By Abigail Waldron
In the weeks and months following my daughter Celia’s birth, almost a year to the day after her older sister Avaleen should have been born, I kept telling people what a dream baby she was.
And it was true. She rarely cried or fussed, started sleeping nine to twelve hours at night around six weeks of age, and delighted us all with her ready smiles. Especially in comparison to her oldest sister Ellie, she was an easy baby–no piles of spit-up, no hours of unexplained crying, no nursing strikes.
I couldn’t believe that God had not only allowed this baby to be born living and healthy, but that he’d also given her a pleasant, relaxed temperament. In comparison to the previous year and a half marked by grief over the second trimester miscarriage of Avaleen and the anxieties of pursuing and surviving another pregnancy, those early months with Celia felt, on many levels, like a dream come true. I still missed Avaleen, but I was deeply aware of the goodness I’d been given – two happy, healthy little girls to love and care for.
So, when people asked how we were doing, I kept telling them things were great. And in so many ways they were.
But there were little things. Occasional streaks of blood in Celia’s stools that just wouldn’t go away, even after I cut dairy, then soy, then eggs, peanuts, wheat, and more from my diet, an oversupply of milk that caused my little girl to choke and sputter at the breast, taking in gulps of air that filled her tummy with bubbles and made it difficult for her to settle to sleep. The long, tiresome days of caring for two little people, who no matter how delightful, demanded all of me all day long, leaving little space for the introvert in me to exhale and reflect.
I recognized these challenges, sometimes complained about them to my husband, and even had an occasional, brief cry about them. But still, when people asked, I told them things were going well. Celia was still a happy baby. Ellie was still an easy two year-old. It was already evident that the two of them loved each other deeply. When I looked at the circumstances of friends whose babies woke all night long or whose toddlers threw constant tantrums, and especially when I thought back on the pain of losing Avaleen, I couldn’t complain. In my girls, I’d been given what I’d prayed for; I knew well that my circumstances could be so much worse.
And yet, I found myself weeping in the kitchen one afternoon, bouncing a restless Celia during Ellie’s nap. It had been a long day. There’d been more blood in Celia’s stools, in spite of an even more restricted diet. She’d been having trouble napping, making it nearly impossible for me to give Ellie attention or to accomplish any of the household chores on my list. I knew it was just one of those days that happen now and then when you have small children, knew both the nap troubles and the stools would eventually resolve one way or the other, but I just felt weary. I was still grateful for my girls, but I was beginning to feel I didn’t have enough in me to meet all of their needs. This shouldn’t be so hard, I thought, reminding myself of all the ways things could be worse.
I turned on a CD of worship lullabies, hoping it would calm Celia. My tears flowed harder as I began to listen to the words I was singing:
When it’s dark and it’s cold and I can’t feel my soul, You are so good. When the world is gone gray and the rain is here to stay, You are still good.
I was surprised by how these words resonated with my overwhelming emotions. My world was not dark and gray and cold in the way that it was a year and a half ago when I was convinced I’d never be happy again. I was happy. And yet, I realized, I still struggled to feel my soul, not because it was buried under deep grief, but because the fullness of my life and the constant demands of my girls made it difficult to find.
In that moment, I heard God whisper: This is hard too, Abby. It’s okay that this is hard too.
I realized that I’d been afraid that my gratefulness meant I wasn’t allowed to ask for more from God. I felt I had exhausted my limit on answered prayers and I was left to my own self-sufficiency. I’d spent the better part of a year worrying that Celia wouldn’t make it, that like Avaleen, I’d never get to hold her. I’d felt so blessed by her life that I hadn’t wanted to ask for more, for help with the everyday challenges of being her mother.
I felt the tension in my shoulders ease as I continued to sing:
I’ll sing You a love song. It’s all that I have—to tell You I’m grateful for holding my life in Your hands.
There was freedom in that quiet sanctuary of my kitchen: dirty floors, fussy baby and all. In that moment, I felt more connected to God than I had since Celia’s birth, and I felt too an even deeper sense of gratitude – for the miracle of little lives and for dramatically answered prayers, but also for a God who knows we are dust, and in both our deepest grief and in all our daily emptiness and weariness, simply holds us.
Abigail Waldron lives in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. with her husband and two daughters. She blogs at Redeeming Themes.
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