One month in – 3 f 100

Oh my friends, keeping up with this has already proved challenging. I’ve been working on a few posts, but for now, I’ll post this one, which I wrote a little over a month ago. I wish it was more specific, but apparently at the time, everything was running together as well. The first month of motherhood was amazing, full of wonder, etc….but it was also really fucking hard. People would see him sleeping in the sling and ask: How old? I would say a month, and they would say, oh that time is all a blur and I would think ‘how could anyone forget this?’ But you want to know what? Here we are at nine weeks and I can’t completely remember the first month. I mean, I do- but like they said: It’s a blur. The doubts, the fears, the intensity, the exhaustion…the realization that as Bill Murray said in Lost in Translation: “Your life as you know it, is gone.”

I have a nearly one-month old son who is now asleep in a sling resting against my chest.

This past month has been so strange and wonderful and bewildering. I want to say all the things that have already been said before. Of course it is one thing to hear about the exhaustion and another thing to lift your baby out of their swaddle in a dark lonely sleep stupor and bring them to your breast…hoping against all hope that your arms won’t collapse on you.

You think about the things you thought you knew. Your expectations. The way things would be.

I knew something would happen to me when I looked at his face, something I wouldn’t be able to understand until I saw it. Every day it happens to me again and again. I look at his little face, his bright eyes, his wide but tiny nose, his faint brows and I fall into oblivion. I tell him I love him over and over again and I kiss every little piece of skin I can find. The love tears me right open anew every time I see him.

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I didn’t know that while staring into his perfect face, that I would think about my mom, and Dan’s mom, and every mom, staring at us grown people when we were just helpless little infants. Trying to make us happy. Loving us to bits and itty bitty pieces.

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I knew it would be hard but I didn’t understand the way my heart would crawl up my throat when he cries this guttural cry that shakes his whole body and turns his face devil red. I didn’t know that I would bounce for hours on our exercise ball until my arms and back ached and sing and whisper, offer the boob for the 10 hundredth time, then crawl into bed and cry my own soul shaking sob when Dan finally gets home to relieve me.

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I didn’t know I would question everything: Am I talking to him enough? Touching him enough? Feeding him enough? Am I enough?

I didn’t realize that it would be a little bit lonely – to be up for many hours all night feeding and then alone for much of the day trying make sure his every need is met. That ‘doing something for myself’ would mean taking a shower – and ‘doing something for Dan’ would mean emptying the dishwasher or switching laundry from the washer to the dryer.

I didn’t ever possibly think I’d be a mom who would share a bed with her baby and sleep in a separate room from her husband. No, no, never would I do that. But this somehow happened- to let my husband sleep through the night before work. To keep baby happy in his precious sleeping hours. And truthfully – for the most part it works. I miss sleeping with Dan. I miss the way he would roll over in the morning and snuggle me and I could smell his perfect Dan smell. But I admit that I love these sleepy moments with James – listening to him breathe, his peaceful face, his little groans and sighs.

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And here’s the funny thing about all of it – even as I wish for the moment we can plop him in the crib and have him sleep for 12 blissful hours. Even as I wish for the demands of breastfeeding to let up, just a little. Or for him to age out of the ‘witching hour’ where he cries and cries. I actually don’t want any of it to end. I am so acutely aware of how short this time is – where he is completely dependent on us – where he will snuggle his soft head right under my chin and doze, where he only wants to be with us, near us, around us. “Don’t grow up baby,” I’ll whisper to him. “Stay this way forever.”

But of course that is one thing I knew all along: babies don’t stay babies forever. They will grow…and so too will we.

Aunt Rocel and loving hard – 2 of 100

Yesterday was my Aunt Rocel‘s memorial service. She died on April 10 of ovarian cancer. She was 58 years old.

Rocel was one of those people whose beauty took you by surprise. She was kind, gentle and humble, generous and loving–one of those people who made you want to be a better person.

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Me and Rocel, Christmas 2013

I write this with little baby James sleeping in a sling against my chest. (I think he’s napping extra long to let me finish this post.) I am thinking about birth and death and how we are all hovering somewhere in between.

In my twenties I thought a lot about living hard. You know that Jack Kerouac quote:

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.

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I related to that.

But lately, I’ve been rather mad for the commonplace things. The way James stretches like a boxer when he wakes up. My mom texting me every day “need daily James picture please”. My dad calling to scold me when I forget to include him on said daily James picture text. Walking downtown with James to meet Dan for lunch on this beautiful sunny spring day.

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I’ve been thinking more about loving hard than living hard.

I remember talking to Rocel soon after she was diagnosed with cancer and going through her first round of treatment. She told me how through the terribleness of it all–the diagnosis, the treatment–she and her husband, my Uncle David, had uncovered a new layer in the marriage. How they had become so much closer. I remember how she told me how much it meant to her that he would just let her cry.

I was engaged to marry Dan at the time. There was so much we didn’t know. (There’s so much we still don’t know!) I thought about how we would have find faith and strength in struggle — how we would have find each other.

Rocel passed away while I was in Florida with Dan and James, my parents, and my brother and sister in law. We went to the beach the morning after she died and it was so beautiful. James slept on my chest and then Dan’s and then my mom’s and then dad’s. The ocean was crazy turquoise blue and that perfect chilly but warm temperature. What can you do in a place like that, on a day like that, but hold on as tightly you as you can to the time you have with the people you love?IMG_1790 So that’s how I will honor her today and every day. By seeking out faith in the struggle and loving as hard as my little heart can bear.

100 Random Thoughts and Memories of a first time mom – 1 of 100

“I guess he’ll have to figure out someday that he is supposed to have this dark side, that it is part of what it means to be human, to have the darkness just as much as the light- that in fact the dark parts make the light visible; without them, the light would disappear. But I guess he has to figure other stuff out first, like how to keep his neck from flopping all over the place and how to sit up.” ― Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year

At the end of last year, I again ponied up the $100 or so I pay to keep this site aloft. Sometimes I have to ask myself why; last year I posted a measly eight posts. Eight! My thought had been to turn this into a blog about adventuring in the Canadian Rockies. But you can’t force these things. And then we had a baby.

I’ve been following Elle Luna on Instagram since she published her amazing essay The Crossroads of Should and Must on Medium. “Should,” she writes, “is how others want us to show up in the world — how we’re supposed to think, what we ought to say, what we should or shouldn’t do…Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self.”

I followed her 100 days of Self Portraits last year and this year, I read as she posted the outline for the 100 day project. You commit to repeating one action every day for 100 days. What did I want to do? What MUST I do?

As April–the start of the 100 day project–approached, I was in the very early weeks of motherhood- I was overjoyed, exhausted, overwhelmed. Baby took up approximately 97% of my brain. If I had anything at all to write about – it was baby.

But my experience was so, um, normal. Everything I’m experiencing is something I have heard before–I’m getting no sleep and I’m the most tired I’ve ever been! Baby cries and it totally sucks! etc. And, besides, did I want to be a mommy blogger? Am I one of those moms who has nothing to talk about but her kid? I shuddered at the thought. (My my, the ways we overthink and judge ourselves! How we defeat ourselves before we even begin.)IMG_2992 Oh, and then the beginning of the 100 day project came and went while I was in Florida with family. I had three drafts saved here – and none posted. Now, I’m 15 days behind. But here I am, I thought, at the crossroads of should and must. I must write now. I must create terms under which I can really succeed.

Meanwhile, I was reading Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott. I read it while James slept in my arms. Between feedings and crying fits and diaper changes, six million loads of laundry and all the other wonderful things and tiring crap you do when you’re on maternity leave. It taught me to have a sense of humor at the moments I felt the most desperate and crazy. And although it was about her first year of motherhood, it was also about Life. Operating Instructions

I read a review of Some Assembly Required, which Lamott wrote with her son Sam about his son, her grandson, Jax. The review recounted how Sam considered Operating Instructions the greatest gift of his life and how he wanted to do the same for his son. What a beautiful gesture – to write a story as a gift. None of us remember our first year of life – we have a vague idea of a few stories that our mothers tell us. If no one else cared about my cliche thoughts and memories, Dan and James would. DSCF3164 So what about 100 Random Thoughts and Memories of a first time mom – written over the course of my son’s first year? This one–these 100–are for Dan and James – and anyone who finds them reassuring, amusing, distracting or whatever else they may be looking for.

P.S. I wrote this on Saturday morning and it is now Tuesday morning. I’m having the hardest time getting myself to get over the start line – I am so afraid it is stupid, that I will fail, etc. Fear looms so large I can’t even tell you. So, friends, here goes nothing.