And for once I was SuperMom

Monday, July 30, 2012


“Okay, jeez, hold on,” she said, as she tried to latch her new born son on.  I sat giggling, as his little fists clenched and his cries got more and more urgent in the mere seconds it took her to lift up her shirt and unclip her bra. Those are the worst little moments that tie you up in knots as a mom.  It’s funny to watch someone else, because, really, there are a few things that have to happen before you can help your child, you cannot feed them instantly.  I guess new babies aren’t really known for their patience.
(During that discussion one friend wondered aloud if babies have a Pavlovian response from hearing the click of a nursing bra.  I think that’s kind of funny.)
Every now and then I catch a glimpse of my child’s eagerly ecstatic face in that moment when I am turning her belly to belly,
‘Here’s comes the good stuff,’ she seems to be saying.  Like a fat kid before a cake.  When I see that face I wonder,
‘What’s so great about breastmilk that you would make that face?  Can it taste that great?’  It makes me wonder is it the sheer act of eating that delights them?  Is it the end of hunger that gives them that smile?  Or is it both?
I’ve heard that drugs just produce an amplification of the effect on our brain that food gives us.
I had a rough day yesterday.  As I stomped around angry at my daughters for needing me all the time I felt urges in me boomerang my desires bask to the stash of chocolate in our fridge.  I envisioned tipping a tub of chocolate covered cherries into my open gullet and pouring.  The sweet chewiness letting the pressure off my bottlecap of anger.  I didn’t.  I think I ate a few after dinner. 
I don’t write this to tout my self-control; often I have none.  I’ve never considered myself an emotional eater.  Once upon a time in middle school I had a crush on a boy.  I walked to the local 7-11 bought a pint of ice cream, Haagen Daz Cappucino (had a mild cinnamon flavor which confused my 12 year old taste buds) and ate it all.  I sat there and thought, ‘Well I still don’t have him and now my stomach hurts.’  So logic often wins over gorging myself, but cravings are there, like static in the back of my head.
And why are they so stinking strong?
Sometimes I take a hit.  Often I follow the rule, ‘If it’s not really good it’s not worth the calories.’ 
So the drive to eat is strong within us, that makes sense; if you don’t eat you die.  We live in a country with an overabundance of, well, everything.  When I moved to Kenya I lost eight pounds within the first few weeks.  What did you do?  You ask.  Nothing.  It just came off me.  I think it’s owed to less processed food, less snack food, less sugar, and less alcohol.  Think about it, when you go to any event here in the US there is usually a table stacked with food.  Overkill.  Always.  I think it takes a lot self-control to stay thin in the US. 
I guess we are born with it, we come out hungry.  And fat and sugar taste good.  And, boy, do we have a lot of it. 

Monday, July 23, 2012


I don't have enough for a cohesive post so here are some moments:

There I am crouched over the tub.  Quickly squirting soap onto her belly, scooping it up with my fingers and trying to rub it in between Carys’ baby fat rolls.  She squirms, splashes, and holds her arm into a tight strong curve that I can’t get soap into without fearing that I am going to hurt her.  Then I catch it, the expression on her face.  Her blue eyes wide, examining my face, learning from me what this is all about.  I stop, afraid I have what I like to call my ‘nurse expression’ on, where I am caring for you but I am all business.  It creeps across my mouth and brow, tightening everything up, when I am performing tasks like changing poopy sheets and clipping squirmy toenails.  I relax and smile down at her, and start in on the litany of goofy things we say to infants.  She relaxes and smiles back up at me, a little point forming in her top lip, a little, ‘hoo,’ coming from her mouth.  Up to that point she didn’t seem to enjoy bath time.  I have read statistics about how much children look at their care givers faces, it’s high.  This is where they learn what life is all about; from the look on your face.  Do you love them?  Is the world a safe place?  These implicit messages, when your parenting guard is down, are as clear as when you put them in a time out.
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We are poised at the door ready to leave.  I am about to make the final pull on the door and start ushering Emma out and doing the tricky dance of getting the car seat out onto the landing.  Carys is making little grunting noises and wiggling around, she isn’t calm, but certainly doesn’t seem too upset,
“Work with us, Carys,” Emma says. 
Shoot.  This is what I say when she is blowing it up right in the middle of a moment when I can’t stop and rock her or nurse her.  I’ve always wondered if I was a patient person.  I guess if you have to wonder, that means you aren’t.
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Pacifiers are lovely devices aren’t they?  Except for the fact that children can’t actually keep them in their mouths.  After racing across the room for umpteenth time, interrupting whatever domestic task what I was doing, to pop that merciful piece of plastic back in my daughter’s mouth I started day dreaming about some device that would keep it in her mouth.  Some elastic or ribbon thing around her head that would keep it in place.  I pictured the elastic as that silver stretchy stuff that comes on packages from expensive stores and with a bow to make it look like less a torture device and more like a cute baby accessory.  This is probably akin to leashing your toddler.
            *                                                                            *                                                               *
I got to go workout all by myself the other day.  It was glorious.  I walked unencumbered through the gym.  No carseat, no herding a small child.  Just me.  I ran, I lifted weights.  It was great. 
I was surprised at how fast I was moving.  I kept a steady and quick clip throughout.  Even as I showered, I told myself to relax and enjoy it.  I did for a few moments and then moved on.  Before I started dressing I noticed a sauna.  A sauna?  We have a sauna?  Awesome!  I went to go sit in it, just because.  As I sat I forced my shoulders out of their habitual slouch, and breathed deeply to relax myself and my muscles.  I sat for a moment and peered into the rocks that were giving off the heat and then thought,
“This is dumb, it’s summer.”  If I want sweltering heat to relax my muscles and make me sweat I can just go stand in the parking lot.  I was up off that wooden bench pretty quickly and out the door. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Old Yet?

“Can I try your ice cream?”
“Sure!”  She extends her cup of chocolate raspberry out to me.
“You want to try mine?”  I offer.
“What kind is it?” She asks.
“Coconut almond.”              
“No thanks," a polite decline. 
We had taken Scott’s staff of college students out to ice cream, to reward them for a fitness challenge.  This exchange was repeated several times.  When I told Scott,
“Bwahahahaha!!  You’re old!”  Yep.   He’s right. I remember listening to my Dad order a serving of black walnut ice cream and thinking, ‘why?’ 

So I turned thirty this year.  I had my second child.  I have children now.  I am responsible for the health of two people.  I turn thirty one in a matter of weeks.  Thirty one.  That feels more serious, like it’s for real. 
This year I have noticed some sun damage on my hands, some might refer to them as liver spots.  Already? 
Yes, already. 
I am surprised at the panic that I feel when I look at them.  I always thought I would welcome age.  That I would be proud of gray hair and relaxed about certain kinds of veins popping up on my legs.  I thought I would be happy to accept they negative that comes with aging as well as the positive.  Stable relationships, more stable emotions, maturity, empathy, and acceptance. 
We had to replace the timing belt on our car.  It cost around six hundred dollars.  A few years ago I would have been upset or at least been complaining a lot about it.  This time I was just thankful that the failure was caught before it could do real damage.  We’d budgeted for it and we need this car to last, not a tragedy.  This reaction is a function of getting older.  I know that.

This past year as I started to notice little signs of age and felt panic spread out, like those veins, I realized that if all goes well I will live another thirty to sixty years in this body.  I began to feel washed up, used.  How sad is it that we spend so much time and energy worshipping those few first years of our lives.  Sure our bodies may be more beautiful when we are young, but it’s so short, is it really worth worshipping? 
This past year there has also been a sort of giving up in my mind, an acceptance of my body because, well, I’m too old for this crap.  I’m thirty, I’m pregnant or I just had a baby, leave me alone.  I’m short, I’m muscular, it is what it is, I better like it because it ain’t changing. 
And that attitude has developed because I am older.  It’s not worth it to me to look through magazines and wish I was thinner or prettier.  I have better things to do. 

I still can’t figure out why, as a culture, we are so hung up on youth.  Is it because we are basically selfish and when we are young we have no one to care for but ourselves?  Is it because we are so totally obsessed with beauty that we only want to respect the young, who’s bodies are still untouched?  Is it because we worship what is cool?
Whatever it is, I wish we would stop, it’s pretty stupid.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


My left arm has been numb at least twice today.  Why?  What violence occurred?  I was holding my baby all day long.  Couldn’t put her down.  I would get her settled and put her down and moments later she would be squalling, squirming, her little fists windmilling and punching the air.
At one moment I was staring off in the distance, my left hand lying limp beneath the fifteen pound weight of her, and thinking about my other daughter.  When she was little she really only cried when something was wrong.  She would squall and then burp.  Oh, her belly hurt.  She would squall and I would feed her. Oh, she was hungry.  She would squall and then fall asleep.  Oh, she was tired.  I stared at the door to her room, behind which she slept, and thought that her behavior had gotten so confusing now.  One plus one no longer always equals two.  In a true testament to sleep deprivation I never connected these thoughts to the child that lay heavy in my arms.

The little one cried during dinner.  I sighed, a thick panicky sigh, and began to throw down my dinner (a two handed dinner of messy bean tacos).  Scott said,
“Don’t worry, she’s fine, just eat.”  I slammed the flat fingers of both hands into the table,
“It doesn’t affect you the way that it affects me!” I bark.  He gets up and holds her so I can eat and then I take over, caring for her in ways that only a mother can.
There it is, this biological connection.  There we are, each one of us, pockmarked in the middle of the belly, with a healed hole that once connected to us a woman.  And that woman failed.  And that woman succeeded.  As soon as I got pregnant I began to wonder about myself in this role.  How will I fail?  How will I succeed?  What little love gestures will my children internalize that will hit them just perfectly?  A nickname that I give them?  A way I touch them?  A saying that I say?  And what things will I do that will hurt them?  A hug I don’t give?  A word said wrong or quick in anger? 

This entire afternoon I got lost in my daughter’s wails.  Forgetting that baby’s are usually simple.  Although this simplicity is not easy.  My connection to her clouded rational thought.  I struggled to hold her in new comforting positions with my dead arms.  At four I finally nursed her, she finally took it, she passed out and did not wake up when I put her down.  When Scott got home I was hunched over the computer, he asked me how my day was, upon seeing the quiver of my lips he handed me the keys and asked if I needed to leave.  I went for a run.
When I came up the stairs after my run Carys, who had been asleep, was squirming and wide awake.  Scott looked at me,
“She’s spit up on me about three times, thick mucusy stuff,” I nodded gravely,
“I have barf in my hair,” what can I say?  It was a rough afternoon.
So there it was.  That simple.  She had belly trouble.  Thank God for fathers.  Men who can see through our fog of connection to help.  Maybe I failed, sometimes I think that we don't remember our infancy is a gift from God.  Maybe I will do better tomorrow.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Meaning of a Snuggle

“It’s cold down here,” one of my friends pulls her sweater closer around her in the basement room where our mom’s group meets.
“Now I know why you want to hold Carys!”I laugh. She holds out her hands,
“Give me your chubby baby!” I giggle and hand off my child.
I love to share my child.  What is more precious than a new life? 

I have always loved reading to children.  You get to snuggle, you’re doing something that’s good for them, and there’s some mild art involved.  And you get to snuggle.  I was watching Emma playing in the bath and my thoughts were kind of coalescing abstractly around this idea and finally they landed on this thought,
“This one,” as I looked at her, “I want to snuggle this one.  With her precious little feet, and her sweet little knees.”  There is nothing more special than holding your own child.  Sure other’s kids are fun, but nothing compares to the smell of that sweet noggin that your DNA helped to create.
Motherhood has been a strange emotional journey for me.  I’ve always wanted to be a mom, but it’s been an add on,
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”                                                                                 
“A cowgirl…and a mom,” when I was five I wanted to be a cowgirl.  And a Mom.
Now I am a Mom, but alas not a cowgirl.  Not even close.  Now the add on is my only job.  That’s a role I’d never thought I’d play. 

It’s been an up and down journey throughout motherhood.  With each baby I’ve had to get used to extreme inconvenience of it all.  Not sitting through a meal.  Feeling guilty when I put makeup on or eat.  Giving up a shower here or there because it’s just not worth it.  This time as I have clawed at, ‘why I did this again?’ I remembered something.  I like taking care of things.  When I was a child I used to daydream about having MY VERY OWN pet.  And no one else’s.  Some little creature that I could dote on, who would be all my own.  Wasn’t I just daydreaming about parenthood?
Like that dress that hangs in your closet.  You bought because really you knew you should.  It was a new cut that you weren’t used to, but looked good on you.  The color was one you haven’t historically liked, but deep in the recesses of your brain you remembered that your mom always told you that you looked good in navy but you never bought it because you thought it was boring and didn’t know what colors to put with it.  So you were compelled to buy it.  The first time you wore it you were unsure.  You shifted and pulled and didn’t let it just sit on your curves.  Then you got compliments.  Then you bought shoes that match it perfectly.  Then someone gave you a bracelet that matches it.  Now you wear it every chance you can.

I remembered somewhere in my heart that I was made for this.  It’s hard.  Oh, it’s so hard.  But I have always wanted it, now I have them my two little creatures I get to snuggle, love, and dote on.
And snuggle with.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Belly Ache

Today the maternity pants that I wore were falling off me.  It felt great to have to hoist them up over and over again.  I love that feeling, a clear and evident sign that you are shrinking.
I got cocky.  I tried on a pair of pre-pregnancy pants.  Pants with a button and zipper.  There was a solid two inches between the button and buttonhole.
At the end of the day as I lay on the couch watching an episode of ‘What Not to Wear’ I saw a woman who was still wearing maternity pants when her son was eight years old.  I looked down at the flop of a shapeless belly that I still have and thought, ‘Never?’  Will this belly go away?  Will I look about four months pregnant for the rest of my life?
I think the only full length mirror in our house is a fun house mirror, in a very un-fun way.  I’ll look at myself in our bathroom mirror and think,
‘Not too bad, I can see my cheekbones, haven’t seen those in a few months.  Oh, look my collarbones are back!  I’ve always liked them…’ I stand up on my tiptoes and squint at the belly.  'Sigh, looking smaller,' I will myself to believe.  Then it happens I catch a shot of myself in the mirror mounted on the back of Emma’s door…
‘Stink!  I look huge!  Who am I kidding?’  I think it’s a fat mirror.  I almost have scientific proof of this; I was sitting on the floor playing with Emma and holding Carys, I glanced up and noticed that in that mirror at that exact moment my head looked tiny and the forearm that was holding Carys looked like Popeye’s.
It’s a little warped, maybe?
Carys slept freakishly slept through the night last week.  I was visibly smaller.  I think if I slept well for a few nights in a row my body would heal in leaps and bounds. 
Cruel, isn’t it?
And I am so hungry all the time.  And all I want is chocolate and coffee.  Fistfuls of chocolate because it no longer gives me heartburn.  Gallons of coffee because I AM just so tired and now it’s guilt free.
Pitiful, no?
So I don’t look in that mirror anymore, because who needs it?  I try not to think about sleeping through the night, because I know that’s going to take awhile.  And I don’t eat fistfuls of chocolate and drink gallons of coffee, because that will only turn me into some mild version of a drug addict…the beginning of a slippery slope….it all started with caffeine when she had her second kid, and now in jail for possession of contraband espresso….do you have the picture of me in your head all coked out on Snickers bars?  Chocolate smeared across my mouth, dark circles under my eyes, yelling,
‘It’s okay, it’s good for me, it has peanuts in it…good source of protein!” 
I know my abdominals are still stretched out, and I know it just takes time.  I think I’m following the trajectory that I followed last time.  It’s still hard.  Actually the ‘it’ in question is not hard; really ‘it’ resembles a melted water bed right now. 
Nine months on, and nine months off, right?
So in seven months I should be able to button those pants....