New parenthood is chaotic. Between diapers, feedings, and that classic baby-vs-sleep showdown, it can be a lot. And that’s without considering our own basic needs.Â It’s a turbulent world and sometimes it just feels like a mess.
For me, new motherhood meant the grace of letting go. My make-up routine is down toÂ the basics and usually doneÂ while eating breakfast, pumping, and chatting with a babbling Juniper bouncing in her jumperoo. My hair is 50% dry shampoo at this point and my house is pretty much a hilly landscape of clean laundryÂ surrounded by rarely sweptÂ floors. This is motherhood. We are trying to keep up, we are getting by, and all the while our babies are growing up.
From this perspective, nine months in,Â I haveÂ to say there is beauty in the mess. Yes, there is struggle, there is worry, and sometimes we may even think we’ve hit our breaking point. But then we push past and realize we are stronger and more capable than we thought we were. And even in the hardest times, we canÂ find beauty. It’s in the first smileÂ of recognitionÂ after weeks of lost sleep. It’s in a quiet day when we can sit in the sunshine and enjoyÂ the outdoors together. It’s in sharingÂ something we love with them only to watch them love it too and make it all the more meaningful. It’s magic and beauty, amid the mess.
Time has gone quickly, and I find myself flipping through pictures and thinking about each stage of Juniper’s babyhood. What I’ve come to notice is that the way things looked is often not the way things felt. Like anyone,Â my first weeks wereÂ a jumble of recovery, hormones, and learning what my baby needed, but the overwhelming feelings were tenderness, awe, and love beyond love. When I look back, I want our picturesÂ to show me what those early days feltÂ rather than how they looked. The pictures from our first weekÂ shouldÂ smell like Burts Bees and fresh laundry just like my little girl. They should feel like her fuzzy baby hair and the cool breezes of autumn, and sound like the noises she made while she nursed.
Our experiences of motherhood are what matter most – that’s the reason we take the picture. My messy house, ill-fitting postpartum clothes, and unwashed hair did not speak to those feelings; instead, my experienceÂ felt more like bright natural light, a hot shower, a fresh onesie, and a tidy nursery. So we paused and we made those images.
As Juniper grows, theÂ struggles are different. Just like every working mom, I’m chasing the unicorn of work-life-balance, trying to keep up and still make memories ofÂ our first summer as a family. But the lesson is the same. My photos won’t show my messy desk stacked with to-do lists and half-full water glasses, or the towers of laundry… and that’s not being fake, that’s knowingÂ what’s worth remembering. At nine months these days smell like banana pancakes, feel like wiggling baby toes, and sound like shrieking giggles as Ben chases Juniper up the stairs, and I can only hope that the images we’re making right now will feel exactly like that.
Photos above from Juniper’s first two weeks.