To my firstborn at midnight.

To My Firstborn at Midnight

I wake you gently at midnight.

And you yawn and stretch,

Your mouth widening into the imperfect “O” I suddenly remember from years ago,

When your limbs were not so long, your sleep not so solid.

When you were still so small you fit in my arms. And we spent minutes and hours in the glow of the hall nightlight.

Your face, grown, is still yours.

And your crooked yawn is the same.

And I can’t quite believe how heavy you have become as I pick up your slack, warm, lanky body that smells like spit, and sweet sweat, and blankets.

And I am glad. And tired.

Because the middle of the quiet nights with you are mine alone.

It will be years until another person knows your midnight yawn.

For now, it is all mine.

 

 

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How quickly we forget…

A woman I know – a brand new mom – reached out on Facebook the other day to mention how much her world had been rocked by the arrival of her son.  She mentioned this without a positive or negative spin.  There was no whining or wonder, just a mom noting how much her life had changed and how much hard work parenting a newborn is.

Then came the responses. There were so many women telling her to enjoy her baby! Cherish these moments! Change is good! He is adorable! Welcome to your new normal!  Your life has been changed for the better! It is a love you’ve never known! Welcome to MY world – now you get it! You’ll miss these days when they’re gone!

Blarghggghhlll, these posts gave me reflux.

How do we forget so quickly?

Why does “We’ve done it, so can you.” sound so dismissive rather than supportive?

The subtext of so many of these types of comments seems unkind and unsupportive:

Enjoy your baby! (Stop whining. We’ve all been there.)

Cherish these moments! (Stop whining. Why dwell on the bad stuff?)

Change is good! (Stop whining. What did you expect?)

How do we forget that the newborn “new normal” is occasionally terrifying, always exhausting, and can throw a person completely off kilter, no matter how much they love the little milky, loose-skinned, froggy-legged baby asleep on their chest?

Smiling. And exhausted. June, 2010.

Smiling. And exhausted. June, 2010.

I think my poet friend’s response was best “You are doing it! And you can do it! ❤ ❤ ❤ No subtext.  Just support and love from another new mom who isn’t so far past that newborn world-rocking that she forgets what it is like.

Because it is so hard – it is bigger, more all-encompassing than that even.  And you just do it.  You get through the days, you get through the nights. You have good moments, bad ones, lots of tired ones.  You call in your village if you have one.  Or you call your village if they are far away.  Or you call your doctor.  You accept help, pay for it, ask for it, or struggle through without it.  You do it.  You just do.

June 2010. Pickle, Baby Bear and Me.

June 2010. Pickle, Baby Bear and Me.

I’m making a promise to myself that I’ll try my darnedest not to forget the feelings, the exhaustion, the crazy way the universe shifted completely when Pickle was born.  And I promise my friends that I’ll never demand that they cherish their baby and enjoy every damn moment.  I’ll just love them, remind them of their own strength, hold them up when they need me to and bring dinner when possible.

Admissions of a Tired Mom – Part Four

1. I rearranged the living room while the rest of my family was napping. Bad: I am way too old to do this alone. Good: my son thinks I might be directly related to Superman.

2. The other night, after a particularly hectic evening, I settled down for a decadent dinner of crackers, triple cream brie and a perfectly ripe pear. And my beverage pairing? Cherry Juicy Juice. For real. Who the hell have I become?!

cherry-juicy-juice

3. I’m pretty much over bacon, and I just can’t get on board with the weird trend of putting mustaches on everything. Baby onesies with mustaches on them? Why? Am I missing something? I must(ache) be missing something.

Carter's Mustache Print Bodysuit

Carter’s Mustache Print Bodysuit

4. When Pistachio was born, we removed a big-kid car seat and replaced it with his baby carrier seat. The big-kid car seat went into the garage with plans to put it back into service when Pistachio got big enough. Well, he got big enough. So I cleaned the seat cover and went to clean the rest of it when I noticed that an animal – who had probably discovered a yummy little food stash of goldfish and other crumbs – had chewed up the foam seat and the straps. Yuck.

On a related note: I received lovely and thoughtful Christmas gifts, but my favorite was probably the gift certificate to get the minivan interior detailed.

5. Sometimes, I have to look hard and think for a second before I can identify whose baby picture it is. And I have already forgotten what time each child was born. In my defense, I do know the general times of their births (Pickle was early morning, Plum was evening and Pistachio was midday). Just more evidence that I pushed out a bit of my brain each time I pushed out a baby.

Question Mark Clock from CafePress

Question Mark Clock from CafePress

Onward and upward! Stay warm and be happy!

Do your best with the rest.

There is so much to say, but I am unable to start. Like inhaling to begin my sentence, but pausing, breath held, until I simply exhale, rather than say anything. We are in that space in between, right now. Life in the ellipse, the pause in between, the search for the words. The pause to let the frenetic ticker-tape thoughts slow and drift and settle quietly.

*****

This morning, I thought I’d settle in this evening, carols and PJs on, and write a bit about a lovely suggestion written by a relative, George. George is navigating his new world where a family member’s scary, unexpected health emergency has prompted reflection of the most heartfelt kind. He wrote:

“Please let this experience remind you to hold the people you love (and who love you) close and tight as soon and as often as you can, taking nothing for granted. Appreciate that so much of life is completely beyond our control, and do your best with the rest.”

Appreciate that so much of life is completely beyond our control, and do your best with the rest.

*****

I rocked my Plum to sleep tonight. She was warm, heavy-lidded, and felt so big in my arms, transitioning from infant to little person in inches, pounds, sounds and teeth. My dear little person.

And, yes, I held her a little longer, a little tighter.

And I kissed her sticky cheek, acknowledging my luck, reminded, yet again, again, again, that we are all balancing on the lip of loss.

*****

The crazy man I saw on the corner the other day, the one who was watching his own parade, or bike race, or procession as I considered locking my car doors, someone had rocked him, too. He was somebody’s baby. And someone soothed him, fed him, sung to him. Someone had kissed his sticky cheek, and filled their heart with hopes and wishes just for him.

We are all somebody’s baby. Perhaps we don’t all get everything we need, but I am certain, that to get here, we were all quietly rocked, fed, warmed, our hair smoothed gently at least once. At least once.

All of those little blossoming people who were probably so excited for Santa.

All of those adults, with pasts, presents, futures, people who loved them, people they loved.

And the shooter, too. He was somebody’s baby, too.

We forget that. We forget that we all begin, and are at base, fragile and temporary. But this reminds us like an electric shock, a punch to the ribs. And as we pull those we love closer, tighter, we look for walls to build, or armor to wear. I wish that even in our fear and sadness we would also remember that we are more alike than we are different. That our duty is to each other. Even if life is scary and unfair. Because it is both.

We are all somebody’s baby.

*****

George was right. And it bears repeating: so much of life is completely beyond our control.

But the rest. We get to do our best with the rest. Even when our hearts are breaking, even when our worlds are crumbling, even when we are knocked off our balance on that lip.

Hug your babies a little bit tighter tonight. And by “your babies,” I mean all of us, each of us. Because that is how we do our best with the rest.

Dressed for Success.

“Never make yourself uglier than you are.”

Oh, Grandma Hazel, you really had a way with words. I suspect what you were trying to say (to my mother, who still recounts this quote 20 years after your death) is that you’ve got to work with what you’ve got, highlight your best features, and as my friend Dr. Scottie would say, “Shake what your mama gave you!”

But babies, kiddos, Mr. Pickle, Miss Plum, you are unfortunately at the mercy of your parents and their tastes for several years.  That means Mr. Pickle, thanks to your dad, you will forever wear t-shirts emblazoned with the names of colleges and universities your parents and relatives did not attend.  Your father will also occasionally dress you in stripes and plaids at the same time without mom noticing until we’re already at school.  Miss Plum, this means you will forever be without socks, because, excepting a few lovely pairs, your mom is pretty much anti-sock.  And you will be forced to endure too many outfits with strawberries on them, because, well, your mom doesn’t quite know why she loves these so much, she just does.

I can’t promise you’ll be the best dressed, but I can promise you that I will try not to put you in outfits that will make people laugh at you unkindly, pull their children away from you (or me) in fear and embarrassment, and/or make people question my sanity and fitness to parent.

Outfits like these

… and these are the tame ones (all from Cafepress).  Goodness, some of the onesies featured in this Huffington slideshow are so incredibly tasteless they make me blush. I am always amazed by the things other people think are funny.

So Plum and Pickle, I promise I will try to always remember that you are your own (little) people, and not simply extensions of me, or the way I want others to see me.

Love,

Mom

Steak and Connections

I am a sniffly mess, so I avoided work today (who wants a sneezy, drippy co-worker spraying germs everywhere?) and worked from home. Kind of.  I also took myself out to lunch.  I needed a steak.  I brought my work, and was surprisingly productive.

There was a couple at the table next to me – two women, and a brand new little baby.  It is my luck and my curse that I meet people wherever I go.  We started chatting.  And I walked out of that restaurant 45 minutes later knowing that this meeting was not something I was going to forget – knowing it would be on my mind for days. My heart was touched.

They weren’t a couple, they were friends out for a birthday lunch.  Rebecca was married with kids.  Cara was not.  The little boy was Rebecca’s.  He was just beautiful, bright-eyed, calm and perfect.  He was her 5th child.  She had had 4 biological children, and had miscarried twice – at 18 and 20 weeks.  Her youngest, Ben, had been born with microcephaly – basically, his brain had never developed.  They hadn’t had any ultrasounds – by choice, not by circumstance – but she had had an inkling that something wasn’t quite right.  He was expected to live only days.  He lived 8 years.  He died 12 days after my own little boy was born.

During his life, Ben’s medical needs were great.  He spent long periods in the hospital, care was needed 24 hours a day. When he died, Rebecca signed up to provide foster care for medically fragile kiddos.  She had the experience, and the desire.  Five weeks ago she got the call – only it wasn’t exactly what she was expecting.  There was a baby available – for adoption.  He had been born at a local hospital, and mom and dad left after delivery.  He was considered a Safe Haven baby – under state law here, babies up to 7 days old can be left at any hospital, church, police or fire station.  He was the first Safe Haven baby in my state in 20 years.

With one day’s notice, Rebecca and her family had a new family member.  And he is amazing.  Given the crazy circumstances surrounding his birth, she is certain her little boy Ben had a hand in it. I’m not big on fate.  But I do believe it is our connections with one another that make us the most human.

I left with my heart full but heavy.  I am sick, I am pregnant, it is raining.  Thoughts spun around in my head.  I thought about miscarriages and held my breath and tried to feel the carbonation kicks in my belly that I started feeling a week ago. I thought about our upcoming ultrasound, and all of the things that can go wrong. I thought about the depth of a mom’s love – caring for her little boy every minute of his short life.  I thought about another mom’s love – knowing she was unequipped or simply unable to give her little boy the life she thought he deserved – the strength and cowardice it took to walk out of that hospital.  I thought about how families are created, how they are strengthened, how they can nearly fall apart.  And I felt lucky, not only for the boy, baby, husband, family, friends and life that I have, but also for those small connections that show us the best in each other and join us to one another.

Kiss My Kitsch!

When I think about adding another baby to the mix, I imagine the craziness, I worry about the cost, I remember the sleepless nights.  But then I stop myself and remember what it is like to be the only one awake in a dark, quiet house, rocking a sweet-smelling (usually) little human being in my arms.  Watching the eyelids flutter, looking at the little bowed mouth, hearing the soft breaths.

I’m chalking it up to the hormones, because I’m typically not a fan of anything that looks good in cross stitch, but I like this old house-wifey poem from the 1950’s.  I’m not particularly domestic, but it is a nice reminder of what is important (baby) and what is not (dusting).  And it reminds me of the hours and hours I spent rocking my little one, when I had 4 million other things I could/should have been doing.

Song for a Fifth Child by Ruth Hulbert Hamilton

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking!

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).

The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep…

(Printed in Lady’s Home Journal, 1958)