“I have a bizarre request . . . ”

I was messaging the photographer who would take our daughter’s newborn pictures. Our daughter spent the first month of her life in the NICU and would be joining our family with oxygen and a feeding tube.

“Can you take pictures of the oxygen tank?”

When we received the photos, a flood of emotion washed over me. For the first time, it felt like my little girl was truly seen. Instead of highlighting worry lines, these pictures highlighted what a miraculous gift our girl is. Like every mother, I long for the adoring whispers and knowing grins. Strangers’ smiles are quickly shadowed by pity.

RELATED: To the Mama Sitting in the NICU: Hold On

I’m the mom toting a toddler and baby on oxygen around. I’m the mom with extra doctor’s visits and extra worry lines. While the empathy is appreciated, I desperately long for the adoring glances that come with a healthy baby. As I juggle a toddler, infant, and an oxygen tank, I often want to scream, “You think this looks heavy? You should see my heart.”

I spent hours in the NICU staring at the monitor. There were days I never once turned on the TV or left to grab food. Instead, I spent the day staring, my leg bouncing, and willing her to breathe.

When we were told she would discharge with oxygen, I was so elated to bring her home that I didn’t mind arranging drop-offs for medical equipment. It wasn’t until we got home with the constant buzz of the oxygen concentrator and the sporadic beeps of the oximeter that I allowed myself to lean in to how I really felt about having oxygen in the home—I was devastated.

The nasal cannula has been a tangible reminder of the nights we spent apart. It’s a reminder that my baby needed more than I could give her. It’s a reminder that my body evicted her early and, as a result, her first few weeks of life were difficult. The oxygen tank feels like a physical manifestation of the worry, guilt, and trauma I carry.

RELATED: To the NICU Mom Who’s Back at Home

The pictures showed a perfect, beautiful little girl and her adoring family. It showed a little girl who needs help breathing but whose miraculous life is taking her mama’s breath away. It showed that life comes with heaviness but it also comes with immense joy. It showed that you can be equally grateful and grieved. Positioned beside her oxygen tank our girl smiled.

At 8-weeks-old, she was teaching me about gratitude. She was reminding me what a gift it is to be together even though it looks different than we dreamed.

I feel so thankful the tank allowed her to come home, but I am weary by the extra worry (and oxygen tank) I always carry. Sometimes families carry extra baggage (literally), but that baggage doesn’t negate the beauty of their family or their story. These pictures allowed me to embrace our reality. Things are hard. I’m tired. I’m worried. I’m madly in love with our little lady. I’d carry a hundred more tanks to have her home.

RELATED: In the NICU You Proved You Were Tiny But Mighty

Sometimes mamas carry extra baggage. Sometimes it’s visible and displayed as an oxygen tank, but sometimes it’s invisible. Sometimes it’s the weight of worry. Sometimes it’s the weight of grief. Sometimes she wishes she could show you a physical manifestation so you’d understand.

Baby girl, today I carry your oxygen tank, but I hope you’ll allow me the honor to help carry your worries, fears, and dreams. I hope you’ll confide in me and trust me. I hope you know I’d carry anything and everything to make your life easier. There is nothing that will be too heavy for me to carry for you. After all, I’ve carried your oxygen tank.

Image via @ciarajacksonphoto on Instagram
So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Brigitte Shular

Brigitte Shular is a wife to her best friend and Mama to soon-to-be two kiddos. She is an avid reader and coffee drinker.

Your Youngest Child Will Always Be Your Baby

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood

The baby of our family is no longer a baby.  She turned five this year. She talks a mile a minute, rides her scooter on one leg with no hands, and is learning to read. She’s sweet and creative and has the best sense of humor that makes me belly laugh daily. She has long, strong legs, and her round toddler cheeks have morphed into something more mature. All remnants of babyhood and toddlerhood have long since gone from her. She is all little girl—a kid with the world at her fingertips, ready to explore everything life has to offer. I watch in wonder...

Keep Reading

I’m a Helicopter Mom Learning to Become the Place They Can Land

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood
Mother and child

My daughter places a paper in front of me on the kitchen counter, looking up at me expectedly. My eyebrows lift in question before reaching down to pick up the wrinkled sheet. Next to an empty line awaiting my check mark reads: My child has my permission to attend the field trip. The child is my kindergartener. The field trip is on a school bus. The school bus will travel into the city. Over an hour away. Without me. Two steps to my left sits a pink and yellow backpack. Next to it, a sequined lunchbox. The lunchbox is making...

Keep Reading

Six Feels So Much Bigger

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood
Little girl with horse, color photo

Six . . . Six is only one number more than five,  one grade, one year . . . but it feels so different. Five is baby teeth and new beginnings. Five is venturing out into the world, maybe making a friend. Meeting a teacher. Learning to ride a bike. Six took my breath away. Six looks like a loose front tooth—tiny and wiggly, soon to be replaced by a big tooth, one that will stay forever. Six looks like a bright purple bike zooming down the driveway. RELATED: When There Are No More Little Girls’ Clothes Six looks like playing...

Keep Reading

You Were Meant to Be Our Oldest

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood
Brother holding little sister on back

Dear oldest child, Thanks for taking one for the team. You’ve probably thought by now that Dad and I really have no idea what we are doing. You’re not wrong. Please don’t misunderstand, we have goals and ambitions as parents. We’re trying to raise you to be a healthy, positive, and contributing part of society. But you are—and have always been—our guinea pig. You are the test subject to this whole parenting thing. Each new phase you encounter brings another new phase of learning and growth. Unfortunately, with that comes growing pains, and you often take the brunt of those....

Keep Reading

The Bittersweet Reality of Your Baby Turning 5 Years Old

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood
Little girl lying on living room floor, color photo

Those first five. Those precious first five years have flown by. I blinked and here we are. I look back and think about all the times I wanted these days to go by faster. The times I couldn’t wait to get to bedtime. The days I wasted being irritable and angry because sometimes being a mom is just too hard. But now? Now, I wish I could have slowed it all down. Savored it a little longer. A little harder. That beautiful wild child who fought like hell from the moment she was born has been burning that fire ever...

Keep Reading

The Petrified-Squished-Spider Stage of Motherhood

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Bug squashed on windshield, color photo

There is a squished spider corpse dangling from the inside of my car windshield. I don’t know how long it has been there. Not because I don’t know when the time of death took place, but because I’ve lost track of the number of days it’s been a fellow passenger of ours. The burial service is past due. And a cleaning of my vehicle is so long overdue, if it were a library book I’d be banned from the library by now. When my husband removed his hat one evening while driving and used it as a spider swatter, he...

Keep Reading

Listen to Their Endless Chatter Now So They’ll Talk to You as Tweens and Teens

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Mother and young daughter talking on the couch

I’m a talker. I’m a spill-the-beans, over-sharing, rambling on about my latest fascination chatterbox. I love words, and so do my kids. I’ve spent over a decade listening to my kids share—often, as they all talk at once. They go on and on about their day, rambling about how their sibling has been driving them nuts, their shenanigans with their friends, and never-ending factoids about video games. So many words, so many significant and yet simple thoughts brought to life in our bustling conversations.  Sometimes I love all the chatter, and sometimes the sheer volume of it drives me to...

Keep Reading

Dear Kindergarten Graduate, My Hand Will Always Be Yours to Hold

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood

Tomorrow you’ll graduate kindergarten. You chose the perfect shirt for the occasion. It’s a blue and white button-up. “Get one with big checkers, Mom, not little ones,” was your request. I know it’ll make your eyes pop from under your too-big red graduation hat. It’s going to be adorable. You’re going to be adorable.  You’ve been counting down the days. You’re ready and, truthfully, I am too—even though I’m so often in denial about how quickly this time with you is passing. Didn’t you just start crawling? How is it possible you’ll already be in first grade next year? RELATED:...

Keep Reading

You Were Made to Be My Oldest

In: Child
Mom and three kids

You are my firstborn. My big. The one who made me a mama. The one who started this whole crazy, beautiful roller coaster ride the day I found out you were on your way. I remember tip-toeing to the bathroom before the sun rose and taking a pregnancy test. The flutter of excitement in my heart turned into a flutter in my growing tummy within just a few short months. And now here you are, seven years old and more incredible than I imagined in all my wildest dreams. You amaze me every single day with your humor, kindness, and...

Keep Reading

I’m a Kindergarten Mom at the Bottom of the Hill

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood
Boy holding hands with his mother, color photo

The local elementary school is perched atop an obnoxious hill. It is customary for kindergarten parents to walk their children to the top of the hill as the rest of the grades, first through fifth, having earned their badge of capability and courage, walk alone. Car line is off-limits for kindergartners, which means it’s a walk in whatever weather, whenever school is in session type of vibe. My oldest misses car line. I miss it as well. It’s so simple, convenient, and most importantly, warm and waterproof. But my youngest is a kindergartner, so for the last several months we’ve...

Keep Reading