Lean In

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Welcome to the world, Elizabeth Joy!  Our fourth daughter arrived two weeks ago, abruptly ending months of anticipation and successfully shifting the dynamics of our new “norm”.

We’ve experienced this change before.  Beginning with the dance of labor, the rocking, lunging, swaying back and forth.  The sensation of extreme heat immediately followed by chilling tremors of apparent sub-zero temperatures.  The digging-in, the roaring-out.  My arms, wrapped around my husband’s neck.  My doula’s steady hands, applying counter pressure to my spine; propping me up, when all I want to do is fall.

Yes, we’ve journeyed along this road many times.  When one is too weak to stand, the other is there to hold.  And yet, what do we do when we are both weary, unable to withstand the weight of another in addition to the weight of the things we already carry?

My husband and I found ourselves in that position just a few weeks before Elizabeth’s birth.  I, carrying an extra 30 pounds on my front-side, preparing for our fourth child’s arrival while trying to maintain a sense of normalcy for our 2, 4 and 6 year-old daughters.  My husband, juggling pressure from work and the sense of urgency to complete any and all major house projects before the arrival of our newborn.

Our tempers were short, our stress, high.  We refrained from burdening the other with our concerns, afraid that our additional weight would throw the other over the edge.

Withered and worried, along we trudged until we simultaneously erupted, hurling accusations and proclaiming “I’m doing the best I can!”  Our molten lava seeped from our mouths until there was nothing left to say except, “I know.”

Too weak to stand alone, not strong enough to carry another, we leaned-in.  And it was there, forehead to forehead, hands to hands, we discovered that together, we were strong enough to hold.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

First image Captured by Katie McCracken 

Mother

Bone-tired.  So tired you can’t think clearly.  It’s been a long day.  You’ve been looking forward to getting the kids to bed so you can finally sit down and exhale or go to bed yourself.  But one of them just. won’t. go.

To add insult-to-injury, she skipped her nap and is overly-tired.  She won’t let your husband put her to bed.  She only wants you.  You, who has been with her for the last 12 hours.

You know what she needs to go to sleep but you resist because you have nothing else to give.

And yet, you are a mother.

So you dig deep, into the reserves.  Your tank is on empty, but just like your car, you know you can always push it a little further, to get there.

You hold her, rock her and lay her down in her bed.  She settles her cries almost immediately as you rub her back and sing that lullaby she loves.  You slow the song down, verse-by-verse, eventually removing your hand so that song is all that remains.

Then silence.

She’s still awake.  You are still present.  And that is all she needs.

To know that you are there, even when you are tired, with nothing left but your presence to give.  `

You dare not move your legs, tingling from sitting in that same position for so long, until her eyes get heavy.  Opening and closing, just enough to make sure of you.

You hear her quiet breathing, slowing to soft snores and you think,

I am a mother.

I always have enough for this.

Always.

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Danielle Ice Photography