What Could Have Been

49 Comments
family-of-five Image via Shutterstock

It can hit you at the weirdest times. It just does. And when it does… it gives you an emotional chill like a shadow from your past.

I was driving my wife to work today as we often do in the morning and it hit me just then. She was going through Facebook scrolling by a picture of some old friends with their kids. I asked her, “don’t they have four kids now?” They do.

And it hit me. We could, too. Or could have. But don’t.

We’ve come such a long way… many years and thousands of miles from a phone call to my work one night. Something was wrong. My wife knew it. Through her tears she asked me to come get her. I left work right away. I found her in a stall in the women’s room at Boston University where she worked… crying.. her clothes soaked through with blood. I took her to the doctor but by then she knew… we knew… how could you not know… she had suffered a miscarriage.. what would have been our first baby as a newly married couple. Of course, my wife was physically OK and that was most important. We were assured we could try again at some point when the time was right. That was important too. In the meantime, we went home for a couple of days and hid ourselves in takeout and movies and self-pity. We told the few family members who already knew she was pregnant. But let’s face it.. There’s not a whole lot someone can say or do to make you feel any better. And all the good will can’t replace the fact that you were already secretly picking baby names and nursery colors and getting excited to be new parents. You compartmentalize that chapter of your life like an old photo in an album that you tuck away on a shelf and only glance at once in a long while.

Time passed. We went on to have a beautiful daughter Alicia.

We’d go on to have another miscarriage, too. By that time we felt like old pros at it. This time my wife was right in the doctor’s office at her pregnancy exam when the doctor informed her she was miscarrying. It didn’t make it any easier. We went home. We hardly told anyone. This time, we poured ourselves into caring for our young girl at home that we already had. And again we compartmentalized that chapter of our life like an old photo in an album that we tucked away on a shelf and only glance at once in a long while.

Time passed again. We went on to have another beautiful daughter Andreya.

We chose not to try for more children. Out of four pregnancies, two ended in miscarriage. I feel blessed to have two healthy kids. Why test the percentages again? Sure once in a while the thought of another baby creeps in… the idea of raising a new baby and having that excitement back in the family. For us, the time has passed. But yes I still think about it… sometimes… at the weirdest times… that our family might have been bigger… could have been bigger… but isn’t. And I know there are so many other couples just like us. This is my subtle nod to them.. we’ve been there too. I’m not going to tell you how to feel. I just want you to know you’re not alone. You’re not. Today I flipped through that old photo album in my mind and was taken right back there.

I dropped my wife off at work and returned home to make breakfast with the kids as one danced around with her panda stuffed animal… And the other drew one of her fantastic drawings. They really are the most incredible kids. Yes I still think about it… sometimes… at the weirdest times… that our family might have been bigger… could have been bigger… but isn’t.

It’s always going to be a page in that old photo album of our lives together. But my family is perfect the way it is and that’s just fine with me.

Related post: The Invisible Moms’ Club

Noah’s Name

66 Comments

sunset

I named my son Noah because I loved the images it evoked. Imagine all the animal species of the world peacefully rocking side by side, two by two, in an ark made by  faithful hands from gopher wood. I loved the idea of a fresh start, of the planet covered in my favorite element, having lived my whole life cradled by salt water. I loved the image of that ancient Noah on the bow of his ark, extending his open hand to catch the dual symbols of peace—a dove and the simple olive branch she clutched in her beak. I named my son Noah because, given the choice, why not name your son after God’s chosen one?

On the day Noah was born, the sun came out after raining for 40 days and 40 nights. His birthplace was Oregon, after all. He had reddish blonde hair and a peaceful countenance. Noah was the first of my children to gaze back into my loving eyes with a curiosity that reflected the color with which I, too, see the world—blue. He was delivered into the happy seven-year-old hands of his sister, Hannah, and the capable arms of Christiana, who was four. His brother Micah, at three, was completely enraptured by him, inquisitive about each sound or movement Noah made. Noah Patrick, we named him, with his Dad’s middle name. Noah Patrick Moore, we added, with my maiden name. Noah Patrick Moore Kittel, we concluded with the final name of my husband that we all share. “Noah Moore,” some joked, but it would not turn out to be so funny.

Death stalked our happiness and Noah was not ours to love for very long. This is what I read at his funeral 15 months later. “Noah. He was ours for one long and lovely weekend of our lives. He began his journey into this world on a Friday night and arrived as an answer to our prayers on a Saturday morning in the wee hours as the world slept. We knew the wonder of him before the dawn while others only dreamt of such miracles. As Saturday progressed we knew him already and he was a part of us. We were fascinated by his hunger, we watched him lovingly as he slept, we giggled together, we fed him his first foods, we clapped as he crawled, we laughed when he danced, we tickled him, and we admired his ability to climb. By Saturday night he was permanently and forever coursing through our veins. He had eight teeth and an incredible smile. He clapped for himself proudly as he took his first steps. He screamed for what he wanted. He pointed at all he saw. He read books happily. He loved ice cream.

As Sunday dawned we dreamed of one another. We were a family of six. Noah was as much a part of our life as breathing. We played and already the memories were long and detailed. We started the day with his noises and we loved him all morning. We rejoiced at our blessings and admired his beauty. We gave thanks for the perfection of our little family and knew how to be content. We were happy and whole. By Sunday afternoon Noah had left us and the lovely weekend was over. There could never be another weekend so perfect again. Last to arrive but first to leave, we will forever follow his lead. We taught him all we knew and all we could. He now knows more than we can ever begin to comprehend. And we are only beginning to decipher the meaning of Noah and all he taught us. He gave gifts which can’t be bought and taught richly without words. We are forever grateful and will forever yearn for Sunday morning again.”

Twelve years later, we’d added two more children to our family and were living in Costa Rica with four of them, having left Hannah behind. Dropping her off at college was supposed to be a difficult milestone for us, her parents, and I won’t deny that the umbilical cord tugged at my belly. But when you’ve dropped your son off in a funeral home or left him behind in a cemetery, any place on Earth is an easier place for farewells. I had begun writing the story of Noah and the subsequent loss nine months later of his brother, Jonah. Jonah means “Noah’s dove” and off he flew to be with Noah sometime during his stillbirth, leaving us standing on the shore once more with empty arms extended and his name on our breath—Jonah Emmanuel Moore Kittel. For three years by then, I’d been trying to capture the story of our sons who were with us such a short, yet powerful, time. Many days I’d look up from my computer screen and expect to see them toddling towards me. It was magical time spent with my sons while their siblings were at school. We bereaved parents learn to take what we can get.

In the spring, our friends came to visit us with their three sons, the eldest of whom—Adam—is autistic. Adam’s parents were Noah’s Godparents and even though Adam had not seen Noah for many years, he spent the whole week calling Micah and our youngest son, Isaiah, by his name—Noah. Hearing that word was the sweetest music to my ears and my sons didn’t mind being called Noah one bit. For me, a self-proclaimed word lover, naming my babies was one of the most pleasurable parts of pregnancy and, as I said, I pondered the possibilities and chose them carefully. Indeed, one of the many ways I miss my sons was just this—the silence where their names used to be. When our week with Adam drew to an end, I told Noah’s Godfather how much I had enjoyed hearing Noah’s name spoken so many times by Adam. He exhaled a sigh of relief, saying, “I thought it would be painful for you to hear!” And that was yet one more reminder to me of how misunderstood our bereavement can be.

A few days later I was blessed to receive a digital story produced by a relative called, “The things that matter.” In the three minutes she was allotted to impart the most important things in her life, she chose to mention that Noah had taught her daughter how to climb stairs before he left his playmate behind. It was another incredible gift for me to hear Noah’s name spoken again in that story.

Even today, 16 and 17 years after they died, I miss my sons every minute of my life. I will go to my grave with their names on my lips. When nobody dares to speak our children’s names we wonder if they have been forgotten. I want to wake up every morning and shout my son’s names to the Universe. “Noah!” “Jonah!”

For bereaved parents these are, indeed, the things that matter.

What Marriage Vows Really Mean

123 Comments

real-marriage-vows

I’m a happily married woman, but don’t tell my husband that. I like to keep him guessing.

We recently celebrated our anniversary and discussed renewing our vows next year. This isn’t so much because we need to remind ourselves of the contract we entered into — I’m reminded of that every night when I listen to him snore. Rather, we thought it would be good to have an excuse to leave the Midwest in April and return to the beach where we wed. After all, it beats scraping frost off of our windshields.

When discussing our plans, I got to thinking about our vows and what they actually mean. I know what they’re supposed to mean and I take that part seriously, but after being married for a few years, I have realized there are alternate meaning to the vows…

· In sickness and in health … I will limit my eye rolls when you complain about being sick.

· I take thee to be my lawfully wedded spouse …  and I look forward to joint filing on taxes.

· I receive you into my life …  and my bank account.

· I promise to be faithful …  I don’t have time for anyone else.

· I will obey you …  as long as you agree with me.

· I promise to laugh with you …  and at you.

· I promise to be a patient parent to our children … and count to ten before I yell at them.

· I will help guide you through life … After all, I am the boss.

· To share in the gift of offspring …  because I can’t do it alone.

· I promise to comfort you in times of need … but not give up the comfortable spot on the couch.

· No matter what lies in our path …  or when I total our brand new car.

· I promise to hold your hand until the end of days …  or until your palms get sweaty.

· With this ring I wed …  but it won’t be the only ring we’ll purchase for me.

· To have and to hold …  but not to spoon or snuggle too much.

· For richer or poorer …  but hopefully just for richer.

· ‘Til death do us part …  and until life insurance kicks in.

Even after analyzing these vows, I still think I will renew them next year. After all, I’ve discovered the secret to a happy marriage: It’s comprised of two parts love, one part honesty and respect and one part fear of the wife.

It’s a formula that works for us.

12 Truths About Boys And Bathrooms

123 Comments

boy-on-toilet

Whoever said that a man’s best friend is a dog lied. A man’s best friend is his penis, and that friendship goes all the way back to the first day someone tried to cover it up with a diaper.

In my house I have cleaned up enough messes in our family bathroom to know that boys are wild animals. I say that with love. They are compelled to heed the call of the wild with every urge to whiz. What most moms don’t know when they sign up for the motherhood gig is that potty training starts on day one and continues right on through adulthood.

Don’t believe me? In the spirit of honesty and unabashed sharing I will share a dozen dirty truths about boys and bathrooms. Grab your rubber gloves and a glass of wine, ladies … you’ll need them!

1. Potty training starts the day your son is born. It’s true. The day a nurse or midwife hands you your son you will immediately be thrown into potty training. It will start with being peed and pooped on while learning how to finagle a cloth diaper or how to fold a disposable diaper into a neat and trash-ready package.

2. Welcome to poop rodeo. I am almost certain that an infant boy trying to prevent his mother from changing his freshly filled diaper invented wrestling. The amount of wriggling, squirming, and whining that a child makes during a diaper change is like a demonstration for his right to be naked all the livelong day. In this process to be as free as a bird, your little wonder will get poop everywhere.

3. Boys LOVE to talk about their poop. Every single morning I hear at least one comment from my four-year-old about his poop. He wants to tell me everything about it from its size to its color to just how stinky it is. If that isn’t enough, the child wants to ask me questions bout my thoughts on his poop. I get it, already! You made poop! That’s great! Guess what?! I make stuff too! I made YOU! Imagine that.

4. Farting will become a full contact sport. The fastest way to make a boy laugh is to make flatulent sounds. By the time my oldest son had turned three he realized that he could make himself burb, and by extension he could also conjure up a fart in a dire moment of comedy. This hidden talent has morphed into a game of farting on people by running up to someone (me) and tooting followed by squeals of delight.

5. Houseplants that sit on the floor are potential targets for “pretending to pee outside. My poor rubber tree plant. The thing died one winter after we discovered that our son had been practicing how to pee in a bush outside. His imagination went wild when he was told that in the spring he could pee anywhere he wanted if he was in the woods.

6. Boys will discover their fun parts MUCH sooner than you think. Before their first birthdays both of my sons had firmly discovered that their most awesome body part was indeed their peen. Not a day goes by that either of them hasn’t grabbed, shaken, twisted, or pulled on their fun parts at least 100 times.

7. Peeing on the toilet seat, the floor, and possibly the bathtub will become a sport. I swear there is a secret point system to this game that no one is telling me. I find pee puddles everywhere in the bathroom and it drives me absolutely bonkers. Sometimes I wonder if the boys in this house are conspiring against me.

8. Putting the seat down will be a life long battle. My husband is 37 and still hasn’t mastered this feat of engineering: a toilet seat has a hinge on it, which makes it GO DOWN. I utter the phrase “put the seat down” about as often as my constant threat to put someone in timeout for jumping off the couch or trying to tie something to the dog’s tail.

9. Peeing outside will be the single most amazing thing in the world to a boy. The day my husband told our oldest son that he could pee outside was the same day that he realized what freedom is. The kid has peed on nearly every flowering plant in my garden beds. He has claimed more territory on our 3 acres than the family dog has.

10. Explaining why Mom doesn’t have a penis is awkwardEvery mother knows that peeing alone is something that will likely never happen in her house once she has kids. If those children are boys the inevitable observation will be made that Mom doesn’t possess a penis. Try explaining that to a two-year-old without incurring more awkward questions. Well, dear, I don’t have a penis because I have a vagina. No, I said vuh-gina. Yup, it’s what girls have. I don’t know, it just is. Because it just is. No, I can’t pee outside. Uh…go ask your father.

11. If a boy asks for privacy at the age of four, it is because he is trying flush toys down the toilet. There is a rule at my house that unless you are old enough to know why a person would need privacy in a bathroom then you don’t get to have it. Case in point: my kid keeps trying to flush stuff down the toilet. He totally fascinated by the whooshing sound and the fact that things seemingly disappear (like his dinner last Thursday).

12. The whole world will know when you son finally poops in the toilet. It will happen one day when you are grocery shopping that your son will tell the checkout girl that he made a giant poop in the toilet and that it stunk up the joint. And guess what? He flushed it all by himself too! And then later, he will retell this story to the neighbors. If you try to make a phone call he might be excited and ask to tell his story to whomever you are talking to…like the mortgage company.

Potty training isn’t just about teaching a child to do his business on a toilet without destroying the bathroom…or his pants. It is a learning process about how a body works, social boundaries, humility, humor, and a poor mother’s patience.

Related post: 10 Things Boys Should Know About Being Men

This Is Not A Test: Motherhood in Israel

372 Comments

Israel-flag

It was one of those evenings when the biggest problems you face with your kids is whether there should be seconds on strawberry ice cream (there were), whether we had time to play one more round of Go Fish before bed (we did) and whether we would read King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub or Where the Wild Things Are (we went with both.)

Their hair was still wet from the shower, their eyes starting to droop when the siren wailed.

No. This is not a test. This is not a test. This is not a test.

We live in Israel, and our country is at war with a terrorist organization just an hour’s drive away; a terrorist organization committed to destroying Israel, a terrorist organization hurdling rockets at us for the last 10 years. And anyone living in this country – Muslim, Christian, or Jew – is a target.

And you know what’s crazy? Just like I learned STOP DROP AND ROLL as a kid growing up in LA smack dab in earthquake country, my kids knew exactly what to do when the sirens screech through the night. They ran to their flip flops lined up by the door – thank GOD for cheap slip-on shoe. My daughter struggled with hers, so I swooped her up in my arms while my son and I fled our home, past the purple scarecrow my children built “to keep the rockets away, Mama, so they don’t hurt us when we sleep,” over rough and rocky ground to a public bomb shelter.

Um, can I get a WTF? We have a public bomb shelter.

Like everyone else in Israel. Bomb shelters are all over this country.

Air raid sirens, Iron Dome – a system to take down rockets mid-air before they land on families like us – bomb shelters and safe rooms, they’re part of the rhythm of this place. And thank God for them, because just before we reached the shelter, the ground moved. Like literally moved.

STOP. DROP. AND ROLL.

No, keep running until we’re safe inside.

“Red Alert, Red Alert” my children sang. “Hurry hurry hurry because now it’s dangerous. Hurry hurry hurry, to a safe area.”

So basically, while I grew up on “The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round,” my kids know a song about what to do during a rocket attack.

“Breathe deep, it’s ok to laugh!” they sang as we reached the inside of the shelter with several other families.


We shook with the blast and my daughter screamed – the kind of horror movie scream you hear when the monster slithers out from under the bed, or a deranged clown crawls through the sewer – because these are our monsters, these rockets hurdling towards us, seeking to make a direct hit.

Inside the shelter, what can we do?

We ate Pringles and chocolate milk. We played Go Fish with our neighbors, and prayed.

In Judaism, we have an expression: When shit gets real, first you cry. Then you get angry. And finally you laugh. With your mouth wide open and all teeth showing, you laugh as your body reels.

And as the news broke on Whatsapp that the rocket landed less than a five minute walk from where we were eating strawberry ice cream only minutes before, we skipped the tears, hopped past the anger and went straight to laughing.

Really, there is no other choice.

7 Ways Moms Are Like Mother Teresa

27 Comments
angel-mother Image via Shutterstock

Every time I demonstrate my superhuman ability to remain patient and calm in the midst of one of my kids’ shit-storm meltdowns of whining, complaining, crying, or general pain-in-the-assing, my husband tells me I’m Mother Teresa. In case you’re wondering, I’m not. Mother Teresa died in 1997, and anyway, she’s a lot shorter than me. I always just shake my head and mutter like a lunatic when my husband gives me this label, because he says it right as I’m about to blow my lid, and now I can’t blow my lid because then he won’t think I’m like Mother Teresa anymore. Damn him.

Lid-blowing tendencies or not, it must be said that in many ways, I do bear uncanny resemblances to MT. In fact, ALL mothers do. I’m over-exaggerating you say? Likening mothers to someone who’s nominated for sainthood is sacrilege you say? Are you calling me a heathen? If you knew my history, you’d know those are fightin’ words, and let’s not go there because I really hate violence (snorts in hysterical laughter). No, but seriously, here’s a better question. Do you even HAVE a mother? If so, then you should already see the following comparisons.

7. Mother Teresa tended to the sick.  Mothers are the sole caregivers, whether there is a father living in the same household or not, when one or all of their kids are sick. They are puked on, shit on, coughed on, drooled on, and cried on while dragging their unreasonable little sickos to the doctor, entertaining them whilst spending an infuriatingly long purgatory in the germ-infested waiting room, sitting on their squirming bodies when they fight to near death against getting a strep or any other kind of test, cart their miserable asses on over to the drug store where the kids make a sudden recovery and start going ape-shit in the toy aisle as the prescriptions are being prepared at a snail’s pace, and then, back at home, beg, plead, negotiate, bribe, and finally force the medicine down the sick child’s gullet to get him better ASAP. (By the way, that last part is called HEALING the sick. I don’t think MT has that one on her resume. BOOM, shawty)!

6. Mother Teresa fed the hungry. Mothers feed the hungry every 2 to 3 HOURS, and many of them produce the food from their very own unwieldy and leaky teats. Even beyond breastfeeding, Moms with older kids are required to serve them food on this very same demanding schedule. If it’s been 2 hours since breakfast, and the resident emaciated, ravenous 7-year-old doesn’t have a school of Goldfish in his snapping, salivating jaws, the apocalypse with its Four Hungry Horsemen will trample the pantry.

5. Mother Teresa took a vow of celibacy when she became a nun. Mothers take a vow of celibacy after they shoot a baby out of their hoo-ha. (Oh? You’re 10 cm dilated? Sweet! Well, FYI, you’re about to push a THIRTY-FIVE CENTIMETER HUMAN HEAD out of your vagina! To channel Austin Powers: Does that make you horny, baby? DOES IT)? Even after the six weeks of doctor-mandated abstinence, mothers stick loyally to their vow of celibacy, which is unofficially called I’m Too Tired From Being Pawed At By This Needy-Ass Kid All Day, So Get Your Damn Hands Off Me, You Sex-Crazed Caveman.

4. Mother Teresa gave all she had to the Needy. Please refer to #7, 6, and 5.

3. Mother Teresa helped to clothe the naked. Mothers have been diapering and clothing naked baby butts since the dawn of time. And come to think of it, there’s an awful lot of intentional streaking that goes on, way after infancy, possibly into the teenage years, requiring mothers to chase their children around with swaddling clothes, jock straps, or other modest garments meant to cover unsightly asses or genitalia.

2. Mother Teresa protected the children of Calcutta. If you mess with a mother’s children, she will CalCUTya.

1. Mother Teresa sacrificed her feminine vanity by becoming a nun. Mothers sacrifice their vanity as soon as a baby starts turning their body into an alien host. Furthermore, they spend the first year of the baby’s life in yoga pants or PJs, and forget about taking the time to apply make-up, because even if they had the energy, their new 2 ½ foot tall boss isn’t gonna let them take a 5-minute beautification break. “Where do you think YOU’RE goin,’ Mama?! Where? To the bathroom to apply some Maybelline Great Lash Mascara? Aww, HAIL naw – get your ass back here and make me some damn Goldfish!”

Ain’t No Mom Got Time For That

89 Comments

sleepy-little-girl

Sweet Brown captivated the nation – nay, the world – when she burst onto the viral video scene with her signature phrase, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” If you’re like me, you think of that phrase several times a day during the daily grind that is parenting. So, for shits and giggles, I give you 30 ways ain’t no mom got time for that:

1. Washing hands while singing “Happy Birthday” twice. Really? By the time I’ve gotten through a few words, my child is already down aisle 12 at Target.

2. Shopping. Gone are the days of wandering the aisles, searching for the perfect dress. One word: Amazon.com

3. Bikram – 90 minutes for sweaty yoga? I think not.

4. Blow-drying the back of your hair. No one really looks back there anyway, do they?

5. Clipping your children’s nails. Until they come out with a bloody scratch on their faces, ain’t nobody got time for that.

6. Massages. Le sigh.

7. Going to Costco on a holiday. Nope. Just nope.

8. Oil changes. Is the light on yet? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

9. Socks. Is there anything that takes longer than getting socks on a young person?

10. Speeding tickets. There’s a reason we were speeding in the first place, k?

11. Trying on clothes (see former comment re: shopping).

12. Small talk at school. Really, just small talk in any form. Got a point? Get to it.

13. Getting sick. Moms can’t get sick. Ain’t nobody got time for puking and/or diarrhea.

14. TV-watching while lounging on the couch. TV-watching while folding laundry and packing lunches? Now that’s a whole different story.

15. Hangovers. Children wait for no hangover. “Milk NOW, Mommy!”

16. Drama. We may have been drawn to that at one point but, once you pop out those kids, ain’t nobody got time for that.

17. Anything that starts with “gourmet” or ends with “from scratch.”

18. Sewing. Home-economics failed most of us and, besides, ain’t nobody got time for that. It’s called the dry cleaners, people.

19. Cleaning out your car. Really – what’s the point?

20. Putting together photo albums. We’ll take pictures all day long but doing something with them? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

21. Makeup. Just so we can take that shit off later? Puhlease.

22. Waxing. Of course, most of us get it done here and there but we’ve all had that moment when we’ve looked in the rearview mirror and saw a chin hair that could be donated to Locks of Love.

23. Teacher conferences … in preschool. Really? He’s great with crayons? You don’t say! I’ll look into Ivy League schools as soon as I get home. (Sarcasm, on the other hand? We always have time for that.)

24. Marathon training. A 3-hour practice run on the weekends … when we could be sleeping? WTF?

25. Bento boxes. Ain’t nobody got time for compartments.

26. Jury duty. There should be an excuse that you can check that simply says, “I’m a mom.”

27. Car trouble. This is akin to death. Seriously, just shoot me.

28. Phone trouble. Sadly, most of us would rather probably have the car trouble.

29. Boo-boos. When they’re really little, we fuss and fuss over boo-boos. After a few years it’s, “Here’s a Band-Aid, kid. Go nuts.”

30. Sex. ‘Nuff said.

Riding The Ferris Wheel of Motherhood

129 Comments

mother-having-hard-time

The other night, my husband kept texting, “leaving any minute” “be home soon” “just waiting for the bus” and it was almost 7:00 before he got home. I’m not sure if I was tired, the kids were tired or if it was a full moon, but by the time he walked in, I was ready to walk out.

I get to the end of my rope regularly. Life with young children jumps from amazing and awe-inspiring one moment to out-of-control and exasperating the next. I have an up and down personality and my highest highs are followed by crashes of the lowest lows, all within one rotation of the minute hand on the clock.

The other day my children were playing together on the top bunk in my son’s room. They cuddled on the pillows with their stuffed animals and blankets, both giggling and squirming around like Labrador puppies. My son made his little sister laugh hysterically and she tickled him under his chin and teased him back; a real sibling love fest. I smiled and felt all warm inside and proud of the beautiful healthy kids I was raising. All was well.

Seconds later I turned away to brush my teeth and the whole scenario cratered. Laughs turned to screams. Giggles turned to cries. Snuggles turned to grabs and pushes. Toys flew across the room. My heart raced and blood boiled as I jumped to separate the two before someone fell off the bunk. Both kids were crying. It was the end of the world, in preschooler land. It was one of those moments when I just wanted to quit.

Growing up, if I didn’t like something, I quit. I quit competitive swimming, gymnastics, ringette, art classes and who knows what else after a few years each because I wasn’t a star at them. My world was very black and white. Do the enjoyable and easy things that I could excel at. Avoid the difficult things. That philosophy was fine when there was just me to worry about. It even worked with my husband in the picture, for the most part.

The months (and years) after becoming a mother were the hardest of my life so far. I’m not really sure how I made it through those years of terrible sleep deprivation. My fierce love for my newborn son (and then three years later, my daughter) taught me that just because something is really, really hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. The wondrous little children that were created and carried and loved and rocked and fed, sometimes with my tears blending in with theirs, are mine to keep.

I’ve learned that wanting to quit is normal; anyone who tells you parenthood is blissful perfection is a liar. Parenting babies and young children is like riding a ferris wheel that never stops. But there’s no smiling man at the bottom to push a button if you want to get off to catch your breath.

All we can do is embrace the high highs and perfect moments, fleeting as they may be. Breathe them in and take lots of pictures. Cuddle up to our son’s snuggly warm cheeks. Trace our daughter’s dimples with our fingers and hold her tiny feet in our hands.

Freeze the perfect moments in our memory so we can bring them back to our mind during the times when everyone is screaming, and we’re trudging through a dreary day and the ferris wheel is scraping the bottom again.

Related post: Being a Good Mom is Making me a Bad Wife

Why You Should Say Yes Tonight

172 Comments

couple-in-bed

It took you two hours to get the kids to sleep.

There were glasses of water fetched, imaginary flies pretend swatted, three stories read and everyone was tucked in –begrudgingly. But not for long. Because then there was the crying and screaming (you) and the ultimatums (them). The bribes. Empty threats were made and finally, they collapsed–all their ploys exhausted, to rest up for another day of killing you slowly.

It’s kind of a suck job, this whole mom business, but it is your suck job and you may as well not complain. So you were just looking forward to an hour or two of wallowing in quiet self-pity and ice cream, perhaps curled up with a book or even an episode of The Bachelor.

You thud down the stairs in your too small pajama pants, your t-shirt has spatters of paint and reads 5K Fun Run 2006. You can’t recall how you acquired this shirt but you sure as hell know you have never ran a 5k and if you had, it would not ever be classified, in your opinion, as something a person should do for fun.

As you traipse around the corner to the kitchen you think you hear the faint sound of the stereo playing in the family room. You grab the Ben and Jerry’s from the freezer, slam the door shut with your rear end and grab a spoon. You are sitting cross legged, contemplatively at the kitchen table, fitness magazine (fuck you, irony) spread out in front of you when you realize that there is music playing.

And that it is definitely coming from the family room, where, it seems, someone has turned off the overhead lights. Hmmmm…

You can barely make out the flicker of candlelight from the shadows around the corner and you wondering if you should go and investigate (a seance?) when you hear the soft strains of melodic sex oozing from the record player.

Sade.

Your spoon stops in mid air.

Oh no. Think. Think. Think.

You consider a retreat back upstairs, a fake sleep at the table. You wish for narcolepsy, amnesia. Anything. But it is too late. He is already sauntering around the corner, wearing only his jeans and white undershirt.

He is holding two wine glasses.

He has spotted you and he is smiling.

“Well helloooo beautiful.”

You want to turn around and see if perhaps there is someone behind you to which he is actually speaking. But then he winks. At you.

And he speaks again, reaching out for your hand and peering at you in what you imagine he imagines to be seductive allure.

He gestures with his hands up and down his middle aged dad sized frame.

“Are you up for…this ?”

Shit.

* * * * *

It’s a struggle that must go back to the dawn of time.

Perhaps even back to those prehistoric cave dwelling couples in the Stone Age. She gathered the berries and hauled water and nursed Neanderthal Junior all day long. Neanderthal Man was busy hunting bison with blunt sticks.

He should have been exhausted. She was exhausted. But as soon as the baby was sleeping in his stone bassinet, here came her husband–hunching and smoldering, grunting the modern equivalent of “let’s get it on”.

All she wanted was to sit quietly, maybe bone up on some of the cave wall hieroglyphics. But her Neanderthal husband had a different plan. He wanted to bone her.

What’s a Neanderthal wife to do? What’s any wife to do? What will YOU do?

I know this is novel, but brace yourself: Why not go for it?

Before you even begin (put your hand down) I know you have a million reasons why not.

I’ll list a few here:

You’re tired. Perpetually tired.
You haven’t showered since yesterday (or in the case of Neanderthal Woman, since never).
You just put on your GOOD yoga pants.
He just WINKED at you.
You need to read this fitness magazine and eat ice cream.
The lights are on.

So many more. But let’s agree to let the Why Not’s rest for awhile.

You can always say No.

Don’t you say No a hell of a lot?

You are practiced in saying No.

No means No and should always be respected.

No is often our first response.

But, before we realize it, the no’s can add up into a long yoga pant drawstring of days and weeks. Months. Suddenly we are counting back on fingers, and toes…and with a sickening sense of worry, we can’t even remember the last time we had said YES to a roll in the hay.

And we worry even more that our husbands remember EXACTLY how long it’s been.

Or that they are keeping a log of our refusals, like this guy did.

Is that guy a jerk? Probably.

Are we any different than his wife? Probably not.

So, let’s just take a deep breath and loosen the drawstring a bit. Let’s explore what might happen if this time (brace yourself) you said yes…

1. You would burn calories. According to Mens Health, the average man burns 100 calories and the average woman 69 (hee hee) calories during the typical roll in the hay. Okay, so maybe you aren’t burning as much as if, say, you were sprinting a (not at all fun) Fun Run, but still far more than you would burn shoveling in the Ben and Jerry’s.

2. You would be happier. Making whoopee makes you giddy, psychologically. WebMD cites a study that surveyed the sexual activity and happiness of 16,000 men and women and found that sex “enters so strongly (and) positively in happiness equations” that they estimate increasing intercourse from once a month to once a week is equivalent to the amount of happiness generated by getting an additional $50,000 in income for the average American.” You might not be trading in the minivan for the car of your dreams this year, but you can still take the Mustang out for a ride if you know what I mean.

3. You would be healthier. Listen, girl, you’re a mess. You have no time for anything healthy—sure, you wolf down your daughter’s Flintstones vitamins and you floss the week before you go to the dentist. But a little ‘gland to gland combat’ is just about as good as any other move toward a healthier you. It has been proven to boost your libido, make you sleep more soundly, reduce your risk of heart attack and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.Unless your pelvic floor muscles are already super. Which, in that case, disqualifies you from even reading this. I almost called this it Need kegels, will travel. Ahem. Moving on.

4. You will feel more connected. There’s probably a lot of science to back this one up, but let’s keep this more simple. Every woman I know says that while she might have a million reasons she didn’t have the energy to start having sex, she’s usually glad she did it anyway. Because afterward, you just…like each other. Of course you always love each other. Even when you say no. Even when he isn’t interested (isn’t he always interested?). Even when you are too tired. And even when you haven’t had sex since before the baby, unless you count that one time at his parents house when you told him you would do it if you didn’t have to take off any articles of clothing and didn’t have to move at all. And he was all like, sure, that’s cool. But when you do decide to ignore the Why Not’s, when you do decide to just go for it, you realize that more than loving him—you actually like him. And you like having sex with him.

That guy, he’s pretty okay, isn’t he? He would never keep a spreadsheet of your refusals, he understands you. He doesn’t care that your pelvic floor is as weak as a busted up hammock. He thinks you’re beautiful. Even when you are irrational or difficult (which is never). And he wants to do the horizontal hokey pokey RIGHT NOW.

And he wants only you.

Sometimes you just can’t muster the energy and sometimes you will say no. And that’s okay. Take the guilt and throw it out with the empty Ben and Jerry’s pint. But take the long list of Why Not’s and toss those out too. The whole thing needs to be redetermined and reconsidered.

If you wait for that small interval in which you have had enough sleep and feel enough energy and have enough time and you really really really want to…well, that time might never come.

And then you might never come.

So I’m here to say this: sometimes it’s okay to fake it until you make it.

(Except don’t fake IT. Make him work for that shit.)

* * * * *

You take the wine glasses from his hand and tell him that if he promises to never, ever wink again you will give it a go. And he wants to dance with you.

And dancing leads to kissing and kissing leads to the stairs and the stairs lead to your bedroom. And the bedroom leads to bow-chick-bow-bow.

And once you are in your bed—your legs layered in post coital bliss, you are still tired but you are glad. He touches his nose to your nose and smiles so closely you remind yourself to tell him tomorrow to trim his nostril hair. But boy, is he handsome. And he looks at you so happily. You are glad you ignored the Why Not’s this time.

You are just about to drift off into sleep when the bedroom door is flung open. The tell tale sound of child sized footstep approach the bed and you brace yourself for what comes next.

“Mama. I’m FIRSTY”, says your son as he pokes you in the neck.

You don’t even move or open your eyes as you speak.

“Honey?” You say sweetly to your husband.

“Are you up for… this?”

And then you drift quietly into a long and restful slumber.

A Place in Her Life

31 Comments
photos-on-display Image via Shutterstock

Eight weeks doesn’t seem like such a long time.

But, of course, when you’re checking your email every day — actually, several times a day — desperately seeking a reply, eight weeks is interminable.

Our relationship with our youngest son’s birthmother has been the proverbial long and winding road, twisting most recently into a declaration that we are on a sort of break. It was her decision, and one we had to respect but also had to explain to our then-four-year-old son who had become conscious not just of her place in his life but her presence.

We had had regular visits since he was just weeks-old, the existence of which didn’t necessarily register with him in ways we could understand, that is until only recently—right around the time she gave birth to her second child, his birth sibling, a baby boy she was choosing to parent.  We did our best to explain who he was and why visits for her were becoming increasingly challenging.

When she told us we probably should not continue with visits lest he become confused or feel angst when she could not come, we felt the loss—for him, for us, for our other two sons who had never had the benefit of any birthparent contact.  And though she still wants photos and updates via email, it isn’t the same, isn’t what it once was or could have been.

When too much time had gone by without contact, I reached out.  I waited eight weeks for a reply, and then an apology and an announcement: a new baby, a daughter this time, another baby she is choosing to parent, is able to parent—and another explanation I needed to provide to my son.

And as I sit from this vantage point, my now-five-year-old son with a grin at times so big his face can barely contain it, I think of her, of her life filling up, of him, her first, becoming  less of a focus.  I can’t speak for her since I will never be able to fully understand the enormous sacrifice she made when she created his adoption plan, but I think of her—a lot.  And I think of this beautiful boy who will have much to process and eventually reconcile as he endeavors to understand if not forge his place in her life.

If you ask my son what words come to mind when he thinks of his birthmother, he says he loves her. He then asks— fairly quickly — when he can see her again.

I wish I knew enough to offer him answers — today and tomorrow and decades hence.

But I don’t, and I don’t think I ever will.