Friday, September 29, 2017

We are four

From August 31

This morning, our anniversary looked a little different than ever before. When the happy cooing sounded over the baby monitor that the littlest member of our house was up, I went and got him, and we all laid in bed- Caleb who could not quite open his eyes yet, Samuel who looked around eagerly as he lay between us, and me who alternated between looking around eagerly and not being able to keep my eyes open. 

This year has brought new ways of living out the promises we made each other. And so I have written a few new vows to articulate these new ways. 

I promise to always come check on you when you are trimming trees or working on the roof and there is a thud.
I promise to sit by your side when you are nursing a newborn, even if I am so tired I fall asleep.
I promise to always take over on baby duty when you are so tired you are about to lose your mind.
I promise to keep our cars running and the walls of our house from falling down.
I promise to tell you how much I love you 87 times per week, minimum.
I promise to be the keeper of the memories of Samuel's birth.
I promise to handle the baby poop and kill the cockroaches.
I promise to deal with the mice.
I promise to put away your socks and fold your t-shirts.
I promise to remember where you put your things (phone, keys, water bottle).
I promise to always fawn over how you look in flannel.
I promise to always tell you how good you look in pajamas.
I promise to always tell YOU how good you look in pajamas.
I promise to tell you how good you look period.

As I was working on this, I rediscovered this post. Our first year of marriage was so, so sweet. We cut back on a lot of commitments and activities to just focus on each other. This year, we are cutting back  on commitments and activities again, but for a different reason - it is less of an intentional decision and more of a sort of need to survive. And it is hard, but also it is also sweet. And there is no one I'd rather be sharing it with. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

On keeping vigil, part II

Three a.m. finds me sitting in the rocking chair, holding my infant who is curled around my torso. His little body is relaxed, his breaths soft and quick. I could put him down and go back to bed - I need to put him down and go back to bed - but I linger, willing myself to stay awake for one more minute. I feel his warmth against my heart. The energetic pull is strong.

In these moments, at three a.m., I know that the Bible was written by men. (Men who were probably not very involved in child-rearing.) There are a few metaphors of God as a mother in the Bible, but only a very few. 

The fierceness with which I love my child, with which I love (as much as one can love) the three a.m. wake-up calls, the desperate cravings I experience to be in his presence, to see his face as he discovers the world, the energetic pull that causes me to draw him to my heart over and over again - nothing could have prepared me for it. 

I can only imagine that God's love for us is just as fierce, just as strong. Okay, probably stronger and fiercer. And for all the metaphors for God, I think they miss this. Or maybe it's just something we have to experience. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The ocean of birth

I grew up in a place where the nearest ocean was about 13 hours by car. I saw the ocean a handful of times in my life, but didn't really get a chance to experience it until I was 20. Then I became obsessed.

I loved the sheer laziness of spending a whole day outside laying around, reading books, napping, talking, snacking, swimming when it got hot. I loved jumping over or diving under the waves as they crashed in, or floating on top, their saltiness on my tongue. The ocean felt like my ultimate pampering, luxurious experience.

A few years later, I was living in Spain. I took advantage of a long weekend in late February to attend a three-day surfing camp. Even though southern Spain is extremely temperate (is that an oxymoron?),  it was still winter, and therefore still windy and a bit chilly. One day, it was too windy and stormy to surf. Our instructor drove us to a point where we could look out over the beach where we had been surfing. Tall, angry waves crashed in furiously. The wind from the sea blew my hair straight up in the air.

As I stood there, I realized I had been thinking about the ocean all wrong. I suddenly remembered that in centuries past, and even today, people fear the ocean. The ocean takes lives. I realized that the ocean I loved to play in is easily converted by a few shifts in pressure to the ocean that takes lives with tsunamis, hurricanes, shipwrecks.

I had not given the ocean the respect it deserved.

I still love to play in the ocean, but now I am not so naive. I'm a strong swimmer, but I don't assume all would be well if I ended up swimming past the boundaries, or swimming on a beach with strong tides.

My experience with birth is like that windy day on the ocean. I remember reading several birth stories in which the women described labor as a feeling of sheer power moving through them like a freight train. At the time, I wondered what that would feel like, but I neglected to think to remember that freight trains can be dangerous. Power is to be respected. The power of birth is beautiful, like the power of the ocean, but I will never underestimate it again. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

On keeping vigil

From August 14, 2017:

Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night and wonder what time it is. "I can't believe he hasn't woken up yet," I think to myself. As if he just heard my thought, the baby monitor begins to chirp with his noises. If it is Caleb's turn, I will nudge him awake, but I often only wake up for my turns.

I can tell right away how long I will be up. If I wake up to sad cries, I know he will fall back asleep as soon as his tummy is full and his diaper is dry. But when I hear happy cooing, I know we are in for a a while. He is fully awake, feels rested, and is ready to play.

A while back, the weekend was a doozy. And so, when I woke up to giggles Saturday night and Sunday night, I made my way to his room with some resignation. But both nights, we kept vigil together. We prayed for peace, mercy, judgment, and repentance. We prayed with unspoken words (both of us) and deep exhaustion (me). I prayed for guidance on how to parent in times of such extreme polarization.

Some people believe that you have to teach children who God is. I believe that children already know, and that their knowledge is so pure. I wonder if God keeps vigil in the world through her tiniest assistants.

I will try to keep my eyes open to see it.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A letter to my pregnant self

Here's a fun story. Once upon a time after the baby was born, I poured myself a glass of grape juice. Then I was doing stuff around the house and when I finished I couldn't find it. I looked for it later with no success. I gave up and got a new juice. Hours later, I found the glass in this clothes basket. The End.

Hi love,

I have good news - being on this side is way better. And not just because of the freaking amazing baby that is available for external snuggles. Sleep - though frequently interrupted - is so much more comfortable. (I don't know why people tell pregnant women to sleep. Ridiculous advice. Sleep is better afterwards, in my opinion.) Also, good news, you can pick stuff up again when it rolls all the way under your desk.

Also, when it comes to birth nothing is going to go how you think. I know you have super loose expectations - but even those are going to be blown out of the water. It's okay. In the end, the choices you are agonizing over making are good choices. You are making the right decisions. Relax as much as you can. I'm glad you aren't afraid. Fear doesn't really serve anyone in preparing for birth. In the end, all the resources and videos your midwife shared with you are going to set you up for breastfeeding success. And though you will end up in the hospital, you still got to experience a lot of advantages to midwifery care, and that served you well.

I am sorry that so many people are making rude comments to you about pregnancy. Honestly, that doesn't seem to be the norm for anyone I have talked to since, so I'm sorry that is the case for you. Keep getting fiesty. Keep telling people you don't like their comments. The thing is, people are going to keep saying stupid stuff to you even after you have the baby, so it's good practice to find your voice now.

OH MY GOSH - I have such good news about your (our?) belly button. Even though it turns black and turns completely inside out during pregnancy, it never disappears and it totally returns to normal afterwards.

Yes, what feels like ALL your hair will start to fall out around 12 weeks postpartum. And, good news, around 6 months postpartum, you will stop feeling hot all the time. You will even feel a little cold! You'll get a few stretch marks, but to be honest, your baby is going to be so big that you had to get a few just so that no one hated you. And you will fondly trace them and remember them as "the place where baby's bum was" and " the place where a tiny foot was always pressing out".

And finally, I know everyone tells pregnant women to hydrate, but maybe cool it? I promise you only need like 1/4 of the liquid you are currently consuming.


Me on the other side (it's so much better here!)