Soften

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One thing a miscarriage can do, I believe, is to soften you, open you. Maybe the heart mimics what the body is doing as it releases — whether you like it or not — the baby-that-would-have-been into the hands of God.

I had a[nother] miscarriage this weekend. It feels so surreal to name it, particularly in public like I am now. I didn’t know I was pregnant, had not sought to be, had in fact tried not to become so. My only clue was an uncharacteristic acne break-out, which I dismissed by way of other explanations.

Gus is so small still and I so overwhelmed by the task of caring for two, that I have not felt at all ready for babe #3. But it turns out that he would have become a big brother this coming august, had things turned out differently.

There was sudden and severe bleeding and consequent light-headedness. A trip to the ER where my blood pressure bottomed out and for several terrifying moments I feared I would leave my children motherless. There was the rather tactless delivery of the pregnancy test results, described in present tense and yet already in past tense. There was an ambulance ride to the main hospital downtown Madison, during which I sang worship to my Jesus, who was so near. There was lots of monitoring and an ultrasound to “rule out fetal activity” or ectopic pregnancy. There was so much blood, and so also a blood transfusion. There was waiting. Finally there was prayer-evoked miracle as we rounded a corner and came out of the woods, elated with relief that at least I was no longer in serious danger.

The same night I was back at my in-laws house, tucked in with my living babies, depleted, weak and exhausted but alive and grateful.

This was an unusual miscarriage. Such extreme blood loss isn’t typical. And it is certainly a complicated grief to be told about your baby in the same moment you are losing them.

But the softening… It has left me tender. It has put things into perspective, shrinking small dramas to their appropriate sizes, and making room on my heart to love another which, I believe, every pregnancy must do. We grow new spaces in our heart for each little person we carry. And if that space isn’t to ultimately be filled by a born and hold-able baby, we will share it with someone else who needs it. We will not be able to turn back or close off that new addition. So perhaps we move toward a future pregnancy with surprising new resolve and urgency, or we realize how much we do in fact want to become a mother (as was the case after my first miscarriage in 2010), or we cling tighter to the loved ones we already have…

… Or in some unusual case perhaps we are given an opportunity to open our arms and our home to a stranger, drawing on that deep reservoir of newly uncovered maternal tenderness to love them openly.

Which is the case for us. Because two days later we received a call about a pregnant teenage refugee who is giving birth today and needs a soft placed to land until a more permanent situation can be arranged when she turns 18. And against all worldly wisdom, only because Holy Spirit gave both of us a unity of peaceful Yes, we said yes to her, to them.

Today she us in a hospital in Michigan, laboring to give birth to her baby while I am packing up in Wisconsin for a return to our home where we will make room for these two (I have already arranged the furniture in mind ), so that when they are released from the hospital we can help to catch them with our love… A love I’m not actually sure I would have been able to access in this already crazy life season if I had not just suffered this loss and the scare that surrounded it.

I don’t know if that will make sense to many of you… But somehow I sense that these two events are a pair, by design.

Today I am thanking Papa and this little unknown child of ours for the gift of softening, opening.

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so pregnant

i don’t remember 34 weeks feeling so uncomfortable when it was hazel. but perhaps memory mercifully fails us at some key points? my hips, pelvis and lower back are so achey and painful. my stomach is queasy and never satisfied no matter how many calories i attempt to pack away. each night i wake at 4 am and often remain [wide] awake until 6 am. some nights i don’t really sleep at all. each afternoon i nearly fall asleep while putting hazel down for her nap. baby boys movements, particularly in the midst of a good Braxton Hix contraction, feel just plain uncomfortable.

it looks a little smaller when my sweater conveniently hides half of it (left).

it looks a little smaller when my sweater conveniently hides half of it (left).

but the finish line is in sight.

meantime, it’s interesting to see the for my nesting has taken on this time around. its been less about acquiring baby gear (we’re already in pretty good shape) or making a nursery (he’ll sleep with us and we’ll keep his things in hazel’s room until we move) or reading birth stories to mentally prepare. this time it has been getting our house in order in super practical ways. like these massive projects:

  • wrapping up all loose ends for clients of brooke collier photography
  • getting our mortgage application and all other pre-requisites to house-buying in order
  • setting up a new budgeting system in response to some changes in our financial situation that will be more complicated to navigate
  • reapplying for medicaid for little man

these are the things that are taking up the bulk of my mental energy and free time. that, and a little sewing.

as for baby’s NAME. well, it hasn’t been as easy this time around. hazel was named months before she was born. we call this little man by a certain, long-beloved name, too. but when it comes right down to it, i’m still wavering on it. i suspect that we’ll have to see him and live with him a few days before i can either fully settle into his provisional name OR choose a new favorite from amongst the list of contenders.

and then there’s the impending birth. yes, that challenging ordeal you have to go through before you can hold the baby. 🙂 i’ve been really aware of lots of lingering anxiety this time around about giving birth. i have been anticipating it being incredibly long and difficult again, with hours of pushing, and a recovery period of weeks. it’s been really hard for me to imagine this birth being anything other than arduous and looooooong. my midwives — and other seasoned mamas — tell me that it is also very possible that this birth will be early (hazel was 10 days late) and quick, and the recovery much less complicated. they say to mentally prepare for that outcome as well. so now i’m trying to prepare for either without clinging to either. there’s been some internal stuff to wade through as i try to get my head in the game to give birth to my son. but i can feel things shifting and sense God’s grace. the fear is waning.

i got him a dresser and a bassinet. i sewed him a little pillow out of up-cycled pajama pants, and a bassinet sheet in burnt orange. and ordered him an art print from and etsy seller. his clothes are all packed into the dresser drawers, awaiting his body to fill them. we got some newborn size prefold diapers. the midwives are already paid in full.

his drawer full of tiny little BOY clothes

his drawer full of tiny little BOY clothes

he is head down and appear also to have dropped this past week, though i understand he may come in and out of this “dropped” position a few times between now and when labor begins.

he moves differently than hazel did. she was punchy and dramatic in her movements. he rolls and squirms more subtly.

hazel daily rests her curly little head on my belly and talks or sings to him, then kisses my belly. she and i have been watching home birth videos together so that, whatever she DOES witness of our homebirth process will not be so shocking or foreign to her. it has been so special, actually, to hold her in my lap and talk through the birth process, watching her responses. she is never as traumatized as i am, and rarely phased by even the most graphic images. but i am realizing that she has no reason to be! she hasn’t had a lifetime to build up judgements and negative associations about birth; to her, this is neutral territory still. i have this really unique opportunity to show her birth in a much different light than many girls have been shown it. i wonder how much of the labor and birth she will be around for, and how much she’ll need to get space from it. or will she sleep through it all? i am pretty confident that when he emerges and she first sees him, she will point and say, “baby” and try to kiss him.

there’s no summary point to this post. just some thoughts toward the end of a pregnancy that i wanted to make note of.

though i've set up the crib for him, he'll actually room in with us for the first several months.

though i’ve set up the crib for him, he’ll actually room in with us for the first several months.

oh boy

we’re 20 1/2 weeks into this pregnancy now. i cannot believe how it has flown.

i also cannot believe how much more relaxed i am about it this time around. so much less time is spent reading pregnancy books and birth stories, or doing internet research about every little symptom i experience (not that i have that many symptoms). i feel freakishly relaxed.

i think baby does, too. though i’ve been feeling movements since VERY early on, they are so subtle and soft compared to what hazel’s were that they are extremely rarely felt from outside my body. but inside of me, there is this squirming, wiggling activity.

we had our first – and probably only – ultrasound yesterday, so that we could find out the gender (it’s a boy!). but what ended up being even more special than that was watching our baby move about. we didn’t know he was a boy, then; just a baby. he made sucking and swallowing movements with his mouth and throat. he appeared at one point to be sucking his thumb. he nestled his face into the placenta as if it were a soft pillow. he perpetually moved his arms around, but never in thrusting or kicking motions… only squirmy ones (just like how it has felt from the inside). and after a while of watching him, he turned over, face-down into the placenta and got very still. we could actually see his little body nestle in for sleep, including those last sudden twitches babies tend to have as they drift off into slumber. it was SO cool to be able to watch him that way. and then it seemed right to turn off the ultrasound equipment and let the little man take his nap.

it was my niece Claire’s birthday, too. so we made a multi-purpose cake. its first purpose was to celebrate her birthday. she decorated the top with sprinkles and chocolate chips. her mama frosted the middle layer with a dyed-blue frosting after opening the sealed envelope from the ultrasound tech which revealed the gender (we weren’t told while in the ultrasound appt). and so after singing happy birthday to Claire, and her blowing out the candles, tim and i cut into the cake to see what color frosting would come out on the knife. blue!

it was what we hoped for and also what we both strongly felt to be true. there have been a million little hints that have built upon my intuition: timing of conception, zits in first trimester, irritability/crankiness, carrying weight not just in my belly, heart rate, urine-on-baking-soda test… many of the old wives’ tales have been true in our case.

so, it’s a boy.

and his name is probably already established. we had a name before he was even conceived, but now that there’s an actual little person in my body whom can be linked to the name, we’ll sit on it a while longer to be sure it still feels right.

i feel that having a son is going to be a very special bond. i can’t wait. and tim is already dreaming of building tree forts.

ps: we’re 90% settled on his name already. but, no, we won’t tell you. 🙂

afternoon napping (and an announcement)

i’ve taken to afternoon napping. when hazel goes down, i start a load of laundry, then climb into bed with a book, reading until my eyelids get droopy and i can easily submit to the sleep i’ve been yearning for all day up until that point. it’s difficult to choose to sleep, rather than to push through the fatigue and get to the extensive list of household and work-related tasks i could be (should be?) doing.

i’m not naturally a napper. i tend to judge napping as lazy and unproductive. i tend to feel a little emotionally icky upon rising from a nap, taking up to an hour to bounce back. so i avoid naps.

why then does a nap-avoider choose to take up an afternoon napping habit?

friends, there is only two reasons i  nap: vacation or pregnancy.

i’m not on vacation, so…

🙂

here’s the story:

baby collier #2 is on the way! today i am 12 weeks along. (s)he will make an appearance on the tail end of winter, sometime in early march. (s)he will be born at home, just like his/her sister hazel was.

we’re so pleased, so excited to welcome another little into our family. this babe and hazel will be 21 months apart, which feels just about perfect to me.

and now i have to tell you a little story about the conception of this little one. (no, it won’t be graphic, i promise!)

you see, i wanted to be pregnant again way back in november. i was praying about it, trying to quiet my own desires long enough to hear God’s voice. and amongst the things that i heard were: “stop trying” and “june”. the first word seemed odd since we were NOT trying (tim didn’t feel ready). the second word was a little disappointing to me because it was so much further off than i hoped.

and so i began to question that maybe that wasn’t really God. and my impatient heart didn’t heed the counsel to stop trying. in fact, in february we started trying. i charted my cycles and we took advantage of the peak windows of fertility. and each of the three months that we tried, i thought we nailed it and i’d surely get a positive pregnancy test. nope. in spite of doing everything right, no positive pregnancy test.

in june, i told tim i wanted to be more casual about it. i wasn’t going to chart, i wasn’t going to get obsessively focused on it as i had the previous months. i didn’t want to work so hard to make it happen, because then it would feel especially disheartening if it didn’t. additionally, i wanted to honor that word of “stop trying” in my heart. in june we went on a couple of trips. we enjoyed them, fully present, not preoccupied with attempting pregnancy. and in june – the month Papa had told me way back in november — this baby was conceived.

i tell you this just to testify to the fact that He is faithful to His word even when we’re faithless. if He speaks to you, trust it (note to self for future situations).

so, that’s that. i’ll post a belly photo when i have a belly worth photographing… or when i get around to it. 🙂

it doesn’t depend so much on me

God’s correction is kind. “faithful are the wounds of a friend,” the wise king said (prov 27:6), and though i suspect he was referring to men, it’s true also with God.

i have fallen prey to some poor theology, friends, and as with most lies that lead us around on leashes, this one also contains some truth. i was believing that when my daughter is born was dependent upon me — me creating the best possible energy around myself, maintaining happiness and peace, getting all things prepared, having nothing left open-ended, keeping relational harmony, avoiding the bad energy of broken and unhealthy people, telling her often that i’m ready for her to come, and opening heart and my body for her passage. and that if i fail on any of these points, i could actually prevent her from being born.

me, me, me. if i did all of these things, surely my little one would have no choice but to come bursting into the world, and probably before her due date even arrived.

there’s still a week to my estimated due date. but i have been on an emotional roller coaster because i’ve been owning this responsibility to usher her into the world. it goes like this:  labor will seem to have made its tentative start, and then  it ceases hours later. i blame myself, searching myself for what i might have done to scare her back inside. then i regroup and try all my techniques with renewed vigor so that perhaps she’ll come the following day. i’m high, then i’m low.

“commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him and He will act. He will bring forth…” (psalm 37:5-6a). HE will act, HE will bring forth. it is HIS voice that speaks life into existence (gen 2:7), HIS breath that sustains it in every moment (acts 17:28), and HIS hands that bring life out from the places it is hidden.

HE, HE, HE. if i do nothing at all but trust in Him, my little one will come bursting into this world at exactly the right time. i cannot thwart it; the words that He sends forth will not return to Him without effect (isaiah 55:11).

i had some repenting to do this morning.

relax, child. be still.

there is an appointed time, a time appointed long before she was even conceived (psalm 139:16). wait for it.

(note: i always recognize the correction of the Holy Spirit because it is accompanied by peace and freedom. though there is conviction strong and sure, there is a marked absence of shame, guilt, and self-punishment.)

in these final days

i am reduced to wearing only stretchy knit clothing. i am especially NOT wearing maternity blue jeans. nope, they don’t feel good at all anymore.

i have pregnancy mask that seems to be darkening every day, and i work hard to cover it with make-up each morning. thankfully, most people who notice it assume i’ve been out in the sun with large sunglasses on.

i am talking to my daughter each day about my feelings, my hopes, my wishes for her and for the birth we’re about to go through together.

i am watching home birth videos again, and feeling so inspired by the peace and focus and laboring love of other mothers, and being bolstered in my sense of “i can do this.”

i am feeling gushy with gratitude for my homebirth midwives. seriously, this way of being cared for during pregnancy is unmatched in how personal, empowering, and nurturing it is. sara and jen are going to hold a special place in my heart for a very long time.

i am crying at things that normally would not make me cry, like The Time Traveler’s Wife (movie), after which i said to tim, through tears, “i’m glad you don’t have a time traveling disease!”

i awake in the night with ever-harder braxton hicks contractions that cause me to have to get up and rock on my hands and knees until they dissipate.

i am anxiously keeping track of baby’s position in my womb, and praying for her to move into place.

i am wandering into the completely ready nursery each day to look around and sigh and wish that it were filled with her.

i am bored but don’t want to commit to anything, either. this means i spend a lot of time at home, alone.

i asked tim recently, out of desperate desire for more satisfying sleep, if we could try sleeping in separate places for these last days. we piloted the study last night and i’m not sure it’s going to be very helpful.

i am trying to resist the urge to do online shopping.

i can no longer wash dishes because my belly forces me to do some bizarre stretching/leaning that create pain and tension in my shoulders and back. if i DO do the dishes, i have to stand side-ways to the sink.

i am running out of things to do to further prepare for her arrival.

i am ready for her to come out!

(12 days until due date)

after a sleepless night

at about 6:30 am i finally stopped trying to sleep because there was light in the sky and because tim got up to go spend some time in the Bible before heading to work. i got a big drinking jar full of water, and my fat journal, and i sat up in bed and wrote. i wrote about the things i have been working so hard not to focus on as our baby’s birth day draws nearer: the fears and worries. i wrote about all of them, no matter how small or far-fetched they seemed. i put them on paper, addressing it all to Papa, and then i left it there with him. only then was i able to roll over, find a comfortable position in the bed that was now all mine, and sleep for two and a half hours. sleep hard enough to dream.

my midwife had told me a while back that it would always be better to name the fears and talk about them. she was right.

to be awake and alone in the dark night when everyone else i know is sleeping… this is hard for me. it feels so forlorn. tim has always loved the 2-4 a.m. prayer slots because of the quiet intimacy they afford him with God. but as for me, i would so much rather be asleep. i end up just laying there in bed, mind over-active, becoming increasingly sad and frustrated at my inability to drift off. it seems pointless to get up and do anything else because i really should be sleeping, but i cannot. and then i begin to think about how i’m going to feel in the upcoming day, how there will be that heavy, tingling, over-heated sensation that seems to rest on me whenever i’ve slept less than 6 hours. and it makes the entire day feel out of reach somehow, and overwhelming.

so this lack of sleep thing that i’m told comes with motherhood, and all the hours awake in the dark night with no one for company but your helpless babe… well, that has me worried. i don’t have much confidence in myself to live so many nights in this fashion and still have stamina and grace to move through my days with meaningful engagement. it’ll be messy. i don’t much like being messy, unless i’ve deliberately chosen to be messy. it is often hard for me to give myself a break, to allow the imperfection and the cloudiness, to know that people might be thinking i’m inarticulate or lazy or avoidant, or under-achieving, or slow  (all of which i become when i haven’t slept) and yet to NOT explain or defend myself.

yup, that’s one of the fears i journaled about this morning.

but now there is peach iced tea to brew, pack and play sheets to finish up sewing, and a photo to take for our new year of mornings project, so i’ll sign off.

don’t judge me if i seem inarticulate, lazy, avoidant, or under-achieving, or slow. it’s just because i haven’t been sleeping well or enough. 😉 and, all i can think about is this daughter of mine and what her little face will look like and how her tiny hands will feel in mine.

making space for her

six more weeks until her estimated due date.

in the nursery, the walls are painted the softest gray, and the it now houses its furniture: crib, dresser, changing table. it also still houses the book-case and sewing cabinet that will NOT remain there (they’ll be moved to another room a bit later on). but even with the extra furniture all stuffed in that tiny room, i can begin to see what the space will be like, and it’s a serene and sunny spot that i think she and i will both love to linger in. the closet and dresser are filled with wee little clothes, some cloth diapers, soft toys, stuffed animals, blankets, burp cloths, art to hang on walls, booties, boppies, pack ‘n play, high chair, car seat… we’re pretty well set, minus a few remaining necessities.

last weekend we had two baby showers. i think that showers have gotten a bit silly and i often dread them because of things like games in which one creates a “poopy” diaper out of various chocolate foods. but mine were lovely, both. in each case, the room was filled with good, godly, loving women who love me, and who love my daughter already. and as if the presence and emotional support and wisdom and prayers aren’t enough, there were lots of gifts, too. wonderful gifts of every sort. many hands reached out to caress my belly, many voices spoke to her little ears, telling her of their excitement to meet her soon. ah, ’twas very sweet indeed.

and i have been nesting, just a bit. i was so impatient to get that furniture in the nursery. of course, i couldn’t do it myself because it violates all sorts of things-pregnant-women-ought-not-do rules, which meant that i had to wait on tim and friends to do the job for me. it’s really hard for me to wait on others sometimes, which is why in so many cases i end up just saying, “ah, forget it, i’ll do it myself!” but that wasn’t a possibility here, so i resolved to try to glean the rewards of that spiritual discipline we call waiting. anyway, the furniture is in now. and as i was waiting for it to come, i got out all the myriad stacks of baby clothing we’ve acquired and began to sort it into stacks by size. now the dresser and closest just contain clothes for size newborn through six months, and the six months through twelve month sizes are in a rubbermaid container in the basement, awaiting their day to shine. stacking all those tiny clothes into the drawers of my antique dresser was such a special thing.

and then i sewed. yes, i sewed. you may recall that i attempted to foster this hobby over a year ago, but that it sorta sputtered out. however, it seems that while i will not sew for myself, i will get motivated to sew for our baby. so i had a couple women friends over (you know who you are) and we set up our machines in the dining room, and gave each other pointers and encouragement and a helping hand while sipping tea and eating carrot dip on rice crackers. and that was enough to jump-start me. that day i finished a portable changing pad, and later velcro pouches for storing smaller items within the diaper bag, and a tiny pillow case for a tiny pillow. a few days later i used a tutorial for making crib sheets (thanks, jess, for pointing me that direction) and sewed two of ’em, both from vintage bed sheets. that seemed easy enough so i found another tutorial for making a changing pad cover and sewed that up, too. yes, i’m unstoppable. later this week two other friends are coming by to have a sewing party (i think sewing is better in circles of other women), and then i’ll tackle the snuggler/swaddler pattern that i’ve been so eager to make, because kristen, who is an incredible seamstress, will be able to help me navigate those slightly more complicated waters. it makes me really happy to have some handmade things for our little one, and besides that, that things i’m making are more unique (one of a kind!) than anything i’d get in a store, and cheaper, too.

furthermore, i cannot contain my joy over the recent discovery that using reusable baby wipes — in addition to cloth diapers — will save us HUNDREDS of dollars over the course of the years our baby will be in diapers. seriously, it’s sick. you should take a look at this article that calculates it all out. i hadn’t seriously considered reusable wipes because, like all unknowns, it felt like a vaguely daunting task. but after reading this guide to creating your own reusable wipes system, and finding all the things i’d need for only $92, i totally sprang for it. and i got so excited about it all on the night i discovered this that i had trouble falling asleep.

i’m signing off now,

the mother-to-be who is in a flurry of happy nesting activity

 

what it was meant to do

being pregnant, and  watching my body swell and shape-shift to accomodate our baby, i have this feeling that my body is [for the first time] doing precisely what it was made to do. my body has found its calling; it doesn’t need to study or strive to fit the role because it knows what to do.

(i wish all of me would do likewise.)