I don’t think I’m tall enough for this ride…

Spoiler alert: I use the word “boob” in this post. You may want to excuse yourself now.

Here’s an old cliche: Life is a roller coaster.

Everything seems up and down for me lately; I live with extremes. One moment I’m savoring a predawn cup of coffee and reading about what Gwyneth Paltrow packs for a flight to London (as if) and the next minute I’m juggling two cranky kids, one of whom wants to be permanently attached my boob and the other who can’t decide whether or not he wants jam or honey on his peanut butter toast.

Today when I left the house there were crying kids and diapers that needed changing, and let me tell you, it was wrenching. Then I drove in relative peace and quiet to my office (the fifteen minute drive to work is the only time I am truly alone). Then I advised a few students, none of whom have the faintest idea what they are doing. Now my office is quiet and I’m boiling water to make coffee. I drink a LOT of coffee.


I sit down at my computer to write. I open the file that contains my novel and get downright giddy as I nail a sticky plot point. Then I open the file containing feedback from my editor on the academic book I’m writing and I feel like jumping out the window. Then an email alert pops up and I see that I have another stupid and pointless meeting tomorrow. Academics love to call stupid and pointless meetings at the last minute. Then I take a peek at a fashion site to see what all of the hip people are wearing this fall.


I used to think of this way. You enjoy the ups and endure the downs. When you’re miserable you think, “This too shall pass.” Then I saw the following quote:

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

If we wait for life to get good before we enjoy it, we will be waiting a long time, and it will be over before we know it.

I felt a sense of peace when my five-month-old woke me at three o’clock this morning. I brought her to bed and smoothed her sweet fluffy head and let her nurse. I was deeply, deeply exhausted. I started thinking about all of the things I have to do, about all of the things I want to do, and about all of the things I will probably never get a chance to do. And then a voice in my head said, “You’re doing the most important thing you could be doing, right now.

I’m doing what I should be doing when I take care of my children. They love me and need me and I will be the center of their universe for such a short time.

I’m doing what I should be doing when I grade papers. My students value my feedback and I have the opportunity to help them become better writers.

I’m doing what I should be doing when I read and swallow the difficult feedback I get from my editor. This will make me a better writer. My editor values me enough to keep pushing me through this project.

I’m doing what I should be doing when I read People Magazine and drink Starbucks. We all need downtime and mindless entertainment.

When we took Oscar to the fair this year we put him on his favorite ride, a little red roller-coaster made just for kids. Last year he loved it. This year he cried helplessly in fear for the first few minutes of the ride. It was so hard to watch! Then something happened. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and endured. Finally, he looked around and smiled. And when he got off the ride, he wanted to go on it again.

Mono No Aware

“Mono No Aware” is a Japanese word that means an awareness of the impermanence of things and a gentle wistfulness at their passing.

I came across this word recently in a book I was reading, and I love the complexity and truth of its meaning. Not simply an awareness of the passing of time, not sadness or nostalgia, but something a little more delicate and bittersweet. I love “a gentle wistfulness at their passing.”

This is what it means to be a mother.

I remember feeling this acutely when Oscar was a newborn and I would nurse him in the rocker, watching the sunrise and feeling exhausted and elated at the same time. I whispered to myself over and over, this time will be so short, and it will never come again.

I was comforted with thinking that maybe this wasn’t the last time. As Oscar outgrew each stage I enjoyed the moment, but thought, probably recklessly, that we would be here again, with “the next one.” In fact, I never felt a sense that time was passing too quickly, and it’s only when I look at photographs that I realize that Oscar is no longer a baby. Now, when he climbs into my lap he’s all elbows and angles and bruised shins and dirty feet and dusty hair.

And now I have Aria. She is “the next one” and probably “the last one.” This time I know it’s going by fast. Too fast.

Yet, there is no alternative. Time flies. The alternative is a frozen childhood, but that means death, which is much, much worse. Life means moving forward swiftly and irrevocably, and we cannot hold onto it. The passing of time is “Mono No Aware.” It is beautiful, inevitable, and exciting, but also bittersweet and a little wistful.

I am the mother of two small children. It is exhausting and overwhelming and I love every minute of it. Every day, every minute, I soak it in. The sights, sounds, and smells. The gentle neediness of small hands, sticky fingers, Oscar pulling me down for a third kiss goodnight, Aria snuggling up to me in bed to nurse at 5:00 A.M. The way Aria smells, and the sound of Oscar talking to himself as he plays with his little cars. It will all be gone in the blink of an eye, but no matter what I do, I can’t grasp it and contain it.

Like the changing of the seasons. I will mourn the loss of summer at the same time I turn my face up to admire the autumn leaves.



Summer with Oscar and Aria

It’s hard for me to believe that I’m now the mother of two.  In so many ways my love for my children has grown exponentially, so that my heart feels like it will burst. But in other ways my heart feels like it has been cleaved in two. One of the most difficult things I’ve ever done is leave my son at home with family for three days while I went to the hospital to have my daughter. Three months later it still breaks my heart to leave the house and leave Oscar behind. For so long, over three years, he was my little buddy, my little companion, and we went everywhere together. Now I have to take the baby everywhere, because she is so small and still nursing all the time, and the logistics of taking two kids with me forces me to leave Oscar behind more often than not.

I will be honest and say that it’s not easy having a three-year-old and a newborn. Oscar is the love of my life, and I still look at him like he is a miracle and a dream come true. How am I lucky enough to be the mother of such a magical little boy? He is so funny and smart and sweet and affectionate, saying things every day that make sad that time goes by so fast. Other times I can’t wait until he is in college.

Sometimes, when Oscar is playing, he will turn to me for no reason and say, “I like you.” He also asks, “Are you happy, Mom?” This question makes me sad, because I am often tired or stressed around him, and also because I have always been such a people pleaser, anxious and worried about everyone around me, and it breaks my heart that Oscar has become this way too.

He is so funny and sweet, singing the ABC song in the bathtub, asking for three kisses and a “big hug” every night before bed. Then, as I go to turn out the light, asking in a tiny voice, “One more, Mom? One more?” When I come home from work or running errands, he says “You back? I missed you.” If I take a shower or start packing up my work bag, he senses I am going to leave and says, “You staying?”

Oscar is three, and can be very frustrating and exhausting. He wants to talk to me about everything, and it’s not enough for me to say, “OK,” or “That’s nice.” He wants a full demonstration of active listening skills. I have to look at him, repeat exactly what he just said, and offer my own insights. If I try to multitask, frantically answering work emails or grading papers on the computer, Oscar will get impatient and upset. “Mom, talk to me, talk to me!” I’ll pause what I’m doing and say, “What do you want to talk about?”

He will smile and say, “Oscar!”

Right now Oscar loves trains, cars, trucks, playing in his sand box, getting dirty, and eating peanut butter and jelly; but also broccoli, zucchini, carrots and chicken. He loves Elmo and Cookie Monster, but also Curious George, Frog and Toad, Little Bear, the Hulk, and his baby sister.

His baby sister Aria.

Oscar will ask, “Where’s Aria?” or say, “I want Aria.” He loves stroking her hair, holding her, waving toys in her face, and making obnoxious noises about 1/4 of an inch from her nose. He has already mastered the art of being an annoying big brother.

Aria is three months old today. For the first month or so, she would sleep all day and want to party all night. She would nurse happily at 2:oo A.M. and then look around and say, “Why is it so dark? Why the long face?” She would be perfectly content as long as the light was on and I was sitting upright gazing lovingly into her little face. Try to sleep, or turn out the light, or even lie down, and she would tell me all about her hurt feelings. I would say, “It’s not all about you, Aria.” Aria would say, “Oh really? Try this: whaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!”

Luckily, in the past month, nights have become so much easier. Nursing is a piece of cake this time around, after the hell I went through the first three months of nursing Oscar. Recovering from the c-section was easier this time around, mainly because I knew what to expect. Three months later my incision site still hurts if I sit up too quickly or twist a certain way. I have a seven-inch scar to remind me of two of the most magical, beautiful, happy, terrifying, exhausting, and physically painful days of my life.

Sometimes, driving along in the car, Oscar will declare, “Aria came out of Mama’s tummy!”

Both of my children came out of my heart. They took a piece of it with them. They will be there forever.



Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream…

Ah, sleep deprivation. I’d forgotten how bad it is. It’s a unique form of torture and I wish congress would pass a law to put a stop to it. Luckily for me, my little torturer is very cute, so I forgive her.

We are not accomplishing a lot around here lately, unless you consider eating too many carbs and downloading blogs to the Kindle to be an accomplishment. I can really pack away the egg sandwiches and spaghetti! I might write a new diet book: How To Lose The Pregnancy Weight…Never! As for blogs on the Kindle, what a revelation! I’ve been devouring books and novels, but figuring out how to subscribe to and read blogs has been life-changing. Reading other blogs always makes me want to be a better blogger.

So far this summer my days have been structured around feeding Aria, entertaining Oscar, trying to get enough work done at home to keep from getting fired, and struggling to keep the house from sliding into chaos.

I have a huge to-do list, which includes finishing a report for work, getting a chapter to my editor, catching up on prep and grading for my summer school class, prepping my fall classes, writing articles for this blog, taking pictures of my babies before they grow up, and doing something that resembles exercise.

I am aching to get back into my own writing. I miss writing. This blog calls to me. My novel calls to me. I’m finally beginning to stretch my creative brain in the sunlight after a long, cold winter and I’m starting to get ideas for articles, stories, and poems.

Now, if I could only get some sleep!

But Mr. Sandman brought me a dream more real and wonderful than any I could have imagined. He brought me this:

A Tale of Two C-Sections

As someone who is/was a believer in natural childbirth, it’s challenging for me to write up my “birth” stories, when in some ways, I didn’t really “give birth.” I lay on an operating table numb from the waist down while doctors sliced me open and extracted my babies.

Don’t get me wrong, both of my c-sections were joyous occasions in their own special way. I am deeply and profoundly grateful for the amazing doctors and nurses who helped us bring our children into the world, and for Darin, who was able to take a more active role in his children’s first hours in a way that he wouldn’t have if I had home births.

Oscar and Aria’s birth stories are worth telling. They are just not the stories I expected to tell when we first set about building a family.

I discovered the idea of home birth when one of my best friends, Colleen, told me that she had two of her children at home, with the help of local midwives here in Flagstaff. Her stories of her births were so amazing, I was immediately hooked, and promised myself I would have a home birth with a midwife whenever I got pregnant. In the years after Colleen shared her story, I had other good friends who had home births. My friend Maya had her daughter at home, and when we had dinner one night at our friends’ Mark and Julie’s house, we got to hear the story of their two home births. I was mesmerized by Mark’s description of catching their daughter, and how she opened her eyes and looked at him before she was completely delivered. I was seduced by the idea of Darin being the first one to see and touch our babies, rather than a doctor, and having them be born in our home, instead of in a bright, cheerless, cold, impersonal hospital.

When I was pregnant with Oscar we did all of our prenatal care with Woman Care Midwifery here in Flagstaff. It was a wonderful experience, very intimate, and nothing at all like seeing a doctor. Their office was cozy and decorated like a house, and they spent a great deal of time with us, discussing all kinds of things like pregnancy, birth, nutrition, breastfeeding, etc. Despite the outcome of Oscar’s birth, I am grateful that we had that experience.

Oscar ended up being breech, which we discovered at my 38 week appointment. After two harrowing days of trying to turn him (yoga postures, acupuncture, moxabustion, homeopathic remedies, and an external cephalic version at the hospital) I went into labor and ended up with a c-section. I was thrilled to meet my son Oscar, but devastated at losing my home birth, and spent much of my recovery crying and dealing with that disappointment.

Seeing Oscar for the first time:

When I got pregnant with Aria I knew that I faced three equally unappealing choices for birth. A scheduled c-section at FMC, a VBAC in Phoenix, or a UC (unattended childbirth is something I would never have considered attempting). After some research I made the decision to have a scheduled repeat c-section. Not something I feel like I “elected” to do, although it says that in my medical records.

Yet Aria’s birth day was lovely. As we drove to the hospital at 5:00 in the morning the sun was just starting to come up, and Flagstaff was quiet and still, bathed in blue light. I felt a sense of peace about the upcoming birth. Not only because I knew what to expect this time around, but also because I felt like I had finally reached a place where I could let go of the idea of natural childbirth. Somehow, as I thought of my son and daughter and what they meant to me, I realized it didn’t matter anymore. My desire for a home birth suddenly felt like a distant memory, the way we feel about a friendship we had as a child. There might be some nostalgia, some bittersweet memories, but mostly there is the sense of distance, that we have grown up and moved on and we are not the same person we were back then. In the years since Oscar’s birth I’ve met women who will never get to experience pregnancy, who have lost their babies, and who have babies struggling to survive in the NICU. I realized that birth is no longer a defining moment for me. I just wanted Aria in my arms.

Seeing Aria for the first time:

The c-section went well. The staff were warm and friendly and funny this time around, whereas with Oscar’s birth things had been a little more rushed and grim. We had medical students and student nurses present this time, which was surprisingly rewarding, and I thought about how much I love being a teacher. Now I was getting to use my body and my birth as a teaching experience. Most of the students had never seen a c-section, and in a strange way I felt like I was giving them a gift.

These are the things that are burned into my memory: joking with the nurses about “C-Section, the Musical,” the kindness of the surgical team, seeing Aria’s face for the first time, watching Darin hold Aria in the OR while they sewed me up, and nursing her in the recovery room, skin-to-skin and covered with warm blankets, the lights dimmed, and my sweet daughter in my arms.

My children were not born naturally or at home, but their birth stories belong to them, and just like Oscar and Aria, they are perfect and unique. I may not having “given birth” to my children, but I gave them life.