We recently had another baby.
Recently? She's three and a half months old. I'm not sure that's recent, exactly.
I've been reeling ever since. I knew that it would be an adjustment, that my life would have to expand to include another life, but I feel as though I've been thrust back to the very beginning of parenthood. I keep telling myself, We've done this twice before. We should have this down by now.
We do not. I do not.
Having the first child was like being schooled in my own selfishness. You know that feeling of reading a really good book, and then someone walks into the room, oblivious to the fact that you're reading (a really good book) and asks you a question? You try a short answer and get back to the paragraph you were reading. But there's the inevitable follow-up question. Then back to the book. Another question, usually something along the lines of Are you even listening to me? And now you're not even sure where you are on the page, so with a passive-aggressive sigh you mark your page and reluctantly engage in the conversation.
Having the first kid was like that. Moment by moment I was confronted with the decision: Will I tend to the needs of this little defenseless boy, to the needs of my tireless wife, to the needs of having us all fed and mostly clothed and presentable in public, or will I continue doing the things I've always done? More often than not, I think, I made the right choice, but I was conscious of the decision every time. Some days I just craved the chance to do whatever it was I wanted to do, to get back to my book, so to speak. Denying myself and choosing generosity—of time, attention, rest, agenda—never came naturally because the things that come naturally are usually quite a bit less holy than what I've been called to be.
Then, after a few months or years or something, I began to get back a little of what I wanted, a little bit of the rhythms and rituals I was used to. I was able to sneak in a chapter here and there before I had to press the bookmark between the pages again.
Then along came baby number two.
Chaos. Although this time, in less time than the first time, I felt like I was able to recover. Life was different, but I found an equilibrium a little faster.
Now though, since the arrival of baby number three, it's as if the book has been placed on some high unreachable shelf in the corner of some room I haven't set foot in for three and a half months. When people ask us how we're doing our answer is often, Oh, we're just trying to find our new normal. But what sort of makes my eyes go wide is the very real possibility that we've already found it. Our new normal (at least for now) is that there just isn't a lot of (read: any) me time because loving these kids is full time. And I'm trying to embrace it, learn from it, and revel in it because my kids are making me a better me, and together we're a better us.
So the book will sit awhile longer, and that's okay because I've been told that once I finally come back to it in a few years I'll probably find myself disappointed that the story written there is a lot less fierce, and funny, and frightening, and full of wonder than the one I've had the chance to live.