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lena5

Today, Babycakes is three months old.

How did that happen?

In this time, I’ve learned several things about motherhood, at least in my own life and for my own baby, that I never imagined I’d learn. Let me share.

  • You do actually forget how much labor hurt. I mean, I know it hurt. I remember crying, struggling to breathe through back labor, throwing up, squeezing my husband’s hand, and, at one point saying, “I don’t think I can do this!” But I don’t physically remember the pain.
  • You shouldn’t doubt your maternal instincts. They’re called instincts for a reason. We’re programmed to intuitively know certain things, and that includes knowing what to do for our babies. I spent a lot of time in the beginning (and admittedly still) second-guessing myself. Am I feeding Babycakes often enough/too often? Do I respond too quickly when she cries, or not quickly enough? Is she getting enough stimulation and learning time? Do I hold her too much or not enough? Once I learned to stop questioning myself and start listening to my daughter, things seemed to get a lot easier.
  • You are the expert on your own child. Sure, it’s great to read up on all the different parenting techniques and ask for advice. But you’re also going to get a lot of unsolicited input from a lot of people, especially well-meaning relatives who think you should’ve been giving the baby cereal by now and nursing her to sleep is a bad thing. But as with maternal instincts, I am the most knowledgeable person when it comes to my baby. And I’m going to do what seems right to me. Will I make mistakes? Sure. Probably already have. Oh well.
  • That whole “babies sleep all the time” thing is a total myth. At least in my house. Babycakes is a stellar sleeper at night – we were getting 5-6 hour stretches by 3 weeks, and now she regularly sleeps up to 10 hours a night, interrupted by an early morning feed. But she does not like to nap at all. The lack of time during the day to do anything but entertain her is offset by the uninterrupted sleep we’ve been getting.
  • No baby is as adorable/smart/funny/etc. as yours. My daughter still hasn’t really figured out her hands, and tummy time is like torture. But she figures things out that we didn’t think she was developmentally ready to do. Plus she’s hilarious. And beautiful. And far too alert for her own good – she has to look at and listen to everything. That’s probably why she’s such a crappy napper. She communicates to us in her own language that can sound like anything from a kitten to a baby wookie, and responds when we imitate. She’ll be going to Harvard next week, I’m sure.
  • Each baby accepts things out in their own time. Babycakes screamed her face off every time we put her in the car or stroller for the first month of her life, which was particularly challenging since she also hates pacifiers. Suddenly last week, the car was no longer akin to being put on the rack (though she still hates the buckling/unbuckling process), and just on Tuesday the stroller was not a torture device. She loves eating milk off a spoon, but still won’t take a bottle, even if it’s the only option she has.
  • Things will hit your emotions in weird ways. All it takes sometimes is a particular song on the radio to make me well up. It took all my willpower not to start sobbing in the doctor’s office waiting room when one of those hungry-kids-in-Africa commercials came on the TV. I cry sometimes when I see tears in my baby’s eyes. It was probably harder on me for her to get her first set of vaccines than it was for me, though she’d probably assert the opposite if she could say more than, “Ah-goo.”
  • You will discover immense capacity for worry. Along with hypersensitivity to every sound your baby makes. You want only the best, and for your baby to be happy and healthy. You’ll wonder every minute you’re awake in the middle of the night if the baby is sleeping okay. You’ll reach over and lay your hand (gently) on her chest to feel that it’s still rising and falling properly. You might even try to get her to squirm a little in her sleep, just to make sure she’s alright. Moms have been doing this, I’m sure, for centuries.
  • Your capacity for worry will be nothing compared to your capacity for love. I loved my baby before I ever met her, but since she’s been born, I often find myself overwhelmed by how much I love her. There are many times I’ll be snuggling and rocking her after she’s fallen asleep nursing, and I just can’t contain my tears of joy and love. The first time my husband found me practically sobbing over our newborn, he was afraid something was very wrong. But rather, everything was very right.
  • You will finally understand how much your own mother loves you. My mom said to me recently, “You know how you feel about her? That’s how I feel about you.”

Over the past couple of years, it seems like you can’t turn on the TV or read something on the Internet without being bombarded with the apparent battle between scientific and religious communities. For those on the far ends of either spectrum, trusting the opposite viewpoint is unacceptable. On the one end, if you put any trust in scientific theory and evidence, you’re probably a sinner, heretic, etc. On the other end, if you adhere to any sort of faith in God, you’re unenlightened and in danger of damaging your children, undoing hundreds of years’ worth of progress, etc.

I’ve never quite understood why science and religion, or more simply, having faith in a Higher Power (whatever you call that Higher Power), had to be mutually exclusive. I’m what people might refer to as a “cradle Catholic”, and what’s more, I’m a practicing, devout Catholic. Believe me, it wasn’t easy at times in high school and college when people, including your close friends, look at you funny because you would rather go to the Sunday evening student Mass than linger at the dining hall. But having a strong faith in God and finding a sense of comfort and community in practicing my religious beliefs has helped me in many ways over the years. I try to live my faith, and I hope it’s made me a better person as I’ve grown into adulthood.

At the same time, science fascinates me. Other than a disappointing experience with high school biology, that is. I love learning about new scientific discoveries, reading about how theories have changed over time, what our scientific community is attempting to do next. Astronomy particularly holds my interest. There’s something amazing in gazing at the night sky and knowing how vast the universe is, how many worlds, galaxies and, possibly, intelligent life forms may be out there.

Science and religion have both served me well. I have seen science save the lives of those I love, but I have also seen miracles occur in the world around me.

This morning, our daughter was baptized in the Catholic faith, and as this special event, this beautiful sacrament of welcome, drew near, I found myself thinking more and more about why I need to have both God and science in my life, and why I hope she will come to appreciate both in hers.

Thanks to science, my grandfather’s cancer was caught in time to administer a course of treatment that was suppose to give us a few more good years with him. Within a few months, he was in complete remission, and ended up having over ten wonderful years before his health began to get shaky for other reasons. Almost four years ago, this same grandfather, who was the deacon of our church for 21 years, could not be healed by science. However, science was able to keep him from pain in his last hours, and he lingered until we stood around his hospital bed and said the Lord’s Prayer. He passed peacefully the moment we finished. This wonderful man of great faith, who always prayed for everyone else, needed us to pray with him before he could leave us for the Heaven he believed – knew – was waiting for him.

Science could not, however, determine why I lost two pregnancies to early miscarriage, or why, despite dozens of tests, treatments, and medically assisted tries, we had such trouble conceiving a child. It was only after we stopped asking for what we wanted and instead let God do for us what we needed that we finally (unexpectedly!) were given a child. In fact, almost seven months before I got pregnant, I dreamed of holding a blue-eyed baby girl. Not only did I know her name, but I swear, the baby in my dream looked exactly like my daughter. I think God was showing me a glimpse of what was in store for us.

When carrying that beautiful baby, faith in God kept me strong when I was scared out of my mind with worrying that one wrong move, or just more bad luck, would result in another miscarriage.

Science, on the other hand, let me see my baby’s body and heartbeat in those crucial early weeks when so much can go wrong. Later, science showed that she was growing properly, though we still had to put faith in God that she would remain healthy and strong.

I also relied on science to provide me with a medical regimen that was intended to prevent miscarriage – a route my doctor felt was a precaution more than a need, but it gave me reassurance that I was doing all I possibly could to maintain my pregnancy. I still prayed every night that we would get to meet our beautiful girl and enjoy the years ahead as she grows.

When Babycakes decided not to come into the world as scheduled, science got labor started. Science allowed the medical staff on the Labor & Delivery floor to monitor me and the baby and do whatever they could to help me deal with the pain. I didn’t have a focal point during labor, or a particular breathing pattern, or anything like that. What I did was pray.

After 12 hours of labor, science could not, however, resolve one tiny issue that would prevent me from a “natural” delivery. But science did allow for a relatively quick and safe c-section that brought my baby into the world without putting her in distress. Science had not been able to predict that the cord would be (loosely) wrapped around her neck, though through science, the OR staff was able to keep her from taking her first breath until they had suctioned the meconium she’d swallowed in utero, keeping her from dangerously aspirating it as would have happened in a vaginal birth. My body didn’t allow my daughter to be born through my efforts during labor – or perhaps, as I believe, God knew the danger that delivery could cause and prevented it from occurring. Either way, when my husband brought our daughter to me for my first glimpse at her sweet face, the first thing I said to her was, “Thank God for you – I dreamed of you.”

I know as she grows, science will be there to help keep her healthy, to make her well when she gets sick, at least in body. I hope our guidance, and the guidance of her family, will help her develop a strong faith in God that will keep her healthy in spirit and heal her soul. When she’s older, I do want her to ask questions about both her religion and science, and I want her to explore both to find answers. I want her to be curious about stars and planets while appreciating the beauty of the Milky Way in a spiritual, faithful way. I want her to realize that science will be there to provide information and explanations, but God will be there to provide comfort and love.

Many people live very full lives through exclusive trust in either God or science.

I need both.

“Babies sleep most of the time.”

HA!

My daughter (let’s call her Babycakes, as that was her nickname before she was born and we were keeping her name top secret), is five weeks old today. (Holy crap, already?) It’s been an interesting few weeks. She’s a very good baby, really doesn’t fuss much unless she’s hungry, outside of her “fussy time” of course. And she sleeps like a champ at night. We’re already getting 4-5 hour stretches, and Monday, by some miracle, she slept almost 6 and 1/2 hours straight.

During the day? Not so much.

I figured we’d have a little bit of a writing hiatus until she was on a feeding and napping schedule, and I wasn’t bone tired and in need of naps myself. But then I’d be able to use those long naps babies are suppose to take to get some good writing done, both on my fiction as well as a few freelance jobs (I started freelancing part time just before Babycakes was born).

She did not get the memo, apparently. She sleeps for twenty minutes at a time, if that, unless she’s being held or worn in the Mobywrap. It’s just enough time to attend to Nature’s Call and stuff a sandwich in my mouth.

Don’t get me wrong. I love snuggling her. It’s hard to set her down (now even more so because I know she’ll wake up within minutes, wanting to be held). Yes, it is developmentally appropriate for a newborn to want that snuggly security, especially since I’m also acting as a 24/7 restaurant, and she gets very insistent when the service is slow. And the fact that she doesn’t really nap well during the day probably contributes to her sleeping so well at night already. Getting solid chunks of sleep at night has probably really helped me recover from the c-section I ended up needing after 12 hours of labor.

But, oh, to have her napping 2-3 hour stretches twice a day, rather than 5-6 twenty to forty-five minute catnaps! As rested as I feel in the morning, I’m fried by the time the hubs gets home from work. Thank God my mother has been able to come over every day to help with laundry and cleaning and occupying Babycakes so I can get a physical break a little earlier in the day than 5:oo.

So not so much with the writing yet. I’ve read and been told that, eventually, her sleep habits will mature and she will not only sleep through the night (meaning 7-8 hours before waking to eat), but she’ll settle into at least one longer nap during the day. So there’s hope.

That said, I have already informed the hubs that my September BIAW goal  for next week is to finish chapter 27 of the historical romance, and it’s going to require some uninterrupted time in the evenings while he’s home and can entertain Babycakes. I’ll even take a half hour if I can get it. No word count goal or anything. Just finish the chapter I started before she was born.

Once upon a time, two little angel babies were resting on the cloud where they had so lovingly been placed by the Lord, looking down at Earth at the man and woman who had once hoped to keep them when they were just little Twinkles. One of the angels of the Lord came to fetch them, for the Son wished to speak with them.

When the angel babies were settled on Jesus’ lap, he gathered them very close. “I know you remember with great love and wistfulness the man and woman for whom you once were chosen,” he said softly. “You know from your watchful vigil over them that they have thought about you and loved you, especially the woman, every day since you left them.”

The angel babies nodded and snuggled against the Son’s shoulders. “Sometimes it seemed like they had forgotten us,” the older angel baby said. “But they haven’t. We wish we could have stayed with them.”

“I know,” Jesus said, “and so does my Father. But now, you have a chance to help the Lord choose another Twinkle to send to the man and woman.”

The angel babies looked at each other. “But what if that Twinkle can’t stay with them either?” they asked.

Jesus kissed the tops of their heads. “It is always a chance that is taken. And they have given up hope of ever receiving a Twinkle to keep. But perhaps this time will be different.”

Then, the Son brought the angel babies to the Father, who was waiting with the beautiful box from which he selected Twinkles for loving families on Earth. Even though the box was still closed, they could hear the peals of bell-like laughter from within. When the Lord saw the little angel babies, He smiled, His love and joy shining brighter than the noonday sun.

“Come forward, my dear children,” said the Lord, “for I have a very important task for you.” Then he beckoned the angel babies forward, opened the box, and let them peer inside.

Golden light filled the heavens, and at the Father’s urging, the two angel babies looked at all the little Twinkles. They wanted to find the perfect Twinkle to send to the man and woman, because they knew how important it was. At last, they chose one and pointed it out to the Father and the Son.

“A good choice,” Jesus said with a smile.

The Lord reached into the box and drew out the little Twinkle. An angel who had been waiting nearby came forward and took the Twinkle. “Remember,” the Lord said. “This Twinkle is precious and must be delivered safely. It is unexpected and will be all the more loved because of it.”

After receiving these instructions, the angel left Heaven and went to the man and woman to deliver the Twinkle, seeing it comfortable within the woman’s womb. The angel babies, meanwhile, returned to their cloud to watch over the man, woman, and Twinkle. For nine months they watched over the little family as the Twinkle grew. They saw how the man and woman worried, how they hardly dared to pray that this Twinkle might be the one they could keep. Now and then, they were called to sit with the Son and talk about how the Twinkle was doing.

At last, the day came when the Twinkle was ready to enter the world. The angel babies watched over the man and woman as the time grew near, and they knew the other angels and saints in Heaven were also watching and praying. They even heard the prayers of the woman, and the thoughts she had, even while trying to bring the Twinkle into the world, of the two angel babies she would not meet until she, too, came to Heaven.

Finally, the Twinkle came into the world and let out a cry. The woman’s heart and soul rejoiced, and she thanked the Lord for the beautiful baby He had bestowed upon her and the man.

Every romance author (and reader) knows – it’s all about the HEA. The Happily Ever After. In an ever increasingly cynical world, where most of the real-life stories we read and hear about have anything but a happy ending, it’s no wonder the romance genre is so popular. We want to escape the disappointments of the real world, lose ourselves in a story that, we know, will end on a positive note, with the antagonist thwarted, the people involved safe and sound, and yes, the main characters riding into the cliched sunset toward romantic, if not wedded, bliss.

Romance Writers of America defines the romance genre thus:

“Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.

A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love. “

Those of us in romance (aspiring or published author of, or consumer of) know those elements are required. The ending has to satisfy and wrap up those romantic loose ends, either with the classic “Happily Ever After” or HEA, or the “Happy For Now” or HFN that’s increasingly found in contemporary romances and women’s/chick lit.

But that’s in fiction. Real life doesn’t work that way.

Does it?

Photograph by Kain's Photography

Photograph by Kain’s Photography

Five years ago today, I got my HEA. My very own romantic hero and I walked down the aisle, exchanged vows and rings, and went off to enjoy everything that’s suppose to come after “and they lived Happily Ever After”. The road to wedded bliss followed the general expectations of that central love story. We both had our hang ups and jaded views of love and romance, for various reasons. We had to learn to trust and confide in each other, how to communicate respectfully and effectively, overcome obstacles and conflicts, both internal and external, before we could enjoy our happy ending.

And that’s the end, right?

Well, as we all know, real life doesn’t usually end with the HEA. If we want to be honest and fair, even though it’s never shown, we have to imagine the HEAs of our favorite romance novels aren’t really the end either. Relationships are constantly in need of review, repair, and reflection. No HEA is every truly set in stone, even if books make us want to believe so. The thing is, people expect their HEAs to be the end, that they will never have to put another ounce of effort into keeping the HEA happy.

But it does take work. If you forget to nurture your relationship, even after the HEA, it’s going to fall apart eventually. Here’s my take on it – the Central Love Story that got you to your HEA needs to remain the Central Love Story after the HEA. There will continue to be challenges and conflict – family crises, financial matters, career aspirations and goals – that will make it hard to keep the happy in your HEA. Sometimes you have to learn to communicate all over again. Sometimes one or both of you will have to make sacrifices in order to allow the other person to grow and achieve success. Both people in the HEA need to feel like a vital, successful part of the Central Love Story. You’re in it together.

My hero and I have definitely had to deal with our share of challenges and conflict. Sometimes we handled them with grace, and other times we forgot how to approach them in a way that would keep our Central Love Story completely  healthy. But we never forgot the Central Love Story, or the need for a Happily Ever After.

Even though we’re five years into our HEA, I bet the rest of the story is going to be a fantastic, satisfying read.

Photograph by Kains Photography

Photograph by Kain’s Photography

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