Sunday, September 29, 2013

Change is coming — eventually

Psalm 66:10-12 (NIV)

For you, God, tested us;
   you refined us like silver.
You brought us into prison
   and laid burdens on our backs.
You let people ride over our heads;
   we went through fire and water,
   but you brought us to a place of abundance.
Here’s the thing about waiting for babies: this is our fourth time , and it’s just not getting any easier. Jack was nine days past his due date, Max missed the mark by ten days. Charlie actually came about a week early, which felt darn near premature given our track record. And though Kristie’s due date is Oct. 10 — a week from Thursday — there a few factors making me feel like Baby Four is dramatically overdue.

We thought he was coming early all along, on account of Kristie being told she’s measuring ahead of schedule for months now. That’s the clinical reason. When our sewer ruptured Sept. 5 — a full five weeks before the due date — I was so convinced the kid would arrive in the midst of the insanity I’m flat stunned he’s still on the inside.

That’s not to say we’re through the woods yet on the house turmoil. The bathroom floor is mostly fixed and there’s a toilet in there, but we’ve not been able to finalize a replacement vanity. Thanks to family and some dear friends today, the bulk of our basement is now vacant. The drywall was repaired last week, the walls and ceiling will be painted Monday and the carpet comes in Wednesday, which means we can begin the process of uncovering our dining room and playroom and really start to feel normal.

At that point, the disruption of replacing the wood floor in the entryway, kitchen and dining room would be minimized, at least compared to what would happen if that crew showed up tomorrow morning. And at any rate, as nuts as it’s been around here for the last several weeks, it actually seems it’ll be easier when the baby gets here because then Kristie will be on the road to recovery instead of simply waiting for figurative shoes to drop — and packing enough extra weight it’s difficult for her to breathe, walk and sleep with any semblance of comfort.

So we’re having all sorts of “what if” conversations, which technically are “if the baby comes tonight” hypothetical situations. Who would take Jack to his Monday morning appointment? Max has after school events Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday each week. Am I keeping up with paying the bills and making sure laundry is clean and put away? Is the dishwasher clean or dirty? And so on and so forth.

But beyond all the practical matters, the more babies I have the harder it is to wait to meet them, hold them close and marvel at how tiny they are. Anxious is not a strong enough word to describe how much I want to stare into those newborn eyes, to take pictures of big brothers, grandparents, aunts and uncles as they share their first moments. It’s something of a ritual, but we’ve not gone through these motions nearly enough for them to feel stale or unimportant.

Though Kristie and I are oldest children, it seems we both have a sense of trying to make sure none of the younger boys will grow up thinking their early days were chalked up to old hat. She, especially, has plenty of ideas for how to go above and beyond to make this time through a little more special, likely because we both realize we’re not walking this road a fifth time. For her that notion manifests itself in a lot of “this is the last time we ever…” sentiments. For me it’s the overzealous anticipation of having everyone here. Even though we don’t know anything about the little guy, we know he’s an essential piece of our family.

It’s sort of the same as Thanksgiving or Christmas with my family last year. It was a good time and a wonderful celebration, but it just didn’t feel all the way full with all of us in Illinois and my sister out in San Francisco. Maybe it doesn’t make sense equating a sibling in her mid-20s with a family member who still is technically a fetus, but that’s the kind of love I have for this person who is as much my son as any of the ones I can kiss goodnight.

That’s what we’re in this for. At the end of April, our oldest son will be ten. Our youngest will be old enough to sit on his own, to smile laugh and have his own personality. We’ll probably all be getting decent amounts of sleep. The house should be as done as can be on the inside, and we might even have had a chance to polish up the outside, too. This episode won’t be a distant memory, but we’ll be over that particular hill and stronger for the experience.

And sure, we’re not promised any of that. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and choosing a bathroom wall color will seem pretty darn incidental by comparison. As noted, we still have some incredibly challenging days ahead. I’d be a fool to think I can predict how it’ll all play out; even though I have a pretty refined taste for the days and weeks ahead I must be open to the fact we’ll be dealing with things we’ve never faced before. Each baby brings its own unique complications, and I expect exactly the same this next go around.

Life in the waning stages of a pregnancy is high on questions and short on answers. If ever there’s a time to free myself from worrying about things I can’t control, these are the days. Hard as it can be, that’s my goal. I’ll focus on what I can do, give all the love I can to my wife and kids, muster as much energy and focus as possible to deal with our house and seek God’s strength and guidance for every step. And when that baby finally show up, I’m probably going to stop being able to contain the motions swirling around inside, and I’ll make no apologies.

Our house may not be back together when it’s time for the nugget to come home from the hospital, but it will be filled with laughter and love anyway, and that’s all that really matters.

A prayer for September 29:

Lord, guide us through the days ahead, as we near the end of the wait for our new arrival, as we slowly begin to put our home back together, as we continue to try to give our boys the love and support they need from their parents. Help me fight through the physical and emotional challenges to give my family the best of myself, no matter the circumstance, and help me seize opportunities to let your love shine through me and my dealings with everyone I encounter. Amen.

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