then and now

It’s already been a week since Micah’s birthday. I didn’t even have time to really think about it: I had work that day, had a 3-hour writing class that night, and came home exhausted to slumbering boys.

My firstborn is now five, and that fact is just sinking in today. He’s all grown up. Throws a perfect spiral. Yells at the Cubs on TV. Draws speedometers and basketball hoops (no more flowers and rabbits).

I have no idea how we made it this far. Five years ago I was a young mother who had no business taking care of another human being. I still remember the nurses eyeing me nervously when I held Micah. (There’s something romantic about the very first newborn you ever hold being your own, but it’s not entirely practical. Or recommended.) I remember bringing him home to our tiny 1-bedroom condo, staring at that ridiculously tiny mass of humanity and thinking, What have we done? It was exciting. It was terrifying. It was all so new.

His firsts were my firsts: first time changing a diaper. First time fumbling with a bottle. First time rocking to sleep. First frustrated tears over not understanding and not being understood.

I struggled — hard — with feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, resentment, and guilt. Micah’s cries would send me into a vicious cycle of sleep-deprived-fueled anger, then self-flagellation for resenting my own child. How could someone with hands so small rule my life with such an iron fist?

Once we developed a rhythm (circadian and otherwise), I saw my baby less as an intrusion of my life, more as an extension of my identity. The cliché moments when you know you’re a mom are all true. My Moment of Realization came while nursing Micah at 2 am on some unremarkable morning. He was cradled in my arms, his own fragile arm hooked around my back, when he suddenly reached out and patted my back gently, quietly — as if to say that everything would be okay.

Since then, it has been.

Not perfect, mind you. Not without more tears, confusion, and desperate cries for help. But Micah is so patient and forgiving. I’ve come to realize that the very love we set out to lavish on our children is best modeled by our children themselves. My boys have  been my greatest teachers of unconditional love, second chances, and unflinching trust. They teach me that I can be the type of mother I so desperately want to be because they believe I already am. They teach me grace.

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