Doing grief

Have you ever heard of someone feeling alone in a room full of people?  That’s how it is for me sometimes.  I’ll be standing there, with the world swirling around me, and I can’t seem to hook in.  I can’t figure out how to engage.  Me.  A talker.  A connector.  An extrovert with a need to tell my story.  I can’t figure out what to say or how to say it.  So, I stand there with people.  And I feel alone.  Grief, for me, is active and passive twisted together.

I feel alone because my anchor is gone.  How silly does that sound?  How trite?  But, it’s true.  My mother, who was my anchor, is gone.  She left us, she left me, 9 years ago, and though I am so much better at handling it and I feel good so much of the time, sometimes, the movement of the world around me is no match for all the twisting inside of me.  I have to give in, I have to let myself feel it.  Normally, my emotions rotate slowly and I can prepare for what’s next.  I can brace myself.  But, recently, as they always do in January, the revolutions speed up.  I wish to slow them down again.  I wish to feel calm, to remember happy thoughts, and know that the pain, or sadness, or anger, or frustration, or hurt will go just as quickly as it’s come, but I can’t.  I feel stuck.  And alone.  

I used to think that the stages of grief were linear.  I used to think that if I could just make it to the end, I would be done and I would be “good.”  I used to be pissed at people around me who seemed to grieve better than I did.  I used to add insult to injury; compounding my pain with self-doubt and insecurities.  I still feel insecure about my grief.  I still feel like when these waves wash over me, will other people wonder when I will just get over it?  And then I wonder how to get over it.  I don’t know that I will.  I don’t know that I can.  If we’re all being honest, I don’t know that I want to.  I know if I get over it, that doesn’t mean I stop loving her, but………….I don’t know…that makes me uncomfortable too.  Honestly, I think there will always be sad days for me.  Sad times.  

A few months ago, when I was going a mile a minute and needed to talk, I picked up my phone, and then I put it down.  I wouldn’t have said it out loud at the time, but I picked it up to call my mom.  A sharp pain exploded in my heart and receded just as quickly.  I miss her.  As I sat there, staring at my phone, I wondered about her phone number… Do they recycle phone numbers?  What is the waiting period on the phone number of a dead mother?  And then since the phone debacle, I have gone down a rabbit hole of wondering.  I wonder what she would be doing now?  I wonder where she would live?  I wonder what she would think about my decision to work part time?  I wonder what kind of mother she would think I am?  I wonder if she would still make me chicken salad sandwiches with melted cheese even though I make them for my daughter now.  I wonder how she would have danced at my wedding or held my babies?   I wonder what she would say about the world, about me, about my friends, my family.  I wonder…a lot.  For me, that’s part of doing grief.

To Sir With Love

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the world around, these are some of the best people.

In the summer of 2002, I left my home country and moved to Japan to teach English with the JET Programme.  I knew about 10 words in Japanese, didn’t know my supervisor or co-workers, had never seen my apartment and didn’t know anyone.  It was a daunting adventure, but it was just that…and adventure.  One of the many I have taken in my life and I will forever be greatful for that awesome year for many reasons, but mostly because of the family that I created while there.  Like most families there are peaks and valleys, lulls in communication, farting (oh the farting), and a wee bit of dysfunction, but these are people I would go to the mat for.  They made that year unforgettable.  Because karaoke is king in Japan, I have many memories associated with music.  One of the songs that will forever remind me of that year is To Sir With Love.

As much as I am indebted to my “Japanese” family for being in that place with me in that time, I am also indebted to my parents for that time.  The beginning was hard, as beginnings often are.  Every day after work, I would ride my bike to the pay phone at the end of my block and call collect from Isesaki, Japan to Rochester NY.  My parents would each pick up a line and we would talk until I was ready to venture out for the evening.  The calls got shorter and less frequent, but every Sunday, we would check in and catch up.  They taught me I could go out and conquer the world, but I always had a home to go back to.

I come back, again and again as an adult, to how lucky I am to have had the parents I have.  They taught me to be brave and smart and thoughtful.  My mother was a kind, smart, funny, beautiful soul and a dear friend that I miss.  My dad?  Well…. fathers and daughters, right? 178512_10101228587657289_1747002579_o My father has taught me a mixture of practical and emotional lessons.  He taught me that sometimes you want quality and sometimes you want quantity.  He taught me to change a tire.  He taught me that sometimes the feelings of those you love take precedent over your own.  He taught me to stay sober and go to class.  He also taught me to cherish and value the relationships in your life.

If you know my dad, you know he is a hybrid guy.  He is an emotional man and then a stoic one.  He is a smart guy and just as quickly…a little bumbling.  He loves with his whole heart and gives hugs just as big.  His words, when he chooses them carefully, can, and have, meant the world to me.  They can also cut to the quick.  I am lucky for all of it.

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Happy Father’s Day, padre.

With Father’s Day coming, I recently got to work on his present.  Every year, for the past 5 or so, I have given him a Top 10 list of why he’s a great dad.  Top 10 reasons he’s a great dad; Top 10 things I learned from him I want to pass to my kids; Top 10 things I never thanked him for, but should have.  In writing these lists, I have come to reflect on lessons from the past and hopes for the future.  My dad will be the first to admit that mistakes are a part of life…but for the most part, he and my mom did one hell of a job.  I hope, years from now, my kids feel as connected to me and have as much love for me as I do for my parents.

So, how do you thank someone who has taken you from crayons to perfume?  It isn’t easy but I’ll try.  Here’s to you, Daddy.

I feel pretty?

Rewind the clocks back to a nine year old version of me sitting on my grandmother’s bed watching her zipper up her dress, cinch her belt around her waist, and fasten her clip on earrings to her lobes.  Her waist looked so small, her fingers were so delicate.  “Grandma- you’re so pretty.  You’re so skinny.”  “Sarah,” she said to me “I’m slender.  Skinny is for crack whores.”

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My slender, lovely, loving Grandma.

Now, some find this story funny.  Others find it a little concerning.  To me, it’s an honest and endearing reminder of my grandmother.  The one who, good and, let’s face it, brutally honest, loved me to the moon and back.  But, it is also, in my adult years, a curious glimpse into body image and self awareness.

Like almost everyone I know, I struggle with my body sometimes.  I wish I was thinner.  I wish I could find clothes I feel good in.  I would love to take care of that underarm jiggle.  And I am taking steps to make positive change.  I’m working to feel better in those clothes.  I have taken stock of what I eat and feel good about how I have changed my daily intake.  I go to the gym and enjoy my workouts.  I play with my kids and run around in our backyard.  And here is where my quest for “slender” has taken on a different tone in recent years- I have these kids who soak up what I say and how I say it.

If you know me well, or honestly if you don’t, you might know that I come close to idolizing my mother.  She was smart and funny and kind and beautiful.  She taught me to be an independent and thoughtful person, but she did have faults and, one in particular, she passed on to me without even thinking about it.  She struggled with her body image.  In passing comments, in trying on clothes, in dressing for formal events- she had much the same struggle that many of us do.  And when she talked about it, or tugged at her clothes, or bought things without trying them on to avoid a different size, I heard her and worried about my own body.  I am now responsible for how I think and I am trying to change it, but those nagging concerns about my hips, my belly or my arms linger.

Another story.  In February 2012, joined by my husband and my father, I found out that our first baby was a girl.  I was so excited- I knew she would be a girl and now I had confirmation.  Justin and I already knew her name- she would be named after our mothers.  Nina Patricia was already a source of joy and pride.  And then, I started to overthink having a girl.  I started reading article after article about how to talk to girls about their bodies, how to love themselves.  She wasn’t even born yet and I was telling people to make sure not to call her cute or pretty or beautiful first.  “Isn’t it interesting,” I would say, “if we just make sure to call her kind or smart or thoughtful first, her whole self worth will change.”  ……

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My hope for my children is that they see what I see.

So, here’s my question as I consider my body image and how to talk with both my children, daughter and son, about our insides and our outsides- what’s wrong with being pretty?  When my daughter asks me why we go to the gym, I tell her that I exercise to be strong and healthy.  Which is true.  But I also exercise to be pretty.  Pretty as I see it.  I am DEFINITELY influenced by media and what popular culture thinks of as pretty, but I know what makes me feel good.  A hard work out, the right jeans, and a little make up helps me feel pretty.  And along with pretty comes confident and strong- when I feel pretty, I feel more prepared to take on the world.  It’s a loop really.

So, here’s where I am.  I want for Nina and Ryan to learn how to be confident about themselves.  But I also want for them to know how to use the tools at their disposal responsibly.  I want to teach them good eating habits, sure.  But almost more than that, I want to teach them how to move their bodies, how to feel good about their clothes, how to be proud of their appearance.

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Feeling pretty is important and fun. It’s just not the only thing.

I am happy when people tell Nina she’s smart and kind and funny and brave because she is those things.  But, I also like when people tell Nina how pretty she is, how gorgeous her hair is, how great her smile is.  Because both will be important- in the right measures.

High for sure, but Low? Really?

In college, I went to see a movie with a friend.  The Story of Us starred Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer, and was mostly unremarkable, except that it gave me and my friend, Halbe, a short-hand way to check in with each other.The Story of Us  Over the course of the next years, I would run by her room, answer a phone call from her or see her on campus and one would say to the other “High, Low?”  In other words, what was the high of your day and what was the low?

I like checking in about the day with my loved ones.  My parents had a hectic schedule when I was growing up, but always wanted to know about my day.  And on Friday night, we would recap the week.  My husband and I check in with each other by ourselves and, then, with our children.  When my daughter gets in the car after school, I ask what she did, what she enjoyed, who she had fun with.  When I chat with Halbe, even now, we look for a run down of the goings-on in life.  But, I often ask about challenges in addition to the successes- with all my loved ones.  I am interested not only in the good, but, also in the frustrating, the challenges and the problems.  Why?  It sounds a little messed up…

After much didactic and practical experience in graduate school, we were finally tasked with writing a statement of professional philosophy.  After reviewing all the theories we had studied, broken down and talked about, I chose a relatively simple one to focus my philosophy around.  Nebit Sanford wrote about challenge and support.  Simply put, he wrote that if we can provide challenge and support in an appropriate balance for the student and situation we will facilitate development in that student.  In fact, he posits that challenges, given varying levels of support, will result in different developmental trajectories.  Sanford’s theory was my focus because of its truth and simplicity, but also, because of how fully I felt connected to this theory personally.  I, therefore, rely on it in my professional life, but have come to use it in my personal life.

through highs and lows...we've had some great moments

through highs and lows…we’ve had some great moments

So, lest you think that my life is just one big lab rat situation…it isn’t.  I am intentional, especially in my parenting, in trying to provide support to my children to match the challenge they are facing.  But, to me, and apparently to the writers of The Story of Us, the lows in our days also provide a goal for tomorrow.  What Halbe and I did in college, checking in about the best and most frustrating of our days, made me more mindful about challenges in general.  Were they often similar?  What could I do to change or fix the situation?  AND what could I do to support Halbe with her frustrations?

Wearing our babies in Central Park

I recently told Halbe about this post and shared with her that I ask Nina about her highs and lows…it turns out, she does the same with her daughter!  Not only does that give me warm fuzzies, but it also makes me hopeful for our daughters.  I’m hopeful that both our daughters will grow up understanding that the great in the day is great, but challenge is a part of life, and so is problem-solving through them.

I’m thankful…

…for all the women in my life.  Those who are close, those who haven’t been a part of my life for long and even those I don’t know yet.  Those who are mothers and daughters and sisters and friends.  Those who have children and those who don’t.  You have all helped me to be the mother I want to be.  To all the women who lift up other women, I send you love this week, this Sunday and always.

You are a mother

You are a daughter

You are a sister
You are an aunt
You are an “aunt”
You are like a mom
You never tried to be a mom
You are a friend
You want children
You want more children
You don’t want children
You have had infertility issues
You have had a miscarriage
You are celebrating with your mother
You are missing your mother
You have taught me
You have learned from me
You have loved me when I needed it
You have told me the truth when I needed it
You have listened to me vent
…And told me to shut up
You have laughed with me
You have heard me cry
You have held my hand
You don’t mind a little sarcasm
You give it right back
You have had wine with me
Or tequila shots
Or a quiet cup of coffee
You believe in me
You love my children
…and they love you
You love me
…and I love you.

Why Honor Sad Days?

You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach on a Sunday night? The one that reminds you tomorrow is not like today and it might be a little hard to handle? January 28th is like that for me every year. But I’m not staring down a Monday, I’m anticipating the anniversary of the day my mother died. This day is hard for me and, admittedly, sad. So, if it’s hard and sad, why would I choose to honor it every year? Why do some of us choose to take a day and let the sadness and the history wash over us? I think the answer for me, at least in part, is not just to honor the loved one, but also to remember the path taken back from grief.1931411_675265510349_2181_n

On January 29th, 2009, I was sitting in a statistics class not really paying attention. I was day-dreaming (even though it was a night class). My parents were heading to California to see my brother and sister-in-law and I was jealous. I wanted to go (insert childish foot stomp here). So, when my phone rang and I saw that it was my brother, I had two immediate emotions; embarrassment because my phone rang in the middle of class and annoyance because my brother was going to tell me how much fun they were having. I turned the phone off and let it go to voicemail. At our break, I called back, ready to hear about how they were preparing to go to dinner, have fun and enjoy a glass of wine.  Assholes. Instead, my brother’s somewhat panicked voice answered- “Have you talked to Mom?” No, I replied. I hadn’t since the previous night. Which, as my wheels started to turn, was odd. She would normally have called from the airport in the morning and then again during her layover in Chicago. Why hadn’t she called? Why hadn’t I thought to call her? These two questions would become some of the basis of my guilt and frustration.

Over the next few hours, communicating back and forth across the country, calling friends and neighbors, trying hospitals, cab companies, and airline operators, I finally got a call from my dad.  “Mom’s dead.” What. The. Fuck. How could that possibly be fucking true? I cried. I fell on the floor. I lost control. My then boyfriend, called my boss- “Sarah won’t be at work tomorrow.” He called the airlines- “We need tickets as early in the morning as you have them.” I called my friend- “Halbe? It’s Sarah. My mom died. What should I pack? What do I take home when my mom died?”

Somehow I got home. I threw up a few times on the trip home. I cried every few minutes. And then, I stopped. And I started to methodically make the calls that would take up 3 hours of my time on January 30th. “Uncle Ted? Uncle Keath? Uncle Jeff? Ann? Sean? Mrinal? etc etc…Mom died.” I started to forget how hard it was to say. I felt like you do when you eat too many sour patch kids…my tongue was numb from repeating this awful phrase. Then came the family, the friends, the calls, the flowers, the casseroles and the hugs. None of them helped. I just wanted my mom.

The next three weeks flew by like a blur- memorials, pictures, plane flights, car trips, dinners out staring at each other, tears, anger and more fucking hugs. I wanted to scream. I wanted to throw a tantrum. I wanted to punch something. I wanted to stay in bed with the blanket over my head.  But, instead, I put on my big girl pants and marched right into the sea of well wishers to receive the love they brought. I hugged back but it was robotic. I was on autopilot.

It wasn’t until everyone had gone home and the flowers started to die, that things started to get really bad. I stopped showering. I stopped eating properly. I called in sick for work. I didn’t call anyone and rarely returned calls when people called me. I watched TV and cried. My, now husband, saved me. He gave me time and then gently pushed me back towards the world of the living. “You don’t have to stop being sad, but you have to be healthy. Let’s go on a walk.” I love him with every breath in my body.

And little by little I got healthy again. I stopped being sad every day. I saw a therapist who validated my grief and helped me push through it. I started living my life and loving it. I got engaged to this amazing man who used my mother’s ring to ask me to marry him. I got married. I changed jobs and changed houses. I had babies. And here I am, a whole person, missing a huge chunk of myself. As I heal, a scar remains where my mom left me. I cry sometimes, but not a lot. I tell stories about this amazing woman who gave me wings and I laugh. I remember the good…and the bad.  But every now and then, I need to give myself more completely to this healing process, which is still ongoing.

I honor this day because I need to. I reflect on what I have, what I miss and what I cherish. I choose to sit and drink my coffee in the morning while thinking about all the mornings I did that with her. I choose to tell my kids stories about their Grandma Nina. I choose to cry if I feel sad, laugh if I feel happy and be upset when I, inevitably, get mad about the fact that she died.  Do I limit myself to January 29th every year for those emotions and actions? No. But it is a good release for me. I choose to honor the day she left me for the same reason I choose to honor the day she was born- those moments have meaning for me.IMG_5360

“It” Happens

What is it?  Shit.  And, it does happen.  A story:

A few nights ago my husband was working an evening shift and so I was home to feed the kids, bathe them and put them to bed.  Dinner was a success- homemade Sesame Chicken, broccoli (only son ate it) and yogurt (only my daughter ate it), but overall, I was a happy mama.  After some playing, we trooped off to the bath.  I got them undressed and in the tub.  As I was turned around to get towels, my daughter screams, “Mama!!!  What IS that???”  Oh man.  It’s poop. photo 1 It looks like a medium-sized tootsie roll and I was relieved.  For anyone who has never had a kid poop DURING bath, let me tell you that this is the best possible of all scenarios.  There was no water, no toys out, kids were still dirty.  Perfect.  I popped them out, spot cleaned the tub and praised my luck.  Stupid move, mama.

So, kids are back in the tub, water’s running and I begin to wash my son.  I soap up and reach down to wash his feet.  Then his legs.  And as I washed his butt, I CAUGHT the second deposit.  Seriously, it dropped right into my hands.  Now listen, I am immune to a lot of mom disgusting-ness, but this is pretty serious.  I’m not in the business of handling my kids’ feces, but I have two small children in the bath, so now is not the time to freak out.  I calmly tell myself I will call my friend later and quietly (because the kids will be asleep) shriek about how gross this was.  But, again, not the end of the world.  I throw the new tootsie roll in the toilet, wash my hands, pop my son out, wash his butt in the sink, and pop him back in with his sister.  Again, very little harm, very little foul….. and then….

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It’s like a really gross “Where’s Waldo.”

I don’t know why I didn’t catch on that this might be a theme.  I don’t know why I dumped out our ENTIRE toy bucket into the tub at that moment.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  But, as I began to lather up my daughter’s hair, I notice my son squatting.  Yup, he’s pooping- rapid fire now.  Little rabbit pellets are all over the tub.  Now things go into serious mode.  I get them both out, sit my son in the sink, wash off his hands and feet quickly to make sure nothing goes into his mouth, wrap him in a towel and put him on the floor, then turn my attention to my daughter who is screaming on the bathmat.  She’s naked, soap-y and her favorite bath toy is now covered in shit.  Great.  Another battle for another day.  I turn on the shower, and, fully clothed, step into the bath tub (avoiding the poop) and hold my daughter under the spray to wash her off.  She screamed the WHOLE time, but now, at least she was clean.  Next up, the offender.  He was also unhappy about the situation, but I got him showered off and both wrapped in towels into the bedroom.  I left all of my wet clothes in a pile on the bathroom floor and, wrapped in my own towel, made sure the kids were distracted.  Phone for my daughter, who subsequently FaceTime’d about 7 people, and a book for my son to chew on.  And then I had to gather the toys, get the poop.

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The morning after “the incident.” He’s fantastic.

Needless to say, after they were both asleep, I drank a big glass of wine.

It’s me…or these toys.

It’s the middle of the night.  I get up out of bed to stumble to my kitchen and grab a quick drink of water.  My kids are both peacefully sleeping, which in my house, doesn’t happen in the middle of the night all that often.  I step outside my bedroom, slip, and fall directly on my ass.  I slipped on a book that was sitting on the floor outside my doorway.  I did the whole banana peel schtick, with Bear’s New Friend in the dark.  …and then my kids woke up.

Nina and her “posse”

Does this sound like your life?  Have you ever plopped down on a plastic crown when sitting on your kid’s bed?  Have you ever stepped on a Thomas the Train idol coming downstairs?  Do you clean out the space under the couch when you want your kids to have “new” toys?  Who’s with me?  If you are, you know- these freakin’ toys are taking over.  Sure, at the end of the day, we rock out to the clean up song.  “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere…”  It’s my jam, people.  But, my kids are little, so sometimes a car ends up at the base of the stairs or a book ends up in a doorway.

What can be done about this toy overload?  We rotate toys out, we try to save new things for a “rainy day” and then take something away to make room for the new thing.  We try to have toys that allow for many play situations- blocks, art supplies, musical instruments.  But, there is just this overwhelming amount of stuff.  And some of the stuff talks to you.  I mean, seriously, it talks to you.  It can get a little creepy when you’re walking around in the middle of the night.

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Nothing, and I repeat nothing, beats blast off in a “rocket ship”

We are moving soon, and so I decided that we would thin out the heard.  A few days ago, my daughter and I had a talk about moving to a new house…and that not all the toys would be making the move.  She got a little belligerent at first…”sheep stays with me, mama.”  She was clear- her animals stay.  But as we have talked about the rest, she is ok to give up other things.  Forgotten toys, lesser puzzles and books- she might be totally happy mind you, but she’s on board.  We will still have our rainy day box, some toys, and a bunch of cardboard boxes.  And hopefully less eventful late night trips to the kitchen.

The real happiest place on earth

We all have places, foods, or activities that remind us of our childhood.  These nostalgic feelings hit in waves as we enjoy our throwbacks and we feel good- safe, loved, comforted.  I know this may sound silly, but a grocery store fulfills all three of the above categories for me.168s

As a child, my mother would take my brother and me to Wegman’s in Pittsford, NY every weekend to go grocery shopping.  If you’ve been reading, it wasn’t often like the Trader Joe’s experience I recently had, though I’m sure one or both of us threw a tantrum at some point over a sugary cereal we were told to put back.  When we were little, my mom would get us each a cookie and we would chatter along through produce and dairy items.  When we got older, she would give us each an item from her list to go get.  We would race off, running back to the cart with the item in hand, ready for the next challenge.

The place, the food, the atmosphere; it all became a part of my childhood.  I looked forward to visiting Wegman’s when I was home from college.  I told people about the store when they visited us in Rochester: “you have to visit!”  166350_10100163932469819_464579_nWhen my (then) fiancé and I were looking for a less expensive alternative to the crazy wedding cakes, I called upon Wegman’s to provide 200 cupcakes for our guests.  They also created a “wedding cake” out of a cupcake that we cut- everyone raved about our cake.  And when our babies were born, we made special pilgrimages to Wegman’s to introduce the next generation to the “real” happiest place on earth.10247505_10102782631451069_546923500_n

So, it should come as no surprise that when we were planning our son’s first birthday and a cake was needed, I called upon the Wegman’s near us.  Now, when I say “near,” I mean 45 minutes away…but I was happy to drive it.  The thing is, when I walk into Wegman’s, I have a feeling of being home.  We all crave that feeling from time to time.  Some of us grow up, grow a family and live in the same place; some of us move far away, but no matter where we are, we want to feel the comfort and love of being home every now and then.  Say what you will, but I love the place. It is a little piece of home even when I’m far away.

The night I bit my husband

I write letters to my children.  I was inspired by my father who wrote us letters on our birthdays every year and then gifted us these letters in beautiful wood boxes years later.  In honor of my son’s first birthday, I share the first letter I wrote him.  Each of my babies have this letter- an accounting of their birth day.  As I re-read it this morning, I laughed, and cried, and remembered the pain and joy; but mostly, I remembered my intense love for this tiny human.  Happy birthday, Ryan.  Mama loves you

My sweet little Ryan-

You came into this world fast and furious on March 10, 2014…but that isn’t where the story begins.  This story really begins in July 2013.  Your father and I had your sister 11.5 months before we found out we were pregnant with you.  We were shocked, we were overwhelmed, we were (and are) overjoyed.  From the moment we knew of you, we loved you.  From the moment we thought about you, we felt like you were a part of our family.  You have made our circle complete.

Everything about my pregnancy with you was more mellow than it was with your sister.  I had less nausea, less heartburn, less insomnia, fewer headaches.  You were a mellow resident in my body.  Until March 9th.  And here is where the story gets good…

The morning of March 9th, I felt big.  I felt fat, and tired, and cranky.  I was anxious about your arrival.  I wanted to make sure everything was taken care of.  Something you’ll learn about me in the coming years, is that I like to pretend I am in control of everything.  I know, deep down, that I’m not.  But, a girl can hope.  So…there I was with your father checking last minute items off my to-do list.  I had gotten my hair cut, packed my bag, picked out your outfit for the hospital, called those who needed to be called to say “nope…no baby yet!”  And, I was anxious because I couldn’t control what was coming or when it was coming…but I had a good plan.

March 9: Your sister needed tending to.  PK was on his way.  Your father had his last shift to work for a few days.  March 10: My doctor (a woman I like and admire- who had delivered your sister) was on call- perfect!  PK would be here, Daddy would be home.  So, I just needed you to wait to be born until late in the day on Monday.  It would be perfect.  You had other plans.

On Sunday, I met a friend for a manicure and pedicure.  We got our nails done and chatted.  I innocently told her that I had been having contractions since that morning.  But, not to worry, I told her.  With Nina, I had contractions for almost 36 hours before the main event.  She warned me not to get cocky.  I was so sure.

After my nail appointment, I came home to wait for PK to show up.  He was coming to help and was due to land at the airport around 4pm.  Nina and I played outside in the backyard.  You rolled around in my tummy.  Daddy went to work- he kissed us goodbye and told me to keep him updated.  I think he was nervous to leave us, but he had a shift to work- he had to go.  I promised to call if anything changed.  I would keep him updated.

PK arrived at the house just in time for dinner and we got Nina fed, bathed and in bed.  As PK and I sat down for our dinner, you got a little more insistent that I pay attention to you.  The contractions were getting harder but they weren’t evenly spaced or easily tracked.  I gritted my teeth and pushed through them- at this point, I knew you would be a March 10th baby, so I made my list of things to get done that night before heading to the hospital the next day.  As it turns out….I was right…sort of.

As the night progressed, I did a load of laundry, submitted a writing sample for a teaching job I applied for (I subsequently got that job), went to Dunkin Doughnuts to get PK doughnuts, built a chair for Nina, got Nina’s food and clothes squared away for the next day and made sure my bag was packed.  PK went to bed around 10- he asked me if I was ok.  That’s when things started to go sideways, little boy.

I started to feel pretty intense pain.  It wasn’t “bad” pain- in that I wasn’t afraid anything was wrong.  But it was INTENSE.  I started pacing the floor.  I thought I was going crazy.  I called your Aunt Jaci, who woke up from what sounded like a dead sleep, to talk to me for a while.  I let her go back to bed and decided to take a shower and shave my legs.  Now, Ryan, years from now, this may gross you out.  But, I’m telling you, should you ever have a wife who is having a baby and she tells you while she’s in labor that she wants to shave her legs…you support that decision.  It’s an important one.  No one was around for me to worry about, so I got in the shower and shaved my legs.  I washed my hair.  At this point, it was almost 11:30pm and I had had it.  These contractions were still uneven but they HURT.  “Justin, you have to come home.  Now.”  Your dad asked if I could wait for him to sign out.  No.  Get home.  Now.

I woke up your PK.  “Um, Dad [PK]? I’m going to go have a baby.”  I was wearing yoga pants and a tank top.  I had my shoes on.  PK helped me get my bag to the door.  We waited for Daddy to come home and get me to drive me right back to the hospital he was coming from.  The contractions were so strong, I considered having you on the living room floor.  You were coming and you were coming fast.  PK started to worry that I would be cold outside- it was afterall, almost midnight in the middle of March.  He got my sweatshirt and, instead of throwing it in his face, I put it on.  He’s my daddy and he wanted to take care of me.

I’m going to skip all the expletives I was thinking and shouting.  I was in some pain.  Your father pulled up to the house with a squeal.  He was definitely moving.  If I could have run to the car, I would have, but I got in and off we went.  I rolled the window down because, despite the coolness of the evening, I was so hot.  You may not remember as we have likely moved from the house we lived in when you were born, but we lived less than a mile from the hospital.  It was across the street.  Literally.  And I didn’t think I would make it.  Your father pulled up to the hospital and I got out before he put the car in park.

I walked passed the triage nurses without speaking…I couldn’t really.  I was making weird noises, I was worried, pissed off, hurting, and somewhere, in the back of my brain, excited.  So, I just walked into the triage area.  The nurse who chased me in told me that I would need to put on a gown and, as I paced the room she showed me into, making that weird, low animal noise, I started taking my clothes off and throwing them on the ground.  “I’m going to have this baby now!” I told the nurse.  She was less than impressed.  And then she checked me.  “Don’t. Push.”  And your father and I were whisked to the elevator.  The nurse was calling the labor and delivery team in transit.  The doctor met us at the elevator and started talking to me.  Your father was holding the gurney, telling me I would be fine, and, as another wave of contraction hit me…I bit your father’s hand.  That was my low moment.

We got into the birthing room and, while a lot happened and not a lot happened, the low down is I pushed twice and you were out. 10013970_10102799440096409_8881248540233038845_n You, my sweet little boy, were so excited to meet us that from the time we pulled up at the hospital to the time you were born was 13 minutes.  You were 6 pounds and 14 ounces, 21 inches long and you were perfect.  I was dazzled.  The pain of the past few hours was erased from my mind and I was focused on your sweet face.  I love you so very much and I am so lucky to be your mama.  I love you more every day that I get to spend with you.  I’m ready for this wild ride, little one.  I hope you are.

All my love, now and forever,

Mama