Thursday, December 16, 2010
I sat there remembering how the last few weeks of my pregnancy with Sebastian were THE LONGEST weeks of my life. He was sitting so low, I swear he was trying to find a way out through one of my thighs. Every movement felt large and cumbersome. Bending was an effort, squatting nearly impossible, and sleep was elusive. My feet were swollen, my hands plump, and I wasn't sure if my pelvis would survive the ever-widening pressure.
But more than the discomfort and the exhaustion, I grew so tired of reading signs during those final weeks. Everything - every little thing - was an indicator of labor starting or pausing. I poured over my birthing books and what signs to watch for. Was that a real contraction, or a warm-up contraction? Does it matter that I've dilated? Was that trickle my water breaking or did I just pee myself (sounds funny, but so true, so true)? I slept really well last night, maybe the baby is resting in preparation for the big event. I slept really poorly last night, maybe the baby is getting restless and labor will start today. Or tonight. Just when I thought I should call the doctor, the contractions would taper off. Every visit to the doctor revealed that something was happening, little by little, and every visit felt like labor was just THIS CLOSE.
And so, I was thinking about the Christmas story, of how Mary might have felt waiting for her baby to arrive, giving birth for the first time away from home, on the road, on her own (well, I've always been hopeful that she had a midwife in attendance). But more than that, I was thinking about all of god's people waiting, waiting for the one who would bring food to the hungry, healing to the broken, sight to the blind, freedom to the bound. God's people waiting and watching every sign to see if indeed the prophecies would come true, would they ever be saved.
And to think that their waiting was fulfilled - in the birth of a baby. A wet, crying, purple and red little suckling. What a crazy story.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
As of this evening, you are one week old. It has gone so fast and I'm afraid to imagine how quickly the rest of our days together will go. I didn't think time could continue to march on at a faster and faster pace, but apparently it can.
You are just about one week old and have caught a sniffle from your sister. It's inevitable since it's next to impossible to contain the germs of a two-year-old. But she is so interested in you and I think you should prepare yourself for when she is feeling better and has more access to you - there will be hugs and kisses and the counting of your eyes and ears, nose and mouth more than you even think is possible.
I've been thinking about the day you were born a lot. You arrived here in a hurry after what seemed like a very long, methodical pregnancy. Your last few weeks in my belly were tiring and somewhat frustrating and discouraging. About twice a week, there would be a night of where you and my uterus would be particularly active, contractions that were noticeable, time-able, and pretty regular...only to peter out just when I was thinking of calling the doctor, just when I thought "This might be it." But no, my body was slowly, carefully working toward birth.
To be honest, your birth taught me about surrender, which I'm learning is a theme in my life. The last few days of my pregnancy were crazy-making and in the midst of it I had a moment of clarity. I realized two things. One, that the long days of slow, careful, methodical labor were a gift. A gift in that I had time - time to enjoy your sister and your father, time to reflect, time to breathe deeply, time to rest. This was it - there wasn't going to be some grand spiritual moment at the time of birth. THIS was the moment, the waiting was the moment, and it was to be cherished. And the second realization was that perhaps the waiting was asking me to surrender. To let go the way the labyrinth had asked me to let go, time and time again. To let go and to trust that I would be held, cared for, loved. To let go and trust that I would be held in safety and in peace, as god had met me in that way before.
And so for the last few days before you were born, I worked my hardest to see the waiting as a gift and I worked my hardest to release, to let go. I wasn't always good at that - the days were still pretty long and trying - but I had that to carry with me.
And then, at the end of a perfectly wonderful day, you decided to show up. Sebastian, your birth into the world was a gift of surrender. There was nothing I could do but holler and fall to pieces and push. There was nothing I could do but follow the cues of my body, the coaching of the doctor and our friends. There were no decisions to make, nothing for which to wait. I simply had to birth you. And we did it. Together, we worked your little body out of my swollen body and what a relief, what a stunning feat to have you, wet and crying, in my shaking arms.
Such a gift, Sebastian. You are such a beautiful gift.
And even now, as I finish writing this three months after you were born, the moment of your birth, the start of your life with us, fills me with awe, with pride, with love.
Thank you. May we always remember god's faithfulness to us in the moments of surrender. May we continue to find the gift of new life in the moments of surrender.
Monday, December 13, 2010
This afternoon, there is the faint scent of hospital soap on my hands. I exit the parking garage and turn right on Lucas, the shortcut to the freeway, up the big hill and through the light until I’m going down the steep side of the hill, so steep I can’t even see over the hood of the car until, oh yes, there I can see, yes, I’m in my lane, barely, and I’m passing that large school with all of the modern looking architecture and steel and no kids and then, I catch a whiff of my hands again.
I merge left onto the street that I’m supposed to merge onto and take a right just under the bridge, just past the trees, where the sign for the freeway is only visible the moment I am about to miss the turn. There’s that park on the left and the freeway entrance comes up on my right, at the no right on red light. I roll through the turn, the cars ahead of me slipping by on the green light and, with only a brief pause, I too am released into the stream of cars. My foot holding firm the accelerator, I can feel the weight of the car as she gains speed until finally we are coasting, floating along toward home. By the time the hills of Hollywood are in view, Haven is asleep, her head resting to the side, her pacifier resting on her chest.
The late afternoon sun fills the corner of the windshield and I move the sun visor down to cut its brightness. With an unconscious sweep of my fingers, I brush my bangs off to the side and once more I catch the slightly sweet smell of soap. It is subtle, just hand soap, but the memories have piled up. I smell the back of my hand again and then again and now I can feel it. I can feel her head resting on my forearm and the contour of her body up under my breast, resting on my other arm, on my soft belly. I can feel her little leg squirm, I can feel the gravity of her small yawns and the earnestness of her fingers, her tiny delicate fingers.
I hold my hand now to my nose, trying to capture these memories, these sensations, before they vanish once again. Gower, Cahuenga, Universal. I brake for the slowing afternoon traffic as we head into the valley and I am almost nauseous. The memories are palpable. I can feel the details in my arms, in my gut and my chest. In the past thirteen months of reviewing, remembering, reminiscing, telling the story over and over, I have never felt it in my bones like I do now.
This is what it felt like to hold her, her little body with her cone-shaped head and her paddle-hands and feet. This is what five pounds feels like in a little burrito bundle with IV’s and oxygen tubes and monitor wires draped out the side.
This, this is the scent of my baby’s head.
I float down the freeway, rocked gently by the rhythms of traffic.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Our last day in Hawaii, I took an afternoon to myself - Aaron was already home and back at work and I was needing a little space and a break from Haven, cute though she was in her little Hawaiian print sundress. I headed to the north shore of the island where I'd find fewer tourists and the big cliffs and big ocean that seem to feed my soul. As I set out from the condo, I was very deliberate about leaving my agenda as open as possible. My one mandate to myself was to do only that which I wanted to do. I kept asking myself, what do you WANT to do? drowning out as best I could the chorus of shoulds. I should stop at a beach, I should spend the afternoon writing in my journal, no, I should read read read, no I should visit the amazing blowholes along the north shore. I left the clamoring behind as best I could, cruising along, looking for some piece of ocean to inspire me.
Just as I got to the start of the north shore, I noticed a number of cars pulled off into a turnout overlooking a small bay. I pulled over, curious about the attraction, and soon struck up a conversation with a tanned, weathered surfer dude who had been surfing that very bay for the past 40 years. In fact, he'd specifically moved to Maui to surf this very spot, Honolua Bay, and had spent a lifetime doing so. We had a great conversation about surfing, big waves, big wipeouts, close calls, the beauty and love of surfing. I don't surf myself, but I have a fascination with it all the same and totally loved listening to this lifetime surfer as he analyzed the waves and the surfers in the water below us. But I didn't want to watch surfing all day, at least not with that many people, and so I eventually continued on down the road.
At this point, the highway became a small, winding two-lane country road, cutting away from the cliffs and in towards the green sloping fields, winding its way carefully in and around the little bays and coves along the sea. I loved it. I kept my eye open for a beach that might be good for some sitting and wave watching, but before anything caught my eye I had made it to mile marker 38 and a dirt parking lot with a path that led down to a fascinating blowhole in the cliffs on the edge of the roiling sea. I pulled into the lot, next to pile of broken window glass, with the intention of turning around, heading back to find a quiet beach. But as I pulled in, I realized I'd been in the car for awhile. Perhaps a walk would be good - stretch my legs, take in some fresh air, admire the drama of the crashing waves for awhile.
I packed up my little back pack and set out down the path, which was really a number of red dirt paths cutting across the green slope that eventually worked its way down to the sea. The blowhole was actually a ways away, down and around to the edge of the cliffs, to the exposed and battered rocks but the open slopes and big sky and the sound of crashing waves made the walk fulfilling, wherever it led.
Along the paths, there were these little piles of rocks, small rock cairns that I assumed had been left by visitors over the years. The dotted the landscape like little statues, not seeming to point to or indicate anything in particular, more like little testaments to the earth or the sky, a witness to the path, to the passersby.
As I came down a small slope, I noticed, however, an area up on my right that seemed to be strewn with rocks, flat, close together. As I walked closer, the strewn started to look a little more like a pattern, and that pattern started to look somewhat circular. What the? Could this be? No, who would think of such a thing? But sure enough, as I got closer and closer to the area, it became clear that this was a labyrinth, cut in the grass on a slope overlooking the ocean.
My heart pounded with excitement! I had stumbled upon a labyrinth here on the north shore of Maui on my day off. The labyrinth had become such a special symbol to me, a place of meeting god, of being held and understood just as I was, a place of safety. Indeed, a haven. And here was one at mile marker 38 on the winding road of my vacation.
I set my backpack at the entrance of the labyrinth and began my walk. I could hardly contain myself - I was so excited I could barely find the quiet or calm I thought I needed to walk a labyrinth. I couldn't wait to tell Sarah! And Colleen! And Joy! I walked anyway - who needs a quiet mind when such trying to soak in such an amazing gift?
I quickly reached the center of the labyrinth, where there was a rather large rock cairn, an altar, I guess. The center of the labyrinth can represent union with god, which I generally find to be a lot of pressure when I walk the labyrinth. What if god doesn't meet me here? What if there is no dramatic moment or change or revelation that I can carry out of the labyrinth? I'm sure this anxiety is a hold over from all sorts of youth group retreats and rallies that called for some sort of intense spiritual experience at the peak of the event, but despite this lurking anxiety, something always meets me on the labyrinth, somehow. I'm not sure I can describe the ways I've been met - in fact, the saying seems to cheapen the experience a bit - but the labyrinth has offered me many gifts. And this time was no different.
Balanced on one of the rocks of the center altar, was a hollowed out coconut shell filled with little tidbits - a lighter, a note, a business card, I can't even remember what else. I could only assume that these were offerings of some sort and felt that I, too, needed to leave some sort of offering. But what? I began to reflect on my deep deep need for control - to have things ordered, organized, to know what's coming and how to perform. To be assured that I will succeed. This had come out during the vacation, where I was essentially alone with Haven and my in-laws - keeping a cap on things was my way of assuring that I looked good, that I had it together, in the presence of family. It protected my vulnerabilities, kept my guard intact. And so I decided that as my offering to the rock cairn at the center of the labyrinth, I would surrender my ponytail holder. I only had one with me and it was awfully windy there on the north shore but the ponytail represented control, keeping my hair intact, keeping it together, out of the way, under control. To do without, to let my hair free, would be messier, harder to control - in fact, impossible to control. I took my ponytail down and set the tie in the coconut shell (of course, I second guessed this, thought I could just THINK about doing it and that would probably be enough).
I walked out of the labyrinth, actually a little calmer than I had started, my hair whipping around my face. When I got to the entrance again, I wasn't quite ready to leave the labyrinth yet. So I stood at the entrance and practiced some of the tai chi/body prayer moves that I've learned at the contemplative retreat over the years. My back was to the sun and my shadow stretched out perfectly in front of me as I looked out over the brilliant blue ocean. I moved slowly, gently, watching the dance of my body in the shadow before me. It was glorious.
And then, I kid you not, as I was doing this, a full rainbow appeared over the ocean directly in front of me. A HUGE rainbow stretching out in front of me as I prayed slowly in the sunshine of the labyrinth. It felt so over the top, so extravagant! The moment felt like more than a moment of serendipity - this felt like a gift. Indeed, it felt like Jesus had called up the day before and said, Hey, do you want to go for a walk? Meet me at mile marker 38 and we'll walk. It'll be nice.
That was my day. The North Shore. A labyrinth. A rainbow. I had listened to myself, careful to do only what I wanted, and was met so profusely in that moment. I had made an offering, a piece of surrender, and was given a promise wide and beautiful.
That was mile marker 38.
Monday, June 7, 2010
Aaron was off for almost a month, but two of those weeks were without any work at all - and it was great. It was so nice to have him around, to spend time together as a family, to get some things (A LOT of things) done around the apartment, to get away for a nice weekend celebrating our upcoming anniversary, and to hang out with some dear friends to top it all off. We got a lot done in terms of prepping for baby #2 and I think I feel sufficiently ready - well, if one can ever be ready. There are some little things to do these days, but I definitely feel like the BIG projects are done. And this actually makes Aaron's return to work feel not so bad - I know our weekends can be spent doing fun things as a family or a couple or whatever, but we don't have big projects looming over our head, threatening to consume our weekends. I feel some ease looking ahead at the next couple months.
With that said, my main task these days is putting in place some support systems for myself. I realized this spring that the film industry schedule is quite taxing on me now that I have a toddler and will soon add a baby to the mix. I reached my limit, oh, about the last week of April, about the time of that awful windy week. Or maybe it's that I learned that I had a limit, I couldn't continually say yes and take everything on myself. So, I'm trying to ask for help. Setting up someone to come watch Haven one or two afternoons a week. Perhaps finding someone who can come one evening a week. Trying to set up some regular weekend date nights for Aaron and I in the next couple months. And, my favorite, soliciting my friends to be my Dinner Buddies - people willing to enter the end of day chaos and help me feed Haven and myself (and them of course) and get Haven bathed and to bed. Some dinner for the buddies, an extra set of hands for me, as well as some companionship and conversation. I think one or two buddies a week would be a great help and people are starting to bite.
The support is coming together in fits and starts, but I actually feel good about admitting that I need help and support and then working to find it. It's not an easy thing to ask for, but I think I realized that the alternative - isolation and desperation - aren't really easy things to live with and aren't good for me or my family.
So that's where I'm at. At least today.
Monday, May 3, 2010
The week ended with very strong winds and I generally do not like the wind. It is my least favorite weather element, ask anyone (well, anyone who knows my deep love for weather).
But a couple of years ago, Aaron's grandmother passed away in the middle of the night, in the middle of a windy, fire-breathing night. Sleeping in the guest room at Aaron's grandmother's house, I woke in the middle of that night, to a fierce rush of wind. The wind woke me, I would later piece together, at the exact moment that Grandma died. It was too coincidental to think it just the wind, not something more. For the rest of that year, it seemed to be fiercely windy on days of great remembrance of Grandma. And, however odd this will sound, it felt like somehow god was present on those days, in the wind.
And at the end of last week, my friend Sarah told me the wind was reminding her of the night Aaron's grandmother passed away. I hadn't thought of that myself, but it was such a great reminder - and on top of that, it was so sweet that Sarah had remembered that moment herself.
And then, out of the blue, one of my best friends from high school wrote to say she was thinking of me. And then another friend did the same thing. And then an old coworker wrote on my facebook wall to say that he missed me and hoped I was doing well. And then another old coworker wrote to say she was thinking of me and missed me. In the span of about two days, two days at the end of an ugly week, two days of crazy-ass wind, I'd had so many out of the blue "just thinking about you" messages from friends.
It was as if the wind, the powerful whipping wind, had carried pieces of me and my wounded heart to the hearts of my dear friends. Sarah had reminded me that god was present to me once in the wind. Perhaps god has come near again, on the wings of the wind and the internet.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Today was my Mother's Day. Aaron is working next Sunday, so we thought we'd celebrate today (and by we, I mean I). It was mostly just a regular laid back sort of weekend day, a little quiet, a little sleepy, a little sneezy thanks to these gawd-awful allergies. This afternoon we made a visit to Huntington Gardens, where Haven had miles and miles of lawns and gardens to stretch her little chubby legs. The roses were in full bloom and Haven also enjoyed stopping to smell the flowers, as we've taught her to do on our neighborhood walks. She knows to pull to flower close to her nose and give it a big sniff - I was just glad she didn't pull any flowers off of their stems, which has maybe happened a time or two at her grandmother's house. Huntington also has a children's garden, completely with little fountains in which to splash. And splash she did. It was a great outing and to top it off we stopped for dinner on the way home at Paty's Diner in Toluca Lake, which I like precisely because it just feels like a diner and it feels a little small town, which doesn't often happen in LA. I had a breakfast sandwich and a cinnamon roll, Haven had a grilled cheese, and Aaron had a Reuben and an Arnold Palmer. We took Zoe for a nice evening stroll after dinner, with twilight sun and cool spring air. My evening is now mine - to blog, to write a few emails, and then maybe even read before bed. I'd say a pretty nice Mother's Day and a pretty nice end to the weekend.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
The worst part is that it usually makes me laugh. Not sure that is the best response, but it's really funny!
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Aaron is still in Santa Fe. He has been away the past few weeks, working on a movie, and has just a bit more to go. I miss him - we miss him, though I'm glad to report that Haven recognizes his picture - and I'm anxious for him to come home. The past month has passed remarkably well with my parents visiting for the past few weeks and helping to keep Haven and I entertained. But the past month or so has been a little melancholy too, I guess.
I have felt rather stuck, or like I'm spinning my wheels, on the verge of moving forward, expending a lot of energy to go nowhere. There are a number of reasons for this. We've had a car situation that is taking seemingly forever to remedy and all the while sucking the money out of our bank account (short story: bought old vehicle out of state and to comply with CA emission standards are having to do A LOT of work to pass emissions and therefore title the car). We readily admit this was a mistake, albeit a mistake that we could not foresee. Mistake admitted, I would like to move on but it seems like there are perpetually five more steps before it is completed. And with Aaron's absence this past month, we've just in general put our life on hold. I spent most of my time with my parents, who were actually staying out in Palm Springs (2 hours from LA, in the desert, where it was sunny and 85 degrees nearly every day, pure heaven for my father). While the sun and warmth and the grandparents were delightful, it was essentially three or four weeks away from our everyday life. I'm anxious to get back in the groove, to connect with our friends again, to catch up on our mundane everyday life again. To sleep in my cold dark cave of a room (ah!). And with this too, our lives on hold, the car stuff, the out of town stints, there has been little room for, well, nesting. Even before Aaron left, the car situation consumed much of our time and energy, especially on weekends, and left little room for much else. We have another baby on the way and I think the nesting instinct is beginning to kick in again - and, again, I feel like it's been hard to move forward on this, on the thinking and dreaming and planning of how to fit a new little life in with our already full life (and apartment). We've had little time to think creatively about our space (can we reconfigure this closet? what should we get rid of? what do we need to get for the new baby?) and I feel that time will run out sooner than we think. I sure wish weekends were three days long.
The last blog entry was about Haven on the verge of walking. I feel a little like I'm on that verge too, or at least I'm hoping so. I'm hoping that movement, walking running soaring, are right out in front of me, that soon my wheels will be unstuck and I will lurch forward (I'd even take lurching right now).
It's been awhile since I last blogged - six months or more? - but I wasn't quite sure I wanted to blog or wasn't quite sure what I wanted to blog about or what direction to take this blog. I didn't really want it to just be pictures of Haven and our happy cheery at home life, because, well, that just isn't me. I also didn't really have a theme or direction - you know, like in the movie "Julie & Julia"? - and I've decided that I just don't have a theme or direction, folks. But I think the writing is helpful to me, I think that the space to sort through, reflect, and report on my life is important for me.
So I think I'm back to where I was two years ago, where the blog felt a little like a letter to my friends, or even to me. There will probably be pictures of Haven, and there will probably be reflections on this job I have right now of being a mom, and I hope that's okay. Because that's where I'm at - and I'm grateful to have you along for the journey. Truly.