Motherhood is the most natural and the most foreign role I have ever experienced. So many aspects of mothering are paradoxical, really. Pregnancy is both wonderfully exhilarating and terribly debilitating. Labor and delivery is the most freakish experience because you’re at the mercy of your body’s process. But it’s also the most empowering experience as you conquer a marathon you never could have trained for. Breastfeeding is a divine invention in which your body responds to your baby’s needs without your consent, yet you have no clue what you’re doing and you wonder why something so natural is so forceful and painful and messy. Then there’s the days and nights caring for the needs of this child. You do it without a second thought while also wanting to justkeepsleeping for the love. All of it manages to drive you absolutely insane while filling you to brim with a love you’ve never known.
Paradox, I tell you.
So here we are, little girl, five months in to our face-to-face relationship as mother and daughter. I think it’s taken this long for either of us to feel like we have a clue what we’re doing. You seem to have finally settled into this new home. “Well, I guess I’m here to stay,” I imagine you thinking. “I might as well get comfortable.” It’s no longer an either-or: Either you’re asleep or you’re crying. (And we thought you were an “easy” baby. Ha. We just didn’t know any better.) Now, you’re awake for a lot more of the day and mostly not crying. You fuss when you’re tired or hungry (or sometimes just for effect), but for the majority of the day you’re a wonderfully happy girl. You like just being with us, sitting in your bumbo or your exersaucer, laying on a quilt on the floor. Basically if you can see mom or dad (or better…both of us!), you’re content. You’ve started giggling when we do silly things or tickle you. (You have the same ticklish spots on your back shoulder blades just like your daddy.) But more than a giggle, you’ve launched into some full fledged laughter! Oh my gosh, there is nothing better than hearing you crack up!
I love watching the joy you bring to other people. When you flash that gummy grin, people just light up. You’re pretty comfortable with different friends or even strangers holding you…just so long as mom or dad is in eyesight. (When that’s not the case…well…your dramatic side makes an appearance.) Your last two weeks in the church nursery were wonderfully successful – you didn’t scream the whole time; in fact, you didn’t even fuss too much. Yay! (Baby Girl, I know Sundays are so hard. The schedule is different, the place isn’t home, mom and dad have to be far away from you for a while. It’ll get easier, I promise. Pretty soon you’ll be rolling under the pews, scampering through classrooms, collecting used communion cups, coloring on bulletins, and being parented by whoever is in your vicinity…because, Lord knows, we’ll need help.)
And as for me, I have been going through the motions of mothering from your very first breath. In those early moments, we gazed at each other through swollen eyes and sweaty brow, covered in all sorts of life-sustaining fluids, and it was love, yes. But five months in, I can’t express how my love has deepened, transformed into a genuine adoration of who you are, Kirsten Grace. We’re finally getting to know one another, getting to like one another, genuinely loving our time together rather than simply surviving in a symbiotic-sort-of-relationship.
The learning curve was so steep in those first few days (and weeks. and months.) My body was recovering from laboring for two days and pushing for 6 hours and 37 minutes straight (I’m not kidding, I really did that) and from carrying a baby for 40 weeks. My mind needed to cope and process what I’d been through. I was learning how to hold a newborn and change her diapers and what her poop is supposed to look like and what her cries are trying to tell me. She and I were figuring out the dance of breastfeeding, which went beautifully from moment one and has continued to nourish her all these months. God answered that prayer of mine with such abundance that I have a freezer full of excess milk.*
*(I could write a whole post on nursing. Oh, the cracked nipples that caused my whole body to go tense when she would latch. Oh, the lightning let down that hurt so badly I cried. Oh, the powerful flow that choked her and sprays all over the place. Oh, the leaking through breast pads and tank tops and shirts. Oh, the engorgement. Like I said, a whole post…(parenthetical statement inside of another parenthetical statement: If any of you pregnant or new moms need advice or want to vent or would like a good laugh, I’m more than willing to share my breastfeeding stories and anecdotes with you.))
Doing all of that ^ on less sleep than ever, while trying to shed my pregnancy pounds and maintaining my house and piles of laundry and getting back to teaching yoga, and keeping up with my church responsibilities and pastoral ministry. Yeah, it was overwhelming at times and I was pretty sure I was going to drop a few of the plates I was spinning, but God is good. I have a husband who shoulders many of my responsibilities with me, friends and family who are more than willing to step in or lend a listening ear, and a church family that has been gracious and excited for our new family and responsive to our leadership and my call to the pastorate.
Being a mom is hard. It’s not always fun and frankly I didn’t have sappy, gussy, lovey-dovey feelings for my new baby right away. I was just trying to cope. I wasn’t depressed at all, but it wasn’t the sunshine and roses I’d thought it might be and I couldn’t conjure up those fluffy feelings of “oh, I just can’t stop looking at her.” So baby-mommas, I am here to tell you it’s ok to be honest with where you’re at. When someone asks how you’re doing it’s ok to say, “I’m wonderful and terrible all at the same time.” Because motherhood is the most natural thing in the world. And motherhood is the most foreign thing in the world. You adore your offspring yet you wish you could just go back to the days of showering for as long as you want and going out to ice cream at 9pm because it’s not your bedtime and you want ice cream, for the love. Your heart aches when you’re away from you baby for more than 45 minutes but you also miss the days of going for a long run and not feeling like your insides were going to fall out. You never could have imagined scheduling things around her nap times, but for the love if someone wakes up your sleeping baby…
Kirsten Grace, you are beautiful and wonderful and silly and lovable. You are the biggest challenge and the best source of sanctification I have ever experienced. You are a living representation of God’s great love for humanity and his tender care of me and my desire to be your mom. You are everything I dreamed you would be and woah so much more. I adore you. I can’t imagine life without you. You are my girl.
I love you.