I have loved my younger child differently

This year has been a whirlwind. 

When I say whirlwind, I mean there is still a box of maternity clothes sitting on my bedroom floor that I haven’t managed to find enough time to put away. (And if I’m going to be totally honest, there may be some pregnancy apparel still hiding in my dresser drawers, too.)

Whirlwind as in there are even some newborn clothes hanging in my own closet from those early weeks when the baby needed changing often, and I couldn’t yet climb the stairs following my c-section. 

Whirlwind as in when I stop to let my mind focus on the fact that today that baby has lived on this Earth for one full year, I feel I need to catch my breath.

We have been racing through this year. Sprinting towards survival. Carried along by the busyness of each day, filled with all the things it takes to enable more than one tiny human entrusted to your care to make it successfully until the next sleep. Diaper changes. Outfit changes. Meal prep. Instruction. (More instruction.) Discipline. (More discipline.) 

Then the forceful current of our daily routine pushed us through time even faster as we dealt with my own health issues for many of those months. Each day’s cherished prize: our heads hitting the pillows.

I cannot believe that last night, I put to bed a baby, and today, in this house, another toddler wakes.

first birthday

And just like that, a year has flown past.


I hadn’t stopped to really let myself think about it until last night. (You know, with the racing through life, and all.) The end of summer blurred into my eldest’s daughter’s birthday and its preparations, suddenly dropping us off to this day. But last night, it hit me. (Trust me, my husband will tell you.) It’s something about laying a child down to sleep, knowing they will have crossed that milestone the next morn of passing through another year that makes the floodgates open. And even more so that first year. I’ve come to realize–having been through two–that first birthdays are more of a celebration for the parents than the child, because you are rejoicing in the fact that you’ve successfully kept alive another soul for an entire 12 months. 

Not only have you cared for that little person for all those days and weeks and months in ways that stretched your abilities, you have learned to love another  in a way you didn’t know you were capable. An unstoppable, breathing, beating love that flows through your heart and mind, coursing through your veins and out to your actions. A love that everyone tells you will happen, but until you experience it, you can’t completely comprehend. 

And after your first child, you wonder how it would be possible to be filled up with the same love again, because you are already pretty convinced your heart in its current state is at capacity. 

Now that a year has passed after the birth of my second, let me tell you a secret. The truth is, for me, it hasn’t been the same.

My love for my younger child is different.

Before you think I am a terrible parent, publicly proclaiming my favoring of one child over the other, allow me to explain. 

I have already told the story how in the hours before my youngest’s birth, I was an emotional mess, sobbing in triage as my bewildered husband looked on. Not wanting to go through what I was about to experience because I was scared out of my mind. Scared not because of the pain of impending surgery and recovery, but because I knew the depths of what was to come. 

This time, I knew about the impossible love. And it was overwhelming.

reaching child

With this child, I already knew how far my love would reach.


Earlier this week, grandchild number 13 on my husband’s side joined our family. After he had a short NICU stay, my sister-in-law asked how I was able to stand being separated from my first daughter after her birth, since she also took a turn in the NICU. My answer was partially that I was so drugged, after a long labor followed by emergency c-section, I barely knew what was going on. But mostly the reason was that I had no frame of reference of what to expect as a mother and for me, hadn’t yet experienced that bond between parent and child. Now on the other side of that, knowing what it’s like to hold what you held inside you for 40 weeks, it would be much more challenging to go through something like that again.

And why is that? Well, you know how when you’ve done something once or you’ve been training to do something for a long time, and that moment comes to perform, your body kind of just takes over? That it acts on impulse, moving faster and more confidently than previously thought possible? Similarly, I have learned that once you’ve experienced the love of a child, the next time around, your heart responds accordingly. It knows what to do. It’s been here before. 

And because your heart knows what to expect at each new stage, it’s like it fills to overflowing before milestones are even reached. Gone are many of the uncertainties about what’s ahead, replaced by confidence that you know every new development is better than the last. You think newborns are great? Nah, wait till you see them smile. Love those 6-month-old giggles? Wait till a toddler whispers, “I love you, Mommy.”

I felt this love differently because it ran over what are now well-worn paths in this Momma’s heart, deepening the marks left by my first, pushing the boundaries to make room for more. Prayerfully cutting off the selfishness that clogged it before. Helping me better grasp just how My Father loves me and how far He’d go to reach my soul. How He’d send His Son in exchange for it.

Last night, my toddler helped me put the baby to bed. She recited our traditional nighttime story and then asked if she could pray. As I listened to her words and watched as my baby pushed her arm through the slats, spreading her fingers to touch her sister, I could feel the familiar tug as my heart stretched again.

Because now I know the miracle of a child is not only about new life. 

It’s about how it transforms yours.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” (John 3:16, The Message)

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Why I’m glad I’ll never be a pro at parenting

It’s 7:46 p.m., and I’ve been snuggling and rocking my second-born for over an hour.

I’m listening to her soft snorts as she breathes out her nose, silently willing her to just. go. to. sleep. as she fights it with every fiber in her now overly tired body. As I stare at her features barely visible in the dim light of the nursery, I wonder how I could find something so sweet still so incredibly … terrifying.

 

baby held by God not us

Her life is not held in our hands.

 
It’s been more than three months now since she entered our lives. A span of time that has mystifyingly stood still and yet passed so fast. The terror I speak of started the morning of her birth. Well, I’m sure it started before, but that was the moment it became so real that I wanted to run screaming from Labor & Delivery triage.

“I don’t want to do this,” I sobbed to my husband, who looked at my tear-stained face completely bewildered, as I lay shaking on the hospital bed in preparation for my scheduled c-section. 

“Can we just go home?”

He paused a second before carefully responding.

“Hon, I think it’s a little late for that.”

This was not how I pictured the birth day of my second daughter. I had thought we would talk and laugh and wait in excitement until they walked me back to the OR. Instead, my stomach was a tangled mess of knots and my heart was thudding and my mind was spinning. I don’t think I had ever been so nerved up about anything more in life. 

I wasn’t scared of the surgery. Or of the recovery pain I knew was coming. What had me so horrified was what I had wanted every day for nine looooooong months: the thought of this new life entering into the world.

This new life we had to bring home. To care for. To raise. For at least the next 18 years, Lord willing.

And it absolutely freaked me out.

I didn’t feel this way before the birth of my first; at least, I don’t remember feeling it so strongly. Maybe it was because I now knew what I was getting into and the significance of it all. 

My husband was right–there was no turning back. And as scared as I was, when the time came, I didn’t run. Actually, once I scooched my very pregnant self onto the operating table, I was at peace. 

Minutes later, at 9:01 a.m. on September 15, sweet Aurelia Ruth made her debut.

 The minutes and days and weeks that have followed already have blended together into an indistinguishable twist of time, as we try to figure out how to best meet the needs of this precious little soul.

Our second-born is definitely more challenging than our first, but that is not saying much, because I think I somehow birthed the World’s Easiest Baby with her. I have joked that wolves could’ve raised Olivia, and she would’ve turned out the same. So when it has become clear that I don’t have all the parenting answers (not that I ever thought I did), the terror starts creeping back in to lurk in the corners of my heart.

But that terror, I have learned, also cracks open a door to turn to God. To seek Him, instead of run in fear. To cling to truth, instead of listen to the lies of the Great Deceiver. To realize finding the “right” answer doesn’t rest on me, or in some book, or on some mommy blog, but in the Creator and Provider. For if He cares for the lilies of the valley and the birds of the air, He surely cares so much more for my children. And for our marriage. And for me.

That’s why I am glad I don’t know it all when it comes to being a parent. If it were totally easy, it would also be easy to think “hey, I’ve got this,” puff out my chest, and leave little room for God. 

I am sure there will be bigger challenges ahead than how to get my baby to sleep. And I pray He uses those challenges to keep me humble and on my knees, asking for His direction and help. 

As I lay my finally dreaming babe ever, yet ever, so quietly and carefully down in her crib and tip-toe backwards through the darkness of her room, fingers silently wrapping around the doorknob, I am not leaving the terror behind. I am simply choosing to let the Almighty wrap us both in His powerful arms.

He is there in the darkness.

He is there to conquer my doubts.

He is there in the late-night feedings. In the cries that cannot be soothed or explained. In the exhausting yet oh-so-rewarding moments that each new day brings. 

He.

Is.

There.

And I’m so grateful He’s got this, not me.

gift of a  child

Thank you Lord, for this most precious gift.

“My help comes from The Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 101:2)