Today is the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. We attended Mass tonight, arriving just in time to join in the candle lit procession and opening hymn – it was one of my favorites, I want to walk as a child of the light. The readings all spoke of purification and strength and as we listened to the Gospel about Mary and St. Joseph presenting Jesus in the temple, I realized again the beauty of a December baby. “When the time of purification was complete. . .” the Holy Family traveled to the temple and here we are, exactly six weeks out and I feel as if we’ve come to the end of our purification, too.

Before Max was born, riper and wiser mom’s primed me for the postpartum period. They tried to, anyway, but until you’ve wandered through that land, you can’t fully grasp it. My first journey through it was made with tottering steps and groping hands. I found some comfort in the reassurance that those other mother’s had found a way through and had been just as confused as I was. Since then, I, too, have told new mom’s to give themselves six weeks to come out of the fog. Each of my baby’s first 42 days were so hard, so exhausting, so hazy. It seemed to get progressively worse each time around until with Ellie I was a weeping, hysterical heap on the floor, unable to face those who loved me best.

Consequently, I spent a great deal of energy during Gemma’s pregnancy worrying about and praying over these postpartum days. I told the midwife the moment the baby was born, I wanted an antidepressant in hand. I fretted and stewed and told God I could not, WOULD not go through that again. I girded my loins and held my breath and hoped for the best.

Then Gemma arrived. The midwife ordered rest and aside from a really, really late night on Christmas Eve, Jac and Chelsey ordered me to bed and took care of everything. I willed myself to stay in my jammie’s for a week. I ran circles in my mind, trying to convince myself I wasn’t a lazy bum and let Jac tell me again and again I had just had a baby. I drank a lot of water and ate as much as I could. I have actually slept when the baby slept, tried hard to be forgiving to myself and haven’t lifted anything that was heavier than the babe.

And you know? I feel strong. I feel healthy. I feel tired from time to time and when I do, I rest. I have felt frazzled and emotional a handful of times and yet in each of those moments I have been able to step back and reassess. I realize that I am actually hungry or that I haven’t been out of the house in a week (True story. I laughed when it finally dawned on me.) and take care of it. I know Gemma. Really, really know her. I can hear the differences in her sounds and see what her body is saying.

Things are clear. I don’t feel like I’ve been in a tunnel or like I’m waking up. I feel like I’ve had my eyes opened the whole time. It turns out it does help to take care of yourself first! And I know to the depths of my toes that this has been a blessing. God has poured out this consolation in answer to my prayers, and in spite of my fears. He has held me close, given me comfort and provided me aid. He has been our strength, my strength. This has been a purification process and in it, peace. It has been so very, very good.

As this spot has become our scrapbook, at six weeks what I want to remember about Gemma is:
– How she is nearly 12 lbs and stretching the seams on her 3 mo. clothing.
– She still doesn’t cry much. Except, that is, when she pulls her own hair. It makes her so mad!
– She started smiling a week ago and smiles most often at her brothers and dad. Lucky, lucky boys.
– Her eyes are still blue! And her eye contact is riveting.
– Her hair is still soft as down. Oh, so silky.
– Afternoon naps are her best – long and deep and best when shared with me or dad, on our chests.
– We’re working on the sleeping at night. She gave us a reprieve and we had two nights in bed without incident. Sweet mercy!

42 days. 42 wonderful days. Thanks be to God.