We made it to May 31, and this baby still is not ready to be born. With the due date only 2 days away, I might actually make it to the due date this time. I have not done that since G was 8 days late six years ago!
It looks like I am all set to share my birthday month with this newest little Spencer (but definitely not birthday, since we are over three weeks from my birthday). I suppose we have a few hours left for this baby to come in May, but that would be a quick labor for me… My shortest is 12 hours.
Will this be my last Sunday in this dress?
I asked M to take a photo of me before I changed into “play” clothes for our Sunday morning romp in the park. It is nice to have the whole morning for the family after 7:30 am Mass.
And then I couldn’t resist a few pictures of the kids before they changed as well.
I had my first child, G, 9 months after getting married, and a little over 10 months after college graduation (granted it was my Master’s graduation). I was 22 years old when she was born, and while we had made some friends in our new city when she was born, I did not really know them very well.
Being home alone with a baby, I spent a lot of time online. I looked on as my college and high school friends posted about jobs, Friday and Saturday evenings out, and I felt like I was the only one posting about having a baby. Of course, they all supported and loved me and my husband as the first parents in our group of friends, but I still felt isolated.
Like Marion Fernandez-Cueto wrote, I daydreamed about what my life could have been, had I not had a child so soon. If I had not gotten married, I probably would have continued in graduate school. Instead I was working part-time as an administrative assistant for a parish Religious Education program while my husband made a graduate student fellowship wage while studying for his PhD. Money was tight, and we were frugal.
When my first was born, I was so self-centered and immature that I have been spending years getting over the selfishness of my childhood. Like Haley Stewart wrote, motherhood broke me, and now that we are about to have our fourth, it still is breaking me.
But it will also be my salvation, if I live my vocation as I should.
Last week, in a fit of pregnancy hormones, I completely lost it. My husband, at my request, had set up the co-sleeper bassinet for this next baby to sleep in, and it haunted me the whole day until that night when I lost it.
I sobbed and whined, and my husband, who always is right when I am being selfish, could not reason it out of me. I was irrationally afraid of life with a newborn again. I was irrationally not wanting to give the gift of physical care to the child I have been carrying for 8 months. I was so afraid.
Then it hit me, the irrationality was a spiritual attack. I was being attacked by the evil one in my very motherhood, in my very vocation.
My motherhood and wifehood is not about being blissful and comfortable day to day, it is about giving myself as a gift to others, so that one day I can have the ultimate human end of eternal happiness with my Creator and Savior. And it is hard. It will never stop being hard, but it is the gift I am called to give.
Our earthly vocation will not always make us happy now, but if we persevere in it, we will be happy forever. It is the same in any vocation, to priesthood, religious life, consecrated single life, and marriage; we will not always be happy.
I then asked my husband to pray for me, for protection from this spiritual attack, for grace to overcome my fears. And he did, as he always does. He lay his hands on me, and we prayed. Peace came over me as we prayed, but the aftermath of the raw emotions took awhile to wear off.
I prayed about it through Sunday Mass the next morning, and as I went through my checklist of things to get ready for the baby the following week.
I realized that I had been looking at this coming baby selfishly. I was anticipating everything from my lonely fears. I had forgotten that I am not alone in my vocation to motherhood. My motherhood is tied irreversibly to my husband’s fatherhood, and, oh, what a wonderful husband and father he is. We are here to help each other in our vocations.
And now, I am naturally a little nervous about all the things I worried about before, especially the impending labor, but I know that grace will help me love through it all.
This is one of those posts that my friend Anna would call a “Mom Confession.” I have one to make, and probably I just need a pep talk. It has some content that may not be familiar to those who have never been post-partum or around a post-partum woman from day one until the baby is one.
I have been struggling against a dread of the newborn phase for the entire pregnancy, actually since I first got my cycles back after F was born. I was visiting Buffalo, NY at the time, and discussed my unreadiness while using a hot pack to battle a small bout of mastitis/clogged duct. I had a rough first year with F. She was a great baby, my easiest yet, but I spent 9 months dealing with infections that only women can get, 4 months dealing with post-partum depression, and barely knew anybody in the Twin Cities. On top of that I was dealing with my first Minnesota winter.
The three girls.
The first two months with F were actually really pleasant. She was born in early November, so I took some walks with her as a newborn. We had grandparents helping for two weeks, people we knew brought us meals, so I actually saw people without much effort, Thanksgiving was brought to us by our Wisconsin relatives, Advent was lovely, and we traveled over Christmas. Then we came home in early January, and the PPD and isolated stay at home mom loneliness set in. The only way to see people and attempt to make friends was to venture out into the Minnesota cold with 3 children under 4. Then infections.
Since F has been 18 months, things have been really nice. I feel like I am finally used to having this many kids. I remember last summer just enjoying the kids and our family, not really wanting it to change. But we also felt like we needed to be open to having more children, we wanted more children, we still want more children. And here we are about to have another child in our arms. The newest child is squirming inside me as a write this. I feel like this year of being content with three kids has been really good for me, like an amazing retreat. I have not been night nursing for almost a year now. I have not been nursing at all for five months. But I am feeling afraid of the change before us. I am not looking forward to sleepless nights. I am not looking forward to being post-partum, especially the physical recovery.
32 weeks along and counting.
What I am looking forward to is the baby having a regular nap schedule, and a bedtime, and being able to be put to sleep easily. All of our children have gotten to that point, and that is when I feel the most relaxed with a baby. I crave a loose schedule, ie. morning nap around 9, afternoon nap around 2, bedtime around 8. But I dislike the in between time, when baby is too little for structure.
This is the point when you should tell me that it is just for a short time. Or you could tell me that I don’t need to feel guilty about not being a huge fan of the newborn-6 month stage. You could say it really is a hard time. I know some people love the stage, and I recognize the perks. I just love my routine. Being more flexible is something I need to work on, so I guess baby is going to help me with that.
1. I have been pregnant with and/or nursing my babies for just over 3 months shy of seven years. Since my first was born six years ago, I have had a three month, four month, and am in the middle of a seven month gap of not nursing anyone. Well, mothers of young children will know that it is not really possible to get nights away from exclusively nursing babies, so when they are weaned and there is no other baby out of the womb, there is a window of opportunity. For what, you ask? For a SILENT RETREAT. I am departing this afternoon for 48 hours of prayer and reflection without my family. This is the first time since I have been married that I will be away from all the members of my family for even one night. Further, I have not been on a longer than three hour retreat since my last semester of college seven years ago. That being said, please pray for me this weekend, because I am not sure I can really handle uninterrupted, prayerfulsilence for more than about 20 minutes. Yeah…
2. Not only am I abandoning my family for a weekend, but I am doing it on their birthdays. M has to celebrate his birthday (and real Pi day 3.1415) without me. I am sure he will have a lovely time with the girls. And let us not forget about the Ides of March, and the change it brought in our lives… I will be back for dinner for G’s birthday. And being the awesome person that she is with amazing taste in food, she has chosen this pie for her cake:
Which means I can take on some good old fashioned third-trimester laziness, and just eat peanut butter, chocolate filled pie goodness. Also, pizza pie for dinner. Is it okay to honor Pi day on the Ides?
3. In other news, where did all the snow go? It has been so warm here, that we have been grilling. M had an early birthday/traditional feast of St. Thomas Aquinas dinner last Saturday. We splurged on shrimp (which I cannot even smell comfortably while pregnant), and M grilled it along with vegetables and threw it all on pasta Alfredo.
It is in the 30s, so why not grill? I was told that I will not have to cook dinner again until the Fall if I just keep a steady supply of charcoal and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale on hand…
4. And here is my almost six year old looking like a reader. She says that she was “just looking at the pictures,” but it gave me a glimpse of a girl who might, like her parents, spend hours every day, curled up with a book. She has been doing really well with her reading lately, and I do not think this possibility is too far into the future.
5. If your mom is not big on doing crafts, you make your own:
G (6ish) and L (4) have been cutting out and gluing together surprisingly recognizable paper dolls, and other creatures. It is pretty fun to see them create. F (2) has been sucking on capped glue sticks while wearing socks on her hands. That is called being 2.
6. My basil seeds have sprouted, but only one has made leaves. I might have to do a redo with the other seeds. But since we started the plants so early, I do not mind:
7. Hello, third trimester! My earliest baby was born at 38 weeks… that is ten weeks away… yikes!
I think I finally have leveled out in size compared to week of pregnancy…
From the film Thérèse (1986) directed by Alain Cavalier
I had a crisis of faith over the past few weeks. I was not questioning any points of doctrine or doubting God and His existence, but I was doubting whether or not I, as a middle class American with so many comforts, could ever really live life of heroic virtue. The doubt came from a combination of circumstances, the first being the bleakness of a winter that has no end in sight, the second being the deaths of a number of people close to me or close to those I know, the third being considering the lives of a couple of saints through film.
The winter is self-explanatory. It is getting pretty long here in Minnesota, even though it has been mild compared to last winter. But when the 20s seem warm, you know you have a winter problem. The glumness of winter wears a person down, and opens one up for doubts. Further, Lent is looming on the horizon and as I think about what to do for Lent, all of my faults and tendencies towards sin stare up accusingly at me.
Then there are those who have died. The first was a neighbor, an elderly man of Christian faith, leaving behind his kind widow. They have been great neighbors, and for my children he is the first person that they knew personally to pass away. They pray for his soul daily, just as they prayed for him to overcome his cancer daily. The second was the father of a good friend. This also affected my kids, since he is the grandfather of some of their friends. The third was a young husband and father, whom I never knew personally, but was friends with many people I know from college. He had a month-long battle with advanced cancer and left behind three children and a pregnant wife. The final death was that of one of my parents’ dear friends, a woman whom I have known my entire life. She was a woman who always served, always loved, and always prayed. I pray and hope for all of their salvations, but it made me think about my own death and realize that I am failing to live a fully Christian life in so many ways. Would people hope for my salvation in the same way that they hope for these people?
On top of this, I saw a powerful movie about the life of St. Vincent de Paul, Monsieur Vincent (1947), directed by Maurice Cloche. St. Vincent de Paul had a comfortable life of ease serving a wealthy family, but, being unsatisfied with what he was doing there and with the comfort of his own life, decided to devote his life to the poor. He served as a bridge between the rich and the poor, always calling the rich to do more for the poor, and never seeing himself as doing enough. “I must do more,” was his continual realization.
Then there was the movie The Flowers of St. Francis (1950), directed by Roberto Rossellini, and based on the classic book The Little Flowers of Saint Francis. The film focused on his life after he established his first community of brothers. You see his desire for simplicity, his serving of the poor, and his calling on of his others to holiness. You see that he was a passionate person, who always felt that he had too much. He stripped himself of all material comforts, keeping the bare minimum. His brothers did the same. These lives of the saints made me realize that I am not doing enough and that I take too much pleasure in my bourgeois middle class comforts. The hours I spend reading articles online, socializing, enjoying my sturdy, warm house, eating good food seem extravagant compared to the lives of the poor who barely have enough clothing, whose homes are in disrepair, who live have no way of living within their means for their means are so limited. Why am I so blessed materially and they are not? It made me wonder if I should be making radical changes with my life, like those of St. Francis or serving the poor endlessly like St. Vincent de Paul. Can someone living a comfortable life like mine really become a saint?
Then my husband and I saw a beautiful movie, Thérèse (1986) directed by Alain Cavalier, about St. Thérèse of Lisieux. And just as she always does, St. Thérèse showed me how I am to live a life of holiness. My realization that even a person raised in the middle class with bourgeois values can live a real life of holiness, was similar to the epiphany Thomas Merton had when he first read about St. Thérèse:
“It was never, could never be, any surprise to me that saints should be found in the misery and sorrow and suffering of Harlem, in the leper-colonies life Father Damian Molokai, in the slums of John Bosco’s Turin, on the roads of Umbria in the time of St. Francis, or in the hidden Cistercian abbeys of the twelfth century…
But what astonished me altogether was the appearance of a saint in the midst of all the stuffy, overplush, overdecorated, comfortable ugliness and mediocrity of the bourgeoisie. Therese of the Child Jesus was a Carmelite, that is true: but what she took into the convent with her was a nature that had been formed and adapted to the background and mentality of the French middle class of the late nineteenth century, than which nothing could be imagined more complacent and apparently immovable. The one thing that seemed to me more or less impossible was for grace to penetrate the think, resilient bourgeois smugness and really take hold of the immortal soul beneath the surface…
She became a saint, not by running away from the middle class, or by the environment which she had grown up: on the contrary, she cling to it in so far as one could cling to such a thing and be a good Carmelite. She kept everything that was bourgeois about her and was still not incompatible with her vocation: her nostalgic affection for a funny villa called “Les Buissonnets,” her taste for utterly oversweet art, and for little candy angels and pastel saints playing with lambs so soft and fuzzy that they literally give people the creeps…” (Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain, pp424-425)
St. Thérèse showed me that it is possible to have a deep spiritual life, but to have my days spent serving my family, cleaning, and cooking. She showed me that the key to holiness in my vocation is not to sell all I have and give it to the poor (though serving and caring for the poor I must do as I can), but making all that I do part of my prayer. I must allow God’s grace to penetrate every aspect of my life. I must be mindful of Him in everything that I do. I must live my vocation of wife, mother, and teacher of my children. This is the life I have chosen, this is the life I have been given, this is where God will make me holy. Most of us are called to be holy where we are. Few of us are called to lives like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Vincent de Paul. This does not mean that we should ignore the poor, but part of living out life as Christians is to serve the poor as we are called. And as a wife and mother, my caring for my family must not be neglected.
God’s grace has the ability to penetrate the least likely of places, and if He has put us in a specific place, called us to Him, and is not calling us to leave where we are, we must trust that He is going to make us holy where we are as long as we continually seek lives of grace and discern whether we are doing enough Originally posted at Truth and Charity…