AUGUST 19, 2021

FIVE years FIVE months + TWO years ELEVEN months + THIRTY-SEVEN weeks

 

be softer with you.

you are a breathing thing.

a memory to someone.

a home to a life.

–nayyirah waheed

 

 

I don’t have goals for this blog anymore. Pregnancy could very well be made to blame for my disinterest with writing, but still, it’s not an excuse I want to accept.

Way back in November, I reached out to the Murrysville library, with an email subject lined: free books to promote local author. I explained that I had self-published a memoir on motherless motherhood. And asked the director for permission to leave free copies for library patrons, in the hopes of spreading some awareness in my home-town.

She replied with an eager yes, and even suggested a virtual bookclub. And while waiting for my bulk order of paperbacks to arrive from Amazon, I got pregnant, and forgot about the opportunity. And thereafter, anytime I’d think about replying her back or apologizing for the delay, I pushed it to the backs of my brain, simply not caring.

I don’t know why I squander every writing opportunity, or why I won’t take the time to create a professional-looking site. Social media exposure seems absolutely essential to put any actual momentum behind these posts, but that’s not something I can keep up with. Nor is it a space I want to be a part of. So I just remain on a little Word Press blog, refusing to spring-board forward.

 

Social media has always seemed like comparative poison. If I ever scroll through the Instagram app, I catch my conscious mind: Why does this person have so many followers? How does she have all those nice clothes? Her house looks like that? This is why I don’t follow people–not strangers, not my friends.

I used to envy an account run by a woman with the tagline: slow motherhood in Montana. Her pictures were beautiful–each image included wide open spaces in wispy prairie fields, with mountain peaks for dramatic backdrops. She was also a birth doula. And she had chickens, so naturally, I clicked “follow.” A month or so after believing this unknown woman was living my dream life, she posted a picture of her posing beside her chicken coop. It was pristine and painted white, and once again, there were those prairie fields behind her, mechanically filtered to a hue that seemed to blanket her in a golden light.

And she wore stylish pants and an expensive-looking sweater, both paired below a cute hat, with neat links in her typed caption, directing viewers where to buy each item.

I imagined what I’d look like some day by my chicken coop. And it didn’t come close to resembling this woman’s outfit ordered straight from Madewell’s website. Who feeds chickens in one hundred and fifteen dollar pants? And makes sure to take a witnessing picture? I’m sure there’s a handful of women who benefit from her content and buy those outfits, but there’s also thousands more that see her page and think they’re not enough—when they absolutely are.

 

Now that I have chickens, I can assure you I don’t look 2% put-together when caring for my flock. I’m in pajama pants and farmer clogs and never have on a bra…a lot of the time I go out naked at night to lock the coop because there’s no one surrounding us. Or sometimes I have hot rollers pinned to my head, making me look like George Washington in a powdered wig.

While I was doing my “chicken chores” the other morning, Chris snapped a picture of me and I look exactly as described above. Marion is next to me in the Frozen dress she refuses to take off, and my pants are so baggy, I look like I have some kind of front pocket penis tucked into my crotch. There’s toys strewn all about the chicken run and it looks messy–but it’s real. And these are the moments when Chris tells me I’m cute. When he gathers me into his arms and softly laughs, knowing he’s the only man who sees the raw state of me.

 

I once heard Dad say that he loved you most in the mornings; when you had no makeup and were in hodge-podge pajamas that never matched. And your hair had permission to naturally wave. Maybe I heard him wrong, and honestly, so much time has passed, I feel like I’m making it up because it’s so rare to hear your name come from his mouth. But I remember wishing how much I could tell you what he said. How much I wanted to say that we all loved you that way.

 

More power to the Montana woman. But that will never be my life. And even if it was, I’d never display it.

With my obvious disdain for posing life through pictures, and the fact that I have a newborn coming soon, I don’t know what’s next for our journal. That’s why most of the time it feels pointless and I ignore the voice that nudges me to type. It may be another six months before we talk again. But I always come back to you and this space.

Especially when I need you.

 

 

 

Tatum just moved into college.

Everett had his kindergarten open-house and begins school next week.

Marion starts pre-school in three weeks.

And I’m due September 5th.

This month of August has ushered in so much change, and as each day ends, I sit on its horizon and wonder when the hell this baby is going to come.

There is constant movement, more than with Everett or Marion, like the baby is always trying to find a comfortable position, but there’s simply no room to be found. Its butt and feet stretch my stomach out at odd, visible angles, making my skin seemingly unable to stretch another centimeter, the way bubble-gum must feel right before it pops in a chewing mouth.

I have contractions every afternoon that last into the evening. And even though I know they’re just practice ones, my brain doesn’t separate or categorize the moderate pains as pretend. So I start scrubbing the toilets. Or I’ll add another item to my hospital bag. Or I’ll walk into the nursery and just stand there, centered in the room, like I’m waiting for the baby to appear out of thin air.

Everything is ready: my plants have been watered, Chris just got a haircut, I’m ahead of laundry, our sheets are fresh, the kids’ daily schedule has been printed, and my special Anthropolgie pajamas (something to help boost the hospital stay) arrived early today. And even though I know the baby cares about none of this, each day I hope my preparing efforts somehow force the eviction notice before September.

I am in a constant state of being ready. And I’m over it.

But I’m not sure how I picture the birth. I haven’t done near as much meditating and intentionalizing as I did for Marion’s big debut. This one almost feels “out of my hands,” and it has since the start of pregnancy. I’ve imagined it fast and without an epidural. It just happens and as quickly as it begins, Chris and I are holding our third child and the chaos ceases.

I feel like I’m jinxing myself, making my premonitions permanent on this page and setting myself up to “be wrong.” But it’s what I feel. So it’s what I need to tell you.

 

I could very well have a scheduled induction. And pain medication. Or I could also have a c-section, something the midwives have mentioned a couple of times because of my history with shoulder dystocia. When they see Everett’s birth on my file, concerns arise at every appointment, with a different rotating midwife. Even though Marion’s delivery went as smooth as possible, I was told there’s an inherit 25% chance of recurring dystocia. Which I always thought was an issue solely for the mom, because it meant a stuck baby and more pushing, etc. But I Googled the term for the first time. And read bold black words that seemed to lift themselves up off the screen: brain damage and hypoxia were enough for me to tap tap tap the exit browser button three times over, making sure I didn’t have to read what could’ve happened to my sweet boy.

I have a sonogram scheduled tomorrow to delegate the size of this baby, which is challenging to predict accurately, but I can at least grasp some kind of information, about whether or not to schedule a medical induction. Because the bigger the baby, the higher chance of shoulder dystocia. Some days I feel like I’m carrying a nine-pound boy and on others, a small seven-pound girl. Both the weight and gender, I cannot guess.

 

If it’s a girl, for some reason I’ll feel like our family is complete. And I honestly have no idea why I feel that way; its just solid and concrete and there. 

If it’s a boy, I don’t doubt that in another few years, I’ll want to try for a fourth, so I can give Marion a sister–even though I’ve made Grandma promise me on multiple occasions and throughout varying phases of this pregnancy, to remind me to never get pregnant again. And I wasn’t telling her that in confidence to be funny. I meant it.

I’m getting ahead of myself. But I think its normal to casually be thinking of my family and how I want to create or expand it and for what reasons, etc. This is my job. This is my life. This is my purest purpose.

 

 

At Everett’s open house the other night, I saw you all over that elementary school. Obviously not in a literal sense, but the building had so many forgotten memories of you that unlocked as I walked the halls. When I passed my third grade classroom, I thought of meeting Meghan, who has remained my best friend, and the way she still re-tells the story of seeing me for the first time. I was new, so you were guiding me into the classroom, making sure I got comfortable and settled. And she still remembers my side pony-tail of curly waves, all gathered and tethered together by a turquoise scrunchie.

There’s actually a home video of you rolling my hair into hot rollers that first-day-of-school morning. You were thirty and beautiful. And pregnant with Cole, your third.

Or when I walked past the gymnasium, I almost cried, thinking of the assemblies you attended in the bleachers, and the the fifth-grade flea market once held there. You made brownies dusted with powdered sugar and cut them into 75 cent squares that sold out and made me proud. It was all to raise money for the Deer Valley trip; a traditional right of passage at Franklin Regional. Ironically, before we knew each other, Jessie and I were camp roommates and her mother was our cabin chaperone. And now she’s another best friend I’ve kept from those years in my life.

It felt like the school held me–who I was, and who I’ve become. And walking Everett to his classroom, I’d arrived at some kind of completed circle that for all this time, never knew was being drawn.

 

His teacher is young and sweet and pretty; all good ingredients for a lovable kindergarten teacher. Chris and I found his seat, which was right up front, and showed him where his locker was and how he’d hang his coat and book bag inside. We walked the path he’ll take once the bus drops him off, and I clarified with his teacher about the half-day pick-up routine.

I don’t know if its the “right” decision to avoid full-day, but with all of the changes fast-approaching, I felt strongly about wading into this month of September instead of diving head-first. I trust he would’ve adjusted fine, like everyone has told me, but he’s mine––and I know what he can handle. Switching to full-day at anytime is an option, and my guess is that by winter, he’ll be enrolled.

 

Part of me cannot understand how I have kids these ages. And an even larger ratio cannot fathom another newborn, another member of our family. It always feels so unreal towards the end––like there’s actually a possibility the baby won’t come out…that I’ll always be pregnant…that Chris and I aren’t about to meet the next love of our life.

As my due date gets closer and anxieties about delivery and a newborn narrow-in, I’m yelling more at the kids. The other day we drove to Target for the hundredth time that week, and it was one of those car rides that carried constant talking and whining and asking. And once we pulled into the driveway, I felt like my head popped off my body and exploded. Everett is notorious for pressing buttons he shouldn’t, or turning off switches and locking latches. He had done something to the car door that stopped it from completely shutting, and Marion was crying about getting her shoes on. I whipped my new bags of potting soil across the gravel and screamed, threatening for them to get inside. They ran. Marion scuttled so fast for the front door, she forgot about the shoes.

I kept slamming the car door shut, failing each time and finally cried in frustration. And as if on cue, the chickens started singing their loud egg-laying song, which reminded me that overnight poop was still waiting to be scooped from the coop.

I was overwhelmed with everything that needed me and challenged my existence of Target errands and herding children and running this household. And couldn’t believe I’m about to add more weight to this questioning equation with another human.

Often times it all feels like a never-ending merry-go-round that never stops. And for this entire pregnancy, I’ve forgotten that the ride can be fun. That there’s music and movement and joy and rising and falling and the ability to switch your pony when in need of change.

I don’t like being this way. I don’t like feeling like a shell of myself or being entirely absent from Chris and half-present with the kids. Or thinking that staying home is a worthless position, when in reality…when my mind is clear, I know these are the best days of my life.

 

So every day I journal, and swirl in my messy print with a pen, that what’s coming is going to be wonderful–that I’m going to adjust and I’ll carry my family through what’s ahead, with Chris’ support. I may not have you, but I have my grandmothers. I may not have a mother-in-law, but I have a husband who gets more paternity leave than a lot of women.

And these awful hormones will begin leaving my body as soon as this baby does. I’m aware of the postpartum period and recovery and the grace that it all demands, but I will soon return to myself. And as I’m anticipating meeting this baby and finding out if we’re adding a brother or sister and what name will be claimed, I’m just as thrilled to reunite with me.

So cheers to this baby. Cheers to me.

Cheers to my growing family and our realness.

 

 

 

 

APRIL 27, 2021

FIVE years + TWO years SIX months + TWENTY-TWO weeks

 

I wanted to write down

exactly how I felt

but somehow the paper stayed empty

and I could not have described it any better

-wtm

 

I took the long way home the other day, purposely passing your old house—the one on Ludwig Road. And as I stared out my wound-down window, driving at a suspiciously slow pace, I noticed a foreign pile of freshly cut timber. And when the next 5mph view came into focus, I saw a bare spot in the backyard, where our special willow tree once stood. The “new” home owners (the ones that are not you and Dad) cut it down, and neatly stacked our memories into a mound of firewood.

I know it’s “just a tree.” But long ago, you planted that willow with the intention of watching it grow as our family did. So it always seemed yours. And here was yet another reminder of you that had to disappear, like your clothes or your car or the deleted contact number in my cell phone.

 

As soon as I turned onto the next road over, I increased my speed with added pressure to the gas and cried, loud and hard. The open spring air whipped at my face and cooled my tears and caressed loose wisps of hair that had fallen from an all-day ponytail hold. I could feel my heart as it beat against my chest, thudding along angrily at the thought of what was gone.

I understand you’re more than what’s physical. But it’s hard to believe you were ever here. It hurts too much to think that you once created the microcosm that was us—the ones who lived happily on Ludwig Road—and then just disappeared at thirty-nine years.

I feel like you were a little girl who got cheated out of her life…who didn’t get to finish raising her children…who didn’t get to fully reap the crops you and Dad grew together. And those thoughts have never eased, have never softened. They just make me want to dig my heels into the grounds of motherhood that much more, and be all you were and would’ve been, plus me.

And that’s what boosts my maternal powers.

 

 

Everett is set for kindergarten in the fall. I turned in his registration packet and had a little conference with his lovely preschool teacher, who reported that he’s on track with letters and social skills and the tools needed to step onto that school bus at the end of summer. She said he plays with everyone, both boys and girls, and while making his daily bathroom trip, consistently stops to say hi to the secretary.

I’ve been becoming more and more aware of just how much he’s changing, like in the way he’ll consciously choose to call me Mom instead of Mommy, or how he now understands his Dad’s sarcasm and will slip in a laugh at the perfect time. He needs me less often and rarely wants help and sometimes when I watch him zip his coat and slip into boots and walk out the back door, all while saying, “I’m going outside!” I wonder what happened to my baby.

He can transform all he needs to, I just hope he maintains his sweetness—I hope its the guiding principle throughout his life. Because right now, it is. He can call me the short-hand version of mommy, and in Target, I’ll gladly shop across the aisle that separates the big boy section from the babies/toddlers like some imaginary river that every mom must eventually expedite across, but cannot watch his inherit goodwill disappear into the depths of maturity.

 

Ever since I became a mom five years ago, I’ve navigated newborns and babies and toddlers. The terrain is ever-changing as a parent, and foreseeing the future with a school-aged boy feels foreign, and I’m not ready to welcome it head on.

It’s like I’ve got one foot in rough, unsure waters, while the other is dipped in a comfortable stream of the two-year-old polly-pocket that is Marion. I’m straddled between the growing ages and changes of my children, learning how to surrender and accept it all.

 

 

Even though she’s half-way past two, Marion just had her second year check-up, which was first postponed because of Covid, then my forgetfulness. We learned that she’s in the 5th percentile for weight, but is healthily proportionate. Her small size absolutely defines her, but in the best way.

Marion embodies all things “girl,” like watching Frozen and wearing dresses and is very interested in watching her mom get ready. She stays in my bathroom the entire time I blow dry my long head of hair, now and then saying, “My turn!” and I’ll feather the hot air through her curly tot locks. She’ll watch me put on makeup, apply body cream, tweeze a stray eyebrow hair—it all enthralls her, and sometimes I look down and catch her in a trance, with blank eyes and a wide mouth, absolutely absorbed in my mascara application.

 

I still remember your similar self-care routines, and the way I’d unconsciously observe your ways, even as a teenager. I remember how you’d twirl wet hair into a towel after the shower, so you could sit unencumbered at the vanity and lightly paint your face in Mary Kay makeup. Or how you habitually plucked your eyebrows in the car visor mirror, because you swore it gave the best natural light for blonde hairs. I remember the cocoa butter cream you’d apply after a shower, and still buy the Suave bottle to somehow channel you each time I use it, now with Marion staring at me, patiently waiting for a small share on her cheeks.

She wants to do what I do. And it’s uncanny to fathom that she’ll grow up believing what her mother did—the way I dress, the way I do my hair, even the way I talk to people—will presumably be what she deems “right,” just as all your ways were once the only ones I ever wanted to become.

 

 

 

The last time we talked, it was late November, and I closed the entry by telling you that I wanted to get pregnant in the spring, when I got my long-awaited chickens.

Both plans have come to be; not only do I have eight baby chicks, but I’m growing another in my belly.

I’m pregnant.

So I guess while I’m standing in this analogy of waters—learning Everett’s new ways and steadfastly raising Marion, I’m circling back to the still pond that is pregnancy, waiting out the next eighteen weeks and acknowledging the time that remains until I’m crowned as a mom of three.

 

We tried for this baby earlier than expected. The more I watched Everett and Marion play together, the more I wanted another one…the more I just wanted to begin the inevitable and grow our family. So Chris and I began having many conversations about it, and I wrote this in my pen and paper journal when trying to decide what to do:

December 3, 2020

While frying eggs and buttering toast this past Sunday morning, as the kids sat and watched Home Alone, Chris and I discussed getting pregnant this month. When I told him my fertile window was in view and the opportunity was approaching, he started spreading butter faster, breaking his crisp bread with the flat knife. “Let’s do it, babe!”

He wants to “get it over with.” To have three bundled together, and then be done.

But I clearly explained that just because we might have another baby soon, doesn’t mean its the last. I made sure he understood we can’t rush this just to be done, because what if, years from now, our family doesn’t feel complete? There’s no way to predict these things; I just need that door of possibility to remain open until I’m ready to slam it shut.

And as he took a bite out of that buttered toast and looked at me while politely saying, “Sounds good!” in a tone that sounded like he’d just agreed on what to order for a take-out dinner, I noticed the way a patch of his eyebrow hair was beginning to swirl upwards, the way his Dad’s does, and wanted a baby. I was sure of it. And I felt my insides gush with excitement and nerves but the ignition was turned, and there was no going back. We tried that night.

I know it sounds funny—I’m smirking as I’m writing it. And while they’re much, much tamer, I’ve always loved his Eugene Levy-esque brows, and the way they somehow remind me of his sweetness—of the gentle lineage he comes from, of the great man he continually becomes.

If I get pregnant soon, it’s because of that eyebrow hair. And because he truly wants another baby.

 

On Christmas morning, I woke up extra early to take a pregnancy test, even though a few days before, I had a negative result. This time, I was expecting it to be positive because of how I felt, and when I saw the double pink line, I nodded my head, like I was agreeing to the stick that it was right.

I quickly wrapped it and handed the light box to Chris after the kids had opened Santa’s gifts, and ever since that moment, when this baby became known news, I completely left myself and seemed to hibernate like a dormant perennial in winter.

First it was the physical symptoms: the dry heaving and throwing up morning bile and a constant heaviness in my head. Thankfully that all stopped around eleven or so weeks—the same as my last two pregnancies. But as my body continued adjusting to its new roommate, the electrical wires that connect my brain to the outside world, never circuited back to life and I remained underground.

So for the past five months, I didn’t journal. I didn’t meditate. I didn’t stretch my body. I didn’t do any of the things that uplift and steady me. I was vacant and empty and had nothing to share, and pandemic isolation only added to the intensity. Every day home was exactly the same, and if I got a load of laundry folded and kept up with the kids’ needs, I was exceeding what I thought to be possible.

Each time I opened the computer to write to you, I typed in circles. I could never finish an entry. So it all remained blank, which now with the ability to look back, seems appropriate.

 

Every ten week span feels like achieving a mini-decade of time: first it was getting to ten weeks, then to twenty. And now, as I chip deeper into my “twenties decade,” I can feel myself slowly improving. And like the swift pivot of this beautiful spring season, I’m beginning to awaken again, and the flowers behind my eyes are blooming into perspective, shifting everything into a more positive lens.

My interior lights still feel faded, but that’s understandable—I’m quite literally dividing my energy to our growing baby. But I’m back to appreciating self-care, something that cannot be done in total darkness. And that feels like a stride forward.

 

 

At the beginning of March, my father-in-law drove Everett and I up to a farm in Ohio to pick up our eight, day-old chicks. Instead of having them priority shipped, we decided a quick road trip to be a better option, and Everett took the day off school for the special occasion. The three of us talked and laughed and made rest stops and filled a normal Monday morning with a memory I’ll never forget.

The chicks are now eight weeks old, and they’ve brought the kids and I so much joy. Everett loves to hold them, and will nuzzle his face close to our favorite and most friendly chicken, Sally Salmon, and whisper, “You’re my best friend.” Marion tends to run away if one singles her out and tries following her, but she likes feeding the whole flock and plays around the coop, picking up sticks and crawling over fallen trees.

 

I’ve watched every chicken-related video on YouTube, first trying to educate myself on how to take care of baby chicks, then what size coop to buy, which types of food and supplements are best, and all about preventing a dreaded predator attack.

While “the girls” (as we call them) were growing into their current size, indoor chicken-living accommodations kept evolving within my house, and it was a relief to finally get them outside in the spring weather, now that they have insulating feathers and a beautiful coop to call home.

Keeping the coop clean is a daily morning chore, but it seems that if I keep it tidy, the job doesn’t become too overwhelming (the same goes for my house). Every other morning, I scoop the poop that was dropped overnight. And then I sprinkle in fresh pine shavings, baking soda, and spritz a mix of essential oils all over the coop’s floor. Every two weeks or so, I shovel all the bedding out, and begin the layering process again. The internet if filled with limitless amounts of “coop cleaning methods,” and I’m sure I’ll learn as I go, taking a tip or two from each blog site I read. And winter upkeep will look much different.

Whatever the case, the chickens and even the coop itself, fill me with a such a sense of pride and accomplishment. Remember when I would write to you, trying to describe in words, what it would be like to have property and a private house in the woods and the added bonus of chickens? And here I am.

These little creatures really are a vision come real. Who knew eight little birds could somehow unofficially stamp our land with a pass to the homestead life.

 

It feels good to have something I enjoy so much, be a hobby you would’ve had zero interest in. Can you imagine keeping peeping chicks in your spare bedroom? Or feeding dried mealworms out of your hand, as bird beaks repetitively pecked at your palms?

And I don’t know why that exactly makes me proud—I guess it somehow proves to me that even though I re-created the life you once lived, with the house and kids and home life, (we were even the same age when we built our houses, same age when pregnant with our third child), I am still existing on my own. I fully understand that the woman I’ve been becoming since seventeen, wouldn’t resemble who I am now, had you lived all this time.

 

Now that I’ve finished this entry, I don’t feel sad anymore about your willow tree; I just had to work through the feeling and wrangle with it a bit, until some sense squeezed through. And it has:

When we moved into the new house back in September, I asked Dad to buy us a willow tree, so I could plant my own and watch it grow, and now, after the drive-by on Ludwig Road, I trust it will permanently remain here, on our beautiful piece of land, never having to leave or be destroyed. It will be the heartbeat of our backyard and house. And it will always personify you.

My tree will do what yours got denied…just as I will to carry on what you were denied in death: the ability to mother as deep as I can.

And may that new, sacred willow, always remind me of that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOVEMBER 29, 2020

FOUR years SEVEN months + TWO years ONE month

 

Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails. Let us rise early and fast, gently and without perturbation [anxiety]; let company come and let company go, let the bells ring and the children cry, determined to make a day of it.

-Henry David Thoreau, Walden

 

It’s been exactly three months since we moved into the new house.

I thought I’d write to you as soon as I unpacked my computer, but my mind has been elsewhere, exclusively concentrating on allowing myself and my family to settle and melt and soften into this space. It has taken time, as all changing things do. But now it feels as if we’ve always been here.

 

There was the unpacking and rearranging and getting used to the little piles of meager changes I never anticipated…like which light switches turned on which lights. Or figuring out the most efficent outlets to plug the sweeper into, so I could do an entire room with enough cord length. Or adjusting to the feeling of the new floors on my bare feet. I wore slippers all throughout the warm September, unconsciously avoiding the confrontation of change.

I made so many lists in those first few weeks, each one written with a shaky hand, as I anxiously tried to remember what I needed on the next Target trip. Command hooks…hand towels…What did the kids need again? Oh, curtain rods. And another garbage can. I should’ve been able to relax, but the ability to find calm is often directly related to my house. So I had to finish all my basic to-dos and get everything we needed to make our lives feel less disrupted.

 

The kids took time to adjust, too––especially in regards to the yard. Until mid-October, the outside was a field of mud. There were excavator tracks dug deep into the unfinished soil, which collected rain water and made dozens of mucky little ponds––it was impossible for Marion and Everett to play without getting sucked boot-deep into the wet earth. At Garden Terrace (the old house), all they did was play outside, needing two showers and/or baths a day to prove it.

One night, within those first few weeks, I was tucking Everett into bed, and he told me he missed “the house with the two trees.” The little one, he said. And when I closed his door a few minutes later, I gently cried. I knew he would adjust and that our new yard would soon make new memories, but it hurt to know my baby missed something.

 

Even though we no longer have the old, beautiful oak trees he was referring to, we have the woods. And when we look out our windows, instead of seeing rows of brick houses and garbage bins set out on another routine Monday night, we see trees. And a single road, that’s so far away, the passing cars look like I could scoop them up with my hand, from high up on the hill.

Living privately has been the best change to come out of building this house.

 

If I’m outside when Chris pulls up the long driveway in his truck, I flash him like a high school cheerleader, because no one can see me. He’ll beep his horn as he swings the wheel around the final curve, parking and smiling––not because he just saw my boobs, but because we’re both thinking the same thing: how fun it is to not be seen…how wonderful it feels to be living the way we are.

It’s freeing to sing loudly outside or yell at the kids without witnessing neighbors or to walk out at night and feed my bunny without pants.

I thought the bigger space and the metal railing staircase and custom kitchen and a pantry and all the other beautiful things about this house were going to be what changed our lives. And while it all definitely has, being surrounded by nature feels like the defining line for my family.

The woods make me feel as if I’ve returned home, which in an obviously real sense, I have; I grew up three miles from our property. And I’m now driving the same roads you once did, slowly swerving the familiar curves of Sardis Road, while remembering the way your manicured fingers would effortlessly glide the steering wheel back and forth through the comforting bends that I swear I could now drive blind.

The familiarity of my surroundings makes me think of you more often. But so does the sound of the trees when bending with the wind, or the woodpeckers relentlessly hitting their rotted holes, or the quick shuffle of leaves as chipmunks scavenge the ground; it has all become a way of building awareness to my Source. I’m reminded when I stop and listen or look, that there’s something much bigger going on around me, at all times; a continuous current of life––one that you are a part of. And then for a fleeting moment, the accuracy of a Target list seems insignificant.

 

 

Everett’s second year of preschool began at the beginning of October, and not to my surprise, he absolutely loves it. He runs in every day, so excited to see his teacher, that sometimes he forgets to kiss me goodbye. And he wears his mask better than most of the parents at pick-up. I tell him every night how proud I am that he keeps it on, while I hug and hold him and listen to his evening prayer:

Thank you for the world so sweet

Thank you for the food we eat

Thank you for the birds that sing

Thank you God for everything.

He learned it at his “old” school, where he spent his first year, and it’s special to him. When he recites the lines solo, he tells me to smile. “Make you happy, Mommy.” And he shrugs his shoulders up to his ears and tilts his little head and smiles so big, all his teeth show, because he’s making me proud.

Everett is a pleaser. He loves nothing more than to make me happy and to do the right thing. And he always admits when he’s done something wrong, like drawing on walls instead of tracing the letters of the alphabet.

I’ve heard people talk about “love languages,” and he’s someone who likes to hear affirmations of love and praise. He’s like his mother. And he likes hugging and being held and kissed.

Every night after his bath, as I cocoon him up in his towel, he asks me to hold him like a baby. And most times I scoop him up, carry him to his room, and toss him on the bed, where I expect him to be the independent big boy I’ve taught him to be––to get dressed and brush his teeth and fill his water cup, while I retrieve his sister from the tub.

Now she, on the other hand, immediately runs free from her wrapped towel and away from my arms, flouncing naked and in a flurry to her room, where she lays down and waits for me to do what she cannot; strap on a diaper and put on pajamas.

 

Marion has grown into another toddler since we moved; it’s like she’s finally been set free with the extra space to run and hide and play. She often goes “missing” when I leave them alone with a movie on, which is my only tool for curling my hair in peace. And then if I ask Everett, “Where did Mimi go?” he always says, “Uh…she went into the woods.” Which first off is impossible, because our yard (that now has grass) is fenced off from the wilderness, and I can assure you she’s never escaped.

Chris and I will find her upstairs, cuddled in the spare bedroom covers, with stacks of blankets over her and a tiny head popping out. And I’d have to say her two favorite things, aside from hiding, are her stuffed animals and walking around while eating slices of American cheese.

 

Since Everett started school, Marion and I have a few hours of alone time, three days a week. And I’ve noticed that when I sit with her on the couch and watch Moana for the millionth time, she appreciates it. She likes quality time together, and until recently, I always just thought she didn’t need me the way Everett did.

Sometimes when I’d try to hold her, she’d protest a loud, drawn-out, “Nooooo!” Or I’d sneak snuggles while she drank her morning bottle on the couch, and she’d literally press my cheek away with her palm, and scream. I didn’t understand. I truly thought she didn’t like me. I’d wonder what her teenage years were going to look like if this is how we got along in toddlerhood.

But she’s not like Everett. She is like her father. Marion appreciates time spent together; that’s her love language. And when we go to Target, just the two of us, and I have her favorite snacks on hand, ready for her demands while she sits in the cart, I enjoy her. And she enjoys me. We flow and jive together.

My relationship with Everett has always been effortless because I give him love the way I like to receive it. But it never occurred to me that some children don’t want to be smothered with kisses and hugs––that maybe allowing Marion to help me unload groceries is the way to her heart.

When I come home from Trader Joe’s and she sees the stuffed brown paper bags, she stamps her feet in excitement and runs to the kitchen, waiting for me. She repeats her polite manners with each and every item she hands over: Here ya go Mommy. You’re welcome Mommy.

Or she likes to be my shadow when I do chores, asking to push the start button on the washer, or wanting to sit on my hip while I wipe down the kitchen counters, fascinated as she observes. When she finds a stray paper towel, I’ll catch her copying the cleaning strokes on a window sill or the coffee table.

I know she’s aware of me. I know she wants to be with me. It’s just in a different way, and I’m thankful to have realized that now, rather than when she’s eighteen.

I feel like it’s my job as their mother, to show my affection in whatever form they receive best––whether that’s Target dates on Tuesdays, or holding Everett in my arms until he realizes he’s not a baby.

 

Chris is relieved that the stress of building is finally over. And while he doesn’t feel spiritually connected and grounded to the woods, he’s living his best life, navigating our land with his new tractor. And he finally has an office of his own, making the “work from home life,” a lot more manageable. It’s been an adjustment to constantly be around each other, and the first few weeks, I’d open his sound proof door and scream, “This isn’t going to workkkkkkkk!”

I could hear his every move: when the toilet flushed, when he got a computer ping, when his office chair squeaked, when he’d annoyingly clear his throat. But we’ve learned how to navigate around each other, and the kids get to see him all day, which is the best part.

He remains my best friend and my helper and an equal partner. We are healthily dependent on each other, but sometimes that terrifies me, because I understand it could all be taken away.

 

Because of the virus, we spent Thanksgiving this year alone, and at night, while we gave the kids a bath, I said something about missing my family.

“This has been a great day. My family is right here in this house,” he replied.

And I told him I wanted to think that way too, that I want to dive into this life with him and the kids and partially forget about the rest of the world––but I’m scared something will happen to him. So I hold cautiously on the brake, tip-toeing enjoyment because it’s dependent on the family I’ve made for myself…it’s dependent on him––he’s very literally half of what we’ve created.

I re-built what I once lost, and the thought of a single piece crumbling is threatening. So in order to protect myself, I pretend I don’t have my entire world at my feet.

I watched my last family’s life be taken away: the one where you and Dad and my brother and sisters were all one. I watched what happened when someone dies. I watched what happened when a family had absolutely everything and then absolutely nothing after one doctor appointment.

But I must learn to separate what happened to you. I must understand that happiness does not equate a downfall.

And Chris was right. We had a peaceful day, Grandma still cooked and everyone picked up the food in their cars, and we were together; us and our kids.

 

 

As to make our new home more complete, we recently added a member to the family. On a particularly slow morning, I got the idea to get the kids a hamster, so before thinking it all through too much, I told Everett he was getting a surprise, and we went to Pet Smart, where he picked out a little dwarf we soon named Fig.

And while I was in my laundry room, setting Fig’s cage up and giving my eight-year-old rabbit an oatmeal bath in the utility sink (he’s been sick with a stubborn skin irritation), Chris just looked at me and said, “I think you need another baby, babe.”

The idea has ever so slowly felt more and more comfortable.

 

Ever since I had Marion, I swore to myself I was done for at least five years. I was convinced I’d create a gap, wait until she was in school, and have another at thirty-three or so, and then pop out a fourth like a cherry on top. I wanted that gap because you had that gap. And it worked wonderfully for our family; it made us who we once were.

I also wanted to wait until my tattoo was completely lasered off. And a handful of other reasons that will always be there and/or substituted for new ones.

But suddenly waiting feels like a waste of time. I want to let the bells ring and the children cry and just throw myself wildly into this life, no longer being scared, no longer needing to do what you did, even though I think I’ll balance on that beam of being myself and being you for as long as I live.

 

When Chris made that baby comment the other day, as I had my hair tied back and was scrubbing the rabbit’s bottom with medical gloves and a disgusted look on my face, I turned my head towards him and laughed. “Once I get my baby chicks in the spring, you can get me pregnant. Deal?”

And he smiled and walked away, the way he does when a point has been made, and there’s nothing left to say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AUGUST 26, 2020

FOUR years FOUR months + ONE year TEN months

 

If it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads,

then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.

–Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

 

I feel like I’m within the home stretch of a pregnancy; my due date is near, but the guaranteed accuracy is up in the air.

Our move-in date is September 1st. There’s a good chance we’ll be in our new house a few days sooner, but I’m also very aware that things could go backwards, and something can delay the process. What’s left to complete is out of our control, and no matter how many times we visit the property or plan out pretend cautionary scenarios, we must be steady and patient and trust.

 

Everything has been coming together––all the faucets and light fixtures and flooring have all somehow blended into an aesthetic that looks like mine. And since we last spoke, the house has finally been painted black, and I love the (daring) color I chose. When we pulled up to see it finished for the first time, Everett was astonished, repeating, “Oh wow wow wow! I love this house!” And when he walked around the side to the front door, he screamed with excitement, telling me to come look––that he found an orange door.

I know orange and black sound like a combination for a clown house, but the exterior door color isn’t a Halloween-hue. When debating between two orange shades, I was scrolling through Facebook, and happened to come across a picture of a front door someone professionally painted, in a color called “Spicy Hue.” That was the sample I had just finalized with my painter.

Do you know how many variations of orange there are? So seeing that little sign, was all the confirmation I needed to stick with my decision. And I’m relieved I did, because it now looks like a home where I’m thrilled to live. I’m already imagining wildflowers planted around its perimeter, and the new green grass and a fence and all the life that will soon thrive there: the plants and animals and babies yet to be.

 

 

My girlfriend Kayla recently held an outdoor gathering to celebrate her upcoming wedding in October. The shower theme was “she found her main squeeze,” with centerpieces filled with flowers and lemons; it was simple and summer and her.

This was the first party I went to since Covid-19 changed the world, so I was skeptical of seeing so many people and wearing makeup and clothes that weren’t categorized as pajamas. But as strange as it was to be out, socializing felt familiar and normal––at times I forgot a pandemic was amongst us, until someone coughed or I saw yet another bottle of hand sanitizer.

As things were winding down, Kayla had everyone gather and “get close together.” I thought, “Has she forgotten the six feet rule?” And then a video began playing on a little TV screen: it was professional footage from their secret, intimate wedding, held the night before, on the shores of a Pittsburgh river.

Every woman was crying. And she, in her true fashion, said, “That’s right bitches! I’m married!” while pointing to her newly banded ring finger.

I was so relieved she was able to say her vows and become a wife and begin her life. It was evident to our entire group of high school friends, how happy she was––how she made the best out of a complicated and challenging situation…how she took some lemons and made her own kind of lemonade.

 

In middle school, Kayla and I both got promise rings, and were determined to remain virgins until we got married. I really don’t know what made us do this, but we were both hopeless romantics, watching The Notebook and Titanic at every sleepover.

While I didn’t last until marriage, I came somewhat close. God, it’s so strange I’ve never talked to you about all this before! I can feel my armpits beginning to sweat at just the thought of it.

 

The first “encounter” I ever had was with a boy from Duquense. We had a strong and strange attraction for one another, and as Freshman year progressed, we became flirty friends. Thanks to the grace of fake I.D.’s and a South Side bar, we walked back to the dorm rooms together one night, drunk and dazed and planning to change my known virgin status.

It lasted for maybe three seconds, and I remember looking at the green digital digits on his mini microwave and thinking of you, then immediately stopping what had just started.

I felt so guilty. Will mom be ashamed of me?

 

The next morning, I permanently stared at my reflection in the bathroom mirror, trying to convince myself that I was still the same person. I had on a teal Life Is Good tee. My hair was darker back then. And as I washed my hands, I leaned my head in towards the glass, looking directly into my green eyes, until a girl burst through the communal door, and I was shocked out of my stupor.

 

That night was enough for me to know who I wanted my “real” first time to be with: Tyler. And I’m going to use his name––I never did in the book because I was scared or felt like it was weird or disrespectful or a handful of all that, but he was real. I don’t have to pretend like he wasn’t, especially now that I’m married or don’t know who he is anymore.

So while home on winter break, he and I were at the same New Year’s Eve party, and I knew it would happen.

These were the years when you drank liquor until you quite literally passed out, so I can only think back to a few details. I was at my friend Peter’s house, and can recall the layout of his basement and that he had pet turtles. And I remember getting into a car with Tyler, both he and I knowing that we were being driven to his parent’s house, which happened to be right up the road. I have one memory of being within that car, of seeing the outside scenery in the dark of night, and then everything else went black.

I woke up the next morning, naked in his bed. He said we had sex and I had no reason not to believe him. I’m making it sound wrong, like I was taken advantage of and left to be. But I had known him since I was twelve. I had liked him since that age. His name had filled my journals for those past seven years. He wasn’t a stranger. I loved him.

But I don’t remember. I don’t remember “my first time.” I want to believe it never happened, because it feels so withered and wasted, especially considering how l’d prided myself in “staying pure,” for every prior tempted opportunity.

 

I assume that night counts as losing my virginity…does it? 

And yet this was another experience that fueled the idea to wait for sex. To really wait. And so I did.

 

Two years later, when I was twenty, I met Chris. And when I think of having sex, he was absolutely my first. There weren’t candles or all the romantic details I used to imagine as a young girl. I just remember him, being so nervous and us drinking a gallon of Yellow-Tail before we could touch each other.

So with a wine-filled mind and after nine years time, I really just remember my Ikea twin bed, my brown flannel sheets, and wanting him. And finally knowing it was right and it was okay.

 

I’m making myself sound like a loose cannon, telling tales of some-what sex, mixed with copious amounts of alcohol and losing consciousness.

But if my daughter were to grow up and do exactly what I did and think how I thought about intimacy, I’d be proud of her. I’d be really proud.

So what will I tell her when she asks how old I was when I had sex? Will I tell her her father was my first? Or will I explain that I was once eighteen and so helplessly in-love that I set aside control and just allowed “things” to happen on a New Year’s night?

 

Because I once asked you. I was in ninth grade. You were making your bed, and I stood in the doorway like a stiff statue, collecting the courage to question, “Was Dad the first person you had sex with?” And you shot your eyes in my direction, as you finished folding the comforter.

You answered with a stern yes. And immediately snapped, “Why? Are you thinking about having sex?”

I got pissed at your tone. Even though I wasn’t even old enough to have a driver’s permit, I believed I was in love with Tyler. And the way you said “you,” made it sound like I had no right to even be thinking about intimacy. Which perhaps I didn’t, but I was methodically thinking about things back then, growing in a foundation that knew my body was special and sacred.

“Well, what about Brian?” I asked. You looked shocked, surprised I spoke the name.

I only knew about him because I had read the letters you kept, tucked away in a keepsake box. And based off their language, I didn’t doubt you were physical together. But you denied it––maybe truthfully, I’ll never know.

 

I didn’t ask if you loved him. I didn’t ask if you ever loved anyone before Dad. A part of me knows you would’ve ignored acknowledging men prior to him, because Dad was your life. And there was no reason to look beyond that.

But I recently went through some of those letters again, and it seems you did love Brian. At least you wrote it on paper, in your familiar cursive lettering. And I finally don’t feel embarrassed or like the pathetic exception, for loving before my marriage. Because you did, too.

I don’t know. Maybe in another life, he and I got it right. And our lives just collided too young. And burst into a mess that marked me and made me so absolutely sure of the man I wanted to marry: Chris.

I’ve heard women say, “I knew from the moment I saw him, he was the one.” I didn’t have that instant feeling with Chris. But on our first date, when we walked into Murray Avenue Grill and the hostess asked for the name under the reservation, I answered, “Pearlman,” in a way that sounded like it’d been mine all my life. Chris was tucked behind me, probably choking on air, but as we began walking toward our table, casted in moody bar lighting, I imagined what it would be like to be his wife and have his name.

And immediately, I felt safe and taken care of.

 

I don’t why all this came out; I thought this entry would be more about the new house and the upcoming move. But the keyboard just kept tapping and I didn’t stop. Every time I looked at my computer’s clock, the numbers were telling me to keep going: 1:11, 1:23, 2:22, 2:34. And later in the day, I kid you not, I saw 3:33, 4:44, and 5:55.

Even though it feels a bit strange and private to be posting these stories, I feel encouraged, for whatever reasons and by whatever force, to just get it all out there.

Because I won’t keep these experiences from Marion. I’m not trying to be her bestie and blur the lines between a parent and a friend. But I want her to trust her mother’s words and heart and know that it’s okay to love and for things to turn out different and perhaps better than you once imagined.

And somehow, you did that for me, even without the talks. You kept your heart so surfaced––so hidden from me, but I know there must’ve been deeper depths.

We all have them––every woman does. And it’s time I don’t feel ashamed of mine anymore, because there really are as many types of love as there are hearts.

 

 

The next time we talk, our Garden Terrace house will have been packed and moved and puzzled into Shagbark (that’s the name of our new private road, ha).

And I cannot wait to tell you all about it.

 

JULY 23, 2020

FOUR years THREE months + ONE year NINE months

 

Let July be July.

Let August be August.

And let yourself just be, even in the uncertainty.

You don’t have to fix everything.

And you can still find peace and grow in the wild of changing things.

-MHN

 

During this morning’s walk, Everett kept frolicking in front of the stroller. His spazzy limbs waived wildly about, as he dangerously footed the wheel, over and over. I warned he could get hurt walking so close, telling him the legendary “Sam’s Club story.”

Remember when you, Allison and I were at the bulk superstore, stashing up on snacks like honey buns and nacho cheese quarts, and I pushed the shopping cart wheel right into the back of your ankle? You halved over in pain and became so obviously nauseous, an elder man behind the bakery counter offered you a makeshift seat on an upside-down bucket. You took it. And glared at me with warning, silently letting me know my recklessness wouldn’t go unpunished.

I repeated the story to Everett, in less than ten words, but instead of understanding why we don’t walk in front of wheels, all he heard was “Mommy’s Mommy.” And he looked up at me, his eyes squinting in the morning sun, and repeated your name, like it was a gigantic question.

And I said, “Yes, Mommy’s Mommy. Where is she, Everett?” Because whenever he sees a picture or a home movie, I point you out, explaining how you’re my mommy and where it is you are.

She’s in the sky, she’s in the wind, she’s in the ocean, and she’s always with you, Everett. And as lame as that answer may sound, it’s not only what I believe, but he can understand it. He usually continues the explanation on like a crescendo in a song––in the birdies, the treeeeees! 

But today, while holding a whispy dandelion is his hand, he simply answered my question with two words: She’s gone. His little jaw dropped when pronouncing the “o,” making it sound blunt in tone but sharp with pain.

It felt like someone momentarily sucked the breath from my throat.

I stopped and braked Marion’s stroller and squatted to his level, turning his body towards mine. I told him to look at me, but kindly, and even propped my sunglasses atop my head so he could directly see my eyes. And I once again narrated the spiel about the sky and ocean and birds, trying to teach him that you could never be gone.

 

He’s been finding your feathers, including the Blue Jay ones. He’ll run inside with pride in his eyes, exclaiming, “I found you a feather Mommy!” Or he actively looks and successfully finds them on our walks, like you’re proving your presence, in the same way you did with me, when I began believing in what I couldn’t see.

Sometimes he looks up at the sky and thanks you when he finds one.

I’m either raising a weirdo, or a loving and grateful child who will grow up understanding what some adults never do.

 

Marion is on an entirely different level than her brother. Yes, she’s half his age, but she is more needy and noisy and incredibly particular. She’s a girl, that’s for sure. In this season of life with two children, she is by far the hardest and most frustrating.

If she gets mildly hurt, she will cry well past the mark of necessity. Her screams make my brain jumble in my skull. And the way she whines when I walk past her, begging for me to hold her for no particular reason, makes my hands shudder with frustration. She even prefers to be held certain ways at certain times, and if I dare place my arm where she doesn’t want it, she’ll swat me off like I’m a hungry bug looking for blood.

I know it may sound sweet, the way she always wants to be held by her mom. But I don’t know what it is about my presence that makes her cry for my attention, as if I don’t give her enough. I’m with her all day. And she still wants more. When will she grow out of it?

Maybe us daughters just need our mothers differently than sons.

Maybe we never “grow out of it.”

 

When we get into the car, if I don’t put a Taylor Swift album on or other approved music (like Kim Carnes’ Bette Davis Eyes) she (surprise) cries. She is demanding and knows what she wants and will not falter until she gets it. For these qualities, I cannot hold her solely accountable because I know where she gets them from. And if she’s outside for more than two minutes, I find her naked by the third. She’ll strip off her clothes and run around the yard, protesting if I dare to offer a pair of pants.

She was not meant to be the last baby––there’s something about the way she acts that assures me there will be more to follow. I don’t know how else to explain it, she’s just not the permanent youngest “type.”

While I know our family isn’t complete, I know for right now, it absolutely is. I want to get settled in our new house and really dive into doula work for a bit. If I had a newborn anytime soon, it would truly make that unmanageable. I had a false positive pregnancy test back in January, and felt my life flash through my body, as I shook and cried and called Aunt Sara, who repetitively assured me, It’s okay…it’s okay, until I screamed in response, “Nothing about this is okay!”

And while I quickly listed my reasons for devastation, the biggest con was the tattoo I’m currently having removed. The laser treatments are a bundled year-long process and unsafe to continue when pregnant. I know it sounds dramatic to worry about something so superficial, especially when facing the potential challenges of another baby, but the entire ten minute episode gave me a concrete calendar for the future: until the “Queen of Cups” tattoo (who ironically represents motherly intuition and fertility) is removed from my skin, my uterus will remain empty.

At least that’s the plan. I turned twenty-nine yesterday, so I have some reserved time to catch my breath and enjoy life as it is. Because a lot is changing.

 

 

Our current house sold after two days on the market. A young couple expecting their second child put a great offer in, and I’m relieved this home will remain full of love and a family.

As we wait for our September 1st closing date to approach (and cross our fingers that the new house is ready by then), I feel like I’m floating in the in-between; not yet there, but no longer here. This space doesn’t feel like my own anymore.

For all the preceding years, when I imagined myself inside the new house, I was different. I’d see me sitting on a wished-for back porch, with patterned Anthropologie pants, bangs, and a cup of coffee with lipstick stained on its rim. I’d be leaning against a railing, looking out from high above my hill, with an accomplished look on my face because I had made it––I was in that house, and my life had somehow finally become what I knew it could.

But I don’t feel caught up to this “future woman.” I’m not sure how else to describe her, she just always felt wiser and more accomplished. Her writing had become legitimate. And her lips had completely healed. And since she was so far-off into the future, I could give myself the space and grace to grow into her.

It feels like time is running out, though––like I have to be this “best version” of myself before the house is finished, so it can all be as perfect as possible.

 

I must let July be July and August be August, because I’m simply not yet that woman. I am not yet in that house. I am in that space of wild changing things. 

It will all be as it will be.

And I can love who I am, as I am now.

 

I have my first “practice” client––I will be someone’s doula! Client sounds like such a serious word. For all my teenage years, I imagined being a lawyer, using that word in fancy courtrooms. But now it simply represents a mother. And I prefer it that way.

She’s early in her pregnancy, and I know her from high school. So I was incredibly happy when she reached out. My first time won’t be with a stranger! (I sound like I’m talking about losing my virginity.)

We met for a prenatal visit, and I was giddy asking her the mandatory questions, like her due date and place of birth and what she envisions for labor and delivery. I didn’t feel qualified enough to be writing her answers down––like I was faking a role. But I’ve done all my preliminary certification. And I’ve had two babies of my own. I need to give myself a little credit.

 

I recently completed a childbirth class, something I never took during my first pregnancy, even though it was mandatory. I don’t know if I was too young to care or too naive or too stubborn (probably a combination of all three), but I didn’t think a birth class was necessary to attend. I was under the informed impression that my body knew what to do, and I didn’t need to know any more than that.

When I began my first contractions with Everett, I didn’t know there were different stages of labor and delivery. I didn’t know that the first stage itself had four separate components in relation to cervical dilation:

Early labor builds (0-3 cm)

Early labor (3-5cm)

Active labor (6-7cm)

Transition (8-10cm)

Once dilation is complete, the second stage begins, which is pushing, as the baby descends downward and out. Then the placenta delivery. Then recovery, which all together is four stages.

I also thought a woman’s labor length was an indication of her strength; I thought mine would only last a handful of hours, because I was strong and fearless and taught yoga. I’m not like those other women, I ignorantly thought.

Shortly after we arrived at the Midwife Center, I told Chris, “Just think….we’ll be home tonight with our baby and can eat the lasagna I made for dinner.” I was still in early labor, but totally convinced the pain I was feeling, meant my cervix was close to 8 cm or so.

But if you’re anywhere near transition, you’re not thinking of lasagna.

 

As Cynthia Gabriel writes in a book called “Natural Hospital Birth,” (of which I’m devouring), transition is more intense than all that has preceded it. The rational mind is wholly subsumed. It feels disconnected from the body. Some women describe transition as an out-of-body experience, in which they feel themselves floating above their bodies, watching what is happening. Very little information from the material world can break through your brain. You are likely to keep your eyes closed, and if you’ve found a comfortable position or are in water, you may doze off between contractions.

When I read that, I finally didn’t feel like a fraud or an exception to what happened during my transition. Because I indeed was in water, I felt like I’d left my body, and I couldn’t respond to Chris’ voice. My eyes were closed and I looked asleep. It was like I got lost inside myself. Or lost somewhere else. I was being pulled away from my body, while simultaneously diving into the inward depths you only reach when in labor.

Which is the reason I think a lot of women choose a natural birth. To go into the abyss. To come out on the other side, with their new baby. All this time, I’ve wondered why women do it. Why I did it.

But I’m beginning to remember. And that feels healing.

 

I’m bringing up my birth story (yet again), because if I would’ve been more educated, my first experience would’ve been different. And that’s no one’s fault but my own. But now I’ll know how important it will be for my clients to be informed. And I’ll get to be the one who reminds them during labor, that they’re not being sucked away from the earth. That they’re not going to tear in two. That they can do it. That they’re not the exception.

When I think of Everett’s birthday and go back to that birthing room, I see myself and my full belly, on the bed and in the tub and sitting backwards on the toilet. And then I see me, as I am now, supporting that twenty-four-year-old who thought she was tougher than mother nature itself, because she survived losing you.

I imagine rubbing her back and reassuring her and being her mother. Because that is what I needed. And I don’t even specifically mean you. I just needed to be mothered.

I thought I’d faced and remembered and dealt with every facet of Everett’s birth in order to emotionally recover. But to be beginning a line of work that allows me to be that metaphorpic mother, feels wholesome and fulfilling and once again, healing.

 

My sister-in-law became a mother in the midst of May, and I already feel closer to her than ever before. Not only has she given me a beautiful nephew, but she’s now a mother without a mother. Maybe not in the same exact way as me, because her mom is still living. But at 63, Judy is in a full-time care facility, and cannot remember who either of her children are.

To avoid intruding her privacy, I’m obviously not going to share her birth story. I’ll just say that her birth and the expectations she had, felt very familiar to mine the first time around. It was excruciatingly long, and the idea that she would peacefully squat a baby out, was quickly classified as a fictional scenario only made for YouTube. She was overwhelmed, dropped in a foreign land, with nothing favoring the ideals she held for nine months. And she needed someone to anchor her. She needed her mother. Just as every other woman does after bringing life into this world.

 

I can remember on the drive home with brand new Everett, I called Grandma, asking if she and Aunt Sara could come meet at my house. I got to see Dad and Nana at the hospital, but there was something instinctual and absolutely necessary about the way I wanted to see them. So they came and sat on my bed, and just seeing their faces, I felt like I had finally returned to my body, after a three day long psychedelic trip. And I’m not writing that to sound funny. The entire birth and hospital transfer and Everett’s overnight stay in the NICU, felt nothing short of a terrifying fantasy.

So when I saw Lauren’s name calling my phone, I quickly answered. I could tell in her voice that she’d just been through something incredibly intense. She asked if I could be at their house, when they came home from the hospital. I’d be an extra set of hands to help carry the baby in, etc. And I practically sung the replied word yes.

Beforehand, I went to Target, preparing like I’d been called for the most honory duty of my life. I bought nipple shields, a velcro swaddle blanket, a bassinet and binkies—the basics that aren’t given at a baby shower.

I was waiting in their driveway when they pulled up. And when the backseat door to her Subaru opened, I saw her exhausted face and a body that matched the expression. I immediately wrapped my arms around her, and could literally feel everything she had been through, without needing details. In all the years we’ve known each other, we’d never hugged like that. We were now mothers and sisters and two women simply coming together.

I put my hand on the back of her head and my chin was nestled on her shoulder, where I had a first view of my new nephew, snuggled in his car seat and sleeping soundly. I’m an aunt! My heart cooed.

As I continued to hold her, I just remember saying, I know. And then there’d be a pause to let her feel it, and then I’d say again, I know. The words were simple, but she understood what I was saying. I knew she missed her mom. I knew she just went through something scary and unexpected. I knew she just needed brought back down on solid ground, by a familiar face who could empathize.

And I am so incredibly thankful I got to be that person. Once we got inside, I sat on her bed and talked, like we were two girlfriends at a sleepover. Like Grandma and Aunt Sara did with me. And I got to hold the newest member of the Pearlman family, in absolute awe that either of my children started out so small. You forget just how little a newborn is.

 

The whole experience felt like confirmation that I’m headed in the right direction. That the “doula woman” I envision, is real and ready and waiting for me.

Maybe she’s the one on the porch, with the lipstick stain and patterned pants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAY 2, 2020

FOUR years ONE month + ONE year SEVEN months

As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives, for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness––just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.

-Laura Ingalls

 

The entire globe is experiencing a pandemic; a novel virus known as COVID-19 has swept the planet, currently having claimed over 70,000 lives in the United States alone.

As horrific as that number is, after two months of quarantine and social distancing, I don’t want things to go back to “normal.” And I feel like the biggest shit head for admitting such a thing.

I want to hug my grandmothers and hold my friends’ babies and shop for candles at Marshall’s. I want small businesses to re-open and weddings to celebrate––but I don’t miss the hustle and errands and excess. People aren’t getting locks of hair dyed or having mink fur glued to their lashes. There’s less traffic on the roads and the parks and woods have become the new means of travel for feet and not cars.

My days are no longer ruled by the clock. I am not rushing to get out the door and get Everett to school. I’m not cramming errands in-between nap time. And I’m not going out for socially obligated ventures. My face has been bare of powder or liner or mascara for literal months, and I’m beginning to feel comfortable with my natural face––not thinking ugh each time I see my reflection. I just see me and don’t see myself as “less” because I’m not painted in a way that’s made to make me prettier.

Having made a new “quarantine schedule,” Marion has transitioned from two naps to one, so both kids sleep in the early afternoon. And it is absolutely glorious. We make a point to get outside and go for walks and Marion is now at the perfect age to have discovered what it means to play in puddles and eat dirt and follow her big brother around the backyard. The two of them have become fast friends, because they’re all they’ve got. I spy on them through the windows, happening to catch Everett, helping his little sister off the ground after a fall. Or observing Marion, as she stubbornly stands her ground against his towering odds. Try as he might, she won’t let him get away with stealing a toy or a bite of her snack––she is no shrinking violet, even though she’s alarmingly darling and dainty and small. It’s like she has stashed rations of spirit and feist, stowed away for the times when her petite size is compromised against anyone who stands in her way.

 

And concentrating on all this good, even given the alarming circumstances, does not make me ignorant or privileged. It makes me in control of my perspective, which is really the only control any one us have, pandemic or not.

So what happens when the world returns to its familiar state of consumption and rushing and the endless efforts of projecting our lives to be more than what they are?

This tragic virus has gently reminded me of why living privately in the woods, is a dream I’ve had since I was a little girl. A place where I can forget about the world, but also have the luxury to drive out and into it, seeing my family and friends and eating at restaurants––doing all the things humankind is aching to get back to.

 

Our house construction has finally begun. It took us over a year and a half to get the property in our name; the seller dragged everything out at an incredibly painful pace. I felt like we fought for this land, doubting and wagering and putting our future plans on hold, just waiting for it to be ours. But I refused to budge, even when other options presented themselves. And that continually pushed Chris forward to figure out the utilities and property divisions and communicating with the seller over hundreds of e-mails.

But ever since the building permits were signed and our foundation was dug, the momentum has been steady and moving forward.

We visit the property almost every other day, after the kids get up from their nap. Everett and Marion wear muck boots and play in the shallow mud that surrounds the house, or they run around the framed inside, effortlessly fitting between the planks of wood and exploring their future rooms. It’s so wonderful to watch them play in a space that is already feeling like our home, as I get to slowly fall in love with the layout I once only sketched in my journal, like scribbled lines of hope, underscored with the thought of “some day.”

And that some day is here.

I’ve thought about this house up on the hill, for so long now…what will it feel like to finally move in? What if it doesn’t swallow me up in pure magic the way I’ve always imagined it would? It sounds so stupid, but as each piece of construction is finished, I feel both elated and like the water level is coming up closer to my nose.

Because I can envision myself and my children and Chris living our best life, peaked high up within those trees. I can see my children playing; even the ones who have yet to become. I can picture my chickens and hear the quiet and feel the freedom of a little homestead, like I will somehow embody a version of Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie and transform into my fullest form.

But what if that doesn’t happen? (My fear).

But what if it does? (My focus).

 

Along with the natural changes that moving into a new house and a different piece of land will bring, I am in the process of becoming a birth doula. Since we’ve last talked, I stopped teaching yoga, for a conglomerate of reasons, and have not returned to a studio. Maybe someday that will change, but for now, I feel settled within this shift.

I have completed the initial doula training phase, but still need to finish a checklist of additional courses and requirements before I can tag on the letters “CD” to my name. One of them is attending three different births, and everything was all lined up to assist my best friend Kati in early May when she delivered. But the pandemic paused our plans, as only one support person was allowed in the room.

She delivered a healthy baby boy on the 28th of April and I’m so proud that she’s now a mom. She’ll be one of the good ones––she’s got it in her. On our quick FaceTime call, I cried when I saw her beautiful baby, and pulsed with joy when she explained her delivery story.

Remember when she and I were waiting for my school bus (she must’ve slept over the night before), sharing an iPod headphone in each ear, standing at the end of the driveway? And you pulled up in your silver SUV, wound down the window, and made some sarcastic comment about how we looked like a couple of dweebs. And later that day, you explained to me that the friendships I have now, won’t always last forever, even if I thought they would––that family is the only thing that’s constant.

And I understood what you were saying, even then, in ninth grade. You weren’t still friends with anyone from high school, so why would I be? But I knew…I knew Kati would always be a best friend. And she is.

I now have two girlfriends who’ve joined me in motherhood, and I have to admit, it’s so nice to have “my people,” understand what it’s like to have a child––what it’s like to gravitate from the center of your own universe, and be swallowed into an eight pound planet.

 

As for finishing the doula training, my focus is to read the required books, and find expecting mothers who want free birth support. I want to take my time with the certification, allowing opportunities to present themselves at a natural pace. If I find a mom in a month, that’s great…if it’s in ten months from now, that’s fine, too.

I completed a virtual breastfeeding class the other night (check!), and while I Iearned about different nursing positions and the elements of a perfect latch, I realized that there’s an incredible gap for supporting moms who cannot breastfeed. Because it’s understood that as doulas, we support all kinds of feeding; whether that’s breast or bottle or a combination of both. And as soon as the instructor laid out that foundation of care and understanding, she presented several powerpoint slides dedicated to the benefits of breastfeeding––like the bonding and higher IQ’s and precious antibodies.

And that’s when my alarms inside went off. Because you cannot support all sides, and then highlight why one particular method is the best, therefore making the mother who cannot breastfeed, or simply chooses not to, feel like a failure. Or worse, like she’s not giving her baby the best of her.

The Breastfeeding Clinic was also recommended as a reference to give to our clients who are having trouble with latching or positioning, etc. And a bunch of women who were on this training call, talked so highly of this clinic, saying it saved my breastfeeding relationship and so on. The discussions gave the impression that if you can’t breastfeed, go to this place, and the experts will teach you.

I went to that clinic with Everett. As well as two others. And those experts said we were doing a fantastic job, even though my toes curled and my jaw clenched for every feeding process. They also told me to pump (excessively), but never gave warning of the mastitis risks, which I soon developed. Because a pump doesn’t empty a breast the way a baby does. So milk gets stuck, ducts get clogged, and infection happens.

So how does that mother feel, who tried all the recommendations, yet still wasn’t having a positive breastfeeding experience? How will she feel when she breaks or caves and decides to bottle feed, even though no one gave her the permission she desperately wanted? Because throughout her entire pregnancy, she was educated on breastfeeding and its benefits. She was told that mammals make milk for their young, and we should not be giving our babies what a cow makes for theirs––it goes against nature and common sense.

I know how that mother will feel if she decides to bottle feed. I know how the sight of her naked breasts will make her cry when she steps out of the shower, soaked and sobbing at her reflection, because her body’s anatomy cannot fulfill its natural purpose. And my job as a doula will be to validate her, over and over again, in her choices as a new mother. And I truly look forward to whoever that client may be––whether it’s just about breastfeeding or debating in the midst of active labor, whether or not to get an epidural. I will be her validation––and that word and its power and my ability to give it, is what makes becoming a doula, so incredibly exciting.

 

 

It’s been one year since Mother Sun was published. And within that time, I’ve only written to you once, in a blog post I’ve since deleted. I also sent my book proposal to twenty-one agents, all who have respectfully declined representation through an automated e-mail or simple silence in my hollow inbox.

Mary Higgins Clark wrote an essay that was rejected forty times before being published in a magazine (and later became one of the most successful authors of all time). So I guess I have nineteen more tries.

I feel accomplished for creating the book. But an equal failure for not getting it represented by an agent.

I’ve been marinating in this “failure attitude” for a long time now. Every time I start to write to you, I feel embarrassed or scared of commitment and the vulnerability within people’s potential judgments. She’s still writing to her dead mother?

And then the other day happened, when I walked alone within our future home, continually crying as I looked at the beams and the stairs and the slants of the ceiling. How can I not show her this? How can I not walk her through this dream and show her what Chris and I created? 

 

Something about the house is making it necessary to write again. Maybe just for today or maybe for a long while––I don’t know. But as this entry flows through my fingers and onto the keyboard, I’m becoming aware of how stagnant I’ve been this past year, like one of those milk ducts, clogged and stuck in the uncertainty of how to keep writing, despite any “encouragement” from the publishing industry.

I’ve wanted someone to give me permission to continue journaling to you. However, I now know I have to be my own source of validation.

I won’t lose my connection with you because of what other people think of me––or worse, what I think they think of me or my writing. Because their opinions, are none of my business. And I think that’s the main component of the “stay at home order” that has made me so comfortable in the freedom I feel: not worrying what others think of me––even my best friends.

It’s just me. And my kids. And Chris. And you.

Always you.

And to live a life with a cozy home and fresh surrounding air, with the family I’ve found and created––when it comes down to it, that’s all I need. That’s all anyone needs.

 

If writing to you always makes me feel immediately plugged into Source (or God), I must trust it. Even if I haven’t gotten a book deal. Even if I never get a book deal––this journal helps me remember my purpose: to love my family, and to never forget how to continue loving you.

 

DECEMBER 1, 2018

TWO years SEVEN months old + TWO months old

 

Over rivers and valleys, mountains and plains 

Over all you have lost and all you have gained 

Over all you have gathered and all you let go 

You have traveled at length through the wild unknowns 

And through all that is changing you can see you have grown 

You have walked in the light, you have not been alone 

-Morgan Harper Nicholas 

  

Marion has managed to blend into our family with such ease, it’s hard remembering life without a daughter–that not so long ago, she was still just a star, waiting to be brought home to us. 

Each day gets a little better; Chris and I get more sleep, my routine takes a sharper shape, and I understand Marion’s needs better. 

Everett has adjusted well to having a sister. I’ll catch him giving her kisses when she’s in her swing, or he will run over and gently plug her mouth with a binky if she’s crying. And on our beloved Trader Joe’s trips, he still says hi to everyone, but now makes sure to also introduce his new friend, as he points to Marion and repeats, “Baby, baby, baby!” 

I’m the one who had a strange time adjusting to two. 

 

When I got home from the hospital, my first priority was to put Everett down for bed. With so much about to change, I needed him to know that our routine was going to stay the same. 

Sore, tired, and bleeding into an adult diaper, I gently crawled into his big boy bed and laid beside him, just as I always had before. All I could do was cry though, because suddenly, it felt so different, like I was having a strange and silent affair within my heart for Marion. He was no longer my only baby, and the sudden transition made me feel scared, dropped in a place I’d never been before. 

Seeing me cry, despite the efforts I tried to hinder my tears, Everett took his blanket and willingly wiped my eyes. His ability for compassion and the soft sweetness that comprises his personality entirely, makes me so incredibly proud he’s mine: in one of my most vulnerable moments as a mother, my son held me and just that feeling of him, assured me everything would eventually be okay and I’d adjust appropriately in time. 

As Grandma has joked before, you don’t grow an extra set of hands when you have another baby. And as I’ve realized, nor do you grow another brain or heart–you just simply make more room, dividing up the attention and love. 

And I haven’t forgotten to keep some space for myself. 

 

Learning how to be selfish was a milestone within my motherhood, which even the word alone sounds scary as a mom, because daring to take care of your needs before exhausting all energy on your children, must mean you don’t love them enough. 

But the absolute opposite is true. 

When my needs are met, I’m able to take better care of my babies–when I’m replenished and full, I am capable of watering my flowers and guiding their growth, all while remaining in love with myself, knowing I need nourishment, too. 

It seems simple enough, but with Everett, why was it so hard to make it to the shower? Why was it so hard to leave the house alone and without guilt? 

Because I started off motherhood thinking that sacrifice was what I was supposed to do–that sacrifice meant I loved Everett most. But I don’t want my kids (however many I end up having) to represent what I gave up for them. They will be my life’s work, there’s no doubt about that, but I will not lose myself in the process. 

  

Jessie got married two weeks ago in Maryland. It was the event I’ve been anticipating since January, and the day truly unfolded with perfection for my most deserving friend. 

Everett was left at home with Allison; we only brought the baby, and treated the weekend as a short getaway from our toddler and the routines of home. 

For the entire wedding night, I wore Marion in the Moby wrap, which sadly covered from my waist up, the beautiful Anthropologie jumpsuit I treated myself to for the big day. But she slept like a pouched kangaroo and never cried. The only sound she made was a little burp when Jessie and Justin were exchanging their vows. 

Seeing your best friend marry the right man is a wonderful feeling. I can now know and trust that the things she dreams of, are secure for her taking, like babies. She will most likely be my first best friend to turn mom friend, something that literally thrills me. 

And while my daughter was wrapped to me on the dance floor, with a drink in one hand, and a stand-by binky in the other, I felt alive and accomplished and an accumulated version of the mother I have always wanted to be.  

I felt like you, all blended into me. 

People would come up and gently shout over the music and into my ear, “I want to be a mom like you when I have kids!” And something within me pridefully swelled with each drunken comment, as if I was somehow an example to my friends and the friends of strangers, that you can still keep yourself when you have a child 

 

When I first found out I was pregnant, I envisioned myself with red lipstick, drinking a beer, and breastfeeding my baby at this beautiful wedding. But my lips were still bare, my beer had a straw (that’s how it’s most comfortable to drink), and my boobs were dried up, for reasons that unlike with Everett, I’m not going to explain over three or so spanning entries.  

Minutes before we arrived at Jessie’s venue, out in the middle of farmlands, I happened to look up and out the car window with in-sync timing, seeing one of those church signs with marquee lettering:  

Strive for progress, not perfection 

And I quickly knew to kick the whiner inside my head that was poo-pooing because my lips still weren’t brightly colored with lipstick, even after all this time. I have indeed made incredible progress, when back in July, I found a doctor who prescribed a medicine I take once a week, and each month, my lips seem to get a little better. 

 

Even though I am still within my healing process, I know without a doubt, I would’ve never gotten this far in my beliefs or personal growth, had it not been for this condition, which forced me to keep believing, keep appreciating, keep meditating, keep trusting. 

Source always gives you what you need, in order to get you where you want to go. I guess that’s why be careful for what you wish for is a line everyone knows.  

 

 

At my six-week check-up, there were several other new mothers in the waiting room, all of which had their own moms with them for help and those extra set of hands. I was obviously the only one alone. 

At Everett’s first appointment, I would’ve cried seeing those other mothers, thinking that I was permanently crippled and incapable because I wouldn’t have your help or guidance or support. But this time around, I felt like a straight boss, simply because I chose to. 

During my exam, Everett was occupied in his stroller, eating a packed mini pizza, and I had Marion in the Moby (surprise), while I laid on my back and got my vagina checked and cleared. The whole scenario caught me affirming in my mind over and over: I am an awesome mother.  

Because its not a bad thing to love yourself. And constantly reminding our minds to tell us good things is our strongest super power. 

The way we speak to ourselves matters–it’s just a point of making positive talk a habit and having the audacity to believe the things you tell yourself. For so long, I was scared to mentally affirm I was beautiful because what if I really wasn’t? What if no one else believed I was? But that truth is up to no one but me. And whether or not I believe I’m a good mom is up to no one but me. 

  

I wrote a pretend check last year for a certain amount of money, printing “FALL 2018″ on its front, and on the signature line, “for house and property.” I playfully imagined the cash coming from a book deal. 

When Chris and I began looking at land this past summer, I started seeing 2:17 on the clock, on a regular basis. I couldn’t understand what it meant for weeks, until I realized that the check’s referencing number was 217. So from then on, I truly believed this money was coming one way or another. I truly believed the land was coming, just not in the way that it all recently came to be. 

 

A few months before Marion was born, we found another wooded lot for sale. It’s almost five acres and it’s on top of a hill, two criteria that met my desires with perfection. Each time we visited the land, I could picture where our house would be. I pictured Clifford prancing free in his terrier ways, and the way I’d call the kids in for dinner after they’d been playing outside and under the trees.  

In my journal, there are property descriptions and child-like drawings of our future driveway and views, which now seem to have been magically traced from that space of pen and paper, onto this framed piece of land. There’s even a little creek that runs along the bottom–a total bonus. And within the past years, I would tease Chris, telling him I was going to have a trail around our house, so that I could walk out my door and into the woods, with a stroller and the dog.  

Well wouldn’t ya know, there is a nature reserve surrounding our dotted property lines, just like the previous lot we loved, with an already established walking path. 

The Universe delivered.  

 

Back in July, when we first started flirting with the idea of buying land, we figured out all the ways to scrape together our current home’s equity, our savings, and another loan. But now we are in the financial position to actually do thisboth the land and the house, because Chris got a new job. 

He secured an interview in New York City for Amazon Web Services. I was surprised he had searched for change, because we’ve been comfortable financially and he loves his current job at Carnegie Mellon. 

But for two weeks, he was absent from himself, preparing for the infamously challenging interview, and I knew I just had to pull up my big girl pants and leave him be, allowing Chris to do what he does when he knows there’s a job to be done. 

One day after the interview, he was offered a position, and because of his constant drive to move forward with his work and the ability to provide, that vision check is real. Our land is real. Our house is real.  

The property will be ready to purchase in spring 2019. And our current elder neighbor used to build houses for a living, so when I ran into him the other day while on a quick walk without the kids, I told him our plans, and he recommended an architect. It felt like another stepping pebble was simply handed to me, like the Universe was saying, “Here sweetheart! Keep up the positivity and appreciation!”  

Literally, everything has come together, just as I tried so hard to believe throughout these conversations with you. 

 

Now all that’s left, is this book. Which perhaps coincidentally, I’ve definitely decided to publish through Amazon.  

When the time comes for its launch, I fear it will get lost in a sea of online novels, or that no one is going to want to read a stranger’s journal. What if no one relates to anything I’ve written? What if everyone thinks I’m crazy because I think my mother sends me Blue Jay feathers? What will Grandma think when she finds out I have a vision board dream of smoking topless on my back porch?  

It’s all really scary. But that’s how I know it’s right and ready and ripe for the taking. I must believe that the good ol‘ Universe or God or Source, will take care of the details and allow this work to become all I know it can be. 

In the foreseeable future, I know I need to find someone to format these entries. And I need an illustrator for the cover. And I need to start creating an e-mail list to send out digital copies of the book before it launches on Amazon, for the purpose of reviews–without them, a self-published book will plummet. I learned all of this from that $97 course I purchased, which I’m obviously very thankful I found.   

 

It would be pretty surreal to have this book real and physical and ready to buy by Mother’s Day. I just think it’s fitting–we’ll call it your gift. 

 

I think this is the last entry, Mom. Even though putting a stop to our talks feels like another form of goodbye, it suddenly seems natural and right to allow our ending.  

Everything feels complete, a realization that came the moment Chris corrected himself in the delivery room and said Marion was a girl, like she was my very own physical evidence of something I still don’t fully understand. 

 

Now that I have a daughter, I can only hope she will one day love me as much as I love you. That when I travel onward, she will think of me as often as I think of you, and she’ll carry within and throughout her, every ounce of my spirit, as she constantly holds me both in her mind and heart. 

Because that is what I do with you. 

And I hope to teach her, through my example, how to be her own mothering sun–how to nourish both herself in her own becomings, as well as her kindred flowers. 

Because that is what you did for me. 

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

 

NOVEMBER 4, 2018

THIRTY-TWO months old + ONE month

 

Yours is the light by which my spirit’s born 

Yours is the darkness of my souls return 

You are my sun, my moon, and all my stars. 

(-e.e. cummings) 

 

 

On October 5th, we welcomed our little lady of the sea; Marion Maine.  

She is healthy and beautiful and exactly who I gently imagined bringing into this world throughout the entire pregnancy. For all that time, I hoped my girl was making her way to me–and she was. 

It feels as if I somehow dreamed this sweet, petite petunia into my life. 

 

 On induction morning, I got up at 4:30 a.m. and showered, had coffee with Chris, placed hot rollers in my hair, and did my makeup as the curlers set. Nana and Allison came to the house, and together, they got Everett up and fed him the breakfast he refuses to stray from: vanilla greek yogurt from Trader Joe’s. 

Chris got our hospital bags and pillows and the down comforter I insisted on bringing, packed into the car. He dusted off the finishing small details, like showing Nana how to work the TV remote and reading through the lengthy “Everett directions” I wrote, making sure she knew his routine. This was all Chris’ way of carrying some of my nerves, and I appreciated that we were a team, even though it was me who had the job of physically delivering a baby in the next coming hours. 

In the car, I stayed quiet. Chris had NPR on and I listened to one of my meditation tapes through silencing earphones. A few minutes into it, Esther Hicks said this: 

You can’t overcome hardship or stand stubbornly within it. You’ve got to reach the place where you accept it’s easy…and then it will be easy. And when people ask, “How was it easy?” You say: 

I made it a struggle a lot longer than I needed to. It was easy because the energy was already there and the momentum had been gathered and things were already aligned. I just had to do one piece: I just had to relax a little and trust a little and try a little less hard. I just had to stop justifying and rationalizing and defending. I had to feel worthy without the needs for justification. 

And hearing that little part (which may not make sense without hearing the entire segment), felt as if her words were coming through my ears and into my heart, preparing me for what was ahead. 

I accepted that this birth was going to be easy. I knew I didn’t have to stand stubbornly within hardship…that I didn’t have to be headstrong and refuse an epidural if I wanted one. I knew any choice I made in the delivery room, didn’t need justification. 

I trusted that everything I thought and journaled and affirmed about this birth in the months and weeks prior, did indeed shift this whole soon-to-be event into right alignment. 

 

Before entering the hospital’s parking garage, we made a right turn onto “Marion Street.” It confirmed that the oldfashioned girl name I had on reserve, was the right choice. Just like the street sign, over the past year, I have seen her name in varying and random ways, as if something else had chosen what to call her, long before she was mine. 

Perhaps she always knew who she was. Perhaps she always knew she’d be my child. 

We checked in at the maternity ward and were shown to our room. It was spacious and settled within a corner, with two glass windows, allowing a view of the current sunrise. It was comforting and secluded and I was grateful to feel like things were continually going right. 

The midwife on-call checked in with me, explaining how the induction would work. Before Pitocin, she was going to put a Foley bulb into my cervix, which basically just creates pressure and promotes dilation. It looked like a strange flexible balloon, with a bubble at the top and three sets of tubing attached and hanging. 

She inserted the bulb part and with a syringe, slowly pushed a saline solution through the tubing, therefore expanding the bulb and hopefully my cervix. 

 Once it was secured into place, all I felt were period-like cramps, and I was still able to walk around the room and use the bathroom. I just had three tubes hanging out of me, peeking through my open-back hospital gown. Chris and Allison got a kick out of that one. 

For two or so hours, this bulb sat in me. Finally, it fell out on its own (which is ideal–that means it did its expanding job) and I said aloud that I thought my water broke. It felt like slow trickles were puddling on the bed underneath me. 

This early sign of labor made me giddy and confident, like another check had been marked off under the criteria of easy. I truly just kept energetically floating down river and now as I’m reflecting, I can honestly say there’s never been a time in my life that I was that in the flow. There really is such power in trust and surrender. 

Pitocin started to drip into my plotted vein and contractions began soon after, each one coming about every one to two minutes, which is ridiculously close together when compared to starting labor naturally. 

During a contraction break, all three of us would talk, and then without warning, I’d close my eyes and get quiet and nod off into the tightening sensations within my belly. I remember Chris once saying to me, “See ya later!” in the funny Everett voice we like to mimic, because I’d truly disappear into myself as I concentrated on each contraction, knowing the pain was pulling our baby further and further down into me. 

When I began to feel sweaty and frequently became more silent, I wanted my dilation checked. Knowing what was ahead, I questioned if I wanted to continue onward without an epidural. I was remembering Everett’s birth, picturing the room where I labored, the things I said and felt and thought, like I was being pulled back into that memory. And I wanted nothing to do with it. 

Prior to this second labor, I thought I had to be brave and choose a drug-free birth again, so I could…I don’t know…face it. But I quickly recognized that reasoning equaled a wall of resistance; a rift in the feel-good river I was riding. 

So without justifying and rationalizing and defending–without wanting to once again fight and prove how strong I could be, I simply looked up at my midwife and said in clear words, “I want the epidural,” even though I had just been checked at 6cm and labor was proving to progress quickly. 

The surrender was simple and accepted and felt right. I was proud of myself. 

 

Getting the actual epidural was easy, and my anesthesiologist was one of the most serious, calm, confident, and well-carried men I’ve ever encountered. He was the kind of man you would’ve found attractive, almost as if you had personally sought him out to be my doctor. I can’t explain it–that’s just the feeling I had as soon as he walked into my room, like you were pushing me forward within my choice of drugs, delivering them to me on a good-looking platter of encouragement. 

When I felt the relief from contractions, that epidural became the most liberating piece of permission I ever gave myself. Instead of reaching the point of screaming and panic and digging into the deepest parts of me just to remain breathing, I laid in bed watching the Kardashians, with my sister and husband…my two best friends. 

Within forty-five minutes, my dilation was casually checked, and the midwife said, “Oh! You could start pushing if you want.” 

I was so shocked and excited and in disbelief at how incredibly different the entire experience was narrating. 

Chris and Allison got on either side of me and held up my legs; they were just numb enough that lifting them took more effort than normal. And in the lower left side of my abdomen, I could still feel when I was getting a contraction, but the sensation was mild, peaking through so I knew when it was time to push. To me, this all meant that I had been given a fabulous epidural–not too much, not too little. 

 

Pushing was fun. With my hair done and makeup on, as shallow as it may sound, I felt not only strong, but beautiful. I felt like me. I was clear and focused and only had one job to do: push the baby out. And the room was calm. Only my nurse and midwife were there, who helped as she casually sat on the edge of the bed and calmly cheered me on with encouragement. 

Allison and Chris did, too, and when I’d hear their voices grow in excitement, I knew I was getting closer and closer. 

Within ten minutes, the final push came and Marion truly did slide right out, just like that mum bud. 

I looked up at Allison; she had tears glazed in her eyes and an awe-frozen face as she was seeing the baby lay between my legs. For a passing second, I felt you. Your girls were together, experiencing one of the most beautiful moments this life can offer. 

When people say things to me like, “Oh your Mom would be so proud!” it sounds like you are missing–that if only you were still living, you’d get the chance to acknowledge my accomplishments. But it’s within the moments like the one above, that my body pulses with that pride, and I’m utterly aware of you–of that fact that it’s not would be proud but is. 

 

They laid Marion on my chest but her legs were folded closed. I kept saying, “What is it? What is it!” anxiously awaiting the most anticipated information of the past nine months. 

“It’s a boy!” Chris looked at me and said with this huge smile I can still vividly remember. But my stomach sank because something just didn’t completely feel right. 

He tried again. “It’s a girl!” And everyone, including myself, laughed, as I laid my head back on the pillow and cried with the relief that she was out, she was healthy, and she really was a girl. I had done it. 

Her birth was truly one of the best days of my life. From start to finish, everything worked out. Never have I manifested something so accurate and with such knowing ease, receiving so many assuring signs in the weeks leading up to her delivery. She feels like the ultimate proof of all I’ve written about in this journal. 

Marion is the very piece that revolved me entirely from Everett’s birth, and all I have become since. I feel as if I’ve now spun into my very own rotation, under my own guiding light–because of her, I know my power. 

  

I promise I’ll write again soon, when everyone’s needs (including mine) have been met, and I have a few moments to talk with you. 

Now that Marion is here…now that I’ve truly settled into the comfiest and most confident places within myself and motherhood because of her birth, I’m already feeling like I need you less and less, which is both a hardening yet honest thought. 

  

  

  

 

SEPTEMBER 28, 2018

TWO years FIVE months + THIRTY-NINE weeks

 

How you deal with your energy flow has a major effect on your life. If you assert your will against the energy of an event that has already happened, it is like trying to stop the ripples caused by a leaf dropped into a still lake. Anything you do causes more disturbance, not less. When you resist, the energy has no place to go. It gets stuck in your psyche and seriously affects you. It blocks your heart’s energy flow and causes you to feel closed and less vibrant. This is literally what is happening when something is weighing on your mind or when things just get too heavy for you. 

This is the human predicament. 

-Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul 

 

For the past three weeks, I’ve written and edited and deleted several entries to you, all of which were about this baby and how I’m feeling for the soon-to-be delivery. 

I eventually gave up my efforts, knowing words worthy of this journal were simply not going to come out before the baby does; my “flow” or whatever you want to call it, had simply stopped, and each conversation I typed to you, lacked everything I treasure these entries for having: connection and love and the feeling of real conversation with my spirit of a mother. 

But while Everett and I were playing out on the porch this morning, so many Blue Jays began flying around and within my yard’s two adjacent oak trees, that it was honestly alarming. The birds seemed to be in an argument amongst one another, at such high volume, it felt my attention was being personally sought out. 

So I gave some silent acknowledgement: Okay. I’ll write the final “pre-baby” entry today. I get the message… 

Somehow it felt like you who was out there calling, asserting to stop this resistance against writing, and just finish it already. Because once this baby is born, the opportunity for a September entry will have entirely passed. 

  

All I presently think about is labor and when. 

It’s like I’m standing within a backroad’s blind spot, waiting for a semi-truck to travel around the bend and topple me with surprise, pain, and incredible amounts of joy and love. 

Dramatic, but it’s how I feel, less than a week from my due date. 

Chris and I went out on dinner date the other night, a little farewell to life as we know it, as we sat and talked about how much we love Everett and how funny he is and how ready we are for this second baby to come. 

He thinks it’s a girl. 

I told him “her” name can be translated to “lady of the sea,” and he laughed, because he knows my quirky love for mermaids, even telling me often that I look like one, the way my hair naturally rests above the small of my back. 

Before our meal was served, I went to the bathroom. Once I emptied my bladder for the twentieth time that day, while washing my hands, I paused and took in the familiar shape of my belly’s reflection, knowing the next time I’d be at this favorite restaurant we like to frequent, I’ll have met our named baby. 

When I turned, there on the wall was a huge mural of a mermaid, looking sexy and beautiful in her painted skin as I stared back at her, wondering what all is soon to come around that blinding bend. 

 

Like this last supper, I’ve been checking off lists and completing little rituals of organizing and going to Target twice a week for who knows what at this point, as a way of feeling prepared for what I simply cannot prepare for. 

My laundry has been washed and folded more often than usual, because ideally, I’d like an empty hamper when I leave for the hospital. I go into the nursery where majority of my things are packed, just to stand there and basically stare, rearranging the way my coconut water and snack bars are positioned on the dresser, as if I’m playing a game of Tetris, trying to get things to look and fit right, in a pointless attempt of mentally inducing labor. 

My kichen cabinets have been wiped down. The closets have been organized so that our clothes can properly welcome the changing season. Everett’s favorite foods have been stocked numerous times, and I’ve trimmed his nails over and over (which has to be done with the bribery of M&M’s), prepping him as if I’m going to be gone for two months instead of two nights. 

No longer will I be only his mother. No longer will I be a mother of one–the mother I’ve loved getting to know and grow into over the past two and some years. Yes I’ll still be me, but there’s no denying my person is going to shift and rearrange once again. Perhaps that’s why I have this odd idea of disappearing into thin air and away from my son. 

While I know I can have things done and gathered and cleaned, no matter how many times I vacuum my living room carpet, it won’t change the natural timing of this birth. As I learned with Everett, the when is out of my hands. 

 

If I don’t go into labor by October 5th, which is three days after my due date, I’ll be induced to avoid another large baby, which apparently accompanies a higher risk of shoulder dystocia. 

I have really been trying to separate my experience delivering Everett, from whatever is going to happen with this delivery. Over and over, I’d catch myself remembering his birth as if it had just happened, and therefore mentally prepare for another twenty-six hour labor, that damn shoulder dystocia, the hospital transfer, no recovery time, and qualms with breastfeeding. 

So to help me reverse this harmful thinking, I’ve written in my pen and paper journal daily, affirming that this time, things will be different–that they may not be perfect or easy or even drug-free, but they are going to be different. 

I love thinking of Chris holding another baby. 

The nurses and midwife on-call will all be perfect for me and baby. 

It will be good to have Allison in the delivery room. 

I have new pajamas waiting for me. 

The baby’s name will suit them. 

Everett will be happy at home. 

 

Every time I use affirmations–whether writing or thinking them…whether about labor or simply loving myself–I immediately feel better. I can actually feel my energy lift as that upward shift happens, remembering I’m in control of how I feel, always and without exception. 

On our daily walk this morning, as I pushed the stroller and controlled Clifford on the leash, I was telling myself things like: 

Labor is going to be much faster than with Everett. 

You won’t pop blood vessels in your eyes and face because of an infant’s stuck shoulder–this baby is going to slide right out, just as it should. 

(I’d say it’s a good thing my passing walking neighbors can’t hear my thoughts.) 

But I was truly trying to visualize this baby being delivered by a few strong pushes, with no hindrances, and exiting my body in the “easy” way its meant to. 

 

After we got back, I wanted to water the fall-colored burgundy mums I bought for my front porch (apparently I’m even trying to prep my plants for my laboring absence), so I freshly filled my watering can with kitchen sink water, while Everett was playing with the bunny cage, trying to wedge one of his toy cars between the metal bars. 

No matter how many times I tell him to not touch the bunny, he simply cannot leave that poor rabbit alone. It’s the same with my new flowers. He picks the buds off and tosses them into unknown places. 

Anyways, when I started watering, the long and narrow tipped-over spout wouldn’t release anything, as if the container was entirely empty and I hadn’t just replenished it. 

Seriously confused, I kept tipping, until the can was almost upside down and then bam! 

A mum bud, big enough to entirely clog the spout, popped out with such pressuring force, water exploded in a steady and outward stream. 

It literally looked like a baby, represented as the bud, had slid right out, just as Id been trying to imagine happening within my body, moments before. 

I couldn’t stop laughing, and began feeling that familiar warmth of assurance coursing through me, knowing my attempts to think positive were not falling onto deaf ears–that somehow, I am indeed being heard. 

So this is my official surrender. 

I am ready. I am open. I am even done cleaning. 

I’m so close to becoming a mother of two…so ready to hold this baby and know who they are. 

 

Mom, be with me. 

  

  

 

AUGUST 4, 2018

TWO years FOUR months + THIRTY-TWO weeks pregnant

 

If a Blue Jay shows up it means:  

Whatever the situation that has triggered some fear, attack it boldly and courageously. Assess your main gifts and talents, develop a plan as to how you can best use them, and then take clear and purposeful action. Choose the project you’ve started and finish it. 

-Dr. Steven D. Farmer, Animal Spirit Guides 

 

It’s hard to describe the feeling I get, when I so desperately want you here and real, not as a thought inside my mind or unseen energy. It sometimes seems the answer to bringing you back is so obvious, but for the life of me, I can’t seem to figure it out… 

Like if I could just project myself far enough up into the clouds, I could burst through the Universe and somehow find where you’ve been hiding all this time. Or like there was truly a way to collect your scattered pieces and place them together, so I could hug and hold and hear you once again. 

But I have to shake these fantasies quickly, because they make me feel utterly unworthy, incapable of reeling you back into this realm. 

In reality, I know it’s absolutely beyond my control and more importantly, there is no “you,” sitting somewhere with your leather high heels and leopard pants, waiting for me or anyone else to come find you. 

And while I’ve particularly missed you during the past few weeks, I had an encounter that blew the emotional blues right out of my sappy bones, and replaced them with the reassuring reminder that you really are closer than I could possibly conceive. 

 

Yesterday Everett and I were having a good morning; our breakfast was easy, my coffee was strong, the weather had a relieving chill–all the little checks were correctly crossing off, and it put me in an easy state of appreciation. 

While on our routine walk, Everett looked back at me from below in his stroller, giving me this cute and contented smile. I could tell in his eyes, he was loving that beautiful morning just as much as his mom. 

There have been so many recent and similar times when I’ve looked at him and simply cannot believe this little human of mine has never met my mother. I cannot believe that he’ll grow into a young man who will never quite fully understand, just how spirited and special his grandmother once was. 

But I could feel myself choose not to get sad and sucked through the seaward current of missing you. I instead stayed in that appreciative feeling, thankful for Everett and our moment and our morning, knowing you knew I was thinking of you, knowing you were aware of us. 

The choice was simple. I didn’t want to sacrifice my energy. It felt too good to be feeling good, and bad thoughts easily bounced off the barrier I had created. 

And then I looked down at my walking feet: a Blue Jay feather was sitting on the pavement perfectly intact, so sharp in its sapphire coloring, it honestly looked fake, like it was created in a craft store. The little voice inside my head didn’t immediately try to discount the fact that it’s only a feather, or rationalize how I could honestly believe it was from you–I just knew it was. 

I stood and stared and softly cried looking at that feather, while every answer I’ve ever had about your death was instantaneously understood–without any worded answers. 

The little piece of Blue Jay is now pinned to my vision board, where I’ll see it every night before bed, alongside the outlines of another potential property and my goals for this journal. It will be my reminder, not only of you, but to continually summon my courage and take clear and purposeful action, for that is one of the meanings of my coveted blue bird. 

And speaking of this clear and purposeful action… 

 

In the past few months, I’ve been editing my entries, re-arranging my proposal, researching potential literary agents, creating and submitting essays for websites (to make me “creditable”), and writing query letters that meet both individual and particular agency requests. 

(And I’m proud to tell you that one of my essays, featured on a popular site called Elephant Journal, received over 2,000 views when it was posted. I couldn’t believe it. It felt like confident confirmation that I really can create words worth reading.) 

But each time I send material to agents, I just don’t completely feel it. 

As much as I try to believe that my pitch is going to be read and loved, I more so understand that it’s going to get lost in what agents infamously call their “slosh pile,” with my words buried beneath thousands of other aspiring authors. 

No longer can I wait for an agent to deem me worthy. No longer can I continue polishing my book’s proposal, trying to sell myself and the words I began writing after Everett was born.  

My written conversations with you have accidentally become about learning to trust and follow the natural flow, as I listen to the signs and my intuition, which continually guide me forward in both the creation of this book and myself. So if these attempts to prove and propose both myself and my work, are no longer where the energy is taking me, I need to bravely follow a new direction. 

 

I’ve been seeing the numbers 753, showing up not only on the clock, but in amounted totals or addresses, too. They were the same ones I saw while in Maryland, for the Jen Sincero book signing. 

Over the course of a few days, the pattern presented itself so many times, I felt compelled to at least search online for the meaning of these numbers, if there even was one. 

A woman named JoAnne Walmsley has a book and dedicated web space for the spiritual description of numbers, where I found the following: 

The combinations of 7, 5 and 3 mean now is the time to make the necessary changes that will quickly advance you along your life path and your soul mission.  

Trust that the angels are supporting, encouraging and guiding you along the way. 

 

This felt like permission to set the proposal aside, trusting that the time and money spent on it, was not wasted. Because I know it got me this far. And now I have to keep running this trail, even though I feel like I’m blindfolded, scared to trip and fall and remain stuck, losing the chance to create these words into all I know they can be.  

As for my “soul’s mission,” as Mrs. Walmsley put it, I know that sounds like a strong description for being published, but this book has always been inside me, and so has the challenge to pursue it. The final product of this book will be my evidence that: I am powerful and capable and a creator of my reality. And then I’ll be able to merrily continue along my life’s path, raising children on that land, in that house–with the unwavering understanding that you are my constant lighted guide. 

So I’ve been researching the self-publishing route, something that I used to think was a cheating way to create a book, but actually, from what I’ve read, it seems both incredibly modern and smart. 

I found an online course all about Amazon publishing, quickly squashing the familiar fear that arises with new opportunity. I didn’t hesitate or talk myself out of purchasing it–I simply bought the $97 workshop. 

While I educate myself, I trust the next step will be figured out and presented within perfect timing, just as it was when I found the proposal course, right when I needed it. And in the meantime, I’m still editing and proofing and forming my journal entries into a story worth reading. Right now, that’s my goal for the next few weeks. As well as continuing to grow this lovely little baby. 

  

Grandma told me the other night that she thinks it’s a girl. And to me, Grandma is right about everything, especially when it comes to babies. 

I haven’t allowed myself to admit what I think the gender is, because I was proven entirely wrong with Everett. But I’ll follow her hunch, secretly knowing it agrees with mine.