Monday, December 31, 2007

Month Nine

Dear Grayson,

It has been quite a month for you. You have asserted your independence by refusing to sit up unless your grandpa keeps his hands firmly held on your hips, spitting your squash out at your father until he stopped feeding you and you realized that lunch would be delayed, and refusing to say "mama" more than a few times (which is truly a cardinal sin and I must warn you will be on your record when you meet Jesus and the pope and Bruce Springsteen and Gloria Steinem in heaven someday and they ask what you were doing when you weren't saying "mama.").

Your mama has washed so many of your Christmas outfits (the candy-cane striped sleeper and the red thing covered in gingerbread men, and that 'Pooh's First Christmas' onesie) ad nauseum. While the practical part of me says that we should just keep letting you wear them throughout the post-Christmas months, the anal-retentive part of this woman keeps cringing internally when I think of you wearing the aforementioned festive finery in February (when God and the world know one should be wearing heart-themed apparel, dammit).

I should not be surprised that the first word you've uttered after the ubiquitous "Dada" and fleeting "Mama," is "Caaaaatttttt." I am actually secretly thrilled that you love Cooper and Moses so dearly that they have become your first "official" word. Caaaaaatttt. You are so definitive in the "t" sound. You want so very much to finish the sound. Ahh...sweet melody.

You celebrated your first Christmas last week, and true to prototypical baby form, appreciated the wrappings and boxes and ribbons much more than any of the gifts. Thankfully your parents had compensated for this and gone heavy on the wrappings (extra tissue paper, loads of ribbons), and light on the content. Books were received from Santa. Some sleepers and such. It was mostly your grandparents who surrounded you with the Christmas spirit this year.

Tonight you were fussy. I held you on my lap as I sipped at my (non weight-watcher's approved) glass of chardonay, and caught up on blogs while nuzzling your ear occasionally. You were very sleepy, sleepy enough that I considered lying you down to rest before supper, and then I clicked the link to a blog which mentioned how to entertain children during the holidays. And, lo, it was a you-tube of farting Christmas elves. And as it began to play, you laughed a deep belly laugh. And after the elves passed gas the reindeers commenced the melody and you could barely contain yourself. For over three minutes you remained transfixed. And somewhere in the universe your Great-Grandma Miller laughed and said, "He'll be a Miller by and by just like his great-grandpa." And that reunion you had with your second cousin Jack, the boy who shares a deep connection through his papa with your mama, became all the more tangible (bodily function jokes and all).

I marvel at the wonder that is you. You are growing so fast.

I love you, love you, love you. More than the stars.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

On What I Thought This Would Be

Occasionally I feel the need to apologize for what this blog was supposed to be, and what it is right now. Originally, I wrote because I needed an outlet for what sermon writing and journaling once had been for me while I was in pastoral ministry. Originally, I spent more time in contemplation, more time alone, more time in self-reflection. I could afford to put my energy there.

And then, this cataclysmic shift happened and I had a child who consumed my thoughts. All that time spent in contemplation, that time spent trying to discover who I was as a child of God became time spent feeding a baby, and time spent caring for the needs of another, and time spent word-finding after the mind-numbing sleeplessness took over. And I have been so consumed, so overwhelmed that I would turn to a blank screen in front of me and say, "Nope. I've got nothing."

And yet, this parenting, this discovery of Grayson, is another form of contemplation I'm learning. When I spend a good ten minutes marveling at the way Grayson uses his hands, or ponder how it is that he's learned that the word "cat" can be applied to all four-legged creatures (we try not to discriminate against dogs in this house), and not just one particular cat (namely Cooper as Moses runs like hell to hide from the boy's ever stretching grasp), I find myself scratching my head in wonder. And I find myself re-imaging God. I love my child so much. If God is my parent, than how much must God love me? I'm still learning how to take that in.

There were people who told me that a baby could change your life. And I had the audacity not to believe them, even after being a step-mother.

But being a mother is not the all of who I am, and in time I intend on refocusing on the other roles that Christen plays. But, it seems near impossible to do that when I have little sleep. I can barely remember to change the boy's diaper sometimes, let alone wonder at the mystery that is our Creator.

This is not meant to be simply a "Mommy Blog;" I am not comfortable dwelling only in that world. But, for now, it is where my creative energies lie. And I trust that there is a "more" which will also emerge.

So, in my blog writing, perhaps you came initially for the contemplation, for the hospicey stuff, for the ministry speak, but perhaps you'd consider staying for awhile because the boy, he's got stuff to teach this old lady too. I'd I sure like to share that with you as well.

This Makes the C-Section Scar Worth It

And shortly after this picture was taken his Mama devoured him whole, for he was so sweet.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Month Eight

Dear Grayson,

Normally Mommy isn't a slacker. Really. And, normally she wouldn't post something twelve days late. But, then, well, you were born. And, while Mommy didn't become a slacker, she did find other things a bit more absorbing than typing (which, incidentally, Mommy both loves and finds a bit troublesome). And so, now, twelve days after you officially turned eight months old, you'll have an update (and so will this blog).

Today when I dropped you off at the babysitter's home (and I mean, really, "babysitter" is really such a lackluster term for what S. does for you, which is to love you and cuddle you and feed you and rearrange her family's life for you at times), she said, "Grayson, you've changed! I don't know how...but you just look...different." Daddy mentioned the other night that the only thing that was keeping you from looking like a little boy as opposed to a baby, was the lack of hair (in which case you also might look like your grandfathers). I have packed numerous boxes full of "little baby boy" clothes to hand off to friends and marvel at how long you are now. And, man, you are a LONG kid ("95th percentile", your mother remarks proudly, as if my 5'2" would foretell the future Michael Jordan that you would become [the Michael Jordan minus the basketball, as your papa and I aren't big sports fanatics...unless you want to do it...and then we'll comply...maybe...and only after your piano lessons...and chess club meetings...and Math trivia bowl challenges...and figure skating competitions...and stamp collecting exhibitions...after which you'll take the slide ruler out of your pocket and inform us that you're not going to be the nerd we're raising you to be any more, because you have your own life, dammit. And you'll march right out to the garage in your Milli-Vanilli T-shirt and work on the engine of your 1983 Chevy for the demolition derby]).

You are an incredibly versatile little creature now. You have practically demolished your Rainforest Jumperoo (which is a gift from the gods [and your grandparents]). You set your feet in motion and jump to heights yet unseen in this house, or unseen at least since Cooper fell off that bookshelf in the library and practically fractured his bad hip. Your motion in the jumperoo, the back and forthing of it all reminds me of Grandpa Herman's docked fishing boats as they rock in the waves on Chapman Lake and slam into the used tires he hangs over the seawall as cushions, and somehow in the Miller world of poetry that thought is actually deeply sentimental and not at all like the start of a bad Ernest Hemmingway novel and makes me a little weepy. You'll never know Great-Grandpa hauling you around in one of his fishing boats while you wear a life preserver three sizes too big. To you, he will be the gentle man who holds you closely and, occasionally confuses you with one of your other second cousins. But, perhaps, someone else could someday repeat his deeds in an old green rowboat in the shallows of Chapman Lake in years to come.

You've finally come to your senses and uttered the magical words, "Ma Ma." You said it for the first time on the way home from your babysitter's one day (actually it was on December 4th at nearly 5:07 p.m. but who's counting?). You punctuated the syllables loudly and when I turned around in astonishment, barely missing swerving into the SUV next to us, you laughed. It was as if you were just waiting for the right moment, for the cinematic effect. Now you regale me daily with those delightful words. And maybe 12% of the time you're actually referring to me.

Crawling? Not such a big deal to you. Everytime we put you on your tummy, you happily roll back over onto your back and giggle. Sitting up? You can. Do you want to? Not so much. Mostly, you like to sit up for 8.2 seconds and then throw yourself dramatically backward (usually onto pillows or my lap) and laugh. You prefer that the world comes to you as you recline on your back, just as Cooper comes to you whenever you yelp for his furry love. I don't want to throw the word "lazy" about, or surmise where this trait comes from, but there was one parent who's baby book used that word in reference to him. The other parent's baby book was abundantly laden with various incarnations of the sentence, "she is very careful." Hmmmm...

You are the most amazing creature I've ever encountered. I love to watch you learn and unfold and grow. I love to be your mama. I love to have you for a son.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Watching Weight

There is something incredibly humbling about viewing yourself in a full-length mirror eight months post-partum for the first time. Deeply humbling. And a little upsetting. Or a lot.

Last weekend we celebrated the wedding of one of the sisters (the spiritual sisters, those who know me the most intimately, although not biblically). And we stayed in a fancy-dan hotel. Where there was, alas, a full-length mirror.

We don't have a full-length mirror in our home (no, wait, on further reflection I forgot that we DO have one in Miss B.'s room, but apparently I have not been in her bedroom whilst naked, silly me). To get to my dress hanging in the closet at the hotel I had to walk, had to walk without clothes, past the full-length mirror. Had I known it would be such a shocking experience, I might have braced myself with a double shot of scotch first, or maybe some Valium.

The scales had been telling me, very gently, that I still had a good ten pounds to go before I would weigh what I weighed before Grayson was born. My work clothes were fitting, but a little too tight for my puritan tastes. But there was something about seeing myself head to toe which was, well, alarming.

And that alarm quickly turned to depression and incredible self-loathing.

In my late teens and early 20s I would not say that I had an eating disorder, but I would say that I was, and have been at other times throughout my life, eating disordered. Throughout college I fell into fits of deep sadness if my weight soared even a half pound above 125 pounds. To hide what I believed to be a flawed body, I
draped myself in oversized men's extra-large shirts and sweaters. I liked clothes that hung rather than clung.

In those years I ran often; my drug of choice being country roads late at night and even in the dead of winter. I was not a marathoner, but if I didn't run five days a week, if I didn't run at least 4.5 miles on those days, the jungle drums of self-loathing would begin to beat. For years I didn't run for the joy of it, I ran because I believed that I needed to. I ran even after slipping on the ice and cracking an arm. I ran through a stress-fractured tibia. I ran in sub-zero weather and in 90+ degree heat. I prided myself on my discipline.

I was not classically anorexic. I wasn't bulimic. I never threw up after a meal. I never counted calories excessively. I never appeared gaunt and starved. But I knew what I weighed at all times. And I could tell you the length of every running route in North Manchester to the tenth of a mile. I skittered along the border of the eating disordered, but I was careful to never fall too far in.

It was a slow journey to become more comfortable in my skin. A journey aided by women who I believed were utterly beautiful no matter their size. A journey aided by men who loved me regardless of my weight. A journey discovering the sacred within which reminded me that I was made in God's image, and made good.

I cannot say that in the past ten years I have made complete peace with my body. But I can say that it's better. Gradually. Slowly. It's become better.

I can say that in the past ten years somewhere my running became a release and a delight, rather than an obsession and a chore. I can say that in the past ten years I started buying clothes in the Misses department with labels tagged with an "M" rather than a Men's "XL." I can say in the past ten years that I realized that weighing upwards or around 135 pounds was a healthy weight for me. I can say that in the past ten years I was beginning to see in myself the beauty I've always found in other women, regardless of their size or shape. I began to soothe my roundnesses rather than shun them.

And then I walked by that mirror. That full-length mirror that held nothing back. And I felt like I was nineteen years old again with a mountain of self-loathing and the desire to circle the hotel parking lot in my Nike running shoes until I was winded and exhausted, until my steps pounded the body hatred into the ground for at least a few hours.

And the truth hurt.

I have come to believe that I will be fighting the demons of radical self-acceptance for years to come. There are no easy answers here.

I birthed a baby boy and my body is not the same. It will probably never be the same. And I need to make peace with that, even as I change what I can.

To that end I joined Weight Watchers this week. My own personal A.A. meeting, as my friend Erin calls it. A place where I have learned a new vocabulary of "points" and "flex plans" and "core foods."

This is good for me. But I think what would be even better would be to slay the dragon of self-loathing who, with his fire-breathing threats, has shattered my fragile truce with my body and knocked me into the warped world of sneering in the mirror and poking at my flabby, C-section scarred belly with an accusing pointer finger.

I am not sure how to fight this battle again, how to know if it's time to lose weight or if it's time to make peace. But I'm also unsure of how to accept myself in a body I don't recognize.

I am a feminist. I am a hospice chaplain who often watches her clients struggle for their next breath. Fat, body image, worrying about the size of one's thighs in this larger picture seems trivial in comparison. It embarrasses me that I care. I am ashamed of my petty concerns when I have been blessed with a strong body and healthy child.

But I'm still avoiding full-length mirrors these days.

I don't like the hateful look of the woman with my face and eyes who stares back when she sees my poor, sagging belly. And it's just easier if I don't have to look.