Sunday was pretty uneventful. With the previous week bursting at the seems with need-to-dos, and want-to-dos, even Saturday night had us hitting both his school prom and mine (chaperones, of course), we decided to utilize the Lord’s day of rest for ourselves. Rest, for someone who is restless and stir-crazy, does not come easily or naturally.
Saturday night I fell asleep on the couch. Clearly, not a shocker for those of you who know me, this is my reoccurring ritual. The routine goes, that once Jason is ready, he wakes me up and in my comatose, Linus-from-Peanuts-state, I grab my blanket and I drag it and myself up the stairs following the procession of sleepy puppies. Quiggles, always takes the lead. On a good night, Aussie and Quigley will both get into proper position at the foot of the bed. On a bad night, one, the other, or both steal my pillow and I whimper, literally whimper, until Jason comes to my rescue and moves the furchildren. I’m dramatic. We all know this. Add lack of sleep, I become Oscar worthy.
Somehow last Saturday night was disrupted. Around 5 am, my body’s natural alarm clock sounded and I awoke to the “ting, ting, ting” of soft rain falling on our tin roof. Instead of rolling over and seeing the three loves of my life, I saw Jason’s spot on the sectional. I checked my FitBit again. Yep, 5:08 am. No puppies in sight. “Traitors,” I think to myself. I envisioned them curled up on my memory foam pillow under my all-season down comforter without a care in their puppy world.
In Jason’s defense, when he asked me to come to bed, I convincingly responded, “I’ll be up in a minute.” Of course, this was his version of the story, but this clearly sounds like me, sleep talking, sleep negotiating.
Regardless, I slept well. I got up and made my way to the Keurig and hit ON. “Clip, Clap, Clip, Clap” came Quigley’s quick feet down the stairs. Very much a morning puppy like his mother. He’s always ready for the day’s adventure. “Stomp . . . Stomp . . . Stomp,” Aussie begrudgingly followed with her slow, methodically taken steps, only appearing in case she misses out on something important like a good morning T- R- E- A- T.
I grab my coffee, splash in some coconut milk, and head to my spot in the office. My office is the formal sitting room right off the entrance. I am clearly not a decorator as it sits scattered with novels and nonfiction texts on the floor in one corner. Two antique club chairs in the middle with nothing visually to anchor them, both desperately needing re-upholstery. Lastly, my self painted yellow desk takes center stage loaded down with yearbooks on both sides, completed devotionals, journals, and planners scattered about on top; all open, all written in, all loaded down with entangled thoughts. Instead of an office chair, my spot (as Sheldon would claim) is an extra piece of our beloved sectional. Yep, the one I just slept on. I love it. It’s perfect. I could write a Petrarchan sonnet about how much I love it. All fourteen lines would reaffirm that this couch was in fact, made for this family. Unfortunately, or well fortunately, when we ordered our furniture mid home reconstruction, we overestimated the space for our sectional and now have an additional piece. Having moved it to my office to get it out of the way, it quickly became my writing go-to. My spot.
It’s wide enough for me to slouch on, comfy enough for long hours of reading, writing, or editing. I usually drag a club chair close to prop my feet up on between me and the desk as I’m doing right now.
“Ok, God. It’s 5ish in the morning. I have my coffee. I’m in my spot. Speak to me,” I said out loud to God last Sunday morning. Again, this is Sunday morning. Yes, our day of rest. Yes, I “slept in” till 5:08 am.
But I just sat there, in my spot, with my feet propped up, wrapped up in my Linus blankey, holding my coffee, waiting on my God to speak. Here lately, God has chosen to speak to me through other people’s words. Or maybe I just listen more attentively to a voice that is similar to my own. I have a stack of nonfiction texts that I need and desire to conquer but starting a new one this morning doesn’t feel right. Instead, I just sit. No lights. No sounds. Just the “tink, tink, tink” of the rain. I can hear Jason’s audible breathing up above me echoing from our undecorated, Benjamin Moore painted walls.
It’s just 24 days until my 33rd birthday. And if I were still 13 year-old me, I would be super pumped and probably have a paper countdown on my bedroom door but 32 year-old me, not so much. Not sure when this transition from elation to trepidation took place, but since that time, birthdays haven’t felt like anticipatory milestones, they instead feel like checkpoints. Like judgments. Like letdowns.
I love to listen to my friends when they talk about their toughest birthday, toughest age to turn. For my one friend, it was 27. She could no longer say she was in her early twenties, or even her mid twenties. It was official; she had crossed the threshold of (dare we say) late twenties. For another, it was the more obvious 29. Just one year till the dreaded thirties so what was she going to do with her last year of her 20s? For me, I thought it was the aforementioned big THREE ZERO. If you were to ask my students that year, they would all agree. I was a little more than dramatic about my “coming of age.” However, they showered me with love and affection so what I had predestined to be my most dreaded birthday resulted in one of my absolute bests, concluding with a week night date night with my one and only. It was a simple but perfect day.
So, that brings me to this year, 33. When my mom was 33, she had two children, an 8-year-old, and a 3-year-old. When my Granny Simmons was 33, she had four children. That amazing woman continued to give birth until she was 42 resulting in six youngsters, beginning with her first at age 20 and my dad, number five came at age 40 after an 11 year birth sabbatical. I guess dad was a blessing of surprise. But not wanting him to be alone at the bottom of the birth order, Granny added one more to the mix, my Uncle Ray.
I know that comparison is the thief of joy, yet I can’t help but compare. I again look at my dearest of friends and they all have children, well 99.9% of them. Some have one. Some two. Some three. Some twins, some are in pre-school, some in elementary school. Some have middle schoolers (Bless them!) and one has a son that will graduate this year and will head off to college. Some dear friends have beautifully round bellies, percolating life inside of them until that moment when that life is ready to make its debut. And then . . . there’s me.
I think what also seals the deal is that May really is a defining month for me. Not just because it’s my birthday, my anniversary (coming up on 10 amazing years! Woo Woop!), or a month so jam-packed with professional craziness that it makes even Jason’s head spin; finals, banquets, yearbook day, graduation, etc. For the past several years, May sets the cutoff for motherhood, at least for me. If I’m not pregnant by May, then I know I won’t give birth that year. With just seven months lefts in the calendar year (really eight since May is still fresh and new), even if I were to get pregnant, 2017 would still be another year without a birth, another year without all the feels and experiences of motherhood. 2017 began just like all the years before it; excitement, expectations, and of course anticipations. But right now looking eye to eye with May, I pretty much can already see how this year is going to end, unfortunately not with a birth.
And to add insult to injury, May also celebrates Mother’s Day. Probably a day where I feel the loneliest, the most awkward, the most out of place. Having discussed this with a dear friend who is also in my unfortunate fertilely-challenged shoes, we both feel heartsick this day; we both often avoid this day, especially at church. Even though she is a fearless and compassionate foster mom of two, she doesn’t know what it is like to hold life inside her body. To look down and see the round crest of squirming and wiggling growth. To hear a heartbeat that also makes your own skip with elation.
Last Mother’s Day, I was just seven weeks out from my greatest loss. Seven weeks numb. To soften the blow, Jason took me out of town for my birthday weekend. I needed to get away but in reality I was running away. Literally, I would have run all the way to the Highlands if he had let me. You see last Mother’s Day was also my birthday. Talk about irony. I told you God had a sense of humor.
While Jason slept peacefully in our dog friendly bed and breakfast in Highlands, North Carolina, I curled up on the couch in the living room adjoined and allowed God’s presence to wash over me. I was reading Do Over by Jon Acuff, hoping to gain some clarity on a career year with also more than a few pitfalls on my behalf when God poked His head into my room. In the midst of reading motivational career advice, tears sprung up out of a cavernous well that I had been so cognizant to keep covered. What began as deep, hot tears of sorrow, tears of pity, frustration, and anger, slowly turned to tears of joy, of gratitude, and thanksgiving for those precious weeks of young motherhood.
Out of that dark room, God brought to light a memory. One that over a year later I keep recalling and clinging to for hope. Sometime last February, I was driving to work headed south on 365 and my normally lively Mini with “The Pulse” satellite station blaring was uncharacteristically quiet. With my super secret pregnancy still warm in my heart, I chose to spend that morning talking to my baby and to my God. Out of the stillness of that morning I began thanking God for this long awaited miracle and then I spoke out loud words that to this day, I’m still shocked I uttered. “Father God, even if this life inside me doesn’t last, I am so profoundly grateful to finally be a mother. I am so grateful for this feeling of life at this moment.”
In hindsight, what kind of mother speaks that kind of scary possibility into existence? What kind of dooms day prepper had I become that I would verbally anticipate a tragic outcome? It has taken months, a year even, but God has reminded me over and over again about that gratitude. Even in the midst of my greatest joy, God, my Father, was preparing my heart for His will. He was preparing my heart for the reality that the newly created life wasn’t made for this world. It was made for His. I had been praying so hard for so long for God to finally allow me to be a mother and in His infinite mercy, He allowed that desire to come true. God is good!
“Archy, archy, archy,” I’m awoken by Pooperson’s cranky old lady barks. I tap my FitBit to see what time it is. The glowing screen displays that its 3:34 am. Yep, it’s Pooperson’s bewitching hour. Even on Saturday, she’s consistent. Pooperson is either angry at the birds roosting in the holly tree outside our window, there’s a bug somewhere in her proximity, or she can see the deer grazing in our side yard. Regardless, I get up before Quiggles starts his low, trying-oh-so-hard-to-be-manly chest growl.
I walk down my hickory staircase. Two fuzzy blurs pass me before I reach the landing. I open the back door and whoosh, they’re gone. I’m sure Pooperson will do a perimeter check with Quiggles right on her heels. I drag myself back upstairs, successfully navigating around the bench at the foot of the bed following the narrow carpet between my side and the fireplace.
I plop down in bed, grabbing my down comforter to snuggle against my chest. I can hear Jason’s rhythmic breathing somewhere over to my right. “How does he do that? How does he always sleep through Pooperson’s tantrums?” I think.
Just one more hour before my alarm goes off. “I’m committed to this. I’ve verbalized this. People will know if I don’t do this. Therefore, I will do this!” my mantras begin. Today, I’m going to run. Yep, today will be my first half marathon since the catastrophe known as the Savannah Rock and Roll Marathon of 2015. Let’s just say the city of Savannah was ill equipped to handle 40,000 runners and a November heat wave. But before I even have time to relive that race or all the months of long distance training that led to that disappointment, my alarm began echoing on my bathroom vanity.
Next thing I know, I’m back out of bed, turning off my cell phone alarm. Outside, I can still hear Aussie and Quigley (yes, these are their birth names but their nicknames are many) outside giving whatever poor creature hell with Aussie’s consistent “archy, archy” followed by Quiggles’s low chest tuffs.
Back downstairs I trudge for my much needed injection of caffeine. I let the kids back in. Quigley pauses to let me wipe the mud off of his paws. Aussie’s a little more dramatic with her entrance, trying so hard to tell me how she just saved our home from some natural intruders, probably a fuzzy family of fluffy bunnies.
I wait for my first cup of coffee to percolate while the internal battle of wits begins. “Natalie, you will do this!” the encouraging corner of my mind starts off, trying to beat the rest of my mind to the punch line. “But what if you can’t?” Negative Nancy interjects. (Don’t you just hate her, your internal Negative Nancy?) “What if you don’t finish?” “What if you can’t finish?” Even worse, “What if you slow down and are forced to (gasp) walk it?” Oh the horror! (Now you can see where Pooperson gets her flair for the dramatics.)
The Big Bang Theory, Series 03 Episode 23 – The Lunar Excitation