Friday, September 30, 2011


Dipping back into the dim and dusty archives of the second trimester here for a post I never quite pulled the trigger on at the time, that seems only to have grown more convincing to me in the weeks since.

Heading over the river and through the woods this past weekend, we happened to catch a full episode of Wisconsin Public Radio's own TTBOOK (To the Best of Our Knowledge, for those of you outside the cheddar belt). The theme of the day: "Does the Soul Still Matter?" We thought this was a particularly germane topic, as:

1. We'd just come from church, Annie is a pastor, and (I believe) we have souls, and
2. Host Jim Fleming's restrained, dispassionate baritone always conjures the spectre of a world-weary man who's born witness to the manifold horrors of a lifetime in radio journalism and come out the other side with soul slightly tattered.

They hooked us with soundbites from The Simpson's, but we weren't terribly moved by anything else on offer -- mostly unsurprising or calculatedly radical opinions from philosophers, writers, scientists, theologians. Oxford theologian Keith Ward's expansive, generous application of the soul was intriguing, at least. I don't recall all the details, but Ward's premise was that the soul is essentially homologous to consciousness, which I think falls pretty closely in line with popular opinion. (Okay, body/soul duality is way outside my field of study, so treading lightly here.) We owe a lot of our ideas about the soul as pristine, transcendent spirit and the body as clumsy, earthy conveyance to the ancient Greeks. It's a line of thinking that plays a hand in the modern concept of an incorporeal, ethereal heaven (despite some fairly direct Jewish and Christian scripture and tradition on the resurrection of the body.)

The dichotomy is easy to believe -- all our greatest works as a species seem to be those of intellect, of spirit, of consciousness. Symphonies, theories, ideals. Sure, sometimes fabricated by our bodies as a necessity of the physical world, but still beautiful and perfect in the realm of ideas. And the body's uninspired output is mostly, to be blunt, crap.

But I've been rethinking that.

Because this little guy that's coming, who is becoming more and more tangibly apparent, is an endeavor orchestrated and constructed by the body, to plans influenced only the slimmest wisp by our conscious will. And I think that if you believe that is a miracle, then you have to consider that the soul is embodied in a way that exceeds simple passengerhood.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The word this week from Dr. M

"It could happen any day now. Get that suitcase packed."

More motivating words have never been spoken. Suitcase: packed. (Or rather, it will be packed as soon as Sean gets back from picking up a few last supplies tonight.  Suitcase: very close to packed!)

A glimpse into our suitcase:
More clothes than I probably need
An absolutely adorable newborn outfit, with hat, decorated with puppies; seems impossibly small
Microwave popcorn for Sean (because we want to drive everyone on the unit absolutely crazy in the way only the smell of popcorn can.  Other option considered: bacon.)
Sean's hat
Sock full of tennis balls for back massage (Hank: "I cannot believe that is not a toy for me.  It simply must be a toy for me.  You people are so misguided sometimes.")
Lip goop
A deck of cards (can anyone say, "most stressful game of Mao in the history of the world?")
Werther's Original hard candies
Make up.  Don't laugh.  It was on the Mayo Clinic Guide list.

And a bunch of other stuff, too.

I've got a bit of whiplash from this sudden change in my doctor's attitude (last week: "stay put, baby"; this week: "let's get that baby out NOW!)  As glad as I am and as much as I want to meet Walt sooner rather than later (me: "Is there ANYTHING I can do about this heartburn? I can't eat or sleep!" doc: "You can have the baby.") I'm still hoping for a couple more days at least.  Tomorrow is my last confirmation class before maternity leave.  Thursday is my last day in the office, and Thursday evening Sean and I are scheduled for a photo shoot featuring my enormous belly.  Saturday is our day-long birthing class (and I don't care what anyone says, I want that class! I need information, people.  I need methods and practices that I can then choose to ignore!)

Also, I'd like a quiet day or two to write thank you notes.

I know I'm on Walter time, though.  And that part isn't as scary as I thought it would be.  We'll be ready when he's ready.

What's keeping me up at night (other than the heartburn) is that we're so close, and I still can't believe we might actually get to have a baby.  I'm still afraid that we won't, that something will go terribly wrong. Praying helps, talking about it helps, but it's a nagging, persistent fear.

I live for the quiet moments I get with Walt, still moving around like a champ even though it's increasingly tight and crowded in there. I love the hiccups, the gentle elbowing, the not-so-gentle kicks to the ribs.  "See, Mom?" he seems to say, "I'm OK.  I'm your Scooter!"

Thank you for your ongoing prayers, love and support!  We'll try keep y'all posted and keep the posts coming in these coming days.  If you have a suggestion for the suitcase, please send it our way!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ready or not ...

It was just a matter of time.  The early signs have all been there these last few weeks: more comments on my belly size, more strangers smiling at me.  But today, we crossed a threshold.  It wasn't anything concrete, nothing tangible, but in the eyes of my congregation members I could see it clear as day:

"Oh my goodness.  Our pastor is going to have that baby right now, isn't she?"

I'm pleased to report that we made it through both services without any sitcom-worthy moments (on some level, this is disappointing to Sean, but on most levels he's as relieved as the rest of us.)  We've definitely entered new territory, though.  I call it BabyComingAnyMinuteNowAndWeAreWoefullyUnprepared Land.

The doc calls it 36 weeks, and my Mayo Clinic guide tells me that Walt could be safely born now, but to hope for a few more weeks for the sake of his health and wellbeing.  I didn't think I'd be saying this, but I'm hoping for more than a few more weeks.  Yes, of course, for the baby.  But also for some more time for me and Sean ... we need to pack a suitcase, people.  We need to set up a crib and have our emergency contact numbers handy. We need to make sure Sean's special labor hat is in the car and ready to go.

You may be wondering why we've let ourselves reach this point without being better prepared.  At 9 months in we really can't claim to be surprised. ("What?! We're having a baby?  No way!")

Some of our unpreparedness is due to physical limitations: I underestimated my 3rd trimester uselessness by quite a lot and Sean's been shouldering almost all our day-to-day life stuff. He's got good shoulders for it, but he's also been getting migraines.  This is new for Sean and, frankly, scary.  I know from personal experience that it might be a long time before Sean and his neurologist find a way to manage these debilitating headaches.  On the (kind of) bright side, taking care of Sean has given me opportunities to feel a little less useless.  And, evidently, my forehead kisses are magical, which should come in handy in the long run for us.

We are praying like crazy for healing.  It's hard not to feel like it's just not fair ... we should both be healthier than we are ... we need to be at our best!  But part of me knows that "at our best" is mostly mythological when it comes to parenting.  We will give everything we have and probably be surprised at the secret stores of energy, health and love we come up with in the most difficult moments.  I've found some of that surprising energy in the last week or so.  That's something to give thanks for, and to pray for, too.

After church today I said a goodbye-for-now to Kate and her baby daughter Mia, who are heading home to Mexico.  I baptized Mia a few months ago (my first baptism as a pastor) and have loved looking out and seeing that beautiful baby girl dancing with her mom and grandma during church.  Today Kate said, "I'll bet everyone is asking you if you're ready.  You're not ready are you?" I shook my head, no. "Good.  That's fine.  No one is ever ready."

It was exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right time.  We are not as ready as we'd like to be for Walt's arrival.  Even if we make it to 40 weeks (or beyond) we won't be completely ready.  But we are ready and excited to meet our baby boy, whenever the time is right for him.

Countdown to maternity leave has begun in earnest, which means this month has been extra busy at work.  I'm hoping to catch up on some good baby blogging soon, though ... there have been fun things to report on, like a baby shower and child birth classes.  Stay tuned!