Saturday, November 13, 2010

What Pictures will Reveal

Kerrington, our little one, turned six-months old today.  Reese (who, as I mentioned last entry, is all about half-birthdays) announced that Kerrington is finally a "whole half."  Her description is one that likely would make mathematicians cringe, but I like it.

A whole half.

As I flipped through some photos this morning, that word "whole" resonated with me.  I lingered over the pictures of the girls when they had just come home from the hospital.  Their little faces, wrinkled and red, peeked out of tight swaddles.  Their hands, so fresh, balled into tight fists.  Their feet, soft and supple, rested unwalked upon.

In each of these pictures, I'm beaming.  I can't help it.

And then I spotted a picture of that revealed something.  It's a shot of Joel lying on the floor next to Kerrington, and the two older girls are climbing onto his back.  But here's the kicker: his head is buzzed -- and I'm the one who did it.

I had entirely forgotten about this haircut of his.  It had been a week or two after Kerrington's birth, and Joel needed his hair cut.  I had cut his hair numerous times before, but this day I forgot to raise the clipper length as I worked.  I buzzed his entire head without flinching.

There's an unstated rule here for husbands: namely, never let a woman who's just had a baby anywhere near your head when she's wielding a razor. 

But, to me, the picture revealed even more.  It reminded me that I've come a long way in these last six months.  Sure, I still misplace my car keys and have days when I don't know which end is up, but I'm more pulled together now than I was then.  My emotions are more stable, more whole.

My smiles in those early pictures are genuine, but if the camera had been flashing at other points, it could have captured many other facets of motherhood, too.  There would have been tears.  There would have been surges of anxiety.  There would have been times of self-doubt.  There would have been moments when I felt utterly overwhelmed.

Whatever its degree and whatever you call it -- baby blues, postpartum depression, loss of hormonal equilibrium, temporarily losing your emotional fortitude -- those early days and weeks home with a baby aren't always easy.  You're recovering.  You give all that you have during the days, and you still face long nights awake with the baby.  You're deprived of sleep.  You're hormones are surging.  And the most beautiful, precious little life you've ever seen has been entrusted into your care as you're in the midst of it all.

Admitting that the transition into motherhood (or the transition into mothering more children) is difficult does not make you less of a mother.  It does not suggest that you don't love your child.  It's doesn't mean that you're a pessimist.  It is not a sign of weakness, a lack of faith, or an indication of being unfit to parent.  Don't believe those lies.  Talk with people who can help -- friends, your spouse, your doctor, and other mothers who've been there.

Six months ago I was in a hospital bed cradling my hours-old baby, exhausted, amazed, and in love.  Today, I'm still tired, amazed, and in love -- but now I'm wearing regular clothes, running after my older girls, and playing peek-a-boo with my baby as she smiles at me.  I understand the routine and rhythm of days with three children.  The new has become normal, and the normal is very, very good.

If I were Joel, I still might be wary of handing me the hair clippers, but I can trust one thing: 

I'm whole.

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