Saturday, August 29, 2015

Two Weeks: A Study

The curve of your cheek, 
to rest the flutter of your lashes. 
Bow lips and long fingers, 
skinny legs and tiny toes. 

A life both complete and barely begun.
Deep blue eyes that search mine, 
asking questions I have no answers for,
and so I respond with a million kisses 
on the softest place of your neck.

Sleeping mostly in our arms
Or at my breast, 
where we have conversations 
in soft gulps and pieces of myself 
dissolved to nourish folds and chicken legs.

We rock together gentle,
the house strangely hushed in
latest night and earliest morning hours.
Finger curled around mine,
brow furrowed in concentration
then relaxed into sleep.

Hair swirled in cowlicks, 
dark and soft,
Knees curl into folds of skin 
and I caress them again,
obsessed with your newness
and the softest down covering your shoulders.
Sleep comes steady,
just not in the night.
And so instead I study rounded belly,
lines of a nose and furrow of a brow.
Hold tight I remind myself 
to these short days and long nights. 
To shadows and light
dancing fleeting across your face.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

On Birth Stories and Miracles

The most highly cultured mother gives birth sweating and dislocated and cursing like a sailor. That’s the place we inhabit as artists and innovators. It’s the place we must become comfortable with.” ― Steven Pressfield, Do the Work
For a really long time (we're talking years, not months) after Caden's birth, I would find myself immobilized by some strange mixture of grief and possibly post traumatic stress every time I ended up in a circle of women sharing birth stories. I would quietly excuse myself to the bathroom where I would cry into my hands, shaken by too many fears wrapped up in muscle memory of the day Caden was born.

We share birth stories like peanut m&ms, in casual conversation over coffee or before book club. But the truth is that childbirth and motherhood envelops a deep place, something holy curled in the bellies of women everywhere. And sometime that place is tender, bruised or broken, hopes never blossomed, or experiences too sharp to relive without fear and pain.
And so I document Isaiah's birth here with acknowledgement that there are many ways to make a mother. With reverence for your own story, and all the fears and hopes and dreams and hurts it carries.
I expected Isaiah's birth to come quickly, a slipping into the world that mirrored the way my last two came: according to schedule and without too much pain. Despite Caden's crazy journey after his arrival, my actual births were both uneventful and even quite enjoyable. Sometimes, though, I reluctantly admit, I need to learn new lessons. And sometimes joy only comes hand in hand with unexpected pain. I mean actual physical pain this time, childbirth without an epidural, which was never actually my plan. I forgot, apparently, that motherhood mostly reminds me time and time again how very-much-not-in-control I am.
With much fitful starting and stopping of contractions, complete with dropping heart rates and blood pressure, we spent hours waiting and praying. Until finally Isaiah made quick work of 5cm-9.5cm and before I knew it he was ready and coming whether or not I myself was prepared and medicated.

Despite my panic, and tearful protestations that I certainly cannot do this, Isaiah arrived: new and velvety and and slimy and perfect. My body stretched and tensed and finally surrendered to nature and design. Months of waiting and hurting and hoping culminated in three big pushes and the perfect bliss of finally clasping my son to my chest.
We know immediately, of course, just how perfectly he fit into the space our family has unknowingly held for him. How he stares into our eyes and we discover that we were made for this moment, this messy and painful perfection. 
And life, of course, will never be the same. Oh, it might ebb back towards something resembling normal, and we will nurse and change diapers and eat dinners prepared by our loving community, and we will find the rhythm of our days as a new family of five. Certainly, emotions will run high from all corners (except Adam, thankfully he remains our rock), and we will struggle to adjust. And there will be temper tantrums. But this gift remains snuggled in our arms, unfurling and growing inexplicably larger with each passing day.
Isaiah's birth reminds us that sometimes miracles don't come in the form of miraculous healing or broken hearts made whole. Sometimes, they run more ordinary. New life brought forth as grace and light, reminding us that joy always comes with the morning. 
Miracles that smell suspiciously of baby shampoo, and look a whole lot like stolen moments in a quiet nursery. That remind us of the beauty and pain of life and creation, wounds that take time and space to heal and force us to slow down to enjoy the sleepy days and sleepless nights of newest life.
And so our hearts swell with gratitude. For Isaiah, for his safe arrival, for our family and friends who carry us in prayer and in service, and for big brother and sister who care and love well, even as they shuffle to discover new roles and places in a changing family.
*Amazing pictures from my amazing friend Meg, without whom I'm not sure we could have made it through. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Links I Love: New Mom Edition

Life slowly spins back towards normal, albeit a new one. After school's out every day, I steal away to the nursery to feed Isaiah, because you never know who will stop by. The older two's emotions still run high, they want all-the-attention, all-the-time, and I know the equilibrium still hasn't quite found its bearings. Isaiah sleeps all day and cries all night, and I am bleary eyes as I kiss foreheads and send to school. We are thankful for friends and family who feed us, do our laundry, and run carpool for the two bigger kiddos.

We sit on the front porch and watch the rain, listen to the pounding on the eaves and watch the drizzle sliding off the roof. Caden covers his arm and mine with tattoos from Inside Out, and asks if he can give Isaiah a Sadness one, because he cries all the time.

I keep thinking that Isaiah looks so different from my other two (who are carbon copies basically of each other), but this picture here reminds me so much of Caden. Still, his hair is decidedly darker, and his nose is definitely less button-like.

Caden alternates between temper tantrums and silliness, desperate for our attention. Every time I raise my camera to capture Isaiah, he jumps in front. I oblige, painfully aware of what a BOY he has become, not a baby in the least.
Isaiah's deep blue eyes search faces, and he seems thoughtful and quiet to me; though Adam is certain he will be our sole extrovert. We cant help but gush to one another over how cute and tiny he still seems, despite already impossibly being over a week old.
Breastfeeding still, apparently, is really hard, even when you're on your third kid. Luckily, I found this handy guide: How to Breastfeed Your Newborn in 43 Easy Steps, which seems about accurate.

Nursing basically constantly does, however, afford me a little time for reading books about love stories, and lots of blogs/articles. Here's a few things I've read online over the last week that spoke to my heart, mostly around raising my kids and being a mom.
When Love Feels Heavy - Coffee & Crumbs
To the Teenage Girls at the Swimming Pool - Christine Organ
Focus on the Family - DL Mayfield
8 Things to Remember as You Mother Your Children - Lori Harris
Bedtime Stories for Young Brains - NY Times
And on that note, 50 Books Every Parent Should Read To Their Child

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Welcoming Isaiah Andrew

One week ago today, we were checking into the hospital to meet Isaiah. Also, just FYI, I am currently crying because, hormones, and how has it been a week already?! 

I have all the feelings, and plenty of words, about our newest little one and the ways our family has changed and stretched and birthed new things (literally and metaphorically);  but for now, some pictures from our first few days precious moments in the hospital together. 
 Isaiah Andrew Stanley, born at 9:22pm on August 11th, 8lbs 2oz, 21.5." And, just in case I forgot to mention, perfect in every way.
After his birth, a collective cheer went up in our room when they did his pulse ox and it was 100%. Both Adam and I had moments in the hospital where we felt fearful, remembering our time there with Caden and feeling overwhelmed. We were grateful for having a different experience this time, and are reminded of all the ways that God is good to us, blessing us through both difficulties and triumphs. 
We are clearly all smitten with the littlest Stanley.

Jayci is absolutely the sweetest big sister in the whole land, and could not be more gentle and tender and precious with Isaiah.
 Caden has been amazing with Isaiah too, though slightly less comfortable, and possibly with more meltdowns and tantrums. I suppose it's to be expected since he's been the "baby" for four years and suddenly finds his throne usurped.
We are all healthy and happy and snuggled in at home together, enjoying meals from friends and visits from neighbors. Thank you to everyone who has been and continues to be praying for us and loving us so well.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Caden Turns Four

Somehow in the midst of nesting, and my belly swelling to capacity, and shopping for school supplies, and hoping every day that perhaps Isaiah might make his arrival, Caden turned four. His whole improbably beautiful and crazy story seems mostly like a distant dream. Until I am watching Good Wife (we just started season 6, so maybe we've been watching a little too much TV), and see a hospital room that looks a whole lot like the one where Caden was born, and where I will soon deliver Isaiah too. Suddenly my heart gripped with anxious remembrance of that day, with gratitude yes of course, but also with fear of what lies ahead for Isaiah. Because despite reassurances and specialists and clean bills-of-health, it's still hard to imagine that nothing will be wrong after everything we went through with Caden last time. 

All that to say, I have been ruminating on Caden's earliest days, and marveling over his energy and strength these days. He is vibrant and wild and shy and sweet and hilarious, and we wouldn't trade him for the world. 
We celebrated Caden's birthday a few weeks early, just in case Isaiah made an early arrival (wishful thinking apparently). Since we call Caden our little minion, and since he requested it, we had a Minion-themed birthday party ("theme" really just consisted of some hat-crafts and a cute little party guest from next door). 

Oh and a pinata. Also, let's talk about how Adam just handed Caden an aluminum bat and told him to swing away. Terrifying.
Adam's dad concocted an elaborate plan to build Caden and Jayci a playhouse all in one day for his birthday (and Jayci's too). So the whole family showed up bright and early and got to work (we have the best family, I know). I'll take some pictures of the finished product and post those soon for you, but we used the plans from The Handmade Home, and it turned out great. Too bad it's been approximately 100 degrees every day since then, so the kids dont currently last too long playing out there. But I'm certain that as temperatures cool, this will be their new favorite place to hang out. 


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