We’re at the two month mark of this new dance called parenthood. Most times, we’re square dancing (complicated footwork with a new little partner, sometimes strapped to me in a sling, in a space no larger than 15 feet square—ahh, apartment life), but sometimes, we waltz (smooth, flowing movements that put people—or babies—to sleep for hours at a time).
For what I’ve learned so far, I’ve compiled a short list of the high points. To me, parenthood, at this stage, means…
Batteries should be bought in bulk. The swinging chair (four double-Ds), the vibrating chair (six Ds), the music-playing animal-dangling-and-turning mobile (four double-As) as well as the remote for the oscillating fan (it’s still summer, folks) mean that we go through Duracells almost as fast as we go through diapers.
Stains. Lots and lots of stains. When they create “Spray ‘N Wash: Neon Yellow Baby Poop Formula,” I’ll buy a case.
A drop in the household literacy rate. Ah-gah? Ah ga-ga-goo! Ah gagagagagaga goo-goo-do-be-do. Ohhhh? Ohh-ho-ho? Goo-goo-gah. ‘Nuff said.
Confidence in doctors. Is spitting up three times a day considered normal? How long between feedings? Why does he breathe so quickly? What’s the right color for his stools? How do we help that flat spot on his head? Baby acne: Will it last until high school and make him unpopular? These are the questions I bring with confidence to our pediatrician’s office.
Slight disbelief in doctors. When they tell you that the baby will be a bit “cranky” after getting three injected vaccines, it actually means they’ll be fine for an hour, then will scream bloody murder for the remainder of the afternoon. Children’s Tylenol has nothing on an infant getting three vaccines. It’s like throwing .4ml of water on a hot Webber kettle at the Labor Day barbeque.
Prayer. When that same child is screaming, and has been for the past hour, sometimes the only thing to do is hold the pacifier, bounce, sway, swaddle and sing, all the while thinking, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” His blessed name is the simplest and best prayer at those moments for me.
Getting to know a new Guardian Angel. Baby J’s godmother, my sister, gave him a guardian angel holy card for his baptism. I taped it inside his little bassinet, so we both see it often. As I was shooshing him to sleep one night, a spontaneous request came to mind: I asked my guardian angel to watch over my baby for the night. Doing so certainly wasn’t me trying to feel selfless or pious—Heaven knows I have leaps and bounds to go before I’ve earned those titles. But it was a instinctual request that I know all mothers feel: The request that the baby be protected, cared for and guarded at all costs, especially if the cost falls at the mother’s feet.
A few weeks after Baby J’s birth, my own mom sent me a chain email about the joys, trials, and immense humor of motherhood. It had the standard-but-true lines about motherhood that become abundantly clear once that little infant arrives: how, before becoming a mom, I had unstained clothes and brushed my teeth every day; how I always ate hot meals and had never been chewed on; how I slept through the night, every night; how I had complete control of my life.
It went on to detail some deeper truths: Before being a mom, I never held a sleeping baby, just because I didn’t want to put it down; how before motherhood, I never had my heart break into a million pieces when I couldn’t stop his hurt.
But the salient line from that email was this: Before being a mom, I didn’t know the feeling of having my heart outside my body.
Two months in, and that’s it: The Lord took my heart and gave it to a little blue-eyed boy. My heart wears little boy clothes, smiles and coos at me as he wakes up in the morning, and breaks into a million pieces when he cries a tear.
“Praise the Lord, you children: praise the name of the Lord… who makes a barren woman to dwell in a house, the joyful mother of children.” (Psalm 113)