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Counting breaths


I placed you in your rocker and watched your chest go up and down. You were just hours old and I had held you for all of them. I watched your breaths and counted them. I panicked that maybe you were breathing too fast, too hard. Your breaths reminded me just how Alive you really were. There was no more womb to keep you safe. There was just us. I studied your tiny body and burst into tears.

I cried for you and I cried for me. Crying at the overwhelming amount of love I had for you. I thought about psalm 23:5 and how my cup runneth over. Only this time my cup was spilling over. Flowing in abundance.

I walked to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. And with tears rolling down my face I wondered what this moment would look like photographed and how I would feel to look back on it. A brand new mom, watching her brand new baby, weeping. I couldn’t believe how quickly my eyes filled. Just like I couldn’t believe how quickly my heart filled, in the very first moment we met. I smiled through the tears and thought, this is it, this is motherhood.

I scooped you up and rocked you. Holding you as close as I could. I smelled your hair and counted your eyelashes and pressed firmly against your bruised heels from the hospital. I prayed you’d forgive me for letting that happen, and in those first prayers for you, I prayed you’d forgive me for anything that happened. And I rocked you again.

Night time approached and I was prepared to start a routine. I gently gave you a sponge bath and washed your hair. I fastened the second diaper strap and just as I did you wet it again. I laughed out loud and thought “everyone said this would happen!” Proud to have survived my first milestone with a newborn and come out of it laughing.

I brought you into our big bedroom and kissed my husband goodnight. I told him how proud of us I was.

And then we turned out the light.

It was dark and your eyes got wide. I nursed you to sleep but your eyes stayed open. I placed you in your bassinet and you whimpered, telling me you weren’t quite ready to be all alone. I had imagined your first night home so many times. I was so good at this parenting thing a few days ago. In the days before I was a parent. I thought it would be easy to let you sleep away from us but it felt painfully unnatural. The reality that time was already fleeting and that you wouldn’t stay this way forever hit me hard that night. Afraid I was failing, my husband gently reminded me you were only three days old and you needed us, and it was okay if she wasn’t happy when she was in the bassinet and it was okay that I wasn’t happy when she was in the bassinet. I hung on to those words all night. And I hung on to him for recognizing your newness and reminding me of it.

You finally dozed off and your smallness and your aliveness hit me again. I watched you breath. In and out and in and out and I counted them once more. Letting the rhythm of your chest soothe my anxious heart. I’d never sleep again I thought, even if you did. But not because of all of the reasons people tell you you won’t sleep. No, I realized I’d never sleep again because I’d miss too many heart beats, Id miss too much of you.

It’s been seven days of counting breaths and counting toes and counting socks so you have an equal pair. In seven days I’ve become a mother. Your mother. And of all of the things I’ve counted. That counts the most.

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