Giving up the fight.

November 12th, 2014

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I couldn’t put him down.

All day, nothing worked.

After six hours of trying to put my baby in his bed, his car seat, the swing, the wrap, anywhere, he passed out dramatically on my chest. There was a sudden thump of his face against me, and the pacifier bounced off the carpet. I instinctively braced myself for the wail I knew would follow the empty mouth. But none came. I noticed how heavy he seemed and looked carefully down. Asleep. More than asleep. After nearly a full day of laying him oh-so-carefully into his crib and tiptoeing away, only to see on the monitor his eyes flying open and his arms struggling against his swaddle, he had given up the fight.

That afternoon, six weeks after my son’s birth, I was supposed to call a client for our first talk about transitioning back to work. He was incredibly accommodating, telling me to call any time between noon and 5 p.m.

At 11:30 I nursed my newborn slowly in the rocking chair, his tiny tongue clicking and his mouth sucking rhythms in sync with our gliding. As always, I stared at him, wondering at how big he’d already grown. When he was still, I laid him in his bassinet in the dark, cool room to sleep. I just needed 15 minutes.

I stepped down the hall on light feet, avoiding squeaks, down the stairs and across the living room to my small corner desk. I was anxious about working from home with this little one in my care.

Could I do both? Could I do both well?

I opened a fresh document and double-checked the phone number. With one thumb ready to press “call,” I lifted the baby monitor and clicked on the screen to check on him one last time. And there he was, just one minute after being put down in a deep sleep — legs kicking, mouth grimacing, arms pushing small but strong against his swaddle wrap. Within seconds came the screaming that had become the soundtrack to my days. Screaming with breath held and eyes bulging, skin turning red and then purple. I dropped my phone and raced up the stairs to bounce and shush and nurse him again.

It would be OK, I thought. I had all day.

When I was 36 weeks pregnant, my husband and I listened to a few families we knew as they shared baby horror stories over a meal. Not their own stories, since none of them had had an extremely difficult infant. These stories were of the “my best friend’s cousin’s roommate’s baby” variety — and surely they were exaggerated. One friend told of a woman spending an entire day trying to get her baby to fall asleep, only to have him wake up over and over. The entire day. I’m a naturally nurturing person, and that sounded like a special circle of hell even to me. As we left, I told my husband, “We could have a baby like that. Can you imagine?” But we agreed the odds were in our favor — what was that, like 1 percent of babies?

Then we received The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD as a baby shower gift, and watched it together. We gaped at the screen as couples exclaimed how thrilled they were to have finally gotten three straight hours of sleep using these magic tricks. “It’s good to be prepared,” we said, “just in case we get one of those one-in-a-million babies.”

Much more often, and from people we actually knew, we heard stories about taking newborns to movie theaters and restaurants, babies sleeping for what seemed like two straight months, babies traveling in their infant carriers like silent little pieces of extra luggage. I envisioned the smushy babies of newborn photography. Passing my cooing infant around a room of friends. The three of us snuggling together in bed.

But a few short weeks later, there I was. Alone at home with my baby, my expectations of newborn bliss weighed down by darkness and disappointment. My cloud nine heavy with a storm, and fit to burst.

It was 4:30, and I had nursed myself empty. I had prayed. I had pled with my son to take the nap that would allow this call. But he never stayed asleep for more than a few moments, whether it was in the bassinet, the wrap or my arms.

As 4:45 approached he wailed on, and my knees popped and thighs burned as I bounced, head swimming with fatigue and movement and not enough calories and too much shushing.

I typed a one-handed apology to my client. “I’m so sorry. I’ve been trying since 11, but he won’t sleep.” That’s putting it lightly, I thought. I worried that he wouldn’t believe me. I worried no one would — that I had the mythical baby everyone warns you about, but worse. The baby that only exists in postpartum hyperbole, in stressed out first-time moms’ imaginations. The one you’re supposed to look back on and realize that — silly, hormonal, stressed out you! — it was all in your head.

I wanted to say so much more, to detail every moment in the day, to prove I wasn’t being flaky or inflating the situation to garner his sympathy. But I hit “send” and turned back to my screaming baby, back to the end of myself.

When that sudden quiet eventually came, I stood, dumb for a moment. What would I do now? He was finally asleep, and it was too late to make my call. I felt his heaviness against me. I felt the full weight of the day in that lumpy limp body. And I cried as emotions washed over me. Relief. Guilt. Deep grief. Deeper love.

I couldn’t put him down, but this time it was because I didn’t want to.

He had given up the fight. And so had I.

Part of me would like to say relief came that day in the form of a baby sleeping peacefully while I recovered. While I prayed different prayers and cuddled with my husband and savored a home filled with quiet.

But instead it came in a small space — 17 minutes, to be exact, before he woke again — where I began to truly grieve the loss of my expectations.

And, once grieved, to open my heart to a profoundly different kind of love. One based on pouring every drop of myself out on an exhausted, overwhelmed newborn boy who had nothing at all that he could offer me back.

I’m having a baby.

July 10th, 2013

There, I said it.

You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to tell. But the timing didn’t seem right.

It still doesn’t. But the fact of the matter is, I’m having this baby in two months, and well… maybe there’s no perfect time to announce the biggest secret, the most exciting news, to a blog readership filled with mostly people who already know because I’ve told them in person. It just makes my thoughts a little bit more uncomfortably spotlighted than normal to reflect on something so enormous.

I’ve surprised myself with how private I’ve been about all of it. Territorial is another word. I can also think of worse ones.

At first I wanted to just wait for sure until we were out of the “danger zone” of the first three months. But then we got used to keeping the secret, and there was something so nice about having the secret. Especially since I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by social media and oversharing in general these days.

And then we lost Kieran. Right around the same time we went slightly more public with this photo on Facebook:

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And it seemed all wrong again, the mix of emotions and the needing to let myself sit with that reality for a while. Honestly, I went two good weeks hardly thinking about the baby.

So we kept it offline. And the more people we told in person, the more it seemed like that’s how life is supposed to happen. Not broadcast with big, bold pleas for attention or the assumption that this baby is the most important baby who ever lived. Because he’s not. (Not to you, anyway. And really, not to us either.)

But the unfortunate byproduct of my privacy is that people who do want to just genuinely share in our joy — maybe you, if you’re just finding out — haven’t had that opportunity.

So here it is — my coming out.

I am seven months pregnant with a so-far very healthy and active baby boy, due September 14, 2013.

Now to resist becoming a mommy blogger…

Love—

brynna

I wasn’t prepared for this.

April 30th, 2013

A month ago, very early on Easter Sunday, we lost our favorite non-human.

I’m still processing; still asking hard questions and coming up empty. I’m still at a loss for words that will do it and him justice — they just don’t exist.

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I got Kieran when he was six weeks old, with bright eyes, rough kitten fur and a fat belly. I was 18 and living in my first off-campus apartment, and he was one of my first significant steps toward independence: my first non-family pet.

Yet as much as he was mine, becoming a family together with Eric was effortless, and he became just as much Eric’s. Seeing how they loved each other has made the time of losing harder and easier all at once. It’s difficult for us to watch each other grieve, and a comfort to know someone else feels exactly the same. The whole Murray clan took a very hard hit with this news. All of us just adored him.

Kieran was suffering silently from heart disease, probably for a few years, and we had no idea. He was always content, never showing signs of discomfort until he went into sudden congestive heart failure the night before Easter. By 3 a.m. we had said goodbye. He was only seven.

If you haven’t owned a really, truly fabulous cat, you can’t know the presence they are… Kieran was more than a pet.

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(He slept here most nights.)

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(He adored a good belly rub.)

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(With Cody, whose life was also cut far too short by heart disease.)

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(He put up with anything.)

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(Even the maintenance guy loved him.)

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Oh, it hurts. It hurts to remember, and it hurts to imagine forgetting.

Two-thousand thirteen.

December 31st, 2012

A happy New Year
[Photo Credit]

Although I skipped over the usually obligatory Thanksgiving, advent, Christmas, and other end-of-year posts, I think New Year’s posts are some of the best in blog-land. There’s something so inspiring about reading everyone’s goals, focus words, and year-end reflections and accomplishments. (My 2012 year in review post WILL be coming soon, once my best and I have a chance to hash out the happenings.)

Some of these goals aren’t measurable or specific (we all know how “do ______ more” usually pans out)… but here are a few areas I’d like to improve:

  • Eating at the kitchen table. Right now we eat almost every night on our couch while watching Netflix (for shame!). This is because our kitchen table (first stop after the front door in our tiny apartment) is our clutter-catch-all, and we never want to both cook AND straighten the table. I’d like to use our cute placemats, pay attention to each other, have conversations, and get up from the kitchen table when we’re done (which I suspect will make cleaning up from dinner immediately a much more natural transition).
  • Start playing the piano again. My aim is once a week to start out. I figure if I do this, I will naturally want to play more than that, which is my eventual goal. To make this goal more measurable, I’ll probably decide on a few songs to learn and perfect.
  • Develop better routines. This is a biggie. It includes creating a rough weekly schedule that works with my highly variable work responsibilities, a cleaning routine that works for both of us, a gym routine and a morning routine. I started majorly slacking in the morning (and letting myself) when I got sick this summer, and now I can’t seem to drag myself out of bed until Eric’s almost ready to leave for work. Ideally I’d be awake with Bible read and tea/coffee had by that time, ready to start my work day.
  • Pick a few books of the Bible to read and re-read this year. I’m stealing this approach to a Bible-reading plan from this post by our good friend Paul. I’ve chosen Esther, Isaiah and Phillipians so far. Any suggestions?
  • Simplify and improve our eating. Eric and I have talked about wanting to start eating organic meats as a step toward improving the quality of what we put in our bodies. This means eating less meat in general and finding out where the best deals are, as our grocery budget doesn’t have much room to expand. We’ve talked about doing a CSA arrangement if we can find an affordable one. I love cooking, but grocery planning/shopping is one of my most hated chores.
  • Become a better photographer. This will probably involve working through some online tutorials, as well as practicing a lot. I’m looking forward to this goal as a fun one, especially with our new camera.
  • Work through a writing book slowly and do all the exercises. I tend to treat writing books as general inspiration, instead of really using them to practice skills. I have a couple awesome writing books right now, including On Writing Writing Down the Bones, Bird by Bird, and one from my mother-in-law called Writing as Way of Healing. I want to spend some quality time with each one.
  • Blog more consistently. I know I’ve totally neglected my blog this year. It was a strange year in some ways, especially with four months of sickness, which I think left me quite depressed in the low energy, just getting by kind of way. One positive is that that leaves me with tons of blogging material, particularly about my writing career, that I never got to in 2012. That should be enough to jump-start my new blogging habit.

Thanks for bearing with me through the breaks this year, friends.

2012 in review, coming soon! (PROMISE!)

brynna

Guest post at Following Schaibles

December 18th, 2012

Today a little poem I wrote is featured at my friend Lydia’s blog as part of her wonderful advent series. Check it out here.

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