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.

Memories I do not want to forget.

Remember when the water tank at our rental broke? I was 33 weeks pregnant. It was March 20th. I remember this because our anniversary is on the 20th. We received keys to the house we had bought the week prior, and with no running water, we made the hour drive with our dogs to our new home. We pushed the two couches together in the living room. Remember? The couches left behind by the stager. Remember? I was 33 weeks pregnant. The smaller couch was comfier for me to sleep on; you took the long couch, the one that sort of sinks in the middle. It was so quiet. Finally. No cars driving by–no ferry traffic, no speeding cars. It was so quiet and we were giddy with excitement. Here we were, in our new home. We slept soundly that night, listening to the wind and the crickets. It didn’t matter that it was a bit cold or that the couches were a bit uncomfortable or that we were sharing them along with our two dogs or that I was 33 weeks pregnant and exhausted. It felt like Christmas and we were kids again, in our new home, the one we bought for Row.

Memories I do not want to forget.

Realizing we had two separate bathrooms in our new home, our first home, the one we bought together. We each shouted from the bathrooms. It was silly but it was our home.

__

Sitting at the table, the kitchen nook behind you, your red sweater and gentle face backlit by the setting sun. What we ate, I don’t know, though I do know it’s documented in a photograph somewhere. Music played, we danced in our seats. You bopped your head and snapped your fingers and swayed this way and that way. The excitement of our first dinner in our new home, our first home, the one we bought together. Nothing else mattered in this moment. 

Memories I do not want to forget.

Waking up in Florence, Italy. It was September of 2017. They had already left the Airbnb we were renting (they: my husband and our two friends). That morning I told my husband to go, I’d be fine staying behind. It was our last day in Florence and though I could barely get out of bed–morning sickness was strong–I wanted at least one set of our eyes to see the city. I could relive the day through his photographs, it was enough for me. After much persuasion, he left with our two friends.

I slept all morning. I slept into the afternoon. Finally, I stepped out the front door, lush greens everywhere, wildflowers and rolling country hills. The air was warm against my seafoam green sweater. You could hear the birds singing, the air dancing, the wind blowing ever so softly. I sat on the chair on the hill and breathed. The stillness felt more alive than the city.

Was it as beautiful as I remember? Or does my memory make it more?

__

It was the day before and I was still wearing my seafoam green sweater, the one I purchased in Annecy, France. I’m not sure why I forgot to pack a sweater. It was warm, in fact, I think I had my sweater tied around my waist. Giardino Di Boboli. We wandered what felt like a maze. The Fountain of Neptune and many others. The trees blocked any sounds coming from the city. No cars, just the breeze, your hand in my hand, a pack of saltines in my purse to keep nausea down. Still, we were happy. I felt free. Our own secret garden, just you and me. The sun was hot and beat against our skin and so we sat for awhile in the grass, on the stairs, on a bench, too. We watched tourists roam, tourists ourselves. It was us and the 7-week old baby inside of me. She’s due in 3 weeks.

Writing, become a mother and uncertainty.

My husband has been asking me why I haven't written more during my pregnancy. Writing is practically a part of my DNA–I have stacks and stacks of journals starting from when I was only 5 or 6 years old–and yet I've hardly written about this experience. I think for two reasons.

The first is that I haven't wanted to write my own agenda for my daughter. I haven't wanted to put into the world any preconceived ideas of who I want her to be (other than to live a healthy, happy and long life). It's taken me so long to find myself, to be comfortable in my own skin and simply be okay with who I am and who I am not that I think I have feared writing about my daughter and putting certain expectations on her that simply are irrelevant. I want her to be *her*. That's my biggest prayer for her, perhaps: is to simply be herself. I want her to not only be okay with herself but to love herself and to always stand up for herself. I want her to always know that she is important and worth it, purely because she exists and is who she is. I want her to be kind, to work hard and to be independent. But again, I just want her to be her and be comfortable in who she is.

I think the second reason I haven't written much about my pregnancy is that my pregnancy hasn't been easy and I have a lot of guilt surrounding this. Since it hasn't been easy, I haven't entirely enjoyed being pregnant, and I think this is where a lot of the guilt comes in. It's not that I'm not grateful. I don't resent my daughter and I am so happy that she exists. It's such a blessing that we got pregnant and that I've had a healthy pregnancy. I am so incredibly grateful to God for all of this and I'm humbled by the experience. But it has been hard for me. I haven't written much because I haven't wanted to write about the negative and difficult aspects of this pregnancy. I think also, this pregnancy has been so hard that I haven't even felt enough like myself to even want to write. Who wants to write when you're nauseous and throwing up and hormonal and everything else that comes with pregnancy? I've simply wanted to rest and some days, just endure. 

The second trimester "high" didn't come for me until my third trimester. I'm okay with that, simply in that I'm finally here now (yeah!).  I feel "normal" again... I feel like a functioning human being who can think straight and isn't just trying to get through the day. I enjoy my days again, I feel good, I feel inspired and excited again. I feel so much more comfortable with my third trimester body than my first trimester body. I feel pregnant AF, but I feel like me again (who is also always looking for the nearest restroom because baby has great aim when kicking my bladder).

I question everything now. Why am I wearing makeup? What message will this send to my daughter? So I've stopped wearing makeup most days. I question how much time I should be spending on my phone. I don't want my daughter to ever think of her mother as someone who was always on her phone and so I try and not pick up my phone as much as I can. I read more books, do more activities even if it's simply something like cleaning. I want her to see me doing stuff and being present in the world. I want her to see a mother who works and has dreams (both inside of the house and most definitely outside of the house). I question where I'll feel comfortable sending her to school in a world filled with so much violence. I question how I'll teach her about Jesus when I, myself, have so many questions about God and issues with religion in general and church. I question her entire teenage life and how I will survive as a mother if my daughter is anything like my teenage self was. I suppose this is what parenthood will be like: figuring it out as you go. Not having all of the answers and admitting that to my child.

Mostly, right now, I am happy. And I hope to be the best mother I can possibly be to this magical, super human.