The Edge of 30
On May 28, I met my son for the first time. Bradley Kyle Steele arrived just before 4:30 p.m. weighing in at a healthy 8 pounds, 14 ounces and measuring 19.5 inches long. In an instant, my world changed. He gazed intensely into my eyes when the nurses handed him to me for the first time, as if to remind me that we would forever be linked by blood and by love.
Of course, life has changed drastically since his birth. My outlook on life, too, has changed as I learn to care for a tiny, helpless (and very cute) little human. Here are my reflections from the first few weeks of motherhood:
Life is fragile and precious
As I labored in the delivery room, preparing to bring new life into the world, the concept of death surrounded me. I was in the same hospital in which my father, Brad, died nine years before from ALS. As I breathed through contractions with my husband at my side, my relatives were 90 minutes away in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, mourning the loss of my 40-something cousin Jade, who had passed away earlier that week after a battle with cancer. I felt their presence in the delivery room, and it strengthened me.
For my family and for me, the coincidences were a reminder of the circle of life described in Ecclesiastes 3. There is a time to be born and a time to die, a time to mourn and a time to dance. At every stage, life is precious and fragile, not to be taken for granted.
Labor is just the beginning
During pregnancy, it seemed like most of the preparation — besides decorating the nursery and buying cute baby items — revolved around delivery. My husband and I attended a month of birthing classes intended to educate us on the stages of labor, available pain-relief drugs and meditative breathing exercises. I felt ready when labor arrived, and I was able to have the epidural-free birth experience I’d hoped for. Then, the post-delivery pain set in. Uncontrollable waves of hormones caused me to break into tears at any moment. And the sleepless nights; these were things I wasn’t prepared for. I didn’t know how to cope, which brings me to my next observation:
Support is vital
I am an independent person who generally hates asking for help. Since I was on maternity leave and my husband, Chris, had to return to work fairly quickly after the birth, I wanted to tend to Bradley’s needs at night so “daddy” could get a full night’s rest.
It became obvious early on that this plan would not work. Our sweet Bradley was inconsolable during his first few nights home, and he wasn’t much of a day napper, either. It wasn’t long before I was running on fumes (and not very well). Chris volunteered to watch baby in shifts at nights until things improved. Bradley is just now starting to have nights where he sleeps more than he is awake, and Chris continues to stand guard from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. each night. I am so grateful to Chris for sacrificing his own much-needed sleep so that I can get a few more hours of shut-eye.
My mom and mother-in-law have also been invaluable. They’ve babysat (sometimes overnight), brought take-out, and been endlessly reassuring during my times of emotional struggle.
I thank God I have not had to do this parenthood thing alone. I wouldn’t be able to do it without them.
Newborns are hard, but it gets better
Every day with Bradley is a little easier, and every day the bond grows stronger. I love his sweet little hands and the way he cradles his face when he sleeps. I melt when he looks at me. He seems to be on the verge of his first smile.
I look forward to returning to my position as regional reporter for The Catholic Messenger in early August, but as I type this column from my living room, I am savoring the soft snores of my sleeping baby beside me in his favorite bouncer chair. Look for me to write about Bradley and my adventures in motherhood in future columns.
(Editor’s note: Lindsay Steele is a reporter for The Catholic Messenger. Contact her at email@example.com or by phone at (563) 888-4248.)