My body, baby

Such a terrifying post for me, but here I am. 5 weeks postpartum. 5 weeks post two complicate surgeries. This body has held 2 babies and 6 pregnancies.

This body has nurtured life after so much loss. It has played lacrosse for 20+ years, lifted weights, contorted into crazy yoga poses, played flag football through New York, and tip toed at the barre. This body even did @barre3 15 hours before I gave birth.

This body has hugged the dearest of friends, wiped countless tiny, runny noses, seen sunrises over NYC, hiked mountains in Peru, and loved the hell out of my wild family.

This body has carried me through darker times, out of situational depression and to this place here- to the happiest of my days.

For all of this I am endlessly proud. For all of this, I’ll stop worrying about pant sizes and numbers on the scale. For this body, I’ll nurture myself today and try to remover this on all days moving forward.

Baha Baby

As we walked home from school the other week, Landon paused and looked at the stroller.

“Momma, I wonder if she’ll need bahas… I hope so. I want to teach her about them and show her what to do. I mean… you’re her mommy and my mommy and I wear bahas so she probably will too.”

I swallowed hard, and tried to steady my breath. My mind racing around searching for the perfect answer. I breathed deeply and realized there isn’t room for perfect in these conversations. There is only love and truth and compassion. There is a momma who adores her daughter, and that’s all we need here.

“Well, baby. I don’t know if she will later, but at this point it doesn’t seem like she will need bahas. What’s awesome is you’ll still teach her all about them. You’ll teach her many, many important things like how to be kind, how to build legos, why the sky is blue, what super hero girls are your favorites, how to climb a tree, and how to love like a sister. Just as they don’t define you, they won’t be the only thing she sees when she looks at you. You’ll be this giant bright light to guide her, like you do for me,” I replied as I wiped the tears from my face. “I love you so much Landon.”

“I love you too mommy. But if she doesn’t….. what if I’m the only one who wears them in our family?”

“Even if you are, we all have things that are unique to us, and it’s our job to be exceptionally proud of each thing that makes us… us.” I went on to tell her what’s unique to me, her dad, Eric and Anna. She smiled as we walked and then started telling me about her rainbow bracelets and all the people she made bracelets for. Our teaching moment passing as quickly as it came.

I let the bigger and deeper conversation pass gently even though I wanted to sit her down immediately and make sure she felt my immense love. Knowing that all I want is for her to love herself as much as I do, but also knowing that these discussions will come and go quietly some days. Even though I love control… I need to let her guide me as to how much she wants to talk about anything. While these innocent questions are such important moments for me, they are also fleeting to a busy seven year old.

I asked her if she had any other questions, any other thoughts on the baby or bahas. She said no and starting skipping and twirling around the stroller. “I just love her SO much!!” she yelled.

Whenever we talk about hearing aids, TCS or something related, I always have a moment, an inch of panic that I’m not getting it right. That somehow I need to have practiced many times over to make sure she knows how wonderfully loved she is. What I need to remember is that in trusting myself, I’m trusting what I’ve learned these last seven years. I’m able to guide her by showing up to these conversations and letting HER talk. By letting patience guide us, looking her in the eyes and hugging her- showing her every way I can that she is love – that is always the path. She will teach Virginia and the world around her how amazing she is by being exactly herself. My job is just to remind her of that.

Xoxo

Eloise

BIRTH

Dearest Virginia,

Immediately you belonged to me. In meeting you, I knew you were home. My heart already swollen with years of longing to hold you.

I gazed up from my hospital bed and drank you in. I saw your pink face, fuzzy, blonde shoulders wrapped tightly in stripes, a hat too small hanging off delicate wisps of blonde hair on your head.

I tucked you under my neck, your body nestled on my chest. Your home. Tears coat my face as my eyes search for your daddy. We don’t need words- tear coated smiles convey the deepest love.

We unwrap your blanket and your warmth pours over my chest. You began searching and instantly nursed with ease. Your tiny little mouth that looks like mine already knows what to do… as if you’d always belonged there.

I hold onto you tightly, recognizing my hope and desperate pleas to have you, to know you, were answered in a tiny, seven-pound pink gift.

As you drink, I promise you that I’ll go slow.. that I won’t rush you. I vow to learn through the patience how to answer your cries. I won’t be perfect, I will be myself and raise you up to the light with your daddy’s hands. The two of us loved you into this world for years before we met you. We are home.

So stay here on my chest. Stay here in the crook of my neck. We’ve got you.

xxx,

momma

SEVEN

Dearest Landon,

This morning, seven years ago, I met you for the very first time. Bewildered by the incredible experience of bringing a baby into the world, they rolled you into my room, pink hat and all, and I got to hold your tiny body against mine. Seven magical years ago, you began your journey around the sun. You have been full of light, joy, humor, and kindness from that day. I marvel at how you love others, with fierce hugs, the sweetest nuzzling of your momma’s big belly, hilarious jokes, amazing new dance moves, and deep love of your adorable friends and devoted family.

You prefer to be outside, climbing anything, scooting or tearing the brakes on your bike. You are infinitely wise and amaze me with what you know at seven years young. It’s no wonder you have found a love of Supergirl as of late. See, you are Supergirl to me in every way. Standing up for your friends, rushing to help or care for your sister when she needs it, feeling for others in such a huge way, and always being so very brave… you are super and so full of love. I am so grateful to be your mother, so proud of you every day and I love you fiercely.

My darling bug, happiest birthday.

Love,

Momma

Lessons on life apart from your child

 

As I pull away from the curved, gravel carpool line, my face breaks and my throat tightens. The base of my sunglasses suddenly brim with tears as I try to focus on merging back into the crowded streets of Charleston. I struggle to keep it together and breathe short, shallow breaths. Ten minutes and I’m finally back in the comfort of our neighborhood. I slow to a crawl and park along our park. Watching the ducks meander, I call Eric. I need his reassuring, calm and deep voice to remind me that all will be okay. Like so many times before, when one of our children leaves our nest for another, we bend and sometimes break. The levee gets too full to hold the emotions at bay- especially if it’s a long weekend or stretch of time. He can tell without asking what’s wrong and proceeds with comforting reassurance. He calmly reminds me that Landon is so happy, so unbelievably loved, and time apart doesn’t shift anything. He continues that while it sucks, and it hurts and feels unnatural… that this is our life. This life is beautiful and full of even more love than before. I nod in agreement as if he’s there in person, breathing as deeply as possible. Yes, you’re right, all of that is so true. I hang up and stare at the park again… the crying has subsided but the emptiness will hold until she returns. This is our life while co-parenting.

We have a truly solid and frankly great co-parenting relationship, her dad and I. Something I’m grateful for and proud of how hard we’ve worked on building what it is today. With that in place, and with years of this under my belt, Friday drop offs before a weekend or two day separations shouldn’t result in my crumbling in Hampton Park. But some mornings, they just do. Some mornings, watching her little ponytail and unicorn headband turn from the car and head into her Kindergarten building, break my heart. As the physical distance grows on those days, so does the longing. 

No matter the number of years, no matter the number of nights or weekends, no matter anything… being apart from your child as a result of divorce or separate co-parenting is simply hard. But there is really nothing simple about it.  I usually drive to school more slowly those mornings, parking around the corner from the carpool line until the last 5 minutes of line up. I play whatever song she wants to hear and tell her she can get unbuckled while we’re parked. Kissing her little cheek, I describe how I carry her heart in my heart, and in there there we’re always together. I then pivot and have her tell me all the great things she’s going to do at the other house, then what fun we’ll have when I see her next. It’s overkill maybe, possibly some mornings it’s better to make it more routine and less dramatic. Some mornings my instincts tell me to reassure her, and quietly it helps me as well.  Frankly, since becoming pregnant, my attachment to her is in overdrive. I crave her face. There’s no amount of time with her that satiates my motherly desire to be close to her. And distance for a period of days can feel impossible.

On some of those nights, I can’t go into her room. It’s too quiet and empty- her little things ordered just so, her toys lined up on her shelf, her favorite book tucked into her covers. When I do venture in, I sit on her bed and let my tears fall into Lenny, her stuffed lamb, who smells a little bit like her but mainly like drool.

Experiencing this kind of separation can bring about intense feelings of guilt. When Landon cries or is sad about the distance or being apart, the guilt is so bad I can barely swallow. Breathing into it eases this slightly, and I’m acutely aware I need to continue working on accepting and releasing these feelings. It’s guilt for being apart, guilt for her sadness or that she has to learn to live without physically having one of her parents present. For the last year or two, my guilt has found its way into most cracks and crevices of my mind.

I’ve had people lately, some friends and some newer sorta-kinda friends, say to me that it’s so great I’m pregnant because I’ll have a child at home all the time now. As if I wouldn’t amputate a limb to have Landon there all the time as well. This baby doesn’t fill this void. That’s not why we decided to continue trying to have another child. And love expands doesn’t it, with more children, not taking from the love of your other kids.

To break the cycle of wallowing, I read about this particular style of parenting. I learn what I can from books or strangers on the internet who live a similar life. When I write, I craft lists and reminders. Things to call to mind when the levee breaks. In sharing these moments, these reminders, I hope dearly it may ease these same emotions in others who live this separate and together life.

First, it’s important to remind myself of the gifts in her life- just as I remind her when it feels just too hard to get out of the car and begin the time apart. She has immense love in her life. Her parents are healthy and doing unbelievably well with both of us choosing partners that adore her. With these supportive and loving homes comes a flood of new love- a sister and another one on the way, new adults to help her in her life and be there for her. She has parents who genuinely get along and who can co-parent with more ease and as a team. She’s healthy, very happy, and has adorable friends that care for her heart. She’s wildly smart, ahead of her years, and can do anything she sets her mind to.

Writing these even now, my stomach is less tense. My emotions are held at bay. In speaking or writing these truths, they have started to become mantras. It is an exercise in recognizing the gifts and the light amidst what feels so dark. 

Being apart will never feel “easy”- not with the fierce love we feel for our children. But with a mindful approach, with outlets for the guilt or sadness, with reminders of celebrations and moment of light in the journey, we can come out the other side even better parents. Our own happiness will be a gift for our children.

With so much love, patience and understanding…

xoxo

Eloise

This is pregnant life after loss

As I sit here, I am 16 weeks pregnant with a baby girl. Even with these last few months of all the pregnancy feels- all day sickness, food aversions and bathroom runs every 20 minutes, my emotions or reaction to being pregnant still fluctuates. I am overjoyed, anxious, ebullient and terrified that it’s fleeting. I am in a bit of disbelief, even with a growing belly, and the disbelief  borders on disconnection from what is happening inside my own body.

Will the connection bloom and grow as ultrasounds deliver good news time after time? Am I protecting myself from feeling connected? The answer to both of these questions is probably. This is pregnant life after loss, after all. I can recognize now that my pattern with struggle, with pain or with disappointment, is to put up a tough emotionally resistant wall. It has not mattered if this is at the hands of another or my own body, my reaction is the same. In studying my first marriage and its aftermath, the miscarriages and losses, even my lack of relationship with my father… I have erected hardened, emotional walls for protection. Shut it off so you feel less or hurt less, has been my unhealthy mantra and modus operandi in my life. Breaking or shifting that pattern feels hard and it is my new hurdle to surmount.

Then there is this term rainbow baby being thrown around. The term itself frankly does not sit well with me. It’s a nice concept, I guess, something bright and colorful that follows a storm. Shining light following something dark and scary. In fact, there are currently 700 drawings of rainbows in my house as Landon is deeply obsessed with them. But with fertility, it also implies that once you get pregnant with this rainbow child, that it’s all sunny and literal rainbows… and it means you’ve left your storm completely. As we all know, life is not that simple. As many women who have experienced loss or multiple losses will tell you…  fear and grief for our losses, escape from a newly constructed protection wall…  these things do not vacate your body just because a baby has moved in.

The rainbow concept, as nice as it is, implies that this pregnancy papers over the past with some rainbow bright sparkling light… and I don’t want it to. I want to remember those losses because they taught me what self care really means. I want to remember them because they each had their own name lists and entries in pregnancy apps and due dates. Our losses made me slow down, adjust my life and welcome balance. They allowed me to set priorities that include school pickups mid-afternoon and cherished playground time before dinner. Never before have I advocated for myself… not really, and I finally feel in the driver’s seat.

I do feel I am on the brink of excitement. We have heard her heartbeat three times, seen her little image, we have also dreamed up the perfect name… yet the unbridled elation, the deep love without fear, and all-consuming baby-baby-baby mentality I had when pregnant with Landon and with our first pregnancy, it has not come yet. I am very happy, but I do recall an otherworldly obsession in the past. That kind of unbridled joy that can exist when you fully release fear of being hurt. It is something I have felt before, but not yet and maybe never with this one. And that is OKAY. When discussing our expecting with people, I find myself faking it a little with my answer to “what a blessing, you must be beyond thrilled!” The only answer is “YES!” To give the answer “well, with my past, I’m working on bringing down this emotional wall I’ve put up”… talk about a Debbie Downer.

This child…  she will be loved, doted on and cherished. I do not worry or doubt that. But I recognize that my journey into motherhood again is paved with well-worn experiences. My eyes are wide open, recognizing all of the miracles that have led us here. I can see the emotional wall being built, and I have never acknowledged it before. I see it as one of the monuments being built that I used to visit as a child growing up outside of D.C. Shining stones being place carefully atop one another, inscribed with what I have seen and felt before. As I work to remove one at a time, I do so without judgement… without the guilt. I have never before felt more like a mother warrior- aware of where I have been yet looking into the future with hope that I can change my patterns. And I will eventually move passed this phase and into accepting joy without fear. It just takes time. And again, that is OKAY.

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We can do such hard things, us mothers… us women… and pregnancy after loss is only one of them. I am here to say to you today… let us not go into this complex time pretending we are fine. What if we didn’t settle for fine but strive for great?  All of our experiences with loss are rainbows that have dimmed, and a new child does not heal us. Those memories and experiences are important for us to remember and carry with us. Everything we endure in life teaches us something if we let it, and they map where we are going next. I think there is immense power in accepting that and studying how that makes us feel.

With incredible love-

Xoxo

Eloise