The First One

In life, firsts are exciting. Your first day of high school, your first car. Your first job. No matter what it may be, it’s just a little bit better when those first-time jitters are present, hopping around in your stomach. But it’s also exciting to be the first one! The first one to dip a spoon into a brand new jar of peanut butter. The first one to cross a finish line. The first one to try something new.

God has a plan for each and every one of our lives, and it just so happens that his plan for me was to be the first one. First one of my friends to get engaged. First one of my family to move out of state. First one of mine and Trigg’s siblings to have a baby, which also means first to give a grandchild to both sets of grandparents (and great-grandchild to my grandma). As I mentioned earlier, these are all exciting things. But being the first to cross the finish line means there will be a period of time when you stand there alone as the other runners catch up to you.

Sometimes it’s hard to be the first one. It was hard to move away and see my friends rooming together in college. While they remained close, I was miles away in the middle of planning a wedding, choosing a place to live with my soon-to-be husband, and trying to make new friends. New friends my age were surprised to learn that I was engaged. New friends married or engaged were surprised to learn that I was so young. I was the first one.

Now, years have passed, and many of my friends are married. You can imagine their excitement and the excitement of my family as Trigg and I announced that we were having a baby! Sweet Nellie is surrounded by friends and family who go above and beyond to love on her. So many women have been there for me time and time again—already in just these short seven months. And yet, once again I find myself across the finish line from everyone else. Friends and family who are mothers have had experience raising babies—but all of their babies are grown up. Friends my age who are there for me haven’t had babies yet—and if you are a mother, then you’ll understand why this matters. I’m the first one.

The first month of Nellie’s life was the hardest month of my life—but it taught me so much. First, and most importantly, it taught me that I can get through ANYTHING in this life—bring it on—as long as I have my Jesus to lean on. And since in His word it says He will never leave me or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6), I don’t have anything to worry about.

Next, I learned that postpartum is stinking hard, people.

H. A. R. D.

And every single mommy has to get through it. Now it just wouldn’t do to be angry with God for making me “the first one” to have a baby, since, as I said, He was the One to bring me through it, after all. So instead, I’m focusing on the realization of just what a blessing I’ve been handed.

I know postpartum. I have experience teaching a baby to nurse (and failing to teach a baby to nurse, at first). I know how it feels to take that little “bundle of joy” home and wonder why your “joy” is hidden beneath so much fear. I know what it’s like to distort motherhood into this unrealistic picture of supermom—the woman who always knows why her baby is crying and never needs naps. And I know what I wish I had after having a baby. What nobody—perhaps not even myself—knew that I needed.

People.

People—mothers and non-mothers—to be there for me when I thought I didn’t need them—or at least thought I wasn’t supposed to need them. When I was too embarrassed to admit that I didn’t have it all together. People to take time out of their day to bring a meal for my family. People to hold my baby while I cry (yes, it happens) and let me get some rest. And mothers to stand by me and say,

You’re doing great. Your baby loves you so much. Keep it up, momma.

Being “the first one” means that I didn’t have any friends in my stage of life to share postpartum with. But God put all of the right people in my path to make it quite clear to me that He doesn’t want it to be that way. So now, on the other side of this finish line looking back, I’m ready. I’m ready for all of the new mommies who don’t yet know that it’s okay not to have it all together, and it’s okay to need other people. And when they need me, I’m ready for them. I’m ready to be there for each momma, holding her baby while she cries and saying,

You’re doing great. Your baby loves you so much. Keep it up, momma.

 

-Cari

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Teaching them to crawl

“Come on, Nellie, come on!” I coax, as I flap my arms excitedly. She flashes me a huge gummy smile as her arms and legs fly into the air. She starts to flail.

“No, sweetie, you have to keep your arms and legs on the ground. It’s your tummy that should be in the air! Like this!” I lay flat on my stomach and dramatically lift my stomach higher until I’m on my hands and knees in a crawling position.

More flailing.

Nellie doesn’t know how to crawl–yet. But I do. And as her mom, I want to do everything in my power to help her learn. So I coax, and I demonstrate, and I encourage. I place countless toys just inches out of reach. And so far, Nellie has responded in the same way every time:

Flailing.

Nellie doesn’t understand my words. She may not be strong enough or coordinated enough to copy my movements. And yet, on any given day of the week, you could come upstairs to Nellie’s room and find me sprawled out on the floor motioning frantically for Nellie to crawl to me.

Why is this? Because I care for my daughter. I want her to learn. I want her to explore. I want her to be mobile. And I want to be a part of her process–that is, the process of her learning to crawl. All of these are good things, but at the end of the day, Nellie has to crawl on her own. She has to understand the need to keep her arms and legs on the ground…on her own. And she has to build up the strength to lift her tummy off of the ground.

My desire to show Nellie how to crawl–and ultimately the realization that I can’t really show Nellie how to crawl–has helped me to reach an important understanding.

One day, Nellie is going to face a challenge in her life. She won’t know what to do. I’ll want to hold her hand and lead her forward–to coax her and encourage her. I know I’ll try my best to help her in any way–to give her every answer that I have. But when that day comes, I won’t be able to fix all of her problems, whether I have the answers or not. It will be up to her. My precious girl.

It is on that day that I hope I remember these afternoons on the floor of her room. All of the prodding and flailing. I hope I remember that as much as I love her and want what’s best for her, there are certain areas of her life that a mother can’t control. But that doesn’t mean I have to get off of the floor. Because although right now Nellie hasn’t figured out what I’m trying to tell her, one day she will.

And one day she will crawl.