"How are you doing?" is the question of the day...every day...
Everyone wants to know and everyone asks.
"Same ol' same ol!'" or, "holding steady...which means good!" I say with a smile and a shrug.
As it turns out, the raging storms have calmed and we're sailing on relatively smooth seas these days. Things have been pretty uneventful and we've found a bit of a routine. At our doctor's appointment yesterday, we learned that Baby A/Gummi Bear is 2.1 lbs (59th percentile) and Baby B/Junior Mint is 2.2 lbs (63rd percentile)! Everything else is holding steady, and we were given the go-ahead to skip a week in between appointments. Three times Dr. vB said, "I'm so happy. This is good." Tyler and I just looked at each other, eyes grinning. Finally, some space to breathe.
But, the question is, are these smooth seas here to stay, or are they just the eye of the hurricane? We don't know. We were still sent home with instructions to monitor for early labor contractions. We're still playing a guessing game when it comes to a few time-sensitive treatments and how much longer my body and the babies will hold on. So, while the storms have calmed, my spirit is constantly on the lookout for any grey clouds on the horizon.
"How are you doing?" a good friend asked a few days ago.
"Doing well..." I said. But then I added, "...except it's so very difficult to walk the line between self-awareness and hyper-vigilance every day." The thing is, I need to be self-aware enough to watch for and count contractions, even the "normal" ones, when they come. If we ever get beyond a certain number in an hour, the doctors want to see me right away. There is a window of time in which treatments can work, so I must be aware of that window and get myself there in time. This intense awareness, in itself, is exhausting. And I've found that if I'm not careful, the abundance of time in every day causes me to tend toward hyper-vigilance: taking note of every twinge, every bump and every new feeling with great anxiety. It's enough to make me crazy, so I'm trying to trust myself; to minimize my over-analysis as much as possible while still being mindful.
Mindfulness has been a saving grace for me these days.
Being mindful means paying non-anxious attention to the world, to the spirit, to that which surrounds and dwells within us. It's a practice I learned to love during divinity school while reading some of Thich Nhat Hanh's books. In fact, mindfulness is probably my favorite spiritual discipline and one that I try to practice often:
Breathing in life-giving air....breathing out anxieties and worry. Paying attention to the breath that brings life and the Holy Spirit that moves.
Eating mindfully: taking time to taste the food as I eat it, giving thanks for the lives that worked to bring it to me and the nourishment it gives my body. Bread and drink become communion with God.
Walking as a prayer, taking each step with intention. Imagining myself walking the path of Jesus.
A few days ago I took some time to recline outside under a large Oak in our backyard. I brought a book and a glass of water out with me, and planned to read for a while. My plans quickly changed as the warmth of the sun beckoned my spirit and the breeze took my gaze upward. For some time...a long time...I just lay there and took in my surroundings, breathing in the air and soaking up the sun. Without so much to distract me, and plenty of time to spend, I saw my backyard with new eyes.
The Oak tree is magnificent: much taller than I'd ever taken time to notice. The leaves have become a softer shade of green as the summer sun dries them out and they prepare themselves for fall. A squirrel lives in a nest there, racing down the trunk to taunt Oscar or fly over to the fence where he watches me with suspicion.
The flowering bush to my left is slowly losing most of it's beautiful pink blooms, but the bees are not discouraged. They buzz around from pink to pink, every once in a while venturing further to the yellow flowers in the planter before zooming off to the north. I imagine their home and their community abuzz when they return.
A line of carpenter ants slowly and yet quickly moves from the patio where I sit, along the edge of the mulch, then up and down the trunk of the tree. I watch to see where they are going, but the line is so high I cannot find the end. They must make the tree their home as well, I suppose. I watch them move and realize that even while you and I busily fill our days with work and worry, nature continues her movement forward.
The wind blows. I breathe. The birds sing. The earth turns. Life moves. God speaks.
All of this happens every day, although few of us (including myself) allow ourselves the time to notice. We breathe without thinking. And yet, do we breathe deeply enough of that which we need to survive, body and soul? We race from appointment to appointment, concerned about much that is beyond our control. Do we take time to notice the beauty of the leaves or the grace someone has just extended us in passing? There really are so many gifts of grace in every day. Our creator has infused the world with them. Do we notice?
I am thankful for this time and reminder to be mindful. I am thankful for a chance to pay more attention to my world, to think deeply and walk carefully (when I do). I am thankful for a chance to eat with intention, praising God for the many people who give of their time to provide nutritious meals for my family. Most of all, I am thankful for this chance to be ever so mindful of the two lives growing well with me. I do realize that if not for bed rest, I would so easily rush and run from place to place, giving my attention to ministry and preparation and to-do lists rather than to the grace of a small "tap, tap, tap" near my belly button.
How are we doing these days? We're making it. The babies are healthy and growing. Tyler and I are finding routine in our new reality, being mindful of one another and remembering to love and laugh. We're watching, waiting, hopeful and thankful for the gift of this day and a break in the stormy seas. And, although we are mindful of what is around and within us, keeping watch for the clouds and the rain, we are so very aware and filled with gratitude for the sun and the calming breeze of the spirit that fill and sustain us now.
Life is growing. Life is good.