Monthly Archives: May 2014

On Bodies and Babies

I am 22 when I have the word grace tattooed on my rib cage. That word holds so much meaning to me, to my understanding of God, to my ever-deepening faith. “If I’m going to carry a word with me for the rest of my life,” I tell my family, “it’s going to be this one.” Plus, I think secretly, it’s my favorite girl’s name and someday, when I have a Grace of my own, I can point it out and say to her, “See? Long before you were born, I knew your name. Before you ever were, I wanted you.”

***

20140520-170456-61496626.jpgI am 25 and mere weeks from giving birth. I admire my belly in the mirror one day and gather the skin in my hands only to realize, to my horror, that the stretch marks have been there all along, camouflaged in the paleness of my torso. They radiate out in all directions from my belly button, like rays of sunshine. I’d liked feel-good pins on Pinterest that redefine stretch marks, but still hoped never to see them on me.

***

Jack is four months when I find an essay by Mary Wiens that describes her stretch marks as the lines of a story. She invites her young son to come see and touch these lines that tell the stories of her three sons. Aren’t they beautiful, she asks him, and he agrees. I read that part aloud to Jon and I cry.

***

I’m 26, pregnant again, and struggling. I don’t feel ready to do this again. When the baby is a girl, we name her Grace. Now it’s just ironic, given my tattoo and what I thought my life would be like when I got it. I don’t think I chose this baby, but I did, when I chose her name four years ago.

***

The stripes come out much earlier the second time around, and in greater number. I am resigned, with a certain degree of helplessness: This is what happens when you have babies back-to-back. Still, I have a sinking feeling when red stripes appear on my side. White stripes are bad enough, but red? Laying in bed that night, Jon reaches over to my belly and traces them with his fingers. “These are the lines of a story,” he whispers, and he is right. I feel peace. 

***

I’m 8 months pregnant and awake in the middle of the night, chasing the internet down a rabbit trail, when I stumble on an Instagram account of women in their underwear. Gorgeous women, of all shapes and sizes and colors, hugging children close, nursing babies proudly, showing their stripes–just like mine. The 4th Trimester Bodies Project, it’s called, and it’s a celebration of mothers who are beautiful because of their stripes and scars and skin. I follow them on Instagram and Facebook and am captivated by each woman’s story. It helps me prepare for my upcoming birth as the transformative experience I know it will be.

***

I read online that the project is coming to Minneapolis. I ask Jon what he thinks. He uses the word brave and I think I can be, too. I worry what others will think. “I work for a church,” I say.  “So?” Jon says. “This is the body God gave you, and you can do this to His glory.” Of course I can. To His glory. Jon continues: “There is a difference between what society says is beautiful and what God says is beautiful. Your body,” he says, “is beautiful because of your babies.” It feels like he is proclaiming this truth over me and I let it sink into my bones. This body is beautiful because of my babies.

***

This July, a week before turning 27, I will participate in the 4th Trimester Bodies Project photoshoot, where I will celebrate this body, my two babies, and the God who gave them all to me. God made my body to have babies, and I love my body for it.

To Jack at 18 months

Our dear Little Guy,

20140518-131730.jpgWhile some mothers manage a monthly update or a weekly photo series chronicling their kids’ growth, your parents have fallen into the “every 6 months or so” timeline. Sorry, bubs. It’s the best we can do given the circumstances. 🙂

We’re just learning to decode the words you’ve probably been saying for a while. Your favorite words start with B: baba, ball, bowl, book, Big Bird, baby, cup (“bup”). You also say uh-oh, mama, dada, nana, papa, outside (“owshy”), truck (“guck”), stick (“dtick”), dog (“arf”), and please (“weash”). When you run into the wall or the ottoman on your tricycle, I say “Bonk!” and you say, “Monk!” You also have the sign language for more, please, thank you, and Jesus. We hope your increasing vocabulary allows you to express yourself in ways we can understand. You are often tossed about in a sea of really strong feelings, and when communicating is hard, we always offer hugs.

20140518-131805.jpgYou are also adapting pretty well to your baby sister. You are usually gentle and try to help us by fetching blankets, diapers, and toys. Sometimes you are even willing to part with your precious ba-ba/milk. Grace does not understand how generous that is for you. You like to kiss her on her head and sometimes ask to hold/hug her. When she is asleep in our room, you tiptoe toward our door with your finger over your mouth, whispering, “hushhh.”
What a little boy you’re becoming: climbing everything, exploring outside, digging in the dirt, running up and down the halls of our building. We’re delighted by your expressions, exclamations, and gesticulations. It’s fun to watch you make connections between items and their use. You know that keys go in the door, diapers go in the pail, dirty clothes go in the laundry basket, and trash goes in the garbage can. Occasionally, you get confused and I find toys in the diaper pail. You can identify your eyes, ears, teeth, sometimes nose and belly button. You’ve peed in your potty chair a couple times, though it’s merely a passing interest.
20140518-131817.jpgYou still aren’t quite sleeping through the night yet. In fact, your sister might sleep better than you do! You still nap twice a day, and have started indicating when you’re ready to nap. You ask for a baba in front of the fridge, pick up your blankie, march to your room, and wait to be lifted into your crib. Then you point to the humidifier and space heater to turn them on.
You continue to be a true extrovert, Jack—it’s rather disarming! You trot right up to neighbors, who give you a surprised smile and a hello. You have multiple best friends, wave to strangers on your runs with daddy, and ask for high-fives in the halls at church. Speaking of church, you are well-known and well-loved there, such that you throw your hands up in glee when we drive into the parking lot. We are thankful that you are so comfortable at CPC, seeing as you spend a LOT of time there.
20140518-131716.jpgBefore bed, we say the Lord’s Prayer and the Jesus Creed (Matthew 22:37-40) together:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.

We love when you do the actions with us! We pray together every day, because we all have one Savior, Jesus, who loves you very much. We so look forward to the day that finally sinks in for you.

Keep growing, learning, exploring and loving people. We are proud of you, son!

Love,
Mama and Dada