Ashlee Gadd is the founder of Coffee + Crumbs and the author of "The Magic of Motherhood: The Good Stuff, the Hard Stuff, and Everything In Between."
We ordered bunk beds yesterday.
It was an inevitable purchase, I suppose, after having two boys in two and a half years. When we found out our second baby was another boy, I remember thinking: Someday they'll share a room, probably bunk beds. I imagined them whispering to each other late at night, talking about monster trucks and basketball.
My husband's been pushing for this change for a while now, anxious to free up space for a home office. I, on the other hand, have remained stubbornly protective over our nap-time/quiet-time setup. Each day, both boys retreat to their respective spaces for two whole hours of R&R (surely I am a better mom because of this?). Plus, we're 95% sure we want to have one more baby, so what's the point of turning the nursery into an office and then back into a nursery again?
We've been playfully arguing about it for weeks—him: Team Bunk Beds, and I: Team Keep Kid In Crib As Long As Humanly Possible. But then last Tuesday our youngest started climbing out of his crib, and, well, I officially lost the fight. I mourned the loss of our baby jail for a few minutes and then, being the eternal optimist that I am, morphed into room makeover mode.
"We'll do dinosaurs!" I exclaimed, building a dream Pinterest board in eight minutes flat.
I started making lists of what to buy and what to sell, crunching numbers along the way. We talked about switching rooms, and how to best rearrange the furniture. His eyes darted to the rocking chair.
"What are we going to do with that when the kids are older?"
It was an innocent question, I suppose, but I instantly felt a physical ache in the pit of my stomach.
"I don't know," I whispered, "I became a mother in that chair."
That rocking chair almost wasn't our rocking chair, if you can believe it. You see, when I was newly pregnant with our first baby, I was in the middle of a significant thrifting phase. I shopped at Goodwill on the regular, happily paying as little as possible for home décor and vintage skirts. It was my craft at the time, a random talent, a sort of creative journey in finding treasure amidst someone else's junk.
So when it came time to buy baby furniture and decorate a nursery, I scoured all the local thrift shops searching for globes and wooden airplanes. The day I found a cheap glider on Craigslist, I nearly squealed in glee. The cushions were faded and the wood was the wrong color, but I saw potential. Oh, did I see potential! I found a website that made custom glider cushions, bought a can of white spray paint, and got to work. A few weeks later we moved a practically new glider into the nursery corner.
And I hated it.
For one, the glider was tiny. I didn't realize how tiny until we placed it next to the other furniture and it looked fit for a 7th grader. If chairs came in different sizes, this was certainly a Petite Small. My husband sat in the chair and looked like a giant. I took a turn next with my swollen belly and wondered how I would ever be able to fit a child in the chair, too. The color I had spray painted on the frame was all wrong, and distinctly brighter than the rest of the furniture in the room. Even my husband—a man as apathetic about home style as they come—admitted the chair didn't match. And despite the new cushions, the chair wasn't as comfortable as I hoped it would be.
I'm not proud of this next part, but I, being the hormonal nine-month pregnant mess that I was, cried actual tears over this chair. After spending all that time and energy—picking up the chair from a random Craigslist stranger, getting the paint, making a mess in the garage, custom ordering the cushions—the final result was far from the dream chair I had envisioned.
"I'm not proud of this next part, but I, being the hormonal nine-month pregnant mess that I was, cried actual tears over this chair."
My husband, being the prince charming that he is, pulled a stunt that will forever go down as one of the most romantic gestures in the history of our marriage. Wiping pathetic tears from my splotchy face, he looked at me and said, "Forget this stupid chair. Let's get a brand new one."
"Really?" I choked. "But they're so expensive ..."
"I know, but this is clearly important to you," he smiled, "And we want more kids—it'll be a good investment."
That weekend we drove to Buy Buy Baby and sat in 13 different chairs before I picked The One. We told the store manager, Joel, all about our failed Craigslist chair and the story must have sounded extra pitiful because he gave us 10% off and offered free delivery.
The day the new chair was delivered, we re-sold the renovated Craigslist chair and, much to my delight, turned a small profit.
When I was nine months pregnant with my first baby, I sat in that grey chair once a day and rocked myself, staring at every nook and cranny of our perfectly decorated nursery wondering what it would be like to have a real, breathing baby in there.
I can't believe I'm going to be a mother.
I brought him home and learned how to breastfeed in that chair, nipples bleeding, while he cried and I cried because nursing was harder than we both thought it was going to be. That first year of motherhood I doubted my instincts in that chair, consoled a teething baby in that chair, grieved the loss of unmet expectations in that chair, and wondered if I'd ever feel like myself again... in that chair.
One night two years later, that baby-turned-toddler sat on my lap in that chair while another baby boy kicked inside of me, and for the very first time, I realized there were three heartbeats rocking together.
I have nursed and rocked babies in that chair at 10pm, midnight, 3am, 5am, and every single hour in between. I taught both my babies how to say "momma" in that chair. I have sung hundreds of lullabies and prayed a thousand prayers in that chair. I have whispered I love you I love you I love you over and over again in that chair, like a psalm, until one cherished night they finally croaked it back, "Lud-yoo, momma."
In that chair, I have been exhausted, depleted, confused, joyful, sad, content, angry and ecstatic. Name an emotion—any emotion—and I promise you I have felt it in that chair.
I have felt the actual weight of motherhood in that chair, my body physically secured in the seat by a combination of gravity and the heaviness of my own precious offspring on my chest. I have felt the emotional burden of being their mom in that chair—the responsibility of loving them, of protecting them, of nurturing them, of praying for them, of speaking light and truth into their days. In that chair, I have realized time and time again how little control I have over their lives, how fast this is all moving, how much I need God to guide me in this beloved role.
"That first year of motherhood I doubted my instincts in that chair, consoled a teething baby in that chair, grieved the loss of unmet expectations in that chair, and wondered if I'd ever feel like myself again... in that chair."
I have memorized the scent of my children in that chair: the lavender baby lotion on their neck, the Burts Bees shampoo in their hair, the fluoride-free berry toothpaste on their breath. All of it smells like innocence and time passing too quickly.
But perhaps the greatest wonder of the grey rocking chair is the abundant forgiveness that takes place there each night. After stories and songs and prayers, we drop our transgressions right there at the foot of the chair, piling them on top of one another like stackable cups. I exhale. The baby exhales. Together we abandon every cry, every yell, every stressor, every negative thing that happened that day. I drop every moment of impatience, every time I reacted with anger instead of mercy. He drops every tantrum, every fit, every act of disobedience. We just sit there rocking, his tiny body melting into mine, embracing the gift of second chances.
We are baptized anew every single night in that rocking chair—grace washing over us like a warm rain, forgiven and redeemed, ready for slumber and new mercies in the morning.
Over the next decade as our family grows, I imagine we'll swap bedrooms and move the furniture a dozen more times. I have no idea what will become of the grey rocker, but I will probably try to hold onto it as long as possible. I'm convinced that no other piece of furniture has ever—nor will ever—serve me as well as that one.
For this is not an exaggeration, but the actual truth: I became a mother in that chair.
Ashlee Gadd is a wife, mother, self-taught writer and photographer from Sacramento, California. When she's not dancing in the kitchen with her two boys, Ashlee loves curling up with a good book, lounging in the sunshine, and making friends on the Internet. She loves writing about everything from motherhood and marriage to friendship and faith. Running Coffee + Crumbs is her dream job, x 100.
You can buy Ashlee's book, "The Magic of Motherhood," on Amazon.
This essay first ran on Coffee + Crumbs and was reprinted with permission from the author.