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embracing the detour

Waiting for Forever (originally posted 1/7/2010)

{This post originally appeared 10 days before Lil Mil arrived, on her due date, after a very easy (and epidurally-assisted) birth. It’s reappearing today, less than 24 hours before Lil’er Miller will make his/her appearance, 5 days before his/her due date, by scheduled c-section. Am I any more “ready” this time, knowing (to some extent) what I’m getting into with this whole motherhood thing? Hardly. But you know what? I may be more excited. About the mommy-of-a-newborn part, at least — not so much the cutting-a-human-out-of-my-abdomen part. But Lil’er Miller left me no choice. He/she insists on canonballing into the world butt first.}

The last 39 weeks of my life have been the slowest I have ever lived.  I feel like I have been pregnant for years.

If I had spent the last nine months anxiously awaiting the birth of my baby, itching for the day to arrive, then the slow crawl would make sense.  The whole a-watched-pot-never-boils thing.  But I haven’t been.  If anything, I’ve been doing the opposite — trying to treasure and enjoy each day of this pregnancy, knowing that you can only be pregnant with your first child once.  And since the moments you’re trying to savor tend to disappear the fastest, I’ve spent the last 39 weeks waiting for the moment when all of a sudden time would shift into 5th gear and start zooming by.

But it hasn’t.  Time has stayed at a slow, steady crawl.  Days have inched past.  And even though I look and feel more pregnant each day, and even though I’ve officially crossed into I-could-have-this-baby-at-any-moment territory, the fact that I am HAVING A BABY doesn’t feel any more real now than it did at week one.  Sure, in my head I know that by this time next month (next week?), I’ll be someone’s mom.  And in my heart, I already feel connected to this little person inside of me in a way I never could’ve imagined.  But the whole thing still feels so far off.  So remote.  Kinda like the Apocalypse:  something I know will happen eventually… just not today.  Or tomorrow.  Or next week.

(Sidebar:  As I was typing the previous sentence, I got butterflies in my stomach.  That familiar something-is-about-to-happen feeling.  Oddly, I had the same feeling the night before I got engaged, even though I had no idea that Husband was planning to propose.  If I have this baby tomorrow, I might abandon this blog and launch a psychic hotline).

Here’s a question:  does any of this matter?  Is it important that I feel the full weight of reality right now?  Is that a necessary step in the motherhood preparation process?  Will I be more ready for this baby if I can somehow manage to wrap my head around the fact that he/she is coming?

Maybe not.  And yet, right now I so desperately want to feel the weight of what’s about to happen.  I want it to sink in at every level, to invade every corner and crevice of my being.  Why?  Because the moment that happens, I might just be able to look the future in the eye and say “Okay.  I’m ready.”

Something Old, Something New (originally posted 12/25/09)

{This post originally appeared on Christmas Day, 2009, my first Christmas at my own house.  I was too pregnant with Lil Mil to fly back to Atlanta, so my family came here.  We gathered around the turn-on-with-a-light-switch fireplace in my living room instead of my parents’ log burning hearth, but it felt like Christmas because we were all together.

This Christmas was different.  I was once again too pregnant to fly, but this time my family didn’t come out.  They’d been planning to, but my grandfather passed away unexpectedly in October, making this my grandmother’s first Christmas alone in 67 years.  So my family stuck with their regular tradition to they could spend the day with her, which meant that Husband, Lil Mil and I were on our own out here.  I warned Husband that there would likely be tears — first Christmas EVER without my family!  how would I survive??? — but it turns out, not a single one was shed.  Yes, I missed them (my sister in particular), but I realized yesterday morning that I WASN’T actually spending Christmas without my family.  You see, it turns out I was right four years ago when I wrote, “…the moment this baby arrives, Husband and I will no longer be just the youngest members of our respective clans.  We’ll no longer be just a couple. We’ll be a family.  Just the three of us.”  To be honest, I’m not sure it happened the moment Lil Mil arrived, but sometime between her birth and now, the three of us have become a little independent unit.  We have inside jokes.  We have family rules.  We use phrases like, “We’re the Millers, and Millers don’t pick their noses and eat it” (with questionable effectiveness.  So far, only 2 of the 3 Millers conform to the no-booger-eating family standard).  We have living room dance parties.  We do group hugs.

In other words, we’re okay on on our own.

It’s a good thing, too, because otherwise yesterday would’ve been a disaster.  The day started off perfectly — bagels and cream cheese for breakfast, holiday music playing as we examined Santa’s display, lots of posing with our gifts to send to Gran & Grandad.  But then we loaded into the car and drove down to the Queen Mary in Long Beach to go to “Chill” and spend the night on a ship (Lil Mil’s idea).  Five hours later, we were back in the car, driving home because CHILL SUCKS AND THE QUEEN MARY IS A TOTAL TOURIST TRAP.  But I digress.  The point is, it didn’t matter how we spent the day.  The point is, we were together, celebrating a wonderful and miraculous day.  And as un-perfect as it was, it was exactly right.  Our first Christmas alone.  Our last Christmas as a family of three.  A day with lots of laughter and a few tears and several group hugs (and at least 3 violations of the no-booger-eating rule, but we let those slide because it was better than paying for ridiculously overpriced snacks at Chill.)  A day that felt like Christmas.

Our Christmas.}

My family is big on tradition.  Tradition for tradition’s sake.  Doing what we always do because we always do it.  And loving every minute of it.

Christmas is no exception.  In fact, it defines the rule.  The ferocity with which the Mc Family has clung to our Christmas day routine — a routine that makes December 25th feel like it’s about 76 hours long — proves our commitment to the art.

For as long as I can remember, Christmas day has gone something like (okay, exactly like) this:   we wake up early — always earlier than we say we will — and convene in the kitchen, where Mom has already made a pot of coffee.  There is a platter of bagels and cream cheese set out on the counter, along with champagne and OJ.  We start with the coffee.  Before the last mug is poured, my niece is pulling on Sister’s arm, dragging her towards the den.  The den is where the action is.

Mugs in hand, we make our way into the den, where Santa’s deliveries are on display.   Now that we’re adults, Sister and I stand with Mom and Dad, watching instead of participating in the LOOK-WHAT-SANTA-BROUGHT-ME! moment.  Husband hangs back, observing not only my niece’s delight, but her mom’s and mine as well.  We Mcs love us some Christmas morning.

After we’ve examined everything Santa has brought, we return to the kitchen for bagels and mimosas, and of course, more coffee. Then it’s time for the stockings.  Santa used to do all of these, but now he only fills my niece’s.  The grown-ups swap names at Thanksgiving, and it’s all hush-hush and top secret until Christmas morning.

After we’ve gone through out stockings, we start on the presents under the tree.  There are always too many, more than we said we’d buy.  We need none of it.  And yet, every Christmas morning, there it is, that ridiculous pile of gifts.

At this point, the time pressure sets in.  See, we’re on a schedule, a very tight schedule.  We have places to be and people to see.  We have to be showered and dressed and loaded into two gift-packed cars by 11:00 am sharp, because we’re expected at my grandmother’s house by 1pm.  We can’t be late, because we only have a few hours to spend there, with Mom’s family, before it’s time to get back into the car and drive over to my aunt’s house, where we’ll spend a few more hours with Dad’s family before getting into the car once again and driving the two hours home.  By the time it’s all over, we will have hugged and kissed and visited with 50+ relatives and consumed no less than 4000 calories each.  It’s taxing and tiresome and absolutely awesome.  It’s what makes Christmas feel like Christmas.

Except this year.  This year, I’m too pregnant to fly.  So this year, we didn’t do things the way we always do them.  We did them differently.

And yet.

Early morning wake up call?  Check.  Family assembly in the kitchen?  Check.  Bagels, cream cheese, coffee and mimosas?  Check, check, check and check.  We did the Santa display, the stockings, and the boatload of presents under the tree.

But there was no long drive, no visit with extended family, no sitting at folding tables in my grandmother’s living room, eating Hanky Pankys and Kraft mac and cheese.  Instead, we drove 5 miles to an apartment, where we sat at a picnic table, eating gourmet brunch food and visiting with friends who feel like family.  It felt different.  But it felt like Christmas.

Next year, we’ll reconvene in my parents’ kitchen, this time with the newest addition to our family.  We’ll return to our scripted routine, and for the first time in a long time, we’ll enjoy every moment of it — even the taxing and tiresome bits.  We’ll relish its familiarity.  Delight in the comfort of custom.

But somewhere beneath the surface, a seed will have been planted.  A seed of new traditions, new routines.  New ways to spend a day that isn’t really about what we do, but who we do it with.  And why.  A day that’s special because of what — and who — we’re celebrating, not how we celebrate it.

Don’t get me wrong — I doubt we’ll be veering from the Christmas Routine again any time soon.  In fact, I suspect that Lil’ Mil’s arrival into the family will reinvigorate our commitment to it.  I’ll want my child to have what I had.  To enjoy as I did the task and responsibility of tradition-keeping.    But the time will come for Husband and I to make our own traditions.  For us to find our own way to mark the days we want to remember.  The days we want to set apart.

It’s a daunting task.  To start over, from scratch, with nothing but the meaning of the day and our desire to memorialize it.  No this-is-how-we’ve-always-done-it’s or this-is-just-what-we-do’s to fall back on.  But really, that’s what makes a family, isn’t it?  Traditions that belong to your nuclear unit only.  Routines that you’ve crafted — or at least refashioned — to fit your branch of the tree.

Our branch.

Beneath all my ramblings about tradition-making and tradition-keeping and trading old for new is a single, penetrating thought:  the moment this baby arrives, Husband and I will no longer be just the youngest members of our respective clans.  We’ll no longer be just a couple.

We’ll be a family.

Just the three of us.

That’s the thing about traditions.  Doing things the way you’ve always done them doesn’t keep things the way they’ve always been.  365 days from now, when the seven of us are gathered around the center island in my parents’ kitchen, holding our coffee mugs and wiping sleep from our eyes, things will be different.  We will be different.

And that, I think, is why traditions matter.  More than marking our days, they mark us.  They tether us, reminding us that we belong together, even as we change and grow and grow up.

‘Twas the Night Before (Originally posted 12/24/09)

{So, it’s different now, the second time around.  Life with a new baby is less of an unknown.  But there is still the anticipation.  The eagerness.  The hope.   And yes, the fear that none of it will live up to my expectations.  There’s also the fear that *I* won’t live up to my expectations.  I’m not the same person I was four years ago.  Will I manage to juggle book and baby as well as I did before?  Granted, I don’t have a crazy 100 day deadline this time, but I still have a book to write.  I want to do that well.  I want to do the mom-of-two thing well, too.  Better than “well.” Will I?  There’s no way to know.  Not yet.  It’s still the night before.}

Hello, blogosphere. The time has arrived for my first post.

But first, a confession: I had to google the word blogosphere to know how to spell it.

To be honest, this whole I-am-launching-a-blog thing doesn’t feel real yet. Probably because it isn’t real yet. At this point, only my immediate family and closest friends know that this page exists. But tomorrow! Tomorrow is the day when this journey officially begins.

It feels a little like Christmas Eve. Okay, it feels a lot like Christmas Eve – what, with it being the day before Christmas and all. But that’s not what I mean.

When I was little, I used to spend every Christmas Eve night in Sister’s bed. I can’t say that I slept in her bed, because I never actually slept. I can vividly remember lying there, practically pulsating with excitement, as I waited for morning. Even then I knew that the magic was in the night before. As much as I loved Christmas morning, it was always bittersweet, because its beginning signaled its end.

Which is why the night before was better. I could simply imagine how much fun I would have when morning finally came. Delicious anticipation. The build up without any of the let down.

We all know that feeling. We experience a mini-version every Friday afternoon, as we wait for the weekend. The feeling is a stark contrast to what we go through on Sunday nights: what Husband has coined the Sunday Blues. The moment when the weekend has almost ended, and all that’s left is a dull anxiety about the work week to come.

Right now, I’m in a Christmas Eve moment. There’s Christmas, of course, which for the first time ever my family is celebrating somewhere other than my parents’ house. But more than that, there’s the birth of my baby and the birth of this blog. Each is imminent. Each has me filled with giddy, child-like excitement. And each has me worried that the reality won’t be quite what I hope.

But that’s the magic of the night before. Although troubled by all the things that could go wrong (what if something is wrong with my baby? what if i don’t have the discipline or the stamina or the desire to write daily? what if I hate being a mother? what if I love it so much that I don’t want to be anything else?), right now I’m too wrapped up in all the Amazing Possibilities to let the What Ifs get me down.

I can do this.  This is going to be good.  More than good.  Great!

Motherhood won’t be easy.  Neither will childbirth, or the birth of this blog (blogbirth?)  But why worry about that now?

It’s still the night before.

Because (originally posted on 12/20/2009)

{This was the first blog post I ever wrote.  It now appears under the “Because” heading on Embrace the Detour, as my reason for undertaking the whole novel-in-100-days craziness.  This time around, I feel less fear about baby’s arrival, but there is still that sense of uneasiness that life is about to change in ways I don’t expect and can’t control.  How will having a second child affect my ability to write Book #3 (and books 4 and 5 and 6 and 7 for that matter)?  How will having a second child affect ME?  As I ask these questions, I can’t help but remember those sweet early days of Lil Mil’s life, when she and I would snuggle up on the couch with my laptop and work on Parallel together.  And as I picture that, the rest of it — the uncertainty, the anxiety — slips away.  Motherhood isn’t easy, but no matter what people say, you’re not alone in it.  You’ve got a precious little life in your arms and by your side.  For me, that makes the road — as rocky as it may turn out to be — more than bearable.  Blessed.}

* * * Check back for more re-posts of my Embrace the Detour musings in the coming months, as I embark on Life With a Newborn once again.

no return

There’s no turning back now. This train is driving itself, careening towards its one and only stop:

Babyland.

I’ll be honest. When I found out I was pregnant, joy was not the first emotion I experienced. It came soon after, in a flood, and has for the most part lingered, swelling and pooling and swirling inside me, working its serotonin-inducing magic. But in that first moment, as I sat fully clothed on the toilet, staring at that double blue line, there was no room for joy. Every ounce of my being was too saturated, too soaked through, with a more potent emotional cocktail: equal parts fear, panic and dread.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want a baby. I did. I just figured I would have time to get used to the idea – in the abstract, theoretical sense – before my uterus began to house one. I believed this because up until the exact moment I found out I was pregnant, I had all but convinced myself that I was infertile. The fact that I had no basis for this conviction did nothing to dampen my certainty of its truth. I was a Woman with Fertility Issues. I had accepted my lot. Thus, an unexpected pregnancy wasn’t something I worried about. At least, not with the dedication and intensity with which I fixate on things I deem worthy to worry about. I told myself it wasn’t fair (in the larger, big picture sense) to fear both pregnancy and infertility simultaneously. So I opted to fret about my assumed inability to get pregnant, since I was certain – certain! – that it was the more likely of the two calamities. And yes, make no mistake: a year ago, I would have categorized both pregnancy and infertility as Calamities To Be Avoided.

Turns out my anxiety was misdirected.

So here I am, 37 weeks later, with a baby “as lofty as a stalk of swiss chard” growing in my belly (seriously, who comes up with this stuff?). His or her arrival is imminent. My husband and I are now proud owners of a crib, a stroller, a car seat, and more baby gear than we know what to do with. We’re equipped. Excited. Ready. And, yet … our lives have been oddly unaffected by the bun in my oven. Sure, my body is doing its part to accommodate this little person inside me. But my life still feels like my own.

I have been advised to prepare for a hostile takeover.

At this moment, feet firmly planted on childless ground, I have no idea what my life will look like a month from now. I’ve had a glimpse, certainly. The majority of my closest friends are either current or former residents of Life With a Newborn. I’ve heard the horror stories – sleepless nights, persistent brain fog, days that pass without a single “me” moment. Not exactly fodder for creativity and productivity. But that’s how it’s supposed to be, right? The months after giving birth to a child aren’t meant to be spent creatively or productively – unless, of course, we’re talking about creative and productiveparenting. And even that would likely be deemed too ambitious an undertaking for a new mom. Don’t attempt anything that will further deplete your already compromised energy stores. Just focus on getting through the first three months with your sanity intact. Only then, after you’ve emerged from your sleep-deprived, spit-up laden haze should you attempt to reclaim your life.

This may be sage advice.

I reject it.

And with that whole-hearted, emphatic and indisputably naïve pronouncement, I begin my quest to Embrace the Detour.

Clever title. But what does it mean?

During the first twelve weeks of my new baby’s life (the length of a standard maternity leave), I will endeavor to do the wholly unadvisable and likely impossible: I will attempt to write — and finish — a novel. I will try to write daily, both for the book and for this blog. I will likely regret making the previous statement.

A few caveats: First, it’s not as if I’m starting from scratch. I’ve already written three chapters of the book — a Young Adult novel in the vein of Sliding Doors, with a sci-fi twist — and I have an outline for the rest. Second, this isn’t the first thing I’ve written. It’s the first novel I’ve attempted to write — which I’ve heard is a unique beast — but it’s not as if I’m new to the whole sitting-down-daily-to-write routine. Over the past two years, I’ve completed five TV pilots, twice as many treatments and pitch sheets, several webisodes, and a handful of other random things. And third, while my goal is ambitious, the stakes are pretty low. There is no looming editor deadline, no agent eager for pages. Nothing happens if I fail. Although, the truth is, if I do fail — that is, if I don’t finish by the three month mark — I will probably be forced (by my husband and my own conscience) to go back to work as an attorney. So I guess I take caveat #3 back. The stakes are incredibly high.

So that’s it. Embrace the Detour is an experiment in creativity and productivity in what I’m told will be an exceptionally un-conducive environment. It’s my attempt to prove that motherhood — and in particular, Life with a Newborn — isn’t something you’re supposed to just “get through” and then get on with your life. The fact that it’s new and scary and hard doesn’t mean it has to take you away from your life. So it’s a detour. Maybe it’s also a shortcut.

Then again, maybe it’s a rabbit hole. Dark and twisted with no way out.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m optimistic and excited, both about this project and my sweet new baby. But underneath those socially acceptable sentiments, I’m completely and utterly terrified. Not about motherhood itself, but of what motherhood will do to my life. To all the Good Mommies out there, this will sound horrible. It sounds horrible even to me. But it’s the truth. See, I like my life right now. I like who I am. Where I am. Who I’m with. Where I’m headed. And that’s what scares me. I’m afraid that motherhood will take me wildly off course and that I won’t be able to find my way back. That being the mother I want to be will require me to leave other parts of myself behind. That I’ll wake up one day and wonder what happened to the me I spent so many years trying to find.

And yet, I want to believe that I won’t have to choose. I want to believe that it’s not an either/or, that a woman can be both supermommy and superstar. That I can.

And so here I am. Determined to do this small thing in order to prove to myself that I am capable of doing something much bigger and much harder and a lot less concrete.

I have no idea what to expect (this being my first blog, my first book and my first baby), but I have a good feeling about all of it. But then again, I’m still living in the Land of the (Child)Free. For now.

A New Adventure

I’ve been wrestling with what to do now that Lil Mil is practically a grown up (22 months, people!  what is going on with time racing by?!?) and I’ve finished my novel.  I want to keep blogging (my recent hiatus has been like not working out for a few months… I thought about it less and less as time went on, but four months later, I feel slothy and slobby and out of shape – do I even know how to do this anymore?), but this site no longer feels like the right place to do it.  Embrace the Detour was, in its design, a time-limited project.  An “experiment in creativity and productivity,” I always said.  One that I’m so glad I took – I ended up with a novel I’m proud of and hundreds of blog posts commemorating my daughter’s first days of life.

But now it’s time for a new journey.  Or, at least, a new phase in the one I’m already on.  I want this site to remain the repository for all the posts I wrote and detour stories I collected, and I want people to click around and explore.  But from now on, my new posts will appear HERE.  If you’re on the ETD email distribution list, you’ll keep getting posts, originated from my new site.

I hope you’ll stay with me on this journey.  You’ll be hearing from me more often, but the posts will be shorter.  I’ll be keeping you updated on my writing projects (for now, Parallel, the not-yet-titled-Book-2 (not a sequel to Parallel) and TEACH, the TV pilot my writing partner and I sold to ABCF, but hopefully there will be more to tell you about soon!), and doing a lot of what I did here – musing about life and love and identity and motherhood and the juggling act of work/home/everything in between.  So it’ll be the same.  But different.

Check it out!  http://laurenmillerwrites.com