No post for two weeks means I should treat you to a video, right? Behold: he walks!
Today is your birthday. It’s hard to believe – the year went by so quickly that in my mind you are both the tiny froggy newborn baby who would only fall asleep draped over my forearm and the little boy sitting beside me and double fisting cheerios. It’s tough to be the second one because I can’t help comparing you to Lucy despite my best intentions, but then again, you’re so in love with her that it’s most likely a huge compliment. Oh how you wish you were as big and strong and fast as she is. Oh how you want to do everything she can do. Oh how you want her glasses for yourself!
You can do so many things compared to a year ago. You can walk, mostly, although you fall down pretty often. That doesn’t stop you trying to run though. You eat everything in sight, preferably by yourself. You love to put things in other things and take things out of other things, and bang things on things, and put things in your mouth (so much putting things in your mouth), and examine things from all angles. You love people, all people, and if you are meeting someone new you immediately lean into them so they will hold you, and then you touch their faces. You are very serious and intimidating, except when you’re not, and then you’re happy and silly with the biggest four-toothed smile in the world. You are silent, except for when you’re loud and screechy and full of things to tell me. You have words already, sort of: mama, dada, kitty, all done, night night, uh oh, and your beloved tractor sounds. You charm the pants off everybody.
I find it really hard to let you grow up. It’s going to happen no matter what I do; I can’t stop the earth turning. I love seeing you learn new things, I really do, but it’s hard to know that every step is taking you closer to full independence, which of course I want for you, but I will miss our snuggles and cuddles and the way you love to be close to me. I’m glad that you’ll still be small for a while yet.
I’ve said before that I agree that having children is like letting my heart walk around outside my body, and having two children means twice the vulnerability. That being said, despite how hard it’s been to learn how to adapt our family to your presence, I wouldn’t give anything up. All the horrible times, the bad nights, the sick days and nights, the million times I pull your sister of you or you off your sister, the bad days and the worse ones, are all worth it. You are special. You are a little treasure. I love you so much, and I will hold you in my heart forever, my lovely little paradox boy.
I want to find the bright side of things these days. I really do. There’s a lot of stress and cabin fever and messed-up naps and frustration going on in Sawatzky-world but that doesn’t mean that spring will never come, right? Literal and figurative spring. I get into funks really easily and then let them get so bad that I have panic attacks and I become a really tough person to live with. It’s hard hard hard to reverse the process, but the more times I buckle down and find the big-girl panties at the bottom of the drawer, the easier it gets. No sugar. Regular yoga and running. Get out of the house with the smalls. Get out of the house without the smalls. Get off the stupid internet and knit or read or do something. Reflect on the fact that things change so very quickly – I mean, Rowan is turning one in nine days. One! A year ago I was fuh-reaking out, full on out of control, because I was terrified of being induced again, and I couldn’t sleep, and the whole world was going to fall apart. I just suck at these first three months of the year. But that’s okay, because it doesn’t last forever. Maybe one day I’ll get to a point where I can actually enjoy the majority of the boring quarter of the year between Christmas and spring, but at least getting older means I know it will change. There are the minute-to-minute changes, like “will Rowan go back to sleep?” and the year-to-year changes, like “should I seriously consider midwifery?” (spoiler alert: yes, I think so). There are the moments that I am so content with things, and then the next second it all falls apart and everyone is losing it.
This morning I had a half-hour stalemate with Lucy over the end of breakfast. We were both being ridiculous about it. I was not being very awesome (and she was being seriously aggravating). It took me a full half-hour to say “do you need to draw your feelings?” because even though she is my daughter and I know her better than anyone, I still forget that when her little brain goes into overload, she needs to communicate in her language (art) not mine (words).
Growing up is hard. I have a hard time remembering how to meet Lucy’s needs and sometimes an even harder time remembering how to meet my own. (See the partial list above.) As soon as I get better at one area, I slump in another. But the elusive bright side is that even if I’ve only dusted once this year (oops), I have started running again. Even if Lucy cried because my words were too harsh this morning, I remembered that she needs to draw her feelings. We’re always a work in progress.
While I was making Rowan his Abernathy sweater over Christmas, Lucy kept asking for one of her own. It took me two months instead of two weeks, but I finished it, blocked it, and sewed on the button today. It’s too big right now, but that’s okay – she’ll grow into it. And giant wooly sweaters are one of life’s joys anyway, so why not start young?
The pattern is available here and the project details are in my ravelry journal. And in case you’re wondering, my next project is well underway! There’s nothing like casting off a project to inspire me to start another one, and sweaters for small people are much more motivating than sweaters for grown-up people. I think I’m addicted to them.
Well, that was an interesting week! Last Friday Sam and I went out for my fancy birthday date. When we got to the restaurant, my parents were waiting for us! Sam spent months arranging a surprise visit for my birthday – he coordinated with his parents to have a little birthday party for Rowan, he worked with the committee for my mom’s group so that Dad could be our guest speaker on Thursday (I am on that committee), and most of the people that I have regular contact with knew about it. But no one spilled the beans! It explains now why my mom didn’t come visit while Sam was in Florida, although at the time my feelings were a little bit hurt. We had a great week, mostly full of grandparent-grandchild interactions. I turned thirty on Monday and feel much older and wiser.
It’s a good thing we had a fun surprise, because this ongoing winter nonsense is really getting old. I see blowing snow when I look out the window and I am DONE with that. I am also done with wearing socks, even though I got some really nice ones for my birthday. I like going the park in t-shirts and sandals.
Of course the kids both got a cold while my parents were here. They’ve passed it on to me now. I went for a run this morning anyway, but it was kind of gross. I’ve drunk a whole pot of ginger lemon tea already today because the only way to get rid of colds is to DROWN THEM.
Lucy’s favourite thing lately is to put on her tutu and dance around, spinning and trying to arabesque, and singing long, complicated songs. I remember doing this for my grandparents – it’s one of the few memories of my maternal grandparents that I have. I love watching Lucy’s pride in her performance, and I love knowing that it was probably a sweet moment for my grandparents and not as embarrassing as I always felt.
This is the piece I wrote for the Lent series at our church. They asked me to write a testimony based around the ideas of wilderness and coming home.
For my English degree, I had to read a book called Descent into Hell. I almost couldn’t do it. The sentences dragged on for over a page apiece, there were several complex storylines, and it was bristling with theological allegory. I didn’t know it at the time, but the book that has made the strongest impression on me is one that I can’t bear to re-read.
The part that burned itself into my life was the theology of sharing burdens versus the soul-destroying power of isolation. One character is able to bear an impossible amount of suffering because another character has physically shouldered most of it, and for her, the weight is easy because it doesn’t belong to her. Meanwhile, a third character falls into a hell of his own making because he gradually cuts off all his relationships until he is completely alone.
When I was in the hospital for Lucy’s birth, I spent a whole night waiting for the induction to start working, but I couldn’t get much sleep. Instead I sat with my doula and listened to the other women on the high-risk ward having their babies. One in particular had come in at the same time as me; she was a diabetic single mother who had received no prenatal care. I never saw her face. I listened to her yell that she didn’t want to do this while the nurse tried to calm her down and prepare for her crowning baby. I was strapped to monitors and my IV but my heart was breaking for her. I wanted so badly to cross the hall and hold her hand.
Later, in the recovery ward, I saw a mother all alone staring at her baby crying in its bassinet. I don’t know if it was her, but I still wonder.
My experience of pregnancy and parenting has been far from amazing. In addition to the brilliant, shining moments and the everyday managing, I’ve never felt so isolated, anxious, and frustrated in my life. But I have a supportive husband, family, friend base, and church community. I may be too proud to ask for help, but at least there are people I can ask, and I know that I take this gift far too lightly.
Where is that mother now? Is she still alone? How much darker are her dark days than mine? I did my doula training because of her. I walk through pregnancy and birth and early infancy with other women because of her. I picked up a burden of emotional investment and sleeplessness because of a passion that was born just before my daughter.
Our culture does not celebrate weakness, or asking for help. We value pride and self-sufficiency to the point of condemning ourselves to crushing isolation. We refuse to acknowledge that by asking someone to share our burden, we are turning our back on hell. Even though I gladly stay up all night in a hospital room with mothers and fathers as I support them through childbirth, I don’t want to confess that my day-to-day life drags me down until I feel like shouting that I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to be stuck in an ordinary life anymore.
It stings to think that the theology that fuels my passion for doula work doesn’t extend to the rest of my life. It compounds my sense of inadequacy and guilt that I just don’t measure up, I’m not good enough, I’m not strong enough to live without help. I can pick up others’ burdens but it’s too scary to share mine, so I’m stuck between heaven and hell. The thing is, when I have let them out, the relief is mutual. My struggles aren’t unique.The weight of them is a lie.
I wish I could tell that labouring woman that she isn’t alone. I wish I could tell her how she changed me. I can’t. I can only move forward, awkward and clumsy, picking up the burdens around me while I try to learn how to share my own.