All posts by sarah

Time’s a River

Dear Wren,

It is 10PM on a random Wednesday in May. You will be five weeks old tomorrow. I am holding you wrapped up in a grey blanket that a good friend made for you. Your head is tucked up against my shoulder. Your little hands are balled up in fists up near your face. Your shoulders line up with mine. You’re tucked up in a ball with my hand under your rump. You are so small that your entire body is right there. From my breast to my shoulder with a heavy little head covered in fluff.

I sniff your head and almost inhale your hair. You smell amazing. I close my eyes and try to memorize this.

I know I won’t be able to. I’ve already lost the earliest moments and how you felt when you were just born. Every moment is overwritten by the intensity of the next. Every moment you are a new person, and so am I. We are growing together.

Your little hands. The way it looks like your fingers shouldn’t quite all fit onto them. The funny shaped newborn fingernails. Yours have a bit of dirt under them. I’m not sure how. I know that it refuses to wash off, and that I’m waiting until they’re long enough to snip them off with baby nail cutters.

Mundane details.

Your arms move and your body twists in a very particular way. You stare at me with an expression that is completely and uniquely your own. I have taken some videos, but I know from experience that those videos won’t show me what I see right now.

You see. When you were born I didn’t know you yet. But love came roaring in full force. Intense and crazy. Giddy. Glorious. Gleeful.

I look at you and I laugh with joy.

I look at your siblings that way, too. The way they are now. Today. The way they have grown to be.

And I try to memorize the details of them, too.

Life is so full. So full of moments to remember. Details to try to hold onto. Many of them will slip away, replaced by the newer things. The new giddiness. The new joy. The new shape of the love that you were born into.

I snug you close. I forget about trying to memorize things.

I can’t.

I’ll let them shape us instead. You and me. Our relationship. Who each of us will become tomorrow, and in the days and years to come.

Time’s a river. Each moment is a drop of water.

We’ll be floating along together for good long while.

<3 Mama

Jealousy, Favorite Color, Favorite Food, Favorite Child

Sometimes I start a conversation expecting it to go one way, and it goes in a totally different direction.

There is a game I play, where I tell each of my kids “You are my favorite Keenie, my favorite Isaac, my favorite Alexander.”

After not playing that game for a while I asked my children randomly at the breakfast table one morning:”So which one of you is my favorite?” I was expecting to fall into that litte game, where I talk about the things that make each child my favorite type-of-them.

Keenie giggled.

Alexander gave me that look that he gives me when I have said something totally ridiculous.

And Isaac… Isaac raised his eyebrow. “Mommy, you can’t even pick a favorite color because they are too different and you like them all. You couldn’t pick a favorite kid. That would be IMPOSSIBLE.”

And he is right. When the issue of favorite anything pops up, I give lists of the things that I like, reasons why I like those things. I say that I am in a particular mood where I want a specific food, and I list other foods that I also like to eat.

My kids have apparently generalized this over to themselves as well. They don’t jockey for the position of favorite child. They let me know if they feel that something is unfair or uneven among them, and they trust that I will have a solution or an explanation that takes their feelings into account.

I’m asked a lot about sibling jealousy. How do I deal with it? I don’t see a lot of it. I mix things up so that different kids come first at different points. I explain when something is related to age differences, and I talk about how things were when my other kids were that age, or how things will be when they are older and the steps they can take to get to a skill or a place faster.

We do group hugs where my arms are big enough to hold them all. We devolve into wrestling tickling matches where I breathlessly proclaim love for each of the squirming kids. I proclaim each as my favorite and they chime in other names as well. Yes. Our dog is my favorite dog. And each of our cats are my favorites too.

We talk about sometimes needing one on one time. Needing for me to read a book to just Alexander, to hug just Keenie, to play a game with just Isaac. And about how we can help each other take turns with that one on one time.

Isaac will tell me when Keenie or Alexander need me, and when he can do things for himself.

Keenie will laugh when I tell her that when Wren is born, she will be my baby. “I’m not a baby!” She says. “I am a big girl!” I assure her that she is, but that I will still hold her like a baby if she wants. I chase her down and bounce her while shh-ing as she giggles and pushes me away.

And Alexander-in-the-middle, he wants mostly to catch up to the things that his big brother can do, and comes running to me for help in figuring out how.

This family of mine? This family is my favorite. Hands down.

Favorite kid, though? Can’t pick. Instead I think of each of them in turn and feel that deep infinite love.

Love multiplies. It doesn’t divide. I love each of them with all my heart, and I spend my days trying to make sure that is tangible for them.

I guess that is how I deal with jealousy. I don’t confront it head on.

My relationship is with each child, so I focus on my relationship with each child and making sure that their needs are met and that they feel loved without comparison to each other.

If one needs a hug because they got hurt, I hug them. If another needs a bug because their sibling got a hug, I hug them too and add a kiss.

A lot of approaches to jealousy seem to focus on discouraging it, or the idea that jealousy is selfish.

Nah. We all need a little reassurance every now and then.

So what am I trying to say? I guess I am saying that you shouldn’t deal with jealousy. Jealousy is the comparison of things. Focus on each individual relationship with each individual child. Strengthen those. They are all side by side.

If it means hauling an 8 year old onto your lap to bounce him while he giggles and protests, do it. Then have a talk about what he really needs right now.

If it means everyone pig-piling onto your lap for storytime, take everyone to the couch or to your bed, and let everyone pile in.

Pull everyone close. You have enough love for each of them. Let it show.

7 Weeks, The Size of a Blueberry

Seven weeks. My little poppy seed is now more the size of a bean or a blueberry.

I’m amused by all of the pregnancy sites that use food to try to convey the size of a baby as it grows. I ate a fistful of blueberries yesterday at the creek, grabbing a quick snack to keep the morning sickness at bay before wading back out to help my three year old swim. I can’t manage to make the connection between the small growing life that will become my child and a plump round purplish berry.

I can imagine the tip of my pinky finger, I can picture a quarter of an inch and how tiny it is even compared to that tiny bit of me. I’m told that even at this tiny size, the human embryo has become 10,000 times bigger than it was at conception.

None of these details manage to give me what I’m looking for.

I remember reading over descriptions like these during my first pregnancy, trying to piece together what it meant. Trying to understand how it all worked. Trying to use it to connect to the idea of motherhood.

My oldest is eight years old now. I’d say he’s about the size of an eight year old, which is rapidly approaching the size of me. My five year old has lost his toddler chub and can be measured by the strength of his full body hugs that feel like being tackled by a small quarterback. My three year old stretches from under my chin to down below my knees when she lays herself down on top of me to listen to my heartbeat while trying to fall asleep on a restless night.

This time around the way that growth is happening is more of a scientific curiosity than a way to connect.

My fourth child is curled up like a tiny question mark in my womb, rapidly growing to a size where he or she can be born. I probably won’t hold this child in my arms until they’re larger than a sack of rice. Until they can curl up on my chest instead of on the tip of a finger. I understand with all my heart that this child will be loved no more and no less than the children that wrestle and play around me now.

That is where the wonder comes from, this time around. Feeling the growth of hope and love and connection form.

I’m as pragmatic as I am unapologetically emotional. I understand that until eight weeks I still have a 30% miscarriage risk. I understand that until 14 weeks the risk is still high.

Honestly, none of that matters. When I first saw the two lines on that pregnancy test in the bathroom at my friend’s house in Vermont… I made a choice in that split second. I chose to feel love and hope from the very beginning.

There’s no newsletter, no baby growth ticker, no set of medical illustrations that can describe that for me. The growth of love and hope. I can’t say it’s the size of a bean or a blueberry. I can’t say that it’s managed to grow to 10,000 times the size that it was before I even knew.

I can say that it’s there. I can say that it’s growing. I am seven weeks pregnant. I feel hope. I feel love.

It Isn’t Hypocrisy if Breastfeeding Makes You More Uncomfortable Than a Bikini

If seeing a woman in a low cut top or a bikini barely registers anymore, but seeing a mother breastfeeding her child makes you uncomfortable…

You haven’t seen it often enough.

I no longer believe that it is hypocrisy. It is the simple math of frequency. What we do not see often… stands out.

People who have strong feelings about other people covering up or finding private places are innocent of the details that go into breastfeeding an infant or a toddler. They hold simplified ideas, often ones that they have heard elsewhere that seem to make sense.

They are not aware that not every mother responds to a pump.

They are not aware that not every baby takes a bottle.

They are not aware of the devastation that isolation can create in the mind and heart of a new mother struggling to adjust after her baby has been born.

They are not aware that breastfeeding is a learned skill that both baby and mom need to work at and practice. It is natural but it does not come easily, even when a mama has been through it before.

They are not aware of how some children respond to being covered up.

They are not aware of the impact that adding another step can have on a mama who is struggling with just getting her baby to latch on.

They are unaware of the drastic changes that would take place if every mother began to breastfeed openly without covering.

It would be normal.

It would make it easier for new mothers, because they would have seen it before.

It would increase breastfeeding success rates and that would bring along all of the benefits that breastfeeding carries.

It would have an amazing impact on the postpartum mental health of new mothers.

It would also stop being noticeable. It would be no different than seeing a bathing suit on a beach.

There For You

I notice that your face is cloudy when you come off the bus. You snap at your little brother when he runs up to you to play. You go to your room. The door slams. I knock. You don’t answer. I pause and knock again. Not the “you need to open the door now” knock. A slow knock. Two knocks. Nothing more. Then I sit by the door and I wait.

A few minutes later the door opens. You sit down next to me. “Rough day?” I ask.

The floodgates open.

“I’m there for you” means just that.

I’m there.
For you.
When you are ready.

Never “I Told You So”

I’m thirty five years old. I have a history of thirty five years of experiences, thirty five years of mistakes, thirty five years of learning.

You are five. You have a history of five years, much of which you might not remember. You haven’t grown to the place that I was at when I made the mistakes that I made at ten. You haven’t grown into the types of mistakes that I made at thirteen. Or seventeen. You are no where near the mistakes that I made at twenty five. You are not yet at the mistakes that I will make at 37 or 40. I’m not yet in that place, myself.

I watch you make the mistakes that you will make. Sometimes I ask you to think about what a consequence might be if you continue to do something. But then when you come to me hurting when that thing happens, I hug you near and whisper “I know. It hurts. It hurts a lot. I’m here for you.”

Never “I told you so. “

It’s Time To Just Slow Down.

Keenie is putting sand on her legs. It’s time to go. I ask her to come with me. She piles more sand on her legs. I ask her again. She doesn’t acknowledge what I am saying.

I stay squatting next to her. I go silent. I wait. She starts to talk about the sand on her legs. About the thing that she sees in the eye of her imagination. I listen for a few short moments. I ask questions.

It’s not time to go, it’s time to slowly hatch from the chrysalis that she has made for herself. To fly like a butterfly to showers where we wash off the sand and the salt from the ocean.

It’s time to just slow down. Because this is my child’s childhood. It’s important lovely stuff.

I forget this often when I am in a rush. I should remember it more.

Together We’ll Be Big.

Clinging joyfully to her dad, giggling in the waves. I see a little watermelon swimsuit and a tangle of wavy-curls held up in the air by the arms that held me while I birthed her, while I birthed her brother, while I mourned the passing of my grandmother, while I shook in grief over the passing of several dear friends. The arms that cradled her and her bothers as they have fallen asleep over the years. The arms that pull me close when I cannot sleep. Her legs kick up and down as the waves crash into them. I cannot see her face but recognize excitement. Comfort. Glee.

Trust is a lovely thing.

I often snug her close to me when she is afraid or hesitant. I often whisper “cling close, Keenie-bee. Together we’ll be big.”

They are big together in those waves. She is borrowing from his size and the safety that he offers to squeal with laughter in a place where she might otherwise feel fear.

Friends, family and loved ones are like that. Each of us is tiny on the face of this spinning world. But together? Together we are big. Together this world is less a place of fear and more one that offers opportunity for profound joy.

Along for a Ride I Didn’t Buy Tickets For

It is hot out. Muggy. I am tired and vaguely queasy. Everything feels off.

A loop keeps repeating in my head.

Why do I feel this way?
I am pregnant.
Oh. Wow.
Why do I feel this way?
I am pregnant.
Oh. Wow.

In some ways pregnancy is more surreal this time around. Like I’m along for a ride that I didn’t buy tickets for, didn’t wait in line for, didn’t board.On a rollercoaster, complete with the strange dropping and rising feeling in my belly.

Then I recognize the feeling. It’s excitement that hasn’t quite sunk in.

There is a life inside of me trying to grow to the size it needs to be in order to be born.

I smile and laugh.

I will get used to this, eventually. It’s nothing really new. I’ve done it before.

What a strange, delightful and perfectly ordinary little miracle this is…

A Poppy Seed of Promise. (Bebe 4.0)

Obviously not the test with lines. 😉 The third “Am I really pregnant?” test that I took before this morning’s announcement.

Two pink lines.
My hands start to shake.
I show Alex.
He’s the one that suggested that it might be time to test.
He always seems to know.

Right now I’m about four weeks along. Those two lines mean that there is a small life growing inside of me. A life that is currently the size of a poppy seed. This morning Alex got me another test. Some fancy schmancy one that estimates the date of ovulation based on HCG levels. So 2-3 weeks since ovulation puts me right at 4-5 weeks pregnant using the LMP/40 weeks approach.

It is early.

I’m not supposed to tell anyone. I’m supposed to tell only Alex, and then spend the next eleven weeks keeping my joys, hopes, fears, and thoughts to myself. Just in case. Because it’s not a guarantee yet. Because grief may follow instead of a baby. Because we’re only supposed to celebrate when things are a bit more of a “guarantee”.

I’ve turned that idea over and over in my head, time and time again.

For me, the act of not sharing would not decrease any future sadness.
For me, the act of not sharing would not save me from grief.
I’d probably still tell everyone if this pregnancy ends in a miscarriage, if it’s chemical, if it’s ectopic. If any of those many things that can go wrong… goes wrong. Because I’ve seen women suffer in silence. And because when I had a loss before, I shared and ended up having so many conversations with women who had kept so  much inside. Because they “had” to. Because not listening and putting on a happy face is some sort of social grace.

I’m telling you. Because I believe that women deserve to yell it out from the treetops if they want to. Because I believe that miscarriage is such a social taboo that people feel they have to keep pregnancies secret. Just in case. And because I don’t believe that is a healthy habit.

I am pregnant. I am expecting a baby next year at the end of March or the beginning of April sometime. This is a happy thing.

It is also a complicated thing. This was not planned. We were talking about starting to try for a baby in January if things lined up. Needless to say, a lot of things are not lined up.

I’m also grieving heavily over some recent things that have shaken how I view friendship and family and myself. So this post is not as joyful as the first moments when I found out that I was pregnant.

That is okay, too. Life is complicated.

There is joy. A small poppy-seed sized joy that is going to slowly grow until it is overwhelming and beautiful.

Growth takes time.

I am okay with that.