new years eve

As December ticked by and brought us closer to an end and subsequent beginning that is the New Years, I kept thinking on this post from January.

Truthfully, my gut reaction was embarrassment followed by a scoff. How silly of me to think we’d breeze through this first year of parenthood with finesse or ease. Thrive? HA. We barely SURVIVED. Stupid. You were so stupid, Rachel. That’s what you get for making those grand sweeping declarations and predictions like you always do.

For a moment I even considered deleting it, quietly sweeping the evidence of my naïveté under the rug. But for the sake of authenticity I left it and just continued saying mean things about myself as I shook my head. It was a bit like shoving a dog’s nose in their mess. Unnecessary, ineffective, abusive.

I thought about it more and began to wonder what kind of standard I was holding myself to. What should I have done this year that I didn’t do? What about how I lived wasn’t true to the word “thrive”? I had a flashback to two weeks postpartum. My right nipple was torn to shreds by a tiny baby latch so I was nursing on one side and pumping on the other. My brand new girl was sleeping very little and crying all the time. My temperature was slowly rising due to some mystery infection that would later land me in the ER, stump the doctors, and  be filed under, “extreme sleep deprivation and stress”. As The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt marathoned on Netflix in the background, I sobbed under the intense weight of my new life and weirdly found solace in the catchy intro music.

“Unbreakable – they alive damnit!” I sang as tears seared my cheeks. In the haze of my hormone hallucination I felt as though they had written those words for me. “Females are strong as hell,” the television cheered me on to make it through another hour in the day.

Looking back I realize I probably looked and sounded deranged. I probably was, a little bit. But I made it through that hour. And the next one. And the next. And here I am – here we are, nine months later and we’re surviving. Maybe even thriving? I mean, the house is a wreck and we consider sleeping for four whole hours to be a miracle. But we smile and laugh every day. We hug and kiss and hold hands every day. We play and learn and sing every day. The Unbreakble song still makes me smile.

This has been a year of lowered standards. It’s easy to say, “let go of the little things.” But I’m learning how to actually DO that. I feel peace and freedom when I’m able to unclench my jaw, loosen my grip, and let something insignificant slip through my raw, blistered hands. Goodbye, you do not matter to me right now.

When I said, “thrive” earlier this year I meant, “have control over everything.” And it turns out it actually means, “don’t give a shit unless you really need to.” Or maybe something a little more eloquent. But that’s the gist.

I’ve done a lot of really hard things this year. Hard, sharp, grinding things. And I’m pushed and stretched and challenged more every single day. Sometimes I feel run down and not sure I have it in me to do this. And that makes me question if I did what I set out to do – did I thrive? And you know what?

I think I did.

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8:29pm

Rosalyn is asleep now. She was a bit fussy this evening; she’s tugging at her ear so we’re keeping an eye out for an infection. It’s cold season and she’s a daycare baby. It’s probably an ear infection. Please, don’t be an ear infection.

I’m heating up leftovers in the microwave and relishing in the dim silence while the green flashes count down one hundred and twenty seconds. I want more hours in the day. I want to get home from work with our baby and have hours to relax, go for a walk, cook dinner together, eat together, wind down, then bedtime. As it is we get to pick one or two of those things before lights out. So microwave it is, then.

Upstairs two dogs are being bathed and hating every second of it. Andrew lets one of them free and I can hear her wriggle and squirm against the carpet, ecstatic with her new, clean freedom.

I bring up dinner and he jokingly asks where his big glass of wine is before striking a pose in his pajama pants to make me laugh. I am so serious. We’re an odd pair.

Nothing extraordinary is going on. I can’t imagine this tiny piece of time would mean as much to anyone else. Perhaps with their cast of characters, not mine. But it is mine. And I wanted to remember it.

gross

The time has come, fellow perfectionists, to leave me behind. If only for a little awhile. Save yourselves. Don’t look back. Don’t cry for me, Argentina.

As a wee, pink, squalling freshly baked potato, the gross stuff like spit up and poop weren’t so bad in the scent department. She really just smelled faintly of milk and I don’t know if it’s an evolutionary trait or what so that I didn’t leave her in a tree somewhere but I kind of liked it? I imagine it’s like a dog peeing on a favorite bush. “Ah, yes. This is mine. Mine mine mine NOT YOURS mine.”

Well we’re eight months old now and let me just go ahead and clarify that the gross things are no longer not gross. They are in fact gross gross. Spit up and breastmilk poo? NOPE. Shit and vomit, folks. We are in shit and vomit territory.

While pregnant I would read stories of newborn butt canons, shooting whatever color in whatever direction HIDE YO KIDS HIDE YO WIFE NO ONE IS SAFE. Others were laughing, I was breaking out in a cold sweat. Poopsplosions were OCD nightmare fuel. I have since been incredibly meticulous and it was only just a few days ago that actual poop touched my actual skin for the first time. It was the tiniest swipe on my thumb but alarms rang in my head.

“THIS IS NOT A DRILL. I REPEAT. NOT A DRILL. Ok, breathe Rachel. Remember your training. Simply place her in her crib, calmly walk to the bathroom, and very gently pour the kerosene and light yourself on fire.”

I lived to tell the tale. So, yeah – old habits die hard. The only poopsplosions she’s had have been at daycare in her disposable diapers. This year at Thanksgiving when we go around the table to say what we’re grateful for, I will point to that. Glory be to God in the highest.

(I’d like to take a pause here because at this point I’ve said “poopsplosion” twice. Ain’t motherhood grand? You know, if I close my eyes and take a deep inhale of my coffee/saltedcaramelmochawhoarewekiddingitsgrownuphotcocoa I can just barely remember the days when I was academically inclined. I read books. I wrote essays. I thinked big thoughts with my head brain. Rest in peace, Smart Rachel.)

Poop. I still stay very far away from poop. Vomit though? I’ve lowered my standards for vomit.

A few nights ago, Andrew brought Rosalyn from her crib into our bed. I lovingly pulled her into my arms to lovingly kiss her forehead. And then she yakked all over my left side. And promptly fell back asleep in it. You are so gross, kid. I think your get it from your father. I urgently whispered to him, “Oh my god, oh my god get a towel she just threw up everywhere.”
“Shit. Should we change her?”

“Um maybe? I mean, she’s asleep so…”

So, no. No we won’t be changing her. Or me apparently because the next course of action taken was to blindly dab the towel around us and then GO BACK TO SLEEP. I slept in vomit shirt.

And the next day while getting ready for bed?

I PICKED UP VOMIT SHIRT AND PUT IT BACK ON.

About an hour later I caught a whiff and realized that smell was coming from my shoulder. “Ew,” I thought, “that’s gross.”

Yeah, Rachel. That’s gross. You know what’s grosser? I didn’t take it off then either! I slept in it, again. And it should be noted this was no longer at 2am when bad decisions are easily forgiven. No, this was at 8pm when you are still firmly planted in Adults Make Good Decisions Land.

I no longer make good decisions.

So that’s it. This will serve as my formal two week notice for my position as a Perfectionist. It’s not you, it’s me. It is, embarrassingly, all me.

And maybe a little bit her, as well.

good enough

Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo

The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

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Yeah, its a lovely poem. And on a particularly good (or bad) day it tugs on my already strung out heart strings. But, what if your need for a tidy home doesn’t come from outside societal pressures to have it all, all at once? What if it stems from your own deep-seated desires to have things just so? Where’s the sweetly worded poetry about how stepping on a crumb makes you want to peel your skin off? I’ve yet to come across prose addressing the anxiety that makes my very brain tissue itch when dishes are piled with last night’s sauce still smeared and wet towels are slumped on the floor. Sure, clutter-free homes are prime Instagram content, but I can promise you the place I’m coming from is that stuff suffocates me. I’m not trying to impress anyone; I’m trying to breathe.

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Yet, what can I do when my day starts at 5:30am, I get home twelve hours later, and only have a couple more before the whole bedtime rigmarole? And then we’re up three, four, five (six, seven??) times a night?

Sorry. The whine snuck out there. Let’s start over. Everyone go grab a cup of tea and come back when you’re feeling better.

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Ok.

What I’m trying to get at is that I spend a lot of time intentionally directing my gaze away from mounds of, well, basically its just random junk all over the house. That dining room table? I don’t even know what’s on there anymore. I could probably just sweep it all into a box for Goodwill and be happy. At this point, the only thing keeping me from doing that is this inkling I have that there are a couple of lenses lurking under some paper. For a couple of weeks we made a valiant effort of clearing off enough space that we could still dine like civilized people each night. We have since said, “Fuck it,” and now eat on the couch. (While on the couch I make a real effort to not notice the GIANT spot on our beautiful rug; it was created when recently my dog removed a box of hot chocolate from the pantry? And opened a packet?? And then forcefully licked its contents into the rug??? Fantastic.)

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I had every intention of opening this text box and telling you all how I gladly turn my back to the mess while I rock my babe, thinking wistfully how woefully short this season of life is.

Sometimes I do that.

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But, sometimes I am rock-rock-rocking in the dark asking God to please give me a grateful heart because in that moment I want little more than to throw all of our shit into a dumpster and light it on fire because its gotta be a helluva lot easier to keep an empty house clean. Sometimes I gaze lovingly at her perfect, angel face and think about how lucky I am. And sometimes I want to sit her down for a talk and explain in my Mom Voice, “It’s time* for you to sleep longer than three hours, young lady.”

(*It’s not “time”. You’re only six months old. Keep doing you, you’re doing just fine.)

I wanted to be able to say that I am at peace with my surroundings right now. That because I’m doing the important, holy work of mothering it is well with my soul. Amen. Hallelujah. Praise God. It is good enough. Except its not.

I think I slipped back into whining again back there somewhere. Ughhhhhhh I really didn’t want to bring that to this space today. I wanted to bring you something better. Something tastier. That we could all fold neatly into our back pockets and walk away a lighter, happier person for it.

I couldn’t. I can’t. And for now, that has to be good enough.

IMG_0246-1What the hell is wrong with you, ceiling?

more to me

“Do I have to spell it out for you, or scream it in your face? The chemistry between us could destroy this place.” 

And all of a sudden I’m sixteen. I’m sixteen and we’re brand new and I’d do all over again, step-by-step. 
I promise I haven’t forgotten us. I haven’t forgotten how, why this all started. I promise I haven’t forgotten you.

She is God’s gift to us but you are God’s gift to me.

There will come a day when we are more than the chaotic monotony that is our lives. You are more to me than bottles washed and back rubs. She is the blood in my veins but you are my heart.

I love us then, I love us now. Always, you are my home.

the village

It takes a village. 

I thought that was about the kid. It’s not.

It’s about me.

It takes a village to raise me. To make sure I’m clothed and safe. To soothe me when I cry. To entertain me and teach me new things.

I’m a baby mother, brand new. I can’t sleep, and have trouble feeding myself. Someone should probably keep an eye on me lest I do something incredibly dangerous. I have muscles that need to be stretched and worked but I can’t do it on my own just yet.

My world is actually really quite small but seems enormous to me. Insurmountable at times. It is harsh and scary and bright and loud. Please do not leave me alone in the dark.

I have wants and needs that stretch miles long and I don’t even understand them or know what to ask for. I only know when something is wrong or when things are right & good. I will get angry and upset when you don’t understand my indecipherable cries.

I’ll get there though, I promise. Just stick with me a little while longer and then a bit more and soon I’ll surprise both of us at how far I’ve come. My steps are wobbly and unsure but a touch daring, too. And it wasn’t long ago that I could barely stand.

It is a task, taking care of me. Please do it anyway. Teach this woman to fish and I’ll turn around and feed my own forever. The next generation of village.

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