Category “Life With a Newborn”

Living a Laugh-Cry

It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving and we were both in the kitchen.  I was on the phone with Mom and she was playing with the toys in her drawer.  A few weeks ago, in an attempt to keep her out of our pots and pans (and because I have so far been to lazy to do any official, plastic-latch-on-the-cabinent-that-even-adults-can’t-figure-out childproofing), I emptied out one of our bottom kitchen drawers and filled it with Lil Mil’s toys. Now, when I’m in the kitchen cooking (or, in this case, sitting in the kitchen floor talking on the phone), Lil Mil has something to do. She seems to know that this particular drawer is her drawer, and she seems not to care that the toys inside it are the same ones she’s been playing with since she was old enough to play.

On Sunday, she was standing at the end of the drawer, removing its contents one by one. Mom was asking about her granddaughter, so my eyes were on Lil Mil as I described the delight with which my daughter had devoured her Thanksgiving meal (the girl loves her some cornbread). Happy to have my attention, Lil Mil let go of the drawer and walked towards me.

Walked. Towards me.

I immediately screamed “she’s walking!,” and Mom and Dad cheered. Lil Mil just plopped down on her butt and laughed, totally clueless that she’d just participated in a momentous moment, and not the least bit interested in demonstrating her new skill again.

I could not accept this. I had to see it at least one more time to confirm that it had actually happened. So I stood her back up, placed her little hands on the edge of the drawer for balance, then scooted back three feet and beckoned for her to come towards me. It took a little coaxing (okay, a lot), but eventually she did it.

This time, she knew she’d done something new and possibly important (perhaps it was all the wild shrieking her mom was doing). Beside herself with excitement, she collapsed into me and dissolved into uncontrollable giggles.

“Let’s do it again!” I said, standing her back up. She looked at me and kept laughing. Or was she crying? I studied her and couldn’t tell.

Slightly concerned but determined to confirm that I hadn’t imagined what just happened, I got her all set up and scooted away.

She stayed standing, clearly up for the challenge of Round Two, but that laugh was really throwing me.  It had this slightly maniacal quality, which matched the slightly maniacal look in her eyes. She was literally beside herself with emotion. As she let go of the drawer and wobbled toward me, the laugh morphed into a full fledged cry. But she didn’t fall or sit down. She kept walking.  And then, just like that, she was laughing again.

Joy.  Excitement.  Pride.  Bewilderment.  Uncertainty.  Panic.  Anxiety.  Fear.  I could see it in her eyes, she was experiencing all of these things at once, which is why a mere laugh wasn’t sufficient. But a pure cry wasn’t right, either.  She needed to do both.  She needed to laugh-cry.

And realizing that, I understood for the first time why this was a such a momentous occasion.  My daughter was – right now, right before my eyes – exceeding her own expectations.  It was freaking her out a little, but she wasn’t letting that deter her.  She was seizing this moment and walking the hell out of it.

Joyous.  Excited.  Proud.  Bewildered.  Uncertain.  Panicked.  Anxious.  Afraid.  Watching her, I was all of these things.  As she stumbled towards me and into my open arms, I was laugh-crying, too.

Thankful

I didn’t know what I was getting into.

Exactly a year ago, on Thanksgiving 2009, I revealed my super secret “creative project” to my family.  Up until that day, Embrace the Detour was just a figment of my imagination.  Yes, I owned the domain name and yes, I had paid someone to design the site (back then, I knew exactly nothing about HTML and the ins and outs of Wordpress), but since no one knew about ETD, I could pretend it didn’t exist.

But I didn’t want to.  Not back then, anyway.  Shot through with third trimester pregnancy hormones, I was raring to go.  I didn’t want to wait until Lil Mil arrived.  Eager to convince myself (and everyone else) that I COULD DO THIS! I started working on my first post (which, I’ll admit, took me over a week to write).

While certainly supportive, my family had mixed feelings about this creative project of mine.  Husband in particular was lukewarm.  He was excited that I was excited, but at the same time, he was worried that I was taking on too much.

I was.

Of course at the time I didn’t realize that.  I honestly believed that I could write — and finish! — a novel in the first three months of my baby’s life, and I said as much on my Because page.  Believe me, if I’d known how incredibly hard the undertaking would prove to be, I never would’ve made such a grand (and public) pronouncement.

Thank God I didn’t know.

By the time I realized what I’d signed up for, it was too late.  There were too many people watching and, even more than that, too many people telling me to give up.  It was too much, they said.

They were right, of course, but I refused to accept that.  So I kept at it.  Kept juggling.  Kept struggling.  Kept writing.

Three months turned into 100 days.  My definition of “draft” morphed into something more manageable.  My blog posts became less frequent.

But I kept at it.  Kept juggling.  Kept struggling.  Kept writing.

And today, one year after this blog was born and 10 months and 8 days after my baby was born, I have a completed novel to show for it.  And!  On top of that, I have something unexpected.  A community.  This community.  Friends!  Not the fake, we-met-over-the-Internet kind, but the real, live, we-met-over-the-Internet kind.  Friends like Rachel of MWF Seeking BFF (who I met in person two weeks ago and am now obsessed with.  Rachel, if I move to Chicago can I please be your BFF?)

Thank God for unrealistic expectations.  Thank God for this blog and the book that came out of it.  Thank God for the baby who’s made all the juggling and struggling worthwhile.  Thank God for the boy who is juggling and struggling with me, holding my hand while I do it.

And thank God for you, my friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Unextraordinary Measures (Day #99)

I meant to write about Five for Ten on Friday, so that by the time today arrived, you would know all about the Momalom duo and their quest to foster connection and conversation.  I wanted to tell you how important I think these things are and how cool I think it is that that Jen and Sarah have made it so simple.  Give five minutes.  Get five minutes.  Connect.  Converse.  I wanted to do these things last week so that I could encourage some of you (all of you?) to participate.

Best laid plans.

So here I am today, forced to rely on the old “click HERE and HERE to find out what Five for Ten is all about.”  I could blame my book (it being Day #99 and all), but I won’t, because it’s not the reason I didn’t post on Friday.  I didn’t post on Friday because I didn’t write on Friday.  Not a word.  It was Day #96 and I took the day off.  And then I took the next day off.  And the next one, too.

Does that mean you’ve already finished the book? you ask excitedly.  Expectantly.

I just smile mysteriously.

On first glance, you might think this is the smile of a pleased, confident person.  A person who has finished ahead of schedule.  But if you look closer, you’ll notice that this smile of mine has an edge.

Because it’s forced.

I am wearing the tight, oh-crap-what-have-I-done smile of a person who lives in a world where time is limited and moments are fleeting.  A place where opportunities are easily missed.  A universe where once-in-a-lifetime means exactly that.

No, I did not finish ahead of schedule.  I wanted – needed! – days 96, 97 and 98.  But I wanted something else more.

I wanted to spend Friday morning having a talking-really-talking conversation with Husband.

I wanted to spend Friday afternoon on the couch with Mom and Lil Mil.

I wanted to spend Friday evening at happy hour with my family, drinking white wine and munching on sweet potato fries.

I wanted to spend Saturday (yes, all of it) cleaning out my closet with Mom, laughing at the bubblegum pink mini dress I wore on New Years’ Eve the year I met Husband and the scores of lingerie I got at my bachelorette party and have never worn.

I wanted to spend Saturday evening talking to Dad about the post-Day #100 future of this blog.

And I wanted to spend Sunday celebrating my daughter’s baptism, exactly one year after she came into my life.

I wanted to do these things.  I also wanted to spend the weekend finishing my book.  But I wanted to do these things more.

So here it is Monday morning, Day #99, the day before my big deadline, and I am forcing a smile.  Telling myself that I made the right choice, that those things I did mattered more than game plans and word counts.  Reminding myself that the smile I wore yesterday wasn’t forced at all.  Because it wasn’t.  And if I had it to do over again, I would choose to spend my weekend exactly the way I spent it.  Not pursuing my big dream.  Not chasing my passion.  But cleaning my closet.  Eating with my family.  Sitting on my couch.  Watching days 96, 97, and 98 pass by.

This is hard for me to admit.

Setting big goals, pursuing big dreams, taking big risks – we don’t hesitate to call those acts courageous.  They look courageous.  They feel courageous.  Deciding to spend a Saturday afternoon cleaning your closet, that doesn’t look or feel anything like courageous.  It looks and feels… sorta lame.  Very average.  Painfully ordinary.

And you know what?  It is.  Average.  Ordinary.  There is nothing extraordinary about the existence of messy closet or the desire to clean it.  Just like there is nothing extraordinary about a meal with family.  Or an afternoon on the couch.  There is, however, something quite extraordinary about finishing a novel.  And yet, I chose to do the ordinary things instead.

Because I wanted to.

Which makes me look and feel … sorta lame.  Very average.  Painfully ordinary.

Because I am.

Not always.  But sometimes.

I am ordinary.  An ordinary person who enjoys doing ordinary things.

These words, they scare me.  I don’t want to be ordinary.  And I certainly don’t want to be perceived as ordinary.  By you.  By Husband.  By Lil Mil.

It takes courage to be extraordinary.  But it takes courage to be ordinary, too.

It takes courage to be real.

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(Do you struggle with feeling ordinary?  To you make an effort to to be extraordinary?  Is it hard for you to acknowledge the parts of yourself that you think make you less desirable?  Do you agree that it takes courage to be real?  Are you participating in Five for Ten?  If not, you should!  Hop on over to Momalom and sign up!  For those of you who aren’t into clicking, here’s the deal:  if you will commit to spend five minutes at Embrace the Detour for ten days in a row (and leave a comment!), then I will do the same on your blog.  What if you don’t have a blog?  It doesn’t matter!  Leave me a comment and I will spend at least five minutes emailing you back.  The whole point is to make connections and start conversations.  We all need both!)

My First One (Day #98)

Dear Lil Mil,

We were alone that weekend. Dad was in Ohio visiting Grandma and Grandpa and wouldn’t be back til Monday. So it was just you and me.

Our first weekend together.

I wish I could remember what the weather was like that Sunday morning. What the sky looked like. The temperature. Anything. But I can’t, because the weather wasn’t important to me that day.

I was preoccupied with you.

When you’re a little bit older, you and I will watch Mary Poppins together. I’ll tell you that it was one of my very favorite movies growing up, and that I used to be able to recite every word. And when it gets to the scene early in the movie when the Admiral’s weather vane does an 180 degree turn, I’ll remember that Sunday morning, a year ago today, when my life suddenly changed directions.

I’d gone out the night before for a digital test. I’d taken a regular one that afternoon – the cheapest one I could find – and had spent hours staring at the little white strip, squinting at the ultra faint hint of pink that I could only see if I held the test up to the window and turned it just so. And even then, I wasn’t sure I actually saw it. By Saturday night, whatever had been there had faded to white, leaving me to wonder if it’d ever been there to begin with. So I drove to the drugstore in my pajamas and bought a digital test. I’ll take it tomorrow morning, I decided. First thing.

And 8 hours later, there it was in black and white: PREGNANT.

It was Mothers’ Day. I was a mother. But it was more than that. In that moment, staring at those eight letters, overwhelmed by emotions I couldn’t begin to name, I became your mother. I didn’t know anything about you, and yet, somehow, right then, I knew you.

And, oh, how I loved you.

So this day is our day, sweet girl. The day our journey began. Lord willing, someday there will be other little people who will call me mom. But you will always be the first. And this day, it will always belong to you.

Happy Mothers’ Day, Peanut.

Love,
Mom

Where’d I Go? (Day #96)

No, this is not another post about my ever-changing identity.  This post is about the fact that Husband and I have thousands – literally thousands – of pictures of Lil Mil, and I am in maybe a hundred of them.   100 out of at least 2000.  Less than 5%.

I blame Husband.  After all, who else is supposed to be capturing these moments of me with my little girl?  It’s not that he doesn’t take pictures – he does.  All the time.  I’ll  be holding her and he’ll be snapping away.  Great, I’ll think to myself.  Finally some good pics of us. Then, when I actually look at these photos he’s taken of the two of us, I see her adorable, smiling face … and my arm.  Or shoulder.  Or leg.

She’s front and center.  I’m out of frame.

Yesterday, I decided to take matters into my own hands.  Or hand, as it turned out.  Balancing a laughing Lil Mil with my right (sidebar:  how awesome is it when they first discover their laugh???) and awkwardly clutching my iPhone with my left, I snapped the gem above.  I meant for me to be in the picture – that was the whole point - but one-handed iPhone photography takes skills I don’t have.

Staring at this photo (which I really like, btw), I started wondering: what is the proper balance between Self and Other?  For me, the context is motherhood.  I have a three-and-a-half-month old.  My life is necessarily less about me and more about her right now.  But will it always be like that?  Will I ever be front and center again?  Or have I permanently been relegated to the depths of Stage Left?

Looking back on my own childhood, I remember all the times my parents’ lives were about me.  My activity, my school project, my crisis-of-the-week.  Meanwhile, I have friends who’ve told me that their childhoods revolved around their parents’ lives – their careers, their parties, their nights out and trips away.  I know some of these friends’ parents, and I like them.  Their children don’t.

So where does that leave me?  I have dreams and passions and goals I want to pursue.  A career I’m trying to create.  Books to write, brands to build.  People to see and places to go.  But I also have a daughter whose dreams and passions and goals need cultivating.  A little girl who deserves a mom who will put her front and center.  Not always.  But sometimes.  When it matters.

When it matters. Yes, that sounds good.  Nice and vague.  But what does it mean, practically?  And how am I supposed to know when I’m in one of those this matters moments?

Is it an either/or?  Or is there a way to keep both of us in the picture?

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(I’ve posed this question in the context of motherhood, but I think it might even be more interesting in the context of romantic relationships.  When are you supposed to put your mate front and center?  When is it your turn?  Is it always 50/50?  If your answer is “it depends,” then does the same hold true in a parent-child relationship?)