dig down deep

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I can feel my mind burrowing down, away from the winds of the world and into that place it will soon need to be to birth and nourish and properly adore a new baby. I can feel the distraction tugging me away from work, from other people, from to-do lists. My nesting is not scrubbing floors or stocking the freezer (these things are mostly done, but out of practicality as opposed to biological need); it’s starting to knit a baby blanket a week before the due date with the baby quilt still on the quilt frame and needing many many stitches. It’s reading beautiful words. It’s listening to my body, waiting for the sonar to ping back with the signal that Someone is Coming.

On the first day of spring, after a winter without illness, I started battling a cold. For two days, I wasn’t sure who would win, but by Sunday it was clear that illness would. Now I am congested and without sense of taste or smell, stuffing cloth wipes and napkins into my pockets in case of sneezes that lead to rather devastatingly disgusting consequences if not caught in time. I’ll admit, I’m very much hoping baby will wait until it clears to arrive.

So it’s tea and fire cider and watching the snow finally finally beginning to melt away. It’s staying close to home, reading and doing puzzles with my son, knitting every free moment. It’s waiting for the gardening seeds to arrive in the mail, hopeful that we can get a few planted inside before there’s other life to tend to. It’s breasts beginning to ache, belly unbelievably big and so crowded by this child. And just as spring will one day soon surprise us by being real, so will this new little life.

The quilt pattern is called “flying geese.” 

February Blues

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Nothing expresses itself as makes sense. A need for sex comes out as snappish anxiety. A need for time to myself, journaling, or mind-wandering, can often only be noticed when all I want to do is stitch. A restless mind and a desire for 90s music translates to a need for a good night’s rest. Frantic cleaning is usually sign of missing friends, of wanting someone to clean up for. My body and mind and soul speak different languages.

As of yesterday, I am 35 weeks pregnant, meaning that soon this baby will no longer be hiccuping and stretching and kicking and prodding from the inside but on the outside. Meaning that sleep will no longer be interrupted by weird aches and compressed lungs and heartburn and needing to pee but for endless nursing and mysterious fussing. Meaning that soon I will be leaking all over. Meaning that soon there will be a tiny, snuggly, beautiful, milk-scented new person in my life. It’s no longer a thousand years away, but soon. I’m beginning to stock up on birthing supplies, beginning to think about the After as something tangible. There will be a spring, even if it’s hidden under three feet of snow.

Meanwhile, my back complains and the baby, slowly realizing that space is becoming scarce, jabs at my ribs and grinds into the base of my pelvis. Sometimes I feel round and ripe and glowing, but mostly I just feel soft and sun-deprived and weighed down. It has been too cold to even spend much time outside, even with our rather lenient standards on what is “too cold,” and so my son is frantic, sleeping less, having trouble focusing without his usual hours of outdoor activity. He is still bright and loquacious and creative and mischievous and affectionate, but space between us has been nearly as limited as space in my belly, and my patience thins. Friends are too busy to meet, or toddlers or sick, or weather interferes.

I miss sun-heat on my skin. I miss moisture hanging in the air. Two cold winters with a mild summer in between, and I miss the sense of balance. I know, all things in their time, but I think, too, that the wanting is part of what makes it good.

Snow Moon

Pregnancy-tired. Snow-day-tired. Full and warm and slow and sleepy all of the time. Like a bear overdue for hibernation. Not that drained, thin, anemic tired, but the way you feel at the end of the day when you’re doing good, hard, valuable work.

More than two feet of snow on the ground, and possibly another foot due over the weekend. More snow than we’ve had since, I think, the year we moved to Massachusetts. Great white drifts making dunes of the yard, front and back. Our neighborhood roads are slippery with ice and slush.

I’ve been barred from shoveling, and I only bring wood in on the very rare days when my husband forgets to stock us up the night before, but there is grammar to edit and there are links to fix. Laundry to do and bread to make. It’s perfect knitting weather, but I’ve not knit a stitch since finishing Thomas’s scarf on Christmas Eve. I’ve spent the occasional time, when curled up on the futon for a stolen hour with the husband, stitching a little alphabet sampler that’s been in my possession since before there was a Thomas, and even more forbidden, staying up late, past child and spouse and dog, to play the music I loved in college and work on the quilt intended for the baby.

And there are always the mornings. Mornings are for mothering. For potty time and breakfast and building the fire. For walking outside to stave off everyone’s cabin fever and keeping an eye on a little boy as he imitates the dog, climbing over the drifts and rolling down “hills.” For laundry and lunch-making and “Mama, let’s read the bird book together,” and “More iron and wine. More. I hear the banjo! They have a banjo.” For trying to keep hold of my patience as the world moves at toddler speed.

Another full moon past. Two more to the equinox. Two more to baby number two.

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It’s a delight. It’s a distraction. I work in all of the spare moments. When he abandons his second helping of oatmeal to play with his Lincoln Logs. When he’s napping. While they’re having bath time, after I finish the dishes. Often after I put him to bed. I’m driven not by greed so much as the delicious knowledge that I will most likely earn more money in the first quarter of this year than I did in nearly all of last year, money for groceries and gas and toddler clothes. I’m driven by the satisfaction of a job well done, the items on the checklist crossed off one by one. I’m driven by the prospect of all of the tasks before me. I haven’t been able to do this, to just work to my heart’s content, in I’ve no idea how long. Since college?

But then a certain someone rolls through my belly, digs into my pelvis, pushes against my sides, and I remember that I’m driven, too, by the ticking clock, the pages falling off the calendar. I’ve no idea what this baby’s birth will mean in terms of this work, whether the child will be easygoing and snuggly and sleepy or a sensitive, wild creature, or someone in between. Will I have naps aplenty for working away, or will I be exhausted and strained?

And so I work while I can. Make hay while the sun shines. The days and weeks dissolve, the baby grows, and the spring I’ve made in little pots and planters around my house, though seemingly buried so very deeply under the blizzard snow outside, makes its way nearer.

Full

The slump into three o’clock. The house warm and and the light soft, wood stove having been going for hours now, the light through just beginning to dissolve away.

My hips creak and snap like aging timber. My eyelids brought low by the fatigue of five loads of laundry, a long walk with a toddler and dog, a clean kitchen, growing a new and active person. I’ve work to do, plenty, and finally an interesting assignment after two that were dull and poorly written. I’ve an hour of nap time left, if I’m lucky. My body wants it full of yoga. My brain wants it devoted to sleep.

I open the only spicy ginger ale we have left, switch the music from quiet classical to the mid-90s alternative of my adolescence. Palms laid upon the table, I bend my upper body low, stretching back and hips and shoulders and hamstrings. This baby. This body.

Third Eye Blind comes on and I dance through it, stretching hips and thighs. I admire the legs that carry me through the days, belly that has made such a happy home for the child to be. I take time to notice that my body has not abandoned me, not altogether. My hands, my face, my shoulders, my ankles, these remain unchanged. The same freckles, the same muscles, the same bones, they are constant, what they were when I first heard this song and the ones that come after. This blood ran hot the first time I loved, and the next, and the next, and on the night this child was conceived, and every time since. These feet have walked and hiked and run for miles. These fingers have stitched possessions of comfort and beauty. These cheeks have blushed with drunkenness, and they will again.

I may be full of this baby and my life may be full of tasks, but the body is my own, still and always.

Traveling

I hear them after the bath.
Indonesia.
Cambodia.
Moldova.
Chad.
Big Australia.
Switzerland.

I picture the steamy room,
his small, sturdy frame
draped with terry cloth and
slung around his father’s hip
so that he can reach the
northern hemisphere.

In a moment,
teeth to brush,
pajamas to button,
the same old books and songs,
but for now they have the
whole world,
printed on a
fifteen dollar shower curtain,
to explore.

Siren Song

My hands smell like charred wood. My toes are cold. My belly is full. My body is edgy.

My own eyes in the mirror frighten me. They are still and empty and cool. Where am I? What am I missing?

The mountains, says a voice in my head. Always, always, whenever given the chance to speak, that’s what it says. The mountains. The hills. Ridge lines and valleys and wilderness and shadows. Clouds sunk down in the lowlands, clouds gathering above. Hiding places. We haven’t been since last summer. We talk uncommitedly of going soon, soon, a babymoon. Maybe in February. To western Massachusetts. To Vermont. A getaway.

I don’t know if my pregnant body could bear to leave if we did get there.

Cold Moon

Commas and italics. Periods and margins. Sample sizes and hermeneutics and research ethics. At least for a few hours a day.

The rest of the time, it’s “please clean up your trains so mama does not trip on them,” and “do you need to go potty?”* and the fourth reading in a row of Clifford Barks or The Ox-Cart Man. It’s endless cups of tea and endless logs on the fire and endless washing of dishes. It’s bundling up in wool and fleece so we can walk the dog without frostbite. It’s a baby that twitches and kicks and shivers under my skin.

When I have a moment to myself, it’s simple, animal sensations I crave. Hot showers. Thorough stretching. Words that feel right even when they don’t make intellectual sense; the poetry of rhythm and consonants and implication.

Cleared off tables. A made bed. Tasks checked off the list.

That’s all one can really ask of January, anyway.

*he’s potty trained during waking hours, running around the house in shirts and socks and superhero underwear, so proud of his accomplishment. we’ve had no (*knock on wood*) accidents outside the house since we started diaper-free a week and a half ago. it’s such a pleasure not to wash a mountain of diapers every three days, especially knowing that it’s just an interlude before we’re back to it in a few months. “baby brother/sister will need to wear them,” he says of his diapers, one of the motivations we gave him to give them up.

Coming back

Pick a barn, a whole barn, and bend more slender accents than have ever been necessary, shine in the darkness necessarily.

[Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons: Objects]

Coming together. Tying up loose ends. The shift from second trimester to third. From this year to the next. A week in transition. I feel like I’ve just woken up today from a very long spell of dreaming. My center is a creaking, aching shell, but I am stretching into and through it. It just means the baby bird within has already begun the process of seeking its (her) freedom. Spoiled by the holiday, I have a few more very lovely things in my life, books and snow boots, earrings and kitchen luxuries, coffee and tea. I have a husband home for two whole weeks, longer than usual. I have a son who can’t seem to stop singing to himself and who loves his new trucks and who wakes up excited every morning when he realizes that Mama and Dada and Thomas will all have breakfast together again.

I’ve pushed past the job doubt. Today I’ll put in my notice at the terrible job. I want to assemble and proof online courses. Who knew? Who knew such a thing would leave me more energized than before after hours of working on it? Who knew that I would be inspired, here, pregnant and mothering and 28 and a devoted lover of liberal arts, to learn computer programming if it means getting to make a living bringing information to students through the Internet? Who knew the appeal it would hold? It’s a gift I never anticipated.

At the same time, I can feel myself swinging back toward art, toward poetry, toward baking, too. Gertrude Stein and Ani Difranco and Pablo Neruda and the power of the perfect phrase and the pride of a perfect rise. My mother-in-law bought Thomas the Stein book linked above, knowing that it was mostly for me.

Potted tulips and paperwhites stretch skyward and droop low under the weight of their own gorgeous blossoms. Smoky earl gray and light, sweet pizzelles. Simple, delicious dinners. Pine needles scattered underfoot, turning the living room into a wood. A little boy playing T Ball with his father, running the bases, stopping to point out the pink moon hanging above the house, promising to fly up in a rocketship airplane to get it. Two pounds of unborn baby rolls in my belly.

I didn’t celebrate the solstice. I wanted to. Instead we spent the day with my husband’s family. Went out to see a movie I only half cared about seeing in a theater. Dealt with the subsequent late, short nap for the sick toddler. Didn’t get as much work done as I hoped. No candles. No peace.

My son has had a cold since Friday and he won’t leave me be, toddler elbows and fingers and knees and snot jammed onto me, into me, all day long. The whining, the tears, the constant need.

I haven’t nearly finished my husband’s quilt for Christmas. The toddler scarf is not done. Nothing is wrapped. I have work to do. I started a very short job I love, but I can’t commit to the continued, expanded, wonderful, fun, resume-building, skill-building version of it because it would require 35 hours a week for the last two months of pregnancy and the first month of that baby’s life. The timing couldn’t be worse.

I am stretched and sad and debating about quitting the only non-temporary job I have because it’s annoying and frustrating and a little soul-killing, but part of me thinks giving up that regular paycheck couldn’t be more foolish.

This should be one of the most comforting, lovely weeks of my year and instead I feel completely lost. I haven’t had a solstice. I’m still wandering in the dark.