The Oxygen Mask Theory

Anyone who has ever been on an airplane could probably recite the flight attendant’s opening spiel.  (Unless we’re talking about Southwest, because they tend to recite their spiel in anything from rap to iambic pentameter.  You don’t buckle your seatbelt on a Southwest flight.  You buckle your S to the E-A-T Belt.  It’s weird.)  Anyhow, say it along with me: “In the event that the cabin loses pressure, oxygen masks will automatically descend from the ceiling.  Grab the mask, secure it over your mouth and nose and breathe normally.  If you are traveling with a child, secure your own mask before assisting with theirs.

Secure your mask first.  Why is that?  Isn’t it your job to protect your child at all costs?  Isn’t it selfish to put your own mask on first?  How can you let your child go one moment longer than absolutely necessary without oxygen, Bad Mommy?  Why wouldn’t you want to make sure your child’s mask was on first?

Because you are of no use to your oxygenated child if you are unconscious, that’s why.  In the event of an emergency we are instructed by those who are trained to keep us alive (all of us, not just the children) that we are to prioritize ourselves.  We are to take care of the caretaker so that we can tend to those who depend on us.

Why then, is there an unspoken expectation that to be a good mother means to back-burner our own needs? Why should successful parenting be equated with giving absolutely everything of ourselves to our children?  We already sacrifice our bodies, our manicured hair and nails, our clean clothes and clean countertops and clean armpits.  Some parents sacrifice their careers, their friendships, their hobbies, and even *GASP* their delicious cocktails to the Cause. If we are expected to sacrifice our very well being in favor of our children’s, then what happens when we’re spent?  What is my child to do when all there is is left of his mother is an ill, angry, unkempt hobo crazy lady? If I’ve only gotten him this far by making sure that I never spent any energy or attention or TLC on myself, then this is as far as he goes, because I’ll be too busy counting ceiling tiles in the local nut house to teach him to read.  Not to mention, what am I teaching my boy about what parenting is?  Our children follow our example, not our advice, so if I’m showing him that the needs of a parent are insignificant, then aren’t I condemning him to the nut house if and when he’s lucky enough to become a father?

My child deserves better than that.  My child deserves the very best me that I can provide.  My child deserves a mother who is as centered, calm, and capable as she can be.  My child deserves a mother who allows herself an episode of Burn Notice while he plays in his jumper.  My child deserves a mother who doesn’t feel guilty that Mommy and Me class got skipped so she could take a shower AND shave her legs.  My child deserves a mother who feels worthy of a weekend away, to do whatever the hell she pleases.  My child deserves a mother who reads for pleasure or does sunrise yoga or takes in the new summer blockbuster on opening night even if that means his sheets don’t get laundered today.  My child deserves a mother who is fully oxygenated and ready for whatever insanity today brings.  And he deserves to know that his importance doesn’t fade with age or circumstance.  He and his needs will ALWAYS be important, not just in childhood.  He’ll know that because his mother knows that.

In the event that the cabin loses pressure, don’t you worry about a thing, little boy.  Mommy’s got her mask on and she will take care of you.

 

 

Damn straight.

Damn straight.

From Me on a Good Day to Me on a Bad Day

Oh my poor, sweet girl.

You’re having a bad day.  It’s okay.  Breathe.  Having a bad day doesn’t mean it will turn into bad week into a bad month into a bad rest of your life.  And it doesn’t mean that you are bad mother.  Or that your boy is a bad baby.  It’s just a bad day.  You remember what Alexander’s mother tells him on his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  Some days are like that.  Breathe.

There are a few things I want you to know.  You are doing a good job.  No matter what kind of job you are doing today, you are doing a good job raising your boy.  No one has ever been a better mother to that boy, and no one ever will be.  Breathe.

I know you love your boy.  Even when you swear you’ll sell him to the gypsies, I know you love him.  Even when you get so angry at him it scares you, I know you love him.  Even when you question, in the darkest part of your heart, if you even want to be a mother anymore, I know you love him.  Even when you wonder if you even love him at all and hate yourself for it, I know you do and I love you for it.   Breathe.

I know you’re shocked at how easily you can spin out on a day like today.  I know you have never felt such a lack of control over your emotions in your entire life.  I know you’re scared that this experience has shortened your fuse (that lovely long fuse that burns so slowly and is so easily put out and that you are very proud of) and made you into an impatient, snarly, teeth-gritty version of yourself.  It’s okay.  You’re still you.  You are the youest you’ve ever been.  You’re just a stranger in a strange land, learning to adapt.  You are learning on the fly a game that has no rules.  (And you’re winning that game, by the way.) You can’t know what you don’t know until you know it.  Apply that lovely long fuse to yourself.  Give yourself some more time to adjust to the emotional and physical chaos.  And when you think you should have gotten a handle on all that by now, give it more time.  Breathe.

I know on a dark day like today, you sometimes worry that all the changes you are going through mean that you aren’t the girl your husband fell in love with anymore and that he’s going to wake up any day now, out of love.  That is poppycock, plain and simple.  You know it, I know it, the American people know it.  First of all, of course you aren’t the girl your husband fell in love with.  That girl was eleven years old.  He’s loved you every single day since then.  That kind of love is here to stay.  Secondly, love is fluid and elastic and can take a beating.  Keep talking to him.  Tell him you’re worried he won’t love you if you get angry and frustrated and sad.  Then watch him laugh in your face and kiss your tears away.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

See?  Breathe.

I know you really, really scared yourself when, at the end of your fraying rope, you were too rough with the baby.  It’s okay.  He’s okay.  I forgive you.  You learned a valuable lesson on where your limits are and next time, you’ll put him in his crib two minutes earlier.  You can let that go.  Seriously.  Let it go, girl.  Breathe.

I am so proud of you.  I am proud that you are a living example of how powerful and important a sense of humor is.  You show your boy every day that a day without laughter is a day wasted.  I am proud that you are filling his childhood with music.  You have tasked Mozart and Bach and Rodgers and Hammerstein and Hall and Oates and so many others to paint the soundscape of his life. What a lucky boy! I am proud that you are reaching out for help when you need it, that you are casting aside the destructive illusion that because you are The Mother you have to have it all figured out on your own.  You don’t have to be the perfect mother.  You just have to be the mother who has kept her son and herself alive and well for another day.  The rest is gravy.  (And yes, you will figure all the gravy out, too.  But that’s for a brighter day than this.)

The sun will set on this terrible day and you will have won the great battle of Being a Mother vs Figuring Out How to be a Mother.  Remember that you are not alone.  You have an army of support behind you, cheering you on and ready to throw a shoulder to the yoke just as soon as you ask.  Most importantly, remember that you always have the strongest weapon in your arsenal…. me.  When you need to be the you that is small and scared,  I will be the you that is strong and sure.  I will see you through this.

Tomorrow will be better.  Pour yourself a cocktail.  And breathe.

 

 

 

 

Admit to the Shit

When I was about eleven years old I was thunderstruck with my first crush.  The thing was, it didn’t feel like a crush to me.  It felt real.  I really, truly, with my whole little heart and brand new soul loved Craig Biggio, catcher for the Houston Astros and undisputed dreamboat.  I did the little girl crush things like write him letters, cut out any newspaper or magazine article (especially if it included a picture!  Goldmine!) collected baseball cards, wrote “Mrs. Craig Biggio” on everything, and dotted the all the i’s with hearts.  The works.  I was certain that all we needed was the chance to meet and… well, the eleven year old version of happily ever after…. Pancakes for dinner and a game of Uno while we watched Family Ties.  Something like that.  Then, one day, the article (with picture!  Aaahhh!) was about a charity fundraiser and there was my prince (in a tuxedo!  Aaahhh!) standing next to his wife (Wife?! WIFE?! Aaahhh!!)  The world crumbled around me.  I was devastated.  Not only because my future husband and fellow pancake connoisseur was already married, but also because I understood for the first time how completely and elaborately I had deluded myself.  The light of understanding dawned (in as whole a way as it could for a young child) and spilled over my first lesson in fantasy.  I felt stupid.  I felt taken advantage of.  I felt like I was a victim of my own emotions.  It weighed heavy on my heart.  Until I admitted to my mother how I was feeling.  Sitting in the car, I spilled my guts about how much I loved Bidge and how terrible it felt to know that he was married and how silly I felt feeling that terrible about it.  I remember with crystal clarity the conversation because my mother said something that would become one of the lenses through which I saw and interpreted the world.

Me:   I feel so stupid because my heart really loves him even though my head knows it isn’t real.

Mama:  It’s real to you, and so it is real.  What you feel is just as real as what you know.  Sometimes, even more so.

Admitting to true feelings is incredibly daunting.  There can be a chasm, a great gaping maw, between what we feel and what we think we are supposed to feel.  For example:

How I think I am supposed to feel:

I am supposed to feel that my son is the greatest blessing and gift to my life.  I am supposed to feel fulfilled by his very presence.  I am supposed to ache with love whenever I look at him.  I am supposed to chalk up the occasional difficulty to a small price to pay for the fantastic journey of motherhood.  Totally worth it.

How I actually feel:

My son is the biggest challenge of my entire life.  I am fulfilled by every moment that he is asleep.  I ache with disappointment in myself every day.  Not all day, every day, but every day.  The unrelenting difficulty is an enormous, burdensome price to pay for the fantastic journey of motherhood.  But worth it.  Still.  When my son smiles, there is no such thing as hardship or challenge or difficulty or burden.  When he nuzzles my neck, he bathes my world in light.

It’s so easy to fill the “Supposed To” gap with judgement and vitriol and blind determination not to acknowledge the disparity. We somehow find comfort in that delusion, as though if we spend enough mental energy, we can convince our feelings to align with some predetermined projection of parenthood we thought up long before we had the first fucking clue of what parenthood would actually feel like.

Well, I’m calling shenanigans!

Let’s don’t spend the precious commodity of our mental energy trying to ignore the truth, just because it’s messy or hard or not what we wanted the truth to be.  Let’s spend that mental energy finding the courage to admit to the shit.

Craig Biggio, I'll love you til the day I die.

Craig Biggio, I’ll love you til the day I die. 1989.

 

 

 

 

Oh, Hell.

Expectant mothers get metric tons of advice.  Anyone from their mothers to the lady who lives in an alley and eats her hair will offer up little tidbits of what they think are absolute pearls of wisdom.  Sometimes the advice is so bad, it’s not only unhelpful, but you walk away thinking, “Did the grocery store check out lady just call me stupid?” And sometimes you get a piece of advice so solid, so sure, so exactly what you need that you vow it will be the piece of advice you offer to any expectant mother who asks for the rest of your life.

Just before my son was born, my friend CDC wrote to me and said, “I don’t want to scare you, but you should know this.  You will need this.”   Her advice saved my sanity and kept me from throwing my son out the window on more than a few occasions.

When you ask yourself (and you will) “Is this hell the new normal?” remember that the answer is “No.”

I remember laying in the hospital bed, my tiny son tucked into the crook of my arm, feeling completely overwhelmed and exhausted and wondering, to my horror, “Oh God, what have I done?”  It’s a scary thing to think that maybe you regret this thing you’ve spent nine months preparing to do.  It’s even scarier when you remember that you’ll be doing it for the rest of your life.  And it’s the scariest thing in the world to think that there is something wrong with your maternal instincts.  I mean, how could I even think I had made a mistake?  Why wasn’t I filled with joy and love and light and unspeakable beauty?  I’d just had a baby, after all!  Where was my glow?  Where was the sense of relief I expected (and deserved!) after a 35 hour labor and eventual c-section? I thought to myself, “This sure does feel like hell. Is it always going to feel like this?” But there were those words, a safety net breaking my fall.  “Is this the hell the new normal?  No.”  So I reminded myself that the feeling was fleeting and I just had to find a way to wait it out.

Everything that was “supposed” to come naturally, did not.  Not one bit.  I went a week over my due date, so I had to be induced.  I labored for days, making little to no discernable progress for hours at a time.  The doctor on call, who had the bedside manner of a Ukrainian wet work team, made me feel like I was refusing to dilate on purpose.  After throwing every ounce of strength and stamina at pushing that melon-headed kid out, his (or my?) “failure to progress” meant that the doctor would need to go in and get him.  Then came breastfeeding.  Anyone who says it’s the most natural thing in the world ought to be forcibly hooked up to a dairy milker.  Just to experience the “natural” experience themselves.  Hell.  But not, after all, the new normal.

Winston Churchill said, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”  Hell is no place to stick around.  Get moving.  Put one foot in front of the other and get the fuck out of there.  I mean, make like a bread truck and haul buns.  Breathe in and out.  Do your very best.  Ask for help.  And one day, it’ll be four months later and you’ll marvel at how far you’ve come, how much better you feel, how much you’ve learned. (You might even reread a piece that you wrote during that awful time and think, “It wasn’t really that bad, was it?” and be really, truly, astoundingly grateful that enough time always dulls the sharpest edges of pain.)

Motherhood has the steepest, wickedest, most intense learning curve of anything I have ever tried to master, and I’m certain the future holds many more moments of unspeakable difficulty.  But it won’t be hell.  Not forever.  In those first hellacious days and weeks of my boy’s life, believing there was a way out was my greatest tool.  Finding my way out was my first great success as a mother.

Thank you, C.  For being my lifeline and my friend.

You can do it!  You are a rockstar!  You are a warrior!  You are Mommy!

You can do it! You are a rockstar! You are a warrior! You are Mommy!

Crybaby II: The Musical

Before I launched this blog I had a little stockpile of entries.  I’ve been polishing, tweaking, adding, and editing these pieces, most of which I wrote in the very throes of the emotional tidal wave that was devastating my little world.  In doing so, I’ve been reliving those moments in the HD detail I didn’t realize I was recording at the time.  While that’s been much more difficult than I predicted, it’s also been a wonderful learning experience because it illustrates just how much better things are now that the waters of that tidal wave have receded.  It’s also been a good reminder to pay attention to the glorious moments, no matter how small, because they are the diamonds that all this pressure creates.

Today, I am not reaching into my stockpile because oh, did I have a moment worth sharing this morning!  I watched the opening number from Sunday night’s Tony Awards.  It is the perfect thumbnail of exactly what makes Broadway so important.  It’s inspired, it’s fun, it’s raucous, it’s so energetic you feel out of breath just watching it and it blows your mind to think that these warrior performers are SINGING their way through this marathon of awesomeness!  It is creativity set on fire and the conflagration will light the kindling of a hundred new ideas.  It was also my first dream, to perform on stage like that.  And, having left the shores of that dream for the grand, oceanic adventure of a different dream, the sting of what might have been sometimes abraids my heart on such occasions.  It’s what makes watching the Tonys less fun for me than watching the Oscars or the Golden Globes.  If you’ve been playing along at home, readers, then I bet you can guess how I reacted when this fabulous number ended to thunderous, on-your-feet applause.

I wept.  I mean, girrrrrrllllll, I WEPT!

There I was, sitting in front of my computer, bouncing my boy on my knee, and teetering precariously on the edge of Ugly Cry Gulch.  As I struggled to gain some breath and reign in this out-of-control mustang of emotion, my husband came in from his run, bolted into our room and, with an understandably dumbstruck look his face asked, “What??  What is it?!”

“H-h-how c-c-can anyone think that art and music aren’t important t-t-to education?” I sobbed.

“I don’t know,” he replied, wiping the tears off my face and the top of our boy’s head.  (Even if he didn’t know what I was talking about, he knew what I was talking about.  I love that about my husband.)

Once I got a grip on myself (I managed to avoid plummeting into Ugly Cry Gulch, but just barely) I thought about what that reaction meant.  It’s not new that a musical number made me cry.  What is new is that my emotion came not from my performer heart, but from my mother heart.  I wept for the state of education (a first) and for this great loss to our children and their chances at well-roundedness.  I wept for my son who (had he been born to different parents) might not come to know how art and music colors in the lines of math and science.  I raged at how it could possibly be decided by anyone in a position of power that the arts are less worthy of our time and dedication than any other subject.  Why should education be black and white when the world that that very education is preparing our children for is in brilliant, dazzling color?

(In the midst of this micro-meltdown, I did manage to rejoice in the fact that my son’s parents are an actor and a musician in their hearts, and so our boy will have art in his blood, in his breath, and in his fingers or toes. Which probably means that his dearest desire will be to crunch numbers for the IRS.  Whatever.  At least he’ll have the full buffet to choose from.)

This thunderstorm of thoughts and feelings that erupted in my mind and flash-flooded out of my face gave me a little peek into how my perception of the world is changing now that I am a mother.  My first instincts are shifting away from myself and toward my child. Without any conscious effort, I am making decisions about what is important for my son and I am, apparently, taking those decisions extremely seriously.

I have Neil Patrick Harris and the entire casts of every show on Broadway to thank for showing me what’s happening in my own head.  The purpose of playing after all, first and now, was and is, to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature. (Okay thanks to NPH, all of Broadway, and Shakespeare, too.)

Click here to watch the Opening Number. Do it. It’s amazeballs.

 

Is Motherf*cker a Term of Endearment?

As hard as you think it will be, you’ll wish it were that easy.

So, I’m paraphrasing Terms of Endearment, here.  I can’t find the actual quote anywhere, and this isn’t damn high school, so I’m letting my citation slide.

When my uncle reminded me of this quote, I was instantly dumbstruck, because this is EXACTLY how I felt about the first six or so weeks in the motherhood trenches.  There are no words to describe how hard it is, because every time I try, all I can come up with are clichés or words that have previously been used to describe early motherhood, and somehow, the familiarity of those words makes them seem less powerful.  No words seemed to accurately describe the combination of exhaustion, frustration, and confusion that I so desperately wished I didn’t have to face.  Because I wished it were the fairy tale portrait that I had projected for myself.  Not that I thought it would be sunshine and butterflies all the time, but I guess I had just deluded myself into thinking that the “hard parts” would be as innocuous as the musical montage of “hard parts” in a movie like Look Who’s Talking.  (Oh, that silly Kirstie Alley!  She’s so tired she poured coffee in the baby’s bottle!) Something that was really inherently funny, even though it was difficult.  Come to find out, this is no joke, man!

The first time I called my squalling, screeching, unceasingly unhappy son a “motherfucker” I realized that motherhood is far less PG than I thought.  I wasn’t proud of myself, but I wasn’t ashamed, either, because in that moment, it was either name calling or worse, and I made the right choice.  That was also the moment when I realized how a mother could shake her baby too hard and do unthinkable, but unintentional damage.  A girlfriend of mine told me that she used to punch herself in the thigh to keep from punching her screaming baby daughter.  The end of your rope is a dark, dark place, and sometimes good mothering is just finding a way to cling to the last shred of inner calm in a maelstrom of external chaos.

When I was pregnant, I found it really frustrating when people would say to me, “Just wait.”  As in, “oh you got to sleep in?  Well, those days are numbered, just wait.” It’s so obnoxious to be told (by people who think they are you a favorthat whatever I’m feeling now, don’t get used to it, because it’s gonna get bad/worse…just wait.  It’s not only totally pessimistic, but it’s utterly unhelpful.  I am a fully grown woman, thankyouverymuch, and I realize that raising children will be hard.  My level of frustration with the “just wait”ers was so high, in fact, that I was not expecting, once my little bundle arrived, to feel as though no one had prepared me for how hard it was going to be.  I was flabbergasted at the thought that friends, family, even strangers felt it terribly important to make sure I knew that having a newborn meant getting no sleep, but nobody took me aside and said, “Look, I love you, and I don’t want to scare you, but there are a few things you should know about what is about to happen.” (Except for CDC, whose advice to me saved my sanity and my son’s life and will appear in a post of its own.)

Now that the tincture of time has healed the deepest of The Dark Days wounds, I think I realize that there are two likely reasons why very few people will honestly and directly warn a pregnant friend of what’s to come.  One, time is the Great Healer.  The further away you get from hard times, the more they fade, leaving the glistening good times basking in the light of selective memory.  I have found that the longer it’s been since a woman was a new mother, the more romantic her memories of that time.  By the time a woman is a grandmother, she’ll tell you that her babies slept through the night at six weeks and never pooped.  This is where “enjoy every precious moment” comes from and why those words make new mothers homicidal.  Secondly, there really aren’t sufficient words to describe the raw, pants-down, deer-in-the-headlights, oh-shit-oh-SHIT reality of new motherhood. You can’t read about it.  You can’t take anybody’s word for it.  You have to live it to know it.  But I think Larry McMurtry (who wrote Terms of Endearment) might have come as close to hitting the nail on the “crying-screaming-bleeding-butt-throwing-up-should-we-call-the-doctor-where’s-the-binky-for-fuck’s-sake” head as anyone.

As hard as you think it will be, you’ll wish it were that easy.

True story.

Crybaby

To know me is to know that I am a world class, top drawer, Dean’s List, number one, Head Prefect, blue ribbon winner, bona fide, expert crier.  Everything makes me cry.   And I don’t just mean the at the Daddy’s-home-from-Afganistan videos or when M’Lynn loses her shit at the end of Steel Magnolias.  I cry when the old lady wins the Showcase Showdown.  I cry when the Indians win the pennant at the end of Major League.  I cry when the audience realizes it’s Oprah’s Favorite Things.  I cry when I can’t get the jar open. I cry during O Holy Night from “fall on your knees” til the end.  I cry every time I watch The One With the Prom Video episode of Friends.   I cry when I can’t think of something nasty enough to say to someone who’s being a dick.  Or I cry when I do think of a perfectly nasty thing to say to someone who’s being a dick, but then take the high road and keep my mouth shut.  I cry when I’m sad, when I’m happy, when I’m frustrated, angry, relieved, anxious, elated, etc.  Name an emotion, if I’m feeling it acutely enough, it will come pouring out of my face.  My mother says “her bladder is close to her eyes” which always grosses me out, but I see her point.  I suffer from emotional incontinence.  Knowing this about me, you can imagine how difficult the hormonal influx of pregnancy and new motherhood has been on me. (Not to mention my husband, but he and how brilliantly he has handled all of this wonderful, terrible awesomeness deserves his own post.)

What got me going a few days ago was something simple and ever so dear.  My boy  nuzzled my neck for the first time.  He had just woken up from a little snooze and I picked him up, warm and toasty, and put him against my shoulder like I had a hundred times before.  But this time, he pressed the perfect plum of his cheek into the hollow where my neck meets my shoulder and it was like he had pressed the button marked “Make All My Dreams Come True.”  He mushed his face against my skin and it occurred to me that this was the first time I felt like he was being deliberately affectionate.  Maybe my boy appreciates me in some basic baby kind of way, but I hadn’t felt it before.  Affection is a one way street with a newborn.  You get very little return on your emotional investment. This was the first time that I felt he was genuinely happy to be in my arms, happy to smell me and feel the warmth of my skin against his, happy to be in this familiar spot, happy just to be awake and be near me.  It was the first time that I felt as though he knew me not as Milk Lady or Clean Pants Gal, but as Mommy.

I cried.  I cried the way Demi Moore cries when Patrick Swayze makes the penny float toward her in Ghost.  That perfect cry of astoundingly pure, clean, awestruck joy that comes with complete understanding.  My beautiful boy is here, right here in my arms and he loves me.

Then he barfed all over my boobs* and ruined the moment.  No, that’s not true.  He ended the moment, but he didn’t ruin it.  It was a perfect moment and will stay that way for as long as I am Mommy.  Always.

 

This is usually what he does when I put him on my shoulder.  Up and away to take in all the sights.  Super cute, but not a nuzzle.

This is usually what he does when I put him on my shoulder. Up and away to take in all the sights. Super cute, but not a nuzzle.

 

* I’m typing this entry with one hand because my boy is having a clingy day and bitches every time I put him down.  As I typed “barfed on my boobs” he literally barfed on my boobs.  It was like I summoned it by typing it.  Makes me want to type, “And then I won ten million dollars.”  Huh?  Huh??  Nothing.  Damn.

 

Babies are F*cking Gross, Man

It’s not like I didn’t know that they pee and poop and spit up and drool.  I’ve spent plenty of time around babies (cousins, nieces, and friends’ kids) and while I never relished getting spit up on or having to change a dirty diaper, I always operated under the umbrella of “Life with babies is messy.”  No big deal.  What I didn’t realize was that I was also operating under the bigger umbrella of “A day spent with someone else’s kid is really nothing like actually having a kid.”  Ah, Experience, you mean ol’ gal.

I was surprised to learn that in an instance of a mid-diaper pee, a projectile vomit, or a rocket-launcher poop, that my instinct would be to catch it.  CATCH it!  In my bare hand.  Unbelievably gross and utterly fascinating that the instinct should be so decisive.  I don’t know if it’s because deep down, I’m really protecting my clothes, carpet, and furniture, but I like to think that it’s because I am Mommy and I do what needs doing. (But, also, I love this rug, kid.  I carried it over my shoulder down Halsted to my first apartment in Chicago, and you’re puking all over it.  Knock. It. Off.)

It’s just as amazing to catch yourself holding up a garment of clothing and giving it a once over and a sniff to determine if it is “offensively dirty” or “wearably dirty.” I am a well educated, mostly put together, not completely destitute person.  Why am I not setting the bar higher than “wearably dirty?” Because I already do 800 loads of laundry a week, and if I only wore things that were immaculate, I would be like Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption… just falling into a rhythm of laundry and ass-rape.  (Just less ass-rape is all.)  I’ve gotten off track somewhere.  Where was I?  Spit up! The tell tale sign of spit up on a shoulder or a t-shirt or the thigh of a pair of pants tends to make itself known without too much of a hunt.  What you have to be careful about are the cups of your bra, the BACKS of the legs of your pants and even, sometimes, socks.  If you get hit with a particularly spectacular spit up, you will likely show battle wounds in the strangest of places.  I once thought I was outmaneuvering a spit up only to get ambushed in the most unpleasant of ways…

You know The Princess Bride, right?  You remember the Fire Swamp?  My boy’s spit ups are like the fire spurts.  First there’s the sound, then comes the trouble.  Once you recognize the sound, you better act quickly, or you’ll singe your Buttercup, so to speak.  In this particular instance, I heard the sound, and went to move my boy off my shoulder to a position where I could get a cloth in front of his mouth.  I didn’t move quickly enough and took the full monty right down the cleavage, soaking not only my bra, but the top of my panties as well.  (And no, I wasn’t standing there in just my underwear…it was just that kind of shot.) Fortunately, there were no R.O.U.S.es to deal with it.  But you can be sure, if there were, I wouldn’t just fall down and yell for Westley.  I’d grab that unusually sized rodent and have my son puke all over it.

I am Mommy, after all.  I do what needs doing.

 

I'm not saying I'd like to build a summer home here, but the trees are actually quite lovely.

I’m not saying I’d like to build a summer home here, but the trees are actually quite lovely.

Missed Connection

When my son was first born, more than a few friends and family said to me, “Enjoy the baby euphoria!”  I figured this was going to feel something like a runner’s high, even though, as someone who doesn’t run unless it’s for a subway or an elevator (and even then, it’s a pretty half-assed run) I have no idea what a runner’s high feels like.  In any case, it sounded like a pretty awesome deal and I was super excited to feel it.

It didn’t come.

The only thing that came as my world descended into an unimaginable chaos was a growing trepidation that I had made a horrible mistake.  My boy and I had it rough at the start.  Breastfeeding was a nightmare (giving myself permission to let that go was one of the hardest, most important decisions of my early motherhood, but that’s for another post.) He developed the most scathing, searing, sickening diaper rash I had ever seen. And at about ten days old, my boy started screaming.  If he wasn’t asleep or eating, he was inconsolably crying.  Nothing I tried worked which meant that for the most of the day, all I could do was hold this squalling little poop cannon in my arms and cry.  I didn’t feel euphoric.  I didn’t feel connected to him at all.  He felt like something I had to cope with.   I felt as though I had fallen down a ravine during a hike and broken my ankle. (Here I was at the bottom of the ravine, in agony and sonny Jesus, why did I sign up for this hike to begin with?  I can’t hike.  I’ve never been on a hike before.  I must be some special breed of dickhead to think I could do this.  Well, it’s get up and put one broken foot in front of the other or stay here and die, so get up, Trinity, just get up.)  I would have to keep going because that was my only, o-n-l-y option.  The story of my motherhood would be marked by a pain I had to manage mentally. Forever and ever.

I never quite got to the point of resenting him, but I could see the light from resentment, and it was casting a sickly greenish pall over my future days and the relationship with my son I longed for.  I thought I had just lost the baby lottery and got a “difficult” one and I would just have to deal.  Maybe I would never feel connected to my son…maybe I wasn’t a good enough mother to feel it.  The guilt was palpable.

Then, came some good news in scary wrapping.  There was blood in his diaper.  Holy hell, the fright!  An immediate trip to the pediatrician revealed a suspected milk protein allergy.  While this isn’t good news, per se, it did mean that we had a possible suspect in the Happy Baby Heist.  It took six weeks and two formulas (and outmaneuvering the insurance company to get the crazy expensive formula covered) but – GASP! – what was this?  Some playful awake and alert time?  And…oh my dog, was that a smile?!  The blood cleared up, his tummy healed, and the real Slim Shady finally stood up. Before I realized it, I felt that connection.  It wasn’t euphoric, it was subtler than that.  Like a hum, buried deep, and all the more precious for having been so acutely sought. It occurred to me that there was a possibility that had been there all along, I just hadn’t been able to discern it through the cacophonous chaos of those first few weeks.  But then again, maybe it just takes awhile, and we shouldn’t measure ourselves against anyone else’s experience or time table.  We should just put one foot (broken or otherwise) in front of the other until we can look back and see just how far out of that ravine we have climbed.

 

This picture is from the start of what I call “The Dark Days.”  From about ten days to eight weeks old, all my precious boy did was eat, poop, and scream.  Sleep was rare.  It was not fun.

Baby's asleep and Mommy's beat to shit.

Baby’s asleep and Mommy’s beat to shit.

Push! Push!

If this blog were a baby, it’d be crowning.

I have been cooking up the idea of writing a blog for some time.  After slogging through the obstacles that my insecure little voice threw at me (I’ll never be able to keep it up, so why bother? Who would even give a shit about what I have to say? What could I say that hasn’t been said a hundred times before and by people who write a lot better?) I have come to the point of no return…. I’m letting you all know about my little bundle here.  I’ll even post it on Facebook and as you all know, once it’s on Facebook, it’s officially official.

On February 18, 2013, I had a baby.  He is the light of my life and a pain in my ass.  He is my most fantastic joy and the source of mountainous, heretofore unimaginable stress. He brings out my proudest pride and my most shameful shame.  He is a reflection of everything I know to be true and a challenge to everything I thought to be true.  He came into my world and changed everything.  Everything.  I mean, every. single. thing.  The very first thing he changed was my comprehension of what motherhood would be like.  There’s a lot more to it than Eskimo kisses and hissy fits.  It’s far better and much harder than I could possibly have conceived.  It is a reality that imagination is powerless to make real, a walk that no amount of talk can take.  It’s a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other experience of tremendous love, growth, and gobsmacked wonder.  It’s awesome.  And it blows. And that’s the truth.

This is where I will come to tell the truth about babies.  My truth, anyway.  A place where I can say it whatever it may be.  I won’t pull any punches, I won’t sugarcoat, but I also won’t dramatize and I won’t forget to celebrate.  From what I’ve learned so far, the lows of motherhood are deep, dark, searingly pitch black lows.  And the highs are gilded, glittering, effortlessly ebullient highs.  I’ve never felt so completely lost or so completely confident that I am doing exactly what I was put on this earth to do.  I’ve never felt so utterly unprepared to do something so immensely important.  And I’ve never felt so absolutely sure that I can absolutely do it.

This will also be a space where I will push myself.  I will push myself to write, every day, no matter how silly the subject matter.  I will not allow myself to walk away from this project as I have so very many others.  I have a clear voice, a distinct point of view, and something to say, so I will say it, preach it, whine it, scream it, laugh it, cry it, or spit it out through gritted teeth.  I won’t let myself get in my own way.

I can do this.  I had a baby for Christ’s sake.  I can do anything.

Congratulations, ma’am!  It’s a blog.