In the thick of it

You might cry, at nine o’clock pm on a Saturday night when you’re cleaning the last bathroom and your man comes in and finds you. “Hey, hard workin lady,” he says gently, and holds you.

You might cry then, though you’ve been strong all day. They’re in bed now.

It’s not so much that you mind cleaning the house in the dark and quiet, it’s just that you’re so flat tired. You don’t know how it happened, but somehow the second week of the twins’ life with you coincided with the first week of summer vacation, and the birth of four goats, and the mail delivery of twenty-one newborn chicks. It didn’t help that you had sick babies all week, and three lengthy doctor’s appointments in there. It doesn’t help that you’re ten weeks pregnant.

There is no part of your life you would dispense with, not for worlds. It’s just that you’re so flat tired.

You say you forgot what it was like, being in the thick of mothering toddlers, but you’ve never quite been here before. There’ve never been so many small people dependent on you for life and happiness, so many piles of laundry, so many poopy diapers. There’s a perpetual explosion of toys all over your floor, but it’s not only toys, it’s also the whisk attachment from the Kitchen Aid, the expensive phone they know they’re not supposed to have, somebody’s socks, the latest issue of National Geographic for Kids, the foot pedal of your sewing machine, and fifteen Kleenexes pulled from the box. The mess from a single lunchtime looks like this, when you broom it up.

food on floor_1874

You forgot the brain-numbing aloneness, and the blessed relief of a friend’s face at your door, with a box of donuts and enough warm jackets for the twins, in just the right sizes. It hasn’t really been that long since you interacted with other adults, but sometimes you’re afraid you’re forgetting how. Could you even have a normal conversation anymore? Do you remember the rules? Speech these days comes in short bursts, disjointed praises and commands.

Good job, baby!
Honey, please don’t slam the door.
Thank you for helping me, son.
Oh no-no, don’t eat that!
Give Mommy a kiss…
Can you put away your own laundry?

Every part of your body—your dish-soapy hands, your sniffly-allergic nose, your strong feet, your growing belly—gives thanks to Jesus for His gifts.

Oh thank you thank you thank you thank you.

But you make a lot of mistakes, and you have to pray for grace and forgiveness. You lose your temper and you drop out of communication with people, and you nag your husband too much about a thing that really doesn’t matter.

You begin to take an absurd joy in the smallest achievements—getting one section of the kitchen floor swept clean, folding a shirt smooth and straight, killing that fly.

You’re going to make it. You can feel it in your body—you have enough for these kiddos, and for the one growing inside you. Enough food, enough love, enough body fat. After the crying is done, you sit on the stoop with your husband in the cool evening air, and refresh yourself with strawberries, and garden tea, and ten minutes of quiet talk under the stars. And then you go to bed and sleep in peace.

Tomorrow is new. You’re going to be okay.


I wrote this in second person, because that is the voice in which I heard it in my head. “You” won’t identify with all of it, but which parts ring true?


Dear Jesus,

I can hardly believe it, but two thousand years later it’s easy to think that the stable was a romantic place for a birth. Cozy light, cooing doves, an immaculate virgin, a smiling baby.

The stable was an awful place for a birth, cold and dark, filled with pooping cows and flatulating donkeys and enough crawling germs to make any new mother recoil in horror. Into this place you came, slippery, bloody, squalling. They caught you before you hit the floor, and blessed Yahweh for the one clean place—yards of soft cloth your mother prepared for you.

Quiet at her breast, you blinked dark baby eyes, sticky with the first tears of your humanity, taking in the world into which you’d emerged.

And you were perfectly at home.

You lay at rest as the bacteria crept over to greet the king of the world. In the awful vulnerability of newbornness, silken skin against rough hay, tiny organs pushing back the cold and sickness, you lay at rest.

Today I try to create a perfect space for your coming—everything clean, neatly wrapped, rich, delectable, quiet. I cannot get it done. It won’t be just so and I cannot pull it off, but into this space you come anyway—into this place of unfinished ideas, homemade dolls with too small of heads, disappointing fruitcake, presents clumsily swaddled in cheap paper, merry voices too loud around me. You come. You are perfectly at home here, and where you enter the world is made holy.

You are beyond me. I love you and weep for you and ache for you to come.