In the belly

Today is the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The pagans sometimes call it imbolc, meaning “in the belly,” in Celtic. We are here, still in the quiet dark of February, but there is life inside and it is growing.

We celebrated in our house this morning. Serafina asked to put on her owl costume, a tutu, her Elsa dress and her “most slippery socks” so that she could dance and twirl on the kitchen floor. The party commenced while I got dressed in the other room. The party abruptly stopped when those slippery socks proved their worth and Serafina faceplanted, biting a nice chunk out of her lip and possibly breaking her nose.

Many tears and a few heart palpitations, she was OK, watching some PBS Kids and our progress toward the day continued. But I was not recovered. Outside a light snow fell. I cursed the weather and, a half hour later, still reeling from the stress of seeing my kid in panic and in pain, I unleashed a beast on poor Serafina when she was shoveling instead of climbing into the car. Then I felt awful.

Just a regular weekday morning for us. In the winter, though, everything is harder. We ache in the cold, we move slowly under the bulk of so much clothing, we are stagnant in the long gray hours of the day.

The duality of working and being a parent is put to the test in these months when the combination of holidays, snow days and sick days far outnumber the days you actually can show up at your job. Then there was that run of days so cold our cars didn’t start. The bit of flu a couple of us got. The cough that came around Halloween and never completely left. And snot that has haunted us every couple of weeks since the days got darker.

We have had a lot of concentrated family time. Much of it has been loving and even fun and in the best moments, it has felt like our crew is now fully formed and coalesced. The twins aren’t just lumps to worry about keeping alive. They are walking, talking, opinionated and hilarious tiny creatures that make our lives fuller, and our pile of children more brood like. They love each other, they love their big sister, she loves them and Darry and I love all three so much it feels impossible sometimes. Other times it feels like we would do anything to just get out of the house alone for the afternoon.

Years ago, when I was only weeks pregnant with Serafina, we went to an imbolc ceremony in Vermont. It was evening, freezing, under a full moon and by a icy stream with just the tiniest bit of flowing water. The snow was feet deep. We stood with friends and strangers to light candles to the four directions and take moments alone, in the darkness, to make peace with the tea-time of the soul that winter had imposed on us and to make plans for the light days ahead — how we would use the energy we’d saved and nurtured all winter long. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever done and the baby just growing in my belly felt like the perfect literal and figurative symbol for the shift in the season.

Our young family is that symbol this year. We are getting past the hardest time of having three little ones so close together. When I tune back into the natural rhythms, which I looked to always when life was less full, before we had children, then I can handle this winter. There is something happening when you’re trapped inside, if you give in to it. There is a clarity winter leaves you with, if you let it.

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