My daughter’s middle name is Grace. When my husband first suggested it, the English nerd in me immediately Googled the etymology. Since her first name had so much personal meaning between us, I loved the idea of giving her a middle name with such a strong and established origin as Grace. As I pored over endless references, I began to get excited about the multiple meanings behind the word. I had visions of telling my daughter that her name was a reminder of the kind of person we hoped she would be. It meant that we wanted her to be “full of grace,” meaning to be generous and helpful to others. That we wanted her to be “graceful,” meaning elegant, and, unlike her mother in every way, to move about the world with ease and confidence. And that at dinner, when we say grace, that she is our biggest blessing, the thing we are most thankful for. My pregnant self was such a good mom, right?
Well, as I am quickly learning about being a mother, my daughter will teach me more about life than I will ever teach her. And the one who needs to be reminded of what grace truly means is me. Because grace has a lot of other meanings too. Like the granting of a favor. Usually I am reminded of this at 3 pm when my daughter is going on her second hour of “crying,” (seriously, you would think I was removing her fingernails with a butter knife the way she wails), and I am singing the ABCs for the tenth time of the day while texting my husband begging him to come home, shoving my chocolate chip cookie “lunch” down my throat, and realizing that that awful smell is actually me and not the dog. And just when I think I am about to show my daughter that her screams are nothing compared to mine, she stops crying and gives me a goofy, drooly smile. She has shown me grace. She has done us both a favor. She has stopped me from screaming. And now I have enough patience to endure the next two hours of crying which inevitably begin mere seconds later. So I say grace for her favor.
Grace also means mercy, as in forgiveness and kindness. This is the big one. It is so hard to forgive yourself and be kind to yourself as a new mom. Every decision, no matter how minute, is an opportunity to make a mistake. A mistake that feels as if it will screw up your kid permanently for the rest of her life. My daughter loves her pacifier. And if I could duct tape it to her face, I would love it too. But no, it falls out every ten seconds and she screams until it’s put back in. I hate the pacifier. It is my worst enemy. And I berate myself every day for giving it to her in the first place. She’ll never learn to self-soothe! My husband and I are destined to sleep in ten minute increments for the rest of our lives! We should never have given her the pacifier, we should have made her sleep in her crib from the day we brought her home, I should have never nursed her to sleep. Can I do anything right? See? There are so many opportunities to beat yourself up. And I take many of them. And then whoever has the unfortunate luck to answer their phone when I call, whether it be my husband, or my sister, or a friend, reminds me of the same thing: she is fine. And you know what? She is. Is she a great sleeper? Absolutely not. Can she handle being alone for more than ten seconds before she protests loudly? No way. But you know what? Here’s my mantra: She is safe. She is clean. She is fed. She is clothed. She is loved. So I say grace that even though I cannot do everything right, I can give her those things.
Grace also means an unmerited gift from God. Which my daughter most certainly is. I didn’t always see it this way. I once saw those two blue lines staring at me from all nine (yes I said nine) pregnancy tests as a punishment. A death sentence to who I was and the life I loved. But when she laughs at my silly faces, or I watch her little lids flutter as she sleeps, or she splashes happily in the bath, I am reminded that she is a gift. I did nothing to deserve her, but she was given to me anyway. She makes me a better person. A less selfish, more loving, more patient, more understanding, stronger person. And I say grace for the woman my daughter is making me be.
As I am writing this, my daughter is letting loose the highest-pitched shrieks I have ever heard while my husband tries to lay her down for her first nap not in my arms in weeks. It has been going on for quite a while. It’s a battle of the wills and I am really not sure which one of them will come out victorious. But I am thankful. I am thankful he is the one who is dealing with it. I am thankful that this could mean I may have the use of both of my arms for nearly two hours every day. She reminds me that although I certainly do not “enjoy every moment” like everyone tells me to, there are moments every day that I enjoy. And I say grace for those.