Hand in her mouth, her little fingers come out all red and slimy. Drooling since she was three months old, we thought her teeth would come in quickly. But here we are almost ten months old and no teeth. But they are certainly coming. Tonight was rough. You could tell she was tired, blood shot eyes, yawning, her body wanting to let go and fall asleep, but those gums were just so sore. She would grab my face and gnaw on my jaw. Her gums were hurting her and even my jaw bone was not helping. I brought my sleepy girl back downstairs and tried to rub some teething gel onto her sore gums. She doesn’t want anyone else’s fingers in her mouth but her own so she turns away and the gel spreads to her lips instead. She’s fussy and fidgety and I try my best to be patient and calm as I try to get her to sleep hours after her regular bedtime. We nurse, we rock, we walk around the house. She wants so badly to fall asleep but she’s focusing on those sore gums and flips around in my arms. I hold her and hum a quiet song, rubbing her legs and trying to get her little nine month old body to relax. I sit in the rocker and offer her milk. She cuddles into my body, the body that once held her inside so safe. I’m still her safe, cozy place. I hum her sleepy song and she nurses, fading quickly this time. I pet her warm head, stroking the little threads of baby hair off her forehead. Her body relaxes and as she nurses she rests her hand on my breast. It breaks my heart to see her uncomfortable or in pain. But this is part of growing and so I try to help her by being there. I fear this tough teething night is only the beginning of teeth time woes. There will be more late nights and sore gummy tears, but Mama will be here to hold her when she needs it, to help her get to sleep again and again. I am her safe place. She’s sleeping now. Her head on my chest and her hand on my heart.
It’s five o’clock.
Daddy is done with work. The dogs can sense the end of the day. They peel themselves off the couch, stretch, yawn and shake off the long naps they take every day. They know it’s time for a walk. A “W”, as we call it. Don’t say the “w” word too loud or Linus will start getting too excited.
Daddy puts his shoes on. He smiles at us and asks about our day. He asks but he really already knows most of what our day entailed. He sits at his desk peeking out at us through the baby gate. We can hear him take his calls. We can see him writing and thinking hard. We like him home with us. Even if he’s in that back office most of the day. He’s accessible and we like that.
He straps the Ergo carrier to his chest as I get the dogs leashes on. Charlotte the french bulldog prances around as I jingle the leash closer to her. She runs away in excitement and I yell at her to come. I end up walking over to her… always. Linus the shepherd comes right over. This afternoon walk is the highlight of his day. The morning walk is just for sniffing and leaving his scent every which way, but this one is usually longer and faster paced. He starts panting at the thought of getting out. I pat him on the head as I clip his leash into place, knowing how much he enjoys getting out. Both dogs move quickly to the door. Ellie is loaded into the carrier. She kicks her legs in amusement at the regular scene. I give her a quick kiss. I give Daddy a quick kiss. We head out.
We walk. We talk. We talk about our days. We talk about finances. We talk about my parents and his. We talk about us as new parents. We talk about weekend plans and gardening and dreams of owning a farm. We talk and relate. Ellie listens to her parents enjoying each others company. She hears us discuss important topics every night and she hears us chat about the day-to-day. Sometimes we tickle her feet and play peekaboo. Sometimes we talk just to her, tell her what we see as we walk by the big park. The neighborhood dogs are off leash chasing balls. We point out the doggies and wave to our neighbors. Sometimes we walk so far and talk so much, Ellie cuddles in close to Daddy’s chest and drifts off to sleep for the remainder of the walk. While she sleeps we talk about how beautiful she is and how lucky we are to have her as our own.
The air is cool and a little bit salty. It’s breezy and it’s getting close to dinner time. We make our way home. Linus is reluctant to head back. He could walk for miles. Charlotte is eager for her dog food dinner. We make it back home. I take the leashes off the dogs and set them on the rack in the laundry room. They settle in for the night. Daddy unbuckles the carrier and sits quietly down in the big chair. A sleeping baby still on his chest. It was a good walk… our evening walk.
My sister-in-law is okay. She ran the Boston Marathon today. We got a call from my mother-in-law letting us know she was okay even though they were all shook up.
“Wait, what happened?” my husband asked confused.
We had been busy today with this and that and hadn’t bothered to turn on the news this afternoon. When we did, we couldn’t turn the t.v. off for the rest of the day.
Again. This is happening again. More carnage. More innocent people. And this time it was hitting very close to home. My husband’s whole family lives in Boston and his brother and sister-in-law were there in the midst of it all. Luckily, she was a still a few miles away from the finish line, but it was still so close and to a city my husband grew up in and loved and I, myself, had grown to love.
And then when I found out one of the victims was a child. An eight-year-old child. All I could think about was it could have been us. It could have been my child. We could have been there, waiting at the finish line for Auntie Jenn. The thought gave me the chills and I couldn’t stop feeling angry and sad and scared.
I think about whoever did this, whoever planted those bombs used to be a child once. They were raised by parents. I wonder how they were raised. How does a child grow up to become someone who would do such a thing? I think about how we are trying to raise our daughter. I want her to be compassionate and gentle and kind. I hope to god I’m doing it right. I think of that quote that always gets put up on facebook when these kinds of things happen, the Fred Rogers quote about helpers. I want to raise my daughter to be a helper. One of the many who ran to help the victims and the hurt today.
I kiss her the rest of the night. I snuggle her close. My husband is extra cuddly with her too. We squeeze her and kiss her and love on her and sing to her and read her stories and pray she stays healthy and safe. Because it’s getting harder and harder to be safe anymore, when a child goes to cheer his family on in a race and loses his life just standing there… it’s harder and harder to keep our loved ones safe… as a parent, that’s frightening.
*My thoughts are with the families in Boston. I am so thankful my Boston family is safe and my heart goes out to the victims of this senseless tragedy. I am usually horrible at writing things like this, but this one hit too close to home for me not to write and I felt I couldn’t write about anything else for Just Write this week. Thank you Heather for creating us this outlet. Joining in Just Write.
cradled in my swollen belly
safe in your swirling ocean world
pushed out into my arms
held close and gentle tight for all time
from belly fed to chest
my breasts protect from illness
they calm your cries each solid latch
you’re nestled snug in pulled tight cloth
against my heart I feel you breath
the world outside stomps loudly by
and you just dream protected
Sleepy stirs, you toss and turn, wriggle close to my warmth
I am there when wakefulness disrupts
eager to help you find your way back to slumber state
scooting round my caterpillar girl
growing day by day
walks while riding close to mama’s heart
watching the world pass by
face buries into shoulder or smiles are given away
never do you feel your emotions are not true
in synchrony for years to come
I promise my shield at your ready
little fingers, little toes splayed out in the crook of my arm
you venture out, my lap your base
green grass and world to explore
from belly to arms to wrap to world
you are ready and I am here.
-joining Heather for Just Write
I lay beside her.
Her little tummy goes up and down with her breath.
I watch her eyes flutter under her eye lids.
She awakens slightly to find my breast.
She nurses quickly, then falls back into a peaceful slumber.
Her warm little body snuggles me close.
I open my eyes.
Sun is streaming in through the windows.
She smiles at me on all fours, scooting around the bed.
I kiss her head.
We get up.
Leave a snoring Daddy behind.
I pat the furry head sleeping downstairs.
We turn the t.v on. Find out what’s happening in the world.
The sun is rising higher now. It fills the room with quiet light.
I open the shades and let more in.
We settle on the rug.
My coffee mug in hand.
The one he bought me from Seattle.
Dadadadada she repeats, rolling the sounds around in her mouth.
She scoots around on the rug, crawling over my knees, trying to get at my mug.
I smile at her as I sip my tea and crunch my granola.
Al Roker starts singing a silly song.
She turns toward the t.v. and stares.
She looks back at me and goes for my tea mug again.
I put the mug down, pick her up and give her a cuddle.
She chews on my face.
Her teeth are still not coming in, but her gums certainly are sore.
I kiss her and start to sing the good morning song.
We hear Daddy come down the stairs all sleepy eyed.
The little dog follows him, sleepy eyed too.
She sees him and smiles big.
She waves her hands excitedly.
He smiles real big and picks her up out of my arms and kisses her on the head.
He asks for tea.
I get him his mug.
The one I got him for Christmas.
It says Daddy.
We watch the news together on the rug.
She crawls on top of us trying to get our mugs.
We kiss each other.
This is happiness.
-joining Heather for Just Write.
Today is my mother’s birthday. Fifty-seven years ago my grandmother gave birth to her. These days I think about birthday’s a little differently. After going through labor and birth myself this past year, birthdays take on a new meaning for me. And this birthday is extra special because it’s my Mom’s. My Mom is a reading specialist at a local elementary school. She loves her job and you would have thought that she had been doing it for years upon years when you see how fantastic she is with the children. But, she’s rather new to the whole teaching scene. Before teaching she stayed at home with us. She stayed at home for over eighteen years, raising four children into adulthood. I asked her the other day if she regretted staying home with us. If she ever pined for time away, in an office or doing something other than changing diapers and making playdoh? She told me that raising her four kids was the best career choice she ever made. She wanted to be there for every milestone – every tear and every laugh and every smile. She explained that of course it was difficult to only live off of one income and she tried her best to bring in money here and there when she could (like selling Avon and taking in other people’s children). But she brought us into the world and she wanted to be the one to care for us throughout our days and years. She didn’t want to miss a second of watching and guiding her children’s growth. And she didn’t.
When I was growing up I wanted to be a veternarian and then a director and then a speech pathologist. I didn’t want to stay home with kids. The media and the mainstream made staying home seem weak. Women had to do it all and so I would. As luck would have it however, I ended up working at a childcare center during my college years. I loved it. I loved working with the children and I decided to pursue a career in caring for children. Other people’s children. I became so passionate about caring for children I ended up getting a masters degree in early childhood education. But, throughout all of this education and experience working with children, I began to realize something. Something bigger than anything I had ever felt before. I would call my Mom regularly after my classes and tell her “we just learned about such and such and it reminded me of what you used to do when we were kids.” I would call her after work some days and tell her, “I used your playdoh recipe today” or “I told the kids that story you always used to tell us about the cats and they laughed so hard some of them cried.” I was slowly realizing what I really wanted to do with my life. I realized the importance of being present with children and being gentle with children. I realized how much a parent could miss when they weren’t there. I was there for many firsts in other people’s children’s lives and I knew that I didn’t want that for my own children. I wanted to be there. I wanted to be like my mother, and stay home.
I gave birth to my first baby last year. I quit my job and have started my next career- full time stay-at-home mom. It’s tougher than I expected it would be but it’s also so much more than I thought it would be. I realize being home with my daughter that you don’t have to do it all, the career and motherhood. At least I don’t. It’s hard enough being a mother and watching these baby years just fly by without having to worry about a job getting in the way. I am a stay-at-home mother and I’m enjoying the wonderful times and the rough times. I’m not sure how my own mother pulled it off with so much patience and grace, but I’m finding my way. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on a career outside the home. I find times to be creative. I find times to be me. But I’m also doing what I think is best for my daughter. I get to be there for everything. I love that. Some may say I’ve followed in my mother’s footsteps. And I like that. Because I think that, yes, I hope I’m following in her footsteps. She was and still is an incredible mother … and just like she knew, I know, I’m right where I should be…home.
Happy Birthday Mom.