You have been in my arms for almost a year now. I write this as I rock you for your nap. The entire nap, because that’s the only way you will take one. You have too much to do to care about slowing down long enough to rest. I think you were like this from the time you were an embryo. You just looked like a gummy bear in the ultrasound, but the tech told us you were moving A LOT. Long before there were two pink lines on a stick, I would dream about you and pray for you. “God, please give me a baby. Please make him whole and healthy. I also want a fun baby. Give him a good sense of humor and a love for people. Make him the kind of person that people love to be around. Make him kind.” (Yes, I used “him” because I always knew you were going to be a boy. Hey, I had a 50/50 chance of being right, anyway.) I would throw in at the end, because these things are silly and shallow, “Oh, and if it’s not too much trouble, could you make him smart, good looking, and athletic?”
I imagine that God was chuckling to Himself during this time, thinking, “Oh dear one, you just wait. I have been planning your family for a very long time.” Having known you for a year now, Evan, there is no doubt in my mind that before your daddy or I were even born, God had dreamed you up. I think he smiled when Daddy and I met, because He knew what lay ahead for us. He knew it was only a matter of time before we fell in love, got married, and started to long for you. He would then have the opportunity through you, Baby Boy, to reveal Himself- His Goodness, Faithfulness, Grace, Love, and Mercy. And so much more. It would be amazing. And hard.
Gosh, it’s been hard. I was the BEST mom until I actually became one. As it turned out, I. knew. nothing. The first night after you were born, I couldn’t keep you swaddled. (In my defense, you were a bit of a spaz. As a side note, I would like to add that I eventually became a Champion Swaddler, since you were swaddled until you were 10.5 months old for sleep. Not to brag or anything.) You cried pretty much the entire first night. Parenting Fail number one. I figured, based on my assumed natural parenting skills and the “dumb” video the hospital made us watch (you know, the one for UNEDUCATED, UNPREPARED parents who might shake their babies), that the crying would pass. It didn’t. You were a post-term baby, which means you CAMPED OUT IN MY OVERSTRETCHED ABDOMEN FOR WAY TOO LONG, and you needed your milk, not just that puny colostrum nonsense. (I know colostrum has its place- antibodies and concentrated nutrition, and so on and so forth.) But my milk didn’t come in until the fourth day of your life. So I had to supplement with formula. Parenting Fail number two. (In retrospect, this perceived failure is absurd to me. But try telling that to the sleep deprived postpartum woman ugly crying in the kitchen as she holds the free sample of formula she got in the mail and thank goodness held on to it even though she was going to exclusively breast feed and tries to figure out if you put the water in first or the powder.) The “failures” snowballed after that. You were maybe a little happier now that you weren’t starving, but the crying didn’t get much better.
This was the beginning of our Frequent Flyer status at the pediatrician’s office. You choked and turned scary colors when you would nurse. Mommy is a registered nurse, so I knew that wasn’t right. It was reflux, and this diagnosis began a whole new adventure. Typical interventions and medication didn’t help much. You got to where you projectile vomited all day long. You nursed every 2 hours for 4 months and were still on the skinny side because you couldn’t keep food down. And the crying. Oh, the crying. For the first few weeks I was sympathetic and felt superior to the parents in the aforementioned video who had to put their inconsolable baby in the crib and go outside to keep from hurting the child. (What kind of monster would have the urge to hurt a baby, or let a baby cry alone?!) Then as frustration began to creep in, the humbling process began. It felt like torture, to hear those screams hour after hour, unable to provide the comfort you were begging for. I wanted more than anything to make you feel better, but nothing helped. I put your needs above my own, abandoning showers, sleep, meals, and socializing. Eventually, I became depressed, and started believing the lies of the enemy. That I wasn’t a good enough mom, otherwise I would be able make you feel better. That I wasn’t cut out for this job. That it would be this way forever.
You got older, and the reflux slowly got better. You even started to sleep some. But there was always SOMETHING. Such as the four ear infections you had between months 3 and 9. Brutal teething. A few sinus infections scattered throughout the first year. A tummy that didn’t appreciate antibiotics. A bout with Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. The Great Illness of July: Gastroenteritis, fever, and dehydration that went on for weeks and just nearly landed you in the hospital. Which was immediately followed by croup. In your last month as an infant, you got FOUR TEETH AT ONCE.
Man. It’s been a tough life for you, Baby Boy. It’s caused you to need me more than I could handle at times. I haven’t always held it together for you. But when I fell short, God was always there to say, “Your debt has already been paid. Move forward, my love.” You are living proof of His Grace. I sometimes joke that CLEARLY God is in control, because I’ve done everything I can to ruin you, yet you continue to thrive. But there is some truth beneath my self deprecation. Because I definitely don’t have it all together. It’s okay though, because God does, and He has wonderful things in store for you, son.
To this day, I have days and sometimes weeks where I have to battle those old familiar untruths. But there’s good news. Once I humbled myself before God and saw my arrogance, pride, and self-reliance, I was able to make room for growth. I realized that my Creator had equipped me for this particular life. The pressure is no longer on me to be “good enough,” because Jesus is more than enough. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, I AM enough. I confidently hold on to God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11- “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans for hope and a future.”
God has shown himself to me more in your one year of life than he has in all of my other 27 years. I have witnessed miracles, I’m talking real-life miracles before my eyes (like when God answered my desperate middle-of-the-night prayer that time we hadn’t slept for days and your fever was relentless in spite of the medication, and I felt you relax and quit thrashing in my arms and become drenched in sweat as the fever broke for the first time in over 24 hours). I have wept at the realization of the immensity of God’s Love. For you, Evan. To think that God loves you more than we do is absolutely mind blowing. He loves you SO much. And me and Daddy, and your future siblings. All of His People. He loves us THAT MUCH. It’s insane.
God answered all my prayers for you, and then went on to give you qualities that I never could have dreamed of myself. You are kind and sweet, Evan Jake. You enjoy cuddling in spite of your busyness, and give the best kisses to those you love. Jesus oozed kindness, and I long for you to follow Him. You are tenacious, which is one of the qualities God threw in even though I didn’t know to pray for it. You were sitting up at 4.5 months, crawling at 6.5 months, and walking before you were 9.5 months old, because you refused to give up, no matter how many times you fell down. God will be able to do amazing things through you with that. You are so fun and funny! Your daddy and I love to laugh, and now we have you to share that love with us. You learned early on how to ham it up for a laugh. Your joy is infectious. You love to play wildly and loudly, and you’re always down to party. You are a social butterfly. When we went to the beach, you were constantly wandering up to other campsites to visit with the neighbors. God tells us to love our neighbors, Evan, and you do. You’re sharp, too. You surprise me several times a day by making connections I didn’t think were possible for a baby your age. The other day I turned off Praise Baby and you went and got the remote, pointed it at the TV, and started mashing buttons. I had no idea you knew what that thing was for. And speaking of Praise Baby…God gave you a love for music, specifically Praise and Worship music. This delights me, because music lasts in your heart and mind. Alzheimer’s patients who have forgotten the most basic functions light up when they hear a familiar hymn from their youth. Music is so precious and powerful. He also made you a reader- another fun surprise! You will go to your shelf, throw books over your shoulder until you find the one you want, then hold it up high as you run to me with it. I love reading. I feel like I have lived a thousand lives all in one because of all the books I’ve read. I am so excited for you to have these experiences as well! Time will tell, but I think you are going to be athletic. Yesterday, you WALKED OFF THE BED and landed on your feet in a triple threat position LIKE A BOSS. You never stopped grinning. I thought surely your femur would snap. If you end up hating sports, though, Daddy and I will support whatever your passion is. (You love bringing Daddy footballs and playing catch, so I expect you’ll love sports as much as we do.) And, the cherry on top, you are so very handsome. Your white hair was unexpected. The black eyelashes framing your hazel eyes make me swoon. Your smile is to die for. And your chin, with Daddy’s cleft. I can’t handle it.
I’m so grateful for you, Evan. I’m sorry you’re the canary in the coal mine as Daddy and I figure this parenting thing out mostly through trial and error. But I’m thrilled to be given the honor of raising you. When I was a new nurse working at the hospital, I was assigned a complex patient that would require lots of extra care and attention. My charge nurse explained that I was given this assignment because I needed to learn, yes, but also because I was the best person for the job. I believe God has similar motives in assigning me to be your mom. Yes, you are a challenging baby to raise, with your high energy, persistence, and mischievous streak. I know that God is going to continue to teach me about Him and His Ways as I bring you up. But I think He also gave me you because He knew I could handle your big, wild spirit. I am trusting God to give me the tools to nurture that spirit and shepherd you toward His will for your life.
My prayer for you going forward is much the same as it was before I held you, with less emphasis on outward appearance (haha!). I pray that, like Jesus, you will grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. I pray that you encounter the Lord at an early age and follow Him step by step (just like the words of your favorite song). I pray for your health. I pray for wisdom and clarity from heaven to guide you.
I can’t wait to see what’s in store for you, Evan Jake.
I wrote this letter to my son several months ago in an attempt to capture his first year in words. I wanted to try to explain to him how he changed my life, not just by making me Mama, but by drawing me nearer to God than I’ve ever been. I’m so grateful to have had this experience, as difficult and ugly as it was at times. I chose to share it with you, my dear readers, because it depicts my spiritual journey as well as my parenting journey. ***If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, don’t be afraid to seek help from your doctor. For more information, go to http://www.postpartumprogress.com/the-symptoms-of-postpartum-depression-anxiety-in-plain-mama-english .