When I was pregnant, my husband always made a point to say we were expecting a child, or expecting our daughter, rather than expecting a baby. I’m not sure why–maybe because he was more excited about the child part than the baby part. To be honest, neither of us were over the moon about babyhood and all that comes with it–the milk, the diapers, the spit up, the pure helplessness of the baby and total responsibility of us as parents (did I mention we are both youngest children??).
And here we are, in the thick of Zadie’s babyhood. She still can’t even hold her head up. She grunts and cries and sucks her fists and eats and poops more than anything that small should. At first she was just a little creature to us, just a bundle of needs; or, as one of our friends put it, thinking back to his own son’s newborn days–just a little day ruiner. I mean, she doesn’t even smile yet! Sometimes it was hard to feel connected to her, and not simply see her as a burden.
One of my friends mentioned that getting to know your newborn involves “welcoming the stranger” into your home and into your life, and lately Zadie has felt like less of a stranger. As the weeks have gone by, we truly are becoming attached to her, and it’s so different from the way you become attached to a pet (even as great a pet as Asher Lev!). It’s different because not only is Zadie a human, like us, but she is a person–her own person, with potential, with a future, with a completely separate identity from myself and from Robert.
When I was pregnant and full of fear and dread over what parenthood would be like, I read this beautiful quote by (who else?) Frederick Buechner:
The grace of God means something like this: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been the same without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you.
After reading that quote, I finally saw my pregnancy and my upcoming role as a mother in the grand scheme of things. It wasn’t about me at all. I was a carrier, the one chosen to help bring Zadie into the world, not because I wanted her, but because God wanted her. He knew the party–life here on earth, and life forever afterward–wouldn’t be the same without her. It was my job to carry her and nurture her, to protect her and guide her; it wasn’t her job to make me happy or complete or anything else.
The “beautiful and terrible things will happen” bit gets me. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed thinking about Zadie experiencing all the good and bad of this world–the delicious feeling of swimming in a cold pool on a hot day, or the thrill of traveling to foreign lands, or the joy of deep friendship; also the scary things that can happen to her, the shame she might feel at some point, the heartbreak or violence. I remember many years ago feeling very cynical and asking my mentor why anybody brings children into this world. She had a sister with four daughters, and passed on what her sister had told her: she loved that she had helped bring into the world friends of God. People who would know the creator of the universe and be known by him. People who may know the joy and peace and hope of the Spirit.
When I feel like I’m drowning in my baby’s round-the-clock needs, sometimes I do well to remind myself that this is simply a very short season–one that every person must go through, one in which every person needs a parent to feed and comfort and care for them. My mother did it for me, and now I’m doing it for Zadie. And I imagine what she might be like at 5, or 20, or 45, and those blurry images get me through.
**I love the photos above because it looks like little 2-week-old Zadie is having a conversation with her daddy. (All photos by the amazing Shyla www.ShylaPhotography.com)