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Hard Stuff

Capturing Grief: Part 3

November 12, 2017

The end of October was hectic. SO MUCH SICKNESS. However, I really wanted to share one last post in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month (October), and it’s especially dear to me as we are coming up on the date I found out I was miscarrying my first pregnancy. This post is pretty personal — about the name and symbol we have for our lost baby. It’s something we haven’t discussed with anyone, but is incredibly meaningful. I think sharing the name of our baby reveals, in a way that other words cannot, just how much is lost after a miscarriage.

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Most everyone know has given a nickname to their baby when they found out they were pregnant. I’ve heard everything from Cleetus (the fetus) to Dumbledore to Sea Monkey. I did this, too, mostly at the prompting of my pregnancy app (first time moms, am I right?), but also because it felt natural, like a way to bond with the person I was growing. The only names I ever got attached to, that ever seemed authentic, were names Alex and I planned to use upon their birth. I was convinced we were going to have a boy, for no other reason than the fact that I don’t know very many people who have had girls as their first child. Nearly all of my friends with children have welcomed a son into their family first, and I just assumed that I would follow suit. There was also that time where I was the guinea pig for an old wives’ tale which was believed to determine the sex of a baby, and although I was 10 years away from becoming pregnant (which makes the entire thing pointless), the conclusion was that my first child would be a boy. It was just a game, but nevertheless, it stuck with me. When I got pregnant in 2015, there wasn’t a question in my mind about it: the baby was a boy and that was that. I put mine and Alex’s chosen male name into my pregnancy app, and naturally, I got even more attached to that name than I already was.

The name was Fox.

It was music to my ears and made my heart swell with happiness. Fox is my paternal great-grandmother’s surname, and following the death of my grandparents just a few months prior to finding out I was pregnant, it was especially important to me to feel connected to our family. But more than that, Fox just felt like the name of our son. It had a good, kind, curious, strong vibe — and we loved it. It was perfect, and meaningful, and made me so excited for the future.

Unfortunately the future looked a lot different than I anticipated it would. Baby Fox wasn’t ever going to come home.

Sometime after the nausea subsided, my contractions ended, and I was decidedly no longer pregnant, we walked down to the Westlake Center for some hot pretzels and stopped by a cute little gift shop along the way. At the front of the shop were Christmas trees decorated with ornaments made by local artists. The first one we laid eyes on was a fox, which we immediately grabbed to take home with us with the intention to put it at the top of our christmas tree. We aren’t spiritual or religious people by any means, but we decided it was some kind of sign of good things to come in the future, that we were going to be OK. As we walked around we noticed foxes everywhere: on clothing, on decorative plates, on burp cloths, on keychains. We picked up a burp cloth, a board book, some onesies and a few other items with foxes on them, as a symbol of hope. We buried everything, along with my initial paperwork from my midwife and two baby bath toys given to me by my doctor, in a chest of drawers.

It took a long time to pull out any of those mementos, though we finally did put a fox hat and onesie we bought on Kaia sometime last winter. Everything else, though, is still difficult to look at.

When I see things with foxes on them nowadays, I feel a confusing combination of sadness, gratefulness, anger, happiness, and hope. Some days I can barely look at piece of children’s clothing with a fox on it, and other days I find myself buying more fox christmas ornaments. All I know for sure is that miscarriage sucks, and even two years later, I am still upset about it, and I still think about it. I didn’t wake up this morning and say to myself “I found out I was having a miscarriage 2 years ago tomorrow,” and I don’t sit in my bedroom at night crying over it, and it doesn’t cross my mind every hour on the hour, but it’s something that is always with me. Sometimes when I am in the grocery store, the memory will just hit me. Sometimes when I am playing with Kaia, it feels like someone is missing. When I grab my keys from the table, I remember. When I read The Gruffalo, I remember.  When I fill out paperwork at the doctor’s office, I remember. I remember, I remember, I remember.

I remember Fox.


i wake
to you everywhere
yet
you are not here

-Nayyirah Waheed

Hard Stuff

Capturing Grief: Part 2

October 6, 2017

To more accurately capture grief and the experience of miscarriage, we need to talk about what is often said or unsaid to those who have gone through it. It seems as though most people want to comfort those who have experienced a loss, but what they say is often unintentionally dismissive, hurtful, incorrect, or just plain ignorant. Good intentions, as they say, pave the road to hell.

As I opened up about my own miscarriage, I was met with many friends and family members who wanted to ease the hurt, but naturally, I received many comments that stung or illuminated their fundamental misunderstanding of the experience. On the other hand, I was also met with incredible empathy and support, mostly from friends who have also been educated in helping people through difficult experiences like this, but from internet strangers who have been down this road, too. I found quite a bit of support from a particular group of people trying to conceive after loss, and they helped me in ways that empathy from friends and family, attending therapy, and writing about the experience simply could not.

I heard comments running the gamut between incredible and horrifying, and I thought I would share some of what made things worse, what made things better, and what you may or may not want to say to a person you know who has suffered a pregnancy loss.

Don’t say:

“It was probably just a chromosomal abnormality and wasn’t ever a viable pregnancy anyway”

While it’s great that you’ve taken middle school biology, so has basically everyone else. Knowing the likely cause of a miscarriage doesn’t actually make the experience any easier. Like many people, I was well aware of why I miscarried, but why it happened doesn’t matter as much as the fact that it happened, period.

“It wasn’t really a baby yet.”
Again, it’s great that you remember something from your biology classes, but again, so do many people, and this really misses the mark. I know that a “baby” isn’t biologically more than just a mass of cells until a certain point. However, a baby to most people means far more than its gestational age. I don’t need a science lesson, I need the acknowledgment of how awful it is to lose a wanted, planned pregnancy. I need the acknowledgement of how much it sucks to lose a dream, to lose hope, to lose symptoms that reminded me daily that I was pregnant, to losing the possibility of holding an actual baby that I birthed in my arms. Whoever that person was, however unlike a “real baby” they were — they were still my child — logic and science be damned.

“At least you can get pregnant.”
I suppose that’s 1/4 of the battle, so yay, but…that doesn’t really say much. I mean, I couldn’t carry a pregnancy to term, apparently, but hey, AT LEAST I had the ability to become pregnant. Look: the issue is obviously not my ability to conceive, it’s the fact that I HAD A MISCARRIAGE.

“Everything happens for a reason.”
I know that this is well-meaning, that you want to bring sense to random suffering or believe there is some grand, cosmic plan for life when you say it, but this is not helpful at all. In fact, it can make people question their belief in god and their life choices. There is no sense, no plan for someone’s life that somehow includes a loss. Sometimes bad shit just happens, and there is no sugarcoating it, and no bright side.

“You can have another baby”
Probably, but what does that solve? What good is having another baby? Another baby won’t be THAT baby, the one I wanted. One cannot simply replace the other.

“At least it happened pretty early, it could have been worse.”
While you might think that losing a pregnancy early enough that it didn’t involve going to the hospital to birth a child is better than the other option, the prerequisite for grieving a loss is not being pregnant for a certain length of time. There are NO prerequisites to meet for a person to have full permission to grieve. Although another individual may have gone through something you deem to be “worse,” it’s not as though I can’t be upset about my own miscarriage because my experience looked a bit different.

“At least it only happened once. I know someone who has miscarried four times.”
A miscarriage is a miscarriage is a miscarriage whether it’s your first or fourth time. For me, it only happened once, but it only needed to happen once for it to change my life, upset me, or otherwise disturb my universe. One miscarriage, for any individual, is plenty enough. Don’t compare someone’s loss to another person’s loss in an attempt to make them feel better — all it does is invalidate their feelings and invalidate their loss. Like I said earlier, there is no prerequisite to meet before one is allowed to grieve.

“Maybe it was [something you did]”
No. Just, no. Your friend/family member/acquaintence/sister’s husband’s best friend’s wife did not cause their miscarriage by eating lunchmeat, drinking soda, having a glass of wine, laying on their stomach, exercising, walking up and down stairs, doing housework, holding their wiggling toddler, or whatever else you can think of. Don’t victim blame if for no other reason than the fact that it makes you a complete asshole.

“It happens to a lot of people.”
Yup, 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in loss — I get that. But what matters is that it happened to me, and I’m hurting, and it sucks. Knowing that it’s a rather common occurrence doesn’t erase the pain.

Nothing
Don’t ignore it, don’t say nothing. This contributes to the feelings of isolation many people have after a pregnancy loss, and may come off as insensitive, even though you may just not know what to say or if you should say anything at all. A simple “I’m sorry” or “I’m here for you” will absolutely suffice, and lets the person know that you’re there and you hear them.


Instead, say:

“I’m so sorry for your loss”
Condolences, and acknowledging why you are offering them is immensely validating. It doesn’t “fix” the problem, but it lets someone know that they are in your heart, that you recognize the shitty thing that happened, and that you care.

“This is very hard/painful/difficult/etc., I am here if you need to talk.”
Reflect what they feel.  When you do this, you essentially clarify and restate what the other person is saying. It lets the person know that not only are you listening, but that you are trying to understand, and that you are there to help. Doing so can also help you to understand the other person, or even help the person clarify their thoughts and feelings. I found this to be extremely refreshing, especially coming from someone with no background in therapy (and who probably doesn’t think to implement reflective listening in their daily lives). I felt very understood and supported when hearing these words.

“Your feelings are valid, whatever they are”
Pregnancy loss can bring up all kinds of emotions, and this lets the person know that you recognize this and support them in those feeling, whatever they may be. When I was going through my miscarriage, this really helped me to remind myself that I had permission to be sad, angry, stunned, and confused, and I appreciated that someone took the time to tell me so.

“It’s not your fault.”
Logically, a lot of women who lose a pregnancy understand this. However, many can’t help but to question this, feel like their body was to blame, or feel like failures because they couldn’t prevent it. Reminding them that it is not their fault may seem simple and obvious, but it’s helpful to hear. While I knew that there was nothing I could do to prevent my miscarriage, emotion tended to trump logic. I felt like my body was just broken — that I was broken, and hearing these words really meant a lot.

“When/after I had my miscarriage…”
If you’ve had a miscarriage, you have deeper understanding of and a shared experience with another person who has had one. Talking about what helped you or how you felt (briefly, and with the intention of empathizing verbally with the other person) can be so helpful. I really appreciated when people shared their experiences with me, and it made me feel far less alone.

“I’ve heard of/am a part of/was a part of x website/community/group that offers support. I can tell you the names if you’re interested, now or when and if you’re ready”
If you have a resource, share it. They may or may not want to know immediately or ever, but it gives them the opportunity to decide for themselves. I am so thankful for the people who told me about all the different ways to get support and interact with other people who have also miscarried. I have made friends through these interactions, and it feels nice to know that there is a group of people who just “get” you, who you don’t have to explain things to, who hold space — all the time — for you.

“I wish I knew what to say, but I just don’t. This is awful, and I’m always here for you.”
If you don’t know what to say, say so. Your friendship, compassion, understanding and empathy are always welcome, and really, those things matter more than anything you can say. 

If you’re so inclined, you can send a card. The website I linked to has very nice ones that aren’t cheesy, dismissive, or otherwise weird. I deeply appreciated the sentiments on these cards, and it was so nice when someone made an effort to seek these out just to make me feel better.


Before I conclude this post, I also want to remind you that unless you are explicitly given permission, DO NOT share a person’s news with anyone else. It is not your place — ever, no matter the circumstance — to tell her other friends or even family members. There is kind of an unspoken rule in society that you can tell your own spouse, but please don’t share with anyone else outside of this. She may not be ready to tell anyone else, or may not even intend to tell anyone else. Assume, always, that what you have been told, you have been told in confidence.

And there you have it, things you may or may not want to say to a person who loses a pregnancy. It may seem like the trillionth post on the internet about this, but it’s for a reason. The more we spread this information, the more real, genuine support others if they ever find themselves suffering through a pregnancy loss.

Hard Stuff

Capturing Grief: Part 1

October 3, 2017

I found out that I was losing my pregnancy in November of 2015, on Alex’s birthday. I got home, collapsed onto the floor and cried hysterically for 30 minutes before I called Alex, still hysterical, and told him to come home. I was so distraught, so overwhelmed that I couldn’t catch my breath, and couldn’t stifle the scream I heard emerge from myself as I asked “why?” to the nothingness. I don’t think I have ever experienced a worse day. Alex and I still get upset thinking or talking about it, and I have learned over the past two years that grief truly is a journey. When you lose a pregnancy, you lose more than “just a pregnancy.” I think of my loss regularly, and it is especially hard during this time of year.

October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in miscarriage, but given how frequently it occurs, it is still one of the least spoken of and understood grief experiences.

At the age of 13, I made a promise to myself to always speak my truth, to talk about hard things, to never be silent when it is imperative to speak. It is my mission as an adult, therapist, mother, and person who deeply believes in the value of processing our emotions and the power of honesty to keep talking. Stigma and shame are broken down bit by bit when we talk openly about our experiences. Loneliness is replaced by many individuals holding space for one another when we normalize the experience of just being a human.

This month, I want to talk about pregnancy loss and the grief that comes with it. Along with a friend of mine and many other folks who have experienced pregnancy and/or infant loss, I am participating in the Capture Your Grief Project which consists of 31 acts/themes and photographs that depict certain aspects of our experiences with our loss and grief. For me, the acts for 2017 seem like something I’d rather keep to myself, but a photographic challenge a few years ago consists of themes and acts that I feel really get to the heart of what it means to lose a pregnancy or child, and is something I’d really like to share publicly.

Today, I choose to share with you self portraits of myself before and after my loss.

Before Loss (1st pregnancy):

Here I am at 6 weeks pregnant, two weeks after I found out. I was overjoyed, despite vomiting too many times to count that morning, and going to work sick AF. I remember walking in the rain, listening to some high school R&B jams, thinking about the possibility of miscarriage. I talked myself out of it, reassured myself that everything would be fine. Life seemed so wonderful. I was ecstatic, filled with peace and so overwhelming positive that it created a bubble of blinding light around me. I miss this person.

After my loss, I stopped taking photos of anything — especially myself — for quite a long time. A lot of this has to do with the fact that I got pregnant again very quickly after my loss (against doctor’s wishes, but that is a story for another day and a testament to my desperation) and I did not, under any circumstances, want to see myself pregnant or have a document of my pregnancy. The first photo I took of myself was when I was halfway through my pregnancy, in response to my dad who wanted a photo update.

After loss (2nd pregnancy):

This is me after the loss of my first pregnancy, 6 months pregnant with Kaia. I wanted to make it seem like I was okay, feeling good, and enjoying myself. But in reality I had already spent countless hours in the hospital thanks to hyperemesis and the ensuing dehydration from not being able to keep down liquids (I do regret not talking about this on the blog, but I was scared, and weirdly, ashamed). I was scared, I was angry, I was still grieving. I cried nearly every single hour when I wasn’t in public, talked to a therapist twice a week, spoke to women on the warm line every few days, and was having daily panic attacks. I was crying (and puking, naturally) right before I took this photo. My grief and experience with loss made the challenges in my second pregnancy even harder to face. I doubted my body’s ability to do basic things like stay alive, and I was extremely skeptical that it could make it through an entire pregnancy, that I would actually have a child when it was all said and done. I was pregnant twice, and I miscarried half the time. I believed I would miscarry Kaia or lose her in some way during the 40 weeks I expected to be pregnant, and to not think so, in my mind, was foolish.

Loss changed the way I view pregnancy. I just don’t see it as joyous. I don’t picture myself ever celebrating because a celebration feels like speaking too soon, like it’s all too good to be true, like something only privileged, lucky, blind women do. Pregnancy loss led to me to living in a state of fear. I believe I would have taken better care of myself, lied less to my family, friends, and medical professionals, and felt more mentally sound during my pregnancy with Kaia (despite my struggles) had I not gone through that experience. I don’t want to say it ruined my life, because I am still here standing, but it did ruin an aspect of my life. It ruined pregnancy, for good. And in ways that all of the other experiences I had during my pregnancy with Kaia ever did.

All of this to say: I was happy before my loss, and I was a completely different person afterward.

To sum it all up, fuck loss. I hate that it has impacted me, my husband, a dear friend, and countless other folks. I hate that I am part of communities dedicated to pregnancy after loss, pregnancy loss grief, and trying to conceive after loss. I hate that I am missing a part of me that I will never get back. I hate that I live with an emotional burden caused by something that I just never thought would truly happen to me. I hate that I suffered and still do suffer. I hate that I am one in four.

 

Parenthood

One year

September 15, 2017

I expected this, of course — hoped for it, even — but it’s hard to believe that one year ago, September 1st, Kaia was born. Pink, crying, delicate — a precious gift of a girl who I couldn’t imagine as the feisty, silly, energetic light of our lives she is today. Last year, I could never have fathomed how much life would change, how much Alex and I would change, or how many highs and lows were in our future. But here we are as changed people with changed lives with so many highs and lows behind us and it means, perhaps more than anything else, that we survived. We all did.

This year was full of challenges that rendered me sinking, drowning. There were days I was sure I couldn’t handle another second of screaming or another night where I’d lie awake, holding a child until 6 in the morning when it was finally my time to get in my one blessed hour of sleep. Tears were shed — lots of them. There was frustration, and fear, and sadness. There were arguments hissed at 3 a.m., moments where it took every single ounce of will I had within me to not yell at my husband, moments where I just knew for certain that I had ruined an innocent child’s life just by simply deciding to become a mother. Some days (for example, the ones where I didn’t work for three straight hours to get my overtired infant to sleep) I managed to get my head slightly above the deep water I was in, but just as I thought I might be able to grab a hold on to the life ring that was always just out of my reach, there was loneliness, and isolation, and pain, and so much damn responsibility on my shoulders alone to pull me right back under.

So, I did what any human does when shit is going down, when it’s live or die: I fought. I churned up so much water around me that I likely just made everything worse. It never took very long after all of that fighting to become utterly exhausted and simply give up and give in to whatever was going to happen. It was in those moments of stillness, of not fighting, of not trying that I was instantly buoyed upward. Kaia would laugh, she would smile, she would screech, she would look at me with her big blue eyes and stare right into my soul, and suddenly I was breathing again. Finally, after I spent enough time catching my breath and recovering from my near-drowning experiences, I finally figured out that in order to make any progress in motherhood, I needed to swim. So, I started swimming like hell, and I haven’t stopped since. Swimming often means “acting as if,” it means having no expectations, it means not taking things seriously, it means laughing at life’s absurdity. It means making decisions even when I don’t know what I’m doing. It means being a leader in the moments where I’d feel more comfortable being a follower. It means trying my best, failing, and then trying again.

Nobody said it was easy. Nobody had the heart to say it would be this hard.

Motherhood is hard work, there is no denying that. But simply being a mother — a caretaker, a protector, a loving supporter to Kaia? That’s effortless. She just makes it so easy. Kaia is feisty, and determined, and never lets any obstacle stand in the way of accomplishing her goals. She is social, and funny, and lights up every room she enters. There is not a single other person like her that I have ever known, and at just one year old she is the most inspiring, influential, magnificent human I have ever had the honor to meet.

No one ever told me that parental love was the sweetest one out there. This is a love that is quiet, powerful, and invincible. It asks no questions, defines no boundaries, and rests easy just as it is. For this, I would so absolutely anything. For this — for Kaia — I’ll never stop swimming.

We made it a year. It’s a drop in the bucket that feels so monumental.

I don’t doubt our ability to tread the waters of new toddlerhood, body surf the turbulent seas, to float on glassy waters, and swim to whatever shore appears to us next.

Pregnancy

That time I gave birth

August 16, 2017

This time last year, I was due to give birth! I didn’t until two weeks later, but still! I figured that it’s as good a time as any  to post the birth story a few of you have wanted to read. It was a pretty typical labor, nothing crazy happened, and we were all okay in the end. If words like “dilation” make you uncomfortable, this isn’t the post for you.

I was 41 weeks and 3 days pregnant when I stood, shifting my weight from one leg to another, in the elevator of the City Target in Downtown Seattle when woman with silver hair asked me how far along I was. I told her, my discomfort audible, my face plastered with a grimace that became permanent three days earlier. She looked at me intently, scanning my massive belly, then finding my tired, angry eyes. She nodded knowingly and said the only thing that could really be said to a woman 10 days past her due date: “Well. Yeeeeah.”

By then, I was receiving daily infuriating text messages from friends and family, some that consisted only of question marks. My pelvic pain limited my ability to walk more than about a half a mile per hour, and the acts of getting up from the couch or turning over in bed were frustrating, laughable, and in some cases, impossible for me to accomplish without assistance. I was too swollen to wear my shoes, couldn’t keep down food, and had never-ending heartburn. Like a dementor, pregnancy had officially stolen every last ounce of happiness I had left in me. I was miserable, a typical woman 41 weeks pregnant.

My midwives spoke to me slowly, carefully, the way you might speak to someone pointing a gun at your head. “I’m sorry,” they’d say, “I know you’re uncomfortable.” They pitied me. I had been coming into the office for NSTs every couple of days where they’d confirm that the baby was okay, I was okay, and I still wasn’t in labor. Of course, it wasn’t for lack of trying. I had two membrane sweeps, one when I was just over 40 weeks pregnant, and one at 41+2, which my midwife called “reaming” because she did it so forcefully. I was desperate for my pregnancy to be over, and really, I was running out of time. The day of my “reaming” was also the day we made concrete plans to attempt to evacuate my child from my uterus. An induction was scheduled, and on September 1st at 9 p.m., I’d be put on Pitocin. I couldn’t tell if I was nervous, disappointed or some third thing, but I resigned myself to napping, watching Harry Potter movies, and moving as little as possible in anticipation of labor and the new life I was bringing into the world which would surely mean I would never nap, watch Harry Potter, and not move ever again.

On August 31, I woke up with contractions at 3:00 a.m., and they came every 5-10 minutes all day long until 8:00 p.m. when they just stopped. My frustration was only paralleled by my rage. Why was nothing happening?! Why was I seriously ending another day with a baby still inside of me with no intention of exiting?! I headed to bed at 9:00 p.m. and stayed awake thinking of what was coming the next day. Pitocin, pain, 3 hours of pushing (I didn’t have any hope), stitches, but…baby! I decided I was going to sleep in for as long as possible when I finally closed my eyes at 1 a.m. But my sleep was short-lived. I woke up at 3:00 a.m. on September 1st to contractions. Again. I was in no mood for more prodromal labor, no mood for contractions that would not result in me giving birth. I was going to the hospital in 16 hours, and I was desperate for more than the two hours of sleep I had gotten. I shut my eyes, begging my brain and body to sleep, yelling in my head about how I was going to be sucking on ice chips later that night and spending hours trying to expel an actual human being from body through an opening the size of a bagel.

Naturally, on a day where it was imperative to me that I was well rested, my body laughed in my face. Just like it had been doing for two weeks. My contractions were decently painful (like the ones I had when I was miscarrying my first pregnancy/menstrual cramps x 100), and I thought they were coming quickly, so I started timing them with an app on my phone to see the damage. I was having contractions every 5 minutes, lasting anywhere from 1-1.5 minutes. So much for going back to sleep. After about 4 contractions the app told me to go to the hospital. But I knew better — I had just spent the day prior in the very same situation, and it was all for naught. I actually laughed because it was too damn funny to think that I would ever actually be in the position where I needed to get to a hospital because birth was imminent. When the contractions started coming every 3 minutes, I figured I’d at least tell Alex.

“Alex,” I whispered, waking him up. “I’m having contractions again. They’re coming pretty close together, 3-5 minutes apart”
“Do you want to get up and go to the living room?,” he asked.
“Yeah, I guess.”

He encouraged me to sit on my exercise ball, which I did. I quickly found that it just made my pain worse, so I settled for kneeling on the floor, draping myself over the ball instead. That, too, was miserable. It seemed to be a pattern. I took a few contractions before I gave up and headed to the couch to lie in the fetal position. A few hours passed while my pain intensified before I decided to sit in the bathtub, hoping it would take the edge off. Alex called my midwife’s office to ask what my next step was, just as I lowered myself into the luke warm water.

The midwife instructed us to come to the office at 9:30 a.m. where I’d have another NST to check on the baby and talk about my options. Alex brought my hospital bag down to the car and lined the passengers seat with a trash bag with a towel placed over it in the (extremely unlikely) event that my water broke during the one mile drive. I grumbled the entire way from our apartment into the parking garage, grumbled some more leaving the parking garage, and started to become more agitated as we drove on the bumpy city streets. When we got to my midwife’s office, Alex parked the car in an area that was definitely not a parking space but was close to the elevators, and I said every swear word I have ever heard in my life as I walked to them.

When we finally made it to the office, I left Alex at the front desk to head to the waiting room where I found four other pregnant women and their companions. I sat on the edge of a chair across from a woman who looked like she must have been in her second trimester because she appeared to be happy. For a moment, I felt contempt for this person I didn’t even know. I was the quintessential seething woman in labor like you see in the movies, except I was in far too much pain to scream at Alex, and far too tired to break someone’s hand by squeezing it. The woman stared at me as I gripped the armrests, exhaling deeply as my stomach tightened and the pain of my contractions peaked. The room was quiet and everyone was looking at me. The faces of the males in the room were combinations of horror and sympathy. I can only imagine what those women — the people who actually had to birth their babies — were thinking. A nurse came to greet me, and I was led into a room with a big, soft, teal chair, and was hooked up to a fetal monitor. I’d have to wait 20 minutes to hear the results, and I spent those 20 minutes completely silent. When the 20 mins were up, a nurse came in, told me my contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes, and that I was in labor. With that, she led me to an exam room to see the midwife.

Robin, a midwife I had seen twice before, was a breath of fresh air. She was real, empathetic, didn’t look at me like I was crazy when I told her my fears, and was so kind and patient. I liked her immediately when I met her — weeks before — and Alex and I hoped more than anything that she’d be on call on the day I went into labor. I was so happy that I nearly smiled when she walked into the room that day, grinning, thrilled that I had gone into labor and wouldn’t need an induction after all. She was still grinning as she examined me and found I was 3-4 cm dilated. I spoke slowly, my muscles clenching with every contraction, and I told her that I hadn’t slept much, I was in pain and desperate for a break. I really needed to sleep, I said. Robin knew I was not entirely comfortable with the idea of an epidural (which would likely allow me to sleep), so she explained that she could offer me Fentanyl when I was admitted to the hospital, but there was a catch. The Fentanyl would make me feel drunk for certain, and might not actually relieve the pain and allow me to rest. Feeling drunk while having contractions was a hard pass for me, and I told her as much. I knew I would be giving birth running on fumes and unmedicated, but at least I’d actually be giving birth — a welcome relief after 42 weeks. Robin gave me two options: I could go home for 1.5 hours max and then head to the hospital, or I could just be admitted right then. It took a few minutes for me to decide, but I chose to go to the hospital. It was a short drive — just a couple of blocks — and I was in better spirits by the time we got to the parking garage. I texted close friends and family to say that it was going down for real, I was actually in labor, and I was buzzing with anticipation.

When we made it up to the birth center, it all felt surreal. For a moment I was actually excited. Alex filled out some papers while I labored on a bench near the reception area before a nurse came and led me into a room the size of an airplane hangar with huge windows and a view of downtown Seattle. I made a beeline for the bed to sit down, and was overcome with relief that I wasn’t in labor at home anymore or in a doctor’s office. I was where I needed to be to give birth.

I was hooked up to a monitor again, and the intermittent monitoring I was expecting from the very beginning just wasn’t my reality at the time. I wasn’t sure why, but I wasn’t in the mood to ask, so I rolled with it. Eventually, after nearly an hour, I was given wireless monitors so I could labor in the big, deep jetted tub in the bathroom. I couldn’t use the jets with these monitors on my belly, but I didn’t mind, especially because being in the water wasn’t providing me as much relief as I hoped it would. Eventually, when the water became cold, I got out of the tub. The monitors were finally taken off, and I was left to labor untethered. Alex and I made the decision to call my doula who began the drive down from Everett, and she made it to the hospital in record time.

Sindea came into the room smiling, and I was so relieved to see her. She had been a doula for 18 years, witnessed over 400 births, and was chock-full of knowledge, empathy, and most importantly to me at the time, pain relief techniques. We had a short conversation between my contractions before she took out her TENS machine. She placed the sensors on my back, and told me to activate the electrical pulses with the push of a button when my contractions were beginning to peak. The pulsing sensation was no match for the pain of my contractions, and they were actually uncomfortably distracting, but I kept it on for at least an hour — maybe more — hoping beyond all hope that it would help. Eventually, I gave up and attempted other methods. I labored in various positions, labored for another hour or so in the tub, took sips of water when I could, and listened to Sindea’s soothing voice. When my muscles instinctively tensed when a contraction began, she coached me in relaxing my body and reminded me to breathe until, finally, I was able to do these things without prompting. She helped me to stay focused and present — to not fight what I was feeling. Her support was instrumental to me, and with her help, I was crawling my way through labor millimeter by millimeter. When the rolling contractions (contractions that come one after another without a break in between) began, I closed my eyes, only to open them a handful of times until I finally gave birth.

A few hours had passed as I labored in complete silence on my hospital bed before Sindea got a phone call saying that there was an emergency she needed to attend to. She was going to need to leave the hospital, so she called her backup doula and bid us goodbye. Alex and I were alone now. When I had the capacity to think, I felt bad that my eyes were closed and that I wasn’t speaking. I could not do anything but stay silent when my contractions came, and even if I could have maintained my ability to speak, there was really nothing to talk about. Between thinking about how guilty I was feeling, I thought of my grandparents, and it was a comfort to me.

Robin came to check on me as Mariah, Sindea’s backup doula, came into the room and introduced herself. She immediately sat down by my side and offered suggestions to help me cope with the increasing pain of my contractions. I labored in various positions and changed positions frequently before I laid down, semi-reclined, on my left side with some pillows behind my back, some supporting my belly, and a few pillows between my knees. Eventually I ended up on my back with my knees bent, Mariah and Alex taking turns to forcefully push my legs inward toward my body. This helped immensely in relieving the pain I felt in my back and hips, and really did make me feel quite a bit better.

It wasn’t long before the pain intensified further. Mariah coached me in low-moaning as I worked hard to consciously relax my muscles with every contraction. After a few hours of laboring like this, I said the most I had said all day: “I can’t do this anymore.” But really, I knew that I could. I had the will to continue, and even if I didn’t, it’s not like I had the choice in the matter, so I quickly added, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” Eventually, Robin came in and asked how I was doing, to which I replied, “Honestly, this entire day has been a complete shit show.” Unsurprisingly, I was miserable and exhausted. She empathized with the struggle and asked if I wanted her to check my dilation. I was curious to know how I was progressing, so I said yes. I wasn’t feeling overly confident, but I hoped I was at least 5 cm to make me feel a little better about the pain I was feeling. She said I was 7-8 cm, and I was so happy I probably would have cried if I had any energy. Mariah spoke immediately and said, “The hard part (transition) is not coming. It’s not something you are going to have to do, you are already doing it.” I labored some more with two nurses, Robin, Mariah and Alex telling me that I was doing a great job.

Less than an hour passed before Robin encouraged me to use the bathroom and labor on the toilet for a few contractions. I shuffled slowly to the bathroom and took a few contractions on the toilet before the pain was just too much for me to bear, and I stood up. I noticed that I was leaking fluid, and when I opened the door, I said in the weakest voice I have ever heard emerge from myself, “I think my water broke.” Robin said, “Okay! It’s okay!,” as I walked back into the room and got back in bed. Robin wanted to check my dilation once more and found that I was 9 cm, and although I was leaking water, it had not yet broken. She asked if I wanted her to break my water for me, explaining that it may help to ease the pain I was feeling. Before I could respond, it broke spontaneously (and audibly — it was pretty loud), and Robin and the nurses suited up for the delivery. I was 10 cm dilated almost immediately.

The foot of my bed was dropped down, and the back was raised straight up so that I was in the “throne” position (sitting). Gravity was going to assist me as the baby gently slid out of my body, though neither gravity nor the baby understood that “gently” was the keyword. Somehow, miraculously, I had a minute or two of relief before my contractions really ramped up. The pain, of course, followed suit. I only had one last run-of-the-mill contraction before my body started to involuntarily bear down with each one. The pressure was overwhelming, and it was far and away the worst part of labor. About 35 minutes later, Robin said that I could push along with my body if I wanted to, and because I was desperate to get the baby out, I did. I was mindful to keep the muscles in my face relaxed, and use all of my energy to bear down. About 10 minutes later, the baby was crowning, and Robin asked if I wanted a mirror so I could see what was happening. I yelled my response, “Fuck no!” Robin told me to stop pushing. A minute later, she said, “Deena, open your eyes. Look down, look at your baby.” Kaia entered the world at 10:02 pm after 45 minutes of (voluntary and involuntary) pushing — pink and crying — and was quickly placed on my chest. She was tiny, warm, and beautiful, with eyes like the ocean. “Hi,” I said. “Hi, baby. You’re here.”

The world melted away. I didn’t notice that she pooped all over me as soon as I put my arms around her, I didn’t notice when I delivered the placenta, I barely noticed getting stitched up. All I could focus on was the child in my arms. A real human, my own flesh and blood. I held her for almost two hours, staring at her.  I felt like I knew her long before we met. I thought of all of the hard days during my pregnancy, and the struggles, sadness, and heartbreak I experienced over the course of my life, and suddenly, it all had deeper meaning. Everything I had ever done, every moment I had ever experienced, led me right into that hospital bed with my husband’s hand on my head, and the person for whom it was all for laying on my chest.

For all of my life she was always with me, but now she was really here.

Life as I knew it ended in that delivery room.

When it was time to start heading to my postpartum room, Alex took Kaia over the scale to be weighed. Robin held Kaia in her arms for a few seconds and predicted, accurately, that she would weigh 8 lbs 3 oz. Afterward, Alex took her and held her as I did things like attempt to move (it was very hard) and pee (I physically couldn’t, so a catheter was used to help me out). Eventually, I sat in a wheelchair, had Kaia handed to me, and I was wheeled out. We went upstairs, passing smiling doctors, and into the very postpartum room we toured when I was 30 weeks pregnant. I smiled at the memory of myself, the terrified pregnant woman who had no idea that in just twelve weeks she would be in that same room holding the meaning of her life in her arms. The first of the rest of my days began right there in that thimble-sized room on the fourth floor of a gigantic hospital.

Now I smile at the memory of myself, the euphoric new mother, who had no idea that boundless love, pride, and happiness were waiting for her.

Everyday Life

Kaia is 11 months old!

August 8, 2017

Like a toddler who got what they wanted mid-kick, mid-scream, 2017 finally got me to surrender the notion that maybe my baby could stay a baby for at least another year. Here we are, bidding farewell to infancy and staring down the barrel of TODDLERHOOD. I tried to fight it, but I was no match for time. Toddlerhood means facing challenges I’m really sure how I’m going to handle like getting her to eat with utensils, potty training, and the urge to run full speed into traffic, so I’m pretty content to stay in the now with my little baby.

Her cake smash is later this month, and while I’m extremely excited to see her flail around and get cake literally everywhere and in every single nook and cranny of her body and clothes, I’m also a little upset that she’s coming up on such a big milestone. Obviously, I’m going to be a wreck on September 1st. I’m already contemplating keeping her up a little bit later (we’re going on vacation on the 3rd, so we’ll be working on pushing her bedtime to 9:30 pacific time anyway) or having her sleep on me so that I’m holding her at 10:02 pm. I’m so lucky to have the privilege of watching her grow into the person she is meant to be, but it still stings. A birthday is both a loss and a gain, a gray area of pride and heartbreak. I’m really going to miss infancy, and I’m going to miss the person she is right now. But even then — I know the best is yet to come. That’s always the case, isn’t it? There is so much good ahead of us.

Kaia at a glance:

  • Has 8 teeth
  • Grinds her teeth (it makes us cringe)
  • Loves to take objects out of containers
  • Laughs when we read Goodnight Moon
  • Likes to sit on top of empty boxes
  • Climbs over everything
  • Crawls under her crib just to sit and play
  • Leans her head over to one side to look at us and laugh
  • Is becoming more proficient in imitating sounds and her babbles of “bubble” and “blueberry” sound surprisingly accurate
  • Loves rice, blueberries, bananas, and Bamba (always bamba)
  • Waves
  • Leans forward and reaches for things she wants while making some kind of exclamation
  • Says “ca” when the cat is around and “da” when the dog is around
  • Enjoys holding things for us at the grocery store
  • Is becoming very gentle with her petting technique and extends her whole hand (she still does try to grab ears, but ya know, she’s a baby)
  • Finally started to babble “mamama”
  • Loves when we sing the itsy bitsy spider and the wheels on the bus
  • Tolerates being worn in a ring sling but still prefers her buckle
  • Wears a whole range of sizes from 3-6 month (shirts and onesies) to 12 months (shirts, onesies, pants).
  • Stands up to listen to stories
  • Isn’t a huge fan of the stroller these days
  • Won’t lay down for a diaper change 99% of the time (it’s funny AND MESSY)
  • Her favorite toys consist of plastic bowls, tupperware, a stainless steel bowl, and wooden spoons
  • Loves to open and close drawers
  • Screams at the top of her lungs when she is especially frustrated or especially entertained
  • Jumps when she is excited

It was real, infancy. Time for the next chapter!

Parenthood

It’s better to be authentic than good

August 1, 2017

I heard them for no apparent reason when I was 5, when I was 15, when I was 25. I heard them for reasons including having conversation with a 4-year-old about superheros, talking to a seven-year-old about school, and simply holding a baby. I heard them from friends and family and coworkers and strangers, the words: “you’re going to be a good mother.”

If a child repeatedly hears they are worthy of love and respect, they’ll believe it. If a man repeatedly tells his family that his wife is terrible, they’ll believe him. If someone repeatedly reads Brietbart articles about how Mexicans are stealing jobs from qualified Americans, they’ll believe it. If a person is repeatedly told that, if nothing else, they’ll be a good parent, they’ll believe it. It’s called the illusory truth effect, the tendency to believe information after repeated exposure. Naturally, I’m not immune to this cognitive bias. And, naturally, I did somewhat internalize the idea that I would be a good mother simply because I heard it so often.

I understood, of course, that there was no evidence to suggest that I’d actually be a good parent (caring about the thoughts of a 4-year-old does not a good parent make), but there was also no evidence to the contrary. So, in many ways, these words became something I built my identity around.  In my young adulthood I could say, for example, that I was female, a US citizen, a geek who minored in Geology, a horrible artist, and a decent baker. I could also say that I would probably make a decent mother. I was as certain of this as I was certain that I was a brunette.

Imagine my disappointment when I finally became a mother and learned that it is far easier to be a “good” one when parenting your nonexistent children hypothetically. It took far longer than I’d like to admit for this realization to truly sink in: what was presented to me as “good” by those around me either reflected who they were or what they felt as parents, or who they wish their parents were when they were parented. The overall message was that there is an ideal type of parent, ideal things to do, ideal things to focus on. There were ideal things to feel. There were also things one should not do, lest you be the worst parent in the world.

As it was told to me, a good parent did and felt these things: they became different people very moment their child was born, they took to motherhood like a fish to water, they never changed anything about their lives or living arrangements to accommodate their children, they always felt fulfilled, they never had moments of anger or sadness, they never needed a break, they never wanted to put their child down, they obsessively worried about and sheltered their children. Of course, a good parent also had babies that slept through the night far before they were 6 months old, were always happy, were chubby, and didn’t unintentionally throw a wrench into mom’s plans to take a shower or pee.

Suffice it to say, when I think about or continue to hear these messages, I often feel like I am failing. I often feel like I am not living up to the “good mom” expectation that was always had of me. And, really, I’m not. No one who told me that I would be a good mom could say that I actually am with the same conviction. After all, a good mother was never someone who, among other things, occasionally cried in the kitchen while making the baby breakfast or who wanted a break from the person she tried to conceive. I know that I haven’t met expectations when I tell my mom about how I am excited about going out to dinner with my husband in September without Kaia, and I get raised eyebrows. I know it when a friend says she thought I was more of an attachment parent than a RIE parent, and that she is surprised. I know it when, after admitting that I am sometimes overwhelmed by the demands of parenthood, I get condescending responses that include “you should have expected this” or  “you said you wanted a baby” or “yeah, you can’t just do whatever you want when you want to anymore, welcome to life.”

The truth is, I’ve taken to motherhood like a fish to deep space. I nurse my kid 3 times in 3 hours all day long, and honestly, sometimes I don’t want her attached to my body. Sometimes I miss being able to do things like pee without having to say “It seems like you’re upset that I put you down. I know that you would rather I stay here with you. I know that you don’t want me to go, sweetie, and I promise I am coming back.” Sometimes I miss being able to wear a real bra. Sometimes I miss going out alone with my husband. Sometimes I am frustrated or even downright angry. Sometimes I cry so much after Kaia goes to sleep that my eyes are red and swollen well into the next day. Sometimes I put Kaia in her “yes space” and go into the backyard for a few moments of complete silence. Sometimes I feel lonely and unfulfilled in my role as a mother. Sometimes I lie awake at night asking the universe to please magic me into someone who is better than I am. Sometimes, for as much as I love the life I have now, I do miss the old one.

What is really boils down to is this: I’m not a “good mom,” at least according to the definition of many in my social circle. You know what I am instead? Human. Authentically so.

I would rather be authentic than some arbitrary portrayal of good. If I give myself permission to be myself, I also give my daughter permission to be herself. I don’t have to smile all the time. I don’t have to wear her when I want a break. I don’t have to say that motherhood is easy for me. I don’t have to pretend I don’t want to be alone with my husband ever again for my child to know that she is deeply, unconditionally, and forever loved by me. Janet Lansbury suggests in her book Elevating Childcare: a guide to respectful parenting, that we be our real selves so our children can be their real selves. And I absolutely I want to be my real self so that Kaia can be her real self, too. I want her to truly know me, I don’t want her to know me: mother on a pedestal. I also want to truly know her, not some watered down version of her that doesn’t include all of her feelings, thoughts and expressions simply because I communicated and demonstrated to her that they were unacceptable.

I would rather be the mom who showed her daughter that it’s okay to feel the way you feel. I would rather be the mom who taught her kid from the very beginning that feelings aren’t good or bad, they just are. I would rather be the mom who modeled self-care. I would rather be the mom who showed her child that perfection is unattainable. I would rather be the mom who communicated with her words AND her behavior that her child is enough. I would rather show my daughter (who is very likely going to be someone’s mother) that mothers are people, and even when everything changes in your life when you become a mom, everything also kind of stays the same.

By allowing myself the freedom to stay authentic, I remove the feeling of wrongdoing. There is nothing wrong with getting frustrated, there is nothing wrong with wanting more out of life than the role of being a mother, there is nothing wrong with wanting time alone with your spouse, there is nothing wrong with feeling overwhelmed. I’m not less of a mother because of these things. By allowing myself the freedom to stay authentic, I also increase my happiness. I’m happier when I recognize that crying is simply an expression of a feeling rather than an indication that I am a bad parent. I’m happier when I recognize that going out alone with my husband is simply part of what I need to do to sustain my mental health. I’m happier when I recognize that putting Kaia down in her “yes space” is a way for her and I both to have some independence. I am happier when I forget about being good — whatever that means — and focus on just being a mother who loves her kid, who loves herself, and who is doing what she needs to do in order to keep both parties satisfied.

I’m better this way.

It’s better this way.

Whatever parenting philosophy we subscribe to (except the anti-vax thing — that’s just harmful), whatever we feel, whatever our experience, whatever we need to do to keep ourselves grounded, whatever we need to be the best parents we can possible be — it’s is all good (baby, baby).

 

Parenthood

Kaia is 10 months old!

July 17, 2017

Bittersweet is the best way to describe how I feel about the fact that my baby is nearly a toddler. The further away I get from the first moment I looked into her eyes, the more pronounced that feeling becomes. I realize, however, that the further I get from that time, the closer I get to the exciting things coming our way. Pretty soon we’ll have a child who can stand unsupported, who can walk, who can eat smoked turkey on Thanksgiving, who can pet the cat without having her parents say “gentle” over and over again. Well, okay, maybe the cat thing is pushing it a little.

Now that we are getting closer to her birthday, we have planned a cake smash and a playdate party with other babies/toddlers for late August, and I’m thinking about what kind of cake I’ll be making for our low-key family celebration on September 1st (chocolate cake with a peanut butter buttercream frosting sounds right up Kaia’s alley). I get all weepy just thinking about these things, so I try to keep my mind focused firmly on the present and how I can keep her from picking up the white fuzz from our rug and putting it in her mouth.

Kaia’s personality has really started to bloom as of late, and I feel like I learn more about her with every passing week. She is willful, determined, independent, brave, and social, and I love to watch her interacting with the world. I’m pretty sure that my own child is my spirit animal. I spend much of my time these days laughing because she is hilarious, and everything she does — from the way she furiously turns the pages of her books to the way she attempts to twist herself backward in shopping carts — endears her to me even more.

At 10 months, life is about keeping up with an increasingly active baby, preventing her from injuring herself on a nearly constant basis, finding every soft food imaginable to feed her, dealing with some pretty intense teething, and becoming acquainted with the new ways she expresses herself.

Kaia at a glance:

  • Has 5 teeth, with two or so more coming in
  • Can often be found clicking her tongue
  • Eating like a champ! Her favorite food these days is toast with peanut butter, though some honorable mentions include apple, banana and cheerios
  • Arches her back and tosses her head backwards when she is frustrated
  • Is cruising more and more
  • Seems to have a firm grasp on the word “no” and usually won’t even try to do something again once she has been told not to
  • Loves the books “The Pout-Pout Fish,” If You Take a Mouse to School” and “I Like Myself”
  • Holds her own cup and drinks from a straw
  • Can usually be cheered up with a game of peekaboo
  • Slaps her hands on everything, especially when she is eating
  • Is very social and loves to interact with other babies and adults
  • Frequently takes 1.5-2 hour naps
  • Throws herself forward onto the floor when she is upset
  • Fascinated by drawers and doors
  • Likes bubbles
  • Has a fondness for empty bottles
  • Bounces up and down when she is excited
  • Goes for gold with her gymnurstics routine. She climbs up my body, twists and turns, planks, and otherwise does everything but stay still while nursing

Life with a 10-month-old is hilarious, unpredictable, challenging, and a whole lot of fun. Some days are hard, some days are remarkably easy, but every day I get to spend with her is so precious to me. I’ll never be able to predict the ways in which things will change as the weeks pass, but I can say with certainty that it is bound to be interesting!

Parenthood

Home

July 7, 2017

When we first moved to Washington, we lived in a shiny high rise on 1st Avenue, a short walk from Pike Place Market. I loved the view of the water from our balcony, the contagious roar of the Seahawks fans you could heard from the stadium during a football game, and the smell of salty air. It was something we never wanted to give up, and so for the next several years we lived in shiny high rises with water views, never more than a mile from our previous location, and for most of it, in apartments that were approximately the size of a matchbox. We were just so happy to live in the center of Seattle, and never questioned that the city was where we belonged.

We swore each time we flew into SeaTac airport that nothing could beat knowing that just over Lake Washington, and just south of Lake Union, all of our belongings sat in a tiny apartment in a glistening building riiiight over there. From the ground, the sight of the skyline was equally comforting, and for me, driving into the crowded city was like taking a Xanax during a panic attack. Whether we were returning from a hike, or backpacking, or camping, or a daytrip to Whidbey Island, or even an afternoon shopping in Tukwila — Seattle was comforting. It was predictable and familiar, it was home.

Being home meant watching the sunset over the Olympics, using flashlights to transmit messages via morse code to random people in hotel rooms at the Westin, walking to work, walking around on weekends wearing inappropriate shoes to find a tucked away restaurant with mediocre food and really good drinks, or venturing out on a quiet weekday with a friend just to grab breakfast at a french restaurant downtown, and somehow finding ourselves on a hike miles and miles from the city at 3 PM. It meant knowing that if you take the exit for the convention center and make a left at the first light, you can beat all of the traffic on the ever-popular exit ramp for Seneca and get to where you’re going a little faster. It meant knowing that It’s damn near impossible to make a right onto Union from 2nd Avenue without being rear-ended or side-swiped by a bus or two. It meant knowing that avenues run north to south, and streets run east to west, and never being lost. Sometimes I really miss it. Sometimes I feel like I am grieving the loss of home.

We moved out to the suburbs in mid-May, and nowadays you can find us sipping scotch in the yard, strolling with the baby down the street before bedtime, and doing very suburban things like not spending 5+ minutes driving out of a parking garage when taking the car anywhere, driving a quarter of a mile on a Friday evening in under 1.5 hours, and becoming acquainted with things like block parties, neighborhood watches, and backyard chickens.

Like many urbanites, our decision to move was prompted by welcoming a baby into our family. There is more space for her to play here, less noise (which is to say it’s totally quiet), and it’s less of a hassle to do basically everything but get to work and go to the doctor. It was a change we wanted, a change we chose, and yet when we packed up and drove the miles to our new place, the change was jarring. Being a Seattleite was the very last thing that tied me to my old life. It was always there as my secure base whenever navigating the new terrain that is parenthood and a dramatic shift in my identity became overwhelming. I changed a lot when I became a mother, but where I lived stayed the same, and familiarity was essential to me.

Just recently I sat in our yard on a waterproof blanket, in the shade of a tree, with Kaia who was tearing apart leaves. Even though I didn’t have my bearings, and was just beginning to come to terms with the loss of my connection to my pre-baby life, I felt it deep in my soul, the understanding that this place is definitely my home. It’s where this version of myself belongs. I don’t know how to get to a single place without the use of Google Maps, I’m asleep before the sun sets, I don’t know shortcuts to get to where I want to go, I’m pretty sure that shining a flash light into someone’s house would end with police at my doorstep, and I don’t even know if a French restaurant exists in this town — but this home means so much more to me than familiarity, flashlight communication, and a breakfast of Chausson aux Pommes.

Now, being home means being in the place where my daughter will take her first steps. It’s where she will one day call me mama, where she’ll giggle and play, where we will return after trips to feel at peace. It’s where I’m going to send her off for her first day of kindergarten, and maybe even her last day of high school. It’s where she crawls over to me as I put away laundry, it’s where I play Ella Jenkins on repeat and hug her tight under the midday sun, it’s where we read together, and eat together, and laugh together. It is to her what Fair Lawn, Bethesda, Athens, and Seattle were and are to me: the place that holds the memories of my past and the promise of the future. I point out flowers, and pretty houses, and schools, and kids riding their bikes, and I tell her that this is where she is going to grow up, that this place is her home. And I know it is one of many she will come to know over her lifetime.

I’m lucky to have had Seattle to call my home in my mid-late 20s, and I know that I am luckier to have Bellevue as my home in my 30s, which will arguably be one of the most important, significant, magical decades of my life. I’m going to make many happy memories here, just like I did in Seattle. One day, this, too, will be my old life. Someday, when I’m no longer sitting on waterproof blankets under a tree at 2 PM with a child crawling all over me, when I hear the very last bell ring on Kaia’s very last day of school, and when I’ll hug her for the last time in what could very well be years, I’m going to say goodbye to this. I’m going to lose my last connection to my childrearing years, and the word home will once again be redefined.

It is through that realization that I find I am not saying goodbye to the old me, but rather, hello, to the new one. I didn’t consider that to truly move forward, it often means letting go completely from the life you once knew to be fully prepared to grasp on to the life you will come to know.

The truth is that I miss the old versions me, I miss Seattle, I miss the many places I have called home. But I’m excited to have the opportunity to embrace the new me, to find new places that will become home, to find new places to miss. What I have been internalizing as an end is really just a new beginning. I think it was just so hard for me to see it that way when becoming a parent truly does mean making sacrifices, and “to sacrifice” means “to surrender.” Like many new parents, I was so focused on what I was surrendering and so terrified of it all that I often lost sight of what I was gaining. And it’s true that there are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.

I think I am finally ready to move ahead and to embrace my new beginning. There is no better place to start as I am right now, right here, somewhere I’m so glad I get to call home.

Hello, hello — always hello — to the future.

Parenthood

Kaia is 9 months old!

June 20, 2017

I’ve been trying to deny the reality of this situation: our little newborn baby is just a few months away from toddlerhood. She is in her last single digit month, and there is something about it that is exceptionally bittersweet.  Of course, I’m excited to see what the world has in store for her in the future, but I’m sad that I’ll never get to see her just as she is right now ever again. I think I have to find a way to stop blinking because she is changing so fast, and growing up at lightning speed.

But, as always, I feel like we’re in a really good place 9 months in. We’re having a lot of fun. Alex and I are feeling more confident (the person who isn’t driving actually sits in the passengers seat now rather than in the backseat with Kaia), and Kaia is in this sweet spot where she is able to move herself around and crawl, but she can’t actually walk, bolt into the street, or scale the shelves of the refrigerator. We get all the perks of having a mobile baby, but none of the anxiety that comes along with having a child that can run away from you. I’m pretty sure this level of mobility is all I can handle without living in a state of full-blown panic! In the next few months I’m either going to need to be medicated, find a way to baby proof hardwood floors, buy her a padded suit, or have her live inside of a bubble.

Kaia has now been outside of my body for about as long as she was inside of it, and I can only vaguely remember life without her. I know that I had fun when I was childless, but having a child and watching her grow, and learn, and laugh, and smile — I’m having more fun these days than I think I ever did. I know without a doubt that I am happier. I’m certain that there is nothing better in life than the way she smiles when I look at her, how she crawls over to me just to sit on me, her little arms stretching up when I go to lift her, and how she looks at me when she is unsure of something or thinks something is fun.

These are the days. Life is good with our not-so-little 9 month old.

Kaia at a glance:

  • Fits into 9m and 12m clothes, depending on the brand.
  • Is pretty tall — around 30 inches! She’s definitely related to us.
  • Has 2 teeth with another two (possibly 3) on the way!
  • Expresses herself more and more. When she’s upset or frustrated, she’ll throw her head back in protest. When she is happy or excited, she’ll bounce up and down.
  • Often stands supported using one hand, or using her elbows while she is holding a toy.
  • Stood unsupported for a second or two.
  • Takes a step or two while holding on to furniture or our legs.
  • Can now stand in her Zipadee-Zip.
  • Imitates sounds.
  • Is becoming more and more interested in eating solid foods, but still doesn’t really like chunks of food if she is being spoon-fed.
  • Developed a pincher grasp and can now pick up lint from the floor and food from her high chair tray with no problem at all.
  • Is visibly excited when she sees food coming.
  • Explores things using one or two fingers.
  • Fascinated with the cat’s ears.
  • Thinks it’s hysterical when the dog jumps around in in circles.
  • Hates her carseat 75% of the time.
  • Loves to turn the pages of her board books.
  • Needs a toy to play with while being changed.
  • Really doesn’t enjoy having her face wiped.
  • Her favorite books are “Is Your Mama a Llama?” and anything by Todd Parr (she loves to look at the pictures).
  • Her favorite toys are stacking cups (which she mostly just chews on), and shape sorters.
  • Loves when I sing
  • Smiles at everyone who looks at her.
  • Responds to her name.

I’m not sure what the next month holds, and I can barely fathom how different she will be a few weeks from now, but I’m soaking her up in this moment, enjoying her little personality, and in awe at how far she has come.