Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Beginnings of Birth Pains

Know now that this is a quasi birth story.  "Quasi" in that I'm only recounting a portion of it, and none of it describes the actual delivery.  But it is a birth story nevertheless, and at no point do I ponder the miraculous nature of my son's arrival, but rather, the despair I felt leading up to it, and immediately following.  Read if you wish.

I remember very little of my experience in the hospital after the birth of my son.  I'm sure it has something to do with the anaphylaxis I experienced shortly after the emergency c-section.  That is, I think it was shortly after the c-section, but the timeline of events in my head often doesn't line up with what I know to be true. What I do recall most vividly are all the confusing and terrifying moments- throwing up all over myself and the bed, then submitting to the mercy of the kind nurses to clean me up; feeling my neck stiffen, my tongue swell, and hearing my speech begin to slur; falling asleep watching my husband give my son a bottle because I was physically unable to stay awake to nurse him; waking up and hearing my doctor say I probably wouldn't be able to give birth naturally.

Perhaps the most distinct memory is driving the four-mile stretch of road between our house and hospital while in labor.  Feeling my body catch fire as each contraction ripped across my abdomen, then sinking in cold when it finally passed. Noticing that we caught all the red lights on the way, and cursing the Streets and Roads Committee who placed four-way stops at every intersection in town.  Wanting desperately to arrive some place where someone could do something to stop all the pain I was feeling.  There was no glory in this ride, no happy thoughts about the child that would be, no bearing my pains with patient endurance.  There was just the abiding pain, the fear of death, and realization of my own weakness.

I get to relive this drive every Sunday on the way to church, and the way home.  All the while, I can't help but think this is what brings forth new life- this disarming pain, and this crippling fear. Should God see fit to grant us more children, this is what it will take.  I doubt I will ever be prepared to face that drive again, save for the mercy of God.

Kyrie, eleison.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Meditations on home

When I left for college, a friend's mother gave me a pair of green socks that showed a lovely house sitting on hill amid trees and blooming flowers.  Above the house was written, "Home is where your Mom is." (Note this is a direct quote.  I know better than to capitalize "mom" in that statement.) I marveled at the truth of the statement during that time in my life.  I was no stranger to moving, and never could quite find a satisfactory answer to the question, "So, where are you from?"  Here, stitched into a pair of socks, was the permission I needed to finally call our Western Nebraska town "Home."  Yet, lurking in the back of my mind was the understanding that, being a pastor's wife, my mother could be whisked away from our little town and relocated miles from any place I had ever called home.  Would that, then, be considered my home?  The socks pleaded with me, "Yes! For that's where your Mom is!"  A doubt lingered.

Eventually, I married, and found a new definition for home: the place where your husband is.  In our four years, we've called four different towns in four different states "home,"  and we're planning to move again this summer.  Should things go our way, we'll be moving closer to home, i.e. family.  Our rhythm of packing and unpacking has grown wearisome, and I'm revisiting my old doubts of being able to call our place home when we are so far from our families.

A few weeks ago, I attended my grandmother's burial.   My father drove her body from Western Nebraska, where she lived the last two decades of her life, to central Missouri, her home.  She was buried next to her husband on the farm they had owned, near the house they built, outside of the town where they were raised.  Walking through the town, I could point to the house where my great-grandmother had lived, the cement slab where our family name was carved into the sidewalk, the site of the old cookie factory, where I'm told, my grandfather would pick up bags of the broken cookies to take home.  Sharing these memories with my family, I realized a familiar sensation growing in my mind.  In many ways, this too, felt like home, though I had never lived there myself.  I wondered again where my home was, and if I would ever find it.
 I realize I'm not the only person who struggles with this.  After all, I know my own family is scattered across the country- Pennsylvania, Georgia, Alabama, Missouri, Texas, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa. Moving away from home has become the goal of childhood, and those who dream of returning are regarded as unambitious sissies, and therefore deemed worthless.  I have to imagine that only a few of us who have followed this model are truly satisfied with their homes; that something inside each of us yearns for a single place where all of our memories meet our futures, where our children will grow and stay, and sit with us late into the evenings to hear our stories and the stories of our ancestors.  Unless we start acting on that, I fear many of us will come to the end of our travels, and say with The Vagabond,

Home no more home to me, whither must I wander?
Hunger my driver, I go where I must.
Cold blows the winter wind over hill and heather;
Thick drives the rain, and my roof is in the dust.
Loved of wise men was the shade of my roof-tree.
The true word of welcome was spoken in the door --
Dear days of old, with the faces in the firelight,
Kind folks of old, you come again no more.

Home was home then, my dear, full of kindly faces,
Home was home then, my dear, happy for the child.
Fire and the windows bright glittered on the moorland;
Song, tuneful song, built a palace in the wild.
Now, when day dawns on the brow of the moorland,
Lone stands the house, and the chimney-stone is cold.
Lone let it stand, now the friends are all departed,
The kind hearts, the true hearts, that loved the place of old.

Spring shall come, come again, calling up the moorfowl,
Spring shall bring the sun and rain, bring the bees and 
Red shall the heather bloom over hill and valley,
Soft flow the stream through the even-flowing hours;
Fair the day shine as it shone on my childhood --
Fair shine the day on the house with open door;
Birds come and cry there and twitter in the chimney --
But I go for ever and come again no more.
  -Robert Louis Stevenson, "Home No More Home To Me, Wither Must I Wander?"

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Death, I now decry you!

"For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!"

Job 19:25-27

Friday, January 6, 2012

Hunger Games Junkie Looking for a Fix

I had been warned that if I picked up Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games I wouldn't be able to stop.  And it's true.  As gruesome and appalling as the plot sounds, it's incredibly gripping.  (I'm working on a review, but refuse to comment too much until I see how the series concludes.)  I plowed through the first book in two days.  Then I checked out the second, and finished it today.  And now I need the third book in the series, Mockingjay.   But unfortunately, the library is closed, the waiting list for the book is 94 people long, and I've used up my one free book a from the Kindle Lending Library.

So if anyone out there happens to own the Kindle edition, I hear you can lend your copy to someone once, for 14 days.  I promise to return it to you before the 14 days expires.  I'm desperate.