FIVE years FIVE months + TWO years ELEVEN months + THIRTY-SEVEN weeks
be softer with you.
you are a breathing thing.
a memory to someone.
a home to a life.
I don’t have goals for this blog anymore. Pregnancy could very well be made to blame for my disinterest with writing, but still, it’s not an excuse I want to accept.
Way back in November, I reached out to the Murrysville library, with an email subject lined: free books to promote local author. I explained that I had self-published a memoir on motherless motherhood. And asked the director for permission to leave free copies for library patrons, in the hopes of spreading some awareness in my home-town.
She replied with an eager yes, and even suggested a virtual bookclub. And while waiting for my bulk order of paperbacks to arrive from Amazon, I got pregnant, and forgot about the opportunity. And thereafter, anytime I’d think about replying her back or apologizing for the delay, I pushed it to the backs of my brain, simply not caring.
I don’t know why I squander every writing opportunity, or why I won’t take the time to create a professional-looking site. Social media exposure seems absolutely essential to put any actual momentum behind these posts, but that’s not something I can keep up with. Nor is it a space I want to be a part of. So I just remain on a little Word Press blog, refusing to spring-board forward.
Social media has always seemed like comparative poison. If I ever scroll through the Instagram app, I catch my conscious mind: Why does this person have so many followers? How does she have all those nice clothes? Her house looks like that? This is why I don’t follow people–not strangers, not my friends.
I used to envy an account run by a woman with the tagline: slow motherhood in Montana. Her pictures were beautiful–each image included wide open spaces in wispy prairie fields, with mountain peaks for dramatic backdrops. She was also a birth doula. And she had chickens, so naturally, I clicked “follow.” A month or so after believing this unknown woman was living my dream life, she posted a picture of her posing beside her chicken coop. It was pristine and painted white, and once again, there were those prairie fields behind her, mechanically filtered to a hue that seemed to blanket her in a golden light.
And she wore stylish pants and an expensive-looking sweater, both paired below a cute hat, with neat links in her typed caption, directing viewers where to buy each item.
I imagined what I’d look like some day by my chicken coop. And it didn’t come close to resembling this woman’s outfit ordered straight from Madewell’s website. Who feeds chickens in one hundred and fifteen dollar pants? And makes sure to take a witnessing picture? I’m sure there’s a handful of women who benefit from her content and buy those outfits, but there’s also thousands more that see her page and think they’re not enough—when they absolutely are.
Now that I have chickens, I can assure you I don’t look 2% put-together when caring for my flock. I’m in pajama pants and farmer clogs and never have on a bra…a lot of the time I go out naked at night to lock the coop because there’s no one surrounding us. Or sometimes I have hot rollers pinned to my head, making me look like George Washington in a powdered wig.
While I was doing my “chicken chores” the other morning, Chris snapped a picture of me and I look exactly as described above. Marion is next to me in the Frozen dress she refuses to take off, and my pants are so baggy, I look like I have some kind of front pocket penis tucked into my crotch. There’s toys strewn all about the chicken run and it looks messy–but it’s real. And these are the moments when Chris tells me I’m cute. When he gathers me into his arms and softly laughs, knowing he’s the only man who sees the raw state of me.
I once heard Dad say that he loved you most in the mornings; when you had no makeup and were in hodge-podge pajamas that never matched. And your hair had permission to naturally wave. Maybe I heard him wrong, and honestly, so much time has passed, I feel like I’m making it up because it’s so rare to hear your name come from his mouth. But I remember wishing how much I could tell you what he said. How much I wanted to say that we all loved you that way.
More power to the Montana woman. But that will never be my life. And even if it was, I’d never display it.
With my obvious disdain for posing life through pictures, and the fact that I have a newborn coming soon, I don’t know what’s next for our journal. That’s why most of the time it feels pointless and I ignore the voice that nudges me to type. It may be another six months before we talk again. But I always come back to you and this space.
Especially when I need you.
Tatum just moved into college.
Everett had his kindergarten open-house and begins school next week.
Marion starts pre-school in three weeks.
And I’m due September 5th.
This month of August has ushered in so much change, and as each day ends, I sit on its horizon and wonder when the hell this baby is going to come.
There is constant movement, more than with Everett or Marion, like the baby is always trying to find a comfortable position, but there’s simply no room to be found. Its butt and feet stretch my stomach out at odd, visible angles, making my skin seemingly unable to stretch another centimeter, the way bubble-gum must feel right before it pops in a chewing mouth.
I have contractions every afternoon that last into the evening. And even though I know they’re just practice ones, my brain doesn’t separate or categorize the moderate pains as pretend. So I start scrubbing the toilets. Or I’ll add another item to my hospital bag. Or I’ll walk into the nursery and just stand there, centered in the room, like I’m waiting for the baby to appear out of thin air.
Everything is ready: my plants have been watered, Chris just got a haircut, I’m ahead of laundry, our sheets are fresh, the kids’ daily schedule has been printed, and my special Anthropolgie pajamas (something to help boost the hospital stay) arrived early today. And even though I know the baby cares about none of this, each day I hope my preparing efforts somehow force the eviction notice before September.
I am in a constant state of being ready. And I’m over it.
But I’m not sure how I picture the birth. I haven’t done near as much meditating and intentionalizing as I did for Marion’s big debut. This one almost feels “out of my hands,” and it has since the start of pregnancy. I’ve imagined it fast and without an epidural. It just happens and as quickly as it begins, Chris and I are holding our third child and the chaos ceases.
I feel like I’m jinxing myself, making my premonitions permanent on this page and setting myself up to “be wrong.” But it’s what I feel. So it’s what I need to tell you.
I could very well have a scheduled induction. And pain medication. Or I could also have a c-section, something the midwives have mentioned a couple of times because of my history with shoulder dystocia. When they see Everett’s birth on my file, concerns arise at every appointment, with a different rotating midwife. Even though Marion’s delivery went as smooth as possible, I was told there’s an inherit 25% chance of recurring dystocia. Which I always thought was an issue solely for the mom, because it meant a stuck baby and more pushing, etc. But I Googled the term for the first time. And read bold black words that seemed to lift themselves up off the screen: brain damage and hypoxia were enough for me to tap tap tap the exit browser button three times over, making sure I didn’t have to read what could’ve happened to my sweet boy.
I have a sonogram scheduled tomorrow to delegate the size of this baby, which is challenging to predict accurately, but I can at least grasp some kind of information, about whether or not to schedule a medical induction. Because the bigger the baby, the higher chance of shoulder dystocia. Some days I feel like I’m carrying a nine-pound boy and on others, a small seven-pound girl. Both the weight and gender, I cannot guess.
If it’s a girl, for some reason I’ll feel like our family is complete. And I honestly have no idea why I feel that way; its just solid and concrete and there.
If it’s a boy, I don’t doubt that in another few years, I’ll want to try for a fourth, so I can give Marion a sister–even though I’ve made Grandma promise me on multiple occasions and throughout varying phases of this pregnancy, to remind me to never get pregnant again. And I wasn’t telling her that in confidence to be funny. I meant it.
I’m getting ahead of myself. But I think its normal to casually be thinking of my family and how I want to create or expand it and for what reasons, etc. This is my job. This is my life. This is my purest purpose.
At Everett’s open house the other night, I saw you all over that elementary school. Obviously not in a literal sense, but the building had so many forgotten memories of you that unlocked as I walked the halls. When I passed my third grade classroom, I thought of meeting Meghan, who has remained my best friend, and the way she still re-tells the story of seeing me for the first time. I was new, so you were guiding me into the classroom, making sure I got comfortable and settled. And she still remembers my side pony-tail of curly waves, all gathered and tethered together by a turquoise scrunchie.
There’s actually a home video of you rolling my hair into hot rollers that first-day-of-school morning. You were thirty and beautiful. And pregnant with Cole, your third.
Or when I walked past the gymnasium, I almost cried, thinking of the assemblies you attended in the bleachers, and the the fifth-grade flea market once held there. You made brownies dusted with powdered sugar and cut them into 75 cent squares that sold out and made me proud. It was all to raise money for the Deer Valley trip; a traditional right of passage at Franklin Regional. Ironically, before we knew each other, Jessie and I were camp roommates and her mother was our cabin chaperone. And now she’s another best friend I’ve kept from those years in my life.
It felt like the school held me–who I was, and who I’ve become. And walking Everett to his classroom, I’d arrived at some kind of completed circle that for all this time, never knew was being drawn.
His teacher is young and sweet and pretty; all good ingredients for a lovable kindergarten teacher. Chris and I found his seat, which was right up front, and showed him where his locker was and how he’d hang his coat and book bag inside. We walked the path he’ll take once the bus drops him off, and I clarified with his teacher about the half-day pick-up routine.
I don’t know if its the “right” decision to avoid full-day, but with all of the changes fast-approaching, I felt strongly about wading into this month of September instead of diving head-first. I trust he would’ve adjusted fine, like everyone has told me, but he’s mine––and I know what he can handle. Switching to full-day at anytime is an option, and my guess is that by winter, he’ll be enrolled.
Part of me cannot understand how I have kids these ages. And an even larger ratio cannot fathom another newborn, another member of our family. It always feels so unreal towards the end––like there’s actually a possibility the baby won’t come out…that I’ll always be pregnant…that Chris and I aren’t about to meet the next love of our life.
As my due date gets closer and anxieties about delivery and a newborn narrow-in, I’m yelling more at the kids. The other day we drove to Target for the hundredth time that week, and it was one of those car rides that carried constant talking and whining and asking. And once we pulled into the driveway, I felt like my head popped off my body and exploded. Everett is notorious for pressing buttons he shouldn’t, or turning off switches and locking latches. He had done something to the car door that stopped it from completely shutting, and Marion was crying about getting her shoes on. I whipped my new bags of potting soil across the gravel and screamed, threatening for them to get inside. They ran. Marion scuttled so fast for the front door, she forgot about the shoes.
I kept slamming the car door shut, failing each time and finally cried in frustration. And as if on cue, the chickens started singing their loud egg-laying song, which reminded me that overnight poop was still waiting to be scooped from the coop.
I was overwhelmed with everything that needed me and challenged my existence of Target errands and herding children and running this household. And couldn’t believe I’m about to add more weight to this questioning equation with another human.
Often times it all feels like a never-ending merry-go-round that never stops. And for this entire pregnancy, I’ve forgotten that the ride can be fun. That there’s music and movement and joy and rising and falling and the ability to switch your pony when in need of change.
I don’t like being this way. I don’t like feeling like a shell of myself or being entirely absent from Chris and half-present with the kids. Or thinking that staying home is a worthless position, when in reality…when my mind is clear, I know these are the best days of my life.
So every day I journal, and swirl in my messy print with a pen, that what’s coming is going to be wonderful–that I’m going to adjust and I’ll carry my family through what’s ahead, with Chris’ support. I may not have you, but I have my grandmothers. I may not have a mother-in-law, but I have a husband who gets more paternity leave than a lot of women.
And these awful hormones will begin leaving my body as soon as this baby does. I’m aware of the postpartum period and recovery and the grace that it all demands, but I will soon return to myself. And as I’m anticipating meeting this baby and finding out if we’re adding a brother or sister and what name will be claimed, I’m just as thrilled to reunite with me.
So cheers to this baby. Cheers to me.
Cheers to my growing family and our realness.