The Moment I Learned to Really Love My Child

My mom was on a plane 39,000 feet above me; my husband was at work on the other side of The East River; my nearest friend was one state away; my baby was screaming in the crib, and I was on the living room floor completely losing my shit.

***

She was only a few weeks old, and I lacked experience. I read books, but no parenting book can prepare you to actually be a parent. It had been a nearly sleepless week, and we were both trudging through exhaustion. That day, I tried everything. Everything. Still, she cried. Frustration bubbled up, consuming me, and before the thought of doing something I’d later regret had the chance to wiggle it’s way into my head, I remembered what the nurses said: it’s okay to let her cry sometimes. It’s okay to take a moment to breathe. And never shake the baby.

I couldn’t attempt to soothe her for another bloodcurdling second, so I put her in her crib, shut the door, and walked away.

I pressed my forehead against the cool wood floor, curled my legs into my chest, and left my arms limp at my sides as I wrenched tears from my eyes. I heaved words assembled into desperate pleas at the universe. I prayed to a god I didn’t even know I really believed in for determination and strength to be the mother my crying child needed and deserved.

“Please help me. I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t know how to make her stop crying. I’ll do anything,” I begged. “What do I do?”

I rolled over, spread-eagle, and stared at the ceiling. Her cries were reaching decibels so high that the glass chandelier was swaying ever so slightly, reflecting bits of light off the brass. I imagined melting into the floor to disappear from my new role as mother, to hide from that hideous light fixture, to hide from life.

“What do I do?” I repeated in a whisper. I pinched my eyes shut and searched my brain for advice I’d been given and chapters I’d read on this sort of thing. I couldn’t come up with anything that I hadn’t already tried. “Why do I suck at parenting so bad? What am I doing wrong?”

Someone – not me, not anyone in the hallway – someone outside and inside my head simultaneously in the most loving, calming voice said, “Just love her.”

I sat up, eyes wide. I knew that advice. It was something my mother had said to me once.

***

We were taking my dog on a walk through my neighborhood, urging contractions to kick in. I remember flashes of four-family brownstones as the words left her lips. I thought it was awful advice. How could I not love my child?

***

My eyes darted around the living room to see where the voice came from. “Hello?” I asked. No one answered, but I didn’t imagine the voice. It was as real as the cries resonating from behind my child’s bedroom door.  Was it God? Was it my own conscience?  “Just love her?” I asked back. As I repeated the words out loud, something clicked. In the moment when my baby needed me most I wasn’t loving her.

I carefully stood and pushed wet tangles of hair from my face with a fraction of new determination and strength. Yes, this is difficult. Yes, I’m alone, but I have to do it. She and I only have each other.

I opened her door. Her squishy arms, tiny fists, and face the color of confusion, were the first things I saw. Remorse twisted its way through my gut. Am I a horrible mother for letting her cry? I went to her crib with breath stuck in my chest, new tears falling from my eyes. I knew I had to comfort her.

I knew I had to love her.

Photo courtesy of Pexels

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That Time We Vacuumed a Pea from the Baby’s Nose

Our day started with three Jehovah’s witnesses, two plumbers, and one dog in heat. That would have been enough for any normal family, but my overachieving 18-month-old decided to stuff some peas up her nose during dinner for extra excitement.

The shenanigans started while I was helping my husband clear the table. I picked up a plate and some silverware and took literally ten steps to the kitchen.

“Mama!” I could hear my six-year-old giggling from the dining room.

“I’ll be right back, Sweetie,” I responded. My husband was filling the dishwasher. “Dinner and dishes? I’m pretty lucky!” I said, smacking his rear end.

“Mama, you have to see this! Ash put a pea in her nose.”

“A what?” I sighed and rolled my eyes before handing him my plate. Then I turned and walked casually back to the table. I know my youngest daughter is a trouble-maker. She’s like a cat, cute but sneaky. My oldest, Rey, was stifling laughter with her hand when I arrived. The baby had a bright green pea protruding from her left nostril. I snorted. “Grab my phone babe, I need to document this,” I said, along with every other great parent when her child had gotten herself into trouble. My husband ‘carefully’ tossed me my phone before returning to the kitchen.

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I snapped the photo, then pushed on her nostril, popping the pea out faster than one of those machines that pops out tennis balls.

“Taken care of,” I pretended to dust my hands.

“Wait Mama, there’s more!” my oldest shouted. She likes to exaggerate, as most kids do.

“I’ve told you before not to tell stories.”

“Mama, I mean it. Look! Look!” she jumped up, pointing and shrieking from the other side of the table. I decided to entertain her and peek. I reclined the high chair and peered up the baby’s nose to find yet another pea. It was within pinky-reach, so I quickly pulled it out.

“Well that’s enough fun for me,” I sighed and walked away, wondering if it was too early for a gigantic glass of wine.

“Mama, I think there’s another one,” my oldest had gotten up from her chair. She had one eye closed while pushing Ash’s nose up, stretching the nostrils wider for a better view. “I see something green!”

“Stop being silly,” I admonished. “It’s probably a booger.”

“No really, Momma! I’ll get Daddy’s flashlight.” She ran to the kitchen, came back with a tiny hand-held light. She shone it up the baby’s nose and there, tucked in the highest part of her nasal cavity, was another freaking pea. They were piled in her nose like lottery balls in the tube, only there wasn’t a prize to win.

“My dear God,” I whispered. “Only my child.” I pulled her out of her highchair and attempted to plug the pea-less nostril whilst blowing into her mouth to get it dislodged. Nothing. I used a nasal aspirator. Nope. That stupid little pea was stuck.

We put out a call on Facebook for tips on dislodging objects from body parts, because the people on Facebook are always right. Right? Not surprisingly, nothing helpful came of that, either.

“I don’t know what to do,” I said to my husband. “Maybe it will just fall out on its own?” After many trials, no luck, and a frustrated baby, I called it quits and put both kids in the tub.

A while later, my husband popped his head into the bathroom. “Do we have juice boxes and duct tape? I have an idea.” Good ideas don’t normally start with duct tape, but my husband is resourceful, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

“Check the kitchen,” I said, drying off the kids.

When I came out of the bathroom, he had duct taped a juice box straw to a sippy-cup lid and to, finally, the vacuum hose. “This is going to work. I know it,” he said.

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“Wait. You want to vacuum the baby’s nose? Are you alright?”

“Yes and yes. You hold her down. Rey, you hold her arms and I’ll use the juice box straw to vacuum out the pea. Are we ready?”

“Oh boy,” I said. “I guess we don’t really have a choice.” I laid Ash on the bed, straddled her gently and held her face so she couldn’t move. Her cheeks were squished together like a little Cabbage Patch Doll. My eldest daughter held her arms firmly in place and my husband carefully put the tiny white straw in the end of her nose. I held my breath as the vacuum hummed, coming to life.

I bit my lip and squinted my eyes, praying that it would work. He slowly pulled the straw back, nanometer by nanometer. Time seemed to stop as more and more of the straw became visible. When the end of the white plastic was finally pulled from her nostril, I could see a tiny green pea stuck to the end. The three of us erupted in joyful hoots and hollers.

Kids do stupid stuff. All the time. And some of the stuff is stupider than other stuff. This, amazingly, sums up  what six years of parenting has taught me. So if anyone needs a vacuum attachment for removing small objects from children’s small body parts: noses, ears, etc., I have one and it works like a charm.

Baby Steps

Arms outstretched; fists white-knuck-ling.

Small feet are stum-bling.

She wants to take steps today.

 

Hair disheveled; voice mum-bling.

Girl starts a’ tum-bling.

Falling down won’t ruin her day.

 

Getting up; she’s still stru-ggling,

Short legs are fum-bling.

Fixed to take first steps today.

 

Crackers out; tummy’s grum-bling.

Wood floor starts rum-bling.

Steps are coming straight this way.

 

She’s close; crackers crum-bling.

And Mom starts bum-bling.

Baby took first steps today!

 

Photo courtesy of Liane Metzler on Stocksnap.io

That Time of Year Again…

Mom,

I really miss you.

It’s that time of year again when sadness and loneliness begin to consume me, despite all my efforts to not let it happen.  As childish and silly as it may sound, despite being a full-grown thirty-four-year-old woman, I still want to stomp my feet and whale out, “it’s not fair!” when I think about your death.  But I don’t…  Instead I bottle up, get stressed and start taking it out on my family.  I know you’d shake your pointer finger at me and glare at me over the top of your glasses if you saw how awfully stressed I was this morning.  I definitely wasn’t being the best version of myself.

Justin was the one that actually pointed it out, helping me see what I was doing.   So, now that I see what’s going on I know I need to get it on paper.  It’s what makes me feel better.  It’s what organizes my thoughts so that I can heal.  It’s my therapy.

So let’s start with Reagan.

You would be so proud of her.  That kid is smart and sassy and probably a lot like I was at her age.  Yet despite being like me, she is still so much like Justin, too.  She is destined for amazing things.  I only wish you were here to see her in person.  I’m sure your heart would swell with pride.

And now Reagan is old enough to understand who you are and how much she meant to you, too. We talk about you every day.  I tell her how you live in heaven now, but how you still love her and watch over her, protecting her like a guardian angel.  She still reads that book you gave her (the one where you recorded your voice reading it).

But still, I can’t wrap my head around the fact that she hasn’t been hugged by her own grandma in four years.  It pains me deeply.

Then there is Ashlyn…If there was ever a kid with undeniable tenacity and perseverance, it is that child.  She will conquer the world one day, I just know it.  And my goodness, does she look like you.  She has your smile and your hair and something else I can’t quite put my finger on…but I’m guessing it’s your beautiful spirit.

And that beautiful spirit is in to EVERYTHING.  Sometimes I feel like I can’t catch my breath with her, but then I remember your best advice ever:  to just remember to love her.  To slow down, not take life so seriously and to just let Ashlyn be who Ashlyn is.

Then there are the dogs.  My dear God, how did you ever have more than one?!  Sven and Roxy conspire against us daily.  They run wild through the woods, track in dirt and mud, dig in the garbage, chew up things that are not their toys (actually this one is just Sven, because Roxy has no teeth left), and generally make me feel like a crazy person for ever wanting a second beastly animal.  But we love them and could never, ever picture life without either of them.

Lastly, there is me and Justin.  You never have to worry about the two of us, because we are the one constant.  Justin keeps me grounded and I keep him moving – it’s always been that way and always will.  He is the yin to my yang, or however that saying goes…And speaking of moving, I really wish you could see our house.  You’d love the land and the peacefulness – our neighbor has cows!  Who seriously would have ever thought that would live by someone with actual real live cows?  Not me! However, I could really use your gardening expertise, because I’m in the weeds (literally!)

Well now that I’m feeling better, I guess I’ll wrap this up.  I love you, Mom.  And not a day goes by that I don’t think of you.

Wish you were here,

Danielle

Thank Heaven for Little Girls

Tonight, while feeding Ashlyn her bedtime bottle under the warm glow of her nightlight, I prayed for God to let me remember the way her soft, pudgy fingers felt as they wrapped around mine.  I asked him to let me remember the way her baby soft brown hair felt under my lips as I kissed the top of her head gently and the way her hair smelled as I breathed in deeply through my nose.   I pleaded with him to allow me to remember the  sweet noises she made as she drank her milk and slowly drifted off to sleep.

The older I get, the faster time passes and the more I want to slow it down and just enjoy the moment.  These two beautiful girls of mine are growing up way to fast. I’m afraid of blinking too slowly and missing something.  Reagan is almost halfway done with kindergarten and Ashlyn is already nine and a half months old.  Sometimes I really wish I could hold onto both of them tight enough to keep them little just a while longer.

But I can’t and I know that.  So instead I take in the moment, enjoy the sweet sound of their laughter and thank God for blessing me with two amazing little girls that fill my life with such joy and love.

Unbroken

I am going to be completely candid here, because I am trying to grow and become a better person and without being totally honest with myself, my family and my friends I won’t be able to grow to my full potential.

Crap…  Here goes nothing.

You see, I am a loving, caring, hardworking, honest, good person.  I love with my whole heart, am incredibly emotional (in a good way), passionate, empathetic and I have a dry, geeky sense of humor.  I also have a hot Irish temper.

Today, I am working on embracing myself for who I am and loving me for me.  I am growing more and more with each passing day, but six months ago this was not the case.

Six months ago I was TOTALLY broken.

I don’t know what it was that pushed me over the edge.  Was it the lack of sleep?  The moving with a newborn?  The stress of trying to figure out how to mother two small children simultaneously?  Was it that I was still not totally dealing with my mom’s passing?  The crazy dogs?  I really have know idea, but what I do know is that one day it all piled on top of me like a ton of bricks and I snapped.  I could no longer be the loving, vibrant mother/wife/person that I wanted to be.  I was a fragile mess and I really didn’t know how to fix it.

I think I literally had a nervous breakdown.

My husband tried to help, but he couldn’t.  I tried to fix myself, but in my state of mind I didn’t possess the right tools to get me mentally where I needed to be.  I didn’t know what else to do, so reluctantly I started researching life counselors.  I was really hesitant to talk to a stranger about my problems, but I decided to give it a shot.  I had nothing left, mentally, so what did I have to lose?

The first time I went to my counselor I sat down and she asked me what brought me in and the words and tears just started falling out of my face like a volcano erupting.  It was completely and totally liberating,but also super scary.  However, after I walked away from that session I felt better than I had in a long time.

I still see her once a month.

Today, through my conversations with her, I have come to realize that I have always held so much back for fear of failure.  My self worth was low from a whole slew of events, but now it’s on the mend.  All of this, plus lack of sleep and the incredible pressure I placed on myself to remember and do everything probably led to my emotional collapse.

Since that day she has helped me get to this place where I am able to tell this story without  feeling ashamed.  What I went through was totally normal and I was STRONG by seeking help.  Not weak.

Today I sit here HAPPY knowing that each day I’m getting better.  Each day I’m growing, becoming that much better of a person.

Each day I become a little more UNbroken.

It’s a….

On Thursday, November 13th at 9:20 a.m., at my 20 week sonogram, my husband and I found out that the tiny baby growing in my belly was a healthy little girl.  I couldn’t believe my ears – another GIRL!

The tears that burned my eyes were proof of how unbelievably happy I was.  At that moment, everything was right in the world.  I felt as though the stars aligned and God was giving us the greatest blessing, all at the very same time.  My life instantaneously felt  so full of life, love and happiness.  It was a moment of pure joy.

You see, I came from a house with one sister (whom I adore and cherish as one of my most favorite people in the whole world – there are very few people who I am as close to).  But, I am also blessed enough to have two more step-siblings (one of them is a sister) and a sister-in-law.  If there is one thing I am sure about – the bond between two sisters is unlike anything else in the world.  It is deep, it is pure and it is magical.

When I was little (and an only child with the exception of my step-siblings) my mom always said she wanted two little girls of her own so I would have a sister.  On the day my sister was born, that dream came to fruition.  I never understood the gravity of her wish until now – my mom was a very smart lady.  This second baby girl will make my life (and my husband’s and my other daughter’s) complete.  Our family will be whole.  And the greatest gift I will EVER be able to give Reagan is that wonderful relationship she will have with her new baby sister.

Of course my daughter doesn’t quite understand exactly how much her sibling will mean to her just yet, but she is very excited to have a sibling and pretty stoked that it’s not a boy.  And…for the last few days she’s been using her unique powers of persuasion to try and convince me to name her sister Rainbow Dash.  She makes me laugh.  We love our little girl so much and can’t wait to have TWO of them!

Love you and miss you every day mom!  I know you helped God with this one.