OCTOBER 4, 2016

SIX months old

 

And if you’ve had a bad week, 

Let me sing you to sleep. 

Oh and I’ll be there waiting when you get frustrated. 

I know things are changing but darling I’m saying, 

I’ve been here all along. 

Maggie Rogers, Dog Years 

 

I keep listening to that song. It’s been on continual repeat, reminding me of you each time; as if you’re somehow singing the beautiful words to me, Allison, Cole and Tatum–your four babies. 

On my routine walk this morning, it was playing through my earphones, and when the above portion of lyrics were sung, I imagined a time when you and I were still able to sit in bed together, watching HGTV at night and drinking Salada green tea in your big king-sized bed. The water mattress would mold to my body and I’d be covered with that fluffy down comforter, swallowed up and safe. I can still inhale the sheets and feathers and how Dad’s pillow always smelled different than yours.  

 

Everett is now six months old. He and I are having such great days together, and I could not be more satisfied with staying home. I absolutely love it. I love being the one to witness everything he does. I love being the face that makes him laugh and coo and smile. 

I never had a career–straight after college, I supported myself with teaching yoga and working retail at Anthropologie and babysitting. I hustled, refusing to take on debt for another degree, or work an office job that wasn’t fulfilling, because I had bigger plans: I wanted to be a mother. I wanted to be a mother who stayed at home, just like you did, and that’s the aspect of you I’m most glad I followed. 

Staying home allows for the simple moments, like eating lunch each afternoon with Everett, to become the precious pieces that make up my life. He’s becoming my buddy, and I know that I’m his too, just by the way he looks at me. No job or amount of money is worth missing that. 

Because when I sit on the couch and hold Everett up above me, getting him to laugh and in the process, getting giggles out of myself, I feel you. I remember you. And I’m so thankful for the way you and Dad raised us kids, happy and all together. 

You both prepared me for the beautiful life I have now. I got to grow up gently watching and learning the kind of existence I’m currently inhabiting 

 

It feels good and right to be back teaching yoga, and last week, I took a class where I was truly able to let go. I practiced how I used to practice, before being pregnant and before giving birth. Somewhere within pregnancy, I forgot that I alone have the power to tune my thoughts and worries and anxieties out, and I alone can breathe my way to feeling peace.  

On my mat, when I really tune my surroundings to silent, I forget everything. I can hear my breath flowing in and out of my body, and I can feel when it leaves, as it hollows the spaces where I’ve accumulated worry and clutter. It’s like I’m dancing through the combination of movements, music, and the teacher’s voice, simply able to be. 

In the year following your death, I started attending yoga once a week. I consistently went every Monday, to the same teacher–I was drawn to her beauty and insight and the natural way I truly became her student.  

My mind bloomed like a little lotus flower, each time I heard words about spirit and energy and connection. And as time went on, I could feel my beliefs about where you were, start to shake and shift and rearrange into new form. 

I’ll never forget her once explaining: if you took a dead body and filled the lungs with air, pumped the veins with blood, and somehow started the heart, that person would not come back to life because their soul has moved on. Their body is now just a body, an empty vessel, because the energy has left. 

From then on, I stopped imagining you as a spirit in the sky, displaced and far away from me; I was beginning to learn that your energy was everywhere.  

I just don’t know how to consistently reach that energy yet, but know it’s possible–like that night down by the ocean, when I was absolutely sure I felt you in the mixture of sand and breeze and water.  

 

Yoga gives me the permission to tend to myself, because even though I’m a mother now, I’m allowed to put my needs to nourish first. This is new news to me. 

I was always under the impression that when you have a child, you as a person are put aside. That your needs come second, you say goodbye to fun, and sacrifice becomes your new daily mantra.  

However, Im learning that these “facts” aren’t the truth–that you can be a mother and a woman, like two twined entities, gathered from the same string. 

I’m continually learning to mix old habits with new ones, rearranging my beliefs and routines and the daily ways I get things done around the house, because I now have a human to care for. But that doesn’t mean that I have to completely lose myself as an individual. 

 

Last week I went out to the bars downtown with my entire group of friends, the same girls who once called you Mrs. Norris at our middle school sleepovers. 

This was my first time “partying” since my wedding, so it’s safe to say I had the night of my life, dancing with both friends and strangers, drinking as much beer as my belly could hold. I was reminded of how young I am, and how much I deserve to have a social life, separate from my family one. There is nothing selfish about that, an ideal I’ve had to somewhat shatter since gaining the title of Mom. 

It’s hard to give myself permission to have that kind of fun because you never did. You never drank, not even so much as a glass of wine with dinner. You never left us kids and Dad and went out with just your girlfriends. All I remember was fancy couple dinner parties that the two of you would attend or host–which is fine and fun, but that doesn’t mean I have to do the same thing. 

 

I think I’ve finally embraced being a mother. Most of the time, I feel like Im completely owning it. I’m confident with my son and feel familiar again in my skin and in my body. Bottles and empty breasts don’t feel shameful anymore, I don’t panic if Everett cries in public, and I simply know how he works now, like I finally found the magic manual. That’s all because I’ve learned to listen to myself, without doubt and without other people’s input.  

With this new little boost in confidence, I recently submitted an article I wrote to Mother.ly, a website entirely dedicated to motherhood. And they accepted it! I was beyond thrilled to be e-mailing back and forth with one of the site’s founders, sending her my little bio and a headshot I had Chris’ sister take with her photography camera.  

Because of this small success, I’m beginning to have faith in the blog I created and recently posted to social media, which openly exposed these private journal conversations between you and I. 

 

My writing might just take me somewhere. 

 

 

SEPTEMBER 9, 2016

FIVE months old

 

She liked being reminded of butterflies. She remembered being six or seven and crying over the fates of the butterflies in her yard after learning that they lived for only a few days. Her mother had comforted her and told her not to be sad for the butterflies–that just because their lives were short didn’t mean they were tragic.  

-Lisa Genova, Still Alice 

 

I feel so alone. 

Ever since you died, I always had that awareness of loneliness–you were no longer there to talk about the things that only a mother could care about. I lost the person whose opinion mattered, whose advice I’d adhere to. But now that I have Everett, I sometimes feel like he and I are the only two existing people, functioning in a world ruled by bottles and diapers and the scheduled clock–a world my husband and friends cannot understand, just as I cannot fathom how they go to work and make a paycheck and talk to other adults.  

It’s isolating as a stay at home mother, especially at twenty-five, when people my age are still partying and dating and finding themselves. And I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining, because I chose this life, and I truly can’t imagine it all any different. But I constantly think how different raising Everett would be, if only I had you…if only I had your company…if only my son had someone other than his parents, that was equally in love with him. 

 

I’ve been thinking of you constantly, as if you’ve become an invisible companion who sits on my shoulder, nudging your presence to be known during the ordinary every day moments–like while carrying laundry up the steps, or in the seconds my head hits the pillow at night–there you are. And my mind seems to dust around every seemingly vacant corner, constantly searching for a new but old memory of you I’ve yet to remember.  

Like when I was a little girl, maybe four or five years old, lying in bed with you at the old house. It was still morning; your hair was messy and your face hasn’t woke yet. I asked to put my legs “in the oven”, which meant in between your sideways legs because they’d always be warm. And I played with your long hair, holding up the strands and pretending they were long neck dinosaurs from The Land Before Time movie. 

Or the moment I saw Dad, sitting on the couch with his hands over his head, 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 permanently squeeze the feeling of you forever in his head.  

Memories will always keep you alive within my body, and even though they sometimes sneak up and surprise and cause me to silently cry, I now understand the ability to remember as a privilege.   

 

I’ve never wanted to share the following with you, because part of me feels like it’s not my story to tell, but my mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s. She is sixty years old. And it is literally breaking my heart, watching the woman who should’ve been my second mother, whittle away before she and I really got the chance to know each other the way we’re supposed to. 

 It seems that recently, the sickness is slowly becoming more present, even though on the outside, her perfectly aged beauty remains unchanged. A passing stranger wouldn’t visibly know there are knots and tangles invading the intimate parts of her mind.  

Chris doesn’t say much about the disease, being the quiet man that he is. If I try to wedge some words out of his worrisome mind, he’ll tell me a few things about how she’s been or what medication she’s trying–things like that, but will never go into detail about how it’s emotionally affecting him. And that’s okay, because I’ve realized he needs the permission to grieve in his own way. 

I had to adjust quickly to the idea of losing you. The time between your diagnosis and death passed with the change of two seasons; however, my husband has to balance the evidential pieces that surface each time we visit his mother–a forgotten name, a repeated phrase, a sentence that doesn’t fit into conversation–all while knowing she is literally fading into her already forgotten memories. 

 

Alzheimer’s is different than cancer. When you first became sick, the entire family rallied together and planned and plotted and conversed about opinions and options. Your friends divided up help with dinners and taking care of the two youngest kids. And I can remember you and Dad going to several doctors and specialists, trying to figure out how to entirely extinguish stage 4 breast cancer.  

But for my mother-in-law, it could take years and years for this to progress, which is the most devastating part. No one knows how much memory she’ll have left in the upcoming years. There really aren’t options and there isn’t anything to figure out–there’s just time. 

 

Lately, as I’ve been particularly feeling alone, I think of not having you, of not having Chris’ mom, and not having the person I once always imagined being my mother-in-law, Mrs. Treml.  

When I got engaged, I completely cut off my relationship with her, in an absurd attempt to move forward from previously loving her son. He was my high school sweet heart, as they say. But she’s the woman who truly guided me back to the surface after your death–the one who took me prom dress shopping and out to dinners, and who I’d call just to chat. Having her friendship eased the transition away from you, and I will always love her for that. 

But this inability to have a maternal figure, leaves me feeling insufficient because I can’t give my child a grandmother. I know the factors are all out of my control, but that doesn’t seem to lessen the guilt. 

 

Chris grew up differently than me, with two working parents and only one sister. He never knew what a houseful of kids on a Saturday morning looked or sounded like, or that it was even possible to support a family off of one income. At twenty years old, only a year after we started dating, I explained to him that I wanted to stay home and raise a lot of children. Thankfully, my demands didn’t chase him off and now, I get to watch him father our son, knowing that I somehow nudged this gentle man into a life that can seem so scary until you’re simply living it. 

So while I don’t have any form of a mother and therefore not much help when it comes to Everett, I hope that these grievances will gradually force Chris and I to be united as communal leaders of a big, overgrown family. We will be our own help, dependent on each other. And we’ll raise children who will wholly understand the meaning and importance of togetherness, as we create those mundane memories they’ll always remember.  

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

MAY 1, 2016

(almost) ONE month old 

 

I say to 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.

-Robert Brault

 

To commemorate successfully surviving the first month of motherhood, I’d like to tell you my birth story. I don’t want to write it down for the purpose of preserving details, because right now, I feel as if every moment of Everett’s delivery has been invisibly inked to my skin. Rather, I need to write to help me heal…to ensure that I don’t take that day and bury its scary memory, never allowing a necessary chance for release.  

 

I was asleep until around eleven o’clock in the evening, when I felt my very first contraction. Still thinking the sensation could be the regular cramps I’d been getting, I tried to resume sleep, but less than eight minutes later, another contraction came. And then another. I woke Chris and told him I was pretty sure labor had started.  

Since I was eleven days past my due date, all I’d been wanting were contractions. But when I realized they were real and there to stay, I couldn’t believe it was the actual start of meeting our baby. So to relax, I took a bath and shortly after, lost my mucus plug, feeling giddy to see a foreign glob in the toilet when I flushed. This is actually happening! 

Before the sun rose and the next morning officially began, we started to make our drive to The Midwife Center. My contractions were being timed roughly five minutes apart. 

We arrived, only to have the staff say we were early. I was still able to hold a conversation, a sign that told them I wasn’t into active labor yet. But we decided to stay anyways. Chris and I settled into our room (it was only one of three–The Midwife Center is comprised of a very small row house in the heart of Pittsburgh) and tried to take a short nap together on the full-sized bed I’d later deliver on. 

During each contraction, without intentionally trying, I began to visualize you and I together, standing towards one another. You’d gently blow what looked like glitter from the palm of your hand, and I’d breathe in the scattering golden specks. And then when I exhaled, green ivy-like leaves brushed down the sides of my stomach, taking the pain away. It seems so strange to picture, but somehow I felt like you were guiding my mind onto a straight plane of concentration. 

 

Twelve hours had now passed since labor initially started, but when my cervix was checked, I was still under 4 cm. I was encouraged over and over to take a long walk outside, so finally I obeyed, and once that was completed, I got into the big jacuzzi tub, where my contractions really started to intensify.  

The hot water felt incredible. When I’d get really sweaty after a contraction, Chris would pour cool water over my shoulders, and the simple act allowed us to feel like somewhat of a team. For all the hours before, I knew he was there, but part of a constant background I couldn’t plant my attention to. He felt helpless, stuck between wanting to give me space, wanting to help, and having no idea what to do. 

 

My doula told me she really thought I was close to 8 cm and I remember thinking, I can absolutely do this. Hours had passed, I had walked, I had relaxed in the tub; I was hopeful my next cervix check would reveal significant progress, but I’d only made it 2 cm further. 

I circled around that little confined room, cursing and in complete denial of my slow progress. I said I was done, that this was all so stupid and I could not make it to the end. If drugs were available, this is the point where I would have gladly taken them, despite how much I wanted a “natural” birth. 

My body felt comprised of jelly, and I knew the hardest part was yet to come–I still had to get this baby out. Active labor had really only just started and already, I was exhausted. By this point, it was probably around dinnertime. 

Wanting to rest and float without effort, I returned to the jacuzzi, beginning to become loud and audible. Noise seemed to be the only thing that helped. 

Chris was sitting on the side of the tub and I told him, “If I could survive losing my mom, I can do this.” I was staring straight ahead at the shower wall tile, with salty water swelling in my eyes.  

Your death and Everett’s birth, were the two hardest moments in my life thus far.  

 

After yet another chunk of amounted time (at this point I had been in labor for twenty-four hours), I stood up out of the jacuzzi, letting out the loudest scream yet. I could hear the nurses and midwife come rushing down the narrow hall towards my room. 

I felt so much pressure inside my groin, like a watermelon wanted through my body. And it didn’t just feel like a wide watermelon, but a very heavy one, too. For the first time I actually felt scared because I had absolutely no idea how this melon was going to safely escape my body. 

Within seconds of crawling onto the bed, I felt the urge to push. The sensation completely took over me. For months I wondered, How will I know when to push? And you just do. Your body knows.  

I’d crouch back into a child’s pose with each contraction when I pushed; this is what gave me the most strength. And I would cry out, literally sounding like a wounded lion. My doula softly tried telling me to save that vocal energy for the physical, and I ignored her comment completely, furiously shaking my head at her. Thankfully it was midnight and there weren’t women having their prenatal check-up appointments on the floor above. My noises alone would’ve scared them all away from having a drug-free birth. 

And then only a few moments later, the baby’s heartbeat slowed down. That’s when I heard the nurse tell me to slow my breath and, “Okay, Hayley. We need to get this baby out.” I had only been pushing for two minutes, and apparently, I only had minutes more.  

I was told to switch positions from my back, to my side, to all fours with pillows propped for support. I was flipping around like a pancake. To encourage me, the midwife had me reach down and feel my baby’s head when crowning–it felt like a soft, crinkled walnut.  

His head was now out, but the cord was tightly wrapped around his neck twice and he wasn’t breathing. I had no idea my baby was in danger, but Chris did.  And my lady parts literally felt as if I was hovering over a campfire, the flames touching and burning my skin with a constant heat.

 

I ended up on my back and was told to push towards the ceiling which helped immensely. The midwife was also holding a twisted sheet and I pulled on it like I was climbing a ladder, as she tugged back. I truly felt like I was fighting for my life and the life still inside me, and not a fragment of that statement is exaggerated. 

I was pushing with the power of my every cell, yet could not get the rest of his body out. To my later knowledge, he had shoulder dystocia, a positioning that caused him to be stuck behind my pelvic bone. That is why later, my eyes and face and chest would be dotted red from popped blood vessels. 

Panic started to fill the room, and for a moment, I honestly questioned if I was capable enough. And you know I’m tough. Everything was just so incredibly intense and nothing like I’d ever experienced before. But as soon as I had a fearful thought, it would immediately dissipate because I was as present and “in the moment” as a person could be. It was like my thoughts were on such fast-forward, the words in my mind blurred into a white noise of condensed static. 

 

They had to break his shoulder to get him through me, causing a small hairline fracture in his newly formed bones.  

I don’t remember feeling the baby slide out like I imagined I would’ve. But I could see my stomach flatten as his body came out of mine. The space he safely inhabited for nine months, seemed to immediately deflate. An entire day after I had started steady contractions in the comforts of my home bed, Everett came into this world. 

His cord was ripped in half and he lost all of his meconium from the stress of delivery. He was blue and still wasn’t properly breathing, if at all. 

I was still on my back, excessively bleeding and empty. They had him on the bed next to me, with oxygen up to his face. There were two nurses, my doula, and midwife around him, so I couldn’t see much.  

Chris was telling me, “It’s a boy, it’s a boy,” and I just cried, “My baby, my baby. It was equally terrifying and traumatic. I had no idea what was happening. Did I do something wrong? Was I not strong enough? 

I had oxygen up to my face, too. It was so hard to breathe and I had no idea why a mask was over my mouth as I was leaning across the bed, trying to get to my baby. It felt like a cumbersome disruption. 

My hands and legs were shaking like I had uncontrollable shivers. I was pricked with Pitocin in order to stop hemorrhaging, while they were still trying to get my baby to breathe. I was so scared and spent and felt lifeless: I honestly thought if I closed my eyes, I’d go to wherever it is you are. 

 

They took Everett to a table and were rubbing him for stimulation. His color was still very pale, but he was now breathing. I could see, even from feet away, that his eyes were wide open and he looked so curious. My doula was talking to him, greeting him into life, and I said aloud, “His name is Everett,” so everyone could hear.  

The women were all talking with each other about transferring him to the hospital, telling different people to call different places, but they all stayed calm and collected.  

 

For a brief moment, Everett was laid on my chest. I couldn’t really see his face from how he was positioned, but held his little bum and caught glimpses of his eyes. He was still looking all around, trying to hold his head up. Chris was leaning right over us, and he and I were crying with joy and relief and some magic wondered emotion that I have no word or name for.  

Our son was stable, but my midwife wanted to transfer him to the hospital because of his coloring. It was simply a precaution. So Chris rode in the ambulance with Everett, and I tried not to feel powerless when the two paramedic men held my baby and took him away from me. The need to protect my child surged through my body, and it took my entire reasoning mind to keep me still and steady on the bed, even though by then I was naked and bleeding and crying, only covered with a white bed sheet. 

 

After a surprisingly few amount stitches and delivering the placenta, I was able to be somewhat cleaned up and clothed and refuel with some food. One of the nurses made me an English muffin with egg and cheese and coffee, and it felt like a victory meal, even though my hard-earned prize was nowhere in sight. 

I had to stay for at least four hours before leaving to be with Chris and Everett, so I had Allison come to The Midwife Center; it was a relief to see my sister walk through the door and straight onto my bed. And Chris was continually keeping me posted with updates and pictures from the hospital–Everett was thriving. 

 

When I was able to be discharged, Chris came back to help with the process. And ever so slowly, like a deteriorating old woman, I got in and out of our SUV for the hospital drive, feeling blood rush out with every small exertion, like standing. But it didn’t matter. I just wanted Everett 

We entered the NICU and I cried seeing him hooked up to cords and monitors. I held his little hand and everything I had just been through disappeared. I got to breastfeed him right away.  

His nurse had good news each time she talked with us. Every test they did on Everett, he passed with flying colors, so we knew early on that indeed our baby was fine. He just had a really scary start 

 

We stayed overnight in what felt like the hospital’s version of a motel. Up on the top floor, there were a few rooms dedicated to outpatients, decorated with two twin beds, a basic television, and a small adjoined bathroom. Every hour I’d wake up soaked in sweat that for some odd reason, smelled like celery, with water in my eyes, remembering the birth and wanting Everett. I felt detached, unable to properly adjust to no longer being pregnant without the evidence of my child.  

Chris would guide me into a wheelchair and take us both down the elevator to Everett’s floor. I’d nurse him and feel a little better, and we’d go back up to our room, only for the whole process to happen again and again. 

Thankfully, Everett was discharged the next morning, on Chris’ birthday. When we got home, I went upstairs, got undressed, and snuggled in bed with my baby boy. It felt so good to have him home. All finally felt right in the world. 

 

I feel like I can do absolutely anything after Everett’s birth, and I’d say that kind of confidence gives me a wonderful boosting start into motherhood.  

I’m learning that nothing is how I expected it to be, but must trust that everything is how it’s supposed to be. 

 

 

 

APRIL 4, 2016  

TWO days old

Simple and fresh and fair from winter’s close emerging… 
Forth from its sunny nook of shelter’d grass–innocent, golden, calm 
as the dawn, 
The spring’s first dandelion shows its trustful face. 

-Walt Whitman  

 

 

Everett Jay Pearlman. Born April 2, 12:40 a.m. Weighed 8.56 ounces, 20.5 inches long.  

I have never been so in love with anyone or so unaware of myself. It’s like I’m changing every minute, molding into my baby’s mother: sometimes that feels terrifying and other times, I feel as if I have finally arrived to where I’ve always wanted to be, home with a husband and baby.  

I was just soaking in the bath, my tub filled with dried herbs that are supposed to heal my sore and aching body, and I kept crying as the warm flowing water covered and comforted what feels like post-birth blues.  

Cradling my cheeks in the support of my hands, I hung my head limped and somewhat lifeless, wondering why you aren’t here to meet Everett…why you cannot witness me as a newly born mother. Where will I tell him you’ve gone? How will I explain why you are not here? Because I myself cant even answer those tormenting questions. 

This should be the most thrilling time of my life. And yet, I haven’t missed you this much since the initial loss. 

But I can already feel my baby’s love starting to heal my still broken pieces. Every space in my body and mind is continually filling with the thought and smell and feeling of my child. Life prior to him already feels impossible trying to imagine, like there’s a permanently marked “before” and “after” Everett rift in my years, and suddenly, I know nothing about my person will ever be the same. 

 

I’ve already taken too much time to write—Everett is sleeping downstairs in Nana’s arms and I want to rest while I have the opportunity. I just felt like I needed to talk, even if writing to you in a journal is somewhat make-believe. 

I’m so glad he’s a boy (and all that time I was so convinced of a girl). He is perfectabsolutely perfect.