Sweetness to me

Light filters softly through our bamboo blinds as I slowly became aware of myself enveloped in grey flannel sheets, curled on my side, warm in the embrace of a thick down comforter.  My eyes flutter open, and I look down to see, nuzzled in the hollow of my  body, a perfect nearly bald head pressed against my chest, delicate hands and arms loosely grasping my shirt contentedly in sleep.  I stare for a moment — at times the adjustment to this reality takes a second — and then I listen for the soft gurgle of his breath.  There it is. There he is.  This little, delicate human, snuggled into the hollow of my chest and belly, next to my heart – a spot he’s already called home for many months.

Our mornings look like this. Rick leaves us early in the dark, often as I feed the baby.  We say sad parting words, for it really is a tragedy that Rick must leave us each day to be with other children.  We finish our feed, and snuggle into a short morning sleep for a few more hours.  Addie curls in the crook of my bent knees, Cody curls in the crook of my body.  Soon we fall into a rhythm of slowed breathing and drift to sleep for a few more blessed hours, joining legions of other women through the ages who, exhausted and in love, collapse into a sweet delicate sleep curled around their babies. Now, as I type, he inhabits the same space in a different form.  Tied snugly to my chest in a wrap, he sleeps peacefully. Looking down I am struck, as always, by the perfection of his skin – a pink and ivory expanse, criss-crossed with pale blue veins on his skull.  I know his future will be filled with sun-soaked days and that this perfect ivory skin will soon be populated with hundreds of freckles.  Now, it is a doll’s face I look at – utter symmetry, wide cheeks, a button nose, beautifully curled rose lips.  The palest of blond eyebrows, and slightly darker lashes, growing longer by the day.  In sleep, his perfection absolutely stuns me. I wonder often, how two normal-looking people could create what lies here before me.  Awake – his perfection morphs into something more like wonder.  I stare at his bright blue eyes.  Since the day he was born, they have tracked on people and objects displaying an alertness that I think both his parents lack.  He wrinkles his nose, or raises his eyebrows over and over as he breastfeeds with each gulp. He smiles when you scratch under his chin or make a silly face.  He cries when he is hungry or needs a diaper change, but rarely for any other reason.  In fact, I’ve noticed he seems mainly to cry when he is left alone – almost out of boredom or loneliness.  And I’m both proud and touched that these seem to be the main reasons he needs me – entertainment and the simple act of loving and touching him, holding him to my body where our breathing and heartbeats are closer together as they were before he was born.

I’m not sure that motherhood changes people.  I think motherhood brings out what has always been there, by putting a face and name on something that probably has long been latent in many of us.  For me, it is a softness that I don’t always show.  It is a sweet, protective, caring side that only those close to me ever really see.  I have always been an older sister, a caretaker and teacher to my siblings.  I have always deeply loved animals. The logical leap required to know I’d take to motherhood is small.  But yet, I am amazed by the whole thing. Amazed at the naturalness of it – the instinctiveness that comes from within, and also the memories that come back to me of my childhood and helping my mom with my two younger sisters.  I’m amazed at the joy I take in staring at Cody as he sleeps.  I’m amazed that Rick leaves in the morning and comes back in the evening and my day has disappeared between diaper changes, feeds, and snuggling with my snoring baby.  Nothing gets done, and though it bothers me, I don’t want to put him down to do something else.  (Thus, the hiatus in my blogging.)

I sing him all the lullabies I know.  I have revisited every camp song I’ve ever sung.  On my trip back from Telluride with him, he cried for the last hour, despite multiple stops to feed him and change his diaper.  He was bored and sick of driving, so I sang to him.  It was all that would quiet him down.  And soon I ran out of songs.  So, I sang the Star Spangled Banner over, and over, and over again until I nearly lost my voice.  Each time I stopped, he would slowly begin to fuss again.  And so I sang on.  And this is motherhood.  It is truly giving up yourself in so many ways, but I hope to do it with grace.  At times I struggle to accept all the changes – I have had a hard go of it, physically: 47 hour labor, a C-section, 4 days in the hospital to recover, then a blocked duct, mastitis, and abscess, breastfeeding pains, my C-section incision got infected and re-opened. I have had to go on two courses of antibiotics. My teeth are suffering, and I may have broken a bone in my foot while walking. Pregnancy is no joke.  It is HARD on your body.  Bringing someone new into the world is, I suppose, a responsibility not to be taken lightly or underestimated.

When I first saw Cody, held above me on an operating table – a slimy, wriggling little thing – I didn’t immediately fall in love.  But when I looked into his eyes as Rick held him near me while they stitched me up, and saw this little guy just trying to make it, he touched my heart.  Each day as we have built our relationship together, I fall more in love with the little man he is turning out to be.  A bright, alert, smiling child who wants to be held and loved and snuggled.  He makes me happy to come home, and gives me drive and renewed purpose.  He is sweetness embodied.  When I hold him, he holds me back and I know he needs me.  I am his mom.  It is the most special, exultant thing I could hope for.

Smelly Feet and other Love Symbols

I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Calgary reflecting on an email I got this morning from my husband.  It was titled “Come Home.”  As I read the email I laughed aloud as he recounted how our puppy ate my Birkenstocks while he was in the shower this morning.  Yesterday, it was one of my pairs of Danskos.  She’s not typically a shoe-destroyer, so one can only assume she misses the smell of my feet, and me, by extension.  He says that he, too, misses me.  Thankfully he doesn’t show it by eating my shoes.

Being away from home for a week by myself is a good reminder of the blessings I have in my life.  There are so many – and prep yourself because I am going to talk about them.

For one thing, my job, which brought me to Calgary is a blessing.  I work in the exact intersection of things that I love – communications, writing, media, working with people, and environmental issues.  It is not always a fun job, thankless at times, but it is rewarding and full of opportunities to learn and grow.  I love it.  The past week in Calgary for the International Pipelines Conference has re-shaped my perception of pipeline folks entirely. There were amazing sessions on working through environmental challenges, improving safety, learning about ways that pipeline infrastructure actually changes ecosystems to cause certain animals to thrive – and so many more!  The ones that appealed to me most directly dealt with utilizing social media and the internet to include the public in routing decisions and educate them on issues that they care about.  I also LOVED learning about the ways that companies work with First Nations communities to share ownership of infrastructure, accommodate cultural and lifestyle differences, and achieve social license to operate.  This is cool stuff, people.  And for those who might question how a self-described environmentalist can work in this space, I will remind you again that THIS is where change happens and that our voices are often strongest on the inside of an organization as we strive to achieve best practices.  Moreover, unless you can say you don’t use metals, electricity, gasoline, and the myriad other fuels and materials derived from natural resource development – then you are a silent accomplice to the means that brings your iPad to your lap while you watch Hulu.  So, in my opinion it’s best to be a part of the conversation.

After a rough few weeks in the office, that at times made me questions how I would be able to continue to work effectively once Baby Frankie is born, I feel refreshed and renewed by my week here.  I was dreading it, but instead I came away inspired.

In other blessings, it now occurs to me that in just over a week my sisters and another friend will be hosting my BABY SHOWER! My sister has been calling it the Frank and Beans baby shower, since we are doing it outdoors, with a fire, barbecue,  lawn games, and warm fall drinks – and we are referring to the baby using the moniker, Baby Frankie.

It has taken many months for my coming role as a mother to really settle in for me.  Perhaps it is the constant kicking in my belly, or the fact that the shower we plotted out months ago is finally here, or the fact that my maternity clothes are actually a NECESSITY now, but the reality of our coming baby is beginning to hit me in the most pleasant way!  Rather than fretting over how to manage this new variable in our lives, I am softening into daydreams of snuggling with a little newborn, breastfeeding, and sharing all the special moments that happen when a new life is created.  (As I typed that, I thought to myself that the me from a few years ago would have gagged a bit at the mushiness of that sentence, but that was before the influx of hormones that makes me gaze adoringly at babies and want to stroke their soft little baby skin.)  I’ll just go ahead and admit it now: I am going to be an obnoxious mom.  My poor child, like everything I love, will have the scars to prove my attachment.  Of that, I’m sure.  I love hard, and leave marks – physical and otherwise.  Just ask my stuffed animals, my husband, any former love, and my family.  But, loving hard can’t be all bad.  My puppy misses the smell of my feet, so I can only assume she loves me hard right back!

The last blessing I want to talk about today is the blessing of health.  I have watched with alternating fascination and horror as my body has changed with pregnancy.  I’ve talked about it plenty here.  My thighs, oh my thighs!  What are these things I once knew as my muscular legs?  Hah.  I remind myself that they are blessings too.  I have health, wellness, and a body that is supporting me well as I grow a tiny hew human.  Sure, I occasionally feel tired, or my feet hurt, but overall I have been blessed with health through this pregnancy (with the exception of a wildly under active thyroid for a bit there…).  I have read several books on pregnancy and birth, all of which encourage a certain reverence for the wonders of the female body’s ability to create and support life.  On an intellectual level I completely get that, but I am working to understand that in my day-to-day reality as I see myself in the mirror and feel shocked by the belly that juts out in front of me.  I reflect daily on the challenge of labor and what will be required of my body to birth and support a child.  Then I look at my hips and thighs with a new admiration.  These  “maternal stores” come with the territory as my body becomes a life-giving machine.  I am beginning to recognize that the hips, which I have often joked would never be able to birth a child unless I starved the thing, are now preparing to do that.  My frame is small, and it is entirely focused on a single purpose now – allowing the growth, support, and passage of a baby. Wow.  That is wild stuff.

Anyway, if you have made it to this point in my very long blog post, I am impressed with your curiosity and perseverance.  I have many other blessings, which I suppose I should reserve for another post.  I will close by acknowledging the many sources of love and support in my life that give me the confidence and security to embrace this new direction in my life.  Thank you!

The Heart



My life up until a few years ago rarely featured my heart.  It showcased my sense of adventure, my need for freedom, and my conflicts over how to love in light of those things.  There were many pieces of me on display, true.  But the way my heart works wasn’t among those pieces.

In recent years, I have worked through yoga and through some soul-searching to open my heart, to accept and love myself in spite of my flaws (and because of them), and generally be more honest and authentic in recognizing what I need and what I want.  I feel good about what I’ve done.  It’s been a lot of work, and a lot of truly amazing reward.  But, nothing so far has prepared me for this.

Today, I heard my baby’s heartbeat.

Via a monitor on my stomach, through some little speakers, this wildly powerful little chug-a-lug of a heartbeat shook me to my core.  I’ve seen the little one on ultrasounds a few times, and watched the little flicker of his or her heart blink along in the sepia swirls, trying to see limbs or a discernible form.  Today, though, hearing the little being within me thumping along made it all seem more real to me.

It’s been a few months (3 to be exact!) since Rick and I found out we were expecting.  In that time, I have suffered barely any symptoms besides being a little tired and uninterested in eating.  As a result, the fact that I’m carrying another human inside of me has at times felt unreal.  I have been reading voraciously about birth, fetal development, and trying to absorb everything under the sun about this massive change which will soon be a reality in our lives.  But, all the reading, diminished appetite, and the increasingly tight waistband of my pants has not really sunk in for me personally.  That is, until today.

Maybe this will make me more protective of myself and my cargo, where I have otherwise been treating my life as normal – going rafting, hosting parties, riding my bike around, running, doing inversions and twists in yoga.  Who knows? I recognize that pregnancy in many ways is a test in flexibility and managing expectations.  Things can move fast, and even though I seek a healthy and safe pregnancy, that could change in a moment.  As such, part of me doesn’t want to give up too much too quickly. I am trying to keep a good handle on my life, recognizing that there will be PLENTY of time for me to alter my life to accommodate another little member of our family soon enough.

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Baby’s first Elephant Rock! 62 miles in the saddle and first ride since October!

What I have actually found to be the most noticeable part of being pregnant, for me, has been a very deep recognition of the incredible man who got me into this position.  Comprehending the immense experience we are sharing together (be it as common as ever) reminds me of what I love about Rick.  He is reading pregnancy books and following along with my apps that tell me what fruit compares to my baby’s size (lime this week).  He listens to my every observation and constantly reminds me that I’m pregnant, and not getting fat.  He busts his butt to keep up on the schoolwork to get his teaching certificate and just got a great teaching position, all the while doing daily projects on our adorable little house and managing a totally deranged little puppy.  And when I come home from the office he, more often than not, has dinner cooking for me.  He is coaching me back into running so that I can run a race in Aspen this summer, and he supports me in all the little things I ask of him.  He is so truly a good man.  And, I think in knowing I am bringing another human into the world his goodness gives me such hope and joy for the whole process.  I am recognizing that this is an experience I can’t imagine with anyone else.

So, to bring this back full circle, let me finish this post on a point about the heart.  Today when my heart cracked open a little bit as I heard thumping through a little speaker, I recognized that there is so much still to feel within me.  At times I look at Rick or my puppy and feel like my heart will explode a bit, but today assured me that there is another threshold of love that I’ll soon be aware of.  The vulnerability that comes with pieces of your heart being outside of your control is absolutely terrifying and incredible.

 

 

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Baby’s first rafting on the Arkansas! I think we all enjoyed it! And I am doing my best to “show” here. Not showing too much yet…