How to Pray in the ER

Sitting alone in a dim emergency room, cordoned off by a sliding glass door and curtain for privacy. I have been here before, but never alone. The last time, I was 22, and surrounded by not only my parents, but all three of my younger siblings. I didn’t know then that I’d long for so much chaos.

I’ve sent Gabe home. He wanted to wait in the parking lot because you never know how long the ER will take — you hope it will be quick and I’ll be running out there with a relieved skip in my step. Go home, I say over the phone, feed the baby and put her to bed. It’ll be awhile.

I sit and I wait. What will they detect? What dark, amorphous shadow will they discover in my lungs? Will it be large, so big they hook me up to an IV? Is surgery looming? Or will it be small? Small enough to terrify, but small nonetheless? Or, hope against hope, will it be nothing? Just two lungs working hard but not broken, filling to not-quite-capacity, but all systems go?

No one told me Covid could cause blood clots. For all the reading and listening I’ve done over the past 11 months, I have never encountered this fact. I knew to watch for a fever, for difficulty breathing. It was this — the hitch in my breath when I breathed too deeply, the thick choking cough — that made me call my midwife, and then my primary care, and then the respiratory specialist. Not till I sat with the specialist did I hear the word “clot” or “given your history,” and not till then did I realize there could be far more wrong than Covid.

The tv hanging above the door is dark, and I have no desire to turn it on. I have no book, no distraction other than my phone. Social media holds no enticement, and I look at the clock. How to be patient? Is the doctor looking at the images now? The CT results clear to him but unknown to me? I worry I was forgotten, as though they could forget the pregnant woman, positive with Covid-19, possible blood clot. As though there were any sort of hubbub in the small hospital at all.

The hands on the clock tick, so time is passing. No one checks on me. I was told half an hour to read the results forty-five minutes ago. I practice a deep breath. There it is: the catch, the cough.

The anxiety of waiting.

Picturing my daughter eating dinner with Gabe and my mother, babbling away, asking where I am. Or not asking, because fear doesn’t yet exist.

The first time, as I learned I had a blood clot in my thoracic outlet, I floated. I was young enough to have never thought of clots and healthy enough to think I could will myself back to health. Death was possible (as it is always), and in the days and weeks afterwards as I took my daily blood thinner, I wrestled with my fear of Death in a real and profound way.

I would miss my family, my parents and brothers and sister.

I would miss my friends.

I would miss the future I had imagined and was just now beginning to realize.

This time, ten years later, I am 32 years old.

I would miss all those things, but this time, my little girl is being tucked into her crib by her grandmother.

This time, my husband waited in a freezing cold car because he didn’t want to leave me alone at the hospital.

This time, a new life spins and swirls within me, refusing to let me forget that my lungs breathe for two.

Something my mother did very well was teach me how to comfort myself: You need to make a list of things that make you feel better. And when you’re upset, look at that list and choose one thing.

So I start singing.

It is soft, almost a whisper, and I am surprised that with such tired lungs I am able to sing whole lines. Words flow from me, from my memory. I can’t pray because I have no energy left to create. Instead, I receive the words passed down to me, and I both use them to soothe and offer them as prayer.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

that saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now am found,

was blind but now I see.

Hymn after hymn filling my little room just loud enough for me alone to hear. And as I sing, I realize what a gift I have been given: to have words within me when I have none of my own. Our minds are so malleable, so open. It’s easy to forget that what we read and see is imprinted in our brains. The headlines that are keeping me awake at night — I fill my mind with things that torment me. Yet, here I am in a hospital bed, and years ago I had been given words of comfort and rejoicing for a time such as this.

Suddenly, I remember my great grandmother. At 105, she had little memory left. On good days, we had sweet conversations that replayed enough for me to anticipate the next line. On bad days, she didn’t remember which great-granddaughter I was. What she always seemed to remember were the words to the hymns I played on the piano, her tired but lively voice singing words that were not her creation, but were hers nonetheless. Her mind was often not with us, but the words emblazoned there 100 years ago reminded us of her soul.

Processed with Focos

When the doctor comes back, saying “No blood clots, but your lungs are covered in Covid pneumonia,” I rejoice. I want to reach out and hug him. How odd to rejoice over that! But blood clots are far, far worse, and my prayers, humbly and perhaps awkwardly lifted up, had been received and lovingly answered. When the nurse leaves, I remove the EKG pads myself, toss them in the trash, gather up my clothes. I bend down (with difficulty) to tie my boots, and walk out of the ER with a huge smile on my face.

Evangeline is asleep when I get home, and I don’t wake her. How I want to hold her in my arms! To snuggle her soft head against my face. Instead, I eat reheated macaroni and cheese on the couch. I tell my mom and husband about singing in the ER and what a strange experience it was. Eventually, I go to bed, trusting that I will get to hold my daughter in the morning.

On Being Finite and Turning 32

“I hate self-reflection,” someone told me the other day. I pushed her to give me details, to figure out where the discomfort lay. As someone who has never been able to avoid self-reflection, no matter how hard I try, I was fascinated.

It seems to me that thinking about who we are, why we do what we do, and processing experiences is just a part of being human. The word “self” in front of anything can feel like navel-gazing, and I can’t deny that this is a pitfall for me. But to do without debriefing life? This seems rather empty.

Because reflection has always been second nature, I knew something was wrong when I stopped remembering. What did we have for dinner last night? I made plans for this afternoon? Along with this forgetfulness came my inability to verbalize what was wrong. Gabe’s patience is legendary, and I tried to tell him what was going on, but for the first time in a long time, I just didn’t know.

Planners – Sacred Ordinary Days

I asked for a copy of The Sacred Ordinary Planner for Christmas. As the world demands attention, other things have been neglected. God has not shouted at me, but he has been whispering, and nothing points me back to Him more than my insufficiencies. It is not judgment I feel — although, perhaps at times I should — but more God quietly reminding me that I am finite.

There are many ways that this finitude has come to light. Multiple times a week, I need to remind myself that I cannot heal other people’s relationships, that I cannot be the best (or favorite) teacher of every student, and that not sticking to a budget 100% does not make me a weak person. The most glaring of these though, is the daily work of mothering. I never knew I had a strong imagination; as a little girl, I longed to have dreamworlds like L. M. Montgomery’s characters, castles in the sky I could escape to when I was lonely. I didn’t know that my imagination just took me elsewhere: to a farm with rolling orchards and familial partnership, to writing and publishing books someday, to singing opera in a sparkly navy gown (before I even really knew what opera was).

Likewise, I didn’t know that I have imagined what kind of mother I would be long before I became one. Not in some tangible, obvious way. Becoming a mother felt so far off for awhile that I forgot it was a possibility. It’s more that I imagined This Other Me who would suddenly appear, with patience and creativity and endless joy. I imagined easily floating through days where my children learned, where I created, and where we all grew in a bond of mutual admiration and respect.

This is not to say that these things never happen. Evangeline is without question a delightful child. Her weaknesses are beginning to show; her humanity is peeking through her demands, through her longing to connect. It is more that I am still me, and I struggle with being at the beck and call of anyone, let alone a little girl under three feet tall. I remember that attachment is healthy, that flour flying all over the floor and counter is worth Evangeline feeling the thrill of baking, of being a helper. I remember these things, and I seek connection with others who feel the same way. There is no other way for me to be, so how to refine the way I am?

When I sit down to write in my planner, I don’t yet know quite how to use it. Do I make lists? Set goals? Describe whatever inner landscape I’m experiencing that day? I keep missing days, and the amount of reflection that is required at the beginning of each week feels impossible: Reflect On This Week — Reset Next Week.

How can I do this when each week feels daunting?

How can I devote energy to reflection when all my energy has been sucked up by work and by others and by my own exhausting cyclical thinking?

When rest feels unattainable, and 5:30AM comes too soon?

I turn 32 today. An unremarkable number, although prettier than 31, I would argue. As I read the lectionary yesterday morning with the book resting on my belly, the little life inside me kicked against it. I won’t read into the action — as tempting as it may be — but I will reflect on the burgeoning of new life even within the body of an aging one. God speaks in many ways, and maybe one of those ways is a tiny baby’s movements, the rolling of a growing belly.

Every morning, the first thing Evangeline does when I pick her up her from her crib is bend down and kiss my belly.

“Baby kiss!” she says gleefully.

To distill her joy and make it available to everyone. To bottle it up and save it for myself on rainy days when tears come and problems feel unsolvable. I know she will eventually encounter life. She will meet people who hurt her — I will hurt her — and she will begin to feel the more complex emotions of adolescence and adulthood. But a little part of me wonders if perhaps one of her greatest gifts will always be her joy, and if that is what she will use to change her world.

I turn 32 today. We will eat takeout, reminisce about the past year, and dream towards the future, towards spring, towards new life. It will be hard for me to turn off my work brain and turn on my home brain. We will be exhausted by a little voice that repeats, by a little body that wants to be near, by refusal to eat dinner and demands for “Chocolate!” But I know that I will look up at Gabe across the room and smile, because the things in our life that take the most work are the things that are worth it.

A Poem for Election Day

It’s not the first time I’ve voted
but it is the first time
it has felt like a funeral — faces
grim, strained
looking down at phones
as the long line winds around the corner
(corners) and the cold November wind
whips dead leaves whirling
down the sidewalk.

Yet, this isn’t the saddest thing
about this day. That, instead,
is the empty preschool playground
I stand beside; the sun-bleached
picnic table picnic-less since March,
the fence leaning, the swing-set empty,
the imagined children’s voices.

Accidentally Curated

My journal is falling apart. Partly from natural causes (it’s hardcover, and those seem to get hit harder by life), but partly from unnatural causes (Evangeline discovered she can slip her little finger under the spine and I think she’s addicted to the glorious feeling of destruction). I found this particular journal at the bookshop downtown. It’s much larger than I usually use, but I loved that it didn’t have lines. I’d gotten it in my head I could be more creative without lines, that somehow I would begin to channel my artist friends and write in circles, sideways, and doodle in beautiful colors. This of course never happened. All the blank space just invited me to write in various sizes and lean my lines at slants and cause general visual mayhem. It does not look artistic.

My very first journal opens with an entry about learning to ride my bike. I am five years old. I remember the day vividly: my father holding on to the back of the bike, giving instructions, my extreme frustration. Hardly any of this is in the entry, except for a sentence about my dad helping me learn. The other thing that isn’t there?

The fact that my little brother, a mere three-year-old, zoomed past me as I struggled to keep my balance.

He learned how to ride a bike the same day I did. I remember watching him zip along the sidewalk at daring angles, even while I could barely muster the courage to go down the slight hill. My fear of risk showed early, but it didn’t show up in my journal.

I’ve been thinking about the curated life a lot lately. Stay-at-home did many things to me — many things for me — and one of those things is that it made me more attached to my phone, to the internet, and to the world. I started most weekday mornings with NPR while I made my coffee and Evangeline’s breakfast, I moved to Facebook and Instagram when I wasn’t teaching or in a zoom meeting, and I listened to podcasts about the ills of our nation, our world.

Social media grew into something I had never experienced before. Suddenly, what we posted was barometer of our politics and our hearts. What we did not post was a measure of the same. I would hover over a post, wondering if I should like it.

What does it say about me if I like this?

Who will feel supported?

Who will feel ignored?

I got up in my head, thought far too much about how I appeared, and realized there was no way to present my full life — my full self — on a screen. My likes or comments could be misconstrued, and in turn, flatten me into a self that lacked natural human nuance. I started to question the carefully constructed profiles, not as one new to the fact that they exist, but as someone wondering if they are merely a symptom of something greater.

I am always curating my life, whether it’s online, in person, or in my own head.

What I choose to talk about, how I say it, what I highlight, all these things add up to a particular story with a particular slant.

It doesn’t stop when I close the computer or when I put down the cell phone. It doesn’t stop when I finish a telling a story that is factually true but has a twist. And it doesn’t stop when I’m all alone, thinking over my day, or maybe, my life. When I watch short videos I’ve recorded on my phone — moments captured because I knew they would be sweet — I realize how different iPhone recordings are from the camcorder home movies of my childhood: long, tedious vhs tapes with rambling conversations, absent-minded half-hours with the camcorder on the floor while child-feet wander in and out of view. Those home movies are so much closer to life than the ones I’ve been capturing in 15 or 20 seconds. They are not all of an adorable little girl filled with joy. Having my phone at the ready is amazing, and I am so grateful. Yet, it allows me to create multiple “perfect” moments without context. Likewise, my journals are carefully shaped even if it is subconscious, and my own mind seems to be shaped, too. How I tell the story of myself to myself is a strange thing to behold.

So what, you might ask? What does this matter? I am not sure. I know through counseling and the courses I took that the narrative we tell ourselves is important: it crafts our sense of self and what we tell either empowers or degrades us. I also know that what I present of myself online is incomplete, so I can only assume that what others present is incomplete, as well.

None of this is revolutionary, but as I anticipate a winter with less human interaction and more lit-up snippets to swipe past, it feels even more important to remember. People are flesh and blood, with stories and dreams and pain. Journals may brush over them, posts may be beautifully constructed, and even the voice in our heads may have a certain way of hiding the truth, but that doesn’t change the fact that nuance, gray area, and paradox seem to be at the heart of human experience.

Repetition

I take a deep breath. I close my eyes, but only briefly, because my daughter is standing by my knees, her arms stretched up up up. She has just dropped a hard book in my lap for the fifth time, and no, it is not a different book. It is the same book, the one I would never choose, the one the doctor’s office gave us to teach her about musical instruments. She couldn’t care less about the musical instruments, no matter how much I try to connect the real live piano with the representation of a little red piano in her book. She flips past these pages with a determined goal: to get to the pages with babies. Once there, she points her perfectly straight, amazingly tiny pointer finger smack-dab in the middle of their faces and shouts “bahbah” as loudly and joyfully as I’ve said anything in my life.

And here she is, begging me to read this book again. To say the instrument names over, even as she hurriedly turns the page before I can get the words out. I think for a moment of the good old days — last week — when her book of choice was From Head to Toe by Eric Carle, or even further back, The Very Hungry Caterpillar? How could I have been so foolish as to bemoan reading those colorful, sing-songy, semi-narrative books? Oh to go back to last week!

Do not worry. Of course I picked her up. Of course I set aside my desire to read my own book (On Beauty by Zadie Smith, and my, I am now reeling at the end of it) and instead managed to read-in-full three of the ten pages before she lost interest, snapped the book shut, and shimmied down my calves to the rug, off on another living room adventure. Every time this happens, I stare at her, my head a bit tilted in awe that this darling creature thinks nothing of abrupt demands and even more abrupt declarations of utter boredom.

As with most things right now, even this has two sides — one annoying, one endearing. I’ve been reading How to Raise a Reader (“The New York Times” has an online guide), and the authors state that even this flipping through, this gazing at pictures, this baby-babbling is, indeed, reading. The other day, just as I sat down in my white chair with a bowl of cereal, she toddled over with a book grasped in both hands (this one, I think, was Chicka Chicka Boom Boom), and I said, “Evangeline, Mama’s eating breakfast. I’ll read to you after, okay?” I said this with no thought that she would listen, understand, and back away peacefully. But she did. She looked at me a moment, then turned around, plopped down on the floor, and opened the book on her splayed legs. She read to herself, and I chewed my outrageously loud granola and watched with wonder. Maybe the monotony of reading the same book all day for a week was instilling some sort of independence. Maybe I wouldn’t regret the majority of the time I stop doing what I’m doing to gather her in my lap and read. Maybe I’d never have to read that silly musical instrument book again.

This is Day 36 of our social distancing, Day 36 of us waking up together in our cozy home (when the furnace doesn’t stop working in the middle of the night), Day 36 of oatmeal with apricots for breakfast and Zoom calls and FaceTime and hollers across the street with neighbors.

There is so much the same. Over and over again, I do laundry (well, really, over and over again I should do laundry), and the number of dishes this tiny family accumulates by the end of the day is monumental. I simultaneously wish Evangeline would please, please, choose another book, and look back with nostalgia at the various little things she’s already outgrown. I have an up-close look at her movements through time, and as I watch her try again to stack a book on top of her sippy cup, I think about how she has no idea what is going on in the world. To her, this is some lucky turn-of-events: both parents home, all the time, and in no rush to go anywhere. She doesn’t understand when we listen to the news in the morning, when I get melancholy in the afternoons, or when she reaches out to touch her grandparents’ faces, why all she feels is a screen.

I remember a poem I wrote after college. The main event is washing brown eggs in the kitchen sink with the pads of my fingers, but the underlying feeling is repetition. I tried to write about the mundane, repetition, and joy. I thought I knew what those things were, how they overlapped. I didn’t know yet about Brother Lawrence or his book The Practice of the Presence of God, and so it was like discovering something for the first time with my own heart and hands (I am growing more careful to value these discoveries as different from those made second-hand; it is too easy to dismiss personal revelations [non-divine] because others have already had them).

Now, nearly ten years later, and I am re-learning the soul of my poem. I am re-learning the wisdom of Brother Lawrence. Evangeline knows nothing of this, or, maybe, she knows it all — the joy on her face when we do the simplest things.

In the Garden

I write this wrapped in a blue blanket in our little white house. My arms still fit around a sleeping baby, but it’s not as easy as it was a few months ago. Her breathing is a bit labored (remnants of a difficult morning), and the twitch of her hands against my stomach feel like the movement of life.

We’d made plans to visit in August. She was already five months old, and I knew my great uncle would love to hold her. A trip to Portland always made me happy (there’s something about driving over the Piscataqua that turns me into a seven-year-old in summertime), but I knew we’d only be able to stay a short while. Uncle Alan was not doing well, and the last thing I wanted was to tire him out.

It didn’t happen. We got a message — he’s in the hospital, he’s so sad he can’t see you — and I wrote saying we’d see him soon.

I saw my Uncle Alan for the last time on Friday.

Evangeline saw him for the first and last.

I had this image in my head: little Evangeline sitting on her great-great-uncle’s lap, him laughing his full-belly laugh, the sheer size of him filling the hospice room.

When I got there, I was embarrassed by my childishness. A man in hospice does not laugh with his whole body. He does not hold an infant on his knee.

But he did smile. He did know who we were. He did talk to us. But there were so many things I wanted to say and couldn’t.

I will miss your sweet birthday notes on Facebook. I’m surprised how much I looked forward to them. I am surprised at your genuine love.

I wish I were as joyful as you were. I’m sure you had dark moments (who doesn’t), yet you emanated peace.

What will happen to our family history when you’re gone? Who will curate our memories with such care, such attention to detail, and such deep adoration for those who came before?

I will treasure the old books you gave me at graduation. I will keep your notes throughout the years. I pray my daughter has someone in her life who gives her beautiful things and encouraging letters.

I will never forget how you supported my writing. It started with my little magazine, “Ruminations,” and your subscription and dedicated reading of a silly girl’s silly writing. But it continued. I’ll miss thinking of you reading this blog, each entry like a conversation I hope to have.

I never thought I’d be a teacher, and yet how could I avoid it? With such a gifted, influential educator in my family, how could I not be born with a little inkling of teacherness?

The thing I’m learning about mourning is that after the first experience, it is never isolated again. Grief piles on grief, death conflates with life conflates with death, and each time I mourn someone I love, I find myself mourning all those who died before. I cry for my uncle and my aunt and cousins he leaves behind, but also for my Grampa long-gone, my Great-Gramma, for the very fact that everyone I love will die. I look at my baby and I cannot believe it.

Now, when I garden, my grandfather is there. Now, when I garden, my great-uncle will be there, too. When I thin rows of carrots, I see my Grampa sitting on an overturned bucket, doing the same. When I choose flowers for my bees and the hummingbirds, I will see my Uncle Alan and his beautiful gardens. “In the Garden” joins “How Great Thou Art” as songs that conjure an entire person every time I sing them. My Dad will help me pass on these familial traditions to my daughter, and even though she may feel removed from those who came before, she will know them in stories, in music, and in gardens.

We’ll miss you, Uncle Alan.

Fire in Her Belly

It was a simple print hung on the wall of a house I hardly knew. I was fourteen, I think, maybe fifteen, and I saw it as I was leaving. The black ink outline of a woman’s full, pregnant body, the orange flame of fire inside. I must have looked confused, or maybe I asked outright: “What is this?” because the woman who lived there tried to explain.

Mary, human body filled with fire, Jesus, Holy Spirit, pregnant with fire, flesh.

I wasn’t much older than fifteen because I was unable to understand. Art — like life — was still two-dimensional, and the idea that an image that wasn’t real could represent the true was too hard for me to comprehend.

I still see that image every Advent, burned into my memory like the fire in her belly.

Last Advent, I, too, was expecting my first child. I basked in the joy of sharing that time with the Church calendar, and I loved that we had much to wonder about. Many of our questions have been answered (she has Gabe’s eyes, my smile, and her own sense of rhythm), but there are still so many. Every morning, she wakes up new, and just when I think I have mastered this parenting thing, she changes the rules. I am grateful that we have been able to make her life beautiful and comfortable, even while so many parents struggle to fill their children’s tummies.

Last Advent, I sang in a stretched-thin gold dress for three nights. I ran out of breath on nearly every musical line, but my voice felt strong. The baby liked the music. I was happy to squeeze a six-month belly into my old concert dress.

This Advent, I had a dream of her sitting in the concert, her eyes wide with delight. I thought she would love it. Gabe, even, thought it was doable. So he dressed her in a plaid Christmas dress and tights and sweater.

She made it through the first song. She didn’t want to listen to us, she wanted to sing with us.

That’s the problem with a baby who’s used to singing: she doesn’t know when to stop.

I use the term “singing” lightly. She scream-sings, shout-sings, utters every single emotion she experiences with her voice. She doesn’t know how not to interact with people — how to just let them be — and so she is apparently a difficult concert baby (which is to be expected at nine months, I suppose).

I was sad to see them get up and leave the room, but also relieved.

Did you hear that baby in the back? Ruined every single cadence.

After Gabe took her out (they paced the entryway for a bit, went downstairs, listened through the floors), we sang a set about flowers, the idea of Mary as a Rose, Christ as a Rose. The lines flooded over me.

There is no rose of such virtue
As is the rose that bare Jesu,
Alleluia.

For in this rose contained was
Heaven and earth in little space,
Res miranda.

Here it was again: “For in this rose contained was Heaven and earth in little space.”

Fire in her belly.

Res miranda — marvelous thing!

As Madeleine L’Engle says, “I do not understand the incarnation. I rejoice in it.”

This is beyond my understanding. It is beyond my reason. I remember feeling the baby move inside me and wondering who this baby would become. How much harder would it have been to allow Jesus to become who he was? Just as I wrote last spring, she is her own, and Mary must have wrestled with the same feelings I have: This is my baby, and yet he is not. He was the fire in my belly, and yet…

I often think what a terrifying honor to hold the Son of God in your womb. Then I think what a terrifying honor to hold any human in your womb. I think of the women who desire a child but aren’t able to carry one. I think of the babies who aren’t wanted. I think of my own mother, the exhaustion, the stress, the deep ache of love. I yearn for a world where hearts are not broken.

Maybe we all have fire in our bellies.

Grocery Tale

I didn’t want to go grocery shopping. The baby was fussy and she’d finally fallen asleep in the car, so I put the whole car seat in the cart instead of carrying her in the sling. Market Basket is always busy, but not quite as bad in the middle of a Wednesday. As I walked through the door, I immediately felt angrier. People are going to get in my way. A woman looked at the baby and said “Oooo, a baby,” and then kept walking. That is so weird. I only needed a handful of things. I tried to walk in an organized way through the aisles so I would not need to backtrack. I decided not to get two bags of string cheese for my husband. I saw a woman who looked very sad, and I wondered if I looked sad. I didn’t feel sad, but sometimes you don’t look how you feel. I saw a man approaching me with his cart. He’s not going to stop. He’s going to make me stop. I got angry. He looked up at me. He stopped his cart and smiled. I was embarrassed. “Thank you,” I said. He kept smiling.

She is Her Own

I’m not good at using stolen moments. They creep up on me unannounced and suddenly she is gazing entranced at the moving ceiling fan or sleeping soundly in her narwhal swaddle. I’m never sure how long they’ll last, and too often I fill them with scrolling through various websites rather than doing soul-feeding work or soul-soothing rest.

[Like right now, for instance, the baby has been sleeping peacefully in her bassinet for nearly an hour. As soon as I start typing, it’s as though she hears the clicking of the keys and thinks: This is no good. I should definitely be hungry now.]

[Twenty minutes, one bottle, one huge burp, and some intense spit-up later…]

There are so many times that have been absolutely lovely these past few weeks. I can’t explain what an immediate change came over me when she smiled for the first time. Suddenly I was no longer an unnoticeable feeding machine. I had become a Being with whom she wanted to communicate (and by “communicate” I mean beyond the sweet whimpers of loneliness and the screams of hunger). Suddenly it was much easier to get up in the middle of the night when I knew she would look up at me with the darling love of a tiny baby. And then she started with the smallest of “coos” and I was hooked.

And yet.

There is a lot of repetition. Feed, burp, clean spit-up, change diaper, repeat. Over and over I am forced to learn patience and perseverance.

[Once, the baby was screaming for food before I could get to her. Her grandmother leaned in and said, “Patience, Evangeline, it’s a fruit of the Spirit.” She will not learn patience from me, that’s for sure. Perhaps we will learn it together.]

There are times when I feel bored. This, of course, makes me feel deeply guilty, as though boredom means lack of love. I immediately cuddle my baby to assuage my inner judge. She smiles at me even now from her inclined pillow, and I am reminded that she is perfectly content. We are living alongside each other. She looks around, flails her arms, smiles, and I am able to write and try to remember our separateness as truth and gift.

We are forever entwined, but separate, and this is both terrifying and liberating.

I realized not long after she was born that I was in for a lifetime of walking a tightrope of worry and love. I am no longer responsible for only myself. This little one depends on us for everything, and the thought makes me lose my breath.

But then I remember her autonomy. Her dreams. Her future.

They are not mine.

They are hers to dream up, to build, to live.

She is her own.

I may be overwhelmed at times with the mundane, but I am blown away by the miracle that is this young one who is both of us and neither of us at the same time.