Grumpy Bump

Pregnancy just really isn’t my jam. It’s hard to say that publicly! But I think I need to put it out there for all of the other mommas-to-be who are pretty much suffering in silence for 40+ weeks, putting on a happy face for all the well-wishers. Let me clarify to say I am grateful that I was able to get pregnant, and I know I will be overjoyed once this child is born. I realize many, many women struggle and often fail to ever conceive, and I commiserate with them. But man, pregnancy is HARD! Some women seem to have magical rainbow unicorn pregnancies where everything is beautiful and lovely, but I am not one of those women!

I can’t even complain about the usual pregnancy issues. My morning sickness at the start was fairly benign. Yeah, I was exhausted a lot in the first trimester, and have re-entered the exhaustion phase as I round the corner to the finish line. But mostly there are a million tiny uncomfortable inconveniences that pregnancy brings on. In my normally active life, these little things really add up!

My abs have completely stretched out and have stopped functioning in any capacity, other than keeping my uterus from exploding out of my body. I can no longer lift a 50lb sack of feed, a previously daily occurrence. Shoot, I can no longer easily pull myself to a seated position without either help or a lot of patience! Forget about tying my shoes. I’m used to being small and agile. Both of those convenient traits have flown out the window. I waddle and amble around, and get winded from carrying this extra 35 pound bowling ball on my belly. For someone who’s never waffled in weight more than ten pounds, this is quite an extreme adjustment for my aching bones.

Like many pregnant women, I don’t sleep much. I wake up constantly to either pee or adjust my body into some sort of barely comfortable position, until I wake again to chew some papaya enzymes to combat the acid reflux that attempts to strangle me. And when I finally wake in the morning and stretch my legs out, more often than not I am greeted with excruciating leg cramps! Ahhh…the joys of creating life are plentiful! Oh, and that pregnancy glow? Yeah. That’s called acne.

Of course I am looking forward to meeting this little “sprout” who has taken over my body. But I can already tell he or she is going to have a lot to say about life. My ribs are sore from the kicks and jabs I receive constantly. At our last birth class the instructor stopped talking to exclaim “wow! Your baby is so active, I can see it from here!” We’ve got a mover and shaker on our hands, that’s to be sure.

Yet all of the physical ailments aside, the strangest part of being pregnant is that somehow my body and life have become public domain. I don’t normally receive a lot of attention from strangers, (unless I’m walking around with my twin), but pregnancy changes that. Suddenly people not only notice me, they feel compelled to say something! Usually it’s women, and I know they are just often remembering their own pregnancies fondly. I don’t mind when someone says “congrats!” or asks my due date; my belly is really obvious and it’s normal for people to notice it. The other day Andrew and I were walking around downtown Snohomish and a guy outside a bar basically started jigging and told us he was so excited. That was a new one on us, but it was sweet and made us chuckle.

This weekend I was waddling down the street at the farmers market, minding my own business and eating a pickle, (like the walking cliché that I am), and I found it very odd when a woman literally jumped into my path. She forced me to stop so she could oooh and ahhh. She lightly touched my belly and told me I was “sooooo beautiful” and isn’t it amazing what my body can do?! I wanted to tell her, sure. It’s amazing. I have low blood pressure, anemia, am exhausted, sore, and need to get back to my booth because I have a job to do! But instead of course I smiled and faked some pregnant-lady joy. Because that’s what you do when you’re pregnant.

At that same market another lady gave me all kinds of unsolicited advice, and was rather aggressive about it. She had strong opinions about pain medication, and was trying to get me to essentially promise not to use them. Now, I certainly have opinions and desires about how my birth will go, but it seems to me that pushing a child out of my body is an extremely personal decision. While I might discuss the details with a close friend or family member, strangers definitely don’t get a say! Pregnancy really brings out the crazy, and not just in me (hormone joke, bah da cha)!

All that said, of course we are getting excited. I’m not the ooh and ahh type of lady, but there are a few items of clothing and gifts we have received that trigger a little bit of the cuddly feels in me. I know that once the sprout comes out, the hormones and nurturing instincts will kick in and all will be well. But for now…I’m mostly just looking forward to getting my body, and my personal space, back to myself.

Instagram!

Hi all! It’s been FOREVER and a day since I’ve written, and for that I am sorry. I will be writing again soon, but today is not that day. Instead I want to direct you to my instagram account, where you can more easily keep track of farm life and animal shenanigans! Instagram is a really fun app, if you don’t have it yet. Each post contains one photo and a description of what’s going on. It’s easy and fun for me to post things as they are happening, and requires a lot less time and brain space for yours truly (both of which are seriously lacking during my third trimester of pregnancy!)

You can check out our instagram account here. Enjoy!

Baby Talk

It’s been a long while since I’ve updated this here blog! Every time I let so much time slip I become anxious about getting back into it. It’s hard to decide how much to include in each blog, what is worth writing about, or what you all will find interesting. This year is turning out to be especially hard to blog about, because lots of really big things are happening! So I sit here looking at a (mostly) blank “page” on the screen and don’t know where to begin.

I guess the biggest news (so far) for those of you who haven’t heard yet, is that we are expecting our first child this summer. Late July to be exact. Which is absolutely the WORST time for farmers to be having a baby, but sometimes these things can’t be helped. I have spent the last few months marveling at how different my body is becoming, and how much it affects my day to day. And the baby isn’t even here yet (although it’s currently kicking me, trying to tell me otherwise). Other than increased fatigue, little things like my abs stretching out and becoming weak are affecting my ability to lift buckets of chicken feed or haul water. Andrew is pulling far more than his share of the weight around here these days, and I’m more than a little nervous about what the looks like as the season progresses, our responsibilities on the farm grow, and then this baby appears!

Fortunately we are friends with a wonderful couple (who are also new parents), who have quit their corporate jobs and want to try their hand at farming. Sounds familiar! We are currently scheming up ways for them to help us out this season so we can have some relief and they can gain some skills. I’m sure having babies together at the farm will be a nice bonus as well! Oh, and for those of you who are wondering, we are not finding out the sex of the baby before it is born. I recently told that to a farmer acquaintance and she said, “Oh, not finding out is the new thing!” Of course my smartass response was, “Uh, actually, it’s the OLD thing” hah. We’ve only had the technology to learn the baby’s sex before birth for about 40 years. It seems to us there are so few surprises in life (although we’ve certainly had our fair share!), and we’re willing to wait to learn all about our little one after he or she enters this world. So stay tuned for that big reveal!

In other news, Andrew and I were lucky enough to escape to Costa Rica back in January. It seems like ages ago. The ten lovely days we spent in the tropics were rejuvenating, but this long, wet Pacific Northwest winter continues to drag on. We have lots of new projects coming up at the farm, including building new portable chicken pens that will improve quality of life for our meat chickens (as well as ourselves!). We were awarded a grant to build these new pens and are excited about the change. We have also had many new goat and lamb babes born this season, our first piglets of the year made an appearance, we will soon have meat chicks in the brooder, and they will be followed quickly by the turkey poults.

Finally I need to mention that my wonderful grandmother passed away last month. I have written about her many times in the blog; she and I were close and I miss her. Fortunately she lived to be 93, and passed away peacefully in her bed after a few months of slipping away. I mentioned in my last post that I got to visit her before her mind was completely taken from her. I was able to tell her I was pregnant, and suddenly she knew exactly who I was and what I was telling her. She was so happy for me, and it was all I could do to keep from bursting into tears on the spot. I’m sad that our child won’t get to meet my grandmother, or his/her own grandmother Nancy. Yet bringing new life into this world as other life departs is a powerful reminder of my own humanity and mortality, and brings to light the important role we each play in the continuity of this wonderful world.

Hanging with Hindy

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know that I am close to my grandmother, Hindy. When she fell ill and needed help moving into her assisted living facility a few years ago, I drove to Tucson and stayed with her for three months while we got her settled and her health improved. Since then she has had several physical ups and downs (she’s almost 93 after all!), but suddenly I am really having to grapple with the reality of her age.

Recently my grandmother has been spending most of her time in bed. Her hearing has become so bad that she no longer answers her phone, which is difficult for me since I live so for away. What little she can hear doesn’t always make sense to her. With these health updates in mind, my mother and I traveled together to visit her in Tucson. Hindy is often disoriented, and while she was happy to have visitors and has many strong memories, she usually struggled to place us in context. Hindy is from Belgium, and her native languages are Dutch and French. As her mind starts to wander into the depths of dementia, her French is returning. She tends to start her sentences in French, then pauses with a frustrated look on her face and attempts to rephrase her words into English. This experience is new for me, as my grandmother has always had the most astute memory of anyone in my family. She remembered details from vacations many years long passed, who gave her a holiday card (and who didn’t!), and what every one of her beloved family members were up in their busy, disparate lives.

My grandfather died when he was in his early 80s, and was also sharp as a whip at the time. My mom’s parents both died very young. I have no experience with dementia, though I am grateful it took as long as it did to show its tragic/comic face. My grandmother is in relatively good spirits. Her face lights up when we walk into the room. She laughs at herself. She exclaims, “wow I guess I am old!” and there are small daily victories, such as her remembering a stroll we took just the day before. But it also feels like my grandmother is no longer my grandmother. She claimed my father, Rob, was almost 8 years old and was a “little angel” which she accented with a heavy, sarcastic eyeroll. It was funny. But it was also sad. And I suppose that’s a microcosm of life.

I wish I lived closer to my grandmother. My grandparents moved to Tucson just a few months before my family moved to the Bay Area, but they loved the desert and there they stayed. After my grandfather died my grandmother didn’t miss a beat. She continued volunteering at the Tucson Visitor Center, translating for tourists who came in speaking Dutch, Spanish, or French. She was an usher at the local theater. She played bridge and mahjong, and had an active social life. So of course she wanted to stay in Tucson where she had spent the last two wonderful decades of her life. But it’s hard. There is no family in Tucson. Her friends are all either gone or in similar health. She’s at a wonderful facility and has her every need met, but she’s not with those who love her. This is common in our culture, which has the modern family nucleus going…well… nuclear and exploding all across this huge country in search of a better job, climate, quality of life. Family cohesion often gets lost in the fray, and I’m a perfect example. My mom and step-dad now live in southern California (after four years in Australia). My dad and step-mom live in northern California. My twin sister and her family live in Maine. My brother and his wife live in Oregon. My grandmother is in Tucson. And I live in Washington.

Every single one of us is living where we choose, and with good reasons. But I can’t help feeling a deep sadness and longing every time I have to say goodbye to someone at the airport. When you’re a child growing up with your parents and siblings you fully expect the rest of your life to look just the same, but maybe with an added spouse and children of your own. Now our spouses and children take the place of extended family, until they too explode off around the country to colleges, careers, and their own little family units. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with this picture, until someone turns 93 and starts to slip away, and you are lucky to be able to afford time and airfare to go visit once a year.

This is part of the appeal of farm life for me. I can envision a large extended family sharing communal space, in a big house or smaller houses nearby. Land that feeds us and gives everyone a job to do. Hands to help with chores, harvest and child rearing. Laughter. Hugs. Big, boisterous mealtimes. Part of me recognizes this as the dream of a bygone era, but part of me hopes against hope I can make it happen. Living in the same state as most of Andrew’s family is a good start. And parents: know this: if I ever have a house with an extra room, you are welcome there. If you are able bodied I will likely put you to work of some kind, but you will be cared for and loved, and never alone. I know my grandmother chose her lot, and I don’t fault any of her family for honoring her wishes. Forcing someone to move to a new state at the end of her life isn’t always the most ethical choice, and it wasn’t for her. But I’m peering into my future and I don’t like how I feel about it. If there was some way I could get all of my family living together again I would do it in a heartbeat.

For now there is nothing left to do but say goodbye to my grandma with hope and trepidation. I don’t know when I’ll be back, and I don’t know what she’ll be like. I can only hope she keeps her spirits high and meets her dementia with the grace she’s shown through all of her remarkable life’s tribulations. As my mom and I drove through the desert on this drizzly solstice day, the sweet mesquite smell of the damp dirt jolted me back into my childhood. When all we knew was life with each other, and the unbridled joy we felt when grandma enveloped us in her arms.

 

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A Year Without Nancy

It is hard for me to summarize this past year in a succinct way. I was intending on posting something on facebook commemorating the one year anniversary of Andrew’s mom, Nancy’s, passing, but I can’t do it in so few words. I can’t tease out the emotions from the rest of what this intense year has brought us. This has been a tremendous year of struggle and growth for us and our farm operation. There have been many days of stress, tears, and bitter words that have passed between Andrew and me. This is the truth about all marriages on occasion, but I’ll wager that those couples who own and run small businesses together experience more than our fair share of this kind of tension. The trouble for us is that Nancy was always our go-to, especially for Andrew when he’s feeling overwhelmed. She was just a phone call away, ready to offer soothing words and practical advice. Ready to remind us that we are loved and celebrated, that our hard work is worth it.

Of course we have many other champions in our lives, and are lucky to have a large support network. But there is nothing like the comfort of a mother, and especially a mother as loving and warm as Nancy. For me the grief of not being able to call her when Andrew is upset is palpable; I can only imagine what it feels like for him and her other children. The knowledge that my future children won’t know their grandmother is a pain I didn’t plan on, a pain that is compounded since my own maternal grandmother died when I was an infant. I often wonder what my grandmother was like, and while I know about her through my mother and her siblings, it’s not the same as forming a true relationship.

At this same time of renewed grief, my only living grandmother is struggling. She suffered a small health setback a few months ago, and while physically she is ok it’s like suddenly her mind realized, “oh…I’m 92!” and has started to slip. When I call her sometimes she is confused, her words are a little slurred, she repeats herself often. I am so very grateful it took 92 long years for her to get to this point; I am well-aware many people go through years of dementia, often times from a relatively young age. The hard part is that it didn’t feel gradual. One day I was having meaningful conversations with a woman who had a vibrant social life and excellent memory, and the next it was like talking to someone completely different. Someone who sleeps a lot and tallies the time of day by what meal has been recently eaten. Still, I would have given anything for Nancy to have been around as long as my grandmother. It’s hard to imagine what kind of justification there is for a 52 year old mother and grandmother to be taken from us.

My grandmother is a survivor. She fled Holland with her family at the onset of World War II and survived a harrowing journey at sea to arrive in Indonesia, only to be thrown into an internment camp run by the Japanese. She then lived in Ecuador, New York, and finally Tucson, raising her two boys and loving her four grandchildren. Nancy was a survivor too. She lived for years with chronic pain as her cancer spread. Before she was diagnosed with cancer she (and her whole family) survived a horrible car crash and her leg was badly damaged; pain and mobility issues plagued her ever after. Through all of her trials Nancy never wavered in her faith. While I know she sometimes questioned God’s reasoning for her illness and pain, she strongly felt there was a purpose and a plan for her struggles. My grandmother never talked to me about such things; her generation was much more focused on moving on; she and my grandfather did their best to forget about the emotional torment of their youths. But Nancy laid it all out. She was a woman of words, who wrote beautifully and shared her thoughts with those who asked. I knew I could ask her the hard questions about her faith and her disease, and her thoughts about death. She never avoided the subject and always answered honestly.

This evening we will gather as a family to celebrate Nancy and mourn her loss. I only had the privilege of knowing her for five years or so, but those years were crucial. I learned so much about my husband by knowing and loving his mother. He inherited more than his smile from her; he inherited her thirst for knowledge, her passion, her way with words. There are a million small ways in which I am reminded of Nancy when I look at my husband, and I am so glad I knew her long enough to notice and appreciate them. In some ways I think it was difficult for Nancy that I did not share her faith in God and Jesus. And yet when Andrew and I got engaged she told me that she had prayed for me since the day Andrew was born. This is not a line I take lightly, nor will I ever forget it. Nancy’s faith worked in powerful and mysterious ways, and while she may not have fully understood my views, she accepted them without judgment and opened her arms and heart to me. Nancy was a Christian in the truest sense of the word, and knowing her helped me unlearn some of my preconceived notions about devoutly religious people. I have learned so much from my relationship with Nancy, and as we remember her today I am humbled by the love I still feel emanating from her memory.