Faith, Miracle and Motherhood

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A picture from 2014 that captures all the joy in my heart.
This Mother’s Day I feel settled into motherhood, not so new anymore, not so green. There is a rhythm and a dance and a comfortability in knowing. There is the sacred tapestry of our finely-woven bond of cells and blood and breastmilk. There is self-trust. And there is the powerful feeling that my baby-turned-toddler is now fully of this world. Throughout my pregnancy and during those first fragile days, weeks, months, it felt like there was always the small chance of losing her. Nothing hinted at vulnerability, other than pregnancy and infancy being inherently vulnerable. I’d had an uneventful pregnancy, a natural birth, and a baby deemed “perfect” by the pediatrician. But it took so long for the miracle of her to arrive, an almost 3-year journey to become pregnant, that I could never quite believe it was finally happening. This blessing, this good fortune, this miracle of miracles.

The odds weren’t against us, but we were approaching our our mid-thirties, biologically short on time. Everything was normal and the eventual diagnosis was “unexplained infertility.” A mystery I was determined to solve. Life was suspended during those years of not-knowing. All energy was focused on one intent. I changed my diet to gluten-free, caffeine-free, alcohol-free, sugar-free. Mixed maca root and water like a magic potion. Consulted with doctors, acupuncturists, clairvoyants, priests. Nailed a wishbone above our bedroom door. Prayed Catholic novenas, Lakota blessings. Meditated. Built cairns on the shore. Asked of the sea, of the air, of the trees.

It was two years before we lucked upon health insurance that included fertility coverage, which would end up being exhausted on months and months of tests. Tests that ultimately provided very few answers. The endocrinologist lost interest in us as our coverage bled out, so eventually we decided to take the last bit of money to a new doctor. He seemed friendly and more hopeful. When journeying through a test of faith, the act of hope-seeking is repeated again and again. Omens arrive as great blue herons, roadside signs, changing weather. You must renew and renew and renew faith. When it is written on your heart, etched in your bones, you do not give up.

The new doctor began by running blood work, the same blood work I’d had seven months before with normal results. It was an easy hurdle the first time and would be again this time. But when the call came, he said the numbers had changed. The blood work indicated almost no ovarian reserve; suddenly, supposedly I had only a few eggs left. Even if we’d had additional fertility coverage, I would not be an ideal candidate for IVF. A few days later came Mother’s Day. I focused on my mom, on gratitude. But I carried a heavy heart. My cycle was a few days late, but after receiving the devastating blood work results, it seemed past foolishness to even hope. I did not bother with a pregnancy test for another two days.

It was Tuesday morning after Mother’s Day 2013. Chris was in the shower. We were getting ready for work, a regular day. I ripped open the foil wrapper on what felt like the millionth pregnancy test. I started breakfast while I waited for the result. Hope, that irrepressible little drummer, thumped in my heart. I returned to the bathroom to check the test, not wanting to look. I wanted to suspend that tiny hopeful feeling, hold it a little longer. When I picked up the test and found a plus sign, I screamed and my heart exploded and I jumped around like a maniac on a pogo stick. Elation will send a body straight into the air. Chris pulled back the shower curtain with a big beaming smile and said, “I knew it.”

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Spending a rainy Thursday among the dinosaurs.

(Post 110 of 365)

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Believer: 87/365

I attended Catholic school from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Even my college was Catholic-affiliated.

Today I think of Catholicism as an old family tradition.

If asked whether I identify with a particular religion or philosophy, I would say I’m a secular humanist. A secular humanist who believes in miracles.

Or maybe I am closer to Lakota, believer in the Great Spirit that animates us all. Tree and wind, earth and sun, bird and buffalo.

When I was waiting for my daughter, I called on every one of them: ancestors, saints, trees, wind, water, animals, poetry, song.

The Joy of Age 2: 59/365

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I love age 2. Exactly where we are right now at 26 months old.

I love my daughter’s laugh, when her heart-shaped mouth blooms into a smile and her head tilts back and she laughs so hard I can see every bright white tooth, rosy apple cheeks pushing her eyes into happy crescents.

I love that she’s able to repeat any word I say: triceratops, guacamole, spectacular. I am in awe of the way she strings words into sentences. I love our conversations.

I love watching her deftly manage a spoon. The way she requests cinnamon for her yogurt. The way she calls it yogurk.

I love watching her climb and navigate obstacles. I love watching her play. Scooping up dirt with her shovel and dumping it into the bucket, and then dumping the bucket out and beginning again. Discovering an old board in the yard that bounces, and balancing her way across.

I love the way she cajoles and charms, especially for breastmilk. She knows that things are changing and I’m not always up for nursing, so she smiles irresistibly and makes an “L” shape with her finger and thumb and says, “Lil bit more milka.”

I love to listen to her count and recite the alphabet.

I love the way she will sometimes call to us the way she hears us call to each other, “Sarah! Chris!” and “hey, babe!”

I love the way she cares for her cats and notices the birds, squirrels, deer, and turkeys. The way she says, “shhh” when we walk by the spot in the woods where the owl lives. The way she shouts, “bald eagle!” The way she collects stones and puts them in her pockets.

I love the way she pretends her doll is crying, and then holds the doll to her chest and sways back and forth humming, hmmm hmmm hmmm. I love the way she makes up stories with her dollhouse people just like I did.

I love that she loves dinosaurs and knows nothing of princesses.

I love watching her delight in a St. Patrick’s Day parade. Waving, clapping, running across the green, making friends, holding hands, dancing.

I love the process of learning to sing. The way she asks me to pick her up, hold her hand like a dance partner and twirl around. Then commands, “Sing Down by the Bay, mama!” The way she sometimes repeats the lines and other times sings along with me. The way she tests her voice as it moves from speech to song. It’s one of those unanticipated miracles you stumble upon during parenthood.

There are so many of these little miracles unfolding every instant. I wish I could cast a net big enough to catch them all. I’m sure I will wake up tomorrow with a fresh list.