Category Archives: mothering

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.


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

missing midwifery

When I found out I was expecting this time, I thought I’d probably have to go to a traditional obstetrics practice; my first birth was premature, and was likely caused by my bicornuate uterus. I figured it would be ok if I chose a women-run practice, that the gaps between it and midwifery care would not be so great. I was wrong.

The loaded language of the modern medical pregnancy is enough to make a woman believe that she is incapable of figuring out how to birth a baby. Except that the body is designed to do just that, before there were ultrasound machines, or quad screens, or obstetrics.

I have felt like mentioning – ok, screaming – this as of late. Instead of being asked to consider different treatments, instead of conversations where the assumption is that the mother knows and is capable of knowing about her body and the process of pregnancy and childbirth, the mother is told what to do. It’s not sitting well.

My nurse knows nothing about vegetarian diets, and actually asked me if I’m getting enough protein. Sigh. I never had these issues with the midwifery practice – they understood that a veggie diet is not a risk for healthy fetal development, and gave me props for my hematocrit levels at the start and the 28 week point.

The other part has been more than a little annoying. From the perspective of the practitioner, I have a name: high risk. I get this name based on nothing in my chart, other than my birthdate. I’m wondering how many women go through this without knowing that they own  the birth. They know what to do, they can trust their instincts, but they would do well with some knowledgeable support. What if more women knew about their bodies, the glorious power of them, their ebb and flow? What if this self-knowledge were as common as knowing one’s shoe size? Midwifes understand the power this knowledge gives; obstetric practices would do well to take heed.


Filed under first trimester, Motherhood, mothering, pregnancy, pregnant after 40, prenatal care, women, women's health

car seat kisses

Everyday when I buckle Ben into his carseat, I take advantage of our closeness and give him a kiss. Sometimes it’s a way to calm him as he wrestles with the straps; or maybe it’s our first – and only –  quiet exchange of the evening, when I can see evidence of the day on his little puss. But there’s something wonderful about that moment, and now I notice the same thing in other cars. There’s a father who gently kisses his daughter’s forehead as he unbuckles; another child looking up and smiling, winter hat still on, knowing mama is going to give her a little smooch.

The tiny moments of tenderness are as fleeting as sunshine in a Seattle January, but they are far more omnipresent. When things get too tense, I can look and see those moments, how love really can be that integrated into the mundane, as easy to tell someone as it is to fasten your seatbelt.

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Filed under car seats, children, father, Fathers, Love, mother, mothering, mothers, parenting

how ben understands petty crime

Friday night, Henrik called in late, the unmistakable sound of resignation in his voice. He had missed my call earlier in the day as a result of leaving his phone in the car, and now he went to the parking garage to find one less window and one less phone.

The race was on to get the police, get information from the garage attendants, and change any and all passwords on any and all accounts. Oh, and since it was a 4 month old blackberry without insurance, to bite the bullet and buy another phone.

I looked across the table at the little monkey, who was trying very hard to eat spaghetti with a fork and not succumb to either fingers or the driving beats of the Whole Foods Market sound system. How do I explain this one?

It ends up that Ben has both a strong sense of sympathy and righteous indignation. We spent some time understanding what happened to Daddy’s car and phone, and making sure that Daddy was ok, not hurt, and that was the most important thing. But we also talked a little bit about how this was not an accident, and sometimes people take things that are not theirs, which is not ok. (We also talked about how it was important for us to help Daddy when he got home, since he would probably be sad and a little grouchy.)

So, as we drove home, Ben went over the details, asked questions, and made confessions.

“Somebody broke Daddy’s window and took his phone? Somebody broke Daddy’s window and took his phone! Oh no, that’s not good. Maybe I should call the policeman.”

“Poor Daddy.”

“It wasn’t me, mommy. I didn’t do it. But I hope it wasn’t ‘friend a’ or ‘friend b’.”

“I am not very happy with the people who broke Daddy’s window and took his phone. I am very grouchy and mad with them!”

When I explained that it was normal to feel angry, but it wouldn’t fix the problem, he literally rattled this one off :

“Mommy, I have a plan. What if I go and find the phone and fix the window. I can do it. Does that sound like a good idea?”

He’s talking a lot about the phone, and today after nap, actually told a story of a dream he had where someone took Mommy’s phone and her little boy (him)! I held him tight, and tried to reassure him that as long as we’re together, no one will take him.

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Filed under children, damage, explaining hard things, mothering, mothers, parenting, theft