It's mid-morning on an otherwise normal weekday. I am sitting on the floor of our guest room amid a mess of books, papers and old photographs in my favorite sweatpants - the purple ones with the hole in the pocket I can't bear to throw away because they're so darn comfortable (I've tried.) I just finished emptying the contents of an entire bookcase on the floor with the goal of "organizing." The truth is these days I can't stop cleaning, like either I'm nesting or I have a problem.
It occurs to me now that I'm in way over my head. Somehow over the years, this particular bookcase has become storage for no shortage of random stuff: old Christmas cards, unused stationary, bank statements, bills I can't remember whether we ever paid, empty journals, the works. If I had to think for more than two seconds about where it should go during one of my frequent cleaning raids, I stashed it here, not anticipating that one day, (and certainly not today) I'd actually have to go through it all.
My usual strategy of categorizing the miscellaneous into piles is failing. There are too many piles. I am literally drowning in our stuff. The room closes in on me. I can feel myself growing hot and annoyed. I hit pause on my new audio book, which until now has been playing in the background, because my head is starting to hurt. I haven't showered. Did I even eat today? I can't remember.
On cue, my phone rings (a lifeline from heaven). It turns out to be a good friend, one who has known me since college. One who still knows me well enough in fact, to know that now - noon on a weekday - is the best time to reach me in hopes of uninterrupted conversation. I pick up on the first ring, eager for distraction. Without hesitation we fall into the familiar rhythm of questions and answers and jokes.
It isn't long before we reach the topic of my pregnancy. I find myself answering the usual questions: When is my due date again? How am I feeling? What am I most nervous about? And because this is a friend, one I trust, I take a deep breath, unsnap my superwoman cape and prepare to be vulnerable. The words spill out on top of each other.
I'm due November 7th, but Musa is praying the baby comes on my birthday. I'd like to keep my birthday, so there's that. Currently feeling huge and looking a hot mess most days. Terrified about having not one but two kids. Life as I know it is about to be over.
To this, my friend chuckles and asks simply, "Are you ready?"
Normally, I would answer this question with something vague and cryptic like, "Ready or not, he's coming!" or "I don't know if you're ever really ready." But this time I hear myself say out loud: "I'm in no rush. I just need to stay where I am, and this baby just needs to stay where he is for a few more months."
There is silence before the voice on the other end replies curiously, truthfully - as more of a question than a statement: "Don't take this the wrong way, but it sounds like you're not really excited about this baby."
I don't know why but I find this hilarious. I laugh a genuine laugh - one from the gut that makes me realize I have to pee.
"You know, I can understand why you would say that," I begin, smiling but pensive. "It's not necessarily that I'm less excited. I wanted this baby. He was planned. But this is the second kid. I remember what it's like to have a newborn and I'm in no hurry to push things along. I'm trying to enjoy these last few moments before life changes on me again."
* * *
My family has this rule - you get two baby showers. Period. One for a boy, and one for a girl. If you have a child of the same gender as an older child, no matter the age, you don't get another baby shower. It's quite practical and sensible, really. I mentioned in my last post there's very little I actually need for our second kid. We've already got all the clothes, the crib, the dresser, the car seats, the strollers, the baby gym, the toys, the jumper, the bottles and the puree machine. We're all set. And although that's true, it still feels kinda odd to do nothing.
"You should plan your own little something," a girlfriend and mom of two advised me a few months ago. "No one made any fuss around my second baby and I didn't realize until it was too late how big a deal it was. Even if it's just a little sprinkle and not a shower, do something special to celebrate. For you."
The mere thought of planning anything right now makes me want to go take a very long nap, but there is wisdom in my girlfriend's counsel. I mean, we did it all the first go around - the insanely cute baby shower, the maternity photo shoot at Christmas, the outrageously expensive newborn session, the glossy baby announcements ... it's all adorable and incredibly fun, but when it's your second kid and you're mostly tired 24/7, nice-to-dos fall by the wayside in exchange for more important things like packed lunches and clean laundry and (when you're fortunate enough to come by it) sleep.
The mystery and naiveté' that accompanied my first pregnancy are gone, and it feels like the celebration of this baby disappeared right along with them. Somehow, we managed to throw the baby out with the bath water.
* * *
Two hours have passed. I hang up the phone feeling a little lighter and a lot less stressed. I look around the room to find the clutter gone. Amazingly, our bookcase is full of books ... and only books. The important papers have been filed, photos put away and trash trashed. Two full bags of books for Goodwill sit in an adjacent corner. There is a neat stack of follow-up items that will be incorporated into this week's to-do list by the door. The guest bed is made. There is no trace of the disaster that once lived here. It's nothing short of a miracle.
When I took my eyes off of the monster task at hand, immersed myself in good conversation and started tackling one piece of random at a time, I made progress without even knowing it. Incredible progress actually.
Life is a lot like that, I think. Change, crisis and longing of any kind can leave us feeling like we're sitting in a hopeless pile of clutter. The truth is, of course, we aren't hopeless. We just need to take our eyes off ourselves and pay attention to what the clutter comes to teach us: that on our own we are inadequate and insufficient, but if we depend on God first and then each other, we can find the courage and resolve, energy to tackle one piece of random at a time.
I've got seven weeks left in this pregnancy, give or take a few because who knows, and to be honest, I don't know if I'll get around to maternity photos or baby announcements. The baby "sprinkle" may or may not happen. I'm not promising carefully documented baby books or keepsakes or even photo albums. But maybe the pomp and circumstance isn't the important thing this second time around. Maybe embracing a new level of inadequacy and committing to more fully rely on God is the real treasure. Maybe it's been the treasure all along.