As I hold my 7-week old daughter on my chest and she sighs contentedly in sleep, I soak in the joy of this moment. For so many reasons I am grateful for the chance to sit here with her and hold her. While things might be easier in our household if I were already back to work, I am blessed to have a husband who recognizes the importance of having our little girl at home with her mommy as long as possible. We long ago hoped it would be an option for me to stay home indefinitely, but that hasn’t been the case. So, I’m holding on to these moments and enjoying them as much as possible.Today is a special day because it marks the half-way point in my time at home. Rather than taking the typical 6 weeks off we opted for me to take twice that. Due to spring break and some holidays (and my desire to round that last week up rather than down), my maternity leave is a total of 14 weeks. As much as I wanted a long break, I couldn’t do it without the support of my amazing husband. You see, while many jobs provide at least a few weeks of paid maternity leave, my school system doesn’t have any maternity pay at all… and Bronce has been incredibly patient and kind to allow me to be home with Eleanor under those circumstances and for this long.
When we were dating we lived in different cities (Nashville and Knoxville) and often wrote letters to each other. Yes, we had email… but we liked to write out our thoughts long-hand. Those letters are treasured by both of us, though it’s a habit we haven’t kept up since getting married. Yes, we give the occasional card, but the long letters are mostly gone.
But as I’ve watched Bronce with our daughter over the last 7 weeks, I’ve had the desire to write him another long letter to let him know what I’ve observed and loved. Here are mere pieces of the memories and thoughts and impressions I’ve loved and held on to.
I love these almost-identical shots from Eleanor’s birth and her second day. Bronce started holding her and cradling her and whispering to her from the start. My heart sings seeing him snuggle her closely and call her “Precious” and tell her how much he loves her.
I’ve written a post about our birth story and I still can’t believe how amazing it was. Having Bronce love and support me so well was an awesome time for us and something special that we will always remember. I never doubted he would be a good dad, but he started his impressive fathering skills early that morning in the delivery room when he helped me so very much as we brought our daughter into the world. The second he saw her, I think I heard his heart audibly break from expanding love.
Bronce was excited to be home with us for the first week and spent every waking moment loving on Eleanor and intermittently thanking me for giving birth to her. He wanted to do everything with her at his side and loved showing her around our house, introducing her to our dog and cat, and experiencing his day with her nearby. Even the sleepless nights weren’t so bad as we took turns “sleeping” in the leather recliner with her snuggled on our chest – there were times we bickered over who got the privilege of curling up with her that night. Hard to believe, but we just couldn’t get enough of her even in those midnight hours!
Almost the first night she was home with us, he began reading to her as part of our bedtime ritual. Those first few nights I would stand in the hall outside her nursery, listen to her reading Bible stories and exciting books about traveling rabbits, and my eyes would well up with tears as I held on to those magical moments. Every day I am so grateful to this wonderful man who makes it possible for me to be home with our baby girl. I occasionally text him pictures of Eleanor in various cute positions sleeping or smiling or just sitting serenely. Last week he texted me that a particularly charming picture of her with a wide grin made him wish he could be home with us rather than working and missing those sweet moments. I so wish that could be the case – that we could stay home together, passing her sweet little blanket-snuggled body back and forth, savoring the cuddly moments. Of course, life doesn’t work that way! But my heart warms at the idea of having him home with me everyday. Since that can’t be the case I’m settling for being thankful that those blessings can fill my heart before I must return to work in April. Bronce, you stole my heart more than ten years ago, but in the last few months I realized how much more it could stretch and grow. It’s made room for this blossoming love for our beautiful baby girl and the love I feel for you has grown into something greater than I could ever have imagined. Thank you for being such an amazing man… an amazing father… an amazing husband. I love you more than ever and I’m incredibly proud of the man I’m watching you become every day as you continue to fill out this role as a father. You are my love and my best friend.