A Birthday

Our baby came on a Sunday morning, came quickly. In the hardest moments I tried to slow down and imagine something easy— my husband skipping rocks in the back creek, but it was difficult to get past the image of being lifted up high on a mountain. This mountain was inside me too, bearing down hot, tearing me open. When they laid the little girl on me it was hard to believe it was her all along, dark and beautiful and quiet. A daughter. 

Most everyone thought she was a boy. We thought so too, and wanted a son. We live a good life for a boy and there’s plenty around here for a boy to do, but when we met her she was what we wanted. When we had to return her to the hospital, I told the Lord she was all I wanted.

Since then I’ve asked him for many other things. Where else would I go? My grandmother often said he took special care of babies and fools, but I didn’t know how necessarily they go together. I am simpler now, less ambitious, incapable. I wonder if she felt that way too, as she strapped us into that little Buick and played the Electric Slide tape for the hundredth time. But Nanny, soft and clean, smelling of bleach and bacon, with her voice like Edith Bunker’s and her endless supply of chicken nuggets and nursery rhymes, she was all we wanted. She never set out to become a mother, but I did, because of her. 

Our baby is four weeks old today, three weeks home. She has seen the cows with their new calves and the riotous, buggy garden, has felt hot horse breath and smelled ginger lilies and tasted my sweat in her milk and listened to the rain on the tin roof and the ee-o-lay of the thrush from the woods.

As for me, I haven’t done a thing but care for her. I feed her and change her and I try to remember to drink water, and the days go quickly by. There’s a lot I’m not doing. The grass is high and the okra is overgrown, and the chickens went a week without food, but in this, I am reminded that this is a good life for a girl, and there’s a gracious plenty around here for a girl to do.

I used to think motherhood was too much a focus in Christian circles, as if all women didn’t suffer from and struggle with the same things, but I realize now that no one receives encouragement who doesn’t need it, for a woman devoid of adequate sleep and nutrition will soon find herself devoid of love and patience, and considering the fragility of babies, we praise the tenderness of mothers, not because it is always true, but because it needs to be.

Her name means light. I’ve been asked if she was planned or a surprise, but she was neither. She was expected, in the same way you look for the stars. And so I see now that she was assumed, which is a dangerous thing, yet this is oddly less true now as she lays eight pounds solid on my chest. 

Lewis, in the Screwtape Letters, spoke of how necessary it is for the demons to keep our minds on the past or on the future, but not on the present, for the present is all lit up in eternal rays. 

The momentary present is where a beautiful soft-boned child is given to a distractible, bumbling woman, prone to tripping and cutting corners, and God saves them. The momentary present is where the same woman sits up at night to nurse again, weak and complaining, and wakes up five hours later to the sun and the wiggling happy grunts of her baby, because God gave them rest. 

The momentary present is where you grieve. It is where you wait for what you want, or used to want when you had hope. The momentary present is where old ones die, yes and are remembered, and new ones are born, not to fill their place, but to fulfill it, to go on with their story. The momentary present is where you must keep on in a long obedience. It is where you might be suddenly, surprisingly, remade. It is where mountains are born and where a man skips rocks across the fern-laced oak-mirrored waters of a quiet creek.

The momentary present is where our beautiful baby lives all the time. You might say she is fully invested. Helen is gospel light in a broken vessel, a conduit of grace, a receptacle of mercy, always in need of topping-off, as am I, her mother.

This photo was taken by my dear friend Ruth, and she shares some of her talents here:http://www.instagram.com/redearthdesignstudio

7 thoughts on “A Birthday

  1. I have been waiting for this sweet news and am so happy that your beautiful Helen has arrived. I have no doubt you are treasuring each moment in your heart. These are sweet, sweet days. Congratulations, Sarah. I look forward to the beautiful things God will teach you through the raising up of your daughter.

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