The first time a kind stranger peeked at my newborn baby and gushed, “Oh honey, treasure every second!” I almost burst into tears. Not because I was so touched, but because I was so tired. We were standing at the entrance to the mall–me, my baby, and my Shamu-sized postpartum belly–all three of us staring at this sweet lady with her abounding supply of freedom.
I wanted to say, “I’ll try! I’ll try to treasure every second, and you try to treasure every second of the eight hours of uninterrupted sleep you’re going to get tonight. And treasure every second you’re going to roam this mall in total freedom, buying clothes that will fit your skinny waist, and shirts that aren’t breastfeeding accessible. And while you’re at it, treasure all the discretionary time you’ll have in the next decade while I watch Dora, and take temperatures, and settle fights, and pretend to be a human jungle gym, and birth more babies, and clean puke off my clothes.”
Instead I just smiled and waddled off–me, baby, and Shamu. That was round one for me. My very first baby. And boy, was the learning curve steep.
Two weeks ago I gave birth to baby number three. My third gorgeous little daughter. She arrived three weeks early, in such a massive hurry that despite having two previous c-sections, I delivered her naturally with no drugs (and a whole lot of screaming!) It was the first time I experienced a baby being laid on my chest the moment she was born. Later, the midwife told me she would never forget the look on my face. It wasn’t pretty or serene (Clint snapped a picture, so I know!) It was a look of complete shock. Somewhere in the midst of all the pain and hysteria, I had completely forgotten I would get a baby out of this ordeal. My mom (who thought this one might be a boy, despite the ultrasound’s verdict) asked me later if it registered that she really was a girl. I told her that in that moment I wouldn’t have cared if she was a monkey. I held my little baby as they stitched me up, and I never felt more comforted in all my life. I didn’t examine her, or talk to her, or try to nurse her…I just abided with her, quietly knowing that she and I together had done something extraordinary. We each went on a journey–scary and unknown–and we met in the middle.
This time, if a kindly stranger tells me to treasure every second, I think I will burst into tears. Not because of my lost figure or freedom, but because I so ardently understand that the seconds truly are numbered. They are grains of sand slipping through the hourglass, never to be returned. That’s the funny thing about motherhood. You start off with so little on your plate, and it feels like you’re absolutely drowning. And yet the more you add, the more joyful it becomes. Because somewhere in between adding more babies, and more diapers, and more laundry, you also add more perspective. You realize there are worse things than a long night, and challenges really do pass, and tiny toes don’t stay tiny forever. You know cribs turn into beds, and strollers turn into bikes, and the chubby cheeks making fish faces today will be wearing your makeup tomorrow.
And so, in these past two weeks, as I treasure every second, one verse keeps coming to my mind: “Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death” (Gen 24: 67). Is it busy and hectic and messy having three children? Of course it is! Have I gone to bed at 8pm every night this week? Yes I have! But this time around, the baby isn’t the exhausting, overwhelming part. In the midst of all the scheduling, and carpooling, and cleaning, the baby is my Rebekah. She is the comfort in the chaos.
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