Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

I woke up at a ridiculously early hour. Six thirty or thereabouts. This might not have seemed so early, except I couldn't fall asleep last night, not until close to two, maybe even a little later. Matthew was out early, with the start of a cold and a shot of Nyquil. Dory nursed and fell asleep before midnight. But I- I, who thought, at eleven thirty when I had wrapped my last present, had attached my last Santa tag, I'd be asleep before I even made it to the bedroom- I sat in bed and couldn't close my eyes. Instead I knit a Christmas hat for Dory (a sort of hybrid elf's hat/stocking cap) and I watched Friends at midnight and then one of those Lara Croft movies after that and I knit the whole time, waiting for exhaustion to overcome me. The hat won first. I felt no urge to stop, to lie down, to close my eyes. I felt... excited. I felt exactly like I felt when I was eight and still entirely believed in Santa Claus and reindeer and the little story they always played on the news about tracking Santa's course through the world.

I woke up at six thirty this morning and the feeling had not subsided. Just like when I was eight waking up the next morning and feeling that fuzzy anticipation steal over me. I remember I would lie in my bed, this unexplained sensation of enthusiasm moving through me, not sure why, until bam! I remembered. From that point on I was up and going and lemme at that tree and the rush that followed for the next hour or so could have carried me through days of sleeplessness.

My adult mind did not propel me out of bed like my kid heart did. No, it spoke gently of small to-do's still to be done, getting a jump start on the day, the promise of arriving on time. As all my mornings begin0, three dogs of boundless energy hurled themselves around me as I threw on a coat and shuffled outside with them, leaving a sleeping husband and baby inside. By this time it was a little before seven, and standing outside in our front yard, while they did the tangled leash tango, a little voice whispered in my brain "thank you for this baby, thank you for everything, thank you." I understood immediately. Thank you for this baby, thank you for this little one, who doesn't yet understand the day, but who one day will. Thank you for what is to come, letters to write, cookies to leave out, explanations of a baby in a manger, of oil that burned for eight days straight, explanations of the spirit of this month, the feeling of holiness and mystical and magical and Love that permeates this time of year when we're not lost in gift getting, grocery shopping, traffic jams, bad weather, delays, one more damned party...

I imagine, I'm no different than most people. I could look at a lot of what's not going right, fear around jobs and economy and will it get worse and how will we make it... Except I stood outside in my pajamas and coat, watching the fingers of dawn separate first pink then yellow then blue over the mountains that surround this little valley in which we live and I felt absolute joy. All those thoughts of what is to come, they were of a future, my future, a future I know is even brighter than that perfect, foolish moment. I stood still, tears in my eyes, hugging my arms around myself, and whispering thank you, thank you, thank you. It was exactly like a scene from a movie or novel, where a character "gets it" at some crazy moment, feels for one second, "I know what God thinks and it is GOOD" those moments that send goose bumps through the viewer and cause critics to role their eyes.

In the next few days, I'll write about what Christmas brought, the physical manifestation of love and excitement and joy. Already I have stories to tell over how blessed I am, the remarkable people in my life who take such good care of me. I'll post pictures of Dory and report on the spoils of her first Christmas conquest. I'll let you know how Matthew fared, if he beat down the cold or the cold beat down him (right now, hearing the change in his breathing this morning and knowing him, I'm betting on Matthew). But this morning, all I can think to write about is standing outside, for about four minutes, in the early morning chill, sleep still in my eyes, and knowing with absolute certainity that Well Being abounds for all of us. There is a sleeping baby girl in my house and she is a miracle. There is a husband who is kind and generous and thoughtful and he is a miracle. There are parents who are healthy and thriving and love me and they are miracles. There are friends who are warm and funny and they are miracles. There are miracles running through every second of my life, of this I am sure, and as my dictionary says miracles are "considered to be the work of a divine agency," how can I not trust, how can I not KNOW that the future coming will far outshine the past?

I know God is in everything, in us, in the details. I know that. But I can't help but think, He's especially in the sunrise. He's especially in that early morning moment of promise, that thrill of what's to come. That good morning kiss, that person buying coffee for a friend, that sunlight breaking over the trees, that school bus leaving earlier and earlier every year. I think that must be His time to revel, to soak everything in, and if occasionally I'm lucky enough to be up and standing outside in my pajamas, three silly dogs dancing around me and sharing in that moment with Him, how can I not whisper thank you, thank you, thank you?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Some Christmas Spirit

Hello Internetland!

It's your favorite baby blogger! And I've got a lot to report.

First- thumbs! They are the best.

Why did no one mention them earlier? There should be a sign right when you come out- "Welcome Baby, check out the the short, stubby finger, you're going to like it." I can't get enough of mine!

What else, what else? Well, I've been doing a little of this...

a little of that...

I'm a baby. It's basically my job.

Hey, I'm pushing up! It's not easy, not my favorite pose, but I make the best of it.

Oh! And feet! I found them. They are fantastic.

You can grab 'em, you can wiggle 'em around over your head. And if you're really lucky, you can pull off a sock and chew on it. But that takes practice. Don't you 3 monthers try this at home, OK? You've got plenty of time. But feet are good. I mean, they're no thumbs, but they're good.

Just to go back to the thumb thing. I'd have a second sign. It would say- Guess what? You've got two of them!

That's about it for now. Just hanging out, doing my groovy baby thing. Oh, and here's a funny shot. I might have overindulged on milk, been a little silly...

Christmas! It's just the best, isn't it?

Monday, December 15, 2008


Last Wednesday we went to a reunion of our Bradley Method class and it was fantastic. Bradley Method is a natural approach to childbirth, rooted in the idea of "husband-coached childbirth." Did you know that? Me, I had no idea, until friends (who had recently birthed a child this way) told us about it. The only class on natural birth I knew was Lamaze, with its odd, but effective breathing techniques. But we didn't stay with friends who'd done a Lamaze birth. We went to visit these friends with their Bradley experience and after hearing the birth story of their second son I thought, yep, that's for me. Forget your drugs, forget your doctors, forget your hospital nursery. At that point, nine weeks in, I was ready for it. Bring on the home birth!

Matthew put the kibosh on that idea.

However, he did get on board with the natural childbirth idea. He particularly liked the Husband part and he really, really liked the Coach part. I think it fulfilled all sorts of dreams for him. I imagine visions of a delivery room with a grassy surface, him gigged up in a ball cap with a whistle around his neck and everyone else- doctors, visitors, myself- wearing some kind of Lycra uniform danced in his head.

We found a Bradley Method instructor in Knoxville. The course ran twelve weeks, every Wednesday night from 6:30 to 8:30 and was around the same cost as a plane ticket (much thanks to Dory's Grandpa and Granny Suzanney for assistance with that). The price made sense, I realized later, as we settled ourselves on the floor, shoes off, mildly pregnant women propped up against pillows with flustered, uncertain husbands settling down next to us. We were on a journey not many take.

Not having a baby, of course. Seems like everyone is doing that. But having a baby this way, intending as little medical intervention as possible, relying mostly on the strength of ourselves, individually and as a couple, to carry us through a truly stressful experiences. A wife saying, I'm going to be in the most vulnerable, moving, terrifying, exhilarating, intense experience of my life and you're the one I want in the room holding me up. A husband who answered, I'm your man.

Almost no one understood.

Only a few people I knew (specifically my parents, especially my mama, and some friends) supported us. Pretty much everyone else, when they heard we were going, as they thought of it, the no-drugs route balked. Some went farther than balking. There were lots of opinions about our decision, ranging from, "are you sure?" to "are you *#@$^!& crazy?" I had one family member who, every single time I spoke to her, approached the subject from the angle, "Are you still planning to..." followed up with "Take the drugs! You want the drugs, get the drugs, take them!"

It was trying. *#@$^!& annoying might be the other to say it. But I should be grateful. As with so many responses in life, the more people disagreed with us, the more it shored up our decision and firmed Matthew and I up as a team, the two of us planted strongly on the side of preparation, forethought, and intention and everyone else on the other.

Yet having our Bradley class, every week, for twelve weeks, was a cool, refreshing glass of water in a desert of people with too many opinions they couldn't keep to themselves. We started the class talking about that week's pregnancy changes, who was having what test, how far along, any thoughts, concerns, problems with the medical team? Then our teacher, the funny and fantastic Lisa Paul, guided us through our thick Bradley Method manuals, videos, and books, all generated toward convincing and reassuring women that birth the way God intended was a viable option.

I loved this class and the end of it was difficult for me. First, because I enjoyed the people in there with us and who knew when we would see them again? Second, because the end of the class meant I was almost thirty-seven weeks pregnant and at a to-be-determined, not-so-distant date, I'd have a baby. Odd how we spent so many weeks going towards this goal and I still felt like I'd been snuck up on by Fate and Fortune when the class actually ended.

Well, the second premise happened first. My labor did start, we had it pretty much as we intended, at a birth center, with no medication and the most wonderful midwives. Our baby arrived, we found out she was a girl and Life as we knew it changed irrevocably.

The first came back together about four months after that. One couple hosted, we all RSVPed Yes and we came bearing brand-new babies and potluck Italian dishes. It was a good time.

I wasn't surprised to see the dads (once known as husbands) as involved with their babies as they had been with their wives' pregnancy. You know you have five good men, when each in his turn, says, "You go ahead and eat. I've got Little One." We had great conversations about recovering from the birth, who did you call when you were in labor, who brought you food when they came to visit, was it good food, how completely changed is your life? You know, light chit-chat.

Over the period of the evening everyone relived snippets and pieces of their baby's birth. Of the five couples, two did have Cesarean deliveries due to unexpected medical complications. Regardless, both couple agreed what they learned in class went so far beyond only the birth. Watching each couple, I could see, regardless of Baby's preferred entrance, how much the class strengthened their bonds and belief in each other.

Whatever the intention going into your birth, a baby arrives at the end. And it is, to say simply and yet to understate it, a miracle. But what I found, the unexpected gem, hidden away in the mysterious due date, broken waters, sweat, contractions, deep breathing, blood, various medical strangers, encouragement, potential problems, the great gasp before a baby appears... what I discovered was my husband and I were exactly the right people for the jobs at hand. Maybe an obvious thing to realize, something many, many people could have told us. Yet it was a tremendous, joyful, silly delight to know as they placed our girl on my chest, when Matthew said I'm your man, he was right. And it was a point of pride, a glow in the deepest part of my heart, to realize I was, not just the only, but the best woman for it.

Now, fingers crossed, if we can just come close to being the parents this bright little girl deserves...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Thumbs Up Check-Up

Dory had a four-month wellness visit last Friday. Let me take a moment to mention two things I am highly grateful for: 1) I really like our pediatrician and 2) we hardly ever need to see her, except for these wellness visits.

A visit to Dory's doctor isn't like any doctor's visit I can remember. First the office is a delightful place to be. The walls and floors are painted to look like bright, colorful environments. There's a jungle room, a wilderness room, a rain forrest room (though I can't tell you the difference between this one and the jungle room), all decorated with appropriate wildlife critters. It's incredibly cheerful and I would think friendly and inviting to a little one. I had a great doctor, but he was my family's GP, which meant a waiting room decorated in that classic color scheme "bluegrayblah" and filled with elderly, sick people, many of whom came with oxygen tanks. God love their hearts, they were neither friendly nor inviting (though this might have been extra incentive to stay healthy).

Second, all her clothes came off, but no cover-up was offered. After watching Dory on the exam table, naked legs pulled up to naked belly, I will never again complain about the "does this go front ways or back ways?" paper gowns to which I am accustomed (sidenote: whichever way it goes, I always do the opposite- I have some backwards sixth sense about this, much like how I can walk into any new room and reach for the light switch on the wrong wall- but I digress). Dory, in her cheery baby way, seemed delighted to wave her bare bum about while we waited.

Once all the clothes were off, which, with the cold weather, took a few minutes, Matthew carried our naked babe out into the hallway with the nurse to be weighed and measured. Dory was remarkably sanguine, considering all her bits and pieces were on full display to the world. Can you imagine? I get grouchy when the nurse weighs me with the woman who takes payments sitting ten feet away.

After her weight, height, and head size were taken, we put her back down on the exam table and then- get this!- all her measurements were put into a computer and her growth chart tabulated and figured into their percentile system. The doctor explained the system shows where she would rank, on average, among ninety-nine other babies. And (here's the wild part) being bigger is fine. Seriously. I ask, again, can you imagine? "Well, you weigh more than seventy percent of the room and the really good news is, your head is in the ninety-eighth percentile!" It's all very cool, this baby world.

At a little more than four months, Dory is twelve and a half pounds and around twenty-five inches long. She's alert and strong (the pediatrician's words) and gorgeous and perfect (mine). And currently she's resting. Sleep helps babies grow and our girl's an expert at growing.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Face of Victory

This is just a quick update for anyone needing a hit of Dory magic. Have you read this post? You might want to catch up if you haven't.

Because it will make this all the sweeter.

Take that Mr. Weird-Rabbity-Thing! You dangle above her head no more, hahaha. VICTORY!

Our girl officially has her grabbing skills down. And by "down," I mean every one in five to ten tries she catches whatever she sets her pretty blue eyes on. After taking Mr. Rabbit down from his high horse, Dory was caught paraphrasing a recent SNL skit:

" 'Cause I'm a baby! And I'm bigger than you!"

As far as entertainment value, I hear she's slated to appear during halftime of the Superbowl...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Watch Out! She's a Mama at the Movies

Before Dory, I laughed (gently, but... still) at stories of moms out on the town, childless. O vey! they made such a big deal of it. Seriously? You call a grandparent or pay a stand-in, put on some clothes and you GO. Easy. What's the hold-up? I even laughed over the wife of a friend who had to be dragged to the door, but then acted like she was on a work-release program from prison. Sure, she was going back, but she was out now.

Yep. Just a few more of my pre-mama words I have officially chopped up, sauteed, put on a plate and eaten.

Matthew and I went out, Friday night, to see a movie with some friends. Can I just say, it is the strangest push-pull experience ever? I wanted SO MUCH to be with her and I wanted SO MUCH to be at this movie without her. Literally like being split in two. For anyone who hasn't had the experience, picture this: you want SO MUCH to vote for John McCain and yet you want SO MUCH to vote for Barack Obama. Can't do it, can you? Better yet, I know exactly how all those superheroes feel with their yeah, I want to save the world, but I'd also like to finish a meal. Hello Motherhood! How can you have such opposing desires simultaneously?

My mom gently insisted. Matthew gently guided me towards the door. The movie tickets in my pocket (to Twilight which I so wanted to see) helped pull me to the car. I went out, for several hours, without my baby.

And realized I had completely forgotten how to be around grown-ups. Anyone who greeted me, anyone who even looked at me funny, got a ninety-miles-an-hour "hello!" that went something like "hi! We-have-a-four-month-old-baby-who's-with-my-mom-and-this-is-my-first-time-away-from-her. Howareyou?"

Everyone heard this story. The guy standing at the soda fountain at Five Guys and A Burger. The guy at the bar at Calhouns who asked if I wanted a seat. The girl behind the bar. The woman in the movie theater bathroom who I almost knocked down coming out of the stall (it helped that I started the conversation by saying, as we both steadied ourselves, "Good thing we weren't driving!" followed by hysterical laughter). The teenager selling candy at the concession stand. No one was safe.

But I went. And I had a great time. It helped the movie was completely enthralling. The whole time I wiggled in my seat like a puppy on Christmas, while I kept my hand over the cell phone in my pocket, poised for flight should Mom call. I was ecstatic to have been out, seen a movie, visited with friends. AND I jumped out of the car and dashed into mom's house before the vehicle even came to a complete stop when we came back. I would have given a schizophrenic a headache.

But when I saw this face...

ah. That face. Worth every second of the push-pull, go-stay, babbling, blundering difficulty. Yes, Before Dory, this question was simple, not even a question. But how worth it. How weird to discover I'd rather be pulled in two, with her here, then one uncomplicated me, without her.

All of this to say, I owe yet another great-big, super-duper apology to all the moms out there who I've ever (gently or not) snickered at when I've heard of their dilemma in leaving their children for the first time. Also to all the moms I've (gently or not) laughed at for their twitchy, compulsive, semi-hysterical behavior. To you all, my deepest and sincerest apologies. The next time we're out together I'm buying the first round.

Though first I'll have to tell you that this-is-my-second-time-leaving-my-baby-with-my-mom-and-I'm-a-little-freaked-out-but howareyou?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Where Did I Put It...?

What are all these thingies? Elephant? Monkey? Seriously, who do these Big People think they're kidding?

Oh, well. Time to post! Hmm, where did I put my laptop...

Huh. Where did I put it?

Here? No...

I think the Big Ones have hidden it!

Oh, fine. I'll play with this silly thing.

Huh. This is kind of fun actually.

A little bit later...

Lalala. Gosh, this is one good thumb.

Hey, wait a second! There's my laptop! Hahahaha. Time to blog! Right after I finish this thumb...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

One at a Time Please

Tonight I finished a pair of socks for Matthew that I started knitting- oh let's see- two weeks before Dory arrived... so that would be... three and a half months ago. Give or take a few days. The color is "Superbowl Shuffle" in honor of the Chicago Bears and I originally intended to give them to him at the start of the NFL season as a Congratulations Big Daddy! gift.

Tomorrow will be the Bears ninth game of the year. And finally, finally, a pair of hand-knit men's socks are finished.

Of course, being a new mama means a whole new set of priorities. Starting and finishing a meal without an interruption is rare. Finding time to knit might be considered the equivalent of reaching into the refrigerator for a glass of $8.99 Chardonnay only to discover a perfectly chilled bottle of Dom Perignon.

This is not to say there hasn't been time. In fact, there are plenty of times a day I might snatch a few minutes and whip out a few rounds. Except...

There's this going on..

And this...

And this...

And instead of picking up my knitting needles or a book or my notebook and pencil, I sit and watch. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, a voice says, "but you could ALSO be..." I understand this voice. This little part of my brain hasn't yet reconciled to the fact something so special is going on, that I can't find a way to do something else too. Of course, when I do find time to write out a post or knit a few rounds, I'm delighted and I think "Ooo, why don't I do this more often? When Matthew has her or she's playing on her playmat, I could..." Except the next time Dory's grinning at her daddy or chatting in that fascinating language that makes me think of E.T. speaking Pig Latin, I just. Can't. Do. It.

This is a great exercise is slowing down, in doing. One. Activity. At a time. So many times a day, I take multi-tasking to the next level. How many of us do? On the phone, while on the internet, while cooking dinner, and writing out a to-do list for tomorrow, Dory along for the ride in the baby back-pack on my chest. And that's when I'm at home, relaxing!

I realize the ability to do two things at one time (or three or four) can be a great help. Chatting while folding laundry. Driving while working out a plan with someone on my cell. Writing out the grocery list, while taking out the dogs (oh, yeah, I've done it). Combining a mundane task with something a little more interesting or simply necessary.

But how often, do I find myself doing this mindlessly? Yes, I'm carrying on a conversation, but I'm searching the internet too because... it's there. Or I'm making that phone call in my car because otherwise the car would be... silent. My mind has become so accustomed to being busy, I don't always remember how to slow down.

So now I'm learning the art of single-tasking. Focusing on one thing, at a time, for a little while. Dory makes it easy. When I let myself pay attention just to her, she's captivating. But I'm hoping to carry this to other parts of my life. Cooking dinner without checking my email. Chatting with my husband without mentally planning what I have to do tomorrow. Just watching and enjoying. From what I hear from other parents, there isn't much longer that I'll be able to entertain her completely by blowing big raspberries on her tummy. And how much would I kick myself later when I realized I let that opportunity go by?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Be Still My Heart

In our family, we've treated Dory, essentially, as though she's the first baby in the whole entire world. Rightly so, I think. Every baby, be it the first or the tenth in a family, is a miracle. How could you not stop life and fall into worship when a miracle arrives in your arms? However many have come before this is your miracle.

While many, many, many, many babies have come before her, she is her own unique, perfectly individual little person. And she is still a baby, with lots of typical baby behavior. Fussiness that can't be immediately soothed isn't something we've escaped- what Dr. Sears might call "inconsolable crying." While occasionally this will happen in the middle of the day, on days it happens, it usually starts in the late evening. I think she hits some tiny baby wall, done with the day, exhausted beyond exhaustion, hungry to the point of ravenous and it comes out in the form of this red-faced, wide-mouthed, eyes scrunched, doleful, wailing baby.

In Perfect Mommyland, I would gently soothe her back to her typical state of cheerful, sweet-faced, smiling baby. Unfortunately, as soon as they saw how much spit-up I'm comfortable wearing on one or both shoulders, my Perfect Mommyland card got revoked.

Sometimes I get frantic along with her, hitting my own mama-wall of tired and worn out, wanting nothing more than to put my feet up, pour a large glass of wine, and laugh at something totally inane on television. At that point, my face starts to redden, my voice rises a few notches, panic creeping in, as I try to sway, rock, jiggle and shush back to some state of calm, just settled enough for her to nurse and fall asleep. And when this happens, at this point in the evening, a pair of hands appear in front of me, and a deep, kind voice says, "Let me take her."

Burp cloth over his shoulder, baby blanket in hand, Daddy has come to the rescue.

Into his arms she goes, and he begins his own soothing daddy-dance, his own rocking, swaying, jiggling, and shushing. The first few times I watched, still a little desperate, convinced this would fail as magnificently as my own efforts have. Instead, this wailing child settled almost immediately. Her mouth closed, her breath evened, her face returned to its normal, lovely fairness, and her bright little eyes opened and revealed the bright little eyes they are.

How this broke my new mama heart! What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I soothe my own baby girl? A few days into her little life and I'd already failed miserably. Forget Perfect Mommyland; they were going to revoke my whole mama card.

Once, that initial panic passed (I thank my hormones for returning to some level of normalcy) I recognized this time for what it was. This was Matthew and Dory's time to fall in love with each other. Of course they do this all the time, when she's smiling and cheerful, when he's changing her diaper, when he's changing her clothes, when he puts her in the carseat, when she falls asleep on his chest. They have the same experience she and I have, all day long, every day, of becoming even crazier about each other.

Yet I have this experience of feeding her. I cuddle her to my chest, she nuzzles against me, latches to my breast and we are in the most natural, perfect world. She has a deep, innate need and I easily fulfill it for her. This is exactly what Nature intended and, at its most primitive, skin-to-skin contact, is strictly available to Mama and Baby. Nature at its finest. How could I ever doubt, Nature had the same plans for Daddy and Baby?

So Matthew takes her in his arms and, as she cuddles close to him, his touch says, "I am safe, I am strong, I am solid; you can lean on me." And Dory, with the very same instincts that tell her I will feed her whenever she is hungry, knows her father will hold her whenever she is hurting, lonely, frightened, or simply needs to be held.

Dory does not always settle instantly. Sometimes it takes patience on his side, trying new moves, new sounds, new steps in their dance. But every time he stays with her, he keeps rocking, keeps cuddling, keeps talking gently to her, he assures her, no matter how upset, how cranky, how inconsolable, he will never stop holding her. He will never stop comforting her. His love is completely trustworthy. His love is unconditional.

And finally, he returns a calm, peaceful baby to me, who easily nuzzles up to me, nurses, and falls asleep. When I watch them together, I remember, again, Nature created a perfect system. And when we trust it, life flows beautifully and perfectly for us. There are no mistakes. A fussy, unhappy baby is not wrong. She is only one more step in the perfect dance all parents learn the steps to.

I think Matthew is a remarkable dancer.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Bit of Elbow Grease

"I had almost forgotten
How lovely it is.
To be tired and leave
Things to themselves."
Lars Gustafson, translated by John Irons

Recently, my mama went to an estate sale and picked up, for me, the most soothing and delicious book, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach. SA is an authentic and soulful work, filled with spiritual and applicable thoughts and advice. I am, when I'm not nervous about it, excited about the paths it takes me down.

This week's topic has been money, and the daily essays are filled with both mentally enriching and practical advice for thinking of, handling and managing money. For the most part, I've absorbed it readily enough. Today however, while trying to sort out bills, I got in a good, heavy funk. Here was a situation with no immediate resolution and I fell into worry, an ineffectual heart-crushing action.

A conversation with my mom helped tremendously, enough to remind me there was a bigger and greater energy in the world than that of bills or the national economy. We hung up, and I felt a little restored, but still unsatisfied. While Dory napped, I rallied enough energy to do two things: scrub my bathtub and talk with God.

These conversations are still so new to me, something I've begun in the last few years. They start abruptly, not kneeling sweetly in front of my bed at night, but in the middle of five o' clock traffic or silently in a chaotic get-together or in a half-sleep in the middle of the night while nursing Dory. They can be anything from "I am so grateful..." to "WHAT is going on..." Today I started with some kind of chemical cleaner with bleach for the tub. In my conversation, I fretted, accused and worried out loud about two weeks from now, two days from now, two hours from now. I didn't get anywhere with either track, so I gave up both of those.

I tried a second, natural cleaner and requests for help. Help in seeing the positive, help in finding the best in the situation, help to not waste anymore of my life in worthless, wasteful worry. Anne Lamott, a particularly brilliant writer on the subject of faith, says her main prayer is "help me, help me, help me, and thank you, thank you, thank you." I stuck with help me.

I gave up on cleaners and moved on to a good solid scrub brush, with a fat handle and thick solid bristles. At some point, in asking for help, I'd grown calm enough and clear enough to ask the question: "What does my life look like, right now, through the eyes of God? What does my Authentic Self, as Breathnach calls it, know about me?" That question, finally, resonated. What does Spirit see? A woman with... great health... a gorgeous, thriving baby... a gorgeous, thriving husband. A woman with loving, thriving parents. A woman with a warm home, running water, electricity. A woman with lovable, though fairly smelly, dogs. A woman with great friends. A woman who loves knitting and fiber. A woman who enjoys walking when she makes the time. A woman with a passion for writing and literature. A woman who likes to laugh and has plenty of reasons to everyday. The grime started to streak and abate; the scuffed white tub underneath began to show through. Both the literal and metaphorical cleaning worked their magic. I threw my back and heart into it, knowing the time before Dory woke up was brief and that, once she was up, I wanted to be present with her.

What did this woman really want? Comfort. I wanted a little comfort, a little serenity and ease in my present moment. I can't know with absolute certainty what will happen in the next few weeks, next week, next day. But this worthless, wasteful worrying- agh! This felt helpless and served no purpose.

Looking at a white bathtub brought me a little comfort. Picking up Dory and cuddling her in my arms brought me more. I decided to seek comforts for the rest of the day. Fresh sheets on the bed. Putting Dory's pumpkin hat on her. Making a good friend's potato soup recipe for dinner. Chatting with Matthew about his day at work. Reading the SA essay for today again. Putting this lovely girl to bed and seeing, as always, how very, very blessed I am.

It wasn't easy and several times, actually many, many, many times I felt that old fear start to creep back up. What about- tomorrow? this person? this event? Each time, I dragged my mind back, back to the present, the here and now. I had everything I needed right now. Today. In this minute. Still my mind wandered, and still I brought it back. I wasn't blissfully, wildly, outrageously happy getting ready for bed. That would have been lovely, but a stretch. I was quiet, thoughtful and grateful.

The most important part of the day? Remembering the second part of the prayer and taking it to bed with me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Greetings and Salutations!

Hello, hello, hello! How are y'all on this fine day? I just wanted to follow up on yesterday's post...

What? What was that?

I haven't posted in a week?

My goodness. How embarrassing.

Well, there's good reason. We've had friends in town. You know what that's like. All go, go, go, busy, busy baby.

But life's settled down again and I'm back at the blog! So check back soon!

Now on to more important matters. Mama's specially knit Pumpkin Hat? Shoot me straight. Is it cute or is it cute?

Monday, October 20, 2008

What's On?

Maybe this is something I should be embarrassed to admit, but Before Dory, Matthew and I didn't always eat dinner at the table. He tends to work late and some nights we would chat, while I cooked, and then one of us (him, I'm sure) would casually mention, "Hey football/House/The Office is on..." And the other one (him again, no doubt- though that just doesn't make sense, does it?) would perk up and casually agree, that might be nice just to kick back, be on our comfy sofa, have a few laughs...

Not these days. Something's on, but it's not the inane ramblings of Michael Scott or the caustic witticisms of Greg House. Tonight we sat down to our tacos and turned our attention to the most interesting show I've seen lately...

...Dory attempting to grab the stuffed animal hanging from her Baby Papisan.

I couldn't tell you what kind of creature this fella is- some sort of rabbit/bear hybrid. He hangs over her head, not doing much, just staring, staring, staring in that mocking, slightly spooky way all the animals on these children's seats, swings, and chairs seem to have (or maybe that's just my interpretation). Clearly he's trying to drive her crazy with his just-out-of-reach style. But our girl's got her sights set and any day now she's going to catch him and show him who's boss.

Until that day, she swats, with the force of two tiny, but ever-growing baby arms, in an unsynchronized but totally charming rhythm. And Matthew and I watch. Instead of cheering, "Go, go, go- touchdown!" we now shout (quietly), "Ooo, get him, get him, almost- open your hand- oooohhh. So close."

She's not interested in us. Dory, with the sort of fixed attention demonstrated on the face of Michael Phelps before that eighth swim or Shawn Johnson before she tackled the balance beam, raises her arms, swats... swings... and sometimes- once in a mealtime- catches the tag.

So close.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sweet Dreams

I understand if sleeping is difficult for some right now. There are so many unfortunate events and unpleasant tidings. It seems a cruel twist of Fate, when you need the comfort of deep oblivion the most, its the farthest from your grasp. You crawl into bed at night, rest your head on your pillow, ready to sink into a deep sleep and yet... nothing.

So if a good night's rest eludes you, I encourage you to follow Dory's example and try different positions. You never know what might just work...

(At 8 days old in Grandpa's arms )

(At 3 weeks old on Daddy's chest)

(Almost two months in her quite plush Baby Papisan)

(At 11 weeks in a Moby wrap against Mama's chest)

There is something to be said for sleeping like a baby. Sweet dreams to you all!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Making Other Plans

Before Dory (BD, you might say) I thought the depiction of motherhood in entertainment media was overblown and exaggerated for the sake of exactly what it's called- entertainment. Moms with spit-up in their hair, moms who hadn't showered in days, moms out of clean clothes due to constant wardrobe changes made necessary by a little one who always had something coming out of some orifice.

I know now, they were exaggerating. But not by much.

Today I woke up early for me. By the time Dory, falling slowly back to sleep, had finished her first morning nursing, it was only eight. I thought, with little shivers of excitement, ooo, I can get a jump on my day. We made plans with a new friend and her little one to walk at the park and, for once, it appeared I would have plenty of time to tend to our dogs, feed myself, dress myself, ready a diaper bag. All simple mundane tasks BD, but tasks that now required timing and consideration and careful thought. But not this morning. This morning I was doing it alone, BD-style.

How carefully I moved! One toe at a time, breath held, slipping slyly away. You could almost hear the cartoon-soundtrack playing tiptoe noises. As I made my exit, I risked one glance back, over my shoulder, only to discover two bright blue eyes watching, with great interest, every stealth move I made.

Into the baby backpack went Dory and, strapped belly-to-belly, we proceeded to take the dogs out.

I stood on our front porch, many dog leashes in hand, admiring the foggy gray morning, feeling the breeze on my skin, attempting to guide our four-legged babies in the classic no-leash-tangle tango...

Dory, ever so often, has an interesting feature no one warned us about at the birth center. Matthew refers to it as "Baby Volcano." There is no clear reason for this occurrence, though I expect too much jostling on a full belly to be the villain. As I stood there, I basked in the lovely day, still savoring the knowledge I would have plenty of time to do all I wanted before we left. Then I heard the sound of something wet splattering the ground. I felt the feeling of something wet trickling down my front. And when I looked down, to the little one held closely to my chest, I saw Dory's little face peering back up at me, half-digested milk smeared all over her face, her eyes just as bright and blue as when they caught me sneaking away.

A bath for her just waltzed its way into my plans.

As I took her to our baby bathtub (our kitchen sink) and prepared a spot (a towel, a baby robe, and a baby washcloth), I realized in this moment I had two choices in front of me. One: roll with it. It was done, there was no malicious intent, it was one individual behaving exactly as that individual was supposed to behave. That her behavior interrupted my plans was coincidental at best. So roll with it. Two: be upset. Frustrated with the circumstances, irritated by being thwarted in my plans, angry at the gods for not assisting me in my little request. After all, what I wanted was so simple. To do a few things for me, a few things quietly and smoothly and without interruption.

But that had not happened. And nothing could take it back.

So in this seemingly inconsequential little moment I had a choice. A choice that, in the moment, only had influence on me. Dory wouldn't remember "that time" Mama gave her a bath scowling, the time Mama was a little careless, a little rough, too eaten up with her own irritation to pay much attention.

Not much for Dory now. But how big for me? How easy to fall into that habit. How easy to let that one action create a reaction of frustration, annoyance, a bit of anger, a touch of resentment. Such an unconscious habit...

But not for me. Not today.

It was a lovely bath. I put her down, lengthwise, on our counter, and off came her little green-and-white striped onesie, so cute and simple, now sodden and slightly smelly. We let the water run for a minute or two (a blatant waste!) so that it was a nice warm temperature. Who wants to give and who wants to receive a chilly bath? Little splashes of water, a dollop of baby soap, a soft baby washcloth. It took such a short time, really, only a few minutes, and it was fun. There would be time for what needed to get done. I could always call our friends if we were a little late. They would understand. Nothing hung crucially in the balance on our timing.

I didn't think about what might have been done. I didn't think about what there would be time to do. I washed my baby girl, so little and so happy, and we both enjoyed ourselves.

And I tried not to think that little girl, who fit so neatly in her dad's hand and arm for her first bath, now, at more than two months, was almost too big for our kitchen sink baths.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What to Think?

The most peaceful time of my life was our baby's first few weeks here . Not, perhaps, the most common comment made about newborns, but so entirely true of our situation.

From the moment Dory arrived, a bubble erupted, encasing the three of us. For more than a week, she, Matthew and I lived in our brand new little world, a blissed out place, where the main event was tending to Dory and the constant conversation was admiring Dory. These two actions ceased only during broken, but deep sleep. I reveled, in half-exhausted splendor, in this soft, rich time.

The world came to us. My mother drove over daily to look after us, too busy looking after Dory to do much of that; my dad and step-mother came, my in-laws came, other friends and family trickled in, all to meet her. They came with groceries, home-cooked meals, cameras, soft exclamations of amazement, and deep, deep contentment just to be in the same room with this soft, bleary-eyed little one.

After that first week, Matthew returned to work and our bubble slipped just a little. She and I stayed in that same soft place, welcoming him home for lunch and in the evenings. He was always glad to come back and get down to the business of falling in love, a little more every day, with our new daughter.

Neither she nor I went anywhere those first few weeks. We were entirely attached, not only by my increasing delight in her presence, but her dependence on my breasts as breakfast, lunch, dinner and the dozen other times she needed to eat. As life developed more of a rhythm and it seemed she just might be as hardy and sustainable as the midwives at her delivery promised, we ventured out.

I remembered there was a world going on around us. And the constant chatter of this world revolved around mortgages, foreclosures, presidential elections, presidential failings- a smorgasbord of sad tidings, negativity and overall disharmony. This discourse affected us generally and personally and yet for the last month my daily experiences and Matthew's nightly conversation touched on none of it. Out, again, away from our nursing corner, our kitchen full of lovingly provided food, her co-sleeper, my bed, I found myself wanting to rush home again, to get away from all this noise, to piece our bubble back together by whatever means necessary. Thick gray strips of duct tape if need be.

At which point, I realized, now, more than ever, I wanted to choose my conversation, and, more importantly, my thoughts carefully. Did I want to put my focus on the collapsing economy, a distraught country and our own financial leanness? Would I contribute to that cloud of gloom hanging thick in the air? Would I bring that dark fog into our home, where Dory could feel, but not understand, the fear and anxiety surrounding her?

I can look at Dory and find a dozen things in that moment to feel good about. Her bright eyes. The little ooey-cooey noises she makes. Her delight in waving her naked legs and bottom in the air. Her contentment almost all the time and her clear and strident voice (and very red face) when something doesn't please her and needs to be fixed.

What to look at? Economy, candidates, events entirely out of my control? Or Dory's growing smile? Our dogs outside on a soft, breezy fall afternoon? Matthew's face when he walks in the door and smells something tasty for dinner? His laugh when I thrust a kiss at him, along with the apron, and ask him to take over dinner so I can nurse our ever-hungry munchkin?

Really, the choice is awfully easy.

Easier than it's ever been before. Or maybe I just needed a swift, hard kick in the backside to see how simple it really is. My kick came in the form of a perfectly peaceful and uncluttered little girl. I intend to drink in this time, I intend to absorb the details, I intend to memorize the words and the faces and the laughs of my baby and my husband and all my loved ones. I want to savor this brief, intense, brilliant time in her life and therefore in ours.

The bubble existed only in my head. Its up to me to maintain it. Choosing thoughts that feel good, maintaining that appreciation I have for her, expanding it to others, feeling love and letting it flow- that's the only power I have these days. I do believe that what you think about is what you get back. I don't believe you can have an unhappy journey and a happy ending. I do believe life is looking up, not just for me, but for the country in general. And I know, more than anything else, when this time has passed, I want to be someone who contributed kindness and hope and love.

Besides, the country has plenty of time to grow, peak, and fall apart over and over and over again. My daughter is this age for only a small, precious period of time.