… has been so pleasant lately. Have a listen.
Multiply that by 45 minutes.
It’s why meal times are an absolute eternity right now.
Sweet Lord, give me strength.
… has been so pleasant lately. Have a listen.
Multiply that by 45 minutes.
It’s why meal times are an absolute eternity right now.
Sweet Lord, give me strength.
This part of my life could be called “Following.”
When I’m not following this tiny human around and making sure he doesn’t kill himself via stairs or light sockets or small items lodged in the throat, I’m feeding him.
Actually, a lot of the weekend is spent just feeding him. (Thank God the older one reminds me when she’s hungry. I can’t keep both of them straight.)
Offering handheld foods.
Mixing and mashing food.
Haphazard attempts at letting him feed himself
Spooning food into his mouth as he lowers his chin, head turned 90 degrees as he stares off into the unknown…
And I just think, Me too, sir. Me too.
When I’m not orbiting him around the house, he’s orbiting me in the playroom.
Because in a room of 5,000 toys, the most fun thing to play with is always, always, always Mom. Mom’s hair. Mom’s clothes. Mom’s coffee cup. Mom’s blanket that is so nicely arranged on her legs. No matter how many times I try to distract him with other things, he always comes back to me.
Over and over again, we are pulled toward each other, by the simple fact that we are existing in the same space. Either I am following him or he is climbing all over me.
And as I’m sitting on the floor of the playroom, moving my cup of coffee from left to right to left while he climbs over my legs from left to right to left…
I flip open the newest issue of National Geographic on my lap. And for a moment, both of us stare together at an illustrated image of our galaxy as it unfolds in full panorama from the magazine’s pages.
There we are, that tiny speck of a solar system in the Sagittarius Arm
A collection of stars orbiting each other, spinning by the force of their own gravity between each other
And I read about the fact that not only is Earth uniquely situated within our solar system to foster the conditions for life, it’s also situated well within the galaxy
And that our solar system exists in a relatively asteroid-and-space-junk free area of the galaxy
And that the sun actually repels harmful cosmic radiation that would kill us
There we are, so vulnerable and exposed, whether by design or by happenstance, protected from complete annihilation (for the foreseeable future, at least?)
There we are, in that great cosmic swirl around the mysterious, hotter-than-hell core of our galaxy
There we are, the tiniest of tiny of tiny in a universe of unfathomable vastness.
And I just think,
A woman’s best friend in pregnancy isn’t ice cream. Or pickles. Or brownies. Or whatever other non-sense popular media tells you.
No. Her best friend is stretchy pants.
And I was lucky enough to have two best friends.
They weren’t yoga pants.
They weren’t maternity pants.
They were actually Victoria’s Secret Pillowtalk Pajamas.
These pants were truly made of magic and grace. Magic, because they transformed from Smalls to Ex-Larges, right along with me. Grace, because they didn’t make me feel like any of these changes were inconvenient for them. They moved out of the way. They said, Oh, excuse me for not accommodating you more quickly. Here you go.
I wore them so much they frayed at the bottom hems.
I wore them mostly around the house.
I admit, I may have worn them to the gas station.
Maybe also Target.
I’m now about 8 pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight (which means I’m 37 pounds lighter than my last days of pregnancy. Woot.) One more inch off my hips and I’ll be back in my pre-pregnancy pants and a whole new section of my wardrobe opens back up.
When it’s all stacked and folded like this, it feels like a geological record of the last 21 months of my life.
So I say good-bye.
Good-bye to all the postpartum clothes that have served me in all the hard In-Between Phases of transformation.
All those months of looking in the mirror
and not seeing myself at all
and then not really seeing myself
and then not quite seeing myself
and then kind of seeing myself
seeing that first glimpse of the the version of me that I used to be
Today’s installment of Pieces of Parenthood comes to you as a video mash-up.
Movement is physical. It’s maneuvering and taking first steps. It’s also traveling with objects and experimenting with how those objects may travel on their own.
Movement can also be abstract. Photos take us back to moments in history, which proves to be a challenging concept for the growing preschooler. Was that when you and daddy were born, she asked just before the video started.
Movement is also seen in language, in the give-and-take of those first interactions. It’s verbal and non-verbal, words, gestures, smiles, and laughter.
And, of course, peanut butter, which has now been categorized as safe to expose to infants (granted they haven’t had reactions to other foods).
By the way, that’s not just pure peanut butter. It’s mixed with cereal and milk.
I’ve recently been called “selfish” by one of my readers for having taken my child to daycare while he had diarrhea.
It’s a heavy, knife-twisting word for women.
There’s nothing worse than a selfish woman.
Except a selfish mother.
How dare I take my child to daycare while he had diarrhea?
I dared because there were three viruses going around in his classroom and every child had at least one of them. (And as you’ll find out later in this post–we got all of them). That’s what daycare centers are. They are veritable petri dishes of illness. Everyone who uses a daycare knows it. And none of us point fingers at each other saying, Ohhh… I’m so mad at you because your kid got my kid sick! That never happens. Ever.
I dared because I had already called the doctor and she told me that we were doing everything we could. The virus would just have to run its course. And this bug lasts about 5-7 days…
I dared because he didn’t have measles or rubella. He had diarrhea.
I dared because he was only having diarrhea when he ate, not continuously throughout the day.
I dared because his teachers said they would call me if he got worse. And because they’re an Amazing Sort of Awesome, they said, “Don’t worry. We can handle poop.”
I dared because every morning, I was up at 5:30, giving him baths and scrubbing poop off laundry before it could actually be washed another two or three times (And then I had to get another child ready.)
I dared because I had been up several times each night that week, changing vile, vile diapers, rocking him when he couldn’t go back to sleep, and then listening to his screams when I couldn’t calm him down.
I dared because I had to work. I didn’t have sick leave and I had to administer and grade final exams before the university’s deadline. (Not a task you can really hand over to a substitute.)
I dared because I was headed for a breakdown in my mental sanity.
That’s how I dared.
Thanks for asking.
What is it about motherhood that makes mothers so quick to point out what they perceive are another mother’s failings?
Honestly, how can you know the whole context of a situation when you’re outside of it?
And why is the word “selfish” just about the worst thing that you can call a mother?
As I sit here now thinking about that word, a knot is forming in my stomach and my heart is thumping.
Are you serious!?!?
Isn’t this reader right?
Aren’t I selfish for wanting someone else to take over some of the burden that both my husband and I had been dealing with all night long for days on end?
Yes. In fact, I was selfish.
Selfish in my need for self-preservation.
But should I be ashamed that I couldn’t handle all of this at the same time?
Should I be ashamed that I desperately wanted out of my life, if only for just those worst, most miserable days in the last few weeks?
After Henry’s diarrhea tapered off, a bad cold hit him–and, subsequently, all of us–hard. We were all plagued with it to varying degrees. Mine lived mostly in my throat and chest. For everyone else, it set up house in their noses.
And then came the Infamous Daycare Puking Bug.
Over last weekend, Henry went through it.
Doug got it.
When it hit me at 10:00 p.m. on Monday night, I was in denial at the first twinges of nausea.
Nope… Nope… That’s not what this is.
All night, I twisted and turned as the first ripples of nausea swelled into cresting ocean waves. At 1:00 a.m., I allowed myself to believe that, yes indeed…
It was happening to me.
I dreamed that instead of puking into the toilet, I puked in the shower.
When 6:00 a.m. came and Henry started crying, I pulled myself out of bed and held the walls as I walked down the hallway. From my toes to my shoulders, everything ached. All the way down into my bones, I ached. When I opened the door and smelled the poop, I turned around and told Doug that I couldn’t do it.
Unsure about what had happened the night before, I checked the bathroom. No puke.
Just unbelievable nausea.
I lay back down until Doug needed me. As I sank into the bed, I was certain that nothing had ever felt so good as to be lying there in the cool sheets, my head against the pillow. When he called for my help, I only did what was absolutely necessary.
I couldn’t hold the baby.
I couldn’t even hold the bags.
I put food in containers for the kids. I sent along extra clothes and bibs.
When they were mercifully gone, I ate six saltines and went back to bed.
I woke up at 12:45 and ate six more saltines.
Then I slept until 2.
Then I ate a banana.
And slept until I heard Henry crying.
I rolled over, blinking. The clock read 5:55. Morning or night? I wasn’t too sure.
It turned out to be night, so I helped put one child to bed.
Then I ate a bowl of cereal.
And went back to bed.
Was it selfish of me to send the kids to daycare while I stayed home sicker than I’ve been in two years?
Is it selfish of me to send my kids to daycare in this last week before Christmas even though I don’t have to teach, simply because we’re paying for it? Is it selfish that I crave this time to work on creative projects that have nothing to do with my kids or my work?
Yep. It sure is. I’m selfish.
You caught me.
But here’s the harder question: Should I be ashamed of being selfish?
I think this is where I disagree with my reader.
I don’t think I should be ashamed of taking time to care for myself–and it shouldn’t matter whether my needs are physical, emotional, or mental. It’s all important. This whole culture of “real parents are the ones who always put their kids first” is setting us up for rampant depression and divorce.
I love my kids, but, nope. They don’t always come first. Especially when I’m on the brink.
I care about having enough wherewithal to get through not only the days, but the weeks, the months, and the years.
So yeah, I’m selfish.
But I’m not going to feel badly about it this time.
Holy Mary, Mother of God…
I’m not Catholic, but this is what I feel like saying when I’ve opened my baby’s diaper lately.
Just… Dear God…
But that’s not where this story starts. No, this story starts way back in a more peaceful, almost utopian, moment in time called “Our Anniversary.”
It was a time of Hotel Bliss. A time of Sleeping In and Room Service. A time of Binge-Watching and Massages. There was even Sex!
Yes, we’ve been married for twelve years.
It was last Saturday afternoon. Snow softly fell outside of our swanky hotel room. We ate a delightful lunch, brought to us on trays and adorned with cloth napkins and adorable bottles of Heinz ketchup. And because I could, I ate that delightful lunch in my bathrobe.
We spend time hammering out several scripts for upcoming episodes for our YouTube channel. (Check it out here).
We talked about the future. Of possible Ph. D. programs and how old we’ll be when the kids graduate.
We talked about politics. Of just how many men in media and politics and business will fall from grace under the crashing wave of sexual harassment allegations. Of the possibility of a pedophile in our U.S. Senate. (Dodged that bullet. Thank God for small favors.)
And of course, we talked about our kids. They’re such good kids, aren’t they? We really lucked out. Felicity has such a big heart. And “my little man”… Oh, I can’t get enough of that face! (taking phone out) I just have to see that face one more time. Oh my God… He is so ridiculously cute. Mama loves you, Big Boy!
It was perfect.
When we arrived home on Sunday afternoon, the Conveyor Belt of Life from which we disembarked on Friday afternoon had accelerated from Challenging-But-Doable to All-Systems-Go.
We still needed to:
This is the point in the story when It All Goes to Shit.
As I was feeding Henry his 3:00 p.m. bottle, Diarrhea was engaged.
Okay. I knew this was coming. My mom (who was watching them while we were away) told me that he was having bad diapers since she picked them up at daycare on Friday (He had an explosion in the highchair… From shoulder blades to knees…)
But we were on vacation.
And Mom had it under control. And when Mom has things under control, everything is fine.
We would come home just as the diarrhea was going away.
Oh, sweet naive little Me.
Sunday evening was unpleasant, but we survived. I explained to Felicity that “the puking bug” that was going around daycare wasn’t something that was going to crawl into her food, like a spider.
“It’s a virus,” I tell her. “It’s a… a… really small germ that can get into your mouth and make you sick.”
Her new saying that she likes to apply to all contexts is, “Well, I was going to…”
So what she said was: “Well, I was not going to eat the puking bug.”
“Good idea,” I told her.
It was early Monday morning.
3:00 a.m. He was crying. A cry that said,
Harmph… What is wrong with me? I don’t like Life. Life blows. Argh… < asleep >
Wait… I still think Life blows… < asleep >
Arghhh! Isn’t anyone going to come help me? < asleep >
As I stared at the ceiling, I kept praying that he’d work it out. That he would eventually go back to sleep. I was going to get up to exercise at 4:30. At least, that was the plan.
I ended up holding him from 4:00 until 5:30 that morning as he softly protested, moaning and groaning, clearly fighting something.
We pulled through. We got them to daycare. We worked. I thought back longingly to the Anniversary Weekend. It felt like that had been months ago instead of the mere 24 hours that it had been. I listened to my co-workers talk about their lazy Sundays of Not Doing Much of Anything.
I was intensely jealous. But I kept it in check. You’re the one who wanted to have kids, my Evil Ego said. Then, there was my Good Ego, saying, Don’t freak out on people who don’t deserve it. This too shall pass.
That evening, the Conveyor Belt of Life kicked into Panic Mode.
We spent an hour just feeding and changing Henry’s diaper. Over and over again. Which doesn’t sound too bad until I tell you what is involved in that process.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Every single time that he poops.
It’s a vicious cycle of, Should I feed him? What should I feed him? He just calmed down. Should I really give him something else? I don’t want him to get dehydrated. But he needs protein. But is soy formula okay? Or not? How many days is this going to go on? Should I call the doctor?
Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday.
A midnight cry that turns quickly into a scream.
It takes a moment to realize, but you do. It starts with unzipping the footed pajamas that you hoped would contain any leakage. (Wishful thinking.)
But it’s on his legs, his belly, even his torso. It’s all over his footed pajamas.
For the love of God, it‘s between his toes.
There’s poop everywhere.
On his sheet. On his blanket.
It’s the definition of Lovely.
Then the screams, the tears, the twisting full-planked baby, fighting your every move to stop you from removing all the shit that is literally everywhere.
It makes you frustrated that you can’t just do the Shitty Job that you have to do.
You have to do the Shitty Job while your ears bleed and you’re tired and you’re angry and you just want to go to sleep and your baby can’t say, Thank you. Hell, your baby isn’t even non-verbally saying thank you by just going to bed.
He’s going to scream way down into the Seventh Circle of Hell while you try to shush and rock and sway him to sleep. You try patting his back and butt the way your husband does (It works every time. He likes it that way.)
All to no avail.
So you leave your baby screaming in his crib, shut the door, and cry in the hallway.
Then, you call in your husband and pray that he’s able to get the baby back to sleep.
It makes you hate your baby.
It makes you sad that you just thought that you hate your baby.
It makes you feel like a failure.
But by the time morning comes, the night terror is a distant memory.
And covered in poop again. (Of course.)
With my hands under his armpits, I carry him at arm’s length directly to the bathtub.
And we try again.
Maybe this will be the last day of this Shit.
I miss the Weekend.
I think you can imagine the rest of the post from here.
After I gave birth this past February, I thought,
Well. How am I going to write about that?
Because what I felt in labor had been deeply spiritual. In my first labor, I sensed God’s presence, but not in a physical way. What I experienced was beyond my physical senses.
But this time… I had seen things.
I had actually physically felt things that I couldn’t explain.
I knew that a blog post would become buried in this website over time. That’s not the way that I wanted to share this experience with an audience. I wanted something more permanent. Something more discover-able and more available to as many people as possible.
So I published a short Kindle book, called Why Your Middle Name is Jacob: A Birth Story.
From August 3-7, I will be giving away free copies, so I encourage you to download your copy today and share with anyone whom you think would be interested in it.
As long as you have an Amazon account, you can read this book. Just go to Amazon’s website, log in, find the book, put it in your cart, and checkout (for free). Then choose “Your Account,” and then select “Your Content and Devices.” You will see the book there and you can read it in your web browser.
Included in this e-book are six additional essays that I wrote in the early postpartum period, curated and compiled for a larger audience.
Kindle Direct Publishing only allows me to give away free copies of a title every 90 days. Please take advantage of this free promotional period while you can. After August 7th, the book will be available for $2.99.
As an independent author, I rely on you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on my work.
I greatly appreciate your support!
My absolute worst fear is suffering the death of one of my children.
I can imagine coming to grips with the death of anyone in my life.
Except my children.
Last Friday, I was reading my Facebook feed and read a horrific post from a member of my church.
Her daughter-in-law, Britney, was driving on a two-lane road with her five-year-old daughter, Jocelyn, and two-month-old son, Jonah, in the backseat.
You already know how this story ends.
An oncoming car illegally crossed the center to pass a car.
It killed the little girl.
The mother and baby boy survived.
In the picture, Jocelyn was balancing on one foot, as if in the midst of dancing. She was posed proudly with her baby brother. Smiling. Blond and smiling. Happy. Just like my daughter.
There at my desk, I cried.
Britney was me. Her kids were my kids.
And my heart was broken for her.
All of this happened just days before Mother’s Day.
It was too cruel and unfair for one person to bear.
How could Britney face life and the world, now knowing, now feeling every day, that horrific things like that can happen?
Just like that.
How could she keep going?
But of course I know how.
We all know how.
She’s a mother.
This is stuff that mothers are made of.
Loving through pain.
Living while part of you is dying.
Believing through despair and doubt.
Resiliency beyond measure.
Pure grit and strength.
Britney has already undergone several surgeries to repair her broken bones, including her pelvis. She has been moved out of the ICU and into the trauma unit. (And let’s not forget the fact that she’s just three months postpartum.)
Her newborn son also suffered extensive injuries. Two broken femurs and a broken arm.
He is currently being cared for around the clock by his grandmother, Lanae, who works as a surgical nurse. He couldn’t be in better hands while his mother is recovering.
I made myself imagine what I would do if I were living Britney’s reality.
What would I do?
I would sob and ache and grovel and resent and rage.
For a Long Time.
I would lash out and blame and despair.
I would be out for blood. I would crave Revenge. I would want to hurt and crush and obliterate. I would want to empty the life of the person who didn’t think first, who would rather take a risk, who thought the laws didn’t apply to him.
(Because I think first. Because I don’t want to take the risk. Because I don’t think the laws don’t apply to me.)
And while I would be going through this, I would still have to Get Back Up.
Although I would want to take time off from Life to mourn and process and make meaning, I would have to immediately Get Back Up.
For my son.
Because he would still need to eat and sleep and grow.
He would still need my arms to tell him that he is safe, even though I had just seen how unsafe the world can be.
I would need to decide every hour to keep on practicing the appearance of Love even though I’d be simultaneously steeling my heart from the possibility of Future Pain.
Because Love would have just killed off a part of me.
Love had created a trove of beautiful moments of my little girl — but now there would be no more. And the more time that would pass, the more those memories would lose their clarity. And if I forgot any part of those memories, it would be like losing her all over again.
All I really would want to do is climb into the ground with her so she wouldn’t be alone in the dark.
I would be like this for a Long Time.
But I also know that One Day, through the crisis and search to find meaning, I would finally choose Love again.
Because Love is the only path to Peace.
I would keep walking.
I used to pray that Life Would Be Okay and Get Better. But I’ve stopped doing that.
Because that’s not what Life is for. The life worth living isn’t a life without pain because the pain is what shows us life’s worth.
When I say prayers now, it is in moments for others who are in pain.
And the prayer is that they keep moving
And keep walking through the pain
And that if they fall, that God will reach a Hand down to help them get back up.
Our hearts ache with yours in your time of hurting and grieving. My prayer for you is that you keep walking through the pain. Keep moving. And keep believing that there is good in the world even though it is also so very bad at times. In fact, perhaps the world is good because it is bad.
Years from now, I hope that you can look back at these dark hours of your life and see all the light that people are shining on it. It’s always the people who have suffered and cried and walked the Path of Pain that will be the first to reach out their hands to you. Take those hands. Let them help you get back up. And don’t feel guilty about it. You are not a burden.
Because Some Day, it will be you who is the one reaching out and saving someone else.
You are not alone.
And you are Loved.
If you would like to help this family financially as they cope with medical and funeral expenses, you can contribute through their GoFundMe fundraiser here.
No gift is too small and you can give anonymously if you prefer.
If you would like to provide financial assistance to Lanae as she takes care of Jonah full-time, you can donate here.