Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What Am I Missing Anyway?

Today is not a good day to be alone with myself. I am struggling to find my way out of a hole I began digging the moment I woke up. And despite my attempts to keep them at bay, bad thoughts invade like a thousand bees, attacking my emotions and setting them on fire with each sting.

Comfort to me on a day like this is losing myself in the sheets of my bed, hunkered down in the darkness of my room; all noise and time and life itself just stopping to allow a few moments of relief. But it's impossible to do this with four kids and a husband and laundry to fold and dishes to do. So I reflect on which sting is itching and burning the most at this point, and leave the others to swell and run their course and do whatever bee stings do until I can attend them as well.

My attention focuses on the swollen sting, the one on the most tender place of my being - my heart; the one which seems to stick around for awhile, unable to release its poison and heal itself over time. Thoughts drift back to a time when life was less complicated and more complicated, and in a sense didn't make any sense. I had friends but most of them weren't really true friends and some were in and out of my life like driftwood on a treacherous sea. Some I haven't seen or talked to in years, some have just re-entered my life but are just the same as they've always been. And some have changed as much as I have.

I think back to everything I was able to do - everything I had, and I find myself desiring to have that old life again. Not tied to anything, just having fun. I miss it. I miss the freedom of being able to just get up and go and I miss some of the attention I got from men and I miss drinking with friends on Friday nights. Or at least I think I do. I am often blind-sighted by these nostalgic feelings of my life from before and I always forget about the associated pain and sadness which I was drowning in for as long as I can remember.

I scratch a little more now, trying to squeeze out all this poison because I know somehow it's not good to leave these thoughts alone to fester.

I am trying to remember the good things about my life before and I wonder what exactly it is that I'm really missing. I see people who were around back then and wonder if they've changed (for better or worse) as much as I have. I pray that some of them really have turned their lives around but I notice that some of them haven't. It's actually kind of sad. And some have situations that have changed but their environment and behavior has not and that's even more sad. I can't imagine not feeling like my entire life didn't have to change when my situation did. In my old life, I had money. And I had lots of friends. And I did what I wanted to do. I drank a lot also and I went through each day without much care.

So what is it that I'm missing?

The answer comes quickly as the last little bit of poison oozes out. Everything that I keep thinking about from my past is nothing. It means nothing. Yes I had money....but I spent it on unimportant things. Yes I had freedom...but it was to do things I shouldn't have been doing. Free will is only as good as the choices you make when using it. All of the things I think of when I get that desire to have my life the way it was are in actuality lies from the devil himself. At first glance, they are always so glamorous and attractive. They somehow manifest some sense of elation and desire within me. But those feelings are fleeting as I notice that the shininess I perceive from them is really just the devil blinding me with florescent light, enough to make it so I miss the cracks in the surface of these imagined treasures and the superficial reality they represent. But I see it just in time to remember that I am not his any longer. Tempt me he may but I don't miss him.


Below is a poem I rattled out of my head this afternoon. Good, bad, whatever. It is what it is.

I hear the devil knocking at my door
He shows me glamor from my life before
He shows me sex
Alcohol, money, and power
He's there knocking
Hour after hour

And I'm sitting here
Finding it hard not to think
What exactly pulls me back from the brink
Of that distant life, so long ago
It's here somewhere
But I just don't know

What is it that I'm missing anyway?
Why do I feel so sad inside
How can I figure out so much
When I have so little time?

Pounding now, on my door
He's waiting, waiting as he was before
Giving me memories, nostalgia that won't quit
I want to open up and take that trip
Take that hand extended to me
Go back to that life where I was free

Free to do whatever I wanted
No babies, no husband, nothing I loved
Just me and myself, withering away
Going through the motions of each passing day
Blindly searching for something new
Despairing in darkness as sinners do

What is it that I'm missing anyway?
The silent ticking of each passing day?
Being filled with anger and sadness and pain?
Sins of the world pouring down like rain?

Knocking louder at my door-
But Satan, I've told you many times before
No matter what, you can't have me
I belong to Jesus - for eternity.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sophia's Birth

Our daughter Sophia was born on August 12. I can't believe she's finally here! It's been about a month and I am more in love with her with each passing day. The miracle of a child always takes my breath away. To understand the intricate details of just how God made this particular aspect of life is far beyond my reach. I still can't get over the fact that I grew a baby - a human being - inside my body and then birthed her...and she will grow into an adult and maybe one day birth her own babies. How amazing is the Lord!

And speaking of amazing, can I just say how amazing Phia's birth actually was?! I had been praying incessantly that it would go well, that I would be able to let go of my fears and just do what I knew my body was designed to do. I asked others to pray for me as well. I just didn't want a birth as emotionally difficult as my last or as scary as my very first. I wanted the whole thing to be completely different. And it was - down to the time of day I went into labor, the length, and most importantly, my mental state as I went through the process. I even went to see a chiropractor in the last few months of my pregnancy. I wanted the best chances possible of not only having a shorter birth but an easier one as well.

At one point, I also realized I need to change my strategy for my labor process. I remember a conversation I had with my sister, Kate, just a few weeks before I gave birth to Sophia. I was talking to her about how hard Isabella's birth had been for me, which she remembered because she was there. And while we were talking, a very important idea dawned on me. One of the main analogies I had been focusing on for my previous births, especially Bella's, was how labor contractions are like waves. I focused so intensely on that and wanted that to be my saving grace to carry me through the process - the beautiful picture in my head of a giant sea, the waves lifting me up, peaking and then bringing me down. But the idea that turned a light on inside my head while speaking with my sister was that I am afraid of drowning...why would I parallel waves with contractions and use that to help me stay focused through my labor? My fear of drowning is so tremendous that once those really tough waves (a.k.a. intense contractions) started crashing over me, I was instantly afraid, and grew more and more afraid with each one. That is where I had gone wrong and I knew that if I was going to be able to do this next labor with any sense of peace, I had to throw that comparison out of my head and find a new one - fast!

Aidan's and Isabella's births had started out with light contractions early in the day, lasting through until evening when they'd finally start picking up. By late night, I was too anxious to go to sleep as my contractions got stronger and I would end up just sitting up following them and calling my midwife sometime in the middle of very very early morning (like 2 or 3-ish). With Angel's birth I headed to the birthing center a little bit later than that and then labored the entire next day, into evening and overnight as well, only to end up with a c-section. Sophia's was definitely different. After a pretty decent night of sleep, I woke up shortly after 4 AM to contractions that were middle-grade in intensity. For the next hour and a half I wasn't in too much pain but they were coming pretty close together and were picking up in intensity. Around 6, I got out of bed and decided to go for a walk. I felt an amazing peace within me as I realized that this was most definitely the day my baby would be born. I walked for a half hour on my own in the quiet of early morning, praying and breathing and taking in every moment that passed, knowing I would never get it back again. When I came back from my walk, I drank some water and ate a granola bar. My daughter Angelina woke up and asked me if she could go on a walk with me so we went back out for another trip around the neighborhood. But we only got past about 5 or 6 houses on my road before I decided we had to turn back and wake up Joe.

After that, everything went kind of fast. I woke him up and told him I was in labor and that the contractions were coming faster and stronger. We called the midwife and my sister and mom. My mom headed up from Maryland to pick up the kids and my sister, Kate, (who is a doula in training) and my other sister, Chris, headed up as well to be with me throughout my labor. My midwife got to my house a little after 10 and checking my cervix, she informed me that I was already 6 cm's. This was great news to me as I am usually only 2 or 3 when she shows up, I'm already emotionally stressed and it's usually the middle of the night with even the sun a long way from the horizon.

The day wore on and as my labor grew more intense, I focused less and less on all the things which held me back before, and felt my inner strength stretching itself around me, the quiet of its nature smoothing itself into the rhythm of my contractions. I prayed silently, asking God to bring me peace and sustain my strength as I made my way through the process. I listened to my sisters and my husband, my midwife and her assistant - their calm and gentle voices encouraging me, moving me along, pushing me to reach my goal. At 2:59 PM, after only 9 minutes of pushing, Sophia Paige was born! I felt so relieved and so peaceful and amazed. I couldn't believe how easy her birth was compared to the last one. The day had just melted away so fast, lost somewhere in the rhythms of baby dancing and walking, in leaning on my sisters and surrendering to my husband's arms for support, and in crying and laughing and praying and hurting. All of it had been so intense yet so easy at the same time.

And then there is 'Phia - a beautiful little miracle who made that journey with me. A tiny baby who not only changed my life just by being born but she changed my life in the way she was born. And no matter how much "mommy brain" I have, no matter how many years pass or the distance between us at any given moment, I will always remember the birth of my fourth child in much detail and with great pride.