Exhaustion sets in early. Arms unused to the weight of nine-months-old ache. Bright blue baby eyes search for familiarity, terrified. Pudgy hands grasp tight, clinging to anything to avoid being put down, alone. Our hearts have forgotten the emotional weight of those first nights with a new hurting child. The burden of clouded history and uncertain future falls heavy.
So we enter this sacred dance of loving. I hold tense baby heaviness until the sobs subside. I murmur sweet songs of Jesus to soothe frightened grief. Hold him close, roll him into bed, careful to keep the blanket tight so he doesn’t know he’s lying alone. Meanwhile, you soothe unsettled children. Breathing words of love, reassurances of permanency, praise and pride for being willing to go to this hard place. Showers, teeth brushed, bedtime prayers. We move close in the hallway, exchanging places, trading children. You hold the boys close while they drift to sleep; I hold toddler hands through the crib, gazing into dark brown eyes, singing yet one more lullaby. Kisses, hugs, even more prayers, finally tiny hearts are all at rest.
Reconnection after the bedtime hours, remembering early days of years past. How it’s always this way: the exhaustion, the fear, the certainty, the deep of it all. You go to bed early, promising the pre-dawn shift. I stay up late, finishing mundane tasks, numbing the worries with long-loved re-runs.
I remember a moment last week. One where I was at a loss, trying to explain our children’s prayers, knowing that we were all feeling the ache of an empty bed. That’s when she says, this person who is contradiction in our lives – intricately woven into our story, yet distant, who doesn’t even share our faith buzzwords, she says, “Some people are just called.” And I knew it was true. We all feel it. We all know it, even the children. Sometimes I feel guilty; it wasn’t their choice. Then I remember the nights where I walk by bedrooms, see our children on their knees beside small ones’ beds, praying for their safety, for their future. We all choose this.
When it’s hard, and it is always hard, we rest in that. When we worry, wonder how our littles will cope, wonder where we will put yet one more child in our cozy home, we know. This is exactly where we’re supposed to be, exactly what we’re supposed to be doing. The holiness of these days shines through the frustration, the anger, the struggles. You look at me across the front seat of the car, your hand grasps mine tight, and I know this is the most we’ve ever loved. This is the best we’ve ever loved.
In a house full up, in a budget with little room for alone time, in a family where maintaining safety and security for our hurting children is the most important work we do, I love you more. Weekly date nights, anniversary getaways, worry-free babysitting, more living space, more budget space, all of that focusing on one another and our future – those aren’t the real things that build a marriage. It’s this. This looking outward together. This giving of our lives to something more than us, together.
This is our life’s work.
This is sacred.
This is love.