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

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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 Three: An Agonizing Decision

[part two]

PART THREE: AN AGONIZING DECISION

During that long night, a few things started to worsen in my condition — not terrible things, but small little warning signs. My urine output had gone down, they’d been monitoring it all night as it can be a sign of kidneys shutting down, and mine had lessened in the wee hours of the morning. I’d also developed a headache — another symptom of preeclampsia.

Around seven AM, my nurse T was off duty and she brought in a new nurse, K, to give her report on me. Listening to the long list of what was happening to me and what they were doing about felt a bit discouraging again, particularly when T looked over at me and asked, is there anything I’m forgetting? I mentioned the headache, and the nurses told me they’d get me some Tylenol to help.

Now that I had had Nurse T for a 12-hour shift, I was attached to her similar to the way I’d been attached to Kristin the day before. You never know with nurses, I’ve found they either tend to be super wonderful, or super frustrating. I’d tried really hard all night to be super positive and friendly and polite with any of the nurses who checked on me — as much as I could, out loud, even I was feeling grumpy inside. So far, I’d had excellent experiences. I was nervous to be meeting a new one — but K was absolutely fabulous, and played a huge part in my birth experience that day and the next.

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Humility.

I love my daughter more than anything else in this world, and I would do anything for her – and sometimes, I’ve learned, that anything I’ve promised to do is to humble myself and ask for help, to take an action I don’t necessarily want to take but become aware I need to take.

Motherhood teaches us humility in a variety of ways. Sometimes, we learn humility when we have baby puke or baby poop on our hands and clothes, and we can’t clean it off us until we take care of our child first. Sometimes, we learn humility when our child is having an epic meltdown in the grocery store and everyone is staring and we have to just patiently pass items onto the conveyor belt to get the shopping over and done with so we can get the screaming child out of there. Sometimes, we learn humility because we have a plan in place – a mothering plan, a parenting plan – and we are physically incapable of following through with it.

The last one? That’s me. That’s the lesson I’ve learned over and over again since I’ve become a mother. It’s apparently the lesson I need to learn the most, because it keeps coming back and reminding me I haven’t studied hard enough yet.

I’ve said this before – if sheer force of will were enough to get things done, I would never be behind. I would always have my ducks in a row. My spirit is always willing, but the flesh is weak. Or, perhaps more aptly – there’s just a world outside my stubborn, strong-willed self. There are other people in the equation. There are jobs and obligations and traffic and people whose priorities are not my priorities, and visa versa. I have a will, and I am determined to find a way – and the truth is, that lesson that I have to learn over and over again – is that just because I want make something happen a certain way doesn’t mean it’s going to happen that way. I can fight and fight the inevitable outcome as hard as I want – I will eventually have to humble myself and learn the lesson.

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A Mother’s Blessing

We had all had rough days.

Some of us had had rough weeks, some of us were ill or in pain, or had emotional issues troubling us.

When I first realized this, getting ready in our bedroom in the early evening, I — of course — worried. Worried that we would all be too tired to enjoy ourselves. Worried that my dear ones had stressed themselves out, trying to pull together this Blessingway in my honor. Worried that our hearts would be in the right place but our bodies might not cooperate.

I dried my hair, and after I finished, I heard car doors slam shut outside. My girls were here. I didn’t bother with mascara — I knew there would be some sort of tears at some point in the evening; tears of emotion or joy or laughter or overwhelmed gratitude. I threw on the dress I’d worn for maternity pictures, earlier in the week, figuring I might as well get some more use out of it than just that one single occasion, and then I headed out the front door to the front porch.

Already, my ladies had hung a bright tie-dyed sheet of Lauren’s, blocking most of the party space from view. They would allow me behind it, but they wouldn’t let me help with anything, so I decided to park it in a chair outside the curtain and let myself be surprised when they’d finished setting up completely.

I didn’t feel great, I’ll admit it. I’d had an emotional day, more stress than I’d expected, and my hormones ready and rarring to escalate every emotion to its highest level, even when it wasn’t called for. Physically, I had pushed myself a bit farther than I should have. My back was killing me, my carpal tunnel was causing both my hands to ache, and my poor pregnant feet were certainly reacting to doing chores all day and the summer heat. Worst — my Braxton Hicks contractions were really amped up that evening — I was trying to catch up on my hydration, and sit still to let my body rest — but they were intense, and frequent. Not regular, or painful — never quite enough to make me actually worry about actual labor — but close enough that one or two times throughout the evening, I had an inward moment of, if this keeps up, we might turn this Blessingway into a Birthingway. (Luckily, that didn’t end up happening, and at the end of the night, with plenty of water and my feet propped up, everything returned to normal.)

So I sat, and listened as my friends called to each other, working together to transform the porch into a little wonderland for a few hours. Lauren turned on some music and it spilled out into the evening air.

Suddenly, I felt a sense of peace wash over me. Whatever I had been upset about all day, whatever I apprehension I had for the evening’s festivities — it all faded away. The sun was not yet quite beginning to set, but the hour drew nearer. Beyond the porch and the trees of the neighborhood, the sky flared from blue to rose and amber, and the last of the afternoon sunlight cut angles across the porch, shining through that tie-dye sheet. Suddenly, everything felt exactly as it should. I was happy to be there, happy to have my girls there to celebrate with me. Happy to have my husband inside enjoying some dude time, happiest of all to have my daughter kicking and wiggling in my belly as I waited.

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A Letter to My Daughter

Dear Ariadne* –

Later, when you’re older, when you know me better as a person and not just as a spirit, your first home as you do now – you’re gonna hear that I had a hard time talking about you at first, and you’re going to think that’s insane. You’re going to think, Mama never shuts up. Mama never stops talking. Mama has advice and a story for every situation, there’s no way she could possibly have ever felt tongue-tied or at a loss for words. Hopefully, by the time you’re old enough to read and understand this, you’ll know that you, above all other things that exist in this universe, I could go on and on and on about you, that I will never ever stop talking about how wonderful you are – and so you’ll find it strange that before you arrived earthside, I struggled to talk about you.

It’s baffled me too. You, whom I wanted for so long. You, whom I have dreamed about for years. You, who every day grows stronger and bigger and more of a real person, a real little human, and less of a dream in the corner of my heart. Why is it that I clam up when it comes to expressing how I feel about you? Why is it that I want and I want and I want to write to you, and I barely can? Rarely, and even then, only with great effort and gentle cajoling.

I thought about it some, this past week or two. I thought about why. The truth is, all along, since your daddy and I found out we were expecting you – when I tried to think about writing to you, I felt this great, immeasurable, flood of nameless emotion. I call it nameless because it was too many things at once. Too many feelings to name, too much intensity to bear witness to for more than the few seconds I considered expressing all that, and then rejected it because it seemed too hard.

Me, who never has a problem expressing my feelings. This is me — and maybe I don’t have a ton of practical talents, but one of the few is definitely giving voice to emotion, to expressing not just how I feel but how other people feel. Capturing the intangible and leashing it down with specific phrases and examples. This is what I do, this is who I am – I talk about life and love and sorrow and joy and I find a way to express that which others struggle to.

And yet – when it comes to you, my darling, I often find myself at a loss for words. Because how do I express even the idea of you? I anticipated you and wanted you for so long, and then for so long I feared I wouldn’t ever get you. I still fear it, sometimes. I still sometimes think that you aren’t real, that this is a joke. That someone, at some point – the instant I really believe in you – will tell me I’m mistaken. Despite this big belly, the way you dance and wiggle all day long, making my stomach jump and twitch; despite hearing your strong, steady heartbeat week after week at the midwife’s, seeing your little face on a sonogram screen – I’m still scared someone will take you away from me. I’m scared to love you, because I’m afraid the instant I truly believe I am being gifted this opportunity to be a mother, that I am being trusted to bring you into this world – you will be taken away from me.

But week after week, we carry on. We are steady together, you and I. I jump at every chance to freak out. Little worries flit into my brain and dig themselves deep there, and blossom as little sprouts of anxiety. Yet we have been so lucky, so healthy, as I said – so steady. We have had almost nothing to worry about, really and truly. I can come up with one hundred thousand remote possibilities to worry about; if and it could happen – just ask your daddy and your Auntie Emi and your Auntie Laureny, bless them, who have had to talk me down off the ledge more than once. But those fears never ripen, they never come to fruition.

And so here we are, sitting pretty at 35 weeks. You have made my belly round and taut, and it pokes out of my tank tops and shorts at night. You kick and wiggle all day long, today you squirmed so much that I had difficulty eating my lunch, I could barely lean over to dip the spoon in the bowl because you wouldn’t stop moving.

Last week, at our midwife appointment, Candie said, we just want to keep her in there for at least two more weeks, but after that – if she does come, the efforts to stop labor are more invasive than the risks of letting her coming. Meaning – although we plan to let you cook up until 42 weeks if you’re happy and content and Candie’s fine with it – that in as few as two weeks (now one) – you could feasibly be with us.

Every day that passes, you are stronger and your brain is bigger and your lungs are heartier. Every day and week that passes from this point, you are more and more likely to be just fine, no issues, if you were born. Two weeks from when I’m writing this, you’re considered full term.

More often these days, my focus is on the reality of you. For all I have ordered you nursery furniture and washed all your little clothes and folded them, for all your baskets packed with socks and headbands and wash cloths – for all that work I have done, you have not seemed real. And now, with as few as two and at most, eh, sevenish weeks left – I must accept – you are real. You are happening. You are coming, and you are going to be our daughter.

There are a hundred million things I’d like you to know. There are a hundred million truths and lessons and kindnesses I’d like you to learn and experience. Sometimes, I worry more about how I am going to teach you about the goodness of the world despite its harshness than I worry about any other practical matter.

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