Lessons from the Desert

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen

One saguaro, two saguaro, three saguaro, ten. Hundreds more lifelike cacti appeared as we made our way into the Sonoran Desert, away from the sunset, away from home.

The darkness was more comforting than usual as I lay my head against the cool glass of the car window.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of the night sky that looked less like a thin blanket scattered with holes and more like a thick, itchy wool one spangled with stars; the constellations drawn with light. 

There’s something about the desert that feels reliable while I’m unraveling. It’s resilient and can be held accountable. It’s consistent, tried and true. It knows all of the secrets.

Maybe that’s also why I can never seem to get away from it fast enough.

I’m not sure where postpartum ends and grief begins. Entangled ribbons of depression and anxiety. Words that sometimes feel too big and not enough. Words that grow in size when I say them out loud. 

Grief seems to amplify everything. Those uncomfortable particles of myself, old thought patterns and coping habits all come bubbling to the surface.

Those parts I dislike about myself seem to be readily available. But the parts I love, a little more hidden. Where am I amidst the brokenness?

I feel so much less understood in the world without my dad here.  He knew me and respected me; he was like me. We could relate to each other on a soul level.  He was someone who would genuinely listen to my travel itinerary or the intricacies of my work or other important things that many people would lose interest in. Without him here, it feels like one less person who is a mirror to my true self.

My acupuncturist reminded me today that brokenness is actually just a way for the light to come in. In Japanese culture, when a piece of pottery breaks, they seal it with gold in a process called Kintsugi, so that it’s actually worth more than before. Breakage is a part of the history of the object, not something to disguise. 

I like to think I’m being patched up with gold. That all of the light from the stars, all of the love from here and there is all slowly helping me put the pieces back together.

Someday I will feel as light as a road runner across the desert sand. I will feel as sturdy and confident as the Saguaro cactus. An arm here, a nub there, unflappable in harsh conditions…simply unbothered. 


In & Out of Mom Mode

As I dive deeper into motherhood, I feel like I’m growing further and further away from my carefree, 20-something former self. Ryan just kindly informed me that we are closer to Maisley’s first day of high school than to our first day of high school. He loves saying shit like that.

My favorite little sister** is getting married in less than a month to a guy who’s had her heart since day one. We celebrated her, and their upcoming “I do’s” with one last olé in Santa Barbara a couple weekends ago.

Going to a bachelorette party as a fresh mother of two felt like worlds colliding. Diapers, breastfeeding and “please don’t climb on the counter” became girl-talk, cocktails and pin the smooch on the penis. It was a blissful, refreshing, 48-hours of fun. But I felt like I was a little rusty on remembering how to live freely, let go and not worry about the clock or how many times I refilled my red cup. I kept picking up small items from the floor and moving scissors away from the edge of the counter.

It’s hard to jump in and out of lives and old selves and new selves. Like bags of breastmilk sitting next to bottles of tequila in the freezer. Or pumping while sitting at a lingerie party (opposite ends of the sexy spectrum).

Each child has rocked my existence in a new way. With Maisley it felt like an identity crisis. With Coura it feels more like a new opportunity for self discovery.

As mothers, we tend to get caught up in mom mode – wearing mom jeans, talking in a mom voice and doing other mom things; all the while forgetting about our other identities. Sometimes it takes a bachelorette party to remind us that we are also the girl who likes to let loose (or even just the girl who showers and has normal conversations with other humans).

I hope that as my girls grow up, I continue to foster all sides of myself so that they can clearly see: “I’m not like a regular mom, I’m a cool mom”.

** Just making sure you are both reading this

I Lost My Train of Thought

Sometimes I look at the date and am surprised by it. Like my circadian rhythm is permanently set to another timezone. It’s summer, but I don’t really know what time of year it is. The sleepy postpartum fog takes me out of everyday life. It’s hard to make normal conversation with even close friends and family, let alone the chummy cashier at Trader Joes. I stare into space more than I should. My mind feels sporadic and consumed by feeding schedules, diaper changes, sunscreen application, laundry…August 20th. My mind goes into a quick panicky review: Is it someone’s birthday? Did we miss preschool orientation? What have I forgotten? Who is awaiting a return text or call? I always wonder the best time of year for having a baby. As if there’s a certain season that is better suited for turning your world upside down in the best and hardest way. Summer is nice because it’s warm and there’s always something happening. It also makes me feel like I’m not doing enough and too much at the same time. The fourth trimester is coming to a close, but I’m not ready to jump back into being “normal”. And what is normal? Normal has shifted again. I need more time to piece our new life together. Maisley’s constant whining feels like tiny ice picks to the brain, amounting to the loss of our minds. As Ryan so astutely observed, if I even look at cheese right now, Coura becomes an explosion of gas and fuss. Tomorrow I will look at my phone and it will be a new day. This too shall pass.

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.