Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A matter of the heart.

One of my greatest blessings is also my greatest curse.  In my life, I've exerted a lot of mental energy attempting to appreciate the moment as it is happening.  It started when I was at boarding school. As challenging as that experience was at times, I knew it was dramatically changing the course of my life and I wanted to hold onto that in the moment-- to appreciate it, to respect it for what it was.  Based on the way I go about things, some people would call me a perfectionist, some would say I care too much about what others think. I might say those things about myself. However, these are not what motivate me. These are not what fuel the fire of my spirit. For better or worse, what burns inside me is an almost manic desire to live without regret.  To never have to look back and say I wish I took that more seriously. I wish I tried harder. I wish I understood how significant that moment was. I wish I gave more of myself.

Operating in this mode has helped me do some really exciting and brave things in my life. I have achieved and exceeded goals. I have been excellent at times. But I've also been way too serious. Too emotional. I tend to over think things to a point of debilitating. Sometimes I miss the moment while I'm busy trying to make meaning of it. What I have come to realize is that I'm in a constant battle of heart versus mind.  Sometimes my thoughts suffocate my ability to truly feel. Sometimes my thoughts overwhelm my heart with emotion. In either case, as often as I've hit the mark, I've missed because of this.

Motherhood has been no exception to this tendency.  A bond between a mother and a baby is so simple and beautiful, yet I find myself constantly thinking ahead to when Carolina is older and things grow more complex.  How will what I am doing now effect our bond, for good or for bad, later on? Will we always be as close as we are now, as our relationship changes?  How do I control this? I've found myself putting way too much pressure on it.  I’ve been telling myself our relationship is what will make or break my life. Since I found out I was pregnant, I promised myself that I would be as intentional as I can be when it comes to Carolina. I do not want our relationship to just be what it shall. I want to cultivate it. I want to think about her. I want to truly know her for who she is. I want to be as close to her as I possibly can. 

I need to remind myself constantly that I do that not with my mind, but my heart.

I got to thinking about the people in my life who have come to mean the most.   I realized that my brain has been highly impressionable. Lots of messages have been written on my brain. Different ones every day. Good ones and bad ones. My brain is where my insecurities and fears live. My brain holds a lot of chaos. Sometimes, I am embarrassed to admit, it seems that my brain is willing to listen to the message of anyone.  But my heart is of a different strength.  It has sifted out the madness and holds on to the brightest beauty and the deepest pain. It is not nearly as impressionable as my brain is. I might be able to count on my hands the people who have written their message on my heart.  And after thinking through this, I find myself asking: What was it about these people? How can I be that?  What is my message to my daughter and how will I be sure I write it on her heart? 

The truth is, I can't answer any of that right now. I cannot devise a plan to be sure this happens. Sometimes I wonder if we are so close to the messages from our hearts we can't even articulate what they are. From the people who have written their message on my heart, I have learned this- they first showed me their heart.  The only conclusion I can make from any of this is that the first step to writing my message on my daughter’s heart is showing her my own. I can know her by first letting her know me.  So rather than over think the message, I am going to try to tell myself to give my heart to Carolina every day. And trust that eventually, she'll give hers back to me too.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


In a way to recap the first year of motherhood, I present to you my five high points and five low points of the past 365 days:

HIGH FIVE                                                
1.     Breastfeeding: Wow.  I went into this hoping to breastfeed for a year, a goal which we have exceeded, but now I fear that I am going to be nursing her before she walks down the aisle.  But I do love it- breastfeeding has given me a new appreciation for my body, an unbelievable bond with Carolina, and deepened my commitment to nourishing my family with the healthiest diet I can.  Because let’s be honest, all fluff aside, breastfeeding is hard work and I just can’t imagine letting Carolina turn into a garbage disposal after all I’ve done to give her the best start I can.  The time, the attachment-- all wonderful but also overwhelming at times.  And I can’t even begin to count how many glasses of wine have been sacrificed over the past year.  A few have slipped through for sure.  And by few I mean sort of often.

2.     Baby wearing: Wow x2.  How many naps would have gone unslept, dinners would have gone uncooked, loads of laundry would have gone unfolded, and moments of sanity would have gone unfelt had it not been for baby wearing.  Admittedly, my little crouton has been getting a little heavy, but occasionally I throw her on with a back carry when I need to cook dinner and her daily allotment for tearing apart the spice cabinet has been exceeded. So I suppose the analogy could be: baby wearing is to a secure cocoon as toddler wearing is to a cage.  I am pretty sure that is going to be added to the 2014 SATs.  (Note: I use a Boba 3G infant carrier and a Sakura Bloom ring sling and would recommend either.)

3.     7PM-2AM:  I don’t know what this kid runs on, but sleep has never been her strong suit.  I couldn’t tell you the last time she randomly fell asleep on her own.  I see kids passed out in strollers out shopping or at an event and I am blown away.  There are way too many people to wave at for Carolina to fall asleep in a situation like that.  But we have been lucky that from about 7PM-2AM she usually sleeps great, which has done unbelievable things for my sanity.  We’ll get to 2AM-6AM later.

4.     A Friendly New World: When I was pregnant and started showing (at around 2 weeks) I couldn’t believe how much nicer people became. I loved it.  And I took advantage.  Through my entire pregnancy, I used the “15 items or less line” at the grocery store every single time I went. Even with a full cart.  Nobody ever said a thing.  Now that I spend my days with the most outgoing child of all time, this friendly new world has grown tenfold.  She engages with everyone.  Sometimes crowds gather.  She has a very magnetic personality; I am not bragging here because none of it is from me.  By nature I am much more closed off and would prefer to remain anonymous, but now we spend our days waving to strangers and touching the face of any person on a motorized cart in the grocery store that dares get too close.

5.     My New Sense of Time: I appreciate my free time much more than I did before having a baby.  I appreciate my alone time, my time with Walter, my time with Carolina.  The schedule can be a little hectic, but overall I think I am more present in whatever I am doing.  Plus, I can clean the house in about 1/8 the amount of time I could BC (before Carolina), when I would take half hour RHONY breaks every time I needed a new paper towel.
1.     December-March: This is pretty self-explanatory.  I’m not sure if hell is supposed to be hot, or if it’s actually a polar vortex and you have a one year old to entertain.

2.     2A-6A: If I ever get these four hours of sleep back uninterrupted, I might just be able to take over the world.

3.     Teething: Am I the only one who never really knows if it’s really happening or not? Carolina just cut tooth #8 and we have been thinking it’s been coming since October.  “She must be teething” is really code for “I have no clue what’s going on right now” in our house.

4.     The Internet: The internet is terrifying and full of misinformation on babies. “Don’t google it” might go down as the most used phrase in our house in 2013 (eh, it might be tied with “mom I think she’s hungry”).  I should just stick to reading gossip sights that give me misinformation about famous people.   It’s much easier to absorb.

5.     The Laundry: Who is in charge of the calendar of the world? I am hoping we can add an 8th day of the week called Laundry Day. I thought the poop explosion laundry was bad, but add crawling and eating solid food into the mix and you have lost the laundry battle before you even started.  This, compounded with my husband’s obsession with white undershirts that “smell really bleachy” and wearing new pajamas every night, and I’m not sure if I’m doing laundry for my family of three or Jon and Kate.  

So there it is, my high five and low five of the first year.  It was really fun to think back over the past 12 months in these terms.  I would love to hear what other mothers have to say about their high fives and low fives of the first year… maybe I forgot something and we can add an “around the back.”

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A response.

This is me moments after meeting my daughter for the first time, after 16 hours of labor and an emergency c-section... taking Amy Glass's "easy way out." 

At first, reading Amy Glass’s article criticizing young women who chose to have a family made me want to laugh.  Then I wanted to get violent.  And then I wanted to cry, thinking about the world I have brought my daughter into, where it seems the more absurd you are, the closer you come to something like fame or notoriety.  For days I thought about my personal response to this nonsense, and I had to get it out. 

For the record, I am thirty years old.  I met my husband when I was 23 and was married at 26.  I have a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree.  By some standards, I have seen a lot of the world, by others, not very much. By some standards I had a great start to my career, by others I was puttering around in the meaningless.  I decided to leave my job when my daughter was 4 months old to raise her full time.  Some would applaud that, others (Amy Glass, I am talking to you) would need to try to hold back their vomit. 

As the overwhelming majority would agree, Amy Glass is dead wrong.  Whether or not I fit into her mold of “young mothers with husbands” she looks down upon, I take offense to every single word she said.  This is why.

It is people like her that led me into a rather productive but abundantly meaningless life before I met my husband and had my daughter.  People like her that made me think I needed to live my life like a story, packed full of accomplishments and adventure.  My husband was the first person who cared about what the most honest parts of my heart had to say, not the to-do list that had been written on my brain by every Amy Glass trying to recruit women to close their legs and open their minds to all the world’s ideas.  My daughter was the first person to look me in the eye and not wonder where I went to college or in what ways I was challenging myself.  Or what my ideas and opinions are.  She knew my smell and my heartbeat, and that was enough to love me.  

Amy Glass, you have it all backwards.  Getting degrees, and promotions, and traveling, and running half marathons are the things I used to do to make myself feel worthy.  I was blowing through that “to-do list for women who want to feel like they have earned their place in the world” like an unstoppable rebel force.  I have since realized that not one thing on that list said “be who you are.”  And what I have found in the past five years is looking two people in the eyes, my husband and my daughter, who want nothing more of me than that, has been the most difficult challenge of my life until this point.  It has forced me to look myself more honestly than I ever have before.  I began to learn something about all the achievements I was trying to collect.   They will never have the same impact that a person asking you to bare your soul will.  They will not be there to rub your back when you are sick.  Or wipe your tears when you cry.  Or sit with you at the end of your life and listen to you speak openly about your joys and regrets.  They will not remember you, they will not love you.  Your legacy will not live on through the things you teach them.  They will not notice the small things you do.  They will not honor you.  They will not breathe life into you the way that seeing your child take his or her first breath only can. You cannot love a husband or a child in the way you can love a career or traveling.  In a marriage and in motherhood, you cannot play a part.  You cannot hold your family at arm’s length.  You cannot reveal only the best parts of yourself.  For most of my life, this is how I was able to live. Now, every night I thank God for my husband and my daughter, who are asking for all of me, so I can know what that is, too. 

And to address the most laughable point: This is not the easy way out.  In times of stress I think to myself, why didn’t I just go to law school? Or med school? Or move back to London after I graduated?  I have these thoughts because they are my retreat.  They would have been a more comfortable route for me, because I see them as very concrete and predictable.  But I chose to live my life in real time, in chaos, in truth.  To let go of caring what the Amy Glass’s of the world think of me. I have put down my to-do list, and I am working on listening to what’s in my heart.  Creating my own measures of worth.  It has led to many tears and sleepless nights, but it is an education unlike any other.  Had I ever made it to the top of Kilimanjaro, or the floor of Wall Street, or wherever else you find worthy females, I’m not sure it would have even happened there.  

The freedom isn't in becoming a lawyer or a CEO.  Or backpacking solo across Asia.  The freedom is in being exactly who you are, and that is the piece that challenges you and takes courage.  THAT is the hard way. And for me, taking the hard way will bring me a level of success that is beyond anything I could have planned for.  I am not sure what my next step will be, but the courage I have to chase my dreams with my daughter and husband beside me is infinitely larger than without them.  The only thing in my life I can predict right now is that I will be happy.

And for the record, I love weddings and baby showers.  Being a woman is hard enough and we should get to indulge a little bit.  If that means my vagina is smaller than yours, so be it.