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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Three Days to Go

Brandon arrived safely, with all his luggage, and only an hour late Thursday night (which is a sight better than the two and a half days he was late last time).  This means that the baby can now, theoretically, come whenever she likes.  In reality, however, she'll be arriving on Thursday when I have my induction scheduled.  So I have three more days of being pregnant ever.

It's strange to reach the end of this part of my life, as I've been pregnant on and off for almost fourteen years now.  As soon as I birthed one baby, it was time to start thinking about the next one.  The relief of finally being able to sleep on my stomach again, tie my shoes easily, and hold children on my lap was always shadowed by the knowledge that I would be seeing this state again in the not-too-distant future. 

But today I peeled off my dress after coming home from church and threw it in the dirty clothes, figuring that I'd probably better wash it before sending it on to someone else who would need it.  It was my last Sunday holding a wigging two year-old around a the watermelon that takes up most of my lap.  Each time I get up at night to use the bathroom or flip over again because one side has grown too uncomfortable to sleep on, I happily remember that I haven't got much time left. 

I can't complain about my pregnancies - after all, they've been easy enough that I've been able to have seven.  I'm grateful that I've been able to have as many as I've wanted, especially knowing all my friends and family that have felt the ache of not being able to have the family they'd always imagined having.  I'm happy that I will always have so many children to love, teach, and nurture.  I sometimes imagine what my life would be life without my children, and I'm glad to be where I am and not in that theoretical other place (even if it is quieter, neater, and a lot more self-indulgent).

It's so strange to be looking at the ending of such a significant part of my life.  The only other clear endings in my life - high school and college graduation - were followed by such exciting beginnings - college and marriage - that I hardly noticed the endings at all in the excitement of the beginnings. 

But this ending isn't followed by any new and exciting beginnings.  It's just an end.  I've been looking to being a mother ever since I understood what mothers were and that I would be one too.  So it's strange to have this phase - the part where I bring all the babies into this world - be done with.  Now I just have to raise those babies into reasonable adults (which is definitely the harder part of the deal).

I've discovered that it's one thing to know intellectually that all mothers have to stop having babies eventually, and another thing to actually have that stopping point happen in my own life.  Of course nobody has babies into perpetuity - biology takes care of that - but it seems that a little part of me didn't include myself in the general population that that generality covered.  But it turns out I'm just as much of everybody as everyone else.

I can't say that I'm exactly mourning this end.  I've had many more pregnancies than most of my peer group have had, and so my experience with pregnancy is pretty extensive.  I didn't care for being pregnant the first time and I didn't care for being pregnant the last time.  It's nine months of unpleasant discomfort where you don't feel like yourself and you just get fatter and fatter.  As Brandon has commented many times, if men were having the babies, they'd only ever do it once. 

So it isn't sorrow I feel when thinking about the end of this part of my life, it's something else.  Maybe thoughtfulness.  Maybe solemnity.  I'm not sure.  Maybe just being observant of the end of one part of my life.  Endings always bring significance.  Even if they're good endings.  Or natural endings.  They're still endings.  When we reach the end of something, we change.  We go on to a new place and never return to where we were before. 

So, three more days of carrying a new life around with me, feeling her wriggle and hiccup and move restlessly.  Three more days of waddling around the house with a watermelon in my abdomen.  Three more days of being a tool of creation, making a body for one of God's children.  Three more days of uncomfortably trying to get sleep in between bathroom trips.

And then, on to the next part of my life.  I will always talk of pregnancy in the past tense, never the future or present.  I will count my children and always come up with the same number, one that never changes again.  Our family pictures will only have taller children, but never any more children.  And I will have ended this part of my life.  It will be time to move to the next one.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Wait is Almost Over

This week Brandon will board a plane in Tashkent.  That plane will fly to Korea, where he will wait nine hours before boarding a plane to Toronto.  Thirteen hours later, after nearly flying over the North Pole, Brandon will be on the same continent as we are.  After that, it's only a short hop down to Raleigh, where I will be eagerly awaiting him at the airport (the children will be asleep.  Thank heaven for children old enough to watch themselves).

I can't say that our five and a half weeks apart has been terrible.  Surprisingly, I've been able to homeschool, grocery shop, keep the house clean, and mother the children entirely on my own without completely losing it.  I've always been secretly afraid that if I were ever dropped off in the States without the aid of household help, I wouldn't be able to actually adult successfully.  After all, it's been a full decade since I cleaned my own toilet. 

I've been somewhat shocked to discover that I am a Real Girl after all and can do all those things that my brave America-living counterparts do as a routine part of your lives with nary a housekeeper in sight.  And not only have I done those things, I've done them while being very pregnant and a single mother.  It's cheering when you discover that you have more abilities than you credited yourself for.

I can't say that I've done things up to the highest standard, however.  Our weekly menu has a dedicated breakfast-for-dinner night in addition to frozen-food night.  And there might have been a few busy nights where cold cereal counted as a meal (of course, this won me highest acclaim in the under-thirty-seven population of our household). 

Story time has been hit or miss, depending on how tired I've felt.  One night Eleanor asked me to tell her a story - Brandon is the storyteller in our family and makes up wonderful stories about Eleanor, Space Donkey, and their extra-planetary adventurers.  When I came up with the shortest story I could think of, she folded her arms and pouted, "Mom, you tell terrible stories."  It had been a long day, so I shot back, "Well, I'm all out of talking.  If I had children that listened to me the first time I asked them to do something, instead of making me asking them ten times, maybe I would have some words left to use for stories.  But I don't and I spend all day telling everyone to do things over and over and over again, so my stories are indeed terrible."

I'm somewhat surprised that the neighbors have not called CPS on me yet, as most days William can be spotted wandering around the yard in just his underwear.  Joseph has taken to climbing trees and yelling at the neighbors across the street as they play with their children in the yard, calling out our life story to anyone who would care to listen.  I'm constantly leaving most of them home alone while I take one child or another to one more doctor's appointment.  And, of course, someone always starts screaming at some point every single day during afternoon outside play time. 

So yes, nobody has died.  But we also haven't devolved into total chaos while living in our own filth (an my toilet has been cleaned almost every week), so I count my single-parenting time here as an overall win.

But it will be very nice have two parents to mind the food and conversation (and maybe even start reading scriptures again) at the breakfast table Friday morning, and two voices to encourage the children to stop fighting, and two sets of hands to make and clean up dinner.  My hat is off to those of you who do this full-time or on a regular basis.  Life is much easier with two adults running the monkey circus.

But even more than having another set of hands around, I'm just looking forward to being together with Brandon again.  We try and talk several times a day, but a phone call is no replacement for having your husband there.  I've realized (again), that I just don't do well alone.  I may have six children surrounding me, but I'm still alone when I need real conversation that isn't punctuated by repeated commands to eat something or clean something or leave someone alone.  Thankfully, time with friends and family has kept me from completely losing it (and how grateful I am to have friends and family who will keep me sane), but I'm so glad that my best friend will be showing up this week.  I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

When the Weather is Warm

This past Saturday, the children and I went to the beach.  North Carolina hasn't gotten the memo yet that it's past vernal equinox and so that means that it's time for fall.  I know intellectually that Halloween is a month away, but viscerally it doesn't feel like fall is actually something that will be happening ever.

The beach is a hallowed tradition in my family, so I couldn't come to North Carolina and not go to the beach.  It's like coming here and not getting barbecue.  Theses are just Not Done.  I had planned on spending our first Saturday at the beach, but jet lag and a sick toddler decreed otherwise.  I was afraid late September would be too chilly, but the weather graciously extended us another chance.

My sister and her four children live half an hour away from our favorite beach, Topsail Island, so they met us for a day of beach fun.  After all, if the beach is awesome, the beach with your favorite cousins is even better.

Everyone had a great time doing what you always do at the beach: swimming in the waves, digging big holes, catching mole crabs, and watching tiny clams try to dig their way into the sand.  The beach seems to never lose its attraction.

The weather and water were even so agreeable that I went swimming too.  William, who has never swum in the ocean before, thought that it was great fun bobbing up and down on the swells.  He wasn't that sure about the crashing waves part, but that's understandable when you're about three feet tall. 

By the end of the day, we all realized that we should have reapplied our sunscreen (and also applied the first coat a little more carefully) and admired each other's fierce sunburns.  But that too is also the tradition of the beach.  If I get skin cancer, I'll name it after Topsail Island. 

We were all sad to bid the beach goodbye after only one day of fun.  Thankfully next year we will be able to attend our family beach week after two years straight of missing it.  There really isn't a better family vacation than going to the beach (those of you who disagree with me are welcome to your completely wrong opinion).  I'm already counting down the months.