Every summer my to-do list gets in the way. I end up racing around doing errands, home projects, and school prep and before I blink it is time for back-to-school. I am making a promise though to myself to not let that happen this year. The boys will only be this small for a short while and our short summer together should be filled with time together adventuring and exploring. Those window frames can wait to be painted, it is okay if my garden is not meticulously tended to, and no one will judge me if all my dishes are not cleaned up after mealtime. The hardest part of this plan is going to be sticking to it, reminding myself to take a breath and let it be, and to savor the these fleeting moments. He boys won’t remember their mommy cleaning up st this point but they will remember the sand, waves, and cuddles. So just going to do that this summer!
Okay, I did something crazy yesterday. But when I say that, I don’t want you to think it was unplanned or rash. What made it crazy wasn’t the idea but rather the follow through. While driving home from work, I pulled off the road I drive on everyday and walked into a tattoo parlor and got inked. WHAT!? This past month has been emotional. I have written about it and shared some of the emotions that have gone into these past 30 days and many of these feelings feel “accepted” now. Have you ever felt like you walked 1,000 miles in a moment? That was this past month. There was a lot that happened, a lot that changed, a lot that was projected on to the future, a lot that was processed, a lot of transitions, a lot of living, a lot of growing, a lot of discomfort, a lot of frustration, a lot of tears, and finally it feels like some acceptance.
Almost a month ago exactly, David went in for the “snip.” Almost a year ago exactly, I was 100% on board with that decision. Having just had a natural childbirth, I swore on every holy text that I never wanted to feel the uncomfortableness of childbirth again and that our family was truly complete with the arrival of our second baby boy. Of course, those immediate postpartum feelings subsided. The “nope never again will I feel those contractions” conviction wanes as your once helpless little baby starts walking around, babbling, and becoming independent. Maybe this isn’t the sentiment of everyone, but for me that one year mark is the beginning of the return of “baby hunger.” Every inch of my heart starts to ache for a baby. And as both the one year mark and the date of David’s procedure approached and intertwined within 24hrs of each other, my emotional state became uneasy with the reality that our baby making days were over and that my baby was growing up faster than I was ready for. The next 30 days were and still are a period of letting go. Yesterday, while scrolling my Instagram a friend shared this quote and it resonated deeply, “Life is a gentle teacher. She will keep repeating the lesson until we learn. Help me remember that frustration and confusion usually precede growth. It my situation is challenging me, it is because I am learning something new. Rising to a high level of understanding. Help me be grateful, even in my frustration, that life is an exciting progression of lessons.” When I read this, it might seem silly but I found some much needed peace in these words. Everyone always says that life throws you curveballs and to be able to roll with the waves of time. But this is a lot easier said than done. When one has a particular “set” look for the future and that doesn’t end up being the reality, it is hard to grow into. At least, I found this really hard. I railed against the idea of not adding a daughter to our tribe, I did not know how to grieve the end of that dream and struggled to find comfort with David because in the moment he felt like the cause of my pain by going through with the procedure even though we had both always known that two kiddos felt “right” for our family. My questions kept me up at night, What if two was not the “right” number? What happens in five years from now when we wake up and realize we want one more baby but can longer even try? The finality of it all was very challenging to process.
I do not know how to explain it but some of the rawness wore off in the days following the initial feelings of shock, confusion, frustration, and sadness. David did the best he could to be a source of comfort, he demonstrated in a number of ways his love and commitment to me and to our family and in those moments with him at home and with our little boys, gratitude and appreciation for what I have bloomed bigger than the darker, superficial feelings of dissatisfaction, unfulfillment, and resentment. What exactly was I bemoaning? What exactly did I feel like I would be missing out on? When toddler cries out about being denied something be it licking a light bulb or being laid in a crib a common acronym shared among mommies is FOMO, fear of missing out. What was my FOMO? Yes, I will miss out on mother-daughter things, but I have to remember that nothing about parenting or motherhood has been what I expected or anticipated. My two boys have surprised me since the moment they joined our family earthside and that the realness of motherhood is not linear, it is not predictable, it is not gendered, it just is what it is. It is just giving love to the boys, sharing experiences with them, caring for them, and growing with them in life and if that is the perspective that I start each morning with there is nothing I will miss out on unless I throw up my own walls and dig myself into my own corner.
It feels so much better emotionally to let go and not just because it was the inevitable next step but to let go because it was a choice I made with myself to be grateful, present, and balanced. A choice to look around not with expectation for how I think the future will unfurl raising two boys and being married to David but to look around for the possibilities within our day, for adventures, and surprises and to not box any of us in. I don’t want to be boxed in by the narrative I wrote for myself when I was younger which I know no longer applies to who I am or what I want nor should I box in my spouse or kiddos because there is no fun in that. So why did I get inked?
Because life is about experiences and for a long long long time I have talked about getting a tattoo, drawn on my skin various designs but always backed out of them. Things that seem SO permanent are SCARY but also they don’t have to be scary at all. David’s procedure and its permanence was terrify and I am sure there will be days where I go back there, if momentarily, to that feeling of fear/dread, but I don’t have to live there and that permanence doesn’t change how much I love him, the boys, or our lives. Getting the tattoo helps demystify for me the power of permanence. It helps me remember that experiences are more important than check-lists. And sitting down to be tattooed by myself was an experience I will never forget. I felt braver in that moment than I thought I was capable of. It is a reminder that my marriage, my boys, and gratitude are my guiding principles, my doorways to the next great adventure, and that sometimes it is okay to do something permanent, brave, and unexpected!
5AM the alarm goes off. David is the first to get out of bed. We have approximately 60 minutes to both shower, dress, take the dogs out and feed them, wake up the kiddos (if they have not already gotten up on their own), dress them, and get breakfast in before it is time to head to work and daycare drop-offs. Our morning pace is maddening. Everything feels precisely timed and like soldiers we move through our stations accordingly. But everyday after David takes a shower he comes back to bed and for what feels like an hour we just cuddle in. Sometimes we don’t say anything at all and just breathe and hug and maybe drift back to sleep a bit and sometimes while cuddling we talk up a storm about the latest news, our upcoming days, our weekend plans…..
Since last month’s onslaught of a thousand transitions, I have been thinking a lot about the rituals we have as a couple that allow us to bring in some “slow living” into our busy days. It might seem silly but I am realizing that these slow moving moments are actually the pulse checks of my marriage that remind David and I about the primacy of our relationship. It wasn’t like we sat down one day and said, “Okay every morning we will do X and during the afternoons we will do Y,” but gradually overtime we initiated a few life pauses, and these check-ins and moments bring in some physical touch and pace change. And without them, the day feels off-kilter. It was hard when I was reeling with emotion from our “reproductive future conversations” to want to be physically close, but it was precisely in those hard, HARD moments that those little marital tune-ups became critical reminders of why David and I chose to do this life thing together in the first place.
Why bother to do little rituals? It feels grounding, it feels comforting, and it is a mindful decision to become closer as partners. We aren’t obsessed with them, they sort of just flow naturally but I can tell the days in which we do them and the days in which we do not. During the day that slow pace moment is often a crushing hug. David and I will snag each other. It tends to be when one of us sees that the other is having a challenge: maybe a kiddo is screaming, maybe a pot of sauce just fell on the ground, maybe someone is so fixated on an activity (productive or not) that they cannot mentally break free from. In that moment, David will grab a hold of me or I him and just squeeze with all the might. It is hard in that kind of an embrace to not let go of the tension or fleeting anger. To not give in to that moment and to re-calibrate. So that is why these rituals are so important to me and my marriage.
They slow me down, they remind me that current tensions or challenges are fleeting, it brings back a physical touch when the business of life gets in the way of life. And most importantly it reminds me that we are partners and with love and communication and a little touch we can work it out (hug it out) and feel stronger together on the other side of our slow-living pause.
I had such good intentions in my last home to garden. There is a long list around why that never happened:
The ground was SO rocky
The soil was so sandy
We were overgrown with weeds and crabgrass
We were in direct blinding sunlight all day
We had no irrigation
And while all of these are true and real causes for the dry and mangled yard we resided in for five years to be honest it just felt like such a learning curve too!
In school the teachers say, dig a hole, plant a seed, water and grow. And yes this is the basic process but really there is so much more to gardening. I just don’t know where to start. Please share any advice, tips, or tricks to maintaining your beautiful yard because we inherited a beautiful perennial garden and a number of flower beds just ready to burst forward with their spring bounty and I really don’t want to screw this up!
Laugh if you want, but I plan to check out my local library and work on the craft of gardening to do my yard proud because I want to be covered in sweat and soil and look about and say, “yes I helped cultivate that!” So my good intentions are public now, which makes me feel for accountable to this beautiful ground around me. Ask me how it went in august!
It has been over a year since I felt like I owned my body. It is a funny thing to say since I live in it everyday, but when you carry a baby, give birth to that baby, and then nurse that baby for 12 months, you share your body. It is an amazing experience. In these moments, I felt in awe of everything that these cells could do without my conscious self dictating or driving the ship. But that is always part of it, your body just sort of takes over and the part of you that makes you you, goes for the ride. It might be a ride of a lifetime but it is quite a ride. Becoming a mother might very will be the best thing I ever do in my life. It is a daily gift and a daily reminder that things are really really good in life. And it is a reminder that no matter how much I want to control all that is around me, I can’t and even my own body is at times (probably more often than I realize) out of my control.
Today though marks the one week mark since I last nursed little Owen. With him drinking out of sippy cups and fully transitioned to other nourishment, I find myself a little bit perplexed. What do I do with this body now? How exactly do I feel post-nursing my last baby? It has been a HUGE transition and these last 7 days were really hard and really dark. Add to the transition of weaning, the flu and some marital strife and these last seven days were a bit of a misery march. I know the title of this post is deceiving but I promise I will get to those biscuits and why those cheddar biscuits are so important to this tale.
But first, let’s talk about weaning. It happens. For some the weaning process is immediate, even before a nursing relationship is able to fully establish in those first hours or days of motherhood. For others the weaning process is longer, it takes 15+ months for mom and baby to negotiate a truce over who “owns” the boob and who gets to “access” the boob. For me, both of my boys sort of “broke up” with me. Henry was earlier than Owen. At 10/11 months, Henry grew impatient waiting for my milk and much preferred to get going after chugging on his sippy. Owen, I thought would be different. He loved nursing. And I loved nursing him. I thought about how maybe this baby, this baby that I have been told was my last baby, would linger a little longer in his babyhood. Unfortunately, on his first birthday something shifted (maybe hormones or maybe my body just gave a massive sigh of relief), but I was struggling to keep up my supply almost within 24 hours. It felt dire. We had not introduced a sippy cup yet! We had not introduced milk yet! We were rushing head first to an inevitable confrontation and I felt out of control (yet again) of this body which was no longer willing or able to feed Owen. My body started to reject nursing and started to show signs of ‘weaning sickness.” I had a constant headache that was blinding, I felt nauseous, and dizzy, and feverish, and all sorts of awful. It felt like I was both PMSing and pregnant simultaneously and I spent so much money on pregnancy tests over the next few days, and crossed everything hoping that maybe just maybe there would be one more baby for us and that it wasn’t just my body throwing in the towel. David made some moves to end our reproduction future and all of this was too much for me. I was ready to crawl into a big pit of pity and never come out. I felt (and still do a little) that everyone was against me. David was done having babies, Owen was done nursing, my body was done making milk & having babies, and the identity I had crafted and lived in comfortably for 3 years was shifted against my will and I was told to just: deal with it.
Then, the flu hit and our nursing days were truly done. I could not get out of bed, I could not feed Owen. Of course, like it was NO BIG DEAL Owen just drank milk from a cup! It is funny how I made myself sick with worry about how would this child eat and without blinking an eye he just transitioned. He resiliently said “okay,” while I rolled in bed sobbing my eyes out because I was sick from weaning, and sick from the flu, and sick in my heart because too much was happening all at once. Things still feel fragile 7 days later. Owen and Henry are just going about their days as usual, drinking milk like a boss and playing endlessly. But, I still feel a little removed from it all. Surely, I am not alone in the struggle with transitions and I know this story is not unique, yet it is affecting me right now and I am hoping with some more time I will continue to reconcile myself to some BIG changes: I am done having babies, I am done nursing babies, I am done weaning babies, and I am done sharing my body. And while all those things will inevitably happen, it feels so weird actually saying it, seeing it, and living it. I wonder if even ten years from now, I will still ache for this chapter in my life.
So here come the cheddar biscuits. In sharing and giving so much of my cellular essence to someone else and everyone else, I forgot that there are things I like to do with my time but could not do for a long time because I was too tired or busy or overwhelmed or involved in the chapter I am now closing. Like cooking and I mean really cooking from scratch with complicated recipes with lots of ingredients and multiple steps. And yes it will probably be two steps forward and a step back as I figure out these new steps as a mother to two boys who will continue to grow up and potentially grow away from their mama, but there are great things we can do together as they grow up, and as their immediate baby needs shift and change to new horizons, interests, and abilities. And while we all grow into this family dynamic, I know now that I can also bake a pretty delicious cheddar biscuit from scratch. Not the most complicated recipe, but you got to start somewhere. Anyway, I am working on it. I wish there was a script we could follow when adulting gets hard. I wish there was a pause button I could hit so I could just sit a little longer in this moment so that my heart can catch up to the reality it is now living in. It would be so much easier that way. At least the cheddar biscuits tasted good.