“Mom, do you know what low clouds are called?”
Norah posed the question on a walk home from preschool. Her class was studying weather and she was eager to show off her new set of vocabulary words.
“Fog!” she announced before I could offer my best guess. Although it’s possible that she gave me plenty of time and I just couldn’t get the word out.
It may have been a simple vocabulary guessing game, but her new word described the mental state I had been in for the past month. This was one of the first times I picked her up from school after Conor was born and Brett went back to work from paternity leave.
Yes, I know fog well.
I often drove to work in the fog when we lived in Seattle. Before the sun rose, the clouds would hover low in the city. Driving into the fog often felt daunting and scary. I could never see very far ahead, and when it was especially thick I could feel tiny droplets of water around my body when I parked my car, opened the door, and walked to the school building where I worked. Some days even the large brick building was partially hidden by the thick clouds in the parking lot. The fog obscured my view and it was hard to make anything out that was too far in the distance. Straining my eyes to see what was ahead didn’t help either—it usually just caused things to be more blurry and confusing.
The physical feeling of newborn fog is just as enveloping as those low clouds sinking down on a dark, overcast morning. Newborn fog paints dark circles under my eyes, it fills my legs with molasses and twists my tongue when trying to say simple words, like my own child’s name. It forces me to put the milk in the pantry and dried pasta in the refrigerator. It lulls me to sleep on the second page of Blueberries for Sal, causing my four-year-old daughter to nudge me awake. And yes, just like a physically obscured view might cause someone to run into objects they can’t see, I have bruises from running into the corner of the table, the bedpost, the door frame.
Fog is the kind of word that can get stuck in your throat. Say it out loud. It doesn’t roll off your tongue. It sits there, maybe a spell too long, unwelcome in the back of your mouth with an audible ugg as the punctuation. But low clouds? Those words dance. They feel lighter and more playful. I don’t immediately want to get rid of them, but am curious to play in them a bit.
Have you ever walked through low clouds, maybe on a hike or at the playground on an overcast day? It feels magical—like a sacred hidden world. The tiny droplets of water are refreshing. Sure, it can be daunting not being able to see ahead, but you know the clouds will lift eventually.
After Norah taught me the more whimsical definition for the word fog, I have decided to swap it out to describe the newborn state I’m in. I’m not trudging through fog; I’m simply in a season of lingering in low clouds.
In the Bible, clouds often represent where the Holy Spirit is or where the Lord appears. When the Israelites were fleeing the Egyptians, they would set up a camp in the desert after several days of walking. Each time they stopped, a cloud appeared. While the cloud was over them, it was their signal to stay put. When it lifted, they moved on. In this case, the cloud told them the Lord was with them.
Maybe these low clouds of the newborn days are here to remind us to just stay put. There is no need to rush to the next phase. Perhaps the fog we complain about is actually the Holy Spirit encouraging us to protect this time and give ourselves grace. To rest in God while our baby rests in our arms.
Two months after the conversation about weather on my walk home from school with Norah, I found myself on another walk home, this time with Brett. It was our first night out since Conor was born. We gave our babysitter instructions and rushed to Lincoln Center, arriving just in time for the play to start. A couple hours later, when we opened the door to leave, we looked up to see low clouds hugging the tops of the buildings. I squeezed my husband’s hand tightly.
“Don’t those clouds make our huge city feel cozy?” I asked. “They’re almost comforting.”
As much as I’m ready to get part of my mental strength back and let my bruises from too many errant encounters with furniture heal, I’m not quite sure I’m ready to be out of the low clouds yet. I have started to feel protected inside them. They have become my covering and helped me feel safe while I got to know my sweet new baby and eased his sister into her new role.
I have been told this season goes fast so many times, and to enjoy every moment. We all know that’s a bit absurd. I don’t know anyone who enjoys only sleeping in three hour chunks, slurring their words, and collecting bruises—both physical and emotional. But perhaps older women say this because they are out of the fog. Maybe, when the clouds lift, some of the difficult memories go with them, riding on those tiny droplets of water, leaving sweet memories behind.
Maybe someday I’ll look back on these newborn days and remember myself slow dancing with my baby in the low clouds.
Guest post written by Jodie Toresdahl. Jodie is a Montana girl at heart living her dream life in New York City with her husband, daughter and son, who love adventure has much as she does. Most days she can be found out exploring the city, iced coffee in hand, chocolate on her mind, and her daughter either racing ahead or walking ever so slowly behind. She writes about raising children in the city, learning from the thousands of encounters with people she gets there, growing through the discomfort of transition, and seeing what God teaches her through it all at www.bigskytobigapple.com