When Breastfeeding Ends

I walk into Mara’s room at 6am as she’s gnawing on the side of the crib. Two other sets of teeth marks imprinted under her’s, tug on a contemplative thread in my heart, despite my sleepless daze. Her toothy smile stops me right in my tracks. I sit down to comfort feed her and I’m keenly aware that this time is likely our last. 

Sadness settles onto my shoulders and gratitude in my chest for our time together. 

A familiar undercurrent that feels a lot like fear creeps in behind the scenes. Fear of what I will be left with when I return home to myself after years of baby making comes to a close. 

No more miracle in my belly, or baby on my breast; I am simply me. A sort of “back to reality” feeling – like when I came home from living in Australia – where there are no extra hormones or excuses for mood swings or ease of self care. I am back to me. 

I know from experience that once this transition has passed, I will feel more whole and free than any of these other feelings, relieved to have my body as my own. But this time, likely being the last, feels more momentous. 

There is an inherent worthiness tied to the giving of myself. What is life like when my primal purpose of creating new life has ended? Am I still worthy of love, stillness, joy, peace – all the good things – if my body is only my own? 

I always resented the words “settle down”. Now they land with an air of freedom. To settle into myself and settle into my truth; wherever that takes me. There is a spaciousness in this place, one that allows for something new. While uncertainty isn’t exactly my favorite flavor these days, a part of me remains hopeful for the certain beauty in whatever comes next.

Who You Are Now

Whenever I get moving a little too quickly during bedtime routine,
Coura demands that I “brush her hair like Poppi did”.  She remembers me sharing how you would gently take the brush around the curve of our ears as we sat in front of you watching Sports Center. 
Maisley tells me that you painted the sky during a perfect sunset.
You are a  bedtime story, 
and an urban legend.
You’re the passenger in my truck and a runner right beside me. 
The brightest star in the Big Dipper. 
You are so present in Mara’s eyes that I sometimes have to look away. 
You are everything human and everything spirit.
Your humanness is undeniable when I see your collared shirt still hanging in mom’s closet. 
Other times it’s your spirit that wins over like when I ask you for some help right before trying to fix a bike ailment, and you deliver right away in intuition. 
You’re a verb; can you “Poppi” this orange for me?
A sturdy, evolving, life-giving tree at Balboa Park.
I crossed my arms over my chest in yoga and gave my shoulders a hug. Instantly I felt you in the comforting grip of my hands. 
When I feel doubtful or down,
I remember,
I am Jeff Loftus’ daughter. 
That’s always who I am. 

Gentle Reminder

As I lay in the crook of his arm with my head on his chest – the place I have always fit so perfectly –
I hear the beating of his heart for the first time in days. 
The steady rhythm jolts me into how alive we are and how fleeting we are. 
Underneath all of the rushing and worrying and organizing and planning is a constant truth,
a reminder of what is real:
We are right here, right now. 
To feel his kind and comforting heartbeat might be the greatest luxury I take for granted.  
Our recent texts read:
Mara ok
Crying
Did you pack snacks
K
Leaving
Maiz wants you
All very business. 
All very “I have three kids and barely any time to even include punctuation in my texts to you”. 
I get caught up in expressing the critical demands of my ego: Do this and be more like this.
But the fact that he exists and his heart beats right here, outside on the couch under the warm November sun, the day after Thanksgiving, is a miracle.
He can always be better. 
He can always do more. Yet he is always enough just as he is.
And I am always enough just as I am.

Rancho Grande

What I’m really asking when I inquire about staying at a remote farm on Airbnb:

Am I safe to be still?

Am I allowed to relax enough to hear the pigs snore?

Do I deserve to rest?

May I slow my body enough to move like the wind through the trees?

Will I be able to feel the awe and wonder of Saturn through the telescope lens?

May I move at the pace I naturally crave, in sync with the rhythm of nature? 

Will I wake with the roosters and sleep with the goats?

Am I enough to just exist in the present moment?

Will my brain relax from her often hyper-vigilant state?

Will I be connected enough to smile at the “coincidental address” in Rose Valley on Rose Valley Road? 

What I’m really asking is: May I do all of these things, at will, today, tomorrow, right now, wherever I am?

I wonder if Alex, the Airbnb host, will answer these simple questions for me. 

Oh, and what time is check-in?

Mornings at the Bird House

Every morning, the three little birds would cuddle in their nest with mama bird and daddy bird before the day began. The morning golden sun would peek through the cracks and for a few quiet moments, all was warm and well. 

The oldest bird snuggled right up to mama. 

“How did you sleep my love?” Mama asked. 

“Good,” whispered the oldest bird in her crackly morning voice. “Can I get hot lunch today?” she pleaded.

The oldest bird was protective of her brood; she was silly and wise and kind. She loved to chirp around on her own and use the world as her playground. She was a strong bird with a compassionate heart, a bird with big feelings, a leader and a dreamer.

“Do I have nature school today?” inquired the middle bird. “Look how big I am, I slept through the night!”

The middle bird had scratched her sweet little beak the day before. She was a tumbly bird who often wore her underpants backwards or not at all. She was also a lover bird, with a raspy voice and a courageous spirit. She always made herself known and often created art exhibits around the nest. 

Squeaks and squawks came from the baby bird who was too little to form words, but spoke novels through her essence. 

Baby bird was as sweet as a rose and made everything better. She was so miraculously content and at ease in the world. Everyone fought to be the one who cuddled closest to her.

“Alright, time for breakfast!” announced daddy bird. “Hop on.”

He scooped up baby bird into the crook of his arm.

“I got the back!” said middle bird. 

“Wait for me!” the third bird said.

Daddy bird carried all his birds downstairs for oatmeal and cartoons. 

Mama bird lay alone in her nest and closed her eyes feeling tired and grateful for her birds. When they all lay together in bed, it made her pause in wonder at how she got here, a mama to three birds. Those little birds sometimes ruffled her feathers so much that she daydreamed about the empty nester life. But deep down she knew the truth. She’d miss these days she sometimes wished away.

The three little birds didn’t know what their days would bring, but they did know one thing…every little thing was gonna be alright.

Mara Love

Her small body on my chest is like a weighted comfort blanket in our dark room. 
All of my ambient thoughts are dissipated by the loud hum of the sound machine. 
How do you bottle a feeling?
Her body flinching.
Her lips softly smacking.
Her booty perfectly lifted up by an invisible string from the sky.
Her sweet fingers grazing my chest.
Her soft round head cupped into the palm of my hand. 
Her cat like purring and intermittent sighs.
I inhale her breath as she exhales, reminding me of our connection
and the big and small loops of daily life and death —
Day and night, summer to fall, a rosary, our strawberries dying, our watermelons growing, a kindergartener starting, a country collapsing. 
Constant impermanence. 
Everyday we show up for life 
and every night we come back to this place of rest, where we both simply exist,
and that is more than enough.
Maybe if I write my feelings down I won’t forget this random Thursday night in July of 2021. 
The time I fell in love with her for the millionth time.

Empty Threats

In a rousing game of “Who gave the best empty threat on the car ride”, we sat under the stars with our necks kicked back, telling tales from our 6.5 hour car rides up to Bass Lake for our Loftus family vacation. 

My brother-in-law, James, said he would pull the car over and make his kids get out on the side of the road (though he promised us he would actually do it!).

Ryan threatened that we just wouldn’t go to Bass Lake. He convinced the car that he would drop me and Mara off at the lake, and bring home whoever wouldn’t stop screaming and fighting. 

And the ultimate irrational threat of all? The winner? If Coura didn’t stop asking Ryan for his orange tootsie pop, he would reach into her stomach and pull out the one she already ate.

All of these desperate moments brought me back to my childhood, and the times my Dadio, the calm, cool and collected enforcer, followed through on those threats. Always the king of his word, the master of a good follow through. 

When I was around the age of 10, my dad was so fed up with all of us sisters fighting in church and again on the drive home, that he promised,  “If you don’t stop fighting I’m going to pull this car over and make you walk home!”

And he did. 

Michelle was acting like a classic teenager one Sunday afternoon and kept putting off her chore of washing the car. My Dad said, “I’m going to wake you up before school starts and make you wash it at 6am if it doesn’t get done today.”

And he did.

We tell these stories to our girls and they enjoy the levity of the moment in hindsight. I read on all of the conscious parenting strategies Instagram pages that threats and fears aren’t great tactics, and I mostly agree. But sometimes they become family history stories, badges of honor that we had parents who cared enough about us to stick to their word. 

Obviously we didn’t pull the car around and go home or remove the already ingested lollipop… but maybe next time we will.

Girl Dad

He confesses that he likes the pink door down the street. 
He wears crowns when asked and a suit and tie for the “big party”. 
He teaches all about Sally Ride.
He’s a feminist in the purest version of the word, always has been. 
He takes time for a puzzle and explanations of the golden rule.
He gives his girls a rocket boost on their scooters 
People call him: “Super Dad”.
We call him: “Cookie Monster”. 
He gets mad at himself when he’s not the picture of patience.
So what if patience isn’t the defining factor for a “good dad”?
What if it’s the way you teach, the way you love, how you practice braiding hair?
What if it’s showing them how quickly you apologize after making a mistake?
What if it’s defined by the lady at a “Yittle Moore” who knows your names and Friday morning order?
What if a good dad, a super dad is defined by the joy on their faces when you come home from hours or days away?
Or magic bravery water?
You have our whole hearts. Every part of you

Free Time

If you find yourself at Point Lobos State Reserve — 

Notice the way she sways like the luminescent kelp with the tide.
How the waves sound like a meditation recording, 
gathering all of the stray pieces of her into one, whole, present witness of the moment. 
Take note of the knobs on the trees, they’ll see her exactly as she is. 
She will feel giddy like Christmas morning, with the trees adorned in moss tinsel and pine cone ornaments. 

Pillows of spongy kelp will cover the rocks; she’ll dream of a safe haven for sleepy mermaids. 
Anemones will be the size of her face, jellyfish will glow in the marine blue water, sea lions will sunbathe and desert succulents will grow unexpectedly on the sea walls. 

She will stand right where the land, shakes hands with the sea, the greatest meeting of its kind.

She will feel right at home as the wildlife grows;
Unruly
Wild
Imperfect 
Steady. 

So if you find yourself at Point Lobos —
Hold on to her.

Tiny People in a Tiny House

*Written in February 2021

2020 felt like it ended with an ellipsis, to be continued. Answers I had hoped for personally and ones we had all hoped for collectively, still wandering about. 

We are living into the everyday, ordinary moments right now; stretching them out into an entire life. Ryan and I danced in the kitchen. Maisley sang Maroon Five while playing with her figurine toys. Coura told me that her arm is hungry. The moments are so delicate and sweet, with plenty of noise outside the good ones too. 

In our 672 square foot temporary Airbnb cottage, we yell to our kids through our jack and jill bathroom when they wake up in the middle of the night, “I’m right here!”. There are no hallways, every inch serves a purpose. The passing freight trains gently shake our walls every night around 10pm. The vibration is somehow soothing, sending me into dreamland as a New Yorker living in a tiny Manhattan apartment near the L-train. Aunt Mimi and Sunday farmer’s markets are a simple walk away.

A mess is made here as fast as it cleans. 

We are giving up space for morning and evening walks to the ocean. It reminds me of my tiny studio apartment in Australia with barely enough space to brush my hair in the bathroom, but did I mention the view? A floor to ceiling panoramic picture of Bondi Beach. 

I stood at our ocean lookout for a while and watched as a rotating door of seekers came up for their daily dose; even if just for a mere minute to regain something in themselves. How do you just look at something and become changed? I was hoping to leave feeling filled up. I wonder if other people were leaving unwanted pieces behind. 

Even with the gas leak, the stage five clinging shower curtain and hearing the stove turn on and the toilet flush all while laying in bed, this beautiful, garden-like plot of land with lemon and avocado trees is home for now. Maisley asks a lot about our forever home and when we will get there. I worry about how all of these transitions will impact her and Coura. I worry about all of the uncertainty. I worry and say it’s my job to worry. 

Then, Maisley swings high on the tree swing and yells out, “I LOVE THIS COTTAGE!”