Thursday, November 20, 2014

More Joy

It happens every year.

Twice a year, for me. At the beginning of every summer, I have grand plans of celebrating the freedom of summer, relaxing and enjoying each sun-filled moment. But before summer even begins, the calendar begins to fill with obligations - usually good, happy ones, but obligations nonetheless - and I feel it. That undeniable deflation of realizing that this summer will be much like the last. We won't get it all done. I'll probably be a little stressed, and much of the long awaited time will be frittered away doing goodness knows what. The long awaited summer time soon a distant memory.

I feel that way at the beginning of the summer and again when the holidays roll around. My cheerful, Christmas-loving friends start in with their "X days til Christmas!" countdowns and I can practically see the Christmas season fill up - but not in the intentional, Christ-centered way I hope and plan.

I started my yearly spreadsheet last week - list of gifts to buy, things to do, parties to attend, new things to try. Looking over the next few weeks color coded in text, my eyes blurred. "Once we get back from our trip to Virginia, I'll be able to relax," I found myself thinking. "Well, at least after we unpack the van and then I do all the laundry and put the suitcases away. Then." That's right - the trip after Christmas.

That's how it is for Moms at Christmas. I know because every year I start out intentional. Peace-focused. Each year we buy less and less even as our family grows and we strive to hone in on "what really matters." Yet each year I still reach the end of the season and feel quite a bit like I've just run a marathon - and hardly remember it.

But it's not just Christmas. Or the holidays. Or summer. Life as a Mother in the center of a family will always be a great deal of work - but also a great deal of blessing. We may not have the luxury of tenderly holding every moment and soaking it in, the way everyone always tells us to. But we have the privilege of living it in the way it comes - often like a hurricane, time marching on while we hang on tight.

Today I started my pre-holiday prep by catching up on laundry and organizing one of the kids bedrooms. Life and daily jobs won't stop for me just because children are on break or husbands get holidays off work. But instead of wallowing in the knowledge that my vocation means daily, 365, no vacation work - I can take joy in knowing that I have the privilege of creating beautiful traditions and memories for my family. That's really what it comes down to. No burn out required.

This year, and each year, the only thing I want this year is more Joy.  Joy isn't dependent on a quiet, clean space or a relaxing day. Joy is possible right in the midst of the crazy whirl of wonder that our family holidays bring.

Next weekend family will flood in from all over and so it will begin. Busy, noisy, loud, crazy. I'll do what mothers do, the behind the scenes work that no one really sees unless they do it, too. And I'll enjoy every exhausting minute.

All I want for this year is more Joy. And the wonderful thing is, I know that I'll surely receive it.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Around Here

We got our first little dusting of snow yesterday and the temperatures have plummeted, seeming for good. Things around here are slowly coming back together after the one tumultuous time after another, just in time for the holidays. Here's what things look like around here. I'm

~ Knitting hats for Christmas. It seems my knitting mojo is coming back just a little bit at a time. Small, quick, mindless projects are all I can really handle right now, so hats are just the thing. I'm still working through yarn from my Yarn Fairy, which continues to be such a blessing to me! I should be able to get at least a hat for each family member from the stash she sent us. While knitting I'm

~Listening to podcasts. I'm all caught up with Serial and like This American Life as well. Podcasts are really perfect for me. I can focus on knitting and, unlike when we watch movies, not have to ask J "what just happened?" during a scene when I was working a cable. Any podcast recommendations for me?

~Planning Christmas. Every year I say "This year is going to be light!" and it is - lighter even than the last. I'm loving the feeling of being remarkably un-stressed about gifts or shopping. Small, light, simple.

~Making peace with the mess. And realizing it's not half bad. Eight of us in this little tiny house and I'm realizing that we are doing alright. I'm catching up on laundry and setting out donations on the porch and acknowledging that those messy kid bedrooms? Aren't so bad when you realize three children live in each small room. It's not picture perfect, but it's real life.

~Growing a little more quickly this time. It seems that the seventh times' the charm when it comes to physical memory. This is the first pregnancy when I can say I definitely will look pregnant for all nine months. And I'm oddly ok with that.

~Feeling overwhelmed with gratitude at these kids of mine. Sure we have tough days and there's always a tangle or two to unravel, moments that seem completely insurmountable or just too hard for this tired mom to engage in. But there is so much goodness, too. Watching my kids love each other, cheerfully serve, rejoice with one another and grow in so many ways never ceases to push me right down in gratitude. We've got riches over here of the eternal sort. And it's so thrilling to see.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Making Peace With Change

I'm 13 weeks pregnant with my 7th baby. The nurse taking my information at the first appointment pauses when she sees it, that word on my file like a scarlet letter. "I see here you'd had a few, um, homebirths. Is that your plan this time?"

Time seems to stand still as I spiral down memory lane. That first one, Jonah, our only baby that we didn't know the gender until birth, surprising us two weeks early in a wild three hour labor, born still in the amniotic sack. The next one, our Peter, born while the kids were all away on various summer trips, a whopper at 9lbs 9oz and my very favorite birth. Then Rosemary, born after a night of laughing through labor with my closest friends while J brought everyone coffee - more of a girls night than a birth day.

Yes, I answer. Three.

And this time? Her pen pauses and she looks up. Where are you planning to deliver?

The hospital, I say. And I feel it, that unanswered cry deep inside me to I hush to deal with later. Not here, not now.

I'm thirteen weeks pregnant with baby number seven and I need to make peace. But first, I need to grieve.

Ever since our pregnancy announcement, we've been asked why we have chosen the hospital this time. The reasons are varied and complicated, but the short answer is this.

1) Our wonderful midwife who gave us the gift of her time and care during those three pregnancies has moved on from her practice. For my own reasons, she is the only local midwife I would be comfortable birthing with. I completely respect and support her reasons for leaving baby catching behind her. The days we had with her were a blessing and I'm full of nothing but gratitude for the tender way she cared for our family.

2) There is nothing unhealthy or strange or unnatural about a healthy young woman having seven babies, but certain risk factors do go up after a certain number of deliveries. I am in excellent health and there are no concerns about my ability, but that factor, held with my midwife's departure, lead us to our current choice.

The local hospital.

Permission to grieve freely.

"It'll be fine." Friends assure me. "You're older now and have had more babies than the last time you were there. They will respect your wishes more." I smile and nod and bite back any retort, swallow back that lump in my throat. I birthed three children in that hospital. I know it's not hell on earth, nor the employees there some kind of awful people intent on ruining my birth experience. In fact I truly do believe that I will have a fine experience there. I'm not afraid. Despite wondering if I'll be able to manage the mental peace required for me to make it through a natural birth in an unnatural space, I'm not overly worried. But then, what is this?

There it is again, deep in my heart. That little plaintive cry. The one that is wrapped up in all the warm memories of the past three deliveries that no hospital can replicate through no fault of their own.

Again come the reassurances. "You can make it as much like home as you want. You can wear your own clothes, bring your own pillow, play your music, invite your friends. It'll be almost the same."

Yes, and no. How can you explain to those who haven't experienced it? No clipboard questions or triage beds. No "just because" heplocks, digging around for veins while labor. Not a soul you didn't handpick to walk that path with you, no strange nurses or aids you've never met who don't know you. No bands around your belly to "get a strip" before you're allowed to move. No eye drops or injections in your baby when they are fresh out of the womb and want only your arms. No mandatory 24 hour stay before you can take yourself and your little one home to where everything feels right.

Homebirth has been a beautiful gift in my life. A warm cocoon with which to usher in new life in quiet peace and familiarity, away from the rush of the outside world. A space and a place so intimate and personal that I can hardly verbalize it.

There's nothing wrong with hospital birth. I know I'll leave there bursting with gratitude at the lovely nurses and doctors we work with, holding my newest love all wrapped up in my arms. It will be fine. It might even be nice.

But tonight, tonight I'm giving myself permission to grieve. To sit with the hurt that comes from knowing a door to something you love is firmly closed. To think back on and relish the beautiful experiences I've been given. And to prepare my heart for what comes next.

I'm linking up with Transparent Tuesday.

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