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.

“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.

 

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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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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What do you do . . .

when instead of the one baby you thought you were having, you find out you’re having two?

I can’t answer for you or anyone else, I’m sure the range of emotions is wide and deep on this one, but I can answer for myself because this is exactly what happened to my husband and I at our ultrasound appointment this past Thursday.

My first thought was that it explained a lot.  Like why I’ve been showing so much more than I did with my first and why I’ve been so much sicker this time around. Then I sort of floated in some strange space where nothing matters until we got to the car.  That’s when the tears started.  I hadn’t planned on having three children.  We were going to stop at two.  One for each hand has always been what I thought I could handle best.  How can I hold two newborns, feed two newborns, and still keep up with my sweet, wild Sunshine who will be about three when they arrive?

*A quick note for anyone who’s thinking I’m unhappy about twins; that simply isn’t true.  These babies are mine and I already love them fiercely.  This is not a story about wishing children away.  This is a story about changing expectations, shifting realities, and how life has a funny way of keeping us on our toes.*

While still sobbing and imagining a terrible six months where I never left my house and my poor toddler was stuck inside being miserable with me, I went to Google on my phone and typed “twin baby gear” in the search field.

Now, this might shock you as much as it shocked me, but apparently people have been having twins/multiples for literally thousands of years and ummmm, they’ve actually already come up with some pretty great ways to cope with the additional workload.  ; )

I mopped up  my eyes, blew my nose into a napkin from the glove box, and started telling Carl about everything I was finding.  Turns out, this is going to be really hard, but people do it all the time and we’re going to be just fine.  Not to mention, the minute we broke the news to our families, offers of help in all forms and fashions came pouring in which has done wonders for a good portion of my anxiety.

That was a few days ago and the news has continued to sink in slowly but steadily.  I can already feel them move and watching them move together on the ultrasound screen was absolutely surreal.  I’m going to be a mother to three beautiful children and I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.  Part of which, means taking care of myself.

Like right now for instance, while the love of my life takes our sweet Sunshine to run errands at Lowe’s and the Co-op.  The minute the door closed behind them, I flipped on my new diffuser, cut the elastic waistband out of my pajama pants, and mixed up and applied my clay mask.  There’s going to be lots of time to plan, and worry, and read, and worry, for now I think I’ll go have a bath.  : )mask

Every Mama has her Day

While ringing me up at the register in JoAnne’s last week, the cashier told me that I was really put together.  It felt nice.  And I know why she said it.  My hair was cute, I had lip gloss on, mascara even!  I was holding my daughter on one hip, my purchases in the same hand I had wrapped around her back and I signed the receipt with my free hand.  My sweet Sunshine was happy and smiling and waving at everyone.  I’m sure I looked like a mom who’s got her $#@& together.  So I smiled and I said thank you and I really meant it.  What I did not do was tell her about the week before.

The week before, I showed up at swim class with no lip gloss and my hair in the same, wobbly, top-of-my-head bun I slept in.  We had five minutes to get ready before we were supposed to be in the pool.  I opened our swim bag and dug and dug  . . .  and dug.  I dug until I hit the bottom and dug back up to the top, refusing to except the evidence before my eyes that I had somehow not brought my daughter’s swimsuit or swim diaper.

I threw everything out onto the bench at the Y, I had to check just one more time.  No dice.  I called my husband to see if he’d maybe put it in her diaper bag and he reminded me that my darling girl had gotten into her swim bag just before we left.  She’d thrown everything out and he’d thrown everything back in, but neither of us checked to make sure she hadn’t made off with something important.  There was nothing for it, we weren’t going to be able to go to class.  It was awful because she loves the water and she loves her friend Fred, who we’ve been in swim class with since she was seven months old.

About that time, I heard Fred outside the door so I popped out to let his mama know we weren’t going to make it to class and why.  Fred’s mom, who is never one to give up, immediately offered Fred’s extra suit if we didn’t mind using trunks as well as one of their swim diapers.  SAVED!  We grabbed the suit, got changed, and had an awesome class and I really wish I could end the story there . . .
IMG_2610But alas, after class, with my sweet Sunshine all wrapped up in her towel (hey, at least we had towels, right?), I realized that her after class diaper was also missing.  Thankfully, Fred and his mama were still there.  They gave us a diaper and we were back in business, all dressed, and ready for snack . . . except that I’d brought her frozen blueberries, which make a great snack when they’re frozen.  These, once frozen, but frozen no longer berries were a dark purple, puddle just waiting to ruin absolutely everything they splattered on.

My Sunshine began to cry, because of course, babies are always hungry after swim class and that’s when sweet Fred shared his Cheerios and we were finally able to conclude what was one of the most ridiculous mornings of my life as a mother.  Fortunately for me and for my girl, Fred and his mama are not judgemental.  We all laughed it off together and our morning was not ruined for any of the reasons that it might have been.

Moral of the story?  When you see a mom who’s got it together, say something nice to her.  When you see a mom whose day is falling apart before your eyes, say something nice to her, too, and if you have the power to help, help without judgement.  A kind word can work wonders . . . as can a loaner swimsuit, swim diaper, regular diaper, and Cheerios!  My sweet Sunshine and I really do have the best friends.  : )IMG_2614

Thursday Randoms

It’s wild to think that a year ago I was frantically packing, avoiding saying goodbyes I didn’t want to need to say, and feeling so unsure.

It isn’t easy making the transition from leading others, to leading only yourself.  I miss having a team, but I also love the deeply personal pride I feel after completing a project on my own.

One of my favorite things about being home with my Sunshine is the luxury of doing one thing at a time and giving all of myself to that one thing.  Whether it’s playing with her outside, cooking, writing, chores, or anything else, I no longer spend all my time doing one thing and thinking about something else that needs doing.

Part of the reason I loved this house the moment I met her is that a writer is meant to live here and I knew when I crossed the threshold for the first time that I wanted that writer to be me.

Motherhood is amazing and fulfilling and difficult and precious.  The rest of me is still here, too, and still needs to be acknowledged, exercised, and cherished.  It’s a balance I’m still working out.

Even on our worst days, I miss her while she naps.

Time to go, the dishes are calling, and since I let that call go to voicemail yesterday, I’d best pick up today.  : )

Bye!
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