Mother to Many.

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baby books

After attending Alice, Becky, and Penny’s births, my midwife gave me a small book, with letter to each child and their tiny newborn footprints in the front cover. She also stamped their tiny feet on the the cover of our patient file, which she has used for all three kids.

At one of our prenatal visits this last year, Ella was thumbing through our file, and asked why her foot prints were not on the cover. My midwife thought for a minute, and then told her “I didn’t know your mama when you were ready to be born, but I have known you since you were very small, and I do think of you as one of ‘my babies’.” This satisfied Ella, but it obviously stuck with my midwife, and at our most recent visit she brought along a larger book, just for Ella. She asked her to take off her socks and shoes, covered her sole in blue ink, and asked her to step on the book, and then the file. Ella beamed, and carried around her book all day, showing it off to her grandparents, to the mailman, and to the neighbors.

“Now I am one of Cathy’s babies!”

Baby books

Reason #45936 I love midwifery.

Spanning the distance.

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Six and a half years ago, I called my dad at 10pm and told him I thought maybe… maybe I was in labor. I didn’t know. I was living here, in our tiny house in eastern Washington, and he was in southern Arizona. I come from a family of nomads, so AZ is neither where I grew up, or where my family lives now – it was a job for a few years, a place my family pooled before spreading back out. “I’ll look up flights to be there in the morning” he said, and I (the ultimate labor denier) told him to wait, that maybe this wasn’t it. I was 41 weeks pregnant, having contractions I couldn’t talk through every four minutes, but mayyyybe I was going to be pregnant forever, so he should probably wait. Logic doesn’t come into play for my laboring brain, but luckily it did for my dad. He got on a plane at 8 the next morning, just as Ella was being born at the local birth center. We were back at home by noon, and my dad showed up an hour later, sure I would still be in labor. Instead, I was sitting on the couch nursing my tiny daughter, asking someone to bring me waffles.

papa clay (2 days old)

The fact that my dad was there meant so very much to me. My dad and I do not always have an easy relationship – does anyone have an uncomplicated relationship with their parents? In some ways we are too similar, and in others we just can’t see eye to eye. There has never been a question of love – I adore my dad, and I know he has always loved his kids – but life is life, and sometimes we let it get in our way. We’ve traveled back and forth the last few years, trying to visit when we can, but going long stretches in between visits without much communication. Neither of us are phone people, he doesn’t hang out online, I rarely know what state he is in to send cards or pictures. We are a “no news is good news” kind of family, which is something it’s taken me years to accept isn’t the same thing as avoidance.

So, when the doorbell rang on Monday while I was visiting with my midwife on the couch, I assumed it was another vacuum cleaner salesman. Instead, it was my dad, stepmom Tina, and little sister Tillie. My dad had driven 2,800 miles from a job in West Virginia (stopping in CO to pick up Tina and Tillie) to meet his newest grandchild.

papa clay, tina and tillie visit!

And it means so, so much to me.

papa clay, tina and tillie visit!

Three generations of trouble.

The payday of love

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Introducing Penelope Samantha. Born at home in water, into her mama’s hands.
9:37 am, 7/12/12
7lbs 2oz,
21 inches long
Our fourth sweet girl.

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Being born is important.
~ Carl Sandburg

Being born is important.
You who have stood at the bedposts
and seen a mother on her high harvest day,
the day of the most golden of harvest moons for her.

You who have seen the new wet child
dried behind the ears,
swaddled in soft fresh garments,
pursing its lips and sending a groping mouth
toward the nipples where white milk is ready —

You who have seen this love’s payday
of wild toil and sweet agonizing —

You know being born is important.
You know nothing else was ever so important to you.
You understand the payday of love is so old,
So involved, so traced with circles of the moon,
So cunning with the secrets of the salts of the blood —
It must be older than the moon, older than salt.

what is mine shall know my face

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Sam -

I am trying to be patient. Really, I am. I’ve always subscribed to the idea that babies are born on their birthdays, not on due dates; that women are not overdue until they are past 42 weeks; that unnecessarily rushing a birth will just make things harder on everyone involved… I do. I believe in those things. And when your two oldest sisters were born near 41 weeks, I accepted that “This is just how long my body takes to build a baby”. I was content to be a 41 week mom, all my babies showing up to the party a week ‘late’.
Of course, then Becky was born at 39 weeks (though she would have made her entrance a week earlier had she been positioned correctly), and now I have no idea when to expect you. I am surrounded by pregnant women lately, and one by one they have had their babies – some ‘late’, some early, some right when they were expected – and each time I have to remind myself that you will come when you are ready, but it’s not easy to squash the pangs of jealousy.

I have been waiting for what seems like years – long, sick, trudging years – to see your sweet face, and now that it is near, I just want to be there, to be holding you in my arms, knowing that we both survived this pregnancy healthy and whole. I want to know if you are a Samuel or a Samantha. I want to know that our family is complete, that I can give away the maternity clothes (in a few months), and get on with the mothering part of this endeavor.

38 weeks

So, I am 38 weeks, closing in on 39.  In all likelyhood, you will be here sometime in July, but that could be tomorrow, or three weeks from now. I imagine your birth much like your sisters – a slow buildup that I ignore and deny, followed by a short, intense, joyful labor – and then I will lift you up, and I will stare into your eyes – pearls I have made out of sand – and I will say “Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for choosing today.”

Waiting
John Burroughs

Serene, I fold my hands and wait,
Nor care for wind, nor tide, nor sea;
I rave no more ‘gainst time or fate,
For lo! my own shall come to me.

I stay my haste, I make delays,
For what avails this eager pace?
I stand amid the eternal ways,
And what is mine shall know my face.

Asleep, awake, by night or day,
The friends I seek are seeking me;
No wind can drive my bark astray,
Nor change the tide of destiny.

What matter if I stand alone?
I wait with joy the coming years;
My heart shall reap where it hath sown,
And garner up its fruit of tears.

The waters know their own and draw
The brook that springs in yonder height;
So flows the good with equal law
Unto the soul of pure delight.

The stars come nightly to the sky;
The tidal wave unto the sea;
Nor time, nor space, nor deep, nor high,
Can keep my own away from me.

I prefer this Washington, thankyouverymuch.

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This space has been a little dead lately, but I do still want to use it as a space to record and reflect on the major events in our lives right now. So, it would be silly for me not to write about “The Time Tom Went to D.C. for Three Weeks While I Was Very Pregnant”. Spoiler alert: we all survived. Even the chickens, who I completely forgot about for a week, survived. I was rather proud of myself, given how unsure I was of the entire endeavor.

DITL 6/11/12
“Bock bock, we are going to throw a brick at your leg for not feeding us.”

Due to the nature of Tom’s job, I can’t be explicit about the details, but the basic story is this: after he went to D.C. for a week last month, Tom was offered an opportunity to go back to D.C. for the entire month of June to lead a program that would not only have a national impact, but also network him with the people who could help him move up the career ladder.

Tom was excited. And I said “No.”

Because I am a horrible wife.

Solo-parenting three kids under the age of 6, while 36 weeks into a very hard pregnancy, alone? Nothankyou. I threw a tantrum, threw up a few times, cried, and then asked Tom to see if he could go for just a week again. Maybe two. I figured I could manage two weeks, since then he would be home when I was 36 weeks, and I would have a couple weeks to recover before Sam was cleared for birth. He called the head honchos, and they reluctantly agreed to two weeks.

Which, as soon as Tom got there, somehow turned into three weeks.

But we survived. We lived off frozen meals (which I spent the week prior to Tom’s leaving, frantically preparing), we ate off paper plates, we watched a lot of TV, and I had to say “I’m sorry” quite often, when I lost my temper and took my anxiety and frustration out on the kids. We talked to Tom multiple times a day (and were very thankful for Google Talk on out phones, since the girls would see their daddy), and I told Sam constantly that she was not allowed to make her entrance until after her dad was home.

36 weeks

I handled the two little girls at Ella’s (7-10pm) ballet recital alone,
Ballet Recital 2012

shuttled kids to soccer and swimming lessons alone,

Soccer! Pike swimming lessons

I even hosted a BBQ for our friends while he was gone, complete with 17 children on bikes, careening into groups of speed cyclists, alone.

Summer Parkways Summer Parkways

We celebrated Father’s Day without Tom here,

Father's day

and I slept alone on our 5th wedding anniversary.

Tom went to see the sights on his one weekend off, got a taste of what working at headquarters would be like, and he was (again) offered a job.

Proof he was really there

Tom was excited. And I said “No.”

Because I am a horrible wife.

This question of moving to D.C. has been over our head for years now – we’ve known that if Tom wants to move up in his current job, the fastest way to do this would be for him to “do his time” at headquarters. For years, we’ve been holding them off, finding ways to work remotely, making him indispensable here so they would have incentive to work with him in an unconventional manner. And that worked, for a few years. We love where we live. We love our friends, our community, our neighbors, our little home. We love that we can (frugally) afford for me to stay home with our gaggle of children. We love Ella’s homeschool-school. We love being close to family, and that we feel safe here.

But the cost of choosing all of that may end up being this career Tom somehow fell into. He never intended to have the job he does now, and while he likes it, we’re not sure it’s worth giving up all of the other invaluable things in our life for this (potential) monetary gain. In the short term, we would actually be taking a financial hit to move a family of six to the D.C. area on the salary they can offer, but long term, this move would benefit us.

Tom bought us more time to stall, for them to negotiate, for his bosses here to counter headquarters offer and make it worthwhile for him to try and work up the ladder locally. But we know it will come up again in a year, or less, this question of what our long term priorities and goals really are.

For now, I know what my goals are. Wash the baby blankets. Make a belly cast. Spend a hour reading on the couch with Becky, and reminding her that she will always be my baby, even when there is a younger sibling vying for lap space. Help Ella design a kite, paint Alice’s toenails, and welcome my husband home from work every day, gratefully. I have my priorities all in a row.

Playing bedtime

Purling

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In this gift may you find, Strength to leave your fears behind.
Comfort to know that others care, and wisdom in the words they share.
This handmade gift stitched for you, holds a prayer of faith so true.
May angel wings from up above, Touch your heart with gracious love.

Tiny things knit for Sam

A stack of tiny knit things, both from my own needles and those of friends, waiting for Sam. When my mom passed away, followed closely in years by my aunt and grandmother, I worried that my kids would not have baby blankets and knit hats to carry with them into adulthood. I don’t know what I was worried about now. Between my sister, my mother in law, Tom’s grandmother, and my generous friends, none of my babies have been bereft of things knit, sewn, quilted, and embroidered with love.

Now, Sam, you just need to come out and try them all on.

I grabbed you baby like a wild pitch

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Is it luck that directs us to the people who will catch us when we stumble, or even more, who encourage us to jump?

Swimming

Today is both Father’s Day, and Tom and I’s 5th anniversary. And he is 2,487 miles away. It would take 41 hours to drive there, 770 hours to walk. And there have been days in the last few weeks that I have been tempted to put on my shoes. I’ll write more about the adventure of solo-parenting three kids under 7, for three weeks, while 35 weeks pregnant soon (assuming I survive), but today I am mostly just marveling that 7 years ago Tom held me tight and jumped with me, and that 5 years ago he stood up in front of all of our friends and agreed to catch me when I fell. I joke a lot that the universe loves Tom, but when i consider my good luck in falling in love with him, I can’t help but feel loved by the universe too.

Never doing the time warp again.

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This pregnancy seems to have happened in a time warp. I have simultaneously been pregnant for 43 years, and somehow only have 60some days left to prepare for birth and a newborn. The end seems very surreal to me, since pregnancy is just my natural state of being now, right?

This pregnancy has been hard. I won’t lie. With both Ella and Alice’s pregnancies, I had the Goddess glow going in. I felt like a walking miracle, and I was always conscious of the wonder of bringing a child into the world. I didn’t understand people who didn’t love being pregnant, and secretly judged them. I relished in my new body, in the stretch marks and curves, because they were outward signs of the transformation I was undergoing inwardly as well. There were complications (gestational diabetes, gallbladder attacks, changing providers, insurance battles) but overall I could not wait to repeat the experience.

Ella's pregnancy

39weeks ish?

Becky’s pregnancy knocked me down, with 7 months of vomiting, SPD, and a more complicated birth, but I was optimistic that, since the first two pregnancies were so easy, hers was just a fluke, and the next would be easier.

37

To which I can now say: Ivory, you are a foolish, foolish girl.

This pregnancy has been hard. Really hard. And in a way, it’s a small blessing, because I have no further qualms about being done. This is my last pregnancy. Period. If another child wants to be a part of our family, they need to find another uterus to gestate in first, because mine will no longer be open for business. Four children in seven years is apparently my body’s breaking point, because I am broken, broken, broken. Hyperemesis is still hanging around, though thankfully I stopped losing weight somewhere around 40 lbs, and am down to only throwing up once or twice a day (a cause for celebration!). SPD (where the ligaments that hold the pelvis together are pulled apart) is back with a vengeance, and there have been days recently where I have had to revert back down the evolution chain and crawl everywhere, since my pelvis could no longer bear my weight. I have mystery hives, insomnia, diastasis, a host of issues from being malnourished for so many months, and (as a result of it all) have really struggled emotionally this pregnancy. I know this could all be worse (and I am oh so grateful that nothing is currently life threatening to Sam or I), but to say I am discouraged is an understatement. I don’t feel like a Goddess – I feel like a huge, itchy, exhausted, groaning timebomb.

31 weeks?

And yet, when my midwife was scheduling our next appointment recently, and noted that it would be in two weeks instead of a month, I was confused. The appointments start getting closer together towards the end, and since this pregnancy is never going to end, they could never get closer, right? Oh. Wait. That’s right. I get to give birth in two months. Yay?

This all sounds very depressing when I write it out, which is part of the reason it’s taken me so long to do a proper pregnancy update here. When people ask me how I am, I generally say “Well, I made it here!” because that feels like an accomplishment. I refuse to give in and just dwell on all of this, because there is nothing I can change. This is just my new normal.

The fact that Tom has put me on bedrest nearly anytime he is home, and has taken on 90% of all of the house stuff (cooking, cleaning, keeping the kids alive) for the last 7 months makes a world of difference, and makes me adore him all the more. The fact that I have a group of friends who make it easy to forget how horrible I feel, and who ignore my crummy moods when I just can’t shake them, makes me feel much less alone. The fact that I have three awesome kids reminds me why I wanted another child so badly. And then there is Sam, who is by far the most active baby I’ve had so far, which is both a (literal) pain, and a great comfort. This is not a baby harmed by months of malnutrition. This is a baby who loves the sound of their sister’s voices; a baby whose favorite time of day is 3am; a baby who will be here in two short months.

This is a baby, not just a pregnancy. Thank god.

Infinite.

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“This is the best day of my LIFE” she says, shaking the branches above her to test their strength, to see if they will hold her weight.

Climbing trees

“You know you said that yesterday, and the day before too?” I ask, preoccupied by … something. There’s always something to be taken care of, to be watched, to be bandaged or brushed off, or held. When I go to yoga, I have to consciously remove my shoulders from my ears; to tell each muscle to relax, to drop, that for one short hour each week we are not on the defensive. We do not need to be at the ready, poised to spring forward and avert disaster.

She jumps out of the tree, and flourishes her arms over her head like a gymnast. “Yeah! They were!” She leans down to gather a handful of contraband flowers, the ones she was told not to pick at least 600 times. “These are for Sam,” she says, and I soften.

“You know every day can’t be the very best day of your life, right?” I ask, overthinking the moment, looking for an in to talk about hyperbole, or the finite nature of expression. I catch myself considering every moment to be a “teachable moment” lately. Whether this is a result of the pressure of homeschooling, or my innate nature as a know-it-all, is hard to say.

She furrows her brow, suddenly serious.  ”Why not? Why can’t every day be the best day?”

We watch each other for a moment, her waiting for an answer, my waiting to catch my breath. She is impatient, and this is the first sunny day in spring, so she shrugs and is away again.

Climbing trees

Why can’t tomorrow, and yesterday, and the day before that, be the best day of my life?

Why not today?

Kiddy Kennel, patent pending.

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Tom is away on a business trip for a week, but before he left he had to build a small coop for the “baby” chickens to move into, since they were quickly outgrowing their brooder, but were not holding their own with the older hens yet.

Little coop

I’m finding it is coming in very handy for other small things as well.

Little coop

Other things that are going to help the girls and I survive the week: paper plates, candy bribes, prepackaged craft kits, netflix, lots of playdates, and amazing friends who keep dropping off groceries and inviting us over to dinner. That last part is obviously the really valuable part.

Little coop

That and the child cage.