I always jokingly say that I never knew I was a control freak until I had children. It’s always good for a laugh, but I mean it sincerely. The fear that persisted throughout Ephraim’s pregnancy was the fear of the full knowledge that I had absolutely no control over the outcome of the pregnancy. And, after I was feeling more confident and in-charge, I got reminded of my lack of control through his tumultuous (though thankfully fast) birth and the trauma that followed it.
Archives for January 2016
Our oldest, Ephraim, is about to turn five, and it wasn’t very long after he was born that I felt a tug on my heart that I wasn’t sure what to do with.
We attend a church with a children’s program run by devoted, loving church members who prioritize the spiritual health and wellbeing of the kids in our congregation. And yet I was feeling very strongly that our kids needed to stay in church with us.
Ephraim’s birth was a shock to my self-assuredness and plans, and that shock followed me through the first few weeks of adjusting to motherhood.
There isn’t a whole lot that you can do to prepare you for actual motherhood. No book is going to tell you the exact personality your child will have, or the exact personality that you have, or the unique way that your personalities will mesh (or clash, as the case may be.)
Over the next few weeks, I want to go back and take a look at each of the times we added to our family. Each of the boys have been so different, and my response and growth through the process was different too. These experiences shaped my motherhood. I have learned a lot in the past few years–and I want to record the process for myself. You, of course, are welcome to come along for the ride!
In the later part of 2006, I sat motionless in a doctor’s exam room as I was told I had a hormonal imbalance that would impede conception. I was advised to come and see my doctor when we planned on starting our family. It was far from the news I was hoping for–I was twenty-one when we married, and I had hoped we’d have children right away. We even already had a list of names that we wanted to use.
In the later part of 2007, we were shocked with a surprise pregnancy, then devastated a few weeks later when it ended in a missed miscarriage. Over the next few years I find myself slipping farther into despair when I thought about the possibility–or lack thereof–of children. The first obstacle was could I get pregnant? And once that bridge was crossed, there was the horrible possibility of can I stay pregnant once I get that way?
Then, in the summer of 2010, we were surprised with another accidental pregnancy. The day we found out, we both cried, and Jeremy anointed me and the room we would use as a nursery with oil and prayed for protection.
I have to start the story of Ephraim with the losses that preceded him, because they changed everything. I would spend the first few weeks of the pregnancy in mixture of sickness and terror. I had never felt so miserable in my life, but I was so afraid of losing another baby. I took every day of sickness as a sign that everything was ok. I refused to be upset over any of the trials and struggles and pains that accompanied the life growing in my womb. There were many moments when I found myself crouched by the toilet with Jeremy hovering by the door saying, “Praise Jesus…Praise Jesus!” I was in my second trimester before we were able to go to the doctor for an ultrasound, and we wept openly again when we saw the tiny wiggly baby with his strong heartbeat.
After Ephraim was born, we knew we wanted to have another baby right away.
We wanted companionship for our son; we wanted him to have someone to grow up with, to share interests with, to be best friends with. We wanted his earliest memories to include a sibling. And we were so excited to find out we were expecting another boy; Clive was born some seventeen months after we had welcomed Ephraim into the family.
When I found out we were having a girl, I knew I had to take advantage of the fact that I was finally going to be able to do a room for a little girl. I have really loved doing nurseries for the boys, and then doing their big rooms, too. But I was anxious to put some pink someplace. I really do love me some pink–I show my hair as evidence of that.
I also knew, however, that we’re on a tight budget and I really couldn’t justify throwing out all of my baby things and starting over. I also didn’t want to run out and buy a whole bunch of new things, because I can barely walk around the house without waddling and hobbling, let alone around a store. I challenged myself to make a nursery that was obviously feminine but that still utilized the things I already had. I figured that keeping the same furniture and the same rug would keep the cost pretty low. But to make it that much harder on myself, I told myself that I wouldn’t repaint the walls, either.
That last stipulation was a struggle, let me tell you. I am not sure what color I would have repainted, but I did consider the leftover deep green from our bedroom at one point out of desperation. I wanted the room to look completely different for a low cost, and paint would have been the easiest way to do that. I had told myself, however, that I’d keep the walls the same, so I stuck to that plan. So, everything else evolved over time, but the wall color persisted.
This was the first incarnation of the room: it was really bright and modern. I decided to paint the crib and dresser and dye the chair. The walls stayed the same, but the rest of the room was accented with maroon, red, and pink. I still really like this design. It would make a fun room.
Then I brought home an antique quilt that’s been in my family for generations. It was made by Elvie Kate’s namesake’s namesake, so I knew I had to use it in her room. Unfortunately for design #1, the quilt is anything but bright, bold and modern. Next to the reds and pinks, it just looked dingy. What can I say? It’s old.
So I revamped the look of the room again. I brought home an extra antique rocking chair from my parents’ house to use in the room. I still planned on painting the crib and the dresser and keeping the rug, but I toned everything else way down.
It’s no secret that I’m a coward when it comes to cold. I’ve already spent this week firmly planted in the house by a fire, and try not to leave the house unless the temperature reaches above 50 degrees.
Last week we (thankfully!) had a couple of warmer days, and we took advantage of them by going out to The Forest–our name for the local national park.
I love to go here, not only because the boys’ imaginations run wild, but because mine does too. Growing up, we had no “forest” but a few trees at the edge of our property. But I would go down there and pretend the trees were multiplied a hundred times over so I could be lost in the woods for a while.
Over Christmas break, I found myself in the position of watching while my husband and parents worked to clean out the hamhouse and basement at my childhood home (and watching while my boys ran around and played in the Kentucky countryside.)
I do not like sitting and watching.
I needed something to do. So…I did something.
This room was my room, growing up. It’s where I first flexed my decorator muscles. Its first incarnation was a carousel horse theme, complete with a wallpaper chair rail border with multicolored paint stamping underneath. And blue trim. (It was the 90’s.)
The second incarnation, the remnants of which are pictured above, was done during the summer of my freshman year of college. My roommate at the time helped me–it was fun, and I have always loved it, even now when faux finishes like dragging are seriously out of style. That’s still my favorite shade of green. I wish I had a picture of the room in its heyday, but all I have is the picture of what it looked like with beds for the boys hastily stuck in there, sheets covering the windows to aid with naps, and a couple of random pieces of furniture hanging out because there really isn’t another place for them in the house.
The boys really needed their own space, not a leftover-from-moms-youth-with random-furniture space, and since painting is something I am always willing to do, I got to work. [Read more…]
Anselm turned twenty-two months yesterday, the seventh.
Twenty-two months, and two months away from two years old! What a bunch of twos yesterday brought us.
It means he has two more monthly updates after this one, and then he and I are off the hook. I post updates on the boys monthly until their second birthdays. It also occurred to me this morning that, once Miss Elvie is born, it will be the first time I’ve had a new baby and won’t be posted monthly updates for two children simultaneously. I’m still not sure how I’m feeling about the wider age gap this time around!
It was almost more than this mother’s heart could handle, watching them there in the aisle of the grocery store: my oldest son, just weeks away from his fifth birthday, and the elderly gentleman who has asked for his help.
I’m not really sure if the man saw Ephraim’s eagerness to help me put things in the cart, then decided to give the boy another opportunity, or if he really couldn’t bend and reach the item as he claimed. But he asked for Ephraim’s help, and Ephraim bounded over to him eagerly, carefully making sure that he understood which item to select and place in the cart–a bag of egg noodles on the very lowest shelf–before doing just that, then running back over to me with a huge grin on his face.
“Mama, I helped him! I love helping!”
And I beamed with pride, at his politeness, his willingness to aid others, and the clear joy he derives from being useful.
It’s a moment that is easy to catalogue in the folder of “Motherhood Mission Accomplished.” And it does represent a good amount of work–there was a time not very long ago where Ephraim was surly and rude to people in the grocery store, where I stopped the cart and required he and his brother to repeat a polite response to a person’s greeting, rather than the childish and uncivil one they had chosen initially. I saw our trips to the grocery store as an essential component of real socialization. It helped that having a cartful of children drew the attention of many other shoppers–we were never in want of people to practice on. Now that he’s older and “out of the cart”, as I think of it, he spends our grocery trips helping me load and unload the cart, engaging the other shoppers in conversation, picking out the right item from amongst its neighbors after I tell him how it’s spelled. He has learned to be conscientious of blocking or bumping into people around him, and he excuses himself when he does. He is easy to take out.
After we’re all loaded back into the car, I thank the kids for their behavior in the store. I thank Ephraim especially for his help–it is right that I should. But while I’m proud of him, in my heart I also know that this is only half the battle.