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Surprise!

Remember how I mentioned that there were a few reasons why I needed to take the summer off from blogging? Well…..I’m just going to go ahead and leave these family pictures here and then walk away whistling with a grin, okay?

Anne

JosephEvelynn

FiveFamilyPlusOne

(I have a story to tell you, believe me. This is might just be our miracle baby.)

Continue Reading · baby, family · 120

In which I am learning to live with the ache

Evelynn newborn

Evelynn at two months old, photo by Rachel Barkman Photography

Our old baby crib is now sitting in pieces in the garage. We will take it to the dump soon (it has one of those now-outlawed dropsides so we can’t resell it or donate it). Whole sections of the bars are gnawed to bare wood by little teething babies, there are bits of sticker glue and swipes of Sharpie marker here and there, the screws are a bit loose. It’s in rough shape after nearly eight years and three big babies-to-toddlers in quick succession. There are a lot of sacred memories hidden in that dismantled old crib. The day we took it apart, I cried over that junky old crib. Goodbye, old friend.

It is likely that there are no more babies for us.

I was never one of those girls who wanted to have a houseful of babies, who just wanted to get married and have babies and stay home with them. I mean, I was okay with kids but it wasn’t my thing. I quit babysitting at 14 because I figured there had to be a better way to make money than that. And even after our miscarriages and challenges with fertility, I was unprepared for how completely transformative I found motherhood, how I loved even the mundane dailyness, how I found joy here.

I know that everyone’s experience is different, and I’m not saying that mine is normative but it’s real and I can’t deny it: I came into myself when I became a mother. I was reborn, all over again. The experience of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding my babies profoundly changed me AND it changed my view of God entirely.

So, of course, it’s hard to know that stage of my life is done now.

But it is.

It’s likely that I won’t ever be pregnant again, that I won’t carry a baby within me again, that I won’t ever give birth again. (Yes, I’m one of those awful women who loves pregnancy and giving birth.) When I think about not breastfeeding – one of the most real things I’ve ever done with this body – ever again, I catch my breath with longing.

And yet, I love this new stage of life with the tinies. Just when I think we’re at my favourite stage with them, something new comes along and I think, “oh, wow! no, this part is my favourite!”

People tell you a lot about how much parenting will change your life and they’re right. But usually they mean that you won’t ever sleep in again (you won’t) and a few other things about how much we “give up” to become parents. No one tells you how much you’re going to laugh. No one tells you how much wisdom resides in these small humans, how much they will teach you about love and life and friendship and forgiveness and worship. No one tells you how good and freeing it is to leave your selfishness behind. No one tells you about recapturing your own wonder and innocence, about re-reading the Ramona books, about playing football in the basement, about birthday parties and snow days and every day beauty. All the best things I know about the big nouns and verbs of a life came back into my life because of them.

But there likely won’t be anymore Bessey babies for us. Our family is complete, it seems, we’ll always be a Five-Family, as the tinies call us. There are many personal reasons why we’ve come to this decision as a family.

In my head, I know that this is the right decision. In my heart, I know this is the right decision. Brian and I are in complete agreement.

And yet there is The Ache.

Always The Ache, right underneath my lungs, in the pit of my gut, the ache of what that means and the grief of moving on, of love, of knowing: No more babies. No more nursing quietly in the night. No more flour sack of milk-drunk baby bliss. No more gummy smiles. No more tiny diapers. No more baby clothes. No more crib. No more baby wearing. No more new baby smell. No more of the millions of moments that knit your heart so completely to another small soul.

The season of having babies – the one that so radically changed me – is over. I’m okay with that. Most days, I’m even very happy about it, relieved perhaps. It’s an intense season of life, make no mistake. We’re ready for this new season, looking forward with anticipation to new things. Other days, it’s hard.

I know we like to pretend like we can have everything all at once. It’s a nice illusion. But there are transitions in our lives: times for certain seasons and times when those seasons end. Are we happier for pretending that we can have everything anytime we like? Or are we better when we acknowledge the end of one chapter of our lives, grieve and sing and give weight to the passing of it, and move forward? To everything, there is a season.

I am starting to think that, no matter how many children we have, no matter the reasons why, no matter how old we are, when you’re done having babies, we always carry The Ache.

I have a friend who had six children, and she said that she had The Ache when they were done. I have other friends who had two, who had The Ache. Other friends who had four or five or six. I have friends who are in their thirties with toddlers, in their forties with teenagers, other women in their fifties and menopausal, and they still talk about The Ache: I miss that still, they say wistfully. That was a nice time in my life.

I don’t know that we ever lose that ache. I don’t know if we ever get rid of it. I don’t know if we should. Maybe it’s meant to be there with us. So I’m learning to live with The Ache now.

I’m learning to let it be there, part of me, probably always a part of me, without justification or change of circumstance. When you have been given the tremendous gift of being able to have a baby, to give birth to that baby, to love that baby, it marks you. It should, perhaps, and so this season has marked more than just my stretched-out body, it has marked my soul.

The Ache reminds me of the great and terrible beauty I have seen, of what love I have experienced, of the sorrow and brokenness of loss, of all the love that is still here, of the wonder and miracle of life, of the sweetness of co-creation, of the labour and release, of transcendence.

Praise God, my babies are growing up and that is its own joy and beauty. I’ll miss toddlers in the same way, I’ll miss preschoolers, I’ll miss their kindergarten self, their Grade Two self, as well, and so on through their lives.

Right now, the Ache is for no more babies in my life. This was a beautiful time in my life, please notice that it’s changing. But the Ache changes and grows as we move through our years, I imagine, perhaps in proportion to the life we live, the love we gather and give. Someday, I’ll miss these very days, talk about them with the same language, perhaps.

And in another few years, the blink of an eye, I’ll be sitting in a house, alone: the laundry will be done at last, the house will be clean – and it will stay clean, and the floors will be quiet, no one will be asking me for anything at all, my time will be my own, and I will feel the full weight of The Ache for which I’ve been holding vigil at last. 

It’s simply the Ache of time passing, because this is what time does, and our souls are noticing the passing of a season, and it’s okay. It’s okay to let it Ache. It means we’re living and it means we’re loving our life as it stands, loving it enough to notice a transition away.

I am making my peace with The Ache, holding a bit of space for its presence in my life today. Someday it will be my old friend.

Continue Reading · baby, babywearing, family, giving birth, gratitude, journey, love, parenting, women · 318

In which I thank the Duchess of Cambridge

To Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cambridge (or, as we all refer to her, Kate):

THANK YOU!

Signed,

Every woman who has ever given birth

kate2

As we’ve already established on this blog, I’m a raging Royalist. I know it completely flies in the face of my anti-establishment tendencies and my social justice wannabe self with a heart for the underdog. I can understand and affirm all the arguments against the monarchy with my reasonable brain and my theological education, absolutely. But in my heart of hearts, I’m still the little girl who grew up in the 80s in Canada at the height of the Princess Diana years and so God save the Queen and everyone else can bugger off. I’m letting the soft animal part of me love what it loves (with apologies to Mary Oliver….yet again).

And I love the Royal Family.

So of course I was elated over the news of the safe arrival of Prince George. I have grown to (embarrassingly) love the Duchess of Cambridge over the years. I didn’t think there was anything she could do that would make me love her more than her grace, dignity, discretion, and beauty had already accomplished.

But then she walked out of that hospital in her blue polka dot dress – which, of course, immediately reminded me of Princess Diana’s own polka dot dress at the introduction of Prince William to the world – and a delightful little baby pooch.

And women everywhere cheered.

Because in the face of supermarket tabloids that barely allow a woman’s perineum to be stitched up before they are gleefully asking “how she’s going to lose the weight” and a celebrity culture that plans a tummy tuck before even nursing the new babe for the first time, we have forgotten how having a baby actually looks on a body.

Here let me tell you: it’s a big deal to have a baby. After you have a baby, you are left with a softly pooched out tummy and aching nether-regions, sore breasts and your entire heart now laying beside you making noises like a kitten. You are weepy and exhausted, gloriously alive and powerful. You are a life-giver and so now you want both a nap and a hearty roast beef dinner for your troubles. Your skin is criss-crossed with stretch marks because you don’t participate in co-creation with God without being marked by the experience. You became a mother and, no matter how many sit-ups you do, your body will bear the imprint of that truth for the rest of your life in some way.

It can take a year, maybe longer, for a woman’s body to recover from birth. And right after having a baby, one’s focus should be bonding, nursing, sleeping, trying to figure out who the baby looks like, eating well, and healing – not on how soon one can fit into pre-pregnancy  jeans or appear on a D-list celebrity rag in a bikini.

Now Kate looked beautiful and well dressed, of course, unlike us peasants in our maternity yoga pants and nursing bras for weeks after giving birth. (I have my suspicions that she may have been standing there in her heels wondering how much longer before she could go back inside and sit on the ice pack again though.)  I’m no dummy either – I know she’s going to drop the baby weight quickly (and she likely has a nanny so she’ll look more rested than even those of us without infants any longer).

But still, she walked outside with her adorable baby belly on display and the world noticed. She did not hide her body and she did not demure from the truth of what she had just accomplished. I could have cheered because truthfully I’m a bit proud of my own pooch, I earned it three times over.

Related: In which I promise not to call myself fat

In which I write a love letter to my own body

 

 

Continue Reading · baby, giving birth, health, women · 52

In which our gentleness is evident to one first

 

We had a full house of friends the other night. It was a “serve yourself from the stove” kind of evening, and Joseph hollered and crashed dinosaurs together in the living room while the football game blared, tinies danced to music, and crumbs covered the floor. After most everyone had left and the dishwasher was roaring, I collapsed on the couch, overstimulation complete. I’d lost my temper earlier in the day with one of the tinies, and I was still stinging with it.

One young couple remained behind, intending to put their little baby down to sleep at our house so they could stay a bit longer and visit. My three were sound asleep, and the house was dark, just a few lamps lit, and I waited with my knitting in hand, enjoying the quiet while this beautiful young mama tried to put her baby to sleep. But, as any parent knows, many are the plans in a parent’s heart but often it is the baby who prevails. (“Sleep alone in an uncomfortable playpen in a strange house? No, thank you, Mumma.”)

I listened to her sing soft and slow, she has a lovely voice. I couldn’t discern a word she sang, but the sound and melody of a mama-lullaby overheard melts armour, unfurls muscle knots, exhales the lungs, and releases tension. Eventually, my friend gave up to the inevitable with good grace, carrying a bright-eyed small baby back out, and she rocked her girl slow in my old red rocking chair until the baby blinked longer between yawns and lolled back. She said something so wise while she rocked, I wanted to write it down: “Paul told us to let our gentleness be evident to all*, and I want my gentleness to be evident to our baby girl, too, even when no one is around to overhear or notice but her.”

 

*Philippians 4:5

 

Continue Reading · baby, friends, moments, parenting · 36