Category Archives: Motherhood

soft armor

Walking into the reunion room

I’m startled by the low light, the drafts, and the stale air.

I’m not 38 anymore, picking at imaginary lint balls on my sweater

But 17, anxious, anticipating something hard and hostile crackling behind me.

The bar charges more money for pre-packaged dark beer than for urine from the tap.

I stick with water in unopened bottles, and wait.

Wait for a kind, vaguely familiar face. There’s one, then two.

Some are more familiar than others, some more kind.

And then the phone at the bar rings – my child has exceeded my mother’s capacity to comfort him.

I drive to retrieve him, then bring him back to the banquet hall.

He is soft armor, but his five months of life cover me completely.

Impenetrable.

But beyond the protection he lends me, he has a strange effect on  others.

No one can be hostile to a baby; no one with a baby will be hostile to a simple greeting.

Men remark on the pawprints on the feet of his sleeper – pawprints made by their sons.

Women coo and gently touch his round soft creamy cheeks, asking softly for a smile.

And others as anxious as I am see a chance to sit down with someone who won’t threaten them, who will help them feel less lonely in the drafty ballroom.

My baby doesn’t make all the cliquery disappear, and cokelines still get consumed in the ladies room along with misdemeanor memories.

There are still drunken stumbling people, and others who get angry at the thought of someone wanting to know more, learn more, be more than what they were.

But the baby and I can walk out of the hall, facing forward, into the chill of late November, safely. He is in my arms, but tonight he is carrying me.

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Filed under Motherhood, mothering, mothers, mothers and sons

mini-me, mini-my, oh no.

From the moment he let us know he wanted out, the race went on to see Mom or Dad in the little one. I saw my father-in-law, no fat, a touch of ET, gingery fringe in a male-pattern baldness arrayment, slate blue eyes.

Later, I saw him, and me. Something in his eyes, his smile, his colic. The wisps of hair that took two years to grow, his love of dancing and singing, and those eyes – now hazel, but with long black lashes and a twinkle. How he cracks himself up, and laughs at everyone else’s jokes. How honest he is with his feelings. How he would walk away from things that were hard for him to do – thank goodness we knew about “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” And his inability to successfully fend off teasing.

He talks about school, and how sad he feels not to have friends. It catches me off-guard. Yes, it’s true that this is the time when children are more likely to switch schools, and since he is staying an additional year in pre-K, his friends are leaving. But the sadness in his voice was painfully familiar: “I’d just like them to say, ‘I’m happy to see you, let’s play together all day!'”

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Filed under childhood, childhood stories, Motherhood, mothering, mothers and sons

post-partum posting

How to measure the time, the changes of the last four months? In pounds? I’ve lost 43, N has gained 10.

In sleep? I get about 4 hours a night solid. N has good nights and bad nights. B wants me to take him to dreamland, in which case he is down for the count. H sleeps lightly, with earplugs, in another room. My jaw is sore from the clenching that evidently comes from snacking on rest rather than having a full meal of it.

In capabilities? N can laugh, talk, dance (with help), and blow out diapers as if they were kleenex. B is learning how to be a big brother, and now plays that he is the young one, not the baby. I learned how to get within minutes of blowing up a microwave oven.

Post partum depression? Yes, I have it again, but I’d liken it to being aware of a low grade cold. It’s there, aggravated by sleep deprivation, alleviated by companionship and a good stretch of sleep.

What might be most frustrating – though not full blown frustrating, because I rarely have the energy for it – is that I have ideas for writing which slip from me. A turn of phrase, an observation, a reaction to something I hear or read, and before I can put my fingers to it, give it a shape and color, something else demands my hands. The twitter 140 character limit starts to make sense – spitting out fragments instead of poetry in the beginning, and later, perhaps, looking at 140 chars like the structure of haiku or a sonnet. To be honest, I’d be lucky to make it to doggerel, and some rhyming couplets.

Walking with N in public makes me realize how far away I am from the sense of being at home, grounded, where I belong. It’s not that I don’t know I belong with her and B, walking alongside them until they pass me and my line of sight. But beyond that, I’m an invisible person, at the mercy of my bank balance and the paid substitute for care from salespeople.

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Filed under ambivalence, mother, Motherhood, mothering

Welcome to the World, Nora

On 19 November, we drove to Evergreen Hospital to evict my beloved tenant. She made no sign of leaving on her own, having blocked the exit with her bottom and legs.

I walked unassisted but not unaccompanied to the delivery room, took my spinal like a woman (nearly soundlessly and according to my labor nurse, like “a very tough woman”) and within a few minutes became mother to a daughter. A daughter, in the words of the surprised OB, assisting and nurses, who was “a very big girl”. Baby was 8lbs, 8oz, 20.5 inches. Strong. Pink. And with the most beautiful thatch of blond hair, which after her first bath made a silvery blond cap on her little head, prompting lovely spontaneous expressions from her nurses.

Looking at her, all the names we preselected seemed wrong. And in fact, I thought she looked more like a Walter in those first hours. But with time, hospital discharges, and the 100,000 Baby Name book, we figured out her name by the 26th: Nora. Her full name is Eleanor, but when I looked into her dark eyes, I saw a determined, decidedly unfrivolous person, looking back at me. Nora. She cried only for food and cold – no sense in making a fuss otherwise – and was as content as could be once full and warm. Nora. And yet, such a delicate little face, a halo of silky filaments, a little beauty completely unaware of a world falling in love with her, and acting accordingly. My Nora. Welcome to the world, little one.

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Filed under children, daughter, Love, mother, Motherhood, women

39w4d – the end of an era

In this case, the end of my gestational career. The scheduler at the hospital asked how I would celebrate my last night of pregnancy, when it hit me. This is the end of something, arriving later than expected.

I could have used the three extra weeks the first time around. But this time, with MDs predicting early deliveries, I found myself walking slowly, stunned, through November, getting bigger. And unlike the first time, beauty and peace came to my face and body the farther I went. People remark on my appearance, kindly. The combination of waddle and sashay is enough to get a measure of amused attention.

Ben came in to see my “biiiiig belly” and hug it, saying, “I can’t wait for you to see you, little one!” My mouth is dry, given that my last beverage was at 4:57am. I’m looking forward to little one too, and a tall cool glass of water.

see you all in a few!

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Filed under mother, Motherhood, pregnancy, pregnant after 40

39w1d, and the last of private time

If I’m lucky, I get about 2 hours a day now of private time – between 2 and 4 am, in the room that H and I share as an office. I sleep on the new raised air mattress I bought for H on election day, an investment in his circadian pattern and sanity, or so I thought.  (Family visitors will claim the spare bed for the next two months, depriving him of comfortable respite from my tossing, turning, and snoring.)

Two days in, the prince found a multitude of peas in his new sleeping quarters, and in an effort to preserve my own sanity, I gladly switched places with him. (In general, as long as I can lie down on something firm, I can sleep. I don’t know how it will go when little one arrives and we retake the bedroom/co-sleeper.)

So now I wake around 2, for a late-night constitutional, and then I find myself with my thoughts. The small footpath lights in the backyard caught every last, late gilded leaf from the japanese maple, whose branches arch from the back eastern fence to the glass doors that are now my “bedroom” wall. My first night, I could still see some green in the thatch of leaf cover – now, there are only the last of the hangers-on, clinging in daylight as squirrels ravage the slender branches for food and Ben’s entertainment. At this late hour, the branches are quiet.

The clock in the office with a face that reminds me of my elementary school, and a red second hand that moves in a way that I can only describe as simultaneously staccato and vibrato – that wonderful sound as it advances second by second, but a wavering hand that signals a constant need to be reined in.

The tock-tockle of the clock is not the only sound in the house. Ben, who has shared my internal clock since birth and co-sleeping, usually stirs with a string of undecipherables, telling urgent stories in his sleep, peppered with “MommyDaddy” – an all-purpose call to parent arousal from across the rambler.

But unlike the truly stolen moments I have now – rushing off alone in the car to a coffee shop or market, seeking the reassuring solitude of a public snack among kindly strangers – these are the only ones I’ll have for some time, or at least until the MD says I can get back behind the wheel.

Tonight, my thoughts are all over the place, from practicing positions in case of cord prolapse; figuring out if I can take Ben to the hospital for a tour before B-day; why it is that chocolate brown seems the worst possible color for a renovated bathroom, no matter what my smart neighbor the realtor is telling me; the 35% loss in our savings since January; the uneasiness I feel when considering prospects for employment; and ransacking my brain for techniques for being respectful and not angry/heartbroken when my mother’s age and inability as well as her innate timidity and fear of so much of the world is here, in my home. When I can get her an appointment at Seymours for a wash and set. Wondering when the contractor will finish the bathroom, and will little one be toilet-trained by then.

Then 2 becomes 3 and 4 slides into 5, and I know I need to do two things – take another slow-release iron pill, and find a way to slow my mind, squeezing in another 2 hours before Ben is at the head of the mattress, reminding me it’s a home day, and that means pancakes.

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Filed under "getting ready for baby", anxiety, children, families, family, Motherhood, women, worry

38w6d: long, closed, contemplative

Yesterday, at the OB’s office, there was a moment where I felt less like an expectant mother and more like my purse – the ob rummaging through me to find a cellphone, or in this case, a cervix. What she found was long, quiet and closed – not unlike my cellphone by the time I find it. No sign of labor, or of the tenant’s plans for moving day.

After some earlier emotional arguments at home, this news was a little less than welcome. I had whispered to her that this would be a great day to come out, that Mommy had already driven to the hospital, she had the keys and her baby bag in the back seat, and we could get this squared away in no time. Just mommy and baby.  But in a disturbingly familiar display of stubbornness (wow, does that spelling look wrong), she has decided to prove all qualified and certified medical professionals completely wrong. “I won’t make it to term? Well, induce THIS.”

Admittedly, the stress of my mother’s visit is a contributor to her reticence to exit. My mother came to “help”, but she is a rather frail 79 who has nearly lost her hearing completely and refuses to wear a hearing aid. Parenting issues and flashbacks abound. I had thought I was big enough to follow through on letting her come – she is doing this as much for herself as for me – but I’m faced with the ugly reality of my rather unforgivable smallness. (Don’t tell me I’m not. This is not false modesty.)

So self-directed trips alone to the hospital give me time to be with little one, and with my son, focused on things that matter to me. I can reassure myself that I won’t be in housewifery exile forever, though the economic conditions of this region may conspire to make that feel like the reality. I’m quietly excited both for her arrival, her growth, and a new real job. I’m better prepared for what will mostly be a solitary parenting experience, regardless of marriage license and/or marital status. I line up documents and questionnaires, prepare for sleeping places and nursing stations throughout the house, pry out of H whatever it was I last did to piss him off so he’ll drop the silent treatment, and get familiar with 42, mother of two.

The catch is how to get everything else done smoothly, incurring the fewest number of complaints, while allowing myself the space and brain function to imagine and execute the next steps so important to take. If I get 6 hours a night, I think I can pull it off.

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Filed under children, mother, Motherhood, parenting, women