November 10, 2014

For my "Mean Mommy" friend.

During an otherwise crazy and at the same time mundane day today, I got the email I've been dreading for awhile. I knew it was coming.  My friend, Sam, lost her (hard fought and brilliantly endured) battle with colon cancer at the sickeningly young age of 32. And I sat down to write because, this woman, this mom, deserves to be written about. And as usual, words aren't enough. But let me back up...

When Sienna was four months old, I was losing sanity as quickly as I was losing sleep. Some days I felt like I was unraveling and I needed someone to take my string and coil it back up to get me in order. I found a warm comfort in what some might call strange- two other mamas, with kiddos exactly Sienna's age- that I met on an online baby chat forum. Think for new moms, minus the match and with a lot of added stress laden messages.

Sam and Elisabeth quickly became "real "friends to me. I felt like my heart was connected to them in ways I can't quite explain. We sent thousands (or what felt like thousands-  it could have been hundreds) of emails to each other. I could count on them to answer me at 4am and to hear me out. I knew that they were also awake, staring at their smart phones, reading facebook or pinterest, or an email from each other, hoping their baby would start to head back into a sweet slumber instead of wail. We sort of cut through the fog of new motherhood lack of sleep together. Jamie always joked that Sam was my internet boyfriend because her sweet, creative genes meant she always sent us cute handmade cards and gifts. My sister in law once asked me- who is Sam and Kai?! She likes every photo on Instagram. I explained. She giggled. But I was serious when I said they were my rock during crazy infant days... Sam and Elisabeth were never just Internet friends. They knew and heard more about my inner mom brain than any other humans on the planet. Sam always called herself the "Mean Mommy" because she was the most bad-ass sleep trainer out of all of us (I recall once she slept in the basement so she wouldn't get upset by Kai's cries). To be honest, she was pretty bad-ass in general. I always felt like she was telling me one more cool thing about herself each day.

From four months until two and a half years, our emails continued. Birthdays came and cards showed up. Christmas rolled around and Kai's face was mainstay amongst our fav holiday greetings from friends. We celebrated years gone by and survival of early motherhood. But we didn't know Sam would soon learn that survival was far more than sleepless nights with a newborn, potty training, and toddler tantrums. A few months ago, Sam sent us an email. She was diagnosed with colon cancer. My heart stopped when I read the email. I knew it was bad, but she never once let on to how difficult her journey was- and her beautiful emails were laced with positive vibes of ongoing hope....  Still, I worried about her. I felt the emails fade and her instagram posts became less frequent. My worry grew stronger.

Sam always raved about her family, so it was no surprise that when her husband emailed us, the words that littered the screen were heavily emotional and intensely passionate. He let us know that he was losing his wife. That Kai's sweet and brilliant mama was in palliative care. My tears were not just shed for my own sadness but for her hubby and her son. Sienna is Kai's age, and try as I might, I can't convince myself that there is something bigger than me, some plan to this life, when these things happen. It's so damn unfair for a two year old to lose his mom. It's unfair for a young dad to lose his partner in raising him. And it's unfair that one of the most impactful people on me early in Sienna's life- a time that was one of the hardest I've encountered so far- is not going to get to experience the joys and woes of any more little babies or of her first gorgeous son growing up.

Sams husband sent us family photos with his heartbreaking email- and even sick- Sam was decked out in clothes I could only dream of coming up with and putting together- stylish with a side of funky. I always admired and was mildly jealous she could pull off those outfits. She wore gold sequined shoes on her first day of this battle with cancer. Her closet is likely mourning with the rest of us.  Kai's style echoes hers (Daryl I'll try to send kai anything that screams Sammy style to me as the days go on). I will forever be grateful for knowing her. For having a mom friend who got it. For her email titles that made me laugh including one fondly called "Face down baby" when our littles began tummy sleeping.

We used to joke- we should write a book. A book about sleep training, about getting through the early days, about the power of friendship when you're at the end of your rope. We said it would be composed of our endless emails- interjected with reality- which sometimes we missed the boat on when we slept three hours the night before. There's so little you can do when a child loses their mama; you can't possibly fill them up with the memories you with they would carry with them. But, Elisabeth and I both realized as soon as we heard about Sam that we have to do this. So here's our promise- over the next year or so, to start composing a book for Kai. A book where he can see the ways his mom loved him and caringly put effort into every minute with him- from the time he was tiny. A book where he can laugh as he gets older and has his own kids about how crazy having a newborn is and how his mommy was the leader of the pack of emailing friends.
Tonight, I am holding my girls closer. I am shedding tears intermittently between the smiles I show them. I will take in the 1 am and 3am baby wakings, the blow out diapers, the toddler tantrums, the crazy games S asks me to play when it's bed time.  I will hug them extra, smell their sweet baby scents, and nuzzle my nose into their hair and kiss them goodnight, but not without a few extra minutes of their little hands and chests slowly relaxing into me. I will hold my husband's hand longer- and embrace the love that's in front of me. Because, I get to wake up and do it every day. I get to be a mom, a wife, I get to indulge in the real raw emotion that is family. I know Sam would have given anything to get to continue this. When I start to get lost in the mix that is the frustration of motherhood and wifehood and life, I'll think of her.

She lived her life with vigor and hope and love. With dignity and strength and the kind of brilliance and shine that is felt even through an email. Sam, even from afar, we will do everything we can to make sure little guy of yours feels every ounce of love you had for him. Here's to you, mean mommy- you were truly truly one of the best.


November 5, 2014

Maternity Leave.

I read this today:
It got me thinking. The fact that I went back to work after a measly six weeks with Sienna blows my mind now. In retrospect, I wanted so badly to finish fellowship and to be done with training. But goodness, that was not enough time and I think maybe, just maybe, had I known better, I would have put off fellowship for a year. Because here's the secret no one tells you: When you have a real person job, maternity leave is still too short. And the days still fly by. And no one is going to decide that you need more time to bond with your infant and grant you further- never mind paid- leave. It is insanity.
In two weeks, I'll go back to work. I'll pack my pump, my (non dairy) lunch and snacks, and attempt to get out of the house in the morning sneaking in a shower early before either of my girls rise. I'll convince myself it's good for them to have a good working mother role model, when I know damn well my 3 month old would rather have mommy there at home with her than at work. They are too little to grasp that working mom can be a good thing.

Meanwhile, as the WHO and AAP tell me to nurse... returning to work does me no favors. Piper is already a really, really difficult nurser.  When we were at a wedding last weekend, she got three bottles while I was gone. The next day you would have thought I was slaughtering her when I tried to nurse. I have other friends whose babies hate bottles and who basically starve themselves all day waiting for mama to feed them. Those babes reverse cycle, no one sleeps at night, and there is just no way that mom is productive at work. Short maternity leave makes it nearly impossible (though I and other friends have done it- it's not without major stress) to breastfeed for the full year, nevermind beyond that.  The world is telling us to feed our kiddos the healthiest food, but the work force puts a damper on efforts. I will say, I am lucky to be employed by an organization that empowers women to pump by offering quiet nice places with good amenities and breaks, but it is still no walk in the park. It's actually one of my most dreaded parts of returning to work.
And... what about the fact that at three months our babies are just emerging from that fussy period, and that we finally know their personalities enough to keep them happy and soothed during the day. I am one of the infinitely lucky ones: we have my mom or our nanny with our girls. They LOVE my children. They treat them like gold. But they aren't me. Likely, the girls will be fine. Piper will be eating well so her naps should be longer. Sienna can play and amuse Piper as she gets older. But having one person (who isn't me!) watch my tiny baby and my toddler makes me sad.
Don't get me wrong- there are a few things I am looking forward to- namely eating lunch without holding someone in my right arm and being able to write a full email in one sitting. But, those things could wait another few months until P becomes more scheduled and S is fully adjusted.
So here comes the two week countdown. I have two weeks to also transition Piper to her room and pray that the shower at 6am doesn't rise her from her beauty sleep. Two weeks to figure out some semblance of a schedule. Two weeks to hug and cuddle my girls a little extra. Because, in 14 days me, my pump, and my guilty conscience head back to work.
Don't you think we could all use a little more maternity leave?
It's not glorious, but it's the good life. {Sienna is in that cardboard box in the background}
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