Due Date: A Few Thoughts

"Time is of utmost importance to Americans. Time is something to be on, kept, filled, saved, lost, wasted and even killed. Americans tend to be more concerned with getting things done on time than they are with interpersonal relationships. Americans stop discussions abruptly in order to make appointments on time and to be productive." - 13 Commonly Held American Values, by L. Robert Kohls


Last night I was checking my email when a new message popped into my inbox.

Notification: Stina’s Due Date @ Thu Nov 20, 2014.

Thank you, Google Calendar; I am well aware that my 40 weeks of pregnancy are up. I’ve received texts and phone calls from friends and family over the past few days.

“How are you feeling?” or “Thinking of you!” they read.

“I’m feeling good!” or “Thanks, xoxo!” I respond.

But really, what is there to say? I am waiting to go through one of the most defining experiences of my adult life. I am waiting to add a new member to my family, something I may never do again. I am waiting for life to emerge from my very body, to hold my wet newborn son to my chest, to watch him take his first breaths.

There is no other time like it, this waiting for a baby to rip through your pelvis. When else do you have a notification pop up on your email – “it’s your due date!!” – like it’s high school graduation or your wedding, but instead of going ahead and putting on your cap and gown or wedding dress, you sit down on the couch and take a deep sigh. It’s here! So hurry up and wait. You wonder if you should make plans for the days ahead, fielding the curiosity and excitement and anticipation of everyone around you. You imagine them thinking: When will your body get it together?

The waiting. There is so much waiting. I want it to be here, to be on the other side of birth, to know that we made it through. I want it, even though seasoned parents of more than one child say, “Get your sleep!” or “You don’t know how good you have it!” or, my favorite, “It’s two on two now – you’ll never get a break!”

Even if it is as tiring and achy and emotional as I imagine parenting a newborn and toddler in wintertime will be, at least I will be in it. It will be there and I can take the next step, even if it’s crying into my bathrobe.


I wonder if all my discomfort with waiting has something to do with being steeped in a productivity-and-deadlines obsessed culture. We Americans like to be in control of our time, we’re not used to sitting around and awaiting an unknown fate.

In the three years since my last birth, I forgot what it felt like to be waiting for a newborn. When I’d watch acquaintances approaching their own due dates, I couldn’t remember what to say, how to empathize, or what ways to support them.

“How are you feeling?” I’d ask, forgetting that they’d likely fielded that question several times already that day.

I’d wonder about them in subsequent days, curious if they were in labor yet. But life would go on, I would make my toddler lunch or get the mail, until I’d absent-mindedly check Facebook. “Oh!” I’d exclaim. “They had their baby!” And I’d marvel that my friend had been sweating and pushing and undergoing one of the most intense experiences of their life while I had been eating a sandwich.

(Does it ever feel strange that so many things, so many experiences can co-exist at the same time? Right now, someone is being born. Someone is dying. Someone is getting married. Someone is having sex for the first time. It’s mind-blowing to me, the plurality of human experience.)

It’s hard to be the one waiting; it’s hard to encourage the one waiting. We struggle with trust, with open-ended and uncertain answers. But with every “how are you feeling?” or “happy due date” message that I receive, I am reminded that I am not waiting alone. I have a web of interpersonal relationships that surround me, eager to welcome this new baby into the world.

When I went into labor the first time, my friends and family lit candles for me, to remind them to pray, to acknowledge the struggle for new life that was happening while they went about normal routines. I take comfort in that image of tiny flames, of small lights of hope. All I can do is take it moment by moment, trusting that my baby will come when he is ready. In the meantime, I will keep fielding those wonderful texts, phone calls and conversations about all that is to come. Each one reminds me that we’re in this together.

Expecting Newborns, Winter

DSC00611The weather is changing here in Minnesota, no – it’s punching, it’s swinging. On Sunday evening I read the forecast: an estimated six to eight inches of snow would fall by Monday evening. Just like that, fall to winter.

I’m not ready, I thought. For the cold, for the darkness at 4:30 PM, for freezing hands on freezing car steering wheels.

My unborn baby boy is due in seven days. I feel like a ticking time bomb, knowing I will give birth anytime. It could be tonight. It could be after Thanksgiving.

But I’m not ready, I keep thinking to myself. I have awesome pregnancies. I don’t have awesome labors. But even once that part is over, once he is here, I will have two kids to manage in wintertime. Minnesota wintertime. Two little bodies to bundle into snowsuits and strap into car seats and drive through blizzards.

I couldn’t sleep on Sunday night. That anticipation, the cusp of major change kept my eyes open as I stared at shadows in our dark bedroom. My mind was awake, running ragged. Please sleep, I told myself. Instead, I kept thinking: will I be able to handle it? Will I be okay? The sleep deprivation, the nursing and diaper-changing whilst my toddler jumps on and off the couch, the putting on and taking off so many pairs of tiny mittens?

My mind scanned the mental to-do list. We still haven’t decided on a name; we still need to put away the air-conditioner that is sitting in our living room; we still need to pack a bag for the birth center. I need to write thank you notes from my baby shower. We have to sell our car.

I got out of bed and pulled out bags of last year’s scarves and hats to sort. I traded sandals for heavy winter boots on the closet shoe-rack. I pulled out my winter coat and put my hands in the pockets, uncovering remnants of life from six months prior: a granola bar wrapper, the set of dice I used for math games in my job as a tutor, a cheap pair of stretchy gloves. I tried to remember what I was doing in April when the last snows were here. Before the glory days of spring, summer and fall, back when I was putting my hands in coat pockets. I know winter had dragged on and on; that I was thankful when the snow began to melt and I put this coat in storage.

Anticipating a second newborn feels like that seasonal cycle; it feels like going back to winter you barely remember. I know it was hard the first time, really hard, especially those first 18 months. I know there were days when I felt like I was drowning in the needs of my needy infant, unable to detangle myself from my role as mother long enough to take a shower. But then it got easier. My daughter started sleeping at night, we had only one nap a day to worry about, and life got into a rhythm. I felt more confident. I started going to writing classes. I worked part-time.

Those were the spring, summer and fall days of life with my daughter, my one and only darling child. We were chums, just the two of us. We had easy days out on the playground or meeting friends or visiting the children’s museum. I had some flexibility in my schedule to pursue other interests.

But now it’s approaching wintertime of parenting again: time to pull out the baby clothes, install the infant car seat, and dig out the bibs and bottles.


I actually like winter. I was born and raised here in Minnesota; I know how to layer long underwear and what brands of winter boots to buy. Some of the most magical moments of my life have been spent cross-country skiing through evergreen forests, their heavy limbs bending with snow. My sisters and I could tell you painful stories of our family’s epic winter trips to the North Woods: long treks on wooden skis in below-zero wind-chill and having our parents wipe our bottoms with snow balls after we pooped behind trees (true story). But we could also tell you about the muffled quiet of the cold and the brilliance of the blue sky and the steam from the sauna. I have so many good memories, so much love for this season. I’m a northern girl at heart.

But last winter nearly broke me. Last winter was a long string of subzero days, going on and on like pearls on a rope-length necklace. Just when you thought it would be warm enough to pull your toddler in the sled, 30 below zero winds would force you inside for another cabin feverish afternoon. The cold kept coming, the winds numbing our faces so our cheek muscles couldn’t flex enough to smile.


I like babies. I remember hazy fragments from my daughter’s newborn days: the way she stretched her arms and arched her back in a milk-drunk stupor, the way she lumped on my chest like a warm potato. We have so few pictures of her from that stage; we were naïve to think they would stretch on and on and on. That we would always remember how she smelled or how she cooed. We were too fogged in by sleeplessness, too overwhelmed by new parenthood.

DSC00686 My family of three took a walk around Como Lake on Saturday, before the snowfall. It was only 4:30 PM, but the sun was already dipping low and the Narnia-esqe street lamps were glowing. We wrapped up our toddler in a scarf, stuffed her hands in mittens.

“Look back,” my husband said. “Look at the sky.”

I turned. The sky was lit, alive, all oranges-pinks-reds with streaks of dark blue. It was moving, it was different each moment; it cast a pink-red sheen on the lapping lake water.

We kept walking, the sunset behind us, but we sped up to reach the curve that would place us in front of the colors all over again. We paused to marvel, and then started talking about baby names, about how we don’t have one that we can agree on, about how this name honors that side of the family but that name has a significant meaning.

And then I remembered to look up at the sky and it was gone. A few faint edgings of pink-purple laced the darkness, but the moving cosmic colors were gone.


When we started talking about when her baby brother would be born, I told my two-year-old: “When the snow flies.” On Monday we woke to a steady slow snowfall, the ground already layered in white. She raced to the window. Ready or not, it was here.

“Mama, it snowed! Let’s go outside!” she said. After sending her downstairs to where my husband was already making breakfast, I flopped back on the pregnancy body pillow, a thin white snake that supports my oversize belly. Of all the things about parenting, waking up to a chatty toddler ranks among my least favorite.

Later, after I had my cup of coffee and some oatmeal with chopped bananas, she asked me: “Mama, is my baby brother going to pop out now?”

I smiled to myself. Pop out, if only. I walked over to the window and looked at the transformed apartment courtyard, the way everything seemed closer together between stretches of white snow. It’s finally here, I thought. The acidity in my stomach was gone.

It was 20 degrees and we had errands to run. We got on our boots and our coats and our hats and our mittens. I grabbed my green winter jacket, the one with poufy ribs reminiscent of Michelin man. I tugged on the zipper, thankful that I could get it up and over my 9-months-pregnant belly.

I held my daughter’s hand as we walked across the parking lot and got into our car. I scraped the windshield. We drove through the icy streets, following long lines of snowplows and trucks. Despite the memory of last winter’s sub-zero weeks and lingering snowstorms, I found myself marveling the slow-moving snowflakes drifting by. How beautiful, I thought. And, somehow, I remembered how to steer in the snow.

A Tribute to My Mom

Things have been quiet here on the blog as life has picked up (and I admit to letting my inner Eeyores run amok). Last weekend I flew to Connecticut for a whirlwind 24-hour extravaganza in honor of my mom’s 60th birthday. We surprised her with a party filled with family and old friends from her high school and college years. I was supposed to give a little speech, but, after sharing a slideshow with all her photos from babyhood until today (including footage from my parents wedding that I had never seen), I got too teary-eyed and thick in the throat to say what I had planned.

So, mom, this is what a meant to say.



Mom. You are 60 years old today, exactly twice my age. And that gives me some hope, because I have 30 more years to grow and become as wise and kind and grace-filled as you are. I am learning that motherhood can be a crucible through which these traits are formed.

Mom. When I was collecting these photos of you, I learned from your high school friends that you were once voted “Most Fog-Bound.” You always were dreamy but that only tells the easy story, doesn’t it? You are complex and gifted: a peacemaker, a creative force, a smarty theology talker, a storyteller, a proclaimer of God’s love and grace.

elementary1Mom. You make the best MorMor. You tell slightly off-color jokes, let my toddler jump on your couch, and sign up for mommy-and-me dance class so I can have a break on Saturday mornings. Thank you for loving my baby so well.

Mom. You may be getting older, but you can still sleep like a teenager. New wrinkles are showing but you shine with the beauty that comes with a well-lived life. You are aging well.

IMG_0007Mom. You have taught me how to always listen first. Thank you for never criticizing or cajoling, even when my choices didn’t make much sense. You are always even, always safe, always there when I need you. Thank you.

Mom. You let insults bounce off your back, like water droplets on waxy feathers; yet, you know when to stand up for yourself and fight back. Keep it up, it’s good for daughters to see their mothers engage with conflict.

PICT0006Mom. Thank you for going to seminary when you were 40. Thank you for trusting God’s call on your life: to preach, to teach, to minister. I know that this road has had its sorry potholes, but I am so proud you took it anyway. Thank you for being the person that God created you to be. You have shown me that I can be brave.

Mom. If this is what 60 looks like, then I can’t wait for the next 30 years to fly on by.


I love you.

Growth Mind-set


I started this blog a week ago and I already feel paralyzed. There are so many talented writers out there and, though I love to write, I can’t help but twist my hands with jealousy when I see others' elegant sentences slip down my computer screen.

I stumbled across this article in the Atlantic last week, have you seen it? It’s called “Why Writers are the Worst Procrastinators.” It details a phenomenon that I am all too familiar with: the terror of being unmasked as a fraud. The sinking feeling that, maybe I’m not good with words after all. The Eeyore inside, flicking his tail, “Oh well. I guess I won’t even try.”

The article details research on failure and makes a distinction between people who have a fixed mind-set, that is, belief that success is dependent on talent (the Eeyores), versus the people who have a growth mind-set, the ones who are enthralled by the things they find difficult and, instead of worrying about failure, plunge in because they know they will learn something in the process (those Little Engines that Could).

The fact that there are people out there who naturally are enthralled by difficulty kills me. I, on the other hand, might mutter, “I think I can” one or two times before giving up to make myself a snack.

This morning I was grumbly and short with my daughter. I had stayed up way too late after discovering the blog-hater website, Get Off My Internets. As I read the scathing reviews of some of my regular blog reads, I shrunk downward on the couch. These comments were so harsh, so cruel. It was enough to make any fledgling blogger want to burrow back into the nest where there is no risk of attack by anonymous vultures.

As I got ready for my job, I grumped around while preparing appropriate worksheets and materials for the three tutoring sessions I had this afternoon. I am not a teacher, just another liberal arts educated adult who wants to help struggling kids on the margins (for which I am compensated generously). And I often feel at a total loss for helping my students catch up two and three grade levels in math and reading. Teaching, it turns out, is really hard. And sometimes, I’m not good at it.  But the thing about a job is that you have to go, even if you’re feeling like an absolute fraud while driving to it. Today, just showing up with my hastily planned lessons was enough to help a hard-to-teach 4th grade boy with equivalent fractions. I'll take it.

Every piece on this ol’ blog will not be spellbinding prose, profound, or even remotely good. Strangers will read it and judge my abilities. Even typing that sentence spins me into web of fear and loathing. But I know that, if I never hit “publish," if I never try, I will never grow into a mature writer. And this blog is good accountability (and motivation) to adopt a growth mind-set.

For you readers, thank you. I am honored that you are here, reading my words. And I pledge to show up, to throw off my inner Eeyore as best I can. I can’t promise it will be stellar writing, but I can promise to be honest. At least I’ll keep telling myself, “I think I can.”

Sand and Spoons: This is 30

I turned 30 this weekend. I woke up on Saturday morning, flipped the calendar from February to March. I made coffee, helped my toddler climb into her high chair, got out yesterday’s waffles from the refrigerator. Really, not much was different. I was still here, in my life, doing my mom-things.

Why does turning 30 cause us to pause, reevaluate, and freak out? Is it because we had an idea of where we would be by now? Is it the faint crow’s-feet at the corner of our eyes, a symbol of how we’ll never be “young” again?

Maybe it’s realizing that, whether we intended to or not, we’ve all made some irreversible decisions this past decade. The world is no longer our oyster. We’ve all gulped the saltwater out in the real world, and some of us have gritty sand remaining in our mouths.

When I was in college I would collect study abroad brochures, glossy and bright, and lay them out on my narrow dorm room bed. Each one felt slippery between my fingers. Semester in Fiji. Printmaking in Italy. Mountaineering in Patagonia. I liked to make four-year plans with my freshmen roommate, devising plots of how we could maximize our time away from campus.

And I loved having my options spread out before me, glistening like heavy spoons on a country farm table. I liked picking them up one at a time, feeling the weight of each piece, admiring this one’s filigreed handle and that one’s clamshell grooves. I would smell their metallic smells and slide their cool silver stems against my cheek in chilly strokes. My distorted reflection would stare at me from their arcs. And I treasured them as I counted and recounted, always returning each spoon to the table with a gentle thud, never fully grasping one and walking away.


It’s terrifying to hear the sound of spoons clattering on the hardwood floor, to realize some options are gone forever. That early 20s hubris, that feeling of limitless time and possibility, has disappeared.

Yet, there is grace in spoons clanging to the ground. It shows that I did choose: in my case, I married, became a mother and decided to stay home with my daughter while she is young. I am grateful most of the time, yet I admit that there are days when I watch my peers advancing in their careers with jealousy. Those days, I can feel the gritty sand in my mouth. I taste the sour brine of expectations being unmet.

It’s in those moments that I remind myself that life, God willing, is long. I remember hearing a 90-year-old woman talk about her life, her voice tremolo as she recounted 25 years serving as a missionary in Korea and 20 more years working in affordable housing. And that was after the 15 years she stayed home with her kids.

Nowadays I don’t spend much time considering the spoons left on the table, or mourning the ones heaped on the floor. Instead, I am welcoming my limits and living in the dirt of now. Along with the laugh lines at my eyes, I have more confidence. God is showing me again and again that he didn’t make junk when he fashioned messy old me, and I am starting to believe it.

I cling to the belief that God is moving toward me, pursuing me, taking that sand in my mouth and pressurizing it into something beautiful. Maybe the world is my oyster after all. Ask me at 40, and I may just spit out a pearl.

* Photo by NikiMM, Creative Commons via Flickr