Last week I met someone new. Unlike a lot of strangers, she immediately asked how the postpartum recovery has been for me. I gave her the surface level answer “Oh, it’s been good!”, because we live in a culture that doesn’t always want the real answer. The truth is that the aftermath of having a baby included a burst stomach ulcer, emergency surgery, and a lot of throwing up. What stranger wants to hear about that?
She asked a lot of questions about Caleb, was quick to tell me how cute he is, and her joy was palpable when she held him. Then she asked a question that I did not anticipate. “What is your favorite thing about being a mom?” Immediately, I realized that I couldn’t pretend like my trauma didn’t happen. I couldn’t simultaneously be authentic and give a pat answer. So I answered, knowing that I was about to shock this stranger, this potential friend (as I like to think of people), with my story.
I thought about it, and then I said, “Literally everything, because I almost missed it.”
I summarized the series of events, and her jaw dropped. No one expects to hear that a new mother did not get to be with her baby for the first few weeks of his life. No one expects me to tell them how many surgeries I had in the months of October and November. And I’m certain that this sweet potential friend did not expect to hear such a lengthy story (even though I gave her the Spark Notes version) in response to such a simple question.
The truth is that I love giving him his bottle of formula, and that I’m thankful for modern science because it allows me to feed my baby. The truth is that I love to change his diapers because I know his body is healthy and that he’s growing. The truth is that even when I am laying in pain with my heating pad on my back at the end of the day, I am thankful that I’m sore because it meant I spent the day caring for him. I love every moment with him, because I’m not missing moments of his life anymore.
Yet sometimes I find myself crying. I become overcome with grief and overwhelmed sadness over all the things I have missed. I become overcome with the fear that I am not enjoying every moment to the fullest… and his short life is already comprised of moment I will never get back. Instead of treasuring the moment that I am in right now, I often cry because of the ones I missed against my will.
Some people struggle with resentment of others when things are taken from them. Thankfully, I don’t resent others that get to snuggle their newborns and tote them around in carriers. But I do wish I had had the opportunity.
Thankfully, I no longer feel guilty or overcome with sadness that I don’t get to breastfeed. I have never once winced in pain giving my son a bottle of formula… and never once has he said “Hey mom don’t you have anything better?”
Our lives are made up of moments that we cannot get back, and I have felt crushed by the pressure to enjoy every moment to the fullest. So instead I’m trying to be thankful in the present moment, because I am living moments I almost did not get. I could have easily died, but God in His mercy, gave me these moments. In response to His gift, I must choose not to wish for the moments that have passed or fear the moments to come.
In this exact moment, I’m thankful for my swaddled baby (we call him Paco the Taco), who is sleeping peacefully in his crib with a Mickey Mouse paci. I’m thankful for my husband who helped me clean this morning, so I could have this moment, right now, to work on my writing. I’m thankful for the couch God blessed us with five years ago, even though one side is being held up by a stack of books because it lost a leg during its service in our hospitality efforts. Our treasured couch, that is currently cradling me in comfort, has supported many hurting friends, served as a bed for weary people, and witnessed the sharing of joyous news and events of celebration.
Our lives are made up of moments that we cannot get back, but each moment shapes us. Moments turn into years, and years into a lifetime. I want to look back on my lifetime, confident that I spent it well, because I was thankful for the moments.