A New Map

May 3, 2017


I think about this space often. About how maybe I could’ve planned a specific leave here so that it doesn’t look like I fell off the map. Though, I guess, maybe I have. Fallen off the map, that is. Or maybe it’s the map that changed. The whole landscape of my life different, as if an earthquake came through, shooting mountains up and breaking apart land.

The horizon’s different and so am I.

Parenthood will do this to you. I know I was warned. Things like you’ll never sleep again and good luck on ever taking a vacation, but those words just serve to separate you from those who are already in it. Pre-baby and post-baby. You think, no, that won’t be us even though you’re terrified it will be, and then what?

More importantly, all those dire warnings absolutely miss the nuances of the total, never-turning-back commitment of raising a kid. It doesn’t cover the deep, complex feelings your body runs through minute by minute, because how can words describe this heightened buzzing that is taking care of a tiny little person? How can I explain to you that I’m being the most resourceful I’ve ever been while every single one of my resources are bone-achingly tapped?

I can’t. Hence, my absence.

Though that’s not entirely true either. I’m writing this. It doesn’t have specifics that you can hold on to, but it’s something. And I’m writing it in a race against the baby’s nap, but this is time I didn’t have to myself even two weeks ago, so it’s something. A new path, a clearing.

Like getting to drop your backpack and sit down on a long hike, every little bit refuels me. A tarot card pull, a few minutes to journal, finally having the capacity to read fiction again. And writing here.

Telling stories is how I get my bearings. And if I want anything right now, it’s to understand myself relative to this new life I’m in, this new map. So my hope is to check in here a bit more often, to piece together a trail, and drop a few markers, if not to figure out where I’m going, then to at least tell you where I’ve been.

Creating, Living

Small Act Blooms

March 17, 2017


This post is part of an acts of kindness event. You can read other participants posts here.

Full disclosure: I hardly know anything about Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

In fact, before this month, the (probably) first and last time I’d knowingly encountered her work was when I stumbled upon The Beckoning of Lovely on the internet with this video:

Yes. The woman with the yellow umbrella who gathered a bunch of strangers on the internet before Instagram and flashmobs were a thing.

Recently, I started seeing You May Want To Marry My Husband shared by many of the lovely artists, writers and coaches I follow. Through the piece Amy relayed she was sick and losing a battle with ovarian cancer.

Another confession: I haven’t read it. Turns out, being a new-ish mom makes you susceptible to crying jags of overwhelm from both happy and sad emotion, and I don’t have the energy reserves right now. The past few weeks have been a mixture of hard and wonderful. Baby A and I spent our first 36+hrs apart as I flew to SF for a work trip, and when I returned the exhaustion (me) and routine change (her) threw us for a loop. We’re going on two weeks now of a sleep pattern that is, to be honest, lacking in sleep. It seems to be combination of hunger/supply, disrupted routine, and her first cold.

(I’m writing this at 3am, so there’s that. But, I digress.)

One of these lovely artists I know, Sherry, decided to hold a “plant a kiss kindness” event to “send love and light to Amy”. She created a Facebook group. 100 people joined and committed to doing small acts of kindness between March 3-14 and then would share on March 17. Here is mine:

We live in a small cluster of townhome units where we’re the youngest by ~20 years. Our neighbors are older, single women and one married couple where the wife’s been fighting (and winning) her own battle with cancer. I wanted to do something sweet for them and easy enough for me (remember: baby).

Thus, plants. After the baby fell asleep Wednesday night, I drove to the grocery store, picked up four succulents and bows, raced home to tie notes & bows, and went to bed. Yesterday, I placed a plant on the front porch of each neighbor and went about my day.

The notes read “I hope this plant encourages you to remember to soak up the sun, drink enough water, and grow. Love, your neighbor”. I thought it was extra fun to not sign my name so that they’d all think maybe the other had done it. I hope it brighten their day a bit.

Amy’s is quoted with saying, “Make the most of your time here” and now with my own wonderful husband, my own little girl, I hold those words in my mind. I know the daily grind can make us lose sight of the bigger picture, that we’re here now, and only, and, as Mary Oliver says, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do. With your one wild and precious life?”

I know what Amy did, and I can only hope I’ll do half as much as she. Those four plants felt like a good place to start.

For more on Amy read the New York Times, watch a Tedx Talk, and listen to her in conversation with Andrea Scher or with her daughter.

P.S. You can read other stories from Sherry’s participants on the blogroll here: Plant A Kiss. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to add an act of kindness to your day. If you do, thank you. We need more and more of this right now in our communities, and in the world.

Feeling, Living

15 Weeks In

February 20, 2017


Yesterday Baby A turned 15 weeks old, but this isn’t about her. I want to remember how I am, because I’m already forgetting. I know “now” is already blurring into the foggy dream of the pain and joy of my first year as a mama.

15 weeks in, my body is still healing. This experience put me through the most physical pain of my adult life. During labor, I used my arms so much that I couldn’t lift, extend, or bend them without weird tingling and aches so deep I thought something was broken. I couldn’t sit comfortably, but I also couldn’t stand. Sitting up, turning over, getting into a car or out of bed, it all felt impossible. I took 800mg Motrin every 6hrs for weeks and added Tylenol with Codeine when the pain was at its worst. Later, my right hip felt like it was breaking from carrying the car seat around and I couldn’t push the stroller up a hill. Lately, my upper back and neck ache on the daily (I assume from the combination of working at a computer and lifting a 14lb baby). I still have weird aches in my pelvis and I worry about long term healing. I know yoga, hiking and climbing will help, but I can’t seem to fit them into my days. Not yet.

If I thought the post-labor pain was bad, being hit with thrush 5 weeks in almost undid me. The pain in my breasts was like thousand of tiny razor blades. I am not exaggerating. The lactation consultant said that I was one of the worst cases she’s seen, and was so concerned it would send me into post-partum depression, she called multiple times a week. Nothing could touch my skin – fabric, baby’s body, my own hands. It made nursing pure torture. I cried through every feeding and sometimes in anticipation of, not to mention the utter frustration of not being able to get rid of it for over 3 weeks. It felt endless.

To that note, 15 weeks in, and I don’t think I’ve ever cried this much in one season. I cried from the pain of thrush, from the anger of my birth experience, from the desperation of her being in the NICU. I cried because we spilled breastmilk on the counter, because the dog woke up the baby, because there were no more eggs in the refrigerator and god dammit, I just needed some fried eggs. I cried in the shower, driving my car, in bed. Tears came from exhaustion, from overwhelm, from hunger and from panic. I thought I would never make it through a day again without sobbing, but I did, and now I can. Not every day is tear-free, but most are.

15 weeks in, my body still doesn’t feel like my own. I’m on baby’s feeding schedule, trying to keep up with her needs. This means I have to be conscious of how much water I’m drinking, how much rest I get, how much good food I can consume (it all affects my milk supply). I cut out dairy and soy because it was exacerbating her colic and I’m nervous to add it back in. I feel better when I eat plant-based meals, but I crave sugar, chocolate and carbs. Like, chowder-in-a- breadbowl carbs. It’s more pertinent now than when I was pregnant – it really does matter what I put in my body. I’m also not free to come and go as I please. If baby wants to nurse at 4pm, well, I’ll be stuck with my butt in a chair until she is done. If she wants to be held, I’m picking her up. If she wants my attention, I’m laying on the floor poking the playmat toys as she bats at them.

15 weeks in, I have weekly worries about breastfeeding. Did I make enough to cover daycare tomorrow? Should I feed her an extra 4 oz in the afternoon so that she isn’t too hungry to nurse herself to sleep later? Why is she making that awful grunting noise and can she please stop whacking me and herself with her firsts while she eats? I set alarms on my phone to make sure I pump while at work. I fret over using any of the milk we have in the freezer (currently about 70 oz, and I have no idea if that is a “good” amount or not). In the second week back-to-work I thought we’d have to give up nursing entirely and switch to formula, and then her eating pattern and my supply promptly adjusted. We seem to be back on track. For now. I cried about the thought of giving up nursing and then I felt a twinge of excitement at the idea that formula would give me more freedom. My original goal was to make it 3 months. I have no idea how long it will last, but now that we’re here, I want to keep going.

15 weeks in and I am much more playful and touchy-feely with her than anyone else ever before. I make funny noises and faces, I sing or play music, and I stand her up so she can “dance”. When she’s nursing, I kiss her hand while it’s wrapped around my finger. When I’m holding her, I kiss the top of her head. When she’s on her changing table, I kiss her neck. All I want to do is kiss her and make her laugh. It’s varied how and why she laughs, and it takes work to get them out, but it’s so worth it.

15 weeks in and the exhaustion isn’t all consuming. It’s more like now it’s a part of my week instead of part of my days. Or it hits me randomly in a day, but the rest of the time I’m OK. This is what’s been working for me: A wants to nurse and fall asleep somewhere between 6pm and 9pm (depending on how tired she is, if she went to daycare, how much she ate in the early afternoon, and my milk supply). When she falls asleep, ideally, I get into bed too. I’ll nap for 45min to 3hours. I’ll wake up to pump, eat something or continue getting ready for the next day, but I really don’t have a life after 8pm anymore. I dream about staying up to read, write or spend time with H, but it never works out. A could wake up anywhere between 1am and 4am for a nighttime nursing session and I need all the rest I can get. Generally, I’ll sleep from 8:30pm-11pm (2.5hrs), 11:30pm-2:30am (3hrs) and then 3am-5am (2hrs). And that is how I cobble together the 7.5hrs per night that I need to function. It’s not ideal, but right now, it’s working.

15 weeks in and my love for H is at a new level. His patience, support and love are bigger and more necessary now than ever before. He plays guitar for A, narrating the world for her as he carries her around, says “hey girl” when he picks her up. The way he cares for her and the way she looks at him breaks my heart into pieces.

15 weeks in and I still can’t believe I’m a mom, that we made it here, that she is ours and that we get to follow this little person as she grows.

15 weeks in and my mental energy is coming back. I want to plan, organize, coach, think, write and read. Of course, I don’t have the time or energy to most of those things, but the drive is back.

15 weeks in and I have no patience for drama, whether from people or ToDos. In fact, I’m learning to do less, and less, and less. When I do find time to work on something, I want to create a better process, streamline, clear a path, but if I can’t get to something, sometimes, it just gets let go. And that’s OK.

15 weeks in and A makes me want to be a better person. All of my frustration, rage, judgement and pity feel heavy, and honestly, useless. Being exhausted doesn’t have to mean anything but that. Instead of raging, I really just need a nap. Instead of overwhelm, I just need a hot bath. There’s just not enough energy to expend on negativity and there’s just not enough time in my life to spend with her, so why waste what I have? This doesn’t mean I don’t feel all of the above and more – I do, acutely, and sometimes hourly – but I’m learning to let it go, process it faster, relax into what is as best I can.

15 weeks in and I’m learning, it’s all a phase. Each challenge, each frustration is met with my own resourcefulness, H’s help, A’s tenacity and we get through it. Sometimes it becomes something awesome (like my supply adjusting so we don’t have to switch to formula yet) and sometimes it becomes something hard (like managing daycare days), but it’s that whole idea that the only thing constant is change.

I’m already nostalgic for her at a littler age, curious about her at a bigger age, and obsessed with trying to take in all that she is, and that we are together, in this very moment, 15 weeks in.


November, the lost month

February 10, 2017

January 2017

November’s been a struggle now for the past few years.

In 2014, I was newly pregnant for the first time and we celebrated Thanksgiving by renting an Airbnb and rock climbing in Joshua Tree. But I felt deep in my bones that something was wrong with the pregnancy. Less than a month later, Boxing Day brought the knowledge of a missed miscarriage. I spent New Years Eve eve recovering from a D&C and most of 2015 in grief.

November 2015 seemed to be off to a better start, but closed with another loss, a miscarriage at home the weekend before Thanksgiving. That Monday, H and I took off from work and went out for donuts before my doctor’s appointment. We spent Thanksgiving at home, just the two of us. We went camping and made up a small ceremony to say goodbye to the baby we lost.

I looked forward to November of this year with anticipation and worry. Our third pregnancy, the one that was progressing normally (minus my pure anxiety b/c of pregnancy after loss), had a due date of October 24. Our parents made travel plans to visit week by week in November. H and I put in paperwork for leave. We figured we’d have our baby by Halloween and then spend a full week at home in bed, lounging, cuddling and becoming a family of three.

But what’s the saying, the best laid plans…?

Baby girl took her sweet time and didn’t kick us into labor until October 29. By then, H and I were frazzled as the deadline for induction loomed. That first day of labor, a Saturday that involved H going to play hockey and a friend dropping by with breakfast burritos, picked up quickly. 2pm contractions 20 minutes apart quickly became 5pm with contractions 7 minutes apart until I dissolved into laborland, not to return to reality until almost noon the next day.

Baby A was born on a Sunday, whisked away to the NICU, and spent the next 9 days there. When I was discharged without her. We had to drive home with an empty car seat. We didn’t hold her for the first 4 days of her life, didn’t have a chance to fully try breastfeeding until she was already a week old. It felt like each day my heart broke again.

I remember back in October, very pregnant and cooking batches of ham and potato soup the night of the second presidential debates, telling H that we’d remember this – where we were, what we were doing – because this would be the last official scenario that needed to play out if Trump ended up succeeding. We’d have to explain this whole political shift to our daughter.

On election day, we finally brought Baby A home.

The fact that my personal trial of a daughter in the NICU overlapping the first female presidential nominee losing the election is almost too much to comprehend. 6, 8, 10 weeks into her life, I still didn’t have the energy to face the current socio-political state.

How can this be? I keep asking myself.

And yet, here we are. Baby A turned 12 weeks old and Donald Trump took the oath for presidency. Thousands of people marched in support of civil rights and I stayed home with my newborn. Baby A refused to take a bottle and Trump refuses to tell the truth. H and I find our new parent anxiety overlapping this new presidential reality. We’re seeking advice about the baby’s bottle strike while scrolling through the news on our iPhones in the dark after she goes to bed. We’re trying to make time to listen to NPR’s Politics podcast and discuss what we’ve each heard throughout the day, without a dark cloud hovering over the dinner table. We’re realizing that we could’ve done more and we did all we could.

Now here we are almost half-way through February and I don’t look at the news. I can’t. It creates such a rage, such pain in my body, that my ability to think clearly disappears. Instead, I watch Byron Katie talk people through their fears and anger about Trump. I question my own thoughts and try to send prayers of hope up instead of panic worry. I signed up for Daily Action, which keeps me looped in to one issue and one action per day. Sometimes I make calls, sometimes I don’t. I send messages to friends who are new mom b/c I know how dark that time can be. I can feel the grief and panic of our culture pinging off the grief and frustration of my journey to get here, to being a mom. Activism can look like all sorts of things (some of which I hope to share in another post), but right now, raising a child that can help heal the world is my long game.

The care of my daughter, my being her mother, is the priority.

It always has been.

Feeling, Living

The End of Maternity Leave

February 3, 2017


On Monday, A turned 3 months old and my maternity leave ended.

We just went for a walk with the dog in the rain. Life almost feels back to normal. A new normal, but normal nonetheless.

Earlier in January I went through the anger over having to leave her to return to a day job. The logistics, the cost, and the emotions didn’t seem worth it. I was panicked about finding a daycare, worried the expense wouldn’t make sense, and frustrated I had to choose between feeling like a productive adult and being a mother.

(Also, still can’t comprehend myself and the word “mother” in the same sentence, but that’s a story for another time).

But as I’m learning over and over again, things work out. We found a small in-home daycare that is close to home and the price was right. I thought I had to return to work on the 17th, then the 23rd and then finally, officially, the 30th. Each time the return date was bumped it was a gift, an additional week to keep settling into motherhood before starting yet another new chapter.

I decided to work from home on Wednesdays and take Fridays off. Waking up this morning I knew it was the right call. Monday and Tuesday I had the stamina to make it work. Wednesday brought relief from packing bottles, rushing around the house to get out the door on time and, of course, sitting in traffic. Come Thursday I had the energy to manage one more full day and this morning I could recover from it all.

Leaving A at daycare each morning broke my heart a little, but being away from her for the day gave me a rush of energy. This is the freedom I’m craving. Each part of the day feeds the other. I find myself fully present in each.

While I’m at work, I miss her, but I am focused, productive and thoroughly enjoying collaborating with my coworkers again. Work allows me to return to the person I am when I’m not knee-deep in breastfeeding and diapers. And as soon as I pick her up, any lingering complaints about work fade as I get to put all of my energy into loving on her. Even the 3am feedings.

Especially the 3am feedings.

I’m thinking this new routine will make me better at both mothering and working and that is a life bonus I didn’t see coming.

I know working plus parenting isn’t right for everyone, and hey, it may not be right for us in the coming months, but I am so relieved that this first week of balancing the two felt good.

Really, really good.

Feeling, Living

Flying As A Flock

January 24, 2017


I decided to see a therapist a few weeks into postpartum. My labor and delivery experience, coupled with baby’s stay in the NICU, seared my heart. I wanted to make sure someone with a professional eye was keeping track of me – when you’re in the throes of new motherhood keeping track of anything feels impossible, especially your self.

Early on she likened the barrage of newness with a newborn to a dance.

“You and baby are learning to dance together,” she said. I felt it as a weaving of my needs and wants with hers, leading and following, a call and response. “When your husband comes home, he also is learning to dance a new dance – one with you, one with her, and then all three of you together.”

In early January, I asked H if he would go with me to a session. That morning, we walked the dog, ate breakfast, showered and left the house to food shop all with baby in tow. We unloaded groceries, ate a quick lunch and piled back into the car for the trip across the city to the session.

Not only did it feel manageable, but it felt pretty magical. We were doing it – living a normal day together as a family of three. Baby A was almost 10 weeks old.

Looking out the 5th story window of the therapist’s office, the sky a piercing blue, I tried to explain this new normal, so new I couldn’t find the words. She mentioned the dancing image again.

Yes, I thought, but it’s more powerful than that. I saw our seamless hand-off of the baby on the changing table, one of us finishing up the diaper while the other took over to dress her. H talked about how the morning wasn’t chaotic, but calm. How we each knew what needed to be done and could flow in and out of tasks, picking up where the other left off, anticipating what the other needed, allowing space for each of us to have our own time.

“Like a flock of birds,” the therapist offered.

I saw us as a family, forming a simple V to take advantage of wind speeds, to share the burden of exhaustion. I saw us as part of a larger swirling vortex, executing swoops and turns on a dime. I saw us nestled in a tree at dusk, crowing as the sun goes down.

All of that opened up a feeling of unity, of ease, that I couldn’t name before.

And just as that image settled in, a flock of seagulls swooped past the office windows, the birds riding the wind in tandem.