38 Weeks

Thirty-eight weeks,

and suddenly I’m all poetry.

 

It’s the pain and the wondering,

the gratitude that we’ve made it this far,

the readiness and the fear,

the expecting and unknowing.

 

It’s the thought that I won’t feel this again –

the growing life inside, daily miracle within,

hourly marvel and mystery.

 

At bedtime, I squeeze myself into a maternity t-shirt

that fit perfectly last fall – a short lifetime ago.

Gray with white horizontal stripes that appear to grimace

stretched unevenly over my ample, big-baby-boy abdomen,

and the fabric stops short of actually covering my belly.

I wear it anyway, of course.

Because I’m deeply happy, I’m deeply thankful, and I’m tired.

Too tired to dig for a different shirt in the dresser drawer,

and anyway, none of them fit anymore.

Two more weeks.

Two more weeks.

Maybe more.

 

It’s the tenderness of friends and strangers,

“You’re expecting!”

“When are you due?”

“Can I help you lift that?”

“Here’s a chair for you, little mama.”

“Keep growing that baby!”

And even, “Oh, you’re with child!”

 

It’s the excitement and pride of my older children,

sweet, solemn faces, little hands on my tummy.

Earnest announcements to anyone who will hear:

“Excuse me, can I tell you something? My mama is ‘pregnick’!”

And, “Me gonna have a baby bwuthah.”

 

Yes, someone is in there;

someone new.

 

This last time.

These last weeks of pregnancy,

humbling and holy,

hosting within my body

the creation of life;

the handiwork of God.

I bow my head.

My gaze falls on my belly,

undulating as the baby moves,

quiet fullness.

 

It’s the sudden breathlessness

and flushing cheeks,

the perfectly-timed kicks and flutters,

and the choosing of a name.

Envisioning the little one

who is already so much here and alive,

but not yet born.

 

It’s the tightening of my middle,

reminding me to get ready, to be ready.

Yet,

deep breath,

keep waiting.

 

Thirty-eight weeks.

 

 

 

March 8, 2018

 

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Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul

Bless the Lord, oh my soul,

Let all that is within me bless His holy name.

 

Early spring.

With the crocus

in the front yard

spilling out beneath the old maple tree,

you came forth.

Ruddy.

Full.

Perfect.

New.

 

Your mother and father

had mothered and fathered you

for nine months plus nine days,

and the waiting became thick

and silent at times

with anticipation and praying.

Longing to hold you, know you, see you,

and call you by name.

 

In waiting, God brought

joy to your parents,

hope,

peace.

And as your daddy lay down for a Sunday rest

on a warm, sunny February afternoon,

you began your arrival.

 

Your mother labored for you

wondering if she could do it.

Hoping, trusting, wondering, and strong,

she brought you out

from her womb into the world!

With her hands, she took you

and laid you over her heart,

crying, “David! Your name is David.”

Your father’s eyes brimmed with joy,

and he held you both in his arms.

 

We all want to make a difference somehow –

to leave our mark,

to bless a life or two, or many.

And you, David,

simply by arriving in your humble baby way,

you have already changed the world.

 

Bless the Lord, oh my soul,

Let all that is within me bless His holy name.

 

 

 

(Psalm 103, of David)

With love from Aunt Shannon

For my nephew, David Ashbel, born February 28, 2016

That Wrist

(For Eben)

 

It’s that wrist.

That wrist of yours, my two-year-old son.

You, with your round, dimpled cheeks,

Gap-toothed grin and inch-long eyelashes.

You are gorgeous, little boy, all of you.

 

But that wrist.

 

Still rolled with chubby perfection,

Still babyish (forgive the term, big brother-in-waiting), in size and shape.

But soon to slim and lengthen,

Soon to narrow and strengthen,

Never to be encircled by pudge again – too soon!

 

It’s this combination:

The dear baby wrist and my knowledge that it will fade as you grow –

That made me long for another.

“Just one more?”

One more darling babe with rolling baby wrists.

 

One more go ‘round the wrist.

 

I kiss your wrist at night before bed,

When you reach sleepily through the slats of your crib

And hug my face in your warm little hands.

Dear, lovely Eben.

 

 

January 2018, 33 weeks pregnant with Baby Brother

 

Autumn Comes in the Evening

Autumn comes in the evening;

it doesn’t knock – it just arrives,

announced by the chill

that closes in around the day.

 

Warmth takes the cue

and leaves at dusk

instead of staying on into the fireflies

and the streetlights and the shadows

like it did the day before.

 

One sunset is cozy pink,

but the next is cool and golden.

Color sapped from the bright sky

lends flare to the true hue

blushing red around green tips and edges –

countless

intricate

edges.

 

Autumn comes in the evening,

quietly, but less than subtle;

a masterpiece of grace and perfect timing.

 

 

 

2008

The Innocence of Infancy and a Prayer

A poem I wrote for my daughter when she was a new baby,                                               shared now as she turns 5 years old.

 

To her, pain is being hungry, wet or uncomfortable.

Does she know sadness? Not yet.

Worry and fear are strangers to her, too.

Her days consist of peaceful sleep in warmth,

laying in Mommy’s arms to eat by drinking,

hearing music, seeing smiling faces,

receiving kisses and more kisses.

 

She has nothing to fear

because she’s never experienced a scary thing.

Her eyes have never seen a bad, dark or ugly thing.

Her ears have never heard angry words.

Her skin has never felt an unkind touch.

She is still partly Heaven-bound, I believe – Heavenese.

 

She has no wants beyond the physical needs to eat, sleep and be clean.

She makes no decisions for herself –

she neither wishes to nor knows how.

she trusts us to take care of her, and we cherish that trust and honor it.

 

In her helpless innocence, she is so lovable, so darling.

She has no guile,

no ability to manipulate or be anything but honest.

Amazing.

She asks for nothing material;

Just Mommy and Daddy’s love and care.

We gladly give it.

 

God, please cause us to walk in wisdom with You

as we raise our precious baby girl.

Show us when and how to shield her,

and when and how to let her get stronger

by learning and experiencing realities of life and the world she lives in.

 

God, please make us strong enough

to let her grow and dare and know the joys and pains of life.

I’ve never had to trust You so much –

and this is just the beginning.

 

This infant innocence will end, I know.

But, by God, as her mother,

I will preserve and protect her

in every way I can

for as long as I can,

because innocence,

once lost,

cannot be regained.

 

 

 

February 6, 2013

Heart of a Mountain

In winter’s cold,

Love’s warmth begot

A spark of life;

A gift, a flame.

 

Before your presence was apparent,

A heartbeat,

Strong and sure,

Burned tears of joy in your parents’ eyes.

 

Glowing ember, growing in size and form,

Fanned in the cradle of your mother’s body

By your father’s breath whispering,

Whispering life to his little girl.

 

Friends had heartaches along the way;

Mercifully, God increased your perfection.

Your parents relied on Him;

They counted the cost with gratitude,

Trusting anew each day,

Preparing to welcome you,

Knowing already how priceless you are,

Loving you before they knew you.

 

With care, a home was prepared for you as for royalty;

Innumerable gifts bestowed,

Colors painted, gardens tended, sunlight invited in –

Soft, safe, and bright.

 

By any measure, you came right on time.

Strong, graceful, and determined,

Your mama labored for you,

Leaning into your daddy,

Asking God for help.

In her mind, she went out to the dark of morning,

Through sunrise, in view of tree-covered hills

And the August mist crowning Massanutten.

 

Eager to meet the gift of you,

Your parents urged you down,

Clinging to each other,

Enduring the promised pain

And unexpected turmoil of heart

To bring, to push you out together.

 

Your pulse,

Always strong,

Told the story of the trials

As it waxed and waned

Like the moon –

A white crescent in the lightening sky –

Until you could take no more.

 

So for your best,

Your parents chose what seemed worse,

And the blade made another way.

While one dream died,

A new and living one was born.

Through empty halls

To waiting ears,

Your song of life echoed,

Flushed and vibrant.

 

After all,

In the end

That was really the beginning,

They christened you with kisses and tears,

And named you for their mountain –

For that is what your birth was for them:

High, steep, immovable;

Beautiful, but unyielding;

Lush with life,

Graceful silhouette –

An obstacle they willingly traversed

To reach and hold

The one they love.

 

 

For Afton Marie Guinn and her mommy and daddy.

August 31, 2013

Love, Aunt Shannon

For Grandma

You were born in spring,

and your life

was measured by summers

upon the waters of Minnesotan lakes and the Casco Bay.

 

Taker of dares,

new places always drew you.

Out across the world

you flew

with Northwest Airlines.

Quick to smile,

high cheekbones,

you caught the eye

of a kind adventurer

one night in the air above Alaska,

And in Colorado, Chile and among the quiet oaks of Reston, Virginia,

together you raised your three daughters and your son.

 

Storyteller,

decades after making them,

your memories amazed.

Unhitching trolley cars,

jumping out of windows,

and traversing South America with babies in tow.

You were 85 years old when I followed in your footsteps

and crossed the oceans to stay.

You never said you’d miss me,

only, “I wish I could go!”

 

Namesake,

I bound my heart to yours.

Driving up the coast together,

vanilla ice cream for lunch.

Winding along wooded byways

with the windows down;

sweet summer air.

 

Perennial hostess,

for me, joy bloomed in your home.

You expressed it with flowers on your table:

buttery yellow and white daffodils at Easter;

Christmastime was fragrant greens, ivy,

and a red poinsettia.

 

Mother of my mother,

How many meals did you cook for me,

and how many desserts did we share,

laughing over our tea and pie a la mode?

How many nights did I sleep

wrapped in linen and wool under your roof?

How many loved ones of mine did you welcome

with your smile, your music, your flowers?

How many wishes did you send me

with your pressed violets, pansies, ferns, and buttercup petals?

With these you gave me yourself.

With these, I knew your love.

 

Now I see you in your cotton apron

before the windows at the dark wood table,

arranging a bouquet

with your hands,

dainty, yet strong and ruddy, like pink carnations,

always with your slender watch and golden wedding ring.

Your hair as white as lilies of the valley,

your eyes blossoms of a hyacinth,

your lipstick a shade of azaleas in the garden,

and a scarf tied neatly about your neck.

 

 

June 14, 2014