This is me in a hospital bed in 2002 having delivered my third baby Caleb five hours earlier. The “big kids” came to meet him and crawled in bed with me. I found this pic yesterday and shed tears upon tears for every baby in this picture.
For Sydney, my baby love who had just turned 2 thirteen days earlier. She was still in diapers. She had just been evicted from her crib because there was a new sheriff coming to town named Caleb. She had a meltdown just before this pic was snapped because we wouldn’t let her hold Caleb, who she kept calling “my new baby, my new baby,” by herself. Look at her snuggled into her mom. I could bawl and never stop.
For Gavin, my first-born joy, who had just turned 4 not two months earlier. He was the sunniest, happiest, most delightful boy. He started using the word “actually” when he was like 15 months old and, only in the 5th percentile from the day of his birth to this very day, it was like a little tiny old man was walking around saying big words. I kissed him 300 times a day.
The tears for my babies come quick. I can literally feel the phantom weight of them leaning against me with their snow white hair and baby skin. I remember exactly how they felt in my arms. Exactly. My life’s joy. I can hardly look at their little faces.
But most of my tears are for that young mama. She was 27 years old and five hours removed from delivering her third baby in four years. She was sore and tired and stitched, but she pulled those big babies into her bed to snuggle and read to them so they knew they were still her moon and stars. She would go home the next day with three babies and work from sunup to sundown and also in the middle of the night taking care of these treasures and sometimes crying in the bathroom. There was never, ever enough of her to go around, but God have mercy did she try.
Here is to all you young mamas this morning. I see you. I remember. I know exactly what it feels like to have two in diapers and one still nursing. I remember the exhaustion that seeps all the way into your bones until you fall asleep with your clothes on and your contacts still in. How people hold the door for you at Target and say, “Wow. You really have your hands full.” When your body, at its absolute peak just a few years ago, now shows the full effects of childbirth. I remember cutting grapes in half and squeezing ketchup packets until your fingers bleed.
And the worry! I remember the worry. The world feels like a terrifying monster out to harm and steal and injure your babies, and you alone can keep them from eating pennies and avoiding bullies and obviously the onus is on you to not drive your car into a body of water with them all strapped into their carseats, a highly likely scenario I imagined no less than 7098 times. You are their guardian and protector and God help anyone who comes between a young mama and her little charges.
I want to tell that 27 year old mom of three the same thing I want to tell you: You are doing a breathtaking, beautiful job. Your children are so loved and they know it. You are giving them something priceless that they won’t even know how to identify later but it will settle down deep in their bones: security. They are safe with you, absolutely cherished. This isn’t from one big thing you do; it comes from the million minutes you love them well. That’s it. All your mistakes and meltdowns won’t change it. You are raising healthy, loved, secure kids – it will matter so much. It lasts. It sticks. It is the air they breathe from that first day in the hospital, and you can’t undo it.
So much love to you, young moms. Love your babies exactly like you are doing, even if you feel like you are reading to two of them in the hospital bed you just delivered the third one in – I know. There isn’t much down time. But all of this matters and you matter and this work is so important. I am cheering you on from the other side. I’ll hold your seat over here. You’re going to make it.