Hard

Many thanks to all of you for the kind and understanding comments left on my last post.  They were chicken soup, and a sunny Seattle day, and a warm ocean breeze, for my soul. I’m so glad that I didn’t take that post down, as I considered doing just after I hit Publish. I needed to say what I did and I needed to hear what you had to say. So thank you.

A week later, the worst of it has passed and now that we’re on the other side, I feel somewhat silly for reacting as I did and the dark days I endured seem hardly worth mentioning. Crying toddlers. Sleepless nights. Fussy babies. And preschoolers who push your buttons. That’s what every mother endures. So why on earth did it feel so HARD? Some days when I think of it, I feel weak. Some days, I just feel human.

Regardless, it’s over. And I can see now in the light of day that what I lost sight of then is that none of this is forever. When Skittle was crying for no reason at all and Poppy suddenly was waking in the wee hours of the morning, after a month or more of sleeping until 10am every day, our home felt in chaos and I couldn’t anticipate if it would ever go back to the way it was before all hell broke loose. I was scared that a few nights of difficult sleep meant the tides had turned and I would never sleep again.

But that’s not how this mothering thing goes. Sometimes (like, most of the time, especially if you’re me and you don’t have a relaxed bone in your body and try to keep some sort of order with three kids who don’t give a sh*t about order), something is really hard. And then it stops being hard, either because you get used to it or because the problem goes away, and then it feels easy. It feels like you’re rocking motherhood. You get a little cocky. And then you get slapped across the face because something gets really hard again. And often, this hard thing is different from the last hard thing and the hard thing before that. And sometimes, on a really unlucky day or week or year, all the hard things happen at once. And then you nearly punch a hole in the wall because you go crazy with the stress of it all. And then everything gets better and you get a second to breathe before something gets hard again. But mostly, even with those moments of fresh air and rest, it’s hard. Motherhood is hard.

But it’s also a blessing. It’s a gift. A treasure.

And it’s easy to forget that when you’re knee-deep in the crappy parts of it, but that’s okay. We’re allowed to forget. Even if we prayed for our babies. Even if we fought through months and months of trying, and tears, and drugs, and ultrasounds. Even if we lost a baby. Even if we thought we may never get to hold this baby who is now driving us crazy. It’s okay to forget that, once upon a time, we would have given our right arm and our big toe to be going through this.

Because when it’s over, when we get to take that big breath and perhaps a big gulp of wine, we remember. We remember where we came from. We remember how lucky we are. And we are ever more thankful, and ever more committed to doing better and to showing our children how grateful for them we are.

Motherhood is really hard. As is life.

But good God, I sure am glad I get to experience them both.

Confessions: Drowning

Note: This is a very raw, honest post, written in reflection of how I felt at a very low point in this week. I feel good now, but also know more hard days will always be ahead. Please be kind in the comments.

He’s asleep in my arms, his sweet, bald baby head resting on my bare chest. He’s milk-drunk and sighing heavily in his sleep. There’s music on the radio and his big sisters dance, tiptoe, twirl, and giggle their way across the living room floor while I sit and watch, enjoying this quiet, perfect moment in time. To an outsider, some stranger standing on our porch and peering through the kitchen window, we must look straight out of some made-for-TV movie, happy and carefree and living everyone’s idyllic fantasy.

But what no one knows is that, this week, I have yelled at these children. All three of them. I have yelled, screamed, cried, sobbed, begged God, prayed, and swore silently and aloud to whoever would listen. Maybe because we were sick last week, or because it’s almost a full moon, or because of some other unknown force at work, we have been a disaster here for days now. Every last one of us. My five-year-old is doing everything in her power to make the rest of us miserable, snatching toys from her sister just because she can, running from the room as soon as she realizes I’m going to ask for her to grab me a burp rag, just generally being an impolite, insufferable little brat. My two-year-old, sweet, gentle angel that she is, has become a wailing, viscious she-devil who flings her bowl of applesauce across the room at breakfast and lunch because she doesn’t want me going to the bathroom while she eats. And the baby? Poor, defenseless, snot-nosed little thing whom I was just bragging about because he sleeps from 10pm to 10am every day? Well, he is proving to the world what a comedian he is as he now wakes at all hours of the night, screaming at the top of his lungs, and then refuses anything more than a thirty-minute nap during the day.

And I have lost my mind over it. I have said to the baby, “Well, you’re just going to have to cry because I’m not picking you up this time,” even though I didn’t mean it. I have wished away all the years ahead of me of hugs by chubby arms and toddler lips saying, “Me love MomMom” just so that they would grow up and all this madness could be over with. I have thrown more than one adult tantrum. The rage that I have felt has scared me. I could have hurt my children. I didn’t — thank God, I knew enough to stop myself before I reached that point — but I could have. I wanted to. And afterwards, as I rocked our sweet baby boy to sleep yet again, I said to my husband, “This is how it happens. This is how babies get shaken or thrown across a room. Parents just can’t take anymore.” I understood.

I hate myself for that. I hate that I understand. I hate that I can’t handle as much as I thought I could, and that I reached my breaking point so quickly. Have I bitten off more than I can chew? I wonder. And what about the fourth baby that I yearn for? The fourth, and maybe the fifth and sixth? (Because even at the lowest point, I’m still thinking ahead. Still wanting more.) How do moms do this? Is it just me? Am I the only one flailing in these choppy waters of parenthood?

There are days when I hate this mothering gig. I know I shouldn’t. My ovaries don’t work and we fought so damn hard to get here, to have three children call us “MomMom” and “Daaaaaad.” I should be thankful. I should soak it in. I should cherish every moment of it. And I do. Mostly. When it’s good, it’s good. The kids sleep and snuggle and laugh and say “Thank you” on cue. We go to the zoo and the park and read “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” and eat unbaked cookie dough. I take photos (lots and lots of photos) and the kids smile and we put the photo in a frame and we remember the good times with warmth and a lot of love.

But the good times don’t make the bad times any easier. The kids scream or cry all at once. My girls won’t share. Someone is up all night, needing me. No one likes what I put on the dinner table. The baby requires constant bouncing, wiggling, tickling, and rocking all day long, day after day after day. And over and over again, I trip over a tornado of toys and swear I’m going to throw every last one of them in the trash because I just can’t stand the thought of picking up one more Disney princess figurine or itty-bitty lego. I’m tired and in over my head. At the worst of times, that’s the truth: I am in way over my head. I’m drowning. And there’s no going back. No, undoing this. No fixing it. Somehow, I just have to suck in a lungful of oxygen when I can and keep doggie-paddling and hope that’s enough.

But here’s what I fear: It’s not. Surviving isn’t thriving. It’s not enough. Not for my kids and not for me. I’m a failure. I’m defeated. I’m weak. My kids deserve better. All the ugly things I tell myself…the list is long. I’m a bad person. There’s something wrong with me. I should be punished. I am worthless. It gets worst and worst.

And yet, behind each one, there is another voice. The voice of reason. What I hope is the voice of truth. A whispered echo of hope and redemption that says:

Tomorrow is a new day.

Tomorrow, you can do better.

And I will. Or at least, I will try.

I will always try.

3 Months Old

As of two weeks and one day ago, Poppy is three months old. The 4th trimester is over! We survived! Except, it hardly feels as though we’ve moved on from survival mode since this baby would much rather be in our arms or on our laps than sit politely (and quietly) elsewhere. All. Day. Long.

But he does sleep through the night. In 12-hour stretches. So there’s that.

I really shouldn’t complain.

And there are other wonderful things about Poppy too:

  • He smiles more than any other baby I’ve ever known.
  • He loves people — being held by them, yes. But also spoken to, sung to, smiled at, and tickled by them. And he loves to watch them curiously as they go about their business. Please just don’t ignore him for too long.
  • He looks at his big sis, Cupcake, with such wide-eyed reverence, as though she herself hung the moon and stapled each star into the sky.
  • He has loud, squealing giggle fits in the evenings. It’s possibly the cutest thing to happen ever.
  • And those soft, pinchable cheeks! Who can resist them?

#Microblog Mondays: Wishful Thinking

Tomorrow, an old professor of mine will be coming for a visit. He and his wife are in town, passing through after weeks of travel in Asia, and asked to stop by. My husband and I first met in this professor’s class long ago (almost exactly ten years ago if we want to talk specifics) and he came to our wedding. He is a bit of an odd duck, but he is very dear to us.

But suddenly, I am wishing we were more successful and doing something of value with our college degree. I’m wishing we had a bigger house and our children were better behaved. I don’t know why the opinion of this man from our past matters at all, but it does. I want to impress him. I want to still be one of his favorites. I want him to look at us, nod and think to himself, “I done good.”

That’s what I’d really like, but I’d settle for my 5-year-old, who doesn’t possess a single shy bone in her body and has NO filter whatsoever, behaving like the polite, delightful, poised young lady that I know she can be if she tries very, very hard. And please, my darling girl. Please. Whatever you do, please don’t talk about my vagina.

Single Parenting

Four hours ago, Honey left for his first business trip since Poppy’s arrival. All weekend, he worked on laundry so that I would have very little to do while he’s away and, last night, he picked up groceries that would be easy for me to make for the kids — and a few “comfort foods” (i.e. ice cream) to ease my pain. This morning, he woke early to get me coffee and breakfast, showered, changed and dressed Skittle, helped get breakfast for both girls, and accompanied me as I dropped Cupcake off at preschool. Then he kissed Skittle, and Poppy, even the dog, before he came to stand before me. There were tears in my eyes as I said good-bye. We hugged. We kissed, and kissed again. And with his duffel bag in hand and a small smile on his lips, he waved and went on his way.

I watched him through the window, trying to catch one final glimpse of him through the low-hanging tree branches, memorizing the flip of his hair on his forehead, how he opened his door and slid into the driver’s seat in one smooth motion. I saw him look back at the house, but he must not have seen me standing there beyond the blinds because he drove off without acknowledging me in any way. The way I stood there, watching his car drive out of sight, you would have thought he was going off to war, with the threat of being gone for a long, long time or never returning at all.

I’ve known this day was coming for a few weeks and I have been counting down the days, then the hours and minutes, until the very moment when we said good-bye. Counting down as though I’m counting down to my very own death. Which is silly, I know. I feel stupid for feeling such dread over something that women (and men) have to do every day. But, still. These feelings are real.

And here’s the truth — these days will be hard. Honey is not at war. And he will be home by the end of the week. And as far as I know, my death is still a long time away. But these days will be hard.

Partly because I have three kids under the age of six who still require a lot of me. I am TIRED and need HELP by the end of a normal day, when my husband is home by 5pm. Right now, Poppy has the hiccups (which he hates) and is fussing in a bouncer that he has been in for less than five minutes after being held for an hour and I just want to cry because the thought of having to hold him nonstop until 10pm tonight when he goes to bed feels overwhelming.

And partly because Honey is my best friend and I miss him dearly when he is gone. He brings so much laughter and silliness into our home, so much strength and confidence and fun that we are missing when he isn’t here. I want another adult, my very favorite adult, to talk to over dinner, to watch Netflix with tonight. Don’t get me wrong — I’m an introvert. I grew up as an only child. I know how to value my time alone.  But I also crave  companionship. Especially his.

And also? This is partly so hard because my imagination run wilds and I start to worry about what-if scenarios. What if his plane crashes? What if someone opens fire at the conference he’s attending? What if, while we’re home alone at night, there’s a house fire or an intruder? Cupcake was crying this morning because she didn’t want her daddy to go and I started thinking, what if I have to tell her that he’s dead? What if we never see him again? It’s not an ideal place to be in as I embark on my sojourn into single parenting.

I know I can do this. I’ve done it before  (albeit, with one less kid). It’s not fun. The days are long and lonely and the nights are creepy. But I know I can do it. There are many single parents around the world who have to do this day in and day out. It’s not always easy, but it’s possible.

So I will do it.

I will make it through.

But thank God for the pint of Haagen Dazs waiting for me in the freezer.

 

 

2015 in Numbers

When 2015 began, I knew it would be a big year. We had *just* (as in, just just just) started trying for another baby. That alone was going to mean that, if 2015 turned out to be a lucky year, it would end with a pregnancy…or, on the other side of things, it would be spent trying to get pregnant and end with a lot of heartbreak, tears, and defeat if we failed or lost again. We conceived our baby on January 6th(ish) and in that moment when egg met sperm and we were looking ahead at a fresh new year of hope and anticipation (and dread and fear), I could not have fathomed the end of the year would actually mean holding a baby, nearly three months old, in my arms. What an incredible surprise this entire year has been!

It’s been mostly good surprises (and the good ones were really good), with a few difficult ones thrown in just to keep us humble and show us who is really in charge. This is what 2015 looked like in our home:

6 movies watched over the New Year’s holiday, per our annual tradition. (My favorite was Captain Phillips.)

3 times Honey and I had sex the first week of January when my ovulation tests were positive.

2 pregnancy tests taken when I 4 days late and 5 weeks past weaning Skittle…compared to the 5 I took in my first pregnancy.

10 days spent on the Big Island in Hawaii, frolicking in the waves, sipping tropical mocktails, getting sunburned despite the ample amount of sunscreen used, and watching the glorious sunsets:

Hawaii

9 weeks 1 day into my pregnancy when I heard Poppy’s heartbeat with the doppler for the first time, while in a bedroom in a Hawaiian rental house with an audience of 2 geckos.

17 months was how old Skittle was when she took her first steps…right into Grammy’s arms.

3 big prizes won at a local baby expo I attended with my doula-friend Leigh and where I met January Harsche of Birth Without Fear fame. (And for those of you who are curious, the prizes were two diaper bags stuffed full of baby loot like wipes and nursing scarves, as well as an Uppababy G-Luxe stroller, which I love!)

1 dear friend lost this year because she chose to believe the worst of me and decided our personalities didn’t mesh well.

1 dear friend gained because I went searching for a birth photographer and found a fabulous one — and a fabulous new gal pal, too!

36 times vomiting, 31 of them in the first six months of my pregnancy and 5 of them when the stomach flu hit at two weeks postpartum.

58 jars of freezer jam made with Leigh on something of a whim one long Saturday in June.

6 hours relaxing at a spa in Idaho with my mom as an early 60th birthday gift to her.

8 hours spent in a car on a road trip with two kids and a 27-week baby belly when it should have only taken 5 hours. (Wildfires forced us to detour and traffic was crawling.)

2 nights sleeping in a rental house on the beach as our final getaway as a family of 4.

4 crying/screaming fits Cupcake had on said getaway because she’s just that kind of kid.

8 hours of labor to welcome our sweet Poppy boy, 3 days past his due date.

6 other babies welcomed by friends and family this year, all of them boys except 1.

80+ words that Skittle could say by her 2nd birthday, compared to the 50 that Cupcake could say at the same age.

1 birthday party thrown, this one for Cupcake at the local Children’s Museum. (We will be taking turns with the birthday bashes in this household as who has the time, energy or money to do that more than once in a year? Next year, it will be Skittle’s turn. And Poppy’s! Since his big day is so close to his sister’s.)

11 hours spent shopping on Black Friday with my friend Leigh, 4 hours of which I had a sweet baby boy attached to me.

23 allergens I tested positive for during a recent allergy test…the worst of which are dust mites and grasses. Ugh. (In my doctor’s words, I’m “basically allergic to everything that’s green and grows.” Boohoo.)

12 hours that Poppy is now sleeping at night. Ahhh…do you hear that? That’s me breathing a sigh of relief. Now, if only I could get him to take some good naps during the day!

5 times my mom came to visit from Idaho, doing countless loads of laundry, dishes, and other household chores while she was here.

1 fight I had with my mom while she was here during those said five visits and 1 fight Honey had with her because she just doesn’t have it in her to talk about or accept the abuse I suffered as a child.

21 total common colds had between the five of us in this family, most of them in the first half of the year thankfully…plus one round of the stomach flu.

4 BIG, chunky salted caramel chocolate chip cookies eaten in one sitting, just yesterday…because that’s what I do when feeling sad, stressed, bored, or hormonal…and that’s especially what I do when feeling all four of those things!

31 new posts published on this blog this year, after I hit “Publish” for this one…even though, two years ago, I said I was done…but then Poppy came along and I needed the support…and you gave it…so thank you. Thank you thank you thank you.

And now 2015 is done. I always find it a little hard to bid farewell to a year when it has been so kind to me, so full of incredible blessings and gifts. Where is there to go from here, but down, you know? And we have no great plan for the year, no huge thing to look forward to. No trip of a lifetime. No new pregnancy or baby. No moment that we will surely remember forever. Well, except maybe buying a new house. I hope 2016 can be the Year of the New (Bigger, Better) House. That’s what I’m hanging my hat on. That’s my “something” for the new year. The thing I can look towards with excitement and hope and anticipation.

That and some more of those chunky chocolate chip cookies. I think I’ll have to make another batch tomorrow.

Happy New Year, friends! Be safe. Be well. xoxo

 

Merry Christmas to All

This Christmas, I wish you all a happy, blessed holiday. A kitchen overflowing with too many cookies. Laughter that makes your belly hurt. A shoulder to rest your weary head upon and a hand to hold. Two soft lips to kiss beneath the mistletoe.  The freedom to cry any tears that beg to be cried. A quiet peace. A calm heart. The warmth of a room heated by a blazing fireplace and love. And a new year that sees happy tears flow and dreams come true. xoxo

(My apologies for all the cute Christmas baby pics…we’ve been having fun with a fancy camera and playing dress-up around here!)