Saturday, January 14, 2012

I Wrote That?

A few times a year I contribute to other writing projects, and it always surprises me when something I wrote arrives in the mail in published form. Sometimes, a tiny check even arrives, and that surprises me more. Writing is a great way to make dozens of dollars, as any writer will tell you.

About 3 years ago, I heard that a book was being assembled on the topic of being childless. The editors were looking for contributions from conservative Anabaptists in order to put together a book that might encourage other childless couples. This was a topic I really felt I could type my fingers off about. It would be easy for me to make a thoughtful contribution on what it is like not to have any children. Particularly, what it is like to be ensconced in a culture that values family (which is a good thing) sometimes to the point of exclusion (which is bad). Sure enough, I fired off a solid essay and sent it to the editors, a childless Amish couple. Years went by, and I assumed the book project was dead. It had simply disappeared off the radar, I heard no more mention of it. Maybe they couldn’t find enough contributors among plain people (not that I consider myself “plain”) who did not have children, was one guess. Perhaps not enough interest, and so not worth the time.

Less than two weeks after we arrived home with Duckling, my husband handed me a fat package with an unfamiliar return address. Wouldn’t you know, it was the finished book? So, the project hadn’t died after all. Here it was, a thick book full of experiences written by couples who counted themselves as a complete family, without children. Each essay was a mini-memoirs of hope, pain, decisions, and sometimes feelings of contentment. The timing was uncanny, since we opened the package while holding our newborn, our first born.

But what really surprised me was what I wrote. I won’t share that essay here, since it is protected by copyright and was written as a contribution to that book and nothing else. As I began re-reading my essay with fresh eyes, I could only think, “I wrote that? I thought that?” It wasn’t that my essay no longer applied, or that my feelings had changed. Everything I wrote was true, I just remembered my feelings differently. Time had changed the filter on the lens through which I viewed how I would have expressed those feelings. I would have written it differently even a year ago. This, to me, is one of the great mysteries of writing, or creating anything for that matter. So little of what you create today will appear exactly the same to you with the passage of time. You’ll remember it as being another way, or new experiences will shift the light and your perceptions. It was interesting to see first hand how just a few years could make such a difference in how I would have written about a single area of my life.

I wouldn’t change those first four years of my marriage for anything. That time spent with just the Mister and I, and our handful of dogs, are forever precious to me. Just as God had given me a long season of singleness before meeting the Mister, God gave then us the gift of time together and the freedom to pursue some things we otherwise would have been too busy to take on. His time may not have matched the expectations around us from other people who anticipated we would quickly start a family, but His time is always the right time. The superiority of God’s exact timing is a truth that, if I am to be honest, I sometimes have trouble believing. And yet, you have no choice. Nothing can happen a second before the timing is right, no matter what you do. Sometimes I think life is one long lesson on patience.

If interested, the book, Childless, Yet Blest can be ordered here. While written largely by and for the horse and buggy crowd, any Christian who either longs for a family or who has chosen to bloom where they are planted without children will be able to identify with the thoughts and feelings described in much of the book. As an aside note, the book also gives an interesting glimpse into the world of childless families in plain culture. While images of Amish children have become so commercialized and ubiquitous, it’s easy to forget that some people have unique life paths that don’t always include the typical large plain family.

Friday, January 6, 2012

It Will Change Everything...and Other Myths about Motherhood

This may be premature of me, but having a baby really hasn’t changed too much about our lives, other than he has increased our joy, and sometimes our frustrations. Perhaps it was because my eyes were wide open and my expectations were realistic that I have not felt this enormous sense of change in my life. What having a baby has done is clarified some things I already knew to be true, and made them sharper, and more true...more pronounced. If there was a goal lurking for the future in the back of my mind, bringing the little Duckling into our life made me hunger anew to reach that goal. Motherhood has heightened my taste for things I already loved and my hopes for the future. And yet, realistically, my time is no longer my own. ALL of my time belongs to the baby before anything else, but I couldn’t call that a change so much as a fulfilled expectation, something I knew would happen.

Allow me to comment on some of the changes people said would take place. I hope that in doing so it encourages someone, somewhere, that motherhood is not always riddled with negative cliches.

You’ll do so much more laundry. No, that hasn’t happened. Maybe one more load a week. You see, before duckling was ever here, I did at least one load of laundry every day and back to back loads on Saturday. Now, I have maybe one extra load a week. If anyone wants to have a real laundry challenge, forget children. Get a husband who holds two full time jobs- one with a uniform and the other where he gets good and dirty building something, oh, let’s say a house. Then get three good sized dogs who need bedding washed, and add in your own work clothes, good clothes, and Sunday clothes. Don’t forget the linens. Now that is some serious laundry. A few onesies and baby blankets don’t up that ante.

You’ll be dying to get out of the house. Wrong again. I had to be out of the house within 48 hours of being discharged from the hospital, because that was when the pediatrician needed to see our baby. Frankly, the Duckling and I swim out quite often, and I love a good day at home where we don’t have to leave the pond.

Your body will never be the same. Whose body ever stays the same? My body is not the same as it was when I was 20 or 30 years old, it certainly isn’t the same today. It’s won’t be the same in another ten years.

You’ll be so tired. Please. I was never as tired as I was when I drove 50 miles each way to a draining full time job, and then came home cooked supper, picked and canned tomatoes, and collapsed into bed to do it all over again the next day. Or as tired as I was when I worked my way through college...TWICE.

Now here are some myths I made up in my own mind that I thought would happen...

I won’t be worried about germs all the time. It turns out I’m a protective pain in the neck and don’t like my baby passed around a lot. I’m weary of public places and appreciate it when people wash their hands before holding my duckling. I really appreciate it when people instruct their children not to run up and touch the baby.

The baby is very portable and won’t stop me from going places. Well, yes and no. I don’t mind taking him out where we need to go, and I have no trouble getting errands done. BUT sometimes, he does stop me. I didn’t anticipate my baby being fussy and colicky. If there was a day where he screamed at me for ten hours, well I wasn’t subjecting the good shoppers at Walgreens to THAT. Duckling gives me about 2 hours to get done what I need to do, and I’ll gladly work with that for now.

People will stop being nice to me and stop opening doors for me once I’m no longer pregnant. Boy, was I wrong. People have even approached me and offered to carry my packages into the post office when they see I’m saddled with a newborn. If strangers were polite and accommodating when I was expecting, they flat out bend over backwards now.

And let me finish with a thought I had that did come true. That every day I would be thankful for my healthy baby boy and be in awe that God has trusted me with such a special little person. It’s like being handed the most important assignment ever and constantly marveling that you were chosen to carry out this important responsibility.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Missive from Mommy-land

Two months ago we were blessed with a healthy baby boy...


6 pounds 12 ounces, and over a week late. Extremely fussy and high needs, he makes me look like a nut every time I take him out into public and he charms everyone with his smile. “He doesn’t seem fussy at all!” It’s like I gave birth to a used car salesman. I call him my duckling, with my fair skin and light downy hair, and the Mister’s profile and stubborn temperament.

A few weeks before I went into the hospital, I got a notice for my domain renewal with a warning that, if I did not renew my domain name, my blog would be deleted and all would be lost. My thoughts at the time? So what. Really. I was coming down the pike of the most physically painful nine months of my life, and there was very little left that could stress me. Besides, would I even have time for a blog once my baby arrived? I can’t even a return a phone call. There would never be time to write.

And there isn’t time to write. But that doesn’t mean that the desire to write goes away. Even stronger than the desire to write is the need to connect with others. I have made so many wonderful friends through my blog, so many people who have added an immeasurable warmth and love to my life. That is a door I want to keep open, even as I ponder the tough questions about keeping my blog. What will I write about? Will I still be creative? Is it worth it? I wonder...

I have no creative cooking or baking projects. Sewing exists only in my head. It’s winter and the garden is overgrown with a cover crop, the raspberries a tangled mass of thorny brambles. All the topics I wrote about most often seem a million miles away. Yet, my life is overloaded with a baby, a sick grandmother, and a home construction project in chaos.

But I’m not giving up quite yet. Although I’ve lost my old domain name and have had to move my blog, I managed to back up the content and save my posts. But having lost all of my followers (which won’t transfer) it feels like starting over. Won’t you please join me on this new journey?

Update Your Bookmarks

I had to change my blog address from the old themennobrarian.com site to themennobrarian.blogspot.com after my domain expired. All my old posts were transferred here, and this is where I plan on posting for now on, hopefully on a more regular basis. Unfortunately, the list of followers did not transfer. So, feel free to start following me here and let anyone you may know who followed my old blog about this important change.

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