Saturday, November 24, 2012

His First Three Weeks

I wrote my 400th post two posts ago, and I hit my two-year, blogging anniversary two weeks ago; I just haven't made time to say these (and many other) things, until now. And it really hasn't been a matter of finding time, just of making time.

He brought with him a deep hush: a peace unlike any I've ever experienced, before. He's my easiest baby, so far (by far), but the peace is bigger than he. I've been just sort of soaking it all in: getting reacquainted with a body that can drink a glass of milk, eat a piece of pie, and load the dishwasher without feeling like its legs might go out from under it, like it might hit its head on the way down.

Too, I've been getting reacquainted with my better, more patient self. Maybe it sounds strange, but everything's so much easier, now. It's as though I were trudging through knee-high mud with inappropriate shoes and a backpack full of rocks, and I've arrived on the other side.

At the ripe, old age of two weeks and two days, he caught his sisters' cold. I was so afraid he'd choke that I sat up straight as a poker all night, holding him. My incision still hasn't healed completely, and I have a clogged duct in my left breast. But any and all discomfort has seemed minimal since I've handed off my burden, rediscovered the bones of my feet.

I'd expected a period of high adjustment, but I see more clearly than ever: we were all waiting for him. At last, we're all here, and the blessing--the miracle!--of that isn't lost on me.

Jim (down over a hundred pounds, now, since surgery) has given me lots of space and time to do my thing, which is to say: I've spent long hours nursing, snuggling, and sleeping with our baby. I whisper secrets to that boy in the shadows, and he looks deep into my eyes and smiles. Say what you will: at three weeks, he already knows.

**To see Becky's gorgeous, hospital photos of Baby Chip, please click here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Squall

Andrew Wyeth's The Squall, 1986

I think of Holly Petraeus and wonder if she--if anyone--expects
a squall: one that rocks the boat or one that exits the throat,
and I doubt it. We try not to worry about what might never happen:
to think on whatsoever things are true and honest, pure and lovely.
No one wants to carry binoculars and a raincoat, just in case,
so we're caught unprepared by those things that bend and break us.

The man I love leans against our hutch and asks why I'm crying.
I shake my head and talk about Holly: about 38 years, 2 children,
and, still, no guarantees. "I'm not a general," he offers quietly,
but he misses the point, because it's less about being a general
than about being general: human, common, usual, sinful.
I've hung my coat (hat, hopes) on this man alone. I study him,

think: don't bring down (or out) a squall. Make things safe for me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Tug

Image used w/ permission of Dot Samuel of Psalms of Samuel in Watercolor.
(To see more of her beautiful work, click here.)

They counted to three and, working together, swung me from bed to table. Strange to witness their strain when I felt nearly weightless; I am a pendulum, I thought, tugged by time. I am floating; I have become a boat on water, or perhaps I am the water itself. On command, I spread my arms wide, and I won't lie: I thought of Christ crucified and wondered--as my doctor flayed me open like a fish--if I were about to die.

I felt no pain in the slicing: only a great tug, and my doctor lifted out the baby I could not touch. Later (after they'd swung me back to bed), someone handed that child to me. He latched with ferocity onto my breast and tugged out everything I had, and for the first time I believed the whispers I'd heard for years: a baby boy, and neither of you will die in getting him here.

**Please click here to continue reading about Baby Chip's arrival and what I'm taking from it. A big thank you to Emily Wierenga for the opportunity to share, today, with the Imperfect Prose community: one place where I always feel like I belong.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Joy and Woe Are Woven Fine

"Mind if I smoke?" he asks, settling onto the bench beside me. I love the smell of a freshly-lit cigarette and tell him no before considering: I'm extremely pregnant, and the wind is whipping. I'm a little cool, anyway, and it crosses my mind to wait inside, but I want neither to give up my seat nor to come across as rude.

"What are you waiting for?" he asks.

"My husband. And a baby; we're having a baby tomorrow."

"Your first?"


He says his mother didn't live long enough to have more than one, that she died when he was six, and when I ask if his dad raised him, he says: "No. They put him in the ground same day as my mother."

"Car accident?" I ask.

"No," he says, but he offers no more, and I realize I don't want to know. He talks about having a daughter (he guesses she's his) whom he hasn't seen since he asked her why she came around only for money, and he talks about having a girlfriend. He's here, in fact, because the girlfriend is in the hospital. "She wants to get married," he says, "but I'm not gonna do that. Too old to have kids: what's the point?"

I shrug. "Maybe it's about her integrity before the Lord," I offer.

He raises an eyebrow. "That is a possibility," he concedes. "She's a church lady."

"Are you a church man?"

"Not anymore," he says. "Got hurt. Gave it up." I start to respond but hesitate. "Go ahead," he encourages. "I want to hear what you have to say."

I feel tested and squirm, a little, on the bench. "I was just going to say: every stitch of peace I have is in the Lord." Everything I haven't said forms that old, familiar lump in my throat, and--when I look up at him--I'm crying.

So is he.

"I know the Father," he says. "I know Him well. He has given me wisdom. I can see the world in a grain of sand."

I consider the purple of his irises, the dark cheeks wet with his tears, the white hair springing from his temples. I believe him. We reach for one another, and strangers (73 and 38, male and female, black and white) collide and embrace on a bench just past the doors of a hospital.

Later, I realize I never smelled the cigarette he smoked beside me, on a windy day, in its entirety.

The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit (John 3:8, KJV).

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Hebrews 13:2, KJV).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Broken Places

Induction #4, and everything was going along swimmingly (water broken, epidural in) until my nurse checked to see if I'd progressed from 5 cm dilation, as I am wont to do quickly. "I feel something," she said, "and it's not a head."

The two nurses who checked behind her agreed. Gathered closely together, the three of them clucked aloud: "Ear? Fingers? Toes?"

They called in my doctor, who checked with his hand, then with an ultrasound machine, before saying: "Baby's turned since your last ultrasound, and the presenting part is a foot. You'll need a c-section, and right away."

I'd never in my life had surgery of any kind, before, aside from the extraction of my wisdom teeth. I could write a separate post about my c-section experience, and perhaps I will. But I understand that--in this country, at least--30% of babies enter the world via c-section. What has seemed so uncommon, to me, is not uncommon, in general.

Still, I want to acknowledge: I've just experienced, in a very personal way, things I'd never seen or smelled off the farm. Also that I have a whole new respect for women who sign up for one c-section, let alone more than one.

Tonight will be my fourth spent in a delivery bed in which I didn't deliver. I've been discharged, but--except for when he's breastfeeding (every two hours)--Baby Chip needs to lie under a blue lamp. Tonight will be Jim's fourth on a sofa just to the left of the delivery bed; he looked up, just now, and said: "I feel like Snoopy on the roof of a doghouse." (Better to be on the roof of a doghouse, I say, than in the doghouse.)

We're beyond ready to go home and enjoy the family we've made in a hurry. Four pregnancies (one miscarriage) in just over four years, and we've pushed ourselves in other ways, too. I've written much of it out, but not all of it; some things just can't be blogged. Hemingway wrote, in A Farewell to Arms: "The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places." But often, I think, we shouldn't blame the world; we break ourselves. Owning our decisions becomes the important thing.

I stood in front of a bathroom mirror, this morning, and studied my bloody, deeply bruised, crooked, dripping, sagging, stapled-back-together body, and--for the second time in my life--I had this conscious thought: my body and my soul look the same. It's a relief, actually, to reach that place: to know that anyone (in this case, my beloved) who sees me will see me as I actually am.

My husband looked at me with tears in his eyes, the other day, and said: "Thank you for the boy. I didn't know how very much I wanted him until now."

To which I replied: "It's ok. I knew."

And I would do it--all of it--again and just the same way.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Few Words of Gratitude

We would give anything for what we have. -Tony Hoagland

Many, Lord my God,
    are the wonders you have done,
    the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
    were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
    they would be too many to declare
(Psalm 40:5, NIV).