Thursday, December 16, 2010


This evening, while rocking Sebastian to sleep, trying to convince him that yes, his eyelids were just that heavy, I sang a little bit of Silent Night to him. A Christmas lullaby. As I sang and rocked him, I was thinking about Advent, the season of waiting, of hope, of joy, and thinking about the Christmas story, a pregnant woman, about to give birth, away from home.

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

One week (and then some)

(and this post I began about 12.5 weeks ago...sheesh)

Dear Sebastian,

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...

(I wrote this last October, 2009...not sure why I didn't post it then...)

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.