Thursday, August 26, 2010

Something worth smiling about

This isn't a typical blog post for me. I lean more toward dry humor or sarcasm or witty photo commentary (at least I like to think so.) You don't find many mushy-gushy deep thoughts here, but since you haven't found much of ANYTHING here in the past few weeks I thought maybe I would make an exception.

I would never have thought to share this if it weren't for an e-mail from an old friend who is expecting her first child in a few months. She asked how the whole "new mom" thing was going, so I told her, and she said "you should really put that on your blog!" So here it goes. The plan was to do a slight re-write from my original e-mail to her, you know, with a little more sleep so it would make sense. Turns out I have been getting less and less sleep each night this week, so this re-write could be less blog-worthy than ever. I like to think that makes it more authentic.

When you have a baby, everyone likes to ask how you are adjusting to motherhood, how you are holding up under the pressure of sleepless nights and constant feedings, how you feel about your new life, how much you love your tiny bundle of joy. Honestly I have no idea how I feel about any of it. The baby shows up, and you just start being a mom. End of story. There isn't much time to ease into it or to sit and contemplate the massive change that has swallowed up your previous life. (Maybe in 20 years I will have processed the whole experience and then if you are still wondering, I will write my memoirs. I think that's the popular thing to do these days- to write your memoirs, no matter whether you were a public figure or not. Which I am not. But I digress.)

It's kinda funny how God designed these babies to grow and change. The first few weeks they mostly eat and sleep, and you just kind of stumble through sleepily. They are sleepy, you are sleepy, everyone is sleepy, but everyone survives. Then around four or five weeks, they start to be more alert and start crying more, while you are still feeling quite sleepy. They don't just eat and sleep, they are awake. They want to be walked around. Sitting is not acceptable. Standing is not acceptable. Bouncing is not acceptable unless accompanied by walking. Walking is not acceptable unless accompanied by bouncing. Baby swings are not acceptable. Rocking chairs are not acceptable. Only walking and bouncing endless circles around the living room in the middle of the night while the cat gleefully (and dangerously) attacks your feet is acceptable.

What has happened? You were both on the same page, both sleepy, but everyone was getting by. You don't really have the patience for this new screaming houseguest who you were finally starting to get used to (where is the snugglebug that slept for 19 hours a day??), and the screaming gets more frequent and the sleeping less so, and this change in attitude starts to really wear on you, and just when you think you can't take it one more second that baby learns how to smile. The first couple times you aren't sure (was that a smile? a smirk? a grimace? a frown?), but then suddenly BAM you get a real one. That tiny mouth curls up on the sides and you freeze. Suddenly it isn't just a screaming little blanket- you realize there is a personality in there.

Turns out while you were both busy sleeping, that baby was doing other stuff, too. Like growing and adding brain cells, which is more than you can say for yourself. It's fascinating, really, and you find yourself looking into his eyes a little differently. Deeper. Because he is looking back at you. Someone is actually in there- who is it? What is this new little boy going to be like? Why is he smiling at me? Doesn't he realize how terrible I am at all of this? But that's the thing: he thinks you are great. Of course you still get frustrated and impatient throughout the day, but it's amazing how much one little smile every few hours can get you through. The moments where everything is quiet and peaceful enough for deep-eye-staring are few and far between, but they are there. Thank God that they are there, because otherwise some mothers (who shall remain nameless) might not make it through.

Who knows, maybe my baby is the only one that was made that way. I've never had any others to compare him to. And if he is the only one I imagine that's why the good Lord gave him to me, because knowing MY personality, that's the kind of thing I need. But somehow I feel pretty sure that's what most moms need- just a little encouragement here and there, whether in the form of a small toothless grin or a small glass of wine while your husband cooks you dinner and rubs your feet, but preferably some of both. Something to make you think you can survive just one more night of walking/bouncing as you learn to love the new family member who has turned your life upside-down.

Because in a few years or a few months or even a few weeks it will be worth it. Things will get better. The endless screaming will decrease as the smiling increases, the occasional breathy "goo" will turn into babbling and then talking, and that one little smile will develop into an entire range of emotions and personality. Other challenges will follow; some bigger, some smaller, but you'll deal with those as they come. You learn that God gives you grace sufficient for the moment. And that He sends those smiles right when you need them.

(Caught these with my iPhone the other day...)

I mean when I look around, most people I know seem to keep their kids. And these tiny bits of encouragement, these little flickers of hope make me pretty sure I'll want to keep mine, too. After all, no matter how loud he screams, he is pretty much the cutest thing I have ever seen in my life. Especially when he is sleeping.

And that is something worth smiling about.


  1. It does keep getting better and better.

    Except when they reach 9 months and start to bang their feet and scream/cry when you close a door they're not supposed to go through or shut a cabinet they're not allowed in.

    But there's good stuff too. :)

  2. Beautifully written. Makes me look forward to motherhood:).

  3. I got a little teary eyed reading this:)

  4. I was missing little Brody, thanks for the adorable new pictures. (A smile melts all the rough times!)

  5. :) I lean towards sarcasm and wit myself... but I love reading the explorations of new mothers. always. love this karen :)

  6. So glad you posted that! I read it to Will! :c)

  7. Sweet smile...I really appreciate your honesty friend.

  8. First time reader. Loved the post! I read about 12 different blogs every day and this was by far my favorite piece of the day. Here's to thousands of smiles to come :-)