Magical, Mortifying, Motherhood.

Motherhood is full of magical, heart-warming moments that take your breath away and make you wonder how you ever lived your life before your children came into it.

It’s also filled with moments that make you want to melt into the floor, run away, or just spontaneously combust from embarrassment and want to sell them to the lowest paying customer.

That’s the shit no one ever tells you about. EVER. For instance:

No one ever told me that one day, I would be elbow-deep in baby diarrhea and bathing her in the sink. At Olive Garden. In the middle of the day.

No one ever told me that I’d be holding my toddler in line at the grocery store and that she would suddenly grab hold of my shirt, pull it down and yell, “HI BOOBS!”

No one ever told me that while on a solo trip to the aquarium with my child, I’d have to go to the bathroom. So I’d take her in the stall with me. No one ever told me that while sitting on the toilet, my child would look down and see my sanitary pad and ask loudly, “MAMA HAVE DIAPER?!”

No one ever told me that I would lift her up and sniff her ass in public, just to see if she had pooped. My child turned me into a public ass-sniffer.

No one ever told me that I’d have to say certain things to her in a public place, things like:
“Stop scratching your butt.”
“Yes, I’m aware Ariel has boobs.”
“Nellie Rose! Stop licking (the shopping cart, your Ariel doll’s boobs, your foot, your daddy’s face)!”

No one ever told me that I would be on the phone with a complete stranger at my pediatrician’s office explaining my daughter’s bowel movements/vaginal odors/scent of her diaper and asking if it was normal.

What are some of your most embarrassing/humbling moments of parenthood?

Starring Role: Mommy.

Everyone gave me such encouragement on my last blog post about auditioning for the musical – thank you everyone for your words of support and the wishes to break legs. It meant so much to me.

Nellie started running a fever on Monday – I had to take her home early from daycare. My Monday plans for auditioning fell through – but auditions were still being held the next night so I made plans to go on Tuesday evening.

I was tucking my feverish baby into bed Monday night and as I bent down to kiss her forehead, she put her little hands on either side of my face, looked into my eyes and said, “Mama.”

And in that moment, I lost all motivation and want to audition for the musical.  In that moment, I became hyper-aware of the fact that my daughter was constantly changing, that each day she would re-invent herself.  I thought about all that I would miss out on while I was away; her funny little laugh, her running around the apartment declaring she was Spider-Man, chasing Josh around and growling at him saying she was The Beast.. Her little kisses, her “I Love You’s”… Suddenly, the thought of being away from her every single night for two months became unbearable. I got to thinking about how she missed me when I was gone during my mom’s time in the hospital; how she had trouble sleeping for weeks after, how she acted out, and I couldn’t bring myself to put her through that again.

I closed the door to her bedroom and sat beside my husband on the couch. He put his arm around me and I snuggled close, and told him that I wasn’t going to audition. He looked at me, concerned, and I told him my reasons. I couldn’t be away from my family every single night for two months. Not right now. We are all away from each other so much as it is between working, daycare, and the business of day-to-day life that our time together is precious and fleeting.

There will be other shows. There will be other opportunities. The theater center isn’t going anywhere, and as long as it is there, they will have musicals. But my child will only be this young once, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to miss out on the chance to tuck her in before she gets too old to want me to do it. The stage will just have to wait – my starring role right now is Mommy.

 

If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out

It’s no secret that I like to sing. I sing songs to Nellie all the time. She’s particularly fond of: “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”, “Witch Doctor” (you know… ting tang walla walla bing bang), and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”.

Last Tuesday night we were waiting on her curls to dry after her bath when I started singing her the ABCs. She whirled around with a huge smile on her face and began clapping along with my singing.
“ABCD,” I sang as Nellie clapped. “EFG..”
That’s when I noticed that she was softly saying things along with me, watching me intently while her little hands smacked together.
“HIJKLMNOP,” I continued.
“P…” she said quietly along with me.
“QRSTUV..”
“oo veee….”
“WXY and Z. Now I know my ABCs, next time won’t you sing with me?”
“YYYAYYYY!” she yelled, applauding. “Shooome? Shoome?” she asked, which is her word for “more”.

I began singing again and sure enough, she was saying a few of the letters with me. I was floored. Floored! We sang about four more times before I switched to another familiar tune.

“Old Mac Donald had a farm, EIEIO!”
“EEEEEEE OHHHHH!” Nellie sang. Again, jaw met floor. Every time I got to the EIEIO part, she would chime in. I shook my head in disbelief as my little toddler played and clapped and sang along with me. The last song I sang to her was “Skinamarinky Dinky Dink”.. You remember, the theme song to the Sharon, Lois, Bram and Elephant Show on Nickelodeon? This one comes with hand/arm gestures and when I was doing them she began to mime me.

She and I sat on the floor facing each other and singing songs for at least ten minutes. She listened to me, captivated; my rapt audience of one. She even made requests. When I tried to sing “BINGO,” she shook her head no. I started in with the ABCs again and was met with another “no”. The third time I tried Old Mac Donald and was met with clapping and cheers.

I’ve taken a leave of absence from my women’s chorus and Tuesdays are usually my chorus night… But instead of singing a capella barbershop, I was sitting cross-legged on the floor with my pajama-clad tot with the corkscrew curls and we were singing our hearts out together as day turned to night. I couldn’t possibly ask for more.

 

Climbing the Lion

At our local mall, we have an indoor playground that’s meant for smaller children. It even has a height restriction. Not that other parents always pay attention to said height restriction *coughhackcough*. But that’s another post for another time.

This playground is made entirely of things that won’t stab your kid in the face or cause decapitation. The floor is almost bouncy and everything is made of some special material from the magical land of “no childhood injuries ever”. Really the worst thing that could happen is your toddler tumbles off the slide and bumps their head a little. It’s very safe. We’ve only taken Nellie a few times, because there are usually older kids there and they are running and being rambunctious little kids. We just didn’t feel comfortable with her toddling unsteadily about amidst the rumpus. The few times we did take her, I followed her around; hovering like one of the dreaded Helicopter Parents you read about. And up until recently, my hovering was justified.

We took her last week, and Helicopter Mama hovered about helpfully. The playground was provided by the local hospital in town, so some of the animals that the kids can climb on are in various states of ailment and recovery. There is a lion that is lying on its belly with a hot water bottle on its head. Nellie ran over to the lion and lifted herself onto one of its feet. I was right there behind her, offering to help. “Noooo!” she insisted, shaking her head and backing up off the lion. Nellie is and has always been very cautious so I figured she just wasn’t ready to climb the lion.

Josh waved me over to where he was standing and told me to stop hovering.
“I’m not hovering,” I insisted. He just looked at me. “Okay maybe I’m being a bit of a helicopter but I can’t help it. I don’t want her to get hurt.”
“Honey,” he said. “This place is pretty much like playing on a marshmallow. She’s not going to get hurt. Let her play. Let her climb, let her fall.”

Taking deep breaths, I realized my husband was right and I stood by his side, watching our girl run and squeal. Being the careful child she is, she spent most of her playtime running from one thing to the next.The few times she would put a foot up on something like she was wanting to climb, it took every ounce of self-control I had to not run over and help her. But I didn’t. It was really hard, but I didn’t do it.

A few days later we returned when it wasn’t too crowded. There were smaller children there for the most part so we felt comfortable letting her play. I stood back this time, watching my girl run and enjoy herself. I was talking to Josh and when I looked over to check on her,  she was standing at the ailing lion again. As I watched, she put one foot up on his, then the other. I watched my girl crawl, scramble, and maneuver until she was sitting on the top of the lion, looking around with a smile on her face.

My girl climbed the lion. By herself. My breath caught in my throat as I witnessed this “first” for her; my safe and cautious girl had climbed something that had scared her only days before completely unassisted. She did it without my help and encouragement. My heart swelled with pride and love for my brave little girl. She sat atop the lion for a few minutes before deciding it was time to get down. She looked a little hesitant and I felt compelled to go help her but I resisted the urge and of course, my curly-headed adventurer found her own way down without my help once more. With a grin on her face, she turned back around to climb the lion again and I watched her with tears in my eyes. I turned to look at Josh, who was also smiling.
“She did it,” I said. “She did it without my help.”
My voice caught as I spoke the words, because in that moment it was more than just watching my daughter scramble up a playground lion. It was her taking another little step out of my nervous arms and toward independence. It was another moment that I realized my child is growing up and needing me less and less.

My entire body still wants to Helicopter. I want to hold her little hand and help her climb all of the lions that life throws into her path, but I know that I can’t. She has to do it on her own. I just have to tell myself that even though I have to let go, even though she has to learn for herself, that doesn’t mean that I won’t still be there to help her just in case she needs me, and to kiss away the tears when she does fall.

Whose Boobs Are These, Anyway?

I’ve never been big-chested. In fact, I’ve always lamented about how small the girls are. At my thinnest, I was an A cup. At my biggest (pre-baby), I was barely a B. It seemed nature’s cruel joke that when I gained weight, my boobs were the last place to fill out yet when I lost, they were the first place I shrank. WHAT THE ACTUAL EFF, MOTHER NATURE? What kind of wonk-ass logic is THAT?

I digress. When I became pregnant, my boobs grew as tends to happen. Preparing to nurture your baby and whatnot. I went from a 36A to a 36C overnight. Seriously. I went to bed an A, and woke up and my boobies were all, “OH HAI, LOL. WE’RE BIG NOW.” Suddenly I knew the joys of gratuitous boob sweat (because I was also an oven when I was pregnant). Oh happy day. It turns out that having larger boobs isn’t all fun and games. For one, my boobs were sore through my pregnancy and when they got bigger they just got heavier and MORE painful to lug around. They also got freakishly veiny and had random hairs sprout all over them. Weird, right? Aren’t you glad you decided to read this post and learn all about my ta-tas?

So now that I’ve gained weight and am the proud owner of back fat, my bra size has increased yet again. It’s not in the cup so much as it is in the circumference. My chest is now an impressive 40C. The other day I was carrying the laptop into the bedroom. I looked down at my computer and my boob had tried to create a Facebook event. I had to quickly exit out of the event before my other boob decided it wanted to join the fun and ended up inadvertently starting a flash mob or some shit.

I know that 40C is not the biggest bra size ever but holy fuck is it hard to find cute bras in that size that don’t cost the same as a Cadillac. Seriously, bra makers. SHOW THE BIG GIRLS SOME FREAKING LOVE. This is a disturbing trend not only seen in bra manufacturers but in clothing companies in general. They seem to think that only big women with lots of money want to look cute and fashionable; the rest of us are content wearing mumus and t-shirts that are actually made from old plantation home curtains. I have a newsflash for you, clothing companies: PLUS SIZED WOMEN ARE NOT SCARLETT O’HARA. I DO NOT WANT YOUR CLOTHING MADE FROM DRAPERIES. KTHXBAI.

Anyway, my bigger chest would be nicer if my waist were smaller. Now that I’ve been using John Cleese and am trying to lose some weight, I know that my boobies are going to shrink faster than any other part of me because that’s just how it goes. I’ll be a little sad to see the girls go, but the back fat will not be missed.

If I Could Go Back

I was browsing through old pictures of Nellie like I am prone to do at times, and I stumbled across a video of her at 13 weeks old. I watched my baby daughter lying on her activity mat making cooing noises, her legs kicking in that way that a new baby’s legs do. I was suddenly filled with the overwhelming urge to reach through my laptop screen and pull out that baby just the way she was and hold her for hours. I wanted to smell her baby smell again, to feel how small and light she was in my arms.

I wanted to go back in time and experience her as she once was.

I started thinking about all of the things I would do, say, and feel differently if I could go back to my daughter’s first year of life. In the delivery room I would say…

Don’t get those IV drugs. You’re not going to remember your daughter’s first hours of life very well if you do.
Have people take more pictures of you and your new baby together.
Don’t be afraid to tell people you want some more time alone with your new family.
Don’t have them take her into the nursery at night. Keep her in the room with you.

As a newborn…

Ask for help. When you need it, ask. No one can help you if they don’t know what you need.
Drink. Her. In. Take even more videos than you already do. You will forget what she was like when she was this tiny and helpless. You won’t remember the little noises, the way she moved.
Sleep, sleep, sleep. Even if it means letting the laundry go… Sleep. Things will seem so much less overwhelming if you get as much sleep as you can.

As she grows…

Don’t be so worried with what she should be doing. Sleeping through the night, solids, rolling over.. Those things will all eventually happen so enjoy how she is now.
Don’t be so concerned with how she should be acting. She’s a baby; people aren’t going to freak out and think you’re a horrible parent if she squeals loudly in a public place.
Don’t be in such a hurry for her to put herself to sleep. When she’s a busy toddler, she’s not going to want you to rock her anymore. She has too much to do.
Write down everything. Yes, you have your blog. But write everything down in a journal. What she’s doing. What she’s eating. You WILL forget.
Continue to take videos to capture her essence at each stage, because each stage is beautiful and unique.
Stop and watch her. Watch how beautiful, funny, curious, and amazing she is. You made that. You grew that. Stop for a second and let that roll around in your mind for a while.

I know that with our second child, things will be different. I think I will probably be a little more relaxed, and remember to enjoy my baby as s/he is rather than concern myself with when they will be doing this or that and worrying if I’m spoiling them.

I love Toddler Nellie. She is so much fun; we play, and learn, and laugh and interact. But sometimes, when I scroll through old pictures I want to hold that tiny new baby with the dark brown hair. I want to kiss her cheeks and nibble her toes. I want to take the experience and wisdom that I have now and give it to that scared new mama so maybe she can enjoy the first year a little more, and worry a little less.

What would you say, if you could go back?

A Bushel and a Peck

I come from a family where being musically inclined isn’t an option. You just are. Every single one of my aunts, uncles, and cousins (along with my dad, mom, and brother) are musical. Almost everyone plays an instrument and we all sing. Spontaneously. In 4 part harmony. To say that I was raised around music is an understatement. At family functions we wouldn’t say grace, we would sing it….. In 4 part harmony.

My grandma Nellie – my daughter’s namesake – was hellbent that I would sing harmony, by god. I can remember spending summer afternoons swimming in the pool with her (well. I swam. She floated in an inner tube) and having her teach me the harmonies to countless songs. I can still remember the very first song that I heard the harmony to:

Show me the way to go home, I’m tired and I wanna go to bed.
I had a popsicle ’bout an hour ago and it went right to my head.
Wherever I may roam, on land or sea of foam
You can always hear me singin’ this song. Show me the way to go home.


Yes, I know that shark. Thank you. But when I learned it I was like 5, so popsicle it was. Because teaching a child a drinking song is a little inappropriate. Once I heard the harmony to that song, I could just hear harmony. In high school, I would sing along with someone in harmony and they’d stop and ask me, “how do you do that?” to which I’d respond: “I just do. How do you not?”
I wasn’t trying to be a smarmy little snot, though in retrospect that’s what I was being. It was an honest question. The harmony is always there, and I can always hear it.

I sing Nellie a lot of songs. I sing her “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly”, “Senor Don Gato“, and the aforementioned “Show Me the Way to Go Home“. In the way of love songs and lullabies, I’ve been known to croon “Baby Mine” (memorably about 2 weeks postpartum when I was raging with sleep deprivation and hormones, I sobbed so hard while singing her that song her hair was dripping wet from my tears) and “All the Pretty Horses“.

But the song that she has responded to the most – more than any other song I’ve ever sung to her – is one that her great-grandma Nellie taught me. It’s called “Bushel and a Peck” and when I sing it to her she stops and watches me and listens. It stops her tears, it quiets her whines.. It works magic like no other song that I sing her does. It’s so very simple:

I love you, a bushel and a peck.
A bushel and a peck, and a hug around the neck. A hug around the neck,
And a barrel and a heap. A barrel and a heap, and I’m talkin’ in my sleep about you..
About you!

There are more lyrics but I only sing her that part ‘cuz it’s the only part I remember.

I don’t know what it is about this song that intrigues her so, but I like to think that it’s just part of my musical blood running through her veins.. That a little piece of her great-grandma Nellie lives on inside of her. I think it’s beautiful and fascinating that my little daughter is so interested in the music that her namesake taught to me when I myself was a little girl. The connection makes me smile. I can’t wait to teach her all the songs that my grandma Nellie taught me.. The music lives on and I hope that my baby girl feels it in her soul one day like I do.

P.S. Imaginary internet cookie to anyone who knows why there’s a random picture of a shark in my blog post about my grandmother and harmony.

 

 

What Is Motherhood?

When we were struggling to conceive after our miscarriage, I would often dream of what it’d be like to be a mother. I imagined the day that I finally held my child – my flesh and blood – in my arms, and in my dreams it felt like heaven. Like utter peace. I would sit around and imagine rocking my sweet baby to sleep, singing that little bundle into a land of sweet dreams. I’d picture us strolling around the mall or taking a walk outside.

I assumed that the second my child entered the world screaming, I would feel like a mother.

But I was wrong. For me, there wasn’t some magic veil of motherhood that dropped over me as soon as Nellie was born. They pulled her from me and held her up and I cried once I saw her but after that I was so exhausted from labor and so loopy from the drugs, I honestly don’t remember much about the next few hours. I remember holding my tiny little burrito baby but I don’t remember what I was thinking.

I got to thinking this morning about motherhood and what defines it. I am a mother all of the time, but sometimes I don’t feel like one. When I’m standing with my quartet and singing in 4 part harmony with my sisters, the fact that I have a child isn’t at the front of my mind. When I’m engrossed in a movie at the theater on one of our rare trips, I’m not thinking about Nellie the entire time. When I drive home from work and I’m singing Bohemian Rhapsody at the top of my lungs, I look forward to reaching the daughter I’ve been away from all day but in that moment I don’t feel like a mother.

I feel most like a mother when I’m comforting my child. When she wakes up crying for whatever reason at 1 AM (which almost never happens anymore) and I go into her room and lift her from her crib, pulling her against my chest and kissing her forehead.. I feel like  a mother. Sitting in her glider while she lay against me, her sleepy head in my neck.. That makes me feel like a mother. While I smooth her hair back from her forehead and hum softly to her while we rock… In those moments, I feel like a mother because she needs me. Maybe she is teething, maybe she had a bad dream.. It doesn’t matter. My daughter needs me, and I am giving her what she needs in comforting her. But what does “feeling like a mother” mean? How do you define that? Caretaker? Comforter? Protector? To me it’s all of the above. When I am making my daughter feel safe and secure, when I am soothing her tears away.. That’s what motherhood feels like to me.

When I have Nellie tipped upside-down tickling her neck and she is squealing and giggling with delight, I feel like a mother. When her musical, delicious laughter fills my ears I cannot help but grab her and hug her until she squirms from my embrace, ready to move on to her next adventure. Her laughter awakens something inside of my soul, an emotion that rushes through me and floods every corner of my body. I feel as though I might drown in that love, that it might just wash over me and suffocate me with its’ power.

When I am out in public with Nellie and someone says, “What a beautiful child. Where did you get that curly hair, little one?” I smile with pride because it’s obvious where she got her hair. When people exclaim about the dimple in her chin, I feel so happy because I gave that to her. It’s something that she and I share. She is the spitting image of her father but those dark curls and dimple.. That’s all me.

To me, motherhood is a sense of pride. Of duty. Of honor. It is simultaneously empowering and humbling, the weight you hold in your child’s life. Above all things, motherhood is a sense of unconditional, endless love. While I may not feel I fit the role of mother all the time, and Nellie sometimes isn’t always at the very front of my mind, that sense of overwhelming love is always, always there. If I am standing and singing with my quartet and I conjure  an image of my chubby, laughing girl in my head that love instantly fills me. I feel calm and peaceful. I feel like a mother.

What is motherhood to you? How do you define it, and when do you feel most like a mom?

Losing My Mind (and Debit Card)

This morning, I almost lost my mind.

I stopped at a gas station to put gas in the car on the way back from dropping Josh off at work. I had Nellie in the car with me. I pulled next to the pump, walked around to the backseat where I had my purse and her diaper bag. Nellie gave me a big grin and I pulled my wallet out of my purse. I took out my debit card and she started fussing and crying, wanting my wallet. I reached into her diaper bag and grabbed my old wallet – which is now Nellie’s. I handed her the pink billfold with the butterflies on it and she gave me another grin as she turned it around in her hands. I smiled at her…………

And completely and utterly forgot what I did with my debit card. I opened my wallet again. Checked my pockets. What the hell? I digged through the diaper bag. Opened my purse and emptied it. Panic began to rise up in me and Nellie began to screech and whine, tired of being in her car seat. She reached for me as I was frantically turning our backseat upside-down trying to find my green debit card.

I became increasingly agitated; not only was I missing my debit card and was in need of gas in the car but moreso… How in the holy living hell did I lose my debit card IN MY OWN CAR? As Nellie’s cries turned louder, I became more stressed. I started to tear up, saying to myself, “How in the hell can this happen? How did I lose my own damn card in MY CAR?”

I looked around on the ground surrounding the car. Nothing. I quickly searched my pockets, my wallet, Nellie’s wallet. I had no idea what to do. I was tearing up even more and feeling helpless. What was I supposed to do? I lost my damn debit card while standing there. Was I losing my mind? Going senile? The damn thing was gone. Should I call my bank and cancel it? I got back in the car and drove off to the side of the station to collect my thoughts. I took some deep breaths, fighting off tears. Nellie was wailing, I was on the verge of yelling at her and I felt so stupid. I decided to drive back toward the pump and park at the one right across the way from it so I could look on the ground again. I pulled around, tears in my eyes and parked the car. I looked out the window and there on the ground I saw it – the backside of my green debit card. I flung the door open and hurried over to where it was. I picked it up, flipped it over and read my name on the front. I felt so relieved I almost started crying again.

In my haste to retrieve Nellie’s wallet so she’d stop crying, I must have tried to shove my card in my back pocket but missed. I felt silly that I’d gotten so panicked while standing there pumping my gas, but it really freaked me out that I legitimately could not remember what had happened to my card. I had no recollection of putting it in my pocket, or even going through the motions of doing so. I was distraught at the thought of having to cancel my card, and really disturbed at the fact that my memory & mind had failed me so terribly… And Nellie crying and reaching the whole time made things worse.

This isn’t the first time I’ve temporarily misplaced something when stressed about Nellie crying. I realized that the sound of her crying has a stressing effect on me – I hastily do whatever I can to stop the sound and make her happy and in doing that everything else leaves my brain. It’s like my brain’s not capable of focusing on anything but making her crying stop.

So that was my morning. I’m losing my mind, but at least I found my effing card, right?

Baby Steps

While I was on my way to work yesterday, Josh texted me to let me know that my Nellie, the babe who spent 9 months in my womb and has spent 10 months outside, had taken two whole unassisted steps.

My heart. My babe. She’s almost a toddler. Never in my life have I felt so fiercely proud.  It seems sometimes I might burst from the inside out from the pride… Never in my life have I felt so out of control of time, of life; so desperate to just freeze these moments to cherish them just a little bit longer. Pleading with time to stop careening forward with such alarming speed… Motherhood is simultaneously the most beautiful and most painful thing I’ve ever gone through. Every day, that baby grows apart from me, and into her own little person. Every day, I lose her just a little bit more. As she takes her first wobbly steps, she has no idea that in her little hands, she holds my heart. My soul. The very essence of my being. She never will know, will never be able to fully grasp the gravity of that unless she has children of her own one day.. Then, and only then will she understand how bittersweet and frightening loving a child and watching them grow is.

I know that I have to learn to let her fall, to let her land hard and learn her lessons so next time, she will do differently. Sometimes we have to hurt to understand the mistakes that caused the pain.

Yes, I have to learn how to take a deep breath, let go of her hands, and let her toddle farther into the journey that is her life… But the thing she doesn’t know yet  is that I will always, always be standing just behind her… Ready to catch her if she falls. I can’t help it. That’s just… Motherhood.