I can’t really imagine a world where my husband and I pose in pretty neutrals with our squishy baby all cuddled with us perfectly.
My favorite newborn photos to have are the selfies, the real-life snaps, reality without swaths of pastel.
I love having blurry renditions of cuddles, togetherness, and quiet hospital videos I make myself take because I know I’ll regret it if I don’t! (And I wish I had more.) The lack of fanfare matches the intimacy of the season and I love that. Life. Us experiencing it. Us in love. Us growing. Us without pastels.
The season after Shasta was born had us wrapped in a beautiful cocoon. I struggled hard and there’s no denying that, but I also remember how much honest-to-goodness magic bubbled from that first year with Shasta. I’m almost halfway to a year with Heidi and it’s been far less cocoon like. But as a woman I have grown. I am emerging. And I am deeper in my motherhood. The bright, vibrant, layered reality has replaced the magic. Of course, magic moments to come, but it’s a reality now that feels full and big and so vibrant with life.
When I was thinking of our newborn//infant season with our radiant Heidi, this poem practically wrote itself. And it matches how we’ve chosen to document the early days with a newborn. No pastels. Never pastels. But extraordinary and very real beauty nonetheless.
GROWING PAINS (on marriage, parenthood, life❤)
between arguments, long tiring nights, long lasting infant cries, there were lows weren’t there? but still the roses grew, and how the sunflowers bloomed, and baby smiled too. grins, first laughs, and bright-eyed coos, forgiveness was our Marriage Song, and a second round of Morning Glories burst out in a day or two. I think they call this growing pains, I think they call this Love.
to memorize the feel of you in my arms I feel is impossible. I won’t remember this, how sweet it is past midnight, the rise and fall, the gentle swaying, over where you sleep. I’ll put you down soon, not yet.
I want to remember this, the feel of you against my chest. how all my love is communicated, and uncomplicated and you know how deep it goes. . . past midnight, the rise and fall, the gentle swaying however long you need, longer.
and if I can’t remember this, I hope you know that as you grow I have memorized you the way only a mother can.
and if I can’t remember this, how sweet it is past midnight, I’ll look at you bright flush of youth, all grown up, and know I’ve not missed anything at all.
and if I can’t remember exactly how it feels the feel of you in my arms, I’ve loved trying to memorize, loved this mother’s life trying to freeze time, knowing it has the upper hand. who thought clocks were a good idea? but that same clock and its upper hand gives some acquiesce. in the quiet, here we are us nudged slow past midnight, everything is still except-
how we sway, and rise and fall, how sweet all this is. I kiss you softly, lay you down. I smile, smile, sigh. clock ticks again with its upper hand, but I have two arms too, and they aren’t bound by hours. so there are things a mother will not ever forget, remember them or not.
I scribbled out my dreams for the future. I wrote of children who would garden with me and complain about it, but I wouldn’t mind, because I would be just so happy they were there with me. A folded piece of paper stuck in a between the pages. Who knew if it would happen? Who knew if it could.
Of course, I couldn’t believe my eyes. But it was true. The next nine months passed as they do, and on the fourth day past my due date, I was finally in labor. It was August 1st, and he was coming.
I walked out to the garden and cut some zinnias before we made our way to the hospital. It felt like an important thing to do. It was celebratory in its own way. Even though I had been in labor all day and had contractions all through the previous night, I had more laboring ahead. We came home for the night with instructions to come back the following morning. I didn’t pick any more zinnias, and by the next morning I was much too along to easily do much of anything else besides labor! We were going to have a baby! We were about to meet our son.
I remember looking at him and thinking, “I can’t believe he’s real.” And I remember the moment I realized we’d have our Shasta-boy past the newborn stage. We had our son for keeps. I remember feeling that certain sadness all mothers feel when realizing your child won’t stay this little baby forever, but I also remember realizing how exciting it would be to have conversations with him as a young man.
And so time moves as it does and I find myself in the garden on August 1st again.
Shasta has outgrown his yellow boots and walks around in his blue ones. The sunflowers are towering giants. The zinnias are begging for attention. The garden needs some tending. I cut the zinnias and stop his young hand from picking the one not yet bloomed! Such earnest “help!” I place the cut zinnias in water and hand him his own to stick in the water too. Soon after I begin trimming out spent flowers. I reach across the flower bed to give my son the old and done flowers to put in our weed bucket which will soon be stored in his red wagon along with a piece of bark he found. He says “tank u!” multiple times as flower stems and old things cross from me to him.
We are gardening together.
It must make God smile to see it. . .
Two years later the woman who scribbled dreams on a piece of paper has a jar of zinnias, a bucket of spent flowers, a son to garden alongside, and a baby daughter nearby. Over the years, time has felt both cruel and beautiful. But with God it has always gone to good places. Somehow in His miraculous, healing, redemptive, and purposeful work, He made the barren woman sing before children and then made her a joyful mother of them.
Shasta, Heidi, and I fumble through the garden gate in the unlikely cool of an August morning. We’re a fun group, but not a very graceful one! Two’s a party, three’s a crowd as they say.
Naturally, I disagree.
Shasta runs around in his blue toddler boots or crocs depending. Heidi experiences the garden for her first spring and summer. In many ways, I toddle too as I experience so many firsts as a mother. Nonetheless, I water and watch us all grow.
The story unfolds vibrantly, and I have found it is the zinnias who tell the time.
Two whole years.
Then and now.
All to good places. The zinnias tick away this lovely mayhem of life. And we grab hold. With gusto. With flowers on the kitchen table.
I think I have a new tradition every first of August.
I smile at Heidi who smiles at me with her whole face. I love how she talks with such gusto, concentration, and effort.
I walk by the flower bed filled up with the wildflowers and zinnias we planted the weekend before her birth. Heidi is 3 months old now and it feels as though the garden is clapping for the joy of it. I can’t believe how special and poetic it feels to see these flowers bloom. . .these which once were seeds and planted mere days before her birth. Of course it would thrill my heart to watch life unfold like this before my eyes.
Heidi is growing with the flowers.
The sunflowers across the way tower into slow and steady giants. These were planted soon after her birthday and I love seeing time move in this way. I am not afraid of it. How I love the gifts God gives within it!
If I could describe my daughter in the few months I’ve known her earth-side, I’d say she is the desert sky at night. I can still see the Mojave night sky dotted with lovely stars. These stars are like joyful pin-pricks, like participants in something grand while just being happy to be stars.
Heidi Letta is just happy to be her and to enjoy fully whatever skills she has at present. She especially loves to talk and be talked to. She is vibrant, full of life, and radiant as she interacts with it. The desert sky at night! The fourth trimester has been a myriad of emotions, growing pains, and wonder.
I struggled through those early postpartum weeks, praying earnestly for help. . .that the fog would lift, that I wouldn’t spiral, that I would see past the feelings of sadness and overwhelm. I felt like I could have cried for a whole day. And God, I love this life you’ve given me and my children, but tonight it feels too much for me. Carry me until I see everything I know. And then, please keep holding me.
Though it felt long, the intensity was short-lived. And one day in the garden while Shasta played and Heidi lay against my chest . . .the fog lifted. There was a lightness spreading within. The intensity subsided. The cat was curled up in my lap. There was an April breeze. Spring was afoot. Heidi’s colorful quilt an ode to such a deeply good and hard season. My laughter. A 60 second video recorded to remember the life I was surrounded in though it had often felt like TOO MUCH. But there we were. And there I was too.
Some days after I would thank God for an ordinary, BEAUTIFUL morning with my kids. For all the roses blooming in the garden. . .for life that felt like LIFE again.
And then soon after that I would be asking God for help as the demands of motherhood overwhelmed! me. This would be followed by many more prayers falling between feelings of joy, difficulty, strength, weakness, laughter, sadness. . .etc. . .
While the intensity of postpartum has eased and the initial pressing heaviness was short-lived, my prayers still sound much the same! Thanksgiving and cries for help! Joy and sadness. Honesty. Confiding myself in God.
In the 4th trimester, I struggled, but also grinned, laughed, and was submerged in life. God was ever present. His provision carried me through! Sometimes, I look at my kids and I think HOW DO I HAVE TWO KIDS?! HOW ARE THEY REAL?! But they are. And I love it.
Early on Sunday morning, before the rest of the house woke up, Heidi and I slipped outside to water the garden. She was still in her pj’s just lounging while I made puddles around the the plants with our garden hose. We’d share big smiles. She’d watch the water. I’d talk to her here and there. I love being in her company. I love being her mother. I love sharing the garden with her.
Those early postpartum weeks were deep and heavy, but here we are. Here we are! In the garden smiling and watering the plants together on a summer Sunday morning.
And rather than deep like drowning, the depth is found in living. l am deeper in my motherhood, deeper in my fellowship with God, deeper in my love for my children, deeper in my commitment to the life & tasks at hand, for the day in front of me. There is a lightness of foot and a lightness of heart I did not know I’d know again. Postpartum can be like that. But it’s not (and shouldn’t!) be like that forever.
And while the garden claps for joy, I clap too.
For so many reasons.
For Heidi’s powerful birth. For who Heidi is. For fog lifting. For flowers growing. And me too. For my motherhood breaking out of its cocoon. For laughter. For tears that needed falling. And every prayer heard. For mornings in the garden. For the Mojave night sky I still get to see every day. (What a gift you are, Heidi!) For time moving. For babies that don’t keep. And my not staying the woman I used to be. For God’s presence in it all and that He will be present in all the days to come. And in the minutes too. Because, sometimes, motherhood is done by the minute, or more truly, by the second! God is with us!
So, I’m clapping too. For the sheer life of it all.