When you would die for a post-partum bulge...

When we started our adoption journey, someone told me to remember that while adoption cures childlessness, it doesn't cure infertility. I used this quote a few posts back and have been reminded of its truth especially in the face of Prince George's birth. I write this open letter somewhat nervously, wondering if I'm the only one feeling this way, but prompted (divinely?) to put it out there all the same. 
Original image by flickr user Daquella Manera

After the Dutchess of Cambridge introduced her baby son to the world in a blue dress that revealed her postpartum curves underneath, the world was aflame with comments. The best of those comments came from a myriad of bloggers praising Kate for being unashamed of her swollen belly, thereby giving permission to mothers all over the world to love their mama-shaped bodies.

It was a good thing and a good response.

But if you're an infertility struggling woman like me, it was a hard thing. It was a hard thing to see and a hard response to hear because we would die for something like that, wouldn't we? For the bulging belly, the swollen breasts, and even the achey crotch.... for the gift of a baby, born from our bodies, we would gladly embrace it all.

We would also love to have such a beautiful reason for the changes we've seen in our bodies. Whether it's from the fertility meds, the hormone injections, the adoption stress eating, or the no-time-to-exercise-because-appointments-and-paper-work-are-filling-up-all-my-spare-time-ness, we've gained extra poundage and seen our bodies change too. Our faces bare the lines of stress and our hearts are suffering from the loss of hope that comes from months and months and years and years of trying. As we wade through the hormones and the weight and all those uneasy emotions, we look at Kate's protruding new pouch with longing.

When we hear young mothers sigh about their soft bodies, we wage an internal war between sympathy and sorrow. We validate the insecurities of our sisters in the face of a harsh culture that's over concerned with slimness while we push down our envy and desire to scream you don't know how lucky you are! We turn off the royal baby news, close our magazines, log off our facebook accounts, and we cry. We pray for comfort and we shake our fists at the heavens. We search for inner peace and wage battles in our longing hearts. We reflect upon our blessings and we struggle because we still want more.

We want that belly filled with life. We want to feel kicks from the insides and our bodies contract and release in labour. We want to hear that guttural womanly groan rise from our throats as we cope with the pain. We want to feel our child slip, warm and wet, from our bodies. We want to nurse an infant at our breast. We want those purple, red, or pink stretch lines to mark our bodies forever, commemorating the life we brought into the world.

Our desires for pregnancy and birth run deep. They are almost instinctual. All of together on this infertility journey are longing for the days when new life blossoms and grows within us. Maybe even more desperately, many of us are trying to figure out how we will cope if it never does.  We are all searching for peace on this journey.

The tidal wave of royal baby news is almost over, thank goodness. However I know as much as you that even as that last frothy whitecap of news laps onto the shore and you've finally caught your breath, another wave from another source will come crashing. If any good has come from these last few days, it's that all this post-partum talk has left me scrambling for higher ground. There is no wishing, no avoiding, no pretending, and no positive thinking that will be enough to buoy me up in the sea. There is only diving love and comfort to keep me, and you, afloat and thank God is is never-ending

I'm praying for all of us this one small verse:

From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I. 

From that high rock, dear sister, I hold out my hand to you.



Cottage-ing with kids

As much as I can't wait to get pregnant and welcome a new little Burden into our family, I am cherishing our time as a family of three. Having just one kid is so much fun and, comparatively, it looks pretty simple when I observe the lives of my friends with multiples.

Arie's arrival has definitely changed our lives, but we have found a fantastic new normal where he fits in so nicely into our lives. We love taking him places. We love having the evening to ourselves once he's in bed. We love that he fits easily in our room or in our bed at home or on vacation. We love that we can trade off when one of us needs a break.

Having just Arie is pretty great. We spent the past three days with our friends at their cottage "up North" and loved it. They have a daughter who is 6 months younger than Arie and another who is a tiny 7 weeks old. Arie and his buddy Josephine giggled together continuously while baby Clara snuggled in close to her tireless and peaceful mama. John and I spent a few days at this cottage with Paul and Lindsay before any of us had kids and I have to tell you: in my mind, with kids was way better.

Maybe it was because our family sizes are still so small, but it was joyful and peaceful. The children played together enthusiastically, giving us dozens of reasons to smile and laugh each hour. They jumped in the kiddie pool and swung on the swing set with endless energy while we watched with our eyes, sipping wine and carrying on separate conversations with our mouths.

They made old activities like boat rides and campfire s'mores new again with their curious wonder. They went to bed late and when John and I joined Arie even later we were filled with gratitude to know that this precious little person sleeping between us was ours to grow and guide.
"Too hot!"

They woke us up earlier than we would have chosen our own, but gave us other gifts like seeing the morning sun stream into the windows and making that first sip of sumatra just that much better because we needed it so.

Parenting on vacation is so much fun because of all the new experience, but you know what is even better? Parenting along side dear friends. Having company is such a wonderful gift for both children and adults. We were so blessed over the past few days to give Arie the gift of a playmate and connect with two of our precious companions as well.  I love the give-and-take of it all. The I'll make dinner while you watch the toddlers in the pool and the Can you hold my baby while I get this done? I loved watching Arie's face broaden with a grin as another daddy helped him on a slide or another mommy hugged him tender and close. Friends with whom we entrust our child; the closest bond I can imagine.

As we begint our journey to adding another Burden, we are treasuring both the new experiences of family life and the days of the three of us. I'm discovering again how gratitude for good gifts and a cheerful heart- both in my own chest and beating out loud in the lives of others- is truly good medicine. Thankful to be blessed with generous friends, thankful for the sight of my little man running with a friend, thankful for community, laughter, late nights, coffee in the morning, and the simple way of my family of three.



One year ago: metcha.

Wednesday marks exactly one year ago since we met our little man.
Trip one; day one. 
When he first walked into the director's office in that Moscow orphanage I stared at him, overwhelmed with the thought there he is. He was the most beautiful child I had ever seen and I could hardly grasp the reality that he- my long awaited child- was standing right in front of me.

I was lost in that moment, swimming in an endless sea of affection for this little man and wanting so badly to bring him to shore. I new nothing about him then- nothing about his personality, his likes, his dislikes, his needs or his desires; I knew only that I loved him and that love was enough. It had to be enough because it was all that defined my motherhood. I had nothing else- no meal times, no baths, no getting him dressed in the morning. No doctor's appointments, no middle-of-the-night fever checks, no bandaids for his scrapes. No books read, no movies watched, no stories lived and re-told. I had only love, but I had a sea full of it.

I lived the next four months on love and whispered prayers.

Then we brought him home.

I've had eight months now of please eat your toast and don't jump on your bed. I've been to the ER with him in an unnecessary panic. Together we've blown a thousand sticky bubbles and covered our sidewalks with chalk. I've cut hundreds of cheese cubes and wiped nearly as many milk spills. I've given dozens of daily kisses and received the tightest of tiny hugs.

Before I met him, I wondered so many things about my son. I wept to think of him in his orphanage, motherless. Often I walked through my days, wondering what he was playing or eating, who was dressing him or brushing his teeth, and what sadness he held in his heart. I've been surprised to learn that as I've settled into my motherhood, my wonderings about those years have only become more intense. Perhaps I think about them less frequently, but when they poke at my mind and my heart, they are more intense. Today when I picture his life for those two years he lived without me, he's not just a baby without a family. He's my Arie.

He was this same little boy. He was baby Arie, alone in his crib and I can picture the look in his eyes. He was my timid and sweet little man, learning to crawl and then walk. When I see pride on his face, I can imagine the way he radiated when he first got up to stand. When he grumpily pushes away his plate, I can picture his baby self eating solids for the first time. When he's scared or when he shuts down, overwhelmed in new scenarios, I can feel my heart breaking to think he used to face new situations alone.

When it comes to a mother's heart for her child's lost past, it seems that time doesn't always heal. Time opens the wound and time hurts, more.

I don't reject the pain, though. I cry about his past more bitterly but I hold those feelings close because I believe they are righteous. Those tears drive me forward as I walk beside my son on his journey to healing. This is a pain that makes me grateful for restoration, even when the past cannot be re-done. The hurt makes me compassionate. It reminds me to give my son grace. It teaches me how to live within the paradox of adoption- between the brokenness and the beauty.

I think about those two years when he lived and didn't know him. Then I watch him playing with his blocks on our carpet or sleeping, sprawled out like a starfish on his bed, and my breath catches a little as I think that same thought I had a year ago....

There he is. 



Parenting in the pew update

A while ago I posted about my desire to keep Arie in the sanctuary with me during Sunday morning worship services at our church. Since we recently made the transition from one church to another (my husband is a pastor and got a new job), I thought now would be a good time to share a little about how it's been going. In my last post, I identified a few goals and I'll use those to assess our pew parenting journey:

Participate in the singing: Arie has grown to enjoy the singing portion, but since our former church varied the song selection so frequently, he has not had the opportunity to commit any songs to heart. He will sometimes wiggle and dance a little but mostly he just looks around to see the other worshipers. I actually go back and forth about how to deal with this. On one hand, I love for him to see the body of believers singing in unison. He smiles coyly at those sitting around us and gets smiles and waves back. I'm so thankful to have been part of a community that views him not as a distraction but as a joy. 

On the other hand, I don't want him to focus more on making faces and eyes at other worshippers as much as I would like him to hear the words of the songs and try to sing along as best he can. Typically I try to turn his attention forward (we sit in the very front so he will have a good view) and sing the lyrics close to his ears. If the song has words that I know he will recognize, I will whisper to him, "Listen closely! Everyone is going to sing Jesus' name soon.  Can you hear it??" That usually gets his attention and he gets a big smile on his face when he hears it! 

I look forward to the day when he can read the lyrics and sing along with us! 

Differentiate between"being quiet" vs. worshiping: I've worked really hard to replace the reminder, "It's time to be quiet" with "It's time to listen." This is a small shift that I believe will make a great difference in how he views worship: as a participatory event rather than an event to be consumed like television or other media. I could probably talk a while on this subject, but I will just say that I think it is SO IMPORTANT for us to teach our children that worship is for glorifying God more than it is for us "to be fed" or "refreshed" for the week ahead. Certainly we rejoice when those things happen, but primarily worship is not about us; it's about God and his glory! 

Create a sermon activity: Fail. I have good ideas about how to do this but I have not executed any of them. Right now Arie passes time in the sermon by looking at books or playing with a quiet toy. Usually toward the end of the sermon I try to summarize the message for Arie by saying something like, "Papa (the pastor) is telling us that no matter what mistakes we make or if we feel sad God ALWAYS loves us no matter what! Forever!" At age three, I try to not hold my expectations for Arie too high. I think my goal is simply that he would learn what a sermon is: a message to teach us about God. 

Learn the liturgy: I've begun with the end of our liturgy: the benediction. I always hold my hands up and open to receive this blessing and I've taught Arie to do the same. It always makes me smile to see his little hands open! At our former church, we always lit a candle and prayed for the children in his former orphanage. This was one of my favorite worship moments with him. As far as I know, we do not have a place to light candles at our new church, so we will have to see how we can continue this tradition in a new way. Beyond that, he knows that he is supposed to fold his hands and close his eyes for the prayer. He does this for about three seconds and spends the rest of the prayer checking out everyone else's closed eyes. Ha! He also knows that I usually have fruit snacks for him to enjoy during the sermon. First things first, you know! 

Develop a love for church: Hit and miss. Depending on how that particular service and morning went, Arie will exclaim that he wants "more church!" or, crankily, "all done church!" I hope and pray that as he develops more relationships and a deeper understanding of the act of worship, the "more church!" exclamations will become more frequent than the "all done!" ones. 

Some very practical things I've found helpful are: 

1. Doing something before the service to burn some energy. It is hard for little ones to sit attentively for an entire hour, but I find that if I take Arie for a walk before the service, he is much more content to sit and listen. 

2. Using the restroom right before the service. Arie discovered that if he asks to go potty during the sermon, he can enjoy socializing in the foyer on our way to and from the toilets. Ha! I try to have him use the restroom right before the service so I can confidently call his bluff. 

3. Telling Arie what's happening during the service. I just say little things like, "We are praying for people who are sick. We are asking God to help them. We are thanking God for loving us." etc etc during the prayers or other parts of the liturgy. I whisper them in Arie's ear and he loves to be included in what's going on. 

4. Giving myself and him grace. Once and a while we just can't make it all the way though the service without a break. If I see Arie struggling and getting frustrated, I usually take a bathroom break with him so he can stretch his legs and regroup. I use the time to tell him how well he's doing and give him a reason to be proud and desire to try again. I want church to be a good place for him and I don't want to exasperate him while we're there.  

I loved reading all your comments and advice on my last post! Can you relate to any of my experiences? 



Camping at Balsam Lake

In writing as in life there not much worse than an anticlimactic ending. You build up carefully- slowly and surely- to your big plot point and reveal or you give something of a robust speech to rouse the troops and send them rushing into war, zealous for the task ahead.

After my rousing speech last post I was heartened by all your encouraging comments and the more-than-expected me too-s I got to read. Thank you.

That said, I was so hoping to come back with an anticlimactic ending. I was hoping to tell you all that after my hearty "we're going to do this thing!" infertility treatment speech, I was going to come back to tell the troops, somewhat embarrassingly but mostly happily, that there wasn't a war after all.

I was really hoping to arrive home from our Ontario vacation with the news that I was pregnant.

No, though. I'm not. Once again as I now know many of you can relate a seemingly perfect month ended with disappointment. The 21st time for us. No second line on the pregnancy test, no matter how long I stared.

I'm not one of the ones who get that beautiful surprise right before they took the plunge into treatment.

What I do get, however, is another chapter in the story to Burden #2 and so today I do the only thing left: I turn the page.

The first question I have to answer for myself is whether to spend a few months going the natural/holistic/supplementation route to fertility or whether I should jump right into the medicine. Or some combination thereof. If you've walked this road before me I'd love to hear what you did, how you decided, and what the outcome was. You can leave me a comment on this post or on facebook- I know your story will encourage other readers as well. If you're more private about your journey you can also send me a private message on facebook. Thank you!

Although I had hoped to enjoy our week-long camping trip harboring the happy secret of new life inside, I took the words of my readers to heart and I chose to focus on the joy in the journey and did not letting that negative test hang over our vacation.

Camping was awesome.

We beached and we biked; we sat and we swam; we devoured pancakes and s'mores, all to our heart's content.
Arie's skin tans beautifully, but he has two fair skinned parents, so he gets treated like one of us. Sunscreen slather. 

Arie loved all our camping activities and slept great through the night, but the highlight for him was simply being around family. Every morning after his eyes popped open the first question on his lips was, "What's Omi/Grampi/Auntie Jenna doing?"

The answer was always, "They're still sleeping" because none of them had a three year old to wake them up with the birds, but we quickly fixed that.

I believe the exact quote was, "AWAKE Bampi (Grampi)! AWAKE!" 
Around the campsite, John and I enjoyed watching our little man laugh and play with a plethora of family members- uncles and aunts, cousins, grandparents and even great-grandparents. I thought over and over again how marvelous it is to think that eight months ago this little boy was alone in the world and now he can't turn around without bumping into a member of his very own family. The love is endless.

So this isn't entirely related, but in Ontario your boating license title is a "Pleasure Craft Operator."  That's all I have to say about that. 
We ushered Arie into our family camping traditions: biking to the camp store after dinner for a treat and enjoying a big ol' fish fry compliments my grandpa's (and whoever else went fishing) catch of bass and perch.
A Canadian favourite. 

We did a little sight seeing around the campground- mostly watching boat locks and checking out antique shops.
Baby wearing = great for tired tots. 
With my little sister! It was really bright. 
No camping trip in Ontario is complete without at least one meal at a "chip truck." If you've never had poutine before, then you're probably not Canadian. So very delicious.

As the sun set through the Balsam trees each evening, we closed the day around the crackle and glow of a campfire.

I think I may have projected my fears about Arie falling into the fire because he spent the week refering to the fire pit and the grill as "too hot!"s. In the end he escaped the week with only one near-burn and it was from touching a frying pan. So next year I'll be sure to project that fear on all three "too hots" and not just two. ;-)

Injury-free, beautiful, restful, happy camping week it was. I asked Arie how he enjoyed the week yesterday and he exclaimed with a  smile, "More camping!"


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...