enjoying the now

Today, during my photo shoot, I looked down and realized I had avocado all over my sweater. I took my sweater off and then realized I had pasta sauce all over my t-shirt. Later, at Costco, a woman stopped me to hand me back my child’s missing sock. I have 31 unread text messages (sorry to anyone reading this who I haven’t texted back–my daughter is finally napping and I just need a few moments of me time to decompress). Now, her pajamas are on the living room floor. I need to clean the kitchen for literally the third time today (and my husband has already cleaned it, too). And my goddamn pants that I finally fit into post-partum stopped fitting me today.

But I am so happy. I wouldn’t change any of this, for anything.

It’s this messy and complex life that I love because while none of it is Instagram perfect, it’s filled with love and intention. It’s a life that is lived in, fully, each one of us stretching out on an unmade bed. The sun shines down upon us; other days, it is misting; others, it feels like hail. There’s no perfect way of living this life but it’s whole and it’s real and it’s the only way worth living.

2019!

And just like that, she started clapping her hands!

Eric got her out of bed this morning and when he brought her into our bedroom, she saw me and started waving her hands in a circular motion, kind of like she was using a jump rope. We both laughed at the weird new dance move she was doing until I realized what she was doing.

Yesterday, I was clapping my hands for her. She was mesmerized and would stare with her mouth wide open. Today, she is clapping her own hands.

It was like that a few weeks ago, too, when I spent an entire day saying dada dada dada to her. The next morning, when Row was supposed to be having a nap, we checked her baby monitor and sure enough, she was in her crib saying dadadadada! Eric immediately ran to her room, overjoyed, and got her out bed. Together they came out saying dadadada.

A few days ago, my dad, Eric and I all sat around Row saying mama. She hasn’t said it yet, but every time we say it to her, she stares intensely at our mouths and mimics what our lips are doing with her own.

I suppose that’s what this new year will be like. Lots of newness that to some seem little, but to us are huge.

2018, a reflection.

Today is the last day of my daughter’s birth year. This makes me sad, though not fully, because since becoming a mother, there’s hardly any time to process what’s going on. It all goes by so quickly, everyone says that, I know, because it’s true. This year will always remain a time capsule of one of the hardest (or perhaps just stressful) and best years of my life. A difficult pregnancy, career hardship, moving, buying a home, having a baby, the fourth trimester (which deserves way more discussion), learning to become a parent, learning to still be a wife and not just a parent. It’s all been complex and all been so beautiful.

And so, while after today, I will no longer have access to this year, still, I am ready.

As I mourn no longer having a newborn, each day becomes bigger and brighter, as I realize Row is just beginning to develop her personality. This is beyond exciting. Right now, our world together has been very tiny, but as she grows, I grow, and we discover how big and beautiful not only this world is, but how big and beautiful she is. Each day, she laughs more than she has ever laughed in her entire life. What a wonderful experience, to laugh more than you have ever laughed before. This happens, every single day. She is so happy. As am I.

What do I want for 2019?

Honestly, I already have everything I want. So much of my life before Row was defined by success that no longer holds much value to me. Yes, I still have my personal goals, but I don’t feel the need to broadcast any of this to the world anymore. Before, I shared online because I wanted these special moments to live beyond just me and perhaps inspire someone else in the world. Now, everything in my life feels so sacred that I simply want to keep it for myself. Any sharing is done with those directly around me: family, friends, strangers, the tangible. And here, too, I suppose, but this places feels sacred, too. My personal, quiet, little corner of the Internet.

Perhaps that’s what I want: the here and now. Having a daughter has made me painfully aware of time. It made me cry when I dropped my dad off at the airport yesterday, not knowing when I’ll see him again. It’s made me aware of my grandparents and how much time they have left. It’s made me wonder how much time I have left. I’ve always thought about this, but having a child shifts everything into focus. Suddenly I’m eating well, trying/wanting to exercise more, training myself how to think more positive thoughts, having goals and purpose each day, anything I can to be healthy for her in order to experience every bit of her for as long as I possibly can.

None of this is meant to be sad, though, for as sad as I am to leave 2018, I know 2019 is filled with entirely new wonder. I can’t stop any of what is happening, but I can be fully here to embrace it and dive head first into it.

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. 

Postpartum body image (and body image in general).

20180507-DSCF1791.jpg

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.