Sunday Morning Maternity Leave and the Church of the Lastborn

In The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver writes:

A mother’s body remembers her babies — the folds of soft flesh, the softly furred scalp against her nose. Each child has its own entreaties to body and soul. It’s the last one, though, that overtakes you. … A first child is your own best foot forward, and how you do cheer those little feet as they strike out. You examine every turn of flesh for precocity, and crow it to the world.

But the last one: the baby who trails her scent like a flag of surrender through your life when there will be no more coming after — oh, that’s love by a different name. She is the babe you hold in your arms for an hour after she’s gone to sleep. If you put her down in the crib, she might wake up changed and fly away. So instead you rock by the window, drinking the light from her skin, breathing her exhaled dreams. Your heart bays to the double crescent moons of closed lashes on her cheeks. She is the one you can’t put down.

For the past six weeks, this has beat like a mantra at the back of my brain: This is the last time you will ever do this. This is the last time you will bring a baby home from the hospital. This is the last time you will button this tiny sweater. February_2007_zinaLike Orleanna Price, I stay in the rocking chair long after the baby has gone to sleep. Instead of attending my normal LDS meetings, I have worshipped at the church of the lastborn. This is a religion with different sacraments. Quotidian tasks become sacred acts. A baptism of water during a first bath; a special anointing of oil for tender skin. There is only milk, not meat.

Now the babymoon is over — six weeks of Sunday morning maternity leave has been enough time for an unhurried recovery. Today we venture out into the wider world together. Today you meet another part of your family — a community of saints, who have prayed for your safe arrival and sent their love wrapped in foil-covered casserole dishes. Today we leave our nest, but we also come home.

Comments

  1. Julie M. Smith says:

    This is a lovely post. Thank you.

  2. Beautiful sentiments wonderfully expressed. And The Poisonwood Bible is one of my favorite books…

  3. Ardis Parshall says:

    Thanks for including all of us in your family circle.

  4. with only days left till the birth of what might be our last, thank you. i now have to fix my makeup before church, but thank you. it’s been a rough pregnancy and i look forward to feeling those feelings once she’s actually here.

  5. Proud Daughter of Eve says:

    What a touching post! I don’t even have a first baby yet but now I’m filled with aching and nostalgia for that last one. Beautifully written.

  6. Wonderful.

  7. oh shoot, you almost made me cry.
    That photo looks so much like my baby, who is 4 months old and if not the last he’s at least got to be the last one for a while. And unfortunately I haven’t been available to cuddle and drink him in as described. (sigh)

  8. poetic and touching
    it makes me rething all the ways I worship. thankyou

  9. Steve Evans says:

    Thanks Kris — really lovely.

  10. Beautifully expressed, Kris. I remember reading that Kingsolver passage while nursing my lastborn and being nearly overcome.

    We have six, and it’s interesting how it never gets old to watch a baby grow and speak first words and take first steps. It’s just as exciting for the subsequent children as for the first, but it is indeed bittersweet with the last.

  11. I’m crying Kris…

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    A lovely sentiment, Kris. Enjoy every last moment while you can. Your self awareness makes it possible.

  13. Thanks Kris – lovely post.

  14. I’ve never posted here before, but I’m sitting on the couch with my laptop, nursing my own lastborn while the rest of the family is at church–and here is your beautiful post. There is something truly spiritual about a quiet house, a nursing baby, and the reminder to live and relish these moments that pass so quickly. Thank you.

  15. I didn’t know my lastborn would be my last, and it is a source of deep grief. I suspect it is both more and less painful to cherish the time, knowing it won’t come again. Bless you, Kris, and your sweet baby girl.

  16. Jon in Austin says:

    Beautiful post. Strikes at so many levels of my heart of why I’m jealous of my wife being able to feed our first child and I’m the new dad looking in from the outside.

  17. Goodness sakes that is a beautiful baby.

    When you become a grandmother (at least 20 years from now) you should tend to the baby and tell the mother to go to church, that she just shouldn’t miss it. That she needs the spiritual uplift and you’ll make the sacrifice to button those tiny buttons and wash those little fingers. Hopefully you’ll get to worship for a long time.

  18. May she rise up as her namesake.

  19. A great post. Thank you. I certainly hope Aisling isn’t our last, and I hope when our last baby comes, we know s/he is the last one, so we can savour it all as you have.

  20. Thanks all for your very kind comments and for sharing your own experiences.

  21. This is stunning. It makes my heart ache a bit since I didn’t realize when my baby was growing that she might be our last…. Maybe it’s a blessing in a way so that all those last milestones won’t be so painful, but I wonder if I have savored her enough along the way. Drink it in, sister. What a treasured experience to savor.

  22. What I should have said is “maybe it’s been a blessing in a way so all those milestones weren’t too painful” (or something…it’s not coming out right…suffice it to say that I’m not wanting to be done and knowing I might have been along the way might have been really hard on me (as it is now).

  23. We’re on our last, and now that he’s entered the sleep-through-the-night stage I’m enjoying this time much more.

  24. This made me cry all over again and my youngest is 7.

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