Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Bringing Samuel Home

Even though I'd really love to share Sam's birth story (whenever I get around to writing it down), it feels a little raw still and I get a sharp little pain in my heart when I think about how everything transpired. As many of you already know, Sam was born via c-section. The procedure itself went well and in the end, we are all here and healthy and happy, which is all we really wanted at the end of the day. But it's been tough for me to process everything and I'm still working through it (feeling like I didn't really birth him). Anyways.

So instead, I'd like to try and write down some memories from the first few days when we brought him home. These are painful and blurry and all swirling together in my brain but also the beginning of mothering - the first time living out a new vocation and role that I'll be playing for the rest of my life! They were hard and beautiful days. Here's what I remember...

We brought Sam home on a Thursday afternoon, around 2pm. Well, I'm not sure we'd call it home. Our home at the time didn't really feel like home. Every time we'd visit either of our parents' homes or a friend's home or even spent time in the mountains, we'd come back to our little apartment and it just felt.... sterile. Like living in a hotel. We never really wanted to go back there. I remember I was unhappy in that little space and it took me a while to be okay with bringing our baby home to that apartment (I finally got there, but it still didn't feel like how you want a home to feel - warm, familiar, inviting, cozy). But that was Sam's first home. Not perfect, not exactly what we wanted, not very conducive to family life - and yet, it was. God had already started to help me let my idea of perfection go and asked me to trust that He would make things right and good for us.

My mom was due to arrive the next afternoon, on Friday, so we had the rest of Thursday just as a family of three for the first time. I remember after getting home and settling in a bit, I sat in our new glider holding our baby for the first time and watching him sleep. It was the first time since he had been born that I was able to just sit and hold him, uninterrupted, for longer than a few minutes. Again, God asked me to trust Him, to let go my expectations of how I wanted the first few days with my baby to go and instead be grateful that we were together and safe and healthy. There were a lot of tears in those first few days. I remember sitting with Sam, not doing anything else, and just looking at him wondering, "Who are you?" (and also, Who am I now?). He was so tiny (unexpectedly!) and I felt a little lost (unexpectedly) and not able to take care of myself at all - what a vulnerable time it was for us (me). Do you sense a theme of "unexpected things" here? Thankfully, Lewis's stalwart presence and sameness lent me a sense of security and calm - that even though everything was different and different in ways I didn't expect, he was still there, we were still together, and I wasn't doing it alone.

The feeling of stability grew even more once my Momma arrived -- and thank goodness it wasn't long until she was there!! It had been a long time since I felt like I needed her as much as I did then. Someone who knew me and loved me and already loved Sam more than I did and could love him enough until my feelings could catch up. She snuggled him and held him for hours while he slept so that I could sleep or shower or just sit. She made me the same snacks she had made when I was a little girl ("little stuff cut up" :)) and rubbed my feet. She brought delicious smelling soap from home and a beautiful shirt that I was able to nurse in, to make me feel more put together and myself. She took care of not only our bodily needs (all the meals, grocery shopping, cleaning, driving!) but our emotional ones too. What a gift that she was able to be there. When I was trying and flailing about and learning how to be a mother, she mothered me just as she had done when I was a baby and needed so much love and attention.

But even though she was there and made our not-so-homey home feel more filled with love, it was still hard and new. I remember Samuel was asleep and Lewis was playing a video game (aka escape from reality! thank goodness he took care of himself too) and my mom and I sat at our kitchen table and had a mug of tea and just talked. I wasn't able to laugh yet - it hurt too much for the first few weeks - but I so badly wanted to. I so badly wanted to feel carefree and present and just...myself. And for a few minutes, I did. It was such a gift. Once she left (I cried, she cried - how would we do this without her!), Lewis and I had to figure out what our lives looked like as parents as well as husband and wife and partners and teammates and friends. Small glimpses of what was to come broke through the haze of sleeplessness and hormones and anxiety. One night (not that days and nights mattered much at the beginning), Lewis was changing Sam's diaper. Sam used to love to have his diaper changed and would immediately calm down and look around. So everything was quiet and Lewis and I were just talking when all of sudden - Lewis starts laughing and whoops and throws a wipe over Sam, who had just peed ALL over Lewis and the wall. It felt SO good to just laugh together and recognize the joy we felt together and that we were still a team (us v. Sam! haha) and not everything was hard or new. These days, we absolutely adore Samuel and he cracks us up and I love, love, love being a parent with Lewis. Looking back, I can see the beginnings of our parenthood in moments like this.

I remember a lot of exhaustion, pain, and frustration. Exhaustion for obvious reasons - Sam would only sleep on my chest at the beginning and I was so worried I would drop him or he'd roll off or suffocate on something. I couldn't believe we were co-sleeping! (It was fine, of course, as most parenting decisions end up being, I'm discovering). And lots of pain from healing, from no longer being pregnant, from breastfeeding, from intense backaches thanks to weak abs and unsupportive hospital beds, from not being able to stand up straight. And frustration about not being able to do anything without help (get in and out of bed, go to the bathroom, shower, sit at a table, hold Sam, pick things up off the floor, get in and out of the car, make myself a snack, fill up a water bottle, do any light cleaning - anything). It was so tough.

BUT but but but. All of this helped to prepare me for motherhood. I so, so want to do it ALL and do it by myself all the time. I want to be supermom and have a happy child on a great sleep schedule who eats perfectly and to have my old body back and fit in pre-pregnancy pants and have a clean house and homemade meals and be generous and kind to friends and do every extra thing I ever get invited to.....but I can't. And every time I try or think for a second I can, something happens to remind me, "No, no! You can't do it all." So I think early motherhood, those very first few days of having Samuel at home, were the best bootcamp. I didn't have a choice that I couldn't do it all. I felt lost and frustrated and overwhelmed and disappointed in our birth - but in that storm of craziness, I became a mother and learned how to be a mother and that the most important things were to love God, love Lewis, love Sam, and to be kind and gentle to myself. To accept help from others, to lower my expectations of myself/Lewis/Sam, to trust that God would make things right and good, to find beauty in small things and be grateful for brief moments of rest. In those first few weeks, I had never (and I mean NEVER, including law school which is no small thing) been as grateful for 30 minutes of rest as I was then. Sam put everything into perspective.

Bringing Samuel home felt like all the hard and frustrating feelings no one likes feeling - stress and exhaustion and disappointment and fear and anxiety and guilt. But bringing Samuel home was the beginning of motherhood and sanctification and dying to self and deeper, truer love.

first time in our home as a family of three - the beginning of it all!

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