Tag Archives: Love

Excuse Me, My Crack is Showing

There was this art project that I used to love to do as a kid: we would take an egg and make a tiny little hole in each end with a pin. Then we would blow through one end, and all the raw egg inside would come shooting out. Once you got all those pesky insides out, you would have a perfect eggshell to decorate. It would be fragile, of course. But unlike a regular egg that would eventually fester and rot, the eggshell could last forever if treated carefully. The idea is so simple: remove the parts that can go bad, and the shell will endure. It is preservation at its finest.  But, I never really appreciated the idea of preservation. When I was a kid, I just liked blowing out all the disgusting raw egg into my friends’ faces… and by “when I was a kid” I mean yesterday.

When my baby boy was three months old, I mentioned to my pediatrician that he had a slightly odd birthmark on his back.  It was something my husband and I had noticed about him from the day he was born.  It was tiny and hidden right above his butt crack, a place no one would but a parent would ever examine closely enough to notice. I didn’t mention it to my doctor until my son was three months old because it seemed innocent enough: a cute little birthmark. The human body is an amazing thing though, and sometimes these innocent little markings are warnings of something much more nefarious.

My doctor told me it was probably nothing, but we should get it checked out to make sure. She told me that I shouldn’t lose any sleep over it.  But of course, I lost sleep over it. A lot of sleep. Luckily I had a toddler and a three-month-old baby, so I wasn’t sleeping much anyway.

After an ultra-sound, an MRI and a few meetings with a neurosurgeon, we discovered that my son had something called a tethered spinal cord, and would need surgery to correct it. A tethered cord is a birth defect, where the spinal cord is literally tethered down by something (in this case a fatty growth called a lypoma) so that it cannot hang freely as it normally would, and instead stretches and pulls, damaging the big bundle of nerves that make up the spinal cord. That big bundle of nerves is tied to many different things: legs, feet, bladder, bowels, and brain to name a few. If not corrected, it can cause any assortment of developmental and physical difficulties. In addition, that innocent-looking birthmark was actually a tract that ran directly from the spinal cord to the outside of his back. So that cute little marking actually put him at risk for meningitis and other infections. Scary right? You don’t know the half of it. At least, I hope you never do.

Before Jan 13th, I didn’t know the half of it either. But on that day, the day of my baby’s three-month doctor appointment, and the months that followed, I learned what scary really meant. And it wasn’t just sleep I lost over those months, it was everything. Sadness, guilt, anger, and THE FEAR plagued me every minute of every day. My perfect baby was not perfect. My sweet little boy would have to undergo surgery and so much more. And there were so many unanswered questions, so much we wouldn’t know until it was possibly too late. How could I sleep? How could I think of everything else?!

There was a brief moment of each day that I forgot THE FEAR: each morning when I woke up and scooped my delicious bundle out of his bassinet and looked into his smiling face, I got at least two minutes of unadulterated joy. Two whole minutes of staring at his perfect face. Of breathing in his sweet smell. Two luscious minutes of reveling in the perfection of him before – BAM!!! – my memory, and with it THE FEAR, would return with such force that it took my breath away. Every. Single. Day.

So, I couldn’t sleep at night. I would spend hours crying during the day. I couldn’t play with my wonderful daughter, or even enjoy the sweet miracle that was my baby son. All I had was my sadness, my guilt, my anger and THE FEAR. I was drowning in them all. So I did what I had to do to endure. I made myself stop crying. I made myself stop thinking and stop feeling. I removed everything inside me that was festering and rotting, and I became a shell – fragile yet enduring. It was self-preservation at its finest.

The problem with hollowing yourself out like that, is that you cannot choose what stays and what goes. You cannot remove the sadness without removing the joy. You cannot remove THE FEAR while leaving the hope. So I became an empty. I went about my daily life, of course. I did what needed to be done.  I took my daughter to school and to dance class. I took my son to his doctor’s appointments. I made dinner, I fed my children. I sometimes fed myself. I even went out with friends. I laughed at their jokes. I drank too much wine. From the outside, everything looked normal. But on the inside, I was empty.

Slowly but surely, though, little cracks began to show. Maybe not big enough for everyone to see, especially because I was master at painting myself up to look the same as I was before. I began to hide out to protect myself. I shut out most of my friends, because I didn’t want to take a chance of having to talk about what I was feeling. I picked fights with my husband about anything other than what I was really upset about. I stopped writing. I quit doing anything that would force me to be honest about myself, because I felt like if I was honest, then my cracks would spread and I would break into a million pieces. I thought that if I really started crying that I would never stop. And mommies can’t do that.

But I endured. My son had his surgery almost two months ago, and he is doing great. Kids are amazing in their resilience. His scar, that takes up almost half of his back, is quickly fading. But somehow, my scars are still angry and raw. I thought that once the surgery was done and life went back to normal, the FEAR would go away and that I would go back to normal too. But I guess once you empty yourself out like that, it’s hard to fill yourself back up. I guess once THE FEAR finds you, it’s really hard to ever chase it away.

I am trying. I am trying to be brave enough to let go of THE FEAR. I am trying to be brave enough to allow myself to be filled with emotions, both good and bad. The strange thing is that I cry now more than I ever did. But I smile more too. I am repairing my cracks, little by little. I think the first step is to let my cracks show, and to realize that admitting that you are broken doesn’t mean that you can’t be put back together.

egg

 

photo credit: katerha via photopin cc

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Soak It In

I’m writing this post from my phone. Typing on the little tiny screen with one hand. My left hand.  My right hand is immovable and my right arm is falling asleep. My right boob is out. It is dripping milk and the milk is running down my side. And I can’t wipe it. And still I type. Why? Because I want to remember this. And I want you to, too. (except for maybe the part about my right boob.)

I just finished nursing my little boy and now he is asleep, splayed out on my chest like a rag doll.  My first thought was, “He’s sleeping!! Put him down and go work/launder/clean/pack/shower/eat/caffeinate while you can!”  I have a freelance job and a lot of work to do before we leave tomorrow for vacation. Oh yeah, and we leave tomorrow for vacation, which means I have three people to wash clothes, pack and stress out for. I am busy. Really busy.

But outside it is raining and cold.  And I am warm.  And I have one of the great loves of my life asleep on my chest. And it is peaceful. And good. And so I reminded myself to take this moment to soak it in. Yes, I am busy. I am always busy. But he is not busy. He has nothing he would rather do than lay on my chest and snuggle. And it won’t last long. Soon he WILL be busy. Most of the time, he will be too busy for me. And the sad part is that is precisely when I will stop being so busy. And I will spend my newly acquired freetime dreaming of the days that he snuggled on my chest like a warm piece of heaven. So for now, I will soak it in. I will be busy later.

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Sleeping Like A Baby

Whoever made up the phrase "sleep like a baby" obviously never had one!

Whoever made up the phrase “sleep like a baby” obviously never had one!

Sometimes I get insomnia. I have always had trouble sleeping, even as a kid, although back then my insomnia dressed itself up as an imaginary friend who would keep me up at nights, pacing around my room and asking tough questions like, “What do you think happens when you die?” and, “Why does Santa hide all the Christmas presents in your parents’ closet?” I guess I had more of an imaginary Barbara Walters. Anyway, the point is that I have always had trouble sleeping, but it has only gotten worse as time goes on. I guess because as I got older, I discovered more things to worry about. (Though I am still up most nights trying to figure out why Santa hid all the Christmas presents in my parents closet!)

Then once I had a child, a solid night of sleep became a distant memory. Now there are numerous lists to make, hundreds of things to prepare for, and gazillions of irrational fears to worry about. It is a wonder that I am not a total zombie. However if you are reading this and there is something that I forgot to do for you or there is something that I did to otherwise piss you off… it’s because I am a zombie.

The past week or so, I have had another bout of insomnia. I either go to bed early, hoping to catch up a bit on sleep, or I stay up late, afraid to even try to fall asleep. Either way, the result is the same:  toss and turn for a few hours, move to the couch, toss and turn, move to the guest bedroom, toss and turn, until finally I drift off into a fitful sleep a few hours before it is time to wake up.  Last night I tried the stay-up late technique. Instead I watched The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Bad idea. You should never watch anything so frightening before trying to sleep. Finally I crawled into bed, exhausted, only to spend another couple of hours tossing and turning, before finally managing to fall asleep around 2:15 am.

Then my daughter woke up crying at 2:30 am.

My daughter is a pretty good sleeper. If she wakes up in the middle of the night, normally all it takes is a little pat on the back and kiss on the forehead, and she is back to dreamland and I am back to sleep and/or tossing/turning/worrying. Last night, however, I gave her a pat and a kiss and then stumbled back to bed, but she did not fall blissfully back to sleep. Instead she cried until I went back into her room. After trying this a few more times with the same result, I decided that perhaps she had insomnia too. I hope that she never has insomnia the way that I do, but sometimes it amazes me how in sync the two of us can be. So, I covered myself up with her little quilt and laid down next to her crib.

She would close her eyes for a few minutes, then peek her head up to make sure that I was still there, smiling at me before putting her head down again. After a while I saw a sweet, chubby, little hand poke through the bars of her crib. So I took it. We held hands like that until she finally drifted off to sleep. And then, amazingly, I did too. I slept for an hour there. The most solid hour of sleep that I have had all week, right there on the cold, hard floor, with my daughter’s soft, warm hand in mine. I finally woke up and went back to my bed. Of course I had a hard time falling asleep again, but this time because I was happy, not worried or stressed.  And I woke up this morning tired, but with a new clarity.

I think that this is exactly what parenting is all about:  Holding your little one’s hands, and then only later realizing that maybe it is they who were really holding your hand.
photo credit: thejbird via photopin cc

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Quote of the Day: On Being Grateful

Soul Garden

“Let us be grateful to people to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

~Marcel Proust

…Because Thanks Giving should not be just once a year.

photo credit: Alex-Murphy via photopin cc

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Quote of the Day: On Fear

The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.”

– Gandhi

Something to remember in this age of fear mongering by politicians, leaders, employers, doctors, bigots, and bullies.

 

photo credit: Jayel Aheram via photopin cc

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Live Every Day Like It’s Your First

Come on! How effin cool is rain?!

I sat down at my computer today with the full intention of writing something funny.  Something witty and clever and far, far, far away from the emotional and slightly sad tone my blog has taken as of late.  I starting typing a blog about losses and gains – about funny things that you gain and lose after having a baby.  Inconsequential things… like your mind.  However, the more I started thinking about losses, the more I started thinking about loss.  And, as so often happens when I am writing these blogs, my fingers began to take me somewhere that I didn’t know I wanted to go.  My husband says that he learns so much about me by reading my blog, and I have to say that in writing it, I learn so much about myself.  So screw funny.  It’s over-rated anyway.  (But stay tuned next week for the revival of my usual biting wit and thinly veiled sarcasm. Probably.)

I have had loss on my mind lately.  Last weekend my husband found out that one of his good friends’ wives passed away.  It was cancer.  It was quick.  It was devastating.  I personally had only met her once as they live in London, but she was a beautiful and kind woman.  She was also a wonderful mother to her two young children.  Her youngest is the same age as my daughter. When we heard the news over the weekend, my heart ached for my husband’s friend who was left without a wife and especially for those two young girls who were left without a mother.  But I also ached for this young, vibrant mother who will not get the chance to see her children grow up.

As I said before, I didn’t know her very well.  But in the short time we spent together, I was struck by how much she reminded me of me.  She was about my age.  She loved her family.  She loved to have fun.  She loved to laugh.  She loved life.  We were both pregnant when we met, although she already had one daughter.  She was wise and experienced and she graciously answered all of my (many, many) questions about babies and about motherhood.  Since then, I expect that the past year-and-a-half since her daughter was born was a lot like mine:  sleepless nights, blissful moments, more laughter than she ever thought possible.  I am sure that she spent many hours marveling at the perfection of her daughter’s face and imagining the possibilities of her daughter’s future, much the way that I have.

Then she woke up one day, just like any other day, but on this day she had a headache.  She woke up with plans and hopes and dreams, just like any other day, but she didn’t know that this particular day would be her last.  She didn’t know that she would never get to see her children grow up, get married, or have children of their own.  She didn’t know that she would never again get to marvel at the beauty of her daughter’s face or get the chance to discover who her daughters will become.

She reminded me a lot of me, and I think that’s why I felt the loss so greatly, even though I barely knew her.  If it could happen to someone like her, then it could certainly happen to someone like me.  None of us know which day will be our last.  And as sad as this thought makes me, it is also a reminder of how wonderfully precious life is.  A wise somebody once said that we should, “Live every day like it is our last.”  And while I do think this is sound advice, I also think it is a bit too sad for my taste.  It is hard to think of our last days without feeling a bit melancholy, and I don’t want to live every day like that.

Instead, I am going to try to live every day as if it is my first.  Like a child.  Full of the magic and wonder and true appreciation that comes from experiencing everything for the first time.  Without the fear and regret we learn as we get older and “wiser”, and without the ambivalence that often comes with age.   The world is full of amazing things and people and moments that, as adults, we often fail to recognize or even see.

My daughter’s new word is “Wow!”  A bird in the sky gets a heartfelt “Wow!”; fitting the right puzzle pieces together gets a “Wow!”; seeing a dog on the street gets a “Wow!”; even my stepping out of the shower naked got a “Wow!” (It’s been a while since that happened, but I will try not to let it go to my head.) A bite of cheesecake, a big splash in the bath, my funky neon green nails, a great song, a perfect hi-five… all of these are deemed “Wow!” worthy by my daughter.  And they are. Each and every day is full of these simple Wow! moments if we are young and wise enough to recognize them.

And while I hope that I have many, many (many, many, many, many) more Wow! moments left before my last day, I am going to try to live them all like they are my first.
photo credit: Frederic Mancosu via photopin cc

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Quote of the Day: On Flaws

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”

– Marilyn Monroe

I don’t have much in common with this tragic, lovely lady, but I do have some of her flaws. And I have some flaws all my own.  Thank goodness I found someone who not only can handle me, but loves being my handler.

In relationships, learn to let go of the little things and look at the big picture.  You will be a lot happier!

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Round and Round

I swear that being a parent is the craziest roller coaster in the world.

My daughter is sick yet again, for the third week out of four weeks. This time with a nasty cold and again with a fever hitting above 104. She was up at midnight night crying inconsolably. Probably because she was tired but couldn’t sleep, scared because she couldn’t breathe, and angry because Mama couldn’t fix it. She was screaming and crying, and I was crying because I couldn’t help her. And I was tired because I haven’t once slept through the night in the past month.  And it was midnight. And I was thinking, “I don’t know if I can do this anymore.”

Then, morning came. And the sun was shining. And my daughter woke up feeling a bit better. And she hugged me tight and said “Lub you” in her little, hoarse, stuffy-nosed voice. And I thought, “I don’t know what I ever did before this.”


photo credit: Hamed Saber via photopin cc

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Random Thought: The Truth About Parenting

Since becoming a parent 16 months ago, I have done many things that I thought I would NEVER do.  I have nonchalantly wiped my daughter’s poop from my forehead, licked a kleenex and then used it to wipe her face, picked up a cracker that she threw on the floor and then gave it back to her to eat (hey, it was the last one!), let her run around with a watermelon-stained shirt for hours because I was too tired to change it and knew it would only get dirty again, and let myself run around in a vomit-stained shirt for hours because I was too tired to change it and knew it would only get dirty again… just to name a few NEVERs.

Although I have learned to never say never, the truth is that before becoming a parent, I have never been so tired.  I have never been so ungroomed, disorganized, forgetful, weepy, or tired… did I mention tired?  I have never gone so long without seeing or at least talking to many of my friends.  I have never gone so long without seeing an adult-sized human.  I have never gone so long without getting my hair highlighted, shaving my legs, putting on make-up or even showering.  I have never gone so long while sleeping so little.  That is the truth.

But I have never, ever laughed so much, loved so hard, or felt so happy.  And somehow (in a way that I think you have to be a parent to understand) this love and laughter far outweighs a little vomit and sleep deprivation.

The truth about parenting is that it is a math equation that doesn’t add up, but somehow works anyway.

Laughter… a serious side-effect of parenting.

photo credit: Loyal O.A.K. via photo pin cc

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Never Forget The Small Things

As of late I know that I have made many references to time, or lack thereof.  And as much as I post about it, I actually whine about it about even more (sorry friends, family and random strangers who mistakenly ask me how my day is going!)  In my life there is barely enough time to do all the things I HAVE to do, such as eating, sleeping, changing diapers and teaching my daughter all the dance moves to “Call Me Maybe”.  So, if there is barely enough time for the things I must do, there is rarely enough time for the things I SHOULD do, like shower, exercise, grocery shop, clean, and connect with friends and family every now and then to let them know that I am just really busy, not dead.  If there is rarely enough time for the things I should do, forget the things that I WANT to do like… hmmmm… what did I used to like to do anyway?

It’s no secret that when you are a parent, there is just never enough time.  But it is not simply the lack of time that bothers me, it is also how quickly the time that I do have goes.  My daughter is now 16 months old.  She is walking, running, talking, playing and feeding herself (more food usually ends up on the face/hands/hair/clothes/floor/ceiling/mom’s shirt than in her mouth, but it still counts!) However, it seems like only yesterday she was a snuggly little bundle curled up on my chest, reliant on me for absolutely everything.  And even though it has been less than a year and a half since all this madness started, for the life of me I can’t remember half of it.  It has all become such a blur.  What was her first word?  Was it “Lyla” or “Hi” ? (Yes my daughter’s first word was her own name, if that says anything about her.) When did she start sitting up?  Was it 4 months or 6 months?  When did she begin to crawl?  What was her first food?
When did she start sleeping through the night?  When was her first smile, giggle, and full-out laugh?  It all blends together in some kind of wonderful, exhausting, beautiful life-smoothie.

Some of these things I wrote down in a baby book, but there are many things that I didn’t write down because either I thought that they were not important enough to count as “milestones”  or because I thought they were things that I would never forget.  What I failed to realize is that a child’s life is full of so many major milestones that sometimes the smaller things get lost along the way.  And while the day that Lyla took her first step is very important (that one I do remember… 10 months and one day) there are so many more small but wonderful things she does that I never want to forget.   The Small Things are not the milestones that you find in books or that you brag about to Grandma or that you use to compare notes with your friends.  No, the Small Things can sometimes seem insignificant in a lifetime of achievements, but often it is the Small Things that make a big life.  They are Things that only you know, Things that only you recognize.  They are the Things that can’t be captured in a story or on video or in a photo.  They are the Things that make you tear up with love, smile with pride, and  laugh till you wet yourself (c’mon, you know that if you had a baby come out of your JJ this happens.)

But as important as the Small Things are, they are often the first things forgotten in a busy life full of memories.  So, in recognition of these magical Small Things I am going to write a few of them down here and now so they will be recorded for all of time… or at least as long as the internet is around.  And if you ask me, the Internet is here to stay.

TODAY’S SMALL THINGS:

– The way that Lyla “reads” a book to herself, all in her own language.  Pointing at the things, as I do, and usually saying “shhhh”  and “noooo”  they way I do when I read to her.

– Her favorite word “Missibah”.  I have no idea what it means, but it seems that Lyla does.

– How every color is currently “bu!” (blue)

– The way she sometimes looks up at me, smiles and presses her nose against mine.  It’s our own special kiss and it always brings tears to my eyes.

– How, the second I pull her out from the car, she says “hi” and waves, just in case anyone is around who she might need to say hi to.

– The exact way she smells right at this moment:  baby shampoo, laundry detergent, Vick’s Baby Chest rub (she has a cold), fruit, milk breath and Lyla.

– The way she shrugs her shoulders and scrunches her face up when I ask her where anything is.

I hope I never forget this!

– How tightly she hugs me around my neck and then kisses me directly on the mouth with a wet, slobbery kiss.

– The way she contentedly twirls her hair with her fingers while she is drinking her bottle.

Ok, so these are a few of my Small Things.  Now it’s your turn!  What are the little things that your child or children do that you never want to forget but probably will.  Feel free to record them here for all of the world… or at least all of my followers… to read.  And if you don’t want to share them with me, write them down for yourself every once in a while.

Cheers to the Small Things!

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