Monday, May 6, 2013

Welcome to the world

It was just dawn on a hot, July morning.  The kids' room remained silent and I knew there was just a short window before they barged through our door, begging for breakfast.

Heart pounding I made my way to the bathroom, full of hope and dread.

A few minutes later I slid back under the covers, nudged Joel, and whispered one word that would, once again, change the course of our lives.

"Schwanger," I said, a smile on my face.

His eyes opened and he laughed a bit, either from joy or nerves or the irony of our German pregnancy test.

We turned onto our backs and stared silently at the ceiling for a while.  A million questions waded through my mind.

What have we gotten ourselves into?  I wanted this, right?  What will we do with three children?  How will we keep them all safe and happy, bathed and fed and loved?  How will I manage in a foreign country, so far from home?  What if it's a girl?

Nearly 10 months later, Benjamin is finally here.  And like magic all our doubts washed away the moment we saw his smashed up, little face.

Suddenly I would do anything for this tiny man, even give up my precious full nights of sleep.  And Joel, who worried how he would manage with three, couldn't keep his hands off him, his face covered with pure amazement as he stared at our newborn son.

In the three short years since our last new baby, I forgot so much.

I forgot about that long wait, how every day passed in a slow blur of nerves and excitement and frustration.

I forgot about labor (which explains why Benjamin is here at all).

I forgot what it felt like to hold a brand new, slimy baby in my arms, the mixture of relief and joy and exhaustion, the touch of his warm skin and the gaze of those dark, beady eyes.

I forgot how my heart soared as my husband spoke in soft tones to our screaming infants, how each child quieted down and I could hear the nurses comment, "he knows his daddy's voice."

I forgot that feeling of pride, the quiet knowledge that if I can do that, I can do anything.

I forgot what it's like to see your children meet each other, to witness the first moment of so many together.

I forgot about those middle-of-the-night feedings, the intense stares of a newborn looking through me in the quiet and dark of the hospital room.

I forgot that when changing a newborn you have to be quick, or you and everything around you becomes a probable and likely target for all kinds of projectile happenings.

I forgot what it felt like to forget the world for a few days, to focus almost entirely on this new and changing family.

I forgot how good it feels to hold a sleeping baby, his belly puffing quickly as he lies against my chest.

I forgot what tired feels like.

I forgot that after a month of wiping poop and waking all night long, that first wild, baby smile erases every hardship.

I forgot how your heart grows to make room for each child, and how, somehow, it grows every day after that, so that at night, when you place your hand on the rise and fall of each little chest, you feel as though you will burst.  And although you know in the morning you will probably find something to yell about, you go to sleep with a smile on your face.

I learned a few things as well.

I learned that someone was missing from our family, and I never even knew it.

And I'm learning every day who that person is, how he fits here, and just how much I love him.

Welcome to the world baby Benjamin!

Monday, March 11, 2013

The waiting game

I remembered this part being awful.

I just forgot how awful.

I never experienced the wait with Aiden.  I went to the doctor Friday morning, 37 weeks, where he told me, starting today, I am officially at term and they won't attempt to stop my labor.  That night, with friends in the living room, my water broke while cleaning the kitchen and we were off to the hospital, full of naive excitement.

We expected the same with Finn, but 10 days after my due date the induction I dreaded was written in on the hospital calendar.  At the very last minute Finn decided to come on his own and was born 30 minutes before my appointment.

Now I wait again.  Wondering and hoping and fearing.

I know in my head that a due date is just an estimate, and I certainly realize that my first coming early means nothing for subsequent labors.  Still, when 37 weeks hit I rushed around like a mad woman, packing bags and scrubbing showers and hunting down dust mites.

And then I sat down and waited.  Well, as much as I can with two kids who still need fed and bathed and loved.  Nearly two weeks later the dust has returned and my hospital bag sits open at the door, where I regularly exchange items I hoped I wouldn't need again.

At this point I am still over a week from my due date.  And I told myself time and again not to expect anything, but like the silly, hormonal, pregnant woman I am, I did anyhow.

It's mostly the not knowing that gets to me.  The not knowing what to tell my kids when they want to know when the baby is coming.  The not knowing when I put them to bed at night if I will be there to greet them in the morning (and by greet I mean rolling over in bed and grumbling for them to go downstairs).  The not knowing if this is my last trip to the grocery store, or what will happen if I'm alone with Finn in the city, or will this labor be faster than my last, and if so, what are the chances I have this baby in the car (I'm hoping by writing that one down I have significantly negated the possibility of its happening).

I guess it's just called worry, nothing new or significant really.

I could think of a million different scenarios of what could possibly happen, particularly in a foreign country with a 30-minute drive to the hospital.

Or I could trust... and wait... and then wait some more.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

All I really need

It's Valentine's Day, and because I haven't posted since Thanksgiving I feel obliged, and even slightly motivated, to write something.  And so I will sit, sipping my reheated Starbucks mocha (a Valentine's treat from my husband), staring out at the snowy hillside, and indulge my sentimental side for the afternoon.

I am a personal fan of Valentine's Day.  I know we should celebrate love every day, that romantic gestures and simple expressions of feelings shouldn't be assigned a date on the calendar.  And yet I'm glad that it is.  Happy that amidst nagging my kids to pick up their toys and my husband to shut the kitchen cupboards, there is a day to wonder, primarily, if they know how much I love them.

With the exception of Finn (who will take every opportunity to communicate his undying love for us), we aren't overly sentimental in this family.  In fact, Joel is probably wincing as he reads this, wondering where this is leading, and if it will get unbearably mushy at some point.

Well buckle up... things are about to get gooey.

I won't go back to the beginning or pick apart everything I have loved about him in the past eight years, but since most of our communication occurs loudly over dinnertime commotion, between rounds of "tickle monster," or is followed by the words "if you don't stop fighting we will turn this car around," I'd like to take this small moment of peace to say a little something about the man I am spending this crazy life with.

And really, just a few words, because any more would be horribly embarrassing for him.

I honestly didn't know if I could do this whole living abroad thing.  I thought that I needed a lot of stuff... my family, my best friends, Turkey Hill ice cream.

And really, it wasn't always easy.  At first it felt a bit like Joel and I lived in two separate worlds.  He lived in the world of English-speakers, of lesson plans and meetings and familiarity.  I lived in Hungary.  I was an outsider and most of the time I was scared.

Life has gotten easier for me in many ways.  But even then one thing never changed... at the end of the day, when Joel opens the door and the kids scream and run giggling behind the couch, I know that this is all I really need.  He is like the final puzzle piece that brings our family together, and even when I'm stressed or angry, or even when I feel like the world is out to get me, he walks through the door and I feel like I can breathe again.

I love that he can make my kids erupt in laughter, that they are sad when he leaves and want to be with him just as much as I do.  I love that he believes in me more than I believe in myself.  I love that, even when he drives me crazy, I would rather him be around than not.

Truly, I'm grateful.  Stressed and tired and grateful.  With so much changing and so many unknowns I am thankful that God has blessed me with this solid family, this place of solace that really isn't a place at all.

They are my little, traveling home, and for the first time in my life, I know I could go anywhere.