The silver lining

At the beginning of February, we welcomed our second daughter. This means that the number of children in our family is now equal to the number of parents – we have officially lost our majority. It also means it’s been at least 60 nights since I’ve slept more than three consecutive hours, not including the last two months of my pregnancy when I hardly slept at all. Having a baby is not for the faint of heart.

So much has been turned upside down in the last weeks – my house, for example. Ah, my house. I’m Dutch, but my house does not look Dutch. It looks like a place where hedgehogs would go to hibernate: cozy, but dirty. My older daughter has never enjoyed being home so much because I don’t have the energy to make her clean up her toys. There are toys everywhere.

My hair. Here, at least, is one goal I have achieved since giving birth: to wash my hair only once a week. I’ve never quite been able to make this happen, always caving in the last few days before the week is up. Yesterday I realized it had been a full week since my last hair wash and I hadn’t even noticed. Or looked in the mirror. Is this too much information? I can’t tell because I’m too tired.

Sleep. Dear me, the two to three hour intervals are the least of my problems. It’s the tandem wake-ups. Last night, for example, my four-year-old woke up an hour after one of the baby’s feeds, came into our room and, millimetres from the bassinet, yelled, “MOM!” After escorting her back to her room, cuddling her and then getting settled back in my own bed, I had 15 minutes of sleep before the baby woke up for her next feed.

It’s crazy, chaotic, at times impossible, just as I knew it would be. But there were things I didn’t know would happen, an unexpected silver lining to this craziness:

A forcible vacation. When I had only one baby, I felt an anxious drive to tidy up and organize whenever there was a break in the action. Now there is never a break in the action, so I am making my peace with a degree of domestic chaos. I’ve even relaxed with visitors in the midst of it, baby flotsam strewn across the living room.
Awareness of life’s seasons. With a first child, the dramatic changes can seem overwhelmingly permanent. And they are. There will never be a time when you can unload the burden of loving and worrying over your child. But with baby number two, you realize the brevity of each phase. Sleeplessness doesn’t last forever. Colic typically starts to dwindle after three months. The hard times are fleeting, and the love grows.

Peace. A blanket of peace has descended over our home with the coming of the baby. Is it her? Is it grace? I don’t know. But I see it everywhere. My four-year-old has suddenly started to play on her own, belly on the floor, for hours. My husband and I sometimes sit on the couch, without TV, and rest. We watch the baby. We talk. We close our eyes and doze. In our eight years of marriage, we’ve never been so still. Our home feels like a sun-bathed pause in a frantic world. Something restless has been quieted.

Love. This might sound self-evident, but it’s the love of my older daughter that has struck me. Having a newborn in the house reminds me of how far my four-year-old has come, how much she has learned, how unique and capable she is, and how intimately tied I am to her little world. I am seeing her with new eyes – as a person who gives back.

Hope. Pregnancy feels like a long wait with a daunting task at the end. What joy when a healthy baby is delivered after so much uncertainty! And then the work begins in earnest, the years of labour with the hope of raising a healthy adult. Parenthood really is about the joy set before you, an excellent metaphor for life on this side of eternity. I am so grateful for this journey.

  • Emily Cramer grew up in the Toronto area and spent most of her twenties living nomadically. She completed her English B.A. in New Brunswick (1999), burned through some existential angst in eastern Ontario and in Scotland, and finally wrapped up a Master’s in Christianity & the Arts in British Columbia (2008). She now lives in Barrie, Ontario with her husband and daughter, where she works as a college Communications teacher and hopes to stay put, at least for awhile. She has been privileged with a number of writing opportunities over the years, such as a summer newspaper column on the natural environment and a novella for her graduating thesis, and is now feeling honoured to be able to explore the next leg of her travels - parenting and family life - with the CC.

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