364 days ago

…Was the day before I met you.

It was my first day of maternity leave. I had a week before your due date and spent the day at the DMV with your dad. Their computers went down, causing a crazy long wait, and I had to leave for a while to get food while dad stayed.

For dinner, we went to get sushi. We got a ridiculous dessert called The Ninja (or something equally stupid) and I was full beyond capacity.

A few hours later, my body sent your eviction notice, and by midnight we were at the hospital.

And then we got discharged.

“Not active labor,” was the verdict. Which anyone who’s been there knows is the kiss of death to any remaining composure in a woman who is nine months pregnant.

“YOU MEAN TO TELL ME WHAT I’M FEELING ISN’T REAL LABOR?!” Because I’m pretty sure it felt like an elephant was dancing on my spine. No worries though, I got a sweet Scottsdale Healthcare water cup as a consolation prize.

So we went home, defeated. Dad got some sleep and I cried and sat on an exercise ball all night. I remember messaging with Leslie, Ally and Jennelle, and probably several others in half consciousness, before finally going to the doctor when they opened.

The rest, as they say, is history. Herstory.

You arrived without much of a fuss at 6:55 p.m., and here we are.

Here we are, sitting in your nursery. You’ve been asleep in my arms for a half hour but I’m not ready to put you in your crib. It’s silly, but part of me is resisting bedtime tonight because it feels like a teensy part of the “baby” you will be gone tomorrow. You’re standing and taking steps and gosh darnit – do I have to stop referring to you as a baby now that you can toddle? More importantly, is toddle a word?

It’s insane to think of the events of the past year. The hours spent rocking in this chair. The tears, laughter, fear and joy. The pediatrician visits, frantic runs to Walgreen’s and SO MUCH GOOGLING.

There were moments where I didn’t think I could do this another hour. I doubted myself in ways that felt ugly and dark. But somehow, there was always a light at the end of those hard days.

I don’t think anyone has to have kids. And I know our lives could have felt full without you. Full of plans and things and adventures, unhinged freedom of time and thought. But I believe our souls would lack the same depth and meaning that we have today, because of you.

So I’m sitting here in the dark, writing this on my phone, listening to your soft breaths and reflecting. You always lay one hand on my chest as you fall asleep and there’s something purely humbling about holding a sleeping baby. Even the fussiest, wildest ones are completely peaceful as they slumber. Once again tiny and vulnerable, once again all parts baby.

We’ve gone through a lot this year, and always done our very best. Never perfect, but always better one day to the next.

Happy almost birthday, sweet girl.

It’s hard to be little.

Dear Lila,

Next week you’ll turn one, and sometimes you seem so big and grown up. You’re starting to walk, you feed yourself and can drink from a sippy cup. I get these strange and powerful waves of, “Where did my baby go?” But other times, the sweet baby side of you radiates powerfully, and I remember that you’re still so very little. And it’s hard to be little – I don’t think we recognize that fact enough.

All day long, you navigate a world of unknowns, with little control over your environment. Things are constantly taken away from you, you wrestle with accepting the word “no,” and you still lack many of the language skills to tell us what you want and need. How frustrating must that be? To be unable to fully articulate your preferences. To not be able to reach things, or eat things, or tell us “no” to a surprise diaper change.

It’s hard to be a baby, am I right? So I try to be sensitive to that. I work to explain things calmly, even if you don’t yet understand my words, so you can feel acknowledged and reassured. I narrate situations to you, hoping some of it sinks in and puts you at ease. We try to give you a sense of routine at home, so you aren’t caught off guard.

Sometimes, you’re such a big girl. But when I watch you fall asleep in my arms at night, breaths slowing rhythmically, tiny hands twitching in your dreams, you’re still my tiny baby.

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In sharing, how much is too much?

A few friends have started writing lately, taking the wild plunge into sharing their ideas and experiences publicly. Sounds easy enough, until you try it.

In conversations with all of them, the topic of vulnerability comes up over and over again. How much is too much to share? To what degree should writing be censored to avoid total awkwardness? And on a practical level, what if my employer Googles me and finds my blog – would anything be damaging?

These are completely legitimate questions. For years I’ve grappled with finding the right balance in my own truth-telling; figuring out where to draw the line in what truly becomes oversharing. I genuinely enjoy writing about my experiences, even when they’re unpleasant, because it helps me process my feelings and find the lessons in the struggle. Still, there are lots and lots of things that I can’t write about publicly, but for the simple fact that these stories and lessons involve other people who don’t choose to share life with the world.

In writing, and in life in general, the magic happens when you let your guard down. Jumping ship from your comfort zone is not without risk and it’s usually pretty terrifying. Yet, there are SO MANY clichés that demand we do this. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Go big or go home. Dance like no one is watching.

The more you can put yourself out there in any situation – this goes far beyond blogging – the greater the chance you’ll make truly inspiring connections. But there’s also the lingering fear that you could completely screw up and humiliate yourself.

Over the past year, as I’ve written more openly, particularly around my challenges in motherhood, I’ve found there’s something really magical in being the person who compels someone else to say, “I thought I was the only one.”

Because isn’t that all we really want to know in hard times, that we aren’t alone in our struggles? That someone else – anyone else – has felt this alone/scared/weak/guilty/etc., and survived?

The definition of vulnerable includes phrases like, “capable of being hurt,” and “someone open to being physically or emotionally wounded.” So, while we often think being vulnerable puts us in a position of weakness, I think it’s actually quite the opposite. Being vulnerable puts us in a position of total bravery.

Being vulnerable also can be defined as, “open to censure or criticism.” Now if that isn’t brave, I don’t know what is. Voluntarily putting your thoughts on a platter for the world to dissect is hard. Really hard. But it’s all worth it for those occasional moments when you create a real connection with someone, and maybe even help her a little. 

My goals in blogging are all over the place. To record life, to process hard times and celebrate good ones, to entertain and to share stories. But the greatest satisfaction comes in the rare comments from strangers, thankful that they aren’t alone.

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“And now is right on time.”

Sometimes the simplest advice – the words we hear most often, starting as children – are the hardest to follow. There are some phrases we hear so often throughout life we completely tune them out, dismissing them as frivolous niceties. We stop paying attention because they’re said in passing, or without deeper explanation.

One phrase I’ve heard my whole life is, “Just be yourself.”

I kind of hate it. What does that even mean…Who else would I be?

The more I think about this though, the more I realize it means lots of things. To trust your instincts…to not live in fear of consequences…to be mindful in the present moment and gentle with yourself.

So all of that being said, at 32 years old, I’ve decided to be myself. Finally.

You know that episode of Seinfeld where George decides to place his exact opposite deli order? And amazing things start happening? That’s pretty much me. I’m changing my approach to thinking and doing what naturally crosses my mind, and in just two days I’ve become the Costanza of the Modern Era.

This doesn’t mean anything drastic is changing. I’m not flying off the handle. In fact, I predict that if anything, these changes will only be evident to me. But the freedom this decision allows is bananas.

I suddenly feel this tremendous weight lifted off my shoulders. It might make some things harder, but I think it’s going to make most far easier.

Part of this madness stems from some big thoughts and dreams brewing lately. Another part of it comes from getting older.

Getting older is awesome because it means you’re also getting wiser. You’ve done more life and you know how to handle more situations. You learn what matters and what you can let go; where to hold your ground and where to compromise. You begin to recognize who you really are. Not who you want to be, or used to be, but who are are in this moment.

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Time out.

I don’t drop Lila off or pick her up at the exact same time each day. Sometimes, we run late. Actually, all the times we run late. And while I try to get her around the same time every afternoon, my arrival varies based on my work schedule, traffic, etc. All that being said, I don’t always run into the same parents, and haven’t had a chance to get to know all of them, even after almost nine months.

Today, as we were saying goodbye, Lila’s teacher pointed out to another mom and me that she and I are both named Jessica, and both married to men named James.

Funny, right?

Well then the other Jessica noted that my daughter’s name is Lila, and her daughter’s name is Kyla.

Ha.

And then for fun, I asked her when her birthday is. June 2. Mine is June 5.

And then we noticed we had the same bottle bag.

And then I asked what she does for a living.

Marketing.

Right. Well.

We are either destined to be best friends, or should never be in the same place at the same time again.

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The things I didn’t expect.

Being totally ok with having smeared hand and mouth prints all over our french doors. How the dogs sit patiently under the high chair during meals. The sheer volume of your cries when you aren’t pleased with a situation. What it feels like in my heart when I go into your room each morning and you rub your eyes and smile at me, scrunching up your entire face. The amount of bottles I wash. The time I spend cutting fruit into tiny pieces. The way I scrutinize everything I buy you. The feeling that washes over me when I hear you cooing and babbling to yourself while you play. The guilt. Oh, the guilt. And the worries. The way I slowly sway any time I am standing, an unbreakable instinct even when I’m not holding you. How sharp your nails are. Your fascination with necklaces and glasses. The feeling when you fall asleep in my arms, and how it’s the only time in my life I’ve ever known I’m exactly where I should be. All the ways you have changed me to be a better version of myself. The moments when it’s just us and we communicate in our own completely special way.   

 

 

11 months (is almost one year)

Dear Lila,

How do we have an 11-month old? I’m fairly certain every month goes by more quickly than the last, and that you’ll be driving by winter. The answer to whether you can date and wear make up yet remains a firm “no.”

Sweet girl, you are overflowing with personality. You’ve begun to express your sentiments about various situations quite vocally. For instance, if we try to wipe your nose, we are greeted with a blood-curdling scream at a volume I did not imagine existed in this world. Whereas, if we give you pieces of banana, you will shriek with glee as if we’ve presented you with a pony carrying a winning lottery ticket in its mouth.

You giggle and pant when we crawl around after you playing “tag,” and you crack yourself up interacting with the dogs. Last month you endured Roseola and a sinus infection like a champ, while cutting your third tooth (a top one, finally).

Your # 1 goal in life is consuming dogfood. If babies wore bumper stickers (not a bad idea, really), yours would say, “All Kibbles, All the Time.” I pulled five out of your mouth a few weeks ago, much to your vocalized dismay.

Your # 2 goal is to never go to bed without a fight. And I get it, bedtime kind of sucks. I’ve never liked it. But once the protests cease and you do go down, you sleep like a professional; 12 hours is the norm.

We’ve started taking you swimming, and there is — quite honestly — nothing cuter than your little baby self sporting a little baby bathing suit, with sunblock smeared all over your face. You love the water and are very content floating around with us.

You are walking while holding our hands or using your walker, clapping, waving and mimicking sounds that we make. You are a regular cacophony: grunts, signs, gasps, clucks…you’ve got a lot to say and sister doesn’t hold back. You’ve also started to point and are beginning to explore holding books and turning pages.

You love wrestling with your giant stuffed giraffe and are a complete wiggle worm during diaper changes. It’s become an exercise akin to calf roping.

You’ve sprouted some curls in your hair, which delights and terrifies me. The delight is that I apparently have one dominant gene in your DNA (woot!), but the terror is anticipating the 12-year stage you’ll go through of hating it. Don’t worry, mom has an armory of tricks and products at the ready.

You are the sweetest and most entertaining little human and you enrich our lives more everyday. I relish watching you grow and learn.

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