Somehow we had managed to strap her into that car seat that seemed to swallow her whole. She looked so small inside of it. The leaves blew across the parking lot in the brisk wind as I hobbled with Jeff to the truck, still so sore and swollen. I remember thinking that we had arrived at the hospital when it was still summer and now fall had arrived as we departed.
How long had we been at the hospital? I wasn’t sure if it was the heavy meds I was on from the unplanned C-section or just the changing weather patterns that made the hospital seem like an extended stay hotel.
Driving home can only be described as surreal. Suddenly we were not two anymore – we were THREE forevermore. I couldn’t get over the fact that the hospital trusted us enough to let us take this tiny human home with us. And we didn’t have to take a class or pass a test! Whether we were ready or not, we had joined the group they call “Parents”.
Our angel baby slept the whole way home and we smiled to ourselves thinking what a good baby she was and, well, really, what great parents we were. She continued her nap for four hours in a swing in the corner of our living room as we dined on a meal prepared by my mom.
And then my parents packed up their bags and said their goodbyes. That moment could possibly have been one of the most terrifying moments of my life. My mom was leaving me to mother this little child who I didn’t even know yet. I had NO clue what I was doing. As she shut the door, tears rolled down my cheeks. Ready or not…here it goes.
To my surprise, that night baby Savannah wanted nothing to do with her crib. In fact, I was sure that she absolutely hated her nursery, the room I had planned and decorated for months. The bright pink stripes on the wall and the eclectic colors throughout – they were over stimulating right?!?
For the following seven hours, Savannah truly “christened” Jeff and I as parents. I did not even know it was possible for a baby to cry for that long without going hoarse. We went through a vicious cycle of trying literally everything to calm her…
She must be wet! – Diaper change
She’s cold. – Swaddle on
She’s hot. – Swaddle off
She’s hungry. – Nurse.
She’s spit up – New sleeper and swaddle
She’s wet again. – Diaper change
And over and over again. Nothing we did seemed to make a difference. Jeff and I sat across from each other trying to talk over our baby’s insanely loud vocal pipes. We both had puzzled looks on our faces. What happened to our visions of a sweet baby sleeping quietly in her crib every night?
That first week was the biggest reality check I’ve ever experienced. People would meet Savannah and after commenting on how beautiful she was say, “Aw, are you just having so much fun?!” And I remember thinking, “Fun?! I’ve slept a grand total of maybe 10 hours this entire week. And my waking hours are filled with my daughter’s screams. Is this supposed to be fun?” I started wondering if you could die from exhaustion.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I visited the Facebooks and Instagrams of every new mom I could think of wondering, Was it this hard for them? Surely, I’m not the only one. Their photos of smiling babies seemed to mock me. A new kind of loneliness settled over me. I wasn’t prepared for this. The cries from this tiny being seemed to break me.
I called my sister and exclaimed, “Why didn’t you tell me how hard this was?”
She responded with laughter, saying, “I’m just now starting to remember those early days as you talk. I think I repressed those memories!”
If anything, those first two weeks were consistent. We could set our clock by Savannah’s crying – every night, non-stop, from midnight to three in the morning. My mom reminded me that Savannah was still so fresh and so new. Perhaps she wasn’t cold or hot or wet or gassy. Maybe, she was getting used to the world – to us – to everything.
And then sometime in the midst of the haze of those first few weeks, I woke up at 6:30am, rubbing my eyes to be sure those numbers on the clock were real – Savannah had slept EIGHT hours straight. I raced over to her crib to make sure she was alright.
And then a few days later, she smiled at me. A real smile, not incited by gas. And my heart melted. She had stolen my heart. And, I would never have it back again.
And though each day brings its individual difficulties, it seems like we seem to get a little bit better each dayat this thing called parenthood. Or maybe we’re becoming okay with not having all the answers.
And maybe it’s had nothing to do with Jeff and I. Maybe, Savannah is just finally starting to get used to this world. Maybe it’s not quite so cold and big anymore. Maybe she’s traded the warmth of my womb for the comfort she’s found nestled in my arms. Maybe her deep, blue eyes have found a trusting familiarity when locked on mine.
Because, in truth, according to the Scriptures, we’re all aliens, temporary residents, foreigners in this harsh world. Our home is not on this earth. We’re all still trying to get used to this world. And God has bestowed upon me this incredibly amazing opportunity to mother a child in this world.
Mother. It it the most empowering job I’ve ever been given. It has stripped me bare. It has tested my patience and yet, it’s given me a purpose far deeper than any I’ve had before.
And, on the eve of her 7-week birthday (is that a thing?) we have finally eased into a nighttime routine. As we lay our adorable daughter milk-drunk and drowsy in her bassinet, we smile at each other. We remind one another that this is the same little baby that only a few weeks ago would scream for hours straight.
Because, we’ve already repressed those memories.