My heart is in a constant struggle between two sides of my absolute delight in our daughter. On the one hand, her burgeoning language, movement, and cognitive skills are a fast stream of fun and challenges for me and Sam. Every day she does something new (this is the way of babies!) and every day we just can’t believe that she is ours. But then I start penciling in all the August activities on our family calendar and well, well, what do you know?
Clara is turning one year old this month.
We have had an entire year with our little girl, and I would do anything to live it again. From the moment I went into labor to this very moment as I cut her grapes in half for lunch, my heart has filled and filled and filled. Clara’s life, her 346 days in our family, started a love revolution in this house, an overthrow of our old way of living. And while I delight in every day that she grows and changes, I dread the days ahead when I wish to hold my baby again, the day that she is grown and I ache to smell her sweet baby skin just one more time.
Sam and I were married four years before we had a baby, and during those four years I knew I didn’t want a family yet. I was certain that children would be a hassle, a constant buzz kill on our self-filled lives. “We’re not ready yet,” we would dismiss with a wave of our hands. We worshipped our money, our time, and our freedom, I recognize now, and it was wrong.
I don’t think everyone should be parents. Parenthood is a heavy responsibility, one we will answer to God for, and it requires more of a person than any other responsibility in the world. But it is also the greatest, most fulfilling, tear-your-heart-apart LOVE that can ever be experienced. This kind of love changes you. It shifts your focus, it alters your perspective, and it reveals more about your Heavenly Father than anything else ever could. I could not understand how God felt about me until I saw Clara and realized how I felt about her.
The old me was right, of course: being a mother is difficult, frightening, worrisome work. Clara’s needs, especially in this first year, have been consuming and constant. What the old me did not know – could not know – was how much better life would be when our children arrived. Better doesn’t begin to touch it, actually. Parenthood is a rush of fresh breeze after a lifetime of sucking up canned air. I have ripped off my oxygen mask and felt the cool wind of beautiful sacrificial love, and I will never be the same.
A child’s needs will reveal your faults, your strengths, your grit and your tenderness. It will wear down the bits of you that should not be there, and it will build up part of your heart that you never knew existed. It is frightening and thrilling and lovely, all at once.