Long Days and Short Years

just trying to pay attention so I don't miss my life

On your new arrival


Hidden somewhere in one of the cluttered corners of our house is a ziploc bag filled with baby cards.  They are cute, almost uniformly pink (except for, of course, the rainbows), and express bouncy messages of congratulations for the birth of our now four-year-old daughter.

We received them in the early winter months of 2008, but it took me years to open them all.  The reason?  They made me cry.

They said things like, “Celebrating with you the arrival of your baby daughter” and “A little girl is such a joy”, but my experience at that time was not so straightforward.  Our bundle of joy screamed, my celebrating body ached, and the nights and the days ran together…on and on and on…  We loved her–oh yes, we adored her–but it was so very hard to stop crying.

It wasn’t until the summer that we realized how bad my postpartum depression was and found some help.  Internal and external life improved slowly, and by the time we had our second daughter (just 20 months later), I had some appreciation for the bouncy rainbow cards.  I even went back and opened some of the older ones.  Now I could see–albeit through a haze of sleep-deprivation and baby spit-up–that our girls were indeed blessings, bundles of joy, etc. (though perhaps not “little angels.”  Really, have the people who write these ever met any real children?).

I share all of this in order to share a question.  Now with two preschoolers, I am further and further removed from the intensity of diaper days.  At the same time, I am surrounded by birth announcements.  Thus my dilemma.

What do I write in the card?

I realize that this is a very minor issue in the grand scheme of people’s problems.  As I write this post I keep thinking about friends who have lost babies by miscarriage or stillbirth, and also about those who struggle to conceive.  There is a weightiness here, and I know instinctively to choose my words slowly, lovingly, and prayerfully.  Or to not speak at all.

But my question remains.

How do I give a similar amount of attention and thoughtfulness to those who hold their infants in their arms?  Because I remember one of the painful things people said after I endured a traumatic, multiple-day labor–“Well, as long as Mama and baby are healthy, everything is okay.”  Sometimes, that is simply not true.

And sometimes it is true.  I am aware of the temptation to project my experience onto other people’s situations.   Maybe a new mother is simply overjoyed.  Maybe a couple has been trying to conceive for a long time and experience their baby as a miracle.  Maybe some people like infants more than they like sleep.

And maybe sometimes it’s hard and sometimes it’s not, and sometimes your baby seems like the most blessed thing that ever happened to you and sometimes seems like a little dictator determined to take over everything you ever knew.  Maybe sometimes you forget what it was like to sleep for more than two hours at a time, and maybe sometimes you watch them sleep and actually think, “oh, what a little angel.”


Maybe it’s just a lot to write in a card.


5 thoughts on “On your new arrival

  1. Great post and a good reminder that everyone’s experience with new motherhood is different. I think perhaps the best thing you can write in any card is to offer your support — and be sure they know you mean it. Something like — “Congratulations. I remember the first few months were pretty wild. I’ll be bringing dinner over next week” — phased so it sounds like you, of course! No matter how they’re experiencing those early days, a hot meal and a helping hand is always welcome.

  2. I actually have a very similar experience to you with our first one. She had severe acid reflux, lesions on her esophagus, never ate without projectile puking, and never stopped crying due to her hunger and/or pain. And like you, I struggle with what to say, how to be honest, yet positive, and encouraging.

    What I have said most in the past is that children are a blessing, but a hard blessing. They will help you see God’s love in a whole new way, the sweet rosy love and also the hard love that we receive and are in turn to show to others. That no matter how easy or hard, children will help you better know the heart of God, and that, in the end, is the greatest goal.

    It is only by saying something along those lines that I have been able to write a baby card, while still feeling honest. Of course, this would only be appropriate for the people having a child, and not for the ones struggling with miscarriages (which I also have experienced) or infertility.

    Such a honest, authentic, and true question. Thanks for putting it out there!!

    • This is exactly what I was hoping for when I wrote this post… thank you both for your insights. I love the phrase “a blessing, but a hard blessing.” Isn’t that the truth? And Kate, I like the casual way you phrased, “I know that it can be a wild time.” This is a nice way to acknowledge that it could be hard without being too heavy… and showing up with some food is a great way to check in. Ladies, I will be stealing some of your phrases!

  3. Love this, Jen. Thank you for sharing your experience. I struggle with how to support my friends as they have and raise babies… especially as I realize what a complex, difficult (and yes, wonderful!) experience it can be.

    • I think that you already have some good ideas… like offering to watch the girls for me while Kendall is away!

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