Dear Baby Bird

It’s Monday. It’s late August and it’s rainy and dark outside. Your dad left for work too early this morning, and my to-do list is full. But still, we take this morning slow. It began sweetly, with giggles from your crib that let me know you were awake. You laugh at me as we turn off your nightlight together and toddle down the hallway to the stairs. We detour for my coffee before you descend the dim stairwell slowly, unsurely, but bravely, your tiny fingers a vice around mine. Some kids your age are just learning to walk and I’m a little too proud of your stair skills.

Breakfast is not my strong suit, so as I type you are eating an empty ice cream cone and a banana. I’m choosing to think that’s funny and quirky. You ask for more, finally using your sign language. It’s awkward and looks like clapping, but I know what you mean and I am beyond proud. I make a mental note to prioritize grocery shopping tomorrow.

And then, you sing.

Your songs right now do not have words. They have few notes. But they are so full. It takes little to inspire a song from you, and I encourage another and another. You rock back and forth, your tiny shoulders finding a rhythm that sprouts from a deep contentment. I know I don’t deserve you. I am not a worthy teacher to help you find your voice. But here we are: I am your mother and you are my little song bird.

I write because I cannot shake a thought for you this morning: you are light. My feeble mind races to simile when I am full of a thought. Your flickering candle of laughter yanks the coldest of grocery store clerks into your warmth. With every word you learn, the lightbulb above your head melts my own icy heart. Sometimes, when you are not satisfied, your light looks like an angry forest fire; I delight in your passion during these times. Sometimes in peace, you are a faint, friendly glow like a bed of coals beneath the stars, displaying the perfection of spent fire. When you test your limits with me, your eyes flash with uncertainty and daring like the crest of a mounting lake wave, catching a hot flicker of sun. And when you smile at me in adoration, it is like the diamonds that coat the new snowfall. It’s consuming purity, and I can’t look away.

I know that you and I will become more complicated as we get older. I know I will say the wrong thing, make bad choices. You will scream daggers at me. You will try to swing away from my love and you will swing back when you realize we cannot hate each other—that we can’t afford it. I am already sorry for my mistakes. At the same time, I can almost taste my success. To me, success means using your short time under my wing to refine your hope until it is a driving force beneath your decisions.

I want to use our time wisely, sinking the engine of hope deeper in you, layered under mindful protections, cooled by logic, fueled by the beauty of struggle so no one can take it away. I want to watch your skin grow thick and your mind grow agile.

I can only hope that when you are old, reflecting on a life well-lived, you can say, “I was strong because you showed me.”

I write to capture the feeling I had during your song this morning, as my throat tightened and my eyes misted in a rare display of unhinged pride. You are the best, purest thing I can imagine inhabiting this hateful world. I daily wrestle the guilt of bringing such an innocent soul into this entropic circus. But today, struggle faded for a moment and I was able to see only you, only the joy you bring, and only the songs you sing. Only hope. Only a tiny warrior of strength, justice, kindness, and light. Only my purpose inside your purpose. I know that when I am old, reflecting on a life well-lived, I will say, “I was strong because you showed me.”

I take a moment to savor this snapshot of toddlerhood and motherhood—two creatures enveloped in total naivety.


Hello, Evelyn!

Birth announcement time! And our baby is only two months old. Ha. I regret nothing, because that’s actually a super great representation of how things are going.

I decided it was time for an update only because it is very late and I am sleepless and hungry. Thank you, breastfeeding! My eight-week-old sleeps through the night, yet I still wake up for snacks. But anyway…

I guess we left off at 32 weeks pregnant. Lots has happened since then!

Garret and I spent May goofing off, going to the beach, not working, enjoying life, and getting ready for Evelyn as much as possible.


She ended up coming at 41 weeks and a day, which is pretty much 13 weeks and a day longer than a pregnancy would be before sin entered the world and reproduction became the curse of woman. But that’s beside the point. She was late and I was miserable and it feels AMAZING to not be pregnant anymore.


On a Tuesday, our car broke down on an amazingly hot day and we put $600 into repairing it, which must have stressed me out enough that I went into labor on Wednesday! Evelyn was born on Thursday at 12:19p, and it was awesome. By “awesome,” to clarify, I do not mean it was cool, but that it was awe-inspiringly, supernaturally happy. And it was pretty cool to not be pregnant. I was very proud because I had given birth with no medications. I was strong. I was life-giving. I was SO not pregnant anymore.

We moved! Two days postpartum, my husband and I packed our apartment in boxes and moved across the state. Our families get a big shout-out for helping with that, because although my husband IS Superman, even Superman shouldn’t have to move alone.

Garret started his new job at Diplomat! He is enjoying it a lot, which is the cherry on top of our double-chocolate milkshake of a life.

And once all of our huge life-changes happened, we settled in. Garret goes to work. I pack his lunch and iron his shirts. I read idiotic books to my adorable baby, who looks at me like I am a crazy woman, because I am.


I wash endless loads of laundry. And I nurse the baby. LORD do I nurse the baby. I am mentioning it again, because you shouldn’t ever get the impression that I do anything13641236_895193777274740_8259576298758903544_o more than I nurse the baby. I nurse the baby a lot.

On weekends, we do ridiculous things that new parents should not do, because we are always more exhausted at the end of them. So far, we have taken two weekend trips Up North (which is a magical land of roadside cherry stands and no cell service). And next weekend, we are going to Tennessee. You know. For a relaxing 24 hours in the car with an infant who recently decided she does NOT like car trips after all. We are insane.

Anyway, I decided to compile a list of perks to my parenthood, since this blog so far has been about how sucky it is to produce a baby. Having this child is basically Christmas, every single day, and here are a few of my (admittedly selfish) reasons:

I can eat/drink anything/everything. Water without ice isn’t repulsive to me anymore. I can eat more than four bites of food at a time. Actually, I think I am doing my time with pregnancy cravings, just a few months late. I am going CRAZY with coffee, chocolate, peaches, and bell peppers. A super healthy breastfeeding diet, I know. And my thighs still have no idea about my 8,000 calorie/day diet, because my child is like, “Hey, Mom. I will take this bullet for you. People think MY chunkiness is cute.” God bless you, sweet one.

I am me-sized. I don’t think it’s vain or shallow to say a large part of my identity is being small. I try to eat well and stay active, and genetics are on my side. My body is unassuming and unobtrusive. It is functional. It is efficient and capable. But it felt like none of those things during pregnancy. So being small again feels like I got a big part of my identity back. I like to be little. It’s who I am.

I can make someone else hold the baby. This is pretty simple. I held her for so long, and I adore holding my angel, but when she is screaming and will not be comforted, I can hand her to Dad for a turn and check my phone. It’s awesome.

No one asks why I am tired. I have an infant, silly. Never mind that the infant is regularly sleeping through the night. NO ONE questions it when you are too tired as a new parent. It is not done. Pardon me if I respond to your bridal shower invite with “Sorry, I think the baby is planning to be up all night before that…”

Baby smiles. I am not even going to bother describing, because if you know, you know. And if you don’t know, you are not going to learn now.

Baby sleep-laughter. See above.

No one looks at me anymore. I have a baby. You know your one friend who has a baby? Do you remember what she was wearing last time you saw her? No? How about what her baby was wearing? Yeah. A TINY little jean jacket and a coral ruffle skirt with turquoise baby shoes that matched her sequined headband. Think about that contrast. But not too much, lest you notice what I look like next time. Because it might be overalls with a Hawaiian print shirt. Nothing is off-limits to me now; I am a parent.

Clean house. A while ago, I suggested that my house might actually be cleaner with a newborn, and I was 100% correct. My #1 newborn coping mechanism is SYSTEMS, BABY! That means that there is a Bath Kit under the kitchen sink, and that means her various baby junk is organized in an over-the-door shoe organizer, and it means that there is a specific bin for each type of clothing she has. All of this will go to the wayside when she starts to walk, but for now, my house is clean except when I am sick.

Books. The baby has no idea about the words, which means that for this small window of life, I can read my own books, as long as I read them out loud, accompanied by interesting facial expressions, and I match the tone of my voice to an imaginary arc so she grows to understand the elements of story before she can read. (Sandra Boynton makes this easier than Chaim Potok does, but Mark Twain meets everyone in the middle.)

I am active. Nothing gets you excited to move like not being able to move. Also coffee. I can have coffee now. And I am doing cartwheels. (Figuratively. I am a clumsy nerd who mostly likes the idea of cartwheels.)

Spouse is a dad. It’s simple biology that your spouse is like 4,000 times more attractive when they are taking care of a baby with you. It is seriously so much fun to be with this person I married. I love it.

I’m a mom. It’s just so nice that I don’t have that looming over me. I don’t have to wonder anymore. I used to ask, “Will I be good at it? Will I survive?” But now I know the answers that matter: I am good enough at it, and I will survive today. Now the mental barrier is gone. Now we can adopt or have more kids with the knowledge that if they are messed up, they will be a happy messed-up gang in perfect company with Our Evie Grace.

All told, motherhood is way easier than they told me it would be. I am terrified of this, because a) it is going WAY too fast and I didn’t know I would miss having a newborn when I only have a two-month old, and b) I am in no way prepared for when she starts walking and talking. Evelyn, please have Grace.


Week 32: Oh, I’m Actually Pregnant Now

Pregnancy symptoms: If you talk to me on a daily basis, you are tired of hearing about them.

Sorry, mom. 

Sorry, coworkers.

Sorry, cow jumping over the moon.

So far, I’ve been pretty cynical about this whole thing; I haven’t exactly had a fun bout with procreation. But I decided this should be regarded in light of its comedic potential. “If you don’t laugh at it during the day, you wake up crying and begging God to make it stop in the middle of the night.”* This is my new motto, maybe.


The real reason I take so few photos: I only have one outfit anymore.

My realization that I am a hilarious bumbling cow came the other night when I was in the bathtub and drained out all the water before I stood up. Ha. Rookie mistake. Your body feels about 40 times lighter when it’s submerged in water, so as the water drains, you actually feel yourself gaining weight. You try to haul your body out of the slippery 2-foot-tall prison, which laughs in your face as you silently beg your husband to not walk in to see you squirm around like a wet baby seal who ate a softball and is tummy-up on the beach, unable to right itself and uncomfortably regretting the decisions it has made. Ahhhhh, motherhood, making me write a blog post from the bath tub. Just kidding. Probably.

A little less funny: My back hurts. Badly. Pregnancy compounds scoliosis in a way I never could have imagined. And only the adorably ineffective Tylenol is safe. Universe: 1, Maddy: 1 (baby). It’s the type of pain that sends your brain into a total fog. So, if I twist my body in ridiculous ways and bite my arm while repeating everything you say as you say it, it’s just me trying to comprehend the words that came out of your mouth. I’m really trying. I promise. Don’t get mad when I say, “Wait, what?” for the fourth time.

I don’t feel like I need to defend myself, but if you ever doubted me, you can look at our rigged apartment: Heating pad on the couch, creepy U-shaped pillow on the bed, nothing too important above or below my reach, cold packs in the freezer, acetaminophen within arm’s reach of all comfy sitting places. It’s a mess. I actually feel like my space might be cleaner when I have a newborn.

My other biggest symptom is even harder to make fun of: acid reflux. I guess you could just consider it part of the overall humor of pregnancy that in the few short months left where my living space is quiet all night long, I still wake myself up, grasping in the dark for Tums, choking and coughing on the acid from my stomach, thinking, “Oh, it’s funny because I won’t watch horror films after I have kids, so this is what God gives us instead!” I’m just cheating the system, though, because I never watched horror films before. HA! Universe: 1, Maddy: 2. Perhaps the greatest irony here is that chocolate is the No. 1 thing my midwife told me to avoid for it. *pops a few Reese’s Pieces* *keeps complaining to poor, supportive, wonderful husband*

I’ve also started having this one rib pop out if I move a certain way. At first, it would pop maybe once a day. Now, it moves if I shift on the couch at all. Haaaaa, this is fun. It hurts, though, so it leaves me saying, “Ow. Ow. Ow.” And it probably makes my poor, dear husband think, “Freaking. Shut. Up” but actually say “You okay? You good? Aww.” If any of you pregnant peeps are dissatisfied with the sympathy you’re receiving from your partner, Garret could probably teach them a thing or two, and he is looking for a job right now, so email me if you have a 401K matching program.

I’m not even sure what my motivation was in writing this. I think it started with just making fun of myself, devolved into self-pity, and finally arrived at documenting this struggle so I can show Evie when we have a fight and she asks me what I ever did for her. (That would be SUCH a Mom Move.)

I guess what I’ve been trying to say is that I am doing well, despite not feeling well. Our little family is awesome. We’re stressed out, and Garret is working harder than any human should have to, and Evie is practicing acrobatics and acting healthy, and I am lying at home eating vitamins and supplements. We are happy and thankful and very much amused at life. And that is good. Happy Easter!

*this is not true; you wake up anyway


Things You Won’t Learn from Donald


Donald Trump speaks at CPAC in 2013. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Having a baby is a wonderful miracle that should be celebrated and enjoyed. That’s why an election year is a bad time to do it. All I can think about as I watch Donald Trump bully his way toward the presidency—appealing to voters who closed their minds long ago and gave in to selfish and hateful “solutions” to situations that upset them—is my precious daughter, who will be born into the United States of America in the saddest condition I have ever known.

She will be born in May, just before bigoted republicans nominate a bully and blind democrats nominate a criminal. I want to tell her a few things to counteract what she might perceive about the world if she spends her first few years exposed to President Trump:

  • Hating someone for having a different opinion is wrong. Choosing to stop being friends with someone because of a difference of opinion is sometimes necessary—but not usually. Degrading someone for hurting or challenging you is never respectable.
  • Talking louder does not make you right. If you are sure you are correct, state your opinion calmy and state it only once. Imparting wisdom to a fool is futile.
  • The position of President of the United States should be respected. People do not respect it anymore, but you will be taught to respect it. If Donald Trump is president, we will speak about him with dignity, even if we do not like him or his policies.
  • Being popular does not prove you are right. Never support anyone simply because they are popular. First, make sure you agree with what they are saying.
  • Success is not just “winning.” Winning wars or debates does not make one successful. In our house, success means living a fulfilling life, serving others, being surrounded with people who love you, and making the world better—not just your tiny corner of it.
  • A noble person has discernment. Sometimes it is necessary to fight, be tough, wage war, build walls. These acts should be accompanied by gravity and regret. Sometimes, it is necessary to have mercy, to give, to forgive, and to love in spite of discomfort.

And those, Evie, are the things you won’t learn from Trump. Maybe I’ll write the next installment soon: “Things You Won’t Learn from Hillary.” Then again, maybe you should be older…


Update: Week 25

An update on the progress of this thing (“thing” is how I say “pregnancy,” I guess?) is long overdue, but I’ve been putting it off; frankly, after the first trimester, crazy developmental facts about baby kind of drop off. The updates used to be things like “this week her brain doubles in size,” or “this week she starts growing hair!” or “this week she sprouted ears!” Now, her updates are more like, “This week she got bigger!” Thanks, I can’t tell based on my ever-protruding stomach and driving urge to eat more than I could ever dream of holding.

The stomach is really the biggest change. When I was younger, I used to think I had a poochy belly. I’d get in the shower and think “Jeez, Maddy, do a few sit-ups; you look a little pregnant!” Turns out, no. I did not. Now I do. Now I know.

Life in general is about forty times easier here recently, since I’m not taking classes and I can eat normal-person food. And I’m not worrying that this child will come out smelling vaguely of sour-cream-and-cheddar Ruffles chips. And I’m gaining weight. I even started eating salad, so you all can tell Evelyn about it when she’s 13 and convinced I have never cared about her as a person.

Since I’m not taking classes this spring, I’m taking on another day per week at work. I’m also switching positions—I started working as a receptionist, replacing my title of exam assistant. This is exciting because a) it’s the position I originally interviewed for and b) I am a little bit lazy and do not like lifting dogs onto exam tables. Okay, I’m also pregnant and shouldn’t be wrestling dogs for a whole lot longer. I’ve also been really, REALLY tired recently, so I figure if I’m answering phones, I’m less likely to accidentally vaccinate myself against leptospirosis. Anyway, it’s good news.

Garret’s final semester started a couple weeks ago, so now he stays up about eight hours later than I do. Ahh, homework. It’s kind of sad, but it works out because we finally have even energy levels in the mornings. I can’t figure out why, but I have always needed more sleep than him. So it’s all good!

Since I have more free time now, entertainment is proving to be a little tough. I thought living in city meant free entertainment would be easy to find. This is really only true in the summer. Bummer. So, most evenings we watch Scrubs, sitting in silence at the end of each episode, neither one wanting to be the person to say, “Okay, that’s probably enough Scrubs…” Luckily, Netflix gives us only about 13 seconds of this awkwardness before the next episode starts and we relax again.

Another misconception I had about Grand Rapids was that I would get out a lot and do stuff in the city—go out on the town and whatever. But I think I stay home now more than I ever have before in my life. Maybe it’s because it’s so obnoxious to drive here, or maybe it’s because when you have 400 restaurants within five miles of your apartment, picking just one is too much of a commitment. Anyway, I’m very familiar with our little apartment, now. And when we don’t live here anymore, I will kick myself daily for not going to more Griffins games.

That’s a pretty comprehensive update! There’s not much to relay except, yes, I’m still pregnant; yep, we’re frightened to death; and, yes, we’re excited as can be!


I Can’t Wait

Dear Evelyn,

I cannot wait for you. It is a trite sentiment, but it is more true than it has ever been for any other mother on earth. I promise.

I cannot wait to see your smile or your tiny fingers. I want to see just how tiny the toenails on your pinky toes are when you are born. I think that yours will be the smallest, most interesting fingers on the planet.

I cannot wait to see your eyes. It’s most likely that they are brown, but I wonder if they might be blue like your daddy’s. I selfishly hope they are, because I always wished my eyes were blue and want to see what it would look like.12662443_805428619584590_4816898288683782333_n

I cannot wait for the sleepless nights spent helping you. Life is rough, and I just hope I can make your debut go well for you.

I cannot wait for the first steps or the first words. Since I’m thinking of how much you will teach me, I’m dying for the words to start.

I cannot wait to hold you. I think that if I get to spend one second of my life knowing that you are more happy because I am near you, all of this will be worth it.

I cannot wait for your ABC’s. I have no idea how to teach a baby, Evie. I’m so sorry you get a novice. But I love language, and I hope you do, too. If I can pass an ounce of my love for these letters to you, it will be worth hundreds of hours with flashcards. Or fingerpaint. Or neon signs. Or a waterslide in the shapes of letters. Whatever it takes; I’m not super partial.

I cannot wait to take you swimming, because swimming is one of the biggest joys in my life and I want to share it with you. I very much hope you like the beach, so we can swim the Great Lakes and be two children together for a while.

I cannot wait for the curls. I have zero doubt that your hair is curly and brown. Genetically speaking, it’s almost a guarantee. Apologies in advance, because your life is 10 percent harder than the average human’s due to this.

I cannot wait to take you to beautiful places and see your eyes light up when you see big, beautiful things. I want to show you the lakes and the beautiful flowers my daddy showed to me. I want to show you the tallest buildings in all the cities we go to. I want to show you a soccer field in the early, early morning. I want to show you the places in the woods that take my breath away. I want to show you a beautiful horse and see if you marvel at it like I do. I want to show you a cicada’s skin, left behind on a pine tree. It’s okay if you don’t like that one. I will understand. Sort of.

I cannot wait to give you food to make your eyes light up and your heart happy. I wonder what our family’s food will mean to youif it’s anything like my mom’s cooking means to me, or something totally different. I will give you a bright blue popsicle sometimes. I will give you chocolate. I will give you oranges. And lots of other healthy things too, but you will learn fast about chocolate, because I adore you and I hope we share a love of chocolate.

I cannot wait to tell you how much of a miracle you are. Again, trite. But, Evelyn, you don’t know what it feels like to have real person crafted by God through your body. I’m sure someday you will understand this, but until then, darling, you have no idea just how fearfully and wonderfully you are made. I will tell you every day.

I cannot wait to see your dad take care of you. I just want to see the two of you together. I think it’s the most beautiful thing on earth, and I’m dying to see. Ever since we found out you were coming, it has felt like something huge is missing. We can’t wait for you to come out so we can start living the life we can only imagine right now.


In-Between Places

I de-Christmased our apartment last week, which was a bit depressing, and an intense mood swing in a less-than-desirable direction compounded my low spirits. I had a few lame days. Oh, well. Road trips and sunshine fix a lot of problems, so we set out to visit our hometown this past weekend.

We aimed to see family but also bought some baby supplies and made progress figuring out living arrangements for post-baby life. God is being really cool, providing us with everything we need about 24 hours after we realize we need it. We’re getting really excited.

We’re also getting a little worried: May is going to be a huge month. It starts with Garret’s finals week, then the 7th is his commencement, the 18th is Evelyn’s due date, and the 31st is the last day of our apartment lease, which we can’t renew because it’s student housing. We might single-handedly keep the West Michigan coffee industry afloat for those few weeks.

This expectant feeling is a lot like what we felt in the years leading up to our marriage, so it’s somewhat frustrating to already be back in the waiting game. On the other hand, it’s extremely comforting that God has been so faithful in providing for us before and since our wedding. We know this new adventure will be no different, but we also really don’t like waiting for good things. Can you blame us, though? We’re having a baby girl and buying a ton of girly baby stuff.

In case you wondered, creating a baby registry makes one really need to hold a baby. I’m only halfway into this pregnancy, and I already get so worked up when I see moms with little girls in the store. My crazy baby-making hormones make me think things like, “I want a baby girl! Why don’t I have a baby girl yet? Life is so unfair and babies are so cute and wonderful and will solve my issues stemming from my lack of baby! I need ravioli and a nap and WHY am I still pregnant?”


Hopefully our planes Thursday fly in straighter lines than these.

We’re leaving this week for Florida to see Garret’s sister, so that has us geeked out of our minds. We have been spoiled by relatively warm weather in Michigan this winter, but now that the cold has settled in, I’m really excited to wear shorts. I hope they fit…

In general, I’ve been really lucky (so far) that I haven’t had to alter my wardrobe. Evie is either going to be small or a late bloomer, which is totally fine with me. I can still wear my normal jeans, and in most of my sweaters, you wouldn’t be able to tell I’m hiding anything. The main problem I have comes from wearing clothes that don’t hide the bump. I can’t assume people know it’s from a human growing in my abdomen yet, so I feel the need to explain to strangers that I’m not just fat. I can have 40 conversations in my head in defense of my poochy belly before I can grab the milk and get out of Meijer. I do not like this in-between place.

But most of life is an in-between place, and I’m learning that it’s not all bad. Evie woke up and started kicking as I sat down to write this, which I’m pretty sure is her way of telling me to slow down and enjoy this time a little more.