Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Giving Thanks

I remember the day before Thanksgiving last year, vividly. It was snowing; the very first snow of the year. I got up early to go get bagels before we got on the road to spend the holiday with my family in Pittsburgh. I was eight weeks pregnant and we hadn't told a single person. Not my parents, not my sisters, not my in-laws, not our friends. No one.

I drove through the quiet, snowy street of my neighborhood feeling a heady combination of emotions. Excited that we were going to have a baby. Worry that something would go wrong or had already gone wrong and maybe we weren't. Wonder at the surprise of it all.

It's terribly cliche of me to say, but I can hardly believe that it has been a year.

Having a baby - becoming a mom - has been nothing at all like I thought it was going to be. And yet, almost five months removed from those first turbulent, emotional, terror and tear-filled weeks, I think that maybe, just maybe, I am starting to feel steady and solid again.

At first I wanted to write that I am feeling like myself again, but that's not quite right. Because I am not the same person I used to be; I won't ever be that person again. Becoming a mom changed me in ways that I am just beginning to understand and appreciate. But I think that the most important parts of me are still in there, intertwined with the parts of me that are now charged with keeping another human being that I created happy and healthy and safe. And he is.

Life. It is complex and tricky and things don't always go the way we want them to or the way that we planned. I think that what I have learned most of all over the past five months is to be gentle with myself, and to embrace the not-knowing and just forge on ahead because motherhood is the steepest learning curve there is. I have made mistakes, both big and small, and I will undoubtedly make more.

But every night when I put my thriving, happy baby to sleep and sit on the couch with my man and a glass of wine, enveloped in the quiet of my house after a day filled with noise, I realize that I am doing as good a job as I know how to do, and really, that's the most that any of us can ask of ourselves. And I understand now more than ever that I have a life that's good. A life that is happy and rich and layered with beauty. And all of this? It's kind of miraculous.

So on this Thanksgiving-eve, as the sun starts to set over my little slice of the world and as I get ready to head for home, I am feeling a heaping dose of gratitude for the path I find myself on, for the people who walk it with me, and for this life. Exactly the way it is supposed to be.

And I am thankful.

For a growing family.

And my own little one.

For this smiley little boy. The one who was meant to be mine.

For sisters.

And for the kiddos who come from them.

For best friends.

For home.

For this life. Mine.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I'm the Mom Now.

When the nurse handed him to me, all bundled up in that familiar pink, blue, and white hospital blanket and a hat that I had to slide up to see his little face, he wasn't crying.

His eyes - huge and dark and startlingly grown-up for a baby that was less than five minutes old - were wide open and seemed to be calmly taking it all in as he observed his new surroundings. For a second his eyes locked on mine and I knew then that I was his and he was mine and it all felt heavier than six pounds, three ounces.

I have a baby, is what I thought.

I didn't think, I am a mom.

For two days I was surrounded by nurses who called me "mom" instead of by my name and a stream of visitors who managed to work the word "mom" into the conversation when they were barely over the threshold of my hospital room.

I changed diapers and fed my baby. I hobbled around as best I could, assisted by extra large doses of whatever painkillers the nurses brought to my bedside. I sat next to him in the backseat of our car on the way home from the hospital. I did whatever came next without thinking much about it. I cried for all the reasons and for no reason at all. I had dirty hair and dirty sweatpants and baby clothes piled on my kitchen table and I was too tired to sleep. Nothing was the same as it was before.

But I wasn't sure if I felt like a mom. I didn't know what it was supposed to feel like. No one ever told me.

Our third day at home. The call from the pediatrician. Jaundice. Levels rising instead of falling. Hospital. A lab tech pricking the heel of my tiny baby. His startled cry. Another call from the pediatrician. Levels rising again. Back to the hospital.

Our second trip was on the Fourth of July. It's a suburban hospital and was all but deserted for the holiday weekend. The pediatrician assured us that he took care of everything and we just had to show up and it would only take a few minutes. But there was a skeleton crew and no one could find his faxed request and there were phone calls back and forth for an hour and I didn't have any cell service and no one was answering and they couldn't find a lab tech and the receptionist was frustrated and angry with me, as if I was the one who caused this mess by having the audacity to show up at her hospital on a holiday with a three day old baby in urgent need of a blood test.

It hurt to stand up. I wanted to sit on the floor and curl up into a ball. I wanted to cry. I wanted to go home. I wanted to sleep. I wanted to let someone else take control. I wanted my mom.

And then I looked over at the dark, empty waiting room, at my now not even six pound baby sleeping in his car seat under a blanket to ward off the hospital chill, oblivious to the goings-on, and with a fierceness I didn't recognize, I didn't want any of those things as much as I wanted to protect him. As much as I wanted him to be healthy. To be safe.

I stood up a little straighter. This is what it feels like. I understood.

I'm the mom now.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Letter to My Baby

Dear Will,

Last week, on the night before I went back to work, you fell asleep just as you were finishing your last bottle of the night, the one I always give you in your room, in the big gray chair. I didn't put you in your crib though. Instead, I sat with you and we rocked. I kissed your nose and stroked your head and tried to whisper an entire day's worth of words to you. But the words kept getting stuck somewhere in my throat and instead I just looked at you, at the way that your extra long eyelashes fan out over your cheeks when your eyes are closed and the way that your hands never quite settle at your sides when I hold you, even when you're fast asleep. And I thought about dropping you off in the morning for your first day of daycare and the tears that clouded my eyes broke free and fell onto your fresh-from-the-bath hair.

And as I sit here and write this I picture you reading it when you're a little older, all lanky limbs and blond hair and blue, blue eyes filled with embarrassment and horror at the very thought of your mom crying over your tiny, four month old head. And since I'll always be honest with you, I'll tell you that a few months ago I could never imagine myself doing it either.

But now I'm a mom and what I know now is that moms cry. A lot.

For the first week of your life I cried every day as I held you and figured out how to do life with a baby. When you were six weeks old you smiled just at me for the very first time and my heart grew about eleven sizes and the tears just spilled over. When you were three months old we started sleep-training you and on the second night your Daddy was out and as you cried in your crib I sat on the couch and cried right along with you as I resisted the urge to run upstairs and pick you up and tell you that you never have to go to sleep ever again if you don't want to. And a few weeks ago you were strapped into your car-seat and I was playing with your toes and you looked at me and laughed your first laugh and my breath caught in my throat and the floodgates opened again.

God, I know. I'm really sorry about all of this kiddo, but you're stuck with me. Right after you were born the doctor bundled you up and handed you to me and your wide-open eyes looked into mine and I was exhausted and bewildered and wondering what in the world had just happened, but I knew then that I was yours and you were mine. In the middle of all the complexity on that early Tuesday morning in June, this one thing was simple.

Every morning when you wake up, I come get you out of your crib and you smile your biggest smile of the day and while I give you your bottle in the quiet house I wonder all kinds of things about you. I wonder what you'll like and what you won't, who you'll be when you grow up and what you'll want to do, and whether they're right when they say that little boys love their moms the best.

The truth is, I don't care about any of those things (except that one about little boys loving their moms best - I'm already sure they're right about that). I just hope you live your life with passion and purpose and do the things that bring you joy. I want you to become just who you are supposed to be, and the world needs whatever gifts you were meant to give. These things might not always be obvious to you and that's the way it's supposed to be. Trust yourself and the journey and you will find your way. You are exactly enough, and if you ever forget that, I promise to remind you.

You already love words and books and as a writer and life-long reader this makes me prouder than I have any right to be. I read you a book every night before you go to sleep and you like to grab a piece of my hair with one hand and the pages of the book with the other but as long as I'm reading you listen. I hope you always love books. Those pages can teach you and entertain you and transport you to far-off lands and take you on magical journeys. The characters you meet will become friends who can cheer you up when you're feeling down and keep you company when you feel like being quiet.

And speaking of quiet, there's something you should know. You might be the kind of person who loves people and crowds and parties and noise, and that's a wonderful thing. But in case you don't, you need to know that it's ok to be quiet too. There is a great power in the gift of quiet and if that gift is yours, don't be afraid to use it. Because when you give yourself the permission to be quiet, you can discover deep wells inside of yourself that you didn't know existed, and it is from these wells that your purpose may flow. There are many different kinds of power in this world. My greatest wish for you is that you use well the kind that you have been granted.

Above all else my sweet Will, know that you are loved, fiercely and without reservations. By me, by your dad, by the aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents who will always surround you. Let that unshakable love give you the courage and confidence to dream and to live your life with joy and a wide open heart.

With love as big as the sky,


Friday, October 30, 2015