Sunday, July 1, 2018

Spoiler Alerts

The events leading up to me in the hospital read like spoiler alerts, so I will begin by telling you the biggest spoiler of all: I make it to the hospital.
And a Baby is born.

Finding a doctor for Wes' mom back in November felt hopeless. It felt like online dating/matchmaking, constantly poring over the internet for a compatible AND available fit. By the time we found "the one," the waitlist was three months. "Unfortunately the soonest appointment is February 15," Wes told me. I groaned. My due date was February 19, but we need this appointment, we needed Jeanne to get a refill on prescriptions, we needed professional help. "Can you hang in there, little guy?" I asked my belly. We prayed so hard, God PLEASE don't let him come before this appointment! Spoiler #1: God is faithful. Baby didn't come before the appointment. HOWEVER:

Forward to appointment day, February 15 (also my dad's birthday.  Also Ron, Wes' stepdad's, birthday). It was just two hours after Wes and Jeanne came home from that long-awaited doctor's visit that I found myself lying in bed, nauseous. I'd been sick the whole week, battling dizziness and a lingering cough. "But thank God it's not the flu!" I wrote in my journal THAT VERY afternoon. Spoiler #2: it was absolutely the flu. We just didn't know it yet.

And neither did my midwife. In fact, just the day before, Wes and I met with her and my only symptom of illness was a stuffy head. "Mint tea for congestion, netti pot for your sinuses," she offered. "And maybe the flu shot..?" she asked per protocol, as she did every week. "Nope," I coughed. "I hate needles." Spoiler #3: many needles will be had.

Like a script, she went over the benefits, telling me about her other patients who've had the flu during their pregnancy. I asked her if a she's ever tended to a mom who had the flu during delivery. "Never had one," she said. Spoiler #4: she checks that off her list.

Back to Feb 15, after Jeanne's appointment + nauseous me. I woke up from a nap I didn't know I took, chills all over my body. "101," Wes said, taking my temperature. Anxiety over baby's health triggered a phone call to the hospital. "They said I should go in to be safe," I told Wes. "You think the next time you'll be home you'll be holding a baby?" he asked. I shuddered. "I don't think so," I said. Spoiler #5: I thought wrong. The next time I came home, I was holding a squishy baby.

Were we ready? Absolutely not! Just the night before, I finally packed my hospital bag and Wes finally installed the car seat. And those are imperative! But even though I let procrastination get the best of me, there was only one thing I was always adamant about...

A week or two prior, Wes and I were in a heated argument, but had to keep our squalor at bay because we were riding in the car with Jeanne in the back seat. Our thoughts, plotting how to win the argument once we got home, were soon interrupted as Jeanne inched her head between us. "Hey Wes," she whispered loudly. "What's that orange light on your dashboard?" Of course it was the ONE THING I was adamant about. Of course I glared at him. Of course it was the gas light. "You better have gas when it's time to go to the hospital," I quietly scolded (and quietly thanked Jeanne). Spoiler alert #6: there was no gas in the car that night.

And so we stopped to get gas. "At least it's night and no traffic," we said. Spoiler alert #7: yeah of course there was traffic. Four lanes closed. What should've been 20 minutes lasted over an hour. I was baking this kid.

Indeed, it was a blessing that Jeanne had her appointment before we went to the hospital (she will need that doctor one week later), and that we had the hospital bag and car seat ready, and that we had enough gas to get us there. It was also a blessing that I had the flu, because without that unexpected trip to the hospital, we would've never known his heart rate was dropping. But back to the original spoiler: I make it to the hospital. And a baby is born. Eventually.


Bonus spoiler: that week at work I got a paper cut. I hate paper cuts. They make me nauseous. Spoiler alert #8: I end up with the biggest paper cut of them all.

Also that photo was a little treat from my baby shower, which happened to be the same day All of Hawaii got an accidental alert about a missile threat.

Sunday, June 24, 2018


In the first weeks when Liam was still fresh, I'd watch the way he'd hold a tight fist that reeked of sweat, drool, and sour milk soaked in a ball of lint. As disgusting as it was, I felt that like him, my fists have been clenched, holding on to his birth story, or rather the pain of his story. And neither of us were ready to open up.

Sure I've talked about the surrounding circumstances leading up to his birth, but only as if I were reading aloud a genealogy, sparing emotions. Left to myself, merely thinking about the actual birth would make me sob—it was the scariest, probably most traumatic moment of my life. I'd frequently wake up in the middle of the night, not to feed him, but remembering the sounds of surgery and feeling the pain in my core (I still don't have nerves by the incision) and mulling over many unanswered questions.

I held that pain tightly, never admitting the terrors, because so many other women have done it, so many people have gone through much worse. In my mind every other mother carries way more strength, and I feel like such a weakling, and I hate comparing pain and discomfort, and I want to accept my story. Our story. I wanted to look back at the memory in the poetic way prophets would write, how mourning turns to dancing and weeping turns to laughing. How joy comes in the morning.

I had a doctor's visit around the time he turned four months. But what should've been a mere checkup turned into an unraveling. I blurted how postpartum depression got the best of me, how I still face the trauma, how I'm trying my best not to cry right now. I asked her about the birth. I told her what I remember, but mostly what I don't, and how I wrestle with the mystery. I asked her to look up my charts. I asked her why's after why's.

Why did it happen that way.
What was wrong with me.
Was something wrong with him.
And above all--WHY wouldn't you let me see his face, why couldn't I look at his crying eyes, why wouldn't you let me touch his skin.. why couldn't I meet him until the next day, why did it take so long, why wouldn't they give Wes skin to skin, why did my baby come into this world alone.

And a big part of me was so terrified of what I would find. That maybe it's better for me to stick with the story I know, the story in my hands. Because what if I can't bear the truth, what if I can't handle the real story? Or worse, what if there are no answers? What if there are no records? What if there's only the disappointment of a doctor shrugging her shoulders?

She didn't shrug her shoulders, but indeed, she had no answers. The sterile room felt a little colder. But I had barely left the atrium of the clinic when I got a phone call from my doctor saying that the moment I left, she looked up my charts and found a couple notes. And as she relayed them to me, I was both shaken but covered with peace and relief. I went to my car and wept until I was out of breath. Instead of the hopelessness I had readied myself for, here was my closure.

That night while holding Liam, I began to ruminate on my meltdown with my doctor and a different set of answers began to surface. The pains I held onto, the unknowns, the mysteries--they finally had names: loneliness, abandonment, and a strange sense of guilt, as if I entered motherhood inflicting my son with the very things I myself struggled with. But I had to remind myself that I can't protect him from everything, not from things unseen and unknown in the womb, not from my own insecurities and the places I still need restoration. All I can do is begin here: acceptance, forgiveness, and loving my son the best I can. I picked up his hand and said to him in order to say it to myself: "I'm sorry you were by yourself for a while... but you don't have to be afraid. You're never really alone. Not ever." I know.. it sounds a little soupy, but I had to say it. Because even soup on the coldest of nights can be the most comforting. He squeezed my finger.

These days, Liam's hands are wide open; they search for textures or the warmth of skin. He reaches for his toes and shoves his foot in his mouth. His fingers wriggle and play piano on my chest when I nurse him (a gesture I never want to forget). And my hands have opened too. I've been letting go of the ache by writing down his birth story, reading it aloud to myself. And as I do this, it's helped me invite God into my pain. I can say that it was painful then, and it's not so painful now.. It's just the way he came into this world. I'm opening up to healing, searching for warmth, and grasping joy so tightly, I can't let go.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Waking Up

On October 22, 2017, I pinned a note to the top of my Google Keep:

I can't tell you what compelled me to write that, but clearly there's a part of me that knew I wasn't living my best life.  I could also reason (ahem, make the seemingly-reasonable excuse) that the inquiry was before Baby, before my mother-in-law, before we moved, before the shaky ground beneath me caved in.  These life changes can be the "what." But there are always new things that become old things, and then another new thing comes into play.  Circumstances always change, but one unchanging part of my identity is that I am a creative.  So these days I ask myself a different question: why won't I get out of bed?

The answer, which takes more bravery to say aloud than to reason with pitiful circumstances, is something I've always known: I can't accept the journey.  Not the journey ahead and the work it will take to fulfill my dreams, not the journey behind and the work I should've done to be thriving today.  It's a contradiction and a shame to admit.  I, like many others, want my best life NOW.  But the work--yes the work that helps define me as a creative--is just too much (so my laziness tells me).

In regards to writing: this blog itself has lived for 10 years.  And every year, every few posts, I say I should write more often.  But I don't.  I'm my own worst critic, so it takes me a couple days to finish a single post (is it too short, too long? Too pointless, too vulnerable?).  Soon the drafts are insurmountable and I don't finish what I start.

In regards to art: I actually did try to become self-sustaining, but the demand of commissions wore me out that I put the pens down for about two years.  And when I finished my last commission, I washed my hands with a solid "good riddance," and I both ignored and resented the creative urges.  Eventually, when I would consider returning to art, I couldn't think of a design worth a comeback.

I don't want to get out bed.


Right now, Liam is napping in his rocker.  So far, this nap has lasted shy of two hours, which hasn't happened in a month.  I can't remember ever being engorged at 3pm because he nurses every hour, sometimes every half hour.  He looks so precious.  Even when he is screaming his head off (like the past 48 hours.. maybe a growth spurt), he still looks precious.  And it makes me want to cry thinking that in six weeks I have to go back to work.  Want to know something uncanny?  Just now, writing this paragraph, my co-worker accidentally texted both my boss and me, instead of just my boss.  As if work is already calling.  Sometimes I miss work.  Sometimes.  I like being busy, and I like that my job is mentally mechanical that I never bring it home with me.  But looking at my son on my right, and looking at the breast pump that just came in from Amazon this morning on my left, I feel a little nauseous.  How can I leave him?

Wes and I are hopeful that one day (soon) he can make enough to sustain the bulk of our expenses enough for me to stay at home and care for our son.  And what a dream that would be! In fact it would be possible... if I can somehow oil my gears and become creative again.

And so now, with the love of my son being the greatest motivator, I am dusting off the tools I've recklessly boxed away.  I am picking up the pen to write more, to draw more.  The Sunday Journal has always been a means of clarity, and when my mind is clear, my heart is honest.  And when my heart is honest, my creativity and art thrive.  I become my healthiest self.  I live up to my identity.  My family doesn't have half of me, they have all of me.  It's all a beautiful cycle.

My son is now waking up.  He needs care.  And caring for him starts with nourishing myself, with a little bit of clarity, a lot more honesty, and courageous creativity.  So, like I do in the middle of the night when my son cries, I am not just waking up--I am getting out of bed.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Dear Son // Goodness, etc.

Dear Son,

You're supposed to be here in 11 days. And I'm not at all ready. I don't think I've ever been ready. That's not to say that I'm not excited to meet you or that I didn't want this to happen—not at all! You are the best gift that I've ever received, and you're already wholly loved... I just doubt myself. I doubt my ability to be a good mom and to give you a good home. Worse, I can't promise you a good world. But what is "good?"

That's what I struggle with. Understanding goodness. As Steinbeck wrote in East of Eden, "And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good." When I first read that book and that line, it highlighted my struggle, that I have a hard time differentiating between goodness and perfection. And maybe that's what I'm afraid of—not being a perfect mom. Not having a perfect (or complete!) home. Not having a perfect world. And as you grow to know me, you'll find that I am in a constant battle to rid myself of being controlled by perfection. So what is good? And is that something I can give you?

Sometimes I think about the world you are coming into, and by "world" I mean all of it: the world in front of you, the world around all of us. And I feel like a mama bear protective of her cub, but also aware that eventually you'll be out in the wild, exploring and discovering things for yourself. That is a very scary reality for me. But as scared as I am, I want to be better. I want to be fearless when it comes to raising you and introducing you to this world. One of my many great hopes is that I can tell you about—and keep reiterating—the GOOD in this world. Not about it's perfection, because it is far from perfect. It is a fallen world that is constantly being redeemed. That right there is the summation: redemption is what makes this world good.

It's a holy redemption. It's God calling the world (around us and inside of us) back to Him and restoring it and renewing it. From the renewal of creation to the renewal of your mind, to finding what was lost, to restoring what has been destroyed, and to experiencing newness every morning that you wake up. letting Light fill both the day and your heart.

"The world is broken and in need of healing, and also beautiful and in need of enjoyment." That's something we hear a lot at Imagine, and it's very true. I hope you can look into the imperfections of the world without ignorance or apathy or dismissal, but with faith for healing and restoration. I hope you can look at the beautiful things of this world and feel immense gratitude that you get to partake in it. I hope you never forget to be generous and kind with your blessings. Goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life, and I hope you willfully lead them both into the sorrowful, unjust places that need more goodness, that need more mercy.

I hope you know that YOU are good. If you're keen to it, you'll find that the flesh, the devil, and the world will all try to tell you otherwise. But you don't have to be perfect to be good. You were made in the image of a GOOD God. You were created for good works. And surely, you will fight and struggle with areas in your heart where you can be better, that is, more like Christ. There will be choices you make in life that solicit the forgiveness of God, because sin is a real thing, and it's what will keep separating you from goodness. But just because you are growing and constantly becoming, doesn't make you bad. At your absolute worst, when you find yourself at your lowest, when you feel heavy with regret, when the Light you woke up with seems a little dimmer and you are tired of fighting and growing and becoming, and when you do not feel good, He is still good.  He is your something good.

I tell you all this because there may be times when I am not good, and your father as well. We may not display the best of this world before you. But I hope you also look at us know that we too are broken and in need of healing. We too fight for the goodness in our souls. We too are growing and becoming and understanding more of who we should and shouldn't be. We're in need of grace.

I'm still terrified that you're on your way. I'm nervous about how to love you best. I'm scared about not being a good mom. I'm scared about life not being good to you! But I do know that when you come into this world and take your first breath, inhaling the air we all share, I will be holding in my arms the purest form of goodness. You are a beloved gift to me and this world. And despite however good or not good the world is when you arrive, you are my something good.


PS. perhaps you'll hear things in this vein, about goodness/sin/redemption in many forms over your life.  It might become a broken, meaningless record.  That's what happened to me, and it actually feels awkward as I verbalize it.  But at least know that these words come from the heart and soul of your very protective and deliberate mother, and I won't be cheap with the truths I pray become lodged in your inmost being.