Tag Archives: change

Weaning

Ten years ago this past month I began nursing my first born baby girl, and this exact month a decade later I weaned my last baby boy.  The beginning was an awkward beautiful rite of passage to motherhood and the end an emotional compilation of natural closure and necessity.  At 17 months, my baby is completely nourished by a healthy diet of solid foods and less interested in nursing.  I needed to prepare my body a few days in advance for our service trip to Honduras with malaria medication that was not okay for nursing. I left it up to him in those last few days as he was already growing less and less interested.  I was letting this natural process unfold and not offering what I knew was so good for him, unasked – a lesson I know I will come back to over and over throughout the years.

With his little “milk” fist pump sign language, he tugged at my heart and I would willingly respond.  It was emotional for me.  My husband would send me up to the rocker that we splurged on with our first, I knew out of both his sense of practicality and to honor sentiment – to get every last bit of worth out of our most expensive new-parent purchase and for me to be able to have a special moment where I first held and soothed and fed all of our babies.

With 4 children and the smart phone era, nursing has been a fairly distractible time of practicality and efficiency.  If a kid, or three, are near, there is always someone asking something of me even as I sit bound to my babe.  Or, I have had the chance to get caught up on an e-mail or a social media hit.  About 6 months in, it dawned on me how much my nursing life had changed over in a decade.  I had begun my nursing life bound to sit.  I prayed, read or just gazed at my baby in a quiet nursery for what seemed like half of my waking (and sleeping) hours.  It was soothing and sweet, quiet, sometimes lonely, time for me to think and look and smell and see my sweet baby.  It made me sad to think of my last baby looking up at a face that wasn’t gazing back at him, and for myself to not be relishing this precious time.  I knew all too quickly, my babe-in-arms days would be on the go with the boundless energy of a toddler taking on the world, too busy experimenting to be held quiet and still.  Oh, it’s already happening –  drawers are being emptied, bookshelves cleared, little feet pitter-patting to the next exploration – and my heart just hurts over the change, always hurting for what is going away and expanding for what is to come.

I put away my phone those many months ago while I was nursing, and I sequestered myself to cozy quiet(er) places in order to choose presence, and it was worth every minute.  I memorized his eyes, the gray-blue becoming brown, eyelashes unfurling, the wisps of hair growing fluffier, and I kissed his sweet baby toes a thousand times.  We touched each others faces, his small hands memorizing me and my large fingers tracing tiny features.  I remember when my first-born discovered my eyelashes and she would ever-so-gently take her little finger and brush it back and forth across each set.  My second had a thing for hair, still does.  As I’d nurse him he would splay his fingers wide and draw his hand back and forth through long cool strands.  Even now at age 8, when we are cozy on the couch or cuddling before bed he’ll say “can I touch your hair mama?” and he’ll gently stroke his hands through as he is visibly soothed by the sensation.  And my third, her thing was ears.  If you knew her as a baby you are smiling now, because she probably played with yours too!  As I’d cozy her in to nurse, her little finger and thumb would instinctively go to my earlobe and she’d gently rub the soft skin endlessly.  I miss these moments like mad.

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I took this photo 3 days after the birth of my last baby, after a decade of burgeoning belly shots filled with hope and expectation.  I was sad to see my belly so quickly diminishing.  A strange thing to miss, I know, but it meant so much more than bothersome baby-fat to me at the time.  It represented a womb that would never be full again.  Much as I am intentional about that choice to be done with 4 kids at home, it isn’t without grief.  My postpartum belly left me in shock after my first.  I remember the big soft jiggly belly that came home from the hospital with me and thinking, “hmmm, now I don’t remember anyone telling me about THIS!  What the heck? When does THIS go away?”  By the 5th, I was extremely sad to see it going.

My kids are all here now, or there in heaven, and we are all done.  Well, we think.  But we’ve decided and are so far on the track of preventing any more.  A friend recently sought advice for her 40th birthday and after a few brainstormed trips and triumphs for a good celebration, one said “I had a baby my 40th year. That’s one way to celebrate.”  And it’s the one idea that made my heart skip a beat, “Now that sounds fun!” I thought. Truly.

But I am done.  All done.  Four was the hope and four is our limit and we are stretched to capacity all the time. (Oh, but it’s not so bad really – what’s one more? we say.)  Friends who began when we did and ended earlier are out on family adventures together – ski trips and un-baby-friendly hikes and such.  That looks fun too, I think.  Our oldest are nearing pre-teendom, are they getting what they need from us?  Can we really be there for them when there are still diapers to change and choking hazards to constantly, constantly scan for?  Will they ever get all they ever need from us?  Of course not, and I know better to think they should.  But still, my big huge aching love for each of them is vast and immeasurable and I just wish sometimes I has a clone of them for each day they’ve lived.  I cannot fathom I will never again see my first born’s first dance hip hopping back and forth to mother goose songs on her little CD player (which of course she was so brilliant to figure out on her own at age 2).  Never again will my first little guy snuggle in my arms, head-to-feet between my elbows.  Not any more will my spunky 3rd child say “hold you me?” with arms spread wide now that she knows to say it “correctly.”  And not ever again will I nourish my baby from my body, giving life and sustenance, comfort, bonding, immunity, health, closeness and connection in the very closest way, ever, again.  This feels hard.  But this feels right.  And in some moments feels good.

Time marches forward and I dream of the day I can pursue a Ph.D. or publish a book, take ALL of my kids skiing, or walking, and know all will be safe without a hand from me.  But I pray they will always reach back to hold this hand far beyond when they will need it to stand.  I pray we will have woven our hearts together similar to the miraculous ways God knit them together in my womb.  This will take work on our part to see and know them as they need to be seen and known.  I will do my best at that commission and consider it my greatest work.

I strive for meaning and purpose in my life and faith, ask God regularly what He has for me to do in this world and who He wants me to be.  I know I am meant to be a mother, above all else.  I work at my career with a full sense of calling, but the work of my womb has been my magnum opus.  The work my body did nearly without need for the mind and will I so intentionally put to every other task of my life, has been the most beautiful work I can behold.  To have created and carried these eternal souls.  What a gift.

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Darkness & Light: Where He Abides

01 Winter Song (with Ingrid Michaelson)

Today is a day of joy and pain. It is the unexpected birthday of my baby girl’s planned birth, on the anniversary of my baby boy in heaven’s funeral – this Winter Solstice day of the Darkest Night.

Three years ago on this day I gathered with my husband, living children, family and friends to mourn the loss of my full term son Fisher.  One year later, after two long years of pregnancy, I gave birth to my baby girl, a planned induced birth that was to be on the 20th and lasted into the wee hours of this Solstice morning.  I heard the beautiful cry of life this day where bliss and loss have become good friends.  My babies will meet in heaven one day, all six of them, and there will be laughter to replace all these tears.  There is laughter here too.  Both I embrace.

Too many deaths. Too many thoughts this month, with too little time to write.  Here are a few formed to words…

Lord, I stand with you at the edge of a beautiful life overlooking the valley of the shadow of death.  I rage with you against the horror of it, small and safe beneath your wing. Knowing you are love, that you loved my beloved and that you love me.  Still though I wonder.

I look at you, in love, wondering if maybe you betrayed me somehow by allowing death to take my child.  Were you a willing participant Lord?  Did Satan come to you as with Job, and you said: let it be? Allowed the boy I’d given every ounce of my being to nurture and love for 10 long months to die before his life began? How could you have obliged?  How do I not give you ownership when I honor your hand in everything else?  What was your role in this?

I know you did not point the gun, twist the cord, that took the breath he never breathed.  But you knew. You were there. You are here now.  Your omnipresence often comforting, implicates participation.  It is so hard reconciling death with your love.

Still I stand with you.  Still I trust you.  Even though I do not understand.  Even more now, I know your love and know you conquer death.

If only it was in my lifetime so that I, and so many others, might not have to suffer so.

It is too hard to bear my Lord, so hard, nearly incomprehensible to me, even now.  Only you know the searing pain that radiated throughout my body, that was cried out from the depths of my soul, that left me grasping for my own breath that might sustain my life.  Only you know this Lord.  Only you know me.  Only this brings incomprehensible comfort.

I praise you.  Fearfully and wonderfully, I praise you.


Storms-A-Brewing

Summer is ending and I am not ok with that. Today was a bright sunny day. We played outside, walked on the beach, shut the blinds and opened the window to feel the breeze at dinner time. The rains are set to hit tomorrow. It will be September, fall is near, and the beginning of everything that’s too much. I am just not ready. We’ve been sprinting too long and the marathon is yet to begin. I want to live the summer that seemed to pass us by.

But I want this season to be over. It has been a hard one, at times, and in ways. Not persistent or constant, tragic or torrential, just hard, at times, and it casts a shadow on the sun, that eventually did come. It always does.

I could detail the woes of business worries, lament unforeseen burdens of new roles in life, complain in the chorus of moms who go it alone while their husbands are gone or work hard, too hard, to sustain their family, follow their passion, or both. I could whine about sickness and chronic pain that renders me nearly useless too often these days. I could go on, get more specific. But I won’t. For I fear I shall be over-shadowing that which is so very good in it all, not a sappy silver lining, but truly, so much is so good.

I fear coming across negative, complaining, self-pitying, not optimistic enough, faithful enough, passionate, content or hard working enough, worry I must work harder to make it better. The weight is upon me.

But you see, it never is.

“My yoke is easy,

my burden is light”

He says.

And I believe Him but

I believe Him and

Life is just hard sometimes

and I have be the one to live mine

not alone, ever

I

Believe

Him.

Tomorrow it will rain

My children will smile,

I will hold their soft skinned limbs

feed and nurture them

with all that I have to give

no matter the pain

we will play

the sun will be there too

no matter the storm

it will just be there, and I will know it, feel it

done nothing to bare it

always

light, He reminds me

light


Change

It is happening. The house hit the market and sold in a day, very unexpectedly after sitting on the market for months last year. The hope for change, the active preparation and plans and dreams that did not come to fruition was hard then. We were working toward an end that never came to fruition, and trust me, keeping an immaculate house with 3 little ones is not fun work.

So there is blessing here indeed, in the timing and the pace and in being able to move on as we had hoped. The need for immaculateness passed quickly, so thankful for that. We get to move forward, dream about new things and possibly see them come to fruition. I like change, new beginnings, starting again…

BUT…

I do not like things to end.

I read books for years sometimes, not wanting the characters to leave my life. I think back on days with my kids and wish I had one of them for each age they ever were. I reminisce over seasons of life fondly and hold this strange hope that I will return to that period of bliss at some point in my future.

But alas, I will not. Ends come, inevitably, even by my choosing, and I grieve them. As much as I like change and growth and adventure, I like my life as is, always, there are pieces to cling to and shout praises for and for which I do not want to say the final amen.

There will be memories in my house that I will never quite get to capture the smell of, or the exact frame of light for. I will tell baby Bird stories of her newborn-ness and first days walking and talking and she will have no recollection of the spaces I am referring to. Memories of the baby, then toddler, then preschooler and now elementary years for Bug and Barley will be from a space we will no longer enter into.

I like home. I create it, relish it, find extreme comfort in my familiar surroundings. I can be loud and full of life, quiet and full of any emotion at all, I can BE at home more than anywhere and that is nice. I don’t want to leave that, especially to work hard to create home somewhere temporarily not knowing what is next. I daydream and plan and decorate those new rooms in my head. I love possibility but I know that it is work and it will be unfamiliar I’m not always at ease with the “not knowing” parts when i am trying regularly to plan my life.

More than space though, are faces, familiar and loved, that I will miss. It takes years to know your neighbors, and it takes effort and work and risk to BE neighbors. One story, not to overshadow a million others, illustrates what I am saying goodbye to.

I made my thorough plans to have my two first children relying completely on my husband’s and my parents, who travel from a distance to get to us, and a couple of longstanding college friends waiting in the wings just in case. With my third, I had an unexpected situation send me to the hospital at 31 weeks and in a moment’s notice was able to get my children into caring hands where I knew they would not only we well cared for, but where they would feel as if they were with family.

All was well in the end, thankfully that day, but when I think of moving, of having another child someday the question that comes to mind is, who will my emergency people be where my kids will be safe and loved and known? Where I will be safe and loved and known? And could I possibly love them as dearly as these?

We used to have playdates with a room full of babies and toddlers where houses were normal looking, not all perfectly put together so there was no stress of the inevitable messier created by the chaos and no pressure to bring yours to perfection to host. We talked like it was oxygen as we’d been swimming alone for days on end in the sea of parenting young ones. We talked surface and deep, shared information and tips and good coffee and ate up all the snacks and kids ran wild, happy, sometimes in pj’s and uncombed hair, sometimes it was us in the pj’s with uncombed hair. This intentional ease and genuineness that allowed us to dive into real conversations and the joy of community will be a foundation of perfection for gathering of which I will never let go. I actually strive to fight the tendency to feel I must have the all-put-together house when I have guests. Of course, an all put together house is nice, but that is such a rare reality in this stage of life, so why pretend?

I tore two quotes from Country Living Magazine recently that I resonated with, I wish I had noted the authors…

“Clutter is the poetry of our homes. It is an intimate view that is not always perfect – a few dishes in the sink, books piled next to the bed, everything in it’s place may give a certain satisfaction, but a lived-in room exudes comfort and warmth.”

“So many people decorate to impress, but my favorite houses have life in their rooms. There are animals. You can tell the owners throw parties.”

And parties we throw! I am thinking of our final goodbyes and want to invite every friend far and near who has crossed the threshold into our lives in this place. We have packed in the love to this house with our gatherings large and small. Though I know we will celebrate again, and hopefully with these familiar faces and but it will not be a quick stroll down the street on a rainless spring day. It will not be these walls that hold our memories and our voices and our laughter and our love, and it will just be different. That makes me sad.

So thinking of closure, and change, and capturing moments that I know are fleeting and passing and all too quickly will be gone forever. I would relish ideas on making the best of these seasons of change.