Holding a newborn is not easy. From the moment you’re handed an infant, you immediately realise you’ve become their external skeletal system. Their little lives depend on how you hold them. These little dead-weights do nothing to help your anxiety; they turn their necks, jiggle their arms, and without warning do everything possible to increase your heart rate until you’re sweating and pondering why you agreed to such a stress-inducing task.
I’ve met people more comfortable holding a heavy bag of cement than a tiny 6-pound baby.
The trick to holding a newborn is that you hold her with enough strength to keep her from falling out of your arms while being gentle enough to not harm her. We are accustomed to holding things we value with a strong grip.
Hold tight to your faith. Don’t let go of your dreams. At all costs protect your heart.
Yet, the other extreme is true as well; we are familiar with letting go of the things we once valued.
Surrender your control. Let go of your past. Forget about him.
What seems like foreign territory is the expectation to be able to do both things at once.
But this is precisely what we are to do when we are offered the chance to hold a baby.
I’ve wondered if it’s possible for us to hold onto the things that truly matter in the same way. Rather than subscribing to both extremes, what might it look like to hold things like faith, relationships, and dreams in the same way we hold squirmy tiny infants?
I think it might look awkward and uncomfortable. The very act of loosening our grip seems counter-intuitive to our nature for protecting the things we possess. I was speaking with a colleague about how she struggles with the stress of raising teenagers. She envies me for having little children in the home who don’t ask for my car keys or come home past midnight. To her, she grieves that she can no longer hold her children like she once held them as newborns.
I see it another way. The fact that she once held her kids with support and tenderness has resulted in having teenagers who are confident and independent. She may have lost some control but she has maintained the relationship.
Maybe, the goal isn’t to hold our faith so tight that we suffocate it, but rather we hold onto it ever so gently that it has an opportunity to breathe and mature into a complex, radiant, strong, and incomprehensible entity that constantly challenges us.
Maybe, the aim isn’t for relationships to be invested in so that we receive what we’ve put in like some sort of mutual fund. Instead, maybe our approach is to be present, available, and open to being a part of other people’s lives today without expectation of them being present tomorrow.
Maybe our dreams can be filled with helium instead of oxygen. Like a balloon soaring and falling, we revel in the journey and tuck into our hearts the lessons we learn from the disappointments and triumphs. A balloon filled with oxygen remains exactly where we place it. We can still see it and hold it and keep it, but it won’t ever surprise us.
Just recently, my 3-month old baby boy has started to hold his head with his own strength. He pushes back whenever I try to rest his head on my shoulder. For several seconds he will put up a good fight even when he’s tired. This grieves me because the days of him falling asleep in my arms are numbered.
I grieve that I no longer believe many of the things I used to believe when I was younger. I grieve that some of my friendships are not what they used to be. I grieve that my dreams have not materialised in the way I had once scribbled them on paper.
I hope next time you hold a baby, you realise the magnitude of what you are doing and how fleeting that moment is. Treasure it. But more importantly, don’t harm the child.