Friday, February 5, 2016

Three years old!

Yesterday my daughter turned three. It’s true what everyone says: “It goes by so fast!” But more than that, there’s the shock that she’s only three. There’s the feeling that her impact on me has far exceeded her short lifetime.

Who was I before she was born? More than that, how did I think I was growing, getting better, striving for holiness before she was born?

It’s hard to picture my life before her. Luggage being rifled through by monkeys in Ghana, checking e-mail on a volcanic island in Nicaragua. Showering. Alone. Twice a day! But I'm not sure that I was growing in any way. I was experiencing a whole lot, but nothing really snagged on my rough edges and demanded attention.

Enter newborn.

She was born at 12:58 a.m. and was nocturnal for her first six weeks of life. We played the sleep sheep; we tried establishing a “bedtime routine,” soothing smells, sounds, motions, lullabies. We tried making a loud “SHHHHH” sound in her ear. I read whole books in the middle of the night while I nursed and held and rocked her.

I had gone from working full-time and studying for my masters degree in theology at night to being house-bound with a baby that wouldn’t let me set her down during the day, and wouldn’t sleep at night. My husband was finishing his final semester of law school at the time, with our only car. It was February and cold.

I remember eating some gifted stuffed pasta shells while watching The Bells of St. Mary’s and simultaneously nursing the baby when I started to cry and asked, “Am I a good wife? Am I good mom?”

Just two weeks before she was born I had decided to convert to Catholicism (more on that later), after refusing to even consider it for two years. My emergence as a mother and a Catholic, at least my intention to become Catholic, came at the same time, and it’s hard to separate the two in my mind.

As I was being tested and frustrated on the mothering end, unable to sleep or make dinner or feel “normal,” I was reading Devin Rose and piles of good and bad Catholic history books, and St. Augustine’s Confessions, and learning about Mary, the Mother of all mothers. At the same time that I discovered the standard, I was given the blessing of a demanding baby.

My Catholic journey is three years old, and my daughter is three years old. In the company of my husband, daughter, 10-month-old son, and a cloud of witnesses, I am journeying toward holiness.