2.2.17 TEN MONTHS

“All you’ve got to do is want something and then let yourself have it.”

I was cleaning the other day and out of nowhere, said those words out loud. They’re from a favorite childhood movie of mine called Halloweentown. I haven’t thought about or seen that movie in years, but randomly remembered Maggie Cromwell flicking her wrist into the air and casting that spell.

I finally understand what she meant.

You’ve got to want something. You’ve got to ask for it. You’ve got to receive it–really feel that it’s yours, even though you have no idea just how you’re going to get it–just that you are. Indefinitely.

I have this house that I imagine Chris and I and our kids in. I know what color it is, I know what the front door will look like. I can even see Clifford laying on the front porch, tired and comfortable in an older age.

There are printed pictures of this house hanging in my bedroom and kitchen, the rooms I spend the most time in. When I catch a glimpse of it, I hold it in my mind for a second and feel myself living there.

And then yesterday, while fiddling around online, I found pictures of the inside of this dream house and just about dropped my jaw. This was it. I felt a immediate connection to the floor plan and everything inside–there was wood and stone and beautiful tile and small sections of accented wallpaper. It was simple and clean and functional and just the right amount of rugged. It was on seven acres of land.

So now I’ve been imagining Everett in the entrance of this house. Or seeing myself getting plates ready behind the beautiful kitchen island, overlooking my family all sitting together at the dinner table, waiting for me to come join them.

Owning this house feels even more real now…like all that time envisioning the outside kept my momentum going enough to set my vibration even higher and stronger. And I’m going to keep that momentum up–that belief–this feeling that I’ve achieved, knowing that that house and that land and that entryway will be mine. It’s as sure as anything.

Chris is always so positive and together I want to teach our kids how thoughts become things–how happy thoughts literally bring you happy things and circumstances. I want Everett to have a vision board in his room–I want my children to believe there is magic all around them, they just have to believe in it and the Universe will deliver. Do I sound crazy?

But anyways, about Everett. Goober McGee, goobs, goober, smevs, smelly debs, tub a lub–all our nick names for our ten month old ham.

He’s developing his own little attitude and spunk. Sometimes I love it and other times I think, “Did you really just bite me while trying to get out of my arms?” He tries to “fight” me now when I put him into his carseat and like aunt Sara jokes, I have to karate chop his arms and legs into place before buckling him in.

He is crawling pretty fast now and tries to get into everything. The other day I walked into the kitchen and there he was, standing up with support from the garbage can, his fingers trying to pry the lid open. Or yesterday I was in the guest bedroom printing a recipe when I heard a woosh of water and immediately thought, Oh Goddddddddd. It was Everett in the next room over, standing against Chris’ nightstand, with a big empty mason jar in his little hand. He had spilled water everywhere.

I chase him saying “I’m gonna get you!” and he thinks it’s the funniest thing ever. Or him and I play around my bed, hiding from one another. His favorite time of the day is either after a meal or after the bath. We let him crawl around naked afterwards and he just laughs and tries to jump every chance he gets on the bed or the couch–anything bouncy and he’s all in. If I walk into his room when he’s supposed to be sleeping, he quickly flops onto his stomach and pretends like he’s asleep. Just imagining him doing it is making me laugh. It’s hysterical.

He’s fun. He’s a pain. And we love him.

Allison said something the other day about me being a mom and I looked at her and said, “Do you think of me as a mother?” And she responded like, well yea–you ARE a mom. 

But becoming a mom, for me at least, has been a journey. And I know that while I’ve come a long way, my path isn’t even close to being over. I still have so much to learn and so much to experience in terms of motherhood.

The day I found out I was pregnant, everything changed.

It was a Wednesday, the day my period was due for that month of July. I was driving out to the South Hills to teach my regular yoga class and private lesson. Before I got to the studio, I drove up the road to the nearest Walgreens and bought a pregnancy test, still feeling like I was a scared nineteen year making a purchase I wasn’t supposed to. I didn’t want to test at the studio. I don’t know why, I just didn’t. So I waited until I got home.

Before I got into the shower, I sat on the toilet and peed on that pink handled stick. The plus sign immediately appeared and I felt something click, right down into the pit of my belly. I can’t explain what it was, just that I can still remember feeling it. Still not removed from the toilet, I started crying. I lost control, and just kept saying oh my god oh my god, thank you thank you. And my mind went straight to you, like an imaginary line carved out of my mind and into yours. I felt like you were right there beside me in my tiny little bathroom.

In that instant, I think I became a mom.

And then pregnancy and those long following months happened, all the way up to a full 42 weeks. And then labor happened. And then delivery happened. And then Everett wrapped his finger around mine for the first time and the greater part of me that existed before him just completely wiped out, gone. Where did I go?

It took me months to find myself comfortable in the role as MOM. I knew I was a mother, I felt like a mother, but I would go to the pediatrician office kind of “scared” of what the nurses would think of me. For instance, of how I held Everett, or that I wasn’t nursing him or my decisions about vaccinations.

There was one that asked me at our second appointment, “You’re nursing him, right?” I had to tell her no, and tried to defend myself, explaining our “nursing story.” She didn’t care. And I shouldn’t have cared to tell it. I disliked her so much I later switched pediatricians, putting that whole phase behind me. I’m still glad I did that.

I felt incapable in the beginning because I was honestly pretending in the motherly role for awhile. I believed I didn’t care about how other people thought of me as a parent, but deep down I definitely did. If someone told me or wrote online to not let your baby cry, I felt terrible and questioned myself when I actually did let him cry. I compared myself to other moms and worse, compared myself to you and how I remembered you to be.

It wasn’t until I stopped trying not to care about other people and books and opinions, that things started to fall into place.

I’d say Everett was around six to eight months old when I truly felt like I was enough and that I was doing a “good job.” I think I was waiting for you to tell me so. Honestly. That’s all I wanted, for the longest time–to hear my own mother tell me I was a good mom. I could’ve heard it from the entire world and I wouldn’t have believed it. It had to be from you.

It’s nice now to not need outside encouragement–not even yours. I go to that doctor’s office and am no longer scared, because none of those people are Everett’s mom–I am. And if someone gives me the stink eye when I pull Everett’s formula out at a restaurant, I feel sorry for them because that was me before my humbling nursing experience. How awful to be in such a place of judgement.

I’ve talked with you a few times about breastfeeding Everett but never really explained what happened. Maybe another mother out there will read this and feel a little better about a similar experience.

During pregnancy I read natural parenting books (I guess that’s what you’d call them) because I feel like I live a somewhat “natural lifestyle.”  And what I read in all those books really spoke to me.

I read about natural births. I read about nursing. I read about co-sleeping. I read about tending to your baby’s needs at all times, i.e. never letting them cry, not putting them in swings–crazy stuff like that.

And then I gave birth. Everything I thought would happen didn’t, and everything I never even thought about did happen.

I lost faith in a lot of what I read but still remained so very headstrong about breastfeeding. I nursed him the first four days, non stop. I’d say 22 out of 24 hours. I knew no differently. I read that pacifiers were “bad” so never gave him one. When he’d cry, I’d stick him on my boob and he’d stop, so by default, that was “right”. I would be up all night nursing him, and I don’t mean every two hours or even every hour–I mean all night. I couldn’t let the sheets or a loose tank top touch me without immense pain. My pediatrician said it was normal, that I had to get used to it. He was also a man.

I sucked it up until I knew, okay something is wrong here. I saw a lactation consultant who told me Everett had tongue tie. Without question, I wanted to get the very minor procedure done on him because I needed to nurse. At the time, I was convinced it was my only option.

There wasn’t an available appointment until the following week, so in the meantime I pumped and he took a bottle without any problem. Things felt like they were on the uphill.

Then after the procedure, I started nursing him again but was still in a lot of pain after every feeding. I went to another lactation consultant, this time a completely different place, and she literally told me word for word what was in a book I already read. She also told me I could just continue pumping for fifteen minutes every two hours, so that’s what I did. I’d set alarms on my phone to get up though the night if the baby hadn’t already woken up to eat. I was constantly afraid of not having enough milk, so I kept pumping pumping pumping to try and boost my supply.

I was hooked to that machine. My boobs always ached and I couldn’t hold Everett on my chest because of how much I hurt. I got clogged milk ducts then the big ol’ mastitis came along. After the infection cleared, I pushed on for another week or so and then decided to quit. I don’t think Chris was ever more relieved.

For awhile I doubted my decision. I felt guilty when I’d scoop Everett’s formula and would become red cheek embarrassed around other nursing mothers.

I just tried too hard. I pumped too much. I put too much pressure on myself and my poor boobs. I always thought Everett was hungry when in reality, he just needed put to sleep. (Still to this day, he won’t fall asleep anywhere else besides his crib in the pitch black–and that took me a long time to figure out).

In hindsight, there were things I probably could have changed. I wouldn’t have listened to that pediatrician who told me I was fine, I wouldn’t have listened to the consultant who told me to pump so much to the point of making myself raw. I wouldn’t have listened to the books that said no pacifiers and made me feel ashamed if my baby wasn’t going to get my milk.

I would have listened to myself, but I was so unsure of everything. Anything anybody told me I’d try, whether it pertained to nursing, getting Everett to sleep or what to eat for breakfast.

Now when I get advice I politely listen, nod my head and take from it what I want.

I will know this “technique” for the next baby. I feel like I’ll know a lot more things than the first time around, but then again, another baby will be completely different than Everett was. And if I do get to breastfeed my second, I know I will love and appreciate nursing in a more special way, had it all been a breeze with Everett. I won’t have to become a mom either. That work has already been started.

I know I’m not ready to deliberately try for another, but I have an idea in my head of when I would like to get pregnant. And usually when I get those intuitive feelings about certain things, they really happen.

It’s because I trust those feelings. I follow them. I believe in them. And wa-lah, there that “thing” comes, in its own perfect timing, after I’ve finally and truly allowed myself to simply have it.

I’ll talk with you soon. I love you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.18 NINE months TWO weeks

Nana and Allison came with me yesterday to the grocery store. They ended up staying for lunch and even dinner–we had the absolute best time, and my heart still feels happy and content and full of love from the day we shared together.

After Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods and pre-made frozen lunches, the three of us snuggled on my couch while Everett took his afternoon nap (which was exceptionally long) and watched home movies back from 1992 to 2005ish. We laughed and cried and talked and argued about what we watched, what we heard, and how we felt.

It was special.

For Christmas, Terri had all of the dvd’s copied for us four kids, so now I have my very own collection. It truly was the best present.

I haven’t stopped thinking about you since we watched those movies, though. You are alive and well inside my head and I just want to take you out of there and hug you for real.

Now there are tears welling up in my eyes and my stomach feels tight, right across through my belly button and down into my gut. Because seeing your expressions and hearing your voice makes me remember just how beautiful and vibrant and FUN you really were.

You know, I’d cross the earth ten times over just to see you once again.

I have kept journals the past ten years, and I know you know that because you used to read some of them when I was younger, particularly the first one I started as a freshman in high school. I hid it under my mattress and you weren’t so good at putting it back in its exact position.

But just like watching those home movies, I love reading through those journals–they’re like reading a book about my life. They are evidence of who I was, who I am and who I’m still becoming.

So just now I opened up the drawer where I keep all twenty three of them. And I picked the one out that was written around the time of your death. There’s a sticky tab attached to this entry:

August 6, 2008

Mom seemed okay today…a little more alert than she has been recently. She is back from the hospital and Dad made sure her last days would be at home. She’s confused, doesn’t talk much and has her days and nights mixed up. I don’t know if she knows who I am.

Yesterday Dad got her to laugh hysterically by sticking chocolate covered almonds up his nose. She would point her finger at him and look at me, as if to say, “Do you see this guy? How funny is that!?” I will never, ever forget that.

After cheerleading practice, I sat beside her bed and she squeezed my hand. Her eyes were open but I don’t know how aware she was. She reached out to touch my face and I just stared at her. And tonight I laid with her while she was finally falling asleep and held her hand, again. I told her that I wish there was a way to let her really know how much she means to me. And how she has made me who I am today and how lucky I am to have someone like her in my life. I also said that I finally realize what a good marriage her and Dad have and how much it’s taught me about love. I got the feeling she was taking all my words in too, because she would squeeze my hand throughout me talking. I love her so much.

And after finding that entry, I went and searched for this one:

January 27, 2008

I don’t want to be writing this at all, but I’m going to have to eventually. Wednesday night, the 23rd, my Mom was diagnosed with cancer. Grandma took me and Allison upstairs to my bedroom with Aunt Katie. It was dark outside. Grandma sat on the futon with Allison and I sat in front of them on top of my little coffee table. Grandma said the word cancer, and my mind went fifty different directions. I didn’t say anything, just stared and then once those words semi-set in, I cried and cried while Grandma held me. She rocked me like a baby as I snuggled up into her. I’m sure Allison was being held too but I honestly can’t remember. I felt like I couldn’t move my body. Aunt Katie held me for a little and then I asked to be alone so I could call Nana. I did, and I just cried more. I don’t know what I even said, all I’ll remember is being in the corner of my room near the closet, the phone in my hand and feeling absolutely dead. Like there was no hope left in my body.

Then I called my best friend Stephanie and she came over a few hours later. I was sitting on the floor and she came up the stairs and sat there with me, holding me and talking and crying. She brought her things to stay the night. Before we fell asleep, I asked her if we could say a prayer together, so we did, laying beside one another in my bed. We got up the next morning and got ready for school together. I was glad I didn’t have to do that by myself. But once we got to school, the whole senior high was getting out at 10:15 because of a water line break or something like that. I got home and went to the hospital. Grandma and Papap drove Allison and I.

I approached her room and from the hallway, could see her legs in the hospital bed, tucked under a pink blanket. I immediately turned around to Daddy behind me and we stood in a spot Mom couldn’t see us. He hugged me so tight and for the first time, I saw him cry. I remember feeling like I couldn’t stand and he just kept holding me. He could barely get his words out, but he said his love for Mommy and me and all us kids was beyond words, that love wasn’t a big enough word. He said that he feels so much pain in his heart for all of us and wishes he could just rip it out. I will never forget that moment for the rest of my life.

Then I went up to mom’s bed and just hugged her. I couldn’t help but cry. Seeing her so weak and sick made this all so real. We found out what kind of cancer it was and I was relieved when I heard it was breast cancer. That is the cancer that people beat. We stayed until night time–it felt like the longest day. I can only imagine what Mom and Dad feel like. He has spent every night there with her. We couldn’t have a better Dad to get us through this.

Today is Sunday and Aunt Katie took me, Allison, Cole and Tatum down to the hospital again. Mom had her chemo the day before. She still looked pretty, just super tired and weak. 

Seeing Tatum hold onto Mom was hard. I got to spend five minutes alone with Mom and held her hands as I told her she had to promise to fight this not only for herself but for us too.  I told her how confident I am in her and how I couldn’t believe it took cancer for me to realize how much I need her. She said she hoped this was just a lesson from God and I hope it is too. I really feel that it is.

I’m going to make the best of the days to come and stay positive. I’ve got the best friends and family and the best mom I could ever ask for. 

That between time, from your diagnosis in January to your death in August feels like a dream when I remember it/read about it. You were so suddenly so sick, and then remember how you improved? You ate clean foods and continued your chemo and were happy. And I don’t think you were faking it either. We all believed you would be healthy again–I felt like our family was in the clear, so to speak.

And then came that last beach vacation with just the six of us. I think that was the last time we were all together, tucked away in that innocence. At least us kids still were.

One night before we went out to dinner, you and I were in the master bathroom of the beach house finishing getting ready. You put on a blue and white tie dye dress (the hippy clothes were coming back then) with white heels. I argued with you, explaining how you can’t wear heels with tie dye–that you have to wear a flip flop or some kind of relaxed sandal. You took my advice and we all headed out to this seafood restaurant that was on the water. They served sweet honey rolls.

While all six of us were walking back to our car, us kids ran ahead of you and Dad. I’ll always remember how you looked, casually waltzing in that beach breeze holding Dad’s hand, safe and protected in your tie dye dress. You were content. And once we were about, oh I don’t know, maybe twenty feet in front of the two of you, I looked back directly at you. I saw you looking at your four children together and I felt you wondering if you would see us all grow up. I silently heard you question what would happen to your family if you left us.

In the split second I looked back at you, I saw the disease through your eyes rather than my own.

And never again until now have I truly mourned your death through your perspective: through a mother’s perspective.

The thought of something happening to me and having to leave Everett, feels so absolutely scary, my mind can’t even comprehend it. Or the thought of being pulled away from Chris is equally frightening. Thinking how lost he would be…how sad he would be…how I know he’d try desperately to pick up the pieces with Everett and our house and dinners and plans and all the love I gave that was just gone.

For you, I feel so sorry as your daughter.

I feel even more sorry as a mother.

I want to take the pain I feel now thinking about all of this and rip it out of me, like Dad said on that January day almost exactly eight years ago.

How scared were you for us kids? How scared were you for Dad? Did you worry we would forget you? Did you wonder how we would all turn out without you taking care of us every day anymore? Were you scared about Dad remarrying? Were you sad thinking about all you’d miss? You had to have thought about graduations and weddings and babies and birthday parties and family dinners…

But how could you have missed that all? There is simply no way that you did.

Because when I watch those home movies or read back in my journals, I know with all the truths I can possibly feel in my heart that someone like you would never leave. 

A mother could never leave her children. Not one like you, at least. And now I understand that if something ever happens to me, which it will eventually, I will never be gone from my kids. I will never be gone from my husband.

I want to close this entry with one more thing. This is from Everett’s favorite book and I always think of you when I read it to him:

In the green of the grass…in the smell of the sea…

in the clouds floating by…at the top of a tree…in the sound crickets make at the end of the day…..

“You are loved. You are loved. You are loved”, they all say.

Those words remind me that you’re everywhere, Mom. They remind me that you’re loving me always, just as I am loving you always.

You never left and you never will. You simply transitioned forward and left your physical body behind. I don’t have to look for you, I don’t have to wait for you–you are here, in the green of the grass, in the smell of the sea.

 

 

1.4 NINE months

I came across a Peter Pan quote the other day and it read: Little boys should never be sent to bed. They wake up a day older. Reading it just makes my heart sink a bit because I’m realizing Everett won’t always be this little.

He turned nine months old a few days ago. I can remember in the newborn phase how damn slow every second felt. I’d think, okay he’s two weeks….we’re almost at six weeks…..seven weeks, etc. Now the days and moments and minutes just whirl together and sometimes I feel like I can’t catch it all.

Being a mother can feel so fleeting.

When he wakes up from a nap, he sits up in his crib and waits for me to come get him. He never cries, just kinda coos and makes sounds so I know he’s awake. Every time I walk in the nursery I say, “Hi baby!” in a real high voice and he flaps his arms and smiles–happiness beams out of his eyes.

The other day when I went in to get him, I leaned over the crib railing and stroked his head and kissed his cheeks and smelled that smell of his. I felt my insides crumble, turn to mush and I started to cry as I said good morning to my sweet baby boy. I just loved him so.

I opened the blinds, letting the sun come into his room and felt grateful down to my toes that it would just be he and I, and the day ahead was ours.

He’s crawling now, getting better and more efficient at it each day. He makes me laugh constantly. I kiss him and squeeze his fat legs and nibble his yummy toes and love him up every chance I get. We eat breakfast and lunch together, and now we eat as a family come dinner time because he’s going to bed a little later. All of my attention, all of my focus is on him and only him during the day. Everett gets that luxury since he’s the first kid.

I remember one night years ago, I walked past your open bedroom door and said I was going over to Kati’s house. I was sixteen and in a rush to leave–her and I had somehow gotten beer, and had planned to drink it in her parent’s basement.

But before I could leave, you wanted me to lay with you for a little. I wanted to leave the house so bad, but knew I should spend time with you before I left, or else I’d feel even more guilty doing something I wasn’t supposed to.

When I crawled under the covers beside you, you looked scared–like you weren’t quite sure if you should speak the words that were on your mind.

Our eyes locked and you said, “What if that doctor is right? What if I only have a few months left?”

I stared back at you as we laid head to head on separate pillows and told my truth: “Mom, how could you only live until July? How could that ever happen? You’re strong and you’ve been doing so good so far.”

Looking back, I was in absolute complete denial, but not out of ignorance. I just truly didn’t think you only had a few more months left living on this planet–because you were my mother and how in the world could anything ever happen to my mother? 

Water welled up in your eyes and you told me how I was your baby. “You were my first,” you whispered.

We both just cried and held each other. Just thinking about it now is making me cry because I can still see us laying there. I remember so much white–the comforter, your sheets and pillowcases were always all white. I can still see how bright the room was and still hear the TV playing in the background. I can still smell you–that mix of your Paul Mitchell shampoo and Suave coconut butter body lotion and a fresh laundered t-shirt.  I remember how your hair felt against my face when we hugged and held each other, both unsure of what was to come of our family, but trying our best to believe we’d all be alright.

But I now finally understand what you meant when calling me your baby. You had that one on one time with me, for a few years before Allison was born; that’s what I have with Everett right now, and I’m in no rush to change it. This time is special, and I will never get it back. He will never be this little again.

For awhile I was “scared” or I guess a better word would just be unsure about when to get pregnant again. As a piece of conversation, people would ask me when baby number two was coming or if we had any plans for another one. So of course that started to get me thinking, okay Everett is seven months and it takes a few months of trying to conceive (if I’m lucky) and then nine months of pregnancy…..

I stopped trying to “figure it out” because I don’t feel ready at all. I’m currently content, and FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE, not in a rush. It is so wonderful to be where I am–like I’ve been on a big hike and now I’ve finally arrived at the scenic spot. I’ve sat down with my feet dangling off the edge, kicking the mountainside under my heels while eating a picnic and soaking in the beauty all around me. Honestly, that’s how I feel.

Speaking of mountains. One thing I want to do with Everett before another baby comes along is a trip up to Maine, where Chris and I honeymooned. He and I have briefly talked about going, but kind of under the assumption that, yeah it would be nice, but we wouldn’t be able to afford it.

But a shift has happened, and I know we will be there. I am believing we’ll be there, already seeing Everett on the sand at Acadia National Park. I’ve dropped a pebble into the universal pond and am going to create the ripples–I’m going to create the actions that will guide me to where I want to be. 

One thing I’ve always been able to believe in is the power of attraction. I believe in the power of setting an intention and visualizing it and doing everything in my power to get whatever it is that I think I deserve.

There is a limitless power out there, and when I look at the way the clouds move above me or notice the natural rhythms of nature, I know you are a part of that limitless power, which enables me to believe in it all even more.

Because everything is energy and energy follows our thoughts; so what I think of, I attract. If I think my day will be shitty (which I often do) then it will. Think of it this way:

If you got into your car, already late for work and thought shit I forgot my wallet in the house, instead of letting all your dominos collapse, you’d (ideally) want to think I’m grateful for the money in that wallet, and I’m thankful for remembering that I forgot it. Now I can buy my favorite coffee on my lunch break. 

Something so stupid and simple as that, can honestly turn an entire day around. And then something good will happen, maybe just minutes or hours later because you were thankful. You’ll see someone you haven’t seen for awhile in that coffee shop or get a front row parking spot. And you’ll feel thankful for that and it just continually spirals onward until you start thinking shitty again.

Sorry I’ve been going on tangents here, talking about Maine and ripples of attraction and Peter Pan. But I just thought about something else I want to tell you about.

The other day, “Beast of Burden” came on through my speaker while I was getting ready in front of the bathroom mirror. Everett was jumping beside me in his jolly jumper, jolly as can be. I started to sing and snap my fingers, swaying my hips to the music, all the while making him laugh.

As I sang the words, I thought about where I was, prior to Chris and Everett and this house. I thought about where I was before making solid roots and creating a place to land, safe and sound, every single day and night. And I thought about the boy who got me into the Rolling Stones in the first place–the boy who knew you…the boy who broke me free.

We were young, had no plans for the future or cares or responsibilities. It was childhood lovin’ at its finest, and man, was it easy to do. Of course at the time we didn’t think so, but looking back, it was. We simply loved each other, and loving is the easy part.

So I took that boy (and I say boy because the young version is the only one I know) and the love we once had into my heart. I held him there as I continued to sing, thanking him for being a part of the ripple in the pond that got me here, to the very moment singing:

There’s one thing baby that I don’t understand

You keep on tellin’ me I ain’t your kinda man

Ain’t I rough enough? ooooo Ain’t I tough enough?….

I looked at my sweet son watching his whacked mother singing her heart out, and when I heard Chris calling up the stairs to “turn that shit down”, (ha) I held both my boys–Chris and Everett–into my heart as well, knowing I am one lucky woman to have arrived where I am.

I know that probably sounds really silly to you, and if someone reading this thinks I’m weird then so be it–I AM weird. I just wish you could’ve seen me, with hot rollers in my hair, Chris’ City Sports t-shirt on and my red lipstick, having the time of my life.

Becoming a mother has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. And even if someday Chris and I won the lottery and could have three houses up in Maine and all the riches money could buy–I would still say the same thing.

And Mom, I owe all of that to you (and Dad, too). If you weren’t the mother you were, I would never know just how truly great having a family can be. What it means to be a mom–what it means to be the one to cook dinners and change the sheets and get Everett after naps and make sure Chris has his favorite snacks in the pantry–to be the lover of this household–all of those little things have become a part of who I am, as silly and boring as they may sound to someone else.

So right now, I’m bringing you into my heart too, giving you every ounce of love and thanks I possibly can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12.7 EIGHT months ONE week

I count my time in dog years

Swimmin’ in sevens, slow dancin’ in seconds

Oh and I’m the one who loves you, I’m the one who loves you

I spend my time daydreaming

As sure as the sea, it’s just you and me

Those are the song lyrics to Dog Years by Maggie Rogers. It played randomly on my Spotify, so I told Allison to give it a listen, thinking she’d think of her “future fiance” Wes. But she said it reminded her of you.

I sat and read the lyrics, with water in my eyes as I read the words–it was like you were speaking them to me, to her and Cole and Tatum. Every word I could imagine you singing…

And if you’ve had a bad week

Let me sing you to sleep

Oh and I’ll be there waiting when you get frustrated

I know things are changing but darling I’m saying

I’ve been here all along 

I vision when you and I would lay in bed together–both before and after you got sick, watching tv at night and drinking tea in your big king size bed. That water mattress would swallow me up and you had THE fluffiest down comforter. I was so safe. I can still smell you, the sheets, the feathers, and how Dad’s pillow always smelled different than yours.

When I get overwhelmed or upset now, I still lay on my bed (I’m sure a lot of people do) and try really hard to feel you there with me, calmly calming me down. I like to think of you singing me to sleep, even if I am twenty five years old.

But I have been playing that song over and over and over again. In the car, at home, through the speakers dancing to it with Everett, in my headphones getting ready–I can’t stop. It’s so beautiful.

The past two months have been good. The little dude is eight months old now (hence the title–I’m going to go by Everett’s age rather than a random day). I have seen my friends a lot which has helped immensely–I even went out to a bar with them–had the time of my life. Everett is still trying to crawl and loves blowing raspberries and laughing. He smiles when Chris gets home, and I get to see my husband melt in response when he walks through the front door. We go to Grandma’s, Nana visits and lots of trips to the grocery store and Target fill our days. There is a rhythm to our days, and I’m loving it.

I’ve had a lot of moments feeling confident and happy and then lots of days feeling defeated. When something changes with Everett, like a few days of crappy naps, I get freaked out–if I don’t know the perfect answer to a question I have, I get so down on myself and think I’m not able to mother because you aren’t here to help me.

But that’s just an excuse because I will never have the answers for how to mother. If I did, I’d be famous. I know my son is healthy, and I know I am always doing the best that I can.

I love on Everett all day long. I have made sacrifices so that I can be home with him and our future kids. This is what I have wanted, since I was little and I have always believed and believed that I would have what I have now. I didn’t just wake up one day a mom with a baby. I literally dreamed my reality and coaxed my way into all of this.

I was made to be a mom. There is nothing in the world I’d rather be. I forget all of that sometimes and will think, “Is this my life? Do I just sit at home and fold laundry and feed a baby? What is my greater purpose?”

I’ll think about how nice it would be to have two incomes, or wonder if I would’ve made a good lawyer like I always planned. I picture myself getting ready in the mornings, curling my hair, putting on red lipstick and a black suit with a yellow sweater underneath popping out. All from J.Crew because I can afford it.

I fantasize about having projects and that feeling of accomplishing a hard case. Or I think about talking to other adults all day, instead of just my dog and kid.

I guess it’s normal to doubt your choices sometimes, or wonder what another job/situation would be like. When it comes down to it though, I’m happy right now. I’m happy with what I chose, with what I’ve made. Really and truly. And I absolutely have a purpose–my family.

Everything is normal, everything is good. I don’t even know what to write about because I feel fine. I just needed to check in before I gave up on writing to you.

I love you. I miss you. And give that song a listen for me.

10.4 SIX months 

I deleted my post from last week–it felt weird, out of place. But I have been wanting to talk to you.

I am so happy, Mom. October always seems to bring me the best season of my person; every year I come into another form when the air cools and the trees begin to turn. Last year at this time my pregnant belly was beginning to show and I was all wrapped up in pregnancy, dreaming of my baby and anticipating his (or her, as I was so convinced) arrival. The year before that, I was newly engaged and planning our spring wedding, thinking that my life could not possibly get any better. And the October before that, Chris and I were in the prime of our dating relationship, spending nights at each other’s houses, doing things on the weekends with freedom and money (how I miss both those things), and learning how to love one another with big hopes for our future together.

A shift is happening within me, and I credit it to the weather. I also credit it to Everett turning six months. Him and I are having such great days together, and I could not be more satisfied with staying home. I absolutely love it. I love being the one to witness everything he does–I love being the face that makes him laugh and coo and smile.

I try to imagine your stay at home days with me, when it was just you and I, before the other three came along. How lucky I feel to be the one who got all that time with you. I may not remember it, but somewhere deep it is ingrained in my body. Because I swear to God, when I sit on the couch and hold Everett up above me, getting him to laugh and in the process, getting giggles out of myself, I feel you. I remember you. And I feel thankful down to my bones for everything you and Dad did for me growing up.

Chris has come into his own role as a father, making me fall even more in love with this new version of my husband I’m getting to know. When I am out of the house, sometimes I turn on the baby camera and catch him getting Everett up from a nap. How sweet it is to see and hear him come into the baby’s room, talking all cute and scooping Everett up out of his crib. I melt, absolutely melt.

I’m so proud of the Dad he has become. What a privilege to witness the man you love, love your child with the same fierce fire that you do. When we married, our love and commitment was our promise to each other, and now Everett has become a part of that.

Yoga has contributed to this overall feel good phase, too. I took a class last week where I truly was able to let go. I practiced how I used to practice, before being pregnant and before Everett came along. In the past year or so, I forgot that I alone have the power to tune my thoughts and worries and anxieties out, and I alone can breathe my way to feeling peace.

Actually I forgot so much, that I recently hit a breaking point and reached out to my doctor. I got prescribed with an anti-depressant. I took one pill, felt terrible, and the next day went to that yoga class. And it was so obviously my answer. I’m not bashing medication, at all. But right now, I don’t need it.

On my mat, when I really tune my surroundings out, I forget everything. I can feel and hear my breath flowing in and out of my body, feel it expand in my lungs and ribs and even down into my toes. I can feel it leaving, hollowing out the spaces where I’ve accumulated bad energy and negative emotion. It’s like I’m dancing through the movements, to the music and to the teacher’s voice, simply being.

Somewhere along the way I lost this ability. I lost the ability to breathe and flow and feel and decompress. I forgot that I am a person too, even though I am a mother, and I need to take good care of myself. And I know that every yoga class I won’t achieve that same bliss, but last week, I was reminded that I am capable of renewing myself, even if it’s just for an hour. That feels powerful.

I have my confidence back too, at least for now. When Everett was first born, everything I thought I had prepared myself for just slapped me in the face, repeatedly. Like my “knowledge” on natural birth and what can happen. I used to also trust my gut, wholeheartedly, before I had a baby and then once he came, every notion I ever had about myself was shook. So in crept the self-doubt and feeling lost and insecure. I felt incapable without you here. And I ran along with those feelings. But now, I am putting them down.

I am no longer sleep deprived. I am no longer feeling distant from my husband like in those beginning baby days. I am no longer always worried about my house and its upkeep. Even better, I’m done worrying about making a five star dinner five nights a week. I am learning how to cook simply, quickly and with little clean up afterwards. I do things throughout the day that make me happy, like walking in the abandoned basketball court by my house, singing “Hey Ya” and “Freek-a-Leek” out loud. I know if somehow happened to see me walking with the stroller and dog, singing lyrics like pretty face and some cute lips, earring in her tongue and she know what to do with it, one might call the cops and Child Protective Services. But it makes me happy.

And those are the songs of my high school days (ha). Honestly, that music makes me think of the school dances, and the friends that I went to them with–they are all still my best friends now. I used to complain that I didn’t have “mom” pals, but the reality is, even though my girlfriends don’t have babies yet, they will. And in the meantime, I am fortunate to have the same people in my life who grew up calling you Mrs. Norris. I love my friends–I don’t care if we are on different pages.

It just feels good to feel so good again.

I have embraced being a mother–I am completely owning it now. I am confident. I am enjoying my baby. I feel beautiful again in my skin and in my body. And I can listen to myself again, without doubt, without other people’s input.

I am a good mother.

I am a good wife.

I am a good sister, daughter and friend.

I have found myself again. And I’m sending you so much love.

 

9.9 FIVE months ONE week

Usually throughout the day I think of you, and kind of talk in my head about what I want to write to you about. But the past week or so I haven’t been having these “conversations”–I’ve been really mad at you, to be quite honest. And even just typing that looks silly; I mean, can you be mad at a dead person? I guess you can. Sometimes. Even though I know the mean-spirited feelings I have toward you are just my own perceptions, they are real to me.

I completely broke down three days ago. And I feel weak for saying that, but I did. I mean, did you lose your shit now and then? Do other people? I don’t know. I’d hope so.

Naturally I called Allison, but she didn’t answer. I called Grandma, she didn’t answer. I called Nana, and she didn’t answer. And this made me feel even worse, because I didn’t have anyone to help me through this little hormonal emotional crisis, where everything and anything was upsetting me. I was like, where’s my person? Where’s my mother?

I kept thinking about Everett not having you–the thought just kept circling and circling, getting more intense and real every time I thought about it. I felt like I had to talk to someone or else I would BURST of anger. And when I say “someone”, it can’t be someone who didn’t know you, like Chris, or else you don’t feel real. Sadly, when I reminisce to him about you, you feel like a figment of my imagination.

So I called Dad. When I say the word “mom”, he knows who you are and can picture and imagine and remember you.

I took the phone down to the basement to talk because otherwise I would be right in front of Chris or too loud upstairs while Everett was sleeping. So I sat on top on my dryer, and cried to Dad. Cried like a little girl who wants her mother, and doesn’t understand. I cringed–and I mean, my toes and fingers curled and my stomach tightened when I screamed, “How can’t she get to hold my baby?”

And I cried to him about Chris’ mom.

Most of the time I understand very clearly that Everett won’t have her and doesn’t have you, but he has Terri and he has a lot of family–he will always have a lot of family. And I want to give him many siblings, just as you gave me.

But there are some times when I cannot bear it any longer–the frustratiom overflows and I long for that mother figure–whether it be you or a mother-in-law.

My conversation with Dad allowed me to spill and become a bit more rational about things. When I hung up the phone, I went upstairs and crawled into bed with Chris, not really saying much. He usually knows the gist of these “missing my mom” demons and understands there’s not much he can say. So he held me. He wrapped me up into him, under our cozy covers and I forgot the world. I came back together after having fell apart. I nuzzled into his chest, and thanked God that he is mine.

And as we were snuggled up, I was reminded that he is worth it all. And I have a purpose for him, beyond being his wife and the mother to his children. I know that sounds vague, but I don’t want to say anything more about it right now, not even to you.

I’m sorry for getting so mad at you. I know it’s not your fault that you’re gone and you have no control over things that are happening. I just get frustrated with the whole mother word, you know? I think of not having you, I think of what’s happening to Chris’ mom, and I think of how I failed my relationship with who I always thought would be my mother-in-law, Mrs. Treml. And then I think about me, trying to be a Mom without my own.

It is hard. It is its own challenge. And day by day, I am getting better at parenting without you. After all , I get to give the love I have for you to my son. It’s a love that can only exist after loss, and it’s so strong, it cannot be broken by time or space. It’s the kind of love that knows nothing of distance, only resonance.

On a happy note, yesterday I had it goin’ on–my wheels were turning and I got things done. I taught the 6 a.m. yoga class, had coffee with a yoga student for about thirty minutes, then ran to Whole Foods for some fruit and vegetables for Everett. I got back home, and Chris left for work, handing over the baby. When Everett went down for his first nap, I made enough baby food to last a few weeks (hopefully). Later on, Chris and I handled Everett’s bedtime like pros, using team effort to get the mission accomplished. We put an episode on of our favorite show, and I made queso dip to eat with left over taco stuff from the night before. So dinner was easy and delicious. I even finally did my henna hair treatment, which I’ve been meaning to do for months now. Before bed, Chris helped me rinse it out downstairs in the laundry utility sink. It was like I was at a ghetto hair salon. We laughed and carried on while I was standing, bent and all contorted as he tried to rinse what looked like stiff mud from my hair. What we said and how we laughed–I was yet again reminded that this love I get to have is worth my entire world.

 

8.29 FOUR months THREE weeks

What my mothering journey has taught me so far:

  1. you CAN get pregnant your first try. I mean, I knew you could, but didn’t actually think it would happen.
  2. it is okay to let your baby cry, or not hold them every second. When I was pregnant, I honestly believed that my baby would need me at all times, no exceptions. I didn’t even put together the swing I was gifted because I had read that babies don’t need “toys”, just their mom. And for some strange reason, I believed this. The second day we brought Everett home, Chris put his swing together and I’ve never looked back. Babies don’t need to be hanging on you every second, especially after the newborn stage. And if they cry just because they’re crying, that is okay and that is not what neglect is, nowhere near it.
  3. breastfeeding is hard, and lip/tongue tie and mastitis are real problems. I never DREAMED I would have issues breastfeeding. Never. People here and there would mention how difficult it can be, and I just nodded them off like, “Well it won’t be like that for me.” And guess what? It was. I tortured myself trying to succeed, only to make myself miserable. I’ll tell you all about our feeding adventures another day.
  4. all the reading and baby books cannot make you prepared. I read so many books and watched so many birth videos and documentaries. Let me say that maybe 1% of it all I remember or have used in real life. I never read in depth about mastitis, or saw a birth that was even remotely like mine. I never read about how utterly annoying your partner can be when you have a newborn, and that it’s okay to fantasize about jumping into a speeding car, never to return to the crazy confusion a baby brings.
  5. expensive does not equal better when it comes to baby toys/gadgets, cribs/swings etc. I used to think Fisher Price stuff looked so cheesy, and rolled my eyes at all their products. Everything Everett now has is from Fisher Price or Evenflo. Their products are 99% cheaper than the brands I used on my registry. And yes it can be dorky and loud and colorful, but guess what? That’s what babies like. I am thankful for my nice car seat and pack and play, hoping that they last for the next fifteen years and I’ll get their money’s worth. Oh wait, not the car seat–those are only to code for 5 years. Yet another thing I never knew prior baby.
  6. a baby will give a new meaning to the word love. Nana would always tell me when I was pregnant, “You never really fall in love until you have a baby,” and I’d think yea yea, I know what love is. I thought that Chris had every ounce of love that could ever exist in me. But Everett made it double, and what I have for that baby is beyond love. He is my life, my purpose, my world. That’s what happened when I become a mother; I am no longer the center of my own universe. The change happened in an instant, and nothing could have prepared me for it.
  7. Stretch marks happen and boobs change. My one month of breastfeeding changed mine, a lot. And luckily I got away with little stretch marks, but I understand that they are a natural part of the process. I still have that vertical brown line running up my belly from pregnancy and to be honest, I love it. When I look in the mirror and see its reflection, I am reminded how I carried Everett in my belly and brought that beautiful boy into this world.
  8. labor can last over 24 hoursI can matter of fact say, no one told me this. And I honestly never read that a labor could stretch on for an entire day. Maybe I was reading the wrong books? But nothing, and I mean nothing, could have prepared me for what a drug free labor means, especially when you have one that progresses on sloth speed and a baby with shoulder dystocia. Never again will I put myself in a situation where I feel like I’m fighting for my life. And never again will I put my husband in the position to watch me fight for my life. Because that is really the only feeling I remember about our birth. I think an epidural would have worked wonders. But who knows. Maybe the midwives were right when they said it was a good thing Everett had no drugs–that that may have made our complications even worse. But there is nothing wrong with getting an epidural, or a c-section or however your baby comes. The only thing that matters is that Everett is here, with me, and before I actually had him in my arms, it was difficult to understand that concept. Everything I read trained me to think that having a natural birth was superior. Superior? That is so phony. Get your baby on earth, end of story. No one cares how you did it, just that you did.
  9. formula will not harm or hurt your baby. I thought this before I fed it to Everett, and would feel so sorry for a baby who wasn’t getting their mothers milk. And the books I read did everything short of shaming it (geez, what books was I reading??!). Formula actually saved us and I am no longer embarrassed to pull out his bottle and powder in public.
  10. help is wonderful. For some reason I thought refusing help made me strong, like I can do this all on my own. Well, unbeknownst to me, when I couldn’t really walk after giving birth, I needed help with laundry and needed someone to clean my toilet. I learned very quickly to have our family help in every way they could, and I’ll know for the next baby that relying on them won’t make me weak, but smart.
  11. after having a baby, you will want/need your mother like never before. I learned this, and am still learning it, every time I have a question, every time I need help, every time I witness something new that Everett has learned, and every time I leave the pediatrician office, wanting to call the only person who will care that he weighed 17 pounds at his four month appointment.
  12. the internet is terrible for information. I get the best advice from people who have already experienced what I’m questioning. I go to Grandma for baby questions most of the time. Grandmothers are best for advice–they raised twice as many kids as women do present day, had little money while doing it, a teeny tiny house and NO Google.
  13. the importance of “us” time. I never imagined how much a baby could change Chris and I. In the beginning it scared me; I thought we would never be happy again like we were. The home and relationship dynamics shifted so fast, there was absolutely no time to adapt. But it became our new normal, and we got the hang of things, and eventually we got more sleep and I was cleared after my six week appointment, which allowed me to remember why I had a baby with this man in the first place.
  14. the importance of “me” time. My time is yoga. It is my escape, it is the “old” part of me, alive again. Whether it’s reading, or walking with Clifford alone, making that time for myself is not selfish. It is necessary. Sitting on the toilet for an extra twenty five minutes, staring at my Facebook sometimes does the trick.
  15. it all comes down to loveIt really does. If you love your body, you will respect its changes and whatever way it birthed your baby. If you love your family, you will have them around. If you love your husband, you will make sure to find time for just the two of you, even if it takes five months post baby. And if you love your baby, you will know how to take care of him/her, you will not need to buy expensive things, you don’t have to breastfeed to feel a connection, you don’t have to feel guilty when you leave for a few hours, you will forget about sleep (well, somewhat), and you will understand that all the chaos and confusion in your life, means you have a family surrounding you.

8.24 FOUR months THREE weeks

Everett and I went to Target the other day, our favorite place. Well, my favorite place. My house is slowly becoming an ad for their home department. And of course this gets me into trouble with Chris, saying I don’t need to spend the money, but I convince myself it’s all okay because I save 5% with my RedCard. Thankfully I am not in charge of our finances.

But anyways.

The store was crowded with college kids, their carts full of “stuff”, like laundry baskets and binders and that got me thinking about my first day of college. So as I stood in the aisle and debated on what toilet cleaner brand to buy, I remembered starting freshman year.

On move in day, I stood in my half empty room at home, packed and ready to leave, looking at my life in boxes and wondering what the hell was going to happen to me. I was always a homebody, not compatible with change and beyond unnerved at the unknown.

Dad, Allison and I packed up the car and drove to campus. It was buzzing with people and I remember I had to get my room key before we could move in. There were seniors handing them out, and I was anxious to walk over and tell the older girls my name. I was anxious about everything.

I can honestly still feel that pit in my stomach, weighted by the fear of not knowing anyone or anything. I was unsure of my surroundings, and unsure of myself. I went from this confident, popular cheerleader in high school to NOBODY in a split second. My childhood friends were all scattered across cities and states, starting their own college journeys. It was weird to be away from them.

I saw so many parents around–so many moms, walking with their daughters, helping them carry those laundry baskets and binders from Target. I saw face after face, but not yours. None of them were even pretty like you were, or dressed sleek like you did. For some reason this made me even more mad, as if because you were young and beautiful, you had more of a right to live than all of these other moms on campus. I would think, “Hey you, yea you…mom with the red framed glasses and white walking tennis shoes…my mom was healthy and took care of herself…why didn’t you get cancer?”

I know that sounds so horrible, but I thought it dozens of times, at every mom I looked at. Your absence was so literal and obvious, I was ashamed to be alone. I wanted a sign on my back that said my mom died of breast cancer. she was 39 and beautiful and married with four kids. she was a successand so was I.

When I was growing up, the whole community knew you. My friends and their mothers knew you. These new college people and their parents didn’t, and somehow to me, that meant you never existed.

Anyways, once I had my key and dorm number, Dad and Allison came with me to unlock the room. It was such a small space, with white painted cinder block walls. There were two twin bunk beds, two dressers and two desks and nothing else. It was bare and empty, leaving me to feel the same way.

They said good bye, and I will never forget standing in that room, feeling trapped and alone and holy shitting myself. This is where I have to live?

I took my new sheets out of the plastic package and put them on the uninviting mattress, tucking all the loose sides in like you used to do. I guess this was my sad attempt to make the space cozy.

My room mate arrived with both of her parents, and I felt like I needed to explain who I was. She was so nice, her parents were so nice—but how could I say where my parents were? I said, “My Dad just left a little bit ago,” so they would know I wasn’t that alone, but then I thought, wait, now it sounds like I just don’t have a mom. Or I do, but she doesn’t love me enough to witness the first day of college–or something strange like that.

The transition from saying “my parents” to just “my dad” was hard. My entire vocabulary changed when you died, and these college kids did not understand my adjusted language.

But eventually I got the hang of school. I met good people, and got used to the drinking, partying and studying. My room mate and I got along really good, and I even met a boy I was interested in. We had fun together, and I started to enjoy the “college life.” Campus was small though, and I wanted a refuge from the craziness and constant chaotic crowds. Home was not the answer because you were no longer there, so I really remember feeling stuck, like I didn’t belong anywhere. Not only that, I simply wanted more. Going to class wasn’t satisfying, and neither was forcing myself to be drunk every weekend (how hard, right?).

And then my yoga journey started, and the rest seems like history.

And then Chris came along and changed everything for the better.

*

So this all leaves me now, sitting here at my kitchen table, thinking about when my kids start college someday. I now understand that it will be such a privilege to guide Everett into the transition (whether he wants me to or not) and to witness his journey. If I feel sad or stripped away from my baby when he leaves, I’ll remember how lucky I am to still physically be here for him.

Because I know you would’ve given anything to be with me on that first day.

 

 

 

8.16 FOUR months TWO weeks

I found the eulogy I read at your funeral, typed up and folded between the sleeves of a book on my shelf. Ironic, huh? This is probably about the day that I stood in front of all those people, just weeks past seventeen years old, and tried my best to convey what I was feeling, who you were, and how our family would go onward.

I want to read it to you, because part of me wants to scoop that younger version of myself up and hold her. And cradle her body because that grief was so heavy. And whisper in her ear that life will go on, and the answers will all come in time. That her life was not over, just beginning in a different way.

I’d tell her she would learn how to live again.

So here it goes:

My Mom is the most beautiful person I will ever know. Anyone that knew her, will remember the Jenifer always looking her best in the latest Cache outfit and matching Coach purse, picking up her kids from sports practice and socializing with the other moms. But there was much more to her.

I’ve never seen a person as strong and determined as she was, whether it was about getting new carpet or having a fourth baby–she was relentless with spunk and beauty. She lived for her family, always doing everything to make our lives as perfect as possible, ensuring we were happy. I know that we were her world, and I take such pride in being her daughter.

We all won’t forget the things that made her her, like the nicknames she called us, or the tradtitons she was so good at creating and carrying on. Christmas was literally magical every year at our house. And dying Easter eggs or our fancy family Valentines day dinners are among the things I will remember, and hope to carry on with my own family someday. She had a way of making everything better, always going beyond what was “standard.”

She came to all of my cheerleading competitions, and drove me to every practice. She made a whole day out of shopping, whether it was for back to school clothes or a dress for a dance.

Our home was always kept immaculate and every night we would have a home cooked meal, eaten together as a family. Allison and I loved this one pasta dish, and Cole adored her fluffy scrambled eggs. These things, we cannot forget.

The most important thing she taught me was to be independent and know that life always changes, whether you want it to or not–that you have to be able to adapt. Once when we were driving in the car together, she told me that life can sometimes be like a rollercoaster. One second you are up, the next you’re down. And just when you think you cannot get any lower, you slowly crawl back up. Sounds so cheesy, but it made sense to me and stuck.

My mom was and still is surrounded with so much love. She always told me she hoped one day I would see what a wonderful marriage her and Dad had. I knew they were happy, but when I witnessed the way Dad took care of her in those last months when she was really sick, I finally understood. Getting to grow up with such loving parents has taught me a great deal of what I will want in my own marriage someday, and for that, I am grateful.

Once while scrubbing dishes at the kitchen sink, she told me I was to carry the lily of the valley flower at my wedding. She said if anything should ever happen to her before I got married, I needed to do that and think of her. I know someday on that day, I will do her the honor.

Her leaving has created an absence in all of our hearts. I do believe, though, that she left this world knowing she did her best as a mother, daughter, wife and friend. What she has taught my siblings and I are lessons that we will carry all throughout our lives. I know she will be guiding each one of us through our different paths in this life. We have her legacy to carry on and can always find comfort knowing we have her fiery strength to keep us going. Someone with as much spirit and grit as my mom will never leave us, and I find security in that.

I promise her I’m going to do my best as she always did. I promise her that I am still going to accomplish all my goals. I promise her to always be a leader, not a follower, just like she taught me.  I promise to be a good daughter and a good big sister. And most importantly, I promise to have her strength through my life and make her proud of me, always.

 

Reading this does not made me sad or angry. Rather, it fills me with so much pride. Honestly. I am so PROUD of myself and of my family. We survived. Actually, there are some moments where I think we have thrived.

And those lily of the valley flowers? I did carry them on my wedding day, freshly cut from Nana’s garden. It’s funny to think back on that conversation we had about them at the kitchen sink. I was sitting at the island, and you had your back towards me, looking out the window. You had a view of the yard in front of you, of the spot actually, where I married Chris. It was right under the willow tree you planted when we first moved into that house and onto that property.

How did that all become to be? How did you know? How did you make sure I would find the man I needed and create such a beautiful day for us, just like you planned when you were living. EVERYONE at that wedding was in awe of the weather, the yard, the love. The grass was a vibrant green on that May day, and I swear everything looked kissed by a golden light. You can see it in the pictures. You could feel it all around–you were laced in and through each person there.

To me, those lilies represent the power you have, even on or in some different realm where I cannot see you. When Chris and I arrived at our honeymoon bed and breakfast in Maine, there were fresh cut lily of the valley right on my nightstand. The owner there had an entire garden of them. No chance that was just a coincidence.

If I could stand and read the eulogy again, having these past eight years behind me, I would tell everyone listening that life continues after this world. I have been a witness to it. And there can be different beliefs about how and where you go when you’re gone, but underneath it all, I know your energy is still alive, just as I know I’m sitting here at my kitchen table, typing and keeping an eye on the baby monitor, hoping that Everett continues his nap.

There are some days that I do not believe this. Some days that I cannot fathom where you have gone, why you are away from me, why Tatum only has four years of your memory. There are days where I scream and cry in the basement while folding clothes for you to come back to me. For you to come home. And I think the LOUDER I call for you, maybe…just maybe, you’ll return.

But today is good. I feel you. And let these words be my reminder the next time I cannot bare your absence, that you are not far.

AND Everett woke up and fell back to sleep (after I debated for ten minutes on whether or not to get him) marking a two hour nap right now. I’m literally snapping my fingers and groovin’, savoring a moment where I feel like I won a small victory.

8.14 FOUR months TWO weeks

Today marks eight years. And to be honest, it really feels like any other day. Chris and I have been in full Sunday mode: laying around, making food, playing with Everett and just genuinely enjoying each other’s family company. I am lucky.

Writing sadness or explaining to you what I remember happening on that August night, just doesn’t feel right at the moment. Maybe because I’m not upset at all, maybe because so much time has passed since 2008, or maybe because I have such an incredible amount of love surrounding me right now, that all I can do is be thankful.

So on this day that marks when you left our world, I am saying thank you for what I have. Thank you for guiding me into motherhood. Thank you for showing me what a marriage was and how to be a loving wife. Thank you for raising me to understand the importance of family and solid roots.

Thank you for the accurate example you set on how to mother. I witnessed what it meant to stay at home with children, and can honestly say that’s the reason I was so driven to get to where I am now, with a husband, home and baby.

I can’t see you today, can’t speak with you, can’t hug you and bury my face in that familiar blonde hair. But I can sit here knowing you are still a part of all the beauty in my life, and celebrate how far our family has come since we lost you. All four of your kids are doing just fine, Mom.

I remember you. I thank you.

And I love you.