Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dwelling in Miracle

3 weeks + 6 days
It's moments like these that I've longed for, that I drink in greedily because they're already too fleeting; he's already growing so fast.

The house is quiet. Evening drops. I breathe him in, breathe out love and gratitude.  I just finished feeding him, and now he's fallen asleep on me, his chest against mine, his milk-sour breath tickling the hollow of my collar bone.  His small body is warm on mine, and it seems strange and mysterious that he could have been living inside me so recently.

He sings in his sleep, and giggles. My heart twists and melts.

How I wanted to have this with his sister, too. This very specific napping situation is what I dreamed of before the world was torn by her leaving of it.  It's what I mourn. I wish I had held her body like this when she was born, but I was too afraid of ruining what little we had to enjoy of her; she seemed too fragile.

I am so sad that we missed having this with her -- well, that we missed everything with her, of course, but especially this. But the flip side is that missing out on her has made me appreciate the quiet splendor of these moments with her brother all the more.

The truth is that knowing her -- and not knowing her enough -- has made me a better mother to this boy than I would likely have been to her. Without her leaving, I would never have fully appreciated the miracle of these small, slow moments. I am grateful for this unexpected gift she left behind, even while I regret the reality of my weakness.

I always expected the early months of motherhood to be hell, to be utter loneliness, a dreary trudge for an unseeable finish line.  But instead this slow, still time of just he and I is so sweet. I can't get enough. And it's because of her, and the work that God is doing in me because of her, that I can see the quiet miracle that I am living in.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

In Which I Think Deep Thoughts About Birth

I've been having feelings about Jacob's birth that I can't resolve.  There is something about that day that I can't figure out, that I keep coming back to.  Something that feels a lot more like the day that my daughter was born dead than I like to admit.

Here's how it went:

On Friday, September 28, I woke up around 5:00 AM to contractions that felt different from the ones I'd been having for weeks.  These were painful, made me stop and breathe deep.  I got up, timed the contractions, and two hours later called the hospital with a report that the contractions were coming every five to seven minutes, and hurt quite a bit more.  A half an hour later my husband and I traipsed into Labor and Delivery for what felt like the millionth (and we hoped would be the last) time of this pregnancy.

The nurses hooked me up to the monitors and watched for a couple of hours.  I think they might have sent me home, except Jacob's heart rate kept decelerating with the contractions (due to, we discovered later, the cord being wrapped around his neck). So instead they admitted me and my doctor broke my water around noon and labor picked up fast.  I chose to get an epidural to save my broken arm stress.  As sitting up to receive the epidural put me into transition and pain that left me no recourse but to sob brokenly on my husband's chest, I was so grateful when the medication began to take effect. 

Within a couple of hours it was time to push.  This was the part that had me most scared.  I don't know why -- I suppose I was afraid that he might get stuck there.  It didn't seem possible that a baby could leave my body still living.

As I began to push it quickly became apparent that the epidural was not going to cover the pain.  I felt every inch of him coming out, and he was only 6 pounds 14 ounces.  I screamed and cried my way through it -- and I'm still not sure if it was all due to the physical pain.  It was as if the pain created a window in my soul to let out the unearthly howling of grief that I have so been longing to release this past year but couldn't quite figure out how.  As I labored, I was both there and not, partially living out past suffering.

When Jacob was born at 4:45 PM after about forty-five minutes of pushing, he was beautifully, impossibly alive. When they put him on my chest and our skin met for the first time and I shouted my gratitude and I drank and drank and drank the beautiful sight of him in, I think a part of me died.  I left a part of my very self behind when he arrived, a big part -- just like when his sister was born.

Is that always how it is, when babies are born?  I thought it was only reserved for the agony of stillbirth, to have the person who you were so brutally ripped away, but now I'm not so sure.  Do we as mothers always emerge from birth with the selves we thought we knew rent and resewn into something new?

This, I think, is what I can't stop thinking about, four and a half weeks later.  I didn't know it was happening at the time, but when I look back to the day of our rainbow son's birth, I can see a very clear delineation of before and after.  I am not the woman I was before that day.

It feels a lot like grief.

Let me be clear -- I am not complaining.  I would give up whatever I lost to have him here again and again, just as I would never undo Eve's life even if it meant being saved the pain of her death.  The cost to my person was worth the births of my children, a thousand thousand thousand times over.

Still, I can't stop my mind from going back, from comparing her birthday to his and wondering how they could feel so similar even while being drastically different in the result.

I don't want to call his birth traumatic, but I can't think of a better word.

But maybe that is just how birth always is?  The meeting of hope and pain and effort and grace, and in the end you trade part of who you were to have this precious, tiny person come through you?  And really, it's not just a baby that's born into the world, is it, but a new you as well?

These are the things I am thinking about, chewing at, and, really, marveling over.

It is 3:30 in the morning as I write this, needing to let the words out.  I look over at the little boy that so recently entered our lives but feels like he has been here for always, so tiny and beautiful, with feet like his sister's and eyes like his daddy's, and know that this is all holy mystery. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Holy Ground

11 days old
I write this with the most precious boy in the world snuggled up in my arms. He giggles and gums in his sleep and I try to grab hold of this moment, his fleeting tiny-ness, knowing that it can't last, that it is already gone.

And I wonder -- how am I so blessed? To have him here, with us at long last, is pure treasure.

At first, I was afraid he would die, that he would slip away as quietly as his sister. I couldn't trust that he would breathe and keeping breathing if I stopped watching him and willing life.

But I've had to let that go. Or else I wouldn't sleep, and sleep is precious now because it helps me to love and care for him better. And really, it's not all that healthy to hold tight to fear, to draw it close. I don't want that for him, for me, for our family.

So I take a zillion photos to remind me if his now-ness later and let the rest go (or try to).

I love being this boy's mama. I love it more than I thought I would, or could. I love how he looks like his daddy, and how I catch glimpses of his sister in him. And I love how God is using the knowing of this little boy to grow me into a better version of myself, in spite of all sleep deprivation, just as He used the knowing and releasing of my daughter for the same sacred purpose.

This ground is holy.