Category Archives: Birthdays

The birth of Baby Jean Marjorie Joy

I had hoped that with a bit of distance and reflection, the story of Jean Marjorie Joy’s birth would make a little more sense to me.  However, she will be four weeks tomorrow, and much of it feels as cloudy now as it did on June 25th, the day she was born.

For this birth, my sixth, and first home birth, I felt oddly disconnected, emotionally.

I think it started from…  well, I had about eight days of pre-labor, prodromal labor.  Eight solid days where contractions NEVER fully let up.  Never.  On about four or five occasions, they would increase in strength and frequency, until they were quite intense and about three minutes apart, and this would continue for 6, 8, 12 hours.

Normally, when one has contractions that are more than a minute long, three minutes apart, for a number of hours, one is in labor!  Actual labor!!  So, I would alert my husband, who invariably came home from work (or just didn’t depart for work).  I’d call or text my midwife.  I’d get other things prepared, including myself, emotionally and with focus, for me to have a baby.

And then… the contractions would disappear.

Or, they would almost disappear.  They would slow back down to once every 20 minutes or so.

So, over the course of a week, I became emotionally engaged, multiple times, with the idea of having a baby…  And I would prepare, mentally and logistically, to have a baby.

And then, the baby wouldn’t come.

I admit:  I cried.  I became discouraged more than once.

It’s difficult to explain…  But after about the fourth time of this happening, it felt like The Baby Who Cried Wolf.  And I stopped believing.

I didn’t stop believing that I would have a baby;  I knew I actually would, eventually.

But, when the contractions would ramp up again, I couldn’t help but think, “Yeah… whatever.”

That sounds awful, but it’s true.

….

I had visions of one of those births that just progress beautifully, undisturbed, where the midwife never checks my cervix, and I just listen to my body and tune into my baby, and birth a baby in peace and joy.

That didn’t quite happen.

Well, it didn’t happen at all.

After the first two days of contractions, on June 18, I caved and asked to come in to see my midwife and for her to check my cervix — the first vaginal exam of my entire pregnancy.  I was only 38 weeks, 5 days, but I had had two of my babies earlier than that;  it wasn’t inconceivable (ha!) that I was in labor.

She did, and I was dilated to 2 cm and about 75% effaced.

In a mom who has given birth previously, that really doesn’t mean ANYTHING.  As my midwife had told me (and as I already knew), “I have had multip moms dilate to four and stay there for weeks.”

But, I just wanted to know if these contractions were progressing anything or not.  The answer:  Kind of.  Not really.

On that first check, we also discovered that baby was engaged in my pelvis, but her head was tilted just slightly, and my cervix was still very posterior.  Good news, bad news, bad news.

Not “bad news” as in dangerous — just “bad news” in that it meant that the birth likely wasn’t imminent.  Babies can be birthed in a wide variety of imperfect positions, but I did know that the mama’s body will likely keep contracting to try to reposition the baby as long as possible.  And I knew that my cervix needed to travel forward — anterior — before the baby could be born.

But… even with all of that, since this was my sixth baby, the midwife reminded me that even just a few really hard contractions could reposition her, bring my cervix forward, and cause me to dilate, all within a literal matter of minutes.

So, it was like I wasn’t in labor, but I was.

The 20th of June came:  My 40th birthday.  I went to see the midwife again, as I had continued to contract.  I had an “official” appointment with her the next day, but as I had been contracting still, I asked to come in early.  But… no dice.  Nothing had significantly changed from two days previous, though I was dilated to three, instead of two centimeters.  Everything else was the same.

At that point, I decided that I was going to stop going in to see the midwife until I was 100% certain I was in labor — and then she would come see me.

That was a Thursday.  I continued to have “bouts” of strong contractions, close together, for multiple hours.

Monday was the worst, though.

By Monday the 24th, my uterus was officially sore, and I could feel like it was tired.

That was worrisome, because I didn’t want to go into real labor with a sore, tired uterus.  That was actually my biggest concern about contracting so much:  I needed a “fresh” uterus.  It’s a muscle.  I mean, imagine running 10 miles for eight consecutive days before you ran a marathon.  You just wouldn’t do that, even if you could.  When it comes to the real thing, you want muscles that are refreshed and ready, not ones that have been drained of their strength.

I contracted for 12 solid hours on Monday, from about 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

My husband, so dear, had come home from work around midday.  He set up his Kindle in our bedroom, hooked up to speakers, with my favorite worship songs playing on YouTube.  He was attentive to me, taking care of our children, checking in on me…  It was just right, actually.

When the contractions — yet again — petered out after the children were in bed for the night, I sobbed.  I was so discouraged.  My husband reassured me that the baby would actually come, and that he was not impatient with me.  His words were soothing to me, but I couldn’t explain how it was such an emotional investment to think that I was in labor, and then find out that I wasn’t.

I came downstairs…  We watched some TV.  It felt like the baby flipped completely in the womb.  I thought, “That’s either really good — she’s positioning herself correctly, finally — or that’s really bad — she’s turned breech or something like that.”  I got down on the floor to palpate my belly, to see if I could tell where she was.  I couldn’t.  I could feel, though, something against my cervix.  It felt like little fingers, wiggling around.  “It feels like she’s trying to push her way out with her hand!” I exclaimed.

I thought for certain that such a feeling was a… sensation, not the actual truth.

Eventually, we went to bed, with me feeling… well, not quite as discouraged as I had, earlier in the day, but resigned…  As in, “Whatever.”  Ambivalent.

Around 12:30, I woke up, contracting pretty hard.  That wasn’t new.  The contractions I’d been having for more than a week were often hard enough to wake me from a deep sleep;  and I’m a hard sleeper.  However, it felt like I had wet the bed.

“That’s weird,” I thought.

It wasn’t enough liquid to be my water breaking, yet I don’t normally wet the bed!  So, it just seemed weird to me.

I cleaned up and went back to bed.

I woke again at 1:30 with the same situation:  A pad full of water and contracting.

I knew that when the membranes break, often they can do so by “leaking”, instead of popping.  But, it didn’t smell like amniotic fluid.  However…  At 1:30, I had some bloody show.  I knew that this meant that I was dilating — a good sign, indeed! — but that the mucous plug, once lost, can be re-formed, and just because I was dilating did not necessarily mean I was in “real” labor.

I continued to wake up every hour with the same “symptoms” — one strong contraction followed by lesser contractions, anywhere from 3-8 minutes apart;  just enough liquid (I was still completely unsure if it was amniotic fluid, or if I was peeing) to fill a pad;  and some bloody show.

2:30…

3:30…

4:30…

The contractions didn’t seem any more significant than the ones I’d been having for the previous eight days.  They didn’t feel any stronger, they weren’t any closer together…  In fact, I was having times where they’d stretch to 10-12 minutes apart, then increase in frequency:  sporadic, but consistent.

But, by 4:30, I had the most bloody show yet and some loose stools, and I had decided that the liquid was surely amniotic fluid, not urine.

That may be TMI for some (and if it is, you’d best stop reading now), but for me, I knew that loose stools is a very positive sign of labor.   They’re caused by the presence of prostaglandins — hormones that are present during labor and that cause the cervix to soften and thin — efface.  It has happened with all my babies, historically 3-12 hours before the baby is born.

So, at 4:38, I told my hubby, Martin, who had been sleepily aware of my restless night, that I was pretty sure this was real labor.

I decided to give it another hour, though, before alerting anyone, just to be sure.

For about 20 minutes, the contractions were sporadic:  3 minutes, 7 minutes, 4 minutes, 5 minutes apart.  Then, right at 5:00 a.m. on the 25th of June, the contractions started to intensify and they picked up to every 2-3 minutes apart and stayed there.  I stopped timing them and told my husband, “Timing them is becoming distracting.  They’re real.  I would be shocked if we didn’t have a baby some time today, probably sooner than later.”

I called my midwife at 5:30 a.m. and went to take a shower.

Before showering, I sent a text to my friend Stephanie, who was coming as friend/doula.  My husband is 46 and has known Stephanie since they were in junior high together.  She has the PERFECT presence for a woman in labor:  comforting, firm, determined, kind, gentle…  She just knows what to do and what to say, with no error, ever.  She is also a calming presence for my husband, who trusts her completely.  (Martin lived with Stephanie and her husband and their son for two years, prior to our marriage.)

I found out about an hour and a half later that while I had composed the text to Stephanie, I hadn’t actually sent it, which explained why she wasn’t there.  Just before 7:00 a.m., I asked Martin to call Stephanie.  He got her voicemail.  I was worried.

Back to 5:30-ish:  Pam (the midwife) said that she would be to my home in 20-30 minutes.  When I got out of the shower, she was there, in less-than 20 minutes.

At 5:53, she checked me.  I was dilated to a “stretchy” 5 cm;  she could easily stretch me to 8 cm.  My cervix was still quite posterior.

She had previously told me that she could manually pull the cervix forward, which would hasten labor, but that it would “hurt like hell”.  I didn’t envision her ever doing this to me because I like to let labor progress naturally;  I don’t want anything to speed it.

But, at this point, knowing that I was contracting every 2-3 minutes, knowing that I was well-dilated, but that my cervix was still too far back… I consented.

It didn’t actually hurt.  It was uncomfortable.

At that point, it was about 6:00 a.m.  Pam and the assistant midwife (Alicia) made themselves scarce.  They disappeared downstairs.  At some point, they came back upstairs and prepped some things in the room:  hanging bags for trash and laundry, setting up a birthing stool over a new shower curtain tarp, setting out piles of chux pads and other supplies.  I was only vaguely aware of this.

Some time close to 7:00, Stephanie arrived.  She had gotten Martin’s voice mail.

Laura also arrived, perhaps a little earlier than Stephanie.  Laura, a friend of mine, has been a long-time doula, now studying to be a midwife;  mine would be her first “official” birth as a student.

Even after Stephanie was there, I was concerned that everyone was there much too early.  The contractions weren’t terribly difficult and I had visions of everyone sitting around twiddling their thumbs and the baby being born 24 hrs later.

I don’t like putting people out.  I really don’t.  It makes me anxious, people sitting around, waiting on me.  It’s the ultimate rudeness, in my perspective:  Knowing that people are waiting on you, and you taking your sweet time…  I kept thinking about how maybe Martin should be at work; Pam and Alicia having to reschedule clients’ appointments — or worse, missing another birth because they were at my not-real birth; Stephanie should be at home with her family, or at her daughter’s volleyball tournament…  At one point, I asked the midwives and everyone else, “You bored yet?”  They seemed surprised, and Alicia mentioned how my 7yo, Audrey, was keeping everyone entertained, downstairs, with her quips and antics.  That wasn’t quite what I meant.  I guess I asked that because I was worried about it being way too early, and here I was, keeping everyone waiting.  I also started to question the wisdom of not really having anyone to watch the children.  As my oldest child is 16, everyone is pretty well self-sustaining:  They know what to do, what not to do, they can get breakfast and lunch for themselves, etc.  I knew our home would be filled with adults, in case of some emergency…  But, now, hearing about Audrey keeping everyone “entertained”, I worried.

In my previous births (all in the hospital, four with naturally-minded OBs, one with a Certified Nurse Midwife, all medication-free), one reason I never insisted on a home birth was because of the above:  I could envision myself worrying about everyone else, worrying about what the children were doing.

So, I labored, mostly focused on the labor itself, but about 5% of my mind wondering about the children, the midwives, Stephanie, my husband…

Speaking of the children, the boys (ages 16, almost-14, and 11) would just check in with the midwives, asking about how mom was doing.  Ethan (the oldest) didn’t come upstairs at all.  Grant and Wes came up once, before everything got intense.  Audrey came in and out frequently.  Fiala, my 4yo, stayed with me, or at least in the room, for a good portion of labor.

Fi and Martin with me.

Fi and Martin with me.

That’s actually just what I thought it would be like, with the children.  I was a little concerned about Audrey being too self-focused if she was in the room, but she wasn’t at all.  She wasn’t as attentive as Fiala, but she wasn’t as mindless as I was afraid she’d be.

Steph supporting me.

Steph supporting me.

For much of my labor, it was just as above:  Me standing in the bathroom, supporting myself on the sink.  I like to feel grounded, my body supported.

Also, notice my tense shoulders and arms?  Later, Pam (and everyone else) kept telling me to relax them.  That made me a little upset.  I couldn’t insist that, even though my shoulders were tense, the rest of my body was relaxed.  I wasn’t fighting the contractions, even though my shoulders were tensed.

This picture kind of freaked me out.  A) I look… old.  B) I look like my mom.

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And I look, to me, like my mom looked when she was ill, when she was in pain.  I suppose that makes sense:  I was in pain.  But, it was… sad and startling, seeing this picture.

Around 8:45, I was in the bathroom again, against the sink.  Stephanie and Martin were just outside the open door, talking.  The midwives weren’t in the room;  I found out later that they were camped in the (very small) hall, just outside our closed bedroom door.

Around 8:45, that’s when it switched for me.  It switched from, “This may take a really long time… these contractions aren’t really difficult… I wonder if I’ll have a baby by noon?  Five p.m.?  When??” to, “Holy cow, I’m going to have a baby, and sooner, rather than later.”  I stopped worrying about everyone else;  I didn’t have enough mental energy to, anyway.

I stood leaning against the doorjamb of the bathroom, laboring hard.  It took a few minutes, I think, for Martin and Stephanie to notice that something had switched…  I couldn’t tell them, though.  All I could think was that I wanted to lie down and that the carpet next to the bed looked good.  I think I kind of motioned in that direction and finally made it there, with effort.

At this point in labor… It’s funny, because everyone started to be very concerned about my comfort and well-being, and kept asking me questions.  I couldn’t answer, and I didn’t want them to ask me questions, but I couldn’t say that.  I couldn’t talk.  I just wanted to lie down.  It seemed like that would make the pain of the contractions — which had very suddenly become very intense and strong — lessen.

So, I stretched out on my right side, on the carpet on the floor next to the bed.

Almost immediately, I thought, “This was a very bad idea.”

My contractions absolutely gripped my body.  It was so painful.

I thought, “Either this is the world’s worst laboring position for me, or I am in transition.”

It’s odd, because in births #2-5, I knew exactly when transition hit.  There was no question in my mind.  But for this one, I just didn’t know.

It seems like, for the whole birth, almost everything solid… wasn’t.  Everything reliable, wasn’t.

Not that my people weren’t reliable.  Everyone who was there was wonderful.

But, prior to this birth, I can’t tell you how solid I felt about birth, how confident, how expectant.

But for baby Jean’s birth…  No, I didn’t feel like that at all.  The whole thing seemed fraught with questions and a lack of confidence.

I still don’t know why that was.  I keep waiting for some revelation, some insight, which is why I haven’t written this down until now.

I still have no deep insight about why this was.  Why did God see a need to put me in a place of insecurity?  I don’t know.

But, I can say that, for me feeling insecure, this was the best place, with the best people, to be.

I don’t think in “what ifs”.

A number of people, who have either been at the birth, or who heard about it, have questioned with wide eyes, “What if you had been in the hospital with that?”

And I don’t know.  I don’t think about that, at all.  I wasn’t at the hospital…  I was in my bedroom, with my husband and some incredibly skilled, caring women.

So, there I was on the floor, and I kept thinking, “I have to get off the floor.”  But I couldn’t move.  The contractions were right on top of each other, and each one made me freeze and melt simultaneously.  I couldn’t speak or move or think, other than in the back of my mind, thinking that again, “I have to get off the floor.”

It was just hurting so badly while on the floor, something made me feel that if I was not on the floor, I would feel better, labor better, with less pain.

It took a while… about 15 minutes, to be able to get into a not-lying-down position.  While I was getting up, at one point, I was on my hands and knees.  While there, I had the thought, “OK, this doesn’t suck as badly as being on the floor.”

It was still completely miserable, but it wasn’t as awful as lying down.

As I picked my hands up off the floor and rocked back to a sort-of kneeling position, I started to feel pushy.

Ah ha!  It was transition.

Oddly, this didn’t make me feel any better.  I was still feeling very insecure, very befuddled…

I know that when women labor naturally, the best place to be is in that… irrational, deep place of instinct.  However, even though in my previous births, especially with Audrey and Fiala, when I reached a place of transition and starting to feel pushy, I was so elated.  Even though I was deep in myself, drowning — in a good way — in labor itself, there was an underlying joy and expectation.

This time, not so much.  It just stunk.  I just kept thinking, “I have to get to this next point, because then it will feel not-as-awful.”

Never, except perhaps with my first birth, when I was altogether inexperienced, had I ever felt like that while birthing.

At that point, Pam stuck her head in.  She said later that she could hear that something had changed.  Stephanie said, “She’s feeling pushy.”

I somehow communicated that I wanted to get up on the bed, on all fours.  Someone put a pile of pillows at my head, I don’t know who.  That was perfect.  My head against the headboard, resting on my arms, which were on the pile of pillows.  Just right.

I remember thinking, “This is just right.”

Funny enough… when I was discussing, in a previous prenatal appointment, how I envisioned myself giving birth, I said something like, “Well, not on my hands and knees.  I don’t see that at all.  I don’t think that would be comfortable at all.”

And I can’t say that I was comfortable, but for one reason or another, it was just right, it was where I needed to be for that birth, for this baby.

I started pushing at 9:25.  My water had not broken, which I found very odd, given the fact that it surely had leaked earlier in the morning.

The girls, Audrey and Fiala, were still in the room.  I was proud of them — for being involved, for caring, for not freaking out…

They were on my right, on the side of the bed.  Martin was on my left.  Pam was at the foot of the bed.  Where everyone else was, I don’t know.  I had my eyes clamped shut, and it took all my concentration just to be.

Even with the first push, it didn’t feel quite right.

I wasn’t concentrating on pushing crazy-hard, though.

Knowing from my previous births, I get into robot-birthing-woman mode during the pushing phase:  My tendency is to push too much, too hard, not judiciously.  I hate the “ring of fire”, which is aptly named for me.  I just want to get past that, past it, past it.  So, I push like crazy.  I have since learned that the ring of fire is when the perineum is stretching, and if I don’t want to tear, that I must be patient, let it stretch, hold it right there, even as it burns, wait, wait…

But after — I think it was — two pushes, my water broke.

The energy in the room shifted.

I can’t describe it any other way.  The energy changed.  Alicia came over on my right and took hold of my leg to angle it just so, underneath me…  I didn’t know what she was doing, and frankly, I didn’t like it.

Pam was still at the foot of the bed, and I could hear her giving instructions, but I have no idea what they were.

She was supporting me.  She was there, working, doing something.  She was using both hands.  She was directing me when to push, which was 100% OK.  I had told her in a prenatal appointment that I don’t completely trust my instinct, because my instinct wants me to over-push, and that I would be listening to her and trusting her.

I could hear her voice, calm but firm, raised but not loud.

I was pushing, but it still didn’t feel right;  it didn’t feel powerful.

I found out later that my baby had a nuchal hand, and that became apparent after my water broke.

That sensation I had experienced, the previous night, about baby Jean trying to push her way out with her hand??  It was true.  It really was her hand, right at the mouth of the uterus, right at the cervix.

That is probably why I was contracting for eight days — my uterus was trying to get her positioned correctly, get her hand out of the way…  It didn’t work.

I didn’t know all this was happening — oddly, I couldn’t feel it at all.  Pushing was very painful, the ring of fire was very painful…  but Pam manipulating the baby’s arm while I was pushing??  I had no idea.  I didn’t know there was a hand/arm issue at all, until afterwards.

But, when baby Jean presented with her hand right next to her temple, Pam said that she first tried to push the hand back down.  She could get it to the collar bone, but Jean kept sticking it back up.  Then, Pam showed me how, when a baby is birthed, if her arm is bent, the elbow sticking out can be problematic.  So, she had to pull the arm all the way out, first.

And this is why pushing didn’t feel right to me;  it is why it felt ineffective — because of the malposition.

Pushing hurt.  Even when I wasn’t pushing, it hurt…  Looking back, there was no respite — from about 8:45 to 9:45, when baby Jean Marjorie Joy was born.  Only one hour.  But it was a very long hour.  It was all pain, all the time.

I wasn’t fighting it.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t relaxed.  I wasn’t fearful.  But, I was definitely in pain.

I’ve heard that the difference between pain (or even agony) and misery is one’s emotional state.  I did feel befuddled and unsure of myself.  But, I also felt cared-for, loved.  I felt assured that I was in very competent hands.  I just had to trust everyone… and I did.

At some point in the pushing, I became pretty loud.  The girls left the room.

I asked them later if they were scared by me… being loud.  (It wasn’t screaming, it wasn’t yelling… I don’t know what you’d call it.  It was just loud.)  And Audrey said, “No…  It was just too loud, so I left.”

I think there was something in her that said, “This is too intense,” and she took her exit, with Fiala following.  Even that, I think is just right.  They weren’t frightened.  They had just had enough and could probably sense that they were no longer of any help.  Prior to that, they’d often kiss my cheek, or put their hands on my belly…  At one point, Pam said, “Do you see when her eyes are closed?  That is when her belly hurts and you can’t put your hands on her belly because that hurts her more.”  And they didn’t.

I pushed for a total of 20 minutes.  That felt like a really long time to me, as all my previous babies were between 4-7 minutes each.

But she came out… with me being loud…

And you know that amazing emotional high — just absolutely saturated with JOY and love after a baby is born naturally?  I have experienced that five times.  I’ve studied that phenomenon, and in the birth classes that I (intermittently) teach, I describe the hormonal process that leads to that awesome feeling, and how it’s designed by God…  And, amazingly… the process that gets the baby OUT is very similar to the hormonal process that got the baby IN.  That feeling after a baby is born is remarkably similar to an orgasm.  I am 100% convinced that it’s part of God the Father’s plan for birth to culminate in a feeling, and experience that is BEYOND WORDS, both to help the mom and baby bond, to assist in the mother forgetting the pain of birthing, and so that there is… and emotional reward in doing a job well done.  Among other good things.  It really is a complicated an amazing hormonal process.

But this baby??  Um, no.  I didn’t feel that.

I was just flat-out relieved.

That’s it:  Relief.

Relief.

Relief.

I was just relieved that she was out, that my baby was earth-side, that she was here.

But after that point, my memory is very fuzzy.

I was talking with my husband about the birth, two days after Jean was born, and he mentioned catching the baby.

“What?” I was incredulous.  “You caught the baby?  I didn’t know you caught her.  How could I not know that?  How could I not know that you caught our baby??”

Pam was at the foot of the bed, tending to me, and Martin was still at my side, and she told him where to put his hands, as when the mom pushes out the baby, she kind of curls below the mom when she’s on all fours.

I didn’t know this happened.  I literally had no idea.

He continued, “Yes, and I held her as you turned over, and it was sort of awkward because she was still attached to the umbilical cord.”

How could I not remember this?  I don’t think I remember rolling over.  I don’t remember seeing my husband with our brand-new baby.

I don’t even remember anyone placing her in my arms.

I do remember seeing both Pam and Alicia rub baby Jean all over… she was fairly blue after birth.  I remember them exclaiming about how huge she was.  As they were doing this, I remember taking off my tank top so that the baby and I could be skin-to-skin.

Baby Jean pinked-up, and someone placed her in my arms.  She had a lot of hair, for one of my babies.  She was really, really chubby.  Right after, someone else reached over and put one of those stretchy baby hats on her head.  I buried my face in her neck…

kissing my newborn's neck

Some short time after that, I birthed the giant placenta.  We took a good look at it… And Laura took it home, which kind of freaked out Martin and Stephanie.  I wasn’t freaked out.  Folks do all sorts of stuff with their placentas.  I kind of considered it, but after experiencing no PPD with my previous five, I sort of figured that having it encapsulated was an expensive novelty and I decided to pass.  We could have kept it and planted a tree over it, buried in our yard.  “A tree???” Martin asked.  I knew he would be a tough sell on alternate uses for placentas, and that he would feel zero attachment to it.  So, I hadn’t even brought it up, prior to birth.  I figured I was just doing well, getting a home birth, and that the whole placenta thing wasn’t a hill worth fighting over.

Pam and Martin weighed our little chub.

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Ten pounds, seven ounces.

My biggest yet.

Little Squishy.

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My sister Robin arrived…

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That is Fiala, Pam, Robin, Audrey, Martin, and Stephanie, all looking on to measure her head.  Her head was 14.5″ (that’s big) and her chest was 15¼” (that’s really big).  She was 22-ish inches long.  I think Pam measured her at 22, but at Jean’s first pediatric appointment, when she was one week old, she was 21½”.  And then the following week, she was 21¼”.  Jean didn’t shrink…  so, we can call her 22″, but who knows?

Measuring her chest

And this is the team (minus my other daughters)…

Laura, Pam, baby and me, Alicia

Martin, Laura, Pam, baby and me, and Alicia

And now, quite apropos, my baby is crying…  Sweet girl.

………

She’s just a baby.

Martin and I keep saying that to each other, “She’s just a baby.”

Even with the unusual-for-me birth, and even with a horrific event where my nipple detached about 40% due to a bad latch (yes, it was as awful as it sounds), this has been a stress-free month.  There is peace and joy and the absolute delight of infancy, and the acute awareness of how quickly it passes…  My husband and I have been in glorious enjoyment of baby Jean Marjorie Joy.  There is a sense of completeness, of finality;  we both know she is our last, and we are going to enjoy every last second of her being “just a baby.”

With my first birth, at age 24, I was younger and more physically resilient.  However, I’ll trade NOW for then, any day.  I was so stressed out with Ethan, sure that each cry of his was an indictment against my mothering.  Now, Jean cries, and I laugh at her sweet, cute, sad, squishy face, and her baby-ness where she is just absolutely sure the world is going to end…  I don’t laugh in a mocking way.  She’s just so sweet.  She’s just a baby.  She doesn’t know.

But this time, I do.  I know to treasure it.

Older women tell younger mothers that all the time, “Treasure it.  It passes so quickly.”  I was SO TIRED of hearing that continually.  But, now I’m an older mother, and I know…  I know…  But, I treasure it all the more, because I do know, now.

She’s just a baby.

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The most significant bathroom break, ever.

“Jean Marie,” read the very short text from my husband.

I was at a red light when I read it, out doing errands with my 13 year-old son, Grant.  It was five days after my mother had passed.  Her name was Jean Elaine.

“Wha…???” was my response, aloud.

I called my husband.  “Are you saying that if we have another baby, you want to name her after my mother?  You know I hate the name Marie.”

Our youngest turned four in October.  I will turn 40 in June of next year.  I’ve wanted “just one more” for a couple of years now…  It just never felt like our family was complete.  I wanted one more shot at having a home birth.  I wanted one more baby to nurse.  I just… wanted another baby.

My husband?  Not so much.  I would bring it up about once every six months — enough to let him know it was still on my heart, but not enough so that it was nagging.  It’s not a good idea to nag one’s husband into having a baby, I figured.  We needed to be in it TOGETHER, wholeheartedly.

“It’s already too noisy in here,”  he would say.

“WHAT??” was my kind response.  “You’re vetoing the life of a child based upon the noise factor??”

“Yes,” he replied with finality.  “And I’m not ashamed to admit it.  One more baby would send me over the edge, noise-wise.”

I couldn’t help but persist, “But a baby doesn’t make much noise.  A three year-old makes a lot of noise.”

“Yes,” he agreed, “But that baby grows up to be a three year-old.”

“But by that time, Ethan [our oldest, who is 15] will likely be out of the house.”

“That doesn’t count,” he replied, “Ethan hardly makes any noise at all.”

I had to admit he was right about that.

So, when the thought would surface, as it often did, I would just submit the whole thing to God, to His plan, to His timing…  I spent much time wondering if that was just the way He made my heart:  That I would always long for another baby, and that I was to funnel that into encouraging and equipping other mothers in their efforts to birth naturally.  And, it hasn’t escaped my notice that I could be a grandmother before the decade is out.  Maybe He was preparing my heart for that.

——–

About a week prior to that text, I was at my mother’s bedside, praying.  She had been in the hospital for nearly three weeks.  She had had a series of strokes, plus the doctors had discovered a large, vegetative growth on one of the valves of her heart, which was likely sending off bits of itself around her body, resulting in the strokes, as well as threatening the viability of her heart.  She had been in poor health before those incidents:  complications from Marfan Syndrome, two extensive back surgeries, a nerve problem similar to multiple sclerosis (CIDP), a half-paralyzed diaphragm that caused one lung to continually fill with fluid… And on top of THAT, she had aspirated a bunch of fluid and now her good lung was full and not functioning well.

It was a hard time.  During the first two weeks, I was at the hospital nearly every day.  The last week, I was there almost 24/7.  She needed someone continually at her side, and as good as the care in the hospital was, they just couldn’t provide that.  My stepdad took many days off from work — he works part time as a school music teacher — and is not in great physical health himself.  My sister works a “part time” job that is just a few hours shy of full-time, plus has a two-year-old daughter.  My older brother flew in from Texas for a time, and my younger brother drove down from Portland…  But eventually, TJ had to fly back to Texas, and Brian felt like he was behind the eight-ball, knowing how to care and advocate for our mom.  Everyone pitched in as they could;  everyone spent hours with my mother;  everyone spent nights at the hospital.  We called on friends and extended family to fill in the odd hours when no immediate family could be present.  But in the last week, I was the one able to be there most often.

I was continually thankful, especially that last week, for children who are acquainted with our routine enough to manage fairly well without me.  My dear husband, too, felt very strongly that someone should be with my mother continually, and was very supportive of me being there so much.  I was also thankful that, with our move, I was less than two miles from the hospital.  And for us homeschooling, which lends a great deal of flexibility to our schedule, further enabling me to be there.

“And…” I reluctantly prayed, “I have to admit your wisdom, God, in not allowing me to have a baby, much as I have wanted one.  If I had an infant right now… or even a two-year-old, this would not be possible.  Instead, I am able to be here at my mom’s bedside when she needs me.”

I was incredibly thankful for that.

During her last weeks, my mom would drift in and out of lucidity.  She would often be asleep, and visitors and conversation continued in her room.  It was always pleasant.  One of my favorite things about that time is the peace and kindness present in the room, by the Holy Spirit and His work in my mother’s life.  I had so many great conversations with family members and with friends who had come to spend some time with my mother.

My husband and I have five children;  most of my parents’ friends know that.  And when one has “a bunch” of children, it is frequently asked of me, “Are you going to have any more?”  As a response to that question, one of the several times it was posed to me there in the hospital by a visitor, I responded by saying that only a few months ago, my mother had said to me, unprompted, “I know you and Martin aren’t likely to have any more children.  And I think that for most families, six children would be problematic.  But I want you to know that I think it would be fine if you have more children.  If any family should have more children, it should be yours.”

After I related that story, my mom, with eyes closed — I had thought she was asleep! —  piped up weakly, “It’s because you’re such a good mother.”

I cried.

……..

Back to the conversation following the text from my husband, I continued, saying, “I’m really glad you are… amenable to the idea of having more children, but I’m not pregnant.  I would know.”

He responded, “I was just going to the bathroom…”

Let me interject here to say that my husband’s work-bathroom-break-prayer-times have always been inspirational to me.  How often have I, as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of five, thought — or said, “I just don’t have enough time for a ‘real’ quiet time.”  However, I have long known that Martin uses those few minutes of alone-time, purposefully to check in with God.  It doesn’t take long, really, to reconnect with Him.  Martin prays about what’s on his mind.  He listens to anything the Father might say in return, all accomplished within a few minutes in the middle of his busy day.  I now do similarly.

“…and I feel like God spoke to me,” he continued.  “If you are pregnant — and I think you are — and if it is a girl — and I think it is — we’re going to name her after your mom.  I’m not tied to the middle name, but her first name will be Jean.”

I was shocked.

“But I’m not pregnant!” I repeated.

“Go get a test,” he responded.

“What if I am?” I asked, “Are you going to have a hard time with it?”

“Nope.  God spoke to me.  I already dealt with it.  It’s all good.”

I really don’t like that saying:  “It’s all good.”  But in this instance, I did.

I also have to interject a positive note for serving a God who SPEAKS, a God who speaks TODAY to the people He loves, if their ears are tuned to His voice, not only through His Word — the Bible — but directly from His Spirit into our spirit, into our thoughts, into our lives, RIGHT NOW, words of significance to where we are in our daily lives, in our minute-by-minute concerns, in our current needs.  What if we didn’t?  What if my husband didn’t?  What if I got pregnant and he was upset?  That had been my lone concern about becoming pregnant:  I’d be thrilled, my husband would be distressed and worried, and I’d have to spend nine months reassuring him that it would be OK, and knowing that we weren’t in unity…  I didn’t know if I could handle that.  But, in a few minutes, within the space of a bathroom break, God spoke to my husband and changed his mind entirely on the subject.

“Go get a test,” he repeated.

I did.

And I am.

Baby Jean will be born likely the end of June, next year, just after my 40th.

🙂

MoFiN and SooP

Saturday was the 17th anniversary of marriage to my dear, integrous, handsome, and highly talented husband, Martin.  We enjoyed a fabulous day trip to central Arizona, where we enjoyed wine tastings at Javelina Leap Vineyard & Winery and Page Springs Cellars.  Javelina Leap was more instructional and intimate.  Page Springs was more impressive, large, and put-together.  Page Springs had WAY more wines, but I think I enjoyed the experience at Javelina Leap better.

There are other wineries in the area, but we thought we’d better halt it at two.  🙂

We also very much enjoyed an hour or more meandering around the Page Springs Fish Hatchery nature area walking on the close, wooded trails, and watching the birds in and around the ponds.  We saw a Black Phoebe, six or so Great Blue Herons, dozens of American Coots and American Widgeons, many Mallards, several White-Crowned Sparrows, and perhaps hundreds of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, which were a new add to my life birding list.  We likely would have ID’ed more birds had we given it more time.

We spent the late afternoon and evening in old town Cottonwood, where there was a festival of some sort with a variety of interesting people, booths, music, art, and general funky, small-town atmosphere.  We bought some Peruvian wool yarn for my sister, who was staying with my girls, and had dinner at the Tavern Grille.

It was a great day.

On the drive home, we stopped for Starbuck’s and watched the moon rise over the bare hills of central Arizona.  Perfect.

When we got home, we discovered that my sister nearly died watching my girls.  Not really, but she was in tears.  Of course, she never let on about any of this while we were gone.  😦  She requested that she never watch the girls again without the help of at least two of my boys.  We then sort of laughed over the apparent oxymoron of how it’s easier to care for five children than two.  Plus her own 15 month old daughter.  My sister Robin has a bad back, and she said that she realized that, most of the time she watches my children, she stays on the couch and gives orders to the older children, intervening when necessary.  🙂  Much easier than chasing around one-, three-, and five-year-olds, nonstop, for about twelve hours.  She was in pain and a little horrified how Audrey in particular took advantage of Robin’s less-than-availability, instead of sympathizing and helping more, especially in light of how Robin had carted Audrey around to all sorts of special things that day — a birthday party, a paint-your-own-pottery place, the park…

I felt badly for Robin, and badly about raising a daughter who isn’t appreciative of the good things provided for her.  I’m still sorting that out in my mind, and in a couple of conversations with my sister regarding parenting…

This provided a giggle, though:

When my sister was preparing dinner (“soop”), Audrey — who had attended a birthday party earlier that day with her own gluten-free cupcakes in hand — decided to petition Robin for a better dinner.  “Mofin?  Yes!  Soop?  NO!”  It’s a “sparkle muffin” with frosting and sprinkles (a.k.a. a cupcake).  Note the appropriately-placed smiley face and frowny face.

Overall, a good day.

Next time, I’ll definitely have mercy on my sister by leaving behind some helpers for her.  🙂

Ten things I have enjoyed in the last few days

In no particular order:

  1. Fiala’s second birthday.  Precious girl.  We have no pictures because my camera is totally broken now, and the grandparents forgot theirs.  We had a simple cookout party with family at the park on Saturday.  Between Friday (her actual birthday), and Saturday, she received a grand total of three presents, each simple and inexpensive… but her face is such a delight when she receives a present.  I think she really understands the heart of gift-giving, and she feels so special and thankful, no matter what the gift is, which makes it all the more delightful to give something to her.
  2. Receiving new earrings in the mail.  Ordered from Mom Potter’s Etsy shop.  🙂
  3. The new Sherlock on PBS Masterpiece.  It was so wonderful!  I really enjoyed Benedict Cumberbatch (what a name!) on 2008’s The Last Enemy, aired on Masterpiece Contemporary last year, and he was even better as a 21st century Sherlock.  My husband wasn’t so convinced he’d like it — he’s a big fan of Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock portrayal.  But, about ten minutes into it, he said, “OK.  I’m hooked!”  Not giving too much away, but if you know the story of Sherlock Holmes, the one problem I had with the storyline/script is that it HIGHLY inferred that one character was so-and-so, but it turned out not to be the case, but another slightly lesser-known character.  I felt a tad manipulated, and I hate that in movies/TV shows.  Still.  It was really good.
  4. The cooler weather in Phoenix. Mornings in the 60s.  Days in the 80s or occasionally a bit lower.  ~sigh~  I’ve been waiting for this!!
  5. Getting a couple of bird mysteries solved, via a birding listserv I just joined.  Yes, that is a Eurasian Collared-Dove I saw;  as an introduced species, they are heading westward.  And, yes, Anna’s Hummingbirds can hybridize with Costa’s.
  6. Worship on Sunday.  It was so rich, both musically, and with the presence of God.  I couldn’t even sing, half the time.  Good thing I wasn’t on stage!  😉
  7. The author of the book I ghost-wrote signed her contract. This was after long weeks of (slow) negotiations.  She got some things altered for her benefit.  Good for her!!  Expected publication date is August 1, 2011.
  8. Our “new” entertainment center.  Our TV barely fits, but it does fit!  My hubby and oldest son spent a good portion of Saturday setting it up.  🙂
  9. The Jars of Clay Greatest Hits CD.  I have a couple of their CDs.  I’ve been a somewhat-fan over the years.  And, this CD is two years old, so I’m behind… (as always, with music)  But, what a great CD this is!!  I spied it at the library, and I’ve been greatly enjoying it.  All my kids like it, too.  I’ve been belting out the songs at the top of my lungs as we’ve traveled to and fro these last couple of weeks, as I’m familiar with all but three tracks on the CD.  It’s eminently singable.  I’m not normally a huge fan of retrospective type albums, but for someone like me, who enjoys Jars of Clay, but who does not own the whole collection of their discs, it’s perfect.
  10. My oldest son, Ethan.  He’s not a “thing”, but I have been so enjoying his growing-up.  He is 13.  In June, he stepped up to the youth group at our church, instead of the kids’ church…  He was unsure about the transition, but he’s really enjoying it now, and I think it has lent to his already-thoughtful nature, learning things and considering subjects that need some deeper maturity.  He’s a boy of few words, so it’s difficult to get a long conversation from him.  But, in our exchanges, I have been delighted in the evidence of his careful thought and kind consideration of those with whom (or of whom) he speaks.  He’s not perfect, of course, and there are a few things about him that make me wanna pull out my hair.  But — similar to my husband, of whom I have the same confidence — Ethan is faithful to work on the areas of his life’s garden which need weeding.  If you point out an error, he genuinely takes steps to improve, even if initially, he’s not all that receptive.  He’s a son to make a mother proud, and I love him so.

Plan D (Or, The Bagdad “Adventure”)

I have a traveling buddy.  Her name is Allison.  Allison is just the right type of companion for me:  laid back, can make fun out of almost anything, likes to drive, and has children whose company my own greatly enjoy.

All of those qualities are important, because the outings and adventures I have with my children are usually to fairly far-flung locations, and NOTHING ever goes exactly according to plan.  Normally, I am 100% OK with that;  Plan B is usually just as great as the original.  However, when I have friends with me, I get extremely nervous, because I then feel responsible that they have a good time, and that everyone’s expectations are fulfilled.

But, Allison doesn’t care, and she assured me with a laugh that, yes, even though our trip on Friday totally didn’t go as we had expected, she had a great time, and her two boys did, too, and she’s looking forward to a do-over.  Two for the price of one.  🙂

So, here was the plan:

  • Apple-picking at the organic orchards of Date Creek Ranch.
  • Playing in the Santa Maria River.

Here was Plan D:

  • Driving for two hours to play in a tiny town’s public pool.

Believe it or not, reality ended up being really fun.

Normally, Date Creek Ranch, a small organic farm, is open on Saturdays and Sundays in the fall.  However, when I contacted them a few weeks ago to inquire about a Friday visit, they said that could easily be arranged;  I just needed to call first.  Now, I freely admit I should have called on Monday or Tuesday.  I had no reason not to.  But, I didn’t.  I called on Thursday morning, and got their voice mail.  They didn’t return my call.  I called Friday, after we had hit the road, and again, left a message, which they never did return.  Hmph.

So, we decided that, until we heard from Date Creek Ranch, we’d go to the river first.

The Santa Maria in early November 2006

Now… after I got home, I decided to check online to see if there was some sort of info online about the Santa Maria River.  I should have done this FIRST.  Lulled by my success in finding copious amounts of water flowing in the river for trips past (see lovely pic above), we set off willy-nilly, me with no doubt that there’d be plenty of water for all.  I was disappointed and surprised — crushed, really — that there was NO WATER in the river.  None.  Not upstream, not downstream.

And, that’s just what the USGS real-time data for the Santa Maria River shows:  Zero flow, which is where it’s been at all summer, minus about two days.  😦

Additionally, the place where we have previously accessed the river now has barbed wire and ominous No Trespassing Private Property signs.  I’m enough of a rule-follower not to flaunt such warnings.

So, we had lunch under a hopeful-looking cottonwood tree (which also appeared to be a favorite hang-out of cows) and reassessed out situation.  We decided to go to Bagdad, which is a company copper mining town, currently entirely owned by Freeport MacMoRan.  My elder brother used to live there (he did something with the computers on the big trucks).  Additionally, Allison’s mom had recently traveled to Bagdad and raved about the mine tour she took.

So, after the failure of the apple-picking and river-playing, we decided — Plan C — to try for the tour.

Bagdad was only about ten miles, almost all on paved roads, from where we had taken our lunch.  So, we quickly arrived, and followed the signs to the mine.  When there, Allison went into the office, where she discovered that not only are tours by appointment only, they are open only to those aged nine and over, which left out my two girls.  Office Lady gave us the business card of the tour guy, and suggested that we call him, in the off-chance that he would be available.

We did, leaving a message on Tour Guy’s voicemail.  Allison and I discussed how the girls and I might be able to pass the time, should Tour Guy become available.  I was not really looking forward to passing time outside with two little girls for a couple of hours in near-record heat (it was hovering around 100°).  Allison went back inside the office to ask the Office Lady if she had any suggestions.  She highly recommended the community center, which had a pool, library, a playground, and the museum.

We had wanted to find the museum anyway.  So, off we went.  We found the community center complex in short order.  And, while the library was closed, and though the woman holding down the fort in the office would have to track down someone to unlock the museum, the pool and playground were open, and what’s more, it was all FREE!  I’m into “free”.

The playground was in excellent condition and shaded, and the pool was partially indoors.

You might possibly recall that I broke my camera’s LCD viewing screen in July, so I had no idea what my pictures were going to look like.  I also didn’t discover until minutes ago that there was a humungous smudge on the lens, right in the center.  So, my pictures, few that I took, really didn’t turn out well.  But, perhaps you can tell that the indoors part had a zero-entry toddler play area, complete with a variety of water squirters and dumpers, and the deeper part had a waterpark-style slide.  Plus, we had the run of the place:  Just two moms, seven kids, and a lifeguard who spent her time playing with her nails and texting.

The kids had a blast.

The pool closed a little more than an hour after we arrived…  After our swim, we found someone to unlock the museum (which was an interesting but haphazard collection of the 100 year history of the place).  We then went to the playground to play and have a snack — gotta love friends who, though they don’t have to be gluten-free, virtually never fail to make and bring gluten-free brownies to share.  After that, we stopped at the town’s lone grocery store (Bashas’ — I heart local stores!), got candy and cold drinks, and headed home by way of the Arizona 97, a hilly, scenic, high desert two-lane byway which I’m certain I’ve never been on in my life.

Other than me realizing about 15 miles on the far side of Wickenburg that I was about to run out of gas, necessitating that I turn around to fuel up, thereby losing an additional half-hour+, the ride home went smoothly.  We arrived a little after 6 p.m. to my smiling hubby who already had the grill going, bless him.

And then Allison’s Joel and my Wesley went down the street to collect a neighbor boy, and the boys had a sleepover for Joel & Wesley’s birthday (the two boys are birthday twins — same day, same year), and stayed up until 11 p.m.

I was beat.  Tired.  Exhausted.  Drained.

All in all, though, it was a wonderful day, made all the better by flexible friends whose company we enjoy, no matter how badly my ill-made plans fall to pieces.

😀

Balancing the busy season

There’s a fine line, sometimes, between being refreshingly honest and complaining.  I sincerely hope I’m the former.

I really don’t like to be busy.  I don’t know if it’s that, at heart, I’m naturally lazy (I hope not), or that really, my best “work” is not that which requires activity.  I don’t know.  But, anticipating seasons like the one upon which I’m embarking can, if I let it, really stress me out and rob my joy.

I look upon this past spring and wonder how I survived.  On top of homeschooling and church, we had Little League (usually four nights a week), two weekly small groups (one for my husband, and one for me), plus a bi-weekly homeschooling art class, and a homeschooling group on the off-weeks.  Plus, all the activities and tasks which allow a family and home to function.  And an ill mother and the puzzle of my youngest daughter’s diet and health.

Fiala's current fave

Seasons like that necessitate that I be highly structured and organized, with which I have a love/hate relationship.  I get a lot done when my life is highly structured, but it…  I don’t know.  I just don’t like it.  I miss the freedom, and the opportunity to, say, respond to that little pleading, upturned face, and just sit down on the kitchen floor in the midst of dinner prep and read The Shy Little Kitten to my youngest, without the pressure of knowing what it’s going to do to our schedule, should dinner be 15 minutes late.

But, weathering this past spring gives me the courage — literally — to say, “OK.  We can do two small groups, and it’s going to be all right.  I will live and not die.”

That sounds so stupid and melodramatic, but it’s true.

My life is full of good things and blessings.  It really is.  And, it has been my observation that the enemy takes evil delight in taking our blessings and framing them — just so — in our minds so that they appear to be a detriment of one sort or another.  At least, I’m vulnerable to that:  I’m tempted to see the dark cloud behind every silver lining.  And, that’s not good.  Still, neither do I want to be dishonest and say, “I can do everything!  And it all makes me happy!  And it’s easy!  Being stretched is fun!”  Because, truly, even with all the good things in my life, sometimes it just seems like there’s too much of… something, and what I’d really rather be doing is putting my back against a shady tree beside a small stream, and reading a book with one eye, and with my other, watching my kids play.  And there’s too little of that, and too much of the other, and, frankly, I’ve not yet learned what the balance is between seeking Godly peace, and simply being lazy and self-serving and yearning for the idyllic.

Also, I’m taking into consideration:

  • This week is my youngest son’s 9th birthday.  We have a day-long outing scheduled (with a couple of other families), and an overnighter with two of Wesley’s friends.  (Obligingly, another friend of mine has offered to keep my older two boys overnight with her oldest son, thus there is no net gain of children.)
  • This week, we do start the small group/kinship season again, which, in many ways, is always so wonderful.  I’m truly glad, each week, when I look into the faces of those in group with me, and I hear the teaching — which frequently is just what I needed to hear — and I participate in discussion, and ministry, and even leading worship (which I really, really love)…  I so often think, “I am so pleased to be able to be here.”  Yet, the logistics of making it happen can nearly tip me over the edge.  One weekly night, my husband stays home with our dear passel of children, and on another night, I stay home while he does the same thing at his group.  Each scenario has its challenges.
  • This week, we started having my parents back over for dinner.  For literally a decade, my mother and stepdad have been coming over for a weekly dinner.  But, this past year saw a dramatic decrease in that, both because of me being distraught over Fiala’s health and how to feed her (I’m not distressed over that anymore, but she still is difficult to feed, and I have adjusted myself to making two meals, every mealtime)… and my mother’s health has been in serious decline, with three major hospital stays over the last year.  My mother and I also had a row a couple of months ago, our first in years and years, the end of which had her proclaiming that she never wanted to talk with me again.  That was distressing.  My stepdad and I came to the conclusion that it was her ill health “talking”, which is so odd, because my mother has forever been resolute and reasonable.  It’s very unlike her to be changeable and petulant.  But, bless God for that, because after sending me a few peace offerings (which is also unlike her) of a number of gluten-free grocery/convenience items, plus a good book, she asked if we couldn’t, please, start our dinners back up.  HOW COULD I SAY NO??!?? I couldn’t.  I can’t!  I don’t want to.  I dearly want to spend that time with my parents.  Dearly.  Yet, it’s one more thing on the plate, so to speak.  This Monday, just my stepdad came over, as my mother is in Illinois with her mother.  Same with this coming Monday.  After that, it will be the two of them, but only once every other week.
  • And, literally weighing on me is the fact that I’ve put on 25 lbs since January, and am now back to my pre-pregnancy (before Fiala) weight.  That’s not a good thing.  I am very uncomfortable with myself, literally, yet after a year+ of living on a hyper-restricted diet for her sake, it’s hard to Just Say No to chocolate chips.  🙂  But, I have decided that I have to do something so the weight doesn’t keep piling on, and that’s difficult, because I’m not a dieter, yet I’m aware that I simply can’t stay the way I am right now.  I haven’t yet figured out exactly what I’m going to do.
  • And, I’m in the midst of… distilling… choosing… seeking some wisdom from my Father… about some direction for my life for the next couple of years (at least)… and it’s unclear…  I’ve been meaning to fast, but I keep forgetting!  After about five solid years of either being pregnant or nursing, I got out of the habit.  Now, it’s like, “OK.  I need to fast.  Monday.  No, that won’t work.  Parents over for dinner.  OK.  Tuesday.  Tuesday it is!” then Tuesday happens and I forget until mid-morning after two cups of coffee, a banana, some almonds, and a bowl of granola.  Etc.  So, I need to figure that out, too.  😀

And other stuff.

I really just need God.  I need His presence, I need His peace, His wisdom, His priorities, His heart, even His energy…

I closed another recent post with this same thing, but it is so on my heart:

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge!  How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!  For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?  Who knows enough to give him advice?  And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back?  For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.  Romans 11:33-36 NLT

Weekend Update with Karen Joy (book-writing, flu, grout, glassware, birthing, friends, birthdays, sleepovers…)

This has been a good week.

  • I’m working with my friend to submit her manuscript to a variety of publishers, rather working like an (inexperienced) agent.  One down, others yet to come.  It’s exciting, and quite the learning experience.  The Christian Writer’s Market Guide is my close friend.  If you’re a pastor and have some interest in seeing prophetic art implemented in your church, or are already a published author, and are willing to review the manuscript and write an endorsement, leave a comment or e-mail me.
  • We are OVER being sick.  Four of the seven of us (including myself) got the flu this past week.  Even “just” 8-12 hours is a long time, when one or more people are puking.
  • I have worked hard this week on scrubbing five years of accumulated black gunk from about 800 square feet of ceramic tile grout.  It feels very satisfying to have it done.  I cleaned it with a paste of baking soda and water, scrubbed with a big scrub brush and an old toothbrush, then rinsed it three times both by hand, and with the bare floor function of my (Craigslist) carpet shampooer.  The results are like night and day.
  • Above the microwave. Still needs a plant of some sort on the right hand side…

    I was thinking this week, how I’d really like to infuse my home with some additional/ better/ updated decorating, especially my kitchen and bathrooms.  However, we don’t have the budget for it.  So, I prayed.  Literally, less than 24 hours later, someone offered some “decorative glassware” on Freecycle.  The location of the offerer’s home coincided with a grocery store to which I needed to go.  The glassware had a good 10 years of grease and pet hair gummed to their exteriors, and I was more than a tad grossed out.  However, I attacked them with baking soda and dishwashing liquid, refilled some of them (with white vinegar & small, fresh rosemary branches, or dried beans), repaired one of them, and they look like new.  Ten large jars, many bearing original price tags from Cost Plus and Pier One, for a total of at least $100 worth.  I combined the jars with other things I already had… I’m really pleased with the outcome.   God answers even silly prayers, and is so ready to bless His children!

  • I am now the mother of a teenager.  My oldest, Ethan, turned 13 on June 23.  I love him so;  he is such a blessing to our family, and I greatly anticipate seeing God continue to mature him, and to see how he grows…  I really enjoy him as a person, as a son.  (I had a birthday, too, but at this point, they aren’t quite as celebratory as they used to be.)
  • My friend Annie came over on Thursday, with her now-4 week old baby boy.  She came over after a nearby La Leche League support meeting (good for her!).  We spent time discussing her birth, with me reassuring her that she did great (she really did), even though the outcome wasn’t quite what she wanted.  She didn’t anticipate how pressured she would feel by the suggestions of the doctor and nurses, plus she had been so exhausted from 3 days of back labor, accompanied by virtually no sleep…  I assured her that for most EVERY birth, there is *something* that the mother wished had gone differently, that she had handled better, that had turned out more pleasing, etc., and that rather than beating herself up about it now, just file it away and say, “Next time, I now know I want to….”  She concluded that if she had another child, she would birth at home.  🙂
  • My dear son Wesley is going to a sleepover tonight.  This is just the second mother in our history who has braved Wesley’s food and health difficulties, and I am giddy with pleasure both for Wesley, and in the mother herself.  We spent 20+ minutes on the phone discussing menu plans and other accommodations.  Honestly, I think it is her history as an elementary public school teacher that makes her so ready and experienced to do whatever it takes to keep Wes safe, and I’m really thankful for that.

Out of the mouths of ba… almost-4yo girls

This morning, Audrey balked when I announced what was for breakfast.  I must admit, I pretty much ignored her, as she protests anything that isn’t lollipops or smothered in jam.  “I don’t want that!” she wailed, “I can’t eat it!”

When I put the plate of skillet-grilled toast, in which I had cut a hole and cooked an egg, in front of her, she looked puzzled.  Then, with visible relief and a nervous giggle, she explained, “Oh!  I thought it was a real toad!”

Wesley, age 8, sagely told her that “Toad in a Hole” was just a name.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Later, as I was braiding her hair, in order to win her cooperation, I said, “It would really help if you could be as still as a statue.”

Sweetly, she protested, “But, Mom, I can’t, because you’re wobbling my head.”

I burst out laughing.  “You’re right.  I am wobbling your head.”

“Repeat!” she exclaimed.  (Lately, when someone does or says something that she particularly likes, she hollers, “Repeat!” makes a squeaky rewind sound, and tries to immediately re-create the situation.  I have tried to explain that it never has quite the same effect, the second time around.)  Mimicking herself, “But, Mom, I can’t because you’re wobbling my head.”  — pause — “OK, now, Mom, you start laughing again really hard.”

~*~*~*~*~*~

Another gem:  “I sure am happy it’s almost my birthday, because on birthdays, I can get everything I ever wanted.”  😕  This, she says to the mother who gave her for Christmas:

  1. An upcycled doll high chair and crib.  I literally got it for FREE from Freecycle, repainted it, washed the crib’s canopy, and sewed new ribbons on it.
  2. A pair of $25 Skechers (very expensive for us), to which I hot-glue-gunned rhinestones, because I wouldn’t pay the $40 for real Twinkle Toes.
  3. Nothing else.

I do not know where she has gotten this “everything I ever wanted” idea.  When I tried to dissuade her, she protested, “But you’re just joking.”  Part of me is delighted in her faith in birthdays and in her parents’ provision, part of me is dreading her potential heartbreak when reality does not match the dream, and part of me balks at her sense of entitlement.  I’m not sure which sentiment is winning, at the moment.

Four scarves, three tiaras, my heels, and a "ballet" dress from Grandma. All at once. With a spontaneous catwalk pose.

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