Rap-a-bye

4.14.2014

When we got married our friends, Evan and Justin, performed a personalized rap at our reception and promised that when we had our first baby, they’d rap again. And they did. Oh, they did.

Scout’s Rap-a-bye

Dustin off the record from 2010
On the day you wed we said we’ed rap again

We’ve done weddings, birthdays, parties, and more
But yours is the first baby will be rapping for

You’ve been to the doctor to see baby in your belly
But our lyrics are smoother than that petroleum jelly

The Murphs are expanding so make some room
for the little tiny girl coming out of your womb

Her name is Scarlett but you’ll call her scout
listen up baby to what this rap’s about

Hush little baby don’t you cry
Uncle Justin and Evan are here for your rap-a-bye

Hush little baby don’t say a word
Your mama named you after to kill a Mockingbird

With the wit of your mom and the charm of your dad
You’ll be sure to win the hearts of many a lad

With the right amount of cool and the right amount of smarts
You’ll be great at sports and great at the arts

Scout, we love your parents so take it from us
Here’s some advice from J Reid and E Gus

Listen to mom and dad, they know what they’re doing
And no talking back with your baby cooing

Say please, thanks, and I love you
And never forget girl, we bleed blue

April 8th, the best day ever
You’re sealed into a family that nothing can sever

We love you Scout, have a great life!
You’ll be a great sister, daughter, mom, and wife!

Uncle Justin and Evan have rapped it just right
So close your little eyes and sleep through the night!

She Came

4.12.2014

When I touch her, I get this tingly feeling that spreads up my arms, filling every cell with some kind of magic euphoric helium that lifts me off the ground. I run my finger softly down the bridge of her nose and suddenly I’m rising, floating upward like a fairy-dusted orphan shoulders-first into the sky.

So far, motherhood is a familiar story and my little babe, a happy thought.

It’s a wonderful surprise.

Listening to: Jose Gonzalez, “Heartbeats”

Still here, folks.

4.06.2014

Sending out my weekly public service announcement: Public, I’m still pregnant. 41 weeks today.

My body feels good—possibly even too good—and my spirits are on the up-and-up. I think I’ve finally surrendered all control. Next week we’ve got a full pelvic exam on the docket, then possibly some non-stress tests, but we’re taking it a day at a time. I’d really rather not be induced if I can help it. I want this little lady to make her own way if she can. And so far, we have no reason to think that she can’t.

My mom has been saintly. Truly. I know she came here to hold a baby, but if she hadn’t spent the last two weeks distracting me, supporting me, walking with me, I’d have been stuck at home with my own thoughts. I shudder to think of the monster I might have become without her. She’s been here long enough to watch spring in Atlanta bloom in full. And hopefully, she’ll be here to meet her granddaughter.

My best friend Monica is here for the weekend, another welcome distraction, and Trent’s on spring break this next week. He needs it. And I need it too. He needs to sleep and regroup and take some time to sort out big decisions about his future. Our future. Our life after the school year is one big question mark at the moment. We haven’t really thought past this baby. And strangely, we’re both OK in limbo.

“I never thought that when we got to this point, all we’d feel is love,” he said as we drifted off to sleep the other night.

I’m surprised too. I thought we’d feel more tension, more stress, more worry, more resentment, more … something bad, anything bad. But here we are, days away from our life changing forever, and we feel pretty happy and peaceful. There’s calm before the storm.

Thoughts from a Due Date

3.31.2014

Saturday was my due date, the day I started thinking crazy thoughts.

My mom arrived in Atlanta a week ago and now we have a routine. We wake up, make raspberry leaf tea and eat breakfast while we write in our journals and study a bit. Then she does a Jillian Michaels video in the bedroom and I do a prenatal yoga video in the living room. We shower. We leave.

My mom and I go to museums, antique shops, bookstores and bakeries. We take an afternoon walk at a park or trail somewhere in the city. We come home. We eat dinner with Trent. We play cards. We plan. We sleep. And then it starts again.

The routine has been protecting me from thinking too much about my achy body, about looming changes, about passing time. I’ve been too preoccupied to fret over how wrong I was—in my heart of hearts, I thought this baby would come early. Everyone said she wouldn’t, but my heart of hearts believed.

On Saturday, we broke from the routine. Trent was home. Our plans were different. The protective shield of habit was down. On Saturday, I started thinking crazy thoughts. I started listening to the mildly insensitive things people say to pregnant women. I’ve been trying to funnel the energy of those interactions into learning and not hurting. But on Saturday, I started hurting. I started believing, against all reason, that it was my fault that I wasn’t going into labor when everyone seemed to want me to. I started accepting blame for this baby not being ready to be born. My mom assures me over and over again that there’s nowhere else she’d rather be. And yet, I feel guilt for needlessly taking her away from her life and responsibilities back home. Sometimes, when I slip into dark mental spaces, I start taking guilt from everywhere and trying it on for size.

In the middle of the day on Saturday, Trent saw me drifting. He’s seen it before. He knows what to look for. He interrupted my thoughts with his arms, wrapping them around me so surely that the hurting lost its edge.

“Sam, you’re good enough,” he whispered.

And for a second, I really felt that I was.

Listening to: Cat Stevens, “Wild World”

How Madwomen Survive

3.24.2014

I love this poem by Marijo Moore. That is all.

 

I come from a long line of madwomen and of this, I am proud.

Strong women with determined resiliency,

open minds, and hands that knew no idleness.

A great grandmother who became accustomed

to the whiskey-colored breath of strangers

in order that her children be fed.

 

A grandmother who captured and killed

the white chickens of neighbors

for the same reason.

And a mother who tried and failed

and tried and failed and tried and failed

and tried and failed to understand the reasoning

behind the lies of men who said they were her lovers.

 

I come from a long line of madwomen and of this, I am proud.

There is a difference in madness and craziness:

Craziness causes one to twirl and twirl until a great breath

sucks her spirit home leaving her mind and body to laugh on their own.

 

Madness allows the mind and body to function

while the spirit dances to the heartbeat of the stars.

I come from a long line of madwomen and of this, I am proud.

Women who folded their shame

into the gathers of their pride

wrapped them both around their ankles

and continued to dance, letting everyone know

they were not afraid to dance backward if it meant survival.

 

I come from a long line of madwomen and of this, I am proud

 

“Relaxing”

3.21.2014

This afternoon I submitted my last freelance writing assignment due before the six week break I plan to take when this baby is born. And then, I emailed my editor and told her I had time for another.

I talk about how ready I am to not be pregnant anymore. I talk about how I’m done thinking of my body in poetic terms like a piece of fruit—supple, ripe and glorious—and now think of it as big. Just big. Big and in the way. “I’m over it,” I say. “Let’s do this.”

But the truth is, there’s a part of me that’s terrified by the thought that there is nothing left between me and this baby—no more baby gear to purchase, no more childbirth books to read, no more freezers to clean, no more loose ends to tie up. People keep telling me I should make the most of this time. “You should go out with your husband and take lots of naps,” they say. But the truth is, our budget is gearing us up for full-time studenthood next fall and sleep, with all of its tossing and turning and bathroom breaks, just doesn’t have the same allure that it used to.

Relax? Relax. Relax. Relax. Relax … I chant it to myself, which naturally makes me antsy.

It’s like that saying my mom always recites:

“Happiness is like a butterfly. The more you chase it, the more it will allude you. But if you focus your mind on other things, it will come softly sit on your shoulder.”

For now, I’ll just keep adding to my to-do list.

Listening to: Stevie Nicks, “For What It’s Worth”

The Parable of the Lost Coin

3.18.2014

I was reading “Jesus the Christ” by James E. Talmage this morning and was struck by an old parable in a new way. There are three parables Christ tells, all in the same discourse, all along the same vein. There’s the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin and the parable of the prodigal son. All three of them are essentially about feeling joy and gratitude when something lost has been recovered, but the second parable is distinctly different than the other two. I’ve never noticed that before. In the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the prodigal son, what is lost has become so because it has wandered off of its own free will. But in the parable of the lost coin, what is lost has become so because of the carelessness of the caretaker. Here’s what Talmage has to say about it:

“The woman who by lack of care lost the precious piece may be taken to represent the theocracy of the time, and the Church as an institution in any dispensational period; then the piece of silver, every one a genuine coin of the realm, bearing the image of the great King, are the souls committed to the care of the Church; and the lost piece symbolizes the souls that are neglected and, for a time at least, lost sight of by the authorized ministers of the Gospel of Christ.”

Sometimes I think people forget that “the Church as an institutuion in any dispensational period” is capable of neglecting the care of certain souls. Sometimes it’s easier to believe that it’s the coin’s fault that it’s lost than it is to recognize that we could have something to do with it, or what’s more, that the Church leaders we look up to could have blind spots too. But the Savior seemed to understand that even the authorized ministers of His gospel are sometimes short-sighted, that even the most faithful are vulnerable to carelessness. The Savior seemed to know that the joy to be had in recovering those souls would sometimes come only when we accept our fault and open our eyes.

Listening to: Explosions in the Sky, “Your Hand in Mine”

Tiger Mothers, the French and what’s the deal with obedience?

3.18.2014

ChineseFrench

I don’t like the word “obedience.”

To some of my friends, that statement will seem perfectly healthy. To others, it will seem heretical. But there it is, either way. I don’t like the word “obedience.” It’s just never sat well with me. Maybe it’s because the word is so often used to mean “blind obedience” that the connotation seems negative to me. Or because it’s high praise for a dog, but seems patronizing for a human. Or maybe I’m just a rebel at heart. It’s sad really, that this word is unsettling to me, because the concept, in its purest form, is something I really believe in.

I realized this while reading a memoir comparing French and American parenting followed by another memoir comparing Chinese and American parenting. The authors of both books seemed to find children from the other culture generally more obedient than children from American culture. And although there are some drastic differences between French and Chinese parents, both seem to arrive at this outcome by some similar philosophy. Generally speaking, both French and Chinese parents believe that children are beings capable of rational agency and that it’s in their best interest to be treated as such. Both French and Chinese parents believe that high expectations and structured behaviors make children more mature and developed and therefore more happy. Both French and Chinese parents believe that requiring obedience of your children is what’s best for your children.

When I polished off the second book, I sat there on the couch for a good long while, thinking. There was a lot about being a Chinese “tiger mother” that seemed unsustainably exhausting and a lot about being a French mom that seemed too polished to be true. But the idea that obedience can actually be empowering? Well, that felt right. It felt like something real and familiar.

It’s a concept I was introduced to through Mormonism, specifically through my Dad’s long and frequent lectures about the paradox of “freedom and captivity” illustrated in the Book of Mormon. (By the way, I’m now profoundly grateful for those lectures.) We all seek freedom, but often true freedom comes when we agree to live by standards. Living within your means gives you financial freedom. Taking care of your body gives you physical freedom. Loving and serving others gives you emotional freedom. And sometimes, disregarding certain standards in pursuit of freedom can actually make you more captive than free.

So how will that fit in to my American-French-Chinese, moderate-Mormon-feminist, obedience-hating, obedience-loving, free-spirit-encouraging parenting style?

If I only knew.

Listening to: Nickel Creek, “Love of Mine”

Letter to Baby Girl

3.14.2014

Dear Baby Girl,

I went to the doctor today to check up on you. The doctor is a nice old man—very nice and very old. He’s delivered thousands of babies and has to be retiring sometime soon. I searched every corner of the city for him. It took me a while. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. But when I met Dr. Dott and discovered his perfect mix of paradoxes, I knew he was the one. He wears a bow tie, but calls himself “crunchy” and “a wannabe midwife.” He looks like my deductive logic professor from college, but reminisces about planting placenta trees with his wife in the seventies. He has the credentials of a medical doctor, but the heart of a hippie. He says things like, “You look radiant today, Samantha. Now tell me—how does it feel to be in the cusp of creation? I’ve never experienced it before.” You’d like him, Baby Girl. I’m sure of it.

Today he listened to your heartbeat and felt your head all low in my belly. “Can I say something to you, Samantha,” he asked, “as a father, not as a doctor?” I nodded and he sank down in a chair beside me. He told me that he sees two types of parents come through his doors: the parents who drastically alter their lives in every way when babies come and the parents who just strap the babies on their backs and go on living. “The ones who don’t tear down what they’ve already built and start from scratch with a baby, the ones who just invite the baby to join in and build with them—those are the happier parents,” he said. “Which kind of parent do you think you’ll be?”

Well, isn’t that the question?

I hope we’re the kind of parents who just let you join in and build on what we’ve already got going. It’d be a shame to start over. Your dad and I? We’ve built something good, something I rather like, something I’m scared to tear down for you or for anyone. I don’t want everything to change. Sometimes I’m tempted to think that makes me selfish, but Dr. Dott didn’t seem to think so. He seemed to think that I shouldn’t tear it all down. He seemed to think that you’re more than a ticking time bomb or giant eraser, ready and waiting to obliterate what we’ve done here and send us back to the drawing board. He seemed to think you have something to contribute to this life we’ve been working on, this love we’ve been working on. Am I making sense here, Baby?

Sometimes I get so caught up in all the things I want for you—may you have the vocabulary of a food critic and the contentment of a Tibetan monk—and I think that to give you those things, I need to alter my world unalterably. But maybe that’s not how it works, Baby. Maybe the best I can really give you is a few blocks to build with and a little head start. Your Dad and I have already started creating a beautiful life. I can’t wait to see what you bring to it.

See you soon,

Mom

My Best Sister’s Wedding

3.03.2014

I sat in the back corner of the wedding luncheon last week eating my salmon and thinking about “A Night’s Tale.”

Remember the speech the king gives at the end of the movie when poor Heath Ledger is stuck in the stocks being publicly ridiculed? Remember what he says?

“Your men love you. If I knew nothing else about you, that would be enough.”

That’s what I kept thinking about Dallin, my new brother-in-law. Listening to his friends and family talk about him, it was clear what kind of a guy he is—a great one. It was clear that any one of them would do anything for Dallin. I got a little teary when my dad took the mic and talked about how loyal my sister can be. Along with her ability to laugh at herself when she hits rock bottom, loyalty is one of her best qualities. Dallin is a lucky man to have a woman like that in his corner, another soul who loves him enough to stand in front of the mob and take a cabbage in the face for him. My sister will surely do that. And if I knew nothing else, that would be enough.

Since he came into my sister’s life, she and I have grown closer. For whatever reason, his influence has drawn her to me. Or me to her. Or us to each other. Selfishly, I want him around for that too.

Congratulations, Mckenna and Dallin! It was a great day. Here’s to a great life.

 

Help

3.03.2014

I feel good in this moment. In this moment, I feel good. I feel grateful and hopeful, like I’ve learned a tough lesson without even trying.

The nurse pulled the curtain back and Trent’s eyes slowly found mine. He looked at me suspiciously, trying to place me through the thick of waning anesthesia.

“Can I hit on you?” he asked at a deafening volume.

I hope I’m the only person he’s said that to, I thought.

This wasn’t Trent’s first ACL surgery. His other knee went under the knife when he was an undergrad. Last time, he went 80s dancing all night long before his 6 a.m. surgery. He was supposed to wake up in post-op after 20 minutes or so when the anesthesia wore off. He slept for eight hours. It cost a fortune.

This time, he had someone around to take care of him or at least give him a ride home. I sat by his side and got instructions from the nurse while he argued with her in drunken slurs—still at a deafening volume. “I’m the boss,” he kept saying over and over again, along with, “Let’s blow this joint. It’s too expensive to hang out here.” She put her hand on my shoulder before she put us on the elevator. “This one’s a handful,” she said.

I dropped my friend Monica off at the airport a little while ago. She was in Atlanta for work all week and stayed the weekend to help me take care of Trent. The first night after his surgery she was still at her hotel. We slept with every light in the apartment on. Trent was immobile. I was exhausted. The next day, she seemed like something of an angel.

And angel she was. She helped me look for the phone I lost, and helped me set up the new one I bought to replace it. She humored me by paying $18 to tour the Fox Theatre and treated me to brunch at West Egg Cafe. And she watched hours and hours of Prison Break with Trent like a champ.

And I took care of him, too. I took care of him and he let me. He doesn’t let me often. I made him chili and cornbread and ice packs. I changed the bandages on the incision. I helped him lift his leg into the bathtub. And it felt so good to help him, because I knew he needed help. It felt so good to help him, because for once in his life, he didn’t put up a fight.

And in a few weeks, when I have this baby and the tables have turned, I’ll remember that feeling. I’ll remember gratitude for my angels and how good it feels to be one. I’ll remember to love the people who want to help me and to let go and let them.

 Listening to: Billy Joel, “Vienna”

Parenting Taboos

2.26.2014

My Uncle Breck sends a pretty steady stream of interesting videos and articles to my inbox. I’m always excited to see what he’s got for me. Yesterday, it was this TED talk, a lot of which rang true to me. But I’ll refrain from saying more. I still feel like until I transition from “expecting parent” to “parent” I’m not officially allowed to comment on parenting matters. Does anyone else feel that way? I have to cross that bridge before I earn myself any credibility. What do you parents out there think about this talk?

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