Ever feel like you’re grieving over something that seems slightly nonsensical? That’s kind of where I’m at right now. I don’t know why Abi Kate’s approaching birthday has been difficult for me to embrace. It is a great thing, a beautiful thing. We are celebrating a full year of life with her, her health, sweet memories, and all that she has become. I think maybe I’m just grieving the ending of this season of life with her-- the first year with her and all that entails. Or maybe I’ve just been watching a few too many episodes of 'Friday Night Lights'-- because all I’ve thought about the last few days is how Abi Kate is going to grow up and go away to college and be her own person like the daughter in that show. Not gonna lie-- I totally cried when that girl pulled out of the driveway. I don’t even like her character. She’s selfish and kind of a butt, but I was still crying on the end of the couch. That’s like 17 years away. Were those tears really rational?! Probably not….
You know some tears that were rational, though? I was laying in bed last night, thinking about this past year with her, thinking about how at this time last year I was hugely pregnant and very uncomfortable. I was contracting off and on (until I hit 38 weeks and then it just kinda stayed ‘on’). I was getting ready to begin my maternity leave. I was anticipating the arrival of our daughter and the changing of our lives. I was downing an entire family sized roll of Pillsbury chocolate chip cookie dough. By myself. In like 2 or 3 days time. (Oh my word that’s so nasty and embarrassing. I swear that was the only time I ate such garbage during my pregnancy. Please don’t tell my midwife!) Seriously though, my life was different then. I went to bed and thought about the future, praying it would hurry up and arrive. I woke up wishing it had arrived and wishing that I was in labor. These days, I find myself going to bed and just praying that I could freeze time, that it would stop slipping away from me so quickly, that the future would just take its sweet time arriving. While I was laying there thinking about these things, I felt that big thick lump where you’re trying to stop yourself from crying. You know you’ve had that, too! I kept telling myself it was dumb to cry over her growing up and to just quit it. (You talk to yourself at night like this too, right?!) But I reasoned with myself. I decided it was ok to be sad, to miss this time with my baby girl. I thought about going into her room, risking waking her up, just to hold her and rock her or nurse her. I watched the monitor and hoped I’d see the red lights flickering and I’d hear her cry. But she didn’t. She doesn’t need me in the nighttime much anymore the way she used to. So I cried. I cried for times past that won’t happen again. Oh, I’m sure we’ll one day have late nights with another tiny crying baby, or at least I hope we do. But it won’t be with her. We might even have nights where Abi Kate cries out and needs us, but it won’t be that little bitty baby that fit so perfectly just on my chest. There will be great times in the future, but they will be different. And so I cried for that. I laid there and started to get the snubs (you know where your whole body shakes and you make that really loud sniffly noise because your nose is running.) I thought it might wake Tommy up, and honestly, I wanted it to. (Sorry babe!) I mean, at least he can be sad with me. He didn’t wake up. Of course in all fairness, you could literally drive a train through our bedroom at night, he’d sleep right through it, and be none the wiser in the morning. So, I snubbed a little louder (maybe on purpose?! Oops!), but he still slept. I didn’t want to shake him and wake him up because I felt a little pathetic doing that, even though I know he would’ve woken up and talked with me. I just cried by myself, and it felt ok and even right.
The more I’ve thought about it, I feel less silly (sort of) about it all. In the weeks following her arrival, I cried because I missed her kicks. Even when she was just all knees and elbows and it actually hurt when she’d move inside me, I missed carrying her life inside me, with me at all times. The first time I felt her move, I was 14 weeks pregnant. Just as graceful in pregnancy as I am outside it, I’d tripped and fallen in our kitchen pretty hard. I was completely terrified and just immediately started crying. I called the midwives’ office and my doula. My doula got back to me first and after asking lots of questions, told me to go take a bath and relax and notify her and my midwife if I started cramping or bleeding at all. I got in the tub, turned on relaxing music, lit some candles, and just rested in the tub. I remember rubbing my stomach and praying over Abi Kate while I did. I felt her move in that moment and I felt peace because I knew in my heart that she was ok. I’ve always felt like that was one of God’s sweetest gifts to me. It’s kind of unusual in a first pregnancy to feel a baby move that early, even more unusual for me because I had an anterior placenta. Many women with anterior placentas rarely feel their baby move at all-- even at the end of pregnancy. Abi Kate did not fall into that statistic. She was just as busy a baby in utero as she is now, and I felt every kick, spin, and stretch. (Also can I just say that at my 18 week appointment, when I found out about the position of my placenta my midwife informed me if I ever fall I should fall on my hands and knees or it might cause an abruption if my belly hit anything. Um, thanks for that. SO glad I didn’t have that bit of knowledge 4 weeks earlier. I would’ve been out of control!) It was odd to me that I would miss it. Here she was in my arms, much better than in pregnancy, right? But I told Tommy that I would never experience that with her again, feeling her move in me. I felt the exact same way about labor. No matter how many children God gives us, I will never labor with her again. She and I will never work together in that amazing dance of birth like we did when she arrived. I guess all of these things are related… just a sadness over the passing of a season, of times spent together than can’t be recreated. And I think that’s ok. To reflect on it, but not to dwell there. To embrace the new times ahead, but hang on to the times past, even if that brings some tears and sadness.
I spent the other night thinking about how tired I was when she had her sleep regression. The exhaustion and fatigue of being awakened every hour. I thought about how I had to make myself be joyful, to ask the Lord for grace in the moment. I wish I had savored that time just a little bit more, those moments when everything was quiet and dark in our house and she and I were the only ones awake. I wish I hadn’t worried about her sleep as much, stopped worrying about what our overly autonomous society says about babies sleeping, and just accepted those sweet hours with her with gratefulness. I did near the end, but it took me a few weeks to arrive there. I will remember for next time. I won’t forget. Because I know how quickly time passes, how quickly they grow up, and how independent they become all on their own.
I’m excited for this next year with her. I know it will be filled with growth (for her and for me) and filled with many more memories. I’m sure that this time next year, I will be feeling the same way. Completely stunned that another year has passed and that she has grown. I think I’ll be thrilled for all that we’ve been given, the time with her, much like I feel now. And if I need to feel a little sad and cry a little bit, I’m just going to let myself. I’ve learned a lot in the last year, and one thing I know for sure--she is undoubtedly worth snubbing over.