Friday, December 30, 2011

Newborn nostalgia (aka the lies we tell ourselves)

It wasn’t so long ago that I was the clueless mama of a newborn baby boy.

But it’s been long enough that I look back on those days with the sepia-toned lens of nostalgia—one not covered with spit up or smeared with overflow from a leaky diaper.

In other words, my memories of that time are filtered through a thick layer of bullshit.

See for yourself:
B.S. Mirror: From the moment I found out I was pregnant I felt glowing and embraced the life that was growing inside of me. Yes, there were aches and pains; some discomfort, but it was all going to be worth it in just 40 short weeks.

Reality check: Pregnancy sucked. I was bloated and tired. I worried constantly that I was not caring for this child enough to make a perfect human being. He broke my ribs. He dislocated my pelvis. I was In constant pain but refused to let anyone know. 40 weeks is BULLSHIT. K arrived after 42 weeks of torture.

B.S. Mirror: January 12 is going to be my big day, when I can finally rid of this physical burden on my body. I will be able to move again. My perfect delivery is within sight. This is what we have been waiting for. The pain wasn't so bad. And after all, this perfect human is worth it.

Reality check: My unmedicated delivery hurt like a mother-fucker. My husband did not watch in admiration and love; he was too busy playing on his PSP. K ripped apart my undercarriage to the tune of 53 unmedicated stitches.

When I arrived home with my not-so-cute screaming bundle of joy I did get normalcy back. In fact it was too normal. Vacuuming and entertaining just 12 short hours after K butchered his way into the world. I wanted everything back to my pre-baby honeymoon with dear husband also. So much so that, I ignored the advice and pleas of my midwife to stop causing her to redo stitches.

B.S. Mirror: I see myself cuddling under a blanket on the couch, my son snuggled on my chest. I smooth the downy peach fuzz away from his face and smile, feeling strangely complete as we both drift into sleep.

Reality Check: I am exhausted. I haven’t had more than two hours of sleep in seven weeks. My back hurts. My boobs hurt. I want nothing more than to escape back to my childless days for a little while—just long enough to get a few precious hours of shut eye.

Deciding to ignore all the warnings about the dangers of sleeping with your child, I collapse on the couch, willing myself into unconsciousness. But when I do finally fall asleep, I dream I’m smothering my son and jerk myself awake—feeling even worse than I did before.

B.S. Mirror: I am strolling down the street on a breezy spring morning, my son gurgling happily in his stroller. I chat with him as we walk, pointing out the trees waving in the wind, the puffy clouds in the sky and the brightly colored flowers blooming along the sidewalk. There is no place I’d rather be.

Reality Check: I am walking briskly down the street with my son thrown into his stroller. It’s only after we’ve walked for 15 minutes that his hiccupping sobs finally quiet.

Although I feel like an absolute idiot, I dutifully keep a running dialog going as we go. Why? Well, I’m afraid the Parenting Gods will strike me down if I fall silent and leave him to his newborn ruminations. But really, there’s only one thing I want to know—how many extra calories do I burn with his eight-pound body as extra baggage.

B.S. Mirror: I sit on the floor in the family room, humming to myself as I fold another load of tiny little onesies. The house is clean, quiet and peaceful, and I feel lucky to be alive.

Reality Check: I swear under my breath as I fold yet another load of onesies. The house is in chaos around me. Dishes haven’t been done in days, the carpet is buried under a layer of dog fur and dirty burp cloths are strewn everywhere I look.

Just as I finish, a scream breaks through the silence, and I tiredly trudge up the stairs for the 15 bazillionth feeding of the day. I fervently wish my mommy would come and save me.

I know these things are all true because, well, I have a blog. And I wrote this stuff down, yo. But that doesn’t keep my hormones from melting into goo every time I see a newborn. And it doesn’t silence the voice that says, “Oh, come on. You know you want another one.”

Stupid hormones.

What does your B.S. mirror tell you?

Monday, August 29, 2011

20 Things I bet You Didn't Know About Me


1. I like to wiggle my toes when I’m waiting for something – like in the waiting room of my dentist. It makes me less nervous.

2. I like to be sockless as much as possible. Places I’m definitely barefoot are: a) at home b) in bed c) in the shower.

3. I love to sleep with a snuggle pillow. It has to be just the right pillow--not too hard and not too soft. For this purpose, Ryan and I often have to have a "Pillow Draft" at the start of the night.

4. I am a sucker for pain. I love it. It makes me feel alive. Controlling pain makes me feel tough. And just for shits and giggles I love hearing Ryan say "ow". He knows the look now, so will just give me an arbitrary "OWWWW" so that he doesn't get hurt.

5. Okay, I must confess. I love wearing high heel shoes. I love hearing the click click click as I walk. It makes me feel sophisticated and sexy.

6. Oh, I forgot to tell you about my ankles, calves and thighs. Well, later.

7. I hate talking on the phone. Send me an email. A text. A smoke signal. I can't stay focused on the phone.

8. I sing in the car. I sing loudly and proudly...that is until someone pulls up beside me. I may have pretended to be talking on my hands-free phone once or twice. Go ahead, judge me- you know you've done it.

9. I hate forks! The sound of forks touching things freaks me out. It makes my teeth hurt. Gawd forbid someone scratches the plate, or AHHHh their teeth or if they get stuck together in the dishwasher (in this case they will stay there until Ryan separates them).

10. I get excited when I can solve a math problem. I am not talking complex linear algebra--I am talking "Hey, you did it Mrs. Whitehouse".

11. I won't be all negative but I HATE when people breath on me. People in lines at the grocery store, people telling secrets, Ryan while sleeping. I might add tomatoes and oranges to the ever growing list of things that just freak me out.

12. I don't talk about my childhood. Not becuase it was horrible but because it tends to lead to pity. My mother was highly disfunctional. So I don't bring it up. Most people only know me as the "teacher girl who has shit together". Ha gotcha fooled don't I.

13. I can't write. Never could. I find it amusing when you comment on my writing ability.

14. I am a people watcher. If I am with you in public I likely tuned you out 10 minutes ago while I was watching that guy try to figure out if he has BO. Probably, shouldn't have told you that one. But, now you know.

15. I have never had close friends. I tend to keep everyone at a distance. Those that I have been close with have never been so for very long. If I sense that I have let you down, or I am not perfect in your eyes anymore, I will push you away. Sorry, just the way it is.

16. I remember things in smells and sounds. I hate flowers because it reminds me of my moms funeral. I love the smell of men's cologne; it reminds me of when my dad would say goodnight. I could honestly have an epic soundtrack for my life. The music is constantly going in my head. In fact, I probably have a song that reminds me of you.

17. I like feeling sad. I like crying. It is as though I know I am alive. Just like a good laugh, a good cry feeds the soul.

18. When I am bored or am thinking I write using my fingers. An "air-write" of sorts. If you ever see me moving my fingers I am probably air writing those 4 letter words of which I am so fond. But I will never tell you what I am writing about ;) And Ryan insists that I add that when I am holding something back I bite the corner of my bottom lip. Probably, shouldn't have told you that one either.

19. I procrastinate. I work well under pressure.

20. I love to love. I am good at.

21. And now you know that.

Friday, August 26, 2011

On Being Strong


I've been in a bit of a head space lately.  I have been thinking about the relationships around me and who I really am.  I know deep stuff for mid-summer and probably about 10 years to late. But then again, it is never too late to figure out what has brought you to a particular point in your life?

I have never written about my mom, our relationship and the way that she ultimately died.  Is now the time to spill it? Probably not.  What I will say is that she taught me a lot about who I want to be and what steps should be taken to get there.

So here is where I become conflicted.  My mom was a person who constantly wore a mask.  She pretended everything was perfect all the time.  When she was dying inside you never would have known it.  I strongly believe that this is what killed her.  I swore from that day 9 years ago that I would be real.  The good the, the bad and the ugly.  And gosh, Ryan sees it all.

People comment all the time about how strong I am.  Friends wonder aloud to Ryan how the eff Nat turned out so normal.  The pressure to be strong all the time gets to wear on a girl.  I think that when it comes to physical pain I am strong--I block it out well because it is far easier than my other struggles.  When it comes to emotional pain I am far weaker.

I am easily wounded. If I think about the events that have scarred me in the past and continue to stay with me they all come down to one thing.  Feeling disposable. I often feel like I am disposable to people, it probably because I am acutely aware that my mother really did not love me (no no not a sob story--no sympathies needed).   There are precious few people who know these weak sides of me; who know how I fall apart when felling thrown away.  

Thursday, August 4, 2011

F U!!

I fully recognize that for those of you living in blissful unawareness of what some mothers are actually thinking, this may be an UNPOPULAR post.  With that said, there are those of you who may actually feel liberated with what follows.  Here it is!!!

I swear at my kid.
Yes, I said it and I meant it. Each and every day, I swear at him.
I’m not ashamed to admit it.
My kid can be an asshole. Tell me your child hasn’t ever deserved to be cursed at and I’ll call you a liar.
I’ll even go so far as to say that I believe that swearing at my children makes me a better parent.
I’m not talking curse words like “dammit” and “hell.” Oh, no. I pull out the big guns. Those four letter ones of which I am such a big fan.
Now, I would never actually shout obscenities directly at my offspring. Obviously.
But, when Kingston is screaming at me because I won't put my sweater back on or banging his head against the wall because I have taken the BBQ lighter away, I may just have seen the words “shut the fuck up” float over him head in my imaginary commentary of the scene. And it may just have kept me from really losing it with him.
When Kingston is thrashing on the floor because I didn’t let him have a third bag of Goldfish before lunch, singing a little ditty that goes “Shut the fuck up, you pain in my ass. Shut the fuck up, my dear.” in my head, somehow, makes the moment more bearable.
And, his incessant whining can be blocked out by my asking “are you ever going to shut your little fucking mouth, you annoying child?” in my head. Logically, I know the answer is “not likely,” but just asking always makes me feel better.
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
“Just fucking shoot me now.”
“Fuck off, sweetheart.”
Does saying these things mean that I love my children any less than a non-swearing mother? No. Does it make me a bad parent or role model? No, I don’t think so.
Because, by thinking these awful things, I keep myself from actually saying anything terrible to him. Which, I argue, would be far worse.
It’s a coping mechanism, of sorts. A tool to survive motherhood.
So, next time your child is screaming at the top of his lungs because he doesn't want to change his diaper or get his head out of the toilet or stop beating the daylights out of the poor dog, flip him off... in your head.
I know he deserved it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Desperate times call for...great friends

I have made a number of close friends in my life. Some are from jobs I’ve had over past ten years, some are from high school, a few from college. All were life preservers in rough waters when I was trying to figure out the who’s, how’s and what the f*&$%’s of an intimidating new world.

Becoming a mother makes for quick and lasting friendships as well–there is nothing like the desperation of women who haven’t slept, smell like spit up and are leaking milk from one or both boobs. We need each other; who else wants to sit near us?

When I had Kingston, instinctively I knew I needed to find other moms. When you are seeking out your herd, look where the herd gathers. I made it my mission to make friends with women in the same situation–new baby, not working for the first time, isolated at home, feet still swollen even though we were promised they’d be back to normal by now. I followed women with babies into Starbucks. I went to any moms group, lunch or music class I could walk my stroller to. Some women I clicked with, some clearly wanted a better catch than I–which did have the familiar sting of rejection. Singles bar.

The women I met in the first months after having Kingston make up a large portion of my current greatest friends. Kingston was 10 weeks old and I was in the depths of new mommyhood loneliness. My misery was as obvious as the lack of sleep was on my face. I felt as though I had no one outside of a husband, infant and dog in my new life. I struck up conversations with the barista at Starbucks just to have adult interaction. Every decision I had made seemed wrong. How did I end up alone with a crying, gassy baby all day, watching The View and emptying the dishwasher every hour?(Thank God for dishwashers, by the way. And Barbara Walters.)

The neighborhood moms group saved my sanity, my life and (don’t judge me, but) possibly my son’s life. I was a walking, crying, screaming, mess. Between the breast pump and the endless laundry, I was a prisoner in my home. My eyebrows were overgrown, my roots dark and I thought I’d never be out of maternity clothes. It would be of no service to anyone to pretend I wasn’t disappointed with the lack of bliss in my domestic life.

Conversation in our group often revolved about returning to work, negotiating holiday time with in-laws and finding a pediatrician who doesn’t make you wait five hours for your appointment, and the best deals on BabySteals. I would also be lying if I didn't say that we had our fair share of "my husband is useless" rants. I liked all the women and truly felt we had a bond among us because we knew what being “up all night with the baby” really does to a person. But it was the women willing to break down in sobs at “how was your weekend?” and admit their desire to walk out the door, leaving husband and baby to fend for themselves that I wanted to hang out with every day. Tell me you hate your mother for instructing you on burping the baby and I will love you forever. I needed the authenticity, the empathy and the embrace of other women who were knee-deep in poop and not. at. all. happy.

Memories of the early days of our budding friendships stay with me: three girls overpowering a tiny suburban coffee shop with our babies, breastfeeding, bottles and burp cloths–and always, the stink of dirty diapers and one hysterical mother and infant (not necessarily related). Almost immediately, and with the enthusiasm of someone who has found religion, we signed on to support, listen to, vent with and entertain one another. We had found our soul mates.

One year later we remain close. One is on to her second child, while the other two of us drag our heels hanging on the memory of the Maternity Leave Mayhem. We are back to work. We rarely see each other as a group. Sometimes I go weeks without talking with them. Despite our early expectations, we are all reasonably happy and mostly well adjusted to family life. While we no longer have standing playdates or meet at Starbucks with our massive strollers, I know that when I am about to ask my husband for a divorce on Facebook or put my child up for sale on Kijiji, I can turn to either of these women for a laugh and perspective, and without the slightest chance of judgment.

I am so grateful!

Monday, April 25, 2011

On Becoming a Big Boy

Kingston is straddling the thin line between still being a baby and becoming a complete big boy and I feel like I’m standing on the Team Baby Side with homemade signs and confetti, dragging him back with all my might.

He doesn’t appear to be listening very well.

I cuddle him as much as I humanly can, I’m totally slacking on gentle hands enforcement, because he gives the BEST "I'm sorry" kisses. I MAY be beginning to understand those women who still breastfeed their four year old’s. Well, not really. But, I am having a very hard time with my baby losing his babyness.

I’m just not ready.

Even if he is.
Wordle: Untitled

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What I meant to say on January 13th, 2011

Sorry this is so late. We have been busy adapting to life with 2 working parents. More on that later. Here is an extension of the letter I wrote Kingston for his birthday. I wrote after I wasn't so emotional about him turning 1.

One whole year ago I was about to become your mother. I didn’t know it yet. One year ago, I was barely out of teenagedom, just married, lying in bed in our dream home, hand on belly, watching late night TV, feeling the beginning of the contractions that would be The Real Thing, that would make our couple into a threesome. I was so calm. I was so ready to meet you.

And you came, quickly after all that waiting, practically jumping into the world. Oh my God, the love; my heart could hardly take it. I remember, even now, holding you that first night. The world was asleep, and it was just you and I cuddling in the hospital bed. I touched every inch of your face; trying so hard to memorize the tiny creases, bumps, lines, those big blue eyes, your shivering dreamy sighs, that baby smell of powder and milk. I didn’t feel like you were made for me. I felt like I was made for you. I felt that everything I’d done up to that moment was preparation for this, the most important job, the greatest honor, the most supreme joy I could experience.

The first time I saw you, after you were born, I was expecting this overwhelming rush of love and this moment where I would realize that my baby was the most beautiful baby in the world. That didn’t happen. I fell in love with you, don’t get me wrong, but I fell in love with you despite the fact that your nose was too big on you, and despite the fact that you looked like a very pink, wrinkly tiny old man with long wispy dark hair. I spent hours gazing at your little feet (which could then fit across the palm of my hand) and stroking your tiny little fingers, tightly drawn into fists. I was infatuated with your blue, blue eyes and little rosebud mouth.
We knew you were going to be a boy; but there’s such music in that word now: son. My little man, My bestest little boyfriend.

You amplified life for me. I loved your daddy more. I loved eating more. I liked looking at the sky with you, sleeping in late, reading books, going to the park, swimming lessons, story time, music group and our mommy and Kingston dates. You have always been so patient with me. Patient and understanding. There was such a passion and ferociousness that I didn’t expect. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for you, Kingston. I hope you know that. I hope you always know that– at the end of the day, I’m always there for you. I will always support you. I will always protect you. Always.

You have gone above and beyond any expectations I ever had. Kingston, you are so freaking awesome. You are, honestly, one of my favorite people to hang out with. We like the same shows. We think the same things are funny. You follow along with my conversations and shake your head “no” at just the right moment. You walk away from me when you think I am being too dramatic. This is who you are, at one:
You are so smart: It is amazing to watch you try to engineer a step stool so you can reach daddy’s xbox. I think that is your Grandpa coming out in you.

You are persistent: When you decide that you want into a kitchen cupboard, or want a specific toy there is no stopping or distracting you. I love that about you, probably because I think it is myself in you.

You are independent: You don’t like to be still, you don’t like to be snuggled. You like to feed yourself and walk with no hands helping you. With your independence comes a streak of stubbornness. We have said since the day we brought you home that “you know exactly what you want, if only everyone else could figure it out”. I think that is your angel grandma coming out in you.

You are so strong. Strong in a physical sense and in emotional sense. You are always on the move conquering new feats and amazing us everyday. It makes you so happy and proud of yourself when you climb the stairs, or chase daddy into the kitchen. When you hurt yourself you aren’t too dramatic, just a little hug is all you need and off you go. Imagine the look on face when at your 9 month needles and you laughed at the doctor instead of crying. So brave.

You love to laugh and be in good company: You laugh is contagious and so whole-hearted. I love when you laugh so hard that you get hiccups, which makes you laugh even harder. You seem to love life. You love people. You would share anything with the people who mean the most to you. I think that is your Grandma’s influence.

You love women. You like little girls, big girls, moms, daughters. You are a not-so-perfect gentleman but ohh so charming. When we are out at restaurants you watch each waitress walk by and flash that charming smile and they can’t help but stop to gush over you. I think you get that from Uncle Tim.

You know just the right moments to smile, or give a hug, or burst into laughter. You get me every time. You have this way that just melts my heart. You get that from daddy.

You are mine. Your daddy loves you, dearly, and soon I know you will be best buddies and go on trips and leave me, and soon it will be cool to do Boy Things and not Dorky Mom Things, and that will be okay too. But for now: it’s you and me. It was you and me for this past year, it’s you and me now. We are inseparable. I think about how much we’ve both grown in the last year, and it overwhelms me. You’ve turned me into a much better person, and you’ve shown me what real love is.

You’ve made me into a better person, and for that, I’m a better mother. I love you more than you’ll ever know, and I cant imagine my life without you.
One year ago, I didn’t even know how lucky I was going to get.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

1st Annual Birthday Letter for Kingston

My darling Kingston,

I have tried writing your birthday letter several dozen times this week, but I just can’t find adequate words.

You are just too much to contain in a single letter. Too much personality. Too much charm. Too much mischief. Too much everything.

But, just perfectly right.

There hasn’t been a single day in the last year that you haven’t brought joy to my life. Joy and laughter. And so much love.

I hope you are always as sweet and loving and funny and unique and confident and magnetic as you are today. I know that you will be.

I feel blessed to live my life with you and I love you with all of my heart. You are extraordinary.

Happy Birthday,