Jason and I were recently asked to give the reflection at our church’s annual Marian Lessons and Carols service. Our task: talk about what we expected pre-baby versus what we got one year later. [HA!]
We doubt they expected us to be so blunt and irreverent toward parenthood, but we believe retrospective truth is better communicated through our selfish, flawed eyes than through artificially maternal rose-colored glasses.
The below is a give-or-take transcription of our back-and-forth from the podium. We consider it a fairly accurate assessment of our current sentiments around Advent and officially having a one year old.
Prepare the way!!
Oh, the preparations…The classes. The registries. The books. The Internet forums. The doctor appointments. The pregnancy pains. The financial pains (We mean, plans). The birth plans. The meal plans. The contingency plans. The fears about everything. The worries about everything.
You can prepare all you want, but nothing can truly prepare you for the arrival of your first baby.
A little over a year ago, we had no idea what was coming our way. We knew we wanted to be parents and had enough friends with children to know that our lives were about to undergo a seismic shift.
What we didn’t know was that every child is different, every parent is different, and every preparation and expectation we had was about to be shattered:
I expected to go into labor. I was induced.
We expected a boy. We got a girl.
We expected to fall in love with her immediately. We fell in love with her over time.
We expected life to go by way too fast. We lived hour by hour and day by day for an entire year.
We expected to keep our previous commitments and relationships. We canceled plans and lost touch with so many.
We expected the worst. We got something that eventually turned out to be pretty close to the best.
Here’s what we didn’t expect…
All of the surprises, mostly of the diaper variety.
All of the inevitable, crippling “mom guilt”.
All of the victories, quickly followed by so, so many failures, mostly in the sleep department.
All of the belly laughs and uncontrollable tears, and the fact that both could often occur simultaneously.
Feeling immensely humbled by the village around us even though we could rarely — if ever — reciprocate their generosity.
Feeling ill-equipped and inadequate while also feeling like superwoman.
Jason feeling ill-equipped and inadequate right next to superwoman.
As a new mom, I personally found myself calling out to Mary more than ever. Did Mary feel these things? Did she have trouble nursing? Did she suffer from lack of sleep from a crying baby? Did she worry over Jesus’s health and development? Did she ever question her adequacy as a mother? What were Mary’s expectations? What were her disappointments?
Surely she didn’t expect to be homeless and traveling in the final trimester of her pregnancy. [Though we also feel for Joseph during this time…]
Surely she did not expect to give birth in a manger, or for her son to have a trough for a bed. [But I guess as parents we make do with what we have.]
Surely she suffered from the burden of responsibility of keeping God’s own son alive. [I mean, can you even imagine the mental and physical toll?]
Surely she never expected to love him as wholly yet imperfectly as she did. Because while she was certainly touched by divinity, she was also human. Just like us.
People often ask us to describe this first year of parenthood. Many presume that it went by way too fast. Others imply that we’ll miss it.
If anything, graduating from baby to pre-toddler feels like we’ve finally turned a corner in parenthood. Gone are the days of sticking to the schedule, no matter what. Gone are the days of less than optimal sleep. Gone are the days of making things more difficult purely out of our own volition.
In their place are a series of more laid-back choices… Like being more flexible in her care, embracing a chance to travel internationally, and allowing her to tell us who she is rather than us telling her.
In Luke, Jesus remarks: “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to the childlike.”
This passage speaks volumes to us right now, seeing as Lilia is finally able to reveal the meaning of it to us. That in order to see God in our everyday lives, we must experience the world through her eyes, with wonder and awe at nearly everything…with a great big “WOOOWWWWW” [her favorite word right now].
But seriously — After Mary’s first year, did she too share this feeling of triumph after keeping a tiny, completely dependent human alive an entire year?
We like to think she did.
We like to imagine that she too is celebrating this small yet significant victory of parenthood with us.
We like to imagine that she understands that what you expect is very rarely what you get. And quite often, it is something much more challenging.
And therefore, much more rewarding.
We would like to close with a quote from Ralph Keifer, because we believe it says it the best: “Pregnancy is not a very comfortable thing. Its hope is tinged with nausea, awkwardness, and anxiety. You cannot see the face of the one who is to come. That is what Advent is all about…The season, like the pregnant Virgin, is short on explanation and heavy with meaning.”
For this past year, we don’t have an all-encompassing explanation for what we expected and what we received. All we have learned is that in every era of parental waiting — be it pregnancy, the dreaded 4th trimester, or the arrival at ONE — there is always a reason to hope.
And there’s always a reason to stop and simply say — as Lilia would — “WOOOOWWWWW.”
“LADYBUG” CARROT CUPCAKES
Lilia’s 1st birthday was a celebration of the highest caliber. Our new home was sufficiently stuffed with friends and family, who all felt it imperative to shower this girl [and us!] with an immense amount of love and gifts. [Lilia got books and toys — we got booze. Win-win!] We couldn’t for the life of us get Lilia to try any of her birthday cake, despite my decorating skills. Yet while she turned out to be much more content with a smoothie pouch, these cupcakes disappeared in the blink of an eye. The base is healthier with limited sugar and more muffin-like ingredients such as applesauce, coconut oil, flaxseed, and maple syrup. That said, the frosting is ALL cream cheese sugary goodness, so you don’t feel skimped on. The result is an ideal balance of sweetness, perfect for our Little Lady and her birthday guests.
Ingredients – Cake
- 2-1/2 c. flour
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. maple syrup
- 1 c. applesauce
- 1 Tbs. flaxseed
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 c. coconut oil
- 1 – 20 oz. can pineapple
- 1 lb. carrots, grated in a food processor
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. vanilla
Ingredients – Frosting
- 1 stick [1/2 c.] butter, softened
- 1/2 lb. cream cheese
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 to 2 c. powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Grease or line a cupcake pan with baking cups and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix all of the cake ingredients together with a hand mixer, beating on medium speed until everything is incorporated.
- Fill cups 3/4 full and bake 18 to 20 minutes until cupcakes are springy.
- Remove cupcakes from oven and cool for 5 to 10 minutes before removing from the pan to cool further. Cupcakes should be completely cooled before frosting.
- Meanwhile, prepare the frosting by beating all of the frosting ingredients together in a medium bowl until smooth.
- Pipe or spread frosting on top of each cupcake and decorate as desired.
NOTE: This recipe can also be modified into a carrot cake or spiced loaf. Baking time will simply need to be increased by about 5 to 10 minutes depending on the depth of the pan.