A Postpartum Identity Puzzle

I am 10 months postpartum. Although, do you even call it postpartum past three months? At this point, I’m just a straight-up mom.

One of my yoga teachers told me, that someone told her, that you don’t really become a mom until the second child. That makes me feel really tired.  

My mind is so full all the time. Full of nothing and everything.

What will she eat for lunch? How did she nap today? Is she tired? How’s her diaper rash? Is that a real cough or just a tickle? Did I read enough books to her today? How many vegetables did she get? When do I start her on cow’s milk? Is cow’s milk bad for her? Was that her 4th or 5th poop?

A friend sent me this quote recently and I can’t stop thinking about it:

“I tend to be most interested in the kinds of people who do not sweeten or dilute themselves for the sake of people tastes. Who never soften the blow of who they are. Like my coffee, I prefer the people I connect with to be full-strength and searing hot. And able to rouse my weary, idle heart.” – Beau Taplin // Black Coffee

Over the last 10 months, my identity has been completely shaken. I feel like a freshmen all over again. A little insecure, overwhelmed and afraid, but in awe of the possibilities and new world I’m in.

Becoming a mom has meant adding a whole new layer of responsibility, love and connection to my current being. This new life requires change, molding, dissolving of old thoughts, and growing into new perspectives.

Somedays I ache to be the woman who is so comfortable in her own skin, radiating confidence, truth, and beauty. It feels impossible to be myself, because, who am I really? What percentage am I Jenna versus mom/wife/sister/friend/daughter? I’m trying to figure out what I want, what I need, and my greater purpose within my new role as mom. I’m living so uncomfortably close to my edge that I could pop like a jack-in-the-box at any given moment.

Other days, I feel like I’ve got it goin’ on and being a mom feels so natural, right and real.

Even in the funkiest moments of self doubt, I know all is right. I’m exactly where I should be, watching Maisley simply exist while my heart explodes.

When my ever-smiley 10-month-old girl wears a onesie, her belly rolls over leggings. Her two front teeth have emerged with a gap wide enough for spitting water. She crawls so quick that the momentum of her body surpasses her arm speed and she face plants on the rug.

The good and the bad; this too shall pass. 

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First Steps on Mother Turf

Maisley,

You took your first steps today. We have been coaxing you to walk for a few weeks now, but you never take our bait in the form of a yellow sneetch or a sparkly blue ball.

We were out in the beautiful sunshine at Choice in Carlsbad. Just you and me.

It’s one of your favorite places (and mine) because there are so many kids to watch and so much space to be free.

I laid out our blanket on the astroturf and we played for a while. We were having a really good and joy filled day that July 13th, 2017.

And then suddenly, without warning, you turned away from me and stood up. Holding your orange sippy cup, teeth gritting together; one, two, three like a drunken sailor and then a gentle tumble.

You did it!! Your very first steps, just your way.

I was so proud of you and I couldn’t stop clapping, smiling and cheering you on. It was absolutely amazing.

I think this monumental moment was one of many to prepare me for the independence and strong-will divinely set deep in your bones. I knew this from the day we had you, though.

The woman next to us took notice of the commotion and commented, “How beautiful. Her first steps here on mother earth.”

Mother turf, I thought, through a smile.

I love that you took your first steps in the wide open air, where you seem most happy and full of life.

Now that you’re off and walking, I wonder where your feet will go?

To the cobblestone streets of Venice?
Up the Eiffel Tower in Paris?
Along the mean streets of Manhattan?
Fluttering through the Mediterranean sea?
Strolling the coastal walk at Bondi Beach?

These first steps are just the beginning of what I hope and pray is a lifetime of endless steps. To new places and familiar ones too.

Thank you for all that you are and all that you are becoming. I love every part of you.

Love and hugs,
Your mama

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Holy Anxiety

I wore a skort to church one Sunday when I was 9-years-old.

I mistakenly sat at the end of the wooden pew which left me susceptible to outside hand holding during the “Our Father”. Sure enough, the young (cute) boy across the aisle reached out with his clammy right hand, ready for my awkward embrace. The rest of mass he kept glancing over in my direction. My crimson face didn’t do much to hide my embarrassment.

It’s my skort, I thought. I am definitely seducing him with my skort.

Needless to say, I didn’t wear a skort again until sophomore year of high school when boys started to be more appealing, yet equally as frightening.

As a third generation worrier, I’ve had some level of anxiety since I can remember.  I didn’t really label my strange childhood nuances as anxiety until adulthood, when I came to understand the feelings on a deeper level.  

Most days I’m grateful to be able to manage my anxious thoughts and worries with prayer, yoga, breathing, writing, positive mantras, travel, running, calming rituals, and so on.

Mental health is seemingly at the forefront of conversations lately, which is really where it should be. Or maybe I’m just noticing it more because of the people in my life who are increasingly affected by it.

After leaving my doctor’s office this week for an annual physical, I couldn’t help but feel like our visit was incomplete.  Why didn’t she ask me how my brain was feeling? Why didn’t she ask how I’ve been doing emotionally? Isn’t that just as important as a skin check and breast exam?

It also got me thinking about what I can do as a mom to encourage enough moments of serenity in the beautiful chaos of life for my daughter and family. I think it’s probably a combination of leading by example and sharing coping tools, activities and open communication. 

As of now, she spends most of her time squealing with joy and doing headstands with her 5-toofed smile. I hope she stays this care-free forever.

But just in case, for fashion’s sake and all that is holy, I think I’ll spare her the skort experience altogether.

My Grandmas & Me

Sometimes in a tough moment, or just because, I close my eyes and talk to my angel grandparents. This week in particular, I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandmothers; Grandma Joan and Nana.

When I think about these amazing women, the picture I always have in my head is of them hugging me. I can visualize their unique embrace.  I think about the way they hugged me, their scent and how their kisses felt on my cheek.

My Nana was a spunky 5’ nothing Italian lady, who always held a rosary in one hand and my Nonno’s hand in the other. She would flit around like a tiny fairy, sprinkling holy water on anything and anyone. She made the best homemade pizza. Food was her love language and thankfully she passed that onto my mom. She had a beautiful, but also tough life, and in her last years, constantly surprised us with her strength and nine-lives. Her body may have been frail, but she had the fight of a lion.

My Nana would reach out to us and gently grab our face for a kiss with her tiny, arthritic hands. She had the prickliest kisses from her tiny chin hairs, but they were full of unconditional love.  She used to say “feel my hugs” whenever we were away from her.

My Grandma Joan was magnetic, the life of the party in every sense. She whistled like a freight train when she needed to get everyone’s attention.  My Grandma had 6 kids and 15 grandkids, and somehow, each of us thought we had the “special” relationship with her. She once drove with the 16-year-old-me to Santa Barbara to visit my sister at UCSB. I was flying down the 101 freeway going 85 and instead of yelling, “Jesus take the wheel!”, she just smiled and said, “I trust you!”.

My Grandma gave expansive, firm hugs, tucking us tight into her chest. I envision her gold heart locket resting against the creases on her chest that represent years of love and hard work. She would reach her hands straight out for us to dive into. She smelled like “her” perfume and I imagine her always wearing a peach colored shirt with peach colored toe nail polish.

These women were strong in such unique ways. My nana was unassuming, sweet and mighty. My grandma; boisterous, kind and confident.

Sometimes as a mom, wife, colleague, friend, sister and daughter; I feel absolutely spent. Like I’m living on my edge all day and have nothing extra to give, especially to myself. Come 3pm, my brain fog is equal to San Francisco in June.

When I think about these two women filling up my spirit and standing by my side, I get an extra jolt. In my moments of self doubt, not only do I have their spirit by my side, I am literally a part of them. I came from them.

I will always feel their hugs; they are closer to me everyday than they’ve ever been before.

Mother’s Day Matters

Yesterday was my very first Mother’s Day.

I had been so looking forward to this celebration, yet I felt a low level sense of disappointment all day. 

When Maisley was two months old, I remember thinking how much I would enjoy the sh** out of Mother’s Day this year. I remember in a breaking point, thinking, this is why mothers have a whole day dedicated to themselves (and Father’s too!). I felt like all of the thankless tasks that no one sees, the late nights and early mornings, the hard work, the constant worry; that it would somehow all be appreciated and valued in this one day.

That’s a lot for one day to live up to.

When I reflect back on yesterday, the bookends of the day taught me all that really matter.  

[And sometimes as a mom, the bookends are my saving grace. A day of crying where nothing goes right, is righted with a sweet nighttime feed, prayers and Goodnight Gorilla.]

Maisley woke up at 6am and then after a quick snack, fell back to sleep on my chest, like she had done so many times in her early weeks of life. I watched her breathe up and down, her little lips slightly open, her sweet face peaceful and at home.

Later that night, my husband and I got into bed around 9pm (the usual).  On my pillow was a letter that he wrote to Maisley, filled with generous amounts of praise and gratitude for me as her mom and his wife. He beautifully wrote:

“Being a mom isn’t the easiest thing. You’ll find that out one day. But your mom is a natural and was meant to be a mom. She has sacrificed so much over the last year; her professional work, sleep, her body, the list goes on. But she will be the first to tell you it’s all worth it, and then some! We take our moms for granted sometimes. It can be easier to do that than you think; especially since they are unwavering in their love and support. After a while, you can come to expect it. But I hope you always understand, Maisley, how much your mom has done, is doing and will forever do for you. It’s not because she has to or  because it’s her responsibility. She does it because YOU changed her (our) life forever! You gave her the best gift she could ever ask for, and one she has waited her whole life for: to be a mom, to be YOUR mom!”

As I sat in our bed, sobbing, reading the letter over and over again, I was angry at myself for feeling even remotely disappointed.  Because the satisfaction alone of her existing, and my husband for his constant love and support, is enough to make it all worth it. No one day was ever going to touch that.

I realized that Mother’s Day isn’t really about, “what are you doing for me”? But rather embracing a grateful heart to Maisley for making me her mom. I get to wake up and be her mom everyday; that really is the greatest gift.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyday Mamas.

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Sleep + Springtime

I miss her when she sleeps. 

Almost every night before I close my eyes, I lay under the covers with my iPhone in night mode and scroll through the thousands of images and videos of my happy girl. The trips we’ve taken, the simple moments at home, family love fests, her first this and that, smiles with dada.

The sleep deprived “me” of two months ago is rolling her eyes like I’m that mom.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m elated that she’s finally sleeping through the night. I did an invisible front-flip-back-handspring when I woke up after seven hours of uninterrupted snoozing.

I just feel this little tug of “something’s missing” whenever I’m not next to her. Will I feel this way forever? Is that why moms are so sad when their children go off to college? Now I’m really sad, why did I just go there?

In other news, spring is in the air and my excitement to travel and explore is in overdrive.

As soon as March hits, like clockwork, I suddenly and impulsively find myself booking trips. Almost like an addiction, I get this high knowing I’ll rekindle with my vacation-self soon.

Traveling with Maisley is different, but also has a new level of enjoyment (like most things in motherhood).  She got her wings at three months old on a trip to Seattle. I fed her on the way up and down, otherwise she slept most of the time.

I think our upcoming trips to Portland and San Francisco will be easier and harder in different ways. Easier because she’s more of a human at 8 months, and harder because I literally don’t think she fits into her “nimble nook” Pack ‘n Play anymore.

Regardless of the challenges, I’m actively committed to soaking up every minute with Maisley.

Because in a few fast months, the images from these trips will too become part of the memory montage on my dimmed iPhone screen.

P.S. I thought sleeping through the night would significantly help with my mental clarity throughout the day. However, yesterday, when I was trying to pay our gas bill online, my credit card wouldn’t work. I tried four times and then called my husband in frustration. Turns out I was inputting our zip code from 2012.

Maybe mom brain is permanent and the lack of sleep was just a good excuse.

A Little Baby Tooth

Maisley has managed to sprout not one, but two baby teeth in the last month.

I can’t even explain my excitement when that first tooth popped through. More than rolling over. More than her first bite of avocado. Even more than crawling.

“Ryan, can you see it?!”

“No seriously, come feel it, it’s so sharp, it’s right there!”

For some reason, her first tooth has been the most exciting milestone to me. Something about it feels monumental.

This tooth will be part of her smile that so brightly lights up any room we enter. She will go to preschool with this tooth. She will bite into a juicy strawberry and a seed will get stuck in this tooth.

Her personality seems more gritty with a tooth. Her gums are punctuated with these little bits of spunk. It matches her wild and roaring nature.

One day she’s going to wriggle that baby tooth loose, and it’s going to fall out, only to be replaced by a larger, more mature tooth. I’m not sure the going rate, but it’s got to be worth close to a dollar by the time the tooth fairy gets a hand on it.

Our little baby’s teeth are growing in. She’s growing up. I can’t stop it, so I’ll just get weirdly excited about it.

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(Unfortunatly you can’t see teeth in this picture because she won’t let me show them.)