There is something sacred about the demands of a newborn.
In my church, young people can choose to devote eighteen-months or two years of their lives to living in some new part of the world, talking to people, doing service, and spreading the message of Christ to anyone who wants to hear it. Missionaries follow strict rules. They wake up early. They go to bed on time. They wear certain clothes, they don’t listen to music or go to movies, they pursue almost no leisure, and they communicate with their families only via writing, save Christmas and Mother’s Day. They put everything else—relationships, schooling, work—on hold.
It’s a time of sacrifice, of dedication. Of committing to something bigger, something that does not revolve around yourself and your own needs. I’ve often wondered what that would have been like, but these last few weeks I’ve realized I already know. In the tender dark hours of the night, holding a baby to my chest, soothing his cries and filling his tiny belly, I have no illusions. I have done this twice before. For the next few years, his needs are my life.
My first two beautiful children were different. I was so young with our daughter. I spent most of the hours frantic, starting with when we brought her home from the hospital and I stared down at her, terrified. What had we done? I didn't know how to take care of a baby!
Then we welcomed our son two years later, and everything was colored with exhaustion so deep I couldn’t do anything but make sure my two little ones had everything they needed and were surrounded with love, and then try my best to survive.
This time, I know how quickly that seemingly endless stretch of time actually goes. The whole goal of motherhood is to raise children like mine—happy, healthy, increasingly independent little people. But that’s the catch, because now I really can’t be everything they need. There are things that make them sad, that hurt their tender hearts, that I can’t do anything about. I can’t fix it. I can only try to help them along the way to figuring out how to feel better. It is the worst part of motherhood, knowing that your children move beyond your ability to keep them absolutely safe, and also the best part of motherhood, watching the people they become as they stretch and grow beyond you.
But this tiny new life? I can still fill every need he has. I hold him close. I rock him. I sing an infinite loop of Baby Beluga. I could sing it in my sleep. I think I occasionally do, passed out at 3 AM holding him in the rocking chair.
Sometimes I feel claustrophobia setting in. I find myself researching exotic vacations we will not take. Looking at listings for homes I don’t want to buy. I am on a two-hour leash, tied by my very body to this absurd, beautiful little creature that grew inside of it.
And then I remember how very short this eternity-of-infancy really is.
So when he is sleeping, and when he is awake, we gather around and stare at him, marveling over this little boy who has joined our family and changed it forever. And I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to devote the next few years of my life to him. A marvelous sacrifice that really isn’t any sacrifice at all.