It's just like falling in love

I'm in the land of dreams, that sunset-gold bright hazy world where light floats on the breeze like cotton in the spring and there's magic layered on magic. I'm talking to a friend about to be married, explaining the difference between how you fall in love with a man and how you fall in love with a baby.

You fall in love with a man tentative, even though it feels like a brick wall falling, love booming miraculous and echoing loud through the halls of your heart that have been aching to hear those sounds since the beginning of time. You don't know anything about him, this alien life form all hairy and full of new smells and sounds and coming into your shared space one morning with his raggedy t-shirts from old concerts and jeans stained and smelling of gasoline, a bunch of tools you don't know the names for, shampoo you'd never buy from the dollar section, and socks on your floor, boxers in the bathroom, and hair. Everywhere. (Don't cry to me about clogged drains with long hair, boys. It's payback for the million times we've swept around the tub surround, believe you me.)

My very first non-date with my future husband
But a baby is a whole different experience. They explode out of your body in this other-worldly, out-of-body don't-care-if-you-refuse-drugs you may as well have taken heroin before hand sort of experience, and there they are on your belly that you'll never recognize again anyway, slippery, slimy, blue and squealing like a piglet, and something shatters inside you in a silent and irreversible process that you can't orchestrate or prevent, and you are in love. Now, having a baby is different for every mom. But for me, there was nothing alien about my babies. Not their smell, not their sounds, not their bodies, not their schedules, not the way they latched on to my breasts, which I thought would be the weirdest part of it all (how I thought that would trump, *ahem*, the way they entered this world, I don't know, but I thought it would). 

Sniffing Caleb at 8 weeks, 2 weeks before I was diagnosed with cancer
I spent 24 hours a day either smelling or nursing my babies. I rarely washed them because they seemed perfectly perfect the way they were. (Okay, I'll admit it. About day three, they started to smell like goat cheese, and so did I, and so I showered with them in this incredible - albeit crazy, hippie, and potentially creepy - experience of a co-shower. I didn't bathe them in an actual bathtub unless we were at Grandma's where this weirdness would be, well - weird. Or until they were six months old and I'd come out of my baby-having induced coma and become a baby-escaping psycho instead.) Incredibly, I can't find many pictures of me smelling them. Kind of like I have about 4 photos of me kissing my husband even though I kiss him all the time. Curse of the photographer - you're always on the other side of the lens. And there's no way I'm posting pictures of me nursing them on my blog. Although I did make my husband take photos of me nursing them so someday I can look at them and remember. I doubt I'll ever show them to anyone else, unless maybe the girls want to see them if they go crazy, gung-ho hippie when they have their own kids in similar fashion to their own mother who made the switch from conservative, short-cropped hair SUV driving snowboarder to baby-wearing, co-sleeping, baby-sniffing, coo-coo for CoCo Puffs baby lover in less than 5 minutes postpartum.

Sniffing Caleb when my hair started to grow back 4 years into my cancer battle in early 2012.
The thing about love is, it doesn't matter how it forms in your heart, how it grows once there, or whether it's the curious, still-getting-to-know-you kind of love I have for my husband of ten years or the ferocious, lioness, kill-you-if-you-look-cross-eyed-at-my-cubs kind of love I have for my four kids of 8 years. And the kind of panic that love can bring out in you - that's exactly the same, no matter what kind of love you're talking about. 

Panic is all around these days. Panic that I'm failing - again - as a wife and mother. Pain in my heart and pain in my body have got me cocooned in my bed again, slipping down the slippery depression slope faster than I can pull myself back up it with meds and coping skills and therapy appointments. How can you hold a heart together when it is breaking? I still don't have an answer for that one. 

Panic that we are not ready - our family is so unready - to face another season of storming. If Amelia does have cancer - something that the doctors seem to talk about more matter of factly with every passing doctor's visit and I'm trying to get to a place of mixed denial-acceptance (?) about - how are we going to shore up for this one? Where is Jesus on this stormy sea? Will He come and stall the storm or is He going to have us ride it out until we think we're dying like the disciples? Katy is head over heels for sports, and needs time outside every day with Aaron or I, feeding her dreams, fueling her body. Rosy is at some 7 year old angst-ridden cross-roads, trying to find her identity, wanting to be herself in our family, pushing for some freedom to follow her own dreams. We need to find ways to make it happen for her - an instrument, a sport, some art lessons - something that is just hers, something to captivate her heart and make those eyes glow again and her little soul sing. Amy's too tired to want much of anything. We're focusing mostly on building her up physically for the physical battle to come - focusing on immune health and trying to put a little meat on her bones in case chemo is in the works for her. Caleb is his usual fitful, boundary pushing self. He needs more to do, no doubt about it. More structure, more boundaries, more to engage his mind and his body. And here's where you can queue the "Mom's failing" music again. So many things to do, and I feel like I can't even get meals on the table or my house cleaned! How can I meet the needs of their souls? And how do I decide what to put first? How can I meet soul needs in a house full of chaos but how can I put off soul needs until I quell the chaos who knows when? 

When did love get so complicated? 

There is panic about my marriage. It is so easy, in times of stress, to slip into old habits of survival. He goes to sleep early, and I stay up late, dogged by nightmares and insomnia, and we are two ships passing the night and intimacy is a rare thing. We've learned how to be comfortable together in these seasons, but fear is an old enemy that launches into my soul, and I worry that I'm abandoning him out of selfishness and that he won't want me the way I am now and he will find comfort somewhere else more attractive, less real, less raw. We cry together, and he holds me in my dark moments, and I hold him in his. We both have faith that there will be better days again, nights in the darkness when we are safe in each others arms and the bedrock of marriage that God guards and planted and protects will still be there. 

In the cracks and crevices, in between the chaos and the sticky floors, the dishes piled high and the surviving of the busy schedules crammed with doctors appointments and kids ball games and trying to find time to have fun as a family, there is always joy. Twenty minutes on our bed looking through old photos with the kids remembering days before cancer when we were two kids in love with babies to sniff and toddlers running around buck naked and a clean house with just a smattering of toys and dinner always on the table at six and long kisses after his work day. He puts on the telephoto lens and captures a gold finch flitting in the afternoon sun and we look at those images together and my heart melts right into his, and we are one, two made one, two pieces of one whole, two halves that found each other in a big wide world of strangers. We struggle to keep our eyes open in the cold dark night at the drive-in movie theater while the kids sleep in the back of the suburban and his big brown hand finds mine and he anchors me, in the silence we remember that we love this, we love the same things, and when life is over and done it will be reduced to moments like these when we loved each other and loved the same fleeting beauties on a sea of changing circumstances and through every hardship and difficulty. Two cardinals fly by the porch while we perch in sorrow, a male and a female, and suddenly it is my grandpa and grandma, three years now gone to heaven together, and we remember their love story of loss and brokenness, and the tears dry and we are laughing at this little wink from heaven that life goes on and life is soon over, and remember that, though time is short and times are tough, we are a cord of three strands not quickly broken.

When did love get so easy?