Becoming Mother

A book and a blog for first-time mothers

Tag: Birthday

Birthday Parties: Stream of Consciousness # 1

One thing that I miss about the time before Child # 2 was having a bit of time to write out real-time reflections on parenthood. With one child, I was able to do quite a bit of that because naps existed and there was just one child to take care of.

With two kids, it’s pretty impossible to do much blogging as I once did. At least the kind of blogging that I prefer. The kind where I revise, revise, and revise until it’s just right.

But it’s a new year and it’s time to get realistic about how I use my time. I love to write. I love to share my writing with others. I work. And I also take on far too many creative projects, which I am not willing to give up because they all bring me joy.

So my goal is to change my methods and standards for writing this year.

For this year, I’m going to blog in a more stream-of-consciousness style. Not because I don’t like to revise and make everything just-so.

It’s more out of necessity.

So excuse the typos and love me for my Flaws (of which, I’m sure there are many).


So Henry will forever celebrate his birthday on Groundhog Day. Which I think is payment for putting me through 11 additional days of pregnancy past his due date, which, at the time, made me feel like I was living my own personal Groundhog Day again and again.

Three years later, I mostly remember his birthday as being a test of sheer willpower to confront pain and refuse to give up.

And there was lots of screaming.

And too much blood.

And this.

Isn’t it disturbing/befuddling/miraculous that time helps us summarize the most momentous of days in such few words?


In any case, we celebrated Henry’s birthday yesterday, and we came out on the other side of it unscathed and only somewhat frazzled.

One of the dads that came asked me while I was getting ready to serve cake and eleven kids were chomping at the bit for sugar how I could “be so calm.”

That was pretty much the best compliment I’d gotten from a stranger in a while. If “calm” is what I’m projecting, seriously, I deserve a medal.

I said, “It’s because I’m not expressing everything in my head.”

Which is so true.

I think that’s what the second/third/nth child does to you–they elevate your threshold of what your expectations are for what you deal with during the day.

What do you do if you go from zero kids to twins? Or triplets?

Yeah, those parents deserve more than medals.

In any case…

Kudos to my husband for cooking the food for the party: a gluten-free, dairy-free pasta bake and broccoli. Sounds gross. It’s really not. But this is what you have to do when your kids have allergies.

And hey, did you know that basically every birthday party has pretty much the same menu that neither of my kids can eat?

Pizza, cake, and ice cream.

Gluten-free, dairy-free cupcake (courtesy of me)

It makes for a lot of texting back and forth with parents who are hosting birthday parties.

The good news is that just about every parent I’ve communicated with is more than happy to secure an alternative.


For whatever reason, we’ve been to about five birthday parties in the last four weeks. ‘Tis the season? I thought kids had birthdays throughout the year, not just in the winter. But okay.

I guess this has been about birthday parties.

Title found.

See you next time.

A birthday cake with Grover and Cookie Monster. It says "Henry" and "3."
Not dairy-free or gluten-free (courtesy of my amazing Mom)

POP # 16 : I’m 37!?

Because I have pretty much no time to write lately due to a combination of factors and because I feel like, Come on, it’s been a whole month and you’ve written nothing

Totally expecting to find only memes related to the infamous Clerks’ line of “I’m 37!?!“, I was surprised to find that googling “I’m 37” led me to a several humorous tidbits that have helped me to celebrate my 37th birthday this year.


  1. Bad Science Journalism: According to what I can only assume I should view as bad science journalism, the age 37-38 is when you start to feel old. I have to say though, I don’t typically “feel old” yet. Well, at least until it’s 6 p.m. By 7 p.m., I’m begging to crawl into bed so I can be ready to do it all over again at 4:30 the next morning.

2. Monty Python: I’m not a lover of Monty Python (though my husband is). Still, this made me laugh out loud.

3. “37 Things I’m Thinking about Now that I’m 37” by Casey Lewis.

Please enjoy this gentleman’s thoughts because I really don’t think I could have done any better in explaining where I’m at in work, relationships, and reckoning with my place in the world.

And here are some birthday artifacts that I’ve found particularly humorous. Kudos to my birthday buddy, Cate, on her clever birthday cake ideas.


She’s also great at picking cards. (We’re also Game of Thrones buddies.)


Cards from my husband (respects my love for puns) and daughter (practicing “cursive”):

My daughter’s first “Writer’s Workshop” in her kindergarten class. The teacher interviews one student a day and records their ideas on paper for the whole class to read together.


Lately, most days pass by in a blur of responsibilities with barely more than 10 minutes at a time for me to catch a breath and retreat into much-needed alone time.

And then I remember:

Christmas is coming.

Oh, sweet Lord.

Here we go.

And yet…


My Last Little One

It all started just one year ago.

February 2, 2017, 1:27 p.m.

















June 2017 3



Chef Henry 9 months


Sharon and Henry 11 months

I may have said something cute today like, “Where has the time gone?”

But quite honestly, I think we felt every bit of the last 364 days. Between typical newborn stuff, the milk allergy, all that teething, several iterations of Cry-It-Out, several rounds of colds, and one wicked spell of diarrhea, I’m relieved to know that the worst is probably behind us. (Knock on wood.)

From the moment he came home with us, it has felt like our lives have accelerated twofold. No more stopping. It’s more like, Rest, while you move.

A few days ago, when Henry was losing his mind because I put him down and turned away, I asked Doug, “You sure you don’t want another one?”

“Uh, yeah.”

So happy birthday and thank you for being my Last Little One.

To Be Three

The three-year-old birthday is the one that kids really start to understand what’s going on.

“It’s my birthday party!” my daughter reminded me all day long. “I’m having a birthday party today!”

She began her day at 5:00 a.m., two hours earlier than usual. But she was wide awake and ready to go. “I’m ready, Mommy! Let’s go downstairs.”

“Kermit, it’s too early to get up,” I moaned.

When she wouldn’t relent, I tossed her a package of Keebler crackers and peanut butter that I have stashed on my night stand for when wake up hungry at 2:00 a.m. (because another human being is eating my reserves from the inside.)

She made a picnic in her room and ate her crackers contentedly while talking to her stuffed animals. And the Keebler elf. He needed to be updated on what was going on, apparently.


Awake at 5:00 a.m. + no nap = Asleep at 4:00 p.m. when her party started


What I really enjoyed about this birthday was her newly found ability to engage in the actual party. At two years old, the whole day was kind of like, “What are all of these people doing here and why are they staring at me?”

At two years old, opening gifts was traumatic because we tried to get her to put aside the first gift that she opened and open a second gift.

Lesson learned.

This time, we opened a few gifts in the morning and saved the rest for the next day.


Wooden Cash Register by Hape Toys. Super cute!

For her third birthday party, we asked people to not bring gifts, which translates into people bringing small, inexpensive gifts. And I’m totally for that. I love the $5-$10 gifts that she got. A book. A shirt. A little bead-making set. Yes! That’s plenty. She doesn’t need more toys. She needs more experiences.

We tried to show The Peanuts Movie to ten kids, ranging from ages two to seven. Ha. Ha. Within ten minutes, running after each other while holding balloons was far more fun.

It also didn’t help that they were distracted by the sight of my husband creating a huge slip and slide in the backyard. With the help of our neighbor, he bought a 20 X 100 piece of thick plastic, a bunch of Palmolive, and hooked up a sprinkle. When the kids saw it, you would have thought that they had seen a giant Mickey Mouse in the backyard, personally inviting them to a world of fun.

Of course, we still needed to eat dinner.

When we tried to lure them back inside to eat dinner, there were tantrums everywhere, no matter how many time we told them we were coming back outside.

But eat, they did. And quickly.

And then the fun began.


IMG_3700This was a bit of a watershed day for me. Until recently, being a mother to my daughter was a lot of work, work, work, and a little bit of fun mixed in.

But really, it mostly work.

Now she’s walking, talking, using the bathroom (almost on her own!), and playing on her own. It’s a welcome relief to see her enjoying time with her friends without me by her side.

Yes, there’s a little sadness in watching her drift away, but I have to admit, it’s mostly relief. I don’t know if that relief comes from my introverted side or my independent side or from some other aspect of my personality, but the relief is real.

In many ways, we have a long way to go and I’m certainly not wishing the years away.

Because now I’m seeing how much fun being a parent can really be.


On Turning Two


What does it mean for you to turn two?

It means…

You are free will.

You can choose to let go of my hand in the parking lot—and then run away from me.

You sometimes refuse to wear a shirt that doesn’t have a fish on it.

You can change your mind in half of a second—Iwantyoutoholdme-NOIDON’T!

You want to use the potty, but you still are surprised by poop in your diapers.

You like the idea of putting on your own pants, but you are too impatient to follow through.


You are new strength.


You are strong enough to climb out of the car seat as I’m trying to buckle you into it.

Bonus—You can also climb out of the shopping cart.

You can hit—and it hurts.

You can run, run, run, head tilted so high to the sky that don’t see the toy that you’re about to trip over.


You are exploration.

You will smear peanut butter on your chair just to see how it looks and feels.

You will climb on the mulch pile—because you can. Oh, you can!

You will turn your Cozy Coupe upside down, climb inside, and sit on the inside of the roof.

You will put Mr. Potatohead’s ears into your ears. Every time.

You will grab that shiny wine glass or knife from the countertop when you see it peeking out from the edge.


You are expression.


You can tell me


milt (a.k.a. milk)

bu! (a.k.a. bug!)

hodju (a.k.a. holdyou, a.k.a holdme)

mama!!! (always with a !)



ruff-ruff and moo (It’s “dog” and “cow!” How many times do we have to tell you!)


mama toffee (mama’s coffee)

and the increasingly popular, potty!

You ask ‘sat? to things that I have to call a thingy (“it’s a sprayer thingy… it’s spraying asphalt.”)

You will repeat anything and everything, trying the words out like new shoes.

And you say far more than I actually understand.


You are interaction.


You hug all of your classmates. All of them.

You can offer me a blanket—and then pull it away at the last second with a giddy laugh.

If you see me eating something—anything—and you will walk over with a sweet smile and a peesh?

You find it funny to “hide” by curling into a ball–right in front of me–and waiting for me to say “boo!”


You are emotion.

Your face contorts into horror when it’s time to come inside.

You crumble into a tight ball when you’re not allowed to watch “the ammals” (a.k.a TV)

You lower your head and cry tiny silent tears when I yell about your drawing on the wall.

You flail your arms when I try to help you wash your hands.

You burst into tears at the sight of another child crying.

And you can cry, cry, cry, for no reason at all.


But turning two doesn’t change some things.


When you are in pain, you still cry out for me. Always for me.

Your heart is still happiness, curiosity, eagerness, and compassion.

And that look of wonder that I saw on your face in the first week of life—it’s still there.


And with your turning two, it means things for me too.

Even more patience.

Even more boundaries.

Even more gentleness.

Even more compassion.

Even more attention to what we all say to each other.

Even more letting you make mistakes.

Even more keeping you safe.

All of it happening, all of the time, on this crazy ride of growing-up.


The First First-Birthday Party

It’s mostly adults gathered here. There aren’t other siblings and the child isn’t old enough to really have a circle of friends. These are mostly close friends and family members whose conversations veer from work to sports and from buying houses to weekend plans. Every now and then, you hear Oh, how cute! or Come here!

But something is lost in this party. Forgotten among the balloons, the cake, the streamers, the platters of food, and the pile of gifts. If you look more closely, you see the mother, smiling at the guests who are taking turns holding her squirming, crawling, walking child, who was a baby just months before. She’s making conversation, refilling the food, helping her child open gifts, saying thank you, answering questions.  She might even wipe a few tears from the corners of her eyes.

Ah, how sweet. She’s proud of her baby.

But if that’s all we think—that she’s proud of her baby—we don’t really understand. Even though it’s right there in the title of the party: a first birthday party.

This a birthday party for two.

First, for the child.

But also, for the mother.


Because this day marks the end of her first year as a mother.


But the guests aren’t celebrating her. They don’t see that she is both thankful and amazed that she made it through the whole year. She remembers how distant 6 months old had once seemed. (At two weeks old, it might as well have been ten years away.) She remembers how she had once wished her baby could just keep the pacifier in or just hold her own bottle. She remembers how she had persisted on four hours of sleep each night for weeks.

We celebrate so many other days that are far less worthy of celebration and we do so with more fanfare. Annual birthdays that arrive without much effort. Housewarmings that celebrate our ability to spend money. Farewells, graduations, retirements: they all celebrate changes that are far less transformative, all requiring different degrees of work and investment, but none of them requiring the level of transformation and commitment that the first year of motherhood guarantees. We even celebrate events that haven’t even happened yet—engagement parties, bridal showers, baby showers.

Some might argue that Mother’s Day is how we honor a woman’s transformation into mother.


Mother’s Day honors all mothers. It’s a shared holiday. It isn’t personal. Mother’s Day didn’t remind me of being in labor or those first moments with a child in my arms. I didn’t think, At this time, one year ago, I was in excruciating pain or At this time, one year ago, I was holding my own baby for the first time ever in life.

Mother’s Day doesn’t commemorate a woman’s first year of motherhood. And it happens every year. You celebrate it whether it’s your first year of motherhood or your twentieth.

But that first first-birthday is a day that is holy–but only to the mother. And perhaps that day’s personal reverence is what makes everything else that happens on that day seem so unimportant. Even profane. (What mother wants to read about violence and death on a day that she’s remembering peace and life?)

But it’s singularity can be isolating.

The guests gather around the child and sing Happy Birthday. They give gifts and compliment the parents on the party. There are hugs and smiles. But no acknowledgements about what that year has meant to the mother.


But isn’t that what mothers do?


They step into the background. They turn their gaze outward. They sacrifice. They love. And they don’t ask for recognition. Because if they did, they would sound selfish. Or ungrateful.

Or worse, they wouldn’t sound like mothers.

And that is the biggest fear of all.

Because more than anything else—on that first first-birthday—new mothers want to look like they finally belong in the new shoes that they’ve been breaking in all year. They want to walk in them without tripping, and definitely without falling.

And they want others to see that they’ve made it to the other side, following a path that other mothers respect. They don’t want to be reminded that they haven’t reached a certain point on the map (“He’s not sleeping through the night yet?”) or questioned about why they followed different directions to get where they are (“You introduced solids at 5 months?”). They just want others to acknowledge the distance. The rugged terrain. The storms. The fog. The map, constantly being drawn and redrawn. The conflicting advice from other travelers about the easiest way to get there, the safest way to get there, the healthiest way to get there.

They want others to acknowledge that this is a journey unlike any other journey. And one that they are still travelling.


So when her child dives in and eats a handful of cake, her tears are more than tears of pride.

They are also tears of humility.

This party isn’t for her anymore. And the only day that people will honor her incredible transformation is a shared holiday with other mothers who have been wearing these shoes for years. It’s a bitter reminder that the end of that first year of motherhood isn’t about celebrating her own personal growth—it’s now about celebrating her child’s growth.

It is a complete and final humbling because that first first-birthday is the one day of her life when she feels that she deserves recognition for her strength in labor and recovery, her perseverance through sleep deprivation, her patience with fussing, her kindness toward her partner, and her loss of individual space. It’s the one day that marks the end of this pivotal year in her life, when the winds shifted and she found herself sailing toward a new destination.

It’s the one day when she’ll most desire others to celebrate what she’s been through, and the one day when practically no one will.

Not because people are rude, or heartless, or too busy—but because they have never before heralded how amazing this transformation from woman into mother really is.


We err to believe that a change that is so common is also a change that is easy.


And nothing could be further from the truth.


So give a special hug to that mother on her first first-birthday party. Tell her that she is amazing. Tell her that you honor what she’s been through, what she’s sacrificed, and how far she has traveled. Tell her that it’s her birthday, too.

And reassure her that accepting this small fanfare isn’t selfish.

It’s her reward for a job well done.

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