Off The Path
If anyone's curious about where we plan to stash a baby around here given the limited bedroom space, here's our solution: a mini co-sleeper.
It's kind of funny because when I do a quick check on what a 36-week-old baby looks like, there are these lists of things new moms should be doing to prepare for their new baby and the top priorities seem to be preparing the nursery and getting ready for a hospital stay...and I'm not doing either one.
We did, however, carefully choose a bed that would fit next to ours in the little space in our bedroom. It's a cousin to the average pack-n-play, with a complicated fold process that allows it to be stowed away in a package about the size of violin case, but it has a mattress raised high enough to keep us from having to reach down into it, sides that lower and lock into place to make it a miniature extension of our bed, and a nice big storage space underneath so we even have dresser/diaper space.
Oddly enough, this little bed encapsulates a small facet of the solution-finding our chosen life has led us into. We're keeping everything as simple and no-nonsense as we can, both for reasons of limited space and because this baby can't occupy the same place in our life as many first-time parents expect their first child to inhabit. There are a lot of other things going on and the baby has to fit into them rather than having us rearrange life so we can fit into the "now we're parents" role. We knew this would be the case when we both chose to have Grandma Lila come live with us and then to allow ourselves to have children when it happened rather than trying to determine when the best time would be. But every so often I'm reminded of what an odd path we've taken and preparing for this baby definitely has had it's moments of making me feel like a stranger in a strange place. I've spent most of my life being weird, so that's nothing new; but right now we're doing something so different I don't even know anyone else who's trying it: we're taking care of Grandma near the end of her life at the same time as we're laying the foundation for the rest of our life together and getting ready to care for a child at the absolute beginning of his or her life.
It definitely makes for an odd mix of decisions. The bookmarks on my computer might just reflect how odd: links to hospital bed mattresses are sharing space with links to potential lighting plans (for the addition) and other links to birth kit supply websites and Amazon listings for strollers. Health links describing hiatal hernia and advanced osteoporosis are right on top of one leading to a "calculate your due date" site. Our calendar has an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon to discuss ramifications of a deteriorating osteoporotic hip a few days from a midwife home visit. I've learned to manage chronic skin-breakdown sores at the same time I was figuring out how to get over morning sickness. We got an education about the health effects of Vicodin and prenatal vitamins within the same few weeks. Ben is preparing for life as a new dad by getting up several times a night with Grandma (though we haven't quite gotten the get-up-three-times-and-still-get-up-on-time-in-the-morning part down smoothly yet).
Sometimes I take a step back and look at this and shake my head in wonder. Of all the ways I would've predicted an early marriage and family to be functioning, in my wildest dreams I probably would've never pictured what is actually occurring.
In those wildest imaginings, I probably should've factored in one very, very important point: when God places us in a carefully-chosen life circumstance and we respond by actively looking to see what kind of work he has laid out for us, the results are often really surprising. Sometimes what presents itself to our hands to do is so unorthodox and yet so obviously right we have to blink and say, "Huh. So that's what we're supposed to do when we grow up." In our case, we were given the opportunity to begin our marriage while caring for Grandma Lila and then immediately given a child as well.
A good friend told us back when we were first considering entering this life that when we really seek what is good, it's often as if we get led straight off the familiar path of life into a forest of trees where there isn't even a track, let alone a path. The only thing that can keep a person on a course like that is love, because otherwise wandering through the trees gets pretty bewildering at times. Well, love and faith, which is the conviction of the truth. In this case, love for God and each other and for our families - especially Grandma - and the conviction there is a way through the trees even if we can't see it. So when we sit here scratching our heads over what we should do concerning where to put a new baby's crib, for instance, or how we should best manage Grandma's broken hip when I can't lift her without pulling all my stomach muscles, we remember that we walked off the familiar path because of love and faith...and trust that God is not going to put something in front of us to do that we can't manage.
I posted the picture of the baby's crib to show that there was a solution - and an easy one - to the problem of not having a nursery space to set up a crib. It would be a lot more complicated to post pictures showing how we're currently handling the broken-hip situation or how we'll go about caring for Grandma and a new baby, but those solutions are there too. Even the ones we haven't discovered yet are still there waiting to be found. Because we walked off the path into these trees knowing there was no way we could NOT take hold of the things God so clearly laid out for us to do and God has abundantly blessed that decision. We don't love Grandma any less than we did a year ago - in fact, we love her much more and we now have actions to back the words we said before she lived here. We don't love our baby any less than we would if all we had to do right now was prepare for his or her arrival - in fact, we love him or her much more because we're even more aware of the blessing we've been given. Our marriage isn't struggling because we've had to try to figure out a whole series of unusual circumstances: it's being knit together in a unique way we certainly couldn't have ever planned. While we certainly have encountered situations that were confusing or exasperating or even just plain weird (and we don't always know what to do about them), our life over the past year has been both interesting and highly blessed and we're looking forward to the next.
So if you were to ask me my blessing for the whole year, I think the best way I could put it would be this way: we walked off the beaten path trusting it was a good thing to do and we could find answers to the challenges put before us. And it's been a pretty amazing experience. This is something to hang onto next time something comes up we're not sure how to handle. It's something we believed would happen; and it's something we believe is going to continue happening.
Warning: I haven't yet posted much about what it's like being pregnant, but since I only am likely to have a few weeks of this pregnancy left, I really feel like writing about it since I spent years imagining what it might actually be like.
Overall, it's not as strange as I thought it would be. Many things that I just couldn't picture feeling - like the baby moving - turned out to be nowhere near as odd as it might seem. Other things - like not being able to roll over in bed at night without waking up and working on it - have been a surprise. I mean, seriously: who has to wake up at night in order to roll over? Someone with a bowling ball attached to their middle, that's who.
Today I am eight months and three weeks pregnant. Next Wednesday will be nine months.
The due date is still four weeks away, but one of the odd things I've learned is that a due date is actually calculated at TEN months, not nine even: and the ninth month is four weeks long. All four weeks in January!
I know other people have thought the time has just flown by, but it's seemed a lot longer to me. Part of this is because I've pretty much been pregnant since the middle of last December with a few weeks' break early this spring. Which means it's sometimes a little hard to believe we're almost done and it's just about time for this baby to be outside instead of inside. Of course, with my stomach capacity shrinking to almost nothing these past few weeks and the way I've had a bony little bottom up so high in my diaphragm that I can't breathe right, I'm starting to think it really is high time for this little guy to continue growing somewhere else. When he stretches out and gets his foot lodged under my ribs, it's kind of a shocking feeling. Ouch!
And before anyone asks, yes I can tell the difference between a head and a bottom and it is really possible to feel the difference between feet and hands and most of the time I can tell where the baby is and how he's positioned. The way I know I've been fairly accurate so far is that the baby's heartbeat has been consistently tough to pick up with the stethoscope because you kind of have to get the amplifier right between his shoulderblades to find his heartbeat and he's usually on his side, which makes him tough to read. The midwife has started asking me if I can predict where his shoulderblades are and when I tell her, she can pick up the heartbeat. I'm kind of tickled about this.
Ben asked me last week if I could name any personality traits our baby seems to have, since it certainly seems like babies carry personality traits from the moment they're born so they must have them ahead of time. I told him I thought this baby was fairly laid-back but very curious. Rather than being belligerent about things like me resting a teacup on my stomach, the baby has a tendency to feel them and play with them. Teacups are his favorite outside toy so far - if I rest the cup on my stomach, he begins gently drumming his feet on it. Not hard enough to feel like he's trying to shove it off, more like he's saying, "Oh, this is fun...what's this?" If Ben rests his arm on my stomach, pretty soon I'll feel a little fist poke up and start feeling along the length of Ben's arm. Not poking hard like when moving around lot, just sort of feeling what this strange new heavy thing is. He'll even rub his fist against Ben's arm, which is a really funny sensation. He also does get scared by a few things - we watched The Hobbit at a theater last week and in one really intense part the baby started wiggling around a lot with an odd fluttery sort of movement which reminded me very strongly of a how a newborn acts when scared. I rubbed his back for a little and he settled right down, but he definitely responded to all the loud noise. He did something similar when we were going to Florida and the plane took off from the runway. By the third or fourth time he wasn't reacting, but I think the first few scared him.
Ben thinks I'm gigantic, but all things considered, I'm pretty small for just-about term pregnant. My waistline measures 42 inches and I weigh about 158 pounds (that's up from 25 inches and 115 pounds). Peanut is getting more and more epic cases of hiccups, to the point where (with his aforementioned little bottom shoved up against my diaphragm) it feels like I'VE got hiccups. The funny thing about baby hiccups is that they're really, really fast compared to normal - it almost feels like a heartbeat except that baby's heartbeat is quite a bit faster and it's more like mine...only it's not mine because mine's beating a different time.
And then there are contractions.
Everybody hears about contractions, but I was sort of wondering how I would recognize them or what they would feel like. Granted, the ones I feel are just the "practice" contractions that are getting all my muscles nice and strong, but still...it turns out that when you feel them, they are pretty obvious. If you picture the muscles around your stomach as a band or a belt, a contraction feels like it suddenly got very tight. It's like getting a cramp in your leg after not drinking enough water, only it doesn't hurt like that. But it's the same sudden tightening. I've been asked a few times if I'm nervous about labor and delivery and I guess the answer is I'm nervous about it in the same way I would be about playing a violin piece at a recital. I'm not afraid, but I definitely have an element of, "Okay...been practicing a while...now make sure you get that middle part right!"
Some of my siblings have been making jokes about how fat I am ("Wow, Lauren, you're HUGE!") and even Ben is kidding me about having "a wide load". I've just been shrugging and saying, "Yup." I also smile peaceably and say, "True. But in a few weeks I won't be."
I washed all the baby clothes already and have been puttering with things like getting the baby's bed set up (we were pretty pleased to find something called a 'co-sleeper', which is basically a bassinet with sides that lower so it can be put right next to the bed and take up very little room) and assembling the list of stuff we're supposed to have on hand for the baby's birth. One of the most fun things was getting the birth certificate and the little card that we're supposed to record the baby's footprints on. Getting that in the mail definitely made us feel like we're getting close. It's kind of funny getting all the things together ourselves that hospitals just seem to have on hand, like the receiving blankets and little knitted hat and the umbilical cord clamp.
The closer we get, the more I'm relieved we're having this baby at home and not in the hospital. I really am glad not to be packing for a hospital stay and knowing we'll have to judge the right time to go in and then deal with all the hospital bureaucracy and so on and so forth. I'm glad it's going to be just Ben and I and the midwife will keep an eye on us if we need some help. Both families are making us promise that we'll let them know when we're in labor and won't leave them hanging when the baby's born. Aaron says various friends of ours have been having "labor parties" when their siblings are having babies: they basically just stay up playing Wii games and eating snacks and not going to bed until they hear some news, no matter how late it gets. Of course it helps that most of the friends we have who've had babies recently have ridiculously short labors - the most recent one was three hours long from start to finish, I think. At any rate, Aaron says we better not gyp them out of their chance to have a labor party. Sounds like a political thing, put that way.
All in all, I have enjoyed being pregnant but I'm really looking forward to holding this baby. It's something that fills me with wonder, experiencing what I've only imagined up until now. I think actually having the baby will be a whole new level of that same wonder and I'm filled with anticipation of that. Not to mention anticipating being able to easily do things like sit up or get out of a chair or bend over without holding my breath. (Please note that I still have the balance to hop on one leg and tie my shoes without the bows having to be on the sides of the shoes...)
I'm also really, really looking forward to seeing Ben be a father. I can't imagine what it would be like having a baby without Ben as the daddy. He has really been wonderful and continues to be every day and I'm so pleased to have his hands be the first ones to actually touch and hold this child. In spite of how sad we were to lose our little Joshua earlier this year, part of me is glad to have had that experience because I already know how well Ben handles even difficult things and I am looking forward to going through labor with him; and I'm am absolutely looking forward to that look I know will be on his face when he gets to see his son or daughter for the first time. In many ways, I'm more excited about that than even seeing the baby myself.
It's been eight years since I've lived with a new little one. It's about time to end the baby deprivation. Just a few more weeks to go.
It has been a very long and eventful couple of weeks.
To start with, in a weird deja vu development, Grandma Lila again has a fractured hip. Last year at this time we were just bringing her home from assisted living to deal with recovery from another fracture to a different part of the same exact joint. That was a very rough couple of weeks for a variety of reasons and the actual physical caring for Grandma is much easier this time around. For one thing, it appears the pain medicine she already takes for her neuropathy is covering whatever pain there might be from the fracture - one of our hardest tasks has actually been convincing her that she can't stand or walk on the leg because to her mind, it's fine.
The very sobering part of this news, however, is that Grandma apparently fractured her hip by doing...nothing at all that should've broken anything. Apparently the bone around the old spacer in her right hip is growing so fragile that it broke just from the strain of walking on it. This could very well mean that Grandma will no longer be walking any distance at all, walker or no walker. We knew when we brought Grandma home that this was an almost inevitable development, but it's a little shocking to have it happen so soon. We are still hopeful that this isn't the case, of course, but it's hard not to draw that conclusion given the circumstances surrounding this latest fracture. We have an appointment with the orthopedic doctor who gave us such good advice last year and we'll know more after that. In the meantime, we're being well-prepared for our imminently arriving newborn by getting up several times a night for a half-hour to help Grandma to the bathroom and back. I told Ben last night that I'm very hopeful the bell Grandma rings to tell us she needs help will wake the baby up too so we can get them on the same schedule - otherwise we are going to be even more sleep-deprived than the average new parent!
I'm also down to five weeks left before the estimated due date and the midwife tells us that the baby is already engaged and it's her opinion he/she "is either going to come early or you're going to need a bigger body" as the baby is pretty well taking up all available room. I'm beginning to be pretty uncomfortable most of the time and am starting to look forward to having the baby outside rather than inside, lack of sleep or no. I'm disgusted to note I didn't inherit my mom's genes as much as I'd hoped and my feet and ankles are definitely swelling if I spend longer than a half-hour standing on them.
All of that being a prelude to what I feel is a very important and difficult-to-phrase blog post.
Last year, with all the hustle and bustle of our wedding closely followed by moving Grandma, it somehow was not apparent that Ben and I had decided to not celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense. This year things have been much more settled (fracture notwithstanding) and it came to Mom Turner's attention we were not decorating for Christmas. When she began asking why and discovered we were actually avoiding Christmas, it caused a lot of hurt feelings (including from Grandma Lila, who gave me a pretty sharp scolding about it the other day). Because it was hard on Mom, she began discussing the situation with others close and the result is a lot of people don't quite know how to approach Christmas with us this year. A dear neighbor brought us the beautiful wreath she'd purchased as a Christmas gift for us and asked humbly if we would be offended by it, for instance, and another close relative was very concerned about bothering us by sending us a Christmas card.
We are very touched by and appreciative of the concern, but we're a little distressed that we've caused so much upset, so here is our best explanation of what we think of Christmas and how we're approaching it for the time being.
We've been spending a lot of time considering what it means to have good things get mixed with bad and what that ultimately does to the good thing. In the case of Christmas, Christians a long time ago essentially took a very pagan holiday and rather than cancelling it altogether, decided to attempt redeeming it by turning the focus from having a big wild party to celebrating the birth of Jesus our Savior.
Good thing: celebrating Jesus' birth instead of having wild drunken revelries in honor of Saturn.
Bad thing: bringing methods of worshiping other gods into the worship of the One True God.
Now, as Grandma Lila has repeatedly pointed out to us, "we don't worship those things!" She's correct. We no longer bring pine trees in from the woods as symbols of fertility and put sacrifices under them to the wood-gods. We just don't. A Christmas tree in today's family living room is not being worshiped as a god.
The problem is, the whole reason for bringing it in comes from the worship of a pagan god.
One of the biggest questions Ben and I have asked ourselves when it comes to deciding how our family is going to work is pretty simple: "Do we know if this makes God happy or not?"
Sometimes we have to guess based on things God has said and done even if he never specifically addressed the situation we're looking at (homeschooling is an example of this). Other times, God is pretty clear about what he thinks (as in the case of the Sabbath). When it comes to Christmas, the thing God said that sticks in our mind is pretty straightforward: he said to his special people, "Don't you worship me in the same way the heathens worship their gods - that's completely disgusting to me!"
Deuteronomy 12:29-31 (ESV)
29“When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land,30take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ 31You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. [emphasis mine]
There are more and harsher verses, but this all by itself is pretty strong evidence of what God thinks: don't add the worship of a not-god to the worship of the real God. And bringing in a Christmas tree as part of the celebration or worship of God - commemorating his Son's birth - sounds like something God would not be too thrilled about. So after considering this, our conscience begins deeply troubling us when we look at combining the pagan traditions with the celebration of Jesus' birth. Which we came to find out didn't even occur in December, let alone on the 25th, so in a weird sort of way it would almost be easier for us to consider Christmas if Jesus were left out of it altogether since he doesn't seem to belong there in the first place. This, however, is a whole sticky matter in and of itself. There are many, many opinions on this subject and all sides get pretty touchy.
Now, the tricky thing about Christmas is that there are two parts to it. There is the religious/philosophical aspect (which is the basis for why we're not decorating); and there is the simple family get-together aspect. The time we spend with our family is very precious to us and we believe it is precious to God as well. The Christmas cards that come in the mail with letters and photos of our friends and family are special and we look forward to them. It is true, as one friend we know puts it, that if we really love our family we should show it other times than just at Christmas; but it's also true that it's very hurtful to our family to absent ourselves at a time they are used to the family being together.
We also have Grandma Lila living with us in our home and she is both very offended and hurt by the suggestion we are not doing Christmas. She has absolutely made it clear that we can do whatever weird thing we're doing but she is NOT going to give up her Christmas tree or the other elements of the Christmas celebration that we were troubled about. Because she is our grandmother and is our authority, it isn't our place to determine this for her and we have done our best to honor her wishes in this respect, including putting her small tree up in her room and putting her Christmas CDs on while she's sitting in the living room and other such things.
The truth is, we don't think anyone celebrating Christmas is evil for doing so, just as we don't believe those who do not rest on the Sabbath are evil. The only reason doing or not doing those things means anything at all has to do with how we want to relate to God. A person has to be convicted of what God wants them to do or they will be acting out of empty tradition, from a sense of obligation to rules rather than out of a love for God. Doing anything without a conviction of the truth can be much more harmful than not.
We believe that there are things we can do to please or displease God and we are doing our best to understand those things for ourselves and for our children out of gratefulness for the life God has given us and the chance we have to be in the relationship with him that kids have with their daddy. Most of us actually will take some pretty extraordinary steps to get a pleased smile of approval and the comfort of knowing our parents here on Earth are happy with us. We want to have that same closeness with the Father who made us, so if there is a suggestion that something makes him happy or sad we want to be alert for it just like we would be for our dads here on Earth. This is why it wasn't difficult for us to give up a Christmas tree once we reached the conclusion that it was something God didn't want us to do.
So to please the Father who made us, we are attempting to remove the mixed-in pagan elements from worship of him; and to please our parents on Earth, we want to be available to spend the special time with them and enjoy their company and take pleasure in being together. There will be many more Christmas days for Mom to take photos of the babies growing up and us standing around the table before dinner and all the small things families do when they have deliberately set aside the time to spend together. We are not going to be sitting around the whole day thinking about how bad it is we have to be there. We do not have to have a Christmas tree or have the kids sit on Santa's lap or have exactly the same beliefs and traditions to share that specific time. And we are not going to be offended by those we love who do.
Of Faucets and Great Stature
I have to report that our window of opportunity to begin really building the addition was closed due to some unforeseen circumstances and we'll be waiting a bit longer to start the excavating, which is what I was originally hoping to blog about.
The good thing about delays is that they usually result in equally unforeseen advantages in the long run, and given the perfect timing that has characterized our life since we first met, we're reminding each other that the addition is running on the same timing everything else has. I remember a little over a year ago when we weren't sure when we were actually going to get keys to our house. We were trying to figure out why there was delay after delay then and in the end, the timing worked out so beautifully that the house was able to be prepared for Grandma to live here in the two weeks before our wedding...so not only did we have a house, but we were able to get Grandma home right away when we'd been thinking there was going to be a several-month-longer delay.
That said, there have definitely been some changes around here. Ben and I have gotten motivated to work on all the little projects that have been hanging around needing to be finished, probably because we have the feeling that if we can't work on the addition, we should at least work on what we can. I've put up pictures that have been sitting around for quite a while and we've been doing things like cleaning and organizing the basement (Ben organized the pantry and it's way more usable than it used to be!). Generally, just focusing on what we can to take care of our house as it is rather than how it's going to be.
Which brings us to the kitchen faucet.
About a month ago, our faucet started leaking in a really strange way I'd never seen before: straight out the side of the faucet stem about midway between the handle and the spout. It was just a little pinhole at first and the spray of water was so fine you could only feel it, not see it. I said, "Well, we were going to get a new one in a few months anyway - I guess we'll just have to work around the leak."
Then it began leaking out the other side and both leaks got considerably stronger in no time at all. After about two weeks I had to keep a washcloth over the stem of the faucet or else everything on the counter on both sides of the sink would get soaked if we turned the water on.
Then it started getting just plain ridiculous. It wasn't a leak anymore: it was more like an imitation of Old Faithful. If we weren't careful, the water pressure would throw the washcloth off and then everything around the sink (including the unwary user) would get a surprise shower. Ben said, "There's no way that's making it a couple more months. We need a faucet."
So on Black Friday, he perused websites looking at faucets, reading reviews, and asking me questions about what styles would work best in the new kitchen. My contribution to the process was to point out one style I really didn't like and say I thought the finish should be brushed nickle since that's what we were using in all the other fixtures. Ben found a faucet that got excellent reviews and was a good style, used the right sink holes, and was being sold at a decently reduced price. I didn't realize it at the time, but one of the reasons he ordered that particular one was that it had good marks for being easy to install.
After the new faucet arrived, Ben announced, "I'm going to install this."
"Sounds wonderful!" I said. "I have only one suggestion."
"Wear old clothes. It seems like plumbing always involves yucky water at some point."
So on Sunday afternoon, Ben changed into old clothes, excavated all the stuff stored under the sink, and began removing the old faucet. He kept me busy hunting for things ("Didn't we have a channel locks around here somewhere?"), but I didn't mind because it seemed like the least I could do considering he was the one lying on his back under the sink. My favorite moment - and one that partly illustrates why I decided to marry him - was when his voice emerged from under the sink excitedly saying, "Oh, look at this - I'm getting yucky water all over me just like a real plumber!"
That's Ben. It's one of the many reasons he's a wonderful man. Not to mention one of the reasons he's very easy to live with.
He would've had the faucet all installed by 7:30 that evening, except the connector hoses that came with the sink were about six inches too short and Lowes and Home Depot close early on Sundays. He even went on a determined expedition to Walmart and Meijer looking for adapters, but ultimately had to wait until Monday evening to finish up the project.
So we have a new faucet and Ben has a new skill. He's been picking up all kinds of new stuff this year and I expect he's going to pick up even more next year (there's always the important, "Being a Father" if nothing else!). I love his willingness to take on something new he's never tried before and the way he doesn't get frustrated when he has to take the faucet off and put it back on three or four times and the way he gets excited over things other people think are problems. I've been thinking over the ways I've learned more about Ben since we were married a year ago, and this is one of them. I've had the chance to get a much deeper look at the kind of courage he has, the way he will joyously tackle things other people (including me) see as obstacles, the way he doesn't let himself get upset at things. The man I got to know a year ago hasn't become any less admirable in the past year as I've gotten to know him much better. He's only grown in stature. He's getting better with every day that goes by.
By the way, I really enjoy the new faucet. It's perfect. And I don't have to wear a raincoat to turn it on.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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