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“You can make anything by writing.” ― C.S. Lewis

Posts for Friends Family Category

A Two Year Letter to My Daughter

[previously in this series…]

Two years seems like such a short amount of time. It feels such an eternity, Ariadne, that we’ve had you with us. It’s hard to remember what life was like before you came along – I know your papa and I had many long years together, before you,  and that two years is only a drop in the hat of time we are all going to have together. But I have to keep pinching myself, thinking, has it been two years since my little baby was born, already? And then in the next moment, has it only been two years? Hasn’t it been a century of our little family, together?

A year ago, back when I was filled with New Mom Woe at the idea of my little baby turning a year old, not so baby anymore, growing, grown, practically a teenager already, college on the horizon – your aunties Emi and Lizzie told me, oh, but that one-year old age is such a fun age. It’s so great. They’re like little monkeys, they can play and explore but they still need mama, they’re still babies.

At the time, I didn’t believe them, or I didn’t want to believe them. I knew every age with you would be precious, unique in its own ways – but that baby stage is so magical. It’s so hard to let go of. It’s why we keep having babies, to try and reclaim that sweetness and that innocence and that magic, just one more time. I didn’t believe toddlerhood could be as magical as babydom – but it has been. Emi and Lizzie, of course, have been so right. One-into-two years old has been such a blessing and a joy with you, my darling.

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You are my little monkey girl, my little angel babe, my faerie mae. You are my goblin child, you are all sweetness and light. You are absolutely my bestest best friend, and I delight in our time together. Since you were born, you have given me this drive – this personal urging to be better and do better, and lately, that driven has manifested itself as a pull to be present. To see the world with wonder, as your eyes do – or to at least be open to it. To be as delighted watching Coco for the fortieth time, like you are – even if, from my perspective, I’m just delighted to be holding your plump little body, warm and fresh from the bath, your candy floss, baby-bird-wing-soft blonde hair still damp and drying in long strands down your back.

Thank you for all you have taught me, in the past two years. Thank you for reminding me that the Now is where we are meant to live, and not in the regrets of the Past, and not in the worries of the Future. Thank you for reminding me to slow down, that having a routine is good — but it’s not necessary to force ourselves to stick so strictly to a schedule. Thank you for refreshing my world view — for reminding me how magical it is to see new things. Thank you for helping me appreciate the sky and choo-choo trains and the feel of grass under our feet and the wind in our hair. Thank you for making me see lovely things about my own self — because I see the same things and admire them in you. Thank you for teaching me to love myself radically, even when that seems like the absolute hardest thing to do — because I want you to grow up loving yourself, and never be plagued with the self-doubt and body hate that troubles me and so many of my lady friends. Thank you for making me strong — thank you for being the reason I’m learning to make harder decisions, push to create boundaries or change situations. Thank you for being the reason I am trying to learn to be a fighter — so I can stand up for you, for us, for anyone vulnerable — and teach you to do the same. Thank you, above all, for the sweet love you bring to my daily life — thank you for the kisses, and the way you grasp my shirt like you cannot be parted from me, the way you light up and do a little dance-dance when you see me for the first time after a long time away. Thank you for needing me — at least right now, at this young age — as desperately as I need you. Thank you for the healing you have brought me, thank you for the peace I feel in my soul when I hold you in those quiet evenings.

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Sehnsucht.

[sehnsucht]

I am going on a journey.

I’m taking a trip back in time. I am packing for me, my husband, and our toddler. We are loading up the car, and we are traveling back to a time and place when things were simpler – or at least seemed that way. I am thirty years old, and in a week, I will be thirty-one; but for this one trip, I get to go back and live in the past – be myself at 8 and 11 and 14 and 21. The past whispers to me, as we settle in the car and get on the road, following the lane markers up the interstate on this drive I have made a thousand times before. I feel all those memories, all the laughter and the mistakes and and the misunderstandings, brushing against me like the wind. Our history can be such a palpable place, just stepping foot in a building can bring back this oppressive feeling of presence, of a time gone by, of people who were once here, once important to us, and now are gone.

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Talking about family is difficult for me.

When I was younger, I thought my family was perfect. Spunky and a little loud and a little odd, but in all the best ways. When I was older, teenage years, early twenties, I thought my family was unconventional, maybe dysfunctional; but all the better for it.

In my mid-twenties, I thought the very existence of my family would crack me apart, from the inside, a great splintering, a great shattering. I wasn’t supposed to talk about it much, then, and I’m not really supposed to talk about it much now, for convention’s sake, for manners’ sake. So I don’t.

At thirty, I have decided family are the people we choose to be close to us, the people who may not always be related by blood, but have proven they will cherish us, and protect us. My chosen family is no less holy and divine simply because we are all friends who grew up in complicated families, with loss, with disappointment, with hurt and battered feelings. We are closer for it, because we know what it means to lose the familial ties, those traditional roles. We know what it is to be envious of a family whole, with two parents and siblings who get along, and grandparents and aunties and uncles who treasure your precious self, just as you are. We try to be that, for each other.

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An 18-Month Letter to My Daughter

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[previously in this series…]

Dear Ariadne,

I told myself I wouldn’t have to write another letter to you until your second birthday. That seemed like a relief, at first—sometimes I am amazed at myself, managing to write a letter each month of your first year. I’m glad I did, it was worth the effort – already, once or twice, I have enjoyed going back and rereading, reminding myself what life with you was like at two months, at six, at nine. You have changed so quickly, the weeks and months fly by – and it’s nice to remember days when we just cuddled, or you sat still(!!) in my lap. But still – finding the time each month was difficult, making the effort to pull together words and phrases that remotely captured what it’s like to be your mom. I felt relieved to think I’d cut it down to once a year, a letter for each birthday.

And here we are – I’m writing you an 18 month, year-and-a-half letter.

I can’t help it! You, my darling Ari, are too fun and too silly and too loving and too precious not to take a few minutes to try and capture what life with you is like, right now. You’ve changed so much from 12 months, a year old – already, only 6 months later, I look at pictures of you from your first birthday, and think, she’s so little, her hair is so short compared to now, she’s changed so much, already!

I think I had feared, like most first-time moms, that moving out of that baby stage and into the toddler phase would mean losing some of the specialness of our bond. Having a baby is so soft and sweet and lovely – sure, messy as well, sleepless often, stressful, definitely – but cuddling your baby, knowing you the mama are the thing a baby needs most – it makes mamas feel so special and so unique and so needed, so necessary. The older you get, the more superfluous I will become, it seemed like – the less you will physically need me, maybe the less you might need me, period. It’s a silly worry, I know – I am thirty-nearly-thirty-one years old, and I still need my mama, all the time. But you are so precious to me, I always want to be your best friend.

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But happily – so happily – this second year has begun so wonderfully, and has been just as fulfilling, emotionally and spiritually, as your first. Friends had told me one-year-olds are a delightful mix of baby and child, and it’s so true. You have your toddler moments, sure, you’ve learned to arch your back and go limp everywhere except your kicking little feet, you whine when you don’t immediately get your way – but for the most part, you are such a happy, joyful little girl. Every day with you is so entertaining and funny and tender and sweet.

At 18 months, you are brimming with personality. You’ve learned people think you’re funny, or cute, and you like to ham it up. You give Sylvie Ann so many kisses, and then grin at the adults. See how sweet I am? You have this bashful little grin, and you duck your head into my shoulder if I’m holding you, or press yourself into my legs if you’re standing near me. Shy, sometimes – but so sweet when you are. And among friends, family – you are a firecracker. You crawl in your little shark tent at Marmee’s and hide, and shriek when you’re spotted. You chase Ziggy and Kitty and Alice Kitty and Big Kitty Boi, out of an earnest desire to love them, pet them, play with them! You’ve followed Alice and Big Kitty Boi all over Marmee’s yard, chirruping and singing to them, trying to get close enough to touch.

Friday.

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Birthing Ariadne, Part Six: Reflection

PART SIX: REFLECTION

There were so many parts of this birth story that were hard to write — and this final section has become one of the hardest. The truth is my feelings on my birth change, sometimes from day to day — depending on how I feel, my general mental health, what kind of comment someone has made lately. Every other post in this series has been 90% ready to go for weeks — but I keep coming back to this one. I keep feeling like I haven’t said enough, or I haven’t said what I meant clearly, or that there’s another message or lesson I need to explore.

Months have passed since I gave birth to Ariadne. Although I began writing her birth story the first week we came home, as I am finishing it, her first birthday is on the horizon. Before I had my own baby, I wondered why mothers waited so long to share their birth stories. Weren’t they burning to share their experiences, their joys and pain? Now, I understand. Now, I realize what a transformative, life-changing experience birth is, whether it happens perfectly as desired, or is massively derailed. It’s not so easily tossed out for the world to digest – sharing your birth story is incredibly overpowering, intensely vulnerable.

I found, the deeper I got into my birth story, the more confusion I felt. Even in the first weeks home, I was moved to tears – sobbing tears, neither wholly of pain nor of joy – when looking at pictures from our days at the birth center, when trying to put into words the huge wealth of emotions I felt that week. My birth struck me as a many-layered experience. Parts of it were painful in the extreme, both physically and emotionally. Parts of it were beautiful, spiritual, and empowering, despite the frustrations. I struggled – do struggle still – how to make peace with this juxtaposition, this dichotomy of the two very different sides to my birth that somehow inhabit the same space of my heart.

Even just writing my birth story forced me to face the parts of my birth that I found painful, disappointing – even traumatic. Writing this has been a form of therapy, certainly – but there were times I did not feel up to the task of working through the disappointment, doubt, and guilt that I felt during that week, and have felt from time to time since. The idea of sharing my birth story makes me feel intensely vulnerable. Giving birth is both the most vulnerable and empowering time of a mother’s life, and sharing our weakest and strongest moments takes a lot of guts, and a lot of strength.

I confess that I delayed writing and sharing this post, because at times, I feared people would judge me. Directly after my birth, I did not feel much doubt about the decisions I’d made. At that point – the aftermath was still very evident, from the huge bruises on my arms to my hideous feet still grotesquely swollen from the magnesium to the follow-up doctor’s appointments to make sure my blood pressure came down and stayed down, and that I remained out of danger for a stroke or seizure. It was easier to take the danger of my ill health seriously, in the first weeks after I gave birth. The scariest moments, the biggest risks and dangers had left their mark on me, physically, and they were not easy to forget, at first. For a few weeks, I continued to feel justified in every decision I had made, because the evidence of their necessity was printed on my skin.

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Birthing Ariadne, Part Five: Postpartum

[part four]

PART FIVE: POSTPARTUM

While I had been finishing up in surgery, Shaun had gone with our daughter back to the birth center. While Kristin stayed in surgery with me, Nurse K helped Shaun to do some skin-to-skin of his own with our daughter Ariadne in a quiet room. He sang to her and held her all alone for a good fifteen minutes, and I’m so grateful he got to have that time as well. Skin-to-skin promotes bonding between baby and parents, and it was important to us that both Shaun and I got to experience that.

After his alone time, he and Nurse K took her to the nursery, and my mama, Laureny, Jeannie, and Emi got to see her for the first time. Everyone was both in tears but also couldn’t stop smiling, watching Shaun bring her close to the windows so everyone could see her. He sang to her as he held her, then they got her a cap and a blanket before returning her to me in the recovery area.

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When I returned from the recovery room with Ariadne, they had moved us into a different birth suite for some reason – I’m not really sure why. I don’t know if that’s standard procedure for after C-sections when rooms are available, or what. (There had been a lot of construction in a hallway just outside my room too, drapes and drills and ladders, maybe that had something to do with it too.) For whatever reason, when they wheeled me back to a new room, the change felt nice. The other room had become a place of strain and worry, and this new room was a place of joy and ease.

One of my biggest regrets about how my birth ended up was this time back in the room. Not that it was bad – but at this point, I was exhausted and doped up on pain medicines. I wish I had been a bit more clear-headed for my daughter’s first few hours earthside, I wish I had had that rush of adrenaline that comes with a natural birth.

As it was, I was pretty out of it. Yet again, I kept passing out, often in the middle of sentences. I had my daughter on my chest, with my friends and family gathered around, glowing, beaming, looking at her – I remember Laureny’s face in particular, the sunlight from the window framed her face in a sort of halo, and she beamed at my daughter and me – and I kept ordering myself to stay awake, but was drifting in and out. Still, Laureny and Emi and Jeannie and Mama all cooed and awed over my daughter’s little pointed elf ears, her head of hair, her dark serious eyes. Even from her first few minutes and hours on earth, Ariadne was such an alert and aware baby, looking at everyone, taking them all in, seeing and learning her grandmother and her aunties, her mama and papa.

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