Not Not Not :)

NOT pregnant! Woooooooo!

Okay, so it has been 47 days since my D&C and I was really starting to over-analyze all daily bodily functions like eating and sleeping, wondering and worrying whether I might-could be pregnant again. Not only has the whole content-with-two thing been hovering over my head, but physically it’s a baaaad idea to get pregnant again immediately after this procedure. It’s a lot more likely to miscarry again. BUT hurrah hurrah happy crampy mama this morning! Which explains my crankiness and critical attitude yesterday.

It annoys me that hormones have such an ability to manipulate emotions and perception. Fortunately for me, these “symptoms” are pretty mild usually, but unfortunately it doesn’t occur to me until afterward that that’s what was going on – I was just hormonal and exaggerating all emotional tendencies. Nice. I’ve come to realize that it is best to just keep my mouth shut for a day or so before I explode or implode, just to make sure I am in my right mind. Occasionally there’s the hysterical crying outburst and blathering that dredges up every wrong ever committed by Brandon (he’s the immediate bystander most of the time), followed by the next mornings, “Oh. Sorry. That’s what was going on.”

The peculiarity of this rejoicing is that four years ago, we were just beginning to wonder whether we would have children at all. After miscarriage #1 and the fears that a partial-mole pregnancy would spring cancerous cells on my insides, and then tests and tests, and then ovarian cysts and then miscarriage #2, every passing period felt like failure. Now we have two beautiful healthy children, and the thought of more terrifies my husband and launches a series of complicated emotions and anxieties in me. Have I forgotten how precious, fragile, and rare life actually is?

I see now how women in more desperate situations would contemplate abortions, have abortions even. Without the belief that every child is indeed a miracle, womb stirred by the finger of God, that tiny life could be “just another baby.” It’s just another mouth to feed. Granted, I am alll in favor of women and men being educated about prevention. For a woman who does not want babies immediately and cannot provide for a baby, better to not get pregnant than to deal with the complicated emotions that follow – keep the baby, abort the baby, put the baby up for adoption – and the complicated emotions that follow all of those options.

At the end of the day, my son literally jumps for joy to see me. Lydia buries her face in the folds of my skirt, wraps her arms around my legs. They both squeal with delight. How can I not squeal with delight as well? I am VERY grateful to be sitting here, all achy and recovering from an emotional uprising, but if the world turned a little differently for me today with different results, I would celebrate the outcome, hope for healthy babies, and know that I am blessed with yet another miracle.

You Can’t Have It All

This morning, Lydia wouldn’t let go of me. She stood on her booster seat at the kitchen table and hugged my neck, her tears dripping onto my jacket. She has never done this before when I have left for work, and I have left for work regularly at or before 8 AM every day since moving to Ashland last fall. It sucked.

Lately I have been dwelling on the stay-at-home mom. Brandon is great with the kids and I love my job, but it’d be really great to just stay home, for weeks at a time, and when I’d had my fill with homelife, caught up with laundry and done all of the deep cleaning that needs to be done, I’d just go back and work some more until all the work at work got done, and so on until Elvis enters kindergarten. That sounds good, doesn’t it? Why don’t employers offer these work structures? Probably because they are completely unrealistic.

As cliche as it is, you can’t have it all. I try, no doubt, but it isn’t possible.

What I really want right now is some apple crisp. It’s fall and I am ready for harvest food. So I’m going to make apple crisp tonight after the kids go to bed, or I’m going to get it all ready and make it tomorrow. I don’t know yet. It’s for small group, anyway, so that I don’t eat it all myself. Mmmmmm I do love the apple crisp. In partial fulfillment of the apple craving, I shared a cup of hot apple cider with a friend yesterday and it was OH so good. I have overactive tear ducts. When I laugh, I also cry. Something is wrong with me.

In spite of this morning’s episode with Lydia, I have had the cup-overfloweth feeling lately. Ah, the trees! Ah, the blue sky and sunshine! Ah, children and their funny voices and warm hugs and wet kisses! Ah, food! Ah, friends! Ah, God is good! It’s all rather nauseating if you aren’t in this place reading this. I just finished a book, called Leaping: Revelations and Epiphanies by Brian Doyle which was basically celebrating all of these good things without the sappy sentimentality that usually accompanies expressions of joy. It is a great book if you are looking for quirky, smart, short essays on good things.

I am going to continue salivating at the thought of apple crisp. That’s just how it is. This is. How. It is. You can’t have it all. 🙂 BUT, you can have long walks to the playground with your kids and a pretend cup of tea and muffins on the front stoop of a stranger’s house.

Being Blessed

Tonight was one of those nights that enlarge my heart so dramatically it’s a miracle it doesn’t swell right out of my chest. Nothing out of the ordinary, just hugs, walks, and simple miraculous conversation with a two year old. Standing butt-naked and squeaky clean, Lydia sang patty-cake all of the way through with Elvis over the edge of the tub, and then the two of them erupted in laughter, thus sending Brandon and I into a fit of laughter, which made Elvis and Lydia laugh some more – both so excited and giddy that they bounced up and down laughing.

Ah, to laugh. Our children beg to laugh – please, please tickle me! And then they wriggle and scream in joy until we stop, catch our breath, and then launch in again. Tickle tickle tickle tickle!

We laugh when Elvis hears the Sesame Street theme song and waddles into the living room, his rear end stuck out as he walks, like an old man, over to the television and then starts to march around in a circle, dancing to the tune.

We laugh when Lydia pulls her pants up past her belly button, her buttocks hanging out the back end.

We laugh when one of us is in a cranky mood and asks, “Aren’t you going to make me some tea?”

We laugh at one-liners from Anchorman (I’m kind of a big deal…) and Office Space (You know, he made a million dollars…) and a billion other movies that sneak into daily life.

We laugh at our dog Tex rolling around on his back trying to scratch that one itchy spot, his 80 lb. body twisting, legs lurching back and forth, and then the delighted shake when it’s all done.

We laugh at ourselves, our crabby tendencies, our silly self-mocking faces and comments.

There’s nothing like a good chuckle to let you know that you are blessed. To have this overflow of joy on a daily basis, a “cup of good cheer” to accompany the slice of humble pie… that is blessed.

Sonnetizing Free Verse

A neat task given me by a friend a few weeks ago has brought new life to a few of my poems. I’m calling it sonnetizing free verse – taking something already written that is lacking that oomph to make it decent and shaping it into a sonnet. Up until this point, I haven’t been much a sonnet supporter. I don’t know why – I like to write in form because it forces new words and creative ways of saying things that free verse doesn’t always push. I’ve taken two poems and changed them into sonnets.

I’ve been reworking this particular poem for quite a while, but I like what happened when I shaped it into a sonnet. Thoughts?

*poof!*

What are ya, Chicken?

After tucking Lydia in and finishing the nighttime routine of praying and singing, I began the usual series of evening duties – laundry, in particular – and settled in for some good mind-numbing television. That’s when I witnessed the “Natural History of the Chicken”. Yes, chickens. In HD, even.

Because one of our children (Elvis) discovered the glowing blue button on the cable box, and because one of our children (Elvis) also likes to gnaw on the remote, it takes a few minutes or longer for our remote to function properly. It will turn on the TV and turn down the volume, but to change the channel or pull up the TV guide, you have to crawl across the living room floor and physically press the up and down buttons on the cable box. You have to crawl, because this is the most physical representation of how frustrating it is to not have a functioning remote. Or you could try to make the remote work like my husband, who hovers five feet from the TV repeatedly pushing buttons on the remote and nearly launching it at the set. Maybe, just maybe, if you gradually migrate closer to the television pressing buttons, it will work.

Left with these two options, I am more likely to sit and watch whatever was last on the television than to battle. PBS happened to be on earlier (big surprise), and much to my fascination and wonder, someone made a documentary about a chicken named Liza. At first, I thought perhaps I should be recording this. Lydia would LOVE it. I smiled to myself and continued hunting for matching socks.

But as the old farmer narrator shared the tale of Liza, the chicken who was intimidated by the rest of the coop’s egg-laying capacities until a separate coop was built, I was captivated. This funny looking chicken laid six eggs in her Westin-coop and waited for them to hatch. It was really lovely, actually, and impressive videography.

I resumed folding shirts and mini-panties. Thinking the story over, I considered the remote, waiting patiently for instructions. But the narrator continued his story, and the next thing I knew, the chickens were scattering. They all retreated to some really great hiding spot, and the video flashed to a hawk high in the sky. And then something funny happened. Liza came out. In the middle of the yard were six chicks… her six chicks. She trotted out, in the presence of the enemy, and spread her wings for the chicks. She landed on the grenade, kind of. The video reenacted the hawk diving down to grab the chicken. And the narrator said, “Greater love hath no one…”

The chicken actually lived, and so did all of the chicks. But how about that? How about a chicken – a chicken – risking its own neck for its young. That might have to happen someday.

The best part of the show, though, was when the narrator closed with, “From now on, I am proud to be called, ‘chicken.'” Classic.

Held

Sometimes, I rock him longer than I need to. A 20 pound body wraps around my chest and shoulders and neck, his head of hair underneath my chin, a hand fingering my necklace, the other gripping the back of my shirt as if to say, “Stay, Mom. I like it here.” The instant he begins to fall asleep, his body temperature rises and I feel the heat on my chest, my cheek, resting close to him. We sway back and forth, the fan blowing away all outside noises and interference so that it is just us – mom and son.

Mary had these kind of moments, I am sure of it – the Messiah’s fingers fiddling with her hair, his body light enough to be held with one arm. Can you imagine him running around after a bath, giddy and free, his new-found balance propelling him awkwardly across the room, Frankenstein arms out, prepared to tumble? Yesterday after Elvis’s bath, I let him loose in just a diaper, turned the corner to the hallway and found him admiring himself in the mirror, giving his reflection kisses. I asked for a kiss and he tried to kiss the image of me. Damp fog remained where his lips had landed.

I missed the quiet moments like this at birth with Elvis. Whisked away to incubators and intubation, monitors and IVs, I didn’t hold my son until day four, and then it was to lift his limp, sedated body so the nurse could change his blankets. How heavy he seemed then, even though he was only 7 pounds 13 ounces, resting warmly in my hands. And then finally I could lay that tiny body on me, feel his breathing, the scratch of his tiny fingernails on my skin.

Now he’s one and waddles over when I come home, laughing and clucking like a duckling, arms outstretched to hug me. And sometimes at night, I rock him longer than I really need to, hold him close and listen to that breathing. Something in me knows that this will only last a little longer. These are the sort of moments Mary stored away in her heart, the sort of moments that have to be treasured. The future is mysterious and complicated, it’s out of our hands, and the past testifies to who’s really in control.

Testimony Sunday

I just came up with this great analogy for those of you who have not given a testimony in front of a church (or perhaps any public speaking occasion). Giving a testimony is kind of like having a child – you make all sorts of preparations and attend classes on breathing techniques, go through extreme pain and anxiety during the laborious process, disregard all of the breathing techniques and wing it, then, once it’s all over, you forget everything you said and did. Like childbirth, you have to forget it or you’ll never try it again. It falls apart if you’ve never been pregnant before.

In spite of not really knowing what I said, it seems to have gone well. Now the Browns game is on, and I’m going to take the kids outside and probably for a walk. But before I go, I GOT A POEM ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION! Really, I did! I am pumped. You are reading the words of an official Published Poet. 😉

Telling People How Much You Suck…

….so that God can be glorified. That’s the point of testimonies, at least to some degree. And Sunday, I get to do that in front of our church body and a bunch of college students who want an iPod. I’m pretty darn excited. And a shade nervous – I haven’t done this in a while, and while I am great at making myself vulnerable (here is my sleeve, and pinned to it, my heart…), there’s something particularly nerve-inducing about sharing how God has made His presence known in your life, often through your flounders.

Flounder is a really cute fish in The Little Mermaid. It is also a tasty fish. But mostly, it’s me flopping around on stage, blathering and bumbling. Get me back in my fishbowl, man!

For those of you who read this and won’t be at 5 Stones Sunday morning for the sweet iPod promo, (“and you thought only your mom would bribe you to come to church…”) here’s my shpeel in writing. It will likely not come out of my mouth this way, (oh if I were only so eloquent in speech!) but this is what I’m going for. It is just the beginning of my God-tale. There’s so much more he’s done and continues to do. I could write a whole series.

———

I was a sarcastic, self-conscious, introverted, egotistical, over-achieving high school band dork. I strived for perfection on every turn. I was angry that God would even consider loving someone like a murderer or rapist or popular person in my high school – He should be the righteous judge and condemn them all to hell. Obviously, the concept of grace was foreign to me.

I also struggled to merge what was taught in science classes about evolution with what was taught in church about creation. These are two specific roadblocks that Satan used to try to deflect me from meeting the true God. As a senior in high school, I had been studying other religions, reading books about evolution and creation, and trying to resolve this battle. One day, a switch was flipped in my brain, and I went from saying, “Psh! Those creationists are nuts!” to looking out the window of my car as I drove down the highway and saying, “How could there not be a God?! Look at the trees! Look at the sky! Look at the birds!” All the research I did helped me know about micro-biology and evolutionary principles, but only God can open up eyes like that. The scales fell away.

The third distraction came in the form of a boyfriend I met and fell madly in love with after graduating from high school. Eric was romantic and exotic, a Parrothead in search of his very own Margaritaville – the perfect distraction in my hunt for the real God dwelling in the real Paradise.

By random draw and God’s providence, I ended up roommates with my best friend from high school. She invited me, yet again, to Bible studies, the Well, and FCA on campus. She was a persistent little evangelist! I remember the first time I went to the Well – I could FEEL a presence in the room like I’d never felt before – that calm, peace, and strange movement of the Holy Spirit. It was breathtaking.

Eric and I got physically involved really fast. By October of my freshman year at AU, I thought I might be pregnant. While I worried and fretted that everything I had ever strived for was all for nothing, it finally occurred to me that I am out of control. I do the things I do not want to do. I cannot do life the right way on my own. I have no control over my plans, my future, my life, and there is only one person who does – Jesus Christ. At a Bible study one night, I confessed all that had been happening with Eric. For the first time in my life, I understood grace. I understood mercy. I understood forgiveness. As Paul says in Romans 7:24-25 – “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Like any other new believer, I expected all things to be better immediately. But I still loved Eric, I wanted to be with him even though he wasn’t a believer and had no interest whatsoever in Jesus Christ. Through His gentleness and firmness, God gradually removed Eric from my life, first moving him to North Carolina, then sending him off on some wild trip to Thailand and Vietnam that did not involve missionaries in the mountains… like he said it was going to. In the end, God made Eric fall out of love with me, and that is what it took for me to let go, and let God be God of my heart.

About six months or so after God ended my relationship with Eric, I had finally felt like I was okay with being single. About a week later, I met my husband. Brandon and I have both been down similar roads with our scarring relationships, but most importantly, we both believe in a God who is merciful, just, loving, forgiving, constant, mysterious, and real – and without that foundation, our relationship would have been destroyed fast. Enough evil and unfair events happen in our lives to turn people with common interests against each other in a heartbeat, but if you have faith and have faith together, God who “began a good work in you” will carry it on to completion, together.

During my tumultuous relationship with Eric, a friend of mine gave me a verse to rely on. So often I have felt bewildered at where I am in life or where I was going. My anxiety levels were high – should I transfer colleges to be closer to Eric, should I move, should I marry, should I take this job, should I stay at home with my kids – and this verse among so many others like it in Scripture has kept me grounded. From Isaiah 42:16 – “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, down unfamiliar paths I will guide them. I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” This is a promise God makes to each of us if we’d just let him take over. It will be okay. We will make it through this, one way or the other. And it’s probable that the end results will be the most unlikely place you ever thought you’d find yourself, but better and more amazing than you could have imagined.

Recomposed

It is my great delight to reintroduce Sarah Wells, wife and mother, recomposed.

A long weekend including a trip to the Great Geauga County Fair (really, the Great one, not the Mediocre one), adult-time with the husband, a complimentary Japanese Steakhouse meal that was complimentary only after ordering such delectable plates as steak and shrimp and steak and scallops, and an elegant wedding and reception and brunch to wrap it up brought Sarah back to sanity in many ways. And for lack of a really great word – I am happy.

I am a wedding crier. I didn’t think I was, really, until these last two weddings. The bride in her beauty, the atmosphere of a dimly-lit church and stained glass and Pachelbel, the grandmother’s slow shuffle up the aisle, the dad’s arm around his daughter’s… goodbye, mascara, hello raccoon eyes. Both weddings we attended the last two weeks have served as catalysts for inspiring warm feelings and gratitude toward my husband. Five years already, and though this last one has been the hardest, I love him deeply – beyond his frustration and anger at the current situation, beyond all of this muck of day-to-day tasks – I forgot how much fun we have together. Especially when we can sleep in the next day…

The kids were glad to see us yesterday, and we wrapped up the weekend by taking them to the park to feed the ducks and climb the playground. Those ducks are getting awful bold. I feared for my children’s lives as dozens of ducks waddled out of the water to apparently peck our eyes out until we gave up the stale hot dog buns. We fled for cover, and though they followed for a while, once they realized the bread crumbs were leaving they gave up the pursuit. Thank God.

In other news, I have been corresponding all weekend with an editor at a literary journal about a poem. We’ve been revising it together and I am hoping with all sorts of high expectations that it will actually get in the next issue of their magazine. Would he really waste so much of his precious time working through a revision if he didn’t intend to publish it? This, by the way, will make me a Published Author. Yea, like I even get to submit my bio and photo ‘n’ stuff. We have high hopes for you, kid – you’ve got real potential.

Back to my real job now…

All Done?

Much to my delight, Lydia has stopped the crazy crying bit at bedtime. We think it was too dark in her room. Yes, I feel like an ass. But mostly I am grateful for night lights.

As we returned from the park a few days ago after feeding ducks at the pond and chasing the kids around the playground, and as we each removed one of our children from the car and carried them in the house, a crazy, unexpected thought crossed my mind: maybe two is enough.

In light of my last entry, anyone reading this is like, “dude, you should’ve stopped after the first two miscarriages, abusive crazy woman.” But Brandon and I are in agreement about spankings and disciplining our kids this way, when needed. Though the fact that I feel like I need to justify myself says something about how guilty and miserable the whole bedtime screaming event made me.

Back to my bizarre, out-of-left-field pondering. This is so not me. I have been battling for months about having more children. And before that, I had fantasies of four to five babes and then teens and then married children with hoards of grandkids visiting constantly, eating my homemade chocolate chip cookies and sneaking extra pieces of pie when moms and dads aren’t looking (I’m taking notes from my parents and in-laws on grandparenting). Stopping at two has never crossed my mind, even been a considered possibility, until now.

I don’t think it is just the difficulty we had with Lydia sleeping, or Elvis’s teething, or Lydia’s emphatic NOs. In an unexpected turn of events, the miscarriage I thought would fire up Brandon’s desire to have more children made me do a bit of reevaluating, to the point of actually saying something to Brandon about being done. “Just let me know, and I’ll call the doctor.” Nice.

I am a worker. I love my job. I already feel like I don’t have enough time in the day to sufficiently love on my two kids and husband let alone add in a third or fourth child. Sure, if we were to get pregnant a third time, we would make it work and we would love that child unconditionally just as we love Lyd and Elvis. But I’m not built for staying at home and taking care of a large family, and we both agree that the husband isn’t built for it either, so what on earth am I thinking?

Besides the job thing, I love to serve at church and have just taken up a few new responsibilities at church. My job and my duties with church fulfill a part of me that is essential to my soul. Not that spending time with my children and tending to their needs does not fulfill, but it fulfills in a different way – meets a need and swells my heart in such a significant way that is complemented by those activities I perform with work and church. These experiences make me whole.

There’s also the physical aspect of pregnancies that is becoming a greater reality after every c-section and miscarriage – my body does not do pregnancy well. I know it is highly unlikely that I will deliver vaginally ever. I just don’t have the hips to do it, apparently. And two c-sections have left my abdomen’s muscles loose and severed (though not to the degree of early- to mid- 80s c-sections), my skin numb and sensitive around the scar. With every pregnancy the risk of miscarriage increases, and as much as I feel at peace with the causes and complications of miscarriages and what that means for me spiritually, it isn’t an experience I wish to go through over and over again. I wouldn’t mind being done with the stretching, weight gain, morning sickness, etc. that accompanies pregnancy and such.

It’s also nice to be able to be paired up with our kids. There’s never a third person waiting in the wings for attention, though they often battle for the attention of one parent. In some ways, the desire to have more than two kids for me is selfish – if I’m honest, would I really give them the time of day? Would they resent me, my career, and my commitment to the church? I am conscious of this question already – Lydia knows where I go during the day and routinely asks if I’m going to work. They miss me, act differently when I’m gone than when I’m here. With so little time to give to my kids, who am I benefiting, inviting a third/fourth into the house?

I don’t know – maybe this is all a surprising backlash from miscarriage. Maybe I’m coming to this conclusion rashly. But I think I could be done. I think I wouldn’t mind this being it.

How did this happen?