I Photographed My Children At All The Wrong Times

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I photographed my children at every big moment in their lives, the staged spectacles that seem so important at the time. We know that we will want to see weddings and showers, births and birthdays, school performances and graduations again and again.

Recently I was watching the video of a class performance of one of my sons that took place 12 years ago. There he was, his little seven-year old self, sitting among his classmates, singing away at the top of his lungs and glancing over occasionally to see if I was still watching. His smile, to me, was the most beautiful thing on Earth, and the little movements that I know so well yanked hard at my heart.

But in a blinding flash I knew that I had recorded the wrong thing. For although I thought this concert was a big moment, one that I would want to revisit, I now see that I was entirely mistaken. There are moments I want back, moments I would give anything to relive, and they were not staged, not expected and I never saw them coming.

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I took pictures of our sleeping children either crashed on the couch, in their car seats or their cribs. But never once did I bring a camera into our bed. If I could do a deal with the devil, I would transport us back to mornings where all three of our kids had climbed into our bed. In turns we had awakened and dozed and I would open my eyes to see arms and legs, wrapped in little boy pajamas draped over my husband and myself. This moment exists only in my mind’s eye and I want it back.

My brother’s in-laws have a house with a hill sloping downward from their back porch. On a hot sunny August day they lined part of the hill with plastic and turned on the garden hose. My young sons and their cousins proceeded to ruin this patch of lawn by sliding down the slippery plastic, oh, I’d say 100 times. Every inch of their little bodies was covered in mud and I don’t know when, before or since, I have ever seen them so happy. I want to be at the side of that bathtub as I tried to scrape the layer of mud from their scalps and they told me again and again how it was the best day of their lives.

I photographed my children on the first day of school every year from nursery to 12. In each photo here is an expectant smile on their faces and they gleam with new haircuts, new backpacks and new clothes. But the moment I want back is a few weeks into one new school year when my eldest, a child who loved school, climbed into my lap one morning and told me he didn’t think he could go anymore and that he was just going to stay with me. It was one day in 14 years of education and as he sobbed in my lap, needing nothing more that my arms around him, I know that I would trade every shiny first day of school moment for a few seconds when my arms were the safest place in the world to him.

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Prom pictures, I took conservatively a hundred. Slide a teenage boy into a tux and watch a miraculous transformation from scruffy adolescent to man-child in a matter of moments. I caught it all, and the bigger the event, the more I snapped the shutter. But the moment I want to relive is when my son arrived home late one night, weeks before the formal event, and recounted to me how he had gathered his friends to serenade his date into accepting his prom invitation. He had never really discussed girls with me and at the moment our relationship crossed yet another bridge towards the two adults we will be for so many years. We weren’t there yet, we are not yet there now, but that night we took a big step closer.

I have held my camera at the wrong moments, mistaking the pageantry of my children’s life for the moments I would hold dear. But parenthood never ends and tonight my husband was playing soccer with two of my teenage sons in our backyard. The three of them laughed and joked in the fading summer light and after two decades of being a mother I had the good sense to breathe in the smells of summer, let my heart fill with the joy of watching them together and bring my camera along.

Related post: About a Boy

How to Change a One Year Old’s Diaper in 35 Easy Steps

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1. Catch baby after chasing him around the couch.

2. Lift baby so his bum is in front of your face.

3. Conduct whiff test to confirm, yes, he pooped.

4. Carry squirming baby to the changing area.

5. Place baby on his back on the changing table.

6. Commence taking off baby’s pants as he tries to roll over.

7. Place baby on his back on the changing table, again.

8. Repeat steps 6 and 7

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9. Open changing table drawer.

10. Remove clean diaper from drawer.

11. Quickly scan the drawer’s contents to find an object to distract the child. (Fingernail clippers, thermometer, diaper cream, lotion, medicine dropper etc.)

12. Hand child the $45.00 temporal thermometer. It beeps. He will like it.

13. Remove child’s pants.

14. Undo tabs of diaper.

15. Assess the size of the poop and mentally calculate the required ratio of wipes to poop.

16. Grab needed wipes from dispenser.

17. Begin wiping baby while he tries to roll over.

18. Get poop on your hand.

19. Grab more wipes, try to quickly wipe poop from your hand.

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20. Grab more wipes to remove the poop that is now on baby’s heel.

21. Hear the thud as the temporal thermometer hits the ground.

22. Roll up the offensive diaper with one hand, while the other hand holds the baby’s feet.

23. Give the baby the wipes box to play with.

24. Slide the new diaper under the baby and bring baby’s legs down.

25. Fasten tabs of new diaper as he tries to roll over.

26. Hear the thud of the wipes box as it hits the ground.

27. The diaper is now securely on the baby. It is crooked, but on the baby.

28. Commence putting each of the baby’s kicking legs into his pants. Baby has now kicked the pants off.

29. Repeat step 28.

30. Give up on the pants and carry pants-free baby into the bathroom, while trying not to touch him with your poop hand.

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31. Wash baby’s poop foot in the sink.

32. Set him down on the floor.

33. Wash your poop hands.

34. Notice your baby’s eyebrows are turning red as he is making “the face”.

35. Start over, beginning at step 2.

Related post: 10 Things You Should Know About Babies

10 Times I Wish I Wasn’t a Mom

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I love my children. I love them in a way I never knew love existed. A mad, crazy, I’d-catch-a grenade-for-ya love. But love like that is exhausting. Motherhood is exhausting. Just because I love my children doesn’t mean I always have to like what needs to be done. You could find more mental stimulus working in the County mail room then in the day-to-day of a Stay-At-Home-Mom. And there are times and situations where I have to mentally check-out just to cope…

1. On weekends, at lunchtime. One of the many jobs I held during my teenage years was waiting tables in a diner. I was an awful waitress. The soup was always brought to the table cold, I never got the salad dressings correct, entrées were often staggered throughout the meal, and split checks? Yikes. Now, motherhood has put me right back in the throes of the diner once again. Except now, I’m the chef, the waitress, the busboy, and the cleanup crew all balled up into one frazzled package. And I can’t even flirt with the cute dishwasher. Oh shit, I am the dishwasher. How could I forget about that? At least during the week I can make lunches while they sleep for the next day, not having to listen to them complain about how they have too much (or not enough) ice in their cup.

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2. Before nap time. Without Curious George the 4-year-old won’t nap, without Netflix there is no Curious George, without Comcast there is not Netflix. So, as you can imagine, there is often no nap. HE NEEDS A NAP.

3. When I’m trying to complete a project. I’ve been trying to clean the garage fridge for 3 weeks. Whenever I get everything emptied out, something else needs my immediate attention. The 9-year-old needs a specific book off the top shelf, the 4-year-old wants my undivided attention to show me the cool trick he’s just realized he can do (this time it was farting on command) and the baby? Well he’s mobile now and attempting to climb the stairs every chance he gets, so… projects? Not so much.

4. When they have to complete a project. The 4-year-old had to color a project from preschool at home. Normally, he loves to color but once I was involved it became the biggest case of oppositional defiant disorder I’d ever seen. I was eventually able to persuade him with the promise of chocolate and 25 rounds of Candy Land. I can’t wait until he’s in Middle School. {eye roll}

5. During homework time. The 9-year-old is pretty good about getting his homework done. Unfortunately, that’s usually the exact time his younger brother decides to pelt him with Nerf bullets, or singFrosty the Snowman at the top of his lungs. This place is a zoo, and not in a cute, Matt Damon, We Bought a Zoo, way.

6. The last days of winter/spring/summer break. Three weeks off in a row has been mind numbing. Any parent who says different is a teacher.

7. When I’m on the phone. If I ever want my kids to pay attention to me, all I need to do is make a phone call. Come to find out, all kids are like this, and since most of my friends are parents too, we end up in a 30 minute conversation where we haven’t been able to say anything to each other but can recall, precisely, the infractions of each others’ children.

8. When they are fighting. This is ALL. THE. TIME. The sweetest brotherly moment can erupt into World War 3 out of no where. Once, I watched them fight over who was playing with the baby and how the other was stealing the baby’s attention. “There’s enough baby to go around,” was the incorrect way to settle this argument.

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9. When I catch them in a lie. As my oldest quickly becomes a tween, I’m catching him in lots of fibs. It’s annoying, it’s depressing. Doesn’t he know he can tell me anything? I’m not always going to like the truth, but I’m always going to love him. Hopefully he learns that lesson. And quick.

10. When they’re not around. I know it sounds completely silly, there are so many times I think, “I wish I had a minute to breathe/think/not have to talk/pee/not have to hold someone” but when my kids aren’t in this house I miss them like crazy, and I worry. Even when they are in situations with people I unequivocally trust. That’s the thing about being a mom, I have three little people who are carrying around a piece of my heart, and it’s only entirely complete when we all are together.

Related post: It’s Not Hard: 10 Ways to Make Mom Happy

How I Felt After My First Child Was Born

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I really wanted a natural childbirth. We took hypnobirthing classes. We went to midwives. I watched all the right documentaries. No early cord cutting for me! No pitocin! Definitely no epidural. No painkillers! I am woman – I can do this!

Then my son pooped all over himself in the womb, went into distress, his heart rate dropped — DRAMATICALLY — and I ended up with an emergency C-section. I know a lot of women who end up with C-sections, heck, a lot of women even opt for them. But I wasn’t prepared for how horribly I would react to it. I wasn’t prepared for having to recover from a major surgery. In fact, I wasn’t prepared for anything less than what I had imagined would be my perfect birth. I wasn’t ready for how I would feel after my first child was born.

A couple of days after the birth, the obligatory congratulations started pouring in. From my friends without kids, the responses were benign enough: “Congratulations!” “Good job Momma!”  “Way to go!”  The responses from my friends with kids went something like this:

“Did you ever think you could love something so much?”

“You’ll never believe this love you are experiencing will just continue to grow and grow!”

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“Welcome to the most incredible ride of your life!”

Huh? Why didn’t I feel this way? What was wrong with me? Was I like one of those animals in the wild who eats their young? After years of trying to become pregnant, was I actually not maternal?

Looking into my son’s eyes, all I saw was a little creature who I wasn’t sure liked me, who I couldn’t seem to satisfy, and who I was going to be responsible for keeping happy for a loooong time. And – he was ruining my boobs.  What the hell? I started crying. And crying. Pretty much every day. This was definitely not how it was supposed to be. I had always wanted a child. Why wasn’t I happy?

A few weeks after the birth, the fog cleared, I stopped crying every day, and eventually slipped out of my depression. When I talked to mothers about what I had experienced, many of them said they had felt the same exact way after the birth of their children. The first thing I thought was, “Why?” Why hadn’t anyone warned me it might happen? I didn’t realized that not everyone was blissfully happy after having a child.  Some women are really overwhelmed. And that is normal. What a revelation.

There only seems to exist two stories for a new mom: she’s a glowingly happy maternal queen who can fancy a Moby Wrap into an origami swan, or she’s a danger to herself and her baby. But there are so many shades of gray in between. Expecting mothers should be told about those! I mean, I get it –  pregnant women are overly sensitive, hormonal, petrified – nobody wants to scare the shit out of them. We treat a pregnant lady with kid gloves, but  guess what- a new mom is still overly sensitive, hormonal, petrified – and now she has a little being depending on her for ALL OF IT’S EARTHLY NEEDS. I think it would help all of us to practice a little honesty toward expecting moms. Tell them what they’re in for! For the sisterhood!

“Go the the movies.  I haven’t been to a movie theater since my son was born. Go out to dinner with your husband. Oh, and sleep – a lot.  Like 18 hours a day, or more if you can. Start using lotion on your nipples now, because after about 24 hours of breastfeeding they are going to be chapped and cracking. Get a pedicure. A manicure. A haircut. Have sex, for sure, because you won’t be doing that for a LONG time. Do you have a picture of your belly, pre-pregnancy? I hope so because from now on you’re going to have this little extra flap of skin that you’ll have no idea what to do with. Yea, it’s gross. Watch a lot of TV – and swear constantly. You won’t be able to do either of these things after the baby’s born for fear it will cause irreparable damage to baby’s brain and temperament. Have your husband touch your boobs – a lot. You’re not going to want him to go near them after your child’s been feeding off them for a year. Oh, and no one’s gonna get up for you on the subway anymore, so you should just ride it for a few hours – maybe to Queens?”

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Oh Jesus. Maybe that’s not the solution either.

But we can be a little more forthcoming about what it is to be a new mom. It’s terrifying, isolating, and also great. It’s confusing and totally worth it.

If you are a brand new mom reading this post – go easy on yourself. You made a person! Good job!  Way to go! Did you ever think you could love something so much? You’ll never believe this love you are experiencing will just continue to grow and grow! Welcome to the most incredible ride of your life.

Related post: The 15 Things I Hope For New Parents