i have a lot of feelings

feelings

Ever since being pregnant, and birthing a baby, and being a mom, there’s a lot of extra hormones raging around inside my body. I cry a lot. I’ve always cried– like at the movies or on the NYC Subway. But now I cry more, and from the faintest hint of any commercial involving babies (the first time Giles successfully put Cheerios in his mouth I cried retroactively at every Cheerios commercial I’ve ever seen). When we first brought Giles home I cried every evening at 5:00 sharp. For two months.

Sometimes I am crying about more than what it appears I am crying about.

Luckily, Greg often seems to understand exactly what it is I’m really upset about. Sometimes he doesn’t know, so he asks. Sometimes he puts a bowl of cereal in front of me because he knows I am actually just hungry.

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bananas

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The top photo is me as a baby, and the bottom one is Giles.

“It’s crazy how much you still look exactly the same,” my sister wrote on Gchat when I sent her this picture combo.

The older Giles gets, the more I see myself in him. Of course, yes, he looks so much like Greg. But those eyes. He has my eyes. And my hair. And are those my ears? I can see pieces of both Greg and I, and other family members, but there is also something that is just Giles. He is already himself and that’s incredibly special to watch.

I was talking to my sister yesterday, and saying how excited I am for her to see Giles’ daily life when she visits next: waking up, eating with him, doing bedtime. And she said, “It’s really good you are a mom.” It’s true. I get a lot of joy out of these small daily things. Because really they are not small. This tiny human is growing and changing and learning every single minute. Our little family of three is the most important thing in my life, the best thing. Creating it brings me deep joy. I’m reminded constantly of my family when I was little– growing up with “four wheels on the car” as we called it. Playing games together, cooking, eating, hiking, camping, dancing in the living room. As I read to Giles favorite books from my childhood, I can hear my mom’s voice and cadence reading the same words.

There are moments when I don’t love it. Or, I still love it, but I am exhausted or sad or lonely or the hours are dragging by and I haven’t had a minute to myself or its’ too cold to leave the house and I’m going crazy. There are moments when I miss my perky D cup breasts (they seem so small and so long ago!), and my strong flat stomach, and my pretty dresses that hang in the closet but I can’t wear and may never wear again. There are moments when I am heavy with the weight of responsibility for this lovely young life, hoping I am doing all the right things. There are moments when my own small self feels lost or neglected or gone completely.

Being a mom is hard. If you know a mom, especially a new one, please be really nice to her.

Parenting articles are always popping up on my Facebook news feed. “15 Scary Things Evert New Parent Does That Will Destroy Their Baby” or “10 Foods You Should Have Never Eaten In Your Life Or Your Breastmilk Will Be Forever Tainted.” I used to read them, thinking there was information there that I had a responsibility to learn. Maybe there are things I am doing that I don’t know are bad! But I don’t read them anymore. They are terrible. And dumb. And stupid. They make me feel guilty and worried and I’m already worried/guilty/tired/stressed ALL THE TIME. It’s enough.

I’m enough. Keep repeating that. I’m enough. 

 

getting the call

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I expected to test positive, but the news still felt emotional. Knowing for sure that my mom had the gene mutation, wishing we could have found out sooner, not knowing if it would have made any difference. The idea that I may have passed this on to Giles. My future babies.

Now I can get early screenings and do all the things I need to do. If I ever get cancer it will be diagnosed as early as possible, and that’s what saves lives (not any kind of “cure”). But I will always be waiting. I’ll get tested and tested and hopefully I will always be fine. But. But. But.

Next come the appointments. A High Risk Breast Clinic and the Dana Farber Li Fraumeni Clinic. Attempting breast self-exams while full of milk and tender. Mammograms. Breast MRIs. Other screenings. I’ve filled out my family history so many times already, can’t they just send it to each other? Faxing, scanning, calling. Holding a baby and talking on the phone: his gurgles and “ba ba ba” sounds in one ear, the nurses and receptionists in the other.

I’ll probably be fine. I am fine.

LFS mutant ninja turtles.

 

 

2016

This is the year my baby was born.

Everything is connected to that: I quit my job, became a full-time artist. Let go of a lot of things. Learned to make do with very little sleep, accepted that I will probably never get all the things done that I want to get done. I pushed my body to the furthest physical extreme possible and I am okay. I learned about pain. I fell in deeper love with my husband, learned more about intimacy and partnership. Bought a house. Made that house a home. Made new friends. Friendships I already had became closer and deeper. My body changed. My mind changed. Everything changed.

I am 31-years-old.

I’m anxious about where things are going politically in our country, and doing my best to make revolution in my own small ways. I’m recognizing that these problems have been here a long time, and we are all responsible for making them better. I am a feminist now more than ever.

I am trying to be better. But also kinder to myself and knowing that where I am, who I am, is enough, is good, is wonderful in fact.

I am trying to say “sorry” less.

I am cooking more.

If something scares me I am doing it anyway.

I am ignoring parenting books/articles.

I am grieving.

I am reminding myself how to live with uncertainty, how to be open, how to let the light in.

 

songs

Even in utero my baby loved music. When I played ukulele or guitar, the instrument pressed against my belly, he’d kick and roll. At a Bruce Springsteen concert he went nuts during Because The Night.

Yesterday I was playing around on the ukulele while Giles jumped in his bouncer. His face lit up watching my fingers on the strings and the sounds they produced. Using three simple chords I started making up lyrics, singing to that smiling face. Somehow I wrote a song. And then another one.

They are simple, and recorded on Garage Band during nap time (you might be able to hear faint crying in the background):

In many ways my creative energy has been channeling itself into being a mom. Making each day special and fun and productive with little Giles, watching him develop and trying to help him learn things. Surviving (and even thriving?) on way too little sleep. I’ve even been learning to cook new dishes, doing house projects, organizing and reorganizing closets and shelves until finally someday (I hope) the towels/blankets/sheets/napkins/etc. will fit just right and even look cool or whatever. My Life is my Art, and this has always been true but is true in a new way now that I’m a mom.

Once a week I have art time for a few hours while Greg’s mom takes Giles. This is a gift, to have this time. And while a lot of my art is about being a mom, I haven’t found a way to make art with Giles. When he’s older we will do projects together, and I look forward to that. But then I wrote those songs yesterday. I made something, some art, with my baby, and it’s also something for him. He brought it out of me. I had never written a song before, but it’s something I’d been wanting to do ever since I taught myself to play guitar almost six years ago. Giles opened the door.

Having a baby deepens my art in ways I don’t even know about yet.

 

i am tired

I don’t know how to explain just how tiring it is being a stay-at-home parent. Being a working parent is tiring too, but that is not what I am doing so I can’t say what that is like. All I can write about is my own experience.

I am tired. I am so much more tired than I have ever been in my life. Physically, emotionally, mentally, existentially.

What if I am not as good at this as I thought I would be?

What if I am not as good at this as my mom was?

I can’t ask her if she was this tired. I can’t ask her if there were moments (or days) of doubt. I can’t talk to her about any of this.

Other people give me advice or tell me I’m doing great, that everyone gets this tired, that my mom would be proud of me, but I don’t want to hear any of it.

I only want to talk to my mom. I only want to talk to my mom.

Really, please, do not respond to this with comments of advice, or compliments, or “sleep when the baby sleeps.” (“Sleep when the baby sleeps” is bullshit.)

I am not trying to get sympathy or advice. I am just sharing. Because maybe someone else will read this who is feeling the same way and there will be a tiny light in their dark room. Or maybe I don’t know why. Maybe just because I am the only one who can be me and so I am the only one who can tell my own story. Maybe because one day my baby will be a parent and I will be dead and he will wish he could ask me these questions. I hope I will be alive to answer them, to tell him that yes I was this tired, and it was okay, and I loved him in every tired second, in the joyful seconds, in the most difficult seconds. That being his mom is the best thing in my whole life.

I am at the brink of the limits of my exhaustion.

Or there might be further limits I don’t know about yet. I probably can take more of this than I think I can. Exhaustion will probably stretch me and bring me into deeper holes. I will go into them and I will be okay.

I want to savor and enjoy this time with my baby while he’s still a baby. It will go by so fast. It will be so short. But I am tired.

I am tired.

I am tired.

I am tired.

I am not asking for help. I am not asking for advice. I cannot repeat this enough. That is not what I am looking for. I am just sharing. I will figure this out for myself. Giles will help me figure it out. Greg will help me figure it out. But mostly I will find the way my own damn self, because that is how I am built. Even if it’s harder that way or takes longer, or I do things that seem wrong. I will find my own way to do this.

I am fine. I am okay. I am truly in love with my baby in a deeper way than I have felt any feeling before. With this deep and extreme love comes deep sad, deep tired, and deep longing.

Deep missing.

Deep doubt.

Deep dark circles.

Deep joy. Deep self. Deep deepness.

I am tired.

 

 

a is for activist

Age six, first grade. We lived in Denver and I took the bus an hour and a half across the city to my elementary school. Most of the kids I spent time with were not white. I was not aware of this, being only six-years-old and not knowing yet. One day I asked my mom to braid my hair like my friend Shannon’s. She obliged, making a bunch of tiny braids held with barrettes at the ends.

That morning at school a girl came up to me and said, “Why don’t you paint your face brown, too?”

I didn’t know that girl, and I didn’t understand what she said or why she was upset. She wasn’t any older than me, but she was aware of her color in a way that I was not. I was white and never had to be told it.

I told my mom what happened and asked her why the girl had reacted that way. I don’t remember what my mom said, I wish I did. But I do know that I came out of that moment knowing that I was white and that girl was black, and my friend Shannon was black, and it wasn’t appropriate for me to copy her hairstyle.

A couple years later we moved to a suburb called Broomfield. Something felt strange about the town, an unsettling vibe. When I expressed to my mom that something felt “off” in this new town she said, “That’s because everyone is white.” There really was something unnerving about being surrounded by almost 100% white people, even being white myself. I was the only Jewish kid in my class and I remember one day a girl came up to me and said:

“Isn’t it weird not celebrating your birthday?”
“What do you mean?” I replied.
“Because you’re not allowed to celebrate any holidays.” she said.
“Do you think I’m Jehovah’s Witness?” I said. “I’m Jewish.”
“Oh. Same thing. They both start with a J.”

The following year, fourth grade, a bully in my class called me a “dirty little Jewish girl.” One day that bully let me use her markers and gave them to me afterwards. I thought it was a kindness, but she told me, “I had to give them to you because once you touched them I didn’t want them anymore.”

What I’m thinking about as I write this, the reason I’m writing it, is trying to figure out how to teach my white male child about his own privilege, about racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, how our government/society values certain people above others and how that is wrong. About police brutality. About Black Lives Matter. About speaking up. Using his own brain. Standing up for what is right, for other people, in situations that are not easy.

I’m trying to remember being a kid myself, and how I learned about these things. When did I fail? When did I not speak up? When was I aware and kind and brave? I’m trying to be my best self and set a good example and be aware of my words and listen and give him the tools to make things better. To be a better person. To be kind. To help. To be an activist/advocate/ally. To love. To be angry when bad things happen. To use that anger to make positive change. To vote. To live his life in a way that creates the world as it should be.