Curry Community

It’s my 37th week being pregnant, and my swollen ankles are proof as I waddle down the hallway of the apartment complex. My overworked olfactory sense gets hit with one tenants casserole, and the others fried fish. My feet are hidden as they drag on the outdated orange, but, freshly vacuumed carpet. I’m greeted with smiles and hugs as my newly married friends welcome me into their basement two bedroom. They are quick to take my jacket, offer a glass of water, and try not to let their eyes linger as I unzip my husbands jacket, exposing my heavy, bulging stomach.

I zero in on the exercise ball tucked into the corner of the room, grateful for the relief it provides as I bounce and sway, trying to shed some of the pressure bearing down on my pelvic muscles, courtesy of my baby’s head. I breath deep and push away the elbow and knee jabs, as my friends gasp and giggle at my contorting belly.

“Was that a foot?!”

“Ok that had to be it’s hand!”

Within a few minutes, the living room is full with my nearest and dearest. The kitchen counter is littered with curry takeout containers. We eat until the spoons scrape styrofoam, and talk until its late, the conversation usually brought back to my braxton hicks and fears surrounding labour and delivery.

There is a surprising comfort in none of us having gone through this all before, no comparison, no well-intentioned, but, pushy advice. Just positive encouragement and wonder at the mystery of birth.

The trifecta of laughter, spicy curry, and admittingly, a couple sips of wine.

My water breaks the following morning.

We are all gathered hours later, this time in a small hospital room, with the newest member of our group cradled in my arms.


My story is not unique. Young, barely adult girl meets cute, young boy. They both read their bibles and pray daily.

A modest wedding, small basement apartment of our own, followed by joy filled years, indulging in all the new found freedom marriage brings.

Without much planning, or more accurately, much prevention, a positive pregnancy test sets us on the course of so many other couples we have watched walk before us.

Falling into the common narrative of the young couple with babies in the nursery, I keep expecting to turn and see a line of Mom friends by my side, swapping baby clothes and having coffee dates while children nap. Instead I’ve watched them board airplanes, finish multiple degrees, and venture into business start ups. I’ve applauded GPA scores as they’ve cheered my children on as they take their first steps. I feel it owed to me to have my friends in the trenches of early motherhood with me, instead of sleeping in, meals at restaurants, and flights booked on whims. It’s been years of walking to the playground by myself, awkwardly trying to find conversation amongst the established friend groups that gather there. A season of life where I’m always in the presence of my sweet baby boy and girl, and yet loneliness finds its way in.


The once fuzzy newborn has all too quickly shape shifted to talking toddler. As I juggle,”Green Eggs and Ham,” in one hand and her breastfeeding baby brother in the other, my phone vibrates. The screen glows with a notification from my favourite group chat, spammed with emojis and GIFs.

“Can we say 7:00 pm for dinner?”

I’m tight with anxiety as I struggle how to best say that there could be no worse time for dinner as it’s right at cranky baby time and toddler bath time and how could they even think that was a good option?!

I go with,

“Heyy sorry for the Mom card but could we make it a little earlier instead?”

Their work week has barely finished, tired from rushing in traffic, and somehow my friends show up, food in hand at my door step for a 5:30 pm dinner.

It’s scenarios like this one,played out for years. Assumptions, and unmet expectations, well intentioned plans, and disappointment.

Give and take.

And while for majority of these baby years I haven’t been able to count on my girlfriends to have extra wipes or a diaper in their purse, I have continually been shown I can count on them to show up. Not with seasoned advice, but with empathy and grace.

Dropping off food instead of dropping subtle critiques. Holding back horror and shock as they see toddlers stomp their feet and scream,”NO,” at impressive pitches.

And when the busy calendars of our lives finally align and we all find ourselves around a booth or a coffee table, it’s the honest questions, that help fill my soul that has been drained from days of parenting. Because, while I’ll never go back to the time before I was called, “Mommy,” these faces help remind me of the person that existed before I was given that name. The conversations that revolve around so much more than just tummy time, and potty training techniques, wanting to hear how my children are enjoying Sunday school, but also listening to my doubts and frustrations I’m experiencing with the faith community. They all serve as reminders that I’m a strong, complex, thoughtful person that contribute to making the Mother I am. The reminder that while I joyfully give my children majority of my time, they are not the only thing that define and make up my personhood. And while there are things that can’t go without saying, or schedules that have to be reworked, I am made a better Mom because of this group.


It’s an early Sunday morning, and while they would usually just be rolling out bed, my people have all gathered in a single row near the front of the auditorium. My husband and I walk up the stairs of the stage with baby boy on my hip as we share our hearts desire for him and how we plan on raising him. I feel shame for wanting anything more than they’ve already given but only until thankfulness quickly floods in.

Not yet torn between children of their own, I stand taller and stronger looking out at my children’s bonus Moms. Silently cheering me on.


This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series on "Rewriting the Script."

Created by Kristine Farnum for Coffee + Crumbs, 2019

Created by Kristine Farnum for Coffee + Crumbs, 2019

Friday, April 21, 2019

The room is different with her walking in beside me. I selfishly enjoy her restraint as she holds my hand tighter and walks nearer.

It takes her cautiousness for me to look closely at the room that suddenly has become larger and intimidating.

We find our row and tuck our coffee cups behind the chair legs in front of us, away from toddler feet, destined to kick, empty, and draw attention.

She shifts from quietly onlooking, to fast, loud questioning.

“Why are they singing so loud Mom?”

“Why is there a cross hanging there, is someone gonna go on it Mom?”

“The lights are bright.”

“Those T.V’s are so big Mom.”

“Are they sad Mom?”

“Mom what they doing, Mom?”

I know her cues of nervousness; incessant use of my name and repeated questions.

Ears inclined to the stage, I glance over at her sweet face when words of death, beaten, thorns are sung with next to perfect harmony.

With instructions to stand she doesn’t hesitate and I sweep my three year old into my arms. Her weight giving me silent permission to sway and move my body the way my spirit already has been.
The mental fight between emotionalism and rationality begins as I start testing why my eyes instinctively water and arms feel wrong hung lifeless by my side, instead of stretched in surrender. I wrestle with being labelled simply as the fragile, dramatic Mom that becomes unhinged with the gentle strum of acoustics.

The intentional theatre lighting, offers safety in its darkness, allowing me to swing heavily towards emotions of love, heartache, and hope. A full auditorium and the only eyes I feel on me are the ones that inherited their colour from me.

Hallelujah

Debt is paid

Set free

I respond in ways that I watched my own parent respond and feel my eyeballs burn and arms grow heavy from being raised over my head. I give myself the three minutes to feel without doubt, and worship with abandon.

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Its one of the few services a year she sits in with us instead of in the age appropriate classroom. The lights come up and teaching begins, not more than two minutes before the innocent fidgeting. I reach for my bag and start with a muffin, which smells much stronger than what I remember when I packed it. Napkin over her small knees, she quietly chews and sips on water.

“I’m done,” and no sooner do I grab the Noah’s ark and rainbow lace-up cards. As she weaves the green shoe lace over and under the hole punched cloud, the questions and observations continue. I close my eyes and kiss her washed hair and offer all the comfort, security, and love I remember experiencing on my own Mother’s lap in another, much smaller sanctuary, almost 30 years ago.

I have sat through more services, that are situated around and highlight the cross, than I can remember. Each one playing their part in bringing my heart to what it is today. It takes her body in my lap for me to know the role this one is playing in shaping hers. This day most typically surrounding my failures and the responding forgiveness given, was now shifting.

With a heart rate that climbs when I watch my children learn to run or splash in the shallow end, It shouldn’t surprise me that fear creeps in and rears its ugly head as I worry what understanding is being formed in her mind.

Where it was always my face I’d picture at the foot of the wooden beams, I see another, much smaller one also resembling me. The cross feels heavier with my children now contributing to its weight. I’m hit with the desperation to pray as I realize this hour matters.

Urgency and fear for my first born are met with the promise of love, hope and redemption. Acknowledging my desperate need for this Good Friday, always brought a thankfulness that kept my head bowed in reverence, which has now left me laying completely faced down.

I know the service is coming to a close as we start hitting the wall of restlessness an hour usually brings. The bread and red liquid are centre stage.

With some hesitation, I offer my daughter the decision to participate. Needing navigation and explanation she eagerly fumbles with the flap and cups the elements in her palm. Wafer chewed and drink swallowed. She forgets to lower her voice and looks at me with all sincerity. She leaves just enough of a questioning pitch that I’m unsure if she is asking or telling me, “We drink that because Jesus loves us Mom?”

I’m tired and it all feels like a lot. Unsure if I should ramble and fumble hoping something resonates, I ultimately decide on fewer words in hope it brings less confusion and nod my head yes with a reassuring smile.


Where I have always stumbled alone towards confession,

this Good Friday I hold the hand of my own flesh and lead her also towards it. I’m not the first woman at the cross with her child and I won’t be the last.

With the closing of the service and shuffle of bodies I tell my daughter, “Yes, we drink because he loves us.”



In the Deep End

My internal clock buzzes and I slowly roll off my side of the mattress. The baby boy stirs and I reach out my hand to quiet him. He drifts back to sleep (barely), as I fight to move my legs out from under the warm comforter and into my well-worn slippers. Sweats, hoodie, not bothering with a bra.

I slip out of the room and awake the house with the squeak of the stairs. The dining room is dark, cold, and unfamiliarly still as I grab the keys to start the car. 

The preschooler has dance class this morning, so I walk softly to the kitchen and turn the slow-cooked oatmeal from low to warm. The fruit is cut, and I leave my husband a note with instructions.

I grab my backpack, carefully placed by the front door the night before and sling it over one shoulder, granola bar half in my mouth and I smile as I think of my ensemble resembling a 17-year-old boy. 

The fresh layer of snow is waiting for my footprints as I make my way to the car, desperately in need of scraping. The thick layer of white acts as another barrier, or an excuse for me to turn around and head back to bed.

The dash reads 6:45 am.

I’m driving down the back lane that is yet to be plowed. The radio volume has been left set on loud, and Adam Levine is coming through the dashboard, giving me the final push to reverse out of the driveway. Forty degrees below freezing and I’m driving to the pool. I almost laugh.

I squeeze my small frame into my black Speedo one piece. It hugs tight, giving no grace to my backside. I pull on my swim cap on with a snap; my eyes shut tight as the latex tugs my hairline. I secure my goggles on my forehead. I pass the mirror but do not glance for fear of the costume I’ll see. Even though I want to, there is no hiding as I make my way to the pool deck.

I feel like an imposter as I join the well-seasoned swimmers in the lap area. The get-up says high school-swim-team-captain-turned-mom, when in reality I’m just a Mom who is somewhat afraid of water and needs the extra exercise. “Fake it till you make it,” I tell myself, although I’m unsure what my body plans on doing once it’s submerged. I pick my lane, crouch, and hesitantly slide in.

….

To read the rest of this essay, head to Kindred Mom Blog where it was published on March 29, 2019.

Bold Move

I was on the fence about hiring someone to take family photos. I knew why I wanted them taken, but the price, combined with uncertainty of how the kids would behave made me cautious. 

Of course opening the email a week later with the edits, I was nothing but glad we did it. They brought me thankfulness, perspective and joy. The perfect way to say goodbye to the place we have called home for a little over a year.

I’ve tried to become more open to the time-honoured pop-in. The unexpected door bells, or the, “I’m five minutes away, mind if I stop and see the kids?” texts. My Mom and Dad have perfected the phone call, “Hey I’m in the area, can I pop-in quick?” When something like an unscheduled visit interrupts my daily routine, it’s usually a good thing, exposing my selfishness and my need for control.

Earlier this month Dad called with his usual pop-in request. He was on his way and the kids were waiting by the window. My phone rings and I’m surprised to hear worry and frustration as he explains he has been at the door for a few minutes knocking. I look out the window and his car isn’t in the drive way. It takes me only a moment to realize what’s happened.

“Uhh Dad, we moved on Sunday, remember?”

This old house hasn’t been the first place Jay and I have lived together, it hasn’t been the second, or third either. The number of times we have moved out numbers the years we have  been married. Each move has had its circumstances, visa’s ending, bank account dwindling, due date approaching. For some moves the decision to pack our boxes was easy, and came with no choice. 

At the beginning of this year we had no event or date looming in the near future. We were comfortable. We didn't own it, we weren’t crazy about the neighbourhood, and the list of changes we would have made to it was long, and yet, I came to love it. The walls held our children’s laughs and rooms were filled with people we love. We grew from a family of three, to four here. It wasn’t perfect but it gave me what I wanted. A place to care for, that I could care and love my children in.

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Renting was never ideal, of course, but up until recently was the option that was available to us and our family. We made the best of it and were thankful for a safe place to call home.

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“I really want to own by the time she goes to school.”

“A yard would be really nice.”

Stay and save steadily, or make a bold move and reach our goal in half as much time. 


A thought out plan was devised and a horse pill of humility was swallowed. A year of accepting help for a fast tracked plan of saving for a well sized down payment. Short term sacrifices for a long term gain. With our eyes on the prize we loaded the U-Haul and did the familiar unload of sorting and storing.

The prize.

A driveway to pull into, our own yard to cut and gardens to water, shines bright as our gold medal. The race of life’s milestones is one I’ve run before. The prize of marriage, career, another child. All trophies that I love, am proud of, have worked hard for, but have never left me without further want.

Legitimate desires and needs that are beneficial to pursue, that eventually left me in the familiar state of wanting and discontentment, looking to the next thing.

Sacrifice

What am I willing to sacrifice in the race of storing away money?

What if my sacrifices don’t take me to where I want them to? What if my sacrifices and hard work don't match up with the time frame I want? The goal of intense financial saving means nothing if in the process, my heart is compromised and my fists clenched. What if, instead of sacrificing I am called to surrender. 

Surrender

Surrendering my dollar amount and number of months it takes me to arrive at it. Surrendering what I want, in order to receive more of who I want, who has proven to provide emotional contentment and satisfaction unlike anything before. Surrender is not waving a white flag of defeat, signalling that I’ve given up. When my heart is deceived into thinking home owning is the prize, I forget the goal is not a building to own, but a person to know. 

As I continue to run the marathon of checked boxes, number of countries visited, vacation home purchased, retirement funded, I try to remember that the prize I am ultimately pursuing is only given at the end of the race. And that instead of rushing ahead to these events that may or may not happen, I am to rest in God’s nearness. 

Crafting a house to be inviting, warm, beautiful, and full of love is something I am passionate about and am looking forward to, and I know will come with great ease. It is allowing God to do the same with me that proves to be much more difficult. Creating my heart as home for the eternal. Gutting out the old and constructing it in the form of his newness. Breaking down walls to open it up, allowing more space for more of him.

Love After Babies

It’s late August, and I now laugh at the freedom my 18 year old self possessed. My allotted hour of free time that conveniently landed in the hottest part of the afternoon. I choose to spend it submerged in the warm-by-now, borderline concerning, green lake.

On my back, looking up at blue, I hear his hardly dropped voice I almost don’t recognize. 
“What are you doing?! You’re going to get us both in trouble!” Young enough where just being near each other, outside of supervision warranted reprimanding. 

“Water cold?”

“You don’t have your suit on.” I say it pointedly but really questioning if it is enough of a barrier from keeping him out of the water. 

His answer comes with him ripping off his staff shirt, revealing a torso that has been left behind with our adolescence, leaving him in just his jeans as he dives in. 

I laugh and he smiles, clearly happy with himself as we bob up and down, talking about what, I can’t remember. He speaks and I stare back at the boy who would become the man I now call, amongst other names, “Husband.”


I was the teenage babysitter that would stand in the mirror, trying to imagine what it would feel like to have my own DNA on my hip. I spent more car rides day dreaming about the delivery room than the wedding altar. My favorite pictures in the photo albums were of my Mother, honest smile, a child taking shape under her skin with one in her arms.


It’s rush hour and the herd of vehicles have come to a stop. I turn and our once roomy SUV is now all car seat. Drive thru coffees, a babbling baby, and a singing toddler gives some parental relief.

My heart and my ears are turned to the back seat. 
My daydreamed fairy tale, was sitting in traffic with me. 

“Could we squeeze a booster between the two of their chairs?” It’s asked innocently enough but is not the first time the topic has been brought into words, by me. Under the breath one liners, averting the donation bin with outgrown onesies, challenging him to another round of newborn nights. 

His chuckles turn to half grins, and grins to eye brow raises, unimpressed. Pretending he doesn’t hear me, Until I’m no longer met with any engagement. 

What feels like my life’s purpose, grown and birthed from me and I feel it only natural to start from the beginning once again.

I’m hurt and rejected by his unmet enthusiasm.

My eyes are focused on the brown slush roads and my heavy boots uncomfortably squeak to break our silence as I shift toward my window. I feel his strong, gentle, familiar hand, placed on my cold, tense thigh, non verbally reassuring me he isn’t angry or annoyed. Non verbally expressing his want for closeness, and I turn to be met with saline eyes, “I just don’t want to share you anymore.”


Supper has been half eaten by the toddler and thrown by the baby, he does the dishes silently and we do our pre bath dance of basement free play. A tower of the new wooden blocks from Christmas stands in front of our first born and him. 

I’m looking at him and my heart tells me to see the boy on the dock.

 We are slightly older, bodies softer, tired, and yet still treading water. Now with two babies in between us, trying to keep our heads above life’s surface. Bobbing up and down, all the while not taking our eyes off each other. 


He had my heart first, before it was split into three.

He held me in his arms before mine were used to cradle and comfort the cries of the ones we made. 

He kissed my lips before all the lullabies had been sung.

He chose to jump

The carpet floor and block towers, to let me win, pick Thai takeout, to stay silent when my mouth won’t.

He chooses me every time. 


The upstairs is dark, children’s rooms quiet, and the floors of this old house let out their creaks and groans as we carefully close the doors and move to the living room. He stops me and confesses that he does not know if we will watch my belly become round once again.

My heart breaks and is hardened all at once. Where his touch usually shatters my walls, they remain reinforced and held high. 

It’s foreign and uncomfortable. I wish my heart would surrender to his embrace, and that my will and desires would follow, but they don’t.



I don’t know if any others will call me, “Mama,”  I don’t know if I will have my world explode again in a delivery room, or if the nursing and the burping is over. I’m scared of the possibility of retiring the baby carrier, and the figure 8 sway that put them to sleep while their bodies in it. 


I’m scared that it is my turn to choose. I’m scared that choosing to love after babies, instead of more babies, is a harder choice than I admit.

I’m scared of the ending in which I don’t choose. I’m desperate for conversation instead of a duel.

I will myself to remember, this is not an argument I want to win, but a race I want to finish. It’s not an equation with a formulated answer, but a mural to be painted. Not a decision I want to persuade him in to, but a love I want to hold on to.


I tell myself to jump.