The days are filled with small things.
Tiny milestones where the miles are more like inches and the stones the size of pebbles. Your accomplishments are written in big letters on the to-do list to make it seem like you’ve finished more (why do you feel the need to justify doing only the little things to yourself?). It’s noteworthy when you answer one email, make the bed or pack a lunch. How many times have you brewed a pot of coffee only to be called away for three hours before you get a cup? Too many to count.
The nights are hardest. Bedtime no longer means anything, it might be a thirty minute break or it might be a five-hour one – your life is lived perpetually on call (exclusively breastfeeding a baby is not for the faint of heart – if you’re not nursing you’re still needed to pump and provide the milk). Even when you’re not breastfeeding the nights are achingly long; somehow daylight makes everything seem more manageable even if you’re exhausted. Especially, when you’re exhausted.
Some days nothing works. Some days mamma’s arms are all that fix it. Some days she needs to eat every few hours. Some times the tears don’t have an explanation (hers anyway, your’s always do). Some days people get upset because they haven’t heard back from you (these people usually don’t have a newborn) – it’s hard to explain that it’s not that you didn’t have time but that your brain literally couldn’t think about whatever it was they asked you in the first place.
Some days it’s just hard.
The times when all you want to do is have a back-rub from your husband without being interrupted by sudden cries. The days when you wish there was a magic button that would promise you 3-4 hours of sleep (often the swing does but you’re worried that will create “dependency” on it because They caution against that). The days when you hope to God that you timed everything right so you can make it to small group without a hungry, tired or inexplicably fussy meltdown (then it happens anyway). Some nights your husband sleeps on the couch because he has to get up at 4:30 and, as luck would have it, his alarm will go off just as you and the baby fall back asleep. You miss him. The bed feels cold and empty.
There are days where you second guess everything you’re doing and hope you’re not creating bad habit patterns that will take an eternity to break. You ponder everything because you’re responsible for the safety of this little person and They vehemently insist you should swaddle, should not swaddle, should lay the baby on their back, should lay them on their side, should allow a nightlight, should always cover the windows, should let them nurse to sleep, should never nurse them to sleep because they’ll expect to fall asleep that way until they’re in college, let them cry, never let them experience stress. Above all else, make the right decision the first time so you don’t do permanent damage. Mothering in the age of the internet is a minefield of opinions.
Some days you wonder if it will ever not feel like survival mode? Will she ever prefer her crib to her swing? Will we ever sleep more than 4 hours again? Will life ever resume even a tiny sense of normalcy? Will you ever be able to go out without bringing eighteen baby items (not for a long time)?
Then the reframe comes.
You remember why you’re doing all this.
For the safety and growth of a tiny little person who is new to everything in the world. For her who instantly cries more softly when she sees her mamma because she knows someone who loves her very much is coming. For the knowledge that this little person has an eternal soul that you’ve been gifted with the privilege to help shape.
You remind yourself that an unhappy child doesn’t always have a solution other than time. That their tears and refusal to sleep doesn’t always mean you did something wrong and you don’t need to spend countless hours racking your brain for a way to fix it. That people have raised children for thousands of years before they had access to the millions of opinions on the internet (a blessing and a curse) and that you can trust your parenting instincts and love for your child.
You focus on the literally overwhelming love you have for this little person (a love that makes you immediately tear up when you think about it). The joy you get watching her nurse, when little blue eyes are fixed in wonder on your face. On the way she smells after a bath, the adorable sniff she gives when she’s concentrating on something, the spastic way her tiny hands and feet move without her control. On the gummy grins that get broader every day and the way she gives the sweetest smiles in her (rare) moments of sleep. You can’t get over her. Will never get over her. Her dimples and chunky baby thighs have permanently changed you. You celebrate every little milestone with her – laying on the floor, next to her daddy, you both watching her roll over and go cross-eyed discovering her hands. You see the utter joy in his face when he looks at his daughter and the indescribable happiness she brings both of you. Suddenly you want twelve more of these little people.
You think about the way it felt when her arms and legs wiggled in your womb and can see the same motion patterns when she wiggles around on her blanket. You remember that you’ve never seen a twenty-year old asleep in a swing and instead celebrate the fact that she now sleeps with it on low-speed instead of high and usually spends at least half the night and all her naps in her crib. Baby steps.
You see a day coming all too soon when she’ll say her first words, take her first steps and experience her first heartbreak. Your own heart aches to think of her feeling pain of any kind – yet, to keep her from it will make her brittle not strong, fragile not brave. What you do know is that she’ll never go through pain alone. You will be there for. Her family and the God who made her will be with her (she doesn’t know Jesus yet but you pray for it every single day).
Someday she won’t need you like this. But today she does.
Someday she won’t rely on you for everything. But today she does.
You can see a day in the distant future (and yet, coming all too soon) when you’re at breakfast with the man who cradles your heart. Time has lined his handsome face yet the same impish sparkle that you fell madly in love with still twinkles in his eye – all the children are grown and gone and, once more, it’s just the two of you.
The baby days are long gone and you long for just one more moment of holding your newborn close. For the feel of their tiny body pressed to your breast and the chance to see the overwhelming happiness on their face when all they see and all they need is mommy & daddy. You know you’ll feel that way because you feel that way about your pregnancy – just one moment more of this precious life snuggled under your heart.
But it’s not to be, the days are so fleeting (even when, in the moment, they feel eternal).
The thought is enough to give you strength to savor today, even when the taste is a little bitter. To press that child close to you and say another prayer over their sleeping body. To beg God for courage to persist in patience through the crying.
You should have been in bed an hour ago but sometimes you need to take the time to write everything that’s been bottling up for a month. So you sit, under the multi-colored light of the small Christmas tree, with the sound of the baby monitor as background noise (silently thanking Graco for the swing you hear gently clicking away). You blow a kiss to your husband who is sound asleep on the couch and thank him for his willingness to take the couch even though his back is sore and let you have the bed. You beg your beloved cat not to shred the carefully wrapped gifts (which is the only thing you’ve really accomplished in a few days).
Finally, to end the day you sit for a long time on the shower floor. The water a liquid prayer, washing away frustration, sadness, loneliness and exhaustion.
Today the little graces abound and, in the days of small things, they are enough.