Monday, May 26, 2014

A Letter to New Mama's

Dear New Mamma,

Things are crazy right now. Trust me,  I get it. Society hides the post-partum period—probably for good reason. The waves of emotion and visitors, the endless nights and laundry piles, the shrill cry of your new little human--and sometimes even the piercing sound of your own sobs.

Don’t worry, these feelings don’t last forever.

I want you to know that you are normal. And beautiful. And brave. I want you to know that I admire your jump and that soon the world will be admiring the wings you’ve managed to find on your way down. I’ll tell you honestly that I find it ironic the Lord told us to be “fruitful and multiply” in an entirely separate Biblical passage from the one outlining that “children are a blessing from the Lord”. Probably because, if you haven’t discovered already, children and their blessing-hood don’t always flow beside one another.

 photo 20140312-IMG_9703_zps8958e3ce.jpg

Kids are hard. Sometimes it feels like they ruin your life. And to make the emotional roller coaster worse, other times it feels like they are the ones that provide life itself. I had a rough go of it the first time around. The body-shock, sleepless nights, and defunct joy that i thought would never come left me weary and wanting. And so, I want you to try to remember these things—cling to them and to God, the same God that paints the rainbows and smiles on your baby’s face also paints the stretch marks on your stomach and tear stains on your cheeks.

Be yourself, whoever that might be at the moment. I hole-away after my kids are born. Like some sort of alternative hibernation, I tend to run from society and into my bedroom. Probably as a defense mechanism: I feel fragile, broken, and split. Split between who I once was and the new “me” I’m forced to become because of this new little Life. Split between the body I saw a year prior and the one that meets my gaze in the mirror. Split between my husband and this little creature; between explosions of love and hope for the potential this baby holds and eruptions of grief and fear for the “what ifs” and “I can’t’s”.  And so the world’s axis tips just a bit farther than normal and my emotions spill out—I isolate myself from both the joy and criticism of other passers-by. Some days I am who I once was—feeling selfish, independent, and dream-filled; others I am surprised at the way my world stops to watch the little movements and hear the little sounds of the new person in my life. And though it often feels like there should be two or ten or twenty of me to get the job done, one of me is enough. Know that, okay? One of you is enough. And that one has full liberty to be whomever she needs to be to survive the moment (no one said anything about thriving here yet).

 photo 20140522-IMG_0239_zpsebe6fa9c.jpg

 Love your baby, right where she is at. I made a mistake with our first one: I paid attention to the books instead of the baby. I think our fourth trimester would have been much different had I taken a step back to realize that this baby will grow just as she should and develop, with our help, into exactly who God intended. For the little moments, forget about the nap schedules, the sleep training, and the ultra-green-ultra-healthy baby food. Forget about the organic diapers and just that one single brand of baby wash because nothing else will work. Forget about the advice you’ve been given and the gifts you’ve received. And remember your baby. Love your baby—love this one and the next one and the next one after that. And love them all differently. Learn their cries. Go with the groovy flow of their sleeping patterns (or lack thereof). And let love rule.

 photo 20140312-IMG_9694_zps1265bbfc.jpg

Find your mantra. Days will come where you need to shout it from the rooftops or tattoo it on your forehead. The days when you hold your pee all day because no one will let you go into the bathroom alone. The days when the laundry monster overwhelms and the twentieth stain shows up from the invisible grease-elves in the washing machine. The days when dinner burns and the fridge is bare and the food budget has nothing left. The days when you have nothing left. Find your mantra—the reason you do what you do. And engrain those words, that purpose, in your heart. You’ll need to find it more often than you think.

 photo 20140407-IMG_9978_zps41a02b3c.jpg

 Give yourself grace. I was under the impression that mothering was something I could add to my life-resume. Not for hiring purposes, of course, but mostly for the purpose of claiming those two little souls that have taken up residence on Earth in Our House. I knew our lives would change, our weekends would look different, my body would be stretched. But WOWZA. I’m learning the full expanse of grace along the way. Abandon your expectations, first impressions, and last remarks. Live day to day. Measure your efficiency by how many hugs you give instead of how much you get done. And even though you failed yesterday at being loving and patient and creative and supplying endless hours of fun for your toddler, today is a new day. And if he says “pay twains”, you play the best damn trains you ever have. (hi mom, yes I just used the word “damn”…I needed something with emphasis). And if he says he wants to hunt for bugs, don your binoculars and go on a bug-hunting safari. You (probably) have another chance, although nothing is a guarantee. So love and live. And do it well.

Give yourself time. Time to shrink back down to your pre-partum size. Time to learn the cues from your new baby. Time to make coffee in the mornings and time to brush your teeth for the first time at 4pm. Ignore the clocks. Life is not infinite—don’t pretend your days are.

 photo 20140409-IMG_9987_zpsf63f665b.jpg

I was under the impression that I’d rock this thing called Motherhood. Like I’d be the Jennifer Lawrence of an alternate form of Hollywood—that my wit and humor and easy-going sense would glide me through life like oil on a mud puddle. Instead, I just found myself feeling like I’d tromped through a mud puddle wearing a clown costume with crazed hormones and throw-up on my shoulder.

Welcome to your new life as a mom.

The reality is that you are the one that sets your own expectations. So give yourself a break. Drink some coffee. Eat a DQ Blizzard. Unbutton your currently-too-small pants to make room for the belly your kid left you. Treat yourself to a pedicure. Kiss your husband (like, really kiss him). Look at Instagram when you need a 15 second escape from the craziness (and don’t feel guilty about it). Morselize guilt.

This is a stage. Tomorrow is a new day.

 I want you to know that you are normal. And beautiful. And brave.

Go love ‘em, Mama.

Friday, May 23, 2014


Glossy coral polish covered her toes. It was a newish pedicure, I think. No chips, at least. It was my third week of ICU & I hadn’t even thrown a glance toward my feet since starting. My toenails probably resembled a troll’s. The other intern even commented on how pretty her toes were. Of course, they stood out against the drab walls & maze of medically-acceptable colored tubing—helping her breathe and pee and live.

She died within two hours.

Her daughters, two of them, held her hands when we detached the tubes and lines and bags. They held on tight, almost as if they wished life could somehow be transferred from one warmed being to a cold one. Kind of like a Fairytale collision of Tangled & the laws of thermodynamics.

I stared at her toes.

There was life there, once. A mother—one who held her babies tight and folded their laundry and kissed their chubby, drooling cheeks. A wife—one who made dinners (only sometimes burnt) & tirelessly folded and scrubbed and comforted and loved. A daughter who made her parents proud, a sister who was present in all those childhood memories. A lover. A reader. A cookie-eater.

A woman.

A woman with coral-colored toenail polish who fretted about her post-partum figure and the finances and friendships.

 photo 20140523-IMG_0245_zps8189d1de.jpg
I haven’t had a pedicure in over two years. It isn’t that I don’t like them—I can usually justify spending the money elsewhere. But just yesterday when I was trudging through the sixth load of laundry, losing my patience with Thatcher, and wiping the spit-up off my already-wet shoulder, I remembered her coral polish. And for the first time since my rotation three years ago, I thought of her. And I thought of her daughters.
I thought of how they loved her and honored her, even until the last breath. And I thought of how, at some point in her life, she loved and honored them, too. And all that mothering;  the love that was so expansive it was barely contained in those frail bones and lentigo-skin and the hours of the clock that those eyes saw when her daughters were little and the loads of laundry folded by those hands and the places visited by those feet and the secrets whispered between the sheets…

It is an honor to be a woman.
 photo 20140312-IMG_0127_zpsa75804f3.jpg
And mother.

And wife.

 photo 20140523-IMG_0249_zps7a0ffac5.jpg

Most days, I don’t carry that honor well. I mess up. I get mad at my kids. I get madder at Jon. I lose my patience over pretzels dumped all over the floor, spot-cleaning the seventh outfit at noon because of poop explosions, giving baths and smearing creams and administering medications. I tend to get lost in idealism, robbing reality of its Fantasia. And some days I don’t even carry love well.

 photo 20140523-IMG_0246_zpsb81f388b.jpg
This post-partum stage is a melting pot of emotions and hormones and sleepless fury and broken expectations. I get lost in the have-nots and could-have-been’s and should-have-done’s. And I go sniffing for unicorns and hunting for rainbows because I’ve somehow convinced myself that this life, loving these littles, is not enough.

Life only comes once.

 photo 20140523-IMG_0248_zpsa12591f7.jpg
These years, the ones in the trenches of selfless demand, are the ones that women across the globe look back on with fondness. The sleepless nights etch crows feet, the tired feet form bunyons, and playing at the water table for a few hours too long cause solar lentigo spots.

Someday I’ll learn to cherish each of those little sun kisses and callouses and crows feet.

And one day, hopefully not soon, there will be contrast in my life as well. I’ll miss the scrubbing and cleaning and whispering and snuggling. I’ll miss the “mommy pay twains” and the incessant demands for graham crackers and nursing. I’ll miss the warmth of Jon’s embrace after a day of cold-shoulders from the kids. And I will miss mommy-ing these two miniature souls.

 photo 20140511-IMG_0104_zps33583026.jpg

 photo 20140521-IMG_0231_zps8c485fd8.jpg

I’m working on carrying that honor a little bit higher,  a little bit brighter, and a lot more proudly. I’m working on grabbing ahold of each day--& welcoming whatever comes with it. And I’m working on finding that Neverland of balance.  

I have a pedicure scheduled for next week.

Coral, in honor of her. 

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin