Today was Maybelle's due date. It's so weird to think that I was supposed to have been pregnant for the last five weeks--that today we were supposed to have had our home birth and met Maybelle for the first time. That for the last five weeks I would have been living my same old life. Don't get me wrong--there was nothing wrong with my same old life. I liked it a lot and hope that certain parts of it will remain intact in this new life I've entered. But things these days are so much richer. I'm really glad she's here.
I keep making plans to post here--perhaps a story or two from Maybelle's birth, or something about the thoughts I'm having about motherhood, about my aspirations for Maybelle, but then it gets to be 10:45 at night, and I'm too tired.
So here are some pictures that show how small Maybelle is. I want to document her smallness because she's growing quite effectively, so she won't be this small much longer.
Maybelle had her first big party yesterday--a delayed baby shower (it had been scheduled for the weekend that Maybelle actually decided to be born) that doubled as a sort of coming-out party for her, where lots of our Charleston friends got to meet her for the first time and hang out with her. It was a lot of fun, and she accumulated bunches of adorable baby supplies and the beginnings of an impressive library.
Biffle and I were reflecting on the party this morning, and on what an incredible community we and Maybelle have. Maybelle has Down syndrome--something that was on our radar while I was pregnant, but that we didn't know until she was born. In the days after her birth, a friend from Nashville sent me an essay by Emily Perl Kingsley called "Welcome to Holland," about what it's like to be the parent of a special needs child. It's a great (short) essay--you should go read it if you haven't already. Kingsley talks about having a special needs child being like planning a trip to Italy and then ending up in Holland--how disconcerting this can be, and yet how Holland ends up being a lovely place with its own delights, a place well worth visiting.
The thing that Biffle and I were talking about this morning is the fact that near the end of the essay, Kingsley writes, "But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there."
This doesn't really fit with our experience. So far our experience has been that our friends and family who've been to Italy aren't saying, "Hey, enjoy Holland--take care." Instead, quite a lot of the folks we love are saying, "Okay, we're going to Holland! That sounds cool! Let's go!" They're coming to Holland with us. They're buying books on speech therapy for kids with Down syndrome. They're enrolling their children in programs where they'll get to be peer mentors for kids with special needs. They're consulting with family members who have training in special education. They're volunteering themselves and their children for babysitting. And in general they're expressing unadulterated enthusiasm for Maybelle and her presence on this planet ("on the outside," as Anne Lamott says).
There have been times in my life that I've longed for a sense of community, and right now I have it so emphatically that it makes me a little weepy.
A few quick thoughts while Maybelle is napping.
Having an infant around the house has changed my life considerably, as you might imagine. I'm used to being the kind of person who has a full daily planner, with activities mapped out in hourly increments, things efficiently crossed off when they're completed, a busy life full of teaching, research, and administrative tasks. These days my life revolves around a very different set of tasks--mostly lactation and diaper changes, with lots of time spent just looking at the baby. Some days we don't even leave the house-or we'll intend to and somehow not get around to it. This isn't bad, just different. It feels a little weird. I know it's temporary, which is helping me to enjoy it and not get freaked out by the weirdness.
One of the many nice things about breastfeeding is that it provides a lot of time for reading. I just finished rereading Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions: A Journal of my Son's First Year. It was great when I first read it years ago and was even better this time. One of the things she wrote that really resonated with me:
"No one ever tells you about the tedium. (A friend of mine says it's because of the age difference.) And no one ever tells you about how crazy you'll be, how mind-numbingly wasted you'll be all the time. I had no idea. None. But just like when my brothers are I were trying to take care of our dad, it turns out that you've already gone ahead and done it before you realize you couldn't possibly do it, not in a million years."Things aren't that bad around here--but it resonated nonetheless. And also this:
"Maybe Sam will grow up and be one of the people who can turn some of this stuff around. I will raise him to be the leader of the rebel forces."And also this:
"People say he's the loveliest baby they've ever seen, even though his hair is falling out. Of course, they also say this to babies who look like water ouzels."
The recent blog silence here has been because Biffle and I've been pretty busy. Our daughter Maybelle was born on August 24, 2008--about five weeks early--and got to come home on September 1, so life has changed quite a bit over here. She is beautiful and increasingly charming (now that she's spending a bit more time awake).
Expect more Maybelle blogging soon, but in the meantime if you'd like to see more pictures of her, check out www.maybellebiffle-piepmeier.com. For videos, go to Biffle's Vimeo page.