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There’s a fifth person in our house now. She smells like springtime.

A person with chubby cheeks and large blue eyes, with a strong neck who already rolls from side to side and whose favorite place is in someone’s arms, a person who is completely vulnerable and dependent and whose hungry cry rattles my soul.

And I find myself walking a lot these days. With her in my arms, because she’s crying more than any other baby I’ve had, andalso walkingoutside, alone, down the country roads, searching.

My husband is on paternity leave, taking three months off from teaching, and I don’t know how I’d do this without him, how anyone does. This two to three — suddenly we don’t have laps enough, suddenly, my arms are not long enough, suddenly, a baby is weeping, and so are my sons and I am too. Into the endless pile of laundry for all the cloth diapers and onesies.

How is it that one so tiny needs so much?

And how is it that I would die a thousand deaths just so she could live?

Because we do, as mothers. We die to ourselves a thousand times a day so our children can live.

I used to measure my day based on how productive I was.

Now I measure it based on how well I love.

I made a list the other day, a To-Do List, based on both giving and receiving love well. I wrote it in bright Crayola. Because when it comes down to it, that’s what matters in these days smudged with tired streaks and peanut butter kisses.At the end of it all, did I love well?

My To-Do List consists of the following:

1. Kiss Trent
2. Tickle and snuggle my kids
3. Laugh
4. Put on music and dance
5. Paint with bright colors
6. Eat something yummy
7. Tell Trent and kids how much I love them
8. Go for a walk or a run
9. Do something I don’t want to do for somebody else
10. Pray.

It’s about doing life, and post-partum, with grace.

It’s about taking that anti-anxiety medication if you need to. It’s about taking that nap in the middle of a pile of coloring books and laundry. It’s about receiving your husband or friend’s help and taking that walk so you can remember who you are and why you are and how to love.

It’s about love.

And as we rock our babies and kiss their hurts and read them multiple stories and feed them, we are inviting Christ into our home. Our messy home with the floors begging to be mopped. Our home that smells of burnt toast and Vicks.

You are doing well, sweet mama. Don’t be discouraged.

Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of five books including the memoir Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (Baker Books). She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. For more info, please visit Find her on Twitter or Facebook.

What is at the top of your to-do list?