the smile and the snow

February 4, 2013

i’m thoroughly glad for the snow as of late. much as i enjoy the 60 degree days we’ve been occassionally enjoying, i get entirely apocalyptic about warm winter weather. it makes me freak out about the fact that i’ve reproduced, about how much waste we contribute to this earth, about the fate of humanity at large.

our apartment doesn’t get direct sunlight and so the best we can hope for is an outside world bright enough to send its glow through our windows. snow-white glow is an amazing gift. it contributes to the coziness of being indoors and, unexpectedly, makes me daily decide to drag edith out of doors to go enjoy it, despite how much she dislikes the process of being snow-suited.

we’ve been walking to the park, mostly, where i make her lay in the snow with me, her little arms flailing so that she makes unintentional snow angels while kicking up snow into her face. she seems genuinely perplexed by the whole situation, trying to eat snow flakes with a look of grave concern on her face.

these walks, like mostly everything i do, are more for me than for her. part of the joy of having a child is getting to share the world with them for the first time, cliche as it sounds. i feel like i’m compiling a gigantic “best of” album and then doling out one little track at a time: snow on trees, long walks, the evolution of local foliage. if nothing else, it highlights for me the vibrancy of things that i so often take for granted. just now, at this age, i’m starting to feel like she’s catching it. whether she is honing the art of humoring me with her full-face smiles or genuinely delighting in the way snow falls from bushes when you shake them, i don’t know. but i love to see the smile and the snow anyways.

 

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Hail Mary

January 2, 2013

managing to articulate my anxieties quiets my heart, i fear sometimes more than prayer does. it’s hard to come before God as a mumbling, bubbling idiot – not knowing what to ask for, sure only of a need of some kind. there is an openness to being on your knees; an irony in that such a specific position of body presents such a wide variety of being. being silent. being articulate. being reverent. being penitential. being joyful. being needy. being full.

i kneel today in a state of need and anxiety, about which… i don’t really know. these days come upon me every so often, maybe slightly more so since i’ve been a mom. there is so much that i don’t know about this task, so much i seem to lack. we’re coming off several days of illness – first mine, now hers – and i’m so embarrassed to say how very crazy her illness makes me. i’m so scared of mis-stepping, so worried about serving her well, taking good care of her, being a good steward of this most precious gift of mine.

through some gross oversight, i’ve been booked to work a postpartum doula overnight shift tonight and then a daytime shift starting at 9am tomorrow. i think the shakiness of my condition today can best be summed up by the fact that i have been so anxious over the state of my own family the past few days that it is hard to think about trying to bring peace and confidence to the home of any other family. especially for such a great excess of hours.

at least that is what emerges from time on my knees today, begun in a blubbering state. at mass on new year’s eve, the sweet priest reminded us again and again to ask Mary for anything, whenever we are in need. She is probably the best one to ask in cases like this – how to care for others when you feel spent yourself (She kind of wrote the book on that one, right?).

embarrassed as i am about being so overwhelmed by such underwhelming circumstances, especially as my life is so chock-full of blessing, i ask humbly for strength where i lack, peace where there is unrest in my soul, confidence where all is shaky.

 

this is not the best way to return to blogging after so many, many months in abstentia, but i suppose it is the most honest. i’ve had a baby, changed my job, been enjoying what i truly believe to be the sweetest days of my life. i am, really, very happy. i am, also, still the melancholic soul i’ve always been. i won’t pretend like i’m making a resolution about writing more but i will say that i will try to emphasize more of the former, cheerier aspects of my life in weeks to come.

battle of instincts

April 17, 2012

i finally admitted to myself that i’ve been sick with a cold for the last week. i’ve been brushing it off as allergies or somehow due to lack of sleep as i sneeze and cough all over people and now i’m feeling remorseful for such actions and, well, bad enough to just stay home. but frankly it’s quite hard to do, bustling as i am with all this crazy nesting instincts. turns out that is not a myth of pregnancy (nor is “pregnancy brain” but that’s a whole other story. my sympathies for my clients are multiplying daily, that’s for sure). after a packed weekend, yesterday was supposed to be a day of rest for me to recuperate my strength. however, “rest” interpreted by me at this stage of pregnancy is re-potting all my seedlings, power walking around the neighborhood, running errands, writing thank you cards, making homemade baby wipes, and hand quilting late into the evening. mark tried to lead by example by doing crossword puzzles on the couch all afternoon but i was too busy to notice. today before he left for work i confessed to him all the secret plans i had for the day to ensure that i would not do them.

i think i’ve learned my lesson. a little bit.

i’ve at least managed to stay in bed all day, by filling the bed with snacks, books, and cough drops and watching trashy reality television to numb me into oblivion. i got real ambitious a few hours ago and tried to take a bath but a huge centipede suddenly appeared by the faucet and wouldn’t go away, thereby intimidating me back to bed again.

the Lord works in mysterious ways.

at any rate, all this running around and manic preparation has me ready to relocate this child of mine outside the womb. i know i’ve probably got a much longer wait ahead of me than i’m anticipating but whatever residual anxiety i’ve had about childbirth/parenting is slowly dissolving into genuine hope and excitement.

i attended what should be my last few births this week and was entirely blessed by the gift of witnessing a natural, intervention-free birth. in the specific population that i work with, this is an incredible rarity (i think the ratio is 2 out of the 20 i’ve attended) and so i consider it a special grace from God. it reinforced a confidence that i have struggled to maintain throughout my own pregnancy – that our bodies really are designed for the work of labor, that we as women are stronger than we think, that the little ones that emerge from us join us in the birthing endeavor.

so many women begin doula work after their own labor experiences. i’m obviously coming at it from a very different angle. i think that is why pregnancy has felt so foreign to me at times – it’s been hard at times to really embrace and possess my gestational experience. i have been more comfortable talking to others about their babies, their uteruses, their births, their breasts than i have about my own. for the first half of my pregnancy, i had regular internal dialogues between “doula lauren” and “pregnant lauren” (pregnant lauren, for the record, always thought doula lauren was full of shit) until i finally learned to just give up the distinction. simple as it sounds, i had to come to terms with being a pregnant doula who needed as much care, reassurance, and attention as my own clients did. i still struggle with this, ie. at births where i operate as i did pre-pregnancy until my own fetus wiggles or a random wave of nausea hits me as a reminder that things are different now. my body is not my own. hell, my mind is not my own, nor my soul – every part of me is entwined with this little life that grows within. no matter how immersed i find myself in any other activity, there is always something calling me back.

in some ways, i’m glad that i will have a brief interlude from births before my own happens; in other ways, i’m disappointed that i’ll be missing the births of some of my clients who i already have such great affection for. either way, i think this space is necessary to allow myself to just breathe, prepare, focus on the impending entrance of my own critter into this crazy world of ours. i read an article today by a doula also preparing for the birth of her first child, written as a meditation of sorts. she says:

“my body itself becomes the doorway for this life which has grown inside of me. a life i love beyond words. no matter how this birth ultimately manifests, this love is the bedrock. . . .

as a doula, i become a mother, and both identities merge in love.”

dwell.

February 25, 2012

deciding to blog for the first time in months seems like the last thing i should be doing right now, when i’ve promised myself to make soup within the hour before the flurry of weekend activity begins.

but here i am.

sitting at my kitchen table after cleaning half of the apartment, drinking coffee, listening to a record we bought this time last year, and feeling immensely grateful for…life. all of it, i guess.

my belly is swollen with child now. last week i stepped into the third trimester, something so crazy i can barely grasp it all myself. i’m feeling good and natural about this baby-wearing. awkward as the beginning of this journey was for me, this little critter has seemed perfectly at home in my middle from day one. sometimes i even forget i’m pregnant.

i’ve been trying to write to the critter, well aware that this is something i’ll likely never have time to do for any of my other children. the other day i was trying to articulate exactly how strange and beautiful and simple this body-sharing is. though so complex in its biological choreography, this arrangement seems to work pretty well. the critter is all wrapped up in hormonal hospitality and i can feel it shift and settle according to it’s infantile dictates of comfort, much like i’m doing. there are fleeting moments when i think i could be happy staying pregnant forever and more looming moments in which i’m very ready to face who it is that has been dwelling in me. i’m sure the latter sentiment will grow in the quick proportion of my womb as i know the most uncomfortable aspects of this living situation still lay ahead.

at any rate, i’m feeling happy and full; momentarily casting aside whatever residual anxieties i’ve been carrying about what is going to happen next, how this baby will announce it’s birth, what is going to happen with my job and our life as we know it.

and i fully expect to be sitting where i’m sitting now a few months down the road. likely with pressing obligations that i’m casting off, a half-cleaned apartment, a new record playing. but with a critter sitting on my lap instead of in my womb, having transitioned from this state of body-sharing to a fuller state of life-sharing.

let’s try again

August 18, 2011

so who knows if anyone is still out there, but i’m finally sitting down to write.

as one can imagine, i’ve been a little busy. i feel like i’m always saying i’m busy. but the busy as of late has been of a different sort. activity wise things have been a little more quiet. we’ve been – gasp – spending time at home and not making as many frantic plans as usual. it’s been a nice reprieve for us and sweet to spend time together doing nothing, which is something i’m quite bad at. one of our earliest fights when we were dating was over my inability to just “be”. while i’ll still contend that one cannot just “be”, i am, at least, now becoming better at not always “doing”. i’m minimizing the active verbs in my life and trying to chill out.

so the busy we have been (or i guess i should limit it to “i”) has been of a more internal sort. i’ve had my mind wrapped up in this job of mine (of course), my thoughts congregating on these participants i’ve come to care for like children and my anxieties fixated on queer questions about why the uncaused Cause lets this world of ours float on as is. i’ve been battling fits of depression, if we are to be honest.

thus far, births have been happening in clumps. it sometimes feels like the pregnant women i’m working with are all participants in some cosmic birth energy which keeps flipping on and off. things will be silent for weeks and then all of a sudden, 3 of ’em (with various due dates) will all be going into prelabor. twice i’ve been at 2 births in rapid succession – late in june one went into labor 45 minutes after i got home from one birth and just this week 2 were in labor at once, causing me to bounce from one hospital to another for 2 days until the show finally ended. i’ve been learning to temper my expectations about birth, bodies, hospitals, procedures. and along with this, i’ve been tucking away my perennial anxiety as i embrace the unpredictability of life.

all this has been a lot for my crippled little mind (not to mention body) to handle. but, barring a few breakdowns along the way, i’ve been embracing the beautiful moments embedded in the messes and trying to be hopeful.

hope, hope, hope.

that’s all we’ve really got.

a quick recap over previous posts made me realize that i talk a lot about sleeping. in order to convince you all that i really don’t live like grandpa josephine and grandpa joe (really, i talk about sleeping so much because i do so little of it most of the time) i’ve decided to show you all what has been going on around here. this, unfortunately will be rather limited in scope because we are terrible at remembering that we own a camera.

so, a list of the things that we have been doing that were also, incidentally, caught on film:

1. growing things/killing things

but mostly, thank God, growing things. we’ve been slowly but surely transporting the little seedlings that survived my attempts to micromanage their nutrients to the garden. the weather has, as most chicagoans can attest, been absolutely bonkers and shell-shocked nearly everything i planted but i’m keeping hope alive that we will have lots to put in our mouths and our vases soon enough.

2. mark ran and then swam

he ran a half marathon, that is, on the hottest day of the year. i sat at the finish line, watched someone collapse and die, and then proceeded to wait in a fit of anxiety for him to come running through. it was…not the best of days but i was proud of him for finishing. we also found new gratitude for the frigid lake temperatures.

3. we went to pittsburgh!

this was a highlight. our dear friends, danny and kim, bought and completely renovated an old row house and so we went to admire their domestic glory and hard work.

danny ponders how great his house is

we celebrated their recent move-in by cooking many, many ridiculously good meals in their awesome kitchen.

they were also so kind as to let us get in on the home-renovation fun. it turns out that my fear of heights and inherent clumsiness render me pretty useless in matters such as these, but eventually they got me settled painting baseboards while mark fell in love with shop-vacs and ladders.

and we rounded out the weekend gardening in their lovely city plot. kim spent the last year creating a garden exhibit at the children’s museum which was tremendously inspiring to see. she has the greenest thumb known to humankind and it was lots of fun to help her work on her own little plot after so many weeks devoted to the beds at the children’s museum.

we secretly want to move to pittsburgh, it’s true. maybe someday.

as for unpictured matters around here…

work has been wild and pretty good. i’ve been going to lots of trainings and getting rad certifications in things like infant massage. this, coupled with the minor breakthroughs i have been experiencing with co-workers and teens, embeds a sense of gratitude and awe even deeper in my heart. my responsibility is going to expand a lot in the next few weeks (beginning, namely, with the intake of my very first client tomorrow) and i’m working hard to swallow up whatever resident anxiety i have about things and just BE CONFIDENT. that’s the name of the game right now: confidence. do i have any? no. does anybody know that? i sure as hell hope not.

along with all of this, we’ve generally plunged ourselves into the spirit of summer despite the bipolar weather, spending lots of time riding bikes, eating outside with friends and family, and being near the water or in the water. i took advantage of mark being away today by spending 3 hours weeding the communal plots at the garden and it was all sorts of lovely. next time i’m going to follow suit with the rest of the gardeners and bring my own beer. our master gardener told me about a fellow he caught lounging on his belly weeding with a glass of wine in one hand and this image has given me all sorts of fantastic ideas about how to introduce comfort and intoxication into the garden.

so, yes, as always there has been a lot going on, a lot of GOOD going on.

there has also been a lot of weird going on, such as me having to go to what turned out to be a nude korean spa with all my co-workers but that is a story for another day, available upon request.

 

snaps

May 23, 2011

this past easter, my dad dug out an old scrapbook that my grandmother (his mother) had made during her first year of marriage. it was a tiny little thing with black pages wherein she gingerly outlined the origins of my grandparent’s story together in white ink. creative as my grandmother was, she didn’t include too many pictures but instead relied on actual bits and pieces of memories together – matchbooks from restaurants they ate at, carefully cut out calendar squares, dried flowers and cards my grandfather had sent her in the lapses of time they were in love from afar. written to my grandfather, she began with a postcard from the lodge that they met at (complete with an “x” marking the chair she was sitting in when she first saw him) and narrated onward from the long drives when they first met, on through to their first year of marriage and the birth of their first son. it was just as sweet as you could imagine – you could sense her warmth and their joy radiating right out of the pages and i was stock full of delight that this little thing had somehow strongarm-ed it’s way to the present.

the book concludes with her thanking my grandfather for the happiness he has given her and her anticipation at the good days ahead. her last line says that “every day holds the happy memories of yesterday”. i tear up just thinking about it – about a young woman in love, propelled forward in hope by the joy of the days behind. the story and sentiment, of course, falls in synchronized step with my own in so many ways down to the pasted up scrapbook which looks in form and word very much like something i gave mark after our first year of dating.

of course, the real mushy part of this is all is that i never got to meet my grandmother alice. she died of cancer when my dad was 20 years old leaving behind seven children aged 24 to 11 and one very heartbroken husband. my dad says that she was the moral compass of the family, that it is because of her that he ever got his life straight, ever decided to marry my own mother. he also tells me that she loved to laugh and was always crafting.

there is a perennial strangeness to not knowing someone you love. throughout my life, i’ve always been told how much i’m like my grandmother, how much i’d enjoy her. undirected, i’ve stumbled into nearly all the same hobbies as she had and fortified for myself a similar joy and gratitude for the path of life i’ve taken and the one ahead. my dad generously divulges details about her when i need them – when experiencing a loss, picking up a new craft she loved, and on the day i got married. i wear her jewelry on the days that i most wish she was still here and cook with her utensils when i most need her help. it can be a forced way of inviting her memory into the days she missed but then, really what else are we supposed to do when someone gets left behind in time?

i’ve of course been thinking about mothers lately – what with mothers’ day a few weeks ago and this new profession in mine in which the word “mother” is taking on a somehow more abstracted meaning when assigned to such young girls as the participants in my program. my grandma alice is only one mother in a long lineage of mothers whose existence made way for my own. i wonder what sort of complex permutation of beauty, wisdom, and grace preceded me, what they each were like at the various stages of life, what of them has survived in us. it’s such a beautiful thing to think about. i really do hope heaven is as social of a place as i’ve always imagined so that i actually get to meet this fine ancestry of mine.

so happy, very belated mothers day to all the women of years past, all the mothers of today with little ones, great little ones, great-great little ones, little ones that have yet to be, and little ones that have passed through this world prematurely. i suppose it sounds bold and hyperbolic to say but i love you all and look forward to joining your ranks someday.

ch-ch-ch-changes

May 19, 2011

why is it that changes knock me on my ass?

really, i’m curious. i’ve been consistently and inexplicably spent since the last week of my old job. my new, flexible work hours and the close proximity of the job to my apartment means that i’m making great strides in my goal of living like charlie bucket’s grandparents (read: living in bed) and yet i’m still feeling quite wasted. after 9 hours at work today (no lunch break) i’m now skipping knitting class to sit on my couch with a…vodka soda drink. i don’t even know if that is a thing – is that a thing? i’ve developed a particular love for mineral water lately and then discovered vodka in our freezer and well, things devolved from there. i’m afraid i’m no mixologist.

at any rate, i’ll let you know that the situation is indeed improving at work. i’m slowly shedding my insecurity and stepping out in faith. of course, i realize that this is probably the calm before the storm as most of my days have been spent reading birth textbooks in my small, windowless office, not interacting with too many people, let alone teens. but i’m thankful for the time to read and learn about the things i’m constantly curious about. the lack of social contact and the fact that most of the texts are written in the 2nd person means that i keep getting confused about whether i myself am pregnant. i don’t think i am, but i still find myself mindlessly rejecting caffeinated beverages and searching for high-protein foods. i guess those aren’t bad things to be doing even with an empty uterus.

this morning mark i went to what turned out to be a latin mass in what i think was a former theater converted into a church. thick carpets and awkward lamps did their best to spruce up the assembled altars and icons and make them look as grand and religious as possible in the open, drafty room. there were about 5 of us at the mass and i was decidedly out of place without a head covering.

i guess i’m diminishing the whole situation.

it really was quite beautiful and even though i couldn’t understand most of what was happening it was still a very meditative and beautiful experience. when we were first considering becoming catholic, mark took me to st. John Cantius church for the Easter midnight mass. which was in latin. which started at 10 pm on a saturday night. at 1:30 in the morning when they were just beginning the baptisms of the 50 or so catecumen, i started cursing mark in whispers rather than under my breath and got up to leave. it was…not his best idea for wooing me into the arms of the church.

of course, time changes a lot of things – namely my attitude towards the catholic church. while i haven’t actually been able to articulate to myself exactly how i feel about the latin mass, i’m not nearly as adverse to it as i used to be. in fact, i think we’ll try to go more consistently. as with most other aspects of life, i’m learning to not be so quick to dismiss what i do not understand. in fact, my lack of understanding begs me to pause and sit in the expanse of the moment, to take in all the foreign pieces without trying to figure it all out at once. there is something sweet and good and necessary in enigmatic moments of faith even though i quickly sweep myself into frustration. though i’m planning on trying to learn more about what is happening in the latin rite, i’m also finding myself romanced by the mystery of it. my thoughts are basically making circles around the mystic nature of it. i’m mystified. and i’m enjoying it.

maybe this is all very childish of me. but, of course, Jesus loves the little children, am i right? ok, ok.

well, i’ve nearly drained my vodka soda (whose reality i’m increasingly convinced of by the sip) so i should probably stop writing about the church. or anything else for that matter. my next impulse is to start writing about the rampant use of episiotomies in south side hospitals so i’ll spare us all and

sign off.

here.

flatlined

May 16, 2011

i’m enjoying some quiet hours on the tail end of a busy weekend. by the time friday hit, i didn’t really want to see or talk to anyone ever again but – weekend activity. it pushes you around and makes you do things you don’t really want to do. luckily, everyone we know and spend time with are absolutely wonderful people. though i was dreading the regurgitation of the week’s grisly details again and again, i was only met with sympathetic ears and words that have cushioned my bruised heart and given me some new courage for the days ahead. i am a fortunate one.

after eating sushi with the glorious goocheys, flattening a dirt pile in the same garden as mayor emanuel’s weekend photo op, watching mark’s aunts feed their grand-baby frosting for the first time, catching up with old friends, quilting, and eating a massive brunch i declared i was no longer available for human interaction between 1:00 this afternoon and monday morning. sticking to that plan, i’ve spent the afternoon knitting, eating, and watching ‘i love lucy’ reruns and it has felt glorious. i realize that restful days like this are a luxury that i only have so long to enjoy before real-world obligations like house cleaning, job-related reading, and bill paying start encroaching so i’m taking it all in. i haven’t yet decided what non-activity i will follow this interweb romp with but you can bet your bottom dollar i’ll be horizontal whatever i’m doing.

the nasty weekend weather has felt like nature’s way of reminding us to get all our “indoor work” done before the sun recruits us outdoors for the season. i’ve been hacking up fabric scraps and attempting to piece my first quilt like a lunatic in my free time the last few weeks. i’ve also been fretting maniacally over my bolting little seedlings (why i ever thought container gardening would be simple, i’ll never know) and reading way too much about pregnancy complications. someday i’ll strike a balance between all my over-doing and all my nothing-doing and become the good civilian i’ve always intended to be.

until then, i’m going to calm my nerves about ectopic pregnancy, race relations, and the impending work week by laying in bed, praying, and knitting myself to placidity. sounds like the best plan to me.

office kegels

May 13, 2011

well, i have made it through (nearly) one full week of work.

despite all of the concern that my family members had about my safety working in a community such as englewood, the gravest danger i have yet experienced is my own driving habits. on each of my first 3 days of work, i had some close calls but i’ve now taught my self such valuable skills as “looking before i pull out” or “looking before i pull in” and i think things are going to get better from here on out.

as for the actual work that i do once i safely transport myself to work, things are going pretty well. my first day was rather rough, to be honest. i was (among other things) dragged from office to office and introduced to everyone who works for the many different programs and affiliated offices that our organization runs. after enduring painfully awkward stares from nearly everyone, things really culminated when 3 nurses accosted me about the fact that none of these girls are going to want to work with me because i’m white. they said they were worried about me and that i was going to fail.

yep, not the most reassuring thing to hear on your first day.

thankfully (MOST thankfully) my doula co-worker is a complete saint as far as i can tell and, after giving me a quick pep talk about the fact that, yes, it is going to take people a lot longer to trust me, has been entirely supportive. i feel most blessed to have her as a doula mentor and co-worker which is  a good thing because we share an office the size of a walk in closet that is stuffed to the gills with papers, birth balls, condoms, and baby toys and i don’t think i could stand to spend the day back to back with anyone else.

things have gotten a bit better since day 1. mostly i have been doing on-line trainings and making a fool of myself at the office water cooler – things that i am quite comfortable doing, things that are quite lauren-esque. i’m a bit anxious about building relationships with my other co-workers and, of course, the girls i am supposed to be serving but for now i’m just taking things one day at a time (really, what else can you do?) and talking to God a lot about why He thought i should be here in the first place. i’m hoping that this is just the awkward first paragraph of a really great New Yorker profile about my multitudinous efforts to save the world. my husband is hoping that i don’t try talking about the New Yorker to pregnant teens.

on the positive side, i am actually learning a lot from these silly computerized trainings and really appreciating the fact that i get to spend my days reading up on something that fascinates me – the beautiful, messy birth process and all the many ways it infiltrates people’s lives.

i also love that there is a sign on my office door that says “did you kegel today?” and that it is not inappropriate for my workplace.