As I recently skimmed through old posts I wrote following the birth of Theo I couldn't help but want to give my former self a huge hug. I didn't want to tell her everything was going to be OK and to cherish the moments because that wouldn't have helped. Those were hard times. Going from one to two kids was really, REALLY tough. It was one of the blocks I put in place as we contemplated having more. I remember how bad my eyes burned from the exhaustion of not sleeping more than 2 hours at a time while attempting to console a fussy baby night and day. I was drowning in laundry and dishes and to-do lists. And looking back now I know I didn't savor all the sweet and new things that come with a newborn. I say that because I don't remember any of it. How could I? I was running on a few hours of sleep here and there. I was just ready to move past it all and get back to a normal routine.
After giving her that huge hug, one thing I would tell my former self is to give grace. Give grace to yourself. Give grace to Theo. Give grace to Anna. Give grace to Travis. Grace upon grace upon grace. As I read those words from two and a half years ago I sensed so much guilt from that new mama. Guilt for not having the toilets cleaned, for dishes stacked high, for laundry still sitting in baskets--clean, but still unfolded and not in drawers. Guilt for not having memory books written in and toys not placed nicely in their correct homes. Guilt for the time I wasn't spending with my older one because I was too busy with the new one. Guilt for not knowing how to console my son who was in obvious pain and wishing I had an "easy baby".
Since we welcomed Owen I haven't cleaned the bathtub or vacuumed the floors, most days dishes are stacked high, I currently have a load of towels in the dryer that need to be folded and two other baskets of clothes that need to be put away, not to mention the clothes sitting in the hamper that need to be washed. Memory books still sit untouched. I'm writing from the YMCA while my older two are in the child care and we left the house with Legos strewn all over the floor. Travis and I tag team to console Owen during his 8-10 pm witching hour every evening all the while the older two raucously play in their room refusing to go to bed.
And I've resolved to not let it bother me.
Owen is an infant, he's going to cry and spit up. He's going to need to be nursed in public and a passerby may just happen to see a boob. He's going to poop all over the changing table and have blow outs that cover his entire back. He's going to need to be held to be comforted and straightening my hair is just going to have to wait--or maybe it's not and he's just going to have to wait because he's not going to die from crying a few minutes longer.
Anna and Theo are kids, they are going to disobey. They are going to test us when we say no just to see how far they can get. Anna is going to whine when her brother takes her baby doll and Theo is going to throw a fit when I tell him he can't have another "bip" (chip) when he's already had 20. They are going to wake up earlier than we would like and spill their milk on my bible while we're eating breakfast and insist on putting on their own shoes as we are running late for church. But they are also not going to forget to ask to give Owen a hug and kiss before bed and beg me to "nuggle" and sing them our song as they fall asleep. And always I will be happy to oblige.
It's only natural that the more you add the more challenging it gets. More hands to hold, more things to remember, less time to devote to each person in the family, less sleep. But there are more giggles and more kisses and more love to go around. And there is more grace.
A few nights ago I stood in the doorway watching the gloomy clouds cover the sun setting behind our building. The older two were playing outside while Owen lay peacefully in his bouncer at my feet. Anna pedaled past us on her purple bike, Theo played with a stick and a rock he found a few minutes before. Any other night I would have rushed the kids inside upon seeing the looming clouds. I wouldn't have wanted them to be caught in the rain and then trample the water and mud through the house. I wouldn't have wanted to get towels to clean up the mess and then have to change them out of their wet clothes into dry, clean clothes. I wouldn't have wanted to do more laundry than I needed to. Plus dinner was almost ready and it would have kept us from sitting down to eat in a timely manner.
But I let it happen. I waited for the clouds to open up and allowed the torrential rain to pour down on their little heads. They squealed and looked to me half expecting me to call them inside.
"Go! Play! Get wet!" I shouted.
The giant droplets soaked their clothes. They jumped through the puddles that quickly pooled next to our front stoop. Mud splattered across their legs and they both looked up to the sky, mouths opened wide to drink up the falling rain. Soaking up the moment, I delighted in their giggles. A moment that only lasted a few minutes but one they will remember for awhile and one I'll remember even longer.
I had a friend the other day ask me what my favorite thing is about having a newborn in the house for the third time.
"Noticing all the little things again." I told her. It's allowed me to stop and cherish Owen's fuzzy ears and the way he tries his hardest to smile at me first thing in the morning at only 5 weeks old. I've taken in Theo's growing hands and feet that are more like a little boy's and less like a baby's, and Anna's sweet and hilarious songs she makes up on the spot and her big beautiful eyes that continue to pierce our souls.
This whole parenting thing is still so hard. It's always going to be hard because we're dealing with tiny, broken human beings who become big, broken human beings, when we ourselves are broken--and clueless. But grace. Grace allows us to let things slide off our shoulders much easier. And thanks be to God, our newest addition has brought that with him.
Photos by my wonderfully talented sister, Stef.