Letting Go by Samuel Germany

Today was my first day back at work. I’ve been dreading it for the selfish reasons you might expect. My summer’s over, back to the grind, etc. But what has bothered me most is leaving my girls. I’ve actually really enjoyed taking care of Angela. She’s the sort of person that would forget to eat or drink water and just power through if she’s focusing on something. I’ve liked having the job of keeping her hydrated and what not because it’s the only way I can take care of her and subsequently, Rose. But now, I can’t do that.

It was okay while I was in training today because I could check in and she what she was up to and how she was doing. But when I got home she was feeling kind of off, and I saw the telltale sign that something was up. I have mimicked it for a few people, but it’s the warning sign to me that things are about to get worse.

Right now she’s behind me laying on the bed. Her stomach hurts, she feels feverish and nauseous. I’ve got fans on her per her request, but there’s little else I can do. The feeling of powerlessness I’ve felt throughout her pregnancy has felt pretty awful. I want to help, but her pregnancy brain isn’t working well enough to communicate what she needs sometimes. She's finally seeming to rest and stabilize now, but it only makes things feel a little better.

This feels all the more awful because this happened on my first day back! We’ve got another 4+ months of this. All the thoughts spin through my head and I want to yell, I want to cry because there is nothing I can do. I can’t fix it. I’ve asked people for help, and then I reached out to my dad. My dad has had to leave a wife and kids at home while he went to work. And then, as he always does, he replied and God was present in his words.

“She is strong Samuel, and you know it. It makes you feel better to be her protector in all; however, I believe it’s time you entrust her to the One who can care for her like no other. Every day part of your surrender needs to include letting God be her caretaker.”

It’s true, I know it, and it hurts. I have to recognize I am not enough, and it really shouldn’t make me feel bad because I know my God is enough. Through our whole relationship, it’s funny how little improvements I have been able to make intentionally. I’ve said thousands and thousands of words, but it is things said in passing without thought that really make changes. When I try, I often end up obstructing. Marriage has proven to be a humbling, and sometimes humiliating experience. Nothing smarts more than a full face plant after earnestly trying to make things better. Turns out that fatherhood already is extending that lesson.

I think in my first blog post I think I talked about helplessness during the miscarriage stripping away illusions control over things. Now we’re having a little girl, and I am again helpless. I want so badly to hold on tighter, to try to fix things. How can I make sure she drinks water? How can I make sure she eats if I’m not there?

It strikes me that in my nobleness I have been insulting her ability. Like dad said, she’s strong. Angela has blown me away in this pregnancy. I’m sure you might have been like me and prepared for a lot of complaining. It hasn’t been that way at all. She has drawn upon reserves of strength and endurance I didn’t know she had. I have been in awe of her and what she is doing. How can I feel that way, but also treat her like she can’t take care of herself?

To answer the rhetorical question, because I’m human. But even though it might be understandable, now that I’m aware I don’t get a free pass to continue that way. It’s control. I have to surrender any reassurance I have in my ability to take care of her. I’m only stressing myself out and that certainly doesn’t help things with her.

I love Rose, but Angela is and always will be my first love. She is part of my heart, part of my brain, part of my body. I can no longer conceive of an existence separate from her and that makes me want to do whatever it takes. So I … surrender. I let go. Tomorrow, when I get up and say goodbye on my way to work… I will let go. I will do it the next day and the next. She is worth it, and He will take care of her. He loved her first, so I think he can handle it. He brought us together. He called us to marriage. He brought us to the point of trying to have kids. He brought has brought us Rose. This is clearly His, and right now I just need to breath out the tension.

Side note: As soon as Rose is able to understand, I'm going to spend the rest of my life telling her how strong her mom is!

…..

Every once in a while I go back and look at the vow I wrote to Angela. Sometimes I want to see if what I said is still applicable, and each time it feels like they are even more true. This time, as I look back, there are a few lines (bolded) that seems particularly appropriate now...

"I Samuel take you Angela as my darling wife. I name you my queen and acknowledge you above all others. I will proclaim your grace and steadfastness and do my best to overlook your faults just as you do for mine. I will honor you for the richness you bring to my life, for yours is the color and the vibrancy that quickens my heart. You are the answer to the question, Am I meant to be alone? You are the fiery reality that all my longing was pointed towards. You are the dream from which I will never wake. Your voice, your touch, your love are where I find my home.

Angela, I will try to love you in the best and most holy way, to die to myself and surrender ownership of you, for you are not “mine”. You belong to God alone, and it is a measure of his love that he has knit our lives together. Only he knows the way to love you best, and I want nothing less than the best for you. You are his spotless bride, pure and glorious in his sight. An angel, a queen, his most perfect creation. How could I give you anything less than everything I have? My time, my energy, my aspirations, my tomorrow and each day after…all are yours. I will serve you with my mind, body, and any gifts I may possess. You are worth anxious days and sleepless nights. You are worth a lifetime, so I give mine to you. Though affection may falter and anger may fester my love will be fierce and unceasing. I will fight for love even in the dull times, the monotony between sickness and health and rags and riches. I vow a fanatical devotion to our marriage and to its growth. I will do my best to sacrifice my desires and my ego, anything that I must do in a vain attempt to repay God for the gift he has given me in you. In you I see his magnificent love for me, and I only hope you will see the same as I love you."

 

Raising a Warrior by Samuel Germany

It has been thrilling to see your reactions to the gender reveal. It has been especially joyful to watch the videos some of you sent in. There was quite a lot of crying and some ear splitting screams (Riley Kemp, I think that’s the loudest scream I’ve ever heard. I hope your parents recover swiftly). The reactions all proved the title of the last blog post: Everyone’s Baby. In one video it was a literal interpretation with two girls jumping up and down yelling, “We’re having a girl!!” It warmed our hearts so much to see how happy you all were. I know you would have been happy if it was a boy...but I think way more of you were hoping for a girl. I don’t know why you personally might have been wanting us to have a girl, but Angela and I feel like this baby girl is what was supposed to happen. For me personally, it is something I have wanted for a long time.

Lauren Johnson, FMT alumni and all around wonderful person, was the first to put the thought in my head. I don’t remember what conversation we were having years ago, but she told me, “You would be a great girl dad.” The thought stuck around and would keep coming back.

I have never in my life been a stereotypically manly type.  If I’d been born earlier, I’m sure I would have been slapped with generalizations of femininity and stuff like that. Thankfully, I was raised knowing that sensitivity and emotion doesn’t mean weak. To be fair, sensitivity has caused me a lot of problems, but it does wonders when working with people. Most other guys have not been raised that way, so aside from video games and sports I don’t have much to talk about. By an organic process, I’ve ended up having more friends that are girls through the years. For that reason, I thought being a “girl dad” would be a more natural fit not just because of my experience, but also because my little girl will have access to lots of “aunts”.

I’ve been a romantic as long as I can remember, so the iconography of heroes rescuing princesses captivated me from an early age. I saw Star Wars: A New Hope when I was six years old. Not only was Princess Leia my first crush, but Luke picking her up and swinging across that chasm was one of the coolest things ever. I wanted to do that, and I was drawn to movies that showed that. Robin Hood fought to save Maid Marian. Peter Pan saved Wendy. Spiderman saved Mary Jane. When I was around 12 I really got into knights and chivalry. I got an illustrated book and highlighted bits about protecting a lady’s honor and stuff like that. I wanted to be a hero. I was under no conviction that I would actually fight anyone, but I wanted to prepare myself to swoop in and be ready to help. I was obsessed with the idea even into college. I would walk to class listening to the Gladiator soundtrack while I imagined leading an attack on a castle to save someone I loved. I always wanted to be “on call” if someone needed something so I’d be ready to ride to the rescue.

One day, when I was walking back to my apartment I had an epiphany: The knight in shining armor is stupid! What if the dragon attacks the princess when he isn’t there? What if he can’t ride to the rescue? More so, what if he dies and can never protect her again? Him solving all of her problems was keeping her weak, and it followed that she wouldn’t be able to defend herself. The most glaringly obvious solution to me was that he should teach her to fight! It might not be likely she would have the prowess of a man who has trained his whole life to fight, but it would certainly be better than nothing! Then, if he is present when the dragon attacks they can fight together and drive it off more quickly. If he can’t be there when the dragon attacks next, he can trust that the princess will be able to put up a good fight and fend for herself. This was one of the most important formative moments of my life. From then on, I have become obsessed with training and equipping for the battle of life. This newfound focus lends itself very naturally to my teacher heart.

The second epiphany in this chain was a response I heard during a discussion on overpopulation. Some of the panelists were discussing inter-planetary colonization, changes to food production, and redesigning cities. Bill Nye the Science Guy was on the panel, and when he was asked the same question his response was unexpected and profound…

“Educate women and girls.”

The sentence went off like a bomb in my head. Basically, as educational opportunities are more available to women in developing countries, the birth rate slows down. (I just erased a three paragraph explanation adapted from a geography lesson I gave on the topic, so you’re welcome.)

Bill Nye’s answer turned my desire to train and equip into a personal and professional mission. My greatest desire is for all women within my influence to feel empowered and competent. Thankfully I have grown up surrounded by empowered women with vast and diverse skill sets and personalities. My daughter’s mother, Angela, is a prime example of this. She is strong, bold, and wildly talented.

The day after I got to see my daughter on the ultrasound I realized that she is the confluence of so many parts of my life: the female friends I’ve had all through my life, the epiphany about teaching the princess to fight, and the importance of educating and empowering girls.

I’m sure there are many of you that are excited because girls are cute and adorable and she’ll be spoiled and stuff like that. That’s fine and I’m glad you’re excited. I’ll even learn to put up with bows and girly things. I wanted to write this blog to give you an idea of what I have in mind for my daughter, because I need you to support it.

I want to raise a warrior. She can wear a bow, but she will be strong. I won’t protect her by hiding her away from the world. I want to protect her by teaching her how to fight. How to handle herself. When she comes to workdays at FMT I’d love her to be competent whether she’s sewing costumes or constructing part of the set. I don’t want her forced into a box, I want her to be her, the woman that God made her to be.

That’s why I’m so excited that she’s “everyone’s baby” and so many of you feel so invested. Don’t just spoil her with material things. Spoil her with your life lessons, with tricks you’ve learned, with skills you’ve developed, with your conversations, with your time. I know a lot about music and teaching because I was born to parents that are musicians and teachers. My skill set has grown beyond that because I have been in an environment that brings together diverse groups of people that I have learned from. I want our daughter to benefit from that so she will be able to handle herself well. Since we found out about the gender I have thanked God several times for the numerous examples of feminine strength she will grow up around. I don’t know what her personality will be like or the things she will do, but I have full belief she will be strong.

Angela is a perfect model of this. We joke a lot about how many of the stereotypical gender traits (aggression, sensitivity, who wants to talk about feelings, who doesn’t want to talk about feelings) are flipped in our marriage. If you can sum up Angela in only one sentence, you don’t really know her. Some facets of her personality are (literally) louder than others, but I am still finding new facets and complexities because she is still growing. She thinks and processes things her own way and doesn’t take something I say as fact without thinking about it on her own. Angela has a boldness and aggressively proactive approach to life that I lack, so I very much pray that will be passed on to our daughter. When Angela comes in to your life, you’re not quite sure what just hit you. I have no idea exactly what our daughter will be like, but I’m sure she will be powerful like her momma.

All of this has meant coming up with a name was a difficult process. We’ve been trying to figure out names for the past couple of years. The only sure things were how we would incorporate family names. A boy would bear my full name and Angela would pass on her middle name to a girl. Beyond that...whew. As recently as a couple of weeks ago I went on a baby name website and looked at 1,600 girl names. Yes, that much. It produced a list of 15 names. Our daughter’s name was on that list, but didn’t make the cut when I narrowed it down to 6 names. When I went over the names with Angela, she asked about one name in particular, and I told her I wasn’t exactly sure why I’d written it down because it didn’t really have a meaning. We tabled those names and switched over to something else that allowed us to match names we liked. Our daughter’s name came up again. The more we said it, the more it began to stick. We eventually agreed on the name, and once we found out our baby was a girl…. I knew her name was right. It wasn’t right because we picked it, it was because God picked it. God picked the perfect name for his daughter.

Not only do we love the name, but every time I say it I can feel my love for her come out of my heart and into the air. Love is wrapped up in her name.

 

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"Everyone's Baby" by Samuel Germany

 
18ish weeks pregnant
I can't sleep. Could be nerves, anticipation, etc. In nine hours we find out the gender of our baby. We'll also have our first chance to find out if things are developing okay. Angela has been nervous about that, and I think I have been carefully not thinking about it. At any rate, the last time I saw the baby it was just a bunch of pixels. But in 9 hours, this baby will have a name.
We had some friends over for a World Cup game the other day. Two got there early to make some grilled cheese and cookies. While they were being made Angela was looking longingly at the cookie dough. 
"I really want cookie dough, but Samuel won't let me." 
I decided to stay out of it.
"Just a little?" She asked to no one in particular.
Before I could say anything, one of our young friends said, "No cookie dough! That's everyone's baby!"
 
Everyone’s baby...
That really resounded with me, because it seems to be true. Angela and I have always been humbled at how much people have invested in our lives, particularly those at FMT. I suppose it is natural considering how much we have all worked together, struggled together, and achieved together. We are well and truly family. 
I was not able to experience my FMT family from the stage like usual, so I tried to be around as much as possible on workdays and helping out with rehearsals. I've been going to Cedar Valley with dad since I was four years old. If you go through the doors to E-building and keep going straight to those stairs to the second floor, you'll walk my Mt. Everest. I say that because I used to pretend we were climbing Mt. Everest. I would count the steps, and I'm pretty sure I got a different number each time. Dad would put on a movie in his office and go off and teach. They have those motion detectors everywhere in CVC, so I'd have to jump up every once in a while when they turned off.
When dad started FMT I would have blankets, books, and toys up on the landings during rehearsals. Even though dad made sure I had things to keep me occupied, I just ended up spending most of my time watching. Those people were my idols! Randy Johnson, Michael Lyons, Francois Dubois (never learned how to spell that one). I apparently gave my first acting advice as a 5 year old during a rehearsal of dad's first show, Godspell. I told Jesus (Randy Johnson) that he should die with his head down and to the side instead of straight down. And you know what? He took the suggestion!
I made friends there, had my first crushes there. I explored behind the lake, exchanged notes, learned how to dance, learned how to build. I was surrounded by people that took me from incompetence to competence in many areas. 
I really don't like not being in shows because it feels wrong. It's like going to a party with your friends, but instead of going outside you just look through the window. Almost every time I go through the performance hall when I'm not in a show, I'll go stand in the wells behind the curtain or run my hand along the brick wall as I walk back into the backstage area. Sometimes I'll do that as I talk to a friend that's in the show. Sometimes I'll do it alone and remember times long past with friends in other shows. When I see kids chorus members whispering in the well, that was me. When I see teens whispering in the well, that was me. When I see adults whispering in the well, that's me now.
Towards the end of the second act of Hunchback, I always thought about our baby when Quasimodo's parents came forward and his mother sang over him. It's why I cried EVERY SINGLE TIME. One performance, I imagined my baby crawling around on that stage. I want my baby to explore, to crawl in the same places I've walked. But then, unbidden, came the thought of how many people will love my baby
Our baby probably won't be able to spend much time crawling because so many will want to hold it. There are people that ALREADY love our baby. So many have reached out with congratulations and encouragement. Some have even said what they want our baby to call them. I don't know how many have said they can't wait to see me as a dad. I was thinking of this and I cried hard
How fortunate is my baby? FMT started when I was five, but my baby will experience it from the beginning of its life. My baby will get to develop it's own relationship with you! Goodness.
Thank you for the love and anticipation that you are already showing. Thank you for advice and thank you for those that have shown restraint at bombarding us with advice (trust me, we will ask). Angela benefits from comisserating about fluctuating diets and I benefit from commiserating about dealing with Angela's fluctuating diet. Thank you for your joy, thank you for your prayers, and thank you for keeping her from eating raw cookie dough.
There is another way the baby is everyone's baby, even if it's a bit of a stretch. I am everyone. I am all of you. Everyone from those I watched in Godspell when I was five to the ones I watched in Hunchback. I learn from people. Some of you I may have only watched from afar, some are my closest friends. I am the sum of our interactions and shared experiences. Every experience is training, you just never know when or how you're going to put it to use. Most of my training can be traced to FMT, either on stage or back stage. So many friendships and relationships trained me to be a better husband. And now that experience is training me to be a father. I've had previews of feeling protective, of the painful experience of watching people grow up, and walking with people through hardships. Your life lessons and experiences have formed me and are going to influence the formation of my child. No words exist that could adequately express how meaningful your input has been and will be, because you give the gift of an enriched life for us, and for our baby...
Everyone's baby 
 
(Please do feel free to leave a comment here or elsewhere!)

I Feel Like a Dad... and it's Scary! by Samuel Germany

 

Written July 1 (16-ish weeks pregnant )

Have you woken up crying? This is a new thing for me (Samuel). My wife is going on a brief trip with her family. I was thinking about that and how I’d miss her, but then it hit me… my baby is going too.

We’ve heard the heartbeat twice, but what’s most exciting is that Angela is starting to show. I’ve been reading a book that covers pregnancy from an expectant father’s perspective and it said it’s very normal for fathers to not feel a strong connection to the baby early in the pregnancy. I absolutely have loved the concept of the baby, if that makes sense, but now that I can see Angela’s baby bump there has been a transition in my mind. Instead of “loving the baby”, I can point at her belly and say “I love you.” It’s not some nebulous abstract concept, it is real. My baby is right there! Even the phrasing of that sentence, “my” baby. The morning of July 1st, the baby is MY baby too, and I feel like a father.

I’ve tried to be diligent about making sure Angela drinks plenty of water, doesn’t get hungry (that’s a whole thing I’ll talk about another time), gets rest, and feels comfortable. I probably would have felt a little anxiety about not directly overseeing that anyway, but now that the baby is my baby, it kicked that anxiety into a gear I haven’t felt since the miscarriage.

Angela’s family (particularly her mom and dad) have taken care of her the majority of her life, so that means they’re pretty good at it. They love us and pray for us so I know she’s in good hands, but this morning’s worry easily overwhelmed that reassurance.

The miscarriage experience usually provides a heart and a brain response, and both are very strong. There is knee buckling emotion and blinding peace. Most of the time, thanks to God, there is blinding peace. I’m sure some parents have the fear of the unknown (ex: losing their baby). For us, it’s not unknown. We do know what it’s like and we know how the grief feels. More importantly, we have seen how God took care of us in the grief. So even though it sucks beyond comprehension, we know God will pour out his mercy beyond comprehension.

On more rare occasions, particularly in times of weakness, there is the fear. The fear of losing, the fear of the grief itself. I figure most reading this will be musicians, so I’ll say it’s like sympathetic strings on an instrument. They aren’t directly played, but will respond to the right frequency. The scar left by the miscarriage is there like a sympathetic string, most of the time inert. Then, something will happen that is emotionally similar enough and the scar starts to resonate. Sometimes I’m aware of it and can brace myself, other times the resonance builds so quickly I’m incapacitated before I’m even aware of what’s going on. Whatever I’m feeling is given more energy, from a surface wave to a tsunami.

When I thought of my baby leaving my protection on this trip, it resonated with the old wound and gave me an emotion I’ve only felt when I’m concerned about someone I love. It’s like I was so ferociously aware of my love for my baby that it made me panic. A mix of love, concern, fear, and anxiety all at once. I’ve felt something like that before for Angela, but it can be tempered by the fact that she’s an adult and can take care of herself. But my baby is so tiny and fragile.

Maybe that’s what triggered the old wound. The miscarriage is forever a reminder of the fragility of life. Sometimes (very rarely) towards the beginning of the pregnancy, it made it subconsciously difficult to be fully emotionally present. Never would I consciously want to protect myself from getting attached, but the wounded part of me was scared. But fear not, I am all in now.

Forget fear. Forget worry. Forget fragility. Forget death. Forget feelings of inadequacy. Forget concerns about finances. I am charging in. Sometimes, like today, I feel like a soldier charging into battle with bullets flying overhead. Other days, I feel like a kid on the first day of summer sprinting towards the pool.

Whatever the expression, we are charging in. The miscarriage may have been one of the most significant moments in our lives because of how it stripped away fear. As I said, the fear of losing a baby is not an unknown fear to us. We have gone through it and are in the process of coming out the other side. God has provided, and he will provide. There are moments of fear and worry like this morning, but the miscarriage experience showed me those feelings come and go and that’s perfectly okay. I know fear doesn’t come from God, so I remind myself of peace and his promises.

We don’t know what will happen with our baby. We don’t know boy or girl (two weeks!!!!!), tall or short, healthy or sick, whether it will shy away from attention or soak it up, whether it will need braces or have perfect teeth like its mom….there are so many unknowns, but what we do know is… THIS. WILL. BE. SPECTACULAR.

I have never been more ready to be not ready. Anxiety will come and go. I know I will be worried plenty of times about so many different things, but I don’t care. With Angela (my perfect companion and bestest friend) and my baby (the physical expression of our love brought forth by God’s grace), what else matters?  They are my heart and my flesh (metaphorically as of 2014, literally as of 16 weeks ago).

I promise this blog won’t always be this intense. Next time I might talk about burping (mom, not the baby) or how we can have so much food but still have “nothing to eat”. I wanted to share our experiences with our extended family that has supported and will continue to support us.

Welcome to the ride of our lives!

 

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