Monday, August 16, 2010

Check out my new digs!

Ok, everyone ... I'm both sad and excited to let you know that I'll be posting new entries on writesoftly over at a new address ...


The new design has me excited to post again, and I feel like I'm ready for a new challenge. The lovely Michele at screamymimi.com (formerly of thetomatobear.blogspot.com) has kindly offered to help me get set up, so while it's ready for you to poke around, know that it will continue to grow and change. For instance, I want to try to put together a way for you to leave comments there -- tumblr doesn't automatically allow them.

Thank you for reading my posts here! This site will continue to live here as an archive of former posts, so you can always come back to find something you want to revisit, but the new stuff will be at the NEW writesoftly.

Bookmark it, favorite it, write it on your palm, make it an icon on your iPhone -- husband tells me that when you do that with the new site, the icon on your phone is MY FACE. Which is kind of cool and really intimidating. I hope I picked a decent profile pic.

Hope to see you there soon!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Just because.

video

Baby blue

That bow on the top of her head makes her look like a Christmas present.

Best. Present. Ever.



And when remembering makes me sad ...

... I can always count on my husband, boy and girl to know just how to make it all right again.

video

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

I remember. I always will.

Dear baby,

It's been a year. A year since I realized I wouldn't get to meet you.

A year in which I've moved into a new home, welcomed your baby sister, and gotten to know your big brother even better.

A year during which I've missed you constantly.

You're not here with me, but I know you can hear me, and I know you know that I love you. I think about you all the time. I wonder whether you would have been a girl or a boy (regardless, you have a brother AND a sister! Isn't that wonderful?), what you would have looked like, what your personality would have been like, whether you would have been a good sleeper, what you would have been when you grew up. When I'm out with the baby now, and people say, "Is this your first?" I always cringe inwardly. Because the logical answer, the expected one, would be to say, "No, this is my second baby," since the baby is one of two children who live at home with me and your dad, which is of course what the questioner wants to know. But I always answer very carefully with, "No, my son is two-and-a-half," because that's true. But it's also true that your sister is my THIRD.

You were here. And then you went away. But you were, all the same. You were my second. I never, ever forget that.

For a while I spent a lot of time looking at jewelry that's designed to help a mother remember a lost child. There were rings, pendants, bracelets, charms. I thought about ordering something, and wearing it every day, to have something to look at and touch when I missed you, to have something to carry with me. But I couldn't find anything that seemed perfect, and now I know that's because I have everything I need to remember you. You're in my heart, just as you always were, just as you were even before last year. The difference is, now I know you're there. So I'll leave the necklaces and such to other moms -- I've got you with me all the time, always.

I asked your dad once whether he thinks we'll get to meet you someday. I believe we will. I don't know what you will look like, or how old you'll be in heaven (what a limited concept, isn't it, for heaven? I know there is no age or appearance there, and yet I can't help but wonder), but I do know that I'll know it's you right away. I'll know it's you, and I'll get to open my arms to you and hold you close.

I know right now you have everything you need, that you don't need me. But your brother and sister do. So when you see me taking care of them, know that you're with me too, and that I'll be loving you with every act of mothering I show to the boy and girl who are here with me now.

And put in a good word for me and your dad and brother and sister, ok?

I love you. I'll see you someday.
Always,
mommy

Friday, July 30, 2010

Why I wake up laughing most days


Because this kind of conversation, first thing in the morning, is pretty hard to NOT find hilarious. And when I say first thing, I MEAN first thing. The boy sat upright in the master bed, surveyed the room, and launched into this line of questioning in a still-sleepy, gravelly voice.

"Mom. Mom. MOM. What you doing?"
"I'm changing the baby's diaper."
"Why, mom?"
"Because she pooped."
"Oh. [pause] Yellow poop?"
[struggling to answer as gravely as the question was asked, you know, out of courtesy] "Yes, son. Yellow poop."
"Not brown poop?"
[starting to lose the battle] "Um, no. Not brown poop."
"Oh. [another pause] I have brown poop, mom?"
"[AHEM] Yes. Yes, son, your poop is brown."
[And I should have seen it coming.] "Why, mom?"
"Just ... just because."

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Things I have said to myself or others since my daughter was born

"What do you mean, training bras are PADDED now?"
"Oh, geez, I'm going to have to tell her about periods."
"My God, she's beautiful."

"I just posted a picture of her on facebook wearing only a diaper. That will be the LAST time her nipples are on the Internet, as long as I have anything to do with it."
"Guess I better read up on this Gardasil vaccine."
"What if she wants to have her belly button/nose/cartilage/eyebrow pierced?"
"I mean it. She really is gorgeous."


"When will I start letting her wear makeup?"
"When will I let her start dating?"
"Oh, Lord -- DATING."
"I wonder if she'll let me help her pick her wedding dress."
"I wonder if she'll breastfeed her kids."
"I know I'm biased, but she's SO BEAUTIFUL."
"I LOVE HER SO MUCH."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I thought it would have been louder.

Now I know how it sounds when your heart brims so full of quiet, perfect love and joy that it breaks.

It's a tiny, liquid popping sound.

I hear it every time I look at these pictures of the first time my boy met my girl.






I will never, ever forget how, the first time he ever saw and held her, when he would have had every right to be standoff-ish, threatened, squirrely or even outright mad ...

Instead, he smiled. And kissed her head. And handled her as if she were made of glass and he wanted to protect her.

I am blessed beyond measure in my children.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A Clorox kind of day

Some nights, when my husband goes up to our two-year-old (who will awaken once a night and need someone to come and soothe him), the poor man falls asleep with our son and wakes up only in time to go to work. Monday morning, however, it wasn't husband's trusty iPhone alarm that awakened him, but the sound of a two-year-old getting sick in bed.

Happy Monday! Here's some of last night's dinner, dad.

The master bedroom is right underneath boy's room, so I knew that something was amiss, because suddenly I heard a lot of adult footsteps, some toddler wailing, and the sound of water running. I had been feeding girl when it all started up, and I imagined that boy's diaper had probably leaked, and that husband was changing it and cleaning up wet sheets. When husband appeared at my door a few minutes later, though, he greeted me with a phrase no one wants to hear at 4 a.m.: "He threw up."

My capable husband handled the carnage, and brought the boy downstairs for a sip of watered-down Gatorade. As our son took his first taste of "juice," husband and I discussed the event, and when I learned that boy's retching bore a striking resemblance to the last time he'd had a stomach virus, I snatched the poor kid's sippy cup away from him so fast that he looked baffled. Because I knew whatever he was drinking now would come back up in about ten minutes. It took twenty, but it did.

And so we did what parents do -- called the doctor, dug out the crackers, doled out sips of water at half-hour intervals, and mopped up the vomit that occurred at intermittent times over the next few hours. As well as the diarrhea. Because vomit, apparently, wasn't exciting enough for us.

To be fair, my husband handled the lion's share of the mess. Since we both were terrified of our newborn catching the bug, I tried to keep my distance from what I imagined to be the seething nest of germs that was my son. So husband held bowls, wiped tears, gave hugs, changed diapers and did all the things that I wanted to do for our poor boy but didn't dare.

As we all know, though, there IS justice in the world. My turn was coming.

Later in the day, RIGHT after boy's diaper had leaked ON THE COUCH -- yay -- and while husband was doggedly scrubbing the cushions with a rag soaked in Resolve, I was changing our daughter's diaper in the master bedroom. Her changing table is right next to our windows which overlook a lovely golf course view. On quiet days like yesterday, we sometimes see deer grazing along the far side of the course. Their graceful forms never fail to arrest us, and it happens often enough that we keep an eye open for the sight when we pass any back window. I'd spotted a doe earlier in the day, and had turned my head to see if it was still there, or if it had been joined by a fawn or two. Unwisely, I chose to do this while my daughter's diaper was off.

Suddenly, I heard a quick squirting noise, and felt a suspicious and startling warmth on my shirt and jeans. I looked down to discover what I already knew -- that I was covered in yellow breast-milk-poo. As any of you know who have had babies, a parent gets really used to dealing with newborn baby poop, because you're faced with it SO MANY TIMES a day, so I wasn't terribly grossed out. Still, it was human feces. And no one wants to wear that as an accessory, no matter how cute the person is who produced it.

What was so impressive was the fact that she'd really just hit me. Her changing table pad was spotless. Basically, I'd been spray-tanned in poop. When my husband heard my exclamation, he had a feeling he knew what had happened, and started yelling, "Did she get you? DID SHE GET YOU?!" He came running in to see the source of my surprise, and when he got a look at me, he laughed so hard he had to sit down.

So I stripped and added my clothes to the overworked washing machine, set it to "hot" and thanked God for running water and soap. And vowed to keep my eyes on the task at hand next time, and to work more quickly.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Daughter

Dear tiny, breathtakingly beautiful little girl who is mine,

You're here. You're really here.

I have a daughter.

I knew it would be you, sweet girl. For the last four weeks of my pregnancy, I kept thinking things like, "Wow, she's getting big," or "I wonder when she'll get here?" I knew it would be you.

And then, on May 7 at 8:07 in the morning, you arrived. The doctor delivered you, and you let out a yell, and your daddy said, "That ... sounds like a girl." And when the doctor told us he was right, we both started to cry. Because we were so happy that it was you, daughter. I lay there on the operating table, and I laughed with delight, and my tears of joy ran unchecked into my ears.

There is so much I want to tell you. I want to tell you that my first thought, strangely and unexpectedly when I heard you were a girl, was that you would attend Rice University someday. I actually thought, instantly, "She's going to Rice." But of course I want you to go wherever you want to go to school, provided that it's a school that will challenge you academically and socially and emotionally to be a better, more interesting, more well-rounded person. I want to tell you that though you weighed a scant ounce less than your brother did when he was born, you seemed ever so much tinier when I held you. I want to tell you that your daddy and I looked at your face, and knew instantly what we should name you -- the two girl names we'd walked into the operating room with never had a chance -- you just didn't LOOK like an Emma or a Claire. I want to tell you that from the second you were born, you were never away from me for an instant while we were in the hospital -- you wheeled with me into the recovery room, held snug in my arms, and then came up to our room with me, and slept beside me in your bassinet or in my arms the whole time we were in the hospital. For the next four weeks at home, I was never further from you than in the next room, my love. I was always there to watch over you and listen for you and be there when you needed me. Even when I finally ran out to the grocery store and left you in your Nana's capable hands, I must have called home to check on you three times in that hour I was away.

I want to tell you that you are gorgeous. Your hair is so incredibly soft, so shiny and dark. Your eyes are like glimmering black jewels, they shine so brightly. You smell how an angel must smell, lovey -- sweet and fresh and new and pure. Everything about you is round and perfect and smooth, and I can hardly keep myself from consuming you, because you're so deliciously yummy.

Most of all, I want to tell you that since I first saw your face, first KNEW of you when I heard you cry, I have been happier than I ever could have dreamed possible. My heart feels like a water balloon, filled almost to the point of breaking -- I have to hold it quivering in two hands, and at any second, I feel as if it might burst, drenching me in liquid joy. Being near you, getting to know you, having the care of you, having the gift of loving you -- getting to be your mommy -- all of it is a privilege I can barely acknowledge because it's so precious that I'm in constant awe of its perfection.

Just like you. Perfect.





I love you, honey. I am so very, deeply, incredibly glad you're here.

Love,
mommy.


Thursday, May 06, 2010

Tomorrow morning, you will be here.

Dearest little one,

It's late at night and I should be getting some rest for tomorrow, but I am bound and determined to write to you first. I've known you now for almost 39 weeks, and we've been through a lot together. So before we officially meet, face-to face-tomorrow morning, I thought I'd tell you what's in my heart tonight.

It's been a rough ride, hasn't it? Early on, I was so sick, and I know it felt like it would never end. Once I felt better around week 19 or 20, we both got really swept up into keeping up with your older brother. As you'll soon see for yourself, he's a bundle of energy, and between his music classes and playing outside and train table time and having fun with your cousin and our neighborhood and family friends and general running around, there's plenty to do when we're with him.

That's the thing, though. We've been busy with him, certainly. But there was never a moment that I wasn't aware of you, that my thoughts were far from you or how you were growing, that I wasn't looking forward to meeting you and learning about who you are. Your dad and I are so very, deeply, truly excited to hold you tomorrow, to touch your little face and tiny hands, to marvel at you and start to get to know you. And so is your brother. When he woke up today, he leaned over toward me and said, "Mom, did you come from doctor?" I said no, that I wouldn't go until tomorrow, and he finished my thought for me. "Baby's coming out! Gonna sleep right there!" And he pointed happily to your bassinet beside our bed.

Sweet baby, of course we wonder if you're a boy or a girl. It's been the subject of much debate among your family. Sometimes dad and I get a girl vibe, sometimes a boy vibe. My own dad thinks you're a girl, and your Papa (dad's dad) just KNOWS you're a boy. Your brother has pretty much insisted that he's getting a sister. Regardless of the fact of your gender, though, we are so anxious to hold you in our arms and have the chance to love you in person.

And that's what I want you to know -- that we have loved you and wanted you and been excited about your arrival since the very beginning. Going from a family of three to a family of four was something we've always wanted to experience, and we know that God has sent exactly you to us to help us do that. YOU. No other baby. No other child. No other person. As the song goes, it had to be you, and that's among the trillion things that makes you special to us already.

So tonight -- rest. Sleep. Snuggle down where you are and relax. Tomorrow will be a big day. It'll most likely be confusing a bit, with all the bright lights and loud noises, but just listen, listen for my voice, and for your dad's, and for your brother's. You've been hearing us all along, and you'll know us tomorrow by the love and joy in our voices as we greet and talk to you.

You'll never be alone, sweet one. We will always be with you, to take care of you, to keep you company, to learn about who you are, to love you.

Listen for my voice. I'll be calling your name tomorrow.
Love,
mommy.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Just in case you wonder, son ...

My kind, sweet, brilliant son,

(Sigh.)

The last letter I wrote to commemorate your monthly birthday was when you turned 19 months old. Since then, you've experienced a million tiny milestones I should have captured immediately, like turning two, peeing in the potty for the first time (not that it meant anything like actual potty training, as it turned out), graduating to a "big-boy bed," starting your first formal instruction of any kind (your once-a-week music class, which you adore), sleeping through the night, feeding yourself reliably with a teeny toddler fork or spoon, choosing the restaurant where we had dinner as a family ("French toast restaurant, dad! Want french toast restaurant! No barbecue!" And so of course we went to Denny's), and so much more.

As important as all of them were, as big as they felt and as much as we hooted and hollered and celebrated you and your amazing development, we're about to find ourselves in the midst of an even bigger one, son -- your baby brother or sister is scheduled to arrive on May 14, just a couple weeks away, and may actually show up even earlier. As it is, I find myself wondering whether each shampoo will be my last before the baby comes, or whether I'll have time to finish ALL the laundry before my water breaks. It seems so very close now. Once the baby arrives to join us, I have the feeling that I won't have a chance to tell you what I want to say, so I wanted to get it down tonight.

We've talked a great deal about your sibling's impending arrival, son. We've talked about how the baby won't be able to say what he or she needs, how there'll be crying, how we'll handle it, how you can help get us diapers for the baby or share your toys. We've talked about how it's ok that the baby will be noisy sometimes, and that mommy will have to hold the baby a lot because he or she can't sit up or crawl or walk like you can. There is so much you seem to understand about what will be changing, and yet I know for a fact that I can't expect you to grasp it all, of course. I know there will be rocky days, and times when you just want me and I can't scoop you up right away that very second, and that there will be days when we all wonder what, exactly, we've gotten ourselves into.

That's ok, son. I'm telling you now, and I'm telling myself the same thing. It's ok when it gets hard. It won't be hard forever. We'll figure out how to get through it, and then how to make it work, and then eventually we'll wonder what we ever did without the baby around.

You've told me a few things in the last weeks that I know are a sign of your two-minds-about-this-baby-thing. When you saw me swaddle your little friend Z, who was 11 weeks old when he came to visit us, you said, "Mommy wrap ME up. I wanna be baby too." When we talked about the baby in my tummy, and how it would soon emerge the way Z had from HIS mommy's tummy, you demanded to be the baby in mom's tummy, too. So we pretended. I swaddled you, I cradled you, I rocked you on my lap and buried my nose in your hair and hugged you tight to me, just as if you were a baby again.

And here's the truth of it. I told you this the other day, have been saying it silently since you were born, as a matter of fact. You will always be my baby, son. Always. It doesn't matter whether you're learning to ride a tricycle or starting preschool or rolling your eyes at me or driving off to college. You will always be my first, my beautiful boy, my heart. There's going to be a lot of attention on the new baby soon, I know, but never for a second do I want you to think that it means you are any less to me than you ever have been. It will always be you who taught me that yes, indeed, I was able to be a mother (something I always doubted about myself while I was growing up), and that as a matter of fact, I was naturally inclined to adore the job. It will always be you who helped me learn how to give myself completely to you, my son, but still be enough of me for your dad and myself. It will always be you who turned my parents and your dad's into grandparents for the very first time, and our brothers into uncles. And now -- now we get to watch you learn how to be a big brother, and it's a transformation we are eager to witness, because we're so sure you'll do it so well, just as you've handled the changes in your life to this point.

You mean so much to me, to your dad, to all of us. There is no me without you anymore, child. So know this -- you have made me who I am. The new baby will help me do it all over again too, and I'm excited for it now, because you helped me see that it was a beautiful metamorphosis to become a mother, not a scary thing (well, it WAS scary, but you made it so much easier).

I love you. I have loved you since I first learned you were coming to me. I will always love you, more and more all the time. You make my heart grow in so many ways, my life better for so many reasons. No matter how crazy it gets around here, remember that.

Always,
mommy.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I'm having a "glass is half-empty" moment. Bear with me.

Being pregnant is a special time.

It's a time when you can feel amazingly confident in your body's ability to adapt and change in ways as old as humanity. It's a time when you can revel in your inherent ability to bring about new life, to nurture a brand new person. You can rejoice in your strength and unique gifts as a woman. You can enjoy the glow of happiness and serenity that all of that knowledge gives you, and finally understand your true inner beauty.

That is, if you're someone else.

Before I proceed, let me assure you that I am fully touched by the blessing that pregnancy is, I really am. I have dear friends who struggle with fertility issues, who would give their right arms to be in the kind of temporary discomfort in which I find myself right now. I have never been happier or more fulfilled in my life than I am right now as a mother, and the knowledge that I'm getting to experience the journey again is heartbreakingly, profoundly beautiful to me.

But as all of us know, blessings are rarely brilliant gems of purely gorgeous beauty. They can sometimes be cloaked in some pretty off-putting stuff, as a matter of fact.

I have never been one of those lucky women who loves to be pregnant, who adores her fertile body in its new rounded shapes, who sees lushness and life in her added weight and contours. I've never been one of the women who feels empowered by the experience of pregnancy, or who finds her mind at its sharpest or her strength at its peak while she's carrying her child within. That's probably because I've never been one of those women who never had morning sickness, either. In my snarkier moods, I could probably call those women some imaginative names.

Who am I? I'm one of the women who loves motherhood but finds pregnancy 10% amazing, 10% "interesting," and 80% distinctly uncomfortable. I'm one of the women who spent the first 19 weeks of her pregnancy either having just thrown up or preparing to do it again. No exaggeration. I'm one of the women who was almost crippled by bone-deep fatigue in the first and third trimesters, one of the women who, just weeks away from delivery now, finds her child's movements more painful than pleasant. (Seriously. What are those elbows and knees freaking made of, anyway?) I'm one of the unlucky women who has and continues to battle postpartum depression or anxiety, who now understands the full meaning of the compound word "heartburn," who (though previously a huge fan of food and eating) has to make herself consume some food-related item several times a day since absolutely nothing sounds appealing, who hates the fact that she's resigned to frequent mild incontinence, who cannot imagine ever being in control of her bladder again, who lays awake in bed for up to two hours in the middle of almost every night for no good reason except for the fact that her hormones tell her she should be awake and worrying about something, who regularly sweats through her pajamas and awakens hot, damp and annoyed, who can fall asleep at 10:15 p.m. and be up to pee at least four times by midnight.

I am that woman.

In other words, I'm a mom-to-be.

And when I think about it, when I really reflect on it, the only truly important word in that last sentence is "mom." That's why this isn't my first time down this path. That's why I'm not at all sure it will be my last.

Because moms? They do what they have to. Not because they're martyrs, and not because they're heros, or superhuman, or different than anyone else.

It's because there is NEVER, EVER a question of whether or not it's worth it.

AH. NOW I get it.

What people say to pregnant women:
"You look gorgeous!"
What pregnant women think they really mean:
"I'm supposed to say this to be nice to fat women who are going to have babies."

What people say to pregnant women:
"You have a glow."
What pregnant women think they mean:
"Your skin is actually shining. A blotting paper wouldn't hurt you."

What people say to pregnant women:
"It's such a special time in your life, isn't it?"
What pregnant women think they mean:
"How could you not love losing total control of your body in every way imaginable, for three quarters of a year, and then losing total control of your *life* for the next two years at least?"

Monday, March 29, 2010

Shifting boundaries

It was one of the things I never thought would change when we had kids. But it did.

Before boy came along, husband and I were dedicated snugglers. I really wish there'd been an Olympic category for the sport. We would have been the uncontested champs. Every night when we climbed into bed, we'd both maneuver to the middle of the delightfully massive king-size bed and wrap arms around each other to chat until we were both too sleepy to keep talking. It was always a "thing" of mine that I hated to say or hear "good night," because that meant that we were done talking. So we just talked until one of us drifted off, usually with my head nestled against his chest and his arm around me. The sense of peace I got from those few minutes each night was unobtainable in any other area of my life, and it was important to both of us to reconnect every evening through touch and whispered giggles and conversation.

And then boy was born.

My anxiety when the baby arrived was at an all-time high, due to lots of factors (like the fact that the baby was a truly sporadic and high-need sleeper, requiring lots of holding and rocking to fall and stay asleep, not to mention my OWN sleep deprivation and then, of course, the post-partum depression). As a result, I trained myself to sleep lightly, perched quite literally on the edge of the bed. Not only was I acres away from the snuggle zone in the middle of the bed, I was also turned away from it (and my husband) so that I could face the baby monitor, its green glow casting strange flickering lights on my closed eyelids as I tried to snooze and still remain on alert. Anything I said to my husband during those nights had to be tossed over my shoulder at him for him to hear it, and usually repeated once or twice to clarify what sounded like mumbling.

A great deal of time has passed since those early rough days of boy's fragmented sleep, and thankfully, over the last three months, he's turned into a great little sleeper. He goes to sleep more easily, goes BACK to sleep during the night without assistance, and generally gives us no reason to complain. It was a long time coming, and yet it couldn't have come at a better time, now that we're less than seven weeks away from our next baby's scheduled C-section. Now it's my husband who keeps the monitor on his side of the bed, since it's he who arises the one time in the night that boy awakens and needs help falling asleep. Husband sneaks upstairs, scoops our delicious child into his arms, and carries the heavy bundle of him downstairs to finish the night with us. It's wonderful and much easier on me, and now I finally have a brief respite of what should be great nights of sleep to enjoy before the next baby arrives.

You'd think I would have migrated back to the middle of the bed. That I would have learned to sleep once again facing my husband, would have reestablished our snuggle time now that our nights are so much more conducive to it. But no. I still perch on the edge of my side of the bed, facing out into the room and toward the bedroom door.

I actually caught myself doing it the other night, and spent a restless hour or so pondering the reasons why. Why do I still do that? Why am I so closed off to what used to be the most peaceful and contented moments of my day? And truly -- what am I communicating to my husband when I do this?

In an amazing conversation with him, I was able to articulate to him what happens to me in the evenings. After a day of constant stimulation and intimacy with our son, I am simply touched out. I have no space that's my own, with a two-year-old as my shadow. He comes into the bathroom when I'm using it. He wanders around me while I get dressed for the day, clinging to my bare legs and laughing while I try to step into maternity jeans. He watches me blow my nose. He comments on my toothbrushing, my hairbrushing and my choice of underwear. I catch in my hand the food he spits out of his mouth. I change diapers several times a day, along with the wrestling matches that that entails. I snuggle, I kiss, I hug, I carry, I lift, I play, I clean. And it's all the most fulfilling way I could imagine spending my energy, and I wouldn't change a thing about it.

But it's also true that I DO spend that energy. I felt so validated to see the following excerpt in Parenting Magazine this month (the article was about sex drive, but it makes sense in the context I'm using it, too):
Stella Resnick, Ph.D., author of The Pleasure Zone: Why We Resist Good Feelings [notes that g]iving your kids all the cuddling they require (even grade-schoolers need plenty) increases your levels of oxytocin, a bonding hormone. This makes you feel totally close to them -- but it also decreases testosterone, which plays a huge part in revving up your sex drive. Since women tend to spend more time with kids than men do, and have less testosterone in the first place, their levels of this horny hormone tend to drop even more after children come along. The result: By bedtime, the last thing you may feel like is even more physical contact.
When boy goes to bed for the night, I finally have a moment or two to reestablish my boundaries for myself. And unfortunately that translates into some pretty clear line-drawing down the center of the master bed. As I told my husband, I feel like the center of the bed is reserved for the boy, like it's waiting for the time of night he'll need it. And since it's boy's space, I don't want to be in it even when he's not there, because I know once he arrives, he'll be reaching out from that space to lay a hand on his mommy to reassure himself that she's there.

Thank God for understanding husbands. He said that the explanation made total sense to him, and he completely got where I was coming from. For me, though, I can see that in a few short weeks, the demands on my energy are going to increase exponentially, and that I need to (finally) take my family and friends up on their offers of help when possible. If I get some space to myself during the day, maybe there'll be less of a need for me to retreat from other people (like the man I love more than anyone else in the world) in the evening.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It's back. I guess it never really left.

The weird thing about the way I do postpartum depression is that it's so inconsistent. For months, I'll be great. Awesome. On top of things. Getting errands ticked off the to-do list, doing laundry, keeping up with the boy. And then all of a sudden I'm just ... not.

Even now, some days I'm drunk on nothing but air and laughter and gazing at my giving and supportive and freaking good-looking husband, and the sheer heartbreaking perfection of my son's long eyelashes and spiky hair. I'm happy. I feel good, like myself. And then some days, I just cry. And I can never tell why. My husband and my mom both inquire gently, lovingly -- "What's wrong? Talk to me." But there's never an answer.

I have to make myself eat. Nothing seems appealing enough to drag out of the pantry or fridge, let alone prepare and consume. I find myself eating a Luna bar as a meal, choking down some water when I think of it, making myself have a piece of toast when boy does, just to keep the pregnancy I'm-too-hungry nausea at bay.

If I think to myself, "I should take a shower," it seems like too much work. If I muster up the energy to actually get into the shower, I never want to get out. The inertia of this depression is incredibly powerful.

I want to tell someone I feel horrible. But I don't know how. Because I know they'd say, "Why?" And there's no reason. My life is amazing. I live in a home I love, with the only man I ever felt safe with and truly loved by, one I love more than I know how to express. I have a healthy, delightful, intelligent, sweet two-year-old who tells me, "Bless you, mom!" when I sneeze, who says "Please" and "Thank you" and "Excuse me" when appropriate. I have a loving family who would do anything for me that I asked. There is absolutely no reason to feel so crappy.

With the help of my doctors, I upped my meds a bit two weeks ago. It didn't help much, so now I've nudged them upward again. I'm giving it another week to really kick in. I've been very vocal with my doctors about not wanting to go too far above what's considered the lowest possible dose of meds for my particular case, and so far I'm still hovering near the "we don't give prescriptions for any lower than this" threshold. For the baby's sake, I feel good about that. If I have to up the ante a little more, though, I guess I'll deal. Because my two-year-old deserves a better mother than the one he's getting, and so does the new one who will arrive in less than 10 weeks. My husband deserves a wife who can smile at him, who doesn't just gaze out of the car window on errand runs on the weekends. My mom deserves a daughter who can answer her phone calls with a modicum of courtesy and interest.

And I deserve to feel like myself.

I'm tired of having this problem. As much as it helps to post about it, I hate doing it, because I wonder who out there is thinking, "Again? Broken record, SHEESH."

I'm sorry, you guys. I'll get better. There's too much that's good in my life for me NOT to. I don't want to miss this time with my kids. (!!) I don't want to miss this time with my husband and family.

Just please -- bear with me. If you think of it, prayers would be awesome.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

I am worthy. ... Whew, that was tough.

I am an avid reader of thebloggess.com, and so should you be, if a little vulgar language doesn't bother you. Her name is Jenny Lawson, and she writes for the Houston Chronicle under the "Good Mom, Bad Mom" column, but her personal blog is my favorite. She's real and wacky and honest and true, and I dig her style.

Jenny wrote an entry on her Chronicle blog (entitled "I am worthy") inspired by the amazing work of Dr. Brene Brown, who is a researcher, writer and professor in the area of social work. Specifically, Brown encourages her readers and followers this month to focus on why they are each worthy of love, acceptance and respect.

As Jenny the Bloggess points out, that's a tall order. It's easy to knock ourselves down, especially (I believe) as women. We're quick to take note of our bad habits, our flaws, our countless imperfections. But we rarely reflect on what makes us amazingly, uniquely, truly ourselves, and worthy of love for that reason.

Here's my attempt.

Ahem.

...

(Still here. Just thinking. Hard.)

(Holy crap, I had no idea this would be that tough.)

Like Jenny, I feel like I'm a "good mom and a nice person," but lots of people could say that about themselves, and it doesn't really feel like a big deal. Who DOESN'T love their child, right? So that's not really enough.

Geez.

All I can think of is that I have always loved people without reservations.

If I love someone, I do it with my entire heart. I hang it out there. Does it sometimes get banged around? Absolutely. Has it been stomped on more times than I care to admit? You bet. Is it worth it? Without a doubt. I couldn't be any other way if I tried. I was in a relationship in grad school where I tried to hold back parts of myself because the guy I was dating seemed closed off, and I wanted to "protect myself from getting hurt." That was a fruitless exercise, and if I learned nothing else from that relationship, it was that it's impossible for me to love someone only halfway.

Most recently, of course, I can see this essential truth of mine at work in my relationship with my son. He's only two, but when I think about how my love for him has changed and affected me, I'm completely knocked off balance by it. Sometimes the people close to me have worried that I am too much into motherhood, that I neglect myself and my personal development, that I ignore opportunities for my own relaxation and peaceful recharging, and I have to admit that they make some excellent points. But here's the thing -- I don't get a do-over for this period of his life. I don't get to try it again if I fail him in some way. So if he's needed me to be his primary source of comfort and security, or if his growth and development have required me to attend to him when I might have been pursuing other interests to date, I can't regret my choices. If the only one I might be selling short is myself, then I'm ok with that for now.

As I read over this entry, I have no idea if I've found what makes me worthy of love or not. I think what I've described instead is the attribute of myself in which I take the most pride right now. And even though I said it wasn't enough to be "a good mom," I guess that's what I feel like I have going for me. I'm tremendously lucky to be surrounded by people who understand that sacrifice and who allow me to adapt my relationships with THEM according to what I want to give my boy. My husband, my mother, my brothers, my family, my girlfriends, my friends -- all of them have graciously allowed me to focus on being a mom, and helped me in sustaining our respective relationships in new and sometimes more fragmented ways.

So I guess what I'm saying is -- to me, what makes me worthy is in part due to what the people I love are willing to let me explore -- the life-changing, axis-redefining experience that is motherhood.

And like Jenny, I can end my entry with the following words:

"I am worthy because of you."

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Is this the definition of irony? I can never remember.

Ways in which the third trimester of pregnancy makes a woman a great deal like the newborn she is about to have:
  1. She shouldn't sleep on her stomach.
  2. She has to eat 8-12 times a day, in tiny amounts, or risk throwing up.
  3. She cries a lot. No one can figure out why, least of all herself.
  4. She can't hold her pee.
  5. People tell her she looks gorgeous when everyone involved knows they're just being nice.
  6. Her weight gain is all anyone cares about.
  7. Either that, or her quality of sleep. Because sleeping through the night? A total thing of the past, now.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

An open letter to my pregnant body

Dear body,

Hm. Let's just jump into it, shall we?

Upper arms: You know, this pregnancy thing doesn't really concern you. So stop trying to grab all the attention. There's no need to get all puffed up. No one wants to look at you. Least of all me. So send the wiggly-jiggles to the baby, where extra fat is cute, and BACK THE HECK DOWN, ALREADY.

Junk-in-the-trunk: I get that a woman needs a little extra padding to support the new life she's creating. But I think you're taking it too far. In case you didn't read the baby books along with me, the baby's growing in my ABDOMEN, not the back of my jeans. On the big day, no one's going to be checking my back pockets, 'kay? So you can take it easy too.

Skin: I don't know if you even deserve to be CALLED skin. "Skin" is elastic, responsive to the environment, adaptable to the surrounding situation. YOU are parched, dry, more like papyrus than anything that should cover a human being. Even when I bathe you in delicious lotions like those made by Aveeno and Jergens, you make me look to the outside world like an 89-year-old. A pregnant one. (This is NOT a good look. I was never interested in getting into the Guinness Book of World Records. At least not THAT way.)

Hair: You are the only part of me I'm happy with right now. THANK YOU for being all full and shiny and not-oily. I love my new ability to go two full days between shampoos. This fits in MUCH better with my life than the nightly hair-care routine I was forced to adopt before pregnancy. I reserve the right to detest you again once the hormone change that is sure to occur after delivery takes you back to the way you were, though. You've been warned.

Love,
me.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I knew there was a reason I focused on marketing in grad school.

I have the BEST idea for a spa package. Why it's never been done before, I have no idea. I cannot even contain my own excitement for SOME spa to put this together. I would definitely fork over hard-earned cash to get this service.

Imagine this. You walk into your favorite spa, and you say, "I have four hours. I need my brows waxed, a facial, a mani/pedi, and a massage." You pick your nail colors, go over any specifics, and pay. They lead you to a room, get you settled under cool white sheets on a heated table, cover your eyes with a soothing cucumber mask, and hand you ear buds for your favorite mellow tunes. Then, they proceed to just do what you asked, with no small talk, no questions, no chatting, no awkward pauses while you wonder whether you're supposed to say something or whether they're just letting you relax. For four hours, you recline in the same quiet room, left alone, chilling to your music, behind the light green filter of the mask. And when they're done, they gently alert you and leave. You get up at your leisure, get dressed, and realize you're de-haired, smoothed, relaxed, buffed, polished, and glowing. You tip who you want, and go on with your day.

The name of the spa package? "Don't effing talk to me."

If I move fast, maybe I can trademark this idea.

I'll make millions.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

I wonder if "CSI" needs a new staff writer.

It's 2:30 a.m. and I'm too terrified to go back to sleep. I didn't realize my brain was capable of making up such elaborate and detailed nightmares.

** ** ** ** **
My husband and I were in the market for a new car. We were discussing the needs we had over a meal at a local restaurant -- I couldn't tell what kind of place it was in my dream, but it seemed like a family-owned joint, just skirting the boundary between "legitimate eating place" and "sketchy dive." As we were talking, someone at a nearby table leaned over and mentioned that they had overheard us, and were looking to sell their used Nissan Altima. (Is that even a real make and model combination?) It was dark blue with faded sunspots in the paint over the hood, but it ran well and that's all we cared about. Somehow, a deal was reached, and we signed paperwork to pay them some amount down and some amount over the next two months. I think it was something like $2,000 now, $2,000 later, though it's not important in the dream. The point was that we'd signed paperwork, including a bunch of our personal information on it.

Later that night, I drove the "new" car to a small local mall to do some shopping. It must have been late, because the stores were about to close. I remember thinking in the dream that I needed to get home because boy might wake up soon and need me -- I was even pregnant in the dream. I parked the car and went into the mall to shop, stopping at several stores to look for womens' clothing, maybe maternity gear. I can remember that I smelled that department store smell -- that I touched and flipped through clothes on racks -- that I walked past a small concert near the food court where a local band was playing. They sounded vaguely bluegrass-y. As the stores were announcing closing times on their intercoms, the people around me were starting to buzz with excitement. One of the larger stores in the mall was on fire, and people were making their way with haste to the exits, as smoke was beginning to fill the stores, and water was seeping down through the walls from either broken pipes or firefighters' efforts outside. (Why there was no general alarm and evacuation is beyond me -- but the mall was definitely going downhill, and I assumed that the systems weren't working properly.) I was forced to exit the mall through a different set of doors than I'd come in, and in the relative dark of the parking lot, I was disoriented and couldn't remember where I'd parked the car, which was in any case relatively unrecognizable to me, since it was so new a purchase itself. A nice older man, about 50 or 60, offered to walk with me through the parking lot until I found it, and we strolled together, staying near the mall building itself, staying in the lights as much as possible, passing the JC Penney on fire several times as I searched.

As we walked, we talked. I remember that he had come to the mall that night specifically to see the local band, one he had been a fan of for decades. His t-shirt even proclaimed their name and logo -- something about "Monkeys" but I can't recall their actual name now. He was dressed in that t-shirt, knee-length walking shorts and the kind of moccasin shoes that older men wear with shorts -- the ones they SHOULD wear with long pants. He was so kind, and we finally came across the car in a distant corner of the lot, under a tree. I didn't remember parking there, but as we approached it, the headlights flashed as if I had pushed a button for remote entry on a key fob. I looked around, confused, since I wasn't holding a key fob, and saw one of the men from the restaurant where we'd originally met the car sellers. He smiled, waved, and started to walk off. Something about the whole scenario started to feel very, very wrong, so instead of getting into the car, I started to back away, saying "No" very loudly in the hopes of drawing attention. As the older man and the "restaurant" man (a blond, fit guy who might have had a Swedish accent -- this sounds so stupid when I recount it but was so effing REAL in my head) started toward me, and my suspicions were confirmed. I switched to screaming to attract more attention, and backed away even faster, not taking my eyes off the two men in front of me.

I'd succeeded in getting quite a few people around me when I stumbled over a median in the parking lot, and sat down hard. The group of onlookers were roughly divided into a small, disorganized crowd at my back and a larger crowd of men in front of me, and I suddenly realized that the guys in front of me were all in on whatever mess was going on. As I sat there in the parking lot, it occurred to me that my husband didn't know I was in trouble, and I had no way of contacting him (I had rushed out of the house on this "quick" errand and was uncharacteristically without my phone). The people behind me felt threatened by the size of the group of men in front of me, and started to break up. As if that wasn't bad enough, the older guy -- my walking companion -- mentioned something about dogs, and then released, one by one, a group of a dozen or so German shepherd-type dogs to rush me where I sat. I got my feet under me, somehow clutching a pillow that had appeared out of nowhere in the manner of dreams, and started to back slowly away. Remembering some article I'd read about eye contact being threatening or challenging to an angered dog, I dropped my eyes to the ground in front of them as I backed away, simultaneously wrapping the pillow around my right forearm so that if one of them rushed me, I could use it to block his powerful jaws and maybe gain some time to fight. I managed to back all the way up to the mall building again, so at least I had the building at my back, and I'd closed off that avenue of attack from the dogs, who were miraculously responding well to my no-eye-contact strategy.

As I reached the building and the dogs went from snarling to simple roaming around and even sitting down, the older man gave a growl of frustration himself. He said, quite clearly, "Well, there aren't just dogs here -- the thing is, you never know what any of us will do." And he indicated the gang of men behind him. As one of them moseyed up to one of the few innocent bystanders who remained, and then viciously kicked him in the stomach, I realized several things at once:
  • He was right. I had no idea of what those men were capable.
  • I was likely to respond much more to their liking if they attacked and tormented young, innocent bystanders than myself, and they knew it. My earlier shows of bravado and resistance would quickly become exposed for the hollow farces they were.
  • My husband really had no clue where I was, specifically, and I still had no hope of contacting him.
  • I had no idea what they wanted from me besides vague realizations of money, since I'd heard them say something about knowing where we lived due to the paperwork we'd filled out. I likewise had no idea what behavior they wanted me to display in the moment, but it wasn't the resistance I'd been showing, apparently.
As one of them said, "This could go on forever," I knew he was right. And that, more than anything, was what terrified me so much. With no one who knew where I was, and so many of them, with so many tools against me, I knew without a doubt that whatever torment they had in mind could indeed go on for the foreseeable future. There was, literally, no end in sight. And I looked around, and realized that all my worst fears about being attacked while out alone, all the fears that EVERY woman has and deals with EVERY day on EVERY outing, were coming true. As a woman, you always wonder if maybe this time will be the time that personal safety statistics catch up with you, and it was the bone-rattling realization that THIS was my turn at terror and pain that finally woke me from the hell of that dream, both shaking and shaken.

** ** ** ** **

It's been over half an hour now since I woke up, and I've used all the tools at my disposal to dispel the dream's hold on me. I've poured out the tale in disjointed fashion to my very groggy but sympathetic husband, sobbed uncontrollably, gotten out of bed to break the cycle of crying and reliving the dream, gotten a glass of water and gone to the bathroom (never a bad idea when you wake up in the middle of the night, anyway, especially if you're pregnant). I've done everything I can to think of ways to diffuse the terror of it, and although I KNOW it sounds ludicrous when I type it all out, I don't think I'll ever forget the feel of that gravel in the parking lot under my jeans as I sat there, or the shade of darkness of that mall parking lot, in that sketchy neighborhood with so many of its lights burned out or broken. There were just so many details, ones that made it seem as if it was really happening, ones that STILL make me feel like, if I go back to sleep, I'll be there again in the dark night with a pillow wrapped around my arm, cold bricks at my back, and knowing that this, THIS, could go on for hours and hours.

If I go back to sleep and I end up right there in that hell again, you can count on another post tonight.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

This was not in the manual.

I had a friend go into labor at my house today.

She's not due for another two weeks, but today while playing with our two boys, she mentioned that she'd been having a lot of Braxton-Hicks contractions. I had remembered reading that if you have more than four in an hour, you should probably call your doc, or start timing them, as they may not be warm-ups at all, but The Real Deal. She and her husband decided to go home, get some things in order, then come back to spend the night with us. That way, if she DID have to go to the hospital, her 19-month-old son could just spend the night here with us.

When they came back, she'd been having brief contractions regularly, about every 10 minutes. They hadn't been lasting long, but they'd been coming almost like clockwork. As I watched her over the next hour, her contractions went from slightly uncomfortable to I-don't-want-to-talk-while-this-is-happening. And they were coming more quickly.

As I watched her breathe through each contraction, every rough thing about my own labor two years ago came rushing back to me. I remembered the pain, the tightness, the breathtaking sharpness of it. I remembered the way my body instinctively lifted up around the pain to tense against it, and how hard it was to fight to stay loose, to let the muscles work the way they should. I remembered the totally awful way every organ in my lower body was involved in the orchestra of misery, the way my bladder and intestines and colon suddenly acted like eighth-grade girls who hadn't been invited to the party, and started trying to steal the spotlight with their attention-grabbing antics, namely making me pee every 15 minutes and have terrible (and productive) diarrhetic cramps even more often. (NO ONE prepared me for that, by the way. Hollywood could do us all a favor and show us what labor is really like, in all those sitcoms and romantic comedies.) I remembered being in so much pain that I would throw up several times an hour, for the six hours I lasted before I asked for pain relief. I remembered not wanting to be touched, and simultaneously wanting desperately for someone to put their hands on me to take the pain away, and keep me anchored, because I felt like I would literally wash away with the surges of it.

And I got a little bit, just a teensy bit, jealous.

I know. DUMB. Can't help it.

Here's the thing. My own labor with boy ended in a surgical birth, one made necessary by the fact that I developed a fever that might have endangered our baby. For that reason alone, I don't regret a thing about the C-section. However, in the months leading up to that day, I'd done a LOT of reading, research and preparation to avoid having to resort to one. I'd read books on surgical birth, the rising rates of sections in the U.S., the fact that some may be unnecessary. I'd learned about the potential health effects of pain relief in labor on the unborn baby. And I'd decided that I'd do everything in my power to have our child naturally -- without unnecessary medical intervention. I got fired up about "taking back the birth experience." I walked. I breathed. I studied and practiced relaxation techniques. I interviewed candidates, selected and hired a doula to help us through labor. I got pregnancy massages intended to ease my body's transition into labor and delivery. I listened to soothing and empowering messages about my innate ability to deliver a healthy child.

And in the end, it didn't even matter. The circumstances surrounding the labor I had made all that preparation almost insignificant. I was sick with a cold when my water broke three weeks early, and that illness translated into the fever that made it necessary to operate to have our baby, despite twelve hours of light labor, six hours of augmented labor (read: Pitocin) with no pain meds, and a final six hours of augmented labor with a merciful and welcome epidural. I did everything I could to avoid it, and when it was clear it was inevitable, I accepted it and I don't have a single regret.

It's just that now, the doctor I know and trust has a policy -- once a C-section, always a C-section. He used to perform VBACs (or vaginal births after Caesarean), but not any more. So I already know that though I'm due May 17, my child will eventually have a scheduled delivery date sometime the week before that day. So it's entirely possible that I will feel nothing but the usual run-of-the-mill late pregnancy discomfort, go into the hospital for an appointment one day, and an hour later, be handed a baby.

Which is mine.

Holy smokes.

No last few hours of preparation, no transition to the idea of being a mother of TWO children through the test of labor, no story to tell about how or when my water broke, no gateway to the new phase of parenthood through the traditional and meaningful trial of suffering.

It's not that I want the pain -- it's just that I want the fullness of the experience. I want the few hours or so of wondering whether I'm truly in labor. I want the moment when we realize that it's The Real Deal. I want the nervous excitement of getting the previously-packed bag into the car and going off to the hospital, maybe in the middle of the night. I want the extra few hours of having to wait to meet a baby I am so ready to love and embrace and hold and nurture and cherish. The prize is so amazing, how could I want to rush the process? EVEN THAT stage, the breathing and moaning and suffering, is one you never get back again. And as I'm realizing now that my son is TWO YEARS OLD, those little phases are fluid -- tiny moments of quicksilver that slip away no matter how tightly you try to grasp at them.

It's been about seven hours since my girlfriend first had her light contractions here at our house. She's at the hospital now with her husband, and her toddler is sleeping upstairs. Through text messages, they're keeping me in the loop about how she's doing, and I know that her water broke in the room where she was admitted, and she's at 5 centimeters now, and she's getting an epidural. And as I reflect on all of that, I'm able to yank my head out of my ass where it's been firmly lodged, and focus on the fact that two of my dearest friends are having a BABY in the next few hours. That little bitty taste of jealousy? Gone in the knowledge of the power of what's happening in their lives -- the arrival of an already-beloved child.

In the end, no matter what day it happens, and in what way, my husband and son and I will get the same thing. So I'll shut up now, and do what I should have been doing this whole time -- sit back, take a deep breath, and open my heart up to God in gratitude for His generosity and His love. I'll ask for His protection over this coming child -- my girlfriend's tonight, mine in a few more months -- and for His forgiveness for my own short-sightedness.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Namesake

Dear Grampa,

It's been four years, today. Four years since you went away. You never got to meet my husband, Grampa, and I'm sure you would have liked him. You and he, though worlds apart, are cut from the same cloth. "Good men in a storm," we could call you -- the kind of man you want around when something goes wrong with your car or your water heater, or if someone gives you really bad news, or if you feel like you've lost your way in the world. You're both good in times like that, and in just about any other.

Maybe even more importantly, you never got to meet the little guy we named after you. You do know that's why we picked that name for him, don't you, Grampa? How could we pick any other? My entire life, I never knew a more gentle, kinder man than you. You never once raised your voice to me or my brothers (or my mom, she tells me now), though we all must have provoked you at some point. You never said a thing about anyone that was anything short of thoughtful and polite. You always gave people the benefit of the doubt, always. You let us mess up your workshop when we were kids, mixing paint samples and dumping out all your carefully sorted nails and bolts and screws, and you never once complained or made us clean anything up -- you just laughed silently at our antics. You were always the essence of patience and tolerance.

And so when it came time to consider a boy's name for our baby-on-the-way, there was never any doubt. And lo and behold, now that he's arrived, I am astounded, relieved, blessed, grateful to see that at least so far, he bears all of the signs of being a great deal like the man who inspired his choice of name.

I hope you see, Grampa, how patient he is with other children. He demonstrates a patience and kindness so far beyond his age that at times it takes my breath away. I only have to ask him once to share with other children, and he walks right over to them to hand them what he's holding, without hesitation or a single shred of protest. I hope you see how he delights in making people smile, like you did -- and how sensitive he is to the moods of others. When he senses that I'm down, he comes up to me to peer into my face, a concerned look on his own little countenance, and says, "Mom okay?" When children cry in the store or at the library, he frowns quietly in their direction, and then turns to me with worry written across his brow, as if to ask me, "What's wrong with that baby, mom? What should we do?" He's sweet to animals, just like you. He is fascinated with things that are mechanical, especially if they need fixing, just like you. I can only hope and pray that, as he grows to be a man, he takes after his daddy and you -- that he becomes a good man in a storm, too.

I know you're there, and that you can see us. I hope that you get to do it often, and that you take pride in the little boy who bears your name. I hope that you see him and smile, and know that when I speak his name, there is an echo in my heart of all the times I heard yours spoken -- that when I hug him goodnight, I remember all the times I hugged you when we would see each other on summer vacations.

You left the world a better place in so many ways -- through the way your gentle spirit was remembered by those who love you, most of all. And now you've touched the world in one more way -- through the name and smile and sweetness of one small boy who will turn two years old in a few days.

I love you. I miss you. I hope you keep watching us from up where you are. If you can, please put in a good word for us. I think of you as someone who looks out for our little guy -- if that's the case, thank you, thank you. He'll need his guardian angel in the years ahead of him especially, as he starts school and learns to drive and all those other terrifying rites of passage that boys must face.

I can't think of a better angel for him than you.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Oh, no, he didn't.

The other day, boy and I were happily playing together in his playroom (meaning, he was decimating his train table and I was messing around on my iPhone. I assure you, both of us were well-pleased with this arrangement.). He tried to get my attention in his usual way ("Mom! Mom! Mommy! Mommy? Mom? Mom!") and I'll admit that maybe, this time, I wasn't as timely as usual with my response. And so he switched tactics, mid-stream.

"Mom! Mom! Mom? Lady! Lady! LADY!!"

Except he didn't say "lady." What he said in its place was MY FIRST NAME.

Now, we make it no secret around our home that mom and dad have different names. We decided early on that in addition to being "mom" and "dad" around the boy, we'd call each other by our first names, too. It was an attempt to hang on, in front of our son, to the fact that before he had shown up, we'd been there first. And we were more than parents, but spouses and independent adults, as well.

An ATTEMPT, I said.

Reason dictates that I should have calmly looked at the boy when he called me by my first name and asked him to whom he was referring. As if I were a receptionist or something. What ACTUALLY happened was that my head whipped around so fast that my ears rang, and I said, "WHAT did you just call me?" He looked at me for a second, blinked, and said it AGAIN. My first name.

Oh, geez.

I pulled it together and said, "Yes, that's mommy's name. But what do YOU call her?" And he smiled angelically. "Mom!" I gave him a shaky smile and said, "That's right. Just remember that. You know mommy's name, but when you talk to her, you call her 'mom', ok?" He nodded and toddled off.

Probably to pat himself on the back for getting my attention. Which is what the little toot wanted in the first place.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

An open letter to the makers of Fiber One bars

Dear Fiber One bars,

First of all, I need to apologize. I would normally address this letter to the company that manufactures you. However, since experiencing The Force That Is You, I'm afraid to handle the box long enough to see who makes you. So I'll just have to send this to you directly.

You may be a little uneasy, since when I post open letters like this one, I tend to share some constructive criticism, as I did in my letter to Pepperidge Farm concerning their Double Chocolate Milano cookies. Or, I simply demand restitution for what I deem criminal injustice, as I did in my letter to the universe concerning the Taco Cabana taco so-called "salad." But this time, I assure you, I have a different agenda for writing. This time, I'd like to recognize a job well done. Perhaps done TOO well, one might argue. FROM THE BATHROOM.

You see, pregnancy has a not-uncommon effect on me: Some bodily processes tend to ... slow down. Way down. To the point of discomfort. In the past, I've tried upping my water consumption, adding more vegetable- and fruit-based fiber to my diet, and even the use of daily stool softeners. Any effect was short-lived, though. For a while, I despaired of ever finding relief from my new, pregnant, and backed-up state of being. Then I tried a Fiber One bar.

To say that the effect was powerful is an understatement. I was at the grocery store with my then-22-month-old son the day after consuming my first Fiber One bar when I was aware of what the "Seinfeld" writers have referred to as a major "intestinal requirement." Standing in the aisle contemplating (appropriately) my toilet paper choices, I broke out in a cold sweat. I looked at my son and realized that he was going to slow down my progress to the ladies' room considerably, and for a split second I tried to convince myself that my issue wasn't as urgent as I had originally thought it to be. Then my guts reached forward, grabbed my belly button and tried to lasso my appendix with it. That's when I ran for it.

Thank God for family restrooms at grocery stores. No one else had to be a party to the scene that resulted, except for boy. I'm fairly sure he's already blocked it from his memory. I wish I could do the same. It wasn't pretty.

I left that family restroom a wiser woman. Note to self, I thought. Don't plan to be away from home the day after eating a Fiber One bar. The effect you achieved, you see, could be best described by the phrase "a brick through Jello."

I approach you with much more caution and respect, now, Fiber One bars. I've learned that I will be most comfortable if I consume you as a bedtime snack, and allow you to work your digestive machinations while I sleep. I then plan to be at home through my son's nap the next day, and by then, you have usually finished your dramatic work, and I can sally forth with the reasonable expectation that no public restroom will cringe to see me approaching, white-faced and desperate. I've learned my lesson.

And so I salute you, Fiber One bars. You do what your name implies -- you give One a dose of Fiber. Or perhaps, you suggest that you give someone all the Fiber they will ever need, in One bar. Either way, nice work. I don't know how you achieve it -- your ingredient list includes "chicory root extract," but I'm more inclined to believe that it's angry microscopic gnomes with hammers, chisels and steel-toed boots -- but you know what you're doing.

Good job.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Good things.

(As inspired by married yoshimi.)

Whatchamacallit bars.

The smell of my boy's hair when he's just been towel-dried from his bath. Yay, Mustela products!

Avocados, sliced on crackers, with salt and pepper.

Not throwing up.

Holidays that FEEL like holidays because it's actually cold outside. Frozen pipes = real deal, y'all.

Healthy pregnancies.

A spic-and-span house.

Husbands who recognize when you are. Just. Done. Already. And then they do all the dishes and clean up the entire kitchen at night AGAIN.

Enjoying a Coca-Cola because you're done breastfeeding, and by all that is good and holy, you're going to reclaim SOME of your culinary rights before the next baby's born. (Sniff. Sushi, I really miss you. Do you ever think about me?)

Vacuum lines on carpet.

Toddlers who, when you ask them what they want on their two-year birthday cake, say, "Elmo, and Cookie, and Trash Can [Oscar], and Abby, and Bert, and Ernie, and Slimey, and Rubber Duckie, and Big Bird, and Count, and Telly, and Baby Bear ..." (Guess there won't be any trouble picking out a theme for this year's party.)

Getting a 23-month-old to pee in the potty twice in four hours, on the FIRST real day of potty training. Hooray for pretzels and water!

Good aunts and uncles for your toddler. Boy loves ALL of his.

Good grandparents. Boy's a really blessed kid. His all dote on him.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Regular size or mini, dark chocolate or milk, just keep 'em coming. If they could find a way to fortify THOSE with the stuff that's in pre-natal vitamins, I would have no problem getting my 100% every day. If not 400%.

Cold, rainy days when you don't have any commitments outside the house.

Clear, sunny days when you do.

Sandra Boynton books, or at least the way they make little boys chuckle.

"LOST."

Feeling the baby kick and knowing everything's ok in there.

Having discretionary income.

"Everyday Italian" and "Barefoot Contessa" on the Food Network.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

I am so screwed.

Just now, I had to read boy the riot act about acting up. He'd taken a small toy animal and was pounding on the coffee table repeatedly, despite my "No"s. (He does these things when I'm on the phone because he knows my attention is divided. Little schemer.)

I pulled him onto my lap for a stern talk. After a lengthy discussion, he finally showed some remorse, then managed a "Sorry, mom." Immediately after that, he patted my Old Navy t-shirt and said, "Nice shirt, mom." And followed THAT up with "Hair pretty."

Good Lord.

Monday, January 04, 2010

An open letter to my bladder

Dear bladder,

Hm.

We need to talk.

I never had much of a problem with you before -- we were always good. You did your job, and I'll admit, I probably took you for granted a little. I feel badly about that, and I'd apologize if I thought you'd listen. You've taken your revenge a little too far, though.

The first indication that something was wrong was early on in my pregnancy with boy. You started to let me down. It wasn't all the time, and it wasn't by much, but those small betrayals didn't go unnoticed. The doctors tell me that pressure from the growing baby means that there's a strain on a body's bladder. I get that. But even on days I was drinking less water than usual, you were hyperactive. One day I actually logged every time I ran to the bathroom. In one day, I visited the powder room 23 times. TWENTY-THREE. And that was while I was AWAKE. I know they say it's good for a pregnant woman to walk for exercise, but come ON.

If that was your only transgression, I might have let it go. But we both know it wasn't.

(Sigh.) Bladder, you've got to start holding it together. Or should I say, holding it IN. Seriously. I thought it was bad enough the first pregnancy -- but with this one, I've had a cold for three weeks, and when I cough or sneeze, there's more being expelled than germs from my face, if you get my drift. It's never been bad enough that I caused a public scene or anything, but it is uncomfortable. As it is, I'm considering buying stock in Kimberly-Clark, the makers of Always pantiliners.

It's not just you. You're one of a dozen or so organs that have thrown me for a loop since I became a mother. But your betrayals are definitely among the more embarrassing I've experienced. I don't want to hear about Kegels -- they've never seemed to help, and besides, that's just shoving the accountability back to me, when this is your screw-up. And I don't want to hear you start talking about urologists, either. You think a pregnant woman hasn't already lost enough dignity, what with the knees in the air and the thin paper sheets and the constant lights being shined on parts of her body that only her husband should see?

So please -- get it together, bladder. I've got enough to worry about.

If you want to talk, I'll be in the powder room.

Sincerely,
me.