It's just after midnight, and I just laid my snorting baby back in his bed after his first night feeding. I stood in the darkest corner of my room, swaying him back and forth in my arms. His head nuzzled into my left armpit and his legs straightened in defiance for the first few minutes, but slowly and surely, his body grew heavy and his legs limp. And for a moment I wished I could go back and whisper to the 25-year-old mom that everything was going to be okay. That the late night feedings and struggles would be short lived. That the rigid newborn body would turn into soft rolls and growing bones. That it would all pass too quickly.
I remember being so frustrated with my first two babies when they would cry instead of falling asleep. I remember feeling like my back would give in before exhaustion would ever take over their bodies. I remember crying into my pillow because I had no idea what the hell I was doing and was sure I was screwing it all up. I remember comparing myself by other new moms and milestones. I remember those first few years of motherhood very well.
These days my heart is more patient. (It's obviously not always 100% patient, but you know, it's better.) My heart is more kind. It's more aware that the days are slipping through my fingertips, and it is very open to the late night feedings; sometimes it even welcomes them. It gives me one more opportunity to hold my baby and whisper "shh, shh" into the thick, black air. I'm constantly amazed by a mother's heart--how it expands over and over again with each new child and experience.
I have a mother's heart. It is, perhaps, my most treasured muscle. Of all the things I try to strengthen each day through rigorous exercise, it is the one I am most proud of. It has certainly grown the most. My calf muscles pale in comparison. My heart has undergone and continues to endure the most difficult daily training, but it's worth it. The late night feedings are worth it. The early morning wakeup calls are worth it. The tantrums are questionable, but worth it. The learning to listen is worth it. The saying "I'm sorry" is worth it. The hugs are worth it. The satisfaction that I'm growing 5 decent human beings is definitely worth it. I am grateful for each day--even, and perhaps more especially so, the hard ones.