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.

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!”

The Day She Was Born

“Oh, and there’s one more thing,” I tenuously asked our future long-term Airbnb host. “I was wondering if you would be comfortable with us giving birth at your property?…I promise a home birth isn’t as messy as it might seem!”

Her birth story is now a story. Something that actually happened and something I can share. For nine months I thought about the day; how it would feel, when it would happen (her due date was “coincidentally” my parents’ anniversary, March 10th) and where.  I now hold all of those details in my memories; there is such relief in that. Especially because the details are both beautiful and impossibly hard, and most of all; ended with a healthy baby in our arms. 

Labor began early on Sunday morning, March 7th. Surges had been off and on for a few days, so I wasn’t sure if these waves were a warm up or the main event. I hadn’t slept well in a couple of nights and my anxious mind was starting to wear. 

I walked my pregnant self up to the ocean lookout just a few minutes away from our Airbnb in Leucadia. My sister Michelle (Meesh) sat with me on a bench and spoke beautiful prayers to help me feel more centered and connected; the exact shift I needed to come home to myself. As the day wore on and the surges held steady, I began to realize that I was definitely in “real” early labor. Mental strength was my biggest challenge during this early phase, unsure of how long I would be here before progressing to active labor. 

Ryan and I watched a couple of movies on Netflix, walked up to the ocean again and did a lot of resting. Meesh and my mom had been watching Maisley and Coura and brought them back home for bedtime. Before they went to sleep, Maisley and Coura came into my room and kissed my belly. They asked why there was a towel underneath me and I told them it was there just in case my water broke. They looked at my water bottle on the bed next to me and said, “It’s okay mommy, if your water breaks, you can borrow Mimi’s (Meesh’s).” They told me to take a big, deep breath and to be brave. 

I went to bed around 9pm and woke up around 10:30pm with a surge that shot me straight up in bed. I went from the main house of our small airbnb to our little casita that we turned into a birthing suite; bed, birth tub, shower and toilet all within an arm’s reach. Mother Mary held vigil, aglow by candlelight in the window sill from the beginning of labor to the hours after our baby lay asleep on my chest. She was accompanied by a photo of my dad and several other meaningful pieces to form a small altar of inspiration and support.

The lighting was dim, the tub was full and there was nothing left to do but have a baby. At this point, I was breathing deeply and sounding through each contraction. Ryan was helping with knee and hip compressions and simply sitting with me in between. I alternated between frog pose and lying on my side, putting all of my energy into the sound of my breath and movement of my hips to not get lost in the intense, burning pelvic pain below. As I focused all of my attention inside, Ryan was busy with his many roles: doula, husband, midwife supporter, tub temperature moderator and dad to Coura when she woke up with a nightmare as I labored. 

Meesh came into the room every so often when Ryan needed to step away and she jumped right into our rhythm or prayed silently and beautifully by my side. Michelle the midwife came quietly around 12:30pm, observing, checking our baby’s heartbeat and allowing me the space to continue as I had been laboring.

I hesitantly felt the call to move to the toilet, the place I knew would move things along, but would also raise some hell in the process. I swayed while holding onto Ryan as he put counter-pressure on my lower back. After a while, I started feeling a lot of low, deep pressure and felt like it was time to move into the tub. The water was magic; a welcomed feeling of levity and ease as rain unexpectedly began to fall outside.

In my mind, I was remembering my last birthing experience. I had gotten into the tub and Coura was out in 20 minutes. I had assumed the process would be similar, however assumptions and expectations don’t exactly bode well in birth.

An hour and a half later and still no progress toward pushing, I began to feel deflated. I was at 10 centimeters, far into transition as told by the back to back contractions, but something felt stalled or stuck. My doubting mind wondered if the baby would ever come, if I could handle this again? I asked Michelle to check out what was happening. I knew my water had yet to break and so I asked if she would help move things. As she manually adjusted the lip of my cervix, my water broke. I dove straight into the sensation, out of my breath and felt unbearable pain. “Fuuuuucccckkkkkkkk”, I groaned under an exhale, contrary to my former peaceful presence.

Everything was both a blur and crystal clear from here as she made her way down my pelvis. I had forgotten this next level of intensity. I bared down and pushed with every ounce of my strength for over an hour. Coura had just flown right out. Why was this so much harder? I felt angry like I had betrayed myself somehow. “Why did you put me in this position AGAIN, Jenna?”

The pressure was building, lower and lower until I could hear the midwife and Ryan talking about how to catch the baby. I grabbed the side of the tub on all fours and with one more mountainous push of pure adrenaline strength, her head emerged into the water. 30 seconds later, I was able to release her body. Ryan said he will never forget seeing her face resting peacefully in the water before her body fully emerged. 

I turned onto my back and Ryan caught her, maneuvering her like a reverse football hike through my legs and onto my chest. 

The air stood still. Time stopped at 3:56am as her warm, soft body lay peacefully on my chest. There was a quiet commotion around me, as the midwives worked to stimulate a deep breath from our baby. Once she was breathing steadily, we turned her around to reveal her gender. I thought with certainty that she was a boy, so when Ryan revealed through tears, “It’s a girl, we have a daughter!”, I too couldn’t help but feel the flood of how right and perfect she was for our family.

I laid my head back against the edge of the tub in pure ecstasy. Disbelief settled in like the stillness of water. I went from desperate to be anywhere else – get me out of my body –  to never wanting the moment to end. The juxtaposition of one of the hardest moments of my life, to one of the three best is so difficult to comprehend. 

Everyone was in awe of her thick umbilical cord. She fell asleep with her arms and legs entwined like a soft pretzel in my welcoming arms. We transferred to our comfortable bed, the best part of doing a home birth. Home births are a lot of work, but the good kind of work, because we created an experience all around personal preferences and comfort. I was able to flow from one room to the next and fully engage in the birth without worrying about leaving for the hospital. Our midwives were supportive, professional, knowledgeable and receptive to my flow. Mara squeaked and squawked like a tiny bird as their gentle hands weighed and assessed her body.

Mara was born on March 8, 2021 – International Women’s Day – at our little Aloha cottage in Leucadia, in about 100 square feet of the 700 total. Even if it’s our temporary home, we will always hold this plot of land in gratitude and awe. With her fruit trees, rose bushes and salty sea air, she was the perfect place for our third baby girl to enter the world. 

Conversations with myself and my tiny humans

Are you hungry?

Thirsty?

Tired?

Angry?

Scared?

Frustrated?

Shame, fear, regret, disappointment, doubt;

it’s all welcome here. 

I see that you need a hug. 

You don’t have to pretend or perform.

You can be honest with me.  

You are my priority. 

I’m not going anywhere.

Come here, come home, I see you. 

I love you. 

Let’s just be.

Longings

My longings are tugging again,
asking for her to come out and play. 
The wild one.
The spontaneous, change-craving one. 
The one whose time was all her own.
The one who thought slow and simple was for the birds. 
The one who could effortlessly free fall into love
without the fear
of losing. 

Cocooned on the brink of new life,
the longings sit and wait.
To sit and wait,
for the kids to grow up,
so we can find her again. 

But what if the sitting and waiting is actually
the finding and living?
What if slow and simple gives me wings?
What if I don’t lose myself a little more this time around;
but find a treasure trove of wholeness deep in the ground I’m unearthing by
staying?
What if that’s what I’ve been longing for
all along?

Small moments of ordinary magic stretching into an entire life. 

In Loving Memory

The sting of seeing your photo still hits at odd times
How did that frame become the closest my eyes will get to seeing you again?
How did your name become something to memorialize rather than someone to call when my B.O.B. tire goes flat?

We read the names and tributes on the benches at the beach:
An awesome guy, friend and brother
A gentle soul
Save some waves for me

Maisley asks what the dates mean.
She always asks questions about Heaven and, “Will you go?”
I tell her not for a long time and meagerly convince both of us that I’m in control.
“Do they wear masks in heaven?” she asks.

I was setting up some essentials for baby Orkie in the casita of our 672-square foot Airbnb and felt a deep longing for you. A remembering that this tiny soul is in the “after you” part of our timeline.
I cried because I missed you. I cried because I’m so tired from carrying a human, and trying to be a human, and also raising other humans.
Every time I cry, Maisley and Coura sweetly ask, “Mommy, do you miss Poppi?”
Even when it’s not about you, it’s about you.
Every triumph and every sadness is layered in you.

Meesh got a beautiful tattoo that included your classic handwritten sign off – love ya.
I kept imagining you saying, “Had I known it would be on your body forever I probably would have tried a little harder!”
Even your chicken scratch is worthy of a permanent place with us.

Your very own bench is coming soon. Overlooking the golf course that holds our post-dinner frisbee and football throws. Much to your humble dismay, we’d cover every inch of that bench in your praise if we could, but they capped us at 24 characters.

In loving memory of Jeff Loftus
Husband, Dadio, Poppi, Friend
Loving soul, humble heart

Lessons from the Little Ones

The first hour or two of a long road trip is really just your mind scanning to see what you forgot. The car potty. Not the car potty. The good thing about road-tripping during a pandemic is that peeing on the side of the road feels mostly acceptable. 

Van patrol set off to Sacramento, CA, Crater Lake, OR, Hood River, OR and then our final destination, Orcas Island, WA. It sounds easy typing it out, but hours of patience, sight-seeing, please don’t touch that, podcasts, snacks, canoe rides and cabin stays all dotted our map up north. 

One of the most unexpected memories of our trip was seeing what my daughters chose to love and enjoy along the way. 

At Crater Lake National Park, the girls were so excited about playing in the snow, I wondered if they even noticed the bucket list view. At the pottery shop on Orcas Island, they found a tree-house of their dreams. At the best fish and chips in town they skipped their lunch to fill shell buckets with rocks and chase the chickens. 

At first I felt a little annoyed – we came all this way and you just want to play in the snow?! This is the reason we came here.  The illusion of control is alluring. It draws me in over and over again. Like a wiley temptress, my pretend friend. 

But then it happened to me.

Driving home from dinner to catch the sunset one night on Orcas, a golden, warm glow lit up certain parts of the dense, thick forest, the way light from the sun streams into your home and forms spotlights on the walls. The way it feels to see love shine on the face of a beloved. It was breathtaking. 

What if instead of only looking at the sunset, we see what’s being illuminated by the light. What if we look up, or across the street, or around the corner?

As usual, I’m not sure who’s the teacher and who’s the student between my kids and I. 

How wonderful (and challenging to the ego) getting to know my girls, and witnessing who and what they want to become. Seeing how they want to experience their world from an unfiltered perspective, uninterested in what they should be enjoying. 

We asked Maisley her favorite part of the trip – four days on the road and seven days on a magical island – and she said watching a show in the car.

Fine by me!