Tuesday, December 29, 2015

How Can I: A Resolution Of Sorts

Six months in and she's got my heart. She did from the beginning, of course, but that heart is only getting more deeply embedded in that fragile place where parents' hearts go, where it shatters at every story on the news and thunders with panic at every feverish night, and yet somehow keeps repairing itself at every wide-eyed grin.

Oh, Cora Ivy. I gave her that name because it means heart of faithfulness – my prayer for her – but how can I dare long for such a treasure when my own faith is ever-waning?

It's the season of faith. The ornaments hang from the tree so confidently, and those lights flicker with abandon, while inside my heart is a wrecked mess of sadness and fear and longing that's within all of us, but no one seems to talk about anymore.

How can I look into those beautiful little eyes without thinking about all that they will see?

Parenting Fears

Thinking back on my own trials, I can't help but wonder what hers will be. What theirs will be. I
know not what it is, just that it is to come. Living life in a fallen world, no one escapes the battles that overwhelm the soul. Has my path prepared me? How can I help them through it all when my own search hasn't always turned up answers and has too often left me brokenhearted?

How can I teach them about their worth when I struggle with my own? How can I tell them to be bold, that they need not worry about what anyone else thinks of them when their own mama has never learned how to do it? How can I give away patience when I've run out of it?

How can I teach them how to love when the world will never cease to throw at them every false version of love it can come up with?

How To Help Kids Understand FaithHow can I...how can I...how can I…

How can I sit there and tell my big girl not to be so hard on herself when Lord knows I do it to myself too? How can I encourage my boy to be strong when I feel weak? How can I give this tiny baby who strokes my face as she curls up against my body the security that she truly needs?

I sing along with the Christmas carols - “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight” - and the feelings come and go. Here comes the hope. Here come the fears. And so on it goes as it has since the beginning of time.

Before bed I read them The Little Engine That Could, and I dwell on those words more than they will ever know – I think I can, I think I can – turn out the light, and keep chugging along. I keep chug-chug-chugging. It's all I can do.

Then when all has quieted down and I retreat to that place within that can get messy and harsh and fearful, I force myself to fill it with hope. I think about the story my clever little girl wrote and illustrated for me. I think about my energetic little boy proudly bringing in the chicken egg he collected from the hens all by himself. I remember the first heartfelt, unprompted 'thank you' and the last big hug I got, and I let my thoughts linger on all the laughter and joy in between. Because that's the place my heart needs to go.

It's more than how can I. It's why can't I. It's how can I not.

So I'll keep chugging along, but I'll change the rhythm of the engine. I know we can. I know we will. And we will indeed, because what more could be worthy of yearning for but the faith to carry us through?

I must pull my heart from the trenches and place it on the mountaintop. It belongs to them, after all. They need their mama's heart to soar above the oceans so they can fly too.

Thursday, September 3, 2015


One evening while we were on our beach vacation back in April, we came across a young couple who were chasing around their three small kids on the shore. Our kids started running around with theirs, so since I was expecting our third at the time, I struck up a conversation with the parents by asking, “So, what's it like having three anyway?”

The dad joked in his country accent, “Well, I woulda advised you against it, but I can see I'm too late.”

I laughed, and even though I wasn't quite there yet, I knew what he meant. It's always a little crazy adding to the mix.

My two big kids are growing up so fast, and I want to give them all I can, yet I have spent so much time in the last year unable to be at my best for them. I was too pregnant and too nauseated or too tired or too uncomfortable for several months, and now the new little one requires so much attention that I feel like this summer completely ran away from us. I think about how I want to be doing more with them right now and how guilty I sometimes feel that I have to divide myself up even more, but they don't even notice any of that. They are loving every minute of each day. They are loving their baby sister. And they hug me and tell me how much they love me every night.

Those kids give me grace.

Hard Day With The KidsMy 2-month-old is a great night sleeper (fingers crossed it stays that way) but is a fierce little nap fighter during the day. I think my butt is permanently imprinted in the recliner from spending so much time nursing. It gets better each day, and I'm figuring her out, but I don't always know exactly what she wants. As I forge ahead, trying to meet the demands of a newborn without getting too frustrated, I don't always succeed. But at night I lie in the dark and listen to her little squeaks and contented sighs coming from the bassinet next to me as she drifts off, satisfied, and I know she loves her mama.

That baby gives me grace.

In the midst of all this activity, I often feel that I've forgotten how to pray. I struggle to put into words what I want to say to my heavenly Father and don't often enough remember to talk to Him. I brush that communication aside to meet the many needs around me and manage just fine, or so I think, until I remember that I need guidance and wisdom in order to do any of this life stuff right. Of all the frustrations I face, I have the hardest time with the ones that come from within. But He knows every one of them and loves me just the same.

That Father gives me grace.

As this little family travels along its path, I hear the clock ticking along with the steady pace of the kids' growth. I want to keep them small enough to fit in my arms, to keep them close enough to rest their heads upon my chest. I want to know what lies ahead so I can prepare them for it. But I can't, so I savor the sweetest moments, the ones I'll always have to hold on to.

Even time gives me grace.

I wouldn't advise anyone against any of it – because even in all of the messy madness, the fleeting failures, and the crazy chaos, grace surrounds us. Grace carries us through.

I wish I knew how to give it as freely as it is so often given to me.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Welcoming Cora: A Home Birth Story

Lately I've been a little out of sorts – sleepy, foggy brain, worn out, and pretty much just tied up in one job, unable to do much else except try to remember when I'm going to feel normal again. But it's all for a good reason. Our third child, a beautiful and healthy baby girl, entered the world on June 25.

This pregnancy was by far the hardest and weirdest of all of them. My morning sickness lasted well into the second trimester, despite my continued expectations for it to end 'any day now', and my energy level was awful the entire time. I developed pregnancy ailments that I didn't even know were related to pregnancy, such as nosebleeds, drooling like a Saint Bernard in my sleep, and all-night snoring that often led my poor husband to seek refuge on the couch. Add to those the typical pregnancy issues like acid reflux and fatigue, and you can sure bet I was beyond ready to have this baby by the end. But, of course, I did things backwards, and my pregnancies have gotten longer each time instead of shorter, so this little girl decided to stay safe and cozy inside Mommy until five days past my due date.

She was worth it. Cora Ivy was born at 9:47 a.m. on a Thursday after a 6-hour active labor and what felt like weeks of early labor. I had been having so many Braxton Hicks contractions for so long that I joked with Clint that I wouldn't notice when I finally went into real labor and the baby would eventually just fall out one day. Ha! Would be nice if it actually worked that way...

I felt strange the whole day before she was born. The contractions seemed stronger and even more frequent, but I had given up on this baby ever actually coming out of me. I felt as though the big event was close, but I didn't want to get my hopes up like I had so many times before. I had fitful sleep all night until around 3:30 a.m, when I realized that I kept waking up in pain. I finally got up and walked around for a while, timing the contractions with an app on my phone like I had so many other times before. They were definitely closer together, but still not very regular - 6 minutes, 2 minutes, 8 minutes, 4 minutes. This labor was so unlike my last, but these contractions definitely felt 'different', so I knew it was (finally) the real thing.

I called my midwife and woke up Clint around 5:00 a.m. He started getting the birth pool set up while I walked around and nervously timed contractions, wondering if I'd waited too long to call the midwife since some of the contractions were so close together. I felt much better once she arrived, and my mother-in-law arrived soon after to pick up the kids. Poor Hannah teared up a little as she hugged me before they left, but we reassured her that she would have a new baby sister soon and it would all be worth it. I would continue to tell myself the same thing throughout the morning.

They left around 7:00 a.m, and it took a while longer for the birth pool to get filled, but once it did I settled into the warm water, Clint put some Josh Garrels on the stereo, and for a while it really was like taking a relaxing bath in my dining room. I used the same method I had used in my last labor – breathing through the contractions and picturing in my mind my favorite photographs of my kids. It helped me to take the focus off of what my body was doing and instead focus on the reward at the end.

At some point though it started getting much harder, as labor tends to do. As the pain got more intense, the water began feeling much hotter, probably just because I was having to work harder, and my midwife and Clint took turns giving me sips of ice water and putting a cool washcloth on my forehead. I remember wondering how in the world this pool could stay so hot, and I sat up out of the water occasionally to cool off – in between contractions, of course.

I've seen many water birth videos, and most of the time, it seems women prefer to squat or rest their arms on the side of the tub. That DID NOT work for me. Gravity made things horribly painful. What worked for me was actually lying back in the pool with my hips lifted up. I let my legs just float in the water, and it seemed to take away some of the pressure I was feeling. Clint held me up with one arm, and I gripped his hand with the other as I focused on the music and thoughts of my kids.

I can't recall which song Cora entered the world to, as I was rather distracted (and in lots of pain) at that point, but the song that I remember hearing most clearly during labor is called 'Morning Light'. I was facing our back patio glass doors where I could see our backyard bathed in sunlight, and I was struck by the relevance of the lyrics.

And also -

But every good gift comes down from above
From the Lord of light like a labor of love
Upon the child who waits for Him."

I would recommend to anyone in labor to have some soothing music playing. I didn't have that in my other labors, and it truly helped me to keep calm and maintain a relaxed atmosphere, in spite of all the intensity involved in delivering a baby.

When it came time to push, I remember thinking it seemed more painful than my last labor. At the time I had no idea she would end up being as big as she was. My midwives (the second one arrived at some point during transition) remarked that my water still hadn't broken yet, and soon after, there came the baby's head, still in the sac! I heard the midwives comment on it, and I remembered having read about babies born that way and how rare it was. Cora was born “in the caul” - still completely enclosed in her amniotic sac. I wish we had been able to get a picture, but the four of us were all pretty busy!

After they laid her on my chest, one of them commented that she was big and had to definitely be over nine pounds. I think I said something like, “Really? No way!” because I had never had a big baby before. Hannah was just under seven pounds and Abram was just under eight. Sure enough, once we moved into the bedroom and some of my family arrived, my midwife weighed Cora and announced to us all that she was 9 lbs 12 oz! I was in complete shock.

Nothing was as to be expected with this pregnancy, which just serves to remind me once again that life rarely meets expectations. Cora is also a typical newborn who doesn't meet expectations and eats more and sleeps less than her parents would prefer, but that just brings me back to the song lyrics of her labor – joy comes in the morning, and it's gonna be alright.

Hannah and Abram adore their baby sister, and although I admit that I am anxious for the time when she is a little older and they can enjoy interacting with her more, I am trying to soak up these baby days and remember how quickly they go by. Before we know what hit us, we'll have three big kids. For now we'll keep cuddling this tiny (though bigger than expected) little girl.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Sea Could Bring You A Sail

Changes are a comin'. Lately I've been thinking about one of my favorite scenes from the movie Castaway when Tom Hanks' character returns home and is talking to a friend about how he stayed alive on the island. He says, “And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?” So much great insight to take away from that movie, and you know a film is good when it holds your attention despite only having one actor throughout most of it and when it makes you cry over a volleyball floating away (Yes, I admit, I mourned Wilson, okay? I had imaginary friends as a kid. Give me a break.), but the reason I was reminded of that particular scene is because I've been focusing quite a bit on the future.

I'd forgotten how hard it is to feel so tired all the time. I'm thankful we got to take a beach vacation this year because I needed the rest. Oh, how I envy those women who consistently work out and have plenty of energy throughout their entire pregnancies. All three times I have had grand plans of doing just that, and all three times I've had to laugh at myself when I have to go sit down after climbing a flight of stairs. I'm still getting stuff done, just not at the pace I'm used to. I'm being forced to remember that slowing down isn't a bad thing. It's making me see what's right in front of me and letting me know that it will be gone tomorrow. 

It's more than just the fact that we have a third child on the way, though that's definitely enough to get a person thinking about how things are about to change...A LOT. It's that life is always changing. The slowing down has at least allowed me to notice how much the little ones I already have are morphing.
 They are maturing.

I offered to get Hannah her cereal one morning:
No, thanks. I like to get it because it makes me feel like a big girl.”
She paused and looked at me shyly. “But thank you for serving. I don't want you to feel like I don't want you to get it anymore.”

How did she know? Does she sense how hard it is for mommies to let go sometimes? Does she also see how happy and proud I am to see her growing up, even though I want to keep her little for as long as I can?

She's my big girl, bigger every day.

They are learning.

Abram has been interested in rhyming words lately. “Mommy, what rhymes with zag? Jag?” “Yes.” “Does bag?” “Yes.” “Does Jean-Luc?”

(No, and perhaps we should find Daddy something else to watch on Netflix besides Star Trek...)

They are both learning so much every day, and I love seeing the world through their eyes. Do they know how much they also teach me?

They are growing up. They are loving each other. We're building this life one day at a time.

Hannah will start school in the fall. Abram will be a big brother soon. I'll (hopefully) get some energy back, but my hair will keep graying, our kids will keep growing, this life will keep spinning, and as long as we're on this earth, nothing remains the same.

Uncharted territory lies before us - that's what all of life is. I don't know what the future holds, but I know that I gotta keep breathing. Today only lasts one day. Tomorrow the tide could bring something that changes my course forever.