Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

I majored in theatre in college. In doing so, I carried out a tradition that started with my maternal grandmother. Acting is in my genes. My great-grandfather performed skits in his basement in front of a camera. Footage that has been miraculously preserved for over 60 years. But the person from whom I really caught the bug was my mom. She was my acting coach in high school. I vividly remember us sitting outside of the Gilmore Theatre Complex in the spring of 1997 practicing my audition monologue for WMU. I got in on my first audition. I put that dream aside after college to focus on more practical things, like getting a full time job and figuring out who I was. In the summer of 2005 I auditioned for the first time in over 3 years. The play: Taming of the Shrew. The place: Celery Flats. That role led me to Trevor and we all know that story by now.

Tonight I have just put Jack to bed. The only sound I hear is the occasional dog bark from outside and the sound of 2 competing ticking clocks. Trevor is at Celery Flats, the most beloved place I know directing Shakespeare in the park. I sit in a quiet house and I don't quite know how to feel about it.  It's been over 2 years since I performed onstage. There are many reasons why, but first and foremost, I don't know of the show that would be special enough to take me away from Jack at night. But there is an exhilaration that comes with performing that is hard to find anywhere else. It doesn't compare to parenting. That would be like saying, I really love my sister, but I also love long walks along the beach. The love you have for your sister and the beach don't compete with each other, they comprise two very unique and distinct aspects of who you are. But while you can walk along the beach with your sister, it's very hard to rehearse for a show with a toddler.

I have written at length about the wonder of being a mom. It's the best thing I've done and has brought me more fulfillment than 10,000 plays ever could. But here's the thing about parenting. The thing that no one really wants to talk about for fear that they would appear ungrateful for the miracle of their children. The sacrifices that parenting demands can make you feel like parts of you are being stripped away and sometimes you don't quite know who's left. How do you think the "mom jean" phenomenon emerged? No one who remembered who she was in college would wear those things!!

So, for now I say goodbye to theatre and it is such sweet sorrow. The wonderful thing about theatre is that it will always be there. I know this time with Jack won't. It's an easy decision in my head, but in my heart I do miss that part of me who was an actress- who felt vivid and alive in a way that I don't always feel anymore.

In the summer of 2010, pregnant with Jack, I went to Celery Flats and sat in the audience for the very first time. After 5 straight years of performing, I was now playing the role of 3rd row center. The play: Romeo and Juliet. I watched with rapture as the lines tripped off the tongues of the actors, while swords clanked together, while fireflies danced around the stage above our heads. Shakespeare feels like a brother to me, a legendary brother who died before I was born, who left me this amazing legacy. Watching his work performed in that space is like being home. I was only 3 months pregnant. I rubbed the little bump and hoped that somehow the words were washing over him so that he'll love Shakespeare someday too.

So much changes with the arrival of a baby. Bodies change, schedules change, priorities change. Cabinets get safety locks on them. Toys, books, and gates start appearing throughout your entire house.  Your home is taken over by a 2 foot tall ball of curiosity and mischief.

Right now there are crumbs all over my dining room floor, tiny hand prints are embedded in the dust on the bookshelves (you will know how much time I spend with Jack by the amount of dust in the living room), an exersaucer and a pack & play (two things I never even knew existed 2 years ago) clutter up my kitchen and bedroom.

Right now Trevor is getting a reminder of who we were.

I am constantly reminded of who I am.

It's hard. No doubt about it, these choices are hard.

So for tonight, God is my director and I am cast in the role of "Mom". I read my lines with enthusiasm. I give the animals in "Where's Spot" special and unique voices. I gently sway around the room with a sleepy Jack while I sing lullabies and make up my own choreography.

For tonight, I am the star of this show.

Audience: Jack
The play: My Sweet Sweet Life

This play will run for quite some time and the audience may grow. There is no program, no critic, no intermission, no lights, no special effects, no costumes, NO MOM JEANS.

Just me and my baby and a wishful prayer to keep those parts of me that blossomed in the years before becoming a mom sacred and alive, even if it means reading each book as if Shakespeare wrote it himself.

Spot, Spot, wherefore art thou lost?
Emerge from thy basket and greet the young Jack
Who most passionately awaits your return.


Jack at Celery Flats Amphitheatre, October 2011

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Finding Spot


  1. Accustom (an infant or other young mammal) to food other than its mother's milk.
  2. Accustom (someone) to managing without something on which they have become dependent or of which they have become excessively fond
Last night Jack went to bed without nursing.  He has done this before, but never while I'm at home.

Oh boy.

We have been weaning in earnest for a while, but the nighttime feeding was the last one to go.  Lest you think I'm weaning because I think a 16 month old is too old to nurse, let me assure you, I don't.  I probably had a lot of opinions about moms who nurse their babies past 1 year, but that was before I had my own.  I am weaning for me, because I need to re-align my body.  No, I'm not pregnant, but I feel strongly that I need to get some things back in balance that have been out of balance before I become pregnant again.  Taking care of yourself as a mother is one of the most challenging things you can ever do.  I get that now.  In addition, Jack is starting to let go of it too and I'm following his lead.  It will be slow going, I don't have any deadlines, we'll go as long as we both can and then find new ways to bond.

We struggled a lot with nursing in the beginning.  I remember when Jack was 3 weeks old, Trevor and I went to the Bronson Breastfeeding Center to let the nurses there teach me how to hold him and coax him into a proper latch.  She weighed him and marked it on a piece of paper- right down to the ounce so she could weigh him after he ate to see how much milk he had gotten.  I remember the feeling of having him nurse correctly.  There was no pain and I could hear the faint sound of milk rushing through his tiny gummy mouth and into his belly.  The nurse left us alone for awhile while the 3 of us sat in the tiny room amazed at why we didn't seek help sooner.  When she returned she weighed him again.  I remember vividly the sight of tiny legs kicking on the scale.  "3 ounces!  Great job mama!"  It brings a tear to my eye recalling that moment when I said to myself- You can do it.  You have built this cathedral called Jack and you can feed him too.  Everything you are is all that you need.

I have nursed and pumped in all sorts of places- 
  • the backseat of my car
  • standing in the hallway outside of a restaurant while a gaggle of female family members created a perimeter around me
  • in various beds
  • in a single stall bathroom trying ever so delicately to keep the pump balanced on a sink
  • in my workplace's well equipped lactation room where, separated by a partition, I would talk to other moms doing the exact same thing, talking about our lives and our children
But it wasn't always breastmilk gymnastics.  We had many more times together, quiet times when nursing became a meditation for both of us, when heart rates slowed and breathing quieted.  When we both experienced the most familiar and comforting thing in our little world- the aspect of our relationship that had been there since the very beginning.  For my friends who couldn't or chose not to breastfeed, there is nothing here that doesn't apply to you.  Skin to skin contact comes in many forms.  I could have just as easily laid his cheek on my chest at the end of the day and we would have experienced the same peacefulness.  

Breastfeeding has been one of the greatest blessings of my life and I will miss it.  A lot.  One could even say, per the definition of weaning, that I've become excessively fond of it and I'm the one who's weaning more than Jack.

So what will I miss?

I will miss the way that his little hand would reach up and twist my hair or pat my cheek.

I will miss the way his little eyes got excited when it was time to nurse and yes, he would sometimes even giggle a little, he'd be so excited!

I will miss the time we shared in the evenings when the whole house was quiet except for the sound of Trevor upstairs washing dishes while Jack and I had our time together (these Gen X dads are so evolved, I love it :)

What will we gain?

I will experience my body again.  For 2 years I have shared it with another person, growing him inside of me and feeding him.  I have felt very disconnected from myself in many ways, although in other ways I have felt like the truest version of myself.  I will miss that paradox, but I am also freeing myself of it.

Jack will gain a nighttime ritual that will carry him through beyond his toddler years and into childhood.  One that will involve a lot of reading with his dad.  

Jack has a new favorite book- "Where's Spot?"  It's one of those square shaped board books and this one has flaps that open up revealing hidden pictures.  Jack takes great delight in opening up those flaps.  Trevor bought a bottle of Elmer's Glue for the times he gets a little too excited and rips one off.  After the 100th reading of this book we decided it was time to add to the nighttime reading collection.

Last night we took a trip to Barnes & Noble and TJ Maxx (TJ Maxx has some of the cheapest kids books in town fyi!).  We must have purchased 20 books between the two places.  I was looking at something on the shelf and heard Trevor say "Hey mom, can we get this one?"  I looked over and Jack was holding a book with two bears on the cover that said "I Love My Daddy."

I cannot express what my feelings were in that moment. 

I thought of the hundreds of nights that Trevor has so faithfully done the dishes and sorted the laundry so that Jack and I could nurse.  I recalled the thankfulness my heart felt every time I walked into the kitchen and saw all of my pump equipment drying on a bottle rack.  He never asked for praise or thanks for these great gifts.  He wasn't giving me clean bottles, he was giving me precious time with my baby.  Now it is my turn to give him that time.

Last night I curled up on the couch, a huge dinosaur stuffed animal as my pillow.  Trevor brought out "Where's Spot", "Spot Goes to the Park", and "Spot Says Goodnight".  I placed "I Love My Daddy" into the pile.  Trevor had nearly finished the "Daddy" book when Jack jumped out of his lap and into mine.  Just when Trevor was starting to feel rejected, we both realized that the only reason Jack came over to me was because "Where's Spot" was sitting on my lap.  Once the book was returned to Trevor, Jack climbed back into his lap.  

There were tears that first night weaning, tears and triumphs as all three of us committed to a new routine.  Jack won't ever remember these nights, but I hope that the closeness we've shared has cemented a feeling of security and love into his heart.

So where's Jack's spot?  It used to be on a pillow nursing with me.  Now it's nestled into his dad's lap reading stories as the still damp hair from his bath dries up and curls around his ears.  

Life is one long series of hellos and good-byes.  I think what matters the most is how you spend the time in between them.  For those nights we struggled, bonded, cried, and loved, I am exceedingly proud of both of us.

Good-bye to nursing.

Hello Spot.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Baby by Numbers

2 years ago you were a flicker on an ultrasound
2 pink lines on a stick

2 of us, dad + me, built you from all that we had, all that we had to give
1 part me
1 part him
1 whole you

1 dark, cold night brought you to me
7  hours of labor and there you were

2 years have come and gone and we've both changed so much

2 breasts have fed you for 
16 months
69 weeks
483 days

8 white teeth have burst forth like shiny buds in a soft pink soil
2 brown eyes that get bigger and wiser every day
2 feet make pap pap pap sounds as you run across the hardwood floor
10 long lean fingers delicately pinch at food laid out for you on a tray

1 mama sits in a dim room while
1 dad puts you in bed
10 fingers tap out a poem for
1 sweet boy

1 sweet boy