Last week at this time, Sam and I laid in bed, not sleeping, wondering what the next day held for us. We woke up at 3:45 a.m. on Tuesday and I was in labor by 6:00, and I didn’t go back to sleep until very early Thursday morning. I gave birth to our healthy son, wrapped him in my arms and placed delighted kisses on his impossibly small and perfect face. The cut off weight for taking your baby upstairs with you instead of sending him with the NICU nurses is 2,000 grams. Do you know how much our son weighed?
It was a miracle. We rejoiced and laughed and settled into our room, relieved beyond relief to have our baby Samuel with us. Except then he started failing blood sugar tests, and he wasn’t looking great, and his cry was getting weaker, and then in the middle of the night we followed a pack of nurses to the floor for sick babies and made the longest, most devastating walk of all my life back up to our hospital room. Alone. It was silent. No mewing of a hungry newborn, no diaper to be changed, no rolling crib in the corner. We were on the maternity floor with no baby to call our own, and I cried and cried and cried, empty arms shaking and heart on the verge of falling through my body. We didn’t know if anything was wrong with our boy, we didn’t know when he’d come back to us, and I didn’t know how I could have followed the nurse’s advice to ‘go get some rest’ and left my brand new baby alone with an IV in his foot and no family in sight. I changed out of my labor gown, pulled on a pair of sweats and my boots and blearily stumbled to the elevators. I rode down six floors and walked the long hall towards the son I had barely met.
This was the start of a long week, which followed many other long weeks, which added up to an exhausting and worrisome pregnancy. We are home now, and our baby Sam is sleeping on his daddy’s chest while I drink tea and write this post, and my thankfulness could not be any more extensive. We rode on the wings of a million prayers from all over the world during those blurry days, and I’ll write more about the whole birth story later, because I want you know how God used your prayers to provide for us.
But for now, I wanted to share this picture.
I texted this to my disgustingly pretty friend Cassidy along with this note.
“I kept asking Sam to take a picture of me and the baby, and making him retake it because I looked ‘crazy’ or ‘old’ or ‘tired.’ Finally after 10 tries I was like, wait- is this just how I look now?”
Cassidy quickly wrote this back to me.
“Haha! You look amazing! And proud, and old, and crazy, and tired. Because you have lived a good, difficult, worthwhile life. You’ve earned all those adjectives. Your boy is beautiful and totally yours, by the way. Putting up a fight. That’s your style, girl.”
I thought a lot about that text from Cass. The truth is, I can’t believe what I see when I look in the mirror right now. I can see it reflected in the concern of my mother’s eyes when we Skype, and in the tight hugs my sisters give me when they come by to visit. I know how I look. I know I’ve aged a lot in the last nine months.
But you know what?
I’ve earned this look. The bags under my eyes. The pallor of my skin. My swollen face. My unkempt hair. They are souvenirs from this journey. I have a beautiful, healthy son with a strong heartbeat and skinny legs. I have a little girl who is in love with her brother, and a husband who proved over and over last week what kind of a man he truly is, in every circumstance. So yes, I look old and tired. I know these days will soon pass and I will shower, put on my makeup, and look a little more like myself. But there is something in us, I think, that changes when life gets hard. Some shine that is worn away. It is the nature of all things difficult -worry, disappointment, grief, pain- to rub away at the proud and slick side of our self-confidence.
Because imagine, for just a minute, a world full of shiny people. No knicks. No dings. No soft spots or tender scars or worn-in grooves. Just hard, sharp, unbroken people.
Sounds like a dangerous place to fall into, doesn’t it?
It is these times, these years, that make us more true to who we are made to be. My true self is a rounded out and worn away version of my old self, a new woman made stronger by grace, not weaker by pride. It is the days when our job is hard, when money is tight, when our families are strained, when our children push our limits, when school seems impossible, when we lose the ones we love…when the future is most uncertain and we are simply tired…these are the days that break us down.
These are the days that wear away our corners, that take files to our edges and scrape, scrape, scrape until we hurt. Until we change. And with a deep sigh, we gently blow away the shavings of our pride, piled beneath our worn away exteriors.
And we are softer.
I know I’m a mess. I cry every day and I’m still climbing out of the hole that has been my last few months. But I wear this crazed look with a heart of gratitude. Because my crazy means I’ve lived a worthwhile life. It means I am growing in grace. It means I am putting up a fight. It means God is working away at my sharp edges and He is making me better, whole, more me than I have ever been before.
Here’s to a world with a little less shine and a lot more love. Cheers from me and this guy-