Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Filled with wonder

Could it be?  Am I actually posting something here?  :)

Between the many around-the-clock feedings and diaper changes that accompany a newborn, I have not devoted much time to writing lately beyond the two publications I contribute to each month.  You can read my articles here and here.

I may or may not also be devoting a bunch of my time each day to simply gazing in awe upon the miraculous little creature known as Alice Therese.  Pictured above.

Because friends, I am in love.  With a little 9-ish pound person.  And I just plain don't want to miss a moment of this little girl's tiny life.  Every single stretch, snuffle, and baby-sneeze fills me with such incredible joy that it makes the general fatigue and compulsion to wear loose, ill-fitting sweatpants well worth it. 

It is profoundly amazing having a baby in the house again.

It is of course also difficult.  I regularly joke about how I feel as if I've fallen into an abyss since giving birth a month ago.  You see, we moved to a new house mere days after Alice was born, and quite frankly, I'm still trying to get my bearings--which apparently amounts to wearing comfy clothing, clutching my baby girl, and spending time on Facebook. 

Oh, and I eat a Cadbury Creme Egg every day.  That is a must.

The post-partum period is, for me, a strange mix of crazy, beautiful, messy, and happy.  Because I'm simultaneously exulting in the birth of my child...while attempting to figure out this breastfeeding thing all over again...all while being woken multiple times each night by this hungry and helpless little being who needs me even more than I need my own sleep.  I need her more than I need my own sleep.  But, I still need sleep.  And so there is this funny paradox where I occasionally feel overwhelmed (and generally feel tired!), but still gush to everyone about how happy I am.  Because I am happy--I'm also just sleep-deprived and on hormone-overload.  And I'm in love.

So while I haven't had the proper quorum of active brain cells to do much writing, I have been reflecting a little on this whole being-a-mom thing.  Just yesterday I was reading through Blessed John Paul II's Mulieris Dignitatem, where he writes this:

Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the woman's womb. The mother is filled with wonder at this mystery of life, and "understands" with unique intuition what is happening inside her. In the light of the "beginning", the mother accepts and loves as a person the child she is carrying in her womb. This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings - not only towards her own child, but every human being - which profoundly marks the woman's personality.

Yes.  This.  "Filled with wonder at the mystery of life", for sure.  With each child I've been given I've experienced a deeper understanding of God, love, my vocation, and the purpose of community--while simultaneously being extra mystified by the bigness of it all.  And since reading this passage yesterday, I've really been considering how my motherhood impacts my "personality", the people around me and the culture at large.  We moms-to-many occasionally muse that we'd think ourselves pretty great people if we didn't have any children--less temptation to say and do things in anger, less stress, less occasion for sin.  But at the same time, we also know that is not always the answer, intentionally avoiding The Things That Are Hard.  Because deep-down we believe that the humbling and refining that accompanies motherhood is good for us. 

On a very practical level it forces our hand, limits our selfishness, makes us grow. 

But ultimately we have faith that the bearing of children matures marital love, strengthens family bonds, and instructs our other children in virtue.  It is a good. 

How amazing then to consider that through motherhood (be it physical motherhood or spiritual motherhood, depending on vocation), God uses women to nurture and enhance our communities.  That the way we come to love our children is somehow meant to translate into how we love our friends and our neighbors.  That we are able to take part in this mysterious process of growing (and generating) humanity.

It's all just so huge.  I keep thinking about how unbelievably beautiful it is that my baby girl, body and soul, exists-- when there was a time that she didn't exist.  I think about how, in the words of Eve herself, "with the Lord's help I have brought forth a child."  I think about how she not only is a new life, but infuses our very marriage and family with new life.  I think about how my body was created with this unique ability to bring forth and nurture this life, that somehow as a woman I am a part of something very precious and even, dare I say, powerful.  Blessed John Paul II, referring to woman elsewhere in the encyclical, declares that "she is sharing in the great mystery of eternal generation. The spouses share in the creative power of God!"

My personal feeling is that the early days and weeks after the birth of a baby are uniquely and indescribably beautiful, even when they are hard.  So I am soaking up these new moments with my new Alice, reminded by the presence of my nine-year-old daughter that these days pass all too quickly.  Life is meant to be lived, not merely endured, and so even when I am stretched and challenged I am filled with joy.  My children and husband are filled with joy.  Our very home is filled with joy, all by itty-bitty Alice Therese. 

So post-partum sleepiness or not, I am ever so grateful for these days filled with nursing and spit-up and diapers and sweatpants, and for Cadbury Crème Eggs too.


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