Two of my children began in my womb.  Two came into my life with my husband.

I knew the two who began in my womb from day one.  When they were born I examined their fingers and toes and undressed them and looked at their skin, learned all of their blemishes.  I fed and cleaned them.  I was their primary comfort when the world set them spinning.

For the other two, I was part of the world spinning.  I was a discomfort at first.  I may still be a discomfort.  I never saw them as babies.  I never changed diapers or fed bottles, much less a breast.  I was never sure when it was ok to hug them and when it was something they just put up with.

So my knowing of my children in this way is different.  Where I feel free to stick my finger in one son’s ear and show him the icky ear wax, I would never think of it with the other.

However, I have watched and loved and agonized over all of my children, and perhaps the two who did not begin in my womb more than the others.  Perhaps because I don’t have the same physical connection that allows me to pull them close and set everything ok.  I know their facial expressions and how they are windows into their hearts if one only knows how to read them.

I know their histories.  I don’t know all of their histories for two of my children, but neither does the woman in whose womb they began because their lives have been shared between us.  As they get older, this seems less strange, less foreign because their lives are being shared with many others and soon we will be one small part in the big kaleidoscope that is their lives.

In my teens and twenties my kaleidoscope was focused on my friends and the love of my life.  When my friends and that love left me, it refocused on my parents.  When I found a new love and had my own children, my parents moved to the periphery once more, but, as my children age, they make return visits to the center.

What does it all mean?  Our children are born and we know them intimately, absolutely.  Some children come into our lives and we know them intimately, carefully.  As they grow, they pull away and we know them more carefully, less intimately.  They go out of focus, but they never truly leave.

I am watching my older two children go out of focus and it hurts.  It’s like giving birth, but having them ripped from my chest.  However, when we give birth and they are torn from our bodies, we have that immediate reconnection as their skin touches ours and all returns to right with the world.  This going out of focus, this ripping from my chest offers no such immediate balm.  Only my own history suggests that they will return.

The fact that I have to go through this two more times is terrifying.  More terrifying than the knowledge of giving birth when you become pregnant a second time.  They give you pain killers for child birth.

I think God knew how hard I was going to take this.  So he sent my youngest, who still throws her arms around my neck and asks me to snuggle.

I love you, babies, and I love you & admire you more than I can say, mom.  Happy mother’s day.