She is no longer a faceless, nameless, genderless, being- she is my daughter.
Feeling her soft tiny hands clinch tightly around my finger, waking up to her desperate cry, hearing her heartbeat on my chest, and watching her grow right before my eyes has shown me that as much as I knew in my mind she was a gift… She felt a little like an unopened one. In theory, I knew exactly what I was going to get, but at the same time I had absolutely no idea. All the “cliche” things I would hear about children- How they change your life in an instant, how they give life new meaning, how they are a bundle of joy- all of those overused phrases became beautiful and personal realities to me.
Words can never come close to explaining the way that “last push” felt after all the waiting, the pain, and the anticipation. The other hundred of pushes mattered no more once the final one took place. The one that led to the nurses cheering “its a girl!” The one that meant finally seeing her face and actually feeling her skin against mine. The one that caused me to look over and see Kyle’s face flooded with the best kind of tears.
Reese Avery Lewis.
This once undesired gift was now opened and revealed, and she instantly brought something much different than resentfulness and regret.
I am not trying to glamorize it all or paint a false picture. Like I said in my blog (https://lewisvillelife.wordpress.com/2015/11/06/when-we-are-given-a-gift-we-do-not-desire/) I knew I could not bank on having a specific “moment of joy”. Namely, that moment of seeing her for the first time. I knew there were no guarantees for when and how that moment would come. I could have experienced instant panic or shock. I could have felt very disconnected to my baby. I could have hardly been able to stay awake when I first met her (which was very true).
Just like with pregnancy I know that every mother’s experience is very different. I know some experience overwhelming and ongoing happiness while others fight feelings of sadness and even deep depression. I know that just because you feel something in the hospital (negatively or positively) it does not speak to how your entire journey of motherhood will go. Or even just the first week of it. I anticipate it being filled with both joyful moments and mundane days, phases and seasons, highs and lows. But two things I am learning so far as I begin this journey:
1. Mothering is a unique opportunity to die to self and recognize our own neediness. At the very start, when a woman finds out she is pregnant, it is an initial call to die to self. It can mean giving up a whole host of things: favorite foods/drinks, desired body, comfort, flexibility (in schedule and physically), and maybe even some dreams, relationships, and reputations. And as soon as that baby has entered the world, there are endless opportunities to die to self. I have not been a mom for long at all and I have already failed many times at this. I have become selfish and impatient. I have grown weary. Not all my tears have been filled with joy. I have wrongly chosen self. But God’s grace is truly sufficient to meet every need. When the baby cries at 4am. When a freshly washed shirt is spit up on. When it takes 20 minutes longer to go anywhere. When feelings of inadequacy and thoughts of comparison creep in. When it all feels meaningless and unfulfilling. His grace is sufficient to meet the hourly need to die to self. To give, to love, to serve, and to keep on. The humbling truth is that I need others and ultimately I need my Father. I have to continue to tell my heart, “Natalie, you NEED God. You really do.” Reese’s helplessness is only a pale, small, and human-level picture of my neediness and reliance on God.
2. Shewas worth it. Right now I feel an overwhelming sense of it. But even when I do not and will not, I know she is. I know she was worth it because she has value and purpose. I know it ultimately because she was God’s doing. God’s timing. He gave her for mine and Kyle’s good, and His own glory. Our good might mean losing what we wanted for ourselves. Our good might cause lots of pain. But the kind of good that can only come from an all knowing Creator and intimately loving Father. Kyle has been struck again and again by this scenario as parents: when Reese wants and needs to eat but refuses to do so when we try to help her. I know, and have, the good that will make her satisfied but she stubbornly refuses to “trust and take”. This can be so maddening. I want her to understand. I want to tell her I am not withholding her good, but that I am ready and wanting to give it to her. And when she is older I desperately want her to know that there are rules not just to restrict and constrain. I want her to know that it goes even further than just wanting to keep her from harm, but that I actually desire her ultimate GOOD. The absolute best for her. Even if it hurts. Even if she does not like it in the moment. Reese was worth it because she is a truly good gift, the very best gift for us at the very best time… even when I did not feel it and even on the days to come when I do not feel it. Our desire as parents for Reese’s good is only a pale, small, and human-level picture of God’s desire for our good as His children through Christ.
We thank God for so graciously answering our prayer and making Reese such a delight to us. He has softened our hearts and given us the deepest of affections for this little life.
He did not have to do that.
He did not have to do it so quickly.
Wrapped up in this tiny human being is someone who has brought a new sense of beauty, meaning, wonder, awe, and depth to our life. She is fearfully and wonderfully made. She is unique and intricate. There will never be another her.
I already love this gift that I did not desire.