Nothing as I want it

January 22, 2014


It’s been so long since I’ve used this space. Occasionally, I visit it and then run out of time or energy to actually write a post. I’ve separated myself from Facebook as well, maybe permanently, so I know if I write I will get very little Β  “coverage.” And, as with most things, it’s not really how I want it and I don’t have what I need to make it so, so an intention to post usually spirals down into a miserable puddle of discontent. “In the pipe!” as Piggle would say. He’s very into things going down pipes – namely, his poop.

I have this grand idea for a redesign with a masthead based on our family “crest.” I’d love for Henry to contribute too. But all of the content I think about is currently in the form of daydreams – and honestly I don’t know how healthy they are anyway. Almost everything I want to do ends up making me feel thwarted in some way these days…

So this is a picture of some impromptu moment of “lovings” with my boys and is so typical of my life these days: unshowered, unstyled, 30 lbs. heavier than I want to be, in stained, baggy clothes sitting on a shabby, dirty couch and inundated with boys. I’m tired and worn out and can’t imagine an end in sight. I wish I could say that their love makes it all worthwhile – and most days there are bright moments in my day when I’m able to just be grateful- but in general, if I’m truthful, I feel sad.

Just saying that, of course, doesn’t give a reader the whole picture. You wouldn’t know that I’ve struggled most of my life with depression and certainly my whole life with discontent. Kids aren’t the problem, they only heighten the problems that were already there. You don’t know how I’ve been struggling my whole life with blood sugar problems that are tied into my depression and anxiety and that I’ve been trying – mostly without any lasting success – to change my diet to give myself a better chance at life. Failing in that, which is what I have been doing as I see it for the last 10 odd years and in a bigger way in the last 4, is a source of increasing shame and depression.

I know in my mind I should be grateful for all I’ve been given. I have it better than so many. I know that some of this is just the difficulty associated with being a mother and that so many women better qualified than me at living in the world of commerce have chosen it as a profession above what they trained for, and are embracing its deprivations. I see them and I admire them. I want to accomplish, as a mother, about 10 times more than I ever seem to be able to accomplish. I feel like I see many moms succeeding at things I can’t even approach. I know I shouldn’t compare. It’s just hard when you know there’s more out there. That you COULD be doing better and WANT to be doing better. I know some of these desires to do better originate in selfish desires, but I also feel so often that there has to be more than this. Surely, when Jesus said He had come to give us life and give it abundantly, THIS was not what He had in mind. I know my ideal answer is probably that I should pray more, but I find it hard even to get quiet enough to do that, for I am afraid to unplug and let the sadness in.


Just being chatty

April 5, 2013

Image{All my boys were so dapper on Easter, don’t you think?}

We were outside all day yesterday. It was glorious.

Also, I changed the inner tube on our new double stroller (Christmas gift from Grandma & Grandpa Shuffle) by myself. I’m so proud.

I have been realizing lately that blogging mostly doesn’t fit into my life. What I want to write about is either a list of things I agree with that someone else has written about much more eloquently or too personal or complain-y and better put down in my journal and hopefully never read again. I’d like to post pictures of things that make me feel content in my life, but I never seem to find the time to take pictures!

[I’ve recently discovered that, lo and behold, I am perfectionist. Not in the “my house has to be immaculate for anyone to come over” way (although I know there are some of you who come to my house and comment on the lack of clutter…I know “clean” is subjective), but in a way that keeps me from doing things because I think I don’t have whatever I need to do it perfectly. Now that I see this, I realize it’s been a problem for me all along but in this season of life it’s particularly crippling in terms of doing things that feed my soul. I don’t have much of a strategy for dealing with it yet, just so you know. I just thought I’d share.]

Right now, Gilead is watching Toy Story for the 5th time since Tuesday and systematically destroying the living room. I haven’t showered since two days ago and the breakfast dishes aren’t yet washed. I’m going to have to get up in a minute to change the third poopy diaper of the day (poor guy has diarrhea stomach flu, awesome.)…all to write this little blog post. It hardly seems worth it.

The other thing my blog entries usually are in my head is a response to whatever I’m reading or watching. Maybe that would be more fun for ya’ll. I almost posted this on FB last night. We have been listening to The Fellowship of the Ring – mostly me and FOR me, but I think Gilead likes it. He liked The Hobbit – and Little House in the Big Woods. Last night while I was doing dishes I got to my favorite part, perhaps, in the whole trilogy: the council of Elrond. If you haven’t read the books and are relying on the movies to inform your knowledge of this scene, go read the books! In either case, I’ll just post the quote and not try to summarize. It’s my favorite moment, ever.

“No one answered. The noon-bell rang. Still no one spoke. Frodo glanced at all the faces, but they were not turned to him. All the Council sat with downcast eyes, as if in deep thought. A great dread fell on him, as if he was awaiting the pronouncement of some doom that he had long foreseen and vainly hoped might after all never be spoken. An overwhelming longing to rest and remain at peace by Bilbo’s side in Rivendell filled all his heart. At last with an effort he spoke, and wondered to hear his own words, as if some other will was using his small voice.

‘I will take the Ring,’ he said, ‘though I do not know the way.'”

There are parts of this story – and this is one – which never fail to bring tears to my eyes. They are heartening tears. Tears of courage. The older I get the more I see the joy in life is not the joy I had planned for myself. It doesn’t consist of the career I wanted or the house I thought I’d have or vacations taken or parts of the world seen. It helps that my choices right now are very limited and therefore black and white. I am JUST starting to settle into that and embrace it, which also means leaving behind some of those natural (and perfectly fine) longings because if I didn’t they would hinder me. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t know when I started out on this journey that it wouldn’t look at all how I thought (I mean the journey of family and building a life with another person) and that the current hardships would be in place for what feels like such a long time. It’ll be at least 4 more years before we can go anywhere. We had another brief flirtation with living on my grandparents’ farm for the free rent (not to mention the glories of 16 acres!), but decided that Henry can’t quit his job to finish school faster and that keeps us here. Which also keeps us in this very nice two bedroom apartment. I’m so thankful that I’m thankful for it. I’m thankful for God’s faithfulness in opening my heart to Him this year. I have to say, the faith I had to offer Him was very small indeed. But in this year I have been able to see, more than ever, the people around me – so many families in our own parish – are struggling in the EXACT same ways.

Can I tell you something amazing? Henry’s grandpa is GIVING us his car. It’s 13 years old but has 40,000 some odd miles on it and because he is a Shuffle – THE Shuffle – it is impeccably maintained. We weren’t praying for a new car and the anxiety of our current car’s needing maintenance we won’t be able to afford was only in the back of our minds, but this was a small miracle. Another proof for our doubting hearts that He hears our prayers and answers them in concrete ways. He will take care of us in this apartment for however long we need to be here. And after that, when we have more choice, He will guide us to where we need to be.

I love this passage from The Fellowship… because it’s such a perfect picture of how life in Christ feels to me.

In the daily snippets from Little House that I hear, another longing is stirring in me once again – and hope that some of it can be realized no matter where I live, even if it’s here in a place with a small, shaded yard that we don’t own in the midst of the suburbs. Although he has long since forgotten about it, I often try to answer my friend Chris’s question about why pioneers were so endlessly fascinating to girls. For me the answer lies in my bone-deep satisfaction at just hearing about Ma making cheese [Or hats! From oat straw! For Pete’s sake!] and the sense of harmony in their lives and love in their home. In the most recent issue of Martha Stewart Living (don’t judge me for having a subscription. It was a gift. I actually don’t much like that magazine or her way of life despite having many similar interests to Martha. But that is another post for another time), there was a small article about a woman named Bea Johnson, who wrote about book – Zero Waste Home – about her decision to fundamentally change the way she lived when they downsized homes. Something about that – the clean aesthetic, the high function, extreme purging??? – appealed to me and I want to Spring clean like never before. As usual, I have a ton of thoughts about what I’d LIKE to do and haven’t gotten to any of it yet amidst the serious NEED FOR TIME AT THE PARK going on at our house, but as long as the sunshine holds, I’m being positive about it, instead of doomsday. I will do one small step at a time. I should read that book, too. It’s making me re-think all this packaged stuff I buy and wanting to make a lot of it for myself. Little House is making me realize that it all might be more work, but it’s still pretty simple to make things at home. And infinitely more…homey. Not just healthier, although that is a good reason, but somehow richer. Closer to God? I’m trying to put words to a gut-level feeling I have about it. Wouldn’t you rather roll on a deoderant made with love out of edible ingredients than something marketed to you by someone who doesn’t care about you that will give you cancer? Speaking of home-made deoderant: I sure hope it works. The natural Tom’s sure doesn’t and I STINK lately.

Okay, so we’re also deep into the 5th season (I think) of Mad Men and loving it. Can I just say…I’m so late to this particular (what’s the expression? hoe down?) that it’s pretty irrelevant, but the first episode of season 4 – with all the mid-century decor. Stunning. A visual feast! I was practically salivating. And I’m reading the Wheel of Time series, by Robert Jordan. It’s a good read! And totally safe to own for when we have kids of reading age. Despite the horrible cover art, the stories are really good (if you like fantasy) and very clean. In a refreshing twist, most of the main characters so far equate sex with marriage as a worldview. So even though there is romance, it feels noble.

Other than that, I’m contemplating painting our kitchen cabinets, planting some kind of small garden in our yard or herb planters from our kitchen window, making baby hats and creating a more permanent craft space IN OUR HOME for myself. Our space DOES work well – in the words of my friend Emily who was over the other day with her 5 children and unless I was mistaken seemed hilariously envious [ I told her I’d love a 3rd floor play room and she said, yes, but then there’s SO MUCH JUNK. I see her point] – but I need a place to work here, in our house. Especially since we’re going to be here for awhile. I just thought of this: I guess I should just pray for a craft table that will fit, since God seems to be giving me stuff un-looked-for. πŸ™‚

Adieu, Christmas break. We will miss you.

January 2, 2013

We spent most of our time in Kettering, OH this last week and a half and I was far too busy re-gaining 5 lbs, visiting with family and watching Rehab Addict to take photos. Here areΒ  few from our last, precious days together.


{We went to the Morton Arboretm train exhibit on New Year’s Eve}


{We lost count of how many times he said “Yay!” By the way, his vocabulary is exploding lately. It’s so fun.}


{a moody, album cover photo. I was playing with our new camera}


{what Sprootle was doing}




{our family crest, on a onesie made by auntie Sarah, originally. It has a ship on the front}


{zombie themed magnet poetry for H from J}


{Auntie Jo and John hung out with us a bit}




{fake tilt shift is awesome. way to go cannon.}

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

December 4, 2012


{my little attempt at hand lettering}

So, for my birthday I received, from Henry’s Dad and Nancy, a new Canon Power Shot with camera case and memory card to replace the one stolen from us at the Milwaukee Zoo this Summer. Now we can actually take some video of Sprootle. I decided today to take some shots of what I’ve been up to for the last few weeks and here they are, with running commentary.

Thanks to this Restarting class I’ve been in this fall, I have a whole new understanding of Joy, and therefore, of the Incarnation and a new lease on the season of Advent. I may get around to writing more on that later, but just as likely, I won’t. It is a busy season.

I’ve always loved Christmas carols – especially this one – which we liturgicals sing at the beginning of each service in Advent. We try very hard to be on time for church so as not to miss it. It’s the highlight of my week. My time spent on Pinterest has made me long to be able to do some nice hand lettering and one day I just said to myself: “you can do this.”


{our new t.v. cabinet}

I took this because, yet again, our living room has changed. Yes, that’s Sprootle on the rocker. I had been praying for a t.v. cabinet, being convinced that the t.v. needed to be hidden for us to maintain some kind of control over how much Piggle watches t.v. You would think, being, in fact, in control of this that I would feel more in control of it. I do not. I do not feel in control of my own consumption of t.v. sometimes – which is one of my “good reasons” stated via a recent Facebook discussion on my advice from someone older and wiser than I to keep Piggle from watching too much, and myself from relying on it too much…for his entertainment and for my own anesthetization. Again, maybe more on that later (part of my class) but maybe not.

Anyway, TWO DAYS after I went to Great Lengths to bring home this cabinet (found something beautiful at the Salvation Army, in pretty good condition, but it had to be taken in 24 hours and they do not have a delivery serivce. So, I rented a truck from Home Depot and got some manpower to help us get it up the stairs. I had help with kiddo watching from my Mom. Whew!) Piggle destroyed our television. It was a nice flat screen HDTV which we’d inherited from my Grandma. I fell on the floor sobbing when I saw the “crack” in the screen and that the rest of it had gone dark. The next day found us wondering whether this was a sign from God or just a blessing or what have you. I think I am growing out of that particular line of thinking about the t.v. I don’t know though…we’ll see. Right now I just feel like God gives us freedom – even to own and watch a t.v. and that I am growing in my capacity not to turn to it for comfort just like anything else. Piggle and Henry got the stomach flu a couple of days later and since then we’ve been using our computer for basically the same amount of show watching we did before. Well, Piggle is. I am not watching much at all. Which is nice. And I have a book I’m reading. So…we’re keeping the cabinet which I like very much and am glad we have. And we’ve decided to purchase another t.v. with birthday money we received from Henry’s Grandpa. And that’s the end of that particular saga for now. I guess in an ideal world I’d be the perfect mother who had enough energy for her very high-energy son who doesn’t give me much rest between all of my other jobs which I do quite adequately, thank you very much, and could keep him engaged in the life of our home all of the time he wasn’t playing by himself like a perfect angel and not destroying other things in our home, but that’s not the case. Probably not for anyone. Sometimes I just need a break.


{case in point: he was watching Word World. And there is our tree. It is fake and loaded with purple balls. Yay Advent!)


{Henry’s childhood nativity scene given to him by a former teacher(?), which is missing Joseph. Whoops!}

This makes me so happy every time I open it each year. 1, because Henry in his little boy writing, labeled the box “God Seen” and in parentheses his mom wrote (scene), but I LOVE that it says God Seen. Indeed, little Henry, indeed. And 2, I love that my own son now plays with it and I get to tell him about baby Jesus and he actually gets it a little bit this year. And I love that we’re moving into our new church building (we did the 3.5 mile procession on Sunday night from the rented high school to the new sanctuary) at this time in the year when Gilead is really seeing the world for the first time. I mean, I can see that he is seeing the world. We spent a very long time on Sunday playing in the enormous, perpetually overflowing baptismal font that is set in the middle of our new space. I really would love to write more about this whole thing, but again, probably won’t. Just the memory of him playing in the “living water” is enough to make me cry. I just love Advent.


{the new Shuffle Family Advent Calendar, which is not perfect, but in its imperfection, is.}

Which brings me to the one craft I have completed since Wyatt’s birth (I think. I can’t remember) in a flurry of activity and on the spur of the moment one Saturday in November. My own family had one with a moving star for over the numbers and we always fought over who got to move the star each day. I hope my kids don’t actually fight over it, but I surely hope they like it the way we liked ours. It’s burlap and then felt for the nativity scene and random fabric scraps I had for the numbers. I used hot glue. Oh, the star is felt too, with a safety pin hot glued to the back. I doused it in elmer’s and blanketed it in glitter and then let it dry flat for a week so when I picked it up it was stiff, just like I needed. Am I smart or what? Simple and done. I was going to, and probably still will someday, make pockets and insert dowel rods but the rods are too long for the door and I don’t want to mess with any sawing, so I just hot glued it to the door. It’s low enough that Piggle can touch the figures. And he is interested in the star, by the way.

Happy Advent to you all. I pray for you to feel the true longing for Jesus which characterizes the reality of all that is and also that you would know Joy – which is that God wanted so to be with us, and for us to be with Him, that He came here to make it happen.


November 5, 2012

Here’s Gilead at around 8 weeks – his first smile on camera. I know, because Wyatt is fitting into this outfit about the same way right now.

Here’s the picture of Wyatt from the other day with HIS first smile caught on camera. They do look similar! I knew Wyatt was less chubby, though.


November 4, 2012

Someone around here has been doing a lot of hatching lately. And…he has a nickname, which even though I’ve only given tacit approval has seemed already to stick.

“Sprootle” which is a cross between “sprout” and “toot” on account of the little whisp of hair on the crown of his head that stuck straight up for the first week of his life and which is still longer than all his other hair. Welcome to the family Sprootle.

Some level-headed advice from a pro

October 15, 2012

Namely, not me!
I recently wrote to my favorite blogger to ask for her advice and I wanted to post for you all what she said.

First, is my email:

So, my 21 month old son isn’t acting out against my newborn son. In fact,
he’s delighted! He wants to touch Wyatt’s face and hug and generally lie on him any chance he gets. The funniest thing in the world is Wyatt sneezing.
However, I have noticed behavioral changes for us – namely anything I ask
him to give me becomes a game of keep-away and he wants me to hold his hand
and walk with him everywhere – at home, on the playground, at other people’s
houses. I think he’s coming out of the general shell-shock of having a new
person around (as are we) and realizing he’s needing something and doesn’t
know what. The problem is, neither do we! My heart is breaking for him
because it takes me so long to just get the minimum done – dishes, a bit of
laundry, getting myself ready (we’re still getting meals delivered to us 3x
a week and I can’t seem to pull it together even though I don’t have to
cook) – and sometimes – more than sometimes – we resort to the t.v. just to
get things done. I am trying my hardest to get him out and playing and to
get out some new types of activities at home when I just can’t make it out
the door (coloring, sorting, tactile play). At my friend’s house today and
at the park yesterday, he was so possessive of his truck that yesterday he
would take it from a boy who picked it up just to put it in another spot and
leave to play with something else and today was literally running scared
from my friend’s 8 month old barely crawling baby. I think it was because he
didn’t want her to take his toys, but he acted like he didn’t even want her
to touch him! I made the mistake of picking her up to sit with us on the
couch. Worst mistake ever.

I will try not to ramble on. Hopefully you read quickly. First of all, I
don’t know what to do about the t.v./getting things done conundrum. I have
cried about his watching t.v. too much more than I have cried about almost
anything else during this postpartum season. I tried getting up early to get
ready before he gets up, but we haven’t had a week go by without me getting
some type of infection because I’m run down and if I’m laid up with mastitis
all the time, I’m no help to him and he ends up watching more t.v.!!
Secondly, the possessiveness I can understand but should I not try to vary
his daily routine even as much as going to visit a friend? And how will we
avoid becoming unwelcome everywhere because I can’t get my toddler to
share?! It’s a huge deal at the park around here. A nap in a new place
probably wasn’t a good idea, I realize, but how do I help him deal with the
fact of other children being around and my not being able to take his hand
and follow him around (aimlessly, most of the time) when I’m nursing or
doing something else?

Really, I don’t care that much what strangers think and my good friends will
understand, but we feel kind of clueless about what he needs right now and
kind of constantly a little guilty that we’re not doing enough for him. And
that dang t.v.! I almost wish he wasn’t so easily glued to it. Of course,
this is all muddled together with not much sleep and the hormonal craziness
of breastfeeding and postpartum life, so I could use a more level-headed
perspective than my own!

Thanks again, so much. Loved the recent post on nursing!!!


And her response:

Dear Jenn,

Take a deep breath πŸ™‚

You are right — you have a new baby and need time to settle things
down. It’s hard to juggle all the needs at first, but rest assured, it
will all sort out with time, prayer, and a little work each day. When
you have a setback, don’t beat yourself up — just realize that life
is one step forward, one back.

As to not sharing — that’s normal for a boy his age and you shouldn’t
worry too much about it. He is just learning that some things are his
and that’s enough for now. Your job is to see that he’s engrossed with
his truck and to sort of fend off interest from others. Maybe bring
two trucks or enough trucks for everyone. Keep the interactions short
and be ready to distract him. Developmentally speaking, it’s
unrealistic for him to get the concept — your best hope is that he
not actually deck someone!

Time visits and park play for his lively, awake periods, and get out
of there before you know that he will need something to eat and a
snack. Grownups can be flexible — kids can’t. If he is ready for
lunch and a nap by 11, 11:30, then get out of the park by 10:45.
Everything takes at least 15 minutes! So plan ahead.

For home time, go by the clock! If you are still getting meals, then
good for you. Use this time well by getting to bed early yourself,
taking lots of vitamins, especially vitamin D, C, and iron. Drink
plenty of fluids. GET TO BED EARLY. Seriously. Put that donated supper
on the table by 5:30 and be in bed by 9. I call this “intensive sleep
therapy” and it really works!

Don’t worry about getting up before him, but do strategize about what
you will do when he’s up. Try your best to get him washed up and
dressed and fed in a timely manner. Don’t let him moon around, even if
you are mooning around!

Did you see Rosie’s post about Pippo helping? Maybe that gave you some
ideas. Instead of thinking about entertaining him, think about
enlisting him to do the things that need to be done. “Let’s get to the
bathroom and you can wash up. Get your stool! I’ll help you brush your
teeth.” Etc. Do everything in the same order every time. Be aware of
things that he wants to do himself. Speak to him in a normal, even low
voice — that overly loud, overly cheerful voice is a trip wire! It
puts him on his guard that he is being controlled.

Ask him — in a normal voice — to get you a diaper, to throw a dirty
diaper away, to get you a blanket for the baby, to get the baby a
rattle, etc. Teach him to go away from you to do something and then
come back. If he balks, don’t make an issue — say, “never mind, Mommy
will do it. Thanks anyway.” If he gets it and won’t give it to you, go
get another one or turn away from him gently.

If he does it, just thank him naturally — don’t overdo it! Soon, when
you’ve overcome the sort of anti-willingness game, you can start
making it more of an obedience thing. But don’t get into a tug of
wills right off the bat. Use your mind.

If you are doing dishes, give him a basin and some plastic things and
let him do dishes too. Put it all on a big towel. If water spills,
well, it’s one way to get the floor clean! If you are doing laundry,
ask him who each thing belongs to! You will be surprised how much he
knows. Put it in the pile of the person when he says whose it is. He
can “fold” the dish towels and he can put same socks together in
little piles.

The big challenge for you is to teach him to play on his own. He
should do work for you and he should play on his own! This is hard for
lots of moms to wrap their minds around. It takes time for the child
to learn. He needs a “set-up” — a kitchen corner, a train area to set
up his wooden train, a blocks corner, a place to park his trucks —
whatever absorbs him. When you are going to be doing something that
absorbs you, you first have to get him interested in his own play. At
first it can be quite near you. Just keep saying, “Play with your
trucks while mommy makes lunch.” If he whines and grabs onto you,
firmly put him over where his things are.

If he keeps coming back, sit him up on the counter or somewhere where
he can’t move — the high chair. Don’t pay much attention to him and
don’t be mad but keep him immobile. Soon he will realize that he’s
freer when he goes off and plays.

If he likes playdough, do it by the clock. Have a time that you give
it to him that coincides with your need to do something of your own.
Don’t sit down and play playdough with him.

If you must resort to the TV, use only videos. Get high quality short
films/shows — avoid ones that are pure noise. Keep him away from ads.
Really have a high standard for them. Decide what you will let him
watch and then turn it off when it’s over. Other ideas for rest time
are — you read to him and then give him the book to look at, you set
him in his crib with books, or you have him lie down with you and
cuddle together while the baby naps. He can also lie down with little
trucks and cars on a blanket, or with other little toys.

When you are with others, keep him near you. Keep him on your lap —
you can give the baby to your friend. If he seems like he wants to
play, you can talk to him quietly and say something like, “Want to go
show your friend your truck? Do it nicely! Then come back.” Model what
“do it nicely means.” Tell him what to say! Keep him on a short leash
until he is wanting to break away to be on his own, rather than you
reacting to his behavior when he’s off and away from you. This will
only last a bit.

So — two things — get him to do more alongside of you for work, and
get him to play on his own with a few well chosen toys. Keep him near
you and baby and play with him a little more. Don’t worry that things
are not super normal right now — just keep at it every day!

God bless,

Wyatt John Robert

October 3, 2012

I’ve thought a lot of things about my second birth experience since that day almost four weeks ago. In a way, it was a culmination of a lot of thought I’ve been doing this year about suffering: a little lesson in a nutshell if you will. I can’t write the glowing, euphoric post I did about my first birth but, like my first birth experience, it felt like it had meaning to me beyond the fact that I had a baby and it hurt.


Honestly, I haven’t really wanted to write about it. I’ve almost deleted my blog a few times recently; once after a long draft got totally erased. Plus I don’t get a lot of time to myself. I have had to move on from this birth experience quickly. Many more pressing things taking up my time. The way I sum it up to people who ask is that it was almost as different from the first one as any birth could be; because I was in labor off and on for 40 hours and didn’t know what was going on for much of that time. I was exhausted before it even got going in earnest so when it was all over, I was more feeble than I’ve ever been in my life. Also, the end was very intense; pushing was much more painful.


There are reflections, however, which I think might be valuable to others other than myself. I believe I’ve done most of my cathartic talking-it-out but I hope you’ll forgive me if I find here that I had more of that to do.


So, I’m counting from when I woke up on Thursday, September 6th with cramps and the feeling that it might be the day. Right after that thought was the thought that, since we had two things planned to which I was looking forward, I probably wouldn’t go into labor that day. I did have contractions all that day, regularity being off and on. When the sun went down, as I expected, they got into a regular 7 minute apart pattern. I had the diarrhea I was expecting and cried to Henry about how that evening had been our last time putting Piggle down for bed just the three of us. I texted friends and midwife and tried to get some sleep – thinking they’d either go away or get closer together. Neither of those things happened. They were regular and painful but never got closer together. My mom decided at 11 that she would come down. At that point, we both trusted they’d resolve into real labor that night or in the early morning like last time and since I’d been told (by multiple, experienced caregivers) that things would go quickly once active labor started, we didn’t want her to miss it by being 2.5 hours away. She came, got locked out for 30 minutes at 2 a.m., and I continued to labor through the night, neither sleeping nor progressing. I tried lying down, and ironically that’s when they were the most intense. I tried walking around and squatting and they would go away – almost MORE distressing than the lying down. If I squatted during a contraction, it would almost dissipate. It was completely counter-intuitive and counter to my first experience. I got about an hour of sleep that night and kept hoping things would keep going, but then the sun rose and contractions went away completely.


I guess this must have been when I started unfavorably comparing the two births. Last time, contractions started at 2 a.m., and things really got going around sunrise. So I was surprised when they went away, but my midwife wasn’t. She told me what I didn’t want to hear, which was that they probably wouldn’t come back until the sun went down. She said I could come in for her office hours that day and have her check me to see if I’d made any progress at all. I was dejected and exhausted, and I just cried when I put down the phone. Last time, I’d labored alone for four hours but when the sun came up I’d woken Henry and had friends around me. I hadn’t felt alone anymore. I’m not sure exactly why I felt more alone this time – even from the very beginning – but I did. I spent that whole night alone and in pain, but not enough to warrant waking anyone else. I thought about getting a friend to come sit with me but then I was too afraid contractions would go away if I got my mind on something else and I just wanted to keep being in labor.


I got a chance to shower and take a nap (another hour or 90 minutes of sleep) before contractions started again around noon of Friday, September 7th. I timed them on my drive to Christina’s – about 7-10 minutes apart again. And again, most intense when I was sitting in one position. They would go away for about 15 minutes when I moved and then start up again once I was sitting still. When she checked me I was dilated 5 cm and 75% effaced. She said the bag of waters was bulging when I had a contraction while she was checking me. At that point, she announced I was in labor and to call her when I had two or three contractions 5 minutes apart and not to wait for a whole hour of those because they didn’t want to be racing to get here before the baby did. She’d promised to be at my birth if she could even though she wasn’t on call that week, but she had a consultation that night until 8:30, so if it happened before then, I’d have Stephanie, whom I didn’t know as well. At that point, I was okay with that because Karen had also promised to try to be there. She’d been my nurse last time and was so encouraging. Christina told me to call Karen on my way home to let her know what was going on.


So, I ran to Target next door to get some last-minute food and supplies, all the while thinking β€œI’m in labor! I’m in labor!” Just being validated felt like a wave of energy. I texted my birth team and called Henry to let him know. He’d stayed home to help care for Piggle since my mom and I hadn’t gotten any sleep. On my way home, I got a call back from Karen. She was in Wisconsin for the weekend and wouldn’t be able to be at my birth. I’d have a different nurse, Kelli, whom I was assured was great. I tried not to be too disappointed and thought maybe I’d still get to have Christina there since they still weren’t getting any closer together. Believe me, I was monitoring.


At home, they didn’t get any closer. I put stuff away, got my apartment in order, Piggle and Henry got home and they all ate leftovers – while I sat in the rocker alone in our room having contractions 7 minutes apart. Any time I got up they went away. Piggle wanted to be with me and was climbing on me during this time, my mom and Henry visited periodically for short times, but mostly I remember being alone, looking at the leaves out the window and feeling hope dwindle. Christina had said she thought it unlikely I’d pass another night like the one before it without a baby by morning but I was starting to have my doubts. I told them when they visited. I called Bethany and told her she probably shouldn’t dally, although I wasn’t positive I was right. Sarah eventually said she was going to make dinner and eat with Chris and then come up – even if I wasn’t progressing. Christina called to see where I was and to make sure I wasn’t trying to hold out for her. I assured her I wasn’t, wishing THAT was my problem instead. Henry lied on the bed with me while I cried for about 15 minutes while my mom was giving Piggle a bath. That was the last break I had…pretty much literally up to this moment.


When Henry went to put Piggle to bed, I got up and started pacing because I just couldn’t sit in that damn chair any longer. My tailbone was starting to hurt and I thought – even if I am progressing a little bit, who ever heard of a baby being born on contractions 7 minutes apart?! This must not be labor. I don’t know what I’ll do if it’s not. I don’t think I have the strength to push out a baby on two nights of no sleep, much less care for one when it’s over. I told Christina that when she called around 8:30 when her consultation was over. I asked her what she thought about breaking my bag of waters or what else I could do to get it going. I can’t say that any of the options were things I could see myself doing at that point (not really in the mood for sex, believe it or not), but I told her I’d like her to come if she would so she could check me and see if I’d made any more progress. She didn’t want to break my bag if things hadn’t progressed because I β€œmight not be in labor.” As you can imagine, those were not words I wanted to hear, although by that point I also didn’t want to be in labor either. I just wanted to be pregnant for another day or two and get some sleep! That didn’t look like it was happening though.


And then…I started having contractions 4 minutes apart. Finally, the walking around was doing something! That’s when it all caught up with me. I just couldn’t keep it together any longer. The sign I’d wanted was there and I just couldn’t hold in the tears. My mom and Sarah were there when I put my head down on Henry’s recliner and said that I just didn’t want to do it. I said I knew I had to and that it would happen either way, but that I was just so tired…


That was pretty much the sentiment for the rest of the time.


Bethany walked in right after that moment and then Maria. Kelli, my nurse (who was great) came in pretty soon after that because I’d had them call Christina to let her know my contractions had gotten closer together. One weird thing happened. I’ve thought about this since a few times. You just can’t predict what strange thing will happen no matter how well you try to plan – everyone ended up sitting on our bed watching me labor. It made sense. It was the only place in the room to sit and the tub was taking up so much space in the corner. I ended up pacing in the 2.5 feet between the wall and our bed for a lot of the time and leaning on the ball to have contractions with most of my birth team sitting on our bed watching and commenting like they were my birth panel. I don’t know if it was exactly uncomfortable – someone commented on it at least once – but it was strange. I think it contributed to how I ended up feeling pressure in different ways that I didn’t last time but it definitely wasn’t the only thing.


For one thing, my contractions were NEVER regular in the way they were with Gilead. Christina checked me when she got here and I was at 7 cm but I’d had a range of times – 4 minutes, 2 minutes, 6 minutes – and although they were painful they were never as sharp and hard as those I remembered with Gilead. I got in the tub after she checked me and they again went away for a while and then came back at 7 minutes apart. It was nice to have a break – and I suppose I could have taken the opportunity to sleep a bit – but I felt pressure to keep it going and get it over with asap. It must have been largely pressure from myself. I had concluded that I wanted it over with quickly and so I think my birth team just wanted to support that desire as best as possible by giving me encouragement in that direction. Maybe a doula would have seen how much I needed to sleep and how susceptible I was to others’ opinions and gotten me in a position to sleep some more, but I didn’t have that option. I have since thought many times that what I really needed was a doula. I won’t go without one again, I don’t think.


So, again, in retrospect I realize that at this point I felt very alone again. I was just trying to make the best decisions I could under the circumstances. I got out of the tub after saying myself that I probably should and getting positive feedback about that idea. I kept pacing. Then I started to have contractions that were pressing more on my pelvic floor and causing me to grunt. My only experience of that feeling was that pushing was imminent. It felt good to grunt and do tiny pushes, so I assumed I was that close. Wow. Too good to be true! Comparatively, even though I was so tired, this had been easy! Famous last words.


Christina came in when she heard the grunting and asked if I wanted her to break my water now. She thought I was progressing enough to warrant it. I said I had to think about it. I knew it would make things go faster but I also knew it would make things much more painful right away and I kind of didn’t want to face it. Again, everything in me was saying β€œno, I don’t want to do this” but I said yes anyway. I had to wait for a contraction because she couldn’t hook the bag when it wasn’t bulging. That contraction went from a 4 to an 8 in a millisecond when Wyatt’s head got right onto my cervix. I wasn’t wrong.


The rest, honestly, is a blur. I got in the tub. I kept saying I wished I could throw up and stop feeling so nauseated. I got my wish. I leaned over the edge and got a back-rub in between. I tried to relax and to moan and mostly did okay for about an hour or so. This part is really dark. No one was talking and I was barely staying on top of those mountains of pain and pressure. Until I really couldn’t anymore.


What I only realized the next day was that the premise for breaking my water (I was about ready to push) was totally wrong. The pressure I felt was the bag of waters bulging, NOT his head against my pelvic floor. I had positive reinforcement from my team because, of course, they were doing what they were there to do! Encourage me! The problem is that none of them had a fraction of as much experience as a doula (including me!) My only experience of pelvic floor pressure had been that pushing was here and so I thought, β€œif I’m really ready to push, it won’t matter as much if it hurts a whole lot more for a short period of time.” The short period of time I was thinking of here was about 20 minutes or so. Not an hour and a half. So, for an hour and a half I was trying to push against contractions that weren’t for that purpose and which were twice as painful as they had been before. Which, I think only increased the pain. Again, I was acting on what I’d known before, which was that pushing was a relief.


THEN, Gilead woke up (as usual, he woke up crying and when Grammie came in instead of Henry, it became screaming) JUST as contractions were getting to be their worst. Henry couldn’t leave, nor could we just shut off the bustle or the sound of the screaming, not to mention how terrible we both felt that we couldn’t go to him. What an experience for him, for us, for poor little Wyatt to be born into! I wish it could have been different. At the height of one of the worst pains and the loudest of Gilead’s screams, I screamed myself, β€œjust get him out of here!” I didn’t want him gone and I didn’t want to scream, but it wasn’t helping me any to have to hear him so close. And in my labor-fogged brain, he was IN the room – which wasn’t true at all. But they did close his door and mine and Grammie and Sarah tried their best to comfort him away from us.


All I know was that my third brave act (after getting out of the tub and having my bag broken when I knew how much it would hurt) was moving to a squatting position at some point so that I could catch Wyatt when he came out. My one regret last time had been that I’d been too paralyzed to move my arms and so I didn’t catch Gilead. I thought, even if I am too scared, I deserve to be the one to catch this baby I’ve worked so hard to push out. I’m going to make it happen even if I myself don’t want to do it. In that position I pushed my hardest against some of the longest, hardest pain I’ve ever felt. It was different than last time. The darkness – it’s hard to describe any other way, it’s so lonely, so bleak, going through that kind of pain; it drives you both into your body and mind and out of them in some weird way – pressed in on me for long spells. When they were over, I could only slump and try not to dread the next one. And then it was there and I was in it and everything in me screamed no, no, no while I was forced just to accept that it WAS. There was a point in that time when I realized it was so quiet, no one was talking, no one was encouraging me like last time. I heard a couple of quiet comments, which only reinforced how absent of cheering this time around was. I had a second to think, β€œI really wish someone would help me. Even just tell me I’m doing a good job.” I didn’t think I was doing a good job. I couldn’t relax. I couldn’t even keep myself from wailing in a high-pitched voice at the height of contractions. I tried once to make it lower but it went right back up there. That was the time I blurted, β€œIt just won’t stop!” because I couldn’t believe it was still going. It felt like I would be in that pain forever, alone. And then, finally, I felt him move when I pushed. I pushed harder, harder than I thought I could and his head moved down. I had time to think, β€œOh my God. I had forgotten.” and β€œNo. NO.” It wasn’t a relief. It felt impossible. Like it would break me. Even when I knew it wouldn’t. I knew I’d done it before but I knowing and remembering are two different things. You can’t remember birth until you are there again. Thank God. Again, that feeling of everything screaming against the thing I was about to do and once more into the breech, as it were. I pushed again, into the unimaginable and this time I moved him all the way out. I just knew when I had to put my hands down and catch him, so I opened my eyes in time to see his face – frozen in a cry through the water – as I pulled him up toward me. Henry’s and my instant reaction was to cry too, for him, for me, in relief.

I didn’t do that last time. I also didn’t clutch Gilead to me right away like I did with Wyatt. I just wanted to hold him, show him I loved him. The only good thing coming out of that, as far as I was concerned. My first thought was β€œI can’t believe that’s over.” followed closely by, β€œI’m not sure I want to do that again, ever.”


I wish the rest had been more hazy, covered up with love for our new babe. There was plenty of love, but I remember the aftermath way too well. Henry had to leave me to comfort Gilead – after a brief family moment which was likely scarring to Gilead – so I was with Wyatt alone in the tub, shaking uncontrollably and still having pretty bad contractions waiting for the placenta to come out. They took him to weigh and measure him so I could get out of the tub and I almost couldn’t. I was almost too weak to stand and walk the three steps to the bed. And then it was hell just having my legs swung up and around to a lying position. It got somewhat better when I got to hold my baby again and nurse him, and then when the placenta came out, but I was shaking for quite awhile after even that. This was all quite contrary to last time, by the way, and I didn’t even want to eat anything. Last time I’d been ravenous. I kept waiting for the happiness to flow and the little party to begin, but it never really did. I was tired, Henry took an hour putting Gilead back down, so I didn’t have him with me, and I felt wretched. I also was painfully aware of how late it was…strange the social pressures we feel no matter what situation we’re in. It was just so different from last time. And maybe it’s mostly in my head because I felt so bad. In any case, the prevailing feeling was one of relief. But Henry and I did have a nice moment when everyone but my mom and the midwife and nurse had left. We were lying on our sides admiring Wyatt, Henry holding me, when Christina came and gave me a hug and kiss on the cheek to congratulate me. I am very thankful she got to be there. And Wyatt is beautiful. He’s worth every moment of all that. Gilead is…recovering. But he’s in love with Wyatt too. Thanks be to God.



May 29, 2012

I can’t believe Piggle is still sleeping. He won’t sleep much longer. It doesn’t matter when he goes to sleep, whenever I take out the computer, he wakes up a few minutes later. Anyhoo…

I should label this post food and exercise because I think I’ve figured something out. There are some things that when you know them to be true, even if you don’t want them to be true, it would be in your own best interest just to follow the truth and stop playing devil’s advocate with yourself.Β 

In the past with me and food, this has worked itself out in a couple of obvious ways: I can’t eat sugar most times of the day…I can almost never eat candy…and I certainly can’t eat candy in the afternoon on a empty stomach…unless I want to feel faint and sick to my stomach and then get a headache. I’ve known this for years and years and years and I’m not pretty good at following my own advice because it’s not worth it to feel the way I do when I eat sugar like this. After all, when the effects are so immediate, it’s pretty hard to tell yourself it’s NOT the sugar you just ate making you feel sick.

The more recent lesson I’ve learned is that I can’t really drink any caffeine ever. Even if I drink it with a meal and in the morning when my “constitution” is at its best, I get a spike in anxiety followed by shakes and then the familiar feeling of a blood-sugar low described above and then a feeling of sick hunger (as my brain is trying desperately to find the missing sugar it dumped all that insulin into my bloodstream for) that is actually quite hard to satiate.Β 

The problem is that for a year or more, I drank a cup of coffee every morning (I CRAVED that cup of coffee) for more than a year even though I’d read a ton of convincing literature describing what I was most likely doing to my body. Cravings are more powerful than reason.

In the meantime…I have been guided, as it seems to me, to more and more and more literature regarding health and diet and I have met person after person who has described being healed – for lack of a better term (although I do firmly believe that’s actually what has happened) – from many different kinds of chronic illnesses by changing their diets. I have a couple of friends in my day to day life who have kept (albeit not strictly) to ways of eating to which I aspire who have convincing testimony of the kinds of ailments with which they suffered while eating some of theses foods. Foods like wheat. Sugar. Caffeine. Pasteurized Dairy.Β 

So. Now I am pregnant again. My diet has changed for the better (I eat eggs in the morning now instead of cinnamon toast and coffee) but it’s not where I’d like it to be. I still give in to cravings for white flour and sugar. I still sometimes drink something with caffeine in it even when I know how it will make me feel. It doesn’t mean I’m not totally convinced that what I’m doing is ultimately bad for me, I’m just weak. But when you start noticing something it’s kind of hard to stop noticing it. I’ve had a couple of conversations with friends lately about giving up grains. One friend of mine gave up grains in her pregnancy with her newborn daughter and told me the week before she had her that she wasn’t feeling any of the typical discomfort associated with late term pregnancy at all. She did with her other kids, but not this one. Hmmm, I thought. That sounds really good. Then yesterday I was talking to a friend with a similar range of health issues (minorish but still annoying) like blood sugar problems and she told me she’s had to go off grains and sugar too because of her joints. She said she was getting so much pain in her wrist that she couldn’t hold the frying pan steady. She tested negative for rheumatoid arthritis, went off the “bad food” and got rid of the pain. It comes back when she eats it again. I told her yesterday how I JUST realized – it’s taken me 6 months of my second pregnancy and a LOT of sensitivity to food to realize this – that there is a correlation to my often feeling nauseous at night and what I’ve eaten during the day. I haven’t narrowed it down, but if I don’t eat too much wheat, sugar or dairy, that doesn’t happen. And when I made that correlation it came to me: I have been getting nauseous at night for many, many years. Like, since I was a child. I just never thought it could be food-related. Even though it originates in my stomach and my stomach is primarily for processing food. Interesting. Then she asked me, “do you get joint pain like I do?” and I was all, “No. I definitely don’t get joint pain. At least I don’t get joint pain.”

Guess what I noticed today.

Guess what I realized. It’s ALSO been happening for YEARS. But it’s been accelerating lately. I thought it was pregnancy, but it ALSO doesn’t happen when I don’t eat too much wheat, dairy or sugar.

Incidentally, I made Chicken Tikka Masala last night. From scratch. It was perfection. It was food porn, as Henry so lovingly quoted from Anthony Bourdain. And I made Naan from scratch from a recipe I found in Joy of Cooking. It’s not so great with 1/2 whole wheat flour. Just not the right texture. But it was pretty good. Oh yeah, and the yogurt I used for both things? I made it. From scratch. In my crockpot.

It was a FAIRLY good meal, health-wise. No veggies. I used brown rice and the naan had wheat. And I didn’t use raw milk for the yogurt. I’ve been too lazy to go back to my co-op. Sigh. So, the pain in both my arms and wrists today and the huge, bloated, I’m-way-too-pregnant feeling today was probably due to all the wheat and stuff I ate yesterday coupled with the chai I’m probably going to have to give up that I had this morning…

But here’s what’s happening with me and exercise and what I’m starting to suspect just correlates to the food choices I need to make. A few weeks ago, I had a three week unrelenting stint of depression that really, really scared me. Every day I was crying and hating my life. I don’t want to sound glib, just pressed for time, but I prayed. I cried out the name of Jesus, actually, at one low point and He answered that prayer. He didn’t answer by changing any of my circumstances, but that very night I started to feel happier. And the next day a thought entered my head, from outside, “what if you just change one thing in your life right now? What if you ask Henry to make breakfast for Piggle and you use that time to run?” So I did. And I felt so. much. better. And now I know that when I run, I have a good day. Period. I haven’t run every single day, but it’s been enough to make it last. And don’t worry. I have a belly band and I run real slow.

My brain, which before has thrown out all kinds of opposition to such things simply because sticking to something is hard, has started (with Jesus’ guidance, no doubt) to just believe and act. I usually can get myself out the door because I know how I will feel if I don’t run.Β 

I was telling a friend that I’ve decided just to do things I want to do this Summer and to not do things I don’t want to do. I think I should have said more that I’ve decided to take care of myself. I don’t so much WANT to run as that I want to feel good. So, I’m hoping to make this happen for me with food; or happen more with food, I should say. I don’t WANT to give up grains, but it’s starting to be a really stark choice. Either eat the muffin or feel good. But if I eat it, I can’t fix it afterward. It’s interesting.Β 

I want to hear your experiences with food! Have you come to any realizations?Β 


May 17, 2012


[This gorgeous picture was taken by Nancy – Henry’s lovely stepmother. She and his dad took us out to brunch last week while they were in town and then we had a brief sojourn in the park]

I may have alluded to this here in the past, but I am a daydreamer. I have a particular daydream about doing parts of my life over knowing what I know now so that I can do them perfectly. I get obsessive about story continuity and the rules which might govern a leap into the past. I think there’s some vague underlying notion of God having sent me back to “teach me a lesson” or some such movie-induced nonsense. I don’t believe God would ever do such a thing. But I have come to the conclusion that it would indeed be quite a “lesson” and not much more if I was ever to get over being sad about things I miss and having to re-live so many years. There are two scenarios: one in which the further I stray from what I’d originally done, the more my memory of the life I’d lived before would fade – which would free me from a lot of the guilt and pain associated with losing those I hold most dear – and one in which no matter what I do, the memories stay clear and I can somehow make essentially the same choices but make them all bigger and brighter. One thing never lines up for me. You can’t do over a miracle. Even if you marry the same person at the same moment of your life and start trying to have a baby in the same year you did before, you can’t make the same two cells come together in the same instant of time. So, as I can’t help but follow the rules which govern my own daydream, I never fail to end up crying into my pillow that in this daydream I have lost my son for good. The daydream has lost its whole purpose by that point – which I guess was to soothe some vain and prideful part of my self which longs to make its own good – and has devolved into a pointless mourning for a son who is likely in the next room getting fruit leather residue on my couch.

But it made me realize yesterday what that means. If I were ever to find myself transported, with all of my memories, back to my 18th year of life and had the choice between creating a “better life” or going back to the one with Gilead in it with all its drawbacks, there would not be a single moment of hesitation in my mind. I would give up any amount of prospective recognition, personal achievement or money in order to have him, to know him, to kiss him in the morning and, yes, to clean his butt and witness his tantrums. And here’s more: maybe I haven’t pursued a career because I have been lazy or directionless and I’m sure I have other tasks to do with my own personal strengths for the church or for the purpose of making money, but before I had Gilead, having children was an interest just like making things with my hands. Now, it is my passion. HE is my passion.

When I say passion, I mean like Christ’s passion: that He died for what He loved. To be closer to the ones He loved. And that is what I do every single day – almost every waking [and non-waking, sometimes] moment of my life. I die to what I would have wanted for myself in a larger sense in some ways but also, and more importantly, in ordinary ways every day. Not perfectly, not like Christ, but purposely. To be closer to Gilead. And I start to understand the jealousy of God. I don’t want to pay someone else to do this for me – at least not more than occasionally – because this is my death to die and it’s not for some ideal; it’s for a person.

And you know what? Maybe I’m too sensitive or I’m listening to the wrong voices, but the voices out there who are telling me that in order to be a productive member of society, I have to work outside the home along with raising children or that children are an obstruction to a better self or that they are a financial drain and a danger to my sanity just can’t take this away from me. They can’t make me think it’s pitiful or that I’m settling for something worse than what I could have had or that I’m going to look back at my life and be sorry for all of the meaningless chores and drudgery.

I know what passion is now.