The Beanstalk

Record of a writer, a family & an adventure.

Month: September, 2015

Returning to the beach.

We went to the beach for a few days this week. We packed up the car with an absurd quantity of clothes, books, DIAPERS, toys, food, entertainment and drove four hours east to stay in a gigantic house right on the ocean with Mark’s entire family. The beach is my heaven on earth, so I was equal parts wary of traveling with a three-week-old baby + two-and-a-half year old and thrilled to be escaping from my land-locked city for a healthy dose of listening to the sea crash into the shore without end for three days.

I wasn’t prepared for what having two kids would be. When Jack was born, I was under-whelmed, if that can be a word, with stress. He was easy all the way around, didn’t keep me up too much at night, never got sick, sort of allowed me to have a pretty nice life while working from home, writing, and keeping him full-time myself.

When Mae came to live with us, I must have assigned that experience to the “would-be” of her. I must have thought it would feel the same. Or maybe, in my brain-dead existence of pregnancy, I simply failed to consider what it would mean. In any case, I.WAS.NOT.PREPARED.

It is insanity in my house at all times, except when Jack is asleep for his nap… and even sometimes then. Mom, I’m awake–can I have a snack–crying infant–feeding infant–strapping infant to my body–cue sweating–mom, can we go outside?to the dinosaur park?to Target?to the book store?I don’t want to go to school!–(tears)–crying infant–walking to the park–feeding infant at the park–telling Jack not to steal toys from other children–forgetting bugspray–slapping mosquitos off his face because he’s allergic–forgetting sunscreen–picking up–putting down–running upstairs–running downstairs–running to the car–the market–the bank–the drugstore–crying (me, Jack or Mae.)

That’s usually before 11:30am. Sometimes I have forgotten to brush my teeth. I usually put mascara on, and I often make time to shower (I don’t know if it’s because I feel gross, or if it’s because I just want to be alone for five minutes), and I usually put down at least a half cup of coffee… it’s holy chaos. I had no idea. I can honestly say I didn’t see it coming.

The irony is that I have many friends and family with multiple kids, and I’ve seen their lives, the way the increase in quantity of children directly correlates to the quantity of mess, alcohol consumption and hours paid out to babysitters, but I just didn’t think it would be true for me. I am an optimistic, prideful little thing, and proud of my optimism on top of it, and I simply thought it wouldn’t happen to me.

Well, I was wrong. It did.

Tim Keller described joy as “buoyancy.” I’ll never forget that. A buoy gets pushed under water, then springs right back up. He said that true joy is having the capacity for that response to life. I keep thinking about that with these kids, because as strange as it sounds, I feel it. I have these moments (hours, sometimes) of crazed madness, frustration, even anger. But any time I take one small step back and survey this life we’ve been dealt, I am joyful! Thankful, joyful. They are beautiful, intelligent, wondrous tiny creatures, and they’re teaching me to learn my older ways, and they’re softening me. We are all refining one another. Is this the definition of family?

The beach came through, as it has a habit of doing. This is the divinity of the beach–its ability to restore. We slept with the door open so we could hear the waves all night, so when I was up nursing Mae it was by the light of the moon and the rhythm of the steady ocean tide. I read there, prayed there, wrote slowly, slept in, drank coffee and wine, and walked on the beach. I stepped back, took a serious audit of what is in front of me, and gave thanks.

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A family of four.

August was a banner month. The very last day, just when we thought it was going to roll over into September, Mae Connelly was born. Her birth didn’t pan out quite like I had imagined, but she came fast, and in an instant my heart turned inside out all over again. This wild miracle of new people suddenly appearing, replenishing the earth again in a moment that’s both gentle as a dove and as violent as a storm.

This morning, as Jack is gone for his first day of pre-school, I’ve sat for a long time with Mae in the quiet of my bedroom. In our new house, our room is upstairs and outside the three windows there are great, beautiful Japanese Maples and oak trees. From my bed, it feels like we live in a treehouse. We painted the walls a lovely sea glass color, there is good natural light and the soft glow of a lamp by the bed. When Jack was born, I didn’t feel entitled to sit still, so I tried to keep up with laundry and errands, which ended up making my recovery more difficult. I read an article a few weeks ago about the importance of taking the first few days after having a baby to simply sit around, lounge, be lazy, take advantage of the husband and parents who have set aside a few days off to come be with you and help. I failed at this last time, and I was determined not to do the same thing again. So, here I sit, my new laptop (not yet named) and lukewarm coffee as company.

Before Mae was born I was so tired of pregnancy it felt like my personality was a pool that had been drained so all that’s left was a deep, cement ditch. Smooth, and dry, baking in the heat of the sun. The book was finished, so I was working on getting it shipped out and delivered to people who had ordered, busy, busy. Trying to set up everything for work, to be prepared for my maternity leave. Distracted by everything, anxious to have the baby, trying to be the same mom to Jack, but feeling so depleted there were many afternoons spent in front of television, waiting minute by minute for Mark to get home.

Her arrival was like MAGIC. Like meeting her face to face was a stroke of some great wand that brought me back to life! Mark said in the hospital, the morning after a brutally exhausting night of labor and delivery, “You seem happy again. I think you’re back.”

I was so happy to hold her, and so happy when Jack showed up to meet her in the morning and we all piled into the hospital bed like puppies, sniffing and pawing at the soft, new little bean in our family.

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Mae’s arrival brought me back to life! Again, a miracle.

It has been strange returning home, where my other baby is. He suddenly feels and seems older, bigger, stronger than he ever did, and I’m fighting not to oust him from the “baby” slot. It’s not his fault she was born, and although he will have to adjust and grow in new ways, he is still my little boy. I am always trying, as a mom, to know my child(ren) intimately, and to be sensitive to his (their) specific personality(ies). This is a challenge for me, because I don’t come by that sensitivity easily. I’ve noticed Jack seems emotional in a hidden way, sort of coy and a little jumpy, shockingly tender to Mae, a little wary of me, more attached to dad. “Mommy, your tummy is GONE!” is something he has repeated over and over, which is sweet because it shows me that he sees me.  I know I’m emotional too, feeling protective of the tiny baby moments with my new one, knowing how fast they are gone, feeling guilty that I don’t have all the time for Jack anymore, feeling torn between the two, all the while knowing all of this is for the best for ALL of us. We are learning to stretch and bend, learning each other, becoming a family all over again. It’s the best, and I am tired.

I knew it would be different, and I’m learning just what that means. It’s something like thickening a soup, adding strands to the rope to make it stronger, bolstering. Feeling God’s incredible kindness.

Welcome to our little corner of the world, Maebie.