Unsolvable.

Nothing can prepare you for parenthood. Nothing.

I knew this before. I had been told this before and I believed it but I didn’t understand it until my daughter was born.

Nothing is as sweet as the first time you meet your child. Nothing. Nothing can prepare you for this moment either.

We are four months in. It feels like I met her just yesterday and yet, I (and my husband) know her better than anyone else on this planet, including herself. There’s something incredibly special about that. 

Four months in and it was at three months I finally realized I cannot solve motherhood. Up until that point, that is what I had been trying to do: master a plan. Cause and effect. No, not entirely. Not with motherhood. Unless you mean that the effect will vary greatly, regardless of whether it’s the same cause or not. 

It’s beautiful, being a mother, but nothing, truly, could have ever prepared me for this journey. It comes in waves. Waves of feeling like I’ve got this to waves of feeling utterly desperate, confused and full of self-doubt and guilt. It’s a mix of the highest highs–hearing her first bouts of laughter and having tears run down my eyes from how beautiful she sounds–to the lowest of lows–seeing actual pain in her eyes or postpartum depression. 

Motherhood is entirely unsolvable which makes it beautiful and mysterious and the craziest, hardest thing I have ever done. I have to offer myself grace, over and over again, because I will never get this right. 

And sometimes I just have to stop, stop the thoughts or the folding of laundry and just sit with her and see things from her perspective. Things are new and exciting and bright. We took her to a kids activity at the library yesterday and my daughter, the one who is so quiet and hardly makes a peep (ever), was the loudest one there. All of the babies quieted down for story time and Row, seeing all of these tiny humans just like her, was squealing and chatting and screaming in complete joy. The quiet one became loud and expressive.

So at the end of the day, when I’m so tired I can barely form a sentence, or in the early morning, where I have to force my eyes open and my body out of bed to pick up her stirring body, I am reminded of love. Love that circles between her and I. Love that circles between my husband and I. Love that I should offer a stranger more often. Love that I should show those hardest to love.

Perhaps it’s not only motherhood that’s unsolvable, perhaps it’s life. 

And that’s okay. 

You + I. 

We float through this life together. We fall, we bruise, we laugh, we cry, we kiss, we cuddle, we wonder why and how things could ever be this way.

And that’s okay.

You + I. We’re all in this together.

There was a season in my 20s where I didn’t want any children. I realized, later, this was due to fear. Fear of all the things that could go wrong by bringing a child into this world. Fear of my own personal failure as a human and potential mother. Fear of war and hate and sadness and climate change. But one day things changed, and suddenly I wanted you more than anything I have ever wanted before. For many moons, I prayed you into existence, but now I see your existence was always going to happen, it was simply when time would allow me to meet you. You came, and the fear from before is just as real today as it has ever been, except when you arrived in my arms, with you, you brought a greater love than I have ever known to exist before. I open your door, slowly, quietly, as to not wake you and I see you there, swinging, peacefully, eyes closed, head turned to the right, swaying back and forth in your rocker, wrapped in your grey sweater. You don’t know the fear I know, nor do you care. And that’s what’s so beautiful. You are spring and a garden of pink and white lilies, a lavender tree and forget-me-nots. Rhododendrons, azaleas, and dahlias. You are fresh and you are pure and live life to its absolute fullest. Maybe the love I have for you is a reflection of the love God has for me. Maybe the way you see the world is how it was always meant to be. And so, on a day like this, when I have a list of things to do that runs further than any river, maybe it’s okay that I stop every now and then and write out these thoughts so I always remember this sweet, glistening time. You’ve changed me and buried so many of my fears. I see my aging skin and I notice more wrinkles around my eyes and I just don’t care anymore because those wrinkles around my eyes are from how big you make me smile. I love you, Row. One day you’ll be big like me and I don’t know if you will ever know or see me the way I know and see you now. But I hope you always see things as pure and honest and true because that’s you.

I kiss your belly button because it’s how we used to be connected as one entity and now when I nurse you, I feel as if we are one again. I cannot explain it except that when I sit down (or stand) to nurse you, I literally feel a wave of anxiety sucked out of me. It’s a physical feeling that comes from my back and out of my chest and I feel as if I am floating. It’s euphoria. You do that to me, my love. It’s you. You release the burden of the world on my back and show me how life is meant to be. You are the sweetest thing.

 

I can’t count the number of times I’ve looked down at you with tears running down my face but a smile as wide as the sky, to tell you how important you are and that what you say and do matters. I question everything I do now, absolutely everything, because I know you are watching. You are absorbing everything and your mere existence has brought to light every insecurity I have and made me look it in the face and cast it out. I wish I had done these things sooner but I didn’t value myself the way I value you; now I see that to value myself teaches you how to value yourself, too. I don’t ever want you to feel the shame I’ve felt. You are perfect. You are exactly who you are meant to be. 

 

I am the same person I was before you were born, and yet, since the day you were born, I will never be the same.

Now, who do I see?

I see a tired mother with tired eyes. The circles under my eyes, darker, like in the night when we are together and I’m listening to her breath as she sleeps. When she wakes, crow’s feet form across my eyes from the smile I cannot contain when I look at her, even if it is barely dawn. She smiles with her whole face and I am lost in her atmosphere. It’s all I care to do these days. She coos; I coo. Oh-goooo. Your first word. Oh-kkkkk. Your second. Now it’s ah-goooo and kuhhh and boooo of some sort.

Now, who do I see?

I see a mother whose body is soft, whose breasts fluctuate in size and leak. They aren’t what they used to be but they feed my baby who with her big, bright (turning brown) eyes looks up into my eyes as she nurses. She stares into my soul as she sucks. If I dart my eyes away, still she is looking–though I never want to look away from her. I am her whole world and she is mine. Sometimes she will smile at me as she is sucking and I wish to stop time. Attached to me again, please don’t ever let go, like when she was in my waterbed stomach (my daughter’s old home). I cradled her inside of me for 9 months and for 9 months, we were one. 

Now, who do I see?

I see my sweet, darling girl laying on my chest sleeping, and again, I feel as if we are one. 

What my 6-week old daughter has taught me:

1. Let go.

This seems to be a theme in my life, how to let go and move on. Whether it’s the simple things or the complicated things. Row can go from smiling to crying to smiling all in about 5 seconds. Suddenly her bubbles are relieved and she’s back smiling again (we call her burps “bubbles,” it’s much cuter). As soon as her bubbles are gone, she simply forgets and has moved on. It’s been a really great reminder for me to move on, let go, not dwell or let anger stew. Just let go. Life’s much more enjoyable that way.

2. Shadows are the coolest thing in the world.

No really, the coolest thing in her world right now is looking at a shadow on the wall. Or a striped sweater. Actually, she’d prefer to look at our entire closet. She will crank her head around and stare at every contrasty object in her field of vision. She’s obsessed with the simplest little thing that I don’t notice. It reminds me though to slow down and look at the simple things, the small things, the mundane things. Pay attention to them. Focus. Don’t let yourself be victim to information overload. Allow yourself to be bored so your mind has room to breathe and create. Stare at the crack in the ceiling and let yourself think. Be intentional while doing the dishes. Appreciate the slowness that comes with life. One day I’ll feel as if it’s all gone by much too fast.

Postpartum body image (and body image in general).

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This might be one of my favorite images of my daughter and me, taken by my husband hours after we got home from the hospital. This image represents the most emotionally intense and beautiful few days I have ever experienced in my life. I’ve never felt so protective and in love with a human being before. All I wanted to do was hold her close to me, feel her skin and hear her breath. Nothing else in the world mattered. I cried every few hours, just from looking at her: to see her beauty, her significance, how important and amazing she is. I remember laying there with her and everything else in the world had stopped. It was just her, my husband and I–my entire world. My paradise. 

I debated for a while whether to show this photo or not. Here’s why I’m sharing it: it’s real. It isn’t photoshopped or retouched. It’s a photo that shows love and the bond between parent and child. My body is soft and has rolls and if you look closely my stomach touches my daughter and is bigger than it should be. I’m sleeping on a towel and my bra is stained. It’s so far from how women are portrayed on an everyday basis and yet this is the most real, beautiful, significant photo to me because it’s love. 

Can we stop body shaming woman? Can we stop trying to be a certain size? Can we stop portraying women in ways that are untrue for the majority of women? Why aren’t our postpartum bodies celebrated? I’ve had so many conversations recently with mamas about their postpartum bodies. I feel the struggle, too, but I also think it’s garbage because we. are. beautiful. And we birthed a HUMAN. This is the most beautiful thing in the world!

This isn’t about me, though. I’m not looking for praise or compliments, nor do I want to be told I’m “courageous” for posting this photo. This isn’t courage. This is real life.

Row, don’t listen to what the world tells you. Be you. Do you. Live you. Speak you. You are the most perfect human being, you always will be, simply because you are you and you exist. You will always be beautiful, but I hope you know that beauty isn’t about your skin, your size, your clothes or how you physically portray yourself. It’s about who you are, what you do, the things you dream and accomplish. Don’t ever hold back who you are because you’re afraid of what people think. People are always going to judge you and criticize and say shit, but the majority of the time it reflects them, not you. Instead, turn to them with kindness and a smile. You don’t know what’s going on in the depths of their heart that causes them to be cruel. You can be the bigger person by simply loving them. Now soar, my little Row. I will always, always love you.

Motherhood, so far.

It’s been one month and three days since my life was forever changed: the day I met my daughter. Currently, she is in her swing, swinging away, while Jurassic 5 plays (hip-hop calms her, which delights me). Her hands are covering her face but raised slightly in the air, which also delights me. 

I’ve learned this past month that while I absolutely love motherhood, I am not cut out to be a stay at home wife. I feel a bit like I’ve been drowning in household to-do items but today is perhaps the first day I feel like myself again, meaning, I have enough head space to feel inspired and creative. Most days I’ve been too tired to think past diapers and the laundry pile that’s growing and when I’m ever going to sleep again (shout-out to my girl for sleeping a 7-hour stretch both last night and the night before!). I think I’m actually a pretty good mom and I know I’ve been only a half decent wife lately. My husband has handled everything beautifully and always sees the glass half full. I’ve been cranky and demanding and emotional, so, I’m working on that. I love my husband so much. Someone said to me the other day that while my house won’t remember if I was grumpy because my house wasn’t clean, my husband (and child) will remember whether I was grumpy or not. The moral: clean your damn house later. Be present. It’s a new chapter and as much as I’m learning how to be a mother, I’m learning how to be a wife again as well. 

I’m not a stay at home wife though; I’m on maternity leave. My emotions go from never wanting to work another day in my life because all I want to do is hang out with my daughter to no, I must work, I love to work, my mother working taught me so much about being a woman in this world and working. One thing I know, too, is I have to create, and I’m lucky to have a job that is all about creativity. 

Nothing really prepares you for parenthood. No, pets definitely do not prepare you for parenthood (I have two dogs and one child, so I can say this confidently). Nothing can prepare you for the amount of love you feel for your child. I actually thought I’d have postpartum depression because I’m wired in such an emotional and sensitive way that I thought it was a one-way road for me. Thankfully, I haven’t had any postpartum depression. I’m eternally grateful for this little human who is the coolest thing to ever exist in my life (and on the planet). She’s already taught me so much.

For example, everything I’ve hated about myself, or things I’ve judged about myself, or even been prideful about myself (in an unhealthy way), are things I love about my daughter. Her newborn ears are fuzzy right now and I hope she never cares about body hair. Her belly button is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Her face is asymmetrical. She is just so perfect, in every way. And for every time I tell her she is beautiful, I tell her that she is smart, important, confident and that the things she does and will say matter and need to be shown and heard. I’m also constantly checking myself: she’s looking at me, what is looking at your phone going to teach her? or, you’re putting on makeup, what message is this sending her? Things like that. I want to be more active and present in the world. I want to not be afraid and stop telling myself self-deprecating things. I want her to always be herself, to never feel the need to please people, to distinguish between who flawed humans say Jesus is and who Jesus really is (which even I’m still learning and deconstructing). I want her to be the superhuman she is, to always believe in herself and to follow the little light inside of her.

I guess that’s what I’ve also learned about motherhood. It’s selfless and a lot of it is about my child. Perhaps some resent this, but I see it as a gift. A gift to her. A gift I will always want to give. A gift I am born to give her. A gift I am wired to give her. Like breathing. It’s something I have to do. I will always fight for her, protect her, vouch for her, stand up for her, do everything I possibly can for this little human who one day will probably even be super annoyed at me. She’s the biggest/greatest gift God has ever given me. She’s my treasure. Once again, I can’t stop talking about her when this post was supposed to be about motherhood. See? I’m obsessed with her.

Yes, motherhood is hard, too, but does any truly good thing come without hardship? 

Motherhood has also taught me that I’m still me. I still have my bad habits I’m trying to kick and my mind still runs in circles. But I also still have the things I need to do each day in order to maintain a sense of myself. I have to take a shower every day. This is important to me and makes me feel human and whole. I have to find intentional time to get into my head (or rather, out of my head) and be creative (whether it be through writing, reading, taking photos, going for a walk…). I am still me and just as my daughter has value, so do I, and therefore I need to continue taking care of myself. 

And if caring for myself means I’ll also have Row sitting on my hip, truthfully there’s nothing else I want. Caring for myself will teach her to care for herself, too. 

My labor story.

My water broke.
You were excited; I was scared. 
This is how you’ve always seen this world. 
This is what calmed my nerves.

It was past midnight. We drove.
Under the stars and the planets,
just you and I on the road.
Our little Row, so close.

Night became dawn.
Dawn turned into pain. 
Pain meant she was coming.
And soon it was dusk again.
Soon it would be day again.

You wrapped your arms around me,
my head enveloped in your chest.
The warmth of your breath against my face,
suddenly, I was in your cave.
Push. Relax this muscle. Breathe. 
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Again. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. 

The waves cave in
but the voices disappeared. 
It was just us, rowing into the sea. 
Back and forth. 
Pushing. Releasing. 
Your voice was steady.
Deep, 
like the sea. 
Omnipresent, 
my guiding light. 
Rowing back and forth through the waves, 
deep, 
like the sea.
Omnipresent, 
my guiding light. 

My body broke and opened like the earth. 
A sink hole. A whirlpool. An earthquake. A volcano. 
A fault line torn apart. 

And there she was, our little love. 
Our dove. 
Her arms stretched wide as the sea.
I reached down and grabbed her and pulled her onto my chest. 
A tidal wave of love was suddenly on my breast.

My rainbow. 
My meadow. 
My starry night. 

You were soft. 
You were calm. 
Your eyes were deep, dark and open. 
Deep, dark and open, 
like the ocean
we were rowing on.

My lullaby. 
My little dove.
My little doe.
My little Row.

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For my husband.

I miss you, my love.
I love you, my love.
I love you more than before.
Before we became parents. 
The greatest thing to ever happen to us.
She’s our Jupiter.
Our Fortress.
Our Queen.

And it’s all been such an adjustment.
The best kind of adjustment.
Her coos, her squeaks, even her cries.
They’re the only sounds we care to hear now.
She’s beautiful beyond what we’ve ever known.
She’s magic and she’s light.

And when I put her down at night,
I wrap myself around your body.
And after I wake up to nurse and you change her diaper and we put her back down to sleep,
I wrap myself around your body.
And when she wakes up again,
and still the moon is shining,
I wrap myself around your body.

Breathless, because we’re so tired.
Breathless, because I’m still so in love with you. 

And while she will forever be our Love,
you’re still my love, 
my Love.
I love you.
I miss you when you’re away.

Row.

Row, my love. My little dove.
My shining moon.
You’re wrapped up right now; a butterfly in her cocoon, 
sleeping, 
soundly,
as I write.


You’re three weeks old, today,
my Light in the night’s sky.
 

My heart beats and it turns and it grows.
My heart flutters when yours flutters,
aches when yours aches,
beats deeply as you press your tiny ear into my chest.
You listen as you have the past 9 months.
I rub my cheek against the top of your head– 
you’re like silk, the softest touch. 
You’re feet are tucked underneath of you.
You’re my little lamb curled up.


I feel your skin on my bare breast
and suddenly we’re amongst the stars.
We’re soaring, like the song I sing to you at night,
over the rainbow, 
through the rainbow,
amongst the rainbows.
You’re my little rainbow.
 

I love you.
I love you so much.
Oh, so much, Row.
My doe, my dear.
Mama will always be near.