New Motherhood

On Rest by Cara Stolen

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From the window in my home office, I have a perfect view of the pasture closest to our house, where we feed our cows in the early spring. Every day, after I put the kids down for their afternoon nap, I stand at it for awhile. I’ve watched the snow melt and the sagebrush bud; observed the cows’ bellies widen and their udders expand as we draw closer to their due dates—signs of spring and new life.

Today, I lean against the warm glass and gently massage my lower back. I look for new calves and signs of labor in each expectant cow. In theory, that’s why I stand here every day: to make sure there isn’t a cow stalled in labor needing help to give birth. But more than that, I like watching the calm, quiet actions of our mama cows.

Our oldest cow, 1095, gave birth to her eighth calf last week. From this vantage point, I noticed her pacing circles around the pasture and knew it was time. An hour later, she licked her white-faced calf clean and then stood to feed him his first meal. I couldn’t help but grin, delighted by the miracle of life yet again.

I stretch to the side, then turn to face my desk. A stack of bills, an open day planner, two coffee cups, and a full email inbox await me. But as I start to sit, the washer chimes. I tiptoe down the hall and throw the clean clothes on our (still unmade) bed. On my way back to the laundry room, I catch sight of the kitchen, where dishes are piled in the sink and lunch remnants cover the island. I dash into the kitchen to clean up, telling myself it will only take a minute. With the dishwasher loaded and counters wiped, I head back toward the office, forgetting entirely about the clean clothes in the washer.

Glancing out the window on my way to my desk, I see 1095 and her calf making their way up the hill to the water trough. She nudges him gently with her nose, then steadies him when he stumbles on his still-new legs.

Observing other moms and babies makes me feel included. Part of. Because motherhood was created by God, and I’m filling a role he designed.

Ignoring the mountain of paperwork, I watch 1095 and her calf rejoin the rest of the herd. As her calf lays down, she touches noses with another, still expectant cow and swishes her tail at another cow’s calf, sending him back to his mom. Then she lowers to her knees and lays down beside her calf.

I pull myself away from the window and sit at my desk. Yawning, I take a sip of this morning’s (yesterday’s?) cold coffee, and read through my email. I respond to a few, delete others, and turn to tackle the paperwork on my left. I sort through it, tossing receipts and making notes in my planner of due dates and deadlines, but find nothing urgent. I should go fold that laundry, and make the bed. Maybe I’ll even have time to clean the bathrooms before the kids wake up.

Spinning around in my chair, I look out the window one last time. The whole herd is laying down now, all the new and expectant moms basking in the long-awaited warmth of spring after a longer-than-normal winter.

1095 tenderly licks her calf’s ear. I remember those early newborn days with both of my kids, but I’m struck by how little my mothering resembled hers. While she is completely present with her baby, I behaved much the way I do now and filled every moment with laundry and cleaning and work.

Trailing my fingers along the desk’s edge on my way out, I catch sight of the corner of my Bible, peeking out from under a power bill. It’s been a while since I’ve opened it—putting it off for a night I’m not so tired or during naptime after my chores are done. But that never happens, and every day my kids wake up from their naps to a clean house, clean clothes, and a tired, worn-out mom.

Why is it so hard for me to rest and let myself relax? If God created both 1095 and me for motherhood, why does her mothering look so easy and relaxed while mine looks so frenzied and exhausting? Did it take her eight babies to reach this point? Or does she just instinctively know something I struggle to accept: that God created us to work and rest?

The laundry can wait, I decide. I grab my Bible and tiptoe to the living room. Pulling a fleece throw from beneath the entertainment center, I sink into the corner of the couch and open its cover.

Thirty minutes later, I hear my son’s door open. His feet pitter-patter down the hall toward me, waking his sister, but I can’t help but smile. He rounds the couch with a “Hi, Mom!” and clambers into my lap. To my surprise, I’m not mad that he woke up my daughter. And for the first time in I-can’t-remember-how-long I’m ready, and delighted, for them to be awake; rejuvenated and refreshed by God’s word.  


The Stillness That Remains by Cara Stolen

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The house is sticky and hot, filled with the odd aromatic combination of taco soup and blueberry muffins. I spent the morning in the kitchen and the fruits of my labor are laid out on our dining room table. Beside the soup and muffins, the afternoon sun streams through the patio door onto a color-coded list on the open page of my tattered notebook. Meals are written in neat rows, with careful lines through each to signify completion.

As I pace my ‘talking on the phone’ path around our rental house, I survey this scene with pride, and listen as my dear friend describes the grueling details of the first six months of her son’s life: the screaming, the colic, the lack of sleep.

‘I just know I’m going to have a baby like that,’ I tell her, thinking that mentally preparing for it will protect me from disappointment.

My belly tightens and I place my hand just below my right rib to feel his foot stretching against me. It’s hard to believe that my due date is only four weeks away.  

‘Maybe you’re right,’ she says. ‘I know I wasn’t prepared for it.’

Pausing, I grab the laundry basket at the foot of the stairs. A few months ago I took these stairs two at a time. Today, I’m panting when I reach the top. Our conversation turns to the drought rumors, and how unseasonably warm it is for May. As we say our goodbyes, I lower myself into the rocking chair that now sits in the corner of our room and cradle my swollen belly in both hands.

Rocking gently in the chair that my own mom rocked me in, I try to picture myself as a mom. Am I ready? The freezer is full, the tiny clothes are washed and folded, and the car seat has been installed for weeks. Keeping myself busy with physical preparations has served as an excellent distraction from my fear. But with my tasks completed, worry creeps into the stillness that remains. Will I be a good mom? I reach out to finger the lace on the borrowed bassinet and imagine putting our baby to sleep in it. I am so afraid that I will fail at this. I feel the baby shift in my belly, as if to comfort me. Will I be able to make peace with what I cannot control?  

I sink deeper in my chair and whisper softly, ‘ready or not.’

Across The Hall by Cara Stolen

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My alarm wakes me from a deep, exhausted sleep. It’s 5 am. Exactly 45 minutes ago I tiptoed back across the hall from your room and snuggled back under the covers of my cold side of the bed. I fumble for my phone to turn off the jingle, nudging your dad awake as I do, forgetting that I don’t have to whisper anymore. I sit up, and flip on my lamp—for the first time in 6 months.


It feels like an act of freedom, but is accompanied by the bitter aftertaste of sadness. For fifteen long months you slept inside of me, on me, or next to me. Your dad and I have exchanged sleepy good nights, heated words of anger, and loving words of appreciation in a barely audible whisper since you were born. We have grown accustomed to tiptoeing in our own bedroom. Silenced phones, flashlights, and showers in a barely lit bathroom have become normal.


But this morning was different. You were sleeping soundly in your own room when it was time for mommy and daddy to start their day. Ironically, we still caught ourselves whispering, even though we didn’t have to. Giggling, we congratulated ourselves on surviving the last six months. They’ve been long. And short. As any parent can tell you, babies distort time. No longer does time pass in a rhythmic, orderly fashion. Instead, hours can feel like days, while months feel like weeks.


This morning was the start of a new normal. A normal that will last much, much longer than six months. In a few weeks it will be hard for us to remember what it was like to tiptoe and whisper through our morning routine. But this morning the newness was palpable.


I’ve been waiting for this day for months. Dreaming of the freedom I would have when you were finally ready to sleep in your own room. Yet, even in my excitement, this morning feels a little melancholy. See, part of my heart is sleeping across the hall now. I missed it last night. I missed you this morning.


As with most milestones, this one is bittersweet. Your first clumsy toddle of independence. Preparing your daddy and I (and you) for the day you will fly our nest and spread your wings. Though that day seems like it’s a lifetime away, I know it will be here before I’m ready.