Tuesday, November 27, 2012


One day this past summer, my husband earned his way into the dog house. This doesn't happen often. We both do our best to forgive quickly, but I will admit that I held this incident over his head for a while. You see, Andrew is by no means cheap. In fact, he has one of the most generous hearts I have ever known. But he does like to save money where he can. So when he got a call from the Kirby vacuum company, offering to come clean our carpets "for free," he was all over it. 

Andrew works nights and scheduled this "free carpet cleaning" during a time when he would be asleep and I would be awake. "It'll be fine," he said. "Some woman is just going to stop by to clean our carpets. No strings attached." 

I tried to convince him that no company would do this type of service completely free, but he was immovable. 

So later that day, in place of Andrew's promised female carpet cleaner were TWO male vacuum cleaner salesmen. I stepped out onto the front step, Harriet on my hip, and closed the door behind me. I was setting a boundary. I told them that I was incredibly sorry but we were not in the market for a vacuum so they might as well move onto their next home. I said that my husband had set this up and I was sorry that we had wasted their time. They were lovely men and kindly insisted that they understood the situation and were happy to clean our carpets anyway. After a bit of back-and-forth with them, I opened the door and let them inside. Big mistake.

They vacuumed the living room floor with our Dyson, then fired up their miracle-working Kirby. The main guy would put these little white disks in the filter, vacuum a little, then take the white disk out to show me how much dirt our Dyson left behind. This process was excruciating. I was sitting on our couch with Harriet on my lap, covering my face with my hands in shame as he laid disk after disk out in a perfect arch, each of them covered with carpet gunk. "You can just stop," I said. "I get the point."

I couldn't even remember the last time we had vacuumed. I was humiliated. "This is probably the worst you've ever seen, huh?" I said, hoping they would tell me that this level of dirt was fairly common.

"Well, it's the dirtiest we've seen from a family that didn't buy a vacuum."


They left an hour and a half later. I felt just horrible that we had wasted their time and I was embarrassed by my subpar housekeeping. So I did the only thing I could - I gave them a few of the citrus butter cookies I had baked the day before. Part of me is shocked they even ate them after experiencing our dirty house.

Later that day, I vacuumed. I let Andrew have it. And I vowed to make dust, dirt and grime of any sort an anomaly in my home.

One problem:

We have a dog. A dog that loves messes and mischief. If you have this sort of dog, you know that a spotless house is as attainable as a yummy low-fat dessert.

We also have one of these:

And as darling and sweet as she is, the girl cuts into my cleaning time. More accurately, she cuts it out. Completely. Because I would rather play with her than polish. I would rather dance with her than dust. I would rather snuggle with her than squeegee. It's okay when our "sensory play" ends up all over the kitchen floor because the best learning is messy. I don't mind our living room turning into a sea of toys because play is her work. And because I know nothing makes her happier than the pure freedom of nakedness, I don't care much if she pees on the carpet. (Once she pooped behind the couch but we try to keep that to a minimum.)

The same is true about our pup. We decided long ago that we would only get a dog if we could offer it a good life full of fun, dog stuff. So if we are on a walk and he notices an especially tempting dirt hill or mud bog, I often unhook his leash and watch him run through the muck as though he has never known a more perfect moment than this. I find so much joy in watching his celebration of all things gross and smelly. (Later, I often regret it, but that's beside the point.)

I won't pretend that I'm always so laissez faire about my house and purely focused on fun. There are times when I lament to my husband that it's impossible to keep up, that I just want things to be clean and put away. To that, he says that he'll do it. And he does. Which is why I can't be too angry about the Kirby thing.

I'll admit I was a bit nervous to publish this post. I worried no one would ever want to come to our house again. So know this...if you stop by for a visit, our home will be (relatively) clean. The floors will be swept. The toilets will be scrubbed. But more importantly, know this...

If you are going to spill a full bowl of chili on the carpet,

if you are going to get a little clumsy or rowdy and put a dent in the wall,

if you are going to come in from the rain and drag mud and leaves up the stairs...

...this is the place to do it. At our home, it's okay to make a mess. Heck, it's okay to be a mess. Because that's the kind of place where I want my children to grow up.

Good thing...because I wouldn't know how to do it any other way.

P.S.   I typed this post with one hand while holding a sick, sleeping baby so you can just imagine how clean my house is(n't).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

freight train

Infertility left me bruised and scarred, both emotionally and physically. The intramuscular injections created painful knots in my muscles that lasted months. I also had to give myself two shots of a blood thinner every day during my pregnancy to prevent miscarriage. A year later, I can still see the shadow of a couple of those black and blue marks on my stomach. Even prior to pregnancy, I gained weight from the medications. I was weak from the activity restrictions. And I was angry with my body. My physical self had failed me. It hadn't worked right when I needed it to. It allowed my babies to die. It stubbornly refused to ovulate. It didn't cooperate with the doctors. I was furious with my lazy ovaries and inept uterus. There was a giant chasm between me and my body. We were at war.

And then IVF. And then I was pregnant. I appreciated the work my body was doing to protect this tiny life inside of me but I didn't trust it one bit. I fully expected it to eject this child as well. I fully expected it to ruin everything. 

I wasn’t officially considered high risk, but because of our history, we chose to do a hospital birth. We picked the hospital in our area that has the lowest c-section rate (by far) and is known for natural births. We also chose our doula, Sarah, a friend of my husband’s from nursing school. She is excellent. She met with us several times before the birth. She asked me to tell Ethan’s story in detail. She listened to it so carefully and I felt she knew him even though they had never met. She calmed my fears and waged war against my insecurities. She trusted my body even though I didn't.

We asked Sarah to recommend a doctor who would support our desire to have a natural birth. She sent us to Dr. L, a family practice physician who has been trained in water birth and feels very strongly about patients taking charge of their own health decisions. There were several times during my pregnancy when I called Dr. L in a panic, begging him to check for a heartbeat. He stayed late to see me and even did an ultrasound to calm my fears. “I don’t usually use this thing,” he said, “But we’ll figure out how it works.” And we did. Well, he did.

I was absolutely set on having a natural birth. I did lots of research – books, websites, classes. I even heard Ina May Gaskin, the midwife of all midwives, speak in person. My family and friends tried to temper my enthusiasm. They were worried that I would be very disappointed in myself if I wasn’t able to give birth the way I wanted to. I realized they were right when I broke down sobbing upon hearing I had tested positive for strep B. I was under the impression that the hospital wasn’t going to let me do a water birth because I would need IV antibiotics during the delivery. I was so grateful when Sarah assured me that this wouldn't be a problem. Still, even this teeny, tiny setback built my case against my body.

last picture taken of me pregnant (39 weeks)
Due to my blood clotting disorder, the doctors encouraged induction at 38 weeks. We refused it because we felt strongly about letting our baby decide when he or she wanted to be born. Dr. L was perfectly fine with this. A week later, on December 9th, at about four o’clock in the morning, I awoke to mild contractions. It wasn’t painful, just bothersome. I laid there til my alarm went off, trying to rest but not comfortable enough to actually sleep. I saw five or six clients that day, my contractions getting a little bit stronger with every session. I called the hospital, my doctor, and our doula to explain my symptoms. The nurses told me that as long as I could walk and talk through the contractions, I needn’t come in, so I decided to stay at work. I just wasn’t convinced that this was the day. I was a whole week early. The hardest part about being at work during early labor was having to stay seated. I tried to think of every excuse to stand up and walk around during contractions so that my clients wouldn’t catch on. I wrote something on my white board, left the room to “grab some paperwork,” whatever I could think of.

That night we had dinner with Andrew’s family to celebrate his birthday. The contractions were intensifying and I was getting excited. I kept telling myself that I was probably just experiencing Braxton Hicks because I didn’t want to get my hopes up or look like a drama queen. During dinner, I kept having to stand up and walk around the restaurant. I was getting pretty warm, so I stood in the entryway a while, breathing through contractions and letting the December air cool me off. Part of me wanted to say to people entering and exiting the restaurant, “I think I might be in labor. Isn’t this so cool!?” But don’t worry, I didn’t.

I ate a huge dinner at the restaurant – salmon, potatoes, a salad and lots of rolls. Just in case, I thought, I need to have energy. We went back to my inlaws’ home after dinner and Andrew called Sarah again. She recommended I take a warm bath to see if the contractions would subside. He called the hospital and they reiterated that as long as I could walk and talk through contractions, I should stay home. The way we reported the contractions must have convinced them that I wasn’t going to have this baby any time soon because the on-call doctor prescribed me a muscle relaxer so that I’d be able to sleep well that night.

I took the warm bath at my inlaws’ house. The contractions stopped. During the time I was in the water, I didn’t have a single contraction. Andrew came into the bathroom to help me out of the tub and I told him they were gone. I was a little disappointed. But the very moment I stepped onto the rug, I had a strong contraction. They came back more intense than ever.

Andrew dropped me off at home and went to pick up the muscle relaxer. I took the dose and we went to bed. Not even five minutes later, I had a serious contraction. And they kept coming. Some of the contractions were less than a minute apart and lasted 45-60 seconds each. Andrew was suddenly obsessed with timing them. When I felt like I wanted to yell, "PUT DOWN THAT BLEEPING STOPWATCH!" I knew it was time to go in. I could still walk and talk through contractions but I was miserable and starting to feel a little bit afraid. I simply couldn’t do it at home anymore. I told Andrew that I wanted to go to the hospital, even if it was just for a distraction, to have something to do to make time pass more quickly. I fully expected them to send us back home once we got there.

The drive to the hospital was excruciating. Sitting in the car felt way too constricting. I needed to walk and move. When we arrived at the hospital, Andrew offered to drop me at the door, but I knew that walking from the parking garage would help move things along so we made the trek together, stopping several times along the way for contractions. It was about 11:00 now and we had to wait in the deserted emergency room for about twenty minutes before someone came to bring us up to the maternity floor. Looking back, I’m glad for the delay because it was a change of scenery and it broke up the time a bit. The nurse who came down to escort us up to the maternity floor offered me a wheelchair, but again, I knew that walking would help bring the baby down, so I decided to do it on my own.

When we got up to the floor, a nurse and a resident checked my cervix. I hadn’t wanted to be checked at my OB appointments so this was the first time. It hurt! I expected them to tell me that I wasn’t dilated at all and send us back home, but the resident said, “You’re at a four. You’re having this baby tonight.” I was elated. I am having this baby tonight. We are having this baby tonight. My game face was on. I knew that if I had gotten to four centimeters on my own while going about my day, I could get to ten and push this baby out.

I hadn’t wanted to wear the regular hospital gowns so I had packed a long, t-shirt-type nightgown to wear. The problem was that I packed my bag six weeks ago and my shape had changed a lot since then. The nightgown didn’t even cover my butt completely. At that point, I didn’t even care. A minor set back. I was shaking like a leaf so Andrew kept asking me if I was cold. The doctor said it was the adrenaline. Wow, I thought, this is some powerful stuff.

Sarah showed up soon after that. She was magical. Her eyes and hands scanned my body for tension, and where she found it, she kneaded and rubbed and encouraged my muscles to stay pliable. She directed me to squat, to sit on a birth ball, to stand next to a bedside table, to walk, to lie down. Andrew was a great labor coach, but there is something about having a doula, a woman, who has been through it herself and can "mother" the woman in labor. I will never, ever give birth without a doula. No way. 

Weeks later, when Sarah came by for a postpartum visit, she told me that at one point during labor, I had fallen completely asleep between contractions and was even snoring. The contractions were minutes apart, so it wasn’t much of a nap but that’s how tough birth is, how taxing. I didn't talk much at all throughout labor. After each contraction, I was grateful that it was over and just rested up for the next one.

I was in the zone, a woman on a mission. I literally only saw about two feet in front of my face. Everything else was a blur. Sarah later described me as a freight train, plowing forward, completely focused on the goal. I had never before pictured myself as a freight train but I have many times since. It’s not especially lovely or ladylike, but I find a lot of strength in that image. I never even considered an epidural. Based on the research I had done, I decided that pain medications wouldn't necessarily take away the pain. I would just be trading one kind of pain for another. I kept reminding myself that the pain I was experiencing was a good and safe pain. And there was no way I was going to be tethered to the bed. If I was going to get this baby out, I needed to move around the room freely.

They checked my cervix again. I was eight centimeters dilated. The next hour may have been the hardest part because I was starting to get the urge to push but was being told that pushing too early can cause the cervix to swell, slowing the process considerably. I held off as best I could but stalling that sensation was like trying to hold back a…freight train. Up until this point, I hadn’t yelled or screamed or cried out in pain. I had been really deliberate about my sounds – mooing and blowing out hard through my lips like a horse. Apparently one’s cervix can’t stay tight and closed when one’s mouth and jaw are slack. So I kept my voice very low and controlled, mimicking barnyard animals, and I know it helped…until I was dilated to eight. I would feel the urge to push and start with another “moo” but the moos kept morphing into yells. I could…not…do this. They checked me again. Ten centimeters. Thank you Jesus.

Off we went to the birthing tub. I was so grateful for a change of scenery and the soothing, warm water. At some point, Dr. L showed up. I’m not even sure when because he was so still and quiet. He just sat on the edge of the bed and observed, allowing Andrew and Sarah and I to take the reins. His calm, respectful stance gave me confidence. He believed that I could do this on my own. He didn’t view himself as the big doctor hero. He saw me as the hero, and I think that gave me the confidence I needed.

So here’s something they don’t always tell you about birth – you’ll probably poop and it’s totally okay. I was so terrified to poop in front of people that I actually put it in our birth plan. But when I was in that tub pushing my baby out, I didn’t matter one bit. Gross? Maybe. But embarrassing? Not at all. Equipped with a goldfish net, my wonderful husband took care of it. I love him for that.

Another thing you don’t always hear about birth – it feels like the baby’s coming out of your backside. Literally. That feeling had me 95% convinced that something was wrong and my baby was coming out of the wrong hole. I think I asked the nurses about two or three times whether that was possible. They told me it wasn’t, it was bizarre how much pressure I felt. It was also bizarre how strong I felt. I knew that I had more physical strength in that moment than I had ever had in my life. 

Sarah encouraged me to flip from my hands and knees to my back. I asked Dr. L how long it was going to be. He thought about fifteen minutes. “I can’t do this,” I said. “I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this.”

“I can do this.”

“I can do this.”

“I can do this.”

Andrew, Sarah, and the rest of the room jumped on board and affirmed my change of heart. Labor was so intense and so exhausting that between contractions, I had been telling myself that I needed a break, that I was just going to do the next contraction half-way. But then the contraction would start and I would realize that if I had to go through all of this pain, I might as well use the contraction as best I could to bring my baby closer to birth. So I squeezed every last drop of progress out of those contractions. I did the same thing with pushing.

I reached my hand down and felt a head. This was our child. This was the one we had been waiting for. I had to meet this baby. A few more pushes. Really strong, give-it-all-you-got, my-child’s-life-is-depending-on-this pushes. We were so close. Dr. L told me to stop pushing for a second so he could slip the cord off the baby’s neck and shoulder. One more push and Dr. L swept our baby up out of the water and onto my chest, into waiting arms that had ached so long for this moment. “It’s a girl,” Andrew said. And joy like I have never known overtook me.

We kissed her and talked to her and fell completely, head-over-heals in love with her. This was our Harriet Grace. 

Another thing they don't tell you about birth - the pain doesn't go away after the baby is out. In fact, the intensity just barely lessens. I was holding Harriet and loving on her, but I was still contracting like crazy. 

They took Harriet from me so I could get out of the tub and onto the bed to deliver the placenta. The water in the tub was a murky, black mess. And in that moment, as I stepped onto the floor and made my way across the room, I knew that I was leaving my infertility in that tub. I was leaving my heartache in that tub. I was leaving death and defeat and stolen dreams in that tub. In that moment, I was reconciled with my body. This time, my body had not failed me. In fact, my body had done exactly what it was supposed to do, what I needed it to do, what Harriet needed it to do. I had labored all day and then pushed for 37 minutes. Like Sarah said, I was a freight train. I felt so proud of myself. I actually did it. My body and Harriet had worked together beautifully. Birth was way, way harder than I thought. But I was also way, way stronger than I ever thought I could be.

They gave my daughter (my daughter) back to me so that I could nurse her while Dr. L sewed me up. Nursing actually worked. I hadn't expected it to but it was absolutely amazing how this child, only minutes old, knew exactly what to do. 

For me, birth was healing. It gave me the opportunity to reconcile with my body and experience myself at my best, at my strongest. Did it take away my infertility? Of course not. But it sure healed some of the wounds infertility left behind. It can be scary to live in a world where there are so many ways to be wounded. But I really believe that there are just as many ways to heal. This was mine.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

an unwelcome guest

I'm kind of an intense person...hyper. I do my best to tone it down, to be chill and professional. But if I get excited about something or if I'm around a group of friends I haven't seen in a while, I turn into a jack russell terrier. I was tightly wound as a kid, and perfectionism plagued me in high school, but I didn't realize I struggled with anxiety til my sophomore year of college. I honestly thought I had a heart condition but it turns out the palpitations were "just" anxiety. A few years later, Andrew had to pick me up from work and bring me to the emergency room. I was super pale, sweaty, throwing up, and my heart was racing. The doctor said I was having a panic attack. I found that really strange because I hadn't felt panicked at the time. In fact, I had felt bored. The doctor said the panic attack was probably my body's way of telling me it was tired of constant, low grade anxiety. He gave me some pills I could take when I was feeling especially stressed. I only took them maybe three times, but it was nice knowing I had them just in case. I also saw a therapist for a few months.

Surprisingly, infertility didn't trigger my anxiety. Maybe the sadness and constant disappointment dampened it. I went several years without experiencing much anxiety at all. In fact, I was so calm that I wondered if I had misdiagnosed myself. Pregnancy after two losses increased my anxiety a bit. It came in waves but it wasn't anything I couldn't handle by taking a deep breath and reminding myself Someone bigger than me was in control.

But recently...my anxiety came back. He didn't call ahead or ring the doorbell. He just sort of slithered in when I wasn't looking. He didn't arrive with a loud voice or a taunting laugh...just a whisper. I didn't even notice him until he had unpacked his bags and settled into a cozy spot underneath my bed. It's his favorite place to hang out because he knows I'm vulnerable at night when it's dark and quiet and my brain is easily hijacked. He knows my weak spots and pokes at them with his bony finger while I'm trying to sleep.

"Harriet's going to wake up," he says. "I wouldn't fall asleep if I were you. You know she'll start crying the second you drift off."

I ignore him, try to think about something else.

"She may never sleep through the night," he tries. "There are kids who wake up several times every night til they're teenagers."

I roll over, do my best to shut him out.

"It will probably hurt her development. Kids need sleep and if they don't get it, they don't learn or grow properly." He's louder now, sitting on my pillow. "And this is all your fault. She probably senses your anxiety and is starting to feel anxious herself. You better chill out or you'll mess her up for life."

Yes, he even uses reverse psychology.

Lately, my anxiety was feeling kind of bummed out because Harriet's been sleeping better and that tactic hasn't worked as well.

Take that, anxiety.

Unfortunately, he found a new weapon and it's a good one.


My anxiety knows that I'm terrified to wean Harriet. It's the last thing I want to do but if we're going to move forward with any fertility treatments, it's step one. Why am I dreading it so much? Harriet is a huge fan of nursing. Even if she had a big meal right before I get home from work, she immediately wants to nurse. She pants. She sticks her hands down my shirt. She latches onto any exposed skin. She acts like a crazy person. Lately, she's so active that nursing her is like nursing a baby otter on ritalin, but it's still a really important part of her day. She likes to nurse when she wakes up, when she goes down to sleep, if she bumps her head, if she's tired, if she's thirsty, if she's hungry, if she sees me changing my shirt, if I've been away for a few hours...she likes to nurse.

nursing, day one 

Upon entering this world, nursing is the very first thing she did. It was hard in the beginning but she and I worked through it and became a great team. I have fiercely protected her right to nurse. My milk supply was abundant and my letdown was fast, making her scared to nurse for a while, but she figured out how to make it work and nursed anyway. Her sleep has been awful at times and people have told us to put her on formula, but we continued to nurse anyway. I went back to work part-time, still nursing. I got engorged and had to stuff my bra with smelly cabbage...didn't give up. I missed out on social stuff when she was tiny because I'd spend half the time in the back bedroom nursing Harriet, but it didn't even tempt me to stop. I HATE pumping but I do it several times every day because it's important to me...to us. People have commented that she's too old or that she doesn't need to nurse now that she gets solid food, so I quote the World Health Organization or the American Academy of Pediatrics, and we keep nursing. When Harriet was a few weeks old, we were in the back corner of Target, a long way from the dressing rooms. I could tell Harriet was hungry and she started having a meltdown. My mama bear instinct kicked in and I pulled my shirt down right then and there, in the toy aisle, without thinking. When other shoppers approached, I just slipped around the corner into another aisle before they could figure out what was going on. It was a bit awkward but it wasn't a big deal. We've worked hard for this, so it pains me to think of giving it up before she's ready. I would love to let her wean in her own time, but she needs a sibling and we don't know how long it will take.

at Target...that's a "now what?" look on my face.

"Chop chop!" My anxiety says. "You better wean that baby or you're never going to have another one."

I tell Andrew about my worries. He says something kind and encouraging, but my anxiety gets right up in my face, making it hard to hear my husband.

"Can you imagine how tough it's going to be to wean her!?" My anxiety cackles, "She's going to be a wreck. She's going to think her whole world is collapsing. She'll feel so rejected. You'll never, ever be able to get her to fall asleep without nursing her. She's going to be angry and hurt and confused. This isn't going to work, and if it does, Harriet will suffer!"

He's getting to me now. His weapons are big and I feel very small in comparison. His voice is loud and mine is quiet. I start to feel the physical effects of my anxiety. He's winning. So I pray. I call someone. I distract myself. I know that I can't slow down my heart but I can slow down my breathing, so I breathe slowly, calmly. I stay positive and remind myself that everything is going to turn out just fine.

The anxiety loves to use repetition. He loops thoughts in my head so they play over and over and over again.  No area of my life is safe from his attacks.

Some of the thoughts are reasonable: "Your licensure exam is coming up and you haven't even started studying."

Some are semi-reasonable: "She still hasn't responded to your text. You must have offended her. She's probably so mad."

Some are downright crazy: "Harriet is going to fall down the street drain."

Yes, the thoughts can be that bizarre.

I'm annoyed that my anxiety is messing with me. I'm angry that he thought he could come back into my life when I'm taking care of a baby. I'm furious that he is trying to turn me into an anxious mom, and because I know that anxiety can travel through generations, I refuse to let him get his claws on my daughter.

I'm done with him.

[Deep breath.]

So now, I don't show my anxiety that he's getting to me. When he launches a fear my way, I respond with a bored yawn, "You're using that one again, huh?" He tries something more potent and I reply, "Okay, yeah...sounds good." He starts to get upset and I just become less amused, "Um, are you almost done? I'm kinda tired." I feel like one of those small birds with the colorful plumage that looks like a big, scary face. I hope he doesn't catch on. I fake it til I make it.

I practice controlled breathing and a calm body every day, usually while I'm trying to walk Harriet to sleep because that's when it's the hardest. Sometimes I fail miserably. Yesterday, after 45 minutes of trying to get Harriet to fall asleep, I gave up. (When it comes to fighting sleep, my daughter is straight up UFC.) Andrew took over and I did some writing. That helps too.

If I have an anxious thought, I share it. With Andrew, with a friend, with one of my parents. Sometimes saying something out loud takes away its power.

I think of a time in the future when this worry will have melted into the past and completely lost its potency.

I pray and sing and remind myself of Scriptures that speak hope into my fears.

"Do not fear for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10

"Do not fear for I have redeemed you. I have summoned you by name. You are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned. The flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." Isaiah 43:1-4

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

I think my anxiety is realizing he's no longer welcome in my home. I've hurt his feelings too many times. I've ignored him. I've recruited others against him. He's getting tired and it won't be long before he packs his bags and hits the road.

He won't be gone for good. I know he'll be back again. But it's okay.

Next time, it'll be a short visit.

Friday, November 2, 2012

no whining

This past Tuesday, I was a less-than-stellar mom. My "no, no Harriet" came out a little firmer than intended and I made my daughter cry a sad, confused, hurt feelings cry. It broke my heart. And for a really lame half hour, the poor girl had to share my attention with Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. I distractedly drove Harriet and I across town, and I'm ashamed to say I even checked my email once on the freeway. I bickered with my husband while we gave her a bath, and even though we tried to disguise our harsh remarks with happy, playful voices, Harriet knew something wasn't right. A major low happened late in the afternoon when Andrew asked me what was all over my face.

It was cake mix.

Not because I was baking some cupcakes for a charity bake sale or mixing up a yummy treat for our new neighbors. The cake mix was covering my face and shirt because I was eating it...straight from the box. With a spoon. I ate so much dry cake mix that I had to get myself a glass of water to wash it down. It was a rough day and the cake mix was my way of getting through it. Plus, it tasted really good.

Harriet had woken up seven times in nine hours the night before, so I was tired. And my husband is recovering from knee surgery, making me his primary nurse in addition to caring for our daughter and our dog, so I was frustrated and feeling sorry for myself.  Was Tuesday my best day? Nope. But if I put it in perspective, it probably wasn't so bad. Some day I will hate myself for reading my daughter's journal or saying "well, you're the one who has to wear it" when she chooses a prom dress I don't especially like. Some day I will criticize her boyfriend, show up late for her swim meet, or mistake her wedding for my own. I will do my very best to be a great mom, but I'm human and these things are bound to happen because parenting is not easy. Parenting is done by flawed people with baggage.

I try to offer myself grace, but we previously infertile moms tend to be pretty hard on ourselves. We wait so long to have a child. We work really hard to get pregnant. We skip our vacation, avoid the mall, or take out a second mortgage to pay for treatments. And throughout our journey to motherhood, people are constantly telling us that we will make excellent mamas. The long road that leads to our babies offers us plenty of time to notice the mistakes that other moms are making and solemnly vow that if God will just give us a child, we will parent...perfectly.

But - big surprise - we don't.

The thing is - motherhood after infertility is still motherhood, and it's hard. It's exhausting. And sometimes, we need a break. And sometimes we get lazy. And sometimes we wish we would have enjoyed those childless years a little more.

But we keep all of that inside because the very, very, very, very, very last thing you want to do after infertility is complain. In our old lives, before children, we nearly exploded when other women complained about having toys everywhere, sagging breasts, and a child who wouldn't sleep in his own bed. We shut down our Facebook accounts because we couldn't bear reading flippant comments about stretch marks, baby weight, and being up all night.

But now we are on the other side, and we realize that sometimes those things are tough. And if you don't say it out loud, your exhaustion and frustration will come out sideways...usually at your husband, but that's another post.

Being real about motherhood can also be challenging because many of us have become part of an infertility community. We are surrounded by women who haven't yet become mothers, women whose babies are sick, and women whose babies are in heaven. I know because I was (and still am) one of them. We do our very best to remember what it is like or to imagine what it is like. We strive to be gentle with their hearts. We try to find other people to confide in, but sometimes we slip up. I know I do, and I hate that. I'm so sorry for that.

Motherhood isn't an easy road, and being real about motherhood isn't always easy either. But it is important. Because our kids need to see us at our best and at our worst. They need to know that we are human. They need to hear us apologize. They need to learn that it is okay to be less than perfect and to talk about it.

So on Wednesday, the day after the bad one, I finished the box of cake mix before lunch. Not out of self deprecation or as a way of artificially improving a bad day but rather in the true spirit of cake...celebration.

The celebration of a new day...and a fresh start.

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