The Very Best Kind of Hard

Last weekend, I was speaking in Denver, when a lovely woman came up, introduced herself as a reader of the blog, and then asked, “How is your adoption going?”

Surprised, I stepped aside, and pointed at the baby, sitting in the car seat at my feet (we had just arrived).

I was a little confused about the question, since I’ve bombarded Instagram and Facebook with pictures of Toby almost daily since his birth on July 25. But, as the woman explained, she’s not on social media; she just follows the blog. She’d been waiting months for an update and fearing the worst.

“Post an update,” she urged. “For those like me, who aren’t on Facebook.”

So, consider yourself updated, friends. Tobias James Connolly Chapman is here and perfect in every way.

Credit: Andrea Dahm

I know I should have posted something here sooner. But, I have two excuses. First, every spare moment I’ve had (and there have not been many) has gone to meeting a major deadline for Endow that did not get met before Toby was born. All the drama surrounding his adoption, followed by his early arrival, interfered with, um, a lot.

Second, besides, “He’s here,” I wasn’t sure what to say. I’m still learning and thinking and processing this new experience of motherhood. My thoughts on it, like Toby’s schedule, change daily.

What I can say, though, is that I love this. I really, really, really, love this.

Credit: Andrea Dahm

I love being a mom. I love spending my days and nights with this baby. I love the weight of him in my arms and the rising and falling of his chest against mine. I love the feel of his downy little head, nestled under my chin. I love feeding him and walking him and changing him and rocking him and talking to him and looking at him. I love just being with him.

Every day I tell him, “I couldn’t love you more.” But every day I do love him more.

Is it hard? Sure.

It’s hard to never sleep for more than a few hours at a time.

It’s hard to watch my To-Do list grow and grow because Toby has other objectives for my day.

It’s hard to stand and bounce, when I want to sit and read.

It’s hard to do laundry. Every. Single. Day.

It’s hard to have no set routine.

It’s hard to spend hours walking a baby in circles because he won’t be put down.

It’s hard feeding him, again and again and again, because, didn’t we just do this?

It’s hard to shower and dress and take care of myself.

It’s hard to eat real food between when my husband walks out the door at 9 and comes home at 5.

It’s hard to remember to drink water.

It’s hard to have a house that’s messier than I would like it to be.

It’s hard to be behind on deadlines and struggling to find time to write.

It’s hard to get out of the house.

It’s hard to never be anywhere on time.

It’s hard to hold a baby who won’t stop crying no matter what tricks I employ.

It’s hard to care for a sick baby, and feel terrified by the possibility of losing him.

It is hard. No question about it. Hard. Hard. Hard.

But you know what? This is the very best hard I’ve ever known.

Through the years, I’ve carried the cross of unwanted singleness. I’ve carried the cross of infertility. I’ve carried the cross of someone I love being seriously ill. I’ve carried the cross of major surgeries, horrible bosses, financial troubles, the death of loved ones, the loss of friends, out of control house renovations, unreasonable deadlines, and one seriously insane adoption process. I’ve also carried the cross of myself—my temper, my inability to hold my tongue, my impatience, my selfishness, my anxieties, my fears.

So, when it comes to the crosses that come with mothering a newborn? I will take those crosses in a New York minute, every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Maybe this is one of the advantages of becoming a mother at 43. Yes, being a new mom is hard. But, by this age, I’ve had it driven home to me 1000 times over that life is hard. Nothing good comes easy. Everything requires work. Catholics don’t call this world a vale of tears for nothing.

So, if I must have hard no matter what, I’ll take the hard that comes with soft silky skin that always feels warm against my own.

I’ll take the hard that comes with mile-wide, toothless grins whenever I come into view.

I’ll take the hard with big blue-grey eyes that gaze into mine—looking, loving, and searching with an intensity that even my husband’s gaze can’t match.

I’ll take the hard with little fingers that grasp my own, little hands that stroke my face, and little feet that kick with glee.

I’ll take the hard that comes with a soul—an eternal soul—that I have the responsibility of forming.

I’ll take the hard that demands more patience, more sacrifice, more self-denial, more love, and more humility of me than anything else I have ever done.

In short, I’ll take the hard that comes with being a mother to a unique, unrepeatable, child of God—all the heartache, all the anxiety, all the emergency room visits—because it also comes with more joy, more laughter, more love, and more life than I imagined possible.

This mom thing? It is the best hard—the very, very best.

I’ve written books. I’ve been on TV. I’ve spoken to thousands. I’ve also restored houses, advised Congressmen, and traveled the world. Those things were hard, and I couldn’t kiss any of them goodnight or hold them in my arms. I couldn’t watch grace work in their hearts, and see love grow in their lives.

Moreover, all my accomplishments, all the fun and interesting and semi-important things I’ve ever done? They’re passing. They don’t last. They won’t be with me (God-willing) in Heaven; Toby (God-willing) will. He is forever. And so, by that very fact, he matters more to me—infinitely more—than all the rest.

I know different stages of motherhood will bring different challenges. I have bets with my friends about which beloved light fixtures and china Toby will break first. There will be years of helping him work through questions about his adoption and understand who he is. There will be tears when he makes choices I don’t agree with. There will be a day he says goodbye—to marry a woman, to become a priest, to live his own life—and I will have to let him go.

But. Oh. My. God. Right now? This day? This stage? This is the best hard I’ve ever known. I just pray God lets me do it again, with another little person. Regardless, I’m treasuring every second of this hard. Because it’s a gift. And it’s beautiful.

P.S. Toby is a leisurely eater, which means I need things to do with one hand while I feed him. These days, that often means Instagram. So, for more regular updates then you’ll get on the blog, follow me there @ emilystimpsonchapman.

21 thoughts on “The Very Best Kind of Hard

  1. Katie Devine says:

    Thank goodness you don’t have as much time for blog posts, they always leave me in tears! What a beautiful reflection on the hardships and incomparable blessings of motherhood.

  2. Patricia says:

    Congratulations! He is beautiful! I too, was wondering about the adoption. I only follow your blog, I don’t “do” the other social medias either. Thanks for the update. May God bless Toby, you and your husband with nothing but happiness and good health!

  3. Kathleen Ready says:

    Oh hooray! What a darling. And blessings on that lady for asking, as I too was wondering. Blessings to you and your husband as you raise your son!

  4. Erin says:

    I agree on every level! Watch one more preschool Netflix show! Yes! So NOT hard. (But boring) but just so good. Love to you!

  5. Bernadette Sauser says:

    Hi Emily! It’s me Bernadette Sauser, I’m the “lovely” woman from the conference who asked you about the adoption. I was so surprised that you referred to our conversation in your blog! I truly enjoyed meeting you in person. I told my husband, I felt as if I’d known you all my life! I was just telling my niece about you and how our stories were similar. How like you,I had married later in life and how I was infertile and now have two adopted kids and how my husbands name is Chris too. Anyhow, her name is Stephanie and is dealing with infertility right now, so if you would keep her in your prayers that would be appreciated. She just started following you on Instagram.

  6. Jann Elaine says:

    I also wondered for months about the adoption; my sister just recently updated me about your Instagram posts on the baby so I was actually wondering if the blog had been abandoned haha so glad to see you back here! I’m staunchly not a facebooker or instagramer, even though I’m 30…there’s more of us young anti-social media-ers out here than people realize I am convinced.

    Thanks for the official update and welcome to motherhood! So happy to see the fruits of so many prayers and tears. God bless you all!

  7. Sue Whittaker says:

    Thanks be to God! Congratulations!!!
    Also “The Catholic Table” has profoundly impacted my worldview, God has used you to so graphically integrate the world of our body and our faith. Thank you. As your little one grows, you may feel inspired to describe how we do this with our children.
    You are a Word Weaver, are to paint vividly the things some of us only sense, and I look forward to anything further you write, in its season. SueW

  8. Wendy says:

    Thanks so much. I don’t do social media either and I was waiting to hear what happened. Congratulations! He’s beautiful!

  9. Ali Aguilar says:

    Yay! I’m one of those non-social media blog readers. I finally googled you a few weeks ago and saw the instagram post, but I felt like a crazy stalker googling you. 🙂
    He is beyond precious! Praise God!

  10. vsm says:

    Thank you, Emily (AND Bernadette!!!) Like so many others, I avoid social media like the plague. In the absence of any news on your blog, I’ve been praying that all is well with you and Chris and Toby, but fearing the worst. What a joy to see God’s faithfulness at work in your life. Judging from his radiant smile, Toby already knows what a blessed boy he is!

  11. Barb129 says:

    Congratulations! He is a beautiful baby! I too know the joy and wonder that comes when you adopt a baby and they place that little person in your arms….what a miracle! It has its own type of adjustment to make but it’s all so worth it!

  12. scotch meg says:

    Thank you for the blog post. I knew the adoption had happened because I saw a picture of you and Toby on the side panel of Amy Welborn’s blog – but it’s nice to get an update.

    I can live with infrequent blog postings, because I know you are living with Baby. I am on the other side of motherhood; my “baby” is 18 now. I’m glad you’re taking the time to enjoy the little baby-ness of Toby. It goes by so quickly! Minute to minute is slow and hard, but the minutes add up and the years pass. God bless you and your family.

  13. Ree says:

    What a gift to be able to craft an article that lets me enter briefly into such joy! It provides a glimmer of hope in this crazy, upside world. Thanks and blessings to you and your family.

  14. Susan Frick says:

    Congratulations to your family, Emily! I’ve been a ‘quiet’ follower here, as I haven’t commented yet. I first discovered your story on A Journey Home on EWTN and felt immediately like a soul-sister. I married later in life after neglecting my cradle-Catholic faith for a while in my 20’s. My husband and I met in church – Providence!
    Gosh, this post contains the most beautiful words on motherhood. You’re making me cry! I had been praying for you and your husband during your early marriage and adoption process. What a joy to see so many prayers answered in your beautiful baby Toby.
    I will continue to pray for your family, and thank God for all the inspiration you give to many of us with your written word and example.
    I hope you don’t mind, but I mentioned your book “A Catholic Table” in my blog with a quote from you. I just love that book and look forward to more to come from you (no rush, cherish that baby!).

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