I hope you enjoy this In Between Sundays that I wrote in June 2020. In it I talk about my experience as a new mother and learning to trust life as it grows and changes. This particular In Between Sundays speaks a lot to me as we are now working with our almost 3-year-old Delilah to potty train. Now that she has started to get the knack of avoiding accidents, we are trying to trust her to understand and feel when her body is telling her she needs to go. It’s a difficult transition to make from the crazy, frantic beginnings of potty training when you’re telling her to sit on the chair every 10 minutes. Now we have to sit back, even as we see her doing the potty dance, and let her decide when she is ready to pee or let her make the mistake of an accident so she can learn a lesson.
“There’s a lot of bird noise going on outside”, my husband, Zach, mentioned one evening.
“Really?” I stopped and listened.
Sure enough, there was a single bird chirping up a storm in our backyard. I glanced outside and saw a mockingbird hopping around, calmly but with a purpose; flapping its wings. Its movements were calm and precise while the sounds we were hearing were more frantic and did not seem to be coming from that bird.
Then I saw it.
Stuck inside a large pile of sticks against our house (picture a dysfunctional chaos of leaves, twigs, weeds, and small tree branches) was a young mockingbird.
I watched in amazement as I saw the two mockingbirds communicate. The adult one (we will call it the mother for my own emotional connection as a new mother) would slowly lift and lower her wings and the baby one would respond by moving its wings similarly and hopping around, looking for a way out of its wooden cage, all the while calling for its mother.
I ran outside in my socks to further assess the bird’s predicament. I knew interfering could be a delicate situation, but I was pretty certain that that bird could not get out of that darn pile of sticks. Then, suddenly, I realized I was still holding Delilah, my 8-month-old daughter. Obviously, I could not do much. Luckily, Zach followed me outside and helped with moving one of the tree branches away. I anxiously hoped this would encourage the baby bird to fly. We quickly ran back inside and watched Momma and Baby bird figure things out as Mommas and Baby birds have done for generations before I was even born.
As a stereotypical new mother would do, I began to think about how Momma and Baby bird represented me and my “Baby Girl”. Delilah has been crawling and eating solids for a few months now, hitting that 8-month sleep regression hard, and learning to communicate in many different ways. Our whole family – our 4-year-old dog, Chester, included – is beginning to feel a few growing pains as Delilah pushes all of our boundaries, forces us to adapt, grow, and change. As babies have done for generations before I was even born.
Similarly, I depend on my parents for plenty of guidance. They are also still actively showing me how to “fly”. Like the baby bird, I call out for my mom many times for help. I am lucky she is always there, even if just over the phone, to help guide me out of whatever metaphorical trap I’m ensnared in. Many people are not that lucky and I know I am privileged.
Recently, I have been asking my mom for help with teaching Delilah basic sign language to ask for things such as “more”, “food”, and “milk”. I started working on this a little “late” and I felt like I was failing, like she would never get it, because of my mistake. That evening, as we sat down for dinner listening to the baby bird crying out for its Momma, Delilah hit her hands together in what seemed like an attempt at the sign for “more”. I was ecstatic and immediately called my mom.
As I was on the phone with my mom, telling her about Delilah’s success and also about the Momma and Baby mockingbirds, Zach and I witnessed the baby bird fly a few feet from the pile of sticks to our fence! What a wonderful metaphor and convenient timing. My heart was full as we finished our phone call, I gave Delilah a bath, and put her to bed.
But I could still hear the frantic chirping.
I looked outside and this time it was Momma bird calling out, hopping and flying around the area, worm hanging from her mouth. She couldn’t find her baby. And neither could I. Heart sinking I stared out the window until I couldn’t any longer, desperately hoping to see Momma and Baby reunited.
I went to bed that night very heavy hearted with both the Baby and the Momma’s cries echoing in my mind. When Delilah woke up that night, I snuggled her a little harder, a little closer, and a little longer. Mourning for all children and parents who cry out for each other and who are not heard.
But the baby bird flew! You may be reassuring Past Hannah. Surely it flew from that spot and you and Momma bird just had not witnessed it.
In hindsight, I realize this is likely what happened. And I have since then decided that the entire experience was a giant lesson in faith.
Faith to let go and let grow.
Even if it is not what I am comfortable with.
(Can someone please remind me of this in 16 years when Delilah starts driving??)
P.S. I feel in my heart that this story was meant to be shared with you. It is meant to speak to you. How does it speak to you?
Thanks for sharing. It brought back memories from a long time ago.
My Artful Journaling group had a lively discussion on birds this morning, and they would love your story. I will share it with them. Thank you.
Thank you for sharing your insights..
I am reminded of these words from Kahlil Gibran:
“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.