Today my daughter chose the babysitter. Normally I come home for lunch and Pearl’s eyes light up, her arms reach out to me and the love she shows is undeniable in that display of pure need. Today, none of that happened. Instead she held tight to Emma, snuggling into her neck and refusing to let go. I would never hold this against Emma, she is an incredible blessing to our entire family. But I nursed the pangs of heartache and guilt throughout the day, blaming an eight month old child for my destruction. She did not intend to shatter my heart. Pearl is just a baby, I repeated this to myself several hundred times.
Everyday I worry. Everyday I question my decisions and choices. Am I really doing the absolute best for my family? Some days yes. Some days I am super-mom, I am invincible, untouchable, unstoppable. If the apocalypse crashed down upon us at dawn, we’d be just fine, we’d kick apocalypse ass. Other days no, just no. And that two letter word contains more than enough defeat, additional explanation unnecessary to any parent.
At 7:35PM I forgave my daughter her unknowing indiscretion. I forgave her as we swayed together, nearly inaudible coos escaping her tiny perfect body as she drifted off. I forgave her as my feet sank into the carpet, my toes imprinting our love on the world below. We swayed much longer than necessary. Feeling her warm, even breath on my shoulder, her fingers gently squeezing my arm and releasing, squeezing and releasing, her entire body eventually falling into a peaceful, heavy, relaxation. She is safe, and warm, and loved. She is innocent and I do my best and so we are granted equal amnesty.
Tonight we conquered emotional cataclysm, tomorrow is another day.
I hear this question a lot these days, “Do you ever wonder what you used to do with all your free time?” The first few times I fell right into the deep hole of despair this question, perhaps unknowingly, implies: the agony of a wasted life.
Yes, I miss sleeping in. I miss the days when my body wouldn’t automatically come to life five minutes before Pearl wakes up. I miss staying up late for no apparent reason, safe in the knowledge that I would feel wonderful the next day regardless. I miss the freedom to just read all day, the freedom to spend days agonizing over a single blog post. But it’s not these little moments seemingly filled with nothing that I mourn.
To answer the question, no I do not wonder how I filled my time. I remember fondly, I spent it doing things like this:
Pardon my humble brag, but I’m happy to say my youth was not wasted. Life did not begin or end with Pearl. She found us mid-way through the story; well developed characters with an expansive history rich in self-discovery. And even though our time is now spent doing this like this:
Happily, it was our past that got us to this present, and what a gift it is.
One of my greatest fears while carrying Pearl was my ability to express my love for her in the tender way you see so many mothers and daughters interact. Touchy-feely is just not my thing, PDA makes my brows furrow, and even if we’ve been friends for years my hugs are stiff and as brief as humanly possible. These facts tormented me for nine months, I feared we just wouldn’t connect.
At three and a half months old Pearl is rolling, gabbing, grabbing, and smiling. She shows an immense enthusiasm during storytime (that’s my girl!) and is one heck of a charmer in a crowd. She zeros in on me if she’s not in my arms, following my every move with her bright eyes which light up if she hears my voice or spots me across the room. She is thoroughly irresistible which is why I take a particular pride in yesterday’s milestone: giggling.
Sitting on the living room floor, she swung her arms in my direction and flashed a gummy grin, the one that often makes me think I’m on the verge of a very serious heart condition. I scooped her up and planted no less than one hundred smooches on both cheeks and she erupted, her tiny body wobbling and swaying with the effort of her very first giggle. I lost count of the kisses that followed in an attempt to replicate the most incredible sound known to man.
When it comes to Pearl it turns out I’m 100% soft. Like an untapped mine of blazing devotion; I’m a snuggler, kisser, hugger, I’m downright lovey dovey. And nothing in my life has ever felt so natural and right. I know she won’t always giggle at these expressions of pure affection so I intend get my fill while the gettin’s good.
Sometimes I find myself racing ahead, even by decades, in life. When Pearl takes an enormous breath, the lung-filling kind an infant only uses to wail, I think of how she’ll be as a teenager. In her tiny, adorable face I can see the pain of hormonal rage 13 years down the road. One day she will say terrible things to me, things I recall saying to my own mother much to my adult shame. She may develop a routine as I did; sobbing, gulping for air, pounding deafening steps into the stairs and thundering my door shut so hard I’m sure I tested the physical structure of our house on several occasions. She will tell me I just don’t understand and she will believe it too.
It’s in these future moments that I know I will lovingly recall today and think it’s such a shame she’ll have lost the memory of our present by then. At four weeks old, Pearl has stolen my reality, nothing matters but her. I exist in a time warp, I lose hours and entire days. People ask what I’ve been up to, here’s a list: we have staring contests that last hours, I study her eyelashes trying to determine the science of their length, I agonize over her fingernails, I wash her hair far too often, sometimes she screams but then snuggles into my neck and promptly falls asleep to the thudding of my heart, we go on walks and she sleeps, we run errands and she sleeps, we read Game of Thrones and she sleeps, we go to bed and she is ready to party Andrew W.K. style.
He needed a little sugar & spice in his life
When I suggested to Logan that Pearl would never remember these days of total, earth-shattering love between us as she grew he scoffed and replied:
Hold onto your hat sweetheart, Pearl just got started loving you.
The beginning of a new love story
Growing a human being is no simple task, I thank you for your patience and understanding while I flit about the house ranting about your muddy boots and coffee stains on our white cupboard doors. While I often feel justified in these moments of pure, seething, indignation I know I am sometimes in the wrong. Key word: sometimes. I want to apologize for two moments where I confess, I was wrong.
About six months in, on a Saturday morning, all I wanted was a breakfast burrito and we were out of potatoes. A breakfast burrito without potatoes is just a weird burrito that happens to have an egg in it, don’t kid yourselves people. You refused to go the store at 9AM because you hadn’t showered yet. I remember watching our friend Elliott literally jump from the couch to get his pregnant wife a glass of water when she vaguely mentioned she was thirsty. You need a shower? A shower to go to the one grocery store in our population 2000 town that no one will be at at 9AM? Cue the insane, hormonal water works. I had successfully guilted you into the shower but I was not nearly finished being crazy. Dripping wet you found me in the kitchen frying the potatoes I had managed to purchase and return with before you even reached for the conditioner. And you said nothing, you let me relish my “take that!” moment with a quiet, confused apology in your eyes.
Much like the time you stomped through our house in your boots in mid-winter and I asked you to please, please, stop doing that. I spent the morning plowing through laundry, painting the nursery, and watching our roomba struggle to pick up the dirt clods and stickers littering our floors. Hours later you returned, boots still firmly planted on your feet, and terrorized our house yet again like Charlie Brown’s friend Pig-pen come to life. Arm-waving was now in play, high-pitched pregnancy induced hysteria on full throttle, “I spent the WHOLE DAY using the robot vacuum to clean up after YOUR mess. And now I have to turn it on again and start ALL over.” Yes. The robot vacuum, the vacuum that automatically cleans our house with the push of a button. How dare you? Again, you said nothing, removed your boots, and let me rave like a too early released lunatic.
Honestly, I think you got off pretty easy over the past nine months. However, I recognize and apologize for these two incidents where a perceived justification turned out to be totally uncalled for nonsense upon later reflection. If we learn anything from these moments it’s that sometimes it’s best to say nothing and other times you should just go buy the damn potatoes. And I think we should both be thankful I didn’t have a pregnancy like this lady.
Your Loving Wife
I woke up today with an immensely odd craving for blueberry pancakes. You see, I’m more of a breakfast burrito kind of gal; bacon, potatoes, burn your taste buds right off hot sauce. Savory’s my game. And until now, my pregnancy has lacked the thrilling side effects Hollywood’s most notoriously appetite-less women would have you believe are normal. I stared at the ceiling in our bedroom contemplating how in the world it’s possible that I have never in my life made pancakes. How absurd.
Equipped with a fancy from-scratch recipe, I progressed slow and determined through the isles of our tiny grocery store. Still bleary-eyed with interrupted sleep I nearly missed the familiar package of Krusteaz pancake mix my mom always used. Studying the simple instructions on the back of the bag I chuckled at the realization that we do not even own a whisk, the one of three necessary items to get this done the easy way. So long cake flour, almond extract, and baking soda, Krusteaz and Mrs. Butterworth never let my own mother down, why mess with success?
9 Months Pregnant + 30 Years Old = Powdered Sugar AND Syrup
Unburdened with what was sure to be a hopeless effort, I picked up some Visine and made my way through the checkout line. My eyes are still a little puffy and red from last night’s major meltdown. Infuriatingly typical, at nine months pregnant and only a few hours from the dreaded 3-0, I completely lost my cool. I was hit hard by the big questions: What if I can’t let go of selfishness? How will my marriage suffer? What if I’m a bad mother? What’s left to look forward to? And the smaller questions: What if I’m never fun again? What if I can’t eliminate Nutella from my daily diet? Why oh why didn’t I plan for a birth not immediately preceding swimsuit season?
Some answers are easier to journey toward than others but my first taste of blueberry flapjack had a zen-like effect. There is no need to over-complicate an already complex life, go with your gut, learn and grow together, as a family. On my 30th birthday, when I think the world has no surprises left for me, our little lady showed me sometimes it’s nice to wake up and find out you’re wrong.
My brain is in so many places at once, I’m pretty sure I deserve a gold medal for the mental acrobatics I’m constantly performing. I have never attempted more fervently to pay attention, make eye contact, concentrate on the words being spoken to me. In the midst of extreme focus she’ll kick and, to be specific, it feels like she’s somehow memorized the moves from the Kriss Kross Jump video. And just like that I’m suddenly wondering what happened to wearing whitewashed jeans backwards and the sweet neon innocence of 90s hip hop and … What was I saying? What month is it? October?
When she’s not breakdancing I’m compiling mental lists of why she might be feeling mellow. Did I eat something I shouldn’t have? I’m probably juggling work and a side conversation but I’m also thinking of pregnancy week one, when I ate both Caesar salad and béarnaise sauce in one meal. I spent the following week and a half feeling more remorseful and guilty than that time I crashed the family Volvo into the garage (sorry Mom). And then my phone rings and I’m back in the present where I realize, oh hell, we’ll have a daughter crashing into our garage soon. If I’m looking at you like you’re lime green, this is why.
I feel the need to write lengthy apology notes to all the poor souls duped into conversation with me, I am miles away with no intention of mapping my way back. The slightest trigger and I’m transported back to college, an olive green kitchen where I sat on the counter with Socrates and a glass of wine and repeatedly made a mockery of pasta alfredo. Tapping my toes to Mushaboom I remember the exact moment I considered the future I live today. Back then it seemed like a dreamy little fairy tale, married, settling down, and starting a family, that’s crazy I thought. I got the crazy part right, but it’s been much dreamier than I could have possibly imagined.
I adore Central America. I love the way the heat sits on your thirsty skin like a wet bathing suit. I stepped off the plane and my brain sent emergency alerts to my confused body and I was instantly perspiring in all the wrong places. I marveled at the locals who seemed to glow ethereally while we foreigners glistened and shifted uncomfortably in our absurd performance fleece and denim airplane attire. After a few days though, I relished my sun-kissed skin and frizzled hair, the climate seeped into my pores and my overstuffed suitcase was as useless as 60+SPF.
Paradise from above
Sensory memories from the PanAm proved accurate and somehow magnified but what I didn’t anticipate was the all-encompassing joy my pregnant belly could bring to total strangers. I felt like a celebrity everywhere we went, I considered practicing my pageant wave and flawless autograph flourish every time someone beamed ecstatically in my direction. It was a refreshing change of pace from the oddly concentrated frowns back home.
Stairs? Oh no ma’am, not for you, let me direct you to the special VIP pregnant-lady elevator. I found myself gratefully accepting every sincere offer of goodwill and unavoidably comparing them to the snide “I just thought you were fat” remarks I received prior to stamping my passport. Security line? No no, you probably have to pee, right this way to the front of the line. Forget the scanner, how could you be a terrorist? You’re a mother! Tell that to the TSA agents who scolded me to “just go through” the scanners in Texas
. Waiting in line for the ladies room in Guatemala was like being on tour. If one lady caught a whiff of my impending motherhood, the whole line was an uproar of nudges and whispers and I was faced with 12 women smiling so hard it looked like they were instantly creating new facial creases with the effort. Is this what it feels like to be Oprah I wondered.
These ladies had no objections to us joining their roadside tortillaria
More valuable than any trinkets I brought home was the perspective. The frigid Nebraska temperatures had only aided the ice forming around my heart lately. I have been embarrassingly consumed by my expanding waistline and the judgement of others, so easily forgetting the time and energy spent hoping to get to this place. These precious few months left to me are meant to be cherished. In the sultry heat of Belize and Guatemala, I let it melt away and embraced the simplicity of kind words and sincere affection, the small gestures of genuine compassion I hope to teach our daughter soon.
Baby’s first ruined adventure
Approximately three days and 17 searches: the amount of nail-biting time and hysterical googling it took for this lady to swear off all prenatal reading material. Should you ever feel the odd desire for slick palms, heart palpitations, and dizzying anxiety just google “first trimester back pain.” At 18 weeks, each day is a surprise for me. I learn as a I go and like to think I’m bringing a hip vintage edge to my pregnancy rather than the reality, the perhaps misguided efforts of a determined ignorance.
Luckily I have a husband who instantly became an enthusiastic reader the moment he laid eyes on the pink plus sign. He keeps me up to date on our tiny progeny and sometimes makes me swoon with his sweet absurdity. When he told me I shouldn’t go to the annual haunted corn maze due to my delicate condition, I was sure he was joking. But when he repeated the statement to his own mother, appalled that she would even presume to think we would attend, I started to wonder where he was getting his daddy-to-be information.
Despite my love of screaming like a sugar-frenzied tween and sprinting through a dark, confusing, freezing-cold corn maze chased by our neighbors dressed in gorilla suits wielding chain saws, I acquiesced and we stayed home. Not because I believed his firm notion that pregnant women ought not to be overly frightened, but because, come on, that’s just the sweetest thing. To this day he defends himself, “Oh sure, you laugh now, but just think if something had gone wrong, the headline the next day would’ve been, ‘Idiot husband brings pregnant wife to late night, unlit, corn maze full of drunk people’ and the whole town would rally for my immediate incarceration.” Alright, so maybe he has a point.
Journal Entry: March 1st, 2014
The familiar squeak of the hinges and then the warm rush of a forced-air furnace, I’m instantly relaxed. A few faces turn to smile at our arrival and the lively chatter resumes. We place our coats on ancient, battered hangers and line up our shoes with the others, snow melting wet puddles into the abused carpet. The routine of this moment is so comforting. For one night each week, this run-down bowling alley is my happy place. I forget about my incessant need to tackle something more meaningful, I let go of my nagging subconscious telling me to think bigger.
Thursday nights are for cracking corny jokes, for smiling wide and genuine, for contemplating new theories on alcohol to turkey ratios: this week I bowl better with my glasses and drinking only Coors Light, last week’s three cocktail minimum was a total bust.
Small-town Thursday night
This is where my fears of impressing a small community fade, where I feel less like an outsider and more a part of the scenery in which I want so badly to blend. The radio plays state basketball playoffs and the whole place keeps one ear on the game. But it’s not all easy talk of weather and sports. Somewhere between clashing pins and stiff cocktails, the hard stuff filters through, quiet conversations with down-turned eyes; the recent loss of a beloved sister, struggling to find your place in a community you’ve called home for 30 years, worries over a son’s divorce.
It’s easy to gaze on this scene and call it simple but there is nothing easy about this life.