Thursday, June 6, 2013

Encouraging Atlas: Refelctions on a mother past her due date

My due date was this past Tuesday.  And it came and went like every other day.  Everything here in my home is prepared to meet the arrival of our little son, Samuel Dominic.  But my bag isn't quite ready to be thrown in the van.  The car seat is still not put together.  The base for the car seat isn't even installed yet.  This is my sixth full term pregnancy.  Aside from the first baby where I was induced at 39 weeks for pre-eclampsia, this is my fifth pregnancy "post-dates".  All of my other children were born between 41 and 42 weeks.  I expected the pattern to continue, and considering there is no sign on the horizon (zero contractions, zero uncomfortability, no signs of nesting even) that Samuel will come in the next couple of days, I think I will not be disappointed in my assumption.  Another one of my babies "will be late."

I write this today to encourage mothers.  Mothers who are waiting to hold in their arms what they've held under their hearts for these last nine months.  Especially mothers for whom this may be their first time being "late" to start labor.  Peace, my sisters.  Your baby, your body, and your God all know exactly when the time is right.  It's funny how modern common obstetrical practices look down on anything in this country but an over-medicated, intrusive labor and delivery as witchcraft, that these same "professionals" would be drawn to this tiny little "wheel of fortune" to determine universally our due date, isn't it?  Just as we shouldn't trust our fate to an astrological calendar, we shouldn't trust our baby's Birthday to a spinning wheel in the hands of someone who doesn't take the time to consider our baby's growth and development but would see us through the lens of a piece of paper.  More importantly the date written up there at the top.  You, my sister, are more than a piece of paper, you know that that little life inside of you (which feels bigger and bigger everyday!) is more than a date.  I encourage you to find the strength and support you need to allow your body and your baby decide which birth day is the best for the two of you.  Too many can crowd and fret their way into this intimate time for you and Baby.  Block them out.  Find the support you need (luckily for me, I have the best husband in the world to run interference for me from these "Negative Nancies" and a midwife who is willing to let me go the full 42 weeks before talking induction and has been nothing but supportive and encouraging the entire way...)  Seek out and cling to a supportive friend, your spouse, a parent, anyone who understands that life never comes in a convenient package, and never goes according to "the plan".  We didn't begin our lives according to our own will.  We will never be taken out of this world at the moment we plan (unless through the sin of despair) according to our own will.  Why should the day of our birth be determined then by anyone other than He who has "numbered our days aright"?  Trust, my sister, and rest easy.  Your day will come, that beautiful moment in which you see your little child face to face, and it will be a moment worth the wait.

Here are some ways in which I am preparing, or have prepared in the past for the birth of my child.  Maybe you can find comfort and suggestions here on what to do to pass the time.  Maybe it will spur you to be more bold in voicing your need for support right now, in your decision to wait it out for that precious child.  Whatever the reason, here are some more reflections on that final two week wait which seems the longest and hardest part of the entire pregnancy.

I fill my home with love.  I am blessed to have a home that is already filled for me by 5 of the most beautiful and loving children I've ever met.  I seek out and spend time with each of my children, and try to hold them more, to recognize them more, to have quality one on one time with each one of them.  This is hard for me to do, as I'm generally more achy with a lot less energy, and I get touched out easily.  But if I can find the time to snuggle with my toddler on the couch while reading her favorite book, its a good day.  If I can find the time to listen to my 9 year old son explaining to me the marvels of his latest scientific exploration, its a good day.  If I can go for a 10 minute walk with my middle son of 7 to hear his thoughts and ponderings on life while exploring the beauty around us, its a good day.  At this point I know that quality replaces quantity time, even for this homeschooling, stay at home Mom.  I am welcoming to my closest circle of friends, Moms who have been there with newborns (whether late or not), swinging by to drop me a meal, or bring me a cute layette to clothe my newborn in.  I give up worrying about the state of my home when they come, I trust in my friends to understand that my body doesn't allow me to examine and clean the floors as well, and that the toys, the clutter, the chaos is also a sign of the countdown currently underway in our home. 

I pray.  Insomnia does set in for me at this point in my pregnancy.  I lie awake, trusting that I will rest tomorrow, thanks again to my dear husband who works from home and can run "crowd control" as I nap or sleep in.  But during these darkest hours, I seek out our Blessed Mother.  I pray a Rosary for my upcoming birth.  I pray for the grace of patience.  I reflect on and fall more in love with the sounds of my slumbering husband.  I do not envy his sleep, for I know that he will be strong for me in the morning when I find myself unable to be so.  If I feel my little one stirring (which usually in the quiet is easier to feel) I stroke my belly and speak to him.  As I feel my body begin to prepare for birth with some effacing contractions (I usually get these for two or three days prior to the start of active labor) I take the time to reflect between each contraction to write a little love letter to my baby whom I know I will soon meet.  I have love letters for each one of my children, which will be given to them when they're grown and I'm gone.  It's a special time for that heart to heart with my own dear child, as I feel my body begin to prepare to give them everything they need to enter into this world. 

I do take walks.  In some ways to encourage labor should the time be right.  But also to enjoy the movements and the feelings it creates in my body.  Bringing that baby down, by gently walking up and down my driveway, seeing all the beauty of nature, and feeling connected to God's great creation helps me to be strong.  It helps me to pass the time.  It helps me to capture a feeling of relaxation in the midst of a contraction, which I then bring with me into my labor.  It's like a mental rehearsal before the big concert.

My husband takes time out of his day and takes me for walks around.  We're lucky in this instance to have my Dad and a friend here with us to watch the kids so that my husband and I are pretty much free to come and go as we please.  But in labors past, we would drop the kids off at friend's houses, sometimes overnight, and just spend a few hours together in quiet companionship.  Either we'd go shopping, or walk around some of the more quaint New England towns in this area, or we'd spend a night in.  A last chance for romance, with massages and long soaks in the tub, and whatever else a good marriage calls for.  A little red wine at this point can't hurt either.  A chance for two adults, two soul mates to come together and remember the very reason this child was conceived.  And to rejoice in that union once again.

My sister, I would encourage you, find whatever means will support and encourage you at this time.  Nourish yourself, body, mind, and soul and fill yourself with nothing but positive thoughts and love.  This time too will pass, focus on the time of advent within yourself.  God has a plan for you and for this child, revel in His process.  There is nothing wrong with you.  You read that too quickly.  There is nothing wrong with you.  THERE. IS. NOTHING. WRONG. WITH. YOU.  You are strong, you are in control, and you call the shots.  Your advocacy as Mother begins now, with you deciding what is best for you and for Baby.  Even before you begin advocating for him in playgroup or preschool.  Even before you begin advocating for him at the Doctor's office or to family members.  Even before you begin advocating for him in any other part of his time here on earth, know that its worth the fight to let your body decide when he will make his entrance.  I know you're tired.  I know you're sore and more than slightly immobile.  I know these aches and pains, but I know that in the end they are all worth it.  You will too, and it will be beautiful.  Trust in the will of God.  Trust in your body.  Trust in nature to take its course.  This is what you were designed to do, what your body was made for.  Take this time of waiting and make it into your own intimate journey towards motherhood, towards a new relationship with a precious, unique, individual soul.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A fight to the finish

So here it is, we're in the final month of pregnancy.  Already.  I can't believe it!  I've got the cradle set up near my bed, the changing table in my room, newborn diapers just waiting to be opened.  His coming home layette is laid out ready to be packed in my hospital bag (which I will be packing once my bag has made it back upstairs from the laundry).  We're down to once a week visits with the OBGYN's office.  Everything still looks great.  It's a new office for me, this will be my fourth hospital in six births.  A very small, country hospital, but they have everything I need to birth comfortably.

Historically I've gone 2 weeks late with all of my babies.  The one and only exception to that is when I was induced and gave birth to my first-born son at 39 weeks due to pre-eclampsia.  Since then I've had 2 natural births at 32 weeks and 2 inductions at 32 weeks.  It seems to be the way my body works.  I've begun the battle of wills already at my Doctor's office.  They were asking me last week at 37 weeks if I wanted to schedule an induction or just wait and see what happens.  Seriously.  37 weeks and they're already talking induction.  This week, at 38 weeks I was told my blood pressure was "getting high", 100/80, another hint at induction right?  My girlfriend admitted to me today that the same office induced her for blood pressure of 100/90.  Seriously!!!  That's not even out of the normal range!  My blood pressure is good for a person who is not pregnant, let alone an overweight woman who is 38 weeks pregnant. 

Here's my hang up: I hate being a squeaky wheel.  I like being the person who comes in, labors under the radar, has the big moment upon birth, and then gets out of the hospital and back home as soon as possible.  My insurance mandates a 24 hour stay upon giving birth.  I try not to allow it to be beyond 24 hours and 10 minutes (and that includes my trip down the elevator to my car!)  I'm not now, or never have been a big hospital fan.  Especially when it comes to labor and delivery.  Hospitals are for sick people, for people in need of care for a problem within their bodies.  Labor and delivery is a normal process.  It is a natural function that most women can do unmedicated.  I'm not a superwoman by any means.  But I am a woman.  A woman who feels that she can manage the pain through the awesome support system of her husband (we use the Bradley Method of birthing).  It's not that I look down on women who like to be hospitalized for their labors.  I just don't feel, on average, that hospitals are necessary.  And to feel pressured, in anyway, to accept medicine that I know in the bottom of my soul is not necessary, makes me anxious.  Of course, I don't know that everything is going to go just fine.  I don't have a plan as to how exactly its going to go.  I just want my medical team to respect my decisions, my experience, and my feelings as a woman enough to not let me be just another "case of Pitocin" waiting to happen.  I don't want to be a number, I don't want to walk in without having a face.  I'd rather be ignored than put through the routine medicalized birth.  Stick me in a hallway somewhere, let me labor, and I'll call you when you need to come catch.  Don't explain to me why you're going to give me Pitocin and then not let me tell you why you're crazy.  Don't look at me with that patronizing sneer when I tell you that breastfeeding is a great way to release oxytocin.  That's like telling me that your aspartame is better than my cane sugar.  Not even close.  (Did I mention they are also telling me I have to receive a shot of Pitocin after I deliver to "make sure I don't bleed" too much.  I'm sorry, but this is my fourth hospital and I've never had that as "standard procedure".  And I'm not a bleeder sir.  Especially when you have trained staff to massage my fundus down and you let my baby latch on and feed uninterrupted.  There is no need for Pitocin if these steps are taken, because my body will ALREADY BE PRODUCING IT!)

I guess in this sense, I am a control freak.  Not because I have trust issues (I'm sorry, but even if that comes across as such, how would you feel working harder than you ever have in your life and having people pushing needles at you from all sides?  A little untrusting yourself I'm sure...)  More to the point: I know my body.  I've grown this baby within myself for the past nine months, so I'm the closest person on this earth to know his body as well.  I know that if I'm left alone I will be the first one to know if something real is actually going wrong.  Not only because I know my body, and I know my baby's body, but because I've labored and gone through this process 5 times before.  I need to be free to respond to my body during labor.  Unhindered by medical "professionals" who are more afraid of not getting me doped up on drugs, or of a potential lawsuit, than that I might actually do just fine without them.  I seem ungrateful.  I'm not.  I truly am not.  I understand the value of Nurses, Doctors, and Midwives at birth.  I understand their role.  What bothers me is that they're so over-inflated in their self importance that they've totally neglected MY role.  I want to be in charge, because at the end of the day, this is a paycheck to them.  This is the beginning of a whole new life for me.  And I know from experience that birth, whether positive or negative, directly affects how mother and child bond.  That time builds on a relationship that must last symbiotically for over a year from that day.  Nursing, developing both mother and child, going through major milestones.  An OB just wants to get you in and out of the hospital without any health (lawsuit) risks.  But they forsake and risk the greatest moments of a mother's life.  Allowing her, empowering her really, to have the birth she was created for.

Please pray for me, as I know this is going to be an uphill battle for me.  Pray that my husband and I are on the same page as we move forward, that he at least respects my point of view.  And that I'm able to get my point across to the OBGYN's office that I do not want medical intervention unless its necessary.  And that I will be the one to make that call.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

38 weeks and counting down!!!

I couldn't sleep last night.  Usually I find that the perfect time to get up an blog, but my mind was racing too much for me to write down a coherent thought.  Today I'm going in for my 38 week OBGYN appointment.  Everything has looked great thus far, my blood pressure has been lingering around 100/60, I've gained the bare minimum for weight (which considering I started out overweight I'm pleased by that), no swelling thus far, I feel great (although I'm tired easily these days:)

I should be looking forward to labor and delivery at this point, making those final countdown preparations like packing a hospital bag and preparing for the nursery.  We're making these preparations, but ever so slowly.  I usually go two weeks late so I'm really not in the hospital mode yet.  I'm one of those women who enjoy labor and delivery.  I delight in my body's strength and ability to bring children into the world.  I gain a sense of renewed confidence for every son and daughter I have brought into this world.  I enjoy working with my husband and my body to labor peacefully.

This time is a little different though.  Yes, my baby boy is completely healthy.  My body has adjusted well to this pregnancy.  But, there, ever present in the back of my mind is the loss of my other two babies from miscarriage in these past two years.  I'm more fearful at the end of this pregnancy, because of those losses.  I just don't know, and I can't rest secure that I will be fine in this labor and delivery.  The last two children that passed through me were dead.  Am I alone in these feelings?  How does a Mom work through them and have a positive experience?  I honor my children, both born and unable to be born, but how do I work through these fears in time to welcome my son?

Please pray for me as I wrestle with these memories in my mind.  Pray that I find peace and a renewed sense of what is to come.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What's In a Word?

There has been much talk and hype in this house in the last week about our new Pope's decision to wash the feet of women.  Mostly I talked, and my husband listened, read, and researched.  I didn't want to say anything publicly on this, but I find myself delving into these long-standing inner-monologues throughout the day, which leads me to realize that I need to blog on this and all consequential subjects.

The Pope washed the feet of women.  Firstly, he has the absolute right to do whatever he pleases with the General Instruction during the Liturgy.  He is the supreme head of the Liturgy here on earth, he alone can make or break "the rules" according to his station.  Secondly, the Pope in no way has publicly endorsed female priests or any other such nonsense.  The act of washing the feet as Christ himself has shown is to embody service to ALL as to be carried out by His disciples upon His passing.  This specific act has nothing to do with the priesthood.  The entire rite is optional.  And on, and on, and on it goes...

I am conflicted on this though.  If the Pope had changed the Rubrics by way of an explanation before the service, maybe I could understand better.  While I understand that the GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal) indicates that this gesture of the washing of feet is to show charity and service to all, it also clearly indicates that it should be the feet of men.  No, I find that it is not because the Church is misogynistic or based on an antiquated male hierarchy.  It was because only men were present at the Last Supper, at least according to the Sacred Gospel accounts that we have.  And according to Jewish customs at the time, only men were allowed to dine together during the Passover meal, the Seder.  Women would be in another room, and if the home permitted, the women would be on a separate level as the men.  Christ was not one to stand on tradition though, He could have permitted women to be present simply (and yet profoundly) because He was God.  And yet He didn't.  The men present, his Apostles, were there upon his willing it, and it was there that Christ also led them to the example of service in the washing of feet.  He could have washed feet at any other time, but he did so right before He taught them the most sacred of meals that they would enact again and again, and which would become the lifeblood of the Church.  He entrusted to these men the sacred responsibilities of service of both the body (by washing the feet) and the soul (by instituting the Eucharist).

I just think there's so much pain surrounding this act of the Pope.  From all sides.  Pain that comes from those who feel disenfranchised and ignored by the Church.  Pain from those who embrace the traditions of the Church and her role of guiding both men and women to use their gifts by virtue of their sexuality to serve the Church.  And that pain has ultimately caused a lot of knee jerk, emotional, responses.  I've been confronted a lot by people of all walks of life and on both sides of the Adam/Eve debate why not?  Why shouldn't women's feet be washed?  After all women are called to serve and to be served are they not?  The answer is obviously yes.  I believe that Christ singles out women and raises them up according to his very Passion.  When these same men, who became established Priests in the new Church, cowardly turned away and fled from Christ, it was the women who faithfully followed in his footsteps.  It was women who wiped his face, who mourned and wept for him, who comforted him and his mother, who attended every turn on that walk to Calvary.  These women were called for their constancy, and for their fearlessness.  For their weeping vigil and broken heartedness.  And they were rewarded, these same women, upon seeing Christ resurrected.  In a mysterious way that only God can show to us in His time, what the men received in the Last Supper, the instruction to serve and to care for, the women went forth and did to Christ Himself.  In action.  This is not an insignificant thing.  The men had their feet washed with the exhortation to wash others feet.  It was a woman who washed the face of Christ.  The man who received the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ went out and betrayed Him with a kiss.  The woman who had been caught and held in the bondage of the sins of lust, greed, pride, and all the deadliest followed faithfully our Lord who was able to rescue her soul from death.  The men wept with grief until they could no longer stay awake during our Lord's agony.  The women wept again and again as they carried our Lord's agony in their witness to Him.  Of course the Lord would give the women special recognition, not just because of their sex, but because of their faithfulness to him.

So then why the outcry, mostly from women, in our time?  Where has this faithfulness gone?  I believe that women are so hurt in our time.  More hurt than in anytime in history.  I think it is interesting and Godly timed that Christ spoke to women, in front of the women who would follow him to his death these words "Blessed are the wombs that do not bear and the breasts that do not nurse. (Luke 23:29)"  He was speaking directly to the women of all time, but how relevant is that today?  Ask any mother who has more than 3 children what kinds of scrutiny she gets when out with her family.  The world throws this mantra out all. the. time.  And women are hurting and bereaved more and more by it.  They search for something, anything, some affirmation that the standards they are desperately trying to live up to are equal to God's approval of them.  They wait on the Church to recognize their sex, the brute Bishops, Cardinals, and Pope to affirm their dignity.  Women are killing themselves in our day and age, and killing one another, in some form of unspoken rat race that will lead to nowhere but a trap.  A mind game that will lead to damage.  The world as we live in it today offers us one lie, ladies, one big lie.  If we want to serve the Church, if we want to serve one another, if we want to have our feet washed, we must eat that apple all over again.  We must be the world's adaptation of the Beatitudes and make sure that our wombs do not bear and our breasts do not nurse.  This is why, I believe, that no woman who wants her feet washed can stand the thought of having a man represent her.  No man is equal to the sacrifice she has given to be able to serve her Church.  By sabotaging her sexuality, by this rupture with nature she is so willing to cause, she wants the Church not to recognize her sex, but to recognize the sacrifice she is willing to make in subduing her sex in order to buy the lie that this will make her somehow equal to man.  Christ came to raise the temple, our bodies, our very selves, in glory like His own.  All that we are as men and women, all that makes us human.  And in that glory there is no room for destruction or decay.  So why would women feel that it is more pleasing to God to forsake all that it is that makes her "woman", to poison her own body, heart, mind, and soul in a way that cannot be undone?  And this is the lie that makes the snake hiss with glee.

Yes, I do believe that BOTH men and women are called to serve Holy Mother Church.  But I believe that the Church in Her eternal wisdom recognizes the gifts that BOTH men and women can bring to her.  If it weren't for Christ's time on earth, women would not be recognized in the context of the dignity that only Christianity brought with it.  Women were nothing more than property in Jewish times, and it was only the affirmation of Christ that raised women to the role of disciple, unheard of in the Temple days.  Women have a direct connection with the founding and the history of our Church, there is no denial of that fact.  But where Christ gave specific example, wouldn't we be best to follow it?  For His reasons, mysterious though they are, men had their feet washed.  Do we serve Christ best by following his example?  Or do we serve Him best by manipulating a role He meant for men now that He's been gone these 2,000 years.

I love our new Pope.  I pray for him, and I ask the Holy Spirit to be with us all.  Where true charity and love are found, there is also true humility.  I pray for all the gifts that the Spirit can provide on these feast days of Easter.  And I ask His help to guide my heart in pondering the many mysteries that are so above my ways, its like watching a sparrow high up in the sky.  Christ the Resurrected Lord, have mercy on us all.  Amen.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday's Litany of Humility

O Jesus!  meek and humble of heart,
Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected,
Deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
Images taken from The Passion of the Christ, 2004
Words from Litany of Humility
Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930)
Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pope Francis and the Miracle of the Eucharist

How cool is it that I found this article about a Eucharistic Miracle in Buenos Aires while Pope Francis was then a Cardinal there? 

I pray that, by reading this, you are blessed with a wonderful and profound understanding or at least an appreciation of all that will take place on Holy Thursday evening in that most sacred of meals. 


Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Thank you, dear Readers, for your prayers!  It's the old adage at work "everything will look better in the morning".  My husband and I have talked long and often about my last post, I've prayed on it and gone to spiritual council in confession.  I haven't reached any formal conclusions, but the Holy Spirit has prompted me with this thought along the way: You are the decisions you make.  Hubby and I made the decisions we did at the prompting of much grace in our vocation preparations.  We didn't know the future, the outcome, and we still don't.  But aside from personal habit changes that I'd like to make, I wouldn't change the decisions that were given to us in the gifts of our children.  And I know that my husband wouldn't either.

We work harder than most of our couple friends to make ends meet.  And that isn't a careless "grass is greener" judgment that I throw out lightly.  When we hear our friends whine about working an 8 hour day and having an occasional over 40 (or even potentially over 50 hour) work week, we grit our teeth.  When you have a home based business your workday starts before the sun comes up and ends well after the midnight oil has been burned.  We work hard for every dollar that we make, and we work twice as hard deliberating how every dollar should be spent.  What used to be an occasional "impulse buy" doesn't happen anymore, as even a $20 purchase would set us back in our budget for the rest of the month.  We recognize that, we hope it will change and that finances will become a little easier in the future, but we also recognize that there are valuable lessons to be learned in the hard times.  As a wife and mother, I'm learning to distinguish between "wants" and "needs" when planning a shop.   And I'm also learning how to entrust that decision to the Lord before my purchase.  I'm learning that you can go very far in America establishing a home on other people's second hand items.  As a girl, my Mom used to sing and play "Secondhand Rose" on the piano, and I used to find the song fascinating.  We live that now!

I need to learn the differences between "good" and "perfect".  Most of the time life is good.  It's the rare exception in our life when it is bad.  Life has never been perfect.  I need to learn and accept that as one of the 'facts of life'.  I need to bloom where I am planted more and be satisfied with my situation in life.  I often withhold my best in an effort to 'save for a rainy day'.  For what?  Scripture shows us the rebuke of the servant who buried his talents (I am paraphrasing here) in the sand.  He was not entrusted with more by our Lord.  Did the Lord hold back in his will for my life?  Why am I holding back?  I'd like to face each day as if it were my last.  To live life, to seize the moment, to not hide and hope for a change I'm not sure will come despite my efforts.  Life isn't like that.  I love that expression 'life happens while you're busy making plans'.  How true is that!

As you see here, there is so much to think about, to ponder, to explore and examine.  I ask your continued prayers as I go through it all.  And know that I continue to pray for all of you as well.  I leave you all with a very inspiring post that I found on the blog, Large Family Mothering entitled "Decorating Ideas for the Large Family".