1. Birth changes you. I knew it would, but I didn't really know it yet - and I didn't know how. But I do now. I know that birth has made me respect and love my body more than ever before; it has given me a confidence and comfort in my shape and scars. I have been surprised to find that I do not mind the stretch marks or jiggly skin, the wider hips or the pouchy belly. I know I will never look the same, but I am proud. My body is a wonder, and I hope I won't ever again let anyone convince me that it isn't.
2. There is such thing as love at first sight. I had read birth stories - I know that parents say the love you feel for your child is just instantaneous and amazing. But it did sound really cheesy...and I wasn't sure if I was that kind of woman. But I am. What I didn't realize was that the love I feel for Zuzu, that I am sure all parents feel for their children, is just different than any other kind of love; it is a sudden and total concern for their well-being at every moment. Indeed, the love of a parent for a child is a model of love for all relationships, because true love is when we will the Best Good for the Beloved. In this age of objectification and selfishness, it takes work to love someone like this - until I had Zuzu it did anyway. Now it is second nature; my daughter has taught me how to love as God loves.
3. Every baby, and family, and birth, and everything, is unique. There are guidelines for everything - feeding, sleeping, birthing, recovery, bonding - but then there is the reality that each individual family experiences. The best part about being in a cocoon with my Susannah, Mr. O, my mom, and Jen has been that we can just figure things out - do things our way, figure out what works for us. I am embracing the freedom of creating my family and it's wonderful.
4. Having a baby is the foreshadowing of the Beatific Vision. The concept of the Beatific Vision has always puzzled me - that Heaven will be the eternal beholding of the face of God. It sounds beautiful, but for me as a finite being, it is also confusing - why would I want to look at anything for all of eternity? What good is there in just beholding something? Now I know. I could look at my child for hours - hours! I have to tell myself to go to sleep at night when she is asleep, when I would rather just look at her and marvel at her existence. When one is truly in love, the vision of the Beloved is consuming.
5. Children are an unmerited grace. I realize now that although Tom and I were allowed to participate in her creation, that Susannah is entirely from God, and entirely a gift, and entirely a blessing. There is a reason why Scripture only speaks of children as a blessing! Because they are, and what is more, they are one we could never hope to deserve. As I hold her, I know that there is nothing I could ever do to merit the honor of being her mother.
This is Mr. O's favorite thing about being a dad to a newborn - unlimited cuddle time!
6. My vocation is marriage and motherhood. I think everyone has those moments - those, am I really doing what God is asking me to do? moments. And although I have the incredible grace of being deliriously happy in my marriage, I have still had my moments where I wondered - did I insist on my will, or was this God's will? Now that she's here, I know. This is my calling - this is my road to sanctification - and it's so incredibly good!
7. Different does not mean worse. I had a good deal of curiosity, as y'all know, about the changes to my marriage. Although obviously there will be more changes as she grows and as our family grows, I know now - different is not worse. My husband and I's relationship has changed forever, but it is not worse. I still love him desperately, I still enjoy cuddling him and watching bad TV, I am still concerned about his well-being and happiness. Now we just have this amazing child that bonds us even more...now we get to share in our own mini-beatific vision. Now we are even more like those disciples on the Road to Emmaus, because we share this experience of parenthood, and so now can turn to one another and say "does not your heart burn within you?"
8. Beauty is not able to be bought or sold. Nothing is more beautiful than my child and my ability to care for her. I carried her, birthed her, and now feed her with my body. Her every sigh and smile is my delight. No one can bottle that and sell it, no one can change it with the changing trends, no one can even mar it with unkind words. Beauty is not at all what I thought it was - it is deeper.
9. It really does take a village. I have no idea what these five days would have been like without the absolute cadre of help we have received! From my incredible neighbors who came over and cleaned our house after we left for the birth center, to my mom who has cooked and cleaned every day since baby arrived (all while making sure I was drinking and caring for myself), to my amazing friend Jen (who cut her fun roadtrip short when Zuzu made it clear she wasn't waiting for anyone) who has helped me bathe, patiently kept me company though nursing hormones make me a little weird, and even tolerated my weird obsession with chocolate cake, I wouldn't have been able to do any of this without our community that supports our new little family. We have received an outpouring of love, well-wishes, gifts, and prayers that have sustained us and magnified our joy.
10. Life is beautiful. Babies are a witness to the beauty of life itself - just being alive is incredible. Nothing proves it more than the smile of a child. Who wouldn't agree?
Susannah having a chatty morning