No matter how many blogs you read or books you scour, despite the advice and assistance of other mom friends, nothing can prepare you for new motherhood except new motherhood. You dive in face first, splash around in the most undignified sort of way, bob to the surface for a gasp of fresh air, and flounder a few more times. Rinse and repeat. The pattern grows a bit more graceful as the days pass…
…but if there’s one lesson I’ve learned in my four weeks of being a mom it’s that motherhood is not about mastery. Motherhood is a practice. Motherhood is a spiritual discipline. God will use this new role to transform you and sanctify you. There will be times of peace and contentment, feeling confident and mature, closer to His likeness. Through frustration and angst, sadness and tears, He will draw you nearer to himself. All of this is grace.
As I shared my journey of infertility I learned what healing and strength could come through honest accounts of life and hearts. Friendships are formed, barriers are broken, open wounds become beautiful scars to remind us of our journey.
And so I write. I endeavor to write truth, to share honest accounts of life and transformation, to preach words my own heart needs to hear. I will post pictures and snippets of our days that may seem a little too perfect. Those are my efforts to search for God’s grace, a hunt for goodness and gifts in the everyday mundane of life. I will talk about the moments that bring me to tears or that cause me to shutter at my flesh. And I call this out in each of you, friends. Solidarity is healing.
It is like those disciples walking the road to Emmaus (Luke 24) who chose to share the real, raw stuff of life. They were still in the middle of their grief over Christ’s crucifixion. Anger and tears and confusion flooded their minds as their words attempted to process their devastating weekend. And in the midst of this truest sort of community, the risen Jesus himself appeared.
In the same way our own spiritual journeys are not meant to traversed alone. Community. We choose to walk the road with others, to get through the tough things in life and help one another invite Christ into our midst. I want to be a part of a transforming community –
men and women gathered around the presence of Christ for the purpose of being transformed in Christ’s presence so they can discern and do the will of God.
(Ideas and quote from Ruth Haley Barton’s Life Together in Christ.)
It has been one month since we met face to face, and what a life changing introduction it has been. In many ways, our lives are completely different and can never look the same again. But in a mysterious work of the Divine, you fit so flawlessly into our family it’s hard to notice those differences. We feel like we’ve known you forever and can’t imagine life without you.
On Friday (January 22), you seemed to have a dramatic growth spurt. Gramma Fish was visiting and she commented on the way you were both soothing yourself and focusing your eyes for the first time. Later that day you came with us on an epic Salvation Army excursion. (Seriously, we were there forever and had great success). I had to take you to the car to nurse you and after you had been fed, burped and changed you wouldn’t stop crying. I tried swaddling you and I tried wearing you in the K’tan but you hated everything all of a sudden. Plus, you seemed super long in the K’tan. Did you seriously grow inches a day?! As I was beginning to see my wits end, I laid you on my lap and you stopped crying. You just wanted to look around and see the world. This was a major first for you. You were noticing things and wanted to participate. I told your gramma that she might be right – we need to bring along an interactive toy for you already! What in the?!
As Gramma carried you around the store while your Mama hunted for new (to her) clothes, you just wanted to look out, locking your eyes on the newness. This is such a quick change in your development and so much fun. When we got home to your daddy, you were crying in your swing which was unusual. He laid you on his lap and you were fixated, instantly content by hearing his voice and looking at his face. He spent the next hour or so interacting with you on our bed, singing Veggie Tales songs and tickling your tummy. You’re not quite to the point of responses, but you were very engaged. Suddenly we realized that we’re quickly entering the world of interaction with our child. So exciting!
We spent the first two weeks figuring out how to take care of you and how to take care of ourselves. Your daddy and I worked together surprisingly well in those early days, subconsciously realizing we absolutely needed to be on a team. Together we learned how to change your diaper and how ironic it is always your mama who ends up being the recipient of the spraying pee or exploding poop or leaking diapers. Super fun, thanks. (Most of the time I just laugh, though.) We have had fun watching your involuntary expressions, learning what your cries sound like, and listening to your little adorable grunts as your pooping. Yes, we think that’s cute. (And for the record, the “uhhh wah, uhhh wahh” cry is when you’re hungry. The shrieking scream and expression of pain means you’ve got some serious gas.)
We gave you many sponge baths and were quickly thankful for the overhead heater in our bathroom. You love to be warm almost as much as you love to be fed. However, let it be known that you are a little furnace just like your mom. I often over do it with the blankets or layers and you end up sweating like you’ve been working out. Speaking of working out, mama had you home alone Thursday morning so daddy wasn’t around to watch you while I exercised. I took you with me to the carpeted basement, turned a heater in the direction of your bouncy seat and had at it. Part way through I realized what an early example I was setting for you. I am so glad to teach you that taking care of your body is important. And maybe someday you’ll want to exercise with me!
Your umbilical cord stump fell off around day 12 and it was strangely bittersweet for me. Throwing away that last little reminder of our intimate, womb connection was a bit sad. But it also meant you were safe and in my arms and here to stay. We gave you your first bath on January 14 and I’m not gonna lie I was kind of afraid. I was afraid you would hate it and scream, and I was afraid of dropping you or hurting your slippery self by accident. I was pleasantly surprised (actually, I was ecstatic) when you absolutely loved your bath! It was like a baby spa for you. You relaxed into that warm water (which daddy drew at the perfect temperature) and let us pour water over your hair and lather soap all over. You were so content and your face told us you were loving every minute. In fact, I hated taking you out. Since then, we’ve given you a few more tub baths and oftentimes have been taking you into the shower with us. Again, you surprised me by loving the shower, not the least bit upset as the water streamed down your head or even splashed in your face. Adorable. We have decided that a Y membership and family swims are in our near future.
Although most people think you look just like your daddy (which I can agree with), I see a lot of my mannerisms in you. Your little tongue hangs out of your mouth most of the time, just like mine did as a baby. (I have already apologized to you if I’ve passed on my tongue thrust and lisp. Also, I drool a lot even now. Sorry about that.) You are very predictable in your daily routine, just like your plan-loving mother. You seem to love physical touch and closeness, quickly becoming content if I curl up next to you. I hope you always love to snuggle me. Your big toe curls up like a little elf toe just like mine. I’m especially in love with that feature for some reason.
Random bonus material:
Right now your eyes are a beautiful dark blue and I’m wondering what color they will settle on.
You’re still wearing newborn clothes, though we can fit you into some 0-3 months clothes as well.
You love movement: in the swing, in the bouncer, in the car, in the stroller. Always keep moving.
I love that you haven’t lost any of your rather thick hair. (The same head of hair that made me shout during a moment of pushing desperation, “Can’t you just grab her by the hair and pull her out?!”
You seem to enjoy moderate amounts of tummy time, whether on my lap or my shoulder or the bed.
Your neck is already gaining a lot of strength, holding up your head with regularity.
Places you have been in your first month:
Monroe Free Methodist Church – as early 4 days old, going with mama to do some office work. You were in church for the first time Sunday, January 3rd and stayed in the nursery without mom or dad on January 17th (Aunt Cathy Brownell and Amanda Loomis were there with you.)
Grandma & Grandpa Eccles house – for your newborn photo session with Sara Luke on January 2nd.
JRs restaurant in Milan – for Grandpa Eccles’ birthday dinner on January 10th.
Josh & Amanda Kraus’s house – just for fun on January 15th (you blew out your diaper on my lap and we had to take you home naked. I am so sorry.)
Somerset Beach Campground – for WMI craft & chat and a visit with Caitlin Koppelman and Baby Shiloh on January 16th.
The Henry Ford Museum – with Grandma and Grandpa Eccles, Uncle Brian, Beth and Sam on Martin Luther King Jr Day January 18th.
plus…Mama’s Chiropractor appointment (where you screamed for an hour), Mom’s 4 week follow up appointment with Cathy, and your 10 day visit with Dr. Aza. Also, Meijer & Aldi and the mall and Salvation Army and Panera Bread, and Agora Chorale.
You’ve had lots of visitors at the house too. There are so many more friends & family who are dying to meet you…if only we didn’t live far away.
Grandma & Grandpa Fish
Grandma & Grandpa Eccles
Aunt Ashley & Uncle Randy Long
Great Grams & Chuck Simmons
Great Grandma & Grandpa Arvidson
Kellyanne & Dave Morgan
Cathy & Michaela Brownell
Kyle & Amanda Loomis
Nancy & Mike Liedel
Brittney & Shane Everett
Ruth & Jenna Tyson
Randi & Anastasia Shepherd
Cousins Scott & Ana Coulter
Taylor St. Andre
At your 30 day check up with Dr. Aza Khaghany we were thrilled with your growth and health. You weighed 9 pounds (up from 7lbs at birth!) and gained an inch and a quarter in length (20-3/4 inches). The abrasion on the back of your head (from being wedged in my pelvis…sorry) is all but completely healed. The doctor and nurse both loved how much you were filling out (don’t worry, we won’t comment on you “filling out” when you’re grown up!) and how you were following us with your eyes and being so happy and alert. You are doing wonderfully! Your next appointment is in one month and I’m already bracing myself for the emotional turmoil of immunizations.
So, sweet girl, let it be known that we are in love with you. There is nothing you could ever do that would make us love you less. (shout out to a Rob Bell Nooma video from a decade ago…) As you grow and learn and experience the world around you, may you continually encounter the grace and goodness of God.
When people ask how I’m doing with motherhood, I’m never sure what to say. On one hand I have no idea what I’m doing, and I’m fairly confident that I never will. As soon as I think I’ve figured something out, our daughter changes and we have to learn everything over again. On the other hand, I feel like I have settled into motherhood very comfortably. I love loving my daughter and parenting next to my wonderful husband. I am so thankful for the pretty decent amount of sleep we’ve been getting. I am over the moon grateful for successful breastfeeding (and for a more balanced milk supply and hardly no more pain). I am amazed at the quick recovery my body has managed before my very surprised eyes.
I was afraid of how frazzled my life would feel. And yes, part of me feels frazzled. But somehow I don’t feel like I’m at my wits end. I have been bathing and putting on nice clothes and make up every day, and I’ve tried to balance productivity with rest. But alas, balance is elusive. I have had moments of tearful breakdowns because I had high hopes for accomplishing all-the-things and feeling like I’ve accomplished nothing. I spent four hours working ahead on worship sets and got exactly one week ….ONE WEEK… finished. The previous version of Melanie would have had 2 or 3 months worth done in that amount of time. I came home in a tizzy from a day when I tried to cram too much in with my newborn daughter. I should have just tackled the trip to the Chiropractor, but instead I added a long visit to Meijer and the result was two girls in stressful, hangry (hungry angry) tears.
I have re-developed a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome in my right wrist. It tends to flair up once a year when I’ve been sleeping with a crooked wrist for too long. But that is not the case this time. This flare up is because of the way I’ve been holding my baby’s head in my bent wrist multiple times a day. Normal flare ups are moderately annoying numbness. This case is insane. Four of my five fingers are numb and stay that way for hours at a time. The pain is like lightening and is now shooting all the way up to my elbow. I’ll thank my dad for passing on this genetic disposition and pray that I don’t have to have surgery like he did.
Limitations are so hard for me. My time must be spent so differently than before. Caring for my daughter is my first priority. I can’t accomplish nearly as much in my day. And that’s a beautiful ok thing (Do you hear me, Mel?!) I get exhausted so easily, no longer capable of marathon sessions of office work or even just-for-fun outings. By 3pm I feel spent for the day. And if I don’t get a nap in before 5pm, the evening may or may not go well. My body feels amazing and new and ready to do-all-the-things but I must realize that I’m still healing for a very strenuous labor and delivery…not to mention 10 months of sharing my body with a growing baby!
Time. Rest. Grace.
These are my new life mottos. Feel free to remind me of them when I appear frazzled or frustrated or in need of a reminder that my value is not attached to how many items I check off a to-do list.
This is the first letter I’m writing to you as I look at your sweet little face, asleep and expressive right beside me. Last night was the hardest night yet, mostly because you’ve been such an amazing sleeper and eater. I think the most difficult part of your crying is when there seems to be nothing left to do to soothe you. The painful screaming just cuts open my heart. I was actually weeping with you last night, so sad that I couldn’t comfort you.
But besides those rare moments, you are an incredibly “good” baby. You are an answer to my prayers in more ways than just your presence in my life. First, I prayed long and hard that you and I would learn to breastfeed well. I have heard so many painful and frustrating stories from friends, and I just wasn’t sure I could endure that struggle. Once again, God was overly gracious to me and you were an excellent nurser from minute one. We have been a great team, you and I. In fact, your pediatrician was thoroughly impressed with your health at your 10 day appointment. You weighed 7lbs 1/4 oz (we just ignore that quarter ounce because really?…) at birth and left the hospital at 6lbs 9oz. Just a week later you were up to 7lbs 3oz! What? You were surpassing your birth weight so quickly? and you’re breastfed? by a first time mom? Doctor really couldn’t believe it. And neither could I. That appointment went so well that rather than having us come in weekly for your weigh-ins, the Doctor said just come back at 30 days! Go you, Kirsten!
You have the silliest involuntary facial expressions. I crack up laughing sometimes and I can hardly wait to see you using those muscles on purpose.
You have officially had two diaper blow outs. The first was a week ago and just a quarter-sized ring wet through your clothes and onto my jeans. But this morning…oh, this morning…after our longer-than-ever night last night it was as if you just had to put the cherry on top. Daddy and I were sitting in bed; I was nursing you and he was reading. You were eating and eating and pooping and pooping. I took a moment to lay you on your daddy while I got out of bed and I asked him to change you. That’s when I saw it! My sheets and my nightgown were soaked through with a huge amount of your poo! And of course I had conveniently just spread the mess to the duvet cover when I laid you on your daddy. Wow, way to go, Little Girl. We got you to the bathroom and cleaned you up. The bed was stripped and sheets were washed..and now I am officially a pro at putting on a duvet cover. I should make a youtube video or something. :)
And then there’s me, your momma. How am I doing, you ask? Thanks to be to God who poured out more incredible blessings. After my long marathon of labor and six+ hours of pushing, I managed to be controlled enough during that last push that I didn’t tear or need any stitches. What?! Another specific answer to a long-prayed prayer? Thank you, Lord. I was sore and moved cautiously those first 3 days after delivery. The sorest part of my body, though, were my arms and shoulders from all that pulling myself up during various pushing tactics. Oh and that TDap shot. ouch.
By day 10 I felt really great and went on my first 3 mile walk down Keegan. It was a beautiful day and your daddy kept you cozy at home while I spent 45 minutes alone with God. Glorious. I went on another walk that week and the three of us walked laps at the mall last Saturday (since it was bitter cold outside). I have accomplished three different (highly modified) Jillian Michaels workouts, mostly doing strength training – weights and squats. I am avoiding all ab work because unfortunately I did end up with a diastasis. If I avoid making it worse with planks or crunches these next few weeks, I may be able to keep from permanent damage. I pray this is the case because all of yoga is core-based and I need (really want) to be back firing on all cylinders eventually.
Breastfeeding is the most amazing weight loss plan, though. Wow, I didn’t really believe I would be this lucky. I went into labor at 174 pounds, up 34 pounds from my original weight. (right on target. yay!) But even this 174 was distributed through my arms and legs, keeping me from fitting into almost any of my pre-pregnancy shirts and pants very early on. I thought for sure this would hang on for months after delivery. Nope. I came home 164lbs. By Day 8 I was 157lbs and this morning (Day 18), I was 149lbs. Never in a million years did I think I’d see the 140s again so quickly. I am able to wear all of my pre-pregnancy shirts already and most of my workout/yoga gear. My pants situation is a little different because right before I got pregnant I got rid of my “bigger” jeans – those 8s I was so acclimated to. I was smaller than ever and wearing 4s and 6s. Thus, I needed some “in between” pants. I went to goodwill last week and found four pairs of size 10s and was amazed I was already wearing 10s. And now this week, they’re already too big for me. Holy Moly. I’ll take it, though!
I have been managing about 6 hours of broken sleep a night which I appreciate. I tend to feel great and energized all morning and if I don’t get at least one nap before 4pm I’m kind of a mess, physically and emotionally. Know your limits, Mel, and respect them.
Thank you, Father God, for healing my body so quickly and getting me back on my feet and feeling more beautiful than ever. My perception of my body has changed completely, and even if I never look exactly the same (I can’t imagine ever looking exactly the way I did before carrying and delivering a child), I am so, so thankful for the body I’ve been given. I am going to care for myself with respect and gratitude. And for now, I’m going to keep eating like a horse because ohmygosh breastfeeding makes you ravenous.