Our last month here at the homestead has flown by in a succession of visits by family and friends and midwives, and now, spring seemingly has arrived in the wake of events and I am realizing it is time for another update! Commanding central orbit of all of the last month’s activity and attention, of course, is the newest addition to our family, our baby daughter Caris, who is now a happy, healthy three-week old sleeping on the sofa next to me as I type.
In my last post I wrote of my sense of impending urgency leading up to her birth, trying to get everything prepared for her arrival. As the days ticked down to her due date, my parents and sister arrived from out of state to help us with our last minute preparations and to aid our transition to parenthood. Together we finished the stairs, our bed frame, hanging doors and sheetrock, cleaning and sorting through boxes of hand-me-down clothes and diapers to set up some sort of baby-readiness station. Throughout this process, I admit to feeling increasingly nervous about the part I was going to need to perform, that is, the birthing part. We had planned for a homebirth and had been working with a team of midwives to prepare for it. (Perhaps that additionally contributed to my franticness to get our house finished and ready: both for her birth and for her life afterward!) At any rate, whether I was ready or not, our baby was ready to come out by her due date.
I had contractions start several days in advance of the date. Days and nights I should add, which made sleeping a rather miserable affair, with short 5-minute intervals of sleep punctuated by painful contractions. Contractions that did not meet the criteria of “active labor” because they were not progressing much in intensity or frequency, but that unfortunately prevented me from keeping any food down. By the time our midwives arrived to help progress my labor, I was exhausted and had to rally the strength to get through the next phase of active labor. Let me fast-forward through one long painful night that took my every last ounce of energy and… our daughter was born! Right in the center of our house, and right on the morning of her due date as it turned out. The nice thing about home birth is that our bed was only a short stumble away and I could collapse into sleep in our comfortable, familiar home knowing I wouldn’t have to move for some time.
About that not-moving… While I had been looking forward to having a period of rest after all the frenzied work of construction and labor, it turns out I have a hard time surrendering to non-doing. Despite having the distraction of my beautiful little daughter beside me, I was itching to DO something within days of her birth. Even now, weeks later when I am restored physically from the birth, I am nonetheless limited by my new role as “lactating mammal responsible for a constantly hungry newborn”, and I still find myself struggling to let go of the drive to do other things. Fortunately for me, having family around has helped ground me in my new set of priorities. While I rested post-birth, dishes and diapers got washed, seeds were started, garden beds prepped, meals were cooked, and most hugely, our first floor was sanded, oiled and waxed. For this, the baby and I transferred our residence to another house for a week while sawdust flew back at the home front. The linseed oil finish brought out the rainbow of colors and grain of our red oak flooring, a total surprise to me when we moved back in and I saw it for the first time. At any rate, I realize looking back that we would have been quite lost without the help of family this past month, frantically trying to keep clean and fed while in a zombie-like state of sleep deprivation (which is kind of where we are at now that family has departed!)
Mike’s parents also came for a week to help out, cook gourmet meals for us, and meet the baby. With them came several pieces of our stored-away furniture that they had squeezed into their minivan with Tetras-like precision. After years of sitting on rough wooden benches, a soft sofa is truly amazing. And instead of balancing our plates on laps, we have a real live table to set things down on! Yes, it now feels like we are living in total luxury with our fancy bed, easy chairs, bathroom, rugs and table… I write this with much gratitude for the role both of our families have played in our lives this last month. I realize looking back that we would have been quite lost without their help, frantically trying to keep clean and fed while in a zombie-like state of sleep deprivation (which is kind of where we are at now that family has departed!)
At the moment, it is hard to remember our lowly beginnings huddled in a leaky tent. It is hard, even, to connect all the steps that led us from there to here, finally inhabiting our mostly finished home with our baby. Not that our work on the house or the homestead is done… far from it! Although it is uncertain when we will be able to resume projects with anything like our former vigor, the thought of them lingers in the back of my mind, on pause. Yes, finding the right balance between taking care of baby Caris, keeping up with chores, and taking on new work will take some effort, but we will figure it out, one day at a time.