I have finally been feeling nesty lately. A few weeks ago I could not muster the energy to take my sandwich plate all the way to the sink, but this past weekend I have been cleaning, nailing pictures to the wall, folding diapers and vacuuming, re-vacuuming and then dusting what I just vacuumed. This is actually more true to my nature than not being able to peel my girth off the couch to fold a little laundry.
I remember the nesting stage attacking me hard when I was pregnant in high school. I’ve always been a very tidy person. The conflicts that arose from sharing a room with my older sister, who didn’t mind having week’s worth of dirty laundry piled in the corner and old plates and mugs stacked under the bed, were often epic and brutal.
That summer after senior year of high school when I entered the last month of pregnancy, I already knew that I was placing my baby for adoption, in fact, I already knew the people who would be adopting her. So I took out my nesting instinct on my parent’s house and the bedrooms of my siblings, tidying, dusting, scrubbing and moving stacks of important bills and documents to places out of my sight and out of every one else’s awareness. As you can imagine this caused no end of frustration to my parents and siblings.
Now that I have a house to keep clean and a husband and daughter to clean up after, my nesting instinct has plenty to work with; the more difficult thing is getting anything else done. Whereas sitting in front of my computer, writing used to be the activity that kept me from doing anything else, now the desire to clean and organize could keep me busy all day.
It was even hard to tear myself away, from a kitchen screaming to be scrubbed and a guest-room closet dying to have its contents sorted and rearranged, to see my birthdaughter in her acting debut on the Ordway stage in downtown Saint Paul. Going anywhere has been difficult since I am settling into the bigness and tiredness of the ninth month but fighting traffic to downtown and then searching for parking during the Hmong New Year celebration seemed like perhaps more than I could handle.
When I finally burst through the Ordway doors at fifteen minutes before show time, bought my ticket and slammed two dollars on the concession counter for a hot chocolate to fight the afternoon sleepys, I was a bit frazzled and my round ligaments were sore. But when I walked into the theater, the sound of Christmas carols filling the air, the first thing I saw was my birthdaughter, on the risers, singing with her peers, tall and thin and blond and looking nothing like a little girl anymore. I was overwhelmed with a wave of love for this beautiful young lady.
Just then, my entrance caught her attention and she looked up and we locked eyes, her face lit up with a radiant smile. She sang out loud and beautifully and her voice was distinct in the group and I was filled with a sense of pride even though I’ve never felt that I could take much credit for how amazing she is. I personally believe that nature has very little to do with how remarkable a person ends up being.
Who we are is shaped by our experiences, our friends, the people who encourage us, love us and influence our beliefs and actions. As a birthmother, I think my greatest influence on my birthdaughter happened before she was born. I gave her the foundation of health and I placed her in a home where I knew she would be loved and have the opportunities to be successful and then, as all birthmothers must do, I let go.
I give her parents a lot of credit for who she has become. But as I sit here in the final bigness and fatigue of pregnancy, reflecting on my daughter Twila and this future child to be, I wonder: how much can we really take credit even for our children who we raise?
We give them love and food and clothes; a safe place to sleep and as much knowledge and wisdom and valuable experiences as we can. But ultimately they must take those things and do as much with them as they choose.