A well run dry

     That last 5 months have been about survival. In addition to getting shockingly little sleep we moved, Pen got a new job and I started nannying again. It’s only now on the other side of it that I feel like I have a teeny bit of space for anything other than existing. 

     Motherhood is beautifully exhausting. The existing we’ve been doing is so much more than that. We are thriving. Pigment is sleeping more (halleluia!), Pen is starting a job he’s legitimately excited about and I am finding a groove in caring for both nanny child and my own. Things are falling into place to such an extent that I had a moment to address my woefully neglected inbox today. I came across this in my drafts from 2014: 

     “My mother once forbid me from shaving above my knee without explanation. “Don’t talk back.” she said; which actually meant “Don’t ask me any questions ever.”

     I have two prominent scars on my ankles from learning to shave. She could never be bothered to teach me. After endlessly asking for help I learned… eventually. Every now and then I’m still dumbstruck by the fact that I’ve never once cut myself shaving since. Call that the learning curve of a child unwanted. 

     For a long time I didn’t want children. I guess that happens when you’re up in the middle of the night with a newborn while your 8th grade math homework sits unfinished in your backpack. There was no time for math, and no one home to help anyway. 
When I realized I might want kids I fought the idea tooth and nail. All I’d ever seen was a mother who resented hers.
     The little girl I nanny tells me she loves me as she walks by. Down the slide, pick a flower, come back and tell me again. She is how I know I am not my mother.”
     Sometimes people ask me why I want to write down all the terrible parts of my childhood. My answer is this: it makes them real. It reminds me that my feelings about being treated that way were valid. Keeping your pain tucked away deep inside causes it to fester. It eats away at me until I doubt my own memories. 

     I’ve been feeling guilty again for ending my relationship with my mother. 

     “Don’t go to the well,” Pen says, “There’s no water there.”

     He is so right. Because of the choices I’m making right now Pigment will never know the echo of a well run dry. 

Okay

I have gotten into the habit lately of looking back through all the photos of Pigment after he’s snuggled in for bed. This is ridiculous because I spend the majority of my day eager for the glorious 3 hours of freedom that come after his bedtime and before ours– but I do it just the same.

Scrolling through Instagram I’m reminded of the highlights. I’m reminded of why it’s a good life. And to be honest, I’m reminded that I’m happy.

I am. For the most part. Can I tell you something else though? Sometimes I’m miserable. Sometimes, I feel like I ruined our lives.

I can still remember. I think that’s the real problem. I can still VIVIDLY recall how easy my life was before parenthood. I seldom did anything I didn’t want to do. With the exception of mundane tasks that I had to make fun with podcasts in the background or a phone call to a friend… I rarely committed to arduous tasks that weren’t in some way fun for me. My life was completely my own. I liked my job, I had endless free time, a marriage that was bursting at the seams with love, joy, good conversation and even more money than we needed.

I remember, and that is so hard.

Last weekend Pen had just one day off. We spent it at home with no real agenda. Pigment however, is going through some big developmental leaps and was inconsolably fussy. All. Day. Long. His disgruntled murmurs and angry coos became the soundtrack to our day.

We passed him back and forth, from when he woke up until he went to bed. Shushing and swaying, singing and snuggling. As challenging as days like that are; they’re nothing compared to weekdays.

Weekdays, like last Friday when I called Pen to come home from work early because the baby would not stop crying.

In those moments it’s hard, but what really gets me is that there is no reprieve. Literally, ever. Sure, I can get some air or leave him with Pen but what he wants most is his mama so for the duration of time that Pigment spends his waking moments screaming I will be the one hearing him scream. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. Next week. That’s the job. That’s what I signed up for. Heaven help me, that’s motherhood.

I’m not going to sugar coat my words here. If you can’t ascertain that I can love my son even while struggling through this transition you can see yourself out. I refuse to be one of those moms who is honest about her struggles and in the same breath says, “oh but it’s so worth it.”

Why do we do that? I’ll tell you why… It’s because we’ve been shamed into believing that GOOD moms never feel how I’m feeling. Society tells us that if we’re not enjoying every moment we are doing it wrong.

Fuck that.

Know what I am? I am a really good mom. I love that little boy more than anyone else I’ve ever met except the guy who helped me create him. And most of the time, I really love motherhood.

But when I don’t, that’s okay. When I hate it, that’s okay too. And when I fear I’ve ruined my life because I can distinctly recall all the trappings from my old life that are dead and gone and will never be again? Good grief, that’s just logical. And okay. It’s okay because we HAVE TO SAY THESE WORDS SOMETIMES.

It helps. It helps because nothing ever feels as bad as it does when you feel it in secret. Left unspoken these feelings eat away at me and chase me into dark corners. They scream that I don’t deserve such a perfect little boy because I don’t appreciate him. But that is a lie. It’s a mean and ugly thing and isn’t even a little true.

I am a whole person. I am a human, a woman, a wife and a mom. I am all of those things simultaneously but I am also each of them separately. The human part of me misses when my life was all about me. When my tank never hovered below half full.

I’m no less a mom when I’m a human.

I hesitated to put these words down. But I think it’s important. It’s important that I crawl out of the dark corners and take ownership of my experience. It’s important that other moms see it’s an okay thing to do. Most of all though, it’s important that my son have a mom who doesn’t allow herself to be shamed for her humanity. I want him to always know that it’s okay to struggle through hard things.

We’re all in process. I’ve never done a hard thing in my life that didn’t make me want to run for the hills somewhere along the way. Running isn’t my style though. Instead I’ll probably take a walk with my perfect little boy and feel sad and happy and miserable and filled with joy all at the same time. And all of those things will be okay.

An Anniversary of Sorts

On this day one year ago my whole life changed forever. January 1st, 2015- the day I found out baby Pigment existed. I won’t find it on any timehop though. The fragility of the teeny life inside me was too delicate to share. I’m sad now that I couldn’t allow myself to celebrate. We sat scared for months with baited breath willing this child to grow.

It wasn’t long before we clued our innermost circle in to the delicate dance of waiting and hoping. For that reason every time I spoke the words “I’m pregnant” it was followed by a tentative “but it’s early” and “let’s just wait and see”.
I went to the doctor to check progesterone and HCG levels every few days for two weeks. They put me on a twice daily dose of progesterone almost immediately. I felt certain to shouldn’t get too attached to this child.
After I began the progesterone they wanted me to come in to see how my levels had changed. I was waiting for that call when I attended a yoga retreat in the deep Appalachian mountains. No cell service. I ended up missing the call on the drive and couldn’t call back, leaving me an absolute wreck for a weekend I had intended to be for healing and peace. I journaled that weekend my worst fears. I wept with strangers and begged my body to hold onto this precious child.

The first trimester after a loss is excruciating. Every twinge is suspect. I hadn’t yet learned to trust my body to alert me if something was amiss and so there I sat, on the edge of my seat, for three whole months.

We first saw baby Pigment at 8 weeks. We breathed a little deeper that day. Being caught on the razor’s edge of not wanting to miss all the firsts and not daring to get attached left me exhausted. Or was that the tiny healthy baby boy rapidly growing inside of me? I’ll never know.

As I type now, 15 lb baby asleep in my lap, I’m astounded. He is pure magic. Parenting is without a doubt the hardest and still somehow most incredible thing I’ve ever done; and we’ve only just begun.

I have a hard time writing about being a mom because all my words feel too common. This experience is changing me in every moment and yet all I can ever find to say is this:

I had no idea.

I had no idea how deeply I would love him. How innately I would want to care for his every need. I’ve spoken before about my fears of being my mother. She made parenthood look so arduous. Every task a burden or a chore. I recall with crystal clarity being asked to do things she didn’t want to do to care for my infant brother that I delight in today . I am not her. Her inability to delight in motherhood was hers alone.

And so, on this auspicious anniversary, I’m elated to say that it was all unquestionably worth it. 2015 was a year of triumph unlike any other.

What a difference a day makes

Exhaustion overtook us both. Pigment slept 10-4:30 last night and I feel like a new person.  Already today I showered, snuggled in the glider watching the rain, face-timed with a dear long-distance friend, chatted with mom for over an hour, got out of the house for our Friday play group, picked up a prescription for this terrible thrush and now we’re at Einstein brothers. Pigment is snoozing away on my chest while I enjoy a jalapeƱo bagel and write a grocery list. 

I’m seeing tiny glimpses of what our new normal will be. Life requires much more flexibility on my part now. But in exchange for my patience I get to watch someone grow right before my eyes. I get to be the mama. I’m loving learning how to navigate this role. 

I don’t want to forget this time. Pigment will be 2 months old tomorrow. Already it feels like a blur. I love who this child is. I’ve never met a baby with such presence. He’s magnetic. I can’t believe he’s ours. It’s such an honor to have a front row seat for someone’s life. 

He makes me be present. Tomorrow is new; but today is so real. 

Gratitude overflows. 

Asking

Had a hard hard night. Up every hour at least. 

Paul left me a crying mess this morning. 

Ushering him out the door with assurances I wasn’t sure were true.

Got vomited on. It was in my hair and down my back. 

Cried again. 

But then I took a shower. I took some good advice and put a restless Pigment in the rock n play next to the shower and regained some sanity and clean hair. 
Put the baby in the sling and tidied. Made a cup of coffee I forgot to drink. Felt better still.
But the loneliness. No one talks about how unbelievably lonely this is. Maybe it’s not this way for everyone but it seems insane to me that there could be houses upon houses of lonely people who are all lonely together; but still alone. 
So I sent a text. Then another. I reached out and took the risk I’ve been avoiding. Up until now I’ve been desperate on the inside but oh so cool and collected on the outside. “Wanna hang out?” I ask. Totally nonchalant. No big deal. All the while my soul is screaming. 
Today I said it. I’m so lonely. And no fewer than the number I confessed this unspoken truth to heard my soul and reached back. It’s going to be okay; but we have to ask for the help we need. 

The Other Side

I had my very first really terrible day of motherhood today. It was actually just a really terrible morning. I was not my best self. It all started with an expectation. I’m learning that expectations can make or break a day in the world of a stay at home mom. When I file “sleepless nights” into my list of expectations I’m not surprised, and therefore not the least bit bothered. However, when my 4 week old gives me two gloriously restful nights of sleep in a row apparently my expectations shift. That combined with a wayward alarm clock that woke the whole house at 5:30 and just like that I found myself in desperate need of an attitude adjustment. But before I could see myself clearly, I had to cry and really feel all the monsterous emotions that were welling up inside of me. I had to grumble that the tiny human who trusts me implicitly was fussing. I had to throw my own grown up tantrum about him pooping 30 seconds after I changed him and got him reswaddled and then another over our latch troubles that no doubt frustrate him even more than they do me. Here he was being the exact same baby I adore but I was oh so angry.

After the alarm heard round the world he screamed for around 3 hours; spiraling me deeper into my own despair with each wail.

There was a part of me that REALLY wanted to blame the alarm clock. Scratch that, what I actually wanted to do was blame Pen. I was doing that very thing, in fact, when I realized who else likes to blame her circumstances on the people closest to her.

My mother.

I had fallen into a habit I didn’t even realize had been modeled to me my entire life.

But, I saw it. I saw it for what it was and snapped out of it. It was a crystallizing moment of clarity for me. I am experiencing triggers from my childhood, noticing the way my body stiffens at them and correcting the ingrained errant messages I received over and over again.

Motherhood is hard. Brutal, sometimes. I expected that. What I didn’t expect is that it would demand I be better in every imaginable way. And so I will.

Eagerness grows

Bastion,

Two AM seems to be when the world dissolves, leaving just you and I. Together we run out of things to “do” and finally I look to you, still held snugly in my stomach, expectantly. My eagerness to meet you is beginning to surpass my love of pregnancy. I have so loved growing your body inside of mine. I’ve loved watching you grow and experiencing the privilege of being the one you need the most.

But, my eagerness grows. I long to envelope you in my arms instead of my ribs and I know it won’t be long now. I sit in your room and imagine our days to come. It feels impossible that a million moms have come before me and felt these things. 

I never want to forget these long nights waiting for you. My heart aches to see your face. Someday when I am tired or impatient I want to be brought back to this moment here now. May I remember that those same feet you’ll use you carry you through all of life were first felt deep within me. That the eyes you’ll look at me with hoping I’ll be as gentle as you deserve are the same eyes I’m aching to gaze into for the first time. May I never forget how deeply I love you and how longingly I want to you in my life. 

Waiting

I don’t want to forget. That’s what I keep thinking when I remember that it’s been a while since I’ve written about this season of life. 

I don’t want to forget how much feeling Pigment move inside of me feels like total magic. How grateful I am that my body loves being pregnant and has responded to these changes better than I could have ever hoped for. How I feel like a pregnant unicorn because I am STILL, at almost 39 weeks, below my pre-pregnancy weight. How my feet aren’t swollen and my face isn’t puffy. How much I just love being pregnant and how fortunate I feel that my biggest complaint in these 10 months is an ache in my right hip and a couple stretch marks circling my belly button. 

I don’t want to forget how eager we are, Pen and I, to meet and know our son. How we talk about it incessantly and how nothing else seems half as important. How completely ordinary but somehow insanely life changing this whole thing really is. 

I really don’t want to forget how serene I am while to lay in bed listening to my husband breathe and  watching my belly shake with each kick. How Pigment likes to move and shake late at night and no matter how late it is I can’t help but stay awake and watch in complete awe because I MADE YOU. 

I don’t want to forget how slowly I get up or walk, compensating for the weight in my middle by hunching and waddling. Or how huge my belly feels, both in girth and importance. 

I don’t want to forget these last few weeks especially. The hours upon hours in the middle of the night have begun to feel like a private vigil for the life I’m leaving behind. Wide awake, I usually crawl out of bed around 1 or 2 AM. There’s no point in fighting the sleep that won’t come and my favorite baby dance show is usually well underway. We move the party to the couch so that I can sip a glass of milk to quell the heartburn that always always finds me around this time. Lately I’ve been painting but I surround myself with a good book, a snack, my iPad and the remote just in case. Having properly built up my little nest Ego usually finds me and buries himself into my side with a hearty purr. He keeps a close watch over me lately, even finding me in the mornings for a good deep snuggle. 

I want to remember who I am today. Will I still be her when I finally lay eyes on the body in my body? He is the soul inside my soul that we made from the best pieces of ourselves. Who will I be then? When our eyes meet will it be everything I imagine or will it feel more like a homecoming? I imagine it to be like finding treasure you didn’t know how to look for. 

These days and nights feel so agonizingly slow. My lists are complete and I’m having to learn to really and truly rest for possibly the first time in my life. Pen reminds me that my worth is not measured by my output. Brene Brown says “You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story & hustle for your worthiness.” I choose to own my story and relish this remarkable and fleeting time just before motherhood. I will never again be 39 weeks pregnant with my first child. 

Avalanches Don’t Have Brakes

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything. I guess there’s not much to noodle through when you’re deliriously happy. 

I’ll be 30 weeks on Wednesday. The reality of meeting this tiny guy possibly as soon as two months from now feels surreal. Pen and I talk a lot at night when the lights are off and the shadows dance on the walls. We talk about how our weekends of long brunches with friends, matinee movies and Netflix binges are numbered. How our lazy Sunday mornings will soon be replaced by a new rhythm we can’t possibly imagine yet. It feels scary. I am overwhelmed at the most random moments that Pigment ALREADY exists. He lives inside of me, growing stronger with every passing moment. Not much time goes by between his swift kicks that remind me of his unequivocal presence. We will never again be without him and he is changing everything.  

 Every aspect of my daily life is nearing a close. The family I have worked for for nearly three years is looking for my replacement. I have never not had at least one job. I started working at 17, often working two or even three jobs simultaneously to get myself through college. I like hard work. I find value and purpose in doing a job well and being paid for it. The latter part of that equation will take some adjusting as I transition into being a stay at home mama. I’m so grateful that our budget will allow me to stay at home with Pigment for as long as I want to; but what will this look like? I’m a list maker, a busyness lover and an insistent do-er. Will I be fulfilled? Will I be able to be fully present? Will I be able to undo the ingrained belief that my worth is measured by my ability to help provide my family with “things”? I think it’ll be hard for me. Hopefully the value in what I’m giving to Pigment will offset those struggles and the adjustment will go smoothly. 

We start Bradley classes this week. My baby shower is next week. Maternity pictures the following. Then a special weekend with my nanny girls and BOOM… My full time job is over. If they haven’t found my replacement by then I’ll work afternoons until I no longer can. We have a weekend trip planned for early August and then it’s just three weeks till baby. I think I needed to lay all that out. So succinct. It feels less intense if I can line it all up in a row and demand each milestone have its turn. In reality, I feel like I’m in the middle of an avalanche careening into motherhood. There’s a part of me that would like to slow down but avalanches don’t have brakes and really–  does anyone ever feel ready for their whole life to change forever? 

On being bashful

Last week Pen and I went on a journey. I awoke that day knowing the world would feel different when my head hit the pillow again. As I pass through this life I’m learning how significantly our perceptions affect our interactions with the world. It’s not often that the world changes, but the way we view it can change completely in an instant. 

I’ve been a nanny for five years. During that time I have struggled and grieved and fought against everything I was taught as a child. I have learned not to yell, to control my emotions and to approach stressful situations with the presence of mind to keep fragile relationships intact. It has not been easy. Children trust us to guide them through the big feelings they don’t know how to navigate. Being a nanny has changed me more than any other job I’ve ever had. It has made me a better person and ultimately given me the experiences that built my confidence in the kind of mother I could be. 

Years ago while nannying for my first family an 18 month old blonde girl showed me that I had it within me to be better than my mother was. I vividly remember sitting with her on the kitchen floor. She, deep in throes of a tantrum. Me, holding her. Swaying and being present. Listening for the transition from anger to sorrow. Whispering love through it all. It was in that moment that I realized I had it in me to be a great mama. I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to be, but the freedom that came with knowing I could do it well was a massive weight off my shoulders. 

From that day on whenever I thought about the mama I might be, I thought about the small blonde body I cradled in my arms. I thought about that little girl. 

Fast forward to the family I work for now and their two buckets of sunshine I call L and M. Both girls. I’ve worked with them since before M was born and my relationships with these girls has fueled endless daydreams about what parenting might be like someday. I’ve had countless wonderful moments that have given me pause as I imagined my own daughter. What I’m saying is this: I KNOW girls. I’ve dedicated my days to loving and knowing and growing little girls. 

As a planner I feel confident in my ability to parent a girl. 

In October of last year amidst my grief I had a dream. It was vivid and gave me such peace that when I found out I was pregnant it was one of the first thoughts that entered my mind. I was so sure. I thought I’d been given the inside scoop from my body. “It’s a girl”, I thought. And I never looked back. 

Then Friday came. 

Oh Friday. 

Pen and I hunted for clues and loved every blissful moment of our gender reveal scavenger hunt. We reminisced as we ventured. It was magical. I even remembered to be present and take it all in; something I overlooked on my engagement scavenger hunt 7 years ago. 

Then came the finale. The big reveal. The great big news that our child is a…

Boy. 

A boy?

Yep. Baby Pigment is a boy!

Now listen. I’m gonna come out a say something that no one says.

I was crushed. Shocked. Flummoxed. Disappointed.

I got into the car and immediately felt myself trying to hide away how I was really feeling. Then Pen had to go and KNOW ME. 

“It’s okay if you’re feeling sad right now.” He offered tentatively. “It doesn’t mean you don’t love him.”

I got brave for just a second and we locked eyes; mine brimming with tears. Everything I’ve ever looked forward to in parenthood has been framed around girls. I felt ashamed, the way I think society tries to make moms feel when they experience anything but complete joy in relation to parenting. I refuse to fall for the one dimensional lie of motherhood. I am still a whole person with real feelings that extend beyond mindless baby bliss. 

We talked and cried a little as we said goodbye to the child this is not. 

But thankfully that’s not the end of the story. My disappointment had everything to do with my expectations and nothing to do with the beautiful soul growing within my body. Knowing that, I could experience my emotions and say them aloud without too much judgment from my inner critic. The part that says I’m a bad mom or a really terrible person. I’m not. I’m an honest human who has committed herself to a life of transparency and authenticity. I’m also a planner who likes to micromanage my life. 

Having a girl felt safe. Familiar in a way many first time moms don’t get because I have done it all before… But familiar isn’t the name of the game in parenting. In the time since our big reveal I’ve taken a lot of time to process. I’ve said goodbye to the girl I was expecting to parent in order to make room for whoever this baby boy will be.

After clearing away all my expectations I found something else instead. 

Joy. Excitement. Terror mixed with elation at a new journey that is completely and entirely NEW. Oh guys, this is going to be so new. 

And now, on the other side of complete shock and bewilderment… Is awe. I’m in awe of a baby boy who kicks me like he’s wearing sneakers and has dance parties on my spine. 

I’m wrapping my head around being a mom to a boy and how both nothing and everything has changed because he is still the same soul I believe I was always meant to parent. The only difference is me. He hasn’t changed one bit, but boy have I.