Dear Abigail | 21 October 2019

Dear Abigail,

There are cliche motherhood quotes that end up plastered on Facebook walls about how a mother’s heart beats outside of her body, and there is a bit of truth to it. In a very real and biological way this DNA that used to be mine, these cells that made up me, are now outside of me in your body. Your heart beats and it is somehow mysteriously all your own and yet somehow still connected to mine. 

You are my DNA, merged and wrapped and formed with your Dad’s. (Despite what all those ladies at church say, you do look like me.) You have my nose, my startling independence, my squinty-eyed smile. For months you grew inside me, cocooned inside my body and safe

But now that you are here, born into the world and navigating it in your own unique way, anywhere can feel unsafe to me at a moment’s notice. The man walking toward us is a knife plunging into my side, a hand ripping the stroller from my grasp. The car coming toward us on the two lane road is a drunk driver about to collide with our car head-on. The air conditioner is a drug addict with a gun, the stove is silently leaking carbon monoxide, the bees buzzing around our porch are an allergic reaction. 

I am told by other moms this is normal, this is motherhood. This alertness which crosses the boundary lines of personality and disposition is to be expected. It finds all of us. As if when the baby growing inside us was birthed, something had to take its place inside our bellies. Something like fear. 

I don’t burden you with these things. But I do wonder if I will always see danger this quickly. For now I have begun acknowledging these thoughts in my head and waving at them hoping they’ll pass me by. I remind myself, “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” and I wonder why I think I can take better care of you than our friend Jesus. 

It seems motherhood, at least for me, has been a practice in learning how to let go of myself - my fears, my desire for control, my heart beating outside of my body. The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it - you and me and this DNA we share. Thanks be to God. 

With love,

Mom

PC: The incredible  Jenna L. Richman Photography

PC: The incredible Jenna L. Richman Photography

Dear Abigail | 14 October 2019

Dear Abigail,

When your Dad and I were engaged, I decided to write in a journal and give it to him on our wedding day. I don’t remember much of what I wrote, but I know that I began writing it by explaining how inconsequential the date of that first entry was. I didn’t start that journal the day we got engaged, or on some other celebration-worthy day, but on some regular day that meant next to nothing. 

This is like that. 

It’s a Monday and I’m at a coffeeshop. I have other things I should be working on - is that motherhood? Just one long list of other things you should be working on that you put aside for this most important thing? - but here I am writing to you. 

You are seven months old. You have a tooth, one singular tooth in the bottom of your mouth on the left, that you used to bite me a few days ago. (If you hadn’t, I wonder how long it would have taken me to notice it.) You are fiercely independent and you smile at everyone and all I have to do to get you excited is raise the pitch of my voice ever so slightly. Two weeks ago you said “Mama” and I melted. Your Dad is still trying to get you to say “Dada.” 

I love being your mom, absolutely love it. You are brightness and joy and laughter. You have made me more tender, more kind. Some moms talk about how their babies smoothed out their rough edges and settled them down, but that has not been my experience with you. You have made my experience of the world sharper, clearer. I am more awake because of you. 

There are times when this awakeness startles me, like when I’m listening to music in the car and a lyric I’ve heard a million times will suddenly ring truer and tears will fill my eyes. Other times it feels as natural as a walk on a summer day. It’s as if when you were born my heart cracked open through my chest and sometimes the wind hitting that part of me that I kept so hidden takes my breath away. 

And yet, it’s just wind. Harmless, beautiful wind. 

All my love,

Mom

Sudden, Startling Joy

It has been a hot minute since I shared anything in this space. Admittedly, I expected the silence in this corner of the internet - caring for a newborn and becoming a mother myself have been full-time jobs that leave very little space for blogging. I started writing this post with the intention of updating all you readers (all 4 of you ;)) but so much in my life has changed in the past few months that to try to sum it all up in one piece of writing would be absurd. 

There is one piece of this story that has been sticking to my side like a bur, a piece that now feels almost too vulnerable to share. I was not excited to become a mother; in fact, I was dreading it with nearly everything in me. The nine months leading up to Abbie’s birth were some very difficult months for me. When I saw two blue lines on a pregnancy test, I honestly wept. Not tears of joy or celebration, but sad, mournful tears. The prayer I prayed most often over my pregnancy was that the Lord would somehow create in me the desire for the baby growing inside my belly because I felt so numb and afraid. 

I was never the girl who dreamed about being a mom. Before Abigail, I had approximately zero experience with babies and children. I had no idea how to change a diaper, soothe a crying baby, or do any of the things mothers do. I’m not sure there was ever a moment during my pregnancy when I felt joy about becoming a mother. And yet, as cliche as it sounds, the moment she was born was one of the most holy, sacred, and JOY-filled moments of my life. It was as if in a crashing wave the Lord answered “YES” to every prayer I had prayed throughout my pregnancy about creating desire in my heart. 

There have been many times throughout the past four months I’ve wondered shouldn’t this be harder? Shouldn’t I be more tired, more sad, more overwhelmed? Shouldn’t I be mournful for the parts of me that have changed and morphed and been lost? I expected motherhood to press against me on all sides like life has pressed against me for the past two years, and yet it hasn’t. I expected the weight of caring for another person to feel heavy and awkward and smothering, and yet it feels light and not burdensome at all. 

I expected a version of motherhood that is nothing like what I am experiencing. I expected that motherhood would be difficult, joyless, wrought with the little, painful deaths of my own desires. But instead of crushing, burdensome weight, my daughter has been, in the words of Madeleine L’Engle, a “sudden, startling joy.” 

I don’t know if there’s any deep spiritual lesson to glean from this, and I honestly don’t know if that’s even my job to try to find one and pin it down like a moth on a piece of glass. What I do know is that the rhythm of naps and nursing and diaper changes has become familiar and comfortable to me. I know that I desperately want to slow down time to soak in these moments filled with the most happiness I’ve felt in a long time. I know that the Lord is in these moments, and I’d like to think he gets excited seeing me experience all these blessings he is showering on me in the same way I get excited when Abbie looks up at me with her big blue eyes and smiles. Sudden, startling joy.

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