What I remember about the end of May three years ago is how blissfully ignorant I was. I had made it past 37 weeks of pregnancy without going into preterm labor (a logical fear for a NICU nurse) and our recently torn up kitchen had walls, floors, and ceilings. It would have countertops in a matter of days. I had enjoyed my brother's wedding despite the itchy maternity compression tights I wore under my bridesmaid dress on the first truly hot day of summer. I had just had my last day of work at one job, and the days before "maternity leave" were numbered at my other job.
I spent the first Monday of June running errands and making my first (and, it turns out, only) freezer meal. My lower back was killing me, but I figured that was to be expected after spending a wedding weekend on my feet. We'd had our final labor prep class with our doula the day before, and we toured the hospital that Monday night. I went into labor at work that Tuesday and had a baby 30 hours later. Going into spontaneous labor at 38 1/2 weeks is absolutely not unheard of, but for some reason it was just not what I was expecting.
I've spent a lot of anxious hours since then, thinking I just wasn't ready. If only I'd had a few more days, another week, done things differently...
Now? Now I'm overwhelmed with love for a toddler who knows how to both melt my heart and try my patience and I cannot imagine a world without his little soul. Now I know that I never would have been ready. Never could've been ready for the cataclysmic shift from "me" to "we." I loved babies, I knew babies, I took care of them for a living. But nothing ever would have prepared me for the reality of having my own. I didn't know that the start of one life was the end of another. (And I didn't know that this could be a GOOD thing.) I didn't know how it would feel to have a little innocent life utterly dependent on ME.
Eight years ago when I was a newlywed, I remember all of my co-workers asking me, "so, when are you having kids?" I would always reply, "we aren't ready yet," and they would say, "you'll never be ready!" Ever the consummate planner, though, I was determined to wait until we were. Probably more than anything, God knew that later would be better than sooner for us personally. And so it was. But that still doesn't mean we were ready, and now I know my co-workers were right all along. There's no such thing as "ready" when it comes to turning your whole life upside down.
And so it approaches again: the unknown delivery date of another baby. Our family will grow from 3 to 4. I vacillate between fear of the unknown, and excitement for this baby to BE known. Because now I know that meeting these little people and watching them grow is delightful.
I also know that I utterly drowned in the early stages of motherhood. I wouldn't trade that cataclysmic phase for anything, because it's made me the mother, wife, nurse, friend that I am today. But I can't say I have any strong desire to repeat it, either. Sometimes I pray for a super chill baby who likes to sleep and not cry. But I have so many friends whose babies need such big prayers, that I struggle to pray that little one. So then I pray that God will give me what I need to weather what comes. I DO know that the more I need God, the bigger he is. I'm pretty sure that my life's motto is, "It's good to need Jesus."
Still, sometimes I panic: Is this the last time I'll ever be 30 weeks pregnant?! Will Noah ever even remember all of our "Mama, Papa, Noah adventures"? How on EARTH will I deal with an emotional toddler on even less sleep than I'm getting now? What if I die during labor? Will my babies ever know how much I loved them?! These are all actual legitimate fears, but I can see that the accompanying panic is irrational.
Yes, I'm praying for a different experience this time. Yes, I'm doing everything in my power to perhaps have a smoother transition and postpartum experience. But more than anything, perhaps, I KNOW that there's a whole lot about life with two kids that I just don't KNOW. Because I can't. So instead of somehow wistfully looking at my currently life through the lens of my future self who is so much more overwhelmed (yes, I do this) I rest in knowing that the most I can do is this: "Try to keep your soul always in peace and quiet, always ready for whatever our Lord may wish to work in you. It is certainly a higher virtue of the soul, and a greater grace, to be able to enjoy the Lord in different times and different places than in only one." (This little gem is from Ignatius of Loyola.)
I can shift a change in seasons within, just as the sun is now shining outside. And yeah, I'm excited. Sure, worried about the future, but more able to snap back to the present. At this moment, it is well with my soul, and I'm really excited to see where this change takes me. I can maybe attribute a little bit of it to reading Present Over Perfect, some of it is sure as heck seasonal (sunshine!), but wherever that little spark started, it was ignited by hearing this poem this weekend ("She" by Danielle Bennett).
She is unashamed of being happy
and is not bracing herself for the next hard thing
her hands are too busy receiving the day and its gifts
[...]She points to her scars and her vibrant pulse
as a reminder of the times death nearly held her in its nasty jaws
and still she lives, and lives well, so she doesn't
questions that she is covered and seen and doesn't
need to go around making a case for herself anymore.
She has stood inside the eye of a tornado
enough times to know how to stay
even when circumstance wants to chess piece her
into some place she can't be so blinding
but she is sensitive enough to the wind to know
when she needs to start walking away
and she doesn't mind how long the journey will take
because even on days she can't shake the fog
she trusts she has never really been in control.
And she has seen a succulent survive enough times
to know she is much stronger than she thinks
so she is tenacious in her commitment to a covenant
no matter what the cost--
she calls the things she's lost a necessary shedding of skin.
If you ask her how she got so tall,
she will show you the days she spent clearing the debris
so the concrete could be poured in clean and deep.
She will show you the moon who knew her fear of heights,
and the mornings she woke with the gumption to keep growing anyway.
[...]She doesn't need to have it all together to have it all.
She is strange-- doesn't always make perfect sense.
But she is perfect in the way she makes her presence
a place where you can rest.
Her best beauty trick is knowing where she comes from and
not apologizing for where she's going.
She's an augmented 9th--
the musician's unresolved note,
lovely in her complexity.
She doesn't know she will always walk in and kill it
but she knows there is no room
that can tell her what she is and isn't made of.
She is on her knees in the desert,
not phased by where her water will come from,
a dusty-faced worshipper unafraid to be alone
because she knows she is never alone.
[...]She is the strong and delicate hands on a loom,
threading legacy for daughters and granddaughters
who will be written into the book of life
as cage-breakers, earth-tilling ambassadors of heaven,
faithful guardians of this city.
She is a lady of honor.
She is a mother of the future,
a sister of the present.
This is where I want to be, and I'm excited to see how this season can usher me from here to there.