Letter to Baby Girl: Week 36

Dear Baby Girl,

It’s getting close.

We are well into 36 weeks, and everybody says that you can come at any time now. Everyone asks if I’m excited, and of course I say that I am, but I really wonder how excited you are. You’re still moving a lot, stretching, testing the limits of my ribs. You’ll soon test my pain threshold, but all I know is that whatever pain I experience will be worth having you in my arms to finally hold and coo at and dote over.

This world is such an interesting and beautiful place. Your father and I can’t wait to explore it with you and see it through your eyes. Oh, to see regular and mundane things as brand new, to take nothing for granted.

Speaking of taking nothing for granted, I’m grateful for your father’s shirts. I have been wearing his running shirts and t-shirts for the past few weeks now. They cover my tummy well, and if I also wear your father’s hoodies, I have an even better idea what it’s like to be in his skin. As I type this, I think about how hard that man works: he goes to work to teach young minds about writing and critical thinking. I can imagine his frustration as he faces certain limits and attitudes of adolescence. It can be draining. And then he’s pursuing a Master’s degree at BYU. First of all I have to recognize his sacrifice for going to BYU. He got his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah, the great rival of BYU. And now that he’s immersed in the student culture in Provo he has to tolerate certain policies and mentalities that are just plain weird and often questionable. I’m not just talking from a spiritual/secular standpoint. There are arcane ideas and draconian practices and sometimes immovable one-sidedness that people seem oblivious to. Maybe if you decide to go to BYU you’ll see what I mean. Or maybe things will have changed for the better by then. I mean, they’re starting to make strides, and I can’t discount whatever progress has occurred, but there’s so much more room for improvement. Always remember that you can improve yourself as you work on your spirituality and decency as a human being.

Wow, that was a long paragraph. I trust you’ll be able to follow it, because we intend to help you develop a good attention span. Baby Girl, be ready for all the stimuli. There is so much of it everywhere. I can be easily distracted, and sometimes talking with your father our conversations wander, where various subjects stretch like tendrils that dissipate into nothing. However, you should see us bear down to do homework. We can sit for hours at a time typing and taking moments to share ideas that are new and fun to us. We want to teach you to filter and focus. These behaviors will help you understand the importance of respect. It’s a very basic principle, one that I never fully understood until I was an adult. There’s a lot that goes into interacting with other human beings. Some of it seems plain common sense; some of it has to be learned over a long period of time. Your father and I will teach you the best we can, and then we hope you’ll decide what’s what and respect others as they respect you. And part of this respect is to remember not to judge people until you’ve considered their story. People have stuff going on in their lives that we don’t know about. Always be willing to wonder if they’ve had a bad day or haven’t eaten or feel sad, and see if there’s a way to help them, even if it’s to give them a hug and tell them it’s okay. Or to acknowledge their feelings and give them space.

I didn’t intend for so much of this letter to lecture you. We have another doctor’s appointment today, and I’ve been looking at birth plans and want to ask a bunch of questions to prepare for your real-time arrival. The weight of the reality of your being here strikes me more strongly each day, and as we preregistered at the hospital yesterday, your father asked some important questions that assured me of his desire to be prepared. We want to be good parents.

There’s undeniable proof in this world of good parents. The father of some good friends of mine passed away last week, and so many wonderful memories and expressions of love overflowed from everywhere for this man. He and I talked only a few times, and he helped one of his daughters move to New York City while I tagged along, but I’ll always know him as a very tender-hearted, generous man who loved his family and treated others with respect. He was a big man, but he had an even bigger heart. I want his example to teach us. And you.

Dear sweet child, your father will be home soon, and then we will go to the doctor who might tell us how big you are, how much you weigh, if your position has changed. We’ll listen to your heartbeat; that never gets old. These physical indicators of your readiness pale in comparison to our eagerness to have you here.

And are we ever eager.

We’ll see you soon.

Love, Mom

Letter to Baby Girl: 35 Weeks

imitating tummy

Dear Baby Girl,

Last week the doctor confirmed that your head is right down where it should be. You have swum your way down to the closest possible escape. Have you thought about this? Have you thought about the effort it will take to squeeze your body through a hole that seems impossibly unaccommodating?

You’re already teaching me: I’ve never turned down a reasonable challenge, but is this reasonable? You are five or so weeks away from defying reason. The doctor also said you’re growing fast, and I imagine your curled body inside my 4’10” body and my 25-pound weight gain as early indicators of your amazing defiance. I already consider myself pretty tough: Shots don’t really hurt. I’ve run a couple half-marathons, a few 10Ks, several 5Ks. I’ve done a sprint triathlon. I’ve wiped out on a mountain bike on a technical trail I had no right being on. But I have a feeling you’re going to show me what it’s like to be really tough.

This — your grand entrance — seems a completely different level of toughness. This is going to take some faith and determination that I probably haven’t tapped into. I mean, your dad has already decided he isn’t going to watch your birth from the doctor’s perspective, but he’ll hold my hand and encourage me. And that’s okay, because everyone has his threshold for gore and pain, even other people’s pain. And he’s already been incredibly supportive and committed to taking care of us. But do you know what I hope happens? I hope your dad cries. He’s only cried once in his life — not even at our wedding — and I don’t know if he’s missing tear ducts or if he’s dehydrated or whatever, but maybe your arrival will be a rare occasion that inspires tears. Maybe your toughness and cuteness and tiny body will unkink and restore the waterworks. Maybe your positioning is your way of telling us how ready you are to see your dad cry.

Yesterday after church, I took the following photo. Your dad actually handled the camera. Did you know that he and I like basketball? He knows all the teams and players and trades. I haven’t followed current teams, but I can recall players from the ’90s when I watched pro basketball all the time with my little brother.

Also, shooting hoops was one of our first dates. We went to the gym and played HORSE and practiced foul shots. You’ll soon see that your dad and I aren’t tall people, but your dad has a mad three-point shot. He can pretty much shoot from anywhere beyond the arc. When I’m warmed up, I have a solid short shot and can be pretty scrappy. Maybe you’ll share our affinity for basketball, but it’s okay if you don’t.

Anyway, you have grown to the point where my tummy looks like a basketball. I hope you’ll someday appreciate how much fun we’ve had with you these eight months.

passing the ball!

Little tough one, we look forward to having so much more fun and facing life’s challenges with you in the next few weeks.

Love, Mom

Letter to Baby Girl: 34 Weeks

Dear Baby Girl,

There are a lot of mommyblogs out there where mothers write to their children. I have always thought this was a great idea. I love the image of you coming upon this blog and reading my thoughts about you. Words, sentences, ideas, language. Communication. These are extremely important concepts.  I suspect you’ll find these letters in the next year or so, because I have a weird feeling you’ll learn how to navigate the internet and read very quickly. Your parents are geniuses, you know.

You are at 34 weeks gestation. That’s something like T minus six weeks before your arrival. Last night after Sunday dinner at your grandparents’ I was feeling really full. So full that I turned down dessert. And I don’t really turn down dessert, even if it’s just a sliver of what’s offered. And Baby Girl, dessert last night was strawberry shortcake. You’ve had it before, and I’m sure you like it. But for some reason if I overeat my back aches and I can’t get comfortable and I have to stretch and breathe, though some relief does come when I fart. Sorry if that’s crude, but you try make more space for yourself, and who am I to get in your way?

Which leads to repeating the point that I turned down dessert. There just wasn’t any room for more food. And because I turned down dessert, it means that you’re grounded. Of course it’s not your fault: you’re a growing baby and I’m short with a narrow ribcage and discomfort is inevitable. But look here at the difference of my insides with you in it: Can you begin to understand?How can you possibly be aware of what’s going on inside my body? And it’s not your problem, really. As long as you’re cozy and eating and growing, you know I don’t have any beef with you. You know that I love you anyway. As long as there’s yoga and warm baths and massages, I’ll be fine.

You know what though? You and I need to talk about you letting me sleep. When I get a good night’s rest, I feel refreshed for most of the day. But when I get very lousy sleep, my back stays cramped and my brain stays fuzzy. Again, not really your fault — just the way things are. And not for too much longer. But you know, on those nights when I wake up after sleeping for four hours, I can work on homework because the night is still and I can somewhat focus, so maybe I should thank you for helping me along in my masters program.

I may unground you today after seeing the doctor. Depends on how I feel.

Have I mentioned how much I’m in love with you? I love the way you move around and feel your way inside my womb. We are becoming very familiar with each other and getting a sense of each other’s personalities. I like to guess what certain protrusions are from my tummy are and imagine how you’re oriented. Your father and I watch my tummy as you shift around. He always assumes any hard surface is your head, while I go between thinking it might be a sitbone or a foot. Yesterday at church I wore a dress that accentuated my tummy and we spent Sunday school watching you. The lesson was about the Abrahamic covenant and we didn’t think it would be a huge distraction to contemplate our posterity by watching you. It’s one of our favorite things to do, besides reading stories and singing to you.

Your Utah grandma and aunt threw a baby shower for you on Saturday. I’m pretty sure you could hear the commotion, but there were a lot of people there to show their excitement and support for you! You got some really cute clothes and a lot of diapers and other very cute things. Just know there’s a world out here that can’t wait to see you.

Your Florida grandma and her husband will be coming to visit. They want to be here around the time you arrive. Your uncle–my brother–wants to visit sometime this summer. Your uncle is quite a character and I know you’ll love him.

A woman stopped me in the hall yesterday after church. She told me about how excited your father is about you. This thrills me to no end. Several people have told me he gets this sparkle in his eye and a huge smile across his face and that makes my heart want to burst with joy. He marvels at the sheer miracle of you growing inside me. He points to my tummy and says, “There’s a baby in there” in a cute voice and no matter how I feel, it makes me smile.  He’s quite in love with you, too. Of course.

It’s important for you to see how much your father and I love each other. We have promised to take care of you and teach you what you need to know to thrive in this world. We also accept that you’ll probably teach us quite a few things. You’ve already taught us a lot about patience. We hope you’ll be patient with us, not only as we raise you, but during the next few weeks. We still haven’t decided on a name for you. Please don’t ground us.

Dear sweet child, our Baby Girl, thank you for blessing our lives. Your father and I can’t wait to start a new journey with you.

Love, Mom

Brain Lapses and Meta Sadness

Three little anecdotes, either because 1) the public shouldn’t know every lapse I have beyond three, or 2) I have been extremely alert and conscientious, and I only have three imperfections to report. You choose.

At church:

  • One time during the final hour of the three-hour block, I was walking around as usual, finding new people to talk to and asking people to offer the opening and closing prayers. I walked from the front of the room toward the left side (stage left/house right) and rammed my leg into a chair in the middle of the first row. An aisle divided the rows of chairs and my leg bumped into the first chair of the first row on the left side. It seems in a subconscious effort not to bump my tummy into anything, I leaned the upper half of my body away from the chairs while I let my legs continue in a straight line toward the chairs. It did not hurt, but I asked myself if I had bumped into more things I wasn’t aware of. No bruises, but a new weird self-awareness of my body.
  • Another day during the first hour of the three-hour block, Reilly and I were listening to one of the first two speakers. It might have been a young man who told a story about the time his mom told him not to eat candy in bed, but he kept a stash of candy under his pillow, and he checked the hallway to make sure his mom wasn’t coming to his room. He ate one piece, then another piece. He then heard his name in a whisper, so he checked the hallway again. No one was coming. He ate a few more pieces. He checked the hallway again, and no one was there. He ended up eating all the candy, savoring every piece. Then he heard his name again and his mom jumped out of the closet and busted him for disobeying the rules. When he concluded his talk (about obedience) and the congregation said “Amen,” I didn’t say “Amen.” Instead, I raised a sustaining (or opposing) hand. I realized what I’d done, but I leaned over to Reilly to make a comment about the talk and  didn’t look around. Looking around would have made me look guilty.

Just yesterday:

  • I met up with some coworkers for lunch up in Salt Lake. As in most cases where I don’t know people very well, I mainly kept to myself and listened to everyone else talk. One person ordered the white bean burger, another person ordered French onion soup, one person ordered the crab macaroni and cheese, and I ordered a blackened salmon sandwich. All the orders looked amazing (most food still looks incredible to me), but I want to talk about my sandwich. The decently-sized fish filet was well seasoned and perfectly cooked. It came dressed with baby spinach and a nice tangy mayo inside a sliced fresh ciabatta roll. Then there were a side of fries, which were also so very yummy. I cut my enormous sandwich in half, then I cut one of the halves into quarters. Everyone around me kept talking, and I listened while slipping into food ecstasy. While listening and occasionally interjecting nods and chuckles, I finished the two quarters of the sandwich and most of the fries, and almost an hour had passed. We paid our checks and I asked for a box, excited to get home and have my leftovers for dinner, perhaps even let Reilly have a bite. I readied the sandwich for departure. My coworkers and put on our coats and headed out. I did turn around and check the table to make sure I didn’t forget my wallet. Satisfied that I had remembered my wallet, I joined the others outside. When we got back to the office, I realized I left my sandwich at the restaurant. My heart instantly broke. I sulked on the train home. My forgotten sandwich is probably why I didn’t sleep very well last night. I’m still very sad about it.

The last story is the saddest because it’s my biggest, most tragic lapse during this pregnancy. Not pregnant, I’ve forgotten my food at restaurants, but I haven’t been this pathetic about it. While I can certainly blame “pregnancy brain” for this indiscretion, such blame will not bring the sandwich back. I guess I could also blame my hormone-befuddled brain for my intense affinity for sandwiches (HOLY CRAP I LOVE SANDWICHES), without such affinity I would not be in deep mourning.

So far this morning I had breakfast, did some homework, and did some yoga. My tummy feels good, Baby Girl has been moving around, and my back has responded well to the stretching. I even had a small second breakfast while writing this post. And I may even be up to making my own damn good sandwich for lunch.

I can get through this.

This Past Month’s Showing

Two weeks ago:

  1. I talked with another pregnant woman at church about whether she found a doctor. We chatted a little bit about appointments and how we’re feeling. She said, “You look cute. You can’t even tell you’re showing.” I’m like, “What? Really? Oh, you’re so nice.” If I wasn’t showing, I certainly didn’t feel it because none of my clothes fit anymore.
  2. The same Sunday an hour later at church, another lady sidled up to me and quietly said in a sing-songy way, “You’re starting to show.” We both laughed. And though I felt her perception is closer to how I feel, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to hear about my bump from another person.

This past Sunday:

  1. I asked a friend a church when she’s moving. She’s a massage therapist, and she said that they’re moving very soon and close to where she works. I asked if where she works offers pregnancy massage. She said yes. Then I said I might need one of those one of these days. Her eyes got big, and she she asked if I’m pregnant. I put my hand on my tummy and told her I was four months along. She said that was really exciting but she couldn’t even tell.
  2. Reilly recounted a short conversation where another woman at church asked him if I am pregnant. He said yes, and she said she thought so even I’m little and am not showing in a big way. She then said congratulations.

Oh. You want pictures, you say? You’ve been waiting for pictures? Patience, dear Grasshoppers.

My showing is not a problem or a complaint at all; it’s only slightly jarring the first time hearing about my bump from another person, especially if you’re as vain as I am. Or as aware of how small I am. It’s pretty simple: Pregnant –> tummy grows. Not only have I accepted that fact, I’m mondo excited about it.

The first time I really felt my bump start to protrude, I showed Reilly. I stood up, pulled my shirt over the bump and turned to the side so he could see my profile. He put his hand on my belly and asked if I was poking out on purpose. Well, the baby’s growing inside me because we planned it and you were there, but if you’re asking if I’m sticking out my tummy — filling it with air or pushing it out farther than it should be — I am not. I inhaled to let my belly expand not much farther beyond its resting position just to show I wasn’t poking out “on purpose.”

Reilly then smiled his cutest smile and got the twinkliest sparkle in his eye and said, “You’re showing!” and gave me a big hug.

As I’m writing this tears fill my eyes with the thought of our combined joy and excitement.

Object Lessons and Objections

Object lessons are incredibly effective teaching tools, especially in religion.

There’s the one about nailing a board to a wall or a tree. If you put one nail in the board it can still spin around; the board is unstable. But if you put a second nail through the board, the board becomes anchored. This object lesson often taught the importance of the Book of Mormon, the second nail that goes with the Bible.

There’s the one about sticks or pencils. You can break one or two or four at the same time, but if you gather 10 or 15 pencils, they’re much harder to break altogether. This object lesson illustrates the importance of unity or contributing talents or time to a single purpose. Strength in numbers.

An especially popular object lesson is where the glove represents your spirit and your hand represents your body. Without your hand, the glove can’t do anything, but when the glove is on your hand, the glove becomes animated. The combination becomes a living soul.

I remember these object lessons from when I was a child. While they tend to be taught in cycles, my ability to remember them pretty well demonstrates their effectiveness.

Elizabeth Smart recalls an object lesson pertaining to sexual purity. About a used piece of chewing gum. She spoke about it at a conference about sexual trafficking, and the Christian Science Monitor reported the story.

On Facebook over the past few days, many people provided links with important conversations about sexual purity, abstinence education, and reassuring victims of sexual assault that they are not sinners/dirty/impure. Here are a few of the links I happened to click on:

Religion Dispatches

Blogs: Flunking Sainthood

Experimental Theology

I’ve read these articles and many of the accompanying comments. Being a victim of sexual assault, I think back to the object lesson with the chewed gum. I wonder what specific connections I made when I was a young girl. How could I have made sense of my worth when the person who had supposedly “taken away” my virtue was the same person who presented the object lesson at a family home evening nearly 30 years ago? Would I have been able to overcome my confusion without therapy?

That reminds me. Because I am May, and this is my month, I should remind you that May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. Maybe we can come up with different object lessons that help and inspire instead of harm and instill fear.

Sacrament Meeting Today

A lot goes on in a sacrament meeting in my ward. Babies cry and parents take them out of the room to calm them down. Toddlers toddle in the aisles or between pews. People play games with their smart phone. There are always a lot of announcements and someone is always in the hospital or had a baby or received a mission call. We sustain and release people to and from callings. With everything that happens, we can certainly appreciate the quiet moments during the meeting.

Today, people used the 70-minute block to bear their testimonies of the gospel. We do this every first Sunday of each month. The same things that happen every week in the congregation also happened today. Two rows in front of us, a dad took his fussy son out. I exchanged smiles with a flirty baby while watching a little boy waddle up to the podium to join his father. I caught glimpses of few people sending texts or playing games on phones and tablets.

Everything amused me and at the same time edified me. But in a distracted way. However, I also tried to focus on the meeting. I brought my French hymnbook to church and compared French hymns to their English counterparts. In an effort to learn the names of people in the ward, I wrote down the names of people who bore their testimony. The only people whose names I didn’t know were visitors. I was grateful to be making some progress.

The testimonies themselves were quite impressive. They were heartfelt and inspired. One in particular struck me in a way the others didn’t. The bishopric reminds the congregation that you can come up and bear your testimony as long as you can do it by yourself. Because of this, not many children have born their testimony, at least as long as Reilly and I have been in the ward.

A little girl and her visiting cousin came up to the stand. The cousin bore her testimony first, then the little girl. The little girl had just gotten baptized yesterday, and she expressed her feelings with such confidence and calmness. It occurred to me how virtually sinless she was, and her simple and powerful testimony heightened the spirit in the room. A palpable sweetness swelled and touched my distracted little heart, and tears flowed instantly from my eyes.

Even though this girl wasn’t the first to bear her testimony today, I’m grateful that she set the tone for my Sunday experience. I’m grateful for her example and especially her parents who strive constantly to give happiness to their family.

I hope to have this kind of influence someday.

The Culture of Heart Muscle Memory

I recently read a Facebook discussion thread about a sensitive topic. It seemed that someone disagreed with the majority opinion in that conversation. Then many people in the majority zeroed in on the lone dissenter and poked holes in his argument, very … pokedly. There were accusations and assumptions and underlying hostility all around. The thread’s originator even asked the others to back off, but no one really did. The dissenter didn’t respond. By the end of the thread–some 20 comments later–someone observed that he simply took his comments and left the discussion.

I do not know a few things about this discussion:

1. How the dissenter presented his disagreement

Well, I guess that’s the only thing. I’m probably ignoring other things, which shouldn’t matter, because if people were really willing to have a conversation with two perspectives, I would have been able to read the actual opposing opinion.

The dissenter could have been a bona fide jerk. But his withdrawal doesn’t quite indicate that.

It could be that the dissenter’s argument was particularly specious and he felt embarrassed and removed his comments, but since I only have the remaining less kind comments to use as evidence, what other conclusion am I supposed to draw other than “we will marginalize your differing opinions”?

I mean, the prevailing views in this conversation are held by people who already feel marginalized; they are in a distinct minority. They have felt op-/suppressed and question many things about the culture and traditions that helped form their character. They feel vulnerable and scared and insecure. And I guess this particular conversation felt like a safe place for them. And when they felt threatened–maybe by someone who felt just as insecure and vulnerable–instead of reaching for understanding, they pushed away.

What has changed? To oversimplify the idea, what really has changed from feeling that “If you don’t agree with the Church you can just leave” to “If you disagree with my opinion there’s no room for you in this conversation”?

Can someone help me understand?

During Spring Break

Reilly’s spring break was this past week, and I also didn’t have to work. So, we partied.

Ikea

Tuesday morning we wandered around the entire showroom at Ikea. We talked about improvements we could make to our living space. We recently renewed the lease on our apartment, so we decided to try to create cozy home feelings instead of being poised to move at any second. We purchased a few things and reorganized a bit. I admit that watching a lot of HGTV helps motivate with home projects. That can be bad and good at the same time.

Bridal Veil Falls

Wednesday morning we decided to “hike” Bridal Veil Falls. Utah County offers a ton of easy nearby trails, and the weather permitted us to go and explore the area. We didn’t climb the trail close to the falls, but we stayed on the low path and took pictures and had a picnic and watched people. We also noticed some foreign-sounding accents, which was cool and made me glad that world travelers can enjoy Utah.

More pictures if you click the photo below.

Yay, falling water!

Natural History Museum

Wednesday evening we met with Reilly’s sister at the Natural History Museum in Salt Lake City. The museum rests on the east foothills, which provides a fantastic view of the city. We started from the fifth floor and worked our way down. The building runs on solar power and the lighting doesn’t waste energy and the exhibits display lots of information about Utah’s natural history. There were displays about climate change and evolution. Sometimes Utah participates in science, which is refreshing.

Solar panels

My shoes!

Are they always smiling?

Luther

We finished the BBC series this week. Two very intense seasons so far. We started about a month ago and then we decided to watch all the episodes. The first season has six episodes, and the second season has four. It actually didn’t take too long.

BYU Museum of Art

Thursday afternoon we visited the heroes exhibit (which has now ended) at the BYU Museum of Art. Last week my friend Bridgette presented a paper at the “We Could Be Heroes” Symposium (which I’m very sad I couldn’t attend); my friend Annie had a display at that exhibit. Thanks, cool friends, for being so cool.

One we finished at the museum, we got the heck off BYU campus.

Kidding. Mostly.

Temple

Friday morning we attended a session at the Mount Timpanogos Temple in American Fork. The temple is a gorgeous building, and the crowded parking lot indicates that it’s constantly busy.

Basketball

Friday evening we met with some friends at the Orem Rec Center to play basketball, which means we shot around for a long time until we played a few rounds of lightning/elimination/speed and then shot around some more.

General Conference

What an uplifting way to end our week-long party. Except we also watched the season premiere of Mad Men. So there’s that.

Now

Since BYU doesn’t have a spring break, this past week felt like a vacation. I enjoyed spending it with Reilly.

A Scene

The husband had medium-long hair on top, blond, slicked back and resembling a porcupine.

The wife had her long blond hair up in a bun before, but now it slinked over her shoulders.

His arm was wrapped around her, his hand resting on her far shoulder.

Every few seconds he would lean in and kiss her cheek, her neck. Little pecks. If you were close enough, you could hear them.

Her hand moved in small circles on his thigh. Drifting circles. Sliding northward into notoriously dangerous territory.

Obvious signals, mutual fondness, even love. She was already carrying their child in her womb, but that is not why they didn’t take their affection further. Why the restraint when they wanted to do so much more?

He raised his hand.  In response to an earlier comment he asked, “Do you think a man has ever killed his wife while she did the dishes?”

The class backed far, far away from that one.

Yet, he kept nuzzling her neck. She kept massaging his thigh.

Sunday School was extra special this week.