April 27, 2017

Sometimes I can’t believe I haven’t seen you for over eight years. EIGHT years, Mom.

What would you think of me now? I’m different…obviously. Even just from my physical appearance. I’m more relaxed since you last saw me–in the way my hair looks, how I dress, how I act and talk.

What would you think of the way I Mother my son? Would you correct me when I did something a certain way that wasn’t “yours?” Would you love and adore being a grandmother?

Do you approve of my husband? You never met him. That, almost above all else, breaks my heart the most, you know. Chris would have loved you. You would’ve loved Chris.

He would have thought your dumb jokes and the way you teased and laughed were hysterical. He would’ve compared the two of us–the things we say, our facial expressions, saying to me, you and your mom are so alike. 

Honestly though–can I tell you something? Eight years is a long time–yes, but in the one year since I’ve become a Mother, I have never felt more close to you as ever in my life; even from when you were still alive.

I think of you constantly. And it’s not usually in a sad way–it’s in the my mother is here, kind of way. I swear you are with my always. It’s not like you’re my angel staring down on me from heaven, either–because what I feel is much more than that; it’s that you’re here. 

I don’t know what better word to use, but here.

When I think of your face and your hair and your lipsticks and the way you smelled after you applied suntan lotion–my heart aches. It makes me mourn to see you in person.

Your physicality is what’s completely gone, and it always will be. That’s a hard pill to swallow; never again will I see that face I knew and loved so well.

But what’s not gone is your soul…your spirit…your energy…your life-force–whatever anyone wants to call it. I prefer energy for some reason. It’s all the same thing, though. Energy is what we were before we came into our bodies, and it’s what we are when we leave them. It’s what you are now.

And your energy, Mom, can be everywhere–all at once. You can be with all your kids. You can be with all your family. You can be intertwined and weaved through everything, existing in nothing but love.

So that’s where I find you: in the love I have in my life right now. I find you in the love and appreciation I have for my husband. I find you in the bond between Everett and I. I find you when I see my siblings. I find you when Dad and I say something kind to each other.

I find your energy–your spirit–in all the positive things in my life.

Because in your current form, you don’t know negativity. You don’t know the absence of love. You don’t know disease. You don’t know hatred. You don’t know not believing in the magic of our world, because you are experiencing its wonders, all the time.

That’s what I believe.

And I also believe that you would like who I’ve become. You would think I was a good Mother. You would think I married a solid man. And of course you’d love being a grandmother–who would I be kidding to ever doubt that, just because I can’t see you hold Everett? You were the queen of babies and children.

You know me much more now than you ever did or ever would’ve, had you never “left.”

This is a truth I feel in my heart, as pure as anything.

Before I go–

Tatum just called me about our plans–her and Cole have been coming over on Thursday nights, and I absolutely love it. But she had one “request”–that if we sit around and talk, we do it outside because her legs are really pale and they need some sun.

I cracked up because she’s actually being serious, and because she’s so still your daughter. Your presence obviously remains in Tatum, even though she only knew you for four years.

See? Eight years, four years, a hundred years–you are with us, always.

 

April 19, 2017

A close family friend of the Pearlman’s lost her mother last week–she lived to be ninety years old. What a celebration of life, and she didn’t suffer when she left this world.

I was looking at her obituary online, and on an impulse, searched for yours.

NORRIS JENIFER ANN (SOPHER)
Age 39 of Murrysville died peacefully at her home surrounded by her loving family on Thursday, August 14, 2008 after a courageous battle with cancer. She was born April 10, 1969 in Pittsburgh a daughter of Cynthia (Jenny) Sopher of North Hills and the late Joseph Sopher. Jenifer is survived by her beloved husband of 17 years Jason Norris, four children Hayley, Allison, Cole and Tatum Norris; devoted sister Jessica Davis and her husband Todd of Lancaster County, VA, grandfather Joseph Sopher of Pittsburgh, aunts and uncles Jim Sopher and his wife Marcia, Terry Sopher and his wife Kathy, Bill Jenny and his wife Joanne, Sue Channer and her husband Brian, Ryan Norris and his wife Katie, Sara Kamerer and her husband Jared and Adam Norris; father and mother in-law Wayne and Jackie Norris, Grandmother in-law Algie Norris. Also survived by several nieces, nephews and cousins. Preceded in death by maternal grandparents Carl and Dorothy Jenny, paternal grandmother Virginia Sopher and grandfather in-law J.M. “Buster” Norris. Friends will be received Sunday from 2-9 p.m. at the WOLFE-von GEIS FUNERAL HOME, INC where services will be held Monday at 10:00 a.m. 

How. How?

I’ve had a heavy bugging feeling lately, as if there’s a brick just sitting in the pit of my stomach, weighing everything down. This usually happens around my menstrual cycle–I know I’ve told you all about my hormone shifts before, but they just feel so real. 

I never used to get this “bugging” feeling before you died. I never really knew what that weighted feeling in my gut felt like, until that August 14th night.

I’ll always remember laying with you, in your bed with Allison right beside me and Dad kneeling beside you. Your eyes were closed and your breathing was slowing with every breath; you tried so hard, for so long to just keep breathing until finally, your body stopped and you were no longer in it.

We sobbed. Papap looked like he had just witnessed the biggest tragedy of his life. I’ve never seen him emotional, and the way his face looked is imprinted in my mind, still.

I don’t remember what Dad did. I don’t remember what me or Allison did. I don’t remember who else was in your bedroom when it happened. I don’t remember leaving your side, but know at one point, I did.

The next thing I remember is being downstairs in the family room, talking with Grandma and Allison. There were paramedics walking through the kitchen and up the stairs with a stretcher. I said aloud, I feel like all of my insides have been scooped out. And to some degree, I swear to god that feeling has never left.

Most days I forget it’s there. Most days I feel used to that one tiny thing in the back of my mind that always feels like it’s just missing. And when I say your name or tell a story about you out loud, it disappears for a few seconds.

But on days like these, it’s the only thing I can think about; the weight is so heavy, and it anchors me down in the feeling of your absolute absence. It feels so shitty.

Grief is a terrible thing.

It comes, it goes. It hides, it seeks. It goes up, it goes down. It leaves, it returns. It weakens, it strengthens. It destroys, it teaches.

Once you’ve gone down to the depths of it, you’re forever changed. And you must overcome it, in your own way and in your own time, or else it will destroy–not teach.

I know that I have “overcome” your death. What I don’t know is, will the random days of random crying, (like in the middle of brushing my teeth) because I miss you ever leave?

Because that’s what happened this morning. I was in front of the bathroom sink and mirror, scrubbing away at my teeth, and when I leaned over to spit out toothpaste, I thought of you and lost control. I just started to cry and kept crying, hunched over and helpless.

I put Everett down for his nap, and came to sit on my computer, where I found your obituary and then everything spiraled, bringing me here to write to you.

I know that it’s healthy to feel this way sometimes. This isn’t like in the years before, when I would get stuck in this feeling. I know that today will pass, and I’ll be fine tomorrow or even this afternoon when Everett and I go out and do our errands.

I’m just extra sensitive right now. And my body remembers what it feels like to grieve you–it will never forget. So when I’m weak or on an extra rainy day, the grief creeps inward, into that one spot in my gut, reminding me of what I went through, what I overcame, and where I am now.

 

 

APRIL 15, 2017

The other day Everett and I were playing in his little room before bedtime; it’s his favorite place in the house, complete with toys and a window he loves to look out of. He’ll stand on his highest tippy toes, saying “whassat?” (what’s that), when he gets tall enough to see the blooming trees outside.

There was this small moment–it only lasted a few seconds–when Everett and I looked at one another, and I couldn’t believe how old he was. It all of a sudden hit me.

I thought of the six month old baby I’d put in the stroller every day in the summer for walks, dressing him in a simple three button onesie. I thought about the mother I was then, still so marveled in the newness of motherhood. I’d push his stroller with a pride I had never felt before, feeling so accomplished to finally have my baby.

And as he continued to play, I started to cry.

I cried because he’s not that baby anymore. I cried because I’m not that mother anymore.

The butterflies feel like they’ve fluttered away. Is this normal, Mom? Or am I just a cold person now?  Should I still feel giddy to be pushing a stroller or to have Everett in the grocery cart?

I don’t know.

I feel used to being a Mom now. And I don’t mean that I take it for granted. I don’t mean that I don’t love Everett any less. I don’t mean that I’m not happy being a mother. The thrills aren’t completely gone–I still light up when strangers comment on his curly hair or sweet disposition. I still get giddy when he tries to share his cracker with me (it’s SO cute). But something just feels different.

What I mean is that I’m comfortable now–I’m used to loving Everett.

And this sudden shift in my thinking has happened recently, I guess since he turned one years old.

When Chris and I first started dating, there was all that magic and newness and learning about one another. And then our relationship hit the stage where you could fart in the same bed or sit in silence in the car without any awkwardness. Even though some of the beginning sparks were gone, we had established something much more real and concrete.

When Everett was first born, I was so absolutely overwhelmed with love. It was exhilarating to love in such a way, and I can compare it to when Chris and I were in that “honeymoon” stage while dating.

But Everett’s love is different from what I share with my husband. I can’t really explain how, but I know that you and every other mother out there understands the difference.

I choose to love Chris. I choose to love him after our little arguments, I choose to love him when he makes me frustrated or continually leaves cups all over the house, with an inch of milk left in them. And by choosing him over and over, I am constantly reaffirming my commitment to him–the commitment I made at our wedding, under your willow tree and in front of our families.

I don’t choose to love Everett. My love just is, and it feels like the most natural thing in the entire universe.

But with the thrill and newness of my first baby’s first year over, am I normal to feel comfortable and established in the way that I love him? Should there always be those butterflies or is it okay for the routine of our every days to blend it all together? Will I feel all those same beginning delights with the next pregnancy?

Again, I don’t know. These are things I wish I could ask you.

I’ll leave you with this, a quote I saw and saved when Everett was just a newborn.

I say to you my child, I will explain as much of life as I can, but you must remember that there is a part of life for which you are the explanation.”

Everett is still the answer for multiple parts of my life, if not just about everything. So I know that even though my love is shifting and changing and rearranging into a more realistic and steady phase, how I feel for my baby has not diminished, and it never will.

 

 

 

APRIL 11, 2017

Yesterday, you would’ve been forty eight years old.

I was driving into my driveway, coming home from Trader Joe’s, when I thought of you–how you’d look today, how you’d act, and what our family would do to celebrate your special birthday. My eyes welled up with tears, but before I could really sink into that feeling of missing you, my car was parked, and it was time to unload the groceries.

So instead of going to a birthday dinner or some kind of gathering, to remember you, Chris, Everett and I went to the cemetery. We sat on the grass, right above your plot, and watched the ducks in the pond straight out ahead. Everett snacked on his dinner; it was kind of like a weird picnic. But it was so beautiful outside. The temperature was in the low 70’s, and the grass and sky were vibrant in their colors.

It is the one place in this world where I can just sit and…forget about it all.

I couldn’t believe how close Everett felt to you. I know it’s just your body down under that spot of earth, but still. When I saw him sway his feet in the grass, feeling the texture of it on his toes, I thought of my favorite book, Leaves of Grass and the part where Whitman writes:

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,

If you want me again, look for me under your boot soles.

I read that book in college and kept it on my nightstand for years. Those lines always spoke to me: you are now a part of that grass–you are now a part of everything, all knowing and everywhere at once.

But on a day like yesterday, I could’ve used you in one place at one time, and that would be here with your family.

After the three of us sat for awhile, we went to feed the swans under the gazebo. Oddly enough, you and Nana used to take me there when I was a little girl. I can honestly remember throwing white Wonder bread into the water and watching the swans swim in circles, fighting to get a piece.

How beautifully and utterly unaware that small girl must’ve been, of what that place would represent in her adult years.

The one swan kept trying to bite Chris’ feet and we had a good laugh. I know he was trying to lighten the mood for me, and I appreciated his efforts–repeatedly sticking his tennis shoes out so the swan would snap at it, saying, “Look Pum!”

Everett hasn’t been feeling too good, so once he had enough, we left.

As I opened the car door, I looked back down the hill at your spot by the willow tree and pond and said I love you Mom. I hope you heard me.

 

 

 

 

APRIL 2, 2017 ONE years old

Well, my baby turned one years old.

Chris and I woke up at 7:30 (Everett slept in!) and the sun was sneaking into our room through the curtains–everything looked so beautiful in the morning light. I stretched out under the covers, looked at my husband and said, “Hug me,” in my cutest voice. It’s the one Chris loves. And we cuddled for a few moments, until he said, “It’s snuggy boo’s birthday! Come on!”

We went into Everett’s room, the video camera in Chris’s hand, and switched on the lights, saying happy birthday baby boy! in somewhat of a unison. Everett had a confused look on his face, but once his eyes adjusted to the light, he stood up holding his blanket, smiling ear to ear–his Mama and Dada were there to see him, and he couldn’t have been happier.

After breakfast, we opened his presents from last night’s party. I don’t know if I told you anything about what we were doing for it, but Rich and Judy had the family over their house, catered by a local gyro place we like to frequent.

The food was excellent, the company was comfortable and Everett was the center of all the love and attention he could stand.

How wonderful it is to know your child is so loved, by so many people.

He got a tee pee from Dad and Terri. Grandma and Papap and Uncle Jared and Aunt Sara got him a zoo pass for the year. Saus and Wes got him a play lawn mower that blows bubbles–he can cut the grass this summer with Chris (how cute).

From Chris’ side of the family he got some cool new toys and a few outfits. Nana and Aunt Jessica provided him a mini shopping spree at Old Navy a few weeks ago, too–so the little dude is set!

He has been taking steps. The most he’s done is four. You would think he was walking on water for how proud he gets–it is the cutest thing ever, watching him try and then succeed, looking up at me like, Mama did you see that!? 

I melt. The first time he tried to walk to me, I balled. I couldn’t help it. I was so proud.

I let him play in his room now, alone–well, with Clifford, too. The dog just sits there and watches Everett, wishing he could eat all those fun stuffed animals and cardboard baby books. I can’t even tell you how many toys have been lost to the dog.

But when I shower, if I peek outside the curtain, I can see right into his room while he’s playing. I put a gate on the door to close off his little play space, and do my thing from twenty feet away. It’s fantastic. I mean, it doesn’t last too long, but just enough time to allow me that enjoyment in the mornings. When I get that “alone” time, I think this will be impossible when a second baby comes along, making me certain I’m not ready yet for another one.

Speaking of–I had a dream last night that Chris and I were at this huge outdoor party. I don’t know what people were doing there, but we were outside this big house, on the grass, with lots and lots of people. Like an outdoor concert or something. And somehow I ended up holding this little boy, about two years old.

Apparently no one wanted him and I said I would adopt him?

Hours later in this dream (which was realistically really just two seconds) I was calling for you, saying, “Mom…Mom…Mom..has anyone seen my mother?” Like the little bird in that book I read to Everett, who leaves his nest too early.

And I could feel that bit of frantic panic, not knowing where you were. You were still alive in the dream, but the party was just too big, and I couldn’t find you.

I wanted to tell you that I wasn’t ready to take this little boy–that I still wanted it to be just Everett and I. But I felt guilty not taking him because no one would.

A hippy couple somehow came along and said they’d love to take the boy, and I felt relief–both in the dream and for real as I slept. Like, thank god—not yet, not yet. 

That dream is weird for two reasons.

One: the whole thing about not wanting another kid just yet and the guilt I felt. I know that dream was telling me something, almost confirming that my “plan” to wait for the second baby is a good one–that I’m not doing anything wrong because I’m not ready. Sometimes I feel that way, and I don’t know why.

Two: not being able to find you was troubling. The lost panic in my body felt so terrible and so desperate. I was scared.

And sometimes I still feel scared about where you are. Sometimes I want to ask people, hey, do you know where Jenifer Norris went? She was that beautiful blonde with four kids–yea, that one–the one who died of breast cancer at age thirty-nine. 

But I know that no one knows. Everyone has theories, everyone has beliefs. No one truly knows. And that is frustrating as shit. Sorry for the language, but it is.

There are days when I feel where you are. And I believe in these beautiful books and words I read, feeling connected and peaceful about your constant presence.

There are days when I think all of it is a bunch of nonsense, and that you really are just gone, unable to help me, unable to know Everett, unable to reach me and the rest of your kids.

There are more days that I know you’re with me, though, versus the ones that I feel sad and lonely and utterly helpless without you. And that’s a good thing.

I really missed you at Everett’s party.

That’s when I remember you your happiest–during the holidays, family get togethers, and for birthday parties. When our family was all under one roof, you glowed.

I feel that same family happiness now, too. Chris always teases me before a family event like, “Pum are you so excited!” in his high pitched cheesy voice. He knows I get the jitters when I’m going to Nana’s for a party or over to Grandma’s for a day visit.

I just love my family beyond anything else in this world. And when I looked around yesterday at the party, I saw Everett…I saw my family, and thought, I am finally contributing to these family birthdays now–we are all in the same room because of MY baby. That felt good and wholesome and filling to realize.

It made me feel proud.

Everyone keeps asking me, “Can you believe you have a one year old?” and I say, yes…I can. I don’t mean it in a negative way–a year just does feel like it’s passed. So much has happened, so much has been accomplished, so much has been learned, so much has been proven and changed.

I’m satisfied and proud of what the past twelve months have brought me and my family. I look at Everett when he does something new and can’t believe I’ve raised a human whose learning to walk. I’ve kept that little boy fed and clean and loved and safe and everything else for an entire year. As dumb as it sounds, I’m proud of Chris and I too, for getting this far with so much success. I think we are great parents and we make an even better team together.

You were such a proud Mom, too.

I keep this note in a little keepsake box in my nightstand:

Hayley,

I know you think it’s silly for me to

congratulate you for making cheer squad

since we all knew they’d be crazy not to

take you. However, I am so proud of how

amazing you are at cheerleading. What a

great feeling for a mother to not have to

worry about her daughter because she is

so good at everything she tries.

I couldn’t be prouder of you for all you are

and all I know you will become.

The proudest mom ever,

Mom xoxo

You always made me feel like I could do anything. You made me learn how to be independent. You made me feel capable and strong and want to aspire to be just how you were.

You were an amazing mother, Mom. I honestly don’t know if I ever told you that. If you were here now, I’d sit down and thank you for everything.

I’d thank you for being so fierce and fun and funny–so honest and comfortable in your skin. I’d thank you for believing in me and never letting me go easy. I’d thank you for all the times you made me feel special, whether it was because I made cheer squad or you said my hair looked pretty. I’d thank you for taking care of me when I was a baby, for giving me a happy childhood, for setting boundaries when I was a teenager, and for teaching me how to be a woman, wife and mother.

Do you really know how much I love you?

 

MARCH 17, 2017

When I have a little girl, I want to decorate her room in mermaids.

Random. I know. But I was scrolling through sheets on Target’s website and stumbled upon a mermaid set. How cute to have a little Maine themed room, with seagulls and seashells and blue paint with white clouds pouted on the walls. I can picture it all perfectly.

When I think of having another baby, I think of the fall and being fully ready. I think of our trip up to Maine in October, and picture me, Chris and Everett, as our little three human unit, for the last time. Well not the last time because it takes time to make a baby–but you know what I mean.

That trip is going to be special. I’ve been putting yoga money aside each month in an envelope with “Maine” written on it.

Before Everett went to bed just now, we laid in his crib together (Chris always tells me not to do this because there is like a fifty pound weight limit, but I just can’t help it). He guzzled his night time bottle as I whispered into his ear, thank you for choosing me as your Mommy. 

Everett loves going down for a nap or bedtime. As soon as he’s in his crib, he wants that bottle. He gets so excited for it, kicking his legs and batting his arms with a big cheesy smile and those gnarly crooked top teeth of his. They’re so cute–everything about him is. I look at his blonde curls and just burst into love oblivion, each and every time. 

Oh, he says Mama now! It’s more like ma ma ma ma ma, but it’s a start. He muttered it at breakfast a few weeks ago and then later that day, while in the E.l.f makeup section at Target, he looked right up at me from that red shopping cart and said, “ma ma”. I just about fell over. I’ll never forget it–it’ll be one of those imprinting moments that last forever.

Like the moment I said my wedding vows under your willow tree, with the sun and May leaves above Chris and I. Or the moment I looked at the positive pregnancy test, so excited that my insides tightened up to the size of a bouncy ball. Or the moment I saw Dad, years ago, sitting on the couch, with his hands over his head and listening to your wedding song, For Your Precious Love. You only had a few more days to live, and it was like he was savoring something, trying to remember it forever.

Moments are our memories. And the memories I have with you are in my mind or written down on paper, safe and permanent.

Hayley-

Memories are the wonderful gift we are given when we lose someone we love. I hope you write down everything you remember about your Mom and the times you had with her. Time allows us to forget things that we never think we will. So take a minute here or there to jot it all down. You will enjoy it for the rest of your life.

I love you much,

Aunt Jessi xoxo 10-8-08

Aunt Jessi wrote that in a book called “I Remember You: A Grief Journal” and gave it to me a few months after you died.

I filled it with random short ramblings, all recalling stories and fights and situations and conversations that you and I shared.

Here are a few:

I was a little girl, maybe four or five years old and was laying in Mom’s king size water bed at the old house. It was still morning, her hair was still messy. I asked to put my legs “in the oven”, which meant in between her legs because they’d always be warm. And I played with her long blond hair, holding up the strands and pretending they were long neck dinosaurs from the Land Before Time movie.

Driving in the Hummer at the beach, just Mom and I. It was the last vacation we took before she died. She was sick, but in the positive wave of her chemo and treatment. We thought it was over–at least us kids did. I looked over at her driving and could tell how happy she was. She kept teasing, talking about all the things we were going to buy at the outlets. Mom sang her song, “gonna have fun fun fun ’til Daddy takes the checkbook away”, in the tune of the Beach Boys.

When she came home from her first hospital stay, Mom wanted pot roast nachos from Atrias. We all watched the Steeler game down in the basement, and I laid my head in her lap while she played with my hair. I felt safe for the first time since the diagnosis nightmare started. I was so thankful to have her back home.

We were in the old house, right between the kitchen and dining room. Dad was fixing or moving the refrigerator. Mom and Dad both sneezed and in her uppy, surprised voice said, “Oh my gosh Gaston! Can you believe it? We sneezed at the same time!” She always said goofy stuff like that, in that voice of hers–so much excitement, so much enthusiasm.

Every time I ever walked into her bathroom for something, she’d usually be in front of her mirror getting ready, sometimes naked and always with a white towel wrapped around her head. Both the bathroom and linen closet doors would slam together when I walked in, exposing her either dancing happily or looking super pissed that yet another child was bothering her. 

Her and I went shopping and ended our trip because we were fighting so bad. Our last store was Bed Bath and Beyond. When we got home, I was hanging up my new earrings and she came up to my room and asked, “Do you even love me?” Mom asked it seriously, with tears in her eyes. We hugged and cried. I was such a rotten teenager.

In fourth grade when I was having “friend troubles”, I was laying in her bed, not wanting to go to school–Mom and Dad were meeting with my counselor, Ms. Wurzel. She was getting ready in her bathroom and when she came out to check on me in the bedroom, she had on a dark green snakeskin shirt that I’ll never forget her often wearing, usually with leather pants.

I could go on and on. I love reading these. To someone else they will seem like gibberish but those little stories are what I have left of you and our time here together.

Mom, I think for the first time, I am truly finding peace in where you are from me–I don’t feel so utterly separated anymore.

I just haven’t found peace in where you are from Everett–I’m simply unable to understand why he’ll never be in your arms.

I guess you’re always holding him though. Not physically, but he will always be carried by you, always supported and always guided.

You’re in every look I give him. You’re in every kiss he receives. You’re a physical part of him, and he’ll grow up knowing that “Mommy’s Mommy” is around and within, both inside and out.

You will be the magic wonder that helps him understand so many things in this world.

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” -Roald Dahl 

Everett will believe in that magic–he will believe in you. All my kids will.

 

MARCH 7, 2017 ELEVEN months old

I came across this entry in an old journal, written almost exactly seven years ago:

3.2.10

Mom. Mom. Mom.

I can’t explain what it feels like to miss her. I forget what life actually felt like before she was diagnosed. After I heard the word cancer, my “person” was changed forever. There’s a terrible indescribable feeling that’s been permanently put inside me—will it ever go away?

I can still remember what I was wearing when we found out the news: a purple American Eagle t-shirt with gray cotton cropped Bermuda shorts. How terrible that night was. 

As I laid on my floor and cried and cried until there were no more tears, I tried to imagine what my life would be like without my Mom—and I mentally couldn’t. I mean, how could I? I’d never known a moment without her. 

I’ve just been thinking about her a lot. I think it’s because I’ve been home from college more often than usual. Yoga certification is almost over, but I’ve driven up every weekend the past month for our training and have been spending the nights in my old room. 

What am I going to do when I’m older and find someone I think I’ll marry? Who will I seek approval from? What about when I get pregnant? Mom would be the epitome of who I’d want to talk about “mommy business” with. And we’d go to lunch together and shop for baby clothes. 

My kids will never know their mom’s Mom. How can that be something anyone should ever have to experience? I just don’t know how I’ll get through all of those things without her. Granted, they’ll be spread out, but all my life there will be times when I crave—literally crave—to have her with me.

She’ll take care of me, though. I know she will, and that’s not just me reassuring myself for comfort. Ever since she died I’ve been aware of something different and I know somehow it’s her. 

I remember waking up in my bed at home, the morning after she died in her bedroom with all of us beside her. I had put a picture of her and I on my pillow before I fell asleep and when I opened my eyes, there was sun in my room and her face in that picture was the first thing I saw. Something came over me—some sense of peace or calm or reassurance—I can’t put it into words without sounding cheesy. But it was new, and it was real and it hasn’t left me since. 

It’s sad for me to read, thinking about being eighteen years old, a freshman in college, laying alone on my home bed and writing in my journal.

If I had to go back in time and relive the first few years after you died, I would never be able to handle it again. That phase of my life felt like an entire lifetime. Time always moved so slow. My friends were still innocent and ignorant of the loss I was feeling—in some way, I felt forever separated and different from them. How could they ever understand?

I didn’t walk around miserable or depressed. But I felt so ruined.

A part of me was waiting for you to just show up again and say it was all a dream or it was only temporary.

The following years at cheer camp I’d always look for your bright blonde hair and listen for your high heels walking across the high school gym floor. You’d have a purse hooked around your forearm, holding Tatum’s hand.

I knew you wouldn’t really walk in, but I was devastated each and every time you didn’t show. I’d see everyone else’s parents and just couldn’t understand. Why me? Why my mother? Why is my family going through this?

I felt so alone. I didn’t know where to find you. I didn’t know what was happening with Dad. I didn’t know what would happen to Tatum who was only one month shy of her fifth birthday when you died. I didn’t know what would happen to any of us, including myself.

How do I survive? How do I find happiness again? 

And it all weighed me down so heavy. I was the girl whose mom died for the next eight years. Or at least, that’s how I identified myself.

I wanted people to know for some reason—I brought up the fact that you were gone whenever I could. It made me feel like what I was living was actually real. It became my story.

I can remember on my first date in college–it was with my crush from Criminal Justice class, Danny, and we were walking back to campus from the movie theater. Our families came up in conversation and I said, “My mother died about a year ago. She got sick with cancer.”

I had practically just met him, but I wanted him to know what was then, the biggest part of me.

But since becoming a mother myself, I don’t feel the need for anyone to know. If you came up in conversation I would openly talk about it—of course—but that’s usually not the case.

Through my teenage years, having kids without you here was what scared me the most–not college or marriage or anything else. It was always babies. When I wrote my kids will never know their mom’s Mom—the question truly haunted me.

But I’m facing that fear.

Now, instead of bringing up the my mother died when I was seventeen story, I talk about being a mom. I’ll say, my son, my husband, my home, etc. It is what identifies me right now.

And I don’t mean that it’s all I am, but no longer am I the girl without her mother. I’m Everett’s mother.

I think that’s my favorite word in the Universe: mother. It’s so beautiful. It makes me think of my baby, of love and sacrifice and connection and safety and teaching and learning and magic and mystery and faith and perseverance and grit and the perfect balance of tough and soft.

It makes me think of you, and everything you were and still are.

 

 

FEBRUARY 26, 2017

I took Tatum to Ohio this weekend to visit Allison–it was a “sister reunion.” We laughed and fought (of course) and talked about you and the things we each remember–all the stories, all the quirks.

It was a good for the soul trip, even though I was only gone for about thirty hours. That was the longest I was away from Everett–it was just enough time to get me out of the funk I had found myself in a few days earlier. Look at what I wrote in my journal on Thursday:

February 22, 2017

I am so tired. I’m tired of being tired. And I don’t mean sleepy—I mean worn out, exhausted; I feel mentally spent.

Every single day feels the same. Chris wakes up and goes downstairs to make coffee. I lay in bed for an extra three minutes, thinking about how wonderful my bed feels and how I’d love to stay. I summon the “strength” to get up and into my pajamas, meeting him downstairs for coffee.

He and I say a couple things to each other, let the dog in/out and then Everett wakes up. One of us gets him, changes him and I feed him his breakfast. Chris goes upstairs to shower, gets dressed and comes back down, ready to leave. Off he goes to work, and a lot of the mornings when he’s kissing me and Everett goodbye, I am mad.

I am mad that he got to have “time” in the morning to get ready, without worrying how long Everett would nap. I am mad that he gets to get in his car and drive off with no kid in the car seat. I am mad that he gets to have an important purpose for our family–making money and providing. I am mad he will get to talk to adults all day and sometimes even has the privilege of going out to lunch. I am mad because I feel like I’m useless staying at home.

When Everett is done with breakfast, I clean up the morning mess. The spilled sugar on the counter, the coffee stains, Chris’ half empty mug, bottles from the night and morning, dried oatmeal off Everett’s face. I give Clifford fresh water. I clear the surfaces and sweep up the dirt and crumbs that have already appeared on my floor.

I start the same routines on a different day. My surroundings seem to never change.

I am alone, with a baby and dog.

I pull Everett off of this and that piece of furniture. I tell him no ten times over when he bites the cord under the TV. I take him upstairs with me to make the bed. I take the laundry to the basement. I tidy the bathroom. There are always hairs and splashed water around and inside the sink. I will not name any culprits.

I play with Everett for a little until he’s ready for a nap and then get a bottle, lay him down, change him, get his pants back on after severe struggle, and close the door. This is my opportunity to get ready for the day, and I feel rushed because I know I’m on limited time. I get anxious, and I’d rather have an hour of contractions each day if it meant I’d never have anxiety again.

I shower and get dressed, wearing the same pair of black Gap jogger pants I always do because I never want to spend money on clothes. I pack the car if we are going somewhere, asking myself the serious question, “Should we leave the house today or just stay home? Should I go to Target for cotton balls and the tension rod I need or just stay home?”

I eat the same easy breakfast–a toasted english muffin, alone at my kitchen table. Today I stared out the window feeling like I wanted to run away with my dog and live off of bugs in the woods–anything for a change of scenery and some freedom.

Once Everett wakes up we either do leave the house or stay home. And then again, it’s lunchtime, playtime, nap time. He wakes up, and its playtime, dinnertime.

When Chris gets home, I am so relieved–I am so excited. I can’t wait to kiss him, can’t wait for him to squeeze me. Everyone is happy when he gets home, including Everett and the dog. 

He unloads his book bag on the kitchen table, even though I tell him every day not to do it. His shoes come off, usually in the middle of the floor while the dog is attacking him. He goes upstairs to change and comes back down, opening his computer to finish work things up. Or he’ll say he’s going for a run outside.

And I get mad again. I get pissed, to put it better. All the excitement I had to see him floods away, and I’m left questioning my role as a housewife: the house somehow already seems messy and cooking dinner and chasing Everett while Chris does his own thing is making me scream. Literally.

 I just feel useless sometimes.

Why clean the house? Why make dinner when we could order or defrost it? Why do anything that makes me anxious and flustered? Well, it’s my job, isn’t it?

And I love my job. I love being the keeper of this home. I love being Chris’ wife. I love being Everett’s mother. But what about me? What about me?

I feel like I am always taking care of something or cleaning up something or doing something or carrying something or cooking something or worrying about something. My job is constant and yet I feel like if I stopped it, my family would be fine. After all, I only have one child.

Everett would go to day care. The house would be messy and the sheets would be going on three weeks old. Dinner would be served quickly and from the freezer and everyone would love it because it would be something delicious like Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese, right?. Maybe a bath would be skipped, but does it matter? The dog wouldn’t be walked, but does it really matter?

Does anything I do matter? Am I the only mother who feels like this? I am exhausted and tiring myself out for what? For what? 

When I get overwhelmed and want a break, I’ll leave the house for an hour or so by myself, feeling guilty while I’m gone because I’m “leaving” my family behind. And I’m so used to having Everett all the time, it feels weird to go out without him–like I forgot my pants or something. I’ll even “ask” Chris if I can leave, like he’s my father and I need permission, because that way I feel less shitty about leaving. 

I can’t be the only woman who feels like this. And I’m a lucky complainer: I have a happy marriage and a supportive husband and a healthy child and a happy home. I know I am fortunate.  

It’s just been a rough week or so. I don’t always feel like this. I just had to get it out because this all feels so real right now. I trust it will pass.

Wow. That was intense. And it has passed, thankfully.

I really made Chris sound like a sloppy idiot–he’s not. I mean, he should go for a run after work. Why wouldn’t I want that for him? It’s just that when he comes home, I want every second together, as a family. Or I just want help with Everett.

He recently got a job at Carnegie Mellon’s Software Engineering Institute. Chris never stopped trying for this opportunity and I feel so grateful to stand behind a man so determined. I’m confident he will make huge strides here in this position.

But this was his first week, so between wrapping things up at his previous job and getting settled into this one, he’s been busy. And then I go and get mad at him for working too much? That is absolutely unfair. I’m hard on him. But I’m also hard on myself. I can be hard on everything.

When I read the journal entry above–about breakfast and cleaning up and going out to Target–I’m thinking what the hell? Honestly, what do I have to complain about? Why would I ever want to run away?

But I know you understand, as a mother, the moments when you feel like your job isn’t enough. No matter what you accomplished in the day, there is still more to do–mothering is never ending.

I am learning how to handle days like this past Thursday. I am learning that no matter how many kids I end up having, what I am feeling is normal. I know I am okay–I’m more than okay.

After being with my sisters this weekend and talking about you and our family and just everything, I was reminded what happened to us when you died. I was reminded how Tatum had to have au pairs and learn to say goodbye to them. I was reminded how sad and lost Dad was. I was reminded how confused we all were, about our schedules and rides to sports and our lives in general. I was reminded how empty the house felt when the lover of it left.

And I realized that I’m an essential part of my household; just because I don’t financially support it, doesn’t mean I’m not a main contributor. I know if I were to leave, this little house would dry up of its coziness and cleanliness and warm smells of home cooked meals. It would dry up of everything that makes this home ours. 

When you died, I realized all the little things that you did, behind the scenes. Like making a romantic Valentines dinner for the family, or scheduling weekend plans or packing lunches or writing little love notes or scrubbing the toilet or washing clothes or buying a first day of school outfit or providing advice or tucking us kids in at night or scheduling doctor appointments or stocking the pantry with our favorite snacks or baking birthday cakes or writing Santa notes. So many things that made my life easy and wonderful were gone and it took your death to realize what you really did for me and our family.

I promise you that I’ll never forget that lesson again. I am a mother, and I will always be needed. I chose my role in this home, and I should never take that position for granted. And I’m certainly never useless.

For me to be the kind of mom I want to be–the kind of mom I know I am–I need to be selfish. I need to drop the guilt not just sometimes, but all the time. I need to buy myself another pair of pants, or perhaps two.

I need to remember how glorious I really am, and how much my family needs me. And I can now, thanks to you.

 

 

FEBRUARY 12, 2017

While pregnant, I made a list of seven positive affirmations to read during labor. But the list never made it to the Midwife Center with me; I forgot it on my nightstand.

As I read through it now, the affirmations have gotten me to reflect realistically about some things.

I know you know all about labor and delivery because you went through it four times, but if you were sitting here with me now, I’d share this list with you.

And besides, I enjoy reading other people’s stories about having their babies–maybe that’s weird (Chris obviously thinks so) but I’m going for it anyways.

your only job is to relax: 

It is true that your job during labor is to relax–you have to let your cervix dilate. But when I wrote that affirmation, I didn’t know that I would dilate so absolutely slow. I didn’t know that when the midwives went to check my dilation every few hours, I’d have to lay on my back on the bed, with pillows under my hips to elevate my bottom. And then have Dia’s fingers all up in me in between painful contractions.

Dia was the one midwife during all my prenatal appointments that I felt a connection with. She had long, beautiful weaved braids and such a funny, soft and calming yet assertive energy. I couldn’t believe she was the one on call when I finally went into labor.

I remember when they wanted to do the 6cm check (labor really started to intensify at this point), I hurried up and got on my back and just literally spread myself open saying, “Hurry hurry, check now before another wave starts again.” I had no shame–I don’t think any laboring woman does.

And how can you possibly relax when you start pushing and your delivery crew tells you that the baby’s heart rate is dropping and you need to get him/her out NOW? You can’t. At least I couldn’t. I was focused like never before in my life, but I don’t think relaxed would be the correct word. The only time I was truly relaxed was in the very beginning of labor. I actually wrote about it in my journal.

April 1, 2016

It’s about 3:30 in the morning and I’m pretty sure this is the birthday of our baby! I’ve had waves of contractions–good and steady ones–since about 11:30 p.m. I took a bath and had some bloody show which is a good sign. I’ve tried to rest but it’s hard. 

Chris is fully dressed downstairs with Clifford–he’s worried the baby is coming now, but I still have time. My mind isn’t concentrated yet on getting through the contractions, so I know they are still in the beginning stages. Here comes one now.

I called Allison and told her to start making her drive up from Ohio.

Oh the next hours–what awaits ahead! My baby will be here! And I’ll write the name in my next entry.

And I did write his name in my next entry–that was the start of my book to you.

contractions will never be stronger than you can handle—they are your body:

This one is very true. I know I could handle everything that happened because well, I did. And if I would’ve been in a hospital, I think without a doubt that I would have gotten an epidural, even if it wasn’t my original intention. I also know it’s quite possible I would’ve had a c-section after laboring so long and Everett’s heart rate dropping.

Absolutely nothing would have been wrong with an epidural or c-section. NOTHING.

I just know that having the opportunity to have a natural birth completely altered my life–any birthing experience would, but the one I had was MINE and I would not change anything about it. I wouldn’t change how scary it was towards the end, I wouldn’t change how confident I was my whole pregnancy about delivering. I wouldn’t even change Everett’s transfer to the hospital.

I don’t want to sound selfish or like an uncaring mother when I say that. But the reality is, I can’t change it, only accept it and embrace it and learn from it. And I have.

Saying all of this to you now makes me realize how different I am from the girl who wrote those affirmations. No doubt now, I am a woman. I am a mother. And oh how good it feels to say that to you.

I know what I am capable of now, thanks to everything that happened. It was the most empowering experience of my life, besides learning how to live without you.

labor means the baby is coming! do not get scared: 

I can honestly say I didn’t feel scared. In the beginning phase before labor got really intense, I was calm and excited and confident. In the middle phase when I just felt exhausted and wanted to end it all, I was mad and so pissed for not having an epidural and in complete denial that I was only about halfway dilated. In the end phase, right before delivery, I nodded off into space between contractions, so I wasn’t feeling scared then either–I wasn’t really feeling anything.

It’s amazing what our bodies can do to protect us. My mind took me out of the physical and held me in a safer space. This is where the old tale happens, about women leaving their bodies during labor, going to the stars, collecting the souls of their babies, and returning to this world together.

I know I’ve told you that tale/quote before, but it’s too sweet not to write again. I like to think I came and got Everett from you, who safely held him until I could.

And during delivery, there was no time to be scared. Not a second for it. I’ve never been so focused in my life–not a single thing entered my mind besides get this baby out get this baby out now now now you have to. If I started to think oh my god what is happening is the baby okay my baby my baby when the midwives would pick up worry in their voices, I would quickly snap out of it and come right back into my body, only to focus on seeing that baby out of me.

trust, trust, trust: the whole process is going to be beautiful:

I know some women have beautiful pregnancies and beautiful births–I’ve seen the photographs and the videos and read and heard the stories. There was not one thing about my birth that I’d call beautiful, but I did have a good pregnancy. I looked and felt super healthy and I’m grateful for that. And my husband made me feel beautiful, even when big and round and full of both baby and an entire eaten pineapple. Pineapple was my favorite.

For hours and hours and hours, up until right before I delivered, I felt weak and incapable and questioned whether or not I could do it all. But at the point when labor was coming to an end and delivery was to shortly follow, I knew what I had gotten through so far, so I knew I could finish. And I knew I couldn’t fight or resist anymore; I closed my eyes, tilted my head back in that tub and just let go. 

I was in the tub, only wearing a black minimal sports bra. My long hair was pulled back in a big sweaty messy bun at the top of my head. My belly was round and sticking out of the water, full of the baby we’d get to meet so soon. I was exposed and vulnerable but strong and surrendered.

And that is beautiful.

Shortly after, I was out of the water and standing naked over the toilet, throwing up and trickling pee from the force, all while having a contraction.

That wasn’t beautiful.

be strong so your baby’s journey is as easeful as possible:

I think I did my part on being strong. But his end journey was not easy. Shoulder dystocia and a wrapped and ripped cord and trouble breathing upon entering the world is very short of easeful.

But he was strong too. And that’s because he’s my son and your grandson.

get into your breath, do your thing:

I thought I would be a warrior because of all my yoga experience–not only in terms of physical strength but the magical meditative breath. My breath helped me a few times here and there but I was not able to get into a trance and pop the baby out. I really believed I could do that before I actually got to try.

I don’t doubt that some women do and I give them all the credit in the world.

mom is with you:

You know, it’s funny. I thought I would think of you every minute during labor or at least feel you. But I didn’t. My focus had no space for your presence.

But I do remember while pushing and things were intense, they were turning me from my side, to my back, to my belly, all in efforts of helping Everett breathe in there. During one of those “beautiful” butt naked transitions (well, I still had on that black sports bra), I felt my left thumb finger wrap inwards and over my ring finger, squeezing together and touching my engagement ring.

This ring of course, was your engagement ring. The only time I ever really heard about your birth experience with me, you told me about looking down at the ring when things got difficult and would think of how much you loved Daddy (you always said Daddy when talking about him in the past tense even though I never call him that) and it gave you strength.

It was only for a split second, and I mean split second, but my when thumb touched that ring, I thought Mom Mom Mom..the ring..my birthday..strength. It was when I was turning from my back to my side and I was so confused–I could’ve been upside down for all I knew. But I felt you then, like the most sudden and strong thought I’d ever had and as soon as you came, you were gone.

Well I don’t think you were gone, but you left my mind, giving me the space to concentrate on what I needed to do.

I think these affirmations are wonderful and I’ll probably encourage Allison to write some down when she’s pregnant. My original intention for them was to help me during labor, but I can see now after this conversation, that they were supposed to help me after. 

All these months later, I can say I feel content and proud about how I had Everett. I feel like I probably had an experience like a lot of other mothers out there, even though everyone who heard about it was in absolute shock.

This is crazy, but I feel “ready” for the next delivery. I can’t even believe I said that. But if I was pregnant with the second and today was my due date, I’d feel like, okay let’s do this. 

I guess that’s why women have more than one baby: our bodies heal us, allow us to forget the physical pain, and only keep the memory of meeting our sweet sweet angel from the stars for the first time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FEBRUARY 2, 2017 TEN months OLD

“All you’ve got to do is want something and then let yourself have it.”

I was cleaning the other day and out of nowhere, said those words out loud. They’re from a favorite childhood movie of mine called Halloweentown. I haven’t thought about or seen that movie in years, but randomly remembered Maggie Cromwell flicking her wrist into the air and casting that spell.

I finally understand what she meant.

You’ve got to want something. You’ve got to ask for it. You’ve got to receive it–really feel that it’s yours, even though you have no idea just how you’re going to get it–just that you are. Indefinitely.

I have this house that I imagine Chris and I and our kids in. I know what color it is, I know what the front door will look like. I can even see Clifford laying on the front porch, tired and comfortable in an older age.

There are printed pictures of this house hanging in my bedroom and kitchen, the rooms I spend the most time in. When I catch a glimpse of it, I hold it in my mind for a second and feel myself living there.

And then yesterday, while fiddling around online, I found pictures of the inside of this dream house and just about dropped my jaw. This was it. I felt an immediate connection to the floor plan and everything inside–there was wood and stone and beautiful tile and small sections of accented wallpaper. It was simple and clean and functional and just the right amount of rugged. It was on seven acres of land.

So now I’ve been imagining Everett in the entrance of this house. Or seeing myself getting plates ready behind the beautiful kitchen island, overlooking my family all sitting together at the dinner table, waiting for me to come join them.

Owning this house feels even more real now…like all that time envisioning the outside kept my momentum going enough to set my vibration even higher and stronger. And I’m going to keep that momentum up–that belief–this feeling that I’ve achieved, knowing that that house and that land and that entryway will be mine. It’s as sure as anything.

Chris is always so positive and together I want to teach our kids how thoughts become things–how happy thoughts literally bring you happy things and circumstances. I want Everett to have a vision board in his room–I want my children to believe there is magic all around them, they just have to believe in it and the Universe will deliver. Do I sound crazy?

But anyways, about Everett. Goober McGee, goobs, goober, smevs, smelly debs, tub a lub–all our nick names for our ten month old ham.

He’s developing his own little attitude and spunk. Sometimes I love it and other times I think, “Did you really just bite me while trying to get out of my arms?” He tries to “fight” me now when I put him into his carseat and like aunt Sara jokes, I have to karate chop his arms and legs into place before buckling him in.

He is crawling pretty fast now and tries to get into everything. The other day I walked into the kitchen and there he was, standing up with support from the garbage can, his fingers trying to pry the lid open. Or yesterday I was in the guest bedroom printing a recipe when I heard a woosh of water and immediately thought, Oh Goddddddddd. It was Everett in the next room over, standing against Chris’ nightstand, with a big empty mason jar in his little hand. He had spilled water everywhere.

I chase him saying “I’m gonna get you!” and he thinks it’s the funniest thing ever. Or him and I play around my bed, hiding from one another. His favorite time of the day is either after a meal or after the bath. We let him crawl around naked afterwards and he just laughs and tries to jump every chance he gets on the bed or the couch–anything bouncy and he’s all in. If I walk into his room when he’s supposed to be sleeping, he quickly flops onto his stomach and pretends like he’s asleep. Just imagining him doing it is making me laugh. It’s hysterical.

He’s fun. He’s a pain. And we love him.

Allison said something the other day about me being a mom and I looked at her and said, “Do you think of me as a mother?” And she responded like, well yea–you ARE a mom. 

But becoming a mom, for me at least, has been a journey. And I know that while I’ve come a long way, my path isn’t even close to being over. I still have so much to learn and so much to experience in terms of motherhood.

The day I found out I was pregnant, everything changed.

It was a Wednesday, the day my period was due for that month of July. I was driving out to the South Hills to teach my regular yoga class and private lesson. Before I got to the studio, I drove up the road to the nearest Walgreens and bought a pregnancy test, still feeling like I was a scared nineteen year old, making a purchase I wasn’t supposed to. I didn’t want to take the test at the studio. I don’t know why, I just didn’t. So I waited until I got home.

Before I got into the shower, I sat on the toilet and peed on that pink handled stick. The plus sign immediately appeared and I felt something click, right down into the pit of my belly. I can’t explain what it was, just that I can still remember feeling it. Still not removed from the toilet, I started crying. I lost control, and just kept saying oh my god oh my god, thank you thank you. And my mind went straight to you, like an imaginary line carved out of my mind and into yours. I felt like you were right there beside me in my tiny little bathroom.

In that instant, I think I became a mom.

And then pregnancy and those long following months happened, all the way up to a full 42 weeks. And then labor happened. And then delivery happened. And then Everett wrapped his finger around mine for the first time and the greater part of me that existed before him just completely wiped out, gone. Where did I go?

It took me months to find myself comfortable in the role as MOM. I knew I was a mother, I felt like a mother, but I would go to the pediatrician office kind of “scared” of what the nurses would think of me. For instance, of how I held Everett, or that I wasn’t nursing him or my decisions about vaccinations.

There was one that asked me at our second appointment, “You’re nursing him, right?” I had to tell her no, and tried to defend myself, explaining our “nursing story.” She didn’t care. And I shouldn’t have cared to tell it. I disliked her so much I later switched pediatricians, putting that whole phase behind me. I’m still glad I did that.

I felt incapable in the beginning because I was honestly pretending in the motherly role for awhile. I believed I didn’t care about how other people thought of me as a parent, but deep down I definitely did. If someone told me or wrote online to not let your baby cry, I felt terrible and questioned myself when I actually did let him cry. I compared myself to other moms and worse, compared myself to you and how I remembered you to be.

It wasn’t until I stopped trying not to care about other people and books and opinions, that things started to fall into place.

I’d say Everett was around six to eight months old when I truly felt like I was enough and that I was doing a “good job.” I think I was waiting for you to tell me so. Honestly. That’s all I wanted, for the longest time–to hear my own mother tell me I was a good mom. I could’ve heard it from the entire world and I wouldn’t have believed it. It had to be from you.

It’s nice now to not need outside encouragement–not even yours. I go to that doctor’s office and am no longer scared, because none of those people are Everett’s mom–I am. And if someone gives me the stink eye when I pull Everett’s formula out at a restaurant, I feel sorry for them because that was me before my humbling nursing experience. How awful to be in such a place of judgement.

I’ve talked with you a few times about breastfeeding Everett but never really explained what happened. Maybe another mother out there will read this and feel a little better about a similar experience.

During pregnancy I read natural parenting books (I guess that’s what you’d call them) because I feel like I live a somewhat “natural lifestyle.”  And what I read in all those books really spoke to me.

I read about natural births. I read about nursing. I read about co-sleeping. I read about tending to your baby’s needs at all times, i.e. never letting them cry, not putting them in swings–crazy stuff like that.

And then I gave birth. Everything I thought would happen didn’t, and everything I never even thought about did happen.

I lost faith in a lot of what I read but still remained so very headstrong about breastfeeding. I nursed him the first four days, non stop. I’d say 22 out of 24 hours. I knew no differently. I read that pacifiers were “bad” so never gave him one. When he’d cry, I’d stick him on my boob and he’d stop, so by default, that was “right”. I would be up all night nursing him, and I don’t mean every two hours or even every hour–I mean all night. I couldn’t let the sheets or a loose tank top touch me without immense pain. My pediatrician said it was normal, that I had to get used to it. But he was also a man.

I sucked it up until I knew, okay something is wrong here. I saw a lactation consultant who told me Everett had tongue tie. Without question, I wanted to get the very minor procedure done on him because I needed to nurse. At the time, I was convinced it was my only option.

There wasn’t an available appointment until the following week, so in the meantime I pumped and he took a bottle without any problem. Things felt like they were on the uphill.

Then after the procedure, I started nursing him again but was still in a lot of pain after every feeding. I went to another lactation consultant, this time a completely different place, and she literally told me word for word what was in a book I already read. She also told me I could just continue pumping for fifteen minutes every two hours, so that’s what I did. I’d set alarms on my phone to get up though the night if the baby hadn’t already woken up to eat. I was constantly afraid of not having enough milk, so I kept pumping pumping pumping to try and boost my supply.

I was hooked to that machine. My boobs always ached and I couldn’t hold Everett on my chest because of how much I hurt. I got clogged milk ducts then the big ol’ mastitis came along. After the infection cleared, I pushed on for another week or so and then decided to quit. I don’t think Chris was ever more relieved.

For awhile I doubted my decision. I felt guilty when I’d scoop Everett’s formula and would become red cheek embarrassed around other nursing mothers.

I just tried too hard. I pumped too much. I put too much pressure on myself and my poor boobs. I always thought Everett was hungry when in reality, he just needed put to sleep. (Still to this day, he won’t fall asleep anywhere else besides his crib in the pitch black–and that took me a long time to figure out).

In hindsight, there were things I probably could have changed. I wouldn’t have listened to that pediatrician who told me I was fine, I wouldn’t have listened to the consultant who told me to pump so much to the point of making myself raw. I wouldn’t have listened to the books that said no pacifiers and made me feel ashamed if my baby wasn’t going to get my milk.

I would have listened to myself, but I was so unsure of everything. Anything anybody told me I’d try, whether it pertained to nursing, getting Everett to sleep or what to eat for breakfast.

Now when I get advice I politely listen, nod my head and take from it what I want.

I will know this “technique” for the next baby. I feel like I’ll know a lot more things than the first time around, but then again, another baby will be completely different than Everett was. And if I do get to breastfeed my second, I know I will love and appreciate nursing in a more special way, had it all been a breeze with Everett. I won’t have to become a mom either. That work has already been started.

I know I’m not ready to deliberately try for another, but I have an idea in my head of when I would like to get pregnant. And usually when I get those intuitive feelings about certain things, they really happen.

It’s because I trust those feelings. I follow them. I believe in them. And wa-lah, there that “thing” comes, in its own perfect timing, after I’ve finally and truly allowed myself to simply have it.

I’ll talk with you soon. I love you.