Thursday, November 20, 2014

These Days

These days, Gray is two minutes of still snuggles and morning breath kisses at 6:45am and then constant movement and super heroes, super heroes, super heroes. Gray is letters and shapes discovered and a world unfolding before his eyes. He is all love and enthusiasm, spilling over, filling up, again and again until the day is full and he and I are both exhausted. Gray is his sister's court jester and his daddy’s biggest fan.  He is school and gym class and blooming independence. He is light and joy and good. 

These days, Josie is laughter. She is determined to move and on the cusp of adventure. Josie is always close, always pulling hair, always happy for attention. She is coy flirts and hands made of velvet. Josie is jealous for her daddy’s attention and in love with him more than anything. She is milk and only milk, straight from the source; no bottles or food will please her. Josie is sucking on toes and babyhood slipping away before my eyes. She is grace in my heart and in our home. 

These days, Josh is present and kind and patient. He is my relief when he walks in from work. He is kisses for his girl and wrestles upon wrestles for his boy. Josh is tired smiles and intertwined toes as we drift to sleep. He is steadiness when I’m flailing and the shared look of this is really our life? Josh is 6am with the babies, without complaint and with coffee to meet me when I wake. Josh is better than I deserve. 

These days, I am full and imperfect. Imperfectly full. I am insanely in love with my family and exhausted to my very core. I am lingering pregnancy weight and stress eating during nap time and refusal to acknowledge the correlation. I am thankful, so thankful. I am a shorter fuse than I want and I am hope that tomorrow is a new day to try again. I am fingers running through toddler hair, milk poured out, one thousand kisses. I am surprised that everyone wants dinner, every night. I am home and they are mine.  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

4am

4:30am, I hear her squawking and stirring in her crib. Not a full blown cry yet but I know it will follow, so I drag myself against the quicksand pull of sleep and scoop her from her crib. I lay her on her side in my arms, clip down my nursing tank top and collapse into the chair in one swift motion. It is such familiar movement that it doesn't require thought. In the chair I fight to open my eyes and see my boy stir in his bed. He sits up, looks around the room through sleep drunk eyes and then his head is back on the pillow and he pulls his Curious George comforter in close.

I smile and lay my head back, gratitude rises in my half-asleep state. I’m thankful to be the watcher of the night, the keeper of these little ones. The girl in my arms is no longer nursing but looking at me with smiles and giggles and bless you, I love you but it is not morning. So back in her crib she goes and me to my still warm bed. I kick Josh’s legs back as they've intruded the empty bed space in my absence and let the quicksand pull me in.

5:30am, a distinct squawking has worked its way into my dreams and I roll over to Josh who is mumbling, "What are we doing with her?" as if I have an answer. He brings our girl to our bed and she squeals with delight and strokes our faces. I love you so much, my girl, you are my baby full of Grace, but it is still not morning. "Should she go back in her crib?" he asks, but we both know the answer. We talk a tough sleep training game but this girl: awake and warm and soft has us in the palm of her hand and so we nestle in.  As I drift back to sleep I feel her getting closer to me and then finally, pressed firm against my back as she settles and relaxes to sleep.

6:55am, my eyes open to a wide-eyed whisper and my boy, inches from my face. "Where's daddy?" I kiss him and point to the other side of the bed and the two of them leave the room. The baby is still pressed against me and I hope for just a few more minutes of rest before the day begins.

7:35am, she's awake and I'm awake and she smiles and nurses and her brother jumps in the bed to greet her and hug her. We watch and smile tired smiles.

The coffee is made and we drink it, black and strong. The fuzziness of sleep fades in its presence and the day begins.

It is all so ordinary: the sleeping and waking, making the food, cleaning it up, nursing the baby, daddy leaving, naps upon naps for everyone but me, playing, changing, wiping, dressing, undressing, disciplining, hugs and kisses, laughing, crying, daddy home. Suddenly the day is filled and the sun is setting. Dinners are coaxed into tummies, teeth are brushed, more nursing, white noise always in the air and the final bedtime chase. 

Stillness follows and I realize that the ordinary is extraordinary because it’s ours and they are ours and these moments -- the beginnings of their lives -- are ours to hold, to love, to remember, to nurture, to grow. What gifts they are in light of my woeful inadequacy for the task. I am tired, I am selfish and yet, they’re still ours. And the ritual, the rhythm, the pieces that make up the whole of our day hold life and breath, love and forgiveness, and glimpses of the sacred everywhere I look, if only I take the time to pause and look. 

Night and stillness come and after I am brushed and washed but before I am tucked in, I walk into their room, kiss their still faces, drink in their sweet breath, lay my hand on their backs and whisper, 

May the Lord bless you and keep you, 
May he make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you, 
and may he lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. 
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 
Amen 

May it be so: his adequacy for my inadequacy, his blessings for my curses, his grace for my anger, his peace for my weariness in their lives and in my own. I tuck into bed and think of the words of St. Benedict, when tomorrow comes in those pre-dawn hours, “Always we begin again.” 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Josie's Birth


Four days past my due date I had thoroughly exhausted myself with all the feelings that come from waiting on baby. I oscillated between readiness to meet this new life and take on the transition from one to two kids, to terror at having a newborn again.The first year of life is consuming and the weight of diving back into it all over again hung heavy. 

I had my first non-stress test at 1pm on the 24th. The day was warm and sunny and spring blooms were just starting to appear after what had been a long and bitterly cold winter. The neighborhood felt alive and beautiful as I walked to the doctor’s office. 

My favorite midwife did the non-stress test, which went easily and quickly. At the end she gave me an exam and as she did I casually asked her feelings on castor oil. After reporting that I was already 4cm dilated, she said she was a fan of castor oil and thought it could be just the thing to push me over the edge. As she said, if it’s castor oil today or an IV of pitocin in a few days, why not try the castor oil? So as I walked home I began debating whether or not I was willing to try it.  

Since she’d been watching Gray during my exam, Emily was at the apartment when I got home. We discussed castor oil and after much hemming and hawing, I decided I’d try it. Emily agreed to stay with me and I called Josh to ask him to come home sooner rather than later. A quick trip to the drug store plus a big swig of my lemonade, gin, castor oil cocktail and the waiting began. I took half the dose my midwife recommended and 1/8th the traditional recommended dosage. 

We waited. My nerves and energy level were so high that we decided to get out of the house and go to a Mexican restaurant up the street. If there’s a natural next step after castor oil, it’s clearly Mexican food. We sat outside eating guacamole and waiting. After a while Josh joined us and Michi stopped by. It was a warm and relaxed evening and since I had yet to run to the bathroom, I was beginning to think I’d only taken enough castor oil to make myself anxious. 

It was a little after 7pm when we got home and I began giving Emily time limits on how long she could stay with me. “If nothing happens by 8pm, you’re leaving.” We talked about whether or not I should try more castor oil but since it was late in the evening my desire to wake up in the middle of the night with diarrhea had lessened and a good nights sleep sounded more appealing. I agreed to go on a walk in the park with Emily and if that didn’t get things started she’d go home and I’d go to bed. 

We walked around the park as the sun began to set and I found myself reflecting on and sharing with Emily the ways I felt scared about labor and a new baby. Not only was Gray’s labor incredibly painful and isolating, but then I then lost myself so hard and so immediately after his birth. The months following his birth were of course filled with love and amazement at him, but they were also some of the hardest and saddest months of my life. I feared that I would birth Josie and that just as happened with Gray, I wouldn’t be there on the other side. That I would lose myself again. It was weighty to voice and express but felt good to share and say aloud. We talked and walked and Emily listened and prayed for me. 

As we continued around the three mile park loop I began to have stronger braxton-hicks, they came every few minutes but were nothing I couldn’t walk or talk through. The sun was low and as we came closer to home I told Emily she could walk me home and then it was probably time for her to go home. 

Gray was in bed once we got home and Emily told Josh I was having a baby that night. I continued to insist that I wasn’t and that if I just laid down, the contractions would end and we could all go to bed for the night. I texted a dear friend at 8:45pm and said, “I”m starting to have contractions but they’re not too painful, we’ll see.” This continued for the next two hours or so. I took a shower and laid down with Josh for a little bit, all the while the contractions came consistently every two minutes and lasted for about thirty seconds. I continued to compare them to the ones I had with Gray and since they were never nearly as painful or long as those had been, I remained convinced that this was probably not real labor.

Sometime after 10pm I called my doctor’s office and was connected to the doctor on duty. My favorite doctor and the one I hoped would deliver Josie, Dr. Pete, was on call. We talked and I told him what was going on, he said it sounded like this was probably it and I should make my way to the hospital whenever I was ready. I told him I was going to wait for a few contractions that really hurt before coming in. Since the hospital is only seven blocks from our apartment I didn’t feel a great urgency to get there and was still mostly convinced this wasn’t labor, but knowing Dr. Pete was at the hospital was a great relief. After I hung up I said, “Maybe I will have a baby tonight.”

As I continued on in ignorance, Emily got to work. She called Michi and told her to head over to be with Gray and she and Josh got the rest of our things ready for the hospital. Soon Michi arrived and after a few more contractions Emily insisted it was time to go to the hospital. 

Thank goodness for bossy older sisters. 

A little after 11pm the cab came and almost as soon as we were inside I began to shake and the contractions grew stronger. We made it to the hospital quickly and uneventfully.  Since I spent several hours in triage with Gray due to nurses that didn’t believe I could labor so quickly with my first, Josh and Emily were determined to not let it be so again. The contractions were strong and I could tell I was transitioning, beginning to detach from what was going on around me and focusing inward on the pain, but I will never forget their eager and determined faces as they talked to the nurses and doctors in triage. 

Thankfully it all went smoothly and there was no question about admitting me, I was 7cm. As the nurse typed up my info, she looked at me shaking on the bed and said, “You’re transitioning! Don’t do that here! Wait for your room!” 

I finally believed I was in labor.  

We got into the delivery room and the contractions began to carry the bearing down pressure. I got on my knees and laid over the back of the bed while Emily and Josh took turns applying counter pressure on my back during each contraction. Though I was definitely deep in transition, I felt that Emily and Josh were really with me, I was able to tell them things that were helping and things that weren’t (“Get off the phone, Emily!”). With Gray, I felt very alone in the pain and was unable to communicate through much of labor because it was so fast and hard. The relief that came from just feeling their presence with me was such a gift.  

I was still shaking but the contractions had spread out a bit, though they increased in intensity when they did come. I made some noises that led Emily to think I wanted to push, so she called for the doctor. I knew I wasn’t ready to push yet but Dr. Pete came in and checked me. I was 8cm. He said that I still had time if I wanted pain medicine but if I didn’t want medicine, he could go ahead and break my water and get this show on the road. I had one more strong contraction and then told him to break my water. It wasn’t painful but it increased the pressure of contractions and after a few more contractions, I was ready to push. 

As I prepared to push I had one clear moment of fear. I was afraid of the pain of pushing, afraid of what lay on the other side of labor, afraid that I couldn’t do any of it. I wondered if I could get a quick take back on the whole thing. But then as I began to push, dear, sweet, wonderful Dr. Pete said some perfectly doctorish things about no fear being allowed in the room and about how I could do this (Side note: in the post-partum hormonal haze I may have teared up every time I thought about Dr. Pete and may have told Josh on a few occasions that I loved him).

And so I did. I pushed and willed this little girl out of my body and into life. It took a few good pushes before I felt her engage. A few more and I nearly lost my shit as she was crowning, and then I was crying with relief and awe as I felt her fall into the doctors arms at 12:33am. 

The cord was wrapped around her neck so it had to be cut before she was fully delivered, but then she was on my chest, blue and loud and perfect. She was everything I could never have imagined and exactly as I imagined, my Josie Grace. Since she was blue there was some commotion and pediatricians. I knew she was fine and actually thought that for the moment she was safer out of my arms because I was shaking so intensely. I kept asking for blankets and some blessed ice pack underwear please, but when the pediatrician is with the baby and the nurse is still trying to enter your information into the system and the OB is surveying the arrival damage, it’s hard for your requests to be heard. It took a while, but eventually I got my ice pack. 

When my first baby was born, my world shattered the moment I held him, a crushing, consuming love hit me, the force of which was nearly violent. It changed me, it changed everything. When my second baby was born, my heart had already been broken open to great love, it didn’t have to shatter anew, there was already room for her. 

The night Josie was born she slid right into the space we had been holding for her in our hearts for the past nine months. Her birth was peaceful, it was healing, it was everything I could have hoped for and more. The hours following her birth were calm and joyful. We kissed her, we loved her, we prayed over her, we welcomed her home. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

To My Son on His First Birthday

Dear Grayson,

A year ago today you rocketed into this world, shattering life as we knew it. Amid a long, sticky heat wave we melted together, you to me and me to you, getting to know one another, both a bit terrified and uncertain about this new experience, but knowing that unshakeable love would see us through if we were patient and stuck together.


And now, a year, a whole year has passed since that day and we are still beautifully and wonderfully melted together. For one who considers myself a word person, I am coming up incredibly short trying to describe what your birthday feels like; what this last year has meant. I rock you and gaze at you and kiss you and try to swallow the truth that time is passing, that you are growing, your wild and wonderful personality is blooming and you are mine, my son.


Everyday I am amazed by your love for me, your joy in seeing me, your affection for me, your jealousy when I kiss daddy. Everyday I wonder how it is you do not see how unworthy I am of your love and of being entrusted with the great task of shepherding your soul.


You have taught me so much this year and have been so gracious to me as I stumble my way through this motherhood thing, learning and failing as I go. 


You have taught me how to keep giving, to keep going when I have felt like there is nothing left to give and no more energy to spend.  


You have taught me to slow down and breathe deep the moments, because they are passing far too quickly. 


You've taught me to see what you see in your daddy, his love, his joy, his playfulness and because of that I love him all the more.  

You've taught me to function on far less sleep than I'd prefer. 

 You've taught me to let go of what I think my body should be and to instead embrace it for what it has done, the life it has created. 

You've taught me a new level of respect for my mother-in-law, who let me marry her firstborn son; and you've taught me to be more gracious with my own mom, who did so much of this alone, a task I can barely imagine. You have taught me to be patient in the process, in the stretching and sometimes painful growing process of parenthood.  I'm learning that being your mother is not a task to complete, but a lifetime of love to savor.   


I could go on and on, baby boy, the ways you've changed me and grown me are endless, as is my love for you.
 

You are our Gravy baby, our GrayGray, our Snugbug, our Baby Love, we love who you are and who you are becoming. 

So I guess that's what I want to say to you on this first birthday and what I never want you to forget: you are deeply loved, you are treasured, and the mark you've made on our lives in just one year makes me all the more excited and thankful for the years to come.  


Cheers to you baby boy, and many more. 


Love always always,  Mama 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mahalo


 We're settling back into home after 10 days in Hawaii with my family.

It was wonder full, more consecutive time spent all together than we've had in at least the past decade. It was everything a once-in-a-lifetime trip should be.
 There was a beautiful house, swimming and the beach. There were birthdays and cakes, luaus and sea turtles. There was snorkeling, napping and island exploring. There were perfect sunsets and sunrise breakfasts with three little ones overlooking the ocean. There was a hammock and laughter and food, oh the food. So much glorious food. I was so wrong about you, papaya, I'm very sorry. There was The Hunger Games (what took me so long!?).

Of course, it was still life so there were plane rides and jetlagged babies. There was a stomach bug that claimed nine of us, and a double ear infection for a sweet baby girl. There was sibling and spousal bickering, but there were no sunburns and we are thankful for that.
 Family dynamics play a strange trick on you, one where no one gets older and everyone plays the same role they played as kids.  But on this trip, it felt like we all finally broke out of those roles and no longer interacted like we were eight, 12 and 14.  And while I may never be able to completely shed the middle child complex, I was able to glimpse who my sister and brother have really become, and it’s amazing.  My sister, no longer a temperamental teenager but an amazing woman with a beautiful family and marriage, the best and most caring mama in the world.  And my baby brother, no longer a baby in any sense of the word, but an accomplished college graduate preparing for his first job, which entails two years of traveling the world, on his own, all grown up. 

And my parents.  When we all lived under the same roof time slipped by unnoticed, the wearing of the years hidden in familiarity and the day-to-day life.  But now, with long stretches of time between our visits, particularly with my father, the wear of the years becomes clear.  For the first time, I really saw all 75 years of my father, his shrinking body, his wispy, snow-white hair and his tired gray eyes.   The vulnerability of his aging was so clear and I wondered how long it’s been like this, how long has it taken me to really see it?


For the girl who so often still feels like she’s still 12 years old, the reality of how much time has passed is a bit jarring, a little unsettling.  How much time is lost in the wishing away of days? The minutes counted till bedtime or the weekend?  How do I savor the small passing of time, the little, daily joys rather than focusing on the milestones and missing everything in between?

But the passing of time is good, too.  Time has a healing balm to it, its evidence clear in my family.  This vacation would not have been any fun 10 years ago, with hormonal anger, a wounding divorce and brooding teenagers for miles.  But time has offered maturity, forgiveness, perspective and a softness towards one another that did not previously exist.  The best part of the entire trip was the time just spent together, a foreign concept in previous years. 



We’re home now and another milestone is creeping up on us.  Eight days till my baby is one year old, an impossible joke.  A year ago I weighed 6,000 pounds and was days away from meeting this life-altering, squishy nugget of a little boy and now he is a rambunctious, gregarious, laughing little boy.   I willed those first few weeks of his life away, wishing he’d get bigger, a little more manageable, a little more human-like.  And now he has and though I want him to go back to his squishy nuggetness, I’m going to try and just savor this time, this here and now, knowing it won’t stick around long and I can’t ever get it back. 

The slow, sticky days of summer are upon us and we’re ready to greet them, eyes wide open, not willing to miss a moment.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

Marriage


We lie in the dark, the night settling in around us and as he slips away into sleep, my mind wanders to the mystery of this union.  Just five years ago, we were strangers exchanging nervous glances across a crowded room, nursing secret interest and affections for one another.  And now we lie tangled together, legs crossed and tucked all the way to our toes, a nightly ritual as we drift off and leave the day behind.  

How did we get here? This collision of lives happened so naturally, though not painlessly, and now it seems nearly impossible to see where one life ends and the other begins…the mystery of two becoming one, you might say.  As sleep evades me this night, I think back to the beginning, to the long years of waiting, yearning to know this man and to voice my affection.  I remember the first nervous dates and the rush of adrenaline and joy that accompanies fresh love and the realization that the affections are mutual.  A pure and downright giddy experience, coming to know the heart of the one you’ve admired for so long. 

After years of waiting, it did not take long to decide this was it, that our hearts could not, would not love any other.  So the plans were made: a white dress, a warm September evening, and loved ones all around.  My mind pauses here and I think, there, that is where it happened.  That is where the collision occurred, amidst dancing and kissing and laughter, a vow and a promise were spoken that brought change we could not imagine or fathom.  In our wedding program was printed a quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer that said,
As high as God is above man, so high are the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of marriage above the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of love.  It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.
I laugh now as I see, far more clearly than on that day that it is marriage that has brought us here, far beyond the scope of love and affection, to a place of deep, abiding intimacy that intertwines not just our legs as we sleep, but our very lives. 

            Within this sacred promise of marriage we have whispered our hopes, shouted our ugliness, exposed our deepest vulnerability, created and embraced new life, drudged through the ordinary and shared the burdens too heavy for just one to carry.  Love itself is not sufficient to bear the weight of an imperfect and broken soul, but marriage …beautiful, mysterious, sacred marriage lives and thrives here, crafting a story too wonderful and too beautiful to fathom.  Marriage pushes and pulls, bends and breaks, never satisfied until the two are one and the sacred union is experienced.  And when we finally embrace the sacred experience of marriage, a world entirely different from love, we glimpse the sacred union for which our souls were created. 
And I will betroth you to me forever.  I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. (Hosea 2:19)
 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32)

            My eyes become heavy but this thought catches my attention and rouses my heart, Please God, help me to know this union with you, to know you as the true covenant keeper, the pure and faithful husband of my heart. For marriage has not completed its task until it takes our gaze and our longings upward and unites us with its author and our true Bridegroom, the One we will be united to for all eternity.  So here my soul will wait with hope, hope that I will one day see clearly, and embrace this holy marriage, and that our beautiful earthly union will lead me deeper into this profound and sacred mystery of steadfast love and mercy. 

           I sigh, close my eyes, press into the one I love, and sleep. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Stacy.

Tonight our family pup of almost 15 years will go to sleep.

It was a sad weekend with lots of tears and reminiscing as we prepared to say goodbye to Stacy.

In 5th grade, I marched into my mom's room armed with all the resolve I could muster and my puppy dog calendar, and announced that I must have a dog. I then flipped through my puppy calendar showing my mom suitable options.

My mom relented and we headed out to North Shore Animal League. My whole family fell in love with two blind border collies but Stacy had my heart from the beginning. In the end, she came home with us.

Fast forward 14 1/2 years and Stacy has been with us through middle school, high school, college, marriages, and first grandbabies. Stacy has lived in Connecticut, New York City and California. She has gotten into more than her fair share of trouble, running away (to the fire department no less), biting us, biting other dogs, and stealing from the trash. She is stubborn and set in her ways, but incredibly loyal and sweet when she wants to be.

Life for the pup that I used to tuck into bed with my stuffed animals is coming to an end, and it's very sad, but she has been spoiled for many years with cereal milk, belly rubs, the occasional (or not so occasional) oreo, tennis ball toys and lots of love. She was the perfect dog for our family and will be very, very missed.

Sleep tight, Stac.