Our littlest baby girl is just shy of two weeks old. I think we were all on the verge of believing she’d never come.
First, there was her transverse position at 37 weeks and a scheduled version to turn her around. A scheduled version which we didn’t need as with many answered prayers, spinning babies exercises, and trips to the chiropractor, she turned herself around. Then, I had an infection that lasted for three weeks – I finally got antibiotics after a morning in Labor and Delivery triage investigating whether or not my water had broken. Next, Grammy flew into town for the week we all hoped her birth would happen…and got stuck in a blizzard. Her flight was canceled and rebooked for three days later – three days during which I had several positive signs that labor could happen. BUT…sigh…nothing ever really did until the Monday night of 41 weeks when everything happened all at once.
She was born beautifully and safely early in morning on Tuesday, January 26th. Our only winter and middle-of-the-night baby. The labor was long, but our support was plentiful, and even with choosing a hospital birth again for several reasons unique to this pregnancy, her transition to this world was sacred.
We’ve spent the last 1.5 weeks with family and comfort food and the sweetest pink bundle you could imagine nestled in our arms.
How quickly one forgets the heavenly nature of a newborn.
We named her Emmeline Jo.
10 lbs 13 ounces
2:52 in the morning
And as many people have said, she looks just like she belongs.
Have you ever been asked it? That predictable get to know you game question?
What is your favorite place to visit? Where is your dream destination?
My answer is ever the same. Of all the dream places in the world I could visit, this weekend we went to mine.
My grandparents’ farm; the old home place: Athlone. I love it there – and now, so do my children. One of the greatest joys is seeing them run through fields where I grew up hunting for dinosaur bones and digging up quartz rocks.
They recognize the magic there, too.
It was a quick Christmas visit. Only an overnight. And at 36 weeks pregnant everything makes me exhausted. But that place, as always, restores my soul. Along with the people that illuminate its halls.
I literally feel like these weeks are taking my breath away. They are flying SO FAST. Girls are growing, the family’s changing, Christmas is THIS WEEK, and then there’s little sister right on the heels of all the celebrations.
We are settling back in at home and getting ready.
If I’m not back before, Merry Christmas, dear ones!
As colloquial as it sounds, time is flying. And so: we’ve been swept up in busyness. There is no end in sight. Unless you count January. And then there’s a baby. I hope life will slow down then, but still, a baby. Which, while extraordinary, brings a whole new dimension of tired and busy and overwhelmed.
This baby. I barely have any pictures. She hardly gets a thought. I notice her at night when I heave my huge belly into bed and she dances a midnight waltz.
I’ve also hit full nesting stride. I think part of it is Thanksgiving and then Drew’s wedding (next week!) and then Christmas. There’s a lot to do during this season anyway, and then there’s all the stuff that hormones dictate must be done.
Like finding a wonderful steal on a long, low dresser at a thrift shop in our neighborhood. The thrift shops down the main road know me now. Combing through them for a foot stool for our rocking chair. Scoring a giant desk (perfect for girls to do their school work) for free on the side of the road. And consolidating all the toys from everywhere into the family room and playroom.
For a fourth baby where we don’t need much, it suddenly feels like we need a lot.
I’m setting up my nest in the family room. Come January, I don’t plan on leaving. I’ll have my rocking chair, the baby swing, the pack and play, every favorite book, and all the puzzles.
And our sweet fourth baby.
By the way, she still doesn’t have a name. We have a list of about twenty. I guess our plan is to spend a few days getting to know her when she comes before settling on one.
One thing we DO know: she’s loved abundantly for all that she doesn’t have a name. And in the meantime, I’ll be nesting and searching and cooking and packing and decorating and making room – and trying desperately to prioritize all the needs (as much as pregnant lady can anyway!).
It was April and pink dogwood blossoms. My favorite new leaf green frosting the trees we hadn’t seen in years. It was new life and promise and tender and tears and everything starting over. A place with an upstairs and back yard for exploring and a school we could walk to. It was a shaky exhale from the last three years. We made it through the loneliness. We survived this wilderness. We came out different, but we’re together.
Here we are.
And two weeks settled, we drove to Greenville, SC for my college roommate’s wedding. A day we’d prayed for and over since those college years. I’ll admit – that drive down there was a hard one. Kyle and I had some painful things to discuss and a huge absence of time in which to do it. But that drive gave us seven hours trapped together.
We talked the whole time.
We shared some real and honest feelings.
We took a hard look at the years coming – this year of transition in particular where we know nothing. Trusting God for every “little apocalypse” because transitioning out of the Navy, moving again, and having a baby in the same six months just goes beyond what we can handle or prepare for right now on our own.
There were times in that conversation when I was shocked and surprised. How can he possibly think that way? How can he possibly FEEL THAT?
And then. Who is this person?
And then. How can we continue on from here? What does it all mean for us?
And then. How could I feel so differently?
And then. Are there two more different people on all this planet?
And then. Well, I’ve got no choice. He’s my person. Different or not. Like the way he feels right now or not. There will be a resolution. Give grace. Give time. Let it all sink in. Decide to show up, stay in.
Hold his hand. Catch his eye. Try again.
Somewhere in the move and the daily rearing of children and the flying and the tying-up-of-loose ends, we stepped off the same footing, out-of-sync and out-of-practice. We just hadn’t had time for the things of that conversation. It was a reconnection, but also a redefining.
I forgot what it meant to be a wife. To love a husband. Just a husband. Not the other parent to these little people, not the other half responsible for the chores, not my partner in this life.
But a husband.
And then there was Jillian’s wedding to Derek. The weekend cloaked in joy for so many reasons, but my favorite being a palpable current of anticipation, of the fulfilling of a long-awaited promise, of an aching to begin a new life. Their faith in Jesus and their love for each other was easy for anyone to see and sense and hear and feel – and it helped us remember why we couldn’t wait to get married.
Through lashes glinting with tears, standing in a field of knee-high grass, and a sunset that rivaled thousands, I witnessed Jillian and Derek’s vows. Listening to their soft voices, thinking of Kyle, remembering.
Before there were 6 moves and four babies and jobs and deployments and grad school and uncertainties, there was me, there was Kyle, there was our faith in Jesus and our untried, youthful, pure, sweet hope for the future. There was a longing for children and our own family, together. There was a confidence that we knew the answers, knew each other, and that life held nothing we couldn’t withstand together.
We were eager. We were 22 and terribly young.
I couldn’t wait to hold his hand. Catch his eye. Try for the very first time.
It was a September morning, a rainy, tropical depression, Bible Study Wednesday. It started like most of ours do. The alarm clock buzzed; he texted me from downstairs saying the shower was empty and I could get in. I crept down from our room, one hand holding the wall for steadiness without my glasses and the other bracing my bulging belly. The smell of coffee greeted me at the bottom. He was already unloading the dishwasher; two lunch boxes lay open on the counter, ready for me to fill them up.
“Happy Anniversary,” he whispered in the darkness, reaching out to hug me.
“You too,” I answered, not one to speak much in the morning.
Can you believe?
9 years. 9 years!?
Soon after, we heard their little feet. They needed clothes. They forgot to lay them out last night and where was the clean laundry basket? They were hungry and wanted juice and it wasn’t yet 7:00. He laughed and kissed them before quietly ducking out the front door, not wanting to wake up the third baby.
A usual morning.
That’s the thing about 9 years. There are still surprises – like that drive in April – when we have to put in the work of drawing back in together and reevaluating growth. Making sure we stay in-sync and in-the-practice of loving.
But there’s also a comforting routine. One we don’t even realize most of the time. He does the laundry and I do the dishes (unless I’m pregnant and then he does A LOT). He gets them breakfast while I pack their lunches. He does sweeping and I do the organizing. When I roll onto my left side at night, he turns that way, too. He looks at me – kids and chaos everywhere – and we share unspoken sentences. He knows I need a lot of time to process my feelings and I know that he’s happiest when he’s flying an airplane and running cross-country trails and spending time at home, my happy homebody.
I love how sensitively he loves his daughters and that he’s proud of them, honestly treasuring them, especially when strangers stop us to pass along pity and are you going to try for a boy? I love how steady he is – he makes it easy for me to count on him, to trust him. I love how he always gives his best whether that job is training a student pilot or helping the girls clean toothpaste from inside the sink. I love his musical passion and his clear voice singing to us. I love how he’s become an avid reader – just to share a passion of mine. And how we look forward to curling up in the bed at the end of the day and getting lost in the books we’re reading. I love his practical side – the balance to my romantic. And how he usually figures out a way to make my dreams take root in the real world. I love his friendly personality and how he makes such quick connections to other people. While I’m still analyzing every comment, as introverts do, he’s already laughing and joking, perfectly at ease. He knows everything about sports and current events and trivia. He’s a geographical chameleon.
I love his grasp on grace, usually the first to seek forgiveness even when it’s my fault. And his love for church. His soft-spoken evangelism.
I love seeing him in our oldest’s cheekbones and our youngest’s dimpled chin, her silky blond hair, her blue eyes, tan skin, and blood type.
9 years. I love him in the surprise and I love him in the mundane. We’re 31 now and no longer terribly young. (Maybe just young). We’ve experienced hard things (hopefully the hardest) and we’ve experienced joyful things (hopefully not the most joyful yet).
I’m excited to hold his hand. Catch his eye. Try again.
Happy 9 years, Kyle!
So much life happening here.
Our home is fairly bursting with it.
What with trips and school starting and dance lessons and a new Bible study and crockpot suppers and crimson-tinged leaves that float to the ground.
The ferocious pace of it all takes my breath away sometimes, but still the process is good.
We do things to slow it down the best we can – like the nature walk where we scanned the lake surface for turtles and bakery dates just Blythe and me – but life and time keep moving.
And we keep growing, attempting to catch up.
Right before school started, we went to the beach. We’d been to see everyone and that trip was just for us. To be us away; it was loveliness personified.
Just like when we were children, I taught the girls to run for the sand the moment our wheels spun to a stop. We cried HELLO to the ocean, waves crashing, the sun beginning to set. We twined our toes in the warm-baked sand and threw our arms open to the salt spray. Most of our time was spent in the water, but there were also seashell-hunting walks and arms-tucked-in-mine walks and walks that broke into run walks. We fed the girls spaghetti for dinner and then snuck away for take out, dining on shrimp with the moon over the water. There was one with a fever who napped in my lap on the beach, ducky-towel draping her red curls and I remembered the last time we were there. She was the baby, the 3 month-old, the one I nursed on the shore with a fine settling of sand on her cheeks.
As this life barrels on, I miss that baby.
We’ve had potty-training. How can Blythe be that old? Oh, to see that self-satisfied grin when she pulls up her big-girl undies and the way her eyes sparkle. There’s only the big girl bed left to assemble and she’ll truly be our grown-up toddler.
There was Margaret’s birthday and a celebration with friends.
There was our very first pumpkin sighting at the grocery store!
Then, we saw the end of summer last weekend with our last trip to the pool. Margaret swam freestyle down the length of the pool and back. My mouth dropped a little bit watching her, but I shouldn’t be surprised as she’s also the girl who taught herself to swim from watching the 2012 olympics.
Alice Virginia leaps off the diving board and dolphin kicks to the side all by herself – she loves her googles and credits them for her swimming success. She jumps to us, hurling herself from the side, urging us to stand back, keep going back. And then she pretends to be a mermaid through the water.
Blythe kicks with her floaties on.
Next summer, we say, there will be another one. Can you even imagine? A five month-old. A sit in our laps because she can’t sit on her own one. In the shade, bow tied under her rolly-chin to keep her hat on one.
A girl one. A fourth sister. Due in January.
She’s our biggest news – the biggest source of new life yet.
We’re bursting with it.
We’re embedded in August. Our little band has been traveling to Michigan and Washington D.C. and my grandmother’s farm 3 hours west. We’ve been gone much of August, leaving the clean clothes tucked away in our suitcases and a stack of books, a stash of hairbows, the if-we-ever-need-it inhaler lumped together in a bag ready to walk out of the door. The oldest here will be six in a few days, her birthday marking summer and the-end-of-summer. And I don’t know how six summers are possible.
The days we’re home are lazy ones. The girls wake up early, but they bring me coffee in bed, making the earliness palatable. Blythe, the only one like me in this matter, grumpy and slow-to-wake, sleeps later – 8 or 8:30. We go to the pool in the afternoon or bike riding, red-cheeks and the smell of sunscreen. We’ve done day trips on Kyle’s three weeks of leave and now we’re trying to squeeze in the doctor’s appointments before school. School starts late here – after Labor Day, safely in September and I find myself longing for Fall. Both the temperatures (although it’s been noticeably cooler in the mornings) and the routine…and the color of leaves we haven’t seen in years.
They’ve invented games to play this summer; they’ve never been one for toys. One game they call “Outer Banks” from the day in June when we visited my friend, Leslie’s, family there. Outer Banks involves putting on swim suits and pretending to swim on the rugs scattered across the hard wood floors. Another one was “camping,” replicating our camping trip with Todd and Erika’s family over Memorial Day weekend. Now, they play “hotel,” pretending our house to be one and keeping their clothes packed in play bag suitcases and referring to their bedroom as a hotel room. And the latest is a train ride – from the one I took home from Washington D.C. last weekend – lining everyone up on chairs outside and asking us to be the conductors. They invent places in our back yard for the train to take them, the gardens and the lake and the nature trail. Always, they bring their babies and Douglass and bags packed with all sorts of treasures.
Their train ride deposits them in a mystical land they’ve christened, “The Sky Trout.”
They love to play at The Sky Trout.
I love their freedom, their imagination.
I try to ignore the random collection of toys and non-toys that lives on the floor because they won’t always want to play Outer Banks, camping, hotel, and train ride.
They won’t always want me to be the conductor.
Their tastes will grow up, their imaginations tamed, and I’ll long for Augusts like these. Where our biggest complications are the swim suits lost in book bags, a baby doll forgotten in the rain, a conductor who can’t take the tickets because they’re making dinner.
The rest of the world is starting school this week, but here, we’re embedded in August.
And it’s a good, good night for traveling to The Sky Trout hotel.