Wednesday, May 07, 2014

A Chronology of Paying Attention (16): my family line of honeymoon babies

Apparently I've not written much about my high school years in this blog. I seem to be skipping from middle school era to marriage and motherhood.  Let's be honest -- that era was pretty short.  Today I've excerpted a post I originally titled Flying a Kite in a Hurricane and posted in August 2008 and again at Micha Boyett's One Good Phrase series:  One Good Quip (You Trust God to Keep You Safe at Night, but You Still Lock the Doors).

three generations of wedlock -- all 3 of us brides giving birth to our first baby about 9 months following the moment this photos were taken

My parents' parents didn't talk about sex. My parents began the conversation, but either they weren't speaking above a whisper or I wasn't listening. I managed to have my first son three days shy of nine months from the first time I ever had sex. When he was born I still wasn't sure I'd ever had it. I didn't care. I flew the kite of that beautiful baby boy for all the world to see.

We have a history of honeymoon babies in this family. It's pretty much legendary now. Possibly all this hushing up about sex has something to do with it. So I called my mother-in-law, the medical professional, from my honeymoon hotel room. Possibly we should know something about birth control, we thought. Of course, it was most likely too late by this point. Brian and I had spent about a half hour discussing it once during our engagement. He'd heard somewhere that the Pill could be dangerous so I blundered my way through my first ob/gyn visit and left holding some oddly-shaped doo dad that I was too embarrassed to let the family doctor know I hadn't understood the first thing about. (that thing is supposed to go where?)

During my growing-up years, the oldest child of six, my parents continued silently in their quest to limit the number of mouths they brought into existence. My dad's pastor/pauper paycheck and my mother's exhausted bouts with clinical depression probably had something to do with this. As far as I know now the only people offering advice were radical feminists and post-war baby boomer pious surbabanites. Not a lot of help. God kept sending them new kites of their own to fly. 

There comes a point when kite flying in stormy weather scares the hell out of you, but sometimes you know you're not the one controlling the string.

On the verge of being a mother myself, I had my first experience with mixing theology and sexuality. Experience is probably a gentle word. More like got bashed over the head by it. It was the era of the Pro-Life Political Movement and the Homeschooling Revolution and Operation Rescue and all that. 

The rhetoric blustering around me was heavy on the ideology, light on the theology. In this fear-filled cocoon, the Church had taught me that sex could be shameful.  Not only was losing one's virginity the unpardonable sin, paradoxically so was limiting the number of one's offspring. 

Soon enough we'd figured out how to "plan" baby number two, all without the aid of chemicals (or weird-looking doo dads), thank you very much.

Now I had self-righteous rhetoric on my side and I felt like I'd stumbled into the right "camp". Sometimes, you just get lucky and the storm's blowing the other way, you know? 

But idealism about family planning doesn't mean a speck when you've spent the day laying aside your every need as a human being to meet the needs of the arrows in your quiver and the nights sleep-walking from marriage bed to crib to toddler bed, only to end up slumped over a nursing infant and waking up thankful you didn't smother it to death. 

Idealism did not last through the storms of reality for me. And then I had baby number four. I'd been married six years. I was 26 years old. We'd been making a real salary for less than a year. I was tired.

So we, Brian and me, got interested in science real quick-like. The information was easy to come by, even before Google. Of course, we covered Theology, too. It consisted of getting sage advice wrapped in euphemisms from my grandmother and mother. The same women who didn't talk about sex were full of wisdom when they saw me teetering on the edge of the looney-bin. I am grateful to them to this day. 
You trust God to keep you safe at night, but you still lock the doors. 
I was more than relieved to agree that this must be true, even if it wasn't terribly deep. When you're teetering on the edge, sometimes a quip will do.

So we blundered and bumbled and stumbled our way through these ideas and truths about what it means to enjoy sex and to create children and to avoid creating new children and in the middle of all that uncertainty and shame and hushed and unspoken questions, I was schooled in the deepest theology of all:  that God is sovereign and full of grace and forgiveness. That it is not my wisdom or understanding that brings out the best in God. His expectations for me are surpassed by his delights. 

I do not deserve these four divinely created images of the one true God -- Andrew, Alexander, Kendra and Natalie. I do not deserve to be living in joy and harmony with my amazing, unplanned siblings and their own burgeoning families.

I will hold the end of the string - flying the beauty and hilarity of this gift of family that came down as lights from Heaven.  I'm hopeful for my own kids to know better than Brian and me the Church's better nature, the language of welcoming life founded in the nature of the Giver of life.  All of this while retaining a child-like trust that refuses to take our ideals too seriously.

And, in the middle of the blustering hurricanes, I will laugh as Abraham and Sarah at the holy absurdity of it all.

In this season that I do not have time to write, this is the idea God gave me:  For me to ponder and notice again the words I've already written once, to keep praying the beads of memory to discover this sacramental life.

Won't you join me?  
I'd welcome your company along the way.

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