Immoderate

It’s been a winter unbothered by moderation.  Seventy degree days followed by bitter cold and a healthy dump of snow, ice encasing budded branches who were so very tricked, so very premature in their optimism.  The bright sunny faces of my daffodils are muffled under a drift:  “We’re fine!  We’re totally okay with this!  We knew it was still winter!  It’s OKAY!”

The neighborhood kids flew past my greenhouse door, clinging to their disc sleds as they careened over jumps.  I hoped I wouldn’t be running anyone to Urgent Care, and I watered the radishes, lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes, the temperature gauge telling me I was enjoying seventy degrees of heat.  I stooped over the radishes.  Their love leaves (what I call their first heart-shaped seedling leaves) are making way for their true leaves, somewhat more jagged, almond-shaped ones.17352337_10155469516858352_7104481727881436609_nModeration escapes me also.  I am pregnant with our sixth child, and I think I could sleep for days.  I am hungry and I can’t stand the thought of food.  I want coffee, and no I do not.  This doesn’t perplex me; I’ve been through this many times, so I breathe and remember the fleetingness of everything.  I curl on my side, my whole body seeming to cradle my abdomen, and I subconsciously lay my hand over where the little one grows.

I am so tired, but it doesn’t need fixing.  A body making a body takes a good bit of energy, and the tiredness is a signal to rest.  In a few weeks I will likely feel normal again and ready for the garden work of spring and beekeeping.  The snow will melt away, and we’ll drag the lawn mower out of the shed as the grass wakes up and stretches heavenward.  My belly will pull at my shirts until I acquiesce and don the maternity tops.  End of the school year events will jostle for our time and attention, and the heat of summer will drop down in waves.  That is how things seem to go, always they come at me before I am adjusted to the idea of change.  “Oh, we’ve moved on?  We’re here in the next?  Oh!”

I am too tired to articulate any more thoughts, though they buzz around my head and crowd the door of my mind, struggling to burst through and become written.  “Later,” I console them, “You know I’m too sleepy to hear you.”

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Looser Weave

There was a time when we leaned back into couches and weren’t sure if we’d be able to get back out of them; our pregnant, rounded bellies sitting like so many beach balls in our laps.  There would be commiseration about heartburn, clothes no longer fitting, nausea, and exhaustion, but mostly we laughed and we dreamed.  I don’t know what the husbands spoke about.  I knew wonder and it grew and grew.

Somehow then we were in the thick of it, with babies and toddlers, and were in and out of maternity clothing on the regular.  Our toddlers grew into friends, our babies which we once rocked to sleep in their carseats with our feet while we played board games were tearing around, trashing toy rooms and pretending together.  We went from couples with babies to a whole vibrant community with shared memories stretching back years and years.

As kids entered grade school, one by one, the moms could catch their breath and look around.  Some decided to work, to find their purpose and passion in fields of interest to them, others had to work to support the family, others devoted themselves to educating their kids at home, others found home itself work enough.  Our worlds opened outwards as the kids grew, into new schools, new churches, new connections, new responsibilities, new stories.

Though we would get together as able, and delighted yet in the ease of being with those with common history, one could feel the looser weave.

I walked today with my baby and my toddler in a park where I’ve spent untold afternoons with friends and their little ones.  I settled a child on each knee and we watched ducks and a great blue heron beside a sparkling pond with cheerful fountains; autumn giving every tree a gilded, crisp look.  There wasn’t anyone to call to join us when we’d spontaneously decided to escape the house and Monday’s laundry.  There’s work and homeschooling and a billion busy things, and I understand.

But I miss them.  I miss journeying together.  I’m too old for the new moms, and generally, I think I freak them out by not hovering over my babies, by letting them climb high on the playground equipment, by letting them get frustrated and work through stuff. I find now that I talk to the grandmas, but often they’re on their phones, which is sort of funny, but mostly sad.

I want to have more babies.  I want to peer into little faces again; hear newborn squeaks and sighs.  How much joy and laughter is there, in the knowing of a person, brand new to the world.  I want to feel the kicks and squirms through my own skin, to carry a soul not my own but knit within me.  I’m not over it.  I’m not past it.  I haven’t moved on and held a garage sale and reclaimed my home.  It would upset none of my plans; my plan is simply to live.

My toddler put on a severe pout today; he pulled it on deliberately, like a heavy coat, and I could hear in my heart the sounds of an inner stream of laughter; one that is always flowing but not always overflowing outwards.  He teaches me in caricature; in his simple sins I see the roots of my seemingly complex ones.  A screaming fit?  Mine may happen inside, but what’s the difference?  Any size fist can be raised to shake at God.  He surely repents better than I do; in tears and real compunction.

What am I saying…only this; I’m not eager to hurry away, to go on to the next thing.  I am in a garden and I haven’t exhausted my wonder at all the flowers.  IMG_1146

 

 

 

 

 

 

What The Water Carried

It’s like those wind tunnel-money games that you see at fairs and such where people try to snatch at the twenties and ones whirling past them in a vortex.  The moment they grab for one of the flying greenbacks, it’s halfway around the tube on the other side.  Words can be like that, when life is whirling all crazy-like.  Have you seen someone try to cheat by forming a dam with their arm against the side to corral the cash?  Here’s my attempt to corral the words that have been flying right past me and around me this week.

I awoke the day after Christmas with mild contractions; they soundlessly tightened and coiled and released and barely registered discomfort.  They were unremarkable in and of themselves,  except for their regularity.  I puttered about the house, putting away the Christmas chaos, washing diapers, and all the while my abdomen went through these silent waves of tightness and release.

We alerted Dustin’s mother that “this may be it” and dropped the children off at her cozy home.  Then we ran some errands and decided that we should have a date before the baby came, and settled into a booth at our favorite Mexican place.  What says “help labor along” like really good spicy guacamole?  And Mexican Coke?

IMG_2993  The Contraction Nazi, also known as my dearest Dustin, kept a lap timer running and if I didn’t have a contraction within five minutes of the last one, he shot me a disapproving glance.  We had a lot of laughs over our guacamole.  I felt too pain-free to go to the hospital to be checked, so we headed to a local park to walk and see if they’d get stronger.FullSizeRender-19 Ah, the hilarity of being fully ripe.  We phoned the midwife and asked what we should do.  It’s never a clear-cut answer; I’ve had labors 10 hours long and labors three hours long.  She said we had an open invitation to come in, so we did, but felt foolish walking in there without some verifiable, legit pain-wincing in my face.  “You’re too happy to be in here”, laughed a nurse, but when they checked me and I was five centimeters dilated, they took me a little more seriously.

Off to walk the halls.  Still no pain and contractions that stretched to eight minutes apart at times.  We really didn’t want to do the walk of shame; back out the lobby, still pregnant, dragging an unopened suitcase, sheepishly going home.  I prayed, I prayed for God’s mercy and for pain.  They checked me again and I was at six centimeters, though the baby was high up.  They admitted us and I was so relieved.  There is something about going to the delivery room and seeing that little heated bassinet just waiting there in the corner that makes everything seem right and ready.

IMG_2998

The contractions became much more business-like.  The kind you breathe through and make you smile tight and have just an edge of pain to them.  Circumstances in other deliveries made using the jacuzzi tub not an option, but this time I gladly could make use of it.  I lowered my body into the swirling water and instantly relaxed.

I am a fish.  The last one out of the pool, the ocean, the river, you name it.  I even like washing dishes because of the way water feels slipping over my hands, the way it sounds dripping and splashing.  The cool of it or the warmth of it.  I take a soak in our bath nearly daily.  I breathed deep; so very much at home.  I wouldn’t leave that warm tub for two and a half hours!

Floating there, the hum of the jacuzzi, the jets pushing against my back, my legs, my shoulders, I was suspended, at peace, even as the contractions became more pain than pressure, somehow it seemed that the water carried it with me.  I was not marooned out in the open air on a hospital bed.  I was cocooned, held in a warm embrace.  Cushioned.  The hours passed easily, until just the end.

A groan was pulled out of me.  The water couldn’t carry all of this.  My heart knew fear as the pain took my breath away.  I arched my back out of the water, I looked at my husband with fear in my eyes.  Things were changing and the pain had suddenly entered my cocoon with a ragged edge.  My water broke and the pain knifed deeper.

It’s a panic-filled feeling, being at the mercy of unrelenting sharp pain that barely fades before building again.  I grabbed at one hope and asked for my husband to tell them I needed an epidural.  NOW.  I had wanted to have a natural birth, but I couldn’t imagine even a half hour of contractions like the ones that were currently gripping me.  “Help, SAVE ME!” my body screamed.

I could barely walk to the bed (with good reason as you shall soon understand), having two contractions from the tub to there that left me on tiptoes and howling, my legs crossing over themselves protectively (also with good reason).  Contractions one on top of the other, no breathing room between, clenching my husband’s hands and by now, scream-groaning LOUDLY.  I pleaded:  “Isn’t there ANYTHING you can give me?”

They assured me that they were going to “get me comfortable”, but they all knew there’d be no time for that.  There were smiles of knowing going on when I wasn’t looking, and they told me sweet lies to keep me hopeful.  The nurse and midwife stepped out to “see about the epidural”, leaving one newbie nurse in the room.  My scream had a new ending to it all of a sudden as a push gripped me.  I did not push, my body did.  It could no more be stopped than a sneeze could.  I felt my body opening around something and yelled out the obvious, “THE BABY IS COMING!”.  The nurse peeked under the sheet and her eyes widened.  Baby was crowning.

We were at a local Eastern Orthodox church a few weeks ago, enjoying an Advent service, when one of the ladies in the choir chanted “Lord have mercy” forty times.  We were amazed as the repetition went on and on.  It seemed a thing impossible to do without the words getting all confused and jumbled.  But as I lay there with a large head splitting me open and the pain all bright and fiery, I think I did more than forty “Lord have mercy”‘s all in a gush.  And He answered, oh and how.

She raced to the door to get help, but my hollers had alerted the midwife (from down the hall, for shame) that things were moving quick.  She burst in and one push later he was here, whooshing right out much to my surprise and relief.  I was astonished, flat-out bewildered, and I brought that slippery, wonderful baby boy up on to my chest and began a five minute litany of “I can’t believe it-I can’t believe it-I can’t believe it-I love you, baby-I can’t believe it”.  It was so fast.  So furious.  So natural.  The water carried most of my pain, and a few long minutes I carried it, and then, mercifully, birth.

IMG_2999Our own sweet Tobias John.  Eight pounds, ten ounces of wonderfulness.  Tobias means “The goodness of God” and John means “The Lord has shown favor”.

This year Eastern Orthodoxy has taught me two useful phrases and my life has vascilitated between them like a pendulum:  “Lord, have mercy” and “God provides”.  One a petition, one a recognition of God’s sustenance and faithfulness.  Living with these two sets of words has kept me living open-handedly to God, trusting Him more with the unknowns and the unexpecteds.  It is a good place to be; like in the water, cushioned from the blows, carried through them, experiencing pain but not being consumed by it.

IMG_3010IMG_3023IMG_3025IMG_3028And my gratitude swells and my cup runneth over, and I’m held, hands open and soul filled with awe.  God is good, and He has shown favor.  Glory to Him.

What NOT To Say To The Pregnant Lady You Don’t Know

Henri 017 Yeah, it is magical.  How that baby just swells up the whole midsection of a woman, how that hovering melon just floats there against all concepts of architecture.  Shouldn’t there be some flying buttresses reinforcing that protruding curve?  I know it’s funny.  Heck, I stand in front of the bathroom mirror and just laugh, turning this way and that.  I smile at how my friends and family greet me, first in the eyes and then focusing on my rounded tum in quick succession, giving it a greeting of it’s own (patting, oohing-and-aahing, exclamations of wonder).  That is all fine and good.

But dear stranger who doesn’t even know my name, it is you I address.  Unless you’re a painfully cute elderly person who looks a bit lonely and nostalgic, I don’t really want to have the following repartees with you:

you:  Woah!  You look ready to POP!

me:  HAHA (forced laugh, accompanied by a flat smile)…yeah.

You sir, or madam, have just made me feel like a ticking time bomb.  And a spectacle to be laughed at.  I’m just trying to buy some groceries in peace, okay?

you:  When is your due date?

me:  December 25th.

you:  (wide-eyed and smiling big enough for me to see your fillings)  OOOHHHHHH!   A CHRISTMAS BABY!!!  How SPECIAL!

me:  Mmm-hmm, I’m like a walking nativity scene.  (Because I have these lines I say now.  It’s easier to fall back on their deadpan humor than to think in real time.)

you:  OH-HAHA!  Do you know what you’re having?

me:  (again falling back on previous wit)  No…once we knew the due date we knew we couldn’t peek at our Christmas present.  (Why am I being funny?  It only encourages them!).

you:  (discusses merits of finding out or not finding out and tells me of every infant born in your acquaintance recently)

me:  (simultaneously thinking that I’m done going out in public, having had this exact conversation five times in one grocery store)

I JUST WANT TO BUY SOME GROCERIES AND GET MY HUGE SELF HOME TO MY DEAR COUCH.

So, dear strangers everywhere, here’s my guide to interacting with the heavily pregnant in your local grocery store, church, post office, etc:

1.  Smile a smile of solidarity.  Give a thumbs up sign if you must.

2.  Pick up anything she drops.  Because even if it’s her car keys, she’s weighing whether it’s worth it bending down that low to retrieve it.

3.  Let her into line ahead of you or open the door for her.  Rare is the ardent feminist who would take offense.

4.  Do not initiate any of the above conversations.  She’s probably using all of her mental powers to avoid a blatant waddle or peeing her pants when she sneezes.

5.  Clamp your teeth on your tongue whenever it wants to say anything about the amazing proportions she’s sporting.  She knows.  Oh, she knows.

Most of my friends dread going out in public the last weeks of their pregnancies; they cannot bear one more good-natured exclamation and bit of fawning curiosity.  It’s not that we’re curmudgeons, we’re just trying to make it through the day while a watermelon-sized ball weighs us down.  We look and feel awkward and we run the gauntlet of rubber-necking strangers who feel duty-bound to remind us of that.

So, dear stranger, now thoroughly equipped with the above five rules of engagement with the heavily pregnant, go forth and say no more! 🙂

Dear Baby…

Dear Baby,

When your sister was born, my first ever baby, a dam broke within me and a flood of words came out in long, awe-filled, breaths, “IloveyouIloveyouIloveyou”.  My mouth couldn’t stop kissing her face, her fingers, her feet.  I became a mother.

Your brothers came and my dam stayed broken, my love spilling everywhere and never ceasing.  This is what love does.  It bursts, it cascades, it floods.

Henri 087

I smiled as I looked down at a little plastic test; I smiled at the knowing of you, you just coming together in tiny cell divisions and intricate movements orchestrated by God Himself, down there in the deep.

I began loving you then.  As God crafted you through the days and nights, giving you a heart and a beat to go with it, giving you ever-reaching arms and nubs that stretched out into fingers, as you opened your eyes for the first time to the ruby-colored pool of muted lights and sounds, as God made you, I loved you.

You have the hiccups right now, making my whole belly jump every ten seconds.  I run my hand over you; you are so near and can never be nearer, but I miss you, I long for you.  The swelling in my ankles is nothing compared to the swelling in my heart, the longing to kiss your face and know you with my fingertips, my eyes, my nose burrowed into your neck folds and inhaling the essence of dear you.

May God keep you safe and well, my dear baby, may He make you strong and vigorous.  May He bring us both through safely in our trial to come.  May we soon look into each other’s eyes in that first of many holy moments, the knowing.  God bless you, dear one, God bless you and bless you again.

Love,

Mom

Doctor’s Orders

“I have confirmed white coat hypertension,” I said with all seriousness as the young lady slid the blood pressure cuff around my arm.  It’s one of those things, like blushing, where one can see an emotion triggering a physiological response.  I fear that my blood pressure will read high, and so, it obliges me by doing so.  The numbers on the screen cause eyebrows to lift.

One brilliant nurse two weeks ago had lowered her eyebrows and told me to close my eyes.  “Where’s your most relaxing place?”, she asked.  “My family’s cabin in Montana, right down by the Dearborn River.”  “Okay, I want you to hear the water, see the mountains, imagine the trees and just be there.”

I felt silly and couldn’t keep a smirk off my face, but I obeyed.  I looked at the picture in my mind, heard the river’s gurgling song, saw the light catching on the ends of pine needles.  She took my blood pressure then, and the numbers came back perfect.

So this week after the high numbers had alarmed once again they told me to lay on my side and rest, taking the reading again afterwards.  Perfect.  The doctor looked me straight in the eye and said, “You need to rest more.  You are working your body too hard.”

I knew it was true.  I had been overworking my eight months-pregnant body trying to keep up with the demands of life with four littles.  Lots of cleaning, lots of laundry, lots of cooking and baking.  The pre-winter chores of pruning the trees and roses.  Organizing baby clothing up in the attic.  The stuff of life that simply needs doing.

_MG_6397_MG_6350IMG_6369But as the last of the birthdays has been celebrated with gusto (and a cooking class per Reuben’s request), and…

IMG_2707…the bees no longer need me puttering about (and my suit is maxed-out anyhow), it’s time for more of…

_MG_6382 …letting other people help out…

_MG_6346 …and doing more of this:

IMG_2688…doctor’s orders :).

 

Scarves, And Dark, And Glitter

I wrap my black wool coat around my protruding belly.  The top buttons close of course, but a gap opens wide just below and it always sort of looks like I’m a lady shoplifting a basketball.  I reach for my scarf, all it’s soft houndstooth goodness hopefully bringing some visual distraction from the fact that my coat does not close.

It’s the morning dark and I gather it as evidence that Christmas is in the air and I’ll be having this baby soon.

I am not one who minds the Christmas Creep; you know, the emergence of Christmas music and decor in the stores right after All Saints Day.  I love the coziness and sparkle and magic of Christmas and the longer my eyes and ears get to feast on it the better.  But this year I am particularly motivated to deck the halls; see, baby is due December 25.

IMG_2720 Salt dough ornaments painted and be-glittered.  image1  Up-cycled used ornaments glued onto a thrifted wire wreath.pomander Pomander.

Christmas music has been playing, glitter has been sprinkled liberally, and the hot glue gun is getting a workout, and I need these signs that birth is about to happen, just nearly here.

This little one within strains and kicks and pushes and my hand is only an inch away, and how I long to hold and kiss those feet that rest on my ribs.  I long to know, do I have another daughter?  Another son?  Who are you, little wiggler within?

I have grown to scorn the pumpkins and mums and dried corn and all things Fall.  Enough orange, bring on the red and green!  Bring on the snow and the sweaters and the mittens and the cookies (ahem) and the cozy dark which wraps our houses and makes our windows little squares of warm light.  Bring on the infant tucked warm and secure against me under a handmade quilt while the wild winds blow outside.

I think of Mary.  Of traveling and stress and the stable and giving birth alone, far from her mother and friends who could give her support.  Looking into a newborn’s eyes for the first time is breathtaking enough; how would it be to look down into the face of God Incarnate?  Immanuel, God With Us.  Oh, Mary, how was that?

I ordered a most special thing this year (and told my husband that it was my Christmas present from him, how thoughtful of me, hmm?).  It is a handmade Advent wreath made by Caleb Voskamp, and it has 24 candle holes to mark each day of Advent in a wooden spiral.  A wooden figurine of a pregnant Mary on a donkey accompanies the inward march of the candles.  It has an extension too to observe the 40 days of Lent, with a wooden figurine of Christ bent under a cross.  It’s quite beautiful, and I can’t wait to light the candles day by day as I anticipate a birthday and a birth.

_MG_4776And I hope I wait well.