Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Dear Will - Six Months Old


Dear Will,

You're six months old today. I feel like one gigantic parenting cliche when I say that I have no idea how this even happened. How has time flown by so fast that you are already halfway to a year old?

But time is a funny thing. I've always known this, the way time tends to stretch out and contract depending on the circumstances, but never more so since you came blazing into my life. When you were about nine days old, I was sitting on the couch with your grandma and I was holding you while you slept and I was exhausted, half-asleep. I mentioned to her that I felt like I had lived a lifetime in the less than two weeks since you were born. She smiled. Maybe even laughed a little. "That's parenthood," she said to me. "It's a lifetime and it's also five minutes."

I have realized over and over in the past six months just how exactly right she was. Because even though it seems like just days ago that we locked eyes for the first time, I also sometimes feel like I can't remember a time when you weren't here, growing and changing and becoming a person with opinions and preferences and a personality that gets bigger every day.

At six months old you are the happiest baby around. My favorite moment of the day is when I walk into the house after work and you see me in the doorway and you give me that open-mouth grin that is absolutely my favorite. You know me, I always think. You know that I'm your mom. And that's just magic.

You love to smile and talk to yourself and to us. Sometimes, when you wake up in the morning, you are perfectly content to lay in your crib and babble away to yourself and it makes me wonder about what's going on in your head, and about all the things that you'll be saying once you learn the words. You are more judicious with your giggles, holding them back until you find something really, really funny. I'm the best at getting you to laugh though, and that fact makes me exceptionally, unreasonably happy.

This past month, you were sick for the first time. You had a cold and a high fever and for two days you barely cracked a smile. On the second night it was hard for you to sleep. You were hot and restless and weepy and every time I heard you cry I came in and picked you up from your crib and sat with you in our big grey chair. I covered you with a blanket and we rocked until you fell back to sleep. And there, in the darkness of 3am, with your head heavy on my shoulder, I wanted with everything I had to make you feel better, and I thought that I had never felt more like a mom than I did in that moment.

It's funny how it happens. I became a parent in the big moments of your life - the day you were born, the day you came home from the hospital. But it's in the quiet moments - feeding you in the middle of the night when you were a new baby, packing your little backpack every night for daycare, walking with you in your stroller down a sunny, summer street, rocking you to sleep  - that I became a mom.

I want what's best for you with a fierceness that I sometimes don't recognize. I want you to be healthy and happy and to know how much we love you and that we will always, always be on your side. I want the world to be kind to you. I want to protect you from disappointment and sadness and mean kids and high school even though I know that I can't and that I wouldn't even if I could because those are the things that build character and make you interesting. The truth is, all that wishing and wanting and hoping can sometimes be overwhelming. But then, you look up at me with your big, blue, curious eyes that seem to see everything and I realize that I am trying my very best and you are exactly where you need to be and we are doing just fine.

You are getting so big, and it seems like every day some shirt or pair of pants that fit you yesterday is too small all of a sudden. And while putting clothes that you have outgrown into separate bins labeled by size appeals to my great love of organization, it also makes me a little bit sad. I sometimes miss the tiny baby you once were, even though watching you grow and change over the past six months has been my great pleasure. This is the paradox of motherhood, I think. Nostalgia for the months and years behind you and excitement for what lies ahead, all tied together with the visceral understanding that one day, if I do my job right, you are going to grow tall and strong and independent and take your first steps away from me and I am going to have to let you go.

But not yet, ok?

Happy six months, my sweet Will. I am so proud to be your mom, and I am so lucky that you are mine.

With love as big as the sky,

Mom


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Monday, November 30, 2015

Dear Will - Five Months Old


Dear Will,

You are five months old today. And what a month it has been. 

Last month around this time I was rocking you to sleep, my tears dropping on your head as I thought about leaving you at daycare when I went back to work. It seemed impossible that I could leave such a tiny baby with strangers while I went to the city for the day. That I would only see you for an hour in the morning when you woke up and an hour or two at night before you went to sleep and that would be it for the entire day. And while, admittedly, the first few days were pretty rough, like most things that have happened in the five months since you blazed into my life, we have done just fine.

It's still weird to me, walking into my office every day where everything is exactly the same as it always was, while my life - our lives - are so completely different. I think of you a lot during the day, and I structure my whole day so I can be sure to be home in time to feed you and put you to sleep. You are a piece of me now, and I suspect that this is the way it is supposed to feel. I didn't think about it much while I was on maternity leave and home with you every day, but now that I am away from you for big chunks of time I understand. We are bound together, you and me. Inextricably and always.

The funny thing is, it turns out I am happy to be back at work. I think it's made me a better person, and certainly a better mom to you. I was worried about this a lot. Whether I would be able to pick up where I left off, and whether I could be a lawyer again after spending so much time learning how to be a mom. But it turns out that I did, and I can, and I really can be both. I hope that you'll understand this one day. I think you will, becuase I hope I can raise you to do the things that feel good to you, to find your passion, and to understand that there can, and should, be different parts of you that exist together to make you into who you are. I'm still not sure if being a lawyer is my passion - I suspect somehow that I'm still searching for what is - but I know now that I can do my very best as your mom, and do other things too. I think this makes us all better people, for ourselves and to each other.

None of this would be as easy as it has been if you hadn't taken so well to daycare. You transitioned really easily, and you are having such a good time. Whenever I go there to pick you up your teachers always tell me how happy and smiley you are, and this just fills me right up. I am so happy that you are in a place during the day with good people who care about you, and who fill your days with fun. And I am happy to share you with them during the week, because they are as thrilled to watch you grow up as I am.

And grow up you are. You are really starting to play with your toys, and you can already sit up for a little bit if you balance with your hands. You love bouncing in your Exersaucer, and you get so excited when we put you in the Bumbo we just got for you, so you can sit up for real and see the world from a whole new vantage point. You get bigger and sturdier every single day, and sometimes I look at you and it seems like you are literally growing up right in front of me. 

Last week was Thanksgiving. I've always loved this holiday for the family and the fun, and for the second to stop and be thankful for the greatness in our lives. And my goodness, there is a lot of it. But this year, what I am most thankful for, is you. One day when you're older I'll tell you about your first Thanksgiving. How we went to your Sabba and Savta's house and you wore a big sticker that said "My First Thanksgiving." How you sat in a highchair pulled up close to the dining room table and played with toys while the rest of us ate dinner. How you banged on the tray and laughed and tried to grab everyone's forks and how we let you. How my gratitude that you are here and healthy and happy and safe was so huge that it stole my breath.

I still sometimes can't believe it, my sweet Will, but you are so very much mine. 

Always, ok?

With love as big as the sky,

Mom


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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Giving Thanks

I remember the day before Thanksgiving last year, vividly. It was snowing; the very first snow of the year. I got up early to go get bagels before we got on the road to spend the holiday with my family in Pittsburgh. I was eight weeks pregnant and we hadn't told a single person. Not my parents, not my sisters, not my in-laws, not our friends. No one.

I drove through the quiet, snowy street of my neighborhood feeling a heady combination of emotions. Excited that we were going to have a baby. Worry that something would go wrong or had already gone wrong and maybe we weren't. Wonder at the surprise of it all.

It's terribly cliche of me to say, but I can hardly believe that it has been a year.

Having a baby - becoming a mom - has been nothing at all like I thought it was going to be. And yet, almost five months removed from those first turbulent, emotional, terror and tear-filled weeks, I think that maybe, just maybe, I am starting to feel steady and solid again.

At first I wanted to write that I am feeling like myself again, but that's not quite right. Because I am not the same person I used to be; I won't ever be that person again. Becoming a mom changed me in ways that I am just beginning to understand and appreciate. But I think that the most important parts of me are still in there, intertwined with the parts of me that are now charged with keeping another human being that I created happy and healthy and safe. And he is.

Life. It is complex and tricky and things don't always go the way we want them to or the way that we planned. I think that what I have learned most of all over the past five months is to be gentle with myself, and to embrace the not-knowing and just forge on ahead because motherhood is the steepest learning curve there is. I have made mistakes, both big and small, and I will undoubtedly make more.

But every night when I put my thriving, happy baby to sleep and sit on the couch with my man and a glass of wine, enveloped in the quiet of my house after a day filled with noise, I realize that I am doing as good a job as I know how to do, and really, that's the most that any of us can ask of ourselves. And I understand now more than ever that I have a life that's good. A life that is happy and rich and layered with beauty. And all of this? It's kind of miraculous.

So on this Thanksgiving-eve, as the sun starts to set over my little slice of the world and as I get ready to head for home, I am feeling a heaping dose of gratitude for the path I find myself on, for the people who walk it with me, and for this life. Exactly the way it is supposed to be.

And I am thankful.

For a growing family.


And my own little one.


For this smiley little boy. The one who was meant to be mine.


For sisters.


And for the kiddos who come from them.



For best friends.



For home.


For this life. Mine.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I'm the Mom Now.

When the nurse handed him to me, all bundled up in that familiar pink, blue, and white hospital blanket and a hat that I had to slide up to see his little face, he wasn't crying.

His eyes - huge and dark and startlingly grown-up for a baby that was less than five minutes old - were wide open and seemed to be calmly taking it all in as he observed his new surroundings. For a second his eyes locked on mine and I knew then that I was his and he was mine and it all felt heavier than six pounds, three ounces.

I have a baby, is what I thought.

I didn't think, I am a mom.

For two days I was surrounded by nurses who called me "mom" instead of by my name and a stream of visitors who managed to work the word "mom" into the conversation when they were barely over the threshold of my hospital room.

I changed diapers and fed my baby. I hobbled around as best I could, assisted by extra large doses of whatever painkillers the nurses brought to my bedside. I sat next to him in the backseat of our car on the way home from the hospital. I did whatever came next without thinking much about it. I cried for all the reasons and for no reason at all. I had dirty hair and dirty sweatpants and baby clothes piled on my kitchen table and I was too tired to sleep. Nothing was the same as it was before.

But I wasn't sure if I felt like a mom. I didn't know what it was supposed to feel like. No one ever told me.

Our third day at home. The call from the pediatrician. Jaundice. Levels rising instead of falling. Hospital. A lab tech pricking the heel of my tiny baby. His startled cry. Another call from the pediatrician. Levels rising again. Back to the hospital.

Our second trip was on the Fourth of July. It's a suburban hospital and was all but deserted for the holiday weekend. The pediatrician assured us that he took care of everything and we just had to show up and it would only take a few minutes. But there was a skeleton crew and no one could find his faxed request and there were phone calls back and forth for an hour and I didn't have any cell service and no one was answering and they couldn't find a lab tech and the receptionist was frustrated and angry with me, as if I was the one who caused this mess by having the audacity to show up at her hospital on a holiday with a three day old baby in urgent need of a blood test.

It hurt to stand up. I wanted to sit on the floor and curl up into a ball. I wanted to cry. I wanted to go home. I wanted to sleep. I wanted to let someone else take control. I wanted my mom.

And then I looked over at the dark, empty waiting room, at my now not even six pound baby sleeping in his car seat under a blanket to ward off the hospital chill, oblivious to the goings-on, and with a fierceness I didn't recognize, I didn't want any of those things as much as I wanted to protect him. As much as I wanted him to be healthy. To be safe.

I stood up a little straighter. This is what it feels like. I understood.

I'm the mom now.



Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Dear Will - Four Months Old


Dear Will,

You are four months old.

Last week, on the night before I went back to work, you fell asleep just as you were finishing your last bottle of the night, the one I always give you in your room, in the big gray chair. I didn't put you in your crib though. Instead, I sat with you and we rocked. I kissed your nose and stroked your head and tried to whisper an entire day's worth of words to you. But the words kept getting stuck somewhere in my throat and instead I just looked at you, at the way that your extra long eyelashes fan out over your cheeks when your eyes are closed and the way that your hands never quite settle at your sides when I hold you, even when you're fast asleep. And I thought about dropping you off in the morning for your first day of daycare and the tears that clouded my eyes broke free and fell onto your fresh-from-the-bath hair.

And as I sit here and write this I picture you reading it when you're a little older, all lanky limbs and blond hair and blue, blue eyes filled with embarrassment and horror at the very thought of your mom crying over your tiny, four month old head. And since I'll always be honest with you, I'll tell you that a few months ago I could never imagine myself doing it either.

But now I'm a mom and what I know now is that moms cry. A lot.

For the first week of your life I cried every day as I held you and figured out how to do life with a baby. When you were six weeks old you smiled just at me for the very first time and my heart grew about eleven sizes and the tears just spilled over. When you were three months old we started sleep-training you and on the second night your Daddy was out and as you cried in your crib I sat on the couch and cried right along with you as I resisted the urge to run upstairs and pick you up and tell you that you never have to go to sleep ever again if you don't want to. And a few weeks ago you were strapped into your car-seat and I was playing with your toes and you looked at me and laughed your first laugh and my breath caught in my throat and the floodgates opened again.

God, I know. I'm really sorry about all of this kiddo, but you're stuck with me. Right after you were born the doctor bundled you up and handed you to me and your wide-open eyes looked into mine and I was exhausted and bewildered and wondering what in the world had just happened, but I knew then that I was yours and you were mine. In the middle of all the complexity on that early Tuesday morning in June, this one thing was simple.

Every morning when you wake up, I come get you out of your crib and you smile your biggest smile of the day and while I give you your bottle in the quiet house I wonder all kinds of things about you. I wonder what you'll like and what you won't, who you'll be when you grow up and what you'll want to do, and whether they're right when they say that little boys love their moms the best.

The truth is, I don't care about any of those things (except that one about little boys loving their moms best - I'm already sure they're right about that). I just hope you live your life with passion and purpose and do the things that bring you joy. I want you to become just who you are supposed to be, and the world needs whatever gifts you were meant to give. These things might not always be obvious to you and that's the way it's supposed to be. Trust yourself and the journey and you will find your way. You are exactly enough, and if you ever forget that, I promise to remind you.

You already love words and books and as a writer and life-long reader this makes me prouder than I have any right to be. I read you a book every night before you go to sleep and you like to grab a piece of my hair with one hand and the pages of the book with the other but as long as I'm reading you listen. I hope you always love books. Those pages can teach you and entertain you and transport you to far-off lands and take you on magical journeys. The characters you meet will become friends who can cheer you up when you're feeling down and keep you company when you feel like being quiet.

And speaking of quiet, there's something you should know. You might be the kind of person who loves people and crowds and parties and noise, and that's a wonderful thing. But in case you don't, you need to know that it's ok to be quiet too. There is a great power in the gift of quiet and if that gift is yours, don't be afraid to use it. Because when you give yourself the permission to be quiet, you can discover deep wells inside of yourself that you didn't know existed, and it is from these wells that your purpose may flow. There are many different kinds of power in this world. My greatest wish for you is that you use well the kind that you have been granted.

Above all else my sweet Will, know that you are loved, fiercely and without reservations. By me, by your dad, by the aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents who will always surround you. Let that unshakable love give you the courage and confidence to dream and to live your life with joy and a wide open heart.

With love as big as the sky,

Mom



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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dear Will - Three Months Old



Dear Will,

You are three months old today.

Everyone told me that three months is a big milestone, and as it turns out, everyone was right. Over the past week or so, you seem almost like a different baby to me. The tiny infant who slept all day and just woke up to eat is suddenly a sturdy baby who bats at toys, smiles all the time, and sees absolutely everything. Your big blue eyes are always open, always looking around, taking in this new world that you are just getting to know, claiming your little slice of it.

Just this week you started babbling to yourself. You talk and talk and smile and then look at me and laugh a little and then start all over again. I know that it's still awhile away, but I can already imagine those little babbles turning into real words and that startles me as much as it thrills me because it feels like time is flying by, faster and faster every day. Sometimes I feel a little manic, trying to memorialize all of your moments. Maybe it's the natural result of raising a baby in the age of Facebook and Instagram, but I sometimes feel like if there isn't a picture of it, then it must not have happened. But then I remind myself to put down the camera and really look at you because even though I might not remember every single little moment, I will never really forget these months, and how it was when you were a newborn baby and we were just getting to know each other and when you taught me how to be a mom.

And you are, you know. Teaching me. When you were born and they handed you to me I looked at you and in that moment I realized just how little I actually knew. In a single second I went from not-a-mom to a mom, and they were going to send me home with you and it was my job to figure out how to do it, and how daunting is that? But what I have learned over the past three months is that motherhood is not a one-sized-fits-all proposition. Every baby is different and every mother is different, and when I stop and watch and listen, you let me know exactly what you need.

It turns out that I am exactly what you need, and that surprises me more than anything. Because for all of the thinking and planing I did when we were waiting for you to get here, I wasn't sure if I was going to be any good at being a mom, or whether I would even like it. But as it turns out, I am, and I do. It was a little rocky at first, but I suspect that's the way it's supposed to be. And as we've settled in and started to figure each other out, I have started to think a lot about how it's going to be as you get older, and all the experiences I want you to have and the things that I want to show you. Hold on tight little babe, because I have big, big plans for us.

You might not believe it, but I am going back to work in about a month, and to be honest, I can hardly even imagine what it's going to be like. You don't know this, but once upon a time, as little as three months ago, I used to hop on a train to Manhattan every day to go be a lawyer. I worked until late at night and then I came home and your daddy and I would eat dinner and spend some time together and then we would go to sleep so we could do it all over again in the morning. Typing this as I watch you sleep next to me on the couch, that life feels utterly foreign to me. Like the lawyer in me has taken a backseat since the day you were born while I became a mom. And in a few short weeks I am going to have to drop you off at daycare and don my lawyer hat, and I'm not sure if I even know how to do that anymore. But there's time enough to figure all of that out. Because today, sitting with you, that day still seems like a long time away. There are still lots of hugs and snuggles and learning to be done before then, and we'll soak it all in, you and I.

It's a remarkable thing, really, to watch your baby get bigger. It's strange because in those first few weeks, caught in the newborn haze of diapers and feedings and sleepless nights, I forgot that you are not going to be small forever. That you are going to grow into a boy and one day, into a man, and it's my job to grow you up well. I want more than anything to get this right, and since you just woke up, looked at me, and smiled big, I think I've got a good start. We'll figure the rest out together.

Thanks for being mine, my sweet Will. I wouldn't have it any other way.

With love as big as the sky,

Mom

Previous Letters:

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Dear Will - Two Months Old

 

Dear Will,

What a difference a month makes, right?

Just four week ago when I wrote to you, I was staring at my computer screen through the tears of a new mother. The ones born of fear, worry, exhaustion, and the constant feeling that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Because I really didn't. You had just barreled into my life, and I found myself a little stunned by the speed at which everything changed. One second my life was one thing, and the next it was something else and I thought that maybe I was an entirely different person. I certainly didn't feel like the person I was on the day before you were born. And maybe that's the way it's supposed to be. I think it probably is. Because on the day you were born, I was born too, as a mother.

I think you spent an entire month with the top of your head wet with my tears. I'm really sorry about that. But a couple of weeks ago, something changed. I felt the undeniable shift deep within me. From fear to enjoyment. From anxiety to something resembling calm.

I think we're getting used to each other, you and I.

It started, I think, when you smiled for the first time a couple of weeks ago. You were laying on your changing table and I was talking to you and you looked at me and all of sudden your mouth curved up in a real and true smile. You are, I hope, going to smile millions of times during your life, but the first one was the most special of them all. And it unlocked something inside of me. Something that made me feel, maybe for the first time, that I'm doing this mothering thing right. That we are doing just fine.

Last week we took you to the Jersey Shore to Aunt Sara and Uncle James' beach house. On our first day there we took you to the beach in your stroller and the blue hat that I couldn't resist buying, and I dipped your feet in the ocean and in the sand. And the next morning while everyone was sleeping I took you back to the beach and we watched the sun rise over the water and it felt like we were the only two people in the world, you and me, in that moment when night became day.

And you won't remember that morning, but I will, and one day I'll tell you. I'll tell you about how you woke up at 5am and didn't want to go back to sleep after you ate. I'll tell you about how I wished that you would because I wanted to go back to sleep too. I'll tell you about how I laid you in your stroller and how we walked the one block to the beach under a sky that was just starting the lighten. I'll tell you about how I walk up the pathway leading to the beach and lifted you out of your stroller so we could watch the sun come up together. And I'll tell you about how glad I was that you didn't fall back to sleep after your bottle because I got to have that moment with you, in one of my favorite places, at the most magical time of day.

There is so much magic in the world, my sweet Will. And if I can teach you to embrace that magic, to find the things and the moments that give you joy, to return to them over and over again, I think I will have done my job right.

With love as big as the sky,

Mom



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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

First Smiles

A couple of weeks before Will was born I read an article in The Huffington Post called The Moment I Tell New Moms to Hang On For. It was written by my blogger friend Allison Slater Tate recalling the first six weeks of her first baby's life. She writes about all the change, and about the mixture of terror, exhaustion, excitement and confusion that the first weeks with a newborn bring. But, she tells new moms, wait for it. Because sometime in those first few bleary weeks your baby will smile at you for the very first time and it will cut through all the hard and the struggle and that will be the moment where you know that you are in love with this tiny creature.

I thought about that article a lot over the first six weeks of my baby's life. While I learned how to be a mother. While I wondered what it feels like when you really love your baby and whether maybe I was feeling it already and I didn't even realize it because it was all mixed in with exhaustion, diapers, bottles, baths, bedtime routines and tears, more mine than his.

But then it happened, just like Allison said it would. We were doing our regular 9am diaper change/getting dressed routine and he was wide awake. As I snapped up his clothes I noticed that he was looking at me. Not above me or somewhere beside or behind me, but right at me. So I looked back and there it was. His first real smile.

And in that moment, my world righted itself.

I have lived lifetimes in these past seven weeks. I still feel sometimes like I barely know anything at all, but what I do know for sure is this: being a mother is tough stuff. I am a different person than I was just a few weeks ago. Equal parts stronger and more fragile. Both more patient and less. More anxious. More tired. But what I also know now is that there is joy running underneath all of this complexity that seeps up and fills my cracks just exactly when I need it. Like when my baby smiles at me on an otherwise utterly ordinary morning.

Because that's not ordinary at all. That's magic.



Thursday, July 30, 2015

Dear Will - One Month Old




Will,

A few nights ago I was sitting in bed feeding you. It was very late at night, or very early in the morning, depending on how you you feel about 3am, and I was tired. I was so tired that as you ate I kept nodding off and even though we were perfectly safe in the middle of my big bed, I was terrified that if I fell asleep I would drop you and you would somehow end up on the floor. So I grabbed my phone and with my free hand I scrolled through my beloved Entertainment Weekly blogs to keep myself awake until you were done and I could put you safely back into your bassinet.

Motherhood, I'm learning, comes with a lot of unknown and a healthy dose of fear. Some of it rational and a lot of it far less so, but all of it of a kind that keeps me wide awake in the late night or early morning hours when I should be asleep, and falling asleep when I should be awake. My nights and days are flipped around now, as your are, and I can't shake the feeling that as you are learning how to do this whole life thing, I am learning it too, all over again.

I can barely summon the words to describe the past four weeks. As a writer, it is disconcerting to not be quite able to explain what has been the most transformative time period of my life, but as a human, this makes perfect sense to me.

A month ago you barreled into my life. One second you were an unknown, and the next, it was 4:17 am on a Tuesday and you were in my arms and very much real. There were some dicey moments that night, and it got scary and you had to be born really, really fast. But we did it and everything was fine and you were tiny and gorgeous and perfectly healthy, and suddenly everything was different.

I would be lying, though, if I said that this month has been all sunshine and rainbows. It hasn't. It has been hard and exhausting and overwhelming and I have spent a lot of it in tears. I think I have cried more than you have at this point, over everything and nothing at all. This is the part that no one talks about; the part that they don't show in the movies.

This is all wildly normal of course, and I sometimes can't even believe that they just let parents leave the hospital with a baby and without an instruction manual or something that tells us what to know and what to do and how to raise you up. Despite that, I think, one month in, that we are doing ok. You just went to the doctor and you have gained a lot of weight and are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing, and your daddy and I have started to feel the ground firm beneath our feet. Forgive us for all of the things that we get wrong as we learn our way. We are still learning, and we are trying our very, very best.

Know this, my sweet Will. We are so happy that you are here and that we are a family. It was just your daddy and me for a long while and now, with gratitude, we are three, and it is our joy to watch as you grow. We have been waiting for you.

With love as big as the sky,

Mom

Friday, July 24, 2015

Three Weeks In

For three weeks, we've been a family of three. In a way it seems like forever, and also two minutes that this tiny creature has been in our lives. The past three weeks have been a blur of feedings, diaper changes, snatches of sleep, tears (mine more than the baby's), and complex emotions. 

The day I got home from the hospital I was a soggy mess of hormones, anxiety, and utter terror that I had no idea how to be a parent to this brand new baby. I walked into my house to a kitchen table covered in baby clothes, cases of diapers and wipes in the middle of my living room, and a baby bath tub on the counter next to the kitchen sink. As my wild and exhausted eyes took in the chaos that had replaced my formerly organized house, it occurred to me that barely anyone talks about this part of becoming a mother.

They talk about the euphoria and the happiness and the oh my god you've never felt a love like this. And maybe some new mothers feel like that. But not everyone. So it hit me hard that first day home from the hospital that no one talks about the other side of becoming a mother. The fear and the confusion, the tears for every reason and no reason at all, the feeling that a torpedo just exploded in the center of your life, and the guilt that you are not positively over the moon about this baby that you wished for for such a long time and that sometimes, in your lowest moments, you wish just a tiny bit that you could reverse course and go back to the way things were. No one talks about these things. We should.

Honestly, I'm still sort of sorting through it all.

Thankfully, for me, all of this complexity has been interspersed with moments where I am in awe of what we have created, and grateful that this baby is here and that he is mine. And as we settle in and form some semblance of a routine and figure out how to be parents, every day I feel a little more like myself. A little happier. A little more normal even if that normal isn't the same as it used to be.

Since this blog is a time capsule of sorts, I feel strongly about documenting both sides of the story, especially now, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, here is a little snapshot of our first three weeks as parents, a terribly cute baby, and our brand new life that we are slowly learning to navigate.


















Tuesday, July 14, 2015

And Then There Were Three

 

With joy and immeasurably deep gratitude we welcome our son,

William Charles Merel ("Will").

June 30, 2015

6 lb, 3 oz.

19 1/2 inches.

And just like that, two became three.


The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of emotion, activity, and, more than anything else, wild and stunning change. We are all starting to settle into this new life of ours, and I am so happy to be back here to write it all. There are sundry stories in this change, and I want to tell them. 

But for now, for today, there is this. A tiny person starting to stir on his favorite perch - a blanket spread on the couch. He needs me. And I am here.

Friday, June 26, 2015

It Is So Ordered


"The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality. This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation. There is dignity in the bond between two men or two women who seek to marry and in their autonomy to make such profound choices...The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest. With that knowledge must come the recognition that laws excluding same-sex couples from the marriage right impose stigma and injury of the kind prohibited by our basic charter."
                                    -Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, Obergefell v. Hodges

There are a great many things to say about today's historic Supreme Court decision, which ruled that same sex marriage is legal nationwide. But for now there is just this. I am proud that the child I am expecting in just two weeks will be born into a country where love is love, and where on this day, equality wins.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Here We Are, Yet Again

Unless you have been living under a rock somewhere, you know that last Wednesday night a white man walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Downtown Charleston, South Carolina and, after sitting at the church's bible study for almost an hour, drew a gun and opened fire, killing nine people, including the church's pastor, the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney. Before pulling the trigger, the gunman was quoted as saying, "I have to do it. You rape our women and you're taking over our country. And you have to go."

And then, the floors of the historic church flowed with blood as nine people lay dead.

What happened last Wednesday night was terrorism. It was racial violence. It was a white man calmly and systematically slaughtering nine unarmed black men and women because of hate. It was a massacre of people simply because of their race, committed under a flag that stands as symbol for violence and racism and hate.

This is not an isolated incident to be thought of and dealt with in a vacuum. It is one more link in a chain of the horrifying racism that has pervaded this country since its inception and long before that. and it is violence of the worst kind, committed with a gun that the perpetrator received as a birthday present from his father, but that he could have bought legally in his home state without a licence or a background check, despite having an arrest record.

In his statement on the shooting, President Obama appeared resigned and exhausted, saying "I've had to make statements like this too many times" and that "at some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries."

And he is right. It doesn't. We live in one of the most prosperous countries in the world and yet there still exists a fierce and systemic racism, such that a white man feels justified walking into a black church and killing nine of its members. We are fortunate enough to live in a country where we can elect our leaders, and yet our leaders have yet to take a single meaningful step to stop gun violence, such that there have been more than twenty mass shootings in the six years and five months since Obama took office.

Almost three years ago, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting I wrote a piece on guns and freedom. A year ago, after another school shooting in Portland, Oregon, I re-posted it. And today, I am posting it today yet again, with sadness and with shame that we are living in a country where racial hatred goes unchecked and guns flood the streets.

We can do so much better. But the question now is, will we?

December 17, 2012 
Thoughts On Freedom And Sandy Hook Elementary 
I have so much to say. I don't know what to say. 
These seemingly incongruous thoughts have been the ones rushing through my head at equal turns since I first heard the news on Friday of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown. My first reaction to the early reports was disbelief. I was sure that the reports - conflicting as they were in those first hours - were mistaken. But as the death toll mounted, and more information was released, it was clear that they were not.
In rapid succession I traveled the stages of grief. For a long while on Friday night, I was stuck in depression. On my way home from work I read articles and looked at pictures of the kids caught in the middle of this terror, and my soul ached for the lives that were taken far before their time. I read testimonials from parents who dropped their kids off at school in the morning, secure in the belief that those kids would be safe. Those parents who spent hours caught in a nightmarish limbo, waiting to see whether their children were alive or dead. And my heart broke - for the parents whose children came back to them, and for the parents whose children never will.
And after depression came anger, and it is there that I stayed, and remain today. Angry at what, exactly, I am not sure. There are so many things. Angry at a God who would wrench the innocence from a school full of children. Angry at the shooter's mother, for teaching her son to love guns. For taking him to the shooting range and for sending the message that guns are toys to enjoy, rather than lethal weapons to fear. Angry at people who saw in the shooter signs of mental illness, yet did nothing. Angry that there are people in this country who believe that the Second Amendment affords them the right to own an assault rifle - a firearm capable of killing hundreds of people in seconds. Angry at the politicians who are too feeble to stand up to the NRA and pass laws to place reasonable restrictions on gun ownership. Angry at those who say that this is an inappropriate time to talk about gun control by spouting a bunch of nonsense about not politicizing a tragedy.
This is the perfect time. And you know when else would have been a perfect time? After thirty-two people were gunned down in 2007 on the Virginia Tech Campus. Or last year after Gabby Giffords was shot in the head - and six people were killed - outside a grocery store in Arizona during a meet and greet. Or after twelve people were killed in Aurora, Colorado this past summer during a midnight showing of Batman. Or after the Kansas City Chiefs linebacker shot and killed his girlfriend and then himself earlier this month. Or after a gunman killed two people during a mass shooting at an Oregon mall just last week. Last. Week. Two mass shootings in a single week.
Honestly, if I hear the phrase "guns don't kill people, people kill people" one more time, I am likely to commit an act of violence myself.
Last week after that Chiefs linebacker shot and killed his girlfriend and then himself NBC's Bob Costas spoke out in favor of gun control. And he was berated for expressing his opinions so soon after the event took place. Well. If a conversation about rational gun control laws in this country is politicizing these unspeakable tragedies, then I say politicize away. That conversation has to start somewhere, sometime, because we can't continue down this path anymore.
Lets start with the facts. An op-ed in Saturday's New York Times laid them out all nice and neat. Countries that have strict gun control laws are safer than the ones that don't. Children aged 5-14 in America are 13 times more likely to be killed by a gun than in any other country in the industrialized world. In the United States, firearms kill one person every twenty minutes, or approximately 30,000 people per year. More Americans die in gun deaths in six months then have died in the last 25 years in every terrorist attack on American soil and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, combined.
So. You want to own guns. You want to hunt, and you want to protect yourself and your family. You want to pass along this heritage to your children. And you believe - and will defend to the literal death - that the Second Amendment affords you this right. And maybe it does. Reasonable minds may differ. But the intent of the founding fathers certainly was not that the citizens of this country arm themselves with assault rifles similar to those used by our soldiers in combat. And to allow those weapons to be purchased without so much as a background check.
I have been a student of Constitutional Law, and time after time my professors drilled into my head the ideology behind individual freedoms, and when it is just and acceptable for limits to be placed on those freedoms. We are given the freedom of speech until our words will create a clear and present danger, incite immediate violence, or would interfere with a legitimate government interest. We have freedom of religion unless that religion practices human sacrifice, or it means children will die because their parents refuse to give them medicine to treat common illnesses. We have the freedom to peaceably assemble, but cities are still permitted to place reasonable restrictions on the time, place and manner of assembly to keep the peace and maintain public spaces.
Cars can be dangerous, so state legislatures pass laws to make them safer. There are tests to pass before a drivers license can be issued, seat belt laws, speed limits, and laws prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving. OSHA has five pages of laws relating to the use of ladders. School buildings must meet certain safety codes, and cafeteria food is regulated to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. For heaven's sake, even toy guns are regulated by requiring orange tips, so as not to mistake a toy gun for a real gun. But we can't get together and pass reasonable restrictions on actual gun ownership?
Every freedom has its limits. This is the price we pay for living in a civilized society. So I have a really hard time understanding why the pro-gun lobby thinks that the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms is the only freedom we are afforded as Americans that should be virtually limitless.
Look, we don't want your guns, we really don't, as long as you buy them legally and own them safely. We might not like it, but it's really not up to us to judge. But it should be a little harder to get a gun, to reduce the risk of these kinds of mass shootings becoming even more commonplace than they already are. Like instituting waiting periods and background checks. Or restricting the sale of certain kinds of ammunition to reduce the number of people who can be killed with a single cartridge. Or banning assault rifles. These are measures that have already been taken in other countries that have dramatically reduced the volume of gun deaths. It's time to take those steps in this country too.
You want to own guns? Fine. Own them. But you better make damn sure that your freedom to own those guns doesn't infringe on our freedom to stay alive while watching a movie, shopping at a mall, going to school, and walking the streets.
Oh but wait, it already has. Because this morning, as parents all over the country drove their children to school, they did so filled with an unspeakable fear. Fear that their children are no longer safe in the one place they should be the safest. Fear that when they hugged their children goodbye it might be the last time. And you can bet that there are some parents who kept their children home today. Or picked them up early on Friday. And because there are twenty families in a town only forty miles from where I sit right now that are planning funerals for first graders. Planning funerals. For first graders. Let that sink in, and then try and tell me that unlimited gun ownership under the Second Amendment is a freedom to be celebrated.
My heart is aching for the twenty families who lost children, the six other families who lost loved ones, and an entire community that has been ripped apart at the seams. But grief and thoughts and prayers simply are not enough. Not this time. Now is the time for action. For writing our elected representatives to tell them that we have had enough. For pushing back when the NRA touts gun ownership as a reasonable means of protection. For keeping assault rifles out of the hands of anyone who is not a soldier on the front lines defending this country from its enemies.
We will never get all the guns back, but as members of a civilized society, it is time to take action. It is time for change. And it is our patriotic duty as Americans to ensure that change comes sooner, rather than later.
We owe it to those twenty children and their families. We owe it to ourselves and our families.
Now is the time for action.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ready or Not

The clutter had been bothering me for weeks. Months, even. If you want to get technical about it, it had actually been bothering me since the week we moved into our house almost three years ago. That week where I unpacked boxes, putting away stuff that we use and wear all the time in its proper place, and tossing everything else into empty closets and drawers in spare rooms that I quickly designated as "someday." 

Most of the time I didn't think about closets and drawers filled with clothes that neither of us wore or boxes I never quite figured out what to do with but when I did my fingers got itchy and I started thinking about all the things I could do with the space but I could never figure out where to start so I ended up starting nowhere and doing something else instead, like binge watching all five seasons of Friday Night Lights, or re-reading my favorite romance novel for the tenth time.

One weekend this past October I dug in and transformed the useless room downstairs into a home office, but that was about as far as I got, until last weekend.

I have been spending some time over the past couple of weeks making lists of all of the things that we'll need for the baby - things like clothes and diapers and wipes and bottles and receiving blankets and a million other things that I probably haven't thought of yet. 

Thinking about all the new stuff that we have to bring into the house made me anxious enough to remember all the stuff that is currently in the house that we don't need or use, and was enough to send me diving into those long-forgotten closets and drawers, making frantic piles of clothes to give and throw away, and using enough Stop and Shop brand heavy duty trash bags to make me wish I owned stock in the company.



On Sunday I took thirty bags to Goodwill to donate, and came home to a house that was as clutter free and as organized as mine has ever been. I sat my pregnancy-afflicted aching back on the couch, determined to do as little as possible for the rest of the day, and it occurred to me that it was a good thing I got this all taken care of, because my due date was about three weeks away.

And how the hell did that happen?

Somewhere between doctor's appointments, and my disappearing feet, and my inability to bend over and the frenzy to get everything done at work before I go out on leave and the end of my morning commute, April turned into June and then all of a sudden June is half over and the big event seems like it's minutes away.

And while practically, the end of the aforementioned back pain and inability to bend over or to sleep for more than an hour at a time or to turn over in bed without assistance makes me pretty happy, in actuality, the haste with which time is passing leaves me a little breathless. I feel unprepared. Like I am hurtling at full speed down a highway without directions and with no idea what awaits me at my destination or even, actually, what my destination is.

With three weeks to go I have this overwhelming urge to memorialize this slice of time. To somehow document the things that I am feeling and thinking in the short days before my world changes and cracks opens to welcome another human into it. Before everything is different. Before I become a mother.

But the truth is, I can't seem to grab on to any singular thought or feeling long enough to give it a name and put it into words. I suspect that one day, with the privilege of time and a little distance, I'll be able to look back on these weeks "before" with a little more clarity and some understanding, but today, it all seems to be packed tightly together and lodged somewhere deep inside of me, held down by the frenzy to prepare for the unknown and the stroller and carseat currently sitting in two massive boxes in my living room.

I also suspect that the way I feel is blessedly normal, and aside from the quick and intense desires to clean out a closet or organize a drawer, I have been spending these last few weeks enjoying the summer and doing the things that I do best: reading my books, watching lots of TV, baking my way through Smitten Kitchen's archive of desserts, and eating the delicious results.

Because ultimately, though all this newness is big and intimidating and coming faster than I ever could have imagined it would, it is a brand new chapter that we wanted and hoped for and waited for for a long time. And even though we have no idea what we're in for or what we're doing, we are determined to get this right, this making of a family, to be good at it, to enjoy it, and to figure it out together as we go.

And it's a good thing.

Because ready or not, here it comes.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Last Commute


This morning was my last train commute to work in Manhattan until I go back to work after my maternity leave. I'll still be working for the next six or so weeks - as long as I possibly can - but I'll be driving into the city and parking across the street from my office instead of taking the train. With all the stairs and the walking and the rushing and the muggy, hot mornings, I knew that the closer I got to July the harder it would be to make myself do it every day, and since Metro North commuting means making decisions for an entire month at a time, today was it for me.

So, on Monday morning, instead of waiting on the platform for the 7:43 train to Manhattan I'll be, more than likely, fighting traffic on the West Side Highway to make my way into midtown. And instead of sitting in my regular first row seat in the quiet car, book in hand, I'll be sitting in the drivers seat of my car with the radio turned up.


I've been pregnant now for 34 weeks and obviously, it's not something that one easily forgets about when they are literally growing a person inside of them. We've met pediatricians, gone shopping to pick a stroller and a car-seat and something for the baby to sleep in for those first couple of weeks, decided which room in our house we'll eventually convert to a nursery, and even talked about which one of us is better suited for 4am feedings.

So it's not like we are entirely unprepared for this thing that is happening.

And yet, this morning, when I got on the train, I had this moment. This moment where I remembered that this is the last time I'll be getting on the morning train until sometime around the beginning of November, and it stopped me cold. Because I'm someone who has never excelled at change, and it hit me that my life is about to change in the biggest and most dramatic way possible.

And it made me wonder. what will happen when this kind of change - stunning and irreversible as it is - steamrolls into my life? Will I roll with it and take it as it comes? Struggle to adjust to a new normal?  Mourn, just a little, the life that I am leaving behind? 

I know myself well enough at this point to understand that it will probably be a little bit of all three. And I've decided it's ok. It's ok to have no idea what I'm doing. To worry about raising a tiny human. To wonder if I'll be good at it. To obsess a little over the details of it all. To miss the part of my life that ends while a new one begins.

I think that there is no right way to do this, to become a parent, and the only way is to do the best that I can.

So on Monday morning I'll get in my car and I'll point it south and I'll drive to Manhattan. And when I do I won't just be going to work, but starting the first slow steps into the newness and unknown that stretches out ahead.