Friday, March 23, 2012

The Waiting Game

I am not a patient person. I am terrible at waiting in long lines, waiting for the plane to take off, waiting for water to boil. When I want something, I want it now.

I have been known to spend months debating some new item I want to buy, comparison shopping and turning around and around in my head exactly what I want, what color or size or pattern. But once I decide, once my mind is made up, I must have it right then. I have spent years staring at the walls trying to decide what color I should paint them, only to rush out to the store for paint and rollers the instant I have settled on a color. I have come home and painted well into the night because the moment I knew what color I wanted my kitchen to be, I wanted the color on the walls that very instant.

It’s not my best quality, this impatience. It’s juvenile, brash, unnecessary and sometimes even destructive because when I want something and can’t have it that very instant, I obsess on it. I haunt the website where I found it, clicking back over and over to see if it’s still out of stock. I let it rattle around in my brain, drowning out all the other thoughts, clattering for my attention. I start feeling thwarted and irritable, unable to enjoy what I do have until I get the thing I have suddenly decided I am missing.

Think two year old. Think Veruca Salt. It’s not a pretty picture.

And now I find myself in that seemingly endless waiting game of pregnancy. Nine long months of aching to hold your child, of counting the minutes until you can sleep and walk and get up from the couch without discomfort. I have the names picked out, a boy and girl version of the nursery planned out, and my maternity clothes folded cheerfully in the top of my closet just waiting to be needed. But did I mention that I’m not even through with the first trimester yet?

I find myself staring at the calendar, asking how many more days do I have left of feeling this sick? How long until I can tell people? How long until I go from looking fluffy to looking truly pregnant? How long until baby is two inches long? Three? Until I can feel it kick and learn the gender?

But, beneath all of it is the constant question how long until I can stop worrying? How long until I can stop waiting for the other shoe to drop? How long until I can stop being terrified of a miscarriage? Until I can stop waking in a cold sweat wondering if this child will make it to term, wondering if I will ever hold it in my arms? Has my luck run out? Will this be the one that breaks my heart and leaves me empty handed?

My doctor warned me that it might be a little harder going through pregnancy after having a special needs child. I might worry about things that never kept me up at night before we had a surprise birthday diagnosis. I figured she meant I would dream of DNA helixes and heart murmurs and Trisomy 21, but instead I fear something far worse than Down syndrome. I fear losing this child. Truly, the idea that this baby might show up with Down syndrome does not keep me up at night; the fear that this child will never show up at all is what has me impatiently checking off the days and sending up desperate prayers.

Living with this level of uncertainty doesn’t come naturally to me. If there was anything I could do, any project I could take on or any magical vitamin I could add to my diet that would make me feel safer, I would do it gladly. Yet there is nothing for me to do these days but wait and hope. Sam says hope is believing in the absence of evidence, choosing to cling to the good even when you know darn well it may never materialize. I tell him hope if for optimists, not for the likes of me, but I try anyway. I close my eyes and scrunch them up tight and say “I believe everything will be okay.”

I sit with my other children, those on the outside, who once were also little beans growing inside me, making me wait impatiently. They put their sticky hands on my arm and vie for my attention and pull me back into the moment, this moment where all I can do is feel this churning impatience and try to cover all that agitation with a thin veneer of fledgling hope. In this moment, they are eating lemon slices left over from dinner. They are making lemon rind teeth and pained expressions from the sour flavor. They are calling “mom, mom, mom” over and over again, like a reassuring mantra. And I am pulling them into my lap and kissing their heads and thanking God that their impatience for my attention has rescued me, at least in this moment, from my own impatience for time to go faster. In this moment, I can’t believe I ever wanted time to go faster because they are still tiny things, too, who want nothing more than to sit with me in the here and now, with no agenda other than to curl up on my lap and feel my arms around them.

Friday, March 9, 2012


I haven’t written in a while.  Too long, really.  Even my husband has noticed, and earlier this week he gave me an assignment: write something, anything.  Write something and turn it in to me by the end of the week.

I should probably mention that he isn’t usually this bossy.  It’s just that, these days, he can tell I am adrift.  He knows that when I am not creating something, it’s generally a bad sign that I am floating through life, untethered and uninspired.  Whenever I’m not furiously chipping away a project, I start slipping away like an unanchored ship.  When I am feeling whole and engaged and firmly rooted in my life, those are the times I am likely to have paint under my fingernails or a new story in the works or some scheme brewing about how we could probably fit a vegetable garden in the back corner of the yard.

Truth be told, I’ve known for a while that I’ve been adrift.  I’ve been busy ignoring some big questions about where I expect my life to go from here.  I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that working a full time job and raising two young boys doesn’t leave a lot of time for creative endeavors, that at this stage of my life I have to really want to accomplish something if I’m going to find a way to carve out the time for it.  And lately I’ve also been settling into the idea that I probably won’t ever be a famous author, a realization that has effectively eroded my motivation to write much of anything because if it’s never going to lead to anything then why bother writing anything at all.

And last but not least, I’ve gotten scared.  As I’ve gotten older and more sure of my views on things, I’ve become increasingly aware that my opinions don’t fit into any one tidy little box.  I am too liberal for the church crowd and too conservation for the crazy liberals.  I am a Christian and a feminist, a mother who loves her children dearly but cringes at the idea of being a stay at home mother or homeschooling my little darlings.  I bristle at talk of gender roles and yet wear lipstick and dresses.  I believe all people should be valued and celebrated even when they don’t live or act or look the way they “should.”  I believe the pursuit of beauty and thinness and perfection is mutilating the lives of women, taking our focus from important issues and threatening to reduce us to calorie counting Barbie dolls who get together and don’t have anything to say to each other beyond how fat we are and what diet we are starting next week.

I believe that our bodies are more than just sacks of sin nature we are imprisoned in until Jesus takes us home.  I believe they are gifts, that they should be treated with kindness and fed well and moved.  I believe through touch we are healed and feel the physical manifestation of love, that through pain we learn perseverance and humility.  I believe God can be seen in an embrace and felt in the warmth of a newborn on his mother’s breast.
I am a pacifist who believes in protecting life and hates guns.  I believe in feeding those who are hungry, helping those who are sick, and keeping a respect for all human life at the forefront of all major world decisions.  I believe in equality between men and women, rich and poor, people of all colors and of all levels of ability.  In other words, no matter what side of the divide you fall on, you are pretty much guaranteed to be offended by some part of what I believe.  We live in a divisive political age, and even though I don’t consider myself particularly political, my views on human rights are considered incendiary to many conservatives and my views on faith and motherhood are downright ancient to many liberals.
Somewhere along the line, after joining a church and realizing that I love so many of the people in that community I’ve adopted, I got scared. How could I speak my mind, knowing it would be so different from what they believed, and not be ostracized?  If I wrote about anything real, anything beyond happy fluff, I would be outing myself to my liberal friends as a believer of that Jesus guy and to my Christian friends as a dirty liberal.  And when I told myself to keep from saying anything controversial, I realized I didn’t have much left to say.  I found myself unable to write anything.  I found myself withdrawing, shrinking away from my own life, growing smaller and smaller as I drifted out to see, unanchored and carried away by the steady current of fear lapping at my back.
I didn’t want a writing assignment, see, because I didn’t want to admit how far out I’d floated.  I didn’t want to acknowledge how disconnected I had become.   I wanted to believe I could have a full life without being completely invested, without creating and growing and pouring myself into things, without leaning into my identity as a square peg in a world full of round holes.
But change has been building the past few months.  By chance or design (who knows with these things), I have stumbled on so many things of late that make me feel, for the first time in my life, that I am not alone in being a square peg.  It seems like every time I turn around lately, I find another unexpected reminder that people are rich, diverse, multi-faceted creatures who don’t fit into any one small box.  Sure, there are many people who are still trying to become something they think will make others around them happy, but many, too, are planting their feet and taking up space in their lives and admitting that they aren’t going to shave off any more corners to try and wedge themselves into any more round holes.
So I’ve been watching other people out themselves as square pegs and shaking my head in admiration and feeling this seed of inspiration grow in me.  And this little seed has been sitting there, dormant, waiting for a downpour to feed it, give it roots, help it stretch its shaky little spine up and out toward the sun.  As it turns out, though, the boost my little seed needed came not in the form of a flood but in quiet whispers from another little lurker taking up space in me these days.
Not too long ago I took on a passenger, one due to emerge pink and squalling in early November.  And as I have felt my belly expand with new life, an experience I never dreamed I would have again, I have been struck with the weight of that fear I’ve been carrying around.  Every little twinge feels foreboding and suddenly the statistics that didn’t scare me at all with the first two have become predictive of some terrible tragedy on the horizon, waiting to strike.  Now that I know what I have to lose, now that I have held two beautiful babies in my arms, I am terrified of losing this one.  It feels easier to pretend I am not really pregnant at all, to hold off getting too attached, to treat the whole first trimester as some probationary period that could be ended at any moment without warning.
But this baby, whether it lives 100 years or never makes it to the outside, deserves the complete, undiluted, head over heels love of its mother.  I deserve to give myself recklessly to the love of the third child my husband and I have made.  I will not pretend I can drift through this pregnancy unattached and nonchalant.  I will wake up every morning, I will bravely put my hand on my belly, and I will speak words of love to a child I desperately long to hold one day soon.
This pregnancy is teaching me right from the start that there is no hiding, not if you want a real life, a life that wraps you up and takes your breath away and moves you deeply.  There is no way to bypass the danger and get right to the happy ending.  You get out of life exactly what you put into it, and I am tired of floating through mine.  I am ready to write again, to stand up and talk about what it means to be a square peg.  Maybe no one will read it, maybe I will offend half the people I know, but also maybe there is someone out there, somewhere in the world, who needs to feel not alone for the first time in their life.  And if looking in on the lives of a bunch of square pegs will help even one person feel not so alone, I will consider the whole project worthwhile.