Attende, Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.
I finish my bowl of curry and then go to put Ben in bed. Sleepy little boy, he rests his head on my shoulder as I say a few brief prayers over him. Then I put him down in his crib and he clutches his blanket to his chest, curls over on top of it and lies still as I walk out of the room, shutting the door quietly as I whisper a last, “Goodnight, Ben. I love you. God bless you.”
Then the waves of nausea and exhaustion threaten to overwhelm me. The benefit of this being my fifth time through these first few weeks is that I recognize the signs and know how to ward off the worst of the nausea before I find myself throwing up. Pregnancy is now a familiar landscape and I know how to navigate it. I go straight to my bed and lie down. I pull out my iPod and say Vespers quickly, closing my eyes frequently to keep the nausea away. When that is done, I close my eyes and drift for a few minutes.
Draw near to us, O God. Graciously hear us, guilty of sinning before you.
For some reason the words of the Lenten hymn sing their way through my wandering thoughts. I think about how hard it is to find time to pray during the pregnancy season. I wonder how many nights even the Vespers I’ve just prayed will be too much. I appreciate the grace of being able to manage it tonight.
How can I work to make this time a season of prayer? How can I make myself more mindful of God even as I find less energy to manage my daily tasks? Perhaps the very stripping away of my capacity will help me to find a truer focus. If only I can avoid the self-pity and allow this season’s grace a room to flourish.
Then I pull myself away from my drifting thoughts and begin to direct the girls through their bedtime ritual from the comfort of the bed: “Bella, Sophie, time to put your pajamas on and get ready for bed!” I call and then close my eyes again. Drift. Drift. I can’t. Even though Dom will do the dishes and clean the kitchen, I need to do my part to get things moving and direct traffic.
It takes a few more reminders from me and promptings from Daddy, still eating his dinner; but eventually I hear little feet scampering down the hall. Sophie appears and is distressed to find me in bed, “No! Mama. Don’t go to sleep! Don’t lie down. No blankets!” Two year-olds can be quite imperious. I soothe her ruffled feathers and help her climb up to the bed next to me. I pull off her shorts and shirt and toss them into the hall so she can take them to the hamper in a few minutes. We chat a bit and then I send her off to put the dirty clothes away and find her pajamas.
She ignores both requests and appears form her room a minute later carrying a large wicker basket full of scraps of paper.
Then Bella arrives. I ask her to help Sophie find her pajamas. Like that will work! They disappear into their room. Sophie comes back out empty handed and comes back to my room. I notice her diaper sagging and ask if she needs to be changed. She assents. I call out to ask Dom to change her diaper. I know I can’t handle the smell right now.
Bella comes in with her pajamas and gets dressed a the foot of my bed. Dom comes in and changes Sophie and then herds her away to find her pjs. I have to micromanage Bella’s dressing. She’s dreamy and gets easily distracted. She’ll sit there naked for five minutes and then wander off without finishing the task. She’ll pick up a book and read with no shirt on. Wander through the living room with no underwear. Are all four year-olds like this or just mine?
Then the girls brush their teeth, again with Daddy’s supervision. Bella comes and stands by the door, “I guess we’re just about ready.” A phrase she picked up from me.
I rise and move to the rocker in their bedroom, pausing to point out Bella’s shorts, sandal and pillow on the floor of my room for her to put away. Like I said, easily distracted.
We say prayers, then I read the girls one story each. Tonight it’s The Three Billy Goats Gruff for Sophie. Bella says, I don’t like that book. I guess I read it too enthusiastically when she was younger and the troll scared her. But Sophie likes it. Sophie opts to sit in the folding chair next to me because she doesn’t want to part with her basket and I refuse to have it on my lap.
Bella requests The Tale of Three Trees and of course my voice cracks and I have to pause as tears overwhelm me a few times. Then at the end we have a little catechetical lesson as Bella wants the main points repeated to her.
Then I tuck each girl into her bed and joke, “Do you want me to sing a lobster song?”
“No! No!” they shriek. “The butterfly song!”
“Are you sure? You never want to hear my lobster song.” I pretend to pout. I even sing the beginning of a silly lobster song: “Swim away, little lobster, swim away…”
But they protest and insist on butterflies and I flip off the light and settle into the chair to sing a few verses of the Butterfly song. It’s a tune Dom made up a few years back when Bella wore plastic butterfly barrettes in her hair every day. “Fly away, little butterfly, fly away,” he’d sing as he took out her barrettes and brushed her hair. A sweet father daughter ritual. Now I’ve adapted the song and added my own verses. At times these have included a recapitulation of the life cycle of a butterfly, a recounting of the girl’s busy day, a poignant longing for spring in the dead of winter. Tonight, though, it’s just a simple lullaby with a few verses about how much Jesus loves them.
Then two verses of Amazing Grace. Then I say a final goodnight and God bless and sneak out. Time for me to go to bed myself. It’s been a long day.
Photos: a lily that recently surprised me by appearing in the front bed by the yellow roses.