Monday, August 26, 2013

Hot time, summer in the suburbs

Mark 13:17-19 (NIV)

How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that this will not take place in winter, because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now — and never to be equaled again.
I have a handy little weather forecast utility in the lower corner of my web browser window. When the situation warrants, a little red octagon with an exclamation point pops up. That’s the indicator for a Special Weather Statement. There’s one there right now, and though I could guess the reason, I was curious about the details. Here’s the skinny:

This is pretty much the exact scenario we’ve been dreading since we learned Kristie was pregnant way back in January. There’s a similar verse in Luke 21 that inspired my post of June 22. At the time I wrote Kristie “is especially not looking forward to the heat of July and August in the late second and early third trimester. Already there have been some uncomfortable days, and every time I see her struggle I wish I could do something significant to ease the discomfort.”

Turns out we more or less dodged the bullet. There was a somewhat brutal week in July after we returned from Nashville — the one that led Kristie to request an old window air conditioner unit be installed in our bedroom, where she promptly holed up for a few days — but it’s been an atypically cool Chicago summer. We even had the air off and the windows open a few days in August, which is more or less unheard of. I wore pants to work a few days because it was just that chilly in the morning.

Yet as we enter the home stretch of waiting for Baby Four, the heat will be on, literally. Going by our original due date estimate, we’re at 33 weeks and two days pregnant with about 45 days to go. Even if the squirt arrives early, we’ve still got weeks and weeks to go. And by we I mean she, because my amazing wife is the one doing all the hard work here. She might be wishing her bedroom wasn’t two staircases away from her diaper store and that Max’s bus stop was at the end of our driveway instead of a block and a half up the road, but I have nothing but admiration for her remarkable tenacity.

We more or less chose to be in this situation, so there’s little room for pity. She knew she wanted to tough out pregnancy, labor and delivery one more time, even though she was certain going in she wouldn’t enjoy a single second of the experience. We both know it will be an even bigger struggle to get through the first few months after the birth than the final few months beforehand, but I’m not quite sure the older brothers understand how that works. But Kristie gets credit for that as well, because she’s refusing to give any less of herself to those three in light of how much she’s giving to Four.

Did she want to go sit in the direct sunlight for an hour for Max’s first soccer game Saturday morning — and herd Jack and Charlie at the same time? Of course not. But never for a second did Max have a doubt his mom would be there for him, and she absolutely delivered. In the small scale, he likely wouldn’t have cared if she’d chosen to stay home. But these little moments are just bricks in the wall of making sure a child know he is loved, valued and respected. Over time they add up and the sum becomes infinitely greater than any individual part.

That’s certainly the way I feel about my parents. I don’t actually recall any grand gestures or specific sacrifices they made on my behalf. They weren’t present for everything — it simply wasn’t possible for each parent to be with all three kids all the time — but neither do I recall feeling ignored. As an adult I can go back and calculate many of the things my parents did for us kids that relegated their own interests beyond the back burner, but what’s more important is the way they made me feel. Those emotions are what I carry through to adulthood.

Surely someday when Baby Four is old enough to understand, I will regale him with stories of how his mother endured through the great late August heat wave during her third trimester. I will explain how she was out of breath simply after walking downstairs in the morning, and how none of her maternity clothes fit well and how she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt she never, ever wished to be pregnant again. And the kid probably won’t care, at least not until he has his own pregnant wife.

But I will notice, and I most definitely care, and I will do whatever I can to communicate my undying respect for everything my wife has given in the name of our family. It goes far beyond the physical toll, of course, but right now those specific sacrifices are the most prominent. She is the embodiment of love for me and for them, and I’ll never be able to adequately thank her. These children are our greatest blessing, but they are only possible because of the love we have for each other and because of her endless commitment to our family.

These next few days will be dreadful, there will be distress, but we know they’ll be worth the effort. We felt called to be parents and specifically to go around this particular block one final time. We were never promised it would be easy, and there are countless unanswered questions about how life might look in mid-October. But we’re in it for the long run, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

A prayer for August 26:

Lord, teach me your way. Lead me in a straight path. Help me find the strength I need to guide this family through the final weeks of waiting for our newest child. Grant me the skills I will need to fully support my wife in these trying times. Show me what I need to do to keep our children as comfortable as possible even in the face of the kind of upheaval a newborn delivers. May this period of transition bring us closer together and remind us of the binding power of your love. Amen.

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