Former Salt and Light producer Mary Rose Bacani wrote this post for Fathers for Good website, an initiative of the Knights of Columbus. Her husband, Richard Valenti is a senior editor with Salt and Light.
To have the heart of another human being beating inside of you is an absolutely life-changing experience. Thus, when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter three years ago, my life changed in ways I did not expect, becoming simpler yet bigger at the same time.
I had travelled to different parts of the world as a television producer – from North America to Australia, from Europe to the Middle East. In my new job as a stay-at-home mom, the farthest I have to travel is from the kitchen to the bedroom and back. My previous job entailed interviewing high-profile people. Today, I am the one interrogated by a two-and-a-half year old toddler. Her sense of wonder invites me to enjoy the possibilities of whatever is in front of me.
One morning, she looked at my face for a few seconds and then said, “Tell me the story of your eyes.”
I was taken aback. “What do you mean?”
She clarified. “What is your eyes’ name?”
I assumed she meant to ask what color my eyes are, so I replied, “My eyes are dark brown.”
She responded, “My eyes are brown, too.” Then turning toward the kitchen window, she said, “What is cat looking at?”
I turned around to see if our neighbor’s cat had come to visit, but I see only the wooden cat decor on the window sill. “I think cat is looking at your lunch bag. Maybe he likes the color green. Or maybe he wants a snack.”
“Please tell me the story of cat and the lunch bag.”
And on and on it went. After a long breakfast, she helped me bring the dirty dishes to the kitchen counter. She waited patiently until I finish washing.
“Do you want to ‘play me’? With Bear-Bear and Little Girl? And read a book?”
All it takes for my daughter to be happy is for me to be with her. Paradoxically, this is both my joy and my cross. I love her so much and enjoy being with her, yet sitting with her can make me feel guilty and useless. Shouldn’t I be running around tackling my to-do list – from laundry to cooking to emails to bills to mowing the lawn? I’ve had to train myself to sit with my daughter for at least an hour every morning and just focus on being with her. And then I take a short break to do something. I’ve been learning to live life differently from what I was used to. My daughter is teaching me to live simply.
When she was 1-month old, I remember complaining to my spiritual director that I had no time to pray. My newborn was demanding all of my time and energy.
What he said has continued to transform my life. “When you’re breastfeeding your baby, just holding her in silence, you are praying. Enjoy that moment of ‘being’ and you are entering into prayer. Don’t worry about what else you could be doing. Enjoy holding her close to you and just being. Your own daughter is just enjoying being. Let her teach you how to be closer to God.”
In April, my husband and I found out that we’re pregnant again. I’m happy that another beautiful child will be part of our family, and yet I am sad. I will have to let go of my daughter and make space for another life. How can I possibly love this second child as much as I love her?
Slowly, I’m realizing that the love this baby will experience will just be different. For one thing, my daughter is there to love her, too, not just my husband and me. My daughter has been so involved with the growing life in my womb. She’s heard the baby’s heartbeat, seen the baby on a monitor, and has measured my belly with the midwife. At night, she asks the baby in my belly to come out soon. So it is obvious that there will be a different dynamic in the home, a bigger community of love.
I also expect to have even less time to tackle a freelance project, let alone comb my hair! And yet I feel completely happy, whole, and fulfilled. The heart of what I did professionally and what I loved about my work was telling stories. Ironically, I’ve never been pressured as much as I am pressured now by my child to come up with stories. Where are the earthworms hiding today? Did the bubble get hurt when it popped? I am doing what I love – learning, teaching, studying, storytelling, and being and being loved for just being. I cannot complain.