two years later, “Resilient”

I have a friend who somehow remembered (did she add a reminder to her phone’s calendar?) that this month marks two years since we lost our first baby to miscarriage. She texted to let me know she was thinking of me and remembering with me. Then she sent this song, which I’d never heard before:

Seems a helpful song for personal pain and for collective pain…something that can touch us as a country right now. (Also, has anyone else noticed how impossibly catchy songs are when they lapse into non-word lyrics?) Happy listening.

books I have read in 2020

  1. Once More We Saw Stars – Jayson Greene – Jan. – heartbreaking memoir of a father who lost a two-year-old daughter; the description of their subsequent pregnancy made me remember the quiet secret joy of my own and made me want to have another baby
  2. Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know – Malcolm Gladwell – Jan. – I was disappointed in his writing related to racial profiling and injustice toward black people…I felt he gave white people even more reason to explain away racial profiling as something other than what it is
  3. The Magic of Motherhood: the good stuff, the hard stuff and everything in between – Ashlee Gadd/Coffee + Crumbs – Jan. – I thought this book would be too cheesy for me, like a floral devotion for mothers. Thankfully, it was just what the doctor ordered! Read this on mornings our baby was sleeping and I was sneaking in my breakfast in the bathroom where I slept on a mattress. Ha. I did relate to the authors.
  4. The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 – Garrett M. Graff – Feb. – ABSOLUTELY RIVETING and could NOT put it down – heartbreaking and haunting, chilling
  5. Boys and Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity – Peggy Orenstein – Feb. – riveting and worrying as I try to parent a daughter in the 21st century
  6. Rehearsing Scripture: Discovering God’s Word in Community – Anna Carter Florence – March – started in March 2019 and finished in March 2020…she did an enthralling conference where she had us playing with the texts and hearing them afresh
  7. Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad – Austin Kleon – Mar.
  8. Highway One, Antarctica – Justin Herrmann – Mar. (second time reading it)
  9. Where the Light Gets In: Losing My Mother Only to Find Her Again – Kimberly Williams-Paisley – April
  10. This Life That Is Ours: Motherhood as Spiritual Practice – Lauren Burdette – April
  11. After This – Alice McDermott – April – such gorgeous prose! McDermott really excels at the craft of writing…enjoyed reading this during meals
  12. Shameless: A Sexual Reformation – Nadia Bolz-Weber – April – helpful as I think about what parts of Christian teaching will be conducive to a positive body image + sexuality for my daughter, and which parts will be harmful
  13. Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace – Robert Farrar Capon – June – WOW! Recommending this book to EVERYONE. I need to reread it and try to let it sink in. Turns my understanding of grace, faith, Christ, Christianity, and me…upside down.
  14. What Now? – Ann Patchett – June
  15. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics – Daniel James Brown – July – absolutely loved this book! great for traveling
  16. The Thing Around Your Neck – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – July – pretty good collection of stories and made me want to try my hand at the genre
  17. Act Natural: A Cultural History of Misadventures in Parenting – Jennifer Traig – July – super quirky 
  18. Cowboys Are My Weakness – stories by Pam Houston – July – loved this book (despite the female protagonists’ poor taste in men)! Superb craft in writing! Have to read more of her.
  19. The Sun is a Compass: A 4,000-mile Journey Into the Alaskan Wilds – Caroline Van Hemert – Aug. – just okay
  20. Wiving: A Memoir of Loving Then Leaving the Patriarchy – Caitlin Myer – Aug. – started out riveting but then grew tiring…too much drama and frustration…pretty disturbing book, too
  21. Contents May Have Shifted – Pam Houston – August – She claims it’s a novel, but I have no idea how. Tale of travels and relationships.
  22. An American Childhood – Annie Dillard – August – for the second time! Looooooove this memoir. It transports you.
  23. The Nanny Diaries – Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin – August – for like the eighth time…guilty pleasure
  24. Waltzing the Cat – Pam Houston – September – just love her
  25. Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country – Pam Houston – September – now I want to take classes from her and be a ranchsitter for her…she’s my idol
  26. Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect – Magda Gerber – September – at least my second time, perhaps my third time, reading this book…and always recenters me!
  27. 1,2,3…The Toddler Years: A Practical Guide for Parents & Caregivers – Irene Van der Zande – September – despite many typos/grammatical errors, a fairly helpful book
  28. Valentine – Elizabeth Wetmore – September – riveting and suspenseful, but I found a few mistakes/inconsistencies, and there were a few parts that felt inauthentic…otherwise a fine read
  29. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism – Robin DiAngelo – September – certainly not an easy read!
  30. How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids – Jancee Dunn – October – made me more affectionate and grateful toward Jordan!
  31. Such a Fun Age – Kiley Reid – October – de-LISH-ous, so juicy, so compulsively readable…wasn’t sure about it at first (whether it felt genuine), but was hooked before long…among the many things she captures perfectly, the guilt of a white woman’s psyche is one of them
  32. Becoming Dr. Q: My Journey from Migrant Farm Worker to Brain Surgeon – Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa (with Mim Eichler Rivas) – October – read this book to help Jordan with a Spanish project and found it blessing me!
  33. Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool – Emily Oster – October – demonstrates that no matter what you do as a parent, basically it doesn’t affect how your kid will turn out
  34. The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist – Adrian Tomine – October – graphic novel about all the most cringe-worthy moments of his life…the part about having diarrhea while an interviewer sat just outside the bathroom door made me laugh and laugh and laugh
  35. Comfort: A Journey Through Grief – Ann Hood – November – memoir of a mother who lost her five-year-old daughter to a virulent form of strep
  36. Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith – Henri Nouwen – November – seemed quite fitting for my questions, wonderings, discernment during this time
  37. The Long Winter – Laura Ingalls Wilder – December – I’ve read this many times and still adore it (though I am newly aware of its white privilege/-centeredness)
  38. Little Town on the Prairie – Laura Ingalls Wilder – December – I’ve read this many times, just like the former, and still adore it, just like the former…but wow…their depiction of a minstrel show was pretty rough to read…especially to realize how I didn’t clue in about the craziness of it till now
  39. These Happy Golden Years – Laura Ingalls Wilder – December
  40. Bel Canto – Ann Patchett – December – for the second time, and it’s still divine!
 
BOOKS I STARTED BUT NEVER FINISHED:
 
  • The Most Fun We Ever Had – Claire Lombardo – 380 pages of it – I got tired of the unrealistic dialogue – do people really begin so many sentences with “Jesus Christ”? Or use “Viol” as a nickname for “Violet”?
  • Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live) – Eve Rodsky – most of it…
  • Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the world, and Become a Good Ancestor – Layla F. Saad – 69 pages of it
  • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg McKeown – 134 pages of it
  • Just Us: An American Conversation – Claudia Rankine – 175 pages of it
  • Dreyer’s English – Benjamin Dreyer – 200 pages of it

eight years later

They would be teenagers now,
those crusted-nose, mismatch-socked,
pig-tailed grinning first graders.

On December 14 there were presents already
hidden in closets and drawers of dressers
or out under the tree
(Santa gives gifts
but so do parents)
and I wonder,
what did parents do with those gifts
after December 14?
Ten days ’til Christmas Eve.

Were siblings giddy on Christmas morning,
and then stopped and remembered?
Did a mother forget a gift she’d bought and hid
in the upper left cupboard above the washer,
finding it three years later when the family packed to move
from Sandy Hook to Anywhere Else,
and with the thud of sudden remembrance
found herself trembling,
scraping at the tape,
sure and unsure of what was inside?

men / without milk stains on their shirts

Last year at this time, I was nursing a two-week-old and trembling, tossing, turning with anxiety instead of sleeping. A friend sent me a poem by Kaitlin Hardy Shetler, who asks if Mary breastfed Jesus and struggled with a painful latch. My phone shows I screenshot it at 3:17 a.m.

3:17 a.m. is a time stamp familiar to those nursing newborns and grinding their teeth into the night guard they wear, familiar as well to those lying not sleeping nearby. I saved the poem because I felt it saved me.

Six hours later I took this photo:

It wasn’t the only milk stain photo I would take in those upended first weeks.

And yes, visits to a lactation consultant can help, but the reality of nursing can look very different than the paintings of a serene Madonna.

Did Mary have to configure concoctions of pillows?

Here’s the full poem, with link below:

sometimes I wonder
if Mary breastfed Jesus.
if she cried out when he bit her
or if she sobbed when he would not latch.

and sometimes I wonder
if this is all too vulgar
to ask in a church
full of men
without milk stains on their shirts
or coconut oil on their breasts
preaching from pulpits off limits to the Mother of God.

but then i think of feeding Jesus,
birthing Jesus,
the expulsion of blood
and smell of sweat,
the salt of a mother’s tears
onto the soft head of the Salt of the Earth,
feeling lonely
and tired
hungry
annoyed
overwhelmed
loving 

and i think,
if the vulgarity of birth is not
honestly preached
by men who carry power but not burden,
who carry privilege but not labor,
who carry authority but not submission,
then it should not be preached at all. 

because the real scandal of the Birth of God
lies in the cracked nipples of a
14 year old
and not in the sermons of ministers
who say women
are too delicate
to lead.

– Kaitlin Hardy Shetler

LIFE HACKS—BABY EDITION

  1. Read Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother. Then read it again.
  2. Listen to The Birth Hour podcast—it will make you marvel at the variety of labor stories, and the astonishing empowerment of birth!
  3. You don’t have to change a wet diaper in the middle of the night—just a poopy one. Our doula tried to tell us this, but we didn’t listen until our baby was like seven months. What a difference.
  4. Oh—get a doula.
  5. Take a trip with your newborn at 4 weeks, 8 weeks, even 12 weeks old—they’ll sleep almost all the time, and you can sightsee (albeit through sleep-hazed eyes).

  1. Don’t try to lose the last 10 lbs. of “baby weight” if you’re breastfeeding—the baby needs you to keep eating and drinking plenty so you can keep up the milk factory. Or to quote my friend, “Eat like a linebacker.”
  2. Tulip-hem/open-front nursing shirts from Motherhood Maternity will be your sole wardrobe for the next year. Sans bra.
  3. A midwife and a birthing tub can be your two new best friends. (The model of midwifery care was light-years beyond typical OB-GYN care. It was like the difference between lighting a candle & sinking into a couch…vs. napping on the divided seats at the airport.)
  4. Be Team Green! Don’t find out the sex of the baby in advance. The surprise at birth is 100% worth the agony of waiting. Plus, you won’t have to suffer through endless blue baby shower gifts, or endless pink.
  1. Don’t register for a changing table. Change the kid’s diaper on the floor. Stick a puppy pad under them and you’re good to go. You’ll feel the need to wash your hands like three different times by the end of each changing, and what will you do with the baby then? The floor prevents baby from…falling to the floor.
  2. Read Magda Gerber’s book Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect, or anything by Janet Lansbury—ditto Lansbury’s podcast Unruffled. You know all those things other parents do that annoy you? You don’t have to do them! It’s a miracle.
  3. Haakaa silicone breast pump! Lightweight, portable, perfect! You stick it on one breast while you’re nursing from the other. No cords, no batteries. You can score so many extra ounces this way—I stopped using a regular breast pump! But on that note:
  4. Elvie breast pump if you have to work outside the home! These cordless gals tuck into your bra and let you pump while driving, walking, or preaching (okay, I took them out for preaching, as they would have made my congregants wonder if I’d gotten implants—they are a tad large—and they light up like Fembots).
  5. Don’t give up on breastfeeding at 6 weeks when you want to, or 3 mos. when you want to. You’ll finally hit your stride by 6 mos., and then you can do hardcore things like nurse in the middle of a waterfall in the mountains of NC or on a chilly beach in Alaska:
  1. Write down, or do a voice memo of, all your memories of labor & birth before too much time goes by. Before any time goes by. In those bleary and weepy first few days, jot down whatever details come back to you—put them on your Notes app or in a journal, just somewhere you can access it at 2 p.m. or 2 a.m. These are unbelievably priceless.
  2. Yes to a maternity photo shoot (though you will be tired). Yes to labor/birth photos—ask your doula to take them. And yes to a newborn photo shoot (though you will be tired). 110% worth it.

  1. For those who want to keep some semblance of a spiritual practice amidst the new normal of chaos—open your holy book and set it on the table beside your nursing chair. Glance over now and again while nursing, and try to commit a verse to memory. (My current verse: “You have put gladness in my heart, / more than when grain and wine and oil increase” Psalm 4:7 BCP—so chosen to remind me to be GLAD!)
  2. They tell you to take Ibuprofen for the recovery pain, but hello? It makes you constipated! The last thing you need is a herculean effort to push anything else out down there.
  3. The cliché is true: It goes by too fast. Savor it.
  4. And finally, the real secret to happiness in your new life as a parent to the world’s most precious kiddo: Only have one.
  5. **edit** Had to add one more I just thought of. You don’t need to heat the milk. Or the formula. Or the purees. They will drink/eat it cold. Trust me.

seven-minute Lectio Divina: Matt. 20:29-34

     I remember doing Lectio Divina with this passage while sitting on a dock, looking out at Bogue Sound off the Carolina coast. I was on a Sabbath retreat with lots of silence. The skies were gray, and I hugged my knees, trying to get warm.
     When I heard Jesus’s question in the passage above, I felt it in my bones—and I also felt a distinct answer: “Give me a child.” It was as though Jesus was speaking to me, and from some mysterious place within, I answered.
     But this was Oct. 2017. Jordan and I had only been married three months. I didn’t know if I wanted children at all, and I certainly wasn’t interested in them so soon into newlywed life. I forgot about Jesus’s question, and my answer, until more than a year had passed: Jan. 2019, when the child I wanted didn’t live long enough to grow its little cells and split into more cells and finally, fully form.
     Then what I wanted most of all was Jesus himself, and he came and sat with me in my suffering.
     Whichever word/phrase stands out to you from the story in Matthew, I pray it brings healing where you need healing and breaks your heart where needed, too.

books I read (or reread) in 2019

  1. Somebody to Love: The Life, Death, and Legacy of Freddie Mercury – Matt Richards and Mark Langthorne – Jan. – grew repetitious and put me to sleep on any car ride in which we listened to the audiobook 😕 – but gave me new appreciation of the Queen canon and a new tip for songwriting (melody first, then structure, THEN lyrics)
  2. Hardcover A Child Is Born : The Completely New Edition BookA Child is Born – Lennart Nilsson & Lars Hamberger – Jan. – incredible picture book showing the miracle of being human, from conception to birth – wonderful memory of contentedly reading this by myself in KBay Caffe (Homer, AK) the day after I found out I was pregnant
  3. Image result for miscarriage: women sharing from the heartMiscarriage: Women Sharing from the Heart – Marie Allen & Shelly Marks – Feb. – a book that became my security blanket during a time of devastation – first started reading it the morning of Fri. 1/25, and we had our ultrasound later that day that confirmed my womb was empty
  4. Devotion – Dani Shapiro – Feb. – a woman searches for God amidst Buddhism, Judaism, and her own worries
  5. The Wonder – Emma Donoghue – Feb. definitely a page turner, mostly dialogue, long chapters and hardly any section breaks
  6. A Spark of Light – Jodi Picoult – Feb. – predicted the two big reveals at the end; this book, along with a Jen Hatmaker interview of Jodi Picoult & an abortion-related episode of The Cut, made me have compassion on women who get abortions
  7. The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood – Belle Boggs – Mar. – riveting collection of essays about the pressure to procreate, the struggle of IVF, and the miracle of children
  8. [censored for the sake of my brother and any other family who read this blog] – Mar.
  9. Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer – Mar. – another completely convicting resource and another attempt to be vegetarian
  10. The Little Book of Biblical Justice: A Fresh Approach to the Bible’s Teachings on Justice – Chris Marshall – Mar.
  11. What Babies Say Before They Can Talk: The Nine Signals Infants Use to Express Their Feelings – Paul C. Holinger – Mar.
  12. Image result for this boy's lifeThis Boy’s Life – Tobias Wolff – Apr. – laugh-out-loud funny, and heartbreaking – made me want to read more of him
  13. Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation – Martin Laird – Apr. – very deep and thoughtful book on how we actually aren’t separate from God, nor are we our chaotic thoughts – we are a vast silence that is within the silent vastness of God
  14. Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives – Annie Murphy Paul – May – not sure I buy all the science in the book…but still an okay read
  15. Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home – Natalie Goldberg – May – memoir of her journey through cancer and her recognition of her mortality
  16. Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others – Barbara Brown Taylor – May – read in two days during trip to D.C.; inspired me to want to repeat her class experiences in a small group with my church
  17. Normal People – Sally Rooney – May
  18. Image result for song in a weary throatSong in a Weary Throat: Memoir of an American Pilgrimage – Pauli Murray – May – 572-page autobiography of the first African-American woman to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal church…couldn’t put it down, such an epic life story
  19. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed – Lori Gottlieb – June – borrowed from my counselor-friend; very fun and funny, with helpful tidbits like “numbness isn’t the absence of feeling; it’s being overwhelmed with feeling” and “the past is a vast encyclopedia of calamities you can still fix” (a joke, heard on a podcast)
  20. No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame – Janet Lansbury – June – after binging on her “Unruffled” podcasts
  21. Jesus, CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership – Laurie Beth Jones – June – had started last year, I think, and finally finished…good used as a daily devotional to inspire you for working with a team (staff, lay people, etc.)
  22. Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi – July – second time reading it, after often being tempted to!
  23. Your Self-Confident Baby: How to Encourage Your Child’s Natural Abilities—from the Very Start – Magda Gerber – July – finished on the morning we went to our anatomy ultrasound – gets me excited to try this style of parenting from infancy onward
  24. Achtung Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children – Sara Zaske – July – makes me concerned about lack of playtime/recess during school, excess homework in early grades, and more — maybe we should homeschool!
  25. The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence – Judith Lothian and Charlotte DeVries – July – makes me excited for those first few hours bonding with baby, and encourages me to give birth naturally
  26. Red Letter Revolution: What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said? – Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo – July
  27. Image result for great with child letters to a young motherGreat with Child: Letters to a Young Mother – Beth Ann Fennelly – July – ahhhhhhhh, such a sweet, sweet, beautiful, poetic, charming, transporting, instantly re-readable and liftable book
  28. The Better Pastor: A Fable About Embracing the Role of Leading a Parish – Patrick Lencioni – Aug.
  29. The Library Book – Susan Orlean – Aug. – almost gave up on it but saw it through to the end; enjoyed histories of quirky people who led libraries in California
  30. Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting – Janet Lansbury – Sep. – another good one from the author whose podcasts I still binge-listen-to!
  31. Image result for Three WomenThree Women – Lisa Taddeo – Sep. – the first book in ages that made me want to read it while eating, riding in the car, upon first waking, just before falling asleep, during football games, and (yes) during church — not that I indulged each of those desires (and it happens to be a book about desire), but I wanted to
  32. Image result for creating with godCreating with God: The Holy Confusing Blessedness of Pregnancy – Sarah Jobe – Oct. – wonderful reflections on God + Scripture + pregnancy! Great to read in third trimester!
  33. Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation – Parker Palmer – Oct.
  34. Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth – Oct. (most of it anyway)
  35. Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother – Beth Ann Fennelly – Oct. – AGAIN! heehee
  36. Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect – Magda Gerber – Nov. – so soothing, so resetting, so SIMPLE
  37. It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too) – Nora McInerny – Dec. – bought used in Pitts. and read in wee hours of morning with newborn (or, more accurately: while constipated and sitting on toilet after taking so much ibuprofen to help with recovery from birth) — grateful for something that could keep my attention!
  38. Unsheltered – Barbara Kingsolver – Dec. – I adored this book and read it during meals. However, the ending seemed somewhat anticlimactic…or abrupt. I longed for more. Perhaps in a weird way that’s a good sign, though — desiring to read more.
  39. Babies Are Not Pizzas: They’re Born, Not Delivered! – Rebecca Dekker – Dec. – makes me so glad I had the birthing experience I did, and makes me grieve for so many women who are robbed of that…but I will say the author seemed like an unreliable narrator from time to time, like someone who writes a memoir too soon after a difficult event and has a desperate need to get you on her side
  40. Baby Knows Best: Raising a Confident and Resourceful Child, the RIE Way – Deborah Carlisle Solomon – Dec.
  41. The Dutch House – Ann Patchett – Dec. – enjoyed devouring this book during car ride to Ohio and Penns. just after Christmas – Patchett almost never disappoints
BOOKS I STARTED BUT NEVER FINISHED:
141 pages of Motherhood after Miscarriage – Dr. Kathleen Diamond
253 pages of Daily Rituals: Women at Work – Mason Currey
302 pages of Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush – Jon Meacham
126 pages of City of Girls – Elizabeth Gilbert
I forget how many pages of The Power – Naomi Alderman

the pink tax

As the mother of a baby girl, I feel my ears prick up in newly painful ways whenever I read about gender disparity. I’m currently reading Boys & Sex, by Peggy Orenstein, having appreciated her previous Girls & Sex. Also reading Fair Play, by Eve Rodsky. I forget which of these books clued me in to the “pink tax,” but, I’d just read about it before going to Amazon to look for bottle-cleaning brushes.

Lo and behold….

pink brushes

blue brushes

 

Click here for pictures of products in stores–blue and pink, side by side–with the mismatched price tags as proof.