Let’s be kind to ourselves, guys. Here’s an essay I wrote for Sammiches and Psych Meds. A reminder– you’re all doing it.
Tag Archives: writing
Just wanted to share an essay I wrote that was published on Bustle. Thanks for reading!
I am so grateful to be a mother to these two beautiful girls.
Today wasn’t perfect. Everyone was having meltdowns first thing in the morning. We were in a rush to get out the door, Rosie was crying and Nora was lying on the floor, protesting because she wanted to wear the butterfly shirt not the orange shirt. And I was like, “Don’t you know you’re supposed to be really nice to me on Mother’s Day???!!!”
But, they can be pretty sweet too.
Rosie is a warm little muffin with roley-poly arms and legs and a dark fuzzy head with a little round, red birthmark in the back. She knocks her head into mine when she’s looking around. Sometimes, I feel her little tongue as she starts sucking on my arm. She’s still kind of a primate. Her arms and legs are constantly moving and she doesn’t seem to know yet that they belong to her. She has started smiling at us and cooing a little. It takes a lot of effort and arm/leg pumping to get out a “nnngah.”
Last night, Rosie and I rocked in the chair and she fell asleep. We sat for a long time together, her sleeping on me, her soft head against my cheek. Sometimes it’s nice to just sit and let her sleep on me. I know now how fast it really does go. We won’t always be able to sit and snuggle for hours (as much as I will want to. I’m going to be that mom.)
Nora is becoming a big girl — even more so after becoming a big sister. She loves Rosie so much, and although she sometimes can’t control her impulse to squeeze or rub just a little too hard, she can also be super sweet saying “It’s ok Wosie” when Rosie is crying or “She’s so cute!” “She makes little noises!” “I think she likes me!”
She has an active imaginary life. She uses a high pitched voice to make the guys in her stuffed animal collection talk. She is always thinking about them and looking for someone or other.
“Mommy,” she’ll say at night before bed, looking a little concerned.
“Where’s Turtle-Turtle’s Mommy?”
We never know where to find the guy she’s looking for, and so before bed, we are sent on a rescue mission.
She has named them all and knows each of their relationships to one another. (Baby Baby has a baby named Baby. Nora says she’s a mommy to Leopard Bear and Fluff. It is always Leopard Bear’s birthday and Nora is always throwing a party for him. Also, Aliyana is Leopard Bear and Fluff’s baby. I think this technically means 1. Leopard bear and Fluff are in kind of an incestuous relationship and 2. Nora is a grandmother.)
Last night, I read Nora a story which was nice because lately, Kevin is usually the one to read the story while I’m feeding Rosie. You know, a lot has changed since Rosie was born. It’s been kind of a beautiful haze. Our old routines have been replaced with new ones and we’re all learning how to adjust. So, we read Olivia and she pointed to the picture of the pig in a tutu and said “She looks like a princess. She looks so pretty.” We snuggled and she asked if we could do “the really loud thing.”
“What is the really loud thing?” I asked.
“What is it?” she said.
“I don’t know,” I said. “You brought it up.”
But then I did know. She wanted us to yell “And now it’s time for… night night tiiiiiime!” really really loudly and then laugh. We did this every night before Rosie was born, but we’d stopped recently. So we yelled the really loud thing and then she gave me a giant squeeze, which big kids don’t always do anymore without a little prodding.
I haven’t been very good about writing blog posts recently because of all of the, you know, adjusting we’ve been doing. But, I really wish I could record every moment and press pause whenever I wanted to. Because every thing that comes out of Nora’s mouth is hilarious and amazing. And Rosie is just so warm and snuggly. I wonder what it will feel like a few years from now when they are older to read these posts again.
I feel blessed on this Mother’s Day to have such a beautiful family, a loving husband and two beautiful girls. I’ll take ’em, meltdowns and all. 🙂
I just wanted to share my essay, “Motherhood Absentmindedness,” which was published in Brain, Child last week.
The essay begins:
You think I’d learn not to rest my coffee cup on the roof of the car while buckling my daughter Nora into her car seat, but sometimes, I only have so many hands. How many times have I backed out of the driveway and heard the clunk of a thing hitting the pavement? My phone, my sunglasses, a water bottle, a lunch bag, a juice box. And I have spent much of my existence searching for lost items, so much so that my two-year-old has a habit of walking into my closet with her hands in the air, saying, “I’m just looking for something”….
To keep reading, click on the link. http://www.brainchildmag.com/2014/09/motherhood-absentmindedness/
Here’s a link to an article I wrote. I hope you enjoy!
Hi everyone! Just wanted to get the word out. My short story, “All My Wrongs” was published this month in Literary Mama, an online journal that features writing by mother writers about the complexities and many faces of motherhood. Please check it out if you have a moment. I’d love to hear from you!
We visited Grammy and Papa this weekend and they have a sweet, lovable, happy-go-lucky, energetic yellow Labrador named Daisy. Daisy is maybe four times Nora’s size, and though she wouldn’t hurt a fly, she has a loud bark, big teeth, and she likes to lick Nora’s face.
When Daisy barked, Nora winced. Nora whimpered, and held on to our legs when Daisy was near. As Kevin put it, it must be like going to visit your friends – having a good ol’ time – and then remembering that they have a pet lion.
Her reaction was not all about fear though. She was very, very curious about Daisy. She crawled under an armchair, peering at Daisy from her hiding place. She kept one eye on the dog the whole time.
And then, on the last day of our visit, Nora made a bold move: she ventured out into the wild, leaving the safety of the living room to crawl into the kitchen, all by herself, where Daisy lay resting on her side. Nora looked back at us every few seconds, making sure that this was a good idea, but she traversed the wide expanse of the hard wood floor all on her own. She whimpered as she went, letting us know, look, I’m going to do what I have to do, but I’m not saying I like it. But she did it. She made it all the way to the dog.
We saw a similar kind of determination once when she decided to buck up and take her vitamin even though she despised it. Every other night, when the little dropper came near, she made a show of it, thrashing around, closing her lips and scrunching up her face. But on this night, she paused and stopped trashing to take a good look at the dropper; she took a deep breath, opened her mouth and pulled it to her mouth.
This is a quality I admire: the determination to go forward even if you’re afraid – to do something tough even if you’d rather sit this one out. This will take her far in life. I hope she’ll be able to access this store of motivation when it comes to completing a difficult homework assignment, hitting a baseball after striking out, singing in front of others, standing up to kids who give her a hard time and doing the grunt work in order to achieve whatever goal she sets out for herself.
I think it’s important to note that she did look back at us to see our reaction – she wasn’t going to approach the scary monster without our support and reassurance that what she was doing was okay. Sometimes, fear is an appropriate reaction to scary situations, and I wouldn’t want her to do something dangerous (although I do realize that I will not always be able to step in and prevent this from happening. She is going to take risks and test us.) But, we just want to make sure she knows that we’ll always be there to support her as she goes forward, helping her to decipher a good decision from a bad one, guiding her and letting her know that we recognize her efforts.
We’re proud of our ten month old girl. Already, we can see the silly, sensitive, smart, curious, courageous little person she’s becoming, and we most certainly love what we see.
It’s the morning of Saturday, August 27, 2011. I’m four months pregnant and starting to feel the impulse to nest.
Hurricane Irene will approach New York in a few hours. We and all of our neighbors have stored all porch furniture, brought our outdoor plants inside, removed chimes and locked windows. We’ve filled the bathtub and stocked the cabinets with cereal, cans of tuna fish and trail mix. We’ve placed flashlights and battery operated candles in various places around the house. The news is recycling the same clips over and over again, including yesterday’s sunbathers soaking up rays in Asbury Park and Governor Christie scolding them, “Get the hell off the beach.”
Our neighbors wave and smile at us as we hop in the car and head off to AC Moore to buy supplies for our craft project: a butterfly mobile for the nursery, and to pick up the one preparatory item we forgot: D batteries. It’s raining sideways now, the sky looks sort of orange, and there’s a buzz and excitement in the air as we all wait for what’s to come.
The parking lot at AC Moore is already a small lake. Kevin and I don’t find any D batteries, of course. It seems everyone else in Rockland County has had the same idea. The checkout lines are long, families with carts full of crayons, scrapbook materials and jewelry supplies. The power keeps going out in the store and the credit card machines aren’t working so we pay in cash for our supplies.
Our hands hurt from cutting out butterflies from morning until night while the rain gushes and trees sway against the side of the house.
It’s nighttime and so far, we’re in the clear in terms of hurricane damage – we haven’t lost power yet. Exhausted, we leave our strands of butterflies on the table and go to bed. I can’t sleep. Before pregnancy, I used to sleep flat on my stomach with arms and legs splayed out and I can’t quite seem to get used to my side. The wind has picked up outside and we can hear tree branches cracking. I look up at the skylight, at the tree that hovers above the house, taunting us, scratching at the window. I’m afraid the tree is going to fall on us and crush us. When I do finally fall asleep, I dream that I’m in high school at a party at a friend’s parents’ house. Water is climbing up the back porch and we’re stranded inside, but everyone there is drunk, having a good time and asking me why I’m overreacting. I remember then, in the dream , that I have a baby at home that I need to get to.
I turn over at 5am and see Kevin’s eyes are open too. “Maybe we should check on the house,” I say.
Kevin puts on his shoes and treks down to the basement to find this:
Oh no! Two feet of water!
While Kevin bales water into the washing machine, I work on the butterfly project. I’d help Kevin but it’s probably not a good idea for me to be pregnant, bending and lifting heavy water and I’m worried about mold in the basement.
We don’t have a head flashlight, but Kevin crafts one with duct tape and a hat:
It becomes clear that Kevin can’t keep up with the rising water so we call the fire company. A fireman come over to assess our basement and walk through our family room where he finds scraps of paper, strands of butterflies and some of the other crafts we’d been working on for the nursery (see my last post on DIY cartoon drawings).
“Looks like you kept yourself busy,” he says.
He says he will come back in a few hours to drain out the basement. He wants to wait for it to stop raining and we’re only one in a long list of people who need assistance. We work on our project while we wait for them to return. It’s a nice way to pass the time.
Finally, we finish! Here’s a picture of the final product:
Eventually the rain dies down. Kevin discovers a few hours later that the basement has drained on its own. Whew! We open the door and step out onto the porch to find a dark sky and branches down all over the neighborhood. We lose power for two days after that, but we’re lucky. The damage is nothing compared to what some friends have gone through in Vermont and parts of New Jersey.
In the end, we have something to show for our cabin fever. Here’s a picture of the butterfly mobile in Nora’s nursery.
(Here’s the crafty footnote of the story. This DIY project was modeled after the Pottery Barn Kids mobile which has been discontinued. Props to Project Nursery for their butterfly mobile design: http://projectnursery.com/2010/01/butterfly-mobile/. Visit their site to find all of the instructions and supplies you will need to do this project on your own. You’re hands will be sore, but in the end, it’ll be worth it!)
In the car, I noticed that it was a beautiful warm day as we crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge, blue sky, warm for January. The Hudson stretched out for miles and miles. And then I’d have a contraction and I could focus on nothing but the pain. I kept telling Kevin I just wanted the drugs. Though it felt to me like something very extreme was happening to my body, I still feared that I would get to the hospital, they would tell me I was a whiny little baby—that what I’d been experiencing since 1am was nothing, little mini cramps. “You thought that was real labor? Wow. Just you wait.”
I waddled into the hospital, grossly pregnant, water dripping down my legs. Kevin and I approached the security guard.
“I’m here for-”
“Floor six,” he said, after taking one look at me.
I recognized one of the nurses at the desk.
“I took a class with you,” I said. This was the nurse who’d told our class about the wussy woman who made a huge scene when she was in early labor.
“Oh really?” she said.
“Excuse me,” I said and squatted on the floor to have a contraction.
It took a little while to get setup in the room. The nurse asked me questions about my medical history, hooked up an IV, took some blood samples and encouraged me when I had a contraction.
When she finally checked me out down there, she seemed perplexed.
“Huh,” she said. “That’s strange. Just hold tight, I’m going to get a second opinion.”
“Yup,” the second nurse said. “You were right. She’s fully dilated. She’s ready to push.”
I’d gone through the whole labor at home with no medication. Apparently, they thought I seemed too calm to be that far along. I let a wave of relief wash over me once I realized that the pain I’d been feeling was the real deal, not just the beginning stages.
Pushing was the hard part, the last six miles of the marathon. I lay on my back on the hospital bed, my legs up, spread open, knees bent, feet pressed against a metal bar, and with every push I squeezed and yanked at a sheet that was tied to the bar.
I remember little snippets of what was happening around me, the nurses telling me to grunt when I pushed, Kevin feeding me ice chips and apple juice through a straw and wiping the sweat off my forehead, everyone cheering, “C’mon Sara, you can do it Sara, push now, don’t hold back!” But all of the noise and commotion was in the background. I was present for my pain, possibly the most present I’ve ever been in my own body.
I closed my eyes, breathed and tried to muster up the courage to push when I felt a contraction coming on. My throat hurt from screaming. My arms were sore from yanking the cloth. My body ached, burned and shook. The breaks between each contraction were bitter sweet. I could rest for just a beat, but the anticipation of the next oncoming surge was awful. I did not want to have to push anymore, I just wanted to release, take a little nap and let the contraction wash over me. It didn’t work like that. The contractions were so intense now, so sharp and so immediate that it actually felt better to push.
I pleaded to the nurses, to the baby and to the heavens, “Please, get this baby out!”
The nurses set up a mirror so I could see everything. “Look, there’s her hair!” they said. “Look down and see your baby! She’s almost out.” I didn’t want to look. Honestly, it was a war zone down there, and they’d been telling me I was almost there for the last two hours.
“Is she going to come out soon?” I said to the nurses, defeated. “Can’t you just pull her out?”
“It’s up to you,” one of the nurses said. “Only you can do it. You have to give it everything you have.”
I wanted to punch her. “I know,” I said. “I am giving it everything. I’m trying really, really hard.”
The truth was that there was still more I could give and I knew it even though I didn’t want to admit it.
“It’s either you the doctor,” my midwife said, meaning I had to push her out soon or else the doctor would step in for a C-section.
I had worked at it for nearly three hours. I thought it would never end; this baby’s head would be stuck there forever. Until the end of time, I would be pushing out a baby like Sisyphus who was doomed to haul a boulder up a hill for all eternity.
Eventually, my midwife decided that I needed Pitocin to speed things up and make the contractions longer. They never got to sixty seconds and so I only had time to push two or three times. She wanted me to get a fourth push out of each contraction. She also told me to wait to push until she gave me the go-ahead. I was starting too soon and missing the peak.
At some point, I knew that the end was near which gave me an adrenaline rush. Everyone was yelling louder. “Push, push, push, Sara, you’re almost there, she’s coming, she’s almost there, give it everything, c’mon, good job, push!”
I took in deep inhalations and went to town.
Out she came all 9lbs 9 ounces of her. The pain and effort were over. They laid her on my chest while Kevin cut the cord. I didn’t cry. I reached out my arms and thought, “Just hand me my baby. Just give her to me.”
I didn’t know until later that Kevin had looked on terrified as they pulled her out of me, blue, her cord wrapped her neck. He watched as they uncoiled her and handed her to me. He said the color flushed back into her little body as soon as her skin touched mine. My midwife also told me later that she’d tied a knot in her cord – she must flipped around in there early on – and her spine was against my spine, making this a posterior labor which is apparently very painful, hence the pain in my low back. All of this, along with her large size, were risk factors. “Is she named for anyone?” my midwife asked. I told her Nora’s middle name was for my grandmother, Rosalyn, my father’s mother. “Well, she was watching over Nora today,” she said. “You were very lucky.”
Nora stopped crying when I held her. She was perfect, everything about her, her big strong lungs, her blue eyes, her button nose, her cone shaped head (which eventually rounded out, thank goodness), her imperfect ear. She nuzzled into me. Her body was warm against mine. I nursed her for the first time, although nothing came out, but I felt this was natural. Here she is. She is my daughter.
My Labor Story, Part I:
I packed for the hospital as if I were heading off to a spa/yoga retreat in the mountains. Though I feared labor would be grueling hard work, the worst pain I’d felt in my life, the books I had read had made me believe I could make it a meditative if not pleasant experience if I put my mind in the right spot and brought the right tools.
In our hospital bag, we packed the following: battery operated candles, an I-pod loaded with calming “labor” music such as Enya, Hem and the sounds of the ocean, a yoga mat and blocks, reading material including a book about hypnobirthing, What to Expect When You are Expecting, People Magazine and Tess of the D’Uberville, a sleep mask and some trail mix.
When I was in the thick of it, I would be equipped with appropriate supplies, readings and relaxation techniques. I would visualize that each contraction was a wave lapping on the shore. I would not know that I was pushing out a watermelon-sized baby; instead, I would think that I was floating on a bed of mist which gently shifted from red to orange and then faded into all the colors of the rainbow.
This was not how it went down. We did not use one of the items we packed in that bag.
I went into labor at 1am and waited about a half hour before waking Kevin.
“Kevin, I might be in labor,” I said, shaking his shoulder.
“Oh,” he said, groggy and confused. “That’s good.”
Soon it became clear to me that it was really happening. The contractions were about five minutes apart and I could no longer comfortably lie on my side in bed.
I sat on the birthing ball (which, in your Rock Hard Abs class at the gym is just called an exercise ball) and leaned forward onto the bed breathing through each contraction. I felt an intense pain in my back and a tingling crampy feeling stretching across my pelvis. Kevin said supportive words, pressed down on my low back, timed my contractions on an app he’d downloaded onto his phone and made me some toast.
I waited until 4am before calling my midwife because she’d encouraged me to go through as much of the labor as I could at home. She said people tend to clam up at the hospital and often the contractions slow down, so better to wait it out. She asked me a few more questions which I can’t remember and then I said, “Excuse me, I’m about to have a contraction.” I breathed it out and when the pain subsided, said, “Okay, I think I’m done.”
Why was I being so calm and polite when seconds before I had been groaning, barreled over on the bed begging Kevin to let me call the doctor?
One of the nurses in our labor classes described a woman who rolled to labor and delivery in a wheelchair, clutching the side of the chair, hyperventilating, and after they checked her out, they discovered she was in early labor and she had thirty hours to go. I did not want to be the woman that nurses gossiped about to their classes for being a mega drama queen. Even in moments of intense pain, I self-consciously wanted Kevin and the nurses to think I was a warrior and not a baby. So when my midwife asked me on a scale from one to ten, what my pain level was, I said five.
“Okay, you’re not in active labor yet,” she said. “I want you to call me when your contractions are exactly sixty seconds and no more than five minutes apart.”
When I called her at 7am, she gave me the same report. It wasn’t time to come to the hospital yet. I said okay and then got off the phone, whimpered and told Kevin how much I hated her.
I went into labor with an open mind about whether or not I’d use medication – I’d give it a good ol’ try the natural way, but I gave myself permission to decide whenever I wanted that the pain was too much. At this point, I just wanted to get to the hospital so they could drug me up. The pain I was feeling was manageable, I mean, it wasn’t like getting stabbed in the chest, (not that I really knew what that felt like either, but before going into labor I often tried to imagine which would be worse), but if this was just the start of my troubles, I didn’t want to know what active labor would feel like.
The movies have you believe labor is like a race from start to end, but really, I had some down time between each contraction. It wasn’t all horrific, crippling pain all the time. There was a lot of moaning and groaning, but I also had time to eat a few bites of the toast Kevin had made for me, take a shower, and suggest Kevin make the bed before we load up the car.
At 8:45am my water broke and so we made a run for it.
To be continued…