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, I’m 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 I’m 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.