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“You can make anything by writing.” ― C.S. Lewis

Posts for Laureny Category

Humility.

I love my daughter more than anything else in this world, and I would do anything for her – and sometimes, I’ve learned, that anything I’ve promised to do is to humble myself and ask for help, to take an action I don’t necessarily want to take but become aware I need to take.

Motherhood teaches us humility in a variety of ways. Sometimes, we learn humility when we have baby puke or baby poop on our hands and clothes, and we can’t clean it off us until we take care of our child first. Sometimes, we learn humility when our child is having an epic meltdown in the grocery store and everyone is staring and we have to just patiently pass items onto the conveyor belt to get the shopping over and done with so we can get the screaming child out of there. Sometimes, we learn humility because we have a plan in place – a mothering plan, a parenting plan – and we are physically incapable of following through with it.

The last one? That’s me. That’s the lesson I’ve learned over and over again since I’ve become a mother. It’s apparently the lesson I need to learn the most, because it keeps coming back and reminding me I haven’t studied hard enough yet.

I’ve said this before – if sheer force of will were enough to get things done, I would never be behind. I would always have my ducks in a row. My spirit is always willing, but the flesh is weak. Or, perhaps more aptly – there’s just a world outside my stubborn, strong-willed self. There are other people in the equation. There are jobs and obligations and traffic and people whose priorities are not my priorities, and visa versa. I have a will, and I am determined to find a way – and the truth is, that lesson that I have to learn over and over again – is that just because I want make something happen a certain way doesn’t mean it’s going to happen that way. I can fight and fight the inevitable outcome as hard as I want – I will eventually have to humble myself and learn the lesson.

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How We Met

An Anniversary, Laureny, My Little Family, Our Marriage, Shaun, Will - Emily - October 18, 2016

It is October 2009. I am 22 years old. I have had what most would call an Interesting Year.

2009 is the year I go through so many changes and life lessons, my head is constanly spinning trying to keep up.

I graduate college after the most soul-sucking, insane semester of my college career. At one point, I actually consider quitting the semester. Between my four upper level lit Classes, the usual German workload, running dance company, editing a creative writing journal, and dabbling in theatre — I am already exhausted and stressed with a ridiculous work load. That is before my grandfather passes away and I must watch my mother grieve, before I “break up” with a best friend of years after a stupid fight that took place during my 22 birthday party, and I have to mourn and struggle with that lost relationship, and then there are other family members in extreme emotional situations I won’t discuss here.

By the time I graduate in May, I feel like a shadow of myself. Absolutely running on fumes. And yet — I don’t know that I’ve been prouder of myself. As I walk across that stage to accept my diploma, I am delirious with pride and shock. I seriously consider quitting in March — and I stick it out. I pass all the classes and pull together all the shows, turn in my final portfolio and write the last German Aufsatz. It’s not all my best work. Most of it is not my best work. But I get it done. I graduate in May, and I come home with a nervous twitch in my right eye, and a determination to rebuild my family ties and have some sort of new adventure.

I go to Germany in July. I love it there, and I hate it there. It is everything and nothing that I expect it to be. On the one hand, I feel like I make deep connections with a few people there. On the other — I feel like a complete outsider, and I realize, I have never done anything this hard without my emotional support system before. I realize this is a great idea but a bad time to do it. It is a damn brave thing to do, moving to Germany alone. Turns out I wasn’t ready for it yet.

(And you know what? That’s OK. I was 22.)

So I come home, in late August. I feel more empty than ever. I feel like I failed. I feel like I have no direction in life. The plan was a year in Germany, then grad school — but in August, I feel like I have completely lost my way. I don’t feel confident I am able to do anything, at all. I feel like I have embarrassed myself and everyone I love.

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A Two-Month Letter to My Daughter

[Previously in this series…]

Dear Ariadne,

Just the other night, your papa said, man, she’s been here eight weeks. Just eight weeks.

Eight weeks felt like an eternity. Or I guess what I mean is, the actual time you’ve been here with us feels like an eternity. To say out loud, eight weeks, two months — those phrases sound like a short amount of time. An impossibly short time — surely, you’ve been with us forever? I remember my mom, your grandma Marmee Suh, saying to me while I was pregnant, once she’s born, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without her. You won’t be able to remember what it felt like to live life without her. It’s so true. It’s only been eight weeks — the blink of an eye in the grand scheme of years and decades. But now that you are here and we have spent a good chunk of time with you, I really can’t remember what life was like before you.

I suppose you could say some of the newness of having a baby is worn off.  I still have moments of that holy wonder and shock — this is my child, I made her, she belongs to me and I am  her mother. But they’re spread out through the day now. Every single moment isn’t a moment of wow, woah, how anymore. We’ve settled into our roles as mom and dad and daughter, and while your papa and I aren’t experts yet, we seem to have managed to learn how to take care of you well enough to the point where some (some!) of the time, it feels easy and familiar.

I am cherishing every minute I get with you these days. I will admit, there were a few days here and there, around weeks five and six, where I got a little — not burnt out, exactly. But I felt more comfortable in my mothering skills, and I’d had weeks of being home and taking care of you, and I took it for granted, a little. I set you down whenever I had the chance. I tried to buy a little extra time in bed snoozing before I got up with you. I still loved being with you and being a new mom — but I was happy to have my arms free, or get more accomplished during the day. And then it hit me that this maternity leave home with you won’t last forever, and I was coming to the final weeks home alone with you every day. I really thought about what it would mean to leave you with others for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Do my 40+ hours. I couldn’t imagine it. I’d known it was coming, all along, but I’ve been dreading going back to work after having you literally since I was pregnant.

I won’t focus on that now, because we still have some time left, and I want to enjoy every minute, instead of weeping off and on all day long like I did that day. After that day, I stopped taking this new mothering time for granted. I knew my time with you would be limited once I went back to work, and so the more menials tasks of taking care of you stopped seeming like chores. It is a privilege and a delight to rock you to sleep, even at four in the morning. I am lucky to have you fall asleep on my chest, and I spend even more time looking at you, drinking you in, stocking up all these memories for when I go back to work. I’ll be wearing those moments of bonding like armor as we all transition into this next stage together.

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A Mother’s Blessing

We had all had rough days.

Some of us had had rough weeks, some of us were ill or in pain, or had emotional issues troubling us.

When I first realized this, getting ready in our bedroom in the early evening, I — of course — worried. Worried that we would all be too tired to enjoy ourselves. Worried that my dear ones had stressed themselves out, trying to pull together this Blessingway in my honor. Worried that our hearts would be in the right place but our bodies might not cooperate.

I dried my hair, and after I finished, I heard car doors slam shut outside. My girls were here. I didn’t bother with mascara — I knew there would be some sort of tears at some point in the evening; tears of emotion or joy or laughter or overwhelmed gratitude. I threw on the dress I’d worn for maternity pictures, earlier in the week, figuring I might as well get some more use out of it than just that one single occasion, and then I headed out the front door to the front porch.

Already, my ladies had hung a bright tie-dyed sheet of Lauren’s, blocking most of the party space from view. They would allow me behind it, but they wouldn’t let me help with anything, so I decided to park it in a chair outside the curtain and let myself be surprised when they’d finished setting up completely.

I didn’t feel great, I’ll admit it. I’d had an emotional day, more stress than I’d expected, and my hormones ready and rarring to escalate every emotion to its highest level, even when it wasn’t called for. Physically, I had pushed myself a bit farther than I should have. My back was killing me, my carpal tunnel was causing both my hands to ache, and my poor pregnant feet were certainly reacting to doing chores all day and the summer heat. Worst — my Braxton Hicks contractions were really amped up that evening — I was trying to catch up on my hydration, and sit still to let my body rest — but they were intense, and frequent. Not regular, or painful — never quite enough to make me actually worry about actual labor — but close enough that one or two times throughout the evening, I had an inward moment of, if this keeps up, we might turn this Blessingway into a Birthingway. (Luckily, that didn’t end up happening, and at the end of the night, with plenty of water and my feet propped up, everything returned to normal.)

So I sat, and listened as my friends called to each other, working together to transform the porch into a little wonderland for a few hours. Lauren turned on some music and it spilled out into the evening air.

Suddenly, I felt a sense of peace wash over me. Whatever I had been upset about all day, whatever I apprehension I had for the evening’s festivities — it all faded away. The sun was not yet quite beginning to set, but the hour drew nearer. Beyond the porch and the trees of the neighborhood, the sky flared from blue to rose and amber, and the last of the afternoon sunlight cut angles across the porch, shining through that tie-dye sheet. Suddenly, everything felt exactly as it should. I was happy to be there, happy to have my girls there to celebrate with me. Happy to have my husband inside enjoying some dude time, happiest of all to have my daughter kicking and wiggling in my belly as I waited.

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A Letter to My Daughter

Dear Ariadne* –

Later, when you’re older, when you know me better as a person and not just as a spirit, your first home as you do now – you’re gonna hear that I had a hard time talking about you at first, and you’re going to think that’s insane. You’re going to think, Mama never shuts up. Mama never stops talking. Mama has advice and a story for every situation, there’s no way she could possibly have ever felt tongue-tied or at a loss for words. Hopefully, by the time you’re old enough to read and understand this, you’ll know that you, above all other things that exist in this universe, I could go on and on and on about you, that I will never ever stop talking about how wonderful you are – and so you’ll find it strange that before you arrived earthside, I struggled to talk about you.

It’s baffled me too. You, whom I wanted for so long. You, whom I have dreamed about for years. You, who every day grows stronger and bigger and more of a real person, a real little human, and less of a dream in the corner of my heart. Why is it that I clam up when it comes to expressing how I feel about you? Why is it that I want and I want and I want to write to you, and I barely can? Rarely, and even then, only with great effort and gentle cajoling.

I thought about it some, this past week or two. I thought about why. The truth is, all along, since your daddy and I found out we were expecting you – when I tried to think about writing to you, I felt this great, immeasurable, flood of nameless emotion. I call it nameless because it was too many things at once. Too many feelings to name, too much intensity to bear witness to for more than the few seconds I considered expressing all that, and then rejected it because it seemed too hard.

Me, who never has a problem expressing my feelings. This is me — and maybe I don’t have a ton of practical talents, but one of the few is definitely giving voice to emotion, to expressing not just how I feel but how other people feel. Capturing the intangible and leashing it down with specific phrases and examples. This is what I do, this is who I am – I talk about life and love and sorrow and joy and I find a way to express that which others struggle to.

And yet – when it comes to you, my darling, I often find myself at a loss for words. Because how do I express even the idea of you? I anticipated you and wanted you for so long, and then for so long I feared I wouldn’t ever get you. I still fear it, sometimes. I still sometimes think that you aren’t real, that this is a joke. That someone, at some point – the instant I really believe in you – will tell me I’m mistaken. Despite this big belly, the way you dance and wiggle all day long, making my stomach jump and twitch; despite hearing your strong, steady heartbeat week after week at the midwife’s, seeing your little face on a sonogram screen – I’m still scared someone will take you away from me. I’m scared to love you, because I’m afraid the instant I truly believe I am being gifted this opportunity to be a mother, that I am being trusted to bring you into this world – you will be taken away from me.

But week after week, we carry on. We are steady together, you and I. I jump at every chance to freak out. Little worries flit into my brain and dig themselves deep there, and blossom as little sprouts of anxiety. Yet we have been so lucky, so healthy, as I said – so steady. We have had almost nothing to worry about, really and truly. I can come up with one hundred thousand remote possibilities to worry about; if and it could happen – just ask your daddy and your Auntie Emi and your Auntie Laureny, bless them, who have had to talk me down off the ledge more than once. But those fears never ripen, they never come to fruition.

And so here we are, sitting pretty at 35 weeks. You have made my belly round and taut, and it pokes out of my tank tops and shorts at night. You kick and wiggle all day long, today you squirmed so much that I had difficulty eating my lunch, I could barely lean over to dip the spoon in the bowl because you wouldn’t stop moving.

Last week, at our midwife appointment, Candie said, we just want to keep her in there for at least two more weeks, but after that – if she does come, the efforts to stop labor are more invasive than the risks of letting her coming. Meaning – although we plan to let you cook up until 42 weeks if you’re happy and content and Candie’s fine with it – that in as few as two weeks (now one) – you could feasibly be with us.

Every day that passes, you are stronger and your brain is bigger and your lungs are heartier. Every day and week that passes from this point, you are more and more likely to be just fine, no issues, if you were born. Two weeks from when I’m writing this, you’re considered full term.

More often these days, my focus is on the reality of you. For all I have ordered you nursery furniture and washed all your little clothes and folded them, for all your baskets packed with socks and headbands and wash cloths – for all that work I have done, you have not seemed real. And now, with as few as two and at most, eh, sevenish weeks left – I must accept – you are real. You are happening. You are coming, and you are going to be our daughter.

There are a hundred million things I’d like you to know. There are a hundred million truths and lessons and kindnesses I’d like you to learn and experience. Sometimes, I worry more about how I am going to teach you about the goodness of the world despite its harshness than I worry about any other practical matter.

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