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

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

For My Jeremiah

Me and my two youngest babies.
Last night on my Facebook status I asked the question, "fold laundry or cuddle a sleeping baby?" 

The answers that ensued were,"cuddle that baby!"

I agreed; it was a no-brainer.

It got me thinking about the moments that pass in the blink of an eye.  How my oldest daughter is about to turn eight and I remember when she was just a month old; soothed by my nursing her, rocking her, holding her close as she slept against my neck.  Those moments seem like a hundred years ago and in the time that has passed since then, I have lost two babies, had four others, grown older, rounder, wiser.

My baby is about to turn one month old and I don't know where the time went.  He already looks so different than when he was born; his changes marking the reality that time moves at an inexplicably fast pace whether we like it or not.  These past four weeks have been a blur of cuddling, nursing, diaper changing, spit ups, soothing, rocking, sighing.  And not much else.   

Of course cuddling a sleeping baby should be the answer.  Every. Single. Time.

Because babies really don't keep.  They grow up.  They move on.  They have babies of their own.

And we mamas are left with empty arms.  Naked necks where tiny faces once lay.  Places of our being that can only be filled once more with the joy of grandbabies if the Lord so chooses; babies that are ours... but not really ours.

My mom reminded me of the following poem, which she came across when she had her fifth child - my sister, Kate.  And it most certainly fits this time in my journey.  There is nothing more important than taking those moments with our little ones and cherishing them for a time.  Nothing.  (Not even a clean house.) 

Song for a Fifth Child
    by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton
Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Little Less Noise There...

Where to begin?

I sit here staring at the black cursor blinking quietly against the contrasting white background on which I am meant to type my thoughts... And I am feeling overwhelmed.

Truth is, it's been many months since I've had quiet in my head enough to think about getting my thoughts out.  They have been swirling around, building momentum, creating a giant wind of fury in there for many days now.  I've become sort of lost within that swirling storm over this time, as I got caught up by the cacophony of life's happenings, and I'm not sure I am capable of pulling out anything of weight or substance now that I have been finally spit back out into a more subtle, gentler way of existing.

Truth is, I still feel so very lost.

Truth is, I'm not sure I really know who I am right now.

I guess I could start at the beginning but I'm also not sure where exactly that is. Is it back in May when I last wrote this post, conveying my thoughts on suffering as if I really know what I'm talking about? As if I actually suffer enough to share something helpful or even just clever about such a very important and broad topic?

Or it could be a month or so after that, when I started having panic attacks and feeling like every.bit.of.noise bothered me.  That was about the time when I realized holy sh**, I'm about to have another baby and I still feel like a freakin child myself, incapable of doing anything right or, crap, even just good enough to pass, and who the heck decided it was a great idea to give me one child let alone five anyway?

The beginning could be just shy of a month ago when I gave birth to our fifth child; a boy.  Jeremiah.  The different one.  The little boy who freaked me out my entire pregnancy because as my body carried and grew him, I felt older and more broken than I ever have and he wasn't doing anything like my others did.  That tiny child whose labor and delivery I thought would be a breeze since hell, this is my fifth baby after all, but who threw me for a loop when he didn't want to come out so easily and took his grand old time and pushed his feet into the top of my belly so hard to help himself move downward I thought I was going to die.  He's the one who finally came out but with his hand on his head as if he was in deep thought the entire time, and didn't want to nurse right away or at all for two whole days.

Yes, we'll start there because it's been since then that I have really begun to wonder who I am. Every time things in life start to make sense and I am feeling more confident and more capable, the scenery changes, I change and I feel more in the dark than ever.  Funny thing is, even though this baby has been the proverbial straw that brought on this break, my relationship with him is the only thing that makes sense to me, the only one in my life I am truly satisfied with.  After that crazy 40 weeks of pregnancy, the long labor and all of that, it was just me and him.  And he was perfect.

The pain of those months and those final difficult hours were quickly replaced with the brilliant softness of his skin, the way his tiny little mouth would draw up in an 'o', his intensely-dark blue eyes that stared at me trying to focus.  None of that before stuff mattered.  It all easily melted away into the folds of his neck, disappearing into his whisper-soft hair, and for the past 3 1/2 weeks we got into a rhythm, he and I.  We slept close and I drew in his scent.  His dependence on me became just another motion in the day (and night) but I loved it.  I needed it. I needed the routine of diaper changing and frequent nursing and holding him up as I rubbed his back to burp.  I needed his tiny fingers grasping anything that came near them, his piggy grunts as he squirmed toward me in the night to nurse, that newness of another life entwining itself with mine.  It all replaced anything I worried about before, any pain I felt during labor, any desperation that overwhelmed me as I tried to figure out the dynamics of a life with five children.

But some of it has returned.  I've sort of fallen into a dark hole.  Another break. And it's not so much about having five children as it is about me.  And all my stuff.  Stuff that likes to hide in dark corners and only jump out to show its face when I'm feeling really weak.  Stuff that I don't know how to mend.  Stuff that cripples me at times.  Stuff that likes to bleed out, leaving me open and raw and exposed, vulnerable and terrified and all the horrible fears I've always had.  It's a daily struggle, and I keep thinking there's got to be more than this.  Something I'm missing.  A tool in my arsenal I am overlooking that will help me fight this battle with myself.

Noise has started to bother me again.  Sometimes, when Jeremiah is sleeping peacefully and a random loud noise occurs, he throws his arms up at the disturbance, often whimpering. I put my hand on his chest to soothe and reassure him, softly whispering into his ear and lightly kissing his cheek.  He goes back to peaceful but I cannot.  I am frazzled and my nerves are on end, like a cat's fur bristling at a barking dog.  There is no one there to soothe and reassure me; no one to whisper in my ear and put their strong hand on my chest to calm me down. 

I swore to my husband practically my entire pregnancy, especially the last few months of it, that God must have given me Jeremiah for the sole purpose of keeping me from either a)picking up a really terrible drinking habit or b)homicide.  Maybe both.  Okay, maybe not homicide...but in all seriousness, at times I thought maybe it was even to keep me from suicide.  Many days were dark and scary for me and there was no particular reason except that I let satan steal my joy enough to make me wonder what I am doing here.  Dangerous place to be folks, let me tell you. But after the excitement of bringing another baby into the world has worn off, the light seems a little more dim these days and as I sink back into typical routine and predictability, I'm having a hard time wondering what path I can take away from the slow familiar darkening of life around me.

I've definitely missed something in my arsenal.  But what is it?  I am digging deep down, into this Mary Poppins bag of mine, and I can't find it.  Whatever it is.  It's not there.  I look around; maybe I dumped it out or haphazardly tossed it aside in my search, but it's not anywhere.  I'm not sure I even know what I am looking for. Would I recognize it if I saw it?

It seems, like other similarly loud times in my life, many other weak moments, I find that all I can do is pray.  And I think about several people I know who are worse off than me in that they are sort of wandering through life waiting on the next thing, unaware that they have a perfect and specific plan already mapped out for them if they would only choose it.  I think of them and how terribly lost they must feel, much more-so than me.  I mean, I have a map already.  Though much of my path is hidden until I'm right upon it, and it is often dark and shadowy, I still know where it leads.  I cling to that knowledge, that faith.  Even right now, though I express all this angst, and I am terrified in moments and I am feeling lost, I pray and I know that I am on the right path still; I haven't fallen off.  And if I just hold on a little longer, I will make it through the noise and darkness and I will be ok.  NOT because I do anything heroic or incredible, but because I recognize this weakness and I recognize my need for a strong hand on my chest and a soothing word in my ear against the noise and fear. And I find strength in a Source far greater than myself.

And there it is... the tool I overlooked: Strength from a Source greater than myself.  And the source is not the universe. It's not "positive energies" sent out by friends or family.  It's God.  It's the One Who made me.  The One Who decided it was a good idea to give me not just one baby but five.  The One Who made those babies in love and gave them to a tired mama who isn't perfect and whose nerves bristle at noise, but who finds in moments like these, even when I don't know who I am, my Heavenly Father certainly does.