fresh ink

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!

When Owen was born

I am feeling all sorts of nostalgia today for my baby boy. I keep looking back at his birth photos and crying because it has been quite a journey this first year and he is becoming such a sweet little darling. But all I want in life is for my babies to stay babies. It doesn’t feel like too much to ask! 

A little trip down memory lane from Owen’s first moments and days (and months)  with us earthside because I cannot stop looking at all these sweet captured memories.

Owen Edward: 12 months


He did it!!! Owen officially took one trip about the sun. At 365 days old, the little man is the sweetest peanut and it is so hard to believe that a whole year has gone by. There might not have been a lot of sleep but there sure were plenty of cuddles, snuggles, and laughs. If given the chance, I would go back to do this year all over again. It is very exciting for Owen to be entering toddlerhood, but I am going to miss my little baby and can only keep everything crossed that he continues to be a mush for mommy. As soon as he sees me, little man wants me to grab him close and he lays his little head down into my neck nook and I could stay like that with him forever.


This was a very BIG month for O. He is totally walking now. He can transverse a room with incredible ease and delights in carrying toys about the playroom. In that “I pick things up and put things down phase,” he can always been seen striving to carry the heaviest item he can find. And if he is able to lug this thing from point A to point B, the joy on his face is truly apparent. It won’t be very long before the little guy is chasing after Henry and Mr. H will finally have to learn to share his toys with his active little brother. Owen also learned to drink out of cup and is in the process of being fully weaned. While I am excited to wear clothes that don’t need to consider the ability to nurse in them, it is a bittersweet transition as Owen becomes ever more independent with each day.


He has become the king of the tantrum! When he doesn’t get his way, he is very willing to let you know. He collapses in half on the floor and then lays out and looks up at you with eyes that say, “I am tantruming right now!”  But most of the time, he can be pulled out of this mindset by picking him up and cuddling him. Owen is for sure our little boy who loves loves loves attention. And, before we blow out the candles on his birthday cake, Owen decided to get 4 more teeth! Project smile is well underway, and once those teeth emerge, they everyone is back to sleeping through the night! Yes, we are officially all sleeping through the night and it is glorious and while morning might be hectic here, they are at least happy!


I wish I could freeze this day. Hold on to my little boys just as they are. They are playful and sweet and so little and the world is so magical to them. They make David and I choose to be our best selves and they inspire us to see the positive, love hard and play hard. I love you birthday boy SO SO SO much!

Our best morning 


Getting glimpses into what mornings will look like here. Henry is playing an elaborate Lego game at the kitchen island and Owen is walking about on his own playing with a pushcart. Drinking my big latte and watching all this is sweet and weird. They are self-entertaining and my “quiet” morning might be coming back to me but a part of me wants to scoop up the boys and create the chaos I am accustomed too. You never want what you have, huh? 

Unsteady

The signs are already there. Owen is starting to nurse less and less. The world around him is far too interesting and stealing sips from Henry’s sippy cup is exhilarating. As we begin the inevitable end of our nursing relationship, I have so many mixed emotions.


First, I am so grateful to have been able to feed my baby by breast for almost twelve months. I never thought that I would want to nurse my babies but once we established our relationship it felt both natural and significant. I loved every minute of rocking baby Owen in his room while he nodded to bed and he ran his little fingers in my hair. I loved less the moments when he shoved his hand down my throat or grabbed and twisted my nose with all his might but hey he was bored there nursing and wanted to amuse himself.  I will miss the way his eyes lit up as I carried him over to our little nook and he knew he could just snuggle in and have alone time together. I will not miss pumping at work to maintain my supply and ensure he had enough to drink while I was away. Those days of running between classes and meetings to the mother’s room were not easy but they were necessary.


Second, I am so grateful that both Owen and my body made it work. While nursing is the most basic and natural human relationship it is SO hard to establish in our society. Without easy access to resources, nursing can be frustrating and isolating. I am grateful to all the women who supported us, cheered for us, and helped normalize this basic human act. And for David for being my lactation consultant and champion.


Third, it felt nice to be a mammal. This might sound weird but I enjoyed remembering that we are not special snowflakes in the universe but part of it and we feed our young just like our mammal friends. We grow our babies, birth our babies, and then feed our babies.


Lastly, I am sad. So sad that Owen is my last baby. That these next three weeks will be the last time I nurse a little human and that my baby is growing up. It feels unsteady to be closing this chapter. It feels bittersweet.

Owen Edward: 11 Months


How can it possibly be that in 30 days our baby is one year old!!  This will sound cliche but truly this year was the longest shortest year with Owen joining us as the fourth and final member to the clan. This month will be filled with many joyful tears as we mark the milestone. So much growth and development has occurred and I am both nostalgic for my tiny baby and excited for all that our little toddler-to-be is able to do now and will continue to be able to do into this next year! For starters, this month, at 30 inches in length, Owen abandoned his baby infant carseat carrier and transitioned into the toddler carseat. I would like to say that this solved our fussy transporter’s issues around car travel but, alas, he remains underwhelmed by travel. Perhaps he will be similar to Henry and change his mind about the car once he is able to turn around and face forward in his seat.



Project smile is at a standstill. Everyday we are convinced that the next set of two bottom teeth and the two front teeth will erupt from the gums, and everyday we are left waiting. He clearing is teething as they inch closer and closer to the surface. We can see them! But, they remain submerged. But, the two-teethed boy is not deterred in his eating. He continues to prefer solid foods to puree and relishes in sausage, kale, spinach, pasta, fish, olives, berries, and cries out to try anything and everything he sees us eating. You truly cannot snack in front of Owen without offering him a bite. He refuses to let a single mealtime experience or opportunity pass him by. In order to convey this, Owen squawks at us, opens his mouth as wide as it physically can go, and reaches out with open hands to grab hold of that morsel. He has started to make the sound for “more” and taps his fingers together to sign to us that he wants more, more, more food!


You might call us crazy, but it also seems like he can say “ball.” This is perfect considering his favorite toy is a ball. He will crawl his way over to a bag of balls or a kick ball, grab ahold of it and start smiling from ear to ear. He cannot contain his delight and squeals with glee as he taps and bops and hits the balls between his hands or onto the floor and says something like “baa laa” while playing. His other go to toys these days are: a dump truck full of balls, shaker eggs, a book that plays the song Old MacDonald, and a xylophone. His grabs the little kid table in the playroom and reaches for his mallet and then you begin to hear the sound of the musician at work. This is the most hysterical thing to the maestro who turns about smiling and laughing and waits for his applause. Music and dancing are definitely the preferred activities for Mr. Owen.


As with every month, there were many celebrations to enjoy from Owen’s first Valentine’s day to singing happy birthday and FaceTiming with family around the country as they  commemorated their own years. Owen tumbled at Jack’s birthday part and played in little gyms throughout the suburbs of Boston as both a way to explore and learn and as an attempt to avoid these last frigid days of old man winter. But whether we are home or out exploring, Owen is in a very clingy phase where he prefers to be snuggled and carried about. When he is ready to get down, he twists out of your arms and let’s you know that this place or this thing is very exciting and he has got to go! Like when it is time for a diaper change he much prefers to be doing anything else, so I am left sweating while I try to wiggle him into his new attire before he scampers off naked. No matter how wiggly he gets though, he is the king of the hug and cuddle. He nestles his little head into my neck and just quietly lays against my cheek while he pats my back and I think, okay let’s stay like this forever or for at least the next 30 years.


David won the bet!  For the past two months, we have been patiently waiting to see when Owen would take his first shaky steps. The deadline was March 11 for David’s victory and on March 8th, Owen let go of the coffee table and took four caution and independent steps to me. And with that David won himself a pack of Dr. Pepper! Congratulations, David. With Owen even more mobile we are preparing ourselves for the inevitable fights between the boys. We have had a glimpse of what is to come. Henry will be playing at the coffee table when Owen sidles up and grabs a hold of whatever had been capturing Henry’s attention and just like that chaos breaks out and they each dig their little nails into the coveted toy and cry out! Yet when it is time to read stories they easily give up their difference and sit down together to follow along with the tale of Make Way for Little Ducklings or Where is Baby’s Bellybutton? In those moments, I know that they will be friends and siblings, allies and rivals, but forever family and there to encourage and protect and love one another. And, that David and I are there to help them figure out those complexities.


As the month closed out, Owen had an ear infection (his first), but after a round of antibiotics he gifted up with multiple nights of major sleep! Owen went down to bed at 6:30PM and woke for the day at 5:30AM and I did a dance of joy throughout the house. I will absolutely miss our nighttime cuddles and nursing sessions when I would wrap his little Tintin curl around my figure and pet his cheek and smile and marvel, but I am also really excited to be getting more consistent and regular sleep through the night…especially since his naps can be unpredictable (sometimes two hours sometimes 20 minutes). But no matter the “hard” times of this first year getting to know our Owen, it will always be a wonderful year because our son joined us, we loved him, we watched him grow and change and develop and share his personality, we heard him say “ma ma” and “da da,” and are so grateful to continue to be able to do this thing with him and for him.  Much love Owen in this final month before we celebrate your very first birthday!


 

Owen Edward: 10 months 

January was a quiet month here. The weather was more consistently cold and it just felt good to slow things down after our big move and the holidays of last month. But even though we generally took things slow, a lot happened in these four weeks for Mr. O. 


 It became very apparent that little man loves the bath. He could splish and splash all day long. He loves to smack his hands and get covered in the water. He grabs at toys and bangs them against the side of tub, he stands up and babbles and plops back down to make waves. He wants to bang at everything, or throw his toys, food, and anything else he can get his hands on onto the floor! Truly a man in motion these days, he can barely be contained. He prefers to crawl about at ludicrous speed and wants to “get into” all sorts of mischief. He crawls away laughing while he makes a bee-line to the dog water or fireplace poker. Forever Mr. Smiles, it is hard to be “upset” when he is ripping the candles out of the fireplace when he turns to you and flashes that gummy smile and squeals in sheer delight. He is definitely proud of himself. He is in that phase where a bookshelf is the most basic and awesome amusement. To take everything off the shelf is pure delight and books while fun to read are better when you throw them about. He loves to tug off his socks and shoes and be in a natural state, and he loves loves playing with his brother (and stealing Henry’s toys). He has started to cruise more around the furniture and even pushes little carts around the house testing out that walking business. Since he can crawl there faster, he tends to drop down to his trusted form of transit but walking has to be on the horizon, no?! David thinks by month 11 but my guess still is post-first birthday. 


Owen is completely a momma’s boy. A true stage-one-clinger, he must be touching me at all times. If I enter a room he drops what he is doing, if I leave a room he bursts into tears, and all he wants is for his Sherpa to hold him, cuddle, and do walkabouts the house. Most mornings he wakes up at 5AM and on weekdays our day begins but some special weekend mornings, I can convince him to snuggle me in bed and go back to sleep and we stay like that for another hour or two and my heart totally melts. At night, I cuddle onto my wild child while he quietly drifts to sleep and think, “who will you become my little fierce one.” He is unaffraid, undeterred, and unbelievably sweet. That boyhood rhyme of “snips and snails and puppy dog tails” suits you.


After momma, comes daddy but  the puppies are close behind. He grabs at them for BIG hugs and laughs into their backs while they turn their heads around to lick his head. He pets and pats them and wants them to be nearby. He lets them lick his sticky fingers after meals and has started to drop little bites to them. He laughs and laughs while they eat up his leftovers. I cannot wait to see their bond grow over time. He has a preference for Bella but Buster as a preference for him! 


One crazy morning, I took both boys solo to the aquarium and totally fell in love with being a boy mama. They were so hands on and curious and ready to get dirty and stick their little hands in the tanks. It was a crazy idea but it might have been my very favorite morning of the whole month. We ate lunch together and talked about the various fish and spent time observing the octopus. Uncle Andy and Alex came to visit before the month was over and the hugs and snuggles were delightful. Owen takes FOREVER to warm up to new faces but he knew Uncle Andy was special and had no trouble being in his arms. 


This child is always hungry. He eats anything you put in front of him: curry soup, dumplings, steak, avocado, pasta, sushi, olive, tomatoes, onions, corn, broccoli, kale, lentils, spinach, and yogurt to name a few. Sitting in a restaurant is a piece of cake as long as he has munchies to play with and snack on. Should I keep everything crossed that it stays like that?  Give him a fork or spoon and he is ready to feed himself or cover himself in his smoothie! 


“Da da” is his favorite sound but we have been hearing some ma, pa, fa, and ca these days. And he will let you know when he is not happy and he will let you know when he is. His communication might be primitive but it is direct and clear! 


When we say hello and say goodbye, he coyly smiles at you and lands one giant open mouth kiss on your lips and I think, “you may never nap for me again you stubborn little one, but gosh do I love you!”