My baby is sleeping in a basket on the table. In between sentences, I try to shovel rice into my mouth – a later lunch taken while afternoon rest fill these quiet days. Baby grunts and coos are new background noises. Slurps and sucks and suction, recent sounds of sustenance and frustration.
I did a lot of reading to prepare for pregnancy and delivery. I learned about guarding postpartum spaces, and prepped meals for the first forty days. What the cookbooks don’t tell you is if you forget to thaw the meals, dinner before six is a pipe dream. Crockpots do combat freezer burn. You need eight arms to get a meal on the table, a diaper changed, a bottle made.
I wasn’t prepared for the tears that would come, the feelings of inadequacy, the fears of is my child getting enough?
They say there are no manuals for parenting – much like grief there are no right ways to do things. There sure as heck are a lot of wrong ways to do it though. I’m learning to lean into forgiveness and trial and error. Not my favorite things.
At week two, my husband and I found ourselves sitting in the NICU, watching our new baby get poked for an IV. As a trained compassion professional, I wish I could have drawn upon learnings, and remembered that I, too, am worthy of grace.
In that moment, though, fear and shame washed over me in waves. Kind nurses and doctors reminded us this is hard. We arranged to sleep in rooms away from the beeping monitors – not how I envisioned my first nights away from my baby. We said prayers for healing and hope and luckily, were released after just a few days. The shame has lingered for weeks.
I’m still getting to know my daughter – I imagine this is now lifelong work. While her cries cue me for different needs, something is stirring within me. A becoming.
I told Dylan if we were learning to play the cello, we wouldn’t expect ourselves to pick up the instrument and play a symphony right away. Yet, in America, with lack of paternity leave, pieced together maternity leave, and fears of what will insurance cover, we are expected to be masterful musicians right from the start. Or maybe, that’s just what I thought reading the books would equip me to do.
The night we went home from Children’s hospital, I took this picture and texted ‘Grace upon grace upon grace.’ I want that to be my mantra for motherhood.
And in the meantime, bring over some tissues, come for a visit, or call up a new mother. This is hard and holy work. There’s no bouncing back. There’s only becoming. And that is a beautiful thing.