Sunday, July 29, 2012

Learning Curve

When I was a little girl, my younger sister and I were both enrolled in gymnastics class.

I'm pretty sure the way the story gets told, is I didn't know how to tuck my chin when doing a tumble, and the big, black, male gymnastics teacher yelled at me (I was like... four years old... so he probably didn't really yell.  But that's how I remember it.) and I never went back.

I don't participate in group classes at the gym, unless it's a group cycling class, which is held in the dark.

Actually, I don't really work out at the gym at all, unless I have proper headphones, a good sense of direction, a decent male to female ratio, and can trick myself into thinking I'm the only person there.  Or that I'm invisible.

I never took a foreign language in college because I didn't want to take oral tests.

I have never been certified in CPR.

Basically, as I sit here reflecting on these memories, I learn something about myself.  Something I've been very aware of my entire life.  But perhaps not quite enough of to give it a name.

I don't like learning in front of others.  

I don't mind learning -- I love learning.

I don't mind admitting I don't know how to do something.

But I don't want you to watch me learn it.

I want to take written directions, take a manual, take a text book, go into a quiet room by myself and learn how to do what it is I need to learn how to do.

But I don't want an audience.

I will fail and fail and fail again.  But if given time, I will learn.  If given space, I will learn.

Maybe I am too proud, and I don't want others watching me fail.  Too proud and don't take direction well.  Too proud and am just afraid of being embarrassed.

But this has been the hardest part of the last nine months of my life.

Ever since the EPT said, "pregnant", people have been watching me learn.

At first it was a small audience.  But ever since, it has grown steadily.  Grown to encompass strangers and acquaintances and family and dear friends.  All watching.  All witness to the learning process.

Some, acutely aware of the steep learning curve.  With just enough information to recognize the inevitable failing.


Today I was supposed to go to a labor class.  It was free and two hours long.  Complete with lessons on breathing techniques and pain management and yada yada yada.  Bring two pillows, they said.  Wear comfortable clothes, they said.  Bring your partner.  

I signed up for it, because the nurses and Dr's were telling me it would be beneficial to take a class. I signed up for it, in completely self denial, with the best of intentions.  

But yesterday rolled around and my phone alerted me.  Saying, the next day I was scheduled to take this class.  And I panicked.  

I felt like I was four all over again.  Like any sort of social skills I've learned, any sort of progress I've made over the past twenty years, just flew out the window.  With a great flapping of wings, leaving me in a heap of insecurity and blubbering tears.  

There were multiple, there are multiple, reasons why I didn't and don't want to go to this class.  

#1 - I don't want to.
#2 - I don't want to.
#3 - I think it has something to do with being single and not wanting to look like a lesbian or a teenager by coming without a partner, with a girl friend, or with a parent.
#4 - I don't want to.
#5 - I'd rather go to the library and check out books or watch youtube videos on nursing and breathing techniques and pain management than sit there with this huge pregnant belly, cross-legged on the floor. 
#6 - I don't want to go and watch all the happy couples learning this together.

That's what it boils down to.  

I don't want to learn in front of anyone.  I know in a crowd of pregnant women, I'd blend in easily.  No one would think twice about me strolling in without a wedding ring, or with another woman.  I don't think I'm so important I'd make a huge impression on anyone.  

But I am reminded, daily, of the unconventional way in which I am doing this.  The reminders are not sweet.  The reminders are not friendly.  The reminders are not easy to swallow.  I must, and have had to, take extra measures to guard my heart against the painful triggers.  

Some pain is unavoidable.  

But I've had enough of learning in public.  I've had enough of learning in front of people, with all my shortcomings and failures on display.  There's some more growing up to do before I'm even slightly comfortable it.  It's the exposure I'm uncomfortable with.  All my secrets, too close to the surface.

This is self-preservation at its finest.  

Desperately I'm trying to hold on to myself and my dignity.  To carry myself well and maintain some self respect during this whole process.  

And protect myself whenever possible.

This is, however, something I recognize as one of my fatal flaws.  

An inability to laugh at myself.


One day maybe I'll get it right.  

But today, I'm not going to that birthing class.  

Friday, July 20, 2012

Next Right Move

32 weeks.  8 months.  8 weeks left to go.

I take a deep breath and am just overwhelmed by how time flies.

I should have started a baby book.  I should have been writing down the dates of important events.  Like the day I found out I was pregnant.  The day I first felt him move.  How long my morning sickness lasted.  I should have a book to put his footprints in.  To write down the important things.

I'm laughing quietly to myself right now.

I can't even breathe.

I haven't picked up a single book about child birth or parenting or pregnancy.  (The What to Expect app has been my only saving grace the last eight months.)

Does this make me a bad mother already?  That I don't stop and record and document and meditate over this miracle inside of me?

I swear, I sure hope not.

I can barely get my words out.  They are so important.  They are so imperative to my health and the clarity of my mind.  But the words won't come.

At night I find myself reading text books or trying to sleep to fight the leg pain.  Books about self-soothing and the sleep patterns of infants are not sitting on my bedside table.  Not because I'm not interested.  Not because I don't care.  But because I don't have time.

As I was leaving the daycare the other day, one of the newest assistant teachers approached me.  He's my age.  A dad himself.  Teases me on a consistent basis with the humor of a fifteen year old boy.  When I acted like I was in a rush to leave, he asked me where I was running off to.  I was headed to another job, I told him.  He shook his head slowly.  "Anna, how many hustles you got?"

Promise, if I had even one decent hustle... I wouldn't be pulling four part time jobs right now.  But as it is, I don't.  So I do.  "How do you do it?" Is a question I hear on a consistent basis.  They stare at me, commenting on the size of my stomach, asking when my due date is.  I watch their eyebrows raise ever so slightly when I tell them there's two more months to go.  "You're wearing yourself out," they whisper.  And I know it's true.  They ask me why, they ask me how.

The only answer I've been able to come up with is, "I have to".

Amazing what we are capable of, when there is no other option.


My mother wrote a post the other day.  Not sure exactly when, as I haven't had internet at my new apartment since I moved in.  Today I got a hold of some internet, though, and bought my nephew a present, and caught up on my google reader.  

This particular post was about Abby.  

Abby is my baby sister.  The youngest of the Vaughan women.  She's asked to hold Judah after I do when he is born.  She calls him her little lion man.  This particular post was about her prayers for rain during this drought Lexington (and most of the country) has been suffering through.  

At the end of the blogpost, my mom wrote:  

"She prayed and expected God to answer. Not out of arrogance. Not out of entitlement. Not out of ignorance. But she asked out of a place of trust. Trust in who she knew the Father to be. The only risk for her was being willing to look like a fool. She took that risk. And the rain came." 

I know how to pray like that.  

I prayed about Judah like that.

I've prayed for rain to stop.  For food to be provided.  I've prayed for rent money and plane tickets.  I've prayed through cancer scares and through heart breaks and I've prayed about college degrees and tuition money and international customs.  I've prayed about gas for my car and I've prayed about groceries.  Calcium deposits in little hearts and a future so uncertain... so hidden... 

I know how to pray like that.


Last week, I got to see my son's face.  

Some minor abnormalities had us scheduling a third trimester ultrasound.  

I filled out paperwork and sat in the waiting room, feeling Judah kick and roll around, jabbing first my ribs and then my hips.  We hadn't visually checked on him in twelve weeks.  Twelve.  Three months.  

Do you know how much life can happen in three months?

Yeah.  I didn't either.  

My methods of measuring time have changed.  From semesters and seasons to weeks and trimesters and the gradually increasing weight of a little boy... time is flying by me like so many colors in a kaleidoscope, or the revolutions of a carousal.  This thing I thought I couldn't do, this journey I thought I wasn't strong enough to survive, is almost done.  

She turned the lights off in the room.  We were looking for something specific this time.  Not overall healthiness.  We knew his lungs, kidneys, liver, brain, limbs were fine.  We knew he was a "he".  We were just checking on one thing.  One little spot of light.

Have you ever seen an ultrasound being performed?  You've seen the pictures.  Indecipherable.  Like x-rays, sometimes.  

When you're in the room, when it's your baby, when the gel is cold on your belly and the tech isn't looking at you... but at a monitor, moving and illuminated... you feel like you're spying. 

Lights flash and fast, harsh movement.  A leg, first.  A femur.  You see a leg.  A hand.  You see his heart throbbing and the heat from the blood in his umbilical cord.  The image stabilizes.  

Judah is head down.  Scoring an 8 out of 8 on a well-baby test.  He weighs (or weighed, a week ago) 3 pounds and 9 ounces.  

And then there was his face.  

He grimaced from being poked and prodded -- woken up by light and noise and movement.  His little nose scrunched up and he looked a little like me.  And a lot like someone else.  

He stretched and pursed his lips.  

Ever since I allowed myself, I have loved this little boy.  

Seeing his face took my breath away. And I would be lying if I told you I didn't look at his picture every day... and just wonder.  All kinds of teasing, curious wonders.  

I'd also be lying if I said I wasn't already terribly biased.  If I didn't think that my kid was the cutest in the world.  

That's probably only going to get worse, to be honest.  

But I got to see my son's face.  And got to hear the doctor say he was healthy. And I got a small, small taste of what a mess this is going to make of my heart.


I heard the other day that University of Louisville has a masters program for social workers.  I also heard they offer that program on the weekends and online.  I felt a tap on my heart.  The kind of tap I usually feel when God is highlighting something important for me.  Dog-earring.  As if I can almost hear Him whisper, "don't forget about that.  We're going to come back to that later." 

I mustered up the courage at the internship to ask a BSW case manager about the MSSW degree she was working on.  In Louisville.  

She is my age.  A single mom.  And as of next Saturday, will have graduated with this Masters of Science in Social Work, on a track towards a counseling degree.  She will have done it in a year.  A year's worth of Friday nights or Saturdays.  While raising her two year old son.  

I walked away from her office breathing deeper.  I had heard right.

There will be a lot of moves made between now and next May.  More than I am prepared to make.  There will be labor and delivery.  There will be holidays as a single mom.  There will be first teeth and maybe even first words.  There may be some crawling and lots of smiling.  There will be a whole year's worth of a lease under my belt.  A car to be paid off.  

But God knew I needed this.  To see just a little bit further, so I'd believe in the possibility of it.  In the hope of it.  In the promise of providing for me, so I could provide for my small family of two.  

He revealed to me, my next right move.  

And I felt the oxygen course deep deep deep into me.  Reaching a place, so deprived.  


I texted Larry the other day.   

I think I was crying when I did.  But the thing about having a good father is you know when you have a question only he can answer.  A problem only he can fix.

I was staring at the damn crib still in the damn box sitting in the smaller bedroom of my new apartment. The room that's supposed to look like a nursery.  The room I couldn't bring myself to go into.  Because the crib was still in the damn box.

Expecting mothers will talk to you about nesting.  About decorating and furnishing and buying clothes and preparing a household.  Books and articles will tell you about dads preparing for the newborn.  About sympathy pains.  About ways to help and support the expectant mother.  Everyone around me who is having a baby, or who have recently had babies, always talked about the dads setting up the crib.

And my crib was still in the box.

So I texted Larry.  I didn't want a bunch of girls in my apartment with power drills and can-do attitudes. Not because I don't love my independent girl friends.  Not because I don't believe they're capable.  Not because I didn't think the gesture would have been out of love, or wouldn't have been appreciated, and completely completely sufficed as a catalyst for my nesting process.  

But because putting a crib together is a daddy's job.

And since Judah doesn't have a daddy... 

I felt stuck.  

Until I stood there.  Staring at the damn box.  

And realized that Judah may not have a daddy, but I sure do.  

A dad who showed up this morning with his tool bag, and put Judah's crib together.  



I know how to pray like Abby does.  

I know how to look for the next right move.  

And as this due date comes racing towards me... I am trying to collect my words and all my boldness and whatever scrappy hope I have left.

Because I want to be loved.  

And my son needs a father.  

I already love Judah too much to let certain things happen... to let certain things seep into our lives.  

But when you're eight months pregnant, 32 weeks into a journey, and the finish line is just around the corner, just a few pages away on the calendar, drawing the line seems like an impossibility.  Hoping for any semblance of normalcy seems like false hope.  And any dreams I once I had of a real family -- a mommy and a daddy and children -- seem like pipe dreams.  

But I know how to pray like that.

Monday, July 9, 2012


I've been doing this a long time.

I can get a really good read on a church community as soon as I walk in the door.

It was familiar.  The cool pastor, the loud music, the bright lights, the casual atmosphere.

Deep breath.

And I find myself here on my knees again.  Caught up in grace like an avalanche.  

It's hard to be here.  It's harder to be elsewhere.  At least here they don't know my name.  They don't know my story.  Maybe here they won't feel the need to preach.  Here, they don't know what I know.

"we are the only army who kills their wounded"...

I just shook my head at the truth of it.  Being the wounded.


I've been in a pit.  There's no other way to put it.  Just a stupid, deep, muddy pit.  I can't see out of it because it's too deep and I can't climb out of it because it's too wide and I can't make a home here because it is not where I belong.

I know better.  

I know how to change my perspective and I know how to make the most of the worst of situations. 

I know how to fix things.

I know how to build things.

But too much life has been happening, too fast, and coming at me too hard.  Like so much water drowning your face.  Forgetting to drink.  

These sentiments, these images however, only really apply to my emotional and spiritual life.  Physically, I am still barreling through.  Working three and four jobs some weeks, setting up my new home, getting finances and logistics in line.  The fog and murkiness I feel in my head and my heart are not affecting my external world.  

But my heart has been so sad.

There have been a few nights when I've even cried myself to sleep.  Hand on my stomach, feeling this crazy little boy move.  And just whispering, hoping he knows I'm not crying because he's coming.  That this is not his fault.  That I wouldn't change him and his being for anything.

But it is hard.  To look at a disassembled crib and wish there was a daddy to put it together.  To come home at night, only a little scared of the dark and quiet, and wish there was someone big and strong to keep me company.  To think about long nights and brand new babies, and wonder how I'll do it without any real help.  How I'll teach a boy how to be a man.

Those are the thoughts that keep me in the pit.  Thinking about things that haven't happened yet.  And wondering how I'll manage.

It hasn't stopped me -- weighed me down, maybe.  Damaged my heart, maybe.  Hurt my hope, for certain.  But I refuse to give up.  To follow some of the worst advice I've heard in the last eight months.  To assume, just because words are said, that they are either beneficial, true, or good.  

You may not think so, many others don't.  But my judgement is still good.  I am still discerning.  I still hear the voice of God.  I still have my share of wisdom.  And perhaps what bogs me down more than anything are those words and opinions and voices of others.  

When it's only One voice I need to be hearing.  

Today I was reading a friend's blog (here).  I didn't even get all the way through the post and I read this, and I felt God saying "Shhh -- those are the words I wanted you to hear..."  

As if out of all of the mess, He'd highlighted them for me.  

"I always think of the peace of God as being tranquil and resolved. But I don't know that to always be true. It was peace - and yes, it surpassed all understanding. But it was mixed with dread. Because I knew it was going to be so hard. I think that's how it is sometimes. It's knowing it will be good. It's trusting God that with the limited amount of information of the situation before me, He will use it and show me how lovely His plan actually is."

Deep breath.  Right there.  In that moment.  That paragraph was full of all my oxygen.  

And there it was.  My perspective change.  Grace like an avalanche, Fran's words: copious amounts.  As if God just knelt down and said, "yeah, baby girl, I know it's hard." And scooped me up.  

Stupid pit.  

Nothing changed.  Nothing got better.  None of the questions were answered.  

I just changed where I was standing.  

I heard Him tell me to write it down.  To work it out with my words.  To breathe deep the peace and hope He was offering, even though it makes no sense.  Even when this three pound baby boy is laying heavily on my lungs.  And it doesn't matter how deep, I just can't get enough air. 

I'm still going to be grumpy.  And want all the things I wanted before.  But I swear.  It will be good.  

I have no idea how.  

But it will.  

I just can't get back in the pit.