I could give you a dramatic moment that instantly changed me but that did not happen. Instead learning to let go of that monster deep inside me has taken work (and really I am still slaying it). But I can write that from the beginning it was clear that I was going to have to give of myself in ways that I had no foreseen. This tiny creature depended on me for everything, and the love that was returned was not an active love. I gave him, and this each of his sisters, all that I had. I carried them inside me and learned to take better care of my body for them. I nourished them with my breasts. I held them against my heart as I went about the hundreds of daily details to provide them a safe home. I failed and learned to forgive myself as they forgave me. I learned the lesson of unconditional love not just from giving to them but from watching them love me even when I yelled at them. In other words, I slowly became a better person.
And along the way I realized it wasn't so much about being loved. I'm not going to lie and say that this isn't a pleasant thing. It is a most wonderful thing. The love I feel from the beasties and from H is heaven. This love builds me up when I am sad or lonely. While this love has cut away at the beast inside, what has delivered the killing blows is the love that I give. Along the way what has become important is not getting love but GIVING love.What kills the insecurities, what forces me to be a better human, is my ability to put love forth even in the darkest moments. To love the beasties when they are being, well, beastly, is how I have learned to open myself up to love. In the end, all we can be sure of is our own actions, and that when we put love forth into the world, we let go of self. With each act of love, with each ass wiped, with each mouth feed, with each scrape washed away, with every moment that I give myself into that act of love even when I do not feel it I am filling that hole inside of my heart.