The night Eloise was born was the night I learned to change a diaper. I had watched a handful of diapers get changed over the course of my life and I probably changed a diaper or two a long time ago when my mom was running a little daycare in our home, but I really learned how to do it from a nurse at Glendale Adventist who kindly walked me through it at midnight on June 25th. She also walked me through it at 2am, 4am and 6am. Because in my nervousness and fatigue I called her for help every single time Eloise needed to be changed, I also called her for help with swaddling Eloise. I don’t know if she had any other patients that night but if she did I should probably apologize to them for hogging all of her attention. She was an angel and I’m grateful we were admitted into the maternity ward during her shift because the nurses after her weren’t nearly as patient with me.
During the first week of Eloise’s life I learned how to push a stroller. I thought it would come naturally but no, like diaper changing, it is a skill and it required both learning and practicing. My classroom for stroller pushing was Foothill Boulevard and the lobby of the Sunland Starbucks. I would walk up Foothill toward the coffee shop, nervously trying to maneuver around cracks in the sidewalk because I was afraid of jolting the baby, then I would arrive at the door of Starbucks and attempt to open the door with one arm while pushing the stroller through with my other arm and hip. I was sure people would offer to help but I quickly discovered that people don’t assume moms need help, they assume we’ve got it, but unfortunately... I really didn’t have it. I was elated the day I watched another mom walk into Starbucks with her stroller and as usual nobody helped her, but she wasn’t phased, because instead of trying to go through the door front-in she turned around and backed herself and the stroller through the open door. It looked easy, made perfect sense, and I was thrilled because that woman had changed my life. New moms: back your stroller through doors, it is wayyyy easier! Unfortunately even after I learned the art of backing my way through entrances I still struggled with bumping into everyone and their chairs as I approached the cash register, but it seems that laughter and a bit of apologizing is sufficient for those situations. I found it also helps to show any potentially irritated people my baby, because only a Scrooge would stay annoyed at the sight of sweet Eloise.
I had mistakenly assumed that all other moms felt sure of themselves as they toted their babies on their hips while tackling things like grocery shopping, dinner making and posting instagram photos of their perfectly braided hair, but it's simply not true. While I’m sure there are a few moms who feel totally sure of themselves, most moms are not, and I’m one of them. I will say that as Eloise has grown, so has my confidence in parenting. I’ve never I felt like I know what I’m doing but I’ve grown more comfortable with the idea that my best guesses are good enough. Being that babies can’t talk yet our great challenge as moms is to interpret their sounds and squirms and tears, and then take appropriate action to soothe, nurture and distract them into feeling better. That’s no easy feat. It seems that every 3 weeks-ish Eloise is in a new stage of development which gives me about 2 and a half weeks of fumbling around until I finally get a grasp on her current “stage” and begin feeling like a professional mom, lasting about 3 days until Eloise changes again and I’m back in the familiar place of... “Oh crap ... I have no idea what I’m doing.”
Today Eloise is 6 months old. She says “Da-Da” and wiggles around a lot. She loves to stand, is most content around people and is perfectly happy being passed around a room. She still is strictly breast-fed, though last night Shaun and I picked up some jars of baby food to begin the adventure of real food. I’m not looking forward to smelly poop and her potential constipation but she seems very interested in my meals these days so I know that it's time. Her hair is cute, it looks a bit like a comb-over because it grows faster on top than it does everywhere else, but I trimmed it a little and have her in headbands most days so it works out. It has also gotten really light so it's basically a reverse ombre - light at the roots and dark on the ends. She is so hip. She smiles with a big open mouth and attempts to laugh all throughout the day. The best time to play with her is right when she wakes up because she talks and giggles and it's about the cutest thing you’ve ever seen. I have never bought her an outfit because everyone gives her clothes, but I’m most tempted to do it when we are in Baby GAP. Are you kidding me with those clothes? They are way too cute. Several people have said Eloise should be a Baby GAP model, and if that means they would give her a few free outfits I am all in.
For the last 6 months I have been needy. I have needed sleep and support and friends and prayers. I’ve needed somebody to open the door for me when I’m pushing our stroller and I've needed encouraging text messages reminding me that motherhood gets better. I have needed long hugs, special laundry detergent for sensitive skin, and a dairy-free diet to ease Eloise’s achy tummy. I’ve needed someone to watch the baby while I shower and someone to wash my shower while I watch the baby and I’ve needed things like a stroller, a carseat, and a crib to make life with Eloise possible. I've also needed Shaun more than ever. He has been nothing short of a dream husband, caring for Eloise and I both with an ease that makes it screamingly obvious he was born to be a dad, and while I know the demands of my neediness have been weighty, he has never made me feel guilty for my occasional melt-downs and ongoing insecurity in my new role. He has given me space and grace to come into motherhood in a way that best suits me, without comparing to me to anyone else, and I pray often that Eloise marries a man like her Daddy.
My favorite part about today being Eloise’s half birthday is that it is Christmas. It couldn’t be more perfect. Before Jesus came to earth people prophesied about Him saying He would be called Immanuel, meaning God with us. In the depths of my neediness that is exactly what I’ve longed for. My heart has yearned for God to be with me as I’ve taken on each of Eloise’s new stages, hoping His joy would fill me when the tasks of mama-hood feel lackluster, praying extra hard for Him to give me wisdom on the nights when Eloise won’t fall asleep and I can’t figure out why. Every evening before bed I sit in a rocking chair in the corner of Eloise's room and I nurse her. The room is quiet, smelling like lavender, and her warm little fingers pinch the skin on my chest as she drinks. It is in this time that I dream about everything she will grow up to be. Some nights I feel peaceful but many nights I feel afraid. My mind reels about things like terrorism and the always uncertain future, and again my neediness surfaces. I am desperate for God to quiet my anxious heart, and He does, in Immanuel. Christmas serves as a marker in our yearly calendar to remind us that God is not far off, He is near and He is generous. My neediness draws me to God in the same way that Eloise's hunger leads her to my chest and it is good. In love God gave His Son for us, and in love I give my daughter back to Him, raising her to know Him and trusting in Him along the way.
It is fitting that from now on and always I will spend Eloise’s half-birthday celebrating the birth of my Savior, the One who gave me the gift of motherhood and the One who is with me as I learn to walk it out.
Thank you Jesus for coming to save us,
thank you for Eloise Marie and thank you for meeting my needs.
I love you.
I love you.
Photos by @sarahgrunderphotography