I don’t know if you have Timehop or if you ever check Facebook's “on this day” memories, but I’m absolutely addicted to them. It’s such a love/hate relationship, though. As I spend a dedicated few minutes scrolling each day, I am overcome with the bittersweet pain that only a parent's heart can feel: absolute joy and love beyond words at the sight of my babies through the years mingled with intense heart-stopping sadness that time has passed and those stages are gone (and so quickly!)
And it will never be quite that way again.
Today, on the very last day of January 2018, I can’t help but reflect.
FOUR Januarys ago, we were just a young married couple visiting our hometown and excited to be in the wedding party for our brother and sister-in-law. On the morning of the rehearsal dinner, I was feeling a little “off” (nauseous) so I took a pregnancy test and… we found out we were going to be PARENTS! It was our special secret to carry through a weekend full of crowds and family activities, but we couldn’t help but smile to each other constantly with sweet knowing glances. I immediately downloaded a pregnancy app (because how else would I know if the baby was the size of a lentil or a blueberry?!), turned my nose up at cold lunch meat, decided I needed some ginger ale and vowed not to drink a single cup of caffeinated coffee for the rest of our trip because HELLO. I was going to be a MAMA. I was entrusted and responsible for carrying a precious life. Things changed forever that day in January 2013. And it will never be quite that way again.
THREE Januarys ago, I was about 4 months postpartum with our first son. After a long labor and rough unexpected surgical delivery, my body and my heart were taking their sweet time healing up. And since I had a little piece of precious cargo with me at all times as a new stay-at-home-mom, we were essentially hibernating for the winter. Ain’t nobody got time for cold and flu season. I may or may not have considered making a “do not touch” sign for his car seat. #firsttimemomparanoia. Instead of running the roads and planning outings, we spent most days in our little nest reading books, watching Baby Einstein, non-stop nursing (aka Netflix binging the show of mama’s choice), and falling asleep together in my bed whenever we pleased. Such were the glorious, long, lazy days of the first baby. Even though we were in the face of the dreaded four-month sleep regression, I was finally feeling like I could feel a piece of “normal” coming back into the equation, and maybe motherhood wasn’t going to kill me after all. And it will never be quite that way again.
TWO Januarys ago, I had just given birth to my second son via C-section on the day after Christmas, after a grueling 48-hour labor that began on Christmas Eve. We had missed all the festivities of family Christmas, but we were so overjoyed to welcome our sweet baby that we didn’t really care. Even though I was elated to not be enormously pregnant anymore, I was that achy postpartum tired. We left our tree and decorations up for the whole month, snuggled in close with our babies, and focused on resting and recovering. I was a seasoned mama now, and understood the value of taking it slow, soaking it in, and not overdoing it. I relished every second of newborn-ness, knowing full well how quickly it would pass. We had family come in town and rotate out each week to help me, since post-surgery I could not lift our 16-month-old. January was a revolving door of helpers, to whom I will be eternally grateful for their sacrificial service. But once they left, gone were the days of “napping when the baby napped” and building my entire schedule/life around my newborn baby’s needs… mostly because there were TWO babies on opposite schedules. I was dog-tired and stretched so thin, but my heart was so full in the best way. And it will never be quite that way again.
ONE January ago, we had a two-year-old and a freshly-turned one year old, who were acting more like twins every day. Since baby brother could actually walk and didn’t nurse what felt like every five minutes now, I could take them on outings we could ALL enjoy. Such were the days of throwing them in the double stroller for countless hours at the zoo, trips to the library, playing at the park, and meeting up with real, live people for playdates. It was like the world had opened up to us. Finally feeling less of a jiggly, perpetually postpartum, trying-to-survive hot mess, I began to take that God-send of a stroller for long power walks and poured myself into my Weight Watchers plan—this time actually seeing results. I was journeying toward “me” again, while genuinely feeling able to enjoy my toddler and my baby/toddler in-between little guy. Two kids in cribs, two kids in diapers. One trying constantly to keep up with the other as if there wasn’t an age gap, making me constantly shadow behind him to avoid certain death. And it will never be quite that way again.
THIS January, I have spent time recovering from a miscarriage. Recovering from saying goodbye to our third baby just two days after Christmas, when we thought we’d be sharing a pregnancy announcement. Prayerfully trying to bounce back physically and emotionally from the long weeks of December we waited through, going back and forth testing blood and getting second opinions on whether or not things were going to pan out the way we hoped. I’ve spent time sniffing my babies’ heads, breathing in their toddlerhood and their sweet, exuberant life (which smells more like a little boy/wet puppy dog and less like a baby every day. I can’t even.)
THIS January, we have near constant cabin fever since we are trying to dodge the ridiculous flu pandemic that is sweeping our state, and some days I feel like we are all losing our minds. But I am SAVORING. THIS. SEASON. I’m thanking God for giving me these two precious gifts to treasure, and for revealing His character to me more each day through this thing called motherhood.
THIS January, I am writing this on their morning at Mother’s Day out, relishing my four hours per week of “mommy time” before the tornado starts back up again. I’m counting down the minutes until bedtime, but then missing them as soon as they fall asleep. I’m creeping to the side of their beds to catch a glimpse of them sleeping, constantly surprised at how odd (and sweet) it looks to see them so still, when during the day they are a constant blur of noise + movement + injury. I’m always stumping my toes on Daniel Tiger figurines and legos that are littering the living room floor. I’m doing the Mickey Mouse “Hot Dog Dance” like it’s my job—mostly because it IS my job. I’m standing firm through temper tantrums and introducing them to so many “firsts.” I’m kissing never-ending bo-bos and rocking toddlers who sometimes just need their mama. We go to restaurants, order dessert, and sit in booths because we're a family of four and we fit so perfectly. They split a kids meal at Chipotle because only one of them will touch the "healthy" rice + beans. It's affordable to go out as a family, and we can play man-on-man defense out in public. Even the smallest trip to the zoo or aquarium brings squeals of excitement and a simple lollipop can incite absolute joy---because TODDLERHOOD.