Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Mary Rose Cecilia

For all nine months of my pregnancy, I didn't feel like writing. Didn't feel like writing, talking, cleaning, getting up - most everything that required consciousness, really. Never have I dreamed that I could be so uncomfortable while pregnant for the whole time - not truly sick, like those with hyperemesis gavardium, but just constant discomfort and irritation.

I didn't want to write this either, but Tom insisted. You've done it for the other kids, he said, so don't leave her out. It's taken me so long - life is much busier with you!

Your due date, Rosie-girl, was November 20th - the Monday of Thanksgiving week. Grand and Grandad drove up the Saturday before to be with us all that week in case you made your entrance on time, which is, as we all know, a statistical unlikelihood. I tried to be at peace with God's timing, but the fear that stalked me, that made me feel hunted and frightened, was that you would come and we would be alone - my little family would be on an island with no help. Being in a state far away from family had already made my pregnancy feel lonely and sad - I hoped to salvage it by at least bringing you home to a house filled with relatives who'd coo over you and make me drink water. By your due date, my desire for you to arrive while your Grand was here increased to a fever-pitch. I felt like wailing every day you didn't come. I was also incredibly uncomfortable, like you were just not positioned correctly, so I went to see a chiropractor - and that adjustment gave me near immediate relief (that was Saturday, the 18th).

Originally, we had had tickets to attend the Beatification of (now) Blessed Solanus Casey that Saturday. But I called it, and we gave away our tickets, because I was so uncomfortable and so worried that you would be born in Ford Field during the Mass! (wishful thinking, really, in retrospect)

On Monday, my due date appointment, I voiced my frustration, sadness, and general upset. Wendy and Jamie, my midwives listened empathetically and did a check - 4cm along already. I asked them to strip my membranes, because I really really really want to be in labor. After a thorough strip, we went to Somerset Mall and walked around - I was contracting, off and on. Nothing consistent, nothing great.

Tuesday passed and I was so sad - the chiropractor had said that women usually go into labor 24 hours post-adjustment! The midwives said the stripping could really get things going! Where oh WHERE was this baby?? (a silly and sad thing to ask, when I was only 40+1) Wednesday morning, I woke up contracting...and gave it an hour...and  soon I knew, it was going to be time for you. It was the day. We packed up our things and went downstairs, told Grand and Grandad, kissed Zuzu and David goodbye and started the 45 min drive to Nine Short Months Birthing Center. In contrast to the last few weeks, I felt such peace on the drive...such peace as a I breathed through my contractions.

We arrived, and they were filling up the tub (your brother and sister were both born in a tub). It was snowing, softly. I climbed into the tub...but immediately wanted to get out. The water felt too cold and I could feel the hard wood beneath the vinyl surface of the tub (it was a blow up tub, not a fixed one). I got out and climbed into bed...where I dozed, off and on, through contractions for the next hour or so. Your dad held me, and pretty much resigned himself to spending Thanksgiving at the birth center, since he thought me sleeping was a sign things were slowing down - he underestimates my ability to sleep through literally anything.

Once matters got more intense, I got out and crouched on the floor for a while, breathing and vocalizing through contractions. I was wedged between the edge of the bed and the hot tub, not a very convenient place! Wendy and Jamie encouraged me to move - I thought I'd try the birthing stool, but as soon as my posterior touched it's surface I jumped up with an emphatic "NOPE."  I ended up kneeling on the floor, holding onto the birthing stool and pushed there. In one, long, fierce contraction, you were born. As you were crowning, the midwives said "okay, lean back so you can catch your baby!" but I couldn't even say I couldn't - I just couldn't move at that moment in time (I was concentrating!) so I shook my head . Wendy said to Tom, "okay then it's up to you Dad - get in there!" Your father is a rather decorious person and was concerned with lack of gloves, so he hesitated but she hustled him down there. So your Daddy caught you!

Then came that near maniacal desire to hold you, so I was helped into bed and held you and marveled at your beauty. The first hour after you were born, the midwives try to give privacy to the new family for bonding - I'm not sure how bonding it was for us since you cried the entire first hour! Also, I am not entirely sure why I, a seasoned mother, didn't realize you needed to nurse? We spend most of your first two hours deciding on your name. You were very nearly Bernadette, with the nickname Birdie, and also nearly Rosemary. But in the end - you are Mary Rose Cecilia. You are Mary in honor of Our Lady of Fatima, Rose for St. Rose of Lima and Our Lady's title of Mystical Rose, and of course, Cecilia because you were born on her feast day!

But you were suddenly with us and it was all so very, very good.




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Saturday, July 8, 2017

I'll Take Mercy for 500, Alex

I try to go to confession every Saturday. For two months, over the various parishes and priests I have visited, every single one has said a variation of the same message. "You need to focus on God's mercy."

My mind revolts at that message.

It seems such a screen to make excuses: excuses for my sinfulness, excuses for my committing the same sins again and again - and dammit, again. Like a smoke screen for moral laxity or a touchy-feely code word that wants to make everybody feel okay for daily refusing to take on the challenge to be a saint.

I want a priest to throw the book at me: I want to hear about hell, fear of the Lord, heroic virtue. I want confession to feel like purgatory - a burning away of the dross that prevents me from being pure gold.

Yet those men that God has put in my life to be Christ to me - these men have stood with one foot in Heaven and one on earth and the message they give me is different, again and again - and dammit, again.

They beg me to take up Christ's yoke of mercy.

Yet it seems so heavy, such a hard burden to bear, this mercy. My soul recoils, "what could mercy have to do with me?" Part of it is a misunderstanding of mercy - mercy does not excuse sin. Mercy does not say that sin is not sin; mercy is "love reaching down to lift people out of their physical and spiritual miseries." (see here) Mercy is God loving us so much, he provides us with a way out of our own sinfulness - through confession, through the life of virtue, through Christ's sacrifice on the cross.

The crux here is that, to receive God's mercy, I have to admit that I cannot make a path on my own. I cannot, by any amount of willpower, mental tricks, or new routine, make myself virtuous. I cannot save myself. For me, an American millennial young woman, that's so hard to accept. I pay lip service to this concept, but my actions do not bear it out. Every day, I wake up and instead of begging for the grace needed to be virtuous just for today - I resolve to just be better! My new self begins today! Today will be Day One of Martha 2.0, no mistakes, no more being my same crappy self. Haha, I will just resolve that and I'll be fine, I will power through, just like I have powered through hard things before. Hey, I graduated law school, okay. I'm smart and capable! I'll make a chart, buy a new planner, look up routines on Pinterest, get some inspiration from some peeps who seem to have it all together, and get going!

It lasts for two hours, if I'm lucky. Sometimes the jig is up in 30 minutes if my kids are really on point.

Mercy demands that I be humbled, that I come to Christ as what I truly am - a sinner in need of a savior. I cannot save myself - I'm such a mess, I can't even successfully pretend to save myself. I have to sit at his feet and say, "how do I do this?" I have to listen to him - in prayer, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in the words of the Church Fathers (and Mothers), in his saints and holy ones. When I listen to myself, to the messages of of this world, I'm just listening to an echo of nothingness - just 'sounding gongs' and 'clanging cymbals.' There is a path, an ancient path, to peace and joy, to Oneness with God. It is not an easy path! But it is the way of mercy and Jesus walked it before me, and walks it with me now. In fact, we are not even alone - there is a multitude, a great cloud of witnesses, that every moment cheers me and calls out how to go, warns of pitfalls, points back to the Way.

Dear Jesus, help me to accept your mercy every day: it will be enough, you will be enough, and united with you, even what little I am will be enough.

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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Beyond the South, Beyond Home

The second day we were here, my mom and I ran errands to the nearest Target. I was overwhelmed and shocked, and felt like I had a rock in my stomach every time I went outside. Everything was so unfamiliar, and it frightened me - like a refrain, I kept wondering "how can I raise a family in a place I don't know? What is true, when I don't even know the earth beneath my feet?"

It got better. Slowly. Summer helped.

The week we moved into our new house, Tom sat me on the couch after we got the kids in bed and said "I've been saving this song for you for when we had our house." I cried through the whole thing and I cry every time I listen to it.

This video gives me hope. It still doesn't feel like home here yet - it still feels so strange, and often lonely and hard. It's so easy to lose my moorings when I am living in a place where I have no history. I put my hands out to catch the wisdom of my ancestors and my hands grab nothing but empty air. No one that is kin to me has put their bones in this ground, or watched the seasons come and go for generations so that it is a rhythm that echoes in their blood. Southerners are so fiercely loyal - to place, to memory, to tradition, to our families. To be in a place with none of those things is like having amnesia and being homeless both at once.

But this song gives me great hope that it won't be like this forever - that after we put our work and our hearts into this new place, we'll look up and find it's become home.



Lyrics:
We will call this place our home,
The dirt in which our roots may grow.
Though the storms will push and pull,
We will call this place our home.

We’ll tell our stories on these walls.
Every year, measure how tall.
And just like a work of art,
We’ll tell our stories on these walls.

Let the years we’re here be kind, be kind.
Let our hearts, like doors, open wide, open wide.
Settle our bones like wood over time, over time.
Give us bread, give us salt, give us wine.

A little broken, a little new.
We are the impact and the glue.
Capable of more than we know,
We call this fixer upper home.

With each year, our color fades.
Slowly, our paint chips away.
But we will find the strength
And the nerve it takes
To repaint and repaint and repaint every day.

Let the years we’re here be kind, be kind.
Let our hearts, like doors, open wide, open wide.
Settle our bones like wood over time, over time.
Give us bread, give us salt, give us wine.

Let the years we’re here be kind, be kind.
Let our hearts, like doors, open wide, open wide.
Settle our bones like wood over time, over time.
Give us bread, give us salt, give us wine.
Give us bread, give us salt, give us wine.

Smaller than dust on this map
Lies the greatest thing we have:
The dirt in which our roots may grow
And the right to call it home.


When I listen to this song, I'm reminded that my family did not always live in the South. We left our generational homes hundreds of years ago and came to this country. We clung to the family with brought with us and over the years, our English and Irish traditions changed and our homes became old and familiar. I recall that what makes home are the people we call into it to share the love we pour out. The song is part prayer, part mantra, part battlecry - moving me beyond the South and beyond my clinging thoughts of home.

Someday, by God's grace, and a great deal of hard work, we might have the right to call Michigan home.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Bird Feeders & Winter Grace

It's not freezing, but it's cold and rainy - cold enough to need jackets, but not cold enough for snow! Zuzu keeps asking, "where's the snow mom?"


Using Sarah MacKenzie's January booklist as a guide, we picked up The Big Snow (among others) to read aloud this month. We read it today, to ease Davey from grumpy post-nap to the land of the living. It talks about feeding the animals who can't find food after the big snow.


Who could live with the idea of animals without food? Susannah certainly couldn't, so we got to work...



I remember making these as a child - do you? Luckily we're allergy-free in our house, so the old standards worked just fine. I've been asking my husband to save the cardboard tubes we use, so I was glad to have that stash for such a gloomy craft day as this. David was a non-participant, but he was glad to cheer us on from his perch in the highchair. 



This is also, as an aside, a great sensory activity. Zuzu really loves the big corn box (think sand box, but filled with dried corn) at our favorite farm, so I think this was reminiscent, on a small scale, of that. If I had thought ahead more (read: at all), I think I would have poured the bird seed into a big bin and let her pat it onto the peanut butter that way. Even our curved plates made this...a bit messy. Definitely glad I did this before floor cleaning day tomorrow! 




We had two bird feeders to fill in addition to our tubes, but I faced the question: with no low-hanging branches, how will we make the tubes stand up? Well, after rustling around in the garage for a bit, I found a broken undersink organizer that had been destined for Goodwill. Turn it upside down...voila. That's called upcycling, right? Very trendy I'm sure!


End result: happy girl, and hopefully happy birds once they realize we have much to offer. 




It was easy, before we moved here, to romanticize the cold. Hot chocolate! Cozy days reading by the fire! Making bird feeders for winter animals! But the truth is, just like my labor-intensive drives to the beach and the messy-side of summer popsicle eating, making a winter that is cozy and enjoyable is work. I make hot chocolate that my children instantly reject as too hot or not tasting enough like tea - they want to read the same d-u-m-b board book that I agreed to bring home from the library in a moment of weakness. Making bird feeders is very messy! I'm pretty sure I'll be finding peanut butter and/or bird seed in my kitchen for weeks.

That life is work is a universal condition, either in the land of perpetual summer or that of ice and snow. To enjoy this work and let it sanctify me is my choice, prompted by grace. Little by little, I work my way to holiness, one book, one bird feeder, one child at a time.


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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Little Longer, Be My Baby

I get the comments every week, when I'm out toting my golden haired boy.

Are you going to cut his hair? 

Are you tired of him being called a girl? 

Long hair - isn't that, y'know, girly? 

I know I have a different perspective. What can I say, it's those three years I spent at law school with all those cute boys with Bama bangs. I just love a man with a good head of hair and now I have the most darling little man with the most darling curls (and very impressive bangs too).
I really didn't face this question with Zuzu since she didn't even have any hair until she was 2. David had more hair when he was born than Zuzu did until 2.5! Now I admit, sometimes his mane gets a bit unruly...


...but I'm trying hard to wait until he is two to cut it. I know, I know that as soon as it's cut, the baby curls will be gone - and suddenly he will look much more like a little boy than a little baby. But he still feels like my baby - especially now that I have a big girl to compare him to, and I can fully appreciate the swift and fleeting nature of time. I don't want to let that go. If my tendency with Zuzu is to push her to be more mature because she is the oldest child I have, then perhaps I do have a tendency to baby David, as he is the youngest child I have. 



And perhaps many other moms with subfertility can relate to this: I'm constantly wondering if he's the last baby. Now, we've been deeply blessed to have two children - certainly we are far ahead of where my OB said we would be, six months before we were engaged. You'll never have children without serious help, and even then we can't count on anything. In fact, we've been so blessed to have gotten pregnant four times and be holding two healthy children in our arms, that at this point, we count on having more. We have started to think when, and not if

But in the back of my mother's mind is always that worry - what if he's our last? What if he never gets to have a brother, or Zuzu a sister? What if this is the last baby I get to hold at 18 months, the last one to nurse to sleep? There's a thought that all those "whens" might be wishful "ifs" instead and that years from now, I'll wish I had those damp post-nap curls to run my fingers through. That nagging thought means I'll be keeping him my baby, for just a little longer. 





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