This week opened with a lot of new things at the Taylor house. Allyson and I were back from the hospital. I was off work for several weeks and free to be more present with my family. My parents would be here for about a week visiting. And, of course there was the new baby who would be taking up permanent residence with us. This week has been a time of getting our feet under us, figuring out this new little person, fawning over her, and discovering the new rhythms we will create together as a family.
With Aura out of the womb, I’m finding myself a little more useful as a parent. I am able to carry her now, relieving Allyson of some of that burden. I can feed her. I can get her to fall asleep and be responsible for her while she naps. Assisting in bringing a baby into the world has been a humbling experience. I talked to Allyson about the honor I felt in helping her do the work of birthing Aura then feeding her in her first days.
It reminded me of a story from the Old Testament. The Israelites are in a battle, and Moses is standing on a mountain overseeing everything. As long as he has his arms raised in the air, the Israelites are winning. When he lowers them, they begin to lose. Eventually, Moses becomes incredibly weary and can’t hold his arms up on his own, and people have to hold his arms up for him. I told Allyson that I felt like one of those people trusted to hold Moses up so he could do what only he could do, even when he was too exhausted to continue alone. I keep thinking of how Allyson did and continues to carry out this feat that she has to do. It is incredible to witness. And, I am here to hold her arms up when she is tired. That is its own great responsibility–even the holding up of the arms incorporates you into something miraculous.
We brought Aura home to a place surrounded by a thoughtful, loving staff who made us dinner, our warm home, our animals, even the weather was warm and inviting. Our daughter was birthed just before the longest stretch of sunny days we’ve had all year on the Oregon Coast. The first day home, I brought Aura’s crib out onto the porch, and she napped while I read my latest issue of Poetry magazine. I’ve been envisioning these outdoor naps for some time, part of my mission as a father to expose and equip my daughter to be comfortable in nature. She rested soundly with songbirds and the ocean creating our soundtrack. I imagine days like this for years to come. Moments resting outside together, because it has soothed both of us from early on in our lives. A cornerstone of the way I plan to approach parenthood is to invite my daughter into all the things I love as I do them, for her to learn them like she learns to move her hands, to use her voice. It will ultimately be her decision how important these things will be to her, but I want her to at least be shaped by them early on, because they are what has shaped me.
I’ve also enjoyed sharing these early days with my own parents who booked their flight pretty quickly after we shared the news their third grandchild would soon be born. My parents have been great examples throughout their lives of family. They are loving and helpful, forgiving and involved with family members from the immediate-just-down-the-road to the distant-only-see-you-every-ten-years family. So, you can be sure the birth of a new family member is one of the greatest things that can happen in their world.
I’ve really enjoyed taking these first steps of fatherhood with my mom and dad, having them help me in the daily rituals I hope to establish. They’ve set outside many afternoons with Aura as she napped. We’ve spent a great deal of time together sitting around the porch table, going for walks on camp trails and along the beach when the wind allowed. They’ve cleaned the cloth diapers, they’ve helped sort the recycling. They’ve made grocery runs, so many grocery runs. They’ve taken time for themselves to go out and explore the beach and pick up driftwood that speaks to them. We’ve had special time together, and we’ve had special time making our own personal explorations. We are getting to know this new child individually and personally. Part of being a host, I think, is giving your guest a piece of what it is like to live your life in your home, to open them up to your world. Here, I have been able to do this for my child and for my parents. I hope they are both beginning to understand the type of people Allyson and I want to be, the reasons we are making the decisions we make, a desire to be a part of that life and be shaped a little by it.
One evening this week I put Aura in baby backpack and walked her to Hope’s apartment, which had just been completed well enough that she could move in. I wanted to get out, to congratulate Hope on the move, and let Aura visit with this great friend of ours who I’m sure will have some influence on her as a role model as she grows up. Hope got her guitar out and played her a song, Iron and Wine’s “Naked as We Came.” Aura was beginning to get cranky, but the music soothed her enough that she quieted and began to look around. In my narrative, she was hearing live music for the first time and wanted to figure out what it was, where it was coming from. Of course, it could have been gas, but I like my story better.
Soon enough, Aura was ready for something new, so I strapped her back on to my chest and we set out. She was crying pretty loud, but as she felt the rhythm of my steps, she got quiet and settled up against me. She seems to find some peace and rest in walking. I am very hopeful this will continue, that we will be able to set out and walk when we are upset, that it will offer us both some solace. I hope this is becomes true for her throughout her life, because it is true to me and I want to share that with her. Of course, this is me creating a storyline again, but I do really enjoy for
now that it might be true. I walked her to the beach. The sun had just set and the sky was changing colors as it bid farewell for another day. It was a bit breezy, so we did not stay on the beach, but this time taken to say goodbye to the sun is another ritual I want her to know from an early age. Since moving here, it has something like a closing prayer each day for me to go to the beach and watch the day change over to night. I imagine us making this little trip routinely, pausing from our tasks to take notice of that big ball of fire slowly moving out of site until the next dawn.
From there, we walked to the camp wetlands trail which has come alive with warmer temperatures. In this area, you can now hear the sounds of frogs in the evening, which is a sound ingrained in my Southern DNA that I want Aura to know. As we rounded a corner, we spooked a couple of ducks who frantically flapped out onto the lake. I walked up on the bridge over the water and could see about 5 baby ducks paddling among the lily pads. I said, “Aura, it’s some baby ducks.” I stopped to look at them, thinking about how I was at this intersection with new spring life. Aura was not feeling philosophical, though, and began to cry until I started moving again. I get it, Aura: stop trying to attach meaning to every little thing. Let’s enjoy it and get on to something else.
That’s part of this sharing of lives. There is sharing, there is experiencing, there are different takes. We are constantly morphing, trying to better understand each other, trying to better understand ourselves. All of that sharing and thinking and story writing is also shaping us as we wonder about what it means. These are all great things to ponder, sometimes life changing things. But, it is also just a joy to take the walk, to look at the beautiful things taking place in this very moment. Not to get too wrapped up in the future, not to get tied up thinking what this means more than we need to, but to be satisfied and humbled by whatever our roles might be in the current miracle right in front of us.