Monday, July 30, 2012

Noah's Adoption Story--That First Week

A friend of mine recently made a slideshow of photos and videos for her daughter's first birthday, and I thought it was so touching.  What is it about photos put to music that reminds us that life is so beautiful?  I decided that I wanted to make a video of Noah's first year, and I knew exactly what song I would use in the background of the photos from the night of his birth--Christina Perri's "A Thousand Years."  I know this is meant to be a romantic love song, but the first time I heard it and listened to the lyrics, I immediately thought of our wait for Noah and our unending love for him.  Sometimes I sing him the chorus and my heart swells to the point that I am pretty sure it is going to burst right out of my chest. (Does anyone else experience this sensation during certain moments with their children??)

So I set out to make the video of his first year of life, but as I flipped through the photos of his first week, I couldn't narrow them down.  Each photo brought back a flood of emotions and memories: being with Katie, Drew, and their mothers in the delivery room; watching in awe as Katie fought through labor and delivery without an epidural; sobbing my eyes out as I watched Noah come into the world and held him in my arms for the first time; passing Noah around the room to be adored by his parents, birthparents, grandmother, and birthgrandparents; feeling the complete unity of our three families through our mutual love of Noah; grieving for Katie and Drew as they placed Noah in our arms and left the hospital without him; introducing Noah to all of our ecstatic family members who were so eager to pour love on him; learning how to rock, feed, swaddle, and bathe him; snuggling him against my chest and marveling that I was finally a mother; meeting up with Katie and Drew and their families one final time before heading home to Colorado; driving through the beautiful Rocky Mountains, our precious new baby snoozing in the backseat, and being greeted at home by another batch of elated family members...

It was, by far, the most sacred week of my entire life.  I am so grateful that I not only lived it, but that I also get to relive it through photos and memories.  I never want to forget the love that I felt that week--for Noah, Katie, and Drew and also from our family members and friends.  Truly, we are so blessed.

So I decided that I couldn't cut any of the photos.  I decided that I would make a video of Noah's entire first year later, but for now, this video is solely devoted to that beautiful first week of his life.  I hope that when Noah watches it someday, he will see the joy in the faces of his parents, his birthparents, and every person who held him in those first few days, and he will recognize just how deeply he is loved by so many people.

Katie and Drew, this video is dedicated to you.  If it weren't for your selflessness, none of this joy would've been possible for us.  I know that you, too, will love Noah for "a thousand years."  I know that you sometimes ache for him and miss him deeply.  I know that the last few days have been difficult as we are approaching the anniversary of his birth and adoption placement.  Please know that you are in our hearts this week and every week, and you two are a part of Noah that we will always honor and cherish.

We love you so much.

Noah's First Week from Rachel Westover Nielson on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Noah Is Super Cute

Today is the first day of Noah's "Birthday Week."  So in his honor, I thought I'd post an insanely adorable video of him playing with his dad. (Well, at least I think it's insanely adorable.)  I love his roaring and giggling.  He is such a rascal.

Happy birthday week, Noah Bug!  Mom has all sorts of fun planned for you!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Reflections: My First Year as a Mother

I love watching my baby sleep.  Each night, I sneak into his room and find him curled up on his stomach, his little rear end in the air, his legs tucked under him.  He looks so sweet and scrumptious, and I have to resist the urge to reach down and squeeze that little bum or those pudgy little hands.

Oh how I love him.

He is almost one.  It's so hard to believe.  A friend of mine had a baby a few days before Noah, and she recently wrote on Facebook that this has been "the best year of [her] life, hands down."  I thought about her sentiment and wondered if I could echo it.  I wasn't sure that I could.  This year has been overwhelmingly good, but it has also been overwhelmingly challenging.  I've always known that I wouldn't be a perfect mother (I mean, honestly, who is?), but although my brain knew that, I think my heart secretly hoped that I would surprise myself.  Maybe, after my years of waiting for a baby, I would somehow be an enlightened, wise, infinitely patient mama from day one.

I wasn't.  At all.  And reconciling the disparity between the mother that I hoped I would be and the mother that I actually am has been humbling and at times painful, but ultimately so worth it.

The months of Noah's colic were long and very very hard.  There were times when I held my bawling baby in my arms and I bawled myself, asking him over and over, "Please stop, Noah.  Please stop."  I felt guilty when people who knew of our long wait for Noah would say to me, "I bet you are just loving every single minute of this."  Because truthfully, I wasn't.  There was much of the experience of new motherhood that I loved--but I didn't love the hours of screaming and the feelings of inadequacy, isolation, and exhaustion.  Did that make me ungrateful?  Did it make me an awful mom?

There were times when I watched other young mothers at church with their babies all snuggled up and sleeping soundly against their chests, and I wondered, "Why won't my baby cuddle?  Why does he have to be so hard?"  It was difficult not to feel jealous when I heard about other babies who took long naps or who sat contently in their swings and watched their mamas work on projects.  It felt unfair that my baby had never sat in his swing or under his mobile for more than five minutes without crying.  I loved my baby desperately, but it turns out that I was still a little selfish.

As Noah got older, he got quite a bit happier, but I still wasn't perfect.  I loved being a mom, but I didn't always love being a stay-at-home mom.  Without the structure of my job, with its set deadlines and regimented schedule, I couldn't seem to force myself to use my time wisely.  I constantly felt mad at myself for it.  It had nothing to do with Noah--I loved him to bits--it was me whom I was frustrated with.  Some days I spent too much time on my computer and didn't interact with him enough.  Some days I didn't prioritize prayer and scripture study, and then I got snippy with him when he wouldn't stop crying and grabbing my legs while I was trying to make dinner.  Some mornings, when he woke up at 5:00 a.m. very grumpy and very whiny, I lay on my bed and felt sorry for myself instead of getting outside for an early-morning jog.  Looking back on this year, I know that there were lots of times when I was self-absorbed and a far cry from the mother that I'd hoped I would be.

And yet, in spite of all of those weaknesses, there are a lot of things that I did right.

I took good care of my little boy.  I snuggled him close, my arms around him, my head resting on his soft hair, as I fed him bottles.  It was the only time of day when he was still, and I took advantage of it.

I told him I loved him every day, a hundred times a day.

When I felt like I didn't know what I was doing, I stayed up late reading books about babies--sleep books to help him get the rest that he needed, mothering books to make sure that his development was on track, and food books to make sure I was feeding him properly.

I kissed him all over his little face before each and every nap.  In his tired, almost drunken state, he'd press his face against the bars of his crib, his mouth half open and grinning as I got down on my knees and smooched his nose, his cheeks,  and his forehead.

I let him feed me with his dirty little hands, nibbling on his sticky fingers with dramatic sound effects that inevitably put him in fits of giggles.

My baby loves me, imperfections and all, and I adore him.  I am amazed by how much he has grown and changed this past year.  How is it possible that he has gone from a squishy little newborn to a spunky little toddler?  How is it possible that just a year ago he couldn't even lift his head, and now he runs around the house?  His physical and mental changes have been so astonishing and so visible that it is sometimes difficult for me to recognize that someone else in the picture has also changed.  Though I look very much the same as I did a year ago, I have changed perhaps just as much as Noah has.

I still have such a long way to go until I am that wise and ever-patient mom that I hope to be someday--but I have learned so many lessons this year that I can't quite verbalize or quantify, yet I know are very real.  I am not the same as I was one year ago.

Looking back on the challenges, the changes, the growth and the joys, it's easy for me to see that maybe, just maybe, this has been the best year of my life after all.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Noah's First Fourth

We had a pretty uneventful 4th of July in the Nielson home.  Because of the wild fires all over the state of Colorado, most cities canceled their fireworks shows.  I had this dream of lying on a lawn with Noah and Ryan, watching fireworks overhead (I always romanticize holidays), so I was pretty bummed that we wouldn't be taking Noah to watch fireworks after all.  I am still pretty bummed about it, actually.  But I guess there's always next year.

Determined to make the holiday at least a little bit festive, I suggested that we spend the night at my Dad's house on the 3rd, get up and make red, white, and blue pancakes for breakfast, and then walk with the kids in the annual neighborhood parade on the morning of the 4th.  

Well, in typical Westover fashion, we got a slow start on the day and had to skip the patriotic pancakes, and then we were late getting to the parade, so we missed it.  Yes, we are awesome!

Don't worry, though, we had our own parade.  Ryan pulled the boys in a decorated wagon, and Sarah and I walked alongside them pushing Jade in her stroller and singing "You're a Grand Old Flag." 

Noah was ecstatic and laughed the entire time we were walking.  I think he was mostly amused by the fact that he got to whack his cousin Callum in the face with his plastic flag.  Callum wasn't too happy about it and cried most of the way home.

I feel kind of bad that Noah had such a lame first 4th of July--but from the pure glee on his face in the pictures from our "parade," I'm pretty sure that he didn't really care.

Maybe we'll get him to a real parade (and some fireworks!) next year. :)