I’ve often described your birthday as a national holiday in the country of motherhood, because it feels huge and spectacular.
The story of your birth is like a legend to me. I tell it often, and although it may bore others after the 47th time, it is always magical to me. I remember how it felt to walk the neighborhood with amniotic fluid dripping down my legs, surprised at how it didn’t stop flowing. It was the first of many surprises motherhood would bring my way.
Tonight, on the eve of your birthday, I told you about how when a mama is pregnant, the baby floats in a sack of waters, and how sometimes when the waters break, it means baby is on the way.
“That’s so weird sounding,” you said. “Water breaking.” You walked off to play legos, unimpressed.
I labored for 22 hours with you. Most of it was very peaceful. Since my contractions didn’t start on their own after my water broke (an expression which forever after will sound weird to me), I had to be induced. The artificial chemicals caused me a lot of pain. I was tired and I could tell people started to worry that I would end up with a C-Section (that’s another lesson for another day). I begged for an epidural, and within an hour of getting it, was fully dilated and ready to push you out.
I pushed for a little over two hours. It was two of the most focused, intense hours of my life. It seemed like just minutes. It seemed like I was deep inside of my own body, with you, helping you to find your way out of me.
You came out squished, with your head elongated and cone-shaped from being in my birth canal for so long, but as I grabbed you, snatched you to my chest, I sobbed, “He’s so beautiful,” over and over and over.
I couldn’t imagine ever feeling anything other than mystical love and adoration of you.
I couldn’t imagine that I would be so tired and so hopelessly depressed with post partum hormones that I would want to leave you on the steps of the church across the street, or sell you on the internet. I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be to leave you at daycare when I went back to work, how I cried until my face looked deformed, how I felt like an incomplete person to be apart from you.
I couldn’t imagine how you would test every nerve in my psyche with your strong will and fierce independence. I couldn’t imagine how you would make me swell with laughter and pride when you made your first smile, took your first steps, or made your first jokes.
Nothing could have prepared me for your otherworldly wisdom, your past life regressions, and your fiery temper. No one could have warned me how scary it would be and how much I would worry about your heart and soul.
I had no clue you would become so tall so quickly. That you would be a brown belt in karate. That you would be fascinated by science. That you would be such a picky eater. That you would be so incredibly sensitive.
I had no clue how much you would be like me, and how much that would challenge and frighten me every day.
I had not an inkling how hard it would be to be a mom, to be YOUR mom, to juggle everything we would both need and want.
You came to the bare skin of my chest that August night wired with your own personality, your unique intensity, your distinct weight and volume in the universe. I’ve tried to shape and help you, and I always will. But I have also learned to respect that you are your own. For as much as I will always love you, you do not belong to me. And maybe that is the scariest part of being a mom.
Before bed tonight, I hugged you close, felt the solidity of you in my arms. I didn’t tell you that a part of me wanted to cry, wanted to go out and shake all the bats from the trees in the summer night with my wailing. I just held you and patted you and felt how different and new you feel in my arms as you grow.
And I think that’s the thing.
I think that’s the part that makes me want to cry– every time I embrace you, you are a new person and it is like the first time I ever clutched you to my breast, weeping for your beauty. It’s a mixture of joy and sorrow that is every bit as strange and individual as you are, my son.
So here’s to your ninth birthday. The last year you will spend in single digits. Here’s to hugs and legos, starbursts and peanut butter sandwiches. Here’s to Doritos and learning to canoe, swimming with friends and Harry Potter.
Here’s to you. Here’s to you and me, even on days when it is kind of hard and when we both feel frustrated and scared.
Happy birthday, Sunny Boy.
I love you,
A while back, I mused about what would become of my breasts when I was done nursing my youngest of my two children, Emily.
Emily weaned completely about six months ago, shortly after her fourth birthday.
Weaning had been a very long process for us that took close to two years, as Emily slowed her nursing sessions to twice per day, and then only to once per day either in the morning or before bed.
I had wanted weaning to be a gradual and mutual decision. I didn’t want it to be traumatic for either of us. The beginning of my nursing relationship with Emily had been very traumatic as I suffered extreme nipple damage and had to really fight to keep my supply and the nursing relationship between my baby and myself.
Initially, I felt robbed of the “perfect” nursing experience with my daughter. I’d had tons of struggles and antenatal depression with my first child, and had ended up needing to supplement with formula with him.
Although I am beyond thankful that all was well that ended well with my son, when I was pregnant with Em, I was really committed to the idea of exclusively nursing. I felt certain that I had been better educated on breastfeeding due to the trial and error with my son, and that everything would go off without a hitch.
My confidence was shattered shortly after Emily’s birth when my nipples became mangled as a result of her tongue tie. For 11 weeks, I battled a nipple wound that would not heal. Finally we got things sorted out, but my supply never got back to what it needed to be to be able to pump milk for her to have upon my return to my job at 12 weeks after her birth.
I took a huge amount of comfort in the fact that she continued to nurse whenever she was with me, and that she almost always refused the bottle at daycare and then would reverse cycle all night with me. Sure I was tired, but I was thrilled that we were not having to supplement with very much formula, and that Emily was such a champion nurser.
Eventually, I accepted that while our relationship was not what I could label “perfect” from the get go, it ended up being pretty amazing and sweet.
And it endured much longer than I thought it would.
My son had weaned completely at 23 months. Like I said, we’d had to supplement him with formula, but he continued to nurse first thing in the morning with me until one morning he woke up, asked for milk in a cup and that was that.
I don’t remember having any truly intense feelings related to this weaning. Sure it was bittersweet, but it was not devastating in any way. And as a first-time mom, I was thrilled I’d been able to milk it out to nearly two years (pun intended!).
I had figured Em would wean around the same time. But she didn’t. She turned two and then three and still loved her milky cuddles with mama. Around the time she turned three, we started talking about what it would be like for her to not nurse anymore. Long story longer, she went another whole year and was still occasionally nursing when she turned four.
Then she stopped.
It was so gradual. It was almost unnoticeable.
To be honest with you, I don’t really think about it all that often.
Until I do think about it and then it is difficult to stop thinking about it.
A client came to my office with her toddler a while back. The child grew fussy, and she surprised me by offering him her breast, which he eagerly took and settled right down. It was absolutely the most natural and graceful thing to watch. I told her how thrilled I was that she was nursing her toddler, but the image stayed with me throughout the day and into the night along with a feeling of deep sorrow.
It had been the first time I’d seen a mom nursing since I weaned Emily.
And this is going to sound crazy, but I felt an actual physical sensation in my breasts like I used to feel when my milk let down. But it was different. It was like the shadow of that let down sensation, and I felt bereft. It was like my boobs actually felt sad.
When you are bonding and nursing with a new baby, your body creates oxytocin which is the chemical that signals the need to produce milk. It also creates a drowsy, sweet, loving feeling between you and your baby, which for me also extended to the world at large.
So, when I saw this mom nursing, it was like I got a surge of oxytocin but there was no milk and no baby to nurse. I went home and felt the need to give Emily and Jack extra cuddles.
I think about how I am no longer nursing at other weird times too. Like when I went to the pharmacy and was browsing the antacids and realized that I could take alka-seltzer again. It used to be my go-to remedy before pregnancy and nursing, but it has aspirin in it so you can’t use it during the aforementioned times. So I purchased it with a mix of hey-this-is-awesome and hey-this-is-super-sad.
I’m bummed about weaning in a lot of ways. It makes me sad to not have that connection with another human any longer. It is a reminder that children grow so quickly and things change faster than you can ever imagine. I also blame the ten pound weight gain on weaning, as well as some of my hormonal shifts and mood swings. . . although I realize those should be well regulated by now.
There is no going backwards in life.
And as I continue marching forward, I am having trouble trying to figure out what to do with these floppy appendages that seem to be a permanent DDD cup size now and give me back and neck pain. They are like an accessory that has gone out of style, only I can’t pack them away into the back of my closet or toss them in the junk drawer.
Once upon a time, they were pert and pretty. They attracted people and were objects of potential sexual pleasure. Then I had kids and they became vehicles of nurturance and nutrition.
About a week after I had Jack, I developed a urinary tract infection and went to a doctor. She was excited to hear that I was breastfeeding and shared that she had nursed her kids and it had been a great experience for her.
“But your breasts are ruined for sex forever,” She had mused. “They become like these tube socks with golf balls at the end.”
Well. . .
I guess mine are more like balloons with permanently erect, frozen peas at the end, so her very lucid description was a bit off there. But she was right about one thing– my boobs are of no use for my sex life anymore. There is a cognitive dissonance that these soft things that Emily still likes to pat and rub her face on could be used for anything other than bringing comfort to my babies.
So, I guess it is a blessing my husband is an ass man. Anyway, I digress. . .
Six months after weaning Emily, and I am still wondering what will become of my breasts now that I am done nursing. I’m trying to figure out how I feel about them, and what to do about the sense of sadness and loss.
At the end of the day I am very proud and content with the nursing relationships I had with both Emily and Jack. They were conflicted and diverse, but they were filled with love. Even as my boobs feel sad that it isn’t something I’ll ever share again with another human, I am grateful for the experiences I did have breastfeeding.
What was your weaning experience like? Did you experience any hormonal shifts or depression with weaning? Talk to me in the comments below. I love to hear from you! And please feel free to share my post on social media, or with other nursing/weaning moms in your life. xoxo and momaste!
If you have a husband or partner who really nails it on holidays or birthdays, you may have even sampled some of this thing in the form of a yoga class or massage.
If you are independently wealthy, you may have experienced “free time” by being able to hire a babysitter to stay with your brood while you go do something “just for you.”
If you are like me, and are just trying nonstop to keep your shit together on a moment to moment basis, you likely do not get near enough of time for yourself.
Going grocery shopping sans kinder, or listening to music in the car on my commute to/from work, or emptying my bladder/bowels alone (yeah, right!), is about the closest I get to “me time” these days.
So, when I heard one co-worker complaining to another co-worker that I never made good on the casual (read: extremely casual) offer I made to go out to dinner two years ago, I got a little defensive.
I’m an introvert. There’s been a lot of stuff written about us innies in the past few years, and it has helped me to realize that “down time” is a crucial factor for my well-being. Working as a social worker is a job that requires a shit-ton of extroversion and it is redonkulously exhausting for me. Then I go home and have hugging/dinner/bathing/snuggling/stories/bedtime/all the various and sundry duties of a mama. It is my life, and I try not to complain about it because it is what I chose and I am incredibly blessed in it. But the reality of this amazing life I chose is that it is highly demanding, stressful, and just plain tiring.
Some days it is really hard for me to not look at people who are talking to me and just say to them, “Leave. Me. The. Fuck. Alone.”
I’d kind of like to start a Go Fund Me campaign, but instead of donating money, people could donate units of time for me to just spend as I please. Seriously, I think that is a great idea. It’s right up there with the napping café my husband would like to start for sleep deprived parents who would pay just about anything for a half hour snooze.
I realize that people without children do not like being told that they don’t understand what it is like to have kids. I don’t want to hurt or offend anyone’s feelings here, but my childless friends just don’t get it. It is just soooo hard to get anything done outside of work/children/house/marriage.
It really just isn’t that easy to make plans outside of my home right now. My kids are both still little, and require lots of time and attention. It is really hard to be away from them all week, but then the weekend comes and it is really hard for us to all be together all weekend.
Because I really just want to be left alone. Not forever. Just long enough to catch my breath, blog a bit, and do a few yoga poses.
People, like my disgruntled coworker, will ask why I can’t just leave my kids with the hubz and go out for dinner. Well, it isn’t really that easy. There is a delicate balance. My kids are at stages right now (three and seven) where they need lots of one on one, and they don’t naturally get along that great with one another because they are at such different places developmentally. So there is a lot of “divide and conquer” in our family. Neither my husband or myself really want to be left alone with the children, especially at delicate times of the day, like dinner or bedtime, which is when my footloose and fancy free pals usually want to hang.
I don’t mean to be bitchy, but it makes me feel all annoyed that people want to make additional demands on my already precious time. That’s another part of being an introvert for me; it makes me nutty when I feel I am not living up to what people want from me. I mean, I haven’t made time to go out with my best friend in the past two years. Mercifully, she also has two small ones and understands my plight without judgment.
So, if you happen to have a friend who is an overworked mama, cut her some slack, especially if she is an introvert. She likely is not avoiding your invitations and is just struggling to carve out a little time to keep her sanity.
In the mean time, if you happen to have some secret stash of “free time” that you would like to share with me, I will be accepting donations.
We’ve opened our windows to enjoy the natural ventilation. And I’m terrified my children are going to fall out of said open windows.
What the crap is wrong with me?
I proudly named my baby blog, Momaste, back in the day with the idea I would write about becoming a mindful, Buddhist mother in this hectic workaday culture.
So, how’s THAT goin’ for ya’, Charlotte? My snarky brain wonders.
Sure, I did write some posts inspired by Pema Chodron, hero of compassionate loving-kindness, and seriously, I’ve learned a lot along the way. But in all honesty, it would feel a lot less fraudulent on my part if I had named dear old bloggy, Mama’s Ramblings About Being An Anxious Mess.
But that just seems kind of cumbersome.
Isn’t as cute, and doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as nicely as, “Momaste! The Mom in me bows to the Mom in you!” You get the picture.
Anyway, I think Pema would tell me that it is okay to be an anxious mess and to be scared of coyotes attacking my kids or having them fall out of our deliciously ventilated home. Being an anxious mess and being mindful and being a decent person/mom/social worker/wife aren’t all mutually exclusive. And so forth. (And yes, I do fancy myself to be on first name basis with Pema Chodron. . . but I digress.)
I have a colleague who says it is a researched fact that as a mom you only have to be “good enough” 30% of the time and your kid will turn out okay. I’m cereal you guys. 30%. This is like empirical-evidence-based shit.
Thirty fucking percent.
I don’t know about you, but this fact makes me breathe a huge sigh of relief.
I’d like to think, even, that more often than not, I’m actually giving it more than 30%. I bet you are too. Even on that day I almost popped a vocal cord screaming at the kids because my last nerve was frayed from their fighting with one another, I can honestly say the whole rest of the day I gave it about 63%.
I don’t suppose any of us get up in the morning and set our bar at 30%. In fact, I’d wager that on any given day we set our bars way higher. Maybe we set them unrealistically high and then beat ourselves up a bit when we feel like we have not met our quotas for Awesome-Mommyness.
Being a mom is so much harder than I ever dreamed it possibly would be. Being mindful is great, and then it is also really exhausting because sometimes I just want things to go my freaking way without having to breathe and accept every unanticipated, unwieldy, noisy, messy snafu.
My children mystify me with their glimmering complexities. They are my own creations I grew in my own tummy, and yet they are totally their own people. They mystify me most of all for having chosen me for their mom.
I wonder if I’ll ever know what I’m doing. I wonder if I’ll ever do them justice.
I try pretty hard.
Sometimes I lose my temper. Sometimes I am too tired to sing one more song or read one more story. Sometimes I cop out on nutrition and go through a drive through. Sometimes I want to drive to the beach by myself, or go to a bookstore by myself, or spend money on a mani-pedi and Bare Mineral cosmetics rather than buying organic groceries.
I worry so much about my children. Sometimes the worries are grounded in reality– like, why does Jack do the stuff he does, or why is my three year old daughter already coveting another child’s hair? Other times, my anxiety is just hovering around me like a hot air balloon, distracting my periphery with shadows and making me think there are dangers lurking that will reach out and snatch at my babies.
Don’t even get me started on the fear that a rabid bat will bite them in their sleep.
I was expressing my worry to my colleague the other day, and she said, “Don’t worry. There is nothing you can do by worrying anyway. It’ll all be fine.”
“Yeah, but,” I said, “That right there is my worry! That I should be doing something else, something more, something different to make life better for my kids.”
“You’re doing just wonderfully,” she said, adding the bit about the 30%.
And you know what? For a moment, I believed her. I mean she is an expert in this early child development stuff. Come to think of it, so am I. . . PLUS, I am the expert on my own children.
So why the heck am I always so insecure about my mothering?
It’s just about time to celebrate Mother’s Day. I have mixed feelings every year about this Hallmark holiday. This year, whatever the day brings (which will probably be chaotic as I manage my own brood and obligations to celebrate my own mother and mother in law), I plan to remember how awesome I am, even when things feel overwhelming or frustrating.
This will be my gift to myself. It might not be a 90 minute, full-body massage, but it really is a treasure.
Have a wonderful Mother’s Day, doing whatever it is you do. Celebrate you and revel in that sweet, sweet 30% that you have met and exceeded on so many occasions. Because, really, you’re doing awesome. Keep that shit up.
We are all the experts on our own children, even when it might not feel that way.
And even though my blog is the ramblings of an anxious mess most of the time, the mom in me really does bow to and honor the mom in you. Momaste.
(I’ll get you the reference for that 30% citation at some point. . . but I’m tired at the mo, and only have about 27% to give to this post. . . xoxoxo… )
There’s this app called Timehop. Have you used it? You install it on your device, then authorize it to cull through your photos, Tweets, status updates, Instagrams, etc.
While staying mindfully present in the present usually helps me stay sane, sometimes it is a fun diversion to take a trip back in time. We live in an era where we capture every good meal, each wacky moment, and any new make up trick or hair-do on digital devices, so there is no shortage of memories at our finger tips. My Timehops take me back over the past six or so years I’ve been on social media, and treat me to photos and status updates regarding my children and family– usually the highs and lows of parenting, but sometimes the perfectly mundane.
This morning, Emily and I are hanging out at home, waiting to leave for her well-child physical which for reasons I can’t recall, I scheduled in the middle of the morning on a work/school day. Whatever. It is nice to be able to take a few moments off from “life” to cuddle and play with my bubbly three year old doll.
My phone prompted me to check out my Timehop, and so I did, while Em watched Curious George operate a subway train.
Modern technology treated me to two of my all time favorite family photos and memories this morning, and they were of a couple of those perfectly mundane moments that are the exact stuff a good life is made of.
They were both “selfies”. The first was one of my children, my husband, and me from a snow day last year. We were all rolling around and playing on the floor, and I happened to hold up my phone at just the right moment. I captured us all looking a bit wild and messy, smiling so hard we were all almost squinting at the camera. It was just a perfect moment. We were all so happy, cooped up in the house on a stormy day, but at that exact moment, getting along with one another.
For what it’s worth, life as a working mom in our society is far from perfect or ideal. We do our best, but there are still so many moments of struggle, confusion, and a deep sense of inadequacy. I never feel like I am doing anything right or “good enough,” or like my kids are growing up happy or well-adjusted. I’m not around enough for them, and when I am, I am usually exhausted, overwhelmed, and frazzled. But this. . . this was such a sweet moment I caught with my stupid, distracting phone.
It only lasted a couple moments, and was most likely chased by moments of frustration with the children fighting, and me losing my cool. Yeah, that happens often enough that I could break the internet if I posted about every single one of those moments. I’m so glad I captured this moment because it was just pure love. And in the end, that is the important stuff.
The other Timehop offering that delighted me this morning, was a picture from three years ago today that I snapped of me and Emily. We had found a cozy moment after nursing and were taking a nap together. I happened to hold up my phone and got a photo of our profiles, nuzzled together in repose. It is actually a photo I keep on my desk at work, so I see it every day, but it never fails to make me smile and sigh. It was one of the most peaceful and lovely moments of my life with my darling little daughter, snuggled safely in my arms, her tiny tummy warm and full with mama milk.
In the end, Timehop is really “the highlight reel.” You know, the photos that reflect all of the great stuff and make our Facebook timelines look like we all have our shit together? I have a weird resentment for highlight reels that tend to taunt us into thinking everyone else’s life is going so much better than ours, like everyone else is eating better sushi, enjoying bigger cocktails, getting better presents, and riding in nicer cars. It is interesting to me how we chose to present ourselves on social media, and how we measure ourselves by the presentations of others. . . but according to Timehop, I do it too.
And my highlights are pretty freaking sweet.
So, it kind of makes me feel like, hmmm, I guess I have it pretty good and should be happy with what I have, rather than envying the good stuff of others. In a weird way, it brings me back to the present, and helps me to feel grounded and thankful with where I am.
It also makes me realize, shit, this time goes FAST!
I’m sure our obsession with our phones and snapping photos every two seconds will come back to bite us all on the ass. I have a lot of photos that I wish I hadn’t taken because I wish I had just been more present in that moment, and actually LIVED it as opposed to merely RECORDING it. You know what I mean?
But these two moments are ones I am glad I got physical proof of.
Do you use Timehop? How do you feel it affects your sense of your life, and being mindful in the present?
I am grateful for the horrendous behavior my son had at bedtime because it means he is alive and feisty, and it means I am a mom.
I am also grateful my husband handled said tantrum and said bedtime.
I am grateful for the bickering my husband and I did this morning over who would mail the mortgage payment. Our relationship is always strong enough to handle silly arguments. I am grateful I can drop it, go to work, and come home to start fresh with him, even after we have been fresh with one another.
While I am on the subject, I am grateful to have made my first mortgage payment, and grateful I will have the opportunity to make many more. It means we have a wonderful home of our own, and it means we have the finances, however meager, to afford a sturdy roof over our heads.
I am grateful for the plumbing, and heating, and painting, and lighting problems we have already experienced because it allowed for us to get creative solving problems, to see how supported we are by family. It also allowed me to see my husband shine in his new role as master of the house for the first time.
I am grateful I have learned that no one is all good, and that no one is all bad. This knowledge helps to temper my relationships with humanity.
I am grateful for the gigantic, purple bruise I have on my back from falling down the cellar stairs the other day. All that blood under my skin is a sign I am alive and my body is doing what it needs to do to heal.
I am grateful for my daughter’s presence in my life, how she came to me when I fell and brought me the tiny ice pack, offered me hugs and kisses, put her hands on my thighs and said, “I’m here with you, Mama.” This moment was such a blessing, despite the pain in my back, because it offered me a glimpse of her gentle nature, and was a tiny reflection of the nurture I have poured into her.
I am grateful for piles of dirty laundry that I will wash and fold and make sweet and clean for my family because it means we have fun, funky threads to keep our bodies warm as the weather cools, and clean water with which to do our wash in the comfort of our own home. I am grateful for my husband’s assistance in this and many other chores.
I am grateful for the traffic tonight because I got to listen to music in solitude, and to relish private memories hidden therein.
I am grateful for the company of Regina Spektor, Peter Gabriel, the Cure, Iron and Wine, George Michael, Zap Mama, Tori Amos, Alanis Morissette, Florence and the Machine, Ingrid Michaelson, Erykah Badu, Ani Difranco, Bon Iver, Dido, and so many others who have been with me in moments of joy and darkness.
I am grateful for the crowds in the grocery store because it means people are getting stuff to nourish their bodies and to spend time with their own. I am grateful for the eye contact and smile of the grocery clerk who rang up my last minute purchases with good cheer.
I am grateful for all my friends who complain about the rain, the cold, the wind, the sleet, the heat. I am happy to hear their weather woes because it means there is nothing more tragic in their lives.
I am grateful for my familial squabbles because it offers me an opportunity (if I so chose to accept) to deepen bonds and mend ways.
I am grateful for the anxiety I will feel over going to family events for holidays because I have lived with anxiety forever and it makes me realize how strong I am and how far I have come in being able to tolerate it.
I am grateful for the food I will eat, for the wine I will drink, for the multiple desserts I will savor (just because they are there and amazing!). I am grateful for how sick and lazy I will feel afterwards because it is truly a blessing to be so decadent.
I am grateful for the memories of those no longer with me, weather because they have passed beyond the veil, or because we are out of touch, or because we have fallen out of each other’s graces because the grief of a loss is always in proportion to love.
And love is everything.
I am grateful for love.
That I can feel it.
That I can make it.
That I can share it.
That I can say, thank you, I love you.
I am grateful for this, and this, and everything.
Big love and blessings to you and yours from Momaste.