Juniper's Birth

I've deliberated over what to write here, knowing that some people are annoyed by this type of self-indulgent drivel.  (If you are one of them, please don't read this.  I hate being annoying.)  But I have persisted for three reasons:
1. I am a writer (or, we should say I like to write) and I get unsettled about things if I leave them unwritten.  Telling people, aloud, can sometimes fill the need, but I often forget things or say them poorly.  Writing in a journal for myself alone doesn't work either (anyway I've sworn off journals); it doesn't seem REAL.  Writing it here, and having to edit myself and consider whether I'm being excessively dramatic, etc., produces results I'm less likely to hate in ten years.
2. I love reading about births, myself.  I don't usually feel like I have to get defensive about it.  We're all different, etc. etc.  I just find childbirth and motherhood fascinating subjects and part of our heritage as women. (Slightly related: for an exellent article on birth and its symbolism, see here.  The author brings up fascinating insights; subjects for a future post, perhaps.)
3. One particular detail in this story seems too good to keep to myself.  
Intrigued?  Then pray, continue.
It was a dark and stormy night.  Not really, but weren't the "Spring" months in Utah disappointingly rainy?  It was actually a beautiful sunny Saturday morning, the first for some time.  I thought to myself as I woke up, "The baby was waiting for nice weather and it will come today."  It wasn't my intuition telling me so, but the contractions I'd felt through the night.  They'd been going on long enough that I was pretty sure.  I wasn't necessarily expecting immediate results (cf. Malachi's arrival six minutes after arriving at the hospital) because of my previous labor with Daisy, which was long and leisurely, but I felt it was time to get ready.  We showered, packed kids' suitcases, stopped at the neighborhood bakery for breakfast, and drove the kids down to stay with my mom in Provo.  It passed the time.

Driving home, my contractions slowed, but didn't stop.  Sam and I spent dreamlike, child-free hours walking the neighborhood, going to a movie, going out to eat, all while the contractions came and went.  It is the most delightfully secretive feeling, to be around crowds while in labor, and no one knows but you.  I wasn't worried because my body seems to prefer laboring at night, and sure enough, as it got dark, the contractions increased in intensity and duration.  I was supposed to host a breakfast for the Young Women leaders in my ward the next morning, so I called my counselors to let them know I was (conveeeniently, I'm sure they thought) in labor, and figure out a change of venue.  Then Sam and I filled up the birthing pool in our room and went on a walk.  It was such a beautiful night, with sprinkles of rain in the air and the moon nearly full, and walking was difficult but the air felt wonderful.  We walked by the temple, resting on benches when the contractions got strong, and enjoyed the quiet darkness.

Back at home, I slept somewhat restlessly, and around 2 a.m. woke up feeling much stronger surges.  I texted my midwife, Cathy, and she drove over in her tiny red car.  So far, everything was feeling just like with Daisy, so I was pretty sure I knew what was next:  labor that progressed quickly and ended with a sweet baby at dawn.

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Sky lava

Last night was lovely.  We saw baby (teenage?) ducks, and then the sunset was such a bright orange-red.  The sky looked like one of those slow Hawaiian lava flows, sweeps of blue-grey edged by fire.
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Five

Everyone has been asking me, "How is it with five kids?"  The answer I usually give is, "We're finding a new normal." Because in spite of the fact that we're happy and Juniper is amazingly good and the boys are frequently the helpers every mother dreams of, there's just . . . I don't know, more chaos, more uncertainty, less time.  I've adjusted to it in the past and I will again, and the untidiness of it all is balanced out by the sweet, sweet baby smiles and those tiny, clutching hands---but there is definitely a learning curve with each new addition.  Let me illustrate:  

The other day in an ill-advised fit of productivity, I set out with the children to Costco.  Abe and Seb are out of school for the summer, so I thought they could help me and it would be better than going with just the little ones.

I think I forgot about how you can't see over the cart with a baby seat in it, so it's not a question of whether you're going to crash into someone but how often, and how annoyed of a look they'll give you (and how sure you are that they have sized you up and decided you are one of those poor polygamous wives stocking up for the compound).  And maybe I forgot about how everyone in the family wants the samples yet none are actually capable of independently eating the samples (walking while simultaneously holding a food item and a spork is among the highest-level motor skills, apparently).  And about how large bags of flour don't fit in carts already holding flats of marigolds.  And so forth.

I got to the check-out line holding Juniper (screaming, like a baby cat) in my arms while her carseat sat in the cart and continued to block my view of everything; Daisy in the other seat with food dribbled all down her dress and saying "Too hot!" accusingly at me as she ate a piece of ravioli; Ky alternating between running into people's legs and saying "Wait mommy!  I need to sit down!"; and Sebby and Abraham fighting over who would push and who would "guide" the cart (answer: neither, instead they would keep crashing into the edges of the aisles as they wrestled it back and forth between them, drawing glares from [no doubt population-conscious] bystanders).  

As I started trying to unload the cart with one hand, a lady came up to me and said, "Here, come over here in this other line; you'll be next and I'll unload your cart."  I thought she was an employee at first (probably there to tell me about some rule my children were violating) so I followed obediently, but then I saw she was just another customer, there with her two darling red-haired teenage daughters.  They put me in front of them in line and unloaded all my groceries onto the conveyor belt while I stood there holding Juniper and blinking back tears (of embarrassment and gratitude).  And then after I paid, the mom said, "I'm sending my daughter out with you to unload and help you with your cart!"  So one of the girls shyly pushed my cart out and filled my trunk up with crates and boxes while I buckled in children.  I couldn't believe it; I was SO grateful.  I kept  saying Thank You and the girl kept smiling and unloading and then finally running back inside the store with a little wave.  All the way home I kept thinking how nice they had been, how I KNOW when you have a bunch of kids that some people will think you're an idiot or irresponsible or whatever and I was prepared for that but it makes me self-conscious anyway, and to have someone smile and help instead of glaring at me was just . . . so nice.  And how even though I sort of felt embarrassed that I'd looked so needy and probably desperate, because I thought I was holding it together pretty well actually, and I WAS capable of managing by myself and I would have managed (eventually), it still touched me that someone noticed and CARED, and wanted to make it easier for me.  And it still brings a few tears to my eyes, actually, thinking about it.

And that's how it's going with five.
6

Fears


When I was a little girl one of my favorite things was to go to work with my dad, which meant walking over to the Eyring Science Center at BYU with him, spending an hour or two drawing on the chalkboards in his classroom, maybe having a look at his model of a salt crystal, reading some of the e.e. cummings poems taped to his wall, and then getting him to take me to see all the best parts of the building: the giant ground sloth skeleton, the wave machine, the anechoic chamber, and of course, the top of the Foucoult Pendulum.

Visitors to the building can observe the pendulum as it swings on the ground floor, but if you look up, you can see the long wire going up through all four stories to the top floor.  This is where my dad would take me so I could look down the long, long hole to see the pendulum way below.  It made me nervous to peer down through all that space (unprotected by a railing or anything) but I loved it anyway.  I just tried my very hardest not to think about falling.

Twenty years later, my kids are enjoying the same things in the ESC, thanks to my mom, who takes them on field trips there when they stay with her.  They love all the same things I loved (although the ground sloth skeleton has somehow grown skin since then, and it's much less cool and scary than it used to be).  Sebby, especially, has been fascinated with:
a. the telescope, and its filter to allow you to look at the sun without burning your eyes
b. the "pendulum hole"

I suspect his fascination stems partly from the fact that both those things scare him a little.  But he deals with it so differently than I would.  Instead of trying not to think about it, he builds things like this:

The Eyring Science Center (note empty column where the pendulum hangs)

Top view, looking down into the pendulum pit.  "Do you know what that triangle down there is, Mommy?  A person!  Someone who fell down the hole!"
And, whenever he runs down a hill, he pauses at the top for a moment, rocks forward on his toes, and then:
"Help!  Help!  Oh no, I've fallen down the pendulum hole!  Help!  Fooooooour stoooooooories doooooown!"

It's better than being immobilized by his fear, I guess.  Or being scared of the Pixar Lamp like he used to be.  However it's not much help to me, whose formerly dormant fear of heights has returned on behalf of my children.  It's MUCH worse seeing them teeter atop various perches and craters, and having to act like I'm not terrified they'll fall, than it ever was to teeter atop those things myself!  (I wonder what my Dad, World Champion Worrier, went through every time I peered down that pendulum hole?)

Still, I have to admit it's funny.  "Oh help, foooooooour stoooooooories dooooooown . . . .! "
2

An elephant, a ponderous house

Maybe you've read Sylvia Plath's poem "Metaphors"? This is how I felt during most of the month of April.
I'm a riddle in nine syllables.
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf's big with its yeasty rising.
Money's new-minted in this fat purse.
I'm a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I've eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there's no getting off.
She may have come to an unhappy end (have I ever mentioned that I used to have a t-shirt that said "Sylvia, get your head out of the oven"?) but she knew pregnancy, by george!
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