Our baby bear arrived eight weeks ago and nothing has been, or will ever be, the same since. In the past two months I have tried to write so many times, but after a few sentences I am stopped short by overwhelming emotions. I feel like I don’t have a context now- what is there to compare this to? Nothing. I feel very limited by language Love seems like such a very small word now. It is not nearly big enough to contain the way I feel about her. What I feel for her is greater than any other love I have ever known and comes from somewhere so deep inside I was unaware it even existed before her. Many people have asked me what it is like to finally be a parent and I have yet to come up with an accurate answer. Even in the hardest moments it is still the very the best gift I have ever received. It is amazing, terrifying and humbling. It is everything I ever dreamed of and far beyond anything I could have ever imagined or hoped for.
When I think that she has been here now for almost two months it seems impossible. I am quite sure just yesterday she came into the world, slippery, screaming, and looking up at us with dark, wondering eyes. But then again, how has it only been a couple of months? Already I can’t remember what it was like before her, I feel like I have loved her forever. And I suppose in a way I have. Before we made her, before we planned for her, even before I met Josh, I thought of her- my baby. I dreamed of her and hoped for her and so desperately wanted her. She was woven into the fabric of my heart so long ago that I have been practicing loving her forever.
I want to always remember clearly the day we met her. While we had a trusted team of a midwife, a doula, and nurses, the only person I can really remember clearly that day is Josh. I remember his gentle support and encouragement, how he said just what I needed to hear to keep me going. I remember him holding me as I leaned hard into him to get through the toughest contractions. I remember looking at him and seeing his trust in me and my ability to bring our daughter into the world safely. I remember him smiling at me with so much love in his eyes and feeling so deeply connected and close to him during our very last hours as “just us two.” Through my labor I focused a lot on Rowen, during each contraction I took big deep breaths for her, when I started to lose myself I remembered that she needed me to be strong for her. I didn’t worry about what I looked or sounded like, I just trusted that my body was capable of knowing what it needed to do and I listened as it guided me through labor. Towards the final hours I remember asking when it would end, and Josh would just say, “When we get to meet Rowen.” Anytime I felt like I maybe I had reached my limit, that thought reminded me that there would eventually be an end and it would all be worth it. Then, after ten hours of very hard work, I felt her body moving down through me getting ready to enter the world. There was a split second just before she arrived when I was scared and excited and on the edge of so much possibility…and then suddenly there she was. Like a little fish she slid out of me and was born into Josh’s arms. He placed her on my chest and I looked at her and thought, Oh there you are, it’s you. Finally, there was my baby that I had waited so long for. I looked from her to Josh and nothing else mattered or existed in those first moments together as a family.
These first months of parenthood are such an intimate and personal time, Josh and I are navigating completely new territory in our relationship and trying to figure it all out together. We have had to trust each other on an entirely new level. We have had to learn how to balance caring for our baby, ourselves, and each other. On nights with little sleep and a lot of crying we have had to practice forgiveness and patience with each other. The transition from being individuals within a couple, to being individuals within a couple within a family has not been flawless but I would like to think we have handled it with grace, love, respect and a sense of humor. I know that there is no one else I would rather be on this journey with than Josh. What is so incredible to me now is when I look at Rowen’s face I can see Josh. I see his eyes and his chin and his expressions looking back at me through her and it is amazing to see. I am looking at this person that we made together and I am falling in love with him all over again.
My relationship with myself has changed completely since giving birth to Rowen. I have had to adjust to postpartum hormones and anxiety in a way I wasn’t entirely prepared for. I knew that the months following her birth would be challenging, but it hasn’t been difficult in the way I imagined. We are lucky in that so far Rowen has been a pretty mellow person. I don’t feel insanely deprived of sleep and we haven’t [often] had to spend hours pacing, bouncing and rocking an inconsolable baby. Instead I have struggled with a love for Rowen that sometimes takes on a certain fierce, protectiveness and comes from a deep instinctual place within my body that feels out of my control. I have a hard time being away from her at all, even when being apart from her just means that she is on a walk with Josh- who I trust completely as an equal and capable parent. I sometimes have a hard time letting other people hold her, even when they are people who I love and trust. I know that this separation anxiety won’t last forever and doesn’t come from a rational place in my brain. I know that when my body begins to react to our being separate I can take deep breaths and talk myself down and remember that she is safe, that she is ok, and that I am too. After nine months of her growing inside of me I am still learning how to separate my body from hers- slowly and carefully without feeling like my heart is going to break apart completely. I know that in quiet moments where I am holding my baby, her hand a little fist clutching my shirt collar, her hot breath against my skin, her small body curled against mine- my heart feels as peaceful as it will ever be. I have waited my whole life for these moments, for this person to arrive, and sometimes it is all I can do to never let her go.
Now, so many weeks later from that very first day, I am still in absolute awe of her. When I look at her sleeping I feel like I have happened upon a deer in the woods. In those moments my love for her is quiet, calm and full of wonder. I watch her with held breath and a hand pressed against my chest, over my heart. I look at her and think, how is it possible that we made you? That once you were a wish that I had and now you are an absolutely perfect person. When she has periods of wakefulness she will lay on her back and lock eyes with us, her body will wiggle, and she smiles at us with her tiny toothless mouth. My heart skips a beat when I see our happy baby looking back at us with starry eyes. I watch her strong kicking legs running a phantom race to nowhere, her hands like little starfish swimming around in the air, and her mouth opening and closing trying to tell us all her big important stories. I feel like in those moments we get a little glimpse at who she will be as she grows, what she will look like and how she will move through the world. I try not to think too much about how quickly time is passing and instead savor all of these perfect first new moments we have with her. I try to remember that as she grows there are so many things to look forward to along the way. Someday she will laugh and giggle at us when we make silly faces at her, someday we will get to hear her voice and she will use it to say Dada, Papa and so many other things, someday she will reach her arms up at us and will ask to be picked up and snuggled, someday she will stand up on her own two feet and take steps forward. Some day she will do so many big and small amazing new things and just maybe if we can focus on all those individual moments as they come, it won’t feel like it is all going by in the blink of an eye.
What I know for sure is that we are incredibly lucky that this baby picked us to be her Daddy and her Papa. I feel blessed to have carried her though my pregnancy and to have brought her into this world the way we did. I know that Rowen wouldn’t be here or be exactly who she is if we didn’t take this giant leap of faith in ourselves, in each other and trust that this was the right path for our family regardless of what anyone else had to say about it. I feel honored to have been entrusted as her caregivers as she grows and I feel hopeful that we will do our very best for her. Every single day I am amazed by her. Every single day I am grateful for her. Every single day we tell her how much we love her. I know being a dad is not always going to be easy, I know that every age comes with its bliss and its struggle, but I think that is all part of this journey we are on so I welcome it. I welcome Rowen to this world in all her perfection and flaw, in all her sweetness and rebellion, in all the magnificent little bits that make up her own unique individual character. Welcome, welcome, our little Rowen, we are so happy you have arrived.