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The Sacrificial Lamb

He loves to nurse.

I mean, what sweet, plush, toddling being doesn’t love to snuggle up to Mama and be nourished while he tugs her hair and rests his head against her warm chest?

But this kid — my kid — loves to nurse. When he sees me walking towards his bedroom, where we do all of our breastfeeding these days, he starts laughing and nearly skipping as he leads the way. He then enthusiastically pats the chair I always sit in and hands me the Boppy pillow. And when he latches on, his eyes roll into the back of his strawberry blond-haired head and he releases the softest sigh. Sometimes he falls asleep. Sometimes he signs “milk” to me over and over. Sometimes he tugs on my hair or tries to put his finger in my ear/mouth/nose/eye/all of the above.

Often, we play a game while he drinks. I ask him question after question — Are you happy? Are you funny? Are you special? Do you love me? Do I love you? — and he nods his head to each one. He has started nodding before I even ask him anything. And sometimes he smiles or laugh. Sometimes he mumbles something. But he never lets go of my nipple.

He loves to nurse.

For a while, I was in turmoil over the decision to wean him. I didn’t want to. It was physically uncomfortable at best, leaving me breathless, and deeply painful at worst, sending spasms throughout my body whenever I even thought about it. I wasn’t ready and he was showing no signs that he was either. But you know me — I’ve always wanted at least one more kid and my desire to move forward with that somehow, though just barely, won the battle with my desire to keep nursing. And so every five days, I cut out another nursing or pumping session. And every five days, my breasts and my heart ache once again.

In some ways, it feels like I am choosing one child over another. Choosing a child whose face I have never seen, whose weight I have never felt against my chest. Choosing a child with no name, a child who hasn’t been born, a child who hasn’t even been conceived. I am choosing the idea of this child, this fantasy, over my sweet, living, breathing son who gently lays his head upon our dog and laughs at everything I do. My poor baby. My sweet sacrificial lamb.

But that could just be a mix of my anxiety and my hormones talking. I have been known to be a little melodramatic when those two come together.

Either way, it’s times like these when I wish so hard that my body worked differently, worked better, and that some way, I could magically fall pregnant with those elusive unicorn babies I’ve read about in the dreamiest fairy tales, without having to sacrifice anything at all.

Wouldn’t that be something?

This Boy

My sweetheart of a boy, this one pictured here, turned ONE early in the month.

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He loves exploring new places, stroller rides, taking his socks off, chewing on everything, a green toy flute and his plastic dinosaurs, our dog, playing with everything that he’s not supposed to (like the TV remote and my phone), every single person he meets, and eating all finger foods that we give him. He also really, really loves his mama. He follows me from room to room like a puppy and clings to me when I stop walking.

He does not love teething, being alone, or long car rides.

This boy is the smallest of my babies, weighing less now than he did at nine months and a good pound less than either of his sisters did at this age. You wouldn’t know it by looking at him, but he’s just in the 40th percentile for his weight (and even less for his height). But don’t worry…he’s healthy, he’s growing, and his doctor is not at all concerned. He’s just a boy on the move these days!

And oh, how he is always on the move! He’s not walking yet, but he knows how to speed-crawl alongside the best of them. Getting him to sit still for a photograph is nearly impossible anymore:

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He celebrated his first birthday with ZERO teeth. But the first one popped has now popped through, about a week ago, and I can see maybe five more that are close to the surface. It’s going to be a fun few months around here.

Poppy is also still the smiliest, giggliest baby that I know. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not always happy…but he’s wildly ticklish and always seeking to make a connection with those around him. He’s quick to smile and thinks everything we do is funny. So he pretty much smiles and laughs all the time. On the drive to pick up Cupcake from school the other day, he laughed his head off the whole way. Deep belly laughs that came from within his soul. It was just about the best sound ever.

This boy? The one with the bright, sparkling eyes? The one with the curious smile? The one with that little tongue always sticking out in the sweetest way?

This boy has stolen my heart. For all the ways and days I spent worrying before his birth that I would not know how to love him, let me assure you that I do. I loved him fiercely the moment he was born and I love him even more with each passing day.

I’m so glad this boy is mine.

Photo Update: 9 Months Old

I’m not going to take the time to do a proper update on Poppy for this milestone, but I will say this: He’s as sweet and lovable as ever. Full of charm. Constantly wanting the affection and attention of everyone he meets. He smiles and laughs ALL the time. Which is a good thing, because otherwise the new, once-a-night wakings might not be bearable. He still has no teeth, which could explain those midnight wakings…they must be arriving any day, right?!?! He’s pondering crawling. He yells just for the fun of it. He slept through his first AND second plane ride (thank GOD, because up until the moment we boarded the plane, he was doing the before-mentioned yelling-because-it’s-fun). And for all the chub and rolls that he has, it’s hard to believe that BOTH of his sisters weighed more at nine  months than he does. Love this boy so much!

An Update, Because I Have Nothing Better to Discuss

Why, hello there.

It’s been a while. Or at least, it feels like it has. I’ve been so busy lately and I just haven’t had the energy, ability, or desire to write something worthwhile. At least not here, in this venue. But I’m feeding Poppy right now while binge-watching Army Wives, and I thought it would be a good time to pop in for a quick update on all the happenings in the Dash home.

So, here we go…

ME:

  • My mom left on Monday after spending eleven days with us. It was a glorious visit filled with lots of fun and laughter and very little strife, but I was on the go every second she was here. There were days I was only at home to sleep. I am exhausted. And lonely once again now that she is gone. Getting back into our old routine is always a little hard.
  • Breastfeeding continues and I donate hundreds of ounces every month to a set of twins who were born just a week after Poppy. Have I mentioned that before? I’m glad my body does this one thing right. And thankful that is has helped me to reach my goal weight earlier than I ever have postpartum, despite the copious amounts of sugar I’ve been eating. Breastfeeding cravings are seriously no joke!
  • Another essay of mine will be published on Scary Mommy on June 15th. This one will be published under “Anonymous” (to protect my kids) and is a bit more controversial than the last. I’m nervous about some of the hate it will surely get, but plan to brush it off and embrace the moment.
  • I’ve been thinking a lot about the future. This is really another post for another day, but I’m getting the itch to start “trying” again. We’ll be waiting until next spring, but I feel hopeful and scared and anxious for it all at once. I’m ready for it. But I’m not. But I am. But I’m not. And on and on it goes and always, at the back of my mind, there’s the question of whether I’ll ever even have the chance to have a fourth, ready or not.

HONEY:

  • We should hear any day or minute about what kind of raise or promotion he will or will not be getting. He recently retained a mega-million-dollar account for his company and worked his ass off to do it, so we’re hopeful they will compensate him accordingly and we will be deeply disappointed if they decide not to.
  • He’s always and ever an incredible husband and father. Hard-working. Jovial. Steady. The rock of our family. I’m the one who stays at home and yet he does so much to help me. Every day, I am reminded how lucky I am.

CUPCAKE:

  • She is about to graduate from preschool and I feel excited and a teensy sad to be staring kindergarten straight in the face. She looks forward to school every day, though, and I really, really hope that continues. It reminds me so much of myself.
  • That Scary Mommy essay I mentioned earlier? It’s about her. About how difficult it can be to be her mother, with the amount of attitude and grief that she throws at me on a daily basis. I really hope I don’t regret being so very honest in such a public format. Mom-guilt is real and constant and I’m already feeling it over this. Especially considering that, since writing this, she hasn’t given me many problems at all. I’m thankful for that, but it’s also very…curious. Could she be outgrowing it, after all? Or am I just immune to it after all these years?
  • The other day, she said to me out of the blue, “Mommy, I know you want another baby, but if you can’t have one, I’ll let you play with some of my dolls.” If only it were that easy, sweetheart. If only. And also…please don’t let this be some sign of what is — or is not — to come.

SKITTLE:

  • We just embarked on potty-training not long ago. We haven’t had many successes yet, but not many accidents either. Apparently, this kid has a bladder of steel.
  • She’s starting to talk, act, look, and walk more like a little girl than a baby. It breaks my heart, but I am enjoying every minute of this age with her. Everything she does is adorable. My favorite is when she dramatically throws herself onto the floor and says, “It’s no fair!” Any guesses where she learned that from?

POPPY:

  • Still no teeth. Still screaming in the middle of some nights and at random times during the day as if they will be arriving any moment. And he’s also taken to clamping down — hard — while nursing. This period of teething is so fun.
  • In the last week, he has gone from rolling around and getting stuck in odd places and then screaming for help to efficiently army crawling and getting to exactly what he wants. The dog food & water bowls now remain on the countertop during Poppy’s waking hours.
  • He had a prolonged cough and wheeze for months and there was talk of asthma, but the cough and wheeze are now almost entirely gone. Fingers crossed they stay that way!

WHAT ELSE:

  • We have started the home selling/buying process. At three bedrooms and 1500 square feet, we are maxed out on space here. I feel sentimental over leaving the only home our three children have ever known, a home that has seen me through some of my best and worst life moments, but we desperately need more space. I’m excited for what is to come, but I feel overwhelmed and stressed about the whole process. There’s so much to do! And how does anyone accomplish all of it with KIDS?!
  • Poppy and I will be flying to Idaho in a few weeks to visit my mom for a long weekend. And, later in the summer, we have two short beach getaways planned. We really should be spending our weekends and money getting our house ready to be put on the market, but quality family time is important. Or at least that’s what I tell myself every time I start to feel guilty about it.

So with all of that going on, I’m not really sure when I’ll be returning here. It may be in a week, or a month, or a year. I want this to be a place I can turn to, a release, a diary, but not an obligation. I’ll be back, maybe at the peak of craziness when I crave a shoulder to lean on, or maybe once the dust settles. This summer is going to be a whirlwind. And no matter what yours has in store for you, I hope you all are able to take a few minutes to enjoy a mojito and the sun on your face. Life is beautiful. Even when it’s hard, it’s beautiful.

Be well, friends. I’ll see you again soon. xo

6 Months Old (6 Weeks Late)

Well, our little Poppy boy is officially halfway through his first year. As of about six weeks ago. Better late than never for an update, eh? This sweet boy, bless his heart, loves to be held and spoonfed all the love and attention you can give — which means he spends a lot of his waking hours in arms or on a lap. I have worn this baby in a sling or Boba more at home than I ever did with either of my girls combined…probably twelve times over. It’s exhausting. And he really hates teething, also much more than his sisters ever did. So he’s a lot of work.

But he fills the house with unbridled joy. Smiles and giggles for days, from the moment I peek at him over the rail of his crib first thing in the morning to his last feeding of the day, beaming with my boob in his mouth before he drifts off to sleep. I love this boy more than I ever imagined I could. A few special things about him:

  • I put socks on him and he pulls them off almost immediately, chews on them, and then drops them wherever he is. Rinse and repeat throughout the day. Meanwhile, I find soggy socks throughout the house all day long.
  • Cupcake is possibly his favorite person in the world. He could watch her and interact with her for hours. He especially loves when she sings to him.
  • He rolls over and sits on his own. No crawling or other movement yet, but no surprise there. He’s BIG. (Oddly enough, not quite as big as his sisters were at this age, though.) Also, no teeth yet and barely any hair. Those will come some day, right?
  • He LOVES being outside. On his fussy days, I will take him outside if the weather is nice, and he will be happy as a clam playing in the grass for as long as he can.
  • He really, really, REALLY loves people. Be near him, talk to him, sing to him, tickle him…it will make his day.
  • Eating is fun! He wasn’t sure about it for the first two weeks, but now gets spastically excited when he sees the spoon coming at him with another bite of food. Cauliflower, avocado, banana, carrots, peas, chocolate frosting (don’t judge)…he seems to like it all so far!
  • His arms and legs are constantly flailing, kicking, moving. I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten whacked in the face while nursing him.
  • He may be a lot of work, but most nights he does sleep through the night. For eleven hours or so. And he takes an hour-long morning nap and sleeps for 2-3 hours in the afternoon. I really can’t complain. It could be soooo much worse (and it was, for a while).
  • He’s so ticklish. It brings my heart great joy that, all these months later, it still sends him into giggle fits when we get him dressed and undressed throughout the day.

And also? Those cheeks! Those rolls! Isn’t he scrumptious?!

Siblings Side-by-Side

Friends, I try to never let more than a week or two go by without checking in here, but I’m finding that’s getting harder and harder. I’m busier these days and also, apparently, I’m running out of things to say. Poppy did just turn six months, though, and as soon as I get his 6-month photos back, I’ll do a post to update you all about our insanely sweet, social, smiley, and silly baby boy.

Today, though, I wanted to share a comparison photo of our three little ones. I posted this on Facebook and thought it would be fun to do the same here:

That’s Cupcake on the left in 2011, Skittle in the middle in 2014, and Poppy on the right just a couple weeks ago, all of them taken around the age of six months. See the resemblance?? I’ve always thought Poppy looks more like Cupcake did as a babe, but in this side-by-side, I feel he looks more like Skittle. And, at the same time, has his own unique look.

What do you think? And for those of you who have more than one child, did your babies look alike in infancy? Do they resemble each other now?

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.

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?

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!)

Moment By Moment: Defeat

Note: I’ve been thinking of starting a series of posts called “Moment By Moment.” These will give you a snapshot of a moment or two (or more) of our daily lives, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let me know what you think!

I sit on the sofa, my newborn sleeping fitfully against my chest. His big sisters are nearby, my oldest one on the sofa calling out requests for “A croissant please!” and “I need some juice!” and her little sister (the middle child) works at their play kitchen, dutifully trying to prepare her sister’s meal. A tear slips down my cheek.

I have been crying lots of tears lately, happy, joyful, grateful tears, but this is not of those kind.

Today, I feel defeated. It’s early, but I’m tired and this is the first peaceful moment my children have given me. It’s 10:30 a.m. and already I am wishing my husband home and the day be done. Today, the final day of the first week on my own with my three littles, my oldest has cried because her shirt is itchy and she wants lotion on her skin. And after I put said lotion on, and asked if she needed any more, and put the lotion away, she cried because she was still itchy. And she doesn’t want to share today. Every time I turn around, she is snatching another toy away from her sister. And then her sister starts screaming. And all that screaming in between her whines and cries to “Eeeeeat. Pleeeeease eat. Mooooore eat.” She just ate. And the baby! Oh, this sweet, precious, snuggly baby boy who turns into a possessed, screaming monster when I try to put him down so I can prepare food for his sister to eat. Or so I can do laundry. Or just so I can pee.

It’s been this way most of the week, but today is the worst of the worst, and I am spent. Done. Defeated. It’s feeling hard to remember why I’ve yearned for this sort of chaos so long. It’s feeling hard to believe I ever thought I could handle three kids at one time. Just a few years ago, I would have given my right leg and both eyeballs to be in this moment. But now? I’m wishing they’d grow up. I’m wondering what my exact breaking point is. At what point will I become one of those mothers who slaps her child across the face or just walks out the door and never comes back? I’m crying because I feel regret, and guilt. I wanted this. I would have killed for this. I’m so ashamed.

The quiet moment passes too quickly. The girls start squabbling again. Screeching at each other. I put the baby in the Moby, but he moves too much. His legs push against me and, somehow, he works his shoulders and arms free of the wrap. I switch him to the Boba and he wails. I’m tired, and I need to make lunch and pick up the toys littered from one end of the house to the other, and while I do all of that I bounce him and he finally calms down. When I stop to catch my breath, he starts again. And one of his sisters starts begging for food again. And the other begins complaining that she doesn’t like chicken nuggets.

I sigh. I just have to accept it. Today is a day of defeat. It just is.

______________________________

The baby is strapped into the Boba, my nerves are jittery, and I am cleaning the house when I feel it. My underwear are wet.

I had thought my postpartum bleeding was over. I’d put the pads away a couple days ago. I shouldn’t have.

I reach to grab some toilet paper only to find that my 4-year-old, who has become obsessed with wiping herself recently, has wrapped the paper around the roll in the most bizarre fashion that I can’t find the free end and start tugging, tearing, and shredding it in an effort to get some for myself. I am on the brink of a tantrum. I begin to whimper.

With the baby against my chest, I struggle to wipe my underwear with the shredded TP and then tape on my panty liner. My underwear are wet, but I don’t bother to change them. I’m too tired, and it would take too much effort with this baby on me. He is starting to stir and whine. I’m not moving enough. All I want is to rest, to breathe deep and hear nothing but silence and be free of anyone touching me.

I would also like to have a good cry. I can feel the tears coming and I fight to hold them back. Our house is falling apart. I can’t.

But I do. I cry.

“Please let the day get easier, dear God,” I pray as I bounce my baby and the tears fall quickly onto his head. I am waving my white flag of surrender. I am crying uncle. I need help.

For the first time, I wonder, What have I DONE? For the first time, I think, I can’t do this.

It seems pathetic to say it again, but…I’m defeated.

______________________________

Nothing has gone right today. The baby waffled between fussing, crying, and going bat sh*t crazy every time I put him down. My daughters whined and fought and screamed and cried all morning long. I yelled back. I ripped toys out of their hands just as I was telling them not to do the same thing to their sister. I started bleeding and I wasn’t wearing a pad. Everything I picked up I seemed to drop and had to pick up all over again…while lugging around a baby in a Boba. The sky rained. The wind blew. My husband called and I thought it was to offer his sympathy, but instead it was with questions about our health insurance. He was cranky. He hates insurance companies. We received our hospital bill and it’s all wrong. Another insurance company to fight. And as I was writing this blog post, on a computer that we just bought and I’m still learning how to use, I accidentally deleted a long paragraph I had typed out and I had to type it again.

Yes, it’s a day of defeat. And I don’t know if tomorrow will be any better. It could be this way for a long time.

But one day, it won’t be.

There are always better days ahead, I’m told.

And I think I remember that being true.