Let’s Be Honest

Processed with VSCOcam with m3 presetTo call these “weekly” pregnancy updates would be a crime. So I’ll spare you the apologies and cut to the chase…

Pregnancy Update! Weeks 21 – 24!

Baby: Our little girl was the size of a banana when we last met, and now she’s the size of a rutabaga! Yes, we’re all wondering what in the world that is and how many inches long/wide, etc. it is. Wait, wait, I just looked it up – it’s a cross between a cabbage and a turnip, so try to imagine that. In any case, Baby Charlotte is getting bigger as the fruit/vegetable size references get vaguer. She’s about 13.5″ head to toe now and weighs around 1.5lb. A much more meaningful assessment of her growth (for me, anyway) is that I can’t comfortably lean over because *something* is in the way. She kicks like crazy and I love knowing her rhythms of being awake and asleep. At night, when I lie down, I can feel around and find where in my belly she is and she’ll begin her aerobics as soon as we start poking her. She’s begun to respond to any pressure placed on my belly, whether it’s the seatbelt, my hand, or Zack’s head, she’ll retaliate with a kick or a punch. Basically at this stage in development she’s just filling out and (hopefully) getting some hair. Over the next month she’ll get a bit fatter and her senses will become more developed as she starts to open her eyes, practice breathing, and can hear loud noises. I have yet to feel hiccups, but I’m assured that this is coming.

Belly: The bump just gets bigger. I think the weirdest thing about all of pregnancy – and I’m sure some may dispute me on this, there’s just so much weirdness – is having an organ that grows exponentially bigger over the course of nine months. My uterus started off the size of a pear, and now it’s roughly as big as a soccer ball. Having an internal organ balloon like that is just crazy – and uncomfortable. It’s absolutely remarkable how a woman’s body completely changes to accommodate this new life. I love my pregnant body – I love my belly and feeling my baby respond to my touch. It’s surreal to look in the mirror and see the bump reflected there. For so long I dreamed about this time and I remember taking that pregnancy test and trying to imagine what I would look like and how it would feel to have a baby bump. It feels pretty great ;) Also, did I mention I officially have an outie now? As my body changes so much and acquires, ahem, new features (stretch marks, anyone?) I have had some worries about what I will look like postpartum – how different it will be. But my husband is a wonderful man. He assures me each day of how he loves my big belly and our baby, and I love looking up to catch him staring at me with such a wonder and love in his gaze. He is just as in awe of the masterful design of motherhood as I am.

For some reference points, let’s look back to my very first every pregnancy picture and compare to one at about eighteen weeks, and one from today (ignore the extremely poor photo/staging quality):

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 My Favorite Things: Most of my favorite things aren’t exactly baby-related lately *guilty grin*. Sorry baby, but Mama’s gotta get her house in order! I’ve been Craigslisting up a storm and trying to pull our home together and have some semblance of order and comfort before Charlotte arrives. Here’s a list of faves: my Petunia Pickle Bottom diaper bag (!), my beautiful new (to me) dining set, adorable baby clothes being gifted left and right, maternity tank tops, our humidifier, red raspberry leaf iced tea, iced coffee (yes, I know it’s winter, I just can’t give up my iced drinks), the model babies my midwife brought to my last appointment, Sweet things – yes, lots of sweet things sound yummy. I haven’t really had many cravings, per se, so I’m thankful to be able to assuage these sugary desires with things I make myself. I love Chocolate Covered Katie for delicious, easy, healthy desserts. Oh, and nesting! Oh, nesting. I have been so focused on this absolute need to feather our nest. I even caught myself neurotically planning how I would fix this dilapidated house I passed while driving the other day. *first, clean the yard – plant some rosebushes, new coat of paint to those shutters, re-shingle the roof, bright yellow door* … um, no.

My Not-Favorite Things: This crazy cold-flu thing going around! Seriously, Zack and I were sick on and off for the entire month of January. Some things that helped, to all those still up against the beast: lemon water, hot-water-lemon-honey mix, a humidifier (thanks for the tip, Kellyn!), garlic, spicy food, which allowed us to breathe again, and rest. And Battlestar Galactica, which falls under the rest category, of course. That said, I’ve become even more aware of how sickness brings about the need to pause and the opportunity to think about why there is illness and discomfort in the world. So we are thankful for the month-long callback to note the effects of sin in the world and remember the great mercy of our God :)

On My Mind: It’s really starting to sink in that we are having a daughter. A little girl. I’ve been reading Bringing Up Girls by James Dobson, and the precious nature of this child entrusted to us has become all the more real. Girlhood is a special, hallowed thing. I’ve written about this before in reviewing Anne of Green Gables and the beauty of girlhood. It’s all the more meaningful to me that our daughter’s name attests to that beauty. Charlotte means feminine and Avonlea is home to Green Gables and the little orphan girl. I feel this need already to protect Charlotte’s girlhood and to safeguard it to be a time of beauty and growth that will provide a steadfast foundation for the whole of her life to bloom and grow out of. By God’s grace I hope to mother this little girl in a way that empowers her to embrace her talents and serve the Lord. It can be the most daunting task to look at and realize that so much of a child’s physical, psychological, and spiritual wellbeing is dependent upon her parents, but the Lord’s grace is sufficient and only by that grace can I do any semblance of good in my daughter’s life. So I rest in him.

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18, 19, and 20 Weeks (or, I’m a Terrible Blogger)

I had a feeling this might happen.

But I do have a good excuse for missing three weeks of “weekly” pregnancy posts! The holidays, for one. Vacationing for the holidays in Maryland with my family, for another. And then, of course, the best excuse, which any mother-to-be has inalienable rights to for the entire duration of her gestation: I’m creating life at this moment. So, without further procrastination,

Pregnancy! Weeks 18, 19, and 20!

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Baby: was the size of a bell pepper, sweet potato, and banana respectively, and currently weighs around 10.5 oz. From this week on babies are measured from head to toe, as they aren’t so curled up all the time, as before. We learned at 17 weeks and 5 days that our little baby is a girl! I was stunned by the news. I was thoroughly convinced baby was a boy. How are these convictions created? Pure gut-feeling, baby. Not a single ounce of logic went into that belief. It drove Zack crazy. I think we’re both happier now that we know for sure one way or the other. And a girl!! The dresses, the bows, the tiny pony-tails! We are so, so excited. Baby has officially been named Charlotte Avonlea. Charlotte means “feminine,” or “strong woman,” and Avonlea is where Anne of Green Gables lives, as do my childhood hopes and dreams. Had baby been a boy we’d have named him Edmund Alexander. Zack was secretly hoping for boy-girl twins so we could use both names, but I’m cool with just one baby to baptize me into motherhood.
Belly: the growth slowed down there for a week or two, and I don’t feel quite as bloated-balloony-“I’m-going-to-explode” anymore, which is great. But we’re back to itching again as Charlotte goes through another growth spurt. On the upside, I discovered I’ve gained 10 lbs, which is exactly what I was hoping for at 20 weeks in! Apparently a pound a week from here on out is the norm.
My Favorite Things: maternity clothes!!! How did I not ever want to buy you? You are so comfy and make me look more like a gestating woman and less like a homeless man. Seriously though, I love the few maternity outfits I bought. Macy’s Motherhood section is great, as is H&M’s Mama brand. I especially love the maternity jeans I bought there, which don’t have that hideous front-pouch thing that most maternity jeans have, and actually fit at the hips and make me look normal. I love prenatal massages too! Zack was so sweet and bought me one for Christmas and it was the best thing ever. I also love my return to a normal diet and energy level. I didn’t believe it would ever happen, but lo and behold one day I awoke and felt not-so-pregnant. It is marvelous. I’m back to eating lots of beautiful salads, drinking my veggie smoothies, enjoying cooking, and not feeling like I’m going to collapse every five seconds. I even went to the gym for the first time in three months!
My Not-Favorite Things: remember that gym thing? Yeah, now I can’t walk. Turns out I was way more out of shape than I thought. An epsom salt/essential oil bath is in the near future for me. It is amazing how pregnancy completely changes your body. It’s humbling and incredible and I am thankful for it. Another thing on my not-favorite list: being sick. Which I am. Sore throats are the bane of all existence.
Movement: baby Charlotte is out of control! Seriously, folks, she just doesn’t stop. I love the evening ritual of lying down and feeling her kick and punch and swim around. She feels so close to me in those moments and it’s amazing to think that only a few inches of skin and muscle separates me from my baby. I began to first really feel her kicks while getting my ultrasound and being able to watch her move and feel the corresponding nudges. In Maryland over the holidays I began to distinguish her movements from everything else, and Zack was able to feel her kick his hand. It was absolutely precious to me to see his eyes light up and watch him go immediately into the next room to announce to the family, “I just felt my daughter kick!” And that’s when it started to sink in. We have a daughter. A precious baby girl who is being knit together and formed within me even now. She knows my voice. I praise God for his mighty works in creating new life in such a near and confounding way.

17 Weeks (and counting)

Well folks, here we are.

I’m not sure if procrastination is officially considered a symptom of pregnancy, but it should be. I should petition for it, start a movement, write a letter to ACOG, something like that…eh, maybe tomorrow.

Long story short, I’ve been pregnant for, oh, say, about the past four months. Blogging has been something I’ve always been great at – in my mind. In fact, I’m so great that I often plan out beautifully intentioned posts about seasons in life and what marriage is teaching me and books that are great and everything in between. I plan it all so well in my head that by the time I am through I feel gratified enough that I never feel the need to actually execute it. It’s the thought that counts, right? *Sigh*

Anyway, one thing that I had DEFINITELY planned on blogging about was my foray into the garden of delight/fire swamp that is Motherhood. “I will definitely blog when I get pregnant,” said I. And four months have gone by with nary a peep. Well, today I have decided upon a path to (hopefully) fix all that. Weekly pregnancy posts! So for those of you who do not attain thrill from reading an average woman’s log of being a human incubator, turn away now. You have been warned.

Mom, I know you’ll love this. Friends, you no longer have to receive my weekly texts about how my clothes don’t fit and I can’t sleep because my bump is uncomfortable – it will all unfold right here if you want to catch the action. Without further ado, I give you:

Pregnancy! Week 17!

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Baby: is the size of an onion and is putting on some baby fat. He/she measures about 5 1/2 in from head to rump and is busy practicing for life outside the womb by swallowing, sucking, hiccuping, and moving like crazy

Belly: my bump is, well, big. I really “popped” these past couple weeks. And what’s better, I have begun to attract rude comments from random strangers/people I barely know! On another note, my skin itches like crazy as it stretches.

My Favorite Things: this week I am basically living in leggings, which is an indication to me (along with the fact that my jeans don’t zip) that I need to get some maternity pants. I did buy a super-comfy long sweater from Gap this week and I’m in love with it too. Another fave I found is Alaffia raw shea butter with lavender and peppermint essential oils. I’ve been rubbing this stuff all over my belly to keep the stretch marks and itching at bay! It also smells amazing, which is a plus.

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My Not-Favorite Things: nosebleeds, a common pregnancy symptom; jeans that don’t fit; breathlessness; constant, ever-gnawing, bottomless-pit-type hunger!

Movement: it seems he/she is kicking and squirming lots, evidenced by the doppler, but I have yet to feel baby’s aerobatics.

Gender: We don’t know yet, but we have a gender-scan set for next Friday! Everyone seems to think that baby is a) a girl or b) twins or c) twin girls, but I remain convinced for absolutely no reason other than a gut feeling that baby is a boy. Zack has no gut feeling, but has suggested that baby is possibly asexual or  a pair of siamese twins.

Things I’ve been thinking about: I’ve been envisioning my birth these past few weeks and looking forward to it with excitement! I know it will be tough – the toughest thing I’ve ever done – but it’s a challenge I have confidence that my body can take. With each week the reality sinks in a little more that we are having a baby and that he/she will be here in just a few short months! I’ve been mentally planning my baby shower and the nursery, reveling in examining cloth diaper options and methods of care for newborns. There is so much joy in thinking about the things that I love and will be able to share with our children. I wonder who this baby will be, what his/her personality is and what he/she will look like. I pray each day that our child would grow to love the Lord and would do great work in the Kingdom. There is such hope in having children. Hope for a legacy to be established and maintained, for the end to a beautiful season in life and the beginning of a family. One season dies away before the other can be rooted, and it is bittersweet to think that our days of just being “the two of us” are nearly over, but all is for a purpose and that purpose is deep and wonderful and will be more beautiful, more agonizing, more rewarding that what has come before. Hope springs eternal in the human breast. Each new season builds upon what has been established before. Deep echoes unto deep. Praise the Lord.

The Suburbs, by Arcade Fire: A Review

suburbsThe suburbs of North America carry with them a certain promise. Safety, normalcy, and a happy family life are purportedly housed within their bounds. Arcade Fire’s newest album, The Suburbs, explores these ideals and promises, their falsities and nostalgia, begetting an audio essay on the products of those promises in suburbia. The album is the best they’ve created yet. Like the Canadian band’s previous releases, Funeral and Neon Bible, Suburbs is synergistic, drawing upon the same core themes throughout the album, and repeating lines and concepts from song to song. But in this new collection of music lies a wholeness not seen before. The songs go together like pieces of a puzzle, oozing cohesiveness with every line.

The indie rock band breathes life into a bittersweet nostalgia and angst that is often found in Generation Y. The Suburbs became their most popular album after its release in August of 2010. And in February of 2011 it won the Grammy for album of the year. The songs compiled in Suburbs vary in kind and tone. Arcade Fire never was a band to be accused of always sounding the same. Some of the darkest lyrics are given the brightest or softest melodies, establishing an understanding that however disillusioned the writer is with suburban childhood, there is still some part of him that pines for the days of his youth.  This fine balance keeps the album from growing bitter and harsh. Instead it feels straight from the heart; a refined blend of jaded hopes, angst, and yearning.

The first song on the album, titled The Suburbs, articulates this yearning; an overwhelming sense of nostalgia for the places we’ve grown up, regardless of the pain they hold or the promises they’ve broken. “Kids wanna be so hard / but in my dreams we’re still screamin’ and runnin’ through the yard.” This is a persistent thread throughout the album. The song ends on the same line, though now with an ominous feel. “We’re still screamin’.” The last word echoes on eerily, bringing to mind a terror filled shriek instead of laughing children playing in front yards.

Also imbibed in the album is the disappointment in and mistrust of authority. “The businessmen are drinking my blood,” groans one lyric in Ready to Start, and the same theme is echoed in City With No Children. “Never trust a millionaire .  .  . I feel like I’ve been living in / a city with no children in it / a garden left for ruin by a millionaire inside of a private prison.” Later on in the same song however, the singer identifies himself with the millionaire. “I used to think I was not like them / but I’m beginning to have my doubts / my doubts about it.” Concluding the chorus with, “a garden left for ruin by and by as I hide inside of my private prison.”

There is a sadness evoked in this album. The children of Generation Y despised the hypocrisy found in authorities, and as adults they’ve become much like those they hated. This mistrust of authority stems from the realization that the adults who presided over their childhoods were frauds, inept and deceitful, just like the false promises held in suburbia. “All the kids have always know / that the emperor wears no clothes / but they bow down to him anyway / it’s better than being alone.” This cycle of empty promises is the fate of an ungrounded society. Modern Man is particularly evocative of this theme, as is Half Light I, a bittersweet musing on freedom and suppression in childhood. And perhaps this is the central theme of the album: suppression of ideas and purpose stemming not merely from the physical suburbia, but from the authoritarians who held onto suburban ideals and tried to force them upon the children in their care. This album chronicles a loss. The suburbs are a metaphor for a directionless culture. Boredom is a consistent theme, as is a lack of direction.

Perhaps the most telling line in the entire album completes this idea: “First they built the roads / then they built the town / and that’s why we’re still driving around and around.” This line crops up multiple times in the album, sang with a variety of tones. And in it lies the heart of the matter. The suburbs were built on a path strewn with ideals but lacking a substantial goal. Without that teleological focus, all hopes and virtues and promises become futile and meaningless. The Suburbs articulates this disillusionment with a mastery of symbol and song, identifying with the listener and leaving them with a choice. Where will you chose to build your life?