Sunday, October 28, 2012

6 weeks

I went to the doctor on Thursday.  Caught the nurse's eye as I sat down in the waiting room and watched her face light up in recognition.  They hadn't seen me in a while.

The last time I was there I was 39 weeks pregnant.  Skin itching and feet swollen and Judah curled up in a ball, kicking and squirming, inside of me.

He is kicking and squirming in his sleep right now.  Laying next to me on the couch.  I watch him move and recognize the movements.  I look at his long arms and legs and large feet and hands and understand just now, the movements I felt then.

I weighed in.  Walked to an exam room and waited.  The minutes ticked by and Judah lay sleeping in his car seat and I just wondered at it all.

And I had a flashback, ever so quickly.  Of a rainy Thursday in January.  I cannot believe it is over, I thought to myself.  I remember thinking I couldn't do this.  I remember wondering how I would make it.  I remember little things about that day so vividly it might as well have been yesterday.  Now here we are.

The two of us.

We did it, I think quietly to myself, as the door opens and my dr comes in.  The last time I saw her it was all a blur...  but I feel like I've lived so much of a lifetime since then.  "How are you doing?" She asked in her knowing, simple way.  "You two getting along alright?"

I laughed at the phrase and Judah wrinkled his nose and I just nodded.  "Getting along just fine", I said, as if he wasn't my most favorite person in the world.


I was reminded just last week about how things change.

It was an ill-timed contact.  Just checking in, but at the worst of moments.  I had to dig deep to remember, recall, all that I once felt about it.  But it was there as part of my foundation.  A necessary and very important part of stability I'd really rather never look at again.  But in it all, I heard Him say, "you thought you knew then.  And now?  Look where we are now.  You think you know now?  Just wait."

I am trying to build all over again.  Trying so hard to find and create beauty.  I feel the need on the inside manifested in the most creatively frustrating ways on the outside.  A need for order, for art.  I am drawn to colors and textures and am more brave... I want to try and I want to make and this is all a reflection of the condition of my soul.

Because on the inside I am needing both order and artistic chaos.  I want to make something of all of this, all of this which so long goes unseen.


So we keep going.

The newness of it all is wearing off.  Others are forgetting, we are falling into routine.  I sleep more than most new moms, I am so thankful for my sweet boy's temperament.  

I realized tonight, though, after a weekend of work and paper writing, that three weeks was not enough time to recuperate.  I suppose I would have been waiting a lifetime in order to recover from the year I have had -- I am not sure one ever bounces back from something like that.  But I am tired.  Tired of running full force, of wearing four different hats, tired of talking myself into finishing one more assignment.

Tomorrow, daycare starts.  I can't shake the feeling that starting tomorrow I am going to miss most of his life.  Little Judah.  My baby.  What I wouldn't give to be able to do what my sister is doing.  Some would say, the right way. 

But they also say comparison is the thief of joy.  And I am trying desperately to find the joy in the days to come... reminding myself babies go to daycare every day.  Children, beautiful healthy well-adjusted socialized creative loved and loving children, go to daycare every day.

And I am not a bad mom for sending him.

But I sure am going to miss afternoon naps.  And I hope the woman taking care of him knows well enough to not tell me if I miss something important... something I should have been there to see.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cleaning Up the Mess

I am sitting on my couch, watching colorful leaves blow in the wind outside my window.  Judah is fussy, fighting sleep.  I've wrapped him up in a blanket and he is laying on my chest, sleep will come.  I am jealous of this kind of comfort, but am learning how much comfort I find in the holding.

For the past few years, I have been asked a question.  Persistently.  It never fails that I tell a story and they ask the question quickly after.  They assume the answer is no.  Based on physical characteristics and circumstances of the story.  A lot of times they are right.

But I have a few stories, which confuse them.  They ask their question -- their go-to, fix-all question.  And I debunk their beliefs by telling them about that one time... that one time that led to this time, that one time I told no one about that led to this hurt and now here I am with Judah on my chest.  And I wonder if their question means that much anymore.

Five weeks.  Judah is five weeks old.  He smiled today -- aunt Liv caught a picture of it, sent it to me during my work meeting.  After the week I've had, I needed this.  I needed class to be cancelled today.  I needed team meeting this morning -- to rejuvenate my passion for my job.  I needed to be off work at 1 so I could eat lunch with Olivia and snuggle J and catch the big man before he left for work.

We are a family.

And there is a quiet, desperate section of my heart, which thinks maybe we always will be.  Me, J, aunt Liv, the big man... The brother is moving to Kentucky on Sunday.  He's never met us before.  But he's staying with the big man the way Liv stays with me.

You'd think after the night I had earlier this week, my heart would be ripped to shreds.  I admit, I felt trampled.  I feel as if I have been pulled in four different directions and I feel as though everything is falling apart and I feel as though I've been as strong as I know how to be, for as long as possible.

But I prayed certain prayers... specifically for resolution, for protection.  I remember whispering, so quietly only the spirit could hear, asking God to not let it hurt so much.  It was this kind of hurt, which got me here.

I relived every one of those moments this week.  Every rejection, every unkind word, every act of abuse, every deferred hope.  I wonder why it happens, why it has to happen again.  I question myself, turning inward and examining myself.  Perhaps this is all my fault.

But the certain prayers I prayed, after I finally thought to pray them, worked.

I pushed the hurt down.  Deep, deep down so I didn't feel it anymore.  I let the tears fall and I swallowed -- like you do when your throat is sore, out of curiosity.  Just to see if it still hurts.  I swallowed and swallowed and swallowed.  Laid down to sleep, determined on waking, I'd walk away from it.  I don't have time for hurt.  There is not space in my life for it.

Life doesn't make sense.  This situation doesn't make sense.  The hurt, the cowardice, the irony, the sadness.  One day I will tell this story and wonder how I survived it.  The thought of being so far away from it that it no longer hurts is what propels me forward.  Press forward.  Hard and fast.  Leave this all behind.

It has been a long time -- if ever, I told her -- since I questioned God.  "Why?" is not a question I ask out of doubt and bitterness.  I ask it every day, wondering what is next and what the purpose is behind it.  So often, He answers me.  So often, the answer to "why" is evident, even if obscured.

This time, I asked "why?" and was met with echoing silence.  Every time I asked and was not answered, the hurt dug deeper.  I refuse to ask why "bad things happen to good people", because I no longer necessarily believe I am a good person.  I also know we hardly ever understand pain in the thick of it.  Just... usually I do.

And this time I don't.

Until today.

I say this lightly, knowing tomorrow when it hurts again I will forget this epiphany.  Knowing that if I end up being wrong... the pain will happen all over again and I will question my ear.  Even though I used to hear so clearly.

I heard clearly just then, though.  In the confident and assured way I used to.

How many times have I told you my sister's story?  The story of Kat and David?  Today I remembered a very, very vital part of their story.  And while I do not want to wait ten years for my love, hope I am not in my mid-thirties before a boy walks out of the bathroom and grabs me and kisses me and tells me he loves me, I remembered the important part of the story.

The indignant, very insistent conversation with a dear friend of mine  today was the trigger.  It happened mid-step, mid-sentence, right as I was about to laugh and dismiss it all.  She'd asked the question and I'd thought it was ridiculous again.  But all at once and all very slowly, it trickled down the back of my neck like the first few moments of a shower.

And I don't really know what to do with it.  Because it requires the kind of hope I have been boycotting.  The kind of hope, which continues to be deferred -- which continues to break me and break me again.  I don't know what to do with this realization, because there's no way I just saw so far ahead.  Surely I won't get what I want...

But I used to believe in the power of prayer.  I used to believe in this voice enough I'd follow it to the ends of the earth.  Others believed in my ability to hear it.  And whatever it was I saw and heard was enough to propel me forward into whatever God's plan was... whether it was what I had anticipated or not.  Perhaps this is what hearing God is about.


The kind of movement, which gets us to where we need to be whether we meant to go there or not.  The kind of shaking loose and bravery good stories are made of.

And He said, in His quiet, matter-of-fact way, "Anna, that sure did take you a while.  I'm glad we're on the same page again.  You remember how.  I'm still listening.  Tell me... tell me what it is you're asking for."

It is the important part of the story.  The part of the story, which sets my sister and her husband apart.

I am not so deceived.  My story will not look like theirs.  My story already does not look like theirs.  But... David looks likes Jesus.

That's what I remembered.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bear Hunt

I remember a book from when I was younger, when Tamera would read books out loud to us.  

There are a few I distinctly recall, mostly because of the animated way she read the words.  I didn't even remember the pictures for this particular children's book.  But I remember the way she read it.  The same way each time.  Like a chant.  Magic in these words, I think.  Magic in the way they dig their roots into your memory.

"We're going on a bear hunt, we're gonna catch a big one."

"What a beautiful day! We're not scared."

"Uh-oh!  A river!  A deep cold river.  We can't go over it.  We can't go under it."

"Oh no!  We've got to go through it!"

Judah was a month old on Saturday.  The first month of his life has been the sweetest, most challenging, deeply emotional month of my life.  The first month of pregnancy coming in at a close second.

There are things I was sure would get better.  Uncertainties I was certain would be resolved.  I didn't think it would all magically "get better", and I was not under the impression anything would be easy.  But there is a weight on me now that wasn't there before.  And I'm getting stronger.  I think I can carry it.  But there are some things I would like to lay down.

I said it out loud for the first time the other day.  Realized it as I said it.  The sound of the words to my own ears brought an understanding I hadn't yet had.  

I don't want to hurt him.  

I mentioned this before.  I want to protect him.  I want to put off the weight and danger of this world as long as I possibly can.  But in saying that, in putting that thought onto paper, I realized I was the one responsible.  The greatest hurt he may ever feel... will be my fault.  

And I don't know how to make it better.

I've been facing a lot of realities head on.  I've been learning how to function on less sleep.  I'm coming to terms with stretch marks.  Graciously nodding and smiling when people say "you look great for having just had a baby!" And I wonder what that even means.  Learning how to do things with one hand, take two minute showers, and sleep with one eye open.  I am learning to do what I have to do, no matter how much it hurts, no matter how sad it makes me.  And I am learning to stand up for myself.  A lioness, my mom called me.

No one has any idea.

Talking about the hard things, I am crying because I don't want people to think I don't love my son.  Truth is, I wouldn't trade him for anything.  I wouldn't change a thing if it meant I didn't get to have him.  He is who has fixed the brokenness.

So when facing the hard things last week, a familiar chant whispered behind my ear.

Can't go over it... can't go under it...

The rest of the book, "We're Going On A Bear Hunt" takes the characters to, and through, obstacles.  One after the other.  They stop... but they can't get over it, around it, or under it.  

They have to go through it.

Every time.  

I am on a bear hunt.  And there are rivers and gates and boulders and mountains and big, open fields.  And for some reason, they seem scarier than the bear I'm hunting.  So scary, you forget you're after a bear.

Don Miller posted a blog the other day about this very thing.  Eventually, it seems, if you continue to move around, over, under the fear, rather than through it, the fear itself is never resolved.  You have to say "I am afraid". 

Tonight, I'm doing another hard thing.

The last time I did something of it's nature... it broke me.  

It is still there.  The fear.  And I am still feeling it. I am afraid.  

But these hard things, you can't get over them.  You can't get around them.  You can't go under them.

You have to go through them.  

And like Don says, that's the way we build character.  That's how the story changes us.

"We're going on a bear hunt.  We're going to catch a big one.  What a beautiful day!  We're not scared...."

I'm going on a bear hunt.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Four Weeks

I got up in time to shower and get ready this morning, but the words on my heart are like lead in my feet.  It is cold in Kentucky now.  I woke up to the sound of the weather man saying "it's colder in the Bluegrass than it is in Fargo!"

And my sleepy mind thought only of the old movie, of Joe, and somehow, of Fried Green Tomatoes.  And his impish little grin saying "I done r-u-n-n-o-f-t". 

That's how my mind works in the morning.  With Judah curled up in my arms and the bedroom dark and echoey.  Sometime in the night, whatever show I was watching on TV switches over to infomercials and weather reports.  And the thermostat drops from 72 degrees to 65.  The blankets I'd thrown off, I'm now scrambling to pull on top of us.

Judah is four weeks old today.  And we have slipped into some sense of normalcy.  A quiet sense of knowing each other, of protecting each other, of surviving together.  I'd like to think I saw him smile at me when he opened his sleepy eyes this morning.  But I'm wishful.

He has eyelashes.  Did I tell you that?  And he's gaining weight at a slow but steady rate, filling in his old man wrinkles.  His neck is strong and his ever-changing eyes looked green yesterday.

I had to introduce him to a bottle last week, because, I say as I sigh deeply, I went back to work this past Monday.

Three weeks in, three weeks of being a mommy, three weeks of Judah being alive, and I am back in the game.  Waking up to alarms and putting on real clothes and having to pay some mind to my appearance.  Back to the real world where people, who have only ever seen me pregnant, are marveling at my narrow waist and big behind.

Three weeks later and I'm back to 9-5's.  And packed lunches.  Kissing Judah's sweet neck goodbye in the mornings and waiting anxiously to see him again in the afternoons.

This is not ideal.

But I am thankful.

Thankful for a job where people care about me.  Care about Judah.  Who helped me make ends meet.  Who took a risk on me.  Who I enjoy talking to.

All these things make the coming back more bearable.

Today, Judah is four weeks old.

He's sleeping on aunt Liv again right now.  As I drink my coffee I secretly wish I could just steal him and go back to bed and avoid all that is going to be thrown at me today.

Today is a big day.  Today is a scary day.

And I am so tired of scary days.

I am depleted of the strength I need to deal with this even for one more day... but I have to.

My story is full of things I've had to endure.  Triumph out of necessity.  Progression because of "had to"s, responsibility, and sheer... gumption... for lack of a better word.

Not because I am a good person.  But because I love my son.  Not because I am a strong woman.  But because I know what needs to be done, and I must do it.

Do hard things.  
This, perhaps, is my life's motto.

So I will go today.  Reluctantly.  Hesitantly.  Hold my breath and wonder what it is I truly want -- because until I know the truth, I won't understand my heart.  Like flipping a coin, your heart's reaction comes mid-air.  We just don't know sometimes... And we certainly don't know what to do.

What I wouldn't give to just settle quietly in this home today.  Stir up the creative energy I feel and produce something beautiful... clean the dirt off things, drink more coffee, wear less clothes, snuggle him closer.  Coax that smile again.  Oh, I am waiting for it.

But today is Thursday.  He is four weeks old.  And I will slip him down into a Bjorn and we will go traipsing around campus, discussing ethical issues and human behavior theory, and he will listen to our voices and look into the lights.  Because this world is so big.  So big.  And it has not hurt him yet.  Not in a way I cannot fix.

Not yet anyway.

And then I will go.  Damned blue paper, you will be the first thing, which could hurt him.

This morning I spend mustering up all my gumption, all my courage, all my love, to try and figure out how to protect him from that hurt.  At my own expense, perhaps.  But it doesn't matter anymore.  Protect is the word on my heart.

He is too young to know the world can be such a dangerous place.

Friday, October 5, 2012


It is my last weekday at home.

I have had my days confused this week, thinking Thursday was Wednesday, waking up to this Friday morning, wanting it to so desperately be Tuesday... I think the calendar thought about changing for me.  Just out of pity.

My house was full last night.  In the middle of the night I got up to feed Judah and I heard the TV blaring in the living room.  I walked into the living room to find Olivia and Abby sprawled out on the floor under blankets and on body pillows.  TV on, candles still lit, coffee pot still on,  door unlocked.  I laughed quietly to myself, turned down the television, blew out the candles, locked the deadbolt, unplugged the coffee pot, and went back to bed.

This morning, Larry showed up with breakfast.  Got to cuddle Judah before his day started.  I hope he felt the same magic Liv does in the morning time.  A sweet, little, sleepy boy fixes so many things.

I keep having to do hard things.  I keep having to run smack into myself, address the shit and then acknowledge my multitude of shortcomings.  I keep having to take a deep breath -- the kind of breath that envelops and pulls up underneath the hurt and pushes it out.  My mantra used to be "don't freak out".  It continues to be along the same vein, but I find myself closing my eyes and breathing a deeper breath and whispering, "this is not harder than anything before".

Which is usually a lie.

But I believe it, when I breathe it deep enough.

It does keep getting harder.  Like a deceptively steep hill.  Gradual, until you're panting and sweaty and you look behind you, looking downhill at all the way you've come.

I am at the top of a hill, stacked on another hill, stacked on another hill, facing what looks like a mountain.  He says, "keep your head down, put one foot in front of the other".  But this mountainous hill looks slightly more difficult to me now that I'm carrying someone.  I am more concerned with falling than I ever have been.  I am not just responsible for myself.

I have to get both of us to the top.

I look at him as he sleeps beside me, dreaming and smiling and all wrapped up and warm.  My heart hurts with all the love I have for him.  Three weeks and I can't remember my life without him.  I feel like who I was before him, before the pregnancy, didn't ever even exist fully.  My body won't ever look like that again.  My heart's capacity has multiplied.  My skin is thick and tough and the battle scars I bear from this year alone have transformed me.

I don't want to go back to work on Monday.

And I don't want to get the phone call on Wednesday... because I don't know honestly what I am more afraid of.  Like how I avoid checking my mailbox, I just don't know that I want to know.  Maybe it would just be easier if I didn't...

If I just shut the door, dead bolt it against the options, the chance, and said "we will choose our own way, you and me.  Just us, we will go on."

And I know we will, go on I mean.  Every time I hold him and he stares up at me with those blue turned brown eyes and wrinkles his forehead, my heart swells to bursting.  I think of a conversation we will one day have.  About our story -- mine and his.  And I think by then, by the time he thinks to ask, the only thing I will remember is that he taught me how to love.

How to look at someone and see.  How to sacrifice.  How God used him to humble and reconstruct me.  My Nehemiah, my builder.  My Samuel, the one I asked for.  My Judah, my lion.  By then, that's all I'll remember about the hills called mountains.

Monday, October 1, 2012

both of us

It is completely quiet and dark in my house this morning.  Around seven in the morning, we slip through the apartment to the living room where Aunt Liv sleeps.  She started, a few weeks ago, telling me to bring Judah to her in the mornings so I could get some sleep.  But I get enough sleep.

So I sit on the couch with breakfast and coffee.  Afraid to make a noise because the quiet, rainy, peacefulness of this morning might be broken.  And Liv lays on the air mattress, squirmy and fidgeting in her sleep.  With my son laying in the crook of her arm.  He has fixed so many things.

I am overwhelmed this morning with what this next week will bring.  I want to cry.  I want to be strong.  But I want the tears more.  I wait at night.  Hoping to hear the chime of a car locking automatically.  Heavy footsteps and the front door resist, just so much, before opening.

I wait on this, because today it feels like my only chance.  It feels like my only chance at any sort of normalcy.  As if, without intention, we became a family.  And then the rug was pulled out from under my feet.  In my vulnerability, I let my guard down.  Mistakenly, I let myself hope.

People say horrible things.  People say unwise things.  People give empty, insensitive, unhelpful advice.  And my heart is weary from hearing it.  Everyone has the answers.  Everyone knows how to fix this.  Everyone, apparently, but me.

I want to just and only enjoy my son.  He is a morning person, this small boy.  Over the past eighteen days, I have learned how precious mornings are with him.  He is sweet, cuddly, wide-eyed.  He smells like Johnson's and what's left of nighttime.

And I don't know if it is my stress, or his stress, but when all the guests leave and we are waiting to see what the evening will hold, our nights gain tension.  The 8 o'clock hour is painful for both of us.  I am lonely.  He is hungry, tired, cold... things I can fix, but only one at a time.  Nighttime, I remember.

I remember we are doing this alone.  The part of the day when a daddy is supposed to come home and we are supposed to share dinner.  I am supposed to tell about our day and listen to adult voices and sink back into someone who is stronger than myself.

And you will tell me I don't need him.  You will mistakenly tell me Judah does not need him.  You will tell me there are no "supposed to"s and I will create my own sense of normalcy.  You will remind me I am not the first to do it this way, and technically I am not "doing this alone".

I will smile then, and nod just enough so you think I heard.  Or better yet, so you think I agree.  And I will remind myself silently not to bring this up with you again.  My list is forever long.  My list of people who do not understand, and thankfully may never have to.

Judah's umbilical cord fell off yesterday.  17 days old, he now has this adorable belly button.  And we can take real baths.  Last night, we tried.  He screamed, louder than he's ever screamed before.  I picked him up, wet and naked and wrinkly, and he buried his face in my neck and immediately stopped.

I am still waiting on him to smile.  He will grin, almost impishly in his sleep sometimes.  Gummy, all lips and crinkly, squeezed-shut eyes.  But when he is awake, he is the most serious of boys.  His eyes, I saw yesterday, are a nameless color.  Full of personality.  But still no smiles.

His brow furrows.  Wrinkles.  He snarls his lip and opens his mouth wide.  But no smile yet.  Just serious, dark, thoughtful Judah.  This does not surprise me.  Except when I take a moment to think about how early character develops.  How much he is like me, and yet all his own already.

These are things my family notices.  This boy is so loved, so cherished already.  The wisdom, already whispered in his ear, is a lifetime's worth.  The prayers prayed over him are ones full of knowing and anticipation of the life ahead of him.

I feel selfish even wanting more for us.  But I know the wanting comes from a place of fear.  Comes from a place of doubt.  Selfish is the word, because I have no doubt in my mind someone will come along who will love him.  Who will love Judah and care for him.

What I don't know, is if anyone will ever love me.

A thousand words of rejection swirl in between my ears when everything gets quiet.  Questioning my ability as a mother, most deeply.  Echoing deep-seated, ancient fears of inadequacy and unattractiveness.  A loneliness so bitter and old.

This morning, I sit here looking at Liv and Judah while they sleep.  Her, so fidgety.  He has sunk, settled, deep in sleep.  I can just see his ear, over Liv's curled shoulder.  The down on his head, and the steady rise and fall of both of them as they breath through sleep.

And I count on the spirit this morning to pray the words I can't seem to form myself.  Daily, I write a letter in my head to my son.  My son who will grow up one day and have lots of questions I may never be able to answer.  Who may be angry at me for choices I've made, or confused by the outcome.

I have a journal somewhere.  The last entry in it was the day I found out I was pregnant.  I can't write with a pen fast enough for the words coming out of me.  So this space, this space ends up my journal. My place for most irreverent prayers.  For holy arguments.  And child-like petitions.

I cannot even get the words out.  About how guilty I feel for not being diligent in prayer the past few weeks.  How I have no evidence of the words I've prayed, or the milestones already came and went.  I am so afraid of being a bad mother.  With too much on her plate.  Who is not big and strong enough to be both parents.  Who is the one to blame for there being no daddy around.  I am afraid of the day he asks.  I am afraid of the day he wants to learn how to play basketball.  When he learns what Father's Day is. When he needs someone bigger, stronger, than himself to look up to.  When he needs to shave his face.  When he identifies himself as coming from a different culture, a different family, than that of his cousins.  Will I be enough?  Will he resent me for shutting doors?  My heart wants this to never be an issue.  I hold my breath, looking at our life, and wonder if maybe... just maybe... You could send someone to fill that void.  Someone who will not leave.  Someone bigger, stronger than both of us.  Who will love us like You do.  In a tangible, meaningful way.  Both of us.  They say we don't need it.  But You know that isn't true.  Until then... help me be enough.  Protect him.  Let him love me, know me.  My face and my heartbeat and my voice.  And help me not miss a single moment.  Not a single moment to love, cherish, teach, learn.  To protect and hold close this gift of mine.