You may not have noticed but something very dramatic happened around 9:12pm on Tuesday, June 23. A few things, to be exact. First came the grand finale of a project 40 weeks in the making: our beautiful baby girl Cecilia Joy came into the world. 7 pounds 8 ounces of pure innocence, 20 inches of amazement. And at the exact same moment, the world doubled, tripled, perhaps even quadrupled in size.
I didn't feel any shift in the earth's atmosphere, or even notice the change until we prepared to leave the cozy confines of our hospital room on Thursday morning. As we loaded Cecilia into her car seat (the same one that brought big brother Noah home just 2 short years ago) I did a double take- did someone steal our infant seat and replace it with this giant contraption? It felt like we were attempting to strap a jelly bean into a 5-point harness. Her tiny little head seemed to flop back and forth like a flag in the wind, the straps seemed wider than her entire torso. Shaking from the experience (not to mention pure exhaustion, extreme pain and raging hormones!) I stepped tentatively out into the hallway, only to realize that it was now roughly the size and carried the same traffic volume as I-75. And the actual highway was no better. Why do the lanes seem so wide? Why are those cars going so FAST? How can this possibly be safe? I could have sworn my husband was channeling NASCAR until I peeked at the speedometer and saw he was well below the speed limit (with white knuckles, I might add). The scenery flying past us at warp speed looked familiar, but the world as I had known it pre-Cecilia had morphed into one giant danger zone, and I was quite frankly terrified.
I don't remember feeling this way when my son was born, but perhaps the changes were lost in the fog that accompanies your first child. When we brought him home we had no idea what we were in for, and looking back I realize that wasn't such a bad thing. With Baby #1 the main focus is survival: you stumble through the days (or nights? Who can really tell the difference?) doing what you can to keep your head (or at least one nostril) above water. You rush to meet the new baby's needs, trying out soothing techniques from the 18 different parenting books you diligently read while pregnant. There's no time and certainly no energy to take a very close look at the world around you. If anything, that world shrinks to baby size because that's all you see.
It's been said that size is relative, and as a corollary to that I'd add that our relatives also affect our notion of size. The morning before Cecilia was born, Noah still looked like a baby to me. Sure, I saw how fast he was growing, and at 9 months pregnant I could barely lift his 30 pounds or fit him on my non-existent lap. But I still marveled over his sweet little toes with every round of "This Little Piggy," and the way his tiny palm fit into mine as we walk down the stairs hand in hand. Now all of a sudden he's a Big Brother in every sense of the word. Did he age a few years in those 44 hours we spent at the hospital? Did Grandma give him some sort of growth hormone while we were gone? In my heart he'll always be my baby, but sitting next to his newborn sister I see him for what he is- a growing, thriving boy who has changed so much in such a short time. I'm now completely overwhelmed by a desire to slow down time to bring back my baby boy, along with the need to shrink the world to protect my baby girl.
In my heart I know it's neither the pace of the clock nor the cars on the road that frighten me. As I pause with fear at the top of the stairs (which of course now appear to tower several stories) I know I'm not really afraid I'll drop the baby on the way down. What scares me is that I'll drop the ball on this whole endeavor. That somehow I'll let these sweet babies down, that I won't adequately lead the way down the gigantic lanes of life so they have an example to follow. What if it's just dumb luck that got us all through the first two years of Noah's life (relatively) unscathed, and my personal supply has run out? These are not the questions we're meant to answer on 4 hours of broken sleep. I find myself praying harder than ever, praying my faith will keep pace with the changes in the world around me. And with that, I'll just have to put one foot in front of the other and descend one step at a time into this giant miracle.