Thursday, August 30, 2007

Twenty-Eight Candles

Yes, today is my 28th birthday. As I inch closer to 30, I'm feeling more and more... unconcerned about turning 30. Hopefully I'll just be that much wiser than I am now.

I think my kids growing older is harder to handle than my own aging. Both Grace and Moses are displaying (in different, age-appropriate ways) moments of independence that make me realize they won't be under my care forever. I feel the pressure to assure them of my love for them, my confidence in them and my heartfelt fascination in who they are, while they are still young enough to soak it in and believe it. I want to ask my kids (okay just Grace at this point) "what's it like to be you?" and for her to know that her answer is remarkably significant to me.

Anyway, my birthday... for some reason Grace and Richard couldn't wait until today to give me their presents, so we had a little celebration last night. Grace (and Moses) got me a beautiful beeswax candle shaped like a bee on a honeycomb. They know I have this thing for bees. And Richard got me a gift card to Peapods, my most favoritest natural baby care and toy store in St. Paul. It was the perfect gift! What intuition my husband has, what an innate understanding of what his dear wife would love... what good sense to get her exactly what she told him to get her. So now I have a nice chunk of money to go spend exactly as my heart desires on all the baby things I really "need." Maybe that beautiful Hotsling pouch I've had my eye on. Maybe these really cool BumGenius diapers that would make cloth diapering just that much easier. Or perhaps some of my favorite Burt's Bees products. Well, anyway, it's a great present and I'll enjoy my little shopping outing this weekend. Thank you, Family!! I love you guys.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Feeling the Butterfly

Today was a beautiful day. Sitting at the computer, I felt clearly the light tickling of the baby kicking around in my womb for the first time. It's strange to think that the baby was probably moving around like a little jumping bean, but to me it was just a gentle sensation.

The moment of "quickening" is momentous in a women's pregnancy. In that moment you know - you know - there's really a baby there. It certainly doesn't sink in as soon as you see the positive pregnancy test. Feeling pregnant in that first trimester doesn't necessarily make the baby itself feel real. Even getting an early ultrasound done, where you can see your baby before you have felt your baby, doesn't make it real in the same way. Maybe it's the Doubting Thomas in all of us, that just seeing something doesn't convince us. But when we feel it - when our flesh touches another - that's real.

This is an excerpt from the book Midwives by Chris Bohjalian.

"Birth is a big miracle foreshadowed by lots of little ones. Conception. Little limbs. Lanugo. A fingerprint, hard bones. The quickening. The turning. The decent.

I will never forget the moment of quickening with Connie. She was thirteen or fourteen weeks old. I was bundled up in this monster sweater that hung down to my knees. Lacey Woods had brought it back from somewhere in Central America, and it had this vaguely Aztec eagle on the back. It was beautiful, and so heavy that it kept me warm even outside on the sort of cold December day on which Connie had made herself known.

I was sitting on one of the tremendous rocks in Mom and Dad's backyard, one of the ones that faced the ski resort on Mount Republic. I hadn't climbed those rocks since I was in high school, and sitting there made me feel like a very little girl. And then, suddenly, I felt this tiny flutter a bit below my belly button. A tadpole flicking it's tail. A ripple, a wave. Instantly that image of the tadpole - an image I'd probably pulled from some high school biology textbook - changed to that of a newborn baby. I knew my baby at that moment looked nothing at all like a newborn, but that was what I pretended was fluttering inside me. A psychedelic little person doing the breaststroke in a lava lamp. A bubble bouncing euphorically, but in slow motion, around in my tummy. I saw a newborn's pudgy fingers flicking amniotic fluid with a whoosh, I saw little feet smaller than baking potatoes gently splashing my own water against me, and I wrapped my arms around me and hugged my baby through my belly.

Oh my God, was I happy. I remember I just sat on that rock grooving on the little person - my little person - inside me. Of all the little miracles that build to that big one, the birth itself, my favorite must be the moment of quickening. All these emotions and expectations and dreams for your baby just roll over you like so much surf.

And quickening really is the perfect word to describe it, because your heart races, and the pace of the pregnancy just takes off.

Some mothers experience the quickening as early as twelve weeks, others much further along. Sixteen weeks is common in my experience, but some women don't feel it until they're a good eighteen weeks. It really doesn't matter, except that those women who have to wait have to worry. It's inevitable, a mother can't help it. You want to feel your friend, you want to know he or she's there.

Of course, there may be one nice thing that comes with a later quickening. After all that anxiety, the high must be amazing when it finally arrives. Absolutely, unbelievably, outrageously amazing."


Today is also my dear mother's birthday. Can you believe this woman is 50?! I've jokingly referred to her as my older sister because of how many times I get asked that. Once I was out shopping with her a month or so after Grace was born. She was holding Grace while I browsed, and someone came up to her and said, "Wow, you look GREAT for having just had that baby!" She said, "Thanks."

But really, she does have many other excellent qualities besides being beautiful. When I'm feeling worn out by my kids, I often think about how much she gave of herself every day to make us feel like we were the most important thing to her. She would stop making dinner to come watch us put on plays, she would allow us "help" her with projects and not tell us we were wrecking it, she would let us use whole rolls of tinfoil to make ourselves into knights in shining armor. I want my kids to know, as I knew growing up, that they are the most important things in my life, second only to Jesus and Papa. They come before a clean house or peace & quiet or my hobbies or my favorite tv show or my friends or time to myself. All those things were important to my mom (except tv, thank goodness), but I never felt that she cared more about those things than about me. And that's the kind of mom I want to be, too.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Two-Year Anniversary of Matthias' Birth

Today I want to celebrate life. I want to remember Matthias' life and be glad for it. Tomorrow I will remember death, but today I want to remember life. I am happy that Matthias lived. I am happy that he is alive now! I am so thankful that God made him to be my child. Thank You, Lord, for the precious life of Matthias Paul Mailly.

Tonight at dinner we set a place for Matthias and had a special birthday meal. I know we all felt his loss as we imagined a two-year-old boy sitting next to Grace, eating pesto and chicken, making messes and being adorable. When Richard prayed for our meal, he cried as he told the Lord how much we long to be where Matthias is, and how much we miss him.

I feel Matthias' absence to varying degrees each day. Today it was very real, very acute. There is a little 2-year-old who is not with us. Or maybe the real pain is that we are not with him.

We love you, Matthias. We remember you. You are precious to us.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

This is What it Means to be Held

Tomorrow is my sweet baby Matthias' second birthday. Although it has been two years since I have seen his face or touched his small body, he is exceedingly real and precious to me.

I read this article yesterday by a woman on the eve of her dead baby's 2nd birthday. She writes what I feel as well. That the death of her baby just before birth seemed an impossible thing to face. "Yet our journey continues two years later, and I am forever grateful for it." I long for my baby. I miss him. His death is still very painful. And at the same time I am grateful for what God did through his death. I know His love in a way I couldn't before, and I would never want to trade that. So here I am, stuck in a paradox.

This paragraph especially echoed my parting with the baby I had carried for nine months:

"I could never fully describe the feeling of watching my child leave me and knowing with great certainty that I would never see her again. I had a pain in my chest, an emptiness and hurt, that engulfed me. When Judy first began to take her away, with our permission, I felt my body begin to shake uncontrollably. I could not bear that this was the beginning of the rest of my life without Charlotte. I cried out—I needed her back—and Judy brought her to me. I buried my face in Charlotte's little chest and sobbed, telling her again and again how much I loved her. Every ounce of my being longed to keep her, to mother her, to love her here on earth. But I could not."

Letting him go was the hardest thing I have ever done. I am able now to be comforted by the words of C.S. Lewis, that Christians never really say goodbye. But I wasn't able to be comforted by that then. I was so completely broken-hearted that I didn't know I was being held.

Friday, August 3, 2007

My Gold Star for the Day

Yesterday when the vacuum cleaner broke yet again, I found myself struggling to fix it with a screwdriver and a kitchen knife. Covered in grime and sweat, I tried to figure out what was causing the foul-smelling smoke to billow out of this stupid machine.

Grace was watching me and finally came over to offer some encouragement.

"Mom, I love how you are such a hard worker. You never give up. In fact, you are successful and good-natured." Her actual words. Talk about affirmation in the workplace!

Here's a great article from Pastor John that has been a huge encouragement to me as a go about my day, trying to fix appliances, doing laundry and dishes, playing with and teaching the kids... I want to be the kind of woman that he's challenging me to be.

p.s. - My sweet new Bissell Lift-Off Revolution Pet Vac. It's so awesome.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Moses Turns One!

Our baby turned one on June 25th, 2007! We had family over on the 24th for a small celebration of Moses' first year of life. He showed off his many skills for the enthralled audience, including his incredible overhand ball throwing ability (watch out when he gets a hold of a golf ball!), his precocious verbal skills (i.e. one word - "gee", which means "Sissy," "puppy" and "ball", respectively), and his almost unbelievable ability to be cute. He even decided grace us with his first steps in honor of the occasion. Everyone was duly impressed.

Moses Enjoying His Cake

We are so thankful to the Lord for blessing us with this sweet boy. His work is truly incredible! Our lives are so enriched because of our beautiful children, and we find ourselves saying daily, "Aren't they amazing?!" Moses has brought so much joy and laughter with him. Richard, Grace and I all look forward to seeing his precious face each morning and hearing his sweet voice. Thank you, Lord, for our beautiful boy Moses.

The other fun thing about Moses' birthday party was that we used it to announce our new baby. Moses' last present that he opened contained some cute t-shirts that looked like this:

Grandma Sue said, "Oh, that's cute! Big broth...AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!" Definitely a successful way of conveying the news. It was really fun.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Another Mailly Baby on the Way!

Baby #4 is currently growing his or her way from a zygote to a blastocyst to an embryo to a fetus. (We watched a cool PBS special called "Life's Greatest Miracle". I'm not remembering all that from my high school biology class.) The Lord is an incredible craftsman. This baby has already undergone its most profound and dramatic development in only 13 weeks of life. All his or her internal organs and limbs are fully developed. Complex brain circuitry is up and running. Eyelids, fingernails and toenails, tooth buds, vocal chords, and that adorable little face have all formed from what was a tiny cluster of living cells just weeks ago. Life is truly amazing, and the One who gives it even more so. Praise the Lord, Who makes us in fearful and wonderful ways.

A 13 week old baby. Although I'm sure ours is MUCH cuter.