Wednesday, March 25, 2015

These were taken at 32 weeks. I'm 36 weeks as I write this and your Papa is packing things away for our journey home in the background. We'll be headed to Albuquerque tomorrow morning. I had planned on taking another picture of you and I today, but we didn't get around to it. I hope we'll have time to take one before you come. 

Dear Baby,
In a way, I feel like this is the beginning of your birth story. Partly because this will probably be the last letter I'm able to write to you before you're here with us and also because I'm convinced your birth and place in this family started carving itself out long before the day you'll arrive. Much like the story of the gospel and really, all of our lives as a whole, the story of your beginning is full of hard things and triumphal moments that somehow come together to make a big, beautiful story. I'm excited to tell it. I'm excited to keep telling the story of our family until you and your siblings can tell it too.

I had a feeling you were with me. A few days before I held a positive pregnancy test, I had looked down while walking home from a quick trip to the corner grocery store and there you were. My shirt draped across my belly a different way. It's hard to describe other than to say that when you've done it once before, you know what is growth and what is bloat. A thought flashed through my mind, 'I'm pregnant.' and then it was gone. I wasn't entirely sure I was pregnant, but I wasn't entirely sure I was ready to know whether I was pregnant either. A few weeks before I had almost worked myself into panic attack at the thought of having another baby, ever. So I waited, and tried not to think about the possibility of you all that hard. I wasn't sure how I would feel. I knew how I would want to feel, full of joy, but just wanting to feel a certain way wouldn't will that reaction into existence. I also knew that no matter what my brain told me I wanted and whether you were planned or not, my heart would be disappointed if the test were negative. Women are funny, fickle people sometimes.

The day your Papa and I found out about you, we were packing our things for a trip to Niagara Falls. We had talked briefly and awkwardly about the absence of my womanly visitor, but had shrugged it off until the night before. I went to bed with a plan to take a pregnancy test when we woke in the morning. My hands shook as I unwrapped the test. I tried to be calm about it. I tried not to care or prefer a certain result. I held the test in my hands and watched the results appear - and I laughed. It was all I could do after the life we'd lived the past year and the changes I knew were coming. Coming out of the bathroom after taking a pregnancy test is awkward. It's like walking out onto a stage to tell a joke you had to come up with in the last ten minutes. You haven't tested it out on anyone. You haven't rehearsed it at all. I had no idea how to tell your Papa and for once in our lives, I wasn't entirely sure what his reaction would be. I don't mean his outward reaction. He is a good enough man not to outwardly express disappointment at the news of a new baby, but I can see the truth in him even when I don't want to. I was afraid to see something there, a flicker of it across his face, but I was also looking and hoping for it as a comfort to myself. I was looking for something to tell me that the touch of despair underneath the joy that I felt was ok.

I didn't have a lot of time to formulate how to tell him. I didn't want it to be awkward. I didn't want it to be solemn. So I made the split decision to take the route of humor and opened the bathroom door. I stood in the doorway of the kitchen and realized I was smiling like an idiot. I had an internal dialogue about whether I should be smiling, 'It's ok to smile, right? This is happy news, but it's also stressful news if I'm honest.' I guess I was afraid to announce it lightheartedly only for him to launch right into the logistics and shock of it all. The morning light was streaming in through our open windows. Brooklyn sounds followed the light in. He was assembling all the food for the road trip - he put the butter knife down and turned to face me when he sensed me in the doorway. I'm terrible at hiding emotions, so I'm sure he knew as soon as he turned around and saw my face. I couldn't just stand there in silence and assume he knew, so I blurted out the quippiest thing I could think of, 'So I guess one more person is coming to Niagara Falls with us.'

We were both cautiously joyful, holding back until we were sure of the other's feelings, even the hidden ones. I just remember a lot of nervous laughing and short bursts of hugs, checking his face in between. My reaction was not what I had expected, not what I had anticipated when I dreamt of announcing the coming of our second baby, but I've come to accept that things like this rarely turn out the way you imagine. I remember laughing when I showed him the test and he said, 'I don't know what that means.' just as he had when I told him about your sister. After we'd had a day or two to process our thoughts, we both agreed that we were at peace about a new baby, almost relieved that the decision had been made for us. The desire to have you here with us was immediate, whereas that desire didn't kick in until the very end of my pregnancy with Evie. We knew what joy was coming. I wasn't sure how we ever could have thought we might stop at one once we imagined life with two.

Though you were celebrated and will always be celebrated, the news of another baby brought to light a selfishness and shallowness in me that was hard to face and overcome. I had a lot of thoughts along the lines of - you were supposed to have been planned and anticipated. We were supposed to have found 'home' before you joined us. Our finances were supposed to be in order. 'We'll never get caught up. I'll never get to buy all the things we couldn't afford the first time around - things I told myself we'd be able to have before I'd have another baby.' Your Papa wasn't supposed to be unemployed. He wasn't supposed to be in training four months out of my pregnancy. We weren't supposed to be driving across the country and moving into an apartment at 37 weeks pregnant. I felt all of this more after we had to leave Brooklyn. I was convinced that I had given God enough and it wasn't fair for him to ask this much of me. I had all of these personal goals that would never happen now. I had planned on establishing a business from home before we had another baby. I wanted to be in better shape before I got pregnant again. Basically, I wanted life to be perfect and I was naive enough to think I could control all of these variables and deserved more than I was being given.

After much resistance from me and many sleepless nights, God slowly changed me. I came to the realization that this was a baby - not an attack on our family, not a financial burden, not an interruption to my plans. I realized you were a person who deserved much more than the mother I would become if I let these thoughts stay with me. I let myself get excited. I took each of my worries and relinquished control over them. When I think of it all, I can't help but smile. God's lessons and grace became apparent to me. Eventually. Our family has been accompanied by peace in the midst of so many hardships and unknowns. You weren't planned, but you sure are anticipated. We still don't know where 'home' is, but we're pretty convinced we bring it with us wherever we go together. We aren't wealthy, but we aren't in debt anymore. While I've had to get creative with ways to save money on baby gear, it's really stretched our simplify muscles and made us walk our 'less is more' talk. Your Papa was able to line up a job with a company right before he left for training, so we'll have a small, but steady income when we get back to Albuquerque. We happened upon an apartment complex who has bent over backwards for us to get qualified for a low income housing credit. Things have fallen into place.
I only have one more semi-shallow desire left and that is that you allow us to get settled into our new home before we meet you.

You are a great mystery to us, not just because we don't know your gender. I can sense something different about you already. Your movements are calm and comforting, whereas Evie's were frenetic and sporadic. She would spin complete circles inside of me and practically rattle my brain. You give me a slight push here and turn there, but are at rest for most of the day. I once found so much pride and excitement in your sister being the beginning of our family, but I'm equally proud and excited that you are a continuation of us. Families come in all shapes and sizes, but as you grow inside me, our family inches closer and closer to the image I had in mind when I dreamt of somedays. You are our tangible courage to keep going, to keep raising babies regardless of the fear and guilt and doubt we've felt with our first. You've opened my heart to so much already - to more children, to less distraction from the world, to accepting this season of life and the story of our family that's being written. You've caused me to reevaluate my motives and strain out impurities in our life.

In a way, your impending birth feels like a continuation of a birth in me that started long ago - the birth of a mother. Sometimes it feels like birthing children is one long story. I forget that I'm not birthing Evie all over again - that this labor will be it's own, just like you'll be your own. The thought of a completely unique labor and another completely unique kid is both terrifying and exciting. We're coming to the end of this pregnancy chapter and entering into a short season of intentionality, a time to focus on savoring our time as a family of three and connecting before you join us. We love you already, little one, and are looking forward to meeting you.


P.S. Pregnancy pictures at 24 weeks.


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