I’m not a naturally maternal person. In fact, as a child and later as a teen, I abhorred being around babies. It wasn’t that I thought children shouldn’t exist; it’s just that I didn’t know how to act with a baby or toddler. I didn’t know what to do. Therefore, I wasn’t really keen on having screaming, fussing, crying kids around all the time. It seemed too exhausting to try to figure them out.
I should elaborate: I’m a perfectionist. Neatnik. Control freak. I do not like chaos. I hate spontaneity. Planning and predicting make me much more comfortable – hence, why handling newborns and toddlers is not really my forte.
Twenty years later, I am now a mom of three girls. Again, when I got married, I didn’t envision myself as a mom of three girls. It seemed more fitting that I’d have a mixture of both boys and girls, not exclusively one or the other. But God, in His infinite wisdom, always has other plans. Greater plans, I might add. But I don’t normally see how “great” those plans are in the midst of daily motherhood.
In fact, I mostly miss them altogether. It’s because I am constantly waiting for the next phase of development to arrive – quickly. When the newborn is up every two hours screaming for more milk and I’m on my hundredth consecutive day of fragmented sleep; when the preschooler incessantly repeats questions like, “What color’s your shirt? What color’s my shirt? What color’s daddy’s shirt?” despite the fact that she knows the answers; when my first-grader dramatically breaks down over a lost crayon (her favorite color, I might add); these are the moments I pray in desperation will pass, and soon.
I cannot see the beauty and grace in these messy times. I’m longing for peace, harmony, and a rhythm that makes sense in our home. I want a life that has a steady cadence to it, not something that seems cacophonous and discordant. And let’s face it, moms: kids don’t come in harmonious packages, do they? Not typically, anyway. Not mine, anyway.
At 36, I recently gave birth to our third baby girl. And one early morning as I was feeding her for the umpteenth time, I looked hazily outside our back window and noticed the sunrise. It’s been a long time since I’ve been up early enough to view a summer sunrise, I thought. It’s breathtaking.
All was silent in our house and outside. The world had not yet awakened, not except for God’s creation. The little robin that nested in our tulip tree hopped around looking for her morning meal. The sparrows and chickadees chirped with their good mornings. And the sunlight glistened on our ruby red rose bush in such a way that it almost gleamed.
These are graced moments, I thought to myself as I caressed Veronica’s little baby-soft head. I have missed these moments for nearly seven years. I didn’t watch for them, appreciate them, when Felicity and Sarah were babies. I was too worried about getting sleep. Too worried about the times when they’d be walking, talking, and potty trained.
Here I am, though, realizing that life is fleeting and fragile. I cannot grasp it. It simply grazes my hand and slips away unseen and unforgiving. Time does not forgive me of these trespasses. But my regrets come seeping in like the grass’s first dew, and I ask God to forgive me in my early years of motherhood, in my naivete and emotional infancy. Somehow, I come to forgive myself.
And I realize, once again, that I can begin again. Moments of grace are ripe opportunities every day for me to start anew. Despite the fact that I missed the beauty of my older girls’ babyhood, I can appreciate where they are now. Yes, in spite of the whining and sassing and fighting. In spite of it and because of it. These are moments I will never have with them again. And one day they will leave our home to begin their own journeys. Then it will be quiet again, and I will wish it were filled with dirty hands and muddy shoes and finger paints and toothpaste stains.
Today, in this time and space, I will choose to embrace those moments of grace that God has given me. Perhaps I have noticed them all too late, but I rest in the hope that, like each dawn, my heart can be refreshed with what it embraces and loves. Love never grows old and tired like my bones do. Love beckons me to reach out in my exhaustion and impatience and simply be with my girls today.
Copyright 2017 Jeannie Ewing