Helpers

I really really wish I felt better while pregnant. There are pregnant women being Wonder Womanly and kicking butt at tennis and for a very long time, just existing is a pretty major accomplishment in my book.

I’m finally some better, but in that long hibernation space, I felt like the kids were mostly just watching tv and mainlining Goldfish. As it turns out, though, Pippin was developing newfound independence and a willingness to help.

In the past few weeks, he’s started pouring his own milk (if we keep a small bottle filled for him), feeding the dog, checking the mail, keeping an eye on his sister (who he endearingly and mysteriously calls “Sweet Pete”), helping me put away groceries and helping more consistently with baking.

It’s grand. It’s a reminder for me of a couple things: first, I should keep an eye on my kids’ development and give them chances to try new tasks. And more importantly, I’m learning that even in a season of seeming stasis, the kids are growing all the time. They are not (just!) developing complexes from me repeating, “Please don’t touch Mama, please go watch more Daniel Tiger” — maybe the boredom and benevolent neglect even hastens these leaps.

Well, Sweet Pete, looks like Mama’s not getting around to it anytime soon. Should I try?

Captain Barnacles gives little sis a push on the swing

Promises to those struggling to conceive 

I will say it up front: I don’t think I can pretend I enjoy every minute, and I’m not sure that actually helps. I will complain through the throw up (mine and theirs) and the tantrums (mine and theirs) but I will never let my gratitude become completely overshadowed. I know what you’d do for these barfy little miracles.

I promise never to forget you in the busyness of these early years, and to try to never forget your feelings. I will mourn your miscarriage, probably awkwardly and with the wrong words. I will remember you on Mother’s Day. I will try to check in on your TTC journey — not too often to be pestersome, but so you know I care.

I will let you hold my squishy new baby as much or as little as you want. My babies have come relatively easily to me, but I will not forget that strange longing for a baby cheek pressed against mine, even when I feel like I’m drowning in them.

In my dark room at night, burping a baby for the thousandth time, I will remember your name in a changing litany of longing women to whom I dedicate these milky Hail Marys. I remember you when I huddle over the toilet, throwing up again even though it’s second trimester and IT IS SO UNFAIR. You have a thing or two to teach me about unfairness, I know.

I don’t know if any of these words help. I only know that this blog has always been about motherhood and right now is swimming in pregnancy, too. I know it hurts to feel drowned out, so know this: I want to hear your story, too.
Love,
Katherine

Commonplace Book, 31 (Week 18)

What is a commonplace book? For me, this is a space where I post interesting links, reflections on what I’m reading, and the newest recipes I’ve been trying out — a collection of miscellaneous micro-posts.

What I’m fixing:

  • She lives! The usual brownies and this Indian stew and my go-to cobbler with my trusty cobbler sous-chef, and this cornbread which will henceforth be considered my standard cornbread recipe. (Not for those who like a nice, sweet cornbread. Also, can we agree that corn kernels in cornbread are repugnant?)

What I’m reading:

  • The Fellowship of the RingI missed the Well-Read Moms book group meeting that discussed it because we’ve had a quick progression of houseguests and all my reading time has gone to visiting — a welcome change from the slow slog of first trimester. This is, I think, my third pass, and I love it more each time. Can I confess, as a woman with a child named Pippin, that I didn’t enjoy it much the first time, reading it in high school to impress J? My love for the brave melancholy that imbues it has grown with age, though. As someone says (Aragorn?) — my notes are pretty bad — “It is a fair tale, though it is sad, as are all the tales of Middle-earth, and yet it may lift up your hearts.” Also, how is this for #homemaking goals?

“Frodo was now safe in the Last Homely House east of the Sea. That house was, as Bilbo had long ago reported, ‘a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all’. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness.”

She’s two tomorrow and they’re becoming friends and it makes my heart so glad

Commonplace Book, 30

What is a commonplace book? For me, this is a space where I post interesting links, reflections on what I’m reading, and the newest recipes I’ve been trying out — a collection of miscellaneous micro-posts.

What I’m fixing:

  • So rude of you to even ask.

What I’m reading:

  • Blood Red, Snow WhiteI don’t know if I’ve talked about our family’s ardent affection for Swallows and Amazonsa book that kicks of a series in which kids float around on a little sailboat in the Lake District and, charmingly, almost nothing happens. But did you know THE AUTHOR WAS A RUSSIAN SPY? And someone wrote a lovely, lyrical, fairy-tale-y account of Arthur Ransome’s time in Russia, and you can read it, and agree with me that although it’s basically the opposite of Swallows and Amazons, it’s really very good.
  • Till We Have FacesCurrently reading. Was supposed to finish for WRM, but since I was too sick to go, I have the luxury of reading it slowly in epsom salt baths that are not curing my morning sickness but still qualify as one of the more fun possible remedies.
  • Creating with God: The Holy Confusing Blessedness of PregnancyI’ve been gushing about this one over on Instagram. I thought I had found the best of faith-oriented books on the sanctifying suckiness of pregnancy (if not a genre, it should be), but au contraire! I’ve been underlining a lot. So glad it’s in the world.

“Pregnant women learn through pregnancy to trust others for their basic needs. They learn their own limits. They learn to ask for and receive help. They learn to surround themselves with communities of support…They learn to trust that God will meet their needs through the people around them. In short, pregnant women learn to live by faith.”

Currently book people even more than normal. (Also TV people…)

Nine Years

J and I have been together since we were 17, so young that we still bought our shoes a size up because we were still growing. He was my first kiss, my prom date.

(This post is just pretty much pure self indulgence, I might as well tell you now.)

Pregnancy is a long, hard season for our marriage that concretely builds our reliance and faith in each other, but doesn’t allow for a lot of fun adventures — although this time around, we’ve been having the occasional “date,” when he wakes me up at 9 or 10 so we can watch a little TV  in bed and I can snack before I go back to sleep and he continues with his Functional Human tasks. Party on.

This is the sort of love note we exchange in pregnancy:

photo (1).jpg
I am the morning sick cat in library school; he is the owl; fetal Pippin is the barf-inducing Charizard. If this wasn’t clear.

For our first anniversary, we took a spontaneous overnight trip to New Orleans and ate rabbit at the fanciest restaurant we could afford. We drank very cheap, very bad champagne in our room, and the next morning we ate beignets and drove through torrential Southern rain on our way back to Tallahassee.

kdk_0037.jpg
J continues his lifelong quest to sample All the Animals, I squeeze back into my going away dress.

For this, our ninth anniversary, we probably won’t go out because my queasiness gets worse around 4 and I usually go to bed by 7, but my in-laws said they’d babysit for us so we could go out when they’re in town in a couple of weeks, when maybe my body will have finally conceded that it’s second trimester and straightened up.

Pregnancy is a dull time in our marriage, but a time when I see how much we’ve grown since the gawky high school days. That growing up isn’t always fun, but I’m so proud and in love with the bearded papa-man I find myself married to these days, grey at the temples, compassion for wimpy old pregnant me in his every gesture.

10399071_514761262584_6530_n.jpg
For the record, chances of me fitting back into this dress six months postpartum for our ten year next year: 0%.

Moans and Groans

Pregnancy is a lot of groan-worthy symptoms for me, but somewhere along the line I noticed something else embarrassing: the pregnancy moan.

Get your mind out of the gutter, guys, but if motherhood makes me live in my body more than ever before, pregnancy makes me often feel all I am is a body, or merely a collection of side effects, or a big disgusting vat of baby-brewing.

Once I noticed the involuntary moaning, though, I began to better appreciate the exquisite pleasures in day to day life when you’re mostly pretty uncomfortable: a sip of perfectly cold water, the relief of dropping your weary sciatic bones onto a squishy sofa, getting home from work and changing directly into voluminous pajamas.

These moments are oases in long days. In first trimester, I’d eat mechanically whatever seemed least disgusting, obediently and hourly, and then, a gift from above, every so often something would taste better than anything in my unpregnant state — a friend’s chicken salad, for instance, shared after many lonely days of fatigue. My husband’s improvised pasta carbonara. Mint chocolate ice cream when I thought the nausea was about to win that round.

Once you offer that initial fiat, pregnancy is a train with no stops. You’re merely a passenger and you aren’t picking the route. But when I look for these moments of pure, unexpected, mildly embarrassing  joy, I can better notice the beautiful scenery that passes me by while mostly I’m preoccupied with the jolting, tortuous route. I am reminded of what pregnancy is in all its mostly sucky, still miraculous glory: pure gift.

P1011341.jpg
Blissful second trimester nap the summer I was brewing up Pippin

Friends Rush In

“Let me know how I can help!” We all say it, and it’s meant well, but not usually very helpful. So let’s real talk — things people have done for us in this and other pregnancies:

  • Brought fresh soap in case the smell bothered me
  • Brought snacks
  • Brought dinner
  • Watched my kids for appointments
  • Sent their big kids to be mother’s helper so I could lie down
  • Sent their husbands who work only part-time to be mother’s helper so I could lie down (my husband insists this isn’t be a mother’s helper but a “dad-in-training”)
  • Taken my kid to preschool or picked him up
  • Sent flowers
  • Left cookies
  • Mailed encouraging notes and prayer cards
  • Walked my dog when it was snowy and John was out of town and we didn’t have a fence
  • Helped me do laundry and straighten up

(My friends and acquaintances, let’s be clear, are awesome, and if I name this child after them, it’ll be about twenty names long.)

A friend was recently saying she felt like she was failing at modeling generosity for her kids because she wasn’t making a lot of time for soup kitchens and other volunteerism. And while those things are definitely important (and an area in which I regularly fail), this same friend has been helping me in big and small ways, from showing up to dinner to helping me lug the toddler around preschool events. No doubt her kids see these acts of friendship and generosity, too. 

A lot of this, of course, applies to more than crippling morning sickness or even newborn babies: to grief and all kinds of hardship. For more really concrete advice, check out Sheryl Sandberg talking about what helped her in the wake of her husband’s sudden death. What have people done for you in tough times that’s helped most?