I used to look at people who had kids and think, “They only just pretend to be happy. They couldn’t possibly be.” Or I’d simply think that people with children had ceased to really live life. That they’d made certain compromises and were now living with those choices. I thought things like: parents wish their lives were different, parents wish they’d traveled more, parents wish they could eat at nice restaurants, etc. And so I made it a point to go at least 5 years with Matt until we decided to cease living, or, have a child. Matt even used to say about people who were “trying ” to have a kid, “Oh, so they’re done doing everything they’ve always wanted to do?” We weren’t being intentionally tacky, we were just reacting to the overall hostage situation that having a child seems to be.
And then I found myself last night, sitting under a tree with my new family. The weather was perfect – early evening light streaming across the park, coming through the trees and giving everything a soft glow. We spread out a blanket and pulled out our bread, cheeses, fruits and wine and let Olive stare up into the contrast of trees against the sky. She only sees strong contrasting colors at this point in her development, so I knew the trees would be a good idea. And they were, for a time. Then, she’d had enough and got fussy so I whipped out the blanket and swaddled her and Matt held her and bounced her while we continued to eat until she got drowsy. Then, she slept the rest of our picnic and Matt and I got to talk about life and projects we want to do this year and mostly, about how awesome Olive is turning out to be.
On the way home I realized that we ARE living. We haven’t ceased, we haven’t put projects on hold (well, maybe for a couple of months) but we haven’t said, “never again” to activities we did before. Well meaning friends have said things like, “Oh, you’ll never do ____ again – you won’t have time!” or “Get sleep now because you’ll never sleep again” and I’m not sure why people speak in extremes like that, but it’s simply not true. We’ve already enjoyed a glass of wine on our back porch, with our little girl in our arms. We’ve already seen a movie (left her with a baby sitter) and had a nice meal out (again, babysitter) and have taken our daily walks around the block (sure, sometimes our companion screams) and Matt’s made bread every week and we’ve made nice meals for ourselves at home and I’ve kept the house nice and we’ve made our “fancy coffee” on Saturdays together and…the point is, if you want to keep up the things you used to love to do – just DO them. Yeah, it’s more difficult. Dinners are usually in shifts, sometimes one-handed, but we recognize these things are temporary while she is so small. Olive is this new, fascinating creature that requires our whole presence. And that is a beautiful thing because we’re already seeing time slip quickly past. She’s already grown 3 more inches in length, and it won’t be long till those “newborn” sized clothes seem like a joke, while presently, they engulf her tiny frame.
Olive is astounding. When people say, “Oh, she’s so beautiful”, I say, “thank you!” but what I really think is, “I know! Isn’t it incredible?! I had nothing to do with it!” It’s my privilege to nurse her about 10 times in a 24 hour period. So, for 10 hours a day, I’m staring at her. Well, I read a lot, too, but I stare at her quite a bit, and it never gets old. Her soft, pliable ears, her long eye lashes, the way her nose scrunches up while she eats, her red rabbit-soft hair, and her hands…they’re my favorite part of her so far. Her mouth is a close second. I notice her perfectly oval fingernail beds, the way her pointer fingers on both hands are slightly double-jointed. I notice the lines on her knuckles and inside her palms. She’s complete. There is no where for her to go but up and out. I’m humbled to gaze at her and realize I was given her as a gift. She is not mine and she never will be, ultimately. She belongs to the only One perfect enough to create her. She deserves no less than to someday know her Creator. It wasn’t me and it’s not Matt. I was just the vessel and I am thankful every day that her perfect hands were once pressed against the inside walls of my body, forming their perfect lines.
So I realize now, with new-found humility, that parents aren’t ceasing to live unless they just choose to. That life is only bigger and greater with each new addition to the family. A child is the perfect companion for the life God gave you. A new love, a new face to point toward the heavens, to gaze at the trees together. A new voice to teach funny songs, a new tongue to experience warm watermelon in the hot summer sun and a sticky hand to hold while walking around that same, familiar block, now reborn as a new adventure every single day.