Tomorrow will mark one month since Mona Sage entered the world.
Mona came in her own time. I mentioned in my last post that I was hoping to VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), but that my midwifery practice only wanted me to go to 41 weeks before scheduling a planned C-section. Mona, bless her, decided it was time to come out at 40 weeks and 6 days (at 8:56 p.m., to be exact). And she seemed to know what she was doing. Her timing meant that my mom, who had planned to drive down from Pennsylvania in time for the planned C-section, was able to be at the labor. And Mona gave us–well, mostly Tim–all that extra time to get projects accomplished around the farm.
Now she is here! And, of course, it feels impossible to imagine life without her. From what we can tell, we’ve been gifted with another strong girl. She is often quietly watchful, but also has a good set of lungs when she needs to make her preferences known.
There is no question that we are all taken with Mona. There have been other adjustments, however, that come with a few more growing pains. One unexpected adjustment for me has been the reality of healing after birth.
It seems like it should be pretty obvious. You birth a child; you then have to heal and rest. But I so much associated the struggle of my recovery after Anabel with having a fairly traumatic C-section after a long and arduous labor. I hadn’t realized that I had convinced myself that recovering from a vaginal birth, by comparison, would be cake. And in some ways it has been. I pretty much spent the first few weeks after my C-section glued to a reclining chair, with zero energy for anything. My body didn’t feel nearly as beat up after Mona’s birth.
But I underestimated the time my body needed to heal. I tore when delivering Mona, and after about a week after her birth, I was feeling more discomfort than I thought I should. I went into the midwife to have it checked out, and turned out that I pushed too hard and tore some of my sutures out. I left that appointment feeling disappointed, but also determined to heed the midwife’s instructions to take it easy and to rest as much as possible.
And so I’ve entered into a period of cultivating the discipline of stillness. Which, by the way, is a REALLY hard discipline for me. I’ve sat a lot; lounged on the couch. I’ve made myself get over my stubborn do-it-yourself attitude and let people do things for me. I’ve even asked people to do things for me. I’ve tried to help Anabel find ways of playing with me that allow me to stay off my feet (doctor’s check-ups have been big).
I’ve had lots of time to consider: “why, exactly, is this so hard for me?” Now, I’m certainly not unaware that I have a hard time sitting still or that I really value being industrious. But I also sort of thought that I knew my body’s limits and could pay attention to that when needed. Torn sutures, however, indicate otherwise. Stillness, it turns out, is just really hard for me. Which is kind of ironic, given that I usually name stillness and solitude as primary ways that I care for myself, cultivate my spirituality, and connect with God. I may value 20 minutes of meditative stillness first thing in the morning, but these past few weeks have showed me how much I undervalue stillness as a whole. I put so much worth and weight into work and physical activity that I perhaps fail to recognize that stillness is a discipline equally worth cultivating; a discipline to take pride in.
As I’ve articulated some of this to myself, I’ve also thought about what it might all mean in the context of homesteading. My energy for hard work is undoubtedly a big part of the draw I have to homesteading. There is always work to be done on a homestead, whether it is a larger-scale project like building a fence or preserving a harvest, or the daily tasks of preparing food or feeding animals.
I found myself wondering over these weeks whether homesteading is bad fodder for an over-zealous work ethic. But I don’t think it has to be. One of the primary reasons Tim and I wanted to make a shift towards homesteading was in the hopes that orienting more of our energy towards the tasks of home would also help to make the overall rhythms of our lives more sustainable. What we are both realizing, is that realizing those sustainable rhythms will take time, intentionality, and discipline.
It feels particularly difficult right now because, while I am more physically limited, Tim is trying to begin our new market garden season, build important farm infrastructure, and keep up with things around the house. While I am learning the discipline of stillness, he has no choice but to go 100 mph.
In future seasons, I am hoping we can both equally cultivate disciplines of stillness and work, sharing the tasks that make up our days here on the farm and homestead, and also intentionally carving out time for stillness and rest. I imagine post-lunch rest times on hot summer afternoons; family walks in the woods on autumn mornings; whole afternoons or days where we prioritize being together and resting over checking things off a to-do list. I know we like to think that a move towards homesteading is somewhat counter-cultural, and such rhythms of rest are a primary way that we can live differently from a work-driven culture. One thing that will help us move in this counter-culture direction is to learn to depend more on community. Community has been huge in this season, with friends coming to help Tim with farm projects and church bringing meals and family coming to play with Anabel, hold Mona, and get household chores done. I am realizing that turning outwards toward community will need to continue to be part of our lives if we hope to realize a more restful, sustainable rhythm.
Currently, we need to be honest with ourselves that we’re struggling to embody counter-cultural rhythms of rest. There is just too much filling our lives this season. As we look ahead, however, I hope we can continue to be energized by the potential that homesteading offers for a balance between work and rest. And in our current reality, I hope we can both find smaller ways of practicing the discipline of stillness. For now, my primary reason for practicing comes in the beautiful form of an amazing baby girl.