In the first week of august:
My belly hinders my view just slightly as I stand over the cradle that is prepared with blankets, booties, and a bambi stuffy. I am 36 weeks pregnant and positively massive. My hospital bag is packed. I’ve remembered things I forgot last time and left behind superfluous items I didn’t use. This is round two of birth for me. Round one was almost perfectly textbook and drug-free. I didn’t even use laughing gas. Round two would be the same, perhaps shorter, but natural and easy just like last time. My due date was set for august 16th, but my first had come early, so I was ready this time.
The second week of august:
My family has arrived. I am a little sad that there isn’t already a baby here for them to cuddle, but no matter, there will be a baby soon enough. As they are staying for two weeks, they should get to meet this baby. They watch my firstborn while I go to doctors’ appointments. We walk around town and anticipate labour starting at any moment.
On My due date:
I have a doctor’s appointment. The nurses comment hopefully that something will happen soon! My doctor tells me that it will probably be a few days yet, so stay hydrated and active and have lots of sex to help get things going. I just smile and nod.
Later we go to a lake where my parents have rented a boat for us to take out on the water. I enjoy myself watching everyone wakeboard and hope the agitation of the choppy water kickstarts labour. There is a hollowness at my breast and I can’t help feeling that I should be nursing a baby today. But it’s ok! I can just tell the baby will come in the next couple of days.
In The third week:
My friend who was due the day after me gives birth to a beautiful baby girl. As I hold her little one close, I can’t help but hope it will five me a shot of oxytocin, the hormone I need to get me into labour. My sense of hope begins to swell and even though I am envious that our friends have met their baby, I know we will meet ours in the next day or two.
On the Thursday I have multiple appointments. At the first appointment, wires are taped to my belly as they monitor how the baby is doing. While the kind women performs the test, she shares that I have an induction booked 4 days from now. At her words my heart palpitates slightly. I hadn’t heard anything about this till now, and I do not want to be induced. It means I’ve failed somehow. Continuing with the test she shares that there is nothing wrong with going past your due date and that many women are induced, I settle somewhat, but I know her advice won’t be necessary. I will have this baby before the 4 days are up.
My second appointment starts with my doctor asking if there have been any tears yet. I shake my head as he explains that sometimes women who are past their due date can get a bit emotional.
I respond that so far, I seem to be fine. Our appointment continues, and my doctor explains that my body still has a way to go in preparing for birth.
I’m not even to the car before my eyes are welling up with tears. I woke that morning, with hope for good news swollen in my chest, only to find it dashed against the jagged facts of my appointments. My already compressed organs seemed to press upon my throat as the tears flow free and wild during my drive home. When I arrive at home, I put a collar on my sadness, doing my best to stop it from manifesting itself in front of my family.
Entering the house my footfalls are heavy, it’s hard for them not to be after over 40 lbs of pregnancy weight gain, and I give a succinct summary of the appointments to my family. Even such a simple task causes the collar on my tears to break and I can no longer restrain my cheerlessness. I waddle to our bedroom and collapse onto the bed. My family is in the living room, playing with my toddler. The door to our room is open. I don’t care anymore.
In gulping, ugly cry breaths, I try to share my concerns with my husband who joins me in our room. What might have I done wrong? Did I need to be more active? What if my family leaves before the baby comes? What was I doing that was keeping this baby inside? Could it be the coffee? Does being induced mean I’m broken? I am so sick of feeling like I have not one, but two watermelons strapped to my front. I need this baby to come out. I am not good enough for this baby to come on time. And my body won’t perform well enough to go into labour naturally. Trying to calm myself with every breath only brings a resurgence of my frustration. Each inhalation pulls me deeper into the depths of my pity, as each exhale brings a new complaint forth from the void. Breathing as deeply as possible, hoping to purge the frustration at the bottom of my breath, I found this question: why wasn’t God letting me have this baby?
What the lady performing the stress test said was true, many women do get induced, some even prefer it that way. Induction or c-section does not make you less of a mother. I truly believe this, but pity easily clouds the mind, and at this point I had been drowning in self-pity.
During The final days of pregnancy:
My parents begin to prepare for their trip home. I am still pregnant and ginormous, or at least I feel that way. I know this baby will come out somehow, but I’ve begun to worry about exactly how that is. When pity and hopelessness threaten to tumble out of control, I remind myself that this baby will come, and God has the whole world in his hands, so that must include me. However, my success rate for this, is lower than I’d like to admit.
On the day I am scheduled for induction:
My water breaks at 4 am. I am intensely cheerful, even through the light contractions. At the hospital I even dance through them. We all have a feeling it will be a quick and easy birth. It is not. At 12 hours of labour I am given oxytocin. After 18 hours laughing gas. At 20 hours an epidural. Finally, after 22 hours our baby boy arrived at 9 lbs and 14 oz. Almost 10 lbs. That explains a lot.
His pink and purple tinged body is lain on my chest and he wriggles himself to get settled. I look at his face and feel… tired. I feel relieved. He is here. He is healthy. We survived being past the due date. I survived not being in control. I bring him to my chest to nurse, and it is almost as if this babe is suckling out my anger at God and turning it to thankfulness. Like stepping into sunlight after being in the shade, realization of our blessing washes over me. I was at war with my body until Asher was delivered, but now that he is here, I forgive myself, close my eyes and let my body rest in the grace that it was out of my control.
I will not let my heartache,
I won’t be treading water waiting on a wave, no, no.
I will not let my heartache.
(Heartache Releint K 2016)
I put a hand to my swollen belly, and as I do I feel a small knee or hand as the baby within me stretches it’s developing limbs. My hand moves from belly to volume control as I turn up the music, so I can hear the lyrics over the back and forth of my wiper blades. I cruise on through the rain, considering what it’s words might mean for me.
Fall, cold and wet, has set in as my stomach expands further out. It is almost time for me to have this baby, but I don’t know if it will come early, or late; whether it will be a boy or a girl, or whether I will be a suitable mother to this child I didn’t plan to have.
I’d planned to have kids eventually, but I wanted to finish school first, perhaps pursue a career. At the time I got pregnant I was engaged and finishing up my third year of a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in theatre. I was incredibly invested in developing myself as a “Great,” one of those students professors bring up again and again to talk about their success both in their time at university and in the professional world. Stage management was where I would get a chink of the limelight and find the fame and glory I desire, which motivates me more than I would care to admit.
The blueprints of my life had been penned by a much younger me: marriage, stage managing a musical production, and graduation. Construction of this life proceeded on schedule. Once this framework was in place, it would be time for kids. It turns out, there was a Divine Builder with different plans.
My plans slipped through my fingers like sand, as I grew to understand what the positive test result meant for me, fewer of the grains remained in my palm. Of course, I would keep the baby. Although for a fleeting moment, those false blueprints tried to convince me not to. No matter what fame or glory I selfishly desired, I knew I would have this baby.
At times it would hit me, that word, that dangerous, depressing word; potential. I would never be a great. I still don’t know if I will ever finish my degree. If I do theatre again it won’t be for many years. The potential bliss of marital life seemed stripped before it had been fully realized. A result, as I felt my parents were keen on telling me, of diving into the potential of the marital bed before the promised time. Construction was vastly off schedule, and my community knew it.
I tried to mourn for my future. I concentrated on everything I was heartbroken about missing out on. I cried. Yet it wasn’t enough to stop the residual “what if’s” from sneaking up on me when I least expected them. It didn’t stop my friends from continuing to fulfill their potential. Continuing construction on their own plans, with seemingly no interference from the Divine Builder. So, I sat, amidst the crumbling framework of my heart, as I tried to focus on the growing blessing in my belly.
Even now, the path before me and my growing family is fuzzy. Many days I still think about what I could have been, but they are fewer and further between. I find myself hoping for the future more often now. Hoping in the surprises. I am afraid I cannot fully explain to you what I gained out of my confusion and pain. I know I gained something, I cried out like the psalmist and received something back. It wasn’t what I asked for. It wasn’t what I expected. Yet it came. I could call it forgiveness. I could call it mercy. Grace might even suit it. It is too complex for one name. But without a doubt it exists and resides within me, and I within it; reminding me not to let my heartache.
Let me be clear, I think experiencing heartbreak and pain are things we can’t avoid, and that we should face our battles with courage, while not seeking them out. Heartache is the lingering effect of struggle that encourages self pity and wallowing in our sorrows. It is tempting to take part in these emotions, but at some time they must come to an end. We must move out of the condemned building and into a new, renovated suite. So, we fight another battle, this time against self, to make sure we keep moving forward. This new building will become a home, only if we work to fill it with loving kindness. I move forward with purpose.
I spent a lot of time aching (in the literal and mental sense) after Joseph was born. I felt like I didn’t have a greater purpose other than being a mother, which I didn’t understand the greatness of yet. Any one purpose, if it becomes an ultimate purpose, has the potential to limit us. I feel I put limits on my identity and purpose when I say, “Oh I am just a stay-at-home mom.” I wish I could tell others all that I believe I still am, but my immediate purpose was to be a mom, so that’s what I share.
Now my hands move from my keyboard to swollen belly once again. This second baby was planned and budgeted for. Our first child has just tried to put my headphones down the air vent, so he is ready for a playmate. I cherish my role as a mother, but I know now that is not my only role. The Divine Builder has helped me to renovate the framework of my heart to have more architectural soundness and character. Two things, I am learning from Him, that go hand in hand.
The meaning of my life is constructed, with many foundational experiences and different sized beams of heartaches. While I keep living, this house keeps changing, and I can only see the completed parts, not the parts currently being renovated. Maybe this is what I’ve gained out of my experiences, a sense of perspective. A sense that the most difficult house to build, is also the most beautiful when it’s finished.
#metoo was a hashtag used on social media this week in order to give an idea of how many people experience sexual assault and harassment. I was partially floundered by how many women were posting with this hashtag, and partially wondering whether I too should say #metoo.
On one hand my experiences seem so trivial, so minimal, so in the past. Yet, on the other hand it makes me sad to know that daily girls younger and older than me experience a spectrum of sexual harassment and assault I find it painful to think about. It's inappropriate, and in many cases, traumatizing.
While my experiences haven't been traumatizing, they've still been. Even though they are in the very distant past and I don't identify myself by them, they still happened. I think the point of this hashtag is not to victimize ourselves as women, or try to get attention, but to point out how many people have experienced some form of sexual assault and harassment. To point out how prevalent this inappropriate behavior has become.
I want to recognize that it's not just men who are capable of these sorts of actions, and I hope we can be understanding enough to empathize with anyone who has these experiences. Looking back now, I know it wasn't my fault. Being older and wiser my experiences have become less as I learn how to assess and avoid potentially negative situations. I think my point is, that as human beings we need to be respectful of one another, just as we need to take responsibility for our actions. No matter what gender you are, this holds true.
So there you have it. #metoo. Thank you to all who have posted. I hear you and I believe you.
Last year I watched as most of the people I knew geared up in some way for the first day of school. Last year I met friends in their new on campus apartment. Last year I watched as mothers posted back to school pictures and students posted about homework. Last year, for the first time in over fifteen years, I was not going to the first day of school.
For a while this realization disturbed me. Common complaints, classic traditions, and I was left out of the academic liturgy. I had good reason for not returning to school (contractions and midterms do not mix...), but that didn't comfort me as I left something safe and headed into unknown territory.
As scary as it was, my first year without school brought me great perspective and great growth. I was able to step back and see a part of the puzzle that's been completed, along with quite a number of unfinished bits. I was able to enjoy time with my friends and not worry about shortening the visit so that I could get back to my homework. I was able to experience the flow of creativity in my spare time and channel it into things I wanted to do. It was difficult, but everything that's good for you is.
Now, I sit here about to take on my first university class in a year. I'm excited and a bit afraid, but I am not nervous or self-conscious. I am afraid because I am trying something new. I am excited because I am trying something new. Even though I feel this way, I am not afraid of embarrassing myself or disappointing myself, because the greatest thing I learned in my time off, is how to define myself in the Creator. I know who I am, and I know who made me and holds me in His hands. For the first time I feel prepared to be myself without care for what other people think of me.
So it truly is a day of firsts.
I don't want to forget about the basement. The basement suite that was our first home as a married couple; and shortly after our first home as a family. What it lacked in windows it made up for in coziness. It was a good first home. Even if there weren't enough windows and it was dark. Even if it felt almost cave-like at times. Even if its perfect temperature, whether summer or winter, deceived me into staying inside all day. Or for three days straight. Even if the chlorine in the city water irritated my skin. I don't want to forget any of that. Good or bad, with all of its quirks, comforts and darkness, for a time it was home. It was a place to practice love and learn the depths of grace.
I don't want to forget it, even if we had to move out of it. Too soon the time came, when our baby would crawl and fall and seemed to fly from wall to wall of our small suite. We were joyful that he was growing, but sad that this home, would soon be outgrown.
We had no reason to fear moving. It would be a lot of work, but we knew we could do it. After all, on the other end of that move was a 3 bedroom house full of light. Full of potential. Surrounded by green grass and blackberries. A place that is close enough to the city, but still makes me feel right at home in a rural setting. A place that's older and full of history. A place with yellow floral wallpaper in the kitchen. A house that fits our family like a wetsuit. A home that makes me feel ruined for living anywhere else.
Circles are the perfect shape
To describe the hearts of man
As soon as he finds it near him
It leaves and comes back again
While I was searching for a feeling
You were searching for me.
~Circles by the Towr's
I find it extremely difficult to break bad habits. Sometimes I feel like no matter what I do, relapse is inevitable. I have talked on this platform before about health, laziness, and self-image. All of these are areas I am trying to improve upon. Yet, lately I've felt like I am taking one step forward and two steps back.
When I begin to feel this way it's easy to trigger a domino effect of negative self talk and doubt. But even in the midst of this spiral, I find hope. I find hope because I'm not beating myself for quite as long. I find hope because maybe that last time I was able to combat the negativity just a bit better. Maybe this time I remembered that the people who love me don't talk to me negatively. More importantly, God isn't rude to His children in the bible, disciplinary yes, but not hurtful. So shouldn't I speak to myself similarly? With love?
Then the domino's stop falling and the spiral quits dizzying me. Then, I'm ok. Where once a bout with myself could press pause on life for a few days, now I have hope. I can take my moment and move on. It's not the smoothest ride, but it's getting smoother.
I remember sitting outside writing in my journal and thinking about motherhood. I was pregnant and a lot of things were changing for me. Where I was once in school, I would not be in the fall. Even though I was once single, I had a husband now. For a while it would be just the two of us, and soon (sooner than I had anticipated) we would be a family of three.
It was weird to think about motherhood, having seen many people who are mothers or have been mothers, but never having been one myself. I was 100% terrified and 100% exhilarated (if you can't see how two emotions can both be at 100%, just try pregnancy and the hormones that come with it!). We were starting our own family, and it was a joyous, yet frightening, occasion.
The biggest question on my mind was "How will motherhood change me?" I felt like once I was a mother, that's it, that's all I would ever be. It seemed as though my first sacrifice in motherhood was my previous, non-mother, identity. However, in thinking about it, I found that that was not true.
If I picture myself as a tree with many different branches of my personality sticking out from it, that tree does not just wither and die because I became a mother. It didn't do that when I became a wife. Or when I moved away to school. Or even when I graduated highschool. These momentous life occasions helped grow my person into who it is today. Motherhood, I came to assume would just grow a new branch.
I was partly right. While there is a fresh growth of a branch labelled mother on it, many things that were already existent as part of my identity were growing stronger.
In the past six-ish months since becoming a mother, I have grown a strength of love I didn't know was possible. I have persevered for longer than I ever thought I could. It seems like I have had my patience tested to the limits more in the past six months than in the rest of my life prior. Motherhood has nurtured many of the old branches into new life. Some of the old branches that are less selfless have grown to be bigger too, but I'm working on that.
I work on it by focusing on the good gifts God has given me. I work on it by focusing on the fact that although I am a mother, I am still a child of God, and so I follow example set for me by my mother and the mothers (biological or otherwise) that I am so blessed to be surrounded by.
This week I was chatting with one of my very best friends and at one point the conversation turned to our mild dissatisfaction with elements of our life. In both cases, we thought the other person's life narrative had what we were missing. Funny that.
One of my favourite quotes is from The Lord of The Rings. In The Two Towers Sam is talking to Frodo about their journey and the struggles they have had; as well as the ones they foresee. In the middle of this, Sam drops an incredibly beautiful and insightful description of the way we see ourselves in our own narratives.
"'The brave things in the old tales and songs Mr.Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually - their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn't. And if they had, we shouldn't know, because they'd have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on - and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same - like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren't always the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we've fallen into?'" (The Two Towers, J.R.R Tolkien)
I think I could stop writing now and we would all be enlightened simply by those words.
Enlightened, and inspired and emboldened. How many times have I looked at someone else having an adventure and lusted for their experience? At times for me, I know I just want to be on anybody else's path but mine. However, as my husband has wisely said "God lays the path before you." It's an idea I'm sure he got from the bible, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)
But I am so glad that Tolkien includes this little nugget. While it doesn't discuss the humdrum of life necessarily, it does mention the inevitability of uncertainty. The idea that no - we don't know what kind of tale we are in. We don't know, and we always have the option of turning back, of checking out when life gets routine and simple. When we turn back and check out, we miss out on so much story potential. As much as I am afraid of staying the same, I am even more frightened by the possibility of change. What if I do things differently and things aren’t the same after? What if I "[Come] home, and [find] things all right, though not quite the same" (The Two Towers, Tolkien) If I take the path ahead of me, what adventures await me?
Even if I get impatient with waiting, I believe it's worth it. I believe God will tailor the path I walk. Or run. Or crawl. Uncertainty exists, but so does faith. And trust. So I will carry on, only God knows what the path holds for me.
I bolted out of bed. Hitting my husband's feet as I ran around his side of the bed, and saying hurriedly "I heard the door squeak." I rushed into the kitchen, my eyes trained on locating anything, or anyone, dangerous. There was no one there. The door was locked and all was well.
It took quite a while for my heart to return to its normal rhythm. It turns out I had just heard our landlords squeaky gate as they headed out in the morning. No potential harm in that.
Fast forward a few weeks and now it's 4:00 am in the morning. This time I am certain that someone was just about to enter our bedroom when I woke up. Once again, all was well and after my heart stopped racing and I was truly convinced that it was only the snow and rain outside making noise, I fell asleep.
I haven't had a real fear of break-ins until recently. Maybe I've heard too many stories, or watched too many movies involving a heist and it's made my imagination able to conjure up things that are more than realistic.
Recently I've become quite good at imagining threats. Potential car accidents, mishaps with a sharp knife in the kitchen, and sometimes even a runaway stroller makes it into the list. A life insurance salesman would be outmatched by my ability to calculate risk.
Maybe this is something that comes along with motherhood. After all, I have added responsibility now. I need to be prepared. I have to be the momma bird, ready to sacrifice myself for the chicks in the nest.
While I firmly believe that a fair portion of being a mother involves sacrifice, it doesn't mean being paranoid. When I heard the noises that made me think someone was breaking into our house, it was because I was looking for them. I was looking for anything to back up a sound that seemed unfamiliar. So to be on the safe side, I prepared myself for the worst thing I could imagine it to be.
Since I was looking for a reason for there to be a squeak, there was. Since I was looking for a reason for shadow in our door frame, there was. Squeaks and shadows and sounds are something that should be noticed, especially in a dark alleyway, alone, and at night. But this isn't when I find myself troubled.
I find myself troubled while sleeping peacefully. While cutting vegetables. While walking on the street. While getting a wrong kind of look from another person at the bank. Suddenly my heart rate increases and I'm ready for action. But the action never comes.
But if I'm prepared, if I can control something, even if it's just my own actions, I can do something about it. Ah. There it is. Control, the longstanding companion of fear. Control, that idol, who stands idly by while we exhaust ourselves trying to find it in every other place but where it stands. Control, that thing that whispers in our ear "If you catch me, you'll have nothing to fear." It's true isn't it? But there is more than one way to conquer fear.
2 Timothy 1:7 says "For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, of love, and of self-discipline." (NIV)
The truth is I will never gain complete control over my life. Trying to gain control over absolutely everything in my life is like trying to juggle hatchets. Flaming hatchets. Flaming hatchets that defy gravity. And unless you're in the circus that's a rather futile thing to attempt. That's what control is too; futile.
So where should I bend my thought? On simply not being afraid? Is that good enough? I think the answer is spelled out in Timothy for us. The Holy Spirit has given us a spirit of love, power and self-discipline. We have power, because we have trust in Jesus name. We have love, that over-flows from God to be shared among our family, friends and other people in this world. Lastly, we have self-discipline through thoughts of hope. Hope when we feel all hope is lost. It's the hope (and for some, belief) that there is something more after we die. For us Christians, it's the hope of heaven.
In the meantime, between now and heaven, I will focus on love and Christ. Continuously hoping, continuously living. Fearless.
I step onto the scale. The digits flash and twitch as the number gets higher. They stop, and I gape. Is that what I should weigh? I feel like it should be less. They say muscle weighs more than fat, is that true? Is this discrepancy between my ideal weight and the reality in front of me because of muscle? Why am I so bothered?
Why am I so bothered?
I know I am not alone in this experience. I also know that for me, weight has not been the cause of unhealthiness. Therefore I hope to address this topic as graciously as I can, out of the experiences I have.
I am bothered that for as long as I can remember (I'm thinking like, elementary school) I have compared my body to other girls. I am bothered that I tried to do 200 sit-ups every night in junior high in an attempt to make my stomach smoother. I am bothered that I judge other people by the way they look. I am bothered that I still compare my body, not only to those around me, but on screens as well.
I am bothered that plastic surgery was advertised and promoted while I was watching the Superbowl. I am bothered that I have heard too many stories of people with eating disorders caused by outside influences.
I am bothered that as a mother I feel my one and only beauty goal is "to get my old body back." I am bothered I have a beauty goal. I'm even more bothered by moms much further along in their experience of motherhood, who are still afflicted by their postpartum weight.
I am most bothered that society, media and whatever other implicit (and explicit) outside influences have stolen the scales of beauty from us and provided such a narrow margin for success in beauty.
I am bothered that I don't even know what has been stolen from me; I have succumbed to these other definitions of beauty. I am bothered because when I look at the numbers on a scale I don't see an empirical fact, I see an identity marker. I see a clothing size. I see something outside of the realm of what "they" call perfection.
I am bothered that a scale defines who I am;
for that is not the truth.
My identity is in Christ. The God who looks at the heart. Who knows every hair on my head, but doesn't care if those hairs have split ends or not.