In the short time I have been blogging I have already done the one thing I swore I wouldn’t do: it has been more than a week since my last post. When I started this blog I committed to myself that I would post at least once a week. But as the saying goes, life happens. Between a trip to Lancaster, a visit from my in-laws, a bacterial/fungal breast infection and my daughter’s first birthday, it has been quite crazy around my house.
The highlight of everything in the past few weeks has been my daughter’s first birthday. We planned a small, low-key party. I made apple cinnamon cupcakes with brown sugar, cream cheese and apple butter frosting. This was my first attempt at making cupcakes from scratch. They fell a little bit once they came out of the oven and the density was a bit closer to a muffin than a cupcake, but other than that, they were a success. I caved under the pressure and let my daughter have not only the cupcakes made with actual sugar, but also a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
When I think back to where I was this time last year, it is a little awe inducing. We were just arriving home from the hospital after two virtually sleepless nights. Rob didn’t sleep for more than 50 hours straight and I only got a few hours of shut eye myself. I don’t understand women who like staying in the hospital longer. I couldn’t wait to go home. The bed was uncomfortable, the water in the shower was cold, and I couldn’t wait to get my daughter home and put her into her soft cloth diapers instead of the disposable ones the hospital used. The food was actually good, though we often ate breakfast at nearly lunch time when things were busy in the cafeteria. I think the only thing I miss was the chicken quesadillas.
I remember feeling so nervous about taking care of this little creature who desperately needed me. I have also never been more tired in all my life. (Little did I know that I was to be gifted with a baby who ate every hour and a half to two hours and never slept more than 2 or 3 hours at the time. I hadn’t even begun to understand the meaning of exhausted). I felt like someone had stolen my body. After being pregnant for nine months, I almost couldn’t remember what it was like to feel any other way. Now I was in this strange limbo between pregnant and normal. I thought I would never feel like myself again. I was right in many ways, but in other ways, at one year, I feel like I’m myself again. Aside from the fact that my daughter still claims ownership of the milk producing portions, my body seems to have nearly returned to its pre-pregnant state. I have some significant battle scars that my mother tells me should be worn as a badge of honor. No sense lamenting the stretch marks and puckers of extra skin. If I didn’t wear a bikini before, what possible reason would I have to do so now?
As my body finds a new version of what is normal, my mind and soul still seem to flounder a times. I sigh guiltily when I cringe at her early morning wakeup call or sneer in disgust when I find dried food smeared in her hair. I thought mothers were supposed to be given unselfish natures? As if something happens during the gestational process that prepares us to give up all of our own desires and interests for the sake of our offspring. Yet I have discovered that I am as selfish as ever. My daughter has unknowingly revealed in me a very ugly side of myself. It probably exists in all of us, we practice hiding in as adults through good manners and altruistic gestures. But underneath it all, we are each selfish, resentful beings who just want our own way. Nothing reveals this more than my reaction to a baby who fills her diaper and smears yogurt in her hair just after I spent ten minutes changing and washing her from head to toe.
But as I clean up yet another mess, I find that I can experience a new perspective on God. How many times does he clean up our messes? I look my daughter and utter the phrase “Look at the mess you’ve made.” Does my Father in heaven use the same tone of frustration, or is it one of love and perpetual grace? I see in my daughter’s cries of hunger and frustration my own indignation when God doesn’t do things my way. Yet when she smiles and climbs into my lap it produces joy I never imagined was possible. It makes me wonder when the last time was I experienced that kind of intimacy with God. Jesus said that we must all be as little children to enter the kingdom of heaven. I imagine that anyone who has been a parent understands that phrase in a new way.
As my daughter passes the one year mark, I am not myself again. I am a mother who is trying to learn how to be an unselfish parent, a daughter who suddenly has a greater appreciation for her earthly parents, a wife who is discovering the strength and grace necessary to care for her husband and her children, and a child who suddenly feels the need to be closer to her heavenly father. I can’t be who I was before, I have become more.