One year ago tonight, I went into labor. My water broke and, a whirlwind nine hours later, we held our sweet son, McCoy. The minute I saw him, I felt like I already knew him. I wrapped my arms around his tiny 7-pound body and, suddenly years of worrying that my arms weren’t toned enough or my hands weren’t feminine melted away. I felt like my limbs were made for this very moment, this very purpose.
I held him on my chest for hours, which felt like seconds. When the nurse suggested I give Chris the opportunity for a little skin-to-skin contact, I thought: but he’ll be so far away from me.
And that’s how I’ve felt at every turn this year. A run without him? A half day away? A new babysitter? Each one stretched me, pushed me. My sister, Ashley, wisely told me this: know your limits. Some mamas need weekends away to be refreshed. Some just need nap time and a babysitter. There’s no right way to practice self-care besides knowing what’s best for you.
This year has stretched me to new lengths in so many ways. I didn’t know how great our capacity to love was. I feel like my heart has quadrupled in size. I also didn’t know how lonely new motherhood could feel or how out of control moments could be. I have to practice, daily, to loosen my grip, opening my hands just a little bit more.
I had no idea that McCoy’s joy would become mine. Or that his laughter would be so healing. Truly like honey to my soul.
I also had no idea how much the thought of the Earth without him would terrify me. It takes my breath away. I can’t imagine this world - the one I knew for 31 years before him - without his smile, his laugh, his precious face. It feels unbearable to even type that sentence.
Sometimes I want McCoy and Chris nearby because I think I can keep them safe if they’re within arms reach. It’s an embarrassing belief in myself, in my own control. I think if we can just maintain enough control and care and - perhaps - are good enough, bad things won’t happen to any of us.
But I know it’s not this way.
I realized early on that the practice of putting him down in his crib each day, away from me, would serve as a form of faith. He is no longer in my arms or under my watchful eye. I must trust that he is OK by himself. Someday, he’ll go to preschool or kindergarten and we’ll practice it again. And friends’ houses. And ride in cars. And go to college.
And I’ll be on my knees, each time, knowing that every bit of it is weaning him from me in a new way. It’s making me stronger in my faith and more inclined to trust the growing space between us.
So here we are, on the eve of his first birthday. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for 365 days with this precious soul, this beautiful face, this tiny mohawk. Our marriage is stronger with him in our life. Our love as a family has only grown deeper. And this world is brighter with him in it. I feel so honored to get to watch him grow.