As I write this, I’m three months postpartum with baby number four.
Things are different the fourth time around. I have big kids now who help. My marriage has grown and matured—he and I are more like a strong, young tree now that bends in the wind rather than a sapling that could snap at any moment.
I know now how to stop when my body says rest, and I know I need friends and books and good food to fuel my soul and my body, regardless of how busy things are. I know I need to take care of myself, no matter how many people seem to need me.
But in every difference, there’s a memory of how it used to be.
When we’re having a playdate and my kids and their friends run through the house, I remember the quiet hours in an upstairs apartment rocking my first babe, alone.
When my son can’t nurse due to the mucus in his nose, and I reach for the bulb syringe by my bed, then confidently suck all the snot till he’s dry, I remember. I close my eyes and see it again—that desperate trip to the ER when my second daughter couldn’t breathe. When both girls had RSV and croup and one was diagnosed with asthma. And though I’m a nurse, I was terrified because that was my child who was turning blue, my child whose ribs protruded with every sucked inhale, and the staff couldn’t get the epinephrine fast enough. Would the terror have been as intense if I hadn’t felt so utterly alone?
When I strap baby number four to my chest and wrap him up snugly, I remember.
I wear him all around the house, to cook and clean and read to the three big ones, but when I stop and close my eyes, I see a picture of the mother I was with baby number three. Torn between holding him and reading to the girls. Between holding him, and cooking for everyone. Between holding him, and showering. How I wished for more time to just hold him.
The pen I hold in my hand today is the way I process. But as I sit and write, I remember a time when I had forgotten about my pen. My heart longed for someone, anyone, to talk to. Someone to come over and just sit with me. A friend who would understand the highs and lows (how can I be so in love, yet so exhausted?). Someone to care not just about the new baby, but about the new mom. The one who was still changing her pad every hour, still sleep-deprived and sore, still not sure whether she could do this.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for friends who come over to see baby number four. I’m thankful for the cute little outfits they bring, the blankets and booties and diapers. Oh, so very thankful. I’m thankful when they ask to hold the baby and swoon over him. Yes, he is our little miracle.
But I’m also so, so thankful for the friend who takes time to sit quietly beside me while I nurse him. For the one who brought my favorite cookies, then hugged me and asked, “How are you doing?” For the friend who sent a text that said, “How’s your recovery?” For the one who encouraged me with, “You are a rockstar, Mama,” simply because I took the baby outside in the late-afternoon sun.
New babies deserve to be welcomed into this world with all the love we have to give.
But sometimes, when a new mother has been birthed, she needs a little love, too.
And I get it. I’ve been the visitor a time or two, and I’ve been guilty of asking all the questions. about baby, but forgetting that mama likely didn’t sleep last night. I’ve brought the meal for the family but forgotten to ask mama what she’s craving. I’ve brought clothes and diapers for the newborn but neglected to include some activities for the big kids so mama can rest. I’ve come over in a rush and forgotten to take a moment to just sit beside her. To ask how she’s healing. To remind her not to vacuum.
Our babies grow, and our bodies heal, and we forget.
But baby number four, and the friends who’ve loved us so well, have reminded me. They’ve reminded me of the loneliness I felt the first time around, and the second, and the third. They’ve reminded me to see you, the mother whose body and soul broke a little bit to bring this child into the world. The mother who’s still bleeding and still not quite herself even though she’s joyously and helplessly in love.
I remember now. And I pray I’ll never forget.
I’ll never forget you, new mama.