Being Mama When Baby gets Hurt

Yesterday, one of my precious, nearly two year old boys, fell off of and hit his face on the toy box he’d climbed. He fell so hard, his teeth went right through his upper lip and gouged the wood. Luckily, the cut is completely inside his mouth, the teeth involved seem fine, and he didn’t meet criteria for stitches. That said, his swollen upper lip looks like black and red hamburger meat inside and every time I look at his sweet face, my heart hurts.

One of the choices I’ve made for my children is to give them a great deal of freedom to explore their world, make mistakes, and learn. This often results in awesome photos of messy, happy kids running wild in the woods and fields around our home. They ride horses, play with our giant dog, pick up bugs, paddle board and kayak with us, and while they aren’t fearless, they are all quite independent for their respective ages. Most of the time, I feel confident in my approach.

Then something like this happens and that confidence crumbles a little more every time I conjure the image of my child sitting on the floor sobbing with blood covering his hands and running down his chin. I hold him close, I clean him up, and thoroughly investigate the injury. But even after determining a good rinse, some ice, and time will heal the wound, I know that another little piece of my heart is wounded in a way that won’t ever heal. This is motherhood. And I finally understand how my mama can so quickly recall and describe in excruciating detail every one of my own and my three brothers’ injuries throughout our childhood.

It’s a process, but after working my way over mountains of guilt and fear, I eventually find myself back where I started. Whenever possible, I want to give them more tools to successfully navigate the world. Only as a last resort do I want to make more rules or restrictions to prevent them from being hurt. Now is the time for them to take risks and experience the results. Now, while I’m here to scoop them up and make it okay. Now, while I’m able to create spaces for them to learn where even when they fail spectacularly, the ultimate risk is relatively low.

One day, my sweet, wild girl and boys will go out into the world without me or their dad there to kiss knees, rush them to urgent care, talk them through their options and possible outcomes, tell them no, cook for them, wash their clothes, and the list goes on. Motherhood is fun, painful, beautiful, terrifying, and exhilarating . . . but it’s also a job. And navigating the delicate balance between keeping my babies safe and preparing them to take on the world on their own is one of the hardest parts that job.

At the Top of These Stairs

I have spent countless, late-night hours nursing babies at the top of these stairs. It’s quiet and peaceful, if not the most comfortable place to sit. When my sweet Sunshine (my first baby) was born, I set up a whole nursing station with a cozy chair, books I was reading, phone charger, snacks, water . . . but with the boys, we were so far behind before we even got started, nothing like that ever came together. I used to bring them into our bed to nurse, but once we moved them out of our room, it felt like more trouble than it was worth. More and more often, I found myself stopping just outside their door and sitting down on this top step.

Sometimes, I think about what I need to get done that week or words I’d like to write. Sometimes, I think about the kids’ antics that day and make plans for fun and interesting things we can do later. I make grocery lists, budget, and sometimes read . . .

But on nights like this one, and there have been many, I just stare at the top of their heads and think about them–their whole lives from the moment I met them to this one: noting how much their hair has grown and how long they’re getting, mapping the feel of their weight in my arms, measuring their feet with my palms, pressing kisses into their soft hands, and watching them slowly-slowly drift back to sleep against my chest.

Then I sit here, much longer than necessary, the words from a book I loved as a child but didn’t understand at all echoing through my mind:

“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”

It’s Time, I Suppose

It’s time, I suppose, that I really looked at myself–my eyes, my body, my life.
“How have you been?” I might ask
but probably I won’t
because the answer is “I’ve been with the children.”
I already know.
Instead, perhaps, I could say
“What color of lipstick would you like to wear?” or
“Those shirts are so old and worn, let’s find something new.”

It’s time, I suppose, that I pulled out my notebooks
my scribbles, my art
and pored over them again
to remember where I was
when I quit writing.
My fingers have been drumming
on the dining room table
writing out a grocery list that goes
Broccoli
Avocados
Milk
the milk spilled
we must have more
Cream
my coffee needs
I need
a break from boring lists
to write about how I love
living near the wild things
where tall trees bang into each other
when the wind whips up
and dark clouds rush overhead
heavy with hail and snow and
it’s so cold
I can focus on one thing at a time
Butter
Flour
Eggs
Sigh.

It is time, I suppose
because I’m restless
and the children are napping
and I can’t remember who I was
I can’t remember what I was doing
what was important
before they came.
Not that I plan to try and go back
I don’t so much want to go back
as to figure out where to start
becoming who I am now.

It’s time, I suppose
after I finish this list
after I put together something for dinner
something with the jalapenos
which are about to go bad
a few diaper changes
some fresh pajamas
it’s almost time
bedtime is soon
I’ll tuck them in
and kiss their sweet heads
read a few stories
then it will be dark
and quiet
then I’ll start
maybe pour a glass of wine
then I’ll decide
where to begin
becoming who I am now.

Where I’ve Been

I’ve been wandering the woods
with messy hair
wearing babies
sipping cold coffee
thinking about what to make for dinner
and budgeting in my head
for car repairs,
the basement,
the leaky water heater . . .

I’ve been sharing everything about life that amazes me
with my children.
I want them to feel that amazement in their souls
and always know where to look for joy.

I’ve been awake a lot.
But not exactly awake.

I’ve been setting up the art table
and cleaning up the art table
folding and putting away the dress up clothes
switching out the six month clothes for the nine month,
the nine month clothes for the twelve month, the twelve
for the eighteen . . .
I’ve been making bread
making pie
making play dough
making memories
with my wild child and my sweet baby boys.

I’ve been walking into the wind
that is grief.
Wearing myself out wishing
for isn’t and can’t.

I’ve been waiting to shower until the next day
or the next
Waiting
until the boys are napping
to brush my teeth
to start prep for dinner
to get the laundry started or folded or sorted
or at least kicked into one corner of the bathroom.

I’ve been waiting
for everyone to fall asleep
so I can fall asleep.

I’ve been so very sad and so very tired.
Having lost and left more in the last four years
than the thirty-two prior to that combined.

And I don’t know what this next year holds
If it will be better or worse
a respite or another rip tide
But
I feel strong today
stronger than I’ve felt in a long time.

“Mama”

One of my favorite things is to watch my eleven month old, twin boys eat. Partly because they love eating so much, but mainly because I love them so much.  This morning, however, while I started out grinning as they happily stuffed themselves . . . I suddenly found myself crying.  From the moment I first read the news I haven’t stopped thinking about George Floyd until today . . . when I started thinking about his mother.

One of the worst things I can imagine is having one of my children need me and not  being able to get to them.  My heart shatters into smaller and smaller pieces every time I try to imagine what it would feel like to be George Floyd’s mother.  To not only know that her baby needed her, but to have the whole world watching an actual video of her baby crying out her name with his last, desperate breaths.  And she couldn’t be there.  Couldn’t have even known he needed her until the ultimate too late.

I am sitting here looking at my beautiful, happy, baby boys and I am sobbing.

To George Floyd’s mother, in honor of her beautiful boy, I make these promises: I will do everything in my power to raise my children to recognize and stand up against injustice.  I will not just tell them, I will show them how we are strengthened and made wiser by respect and appreciation for our differences.  I will not just teach them how to use both their resources and advantages in life to help others, I will live as an example for them to follow. And, when they are old enough, I will teach them his name.

George Floyd.

May he rest while we put in the work to create peace.

 

Only Mostly Dead

IMG_0453This morning after the babies were fed and the horses and the dogs, I went outside to water my Mother’s Day plants from last year. It is no secret that I am the worst with plants. You’d think with how much I love my children and animals, I would be able to figure out how to to nurture a plant, but I’ve proven time and again over the years that I simply can’t. In fact, this is one of the first two plants that have remained in my care for a full year and survived. I use the term “survived” somewhat loosely here in the sense that mostly they both died. But as we all know from watching The Princess Bride, there’s a big difference between “all dead” and “mostly dead.”

In any case, they are still trying and so I am still trying and as I poured water over them this morning, it crossed my mind that these plants remind me of, well, me right now.

When they were given to me, they were absolutely lush. One was brimming over with beautiful, purple petunias and the other had the most beautiful hot pink and bright yellow flowers flowing over the sides. I remember when we first moved here, I felt just like that. Sad to have left my family and friends and a fantastic job in Idaho, but also full of hope for the future and joy at finally starting a life with my family in our own home.

But over the past two and some years, we lost our beautiful friend Tammy, I lost my dog of fifteen years–Why?lee and then my horse of seventeen years–Tristan.  Then I had a miscarriage, and almost immediately after, found myself pregnant with surprise twins.  And now we are losing Kerry–a man I love so much, who has had an immense influence on who I am and someone I can’t imagine the west without.

For any of you who have been in the ocean on a rough day, it’s like when a wave rips your feet out from under you, rolls you up like a burrito and smashes your face in the sand. I can hardly catch my breath before the next wave hits and I’m exhausted and I’m sad.

Yet, here I am trying, much like these plants. And what occurred to me this morning that inspired me to write, is that with just a bit of water and sun, a bit of care on stormy days, these plants will continue to hang on until I can get the formula right for them to thrive. I’ve been doing the same, just along with a bit of sun and water, I’ve been soaking up the love and care (and daiquiris) of a good man, my precious children, the humor and love of my friends, the unending support of my family, quiet cups of coffee when I can, our horses, dogs, and cat, the incredible generosity and kindness of our neighbors, and the stunningly beautiful land we call home.

All of these things have kept me fed while I grieve and start piecing together someone new out of what’s left of my life from before and all the beautiful pieces that have been falling into place along the way. I am not one to talk much when I’m in the middle of things. I prefer to write my way through the the good, bad, and ugly, but if you’re reading this, odds are high that you’ve been counted among my blessings these past few years and I thank you for your presence in my life.

And if you yourself are feeling mostly dead like my plants, or like you’re a burrito being rolled up by a rough sea, just one mouthful of sand away from more than you can take;

hang in there.

One breath at a time, one foot in front of the other, eyes peeled and heart open for the water and sun we need to keep going, before we know it, we’ll be on our way to thriving again.
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Here I Am

On the phone with my Uncle Bubba last week, he asked if I was still writing my blog.  I explained that with the twins, the toddler, the new puppy, etc, etc, I wasn’t giving up my blog, but I just hadn’t had the time.  I assured him I was still thinking of posts and jotting down tidbits here and there when I could.  I expected him to say ok, makes sense, keep it up, blah blah . . . but nope.  He didn’t let me off the hook at all. Instead, he spent a couple of minutes reminding me why it is I write this blog and pushed me to keep going.

So, here I am.

Last week, I blew my nose into a diaper because we were late for swim classes for the kids and I was getting over a cold and thought we had napkins in the glove-box and we didn’t.

My toddler threw up with almost no warning in our bed at six this morning, but don’t worry, my ninja mom reflexes kicked in and I was able to catch ALL of it with my hands.

I’ve got her tucked into the couch watching PJ Masks and eating plain grits, one of my baby boys is sleeping upstairs, and I’m literally nursing the other as I type this with one hand.

I haven’t had a shower in three days, but I’m crossing my fingers that tonight is the night!

I’ve re-washed the same load of laundry three times over the past three days because I keep swearing I’ll get it into the dryer but I haven’t folded the towels in the dryer yet, and every time I remember to move them, the wash already has that mildewy smell from sitting wet too long.

Update: she missed me so she grabbed all of her play dough stuff, climbed into the chair next to mine, and is telling me all about the pista (pizza) she’s making while I try to wrap up this post.

And my Uncle Bubba is right, this is exactly where I need to be and all of the above is exactly what I need to be writing about.  A huge portion of my life right now is motherhood, cleaning the same things over and over like I’m living in the movie Groundhog’s Day, always being behind on everything, and trying to remember where I’m supposed to be before it’s too late to get there for whatever we’re supposed to be doing.

But there are other things, little moments in between the big ones where I remember myself outside of the roles that are currently dominating my life.  I am an adventurer, I love horses, and I love dogs. I am a reader, a knitter, a friend, a businesswoman, a problem-solver, an inventor when I need to be, and I am a writer . . .

So here I am.     (Thank you for the push, Uncle Bubba. :)
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My Last Pregnant Day

I have a picture from my last pregnant day with my Sunshine.  We were scheduled for an induction at 7am the following morning, but she decided to come on her own starting around midnight.  I remember that day being a good one.  I was definitely over being pregnant by then (nine days past her due date), my bag was packed, I’d had a long, hot shower, and everything was ready at my parent’s house for us to bring our girl home.
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This time it was different.  My body felt wrecked–it hurt to sit, to stand, to move.  I was stressed about the boys being breach–meaning if Baby A didn’t flip head down, a c-section would be necessary.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t concentrate on even the most simple yet important tasks (like packing a go-bag, setting up baby things, opening mail, etc.).  And from the moment I’d found out I was having twins, I’d felt off-center and couldn’t seem to regain a sense of balance.

The babys’ room was not ready, the house was not ready, but worst of all, I could tell I wasn’t ready.

So on a sunny Sunday evening in June, I decided to mostly ignore my brain, which was telling me I should not go paddle boarding 36 weeks pregnant with twins, and follow my heart to the water.
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We didn’t go far and we didn’t do too much, but I brought my paddle board (feeling cautiously optimistic that I could actually use it) and my man brought one of our kayaks and a tow-rope (just in case I couldn’t).  I managed a leisurely paddle from the boat launch to the beach (where my mama and my Sunshine were playing) and back again with no need for a tow and it was pure magic.

For the first time in at least six months, I felt good.

I felt happy.

And I felt strong.
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Then, just an hour or so later, my water broke and when I realized that night would be the night, I smiled.  That paddle was just what I needed to fill my cup, get my head on straight, and take on the monumental task of bringing new life into the world with a smile on my face.  : )
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Some Days (3rd Trimester Edition)

Some days I feel like a goddess–powerful, strong, sustaining life with the miracle that is my body . . .

And some days I feel like an over-stretched sack of humans, fraying at the edges and straining at the seams.

Some days I feel accomplished–homemade, healthy dinner on the table, laundry done, toddler happy and tired from a day of outside adventure . . .

And some days I feel like putting on pants is more of a challenge than I have the will to take on.

Some days I feel happy knowing my babies are coming soon and I’ll have two sweet, tiny boys to snuggle and feed . . .

And some days all I can think about is the sheer volume of gross bodily fluids I will be cleaning up for the next two-three years.

Some days, I look at my handsome husband in awe of all that he is to me and to our growing family–how hard he works, how much of my slack he takes up as I get more and more ungainly, and how much love, time, and energy he gives to me and our daughter.

And some days, I want to punch him in the throat for telling me he understands how I feel or complaining that his back hurts or whining as he slowly and dramatically perishes of a “man-cold.”

Some days, I think to myself I am never having another child as long as I live after these two . . .

And some days . . . just kidding, that one is actually all of the days.  ; )

 

The Worst Pregnant Person I Know

It’s important to note before reading this blog that it is not about depression. If you are having scary or dangerously unhappy thoughts there’s absolutely no shame in that but please let someone know how you’re feeling.  Depression of all degrees is common during pregnancy, you are not alone, and help is never as far away as it seems. 

The worst pregnant person I know . . .

is me.

Pregnancy just isn’t my thing.  Yeah, yeah, I’m aware it’s miraculous, I am amazed at what our bodies can do, I feel blessed to be able to bring children into the world (While pregnancy isn’t my thing, I love children. ; ), I just . . . don’t enjoy it–any of it.

I’m not much for bump pictures.

I don’t love feeling them move, though it’s nice to be reminded they’re okay in there. (I mean, that is my bladder they’re doing headstands on . . .)

And I don’t get particularly excited about gender or ultrasound photos or nursery decorating or . . . any of it really.

We are now at 22 weeks into this twin pregnancy and I have lost any semblance of interest in “real” pants (yes, even the maternity ones).  To that end, I’ve purchased five pairs of fold-over yoga pants and four pairs of serious but quite stretchy leggings that I consider my “nice pants.”

Most days I eat what anyone would consider a full meal every three-four hours with snacks in between and still just manage to gain weight as I should for twins.  This is, thus far, the only true benefit to being pregnant I can discern (other than getting my sweet babies when it’s over, that is : ).

Because I am pregnant with twins, the medical community has honored my pregnancy earlier than most with the title, “Geriatric Pregnancy” and they like to refer often to my “Advanced Maternal Age” when explaining tests.  Jerks.

In short, I’m just not a glowing, excitable, example of prenatal joy.  When I was pregnant with my first baby, my lack of excitement and general grouchiness about the whole thing was upsetting and certainly guilt-inducing.

I was afraid I wouldn’t love my daughter like a mother should.  I felt guilty for not savoring each moment when I know there are so many who go through so much to be pregnant and for not wanting to participate in celebrating each new development along the way.  I didn’t like talking about it because everyone around me was so happy and excited and I just wasn’t.

Then she was born.
And, for me, in that instant, everything changed.

I knew without a single doubt that I loved her beyond anything I had ever known before and that has held true.  I have absolutely loved being a mama.  I have loved watching her grow and experience new things.  I have loved holding her and feeding her and taking her places and getting to know her unique personality.

So this time, I’m not surprised to feel frustrated, uncomfortable, and generally annoyed with the physical state of pregnancy, but unlike last time, I’ve let go of the anxiety and decided not to feel bad about it.

If you’re pregnant and you aren’t enjoying it either, that’s okay.  I think it’s perfectly normal to not feel like celebrating when you’re pregnant.  Lots of people don’t want to celebrate a three month long stomach flu, constant nausea, terrible lower back pain, peeing when you sneeze (or laugh or throw up, etc), suddenly having to overhaul your entire diet to suit the whims of the beasts within, not sleeping well for months at a time, and so many more “fun” side effects.

It doesn’t mean you won’t love your child.  It doesn’t mean you’re crazy.  It doesn’t make you a bad person.

And for all of  my friends and family who are so excited for me, that’s okay, too!  I couldn’t possibly be more grateful to know that my children are so loved and anticipated by such an incredible community before they’re even born.  Just bear with me, I’ll have a lot more fun with it all in a few months.  Promise.  ; )
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