Every day in our house is Mother’s Day. I feel celebrated by my husband and children on a regular basis. Sometimes out of no where my husband will send me a text saying, “I appreciate you” or Maddie (typically when I offer her a popsicle after dinner) will tell me, “You’re just the best Mom” and then plant a cold wet kiss on my lips.
During Charlotte’s first six months of life I could count on one hand the number of hours I was away from her. Not days, hours. With the arrival of Josephine, I’ve learned that time away from my kids can actually be just as necessary and beneficial as time spent with them. It is not about quantity, but quality. I read somewhere that 71% of moms of young children want alone time on Mother’s Day, which means the other 29% must not have understood the question. This is why on Saturday we can plan for a family picnic at the park, but on Sunday I want to sit on a throne of solitude while my kids play happily nowhere near me.
I joyously revel in my role; but I am constantly in a state of meeting others’ needs that are not mine and so when my husband lovingly asked what I wanted for Sunday, besides some homemade-glittered-crap from the girls, I told him I wanted a day that is entirely my own. In order for it to be special and truly unique or, excuse the pun, the Mother of all days— it would need to be a day where: I make food that is only for me, sleep according to my body’s needs, exercise without pushing a stroller, read a book where the main character doesn’t live on a farm and most importantly, when someone calls out for Mom, only Dad will answer.
Happy Mother’s Day to moms everywhere, especially my own.
I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that I no longer have a cohesive mind. I realize my kids need to wash their hands after they are already eating a fistful of strawberries and spent the morning digging for slugs. I can in one moment be thinking how reasonably King Triton dealt with his mischievous mermaid daughter and suddenly I remember we are out of peanut butter. I will be walking to the refrigerator to grab a sparkling water and then be completely side tracked by the dog or the doorbell and by the time I get back to the fridge, Maddie has nabbed my water and I accidentally call her Alexa—to which Alexa responds, “What would you like to order.” My former UCD-educated-mind, preferably one that remembers all my kids when I’m leaving the supermarket.
So now it seems only fitting I share with you some random occurrence that follow no particular theme or pattern because even if I wanted to follow a logical train of thought, I wouldn’t be able to find my keys to get there.
Having a third baby makes you worry less about the common milestones like walking or talking and worry more about what age they will start picking their nose and eating it in public.
Yesterday, I used my hair dryer that I haven’t used on myself in 6 months, to dry off Barbie’s outfit as suggested and requested by my 5-year-old.
When my baby doesn’t poop for more than 3 days, I will dress her in an outgrown outfit I’m prepared to throw away.
As I loaded up my herd into our minivan and used my bare hands to wipe someone’s snot, I thought about how my current situation is the exact opposite of whatever it is people do at Coachella.
While some Mom’s may have been busy the night before Easter filling their kid’s baskets and hiding eggs; I was stuffing Ariel costumes and princess dresses into upper cabinets, so the only outfits my daughters could find to wear were pre-screened and approved for Easter brunch.
As moms we are busy—constantly thinking for or about our tiny humans: I wonder why they act tired but won’t go to sleep and for the love of Velcro and slip-on, “Please go put on your shoes.” We don’t have the luxury of only thinking about ourselves, which leaves us with a brain and life that often resembles an egg; scrambled, over hard, but never over easy.
Part of the reason I had the confidence to have a third baby was because I have witnessed other moms I admire do so with grace, hustle, and joy. Other moms make it all look possible and I need that visual reminder because there is a sisterhood within motherhood. I can always relate, even when we don’t parent the same—the love we feel for our kids is the same.
I have never understood mom-shaming as a phenomenon. To me, I am equally as inspired by those moms doing the one-armed-toddler-drag through Costco as I am when I see a Zen-Mama on the playground announcing that one more minute really did mean one more minute; because I’ve done both. I’ve been both. Whether you had a natural child birth or your toddler just took their first poop in the potty, in my book, moms everywhere deserve a daily parade.
Sometimes we feel unseen; like we are being buried behind the scenes packing lunch boxes that come back full of crusts and carrots or suddenly postpartum it is all about the baby and you feel selfish for thinking, “But I’m here too.” Other times we would prefer not to be so exposed, like when both kids announce at dinner with my in-laws, “this is disgusting” since we taught them basic table manners, but forgot about their lack of filter. I guess I should be grateful they didn’t mention the word “vagina” at the dinner table, since that’s been the topic of conversation in our household lately. Small victories, I suppose.
I will show you my missteps if you show me yours and then we can truly witness each other for what we are; imperfect. While I alone am the mother to my children, when you see me and I see you, it makes me feel like we are in this together.
And just like that, I have 3 daughters. It’s taken a minute, but we are all starting to adjust to our new normal as a family of 5. My older two, which I now affectionately call “the big girls” have taken to their baby like a dream and our only problems arise when they want to put their little faces 2 cm from hers —but unfortunately this puts Josephine directly in the snot-splash-zone during kissing and sneezes.
I was completely prepared for an onslaught of jealousy and behavior regressions, but what I wasn’t prepared for was the big girls giddy with anticipation at every diaper change as to whether Josephine had gone #1 or #2 and how perfectly ordinary they consider it for their baby to spend countless hours a day drinking milk from what Maddie calls mommy’s “boogies” (she can say boobies, she just chooses not to).
Here are some glimpses into my new normal:
If my van or a room is too quiet, my bigger fear is not that someone is up to something, it’s because I’ve accidentally misplaced one of my children.
Loading up my minivan in the torrential rain with all the kids, besides looking like I’m starring in a Honda Odyssey commercial, also makes me feel like I’m on an extreme Japanese game show where I am dodging water while lifting 80 pounds worth of tiny humans as I’m playing Tetris with car seats and groceries.
There is three times as much eating going on in our house as sleeping; someone is always eating and someone is always awake.
Now when my husband has the big girls and I just have only the baby, it makes me feel like I’m on a mini vacation.
The new volume of my life is permanently set to teenage-girls-at-a-boy-band concert level loud with emotions equally as strong.
Our new normal may look a lot like unfolded laundry left on the stairs, standing, one-handed meals, and blurry tutus in motion; but to me it looks like happiness.
Nobody knows just how real motherhood can be more than a mom with young children about to give birth. Despite my perpetual fog, these moments have not been lost on me the past week. These beautiful, humorous, and soul-screaming little nuggets encompass all the rawness of this life I have chosen.
Last week was filled with rain and I had hoped that the barometric pressure would help kickstart labor, but instead brought back the re-emergence of morning sickness, heartburn, and a pelvic pain that can only be described as a bowling ball clanging constantly against bone. My oldest has had a fever on and off for the past few days, so she’s been sleeping later than usual and Maddie spends the mornings following me around like a puppy missing her true owner, but settling for the companionship of a less fun squeak toy. As I am said unfun squeak toy, she gets to sit beside me while I start my morning spitting out spit-up while internally chanting, this is the last time, this is the last one. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been questioned about the contents and consistency of your throw up, but it definitely adds another layer to have a curious witness to your misery.
One afternoon while getting my girls from preschool, after successfully navigating the landmines of pick-up that include but are not limited to: just one more art project, I forgot my lunch box, I can’t find my shoes, and I need to hug my friend one last time—we were all buckled safely in our magical, cozy minivan when Charlotte announced that she needed to use the bathroom. The rain was pelting down heavily on the windshield and I quickly reviewed our options in this condition. Luckily, being a seasoned mom at this point we never go anywhere without a travel potty so I proceeded to place the potty next to the car in the parking lot while holding the umbrella over my squatting child like she was Princess Charlotte of Cambridge. This was ineffective at keeping me dry, but at least we didn’t have to start from square one with both kids back in the classroom. Charlotte began crying because drops were somehow pelting her in the eye and so I channeled my inner yogi and managed what could only be described as the birthing position in the rain, 39 weeks pregnant, holding an umbrella over my daughter while wiping her tush, as she held up her dress and Maddie serenaded us with A Whole New World. This is real life.
The hormones of pregnancy, especially in the end are no joke. I unabashedly cried at the park while Madeleine snuggled in my lap when I realized that she will only be my littlest baby for a limited time. Recently, after my trip to the doctor’s office, the only other place I spend more time these days than the bathroom, I picked up my girls from my moms and Charlotte’s fever had returned, so I tucked her into a blanket in the back seat. I was watching them carefully in the rearview and Charlotte extended her blanket so it draped lovingly across Madeleine and I noticed their eyes meet and fill with the compassion and tenderness that can only be expressed through the unspoken language of siblings and soon there will be one more adoring look to add in the mix. So while the spit-up, storm, and the squatting undeniably stink, it is absolutely nothing when compared to the sisterhood.
*this blog was written two weeks ago and am now 40 weeks and 4 days… but who’s counting.
Part I: First you are going to want to stand in front of a warm and cozy fire. Take about 30 seconds to write a “birth plan” and then go ahead and rip it into little shreds before placing it gently in the fire. If you want you can have your birth partner help with the ripping because this symbolically will be about as much as they can “help you through the pain” of actual labor. If you have a playlist, incense, a birthing ball, or other materials, those can be destroyed as well, because just like in parenthood, absolutely nothing will go according to plan and it’s best to recognize now that all of your preconceived expectations will go up in smoke.
Part II: Sleep like your life depends on it. You cannot afford to enter labor in a sleep deficit. If you have children already, you will naturally be about 3 or 4 years behind in the recommended 8 hours a night; so lock yourself in a hotel room or your favorite spot to hide while you eat dessert you don’t want to share and set up camp like a toddler in a sea of stuffed animals.
Part III: Don’t make any other major life choices during this time. These last few weeks shouldn’t determine the ultimate size of your family. If these decisions were final, the world would be filled with only children. The biggest decision you should allow yourself at this point is what color nail polish should go on your toes.
Part IV: Change your outgoing greeting to, “We haven’t had the baby yet, but you will be the first one notified when we do.” Also copy and paste a witty, yet sarcastic text to send out when your due date approaches and you aren’t even dilated yet. Make sure it’s still charming as you will want them to eventually bring food.
Part V: Make believe that on labor day you’ll be transformed into Ariel from the Little Mermaid and be forced to give up your voice as the ultimate sacrifice of love. Your birth partner's most important role will be for them to advocate your top 3 most important things.
Here’s my list for reference:
1). Do not let them tell me I am too far along for an epidural. I typically arrive during the “transition” phase which is aptly named since this is when you transition from a human being into Alien vs Predator. Name drop my beloved, dearly departed Grandpa who was the chief of anesthesiology for all of Northern California Kaisers if necessary and do not stop fighting for it until this is me:
Push It Labor Remix - YouTube
2). Do not let them give me Pitocin. My average birth time is about 2 hours (I know I will lose friends by admitting this) so I do not need any help in the speed department.
3). Stay with the baby if it comes to that. I am a strong, independent, Bad-A Mama and I don’t want our little one to be alone.
Ultimately this is you and your baby’s first dance together, so take mental snapshots throughout the experience that you and only you can carry around for those challenging days to come. Mine, for both girls, was the moment I pulled them onto my chest. Today, when the going gets tough I hold them close, put them to my heart and immediately I’m transported back there; where we first met, fell in love, and they showed me how to be a mother.
We had my husband’s holiday party last weekend and while I was dressed to the nines and looked as glamorous and sparkly as you can for being sick, exhausted, and 35 weeks pregnant--it was simply impossible for others not to ask the 3 basic questions: due date, gender, how are you feeling? This is always followed by that look of concern that I still have potentially 5 plus weeks to go. I promise, you will feel absolutely no pain and will have to do none of the hard work if in that moment I went into labor. It is nothing like the movies where strangers gather towels and use pocket knives in parking lots to cut the cord. The idea that 9 cms of labor will occur during that exact moment of our conversation is as ridiculous to me as the concept of, "trying one last time for a boy”.
This brings me to the topic of gender. We are having our third girl—cue the exploding glitter rainbows, other sexist gender stereotypes, as strangers grieve unnecessarily for my “poor husband” and encourage us to buy stock in tampons. Having three daughters is not a national tragedy, unlucky, or disappointing. Society no longer considers daughters to be a consolation prize that require a dowry with a marriage contract and mothers aren't beheaded for not producing a male heir to carry out the family name. I was not what you would call an easy-going teenager, so having three girls is my very own karmic retribution, which I pay for in full every morning my 4-year-old changes her outfit half a dozen times because the previous one was too “scratchy”, “stripy”, or my personal favorite, “too green”.
Would we have loved to have a boy? Sure. Since only boys love Legos, superheroes, and digging holes. Except my daughters love all those things because we don’t live in a bubble of pink princesses and My Little Ponies. Gender can and should be much more fluid. Millennials have coined the term “gender disappointment” as a means of grieving something that can and does hold meaning, but has much more to do with your family’s expectations and nothing to do with what's ultimately in your baby's diaper. Having all daughters will shape my husband and I forever and inevitably change who we are as people. The thing is, there can be no wrong combination, number, or gender because absolutely none of these things will ever affect a parent’s capacity to love our children.
I have never been the poster person for pregnancy. While being tall I’ve been told, “I carry it well”—I have yet to be spared a single symptom including: hyperemesis, migraines, daily headaches, dormant asthma resurfacing, dormant allergies resurfacing, insomnia, vomiting, high blood pressure, acid reflux in the form of GURD, melasma, and PPD. I officially surpassed uncomfortable right around the time my once rebelliously pierced innie became a Cabbage Patch outie. I recognize none of these symptoms are tragic and I do feel grateful every day that I created life, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. Like, really, really hard.
This last week my kids were hit with a cold and then croup and now another cold. One night, Maddie climbed into bed with me coughing so hard I thought her little lungs would burst. I pulled her in close wanting to somehow absorb all her discomfort so she could heal and in doing so she spewed phlegm directly into my open mouth—guaranteeing my fate that there was no escaping this illness. What I couldn’t anticipate was that the combination of pregnancy and croup would resurface my 12-year dormant asthma and I’d develop a wheeze at night that sounded like a seal was slowly being deflated by an angry mouse. Before this, I was waddling along feeling like I could conquer the next piece of large fruit the baby would grow into and now all I want to do is throw a 1.85-woman-pity-party.
There comes a point in pregnancy where a thought begins to creep in and like inception, it can start to take over the last few ounces of rational, and you think, I don’t want to do this anymore. Your body becomes a claustrophobic foreign-territory. There is no escape or pause button and what makes it worse is it’s the only thing people see when they look at you—or rather, look through you. I could have just won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for literature and all anyone would say is, “Yes, but when’s your baby due?” And I am just as guilty as the next, because when people I love create tiny people, I want to know every detail. But sometimes as a pregnant woman you want to scream, I am in here too! Somewhere buried under this watermelon-sized-belly and dueling circus act of boobs, is my individual identity. I have sacrificed over 30 months of my individuality towards creating my girls and I know how that sounds—this was a purely selfish, miraculous act and yet I’m asking for it to be viewed as noble? Take it however you do, just believe that I know the truth; every mother I know is a warrior. No one else can truly comprehend the sacrifice of a mom, except for another mom. We can whisper together in those dark corners of motherhood the secrets that are hard to say out loud, without feeling judged, or harder still, without judging ourselves.
I took my girls to the Sacramento Zoo and Gunther’s Ice Cream the other day and it was the perfect afternoon right up until our minivan pulled into the driveway and the girls fought over who would get to close and re-close the automatic sliding doors with the magic button. To them, somehow the memories of monkeys and the dessert disappeared and were forgotten as they both entered the house in a hysterical fury that is reserved for silly squabbles between sisters. But I hadn’t forgotten. I hadn’t forgotten the way they reached for each other while the lions circled restlessly in unison and when their little tongues reached up towards their noses to retrieve those last drops of ice cream; that’s how I know it’s all worth it. It’s worth everything.
In high school, I stood around the periphery of the cool kids. I was an athlete, invited to parties, but too tall and unsure of myself to ever win Homecoming Queen. I remember, one time my sister and I were driving to Starbucks and we saw a group of girls from her grade and I offered to roll my window down so we could shout hello.
“Don’t you dare, I am driving a minivan. This is so embarrassing!”
I was confused. My older sister was, in my eyes, the coolest, most beautiful licensed driver on the road, what did it matter what she was driving? She could drive! I noticed a shift happen that day, suddenly it could matter what other people thought.
Several months ago, one of my best friends made the leap from SUV to minivan with the impending arrival of their 7 year-old-daughter from China with Down Syndrome (who is now here safe and sound!). For Allie, she was sold because, unlike her giant boys, June would need easy accessibility in and out, with a vehicle that sat lower to the ground in order to accommodate her smaller stature. We took it out for a spin the night she got it and I suddenly felt something as surprising as me having the energy for a 3rd child; I had minivan envy. I needed those automatic sliding doors almost as badly as I needed a stress-free last labor with the world’s most effective walking epidural.
During the transition between 2 to 3 kids the driving lines get divided into two categories; those in an SUV elegant enough for Obama’s presidential motorcade and those in the soccer-mom-minivan. Let me be clear, there is nothing sexy about a minivan. You will never again get checked out at a stoplight unless it is by another mother admiring your passion for safety and sensibility. My move to a minivan, the very definition of a first world problem, manifested as the 5 stages of grief—the last stage occurring at the Honda dealership. I felt the wave of acceptance embrace me with the pillowy bosom of leather seats and the sound of radio silence as my two children watched The Little Mermaid with headphones; seated far enough away from me that I happily cannot hand them anything in our newly implemented snack-free spaceship. The decision was clear—I no longer held onto any lingering thoughts of the cool vs the uncool, it can only be about the practical vs impractical. And there is 0 room for impracticality with 3 kids under 5.
Since obtaining our 2019 Honda Odyssey EX-L I have done my duty to recruit as many moms as I can to join our Minivan Mafia. It is not a tough sell since all of my mom friends, like me, give exactly 0 pieces of French toast about what other people think, and pay each other compliments like, “What a smart decision for your family.” So I went ahead a programed NPR into my preset stations, while still not cutting my hair, and I recognize that the only people whose opinion really matter call me Mom and think I am simply the coolest.
I got into the habit of rubbing my belly every time I got up in the night to use the bathroom, which is often. It started with my first, as a means of disbelief that there was someone inside me and even in the depths of the night I wasn’t alone. I continued to do so with all 3 pregnancies and now I recognize that with each loving pat and every grunt and lumbering sleepy step, it’s my way of telling them, we are in this together.
What a beautiful thought, this is, to hold in our hearts lately. I try and carry it, share it, and pass it to my girls where I can. It feels like my sunshine state is bleeding and when we look to the orange "leader", he offers nothing but hate, lies, and more toxicity. I recognize that in the past we were able to rely on our President for sensitivity and most importantly hope, but believing that Trump is capable of this is like begging for a drink from a well that never contained water to begin with. If I wanted to choose resentment, I could make myself sick over it; like stepping outside and taking in a breath of this contaminated, smoky air and screaming aloud in frustration when I can only wheeze and choke. It is tempting to feed into the negativity and sit in anger and fear because these feelings are so large they feel like actions, but they aren’t helpful and those flames don’t need to be fanned any bigger.
I know a lot of people have quoted Mr. Rogers during our country’s string of relentless tragedy after tragedy. But its simplicity and belief in the human spirit is something I can grab hold of and most importantly, I can translate to my own children. He said, “When I was a boy and I’d see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people that are helping.”” Instead of looking to someone that has shown time and again he is incapable of empathy; I have found that those around me whom I’ve loved all along, have chosen to be the helpers and thus inspired me to do the same. I look everywhere and see grace and giving. My best friend, has finally reached her daughter on the other side of the world—and they view her extra chromosome as an enhancement, providing a better life not just for June, but for all that are lucky enough to love her. Others are offering their homes to displaced families from the fires, working to change gun legislation laws, or simply saying thank you in the form of chocolate chip cookies we made for our local firefighters and first responders. I’m hoping that my words somehow drift out into the darkness and people can reach up and pull from them a small nugget of needed good and recognize that we are still in this together.