Imagine all the people trying not to be dicks

by renegademama

So the other day I was at Costco. For our overseas readers, Costco is grocery store on steroids. Everything in is it huge, bulk, wonderful. I love Costco. It’s very American.

I shop there often because my family somehow manages to consume like 3 loaves of bread and 2 gallons of milk a week, even though I rationed milk consumption to dinner-only since the kids kept getting dehydrated in this fucking Valley heat.

Why do I admit these things online? There’s something wrong with me.

Though I’m technically there for “staples,” the miracle is that once I enter those giant roll-up doors, I realize I pretty much need every single thing in the damn warehouse, but none of this has anything to do with the story.

So anyway, against my better judgment, I venture into Costco with all four kids. Yeah. That’s three plus a newborn, folks. I knew I was playing with fire. It was like 3pm and 104 degrees or some nonsense. 3pm sucks. Everybody’s tired and miserable and generally over it, but rather than staring at walls at home (or napping), I’m towing them all through the sun-kissed aisles of ridiculous American consumerism. The baby was asleep in his carseat but I knew it wouldn’t last. He’d been asleep too long. Georgia was nearing the point where her exhaustion turns into squirrel-on-crack behavior. Bouncing off the walls, I believe it’s called.

And the two other kids, well, they’re pretty reliable. They behave in Costco. MOSTLY.

My coffee had worn off.

The kids were hungry.

So, why, exactly, why was I doing this?

Because I was having a little dinner party for my mother-in-law’s birthday that evening, and I had no food, as per usual. No choice, motherfucker. GET THIS SHIT DONE.

We do okay as we walk through the aisles. I was going quickly. There were samples. I thought I might actually pull through without disaster.

Then we hit the checkout line. It became very, very clear to me that I will not pull through.

The baby starts doing that closed-eye head-turn “wah wah wah” thing. The fists start shaking, the legs kick a bit. Of course I start pushing the stroller back and forth, doing the frantic “Shh shh shh” thing, but I know it’s not going to work.

He settles for a moment. Five seconds letter he’s back at it with more force.
“Fuck. Should have put him in the carrier.”

But I didn’t want him on my body. IT’S 9 MILLION DEGREES and the thought of 30 minutes in air-conditioned Costco without a sweaty head and 20 feet of material across my chest just sounded too amazing. Sometimes we need our bodies back for a moment, ya feel me?

I glance at the line ahead of me and see the slowest moving humans on the planet. They’re enjoying a chat with the checkout dude. I realize this hell is my own.

The baby’s really getting worked up now. I remove him from the seat but he wants to nurse, bad. It’s been over 2 hours at this point. He’s clearly wondering how he’s managed to stay alive this long.

I hear a woman say “Honey, sit down! You’re going to fall!” I look back and see Georgia attempting to STAND in the cart (which the

Hey dumbshit, bring the carrier next time.

Hey dumbshit, bring the carrier next time.

kids were pushing). With the baby in one hand I grab Georgia with the other, tell her to sit down. She ignores me. She’s been ignoring me lately. I can’t figure out if it’s a fun feature of age 3 or some twisted symptom of my-mom-just-had-a-baby-and-I-hate-life syndrome. At any rate it’s loads of fun!

I curse myself for not bringing the carrier inside. I consider leaving the checkout line completely and nursing the baby in one of those giant chairs in the furniture area. But the dinner party. I don’t have time. And his diaper is wet too. Nope. I have to plow the fuck through. Get through this line with a screaming newborn and horribly misbehaving toddler and the card and the wallet and groceries and the cart and stroller.

By this time, Arlo is wailing. I’m bouncing him on one arm and pulling the toddler into the seat and trying to use my nicest voice (as opposed to my “I’m going to fucking kill you” voice) to tell my older kids to please load groceries onto the black moving belt thing (WTF are those called?) and I realize in a flash that I look absolutely pathetic. My shirt was even pulled up a bit, exposing stretch marks and a belly modern society would call “fat.” I’m straddling the line of humiliation and PURE BEAST MODE.

The dude asks me for my Costco card. I’m trying to buckle Georgia in with one hand and soothe the baby and direct the other kids and get the card and pull my shirt down and move the cart through the thing.

People are looking at me. I’m terrified of keeping them waiting.

My god in that moment I swear I almost looked at complete strangers and asked “Would you HELP me?”

But I didn’t, because we don’t do that sort of thing. Nope. This is America, where each human fends for herself and a dumb broad like me, well shit, I’m the one who decided to have all these kids and go to Costco and whatever, whatever.

Ain’t my problem, lady.

Sucks to be her.

HURRY UP, pathetic mommy, so I can get home.

Imagine if somebody walked over and started putting some groceries on the moving thing. Imagine if somebody came over and said “Here. Let me get this toddler buckled in.” Or asked “Can I help you?” Shit. Even a smile would have altered my life.

Honestly, I can’t believe somebody didn’t intervene solely because it was too painful to watch.

I’m a tough sonuvabitch. I’m tough as nails. I don’t break easily and this ain’t my first rodeo, but you know what? Sometimes we need help. Sometimes we need somebody to take a minute or two and just HELP. I never ask for help, but I would have proposed marriage to the human that lent me a hand in that moment.

But nobody did. And that’s cool. I don’t deserve shit and I’m not entitled to anything. I knew I’d survive, and I did, and I don’t feel sorry for myself.

But I made a decision right then and there that the next time I see some human struggling, I’m going to help her. I probably would anyway, but from now on it’s a self-imposed requirement. And I’m going to make my kids help strangers when it’s obvious they could use a hand. We live in a community. When the fuck are we all going to act like it?

Of course we don’t have to. Of course it’s not our problem. But you know what is our problem? Not being a dick.

And as far as I can tell, watching some pathetic, overwhelmed woman like me in the Costco checkout aisle while glaring at her angrily is, in fact, being a dick.

And once again, my comment policy pulls through like a brave warrior, life mantra, the deepest spiritual concept ever written:

Try not to be a dick.

Just try. Let’s all try. I’ll try, you try. Boom.

 

 

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Marianne Elliott (author, yoga teacher and human rights activist) had me at this question: “Do you wish you could find the courage to do what you really feel called to do?”

Well, until I read this one: “Do the voices in your head tell you that you can’t do it because you are not ready, not qualified enough, not good enough?”

Um, yes.

You know, the thing is, you know when somebody is speaking your language,willing to speak the truth, and brave enough to face the real shit.

Marianne Elliott strikes me as one of those people.

She’s enrolling now (deadline is August 1!) for her online class 30 Days of Courage, which is meant for “people who want to step out of their comfort zones” and lead a more courageous life. (Is it wrong that I immediately think about traveling the north American continent in a trailer with my family? That’s what I’m into lately.)

In her words, you’ll learn:

• how to build a stable foundation for your courageous life;
• practices to cultivate your innate inner courage;
• ways to use curiosity and experimentation to sneak past the guards at the gate to your comfort zone;
• how to find the small act of bravery that you can do right now;
• exercises to tone your courage muscles;
• practices to ensure your courage is also compassionate.

She offers all kinds of other classes too. Check them out.

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37 reasons I’m having trouble “embracing the moment”

by renegademama

Sometimes I complain about motherhood.

Shocking, I know.

And every time I do, somebody somewhere somehow gives me the same sage advice:

Enjoy it before it’s over.

Live in the now.

Soak it up.

EMBRACE IT.

And generally speaking, my urge is the same. I basically want to punch them in the face. Not because it’s bad advice. It’s not. In fact it’s the best advice ever. It’s solid fucking gold. It’s true and real and exactly what I should be doing.

This, of course, makes the advice that much more annoying, since I know they’re right and yet I can’t seem to pull together this much-desired full-moment-embrace.

At least not always.

There are various reasons for this during any given day. I’ve decided to compile a few.

So here you go: 37 Reasons I’m Having Trouble Embracing the Moment

  1. I’m so tired I recently told somebody I had a baby girl. Yeah. My baby has a penis. So until further notice, I had a boy.
  2. It’s tough to really be present when your consciousness is sustained through 12,000-calorie, 25 grams of fat, 40 tablespoons of sugar, 6-shot iced coffee drinks.
  3. No for real, there’s a time each day when I think I may actually die from this exhaustion, but then, like a beam of hope and light and truth, comes the drive-through espresso place and I know I’ll make it ONE MORE DAY.
  4. But then I remember I will never lose the 30 pounds I’ve got attached to my ass if I keep drinking that shit. But I do it anyway because survival.
  5. Speaking of shit, I’m pretty sure there’s baby poop under my pinky nail.
  6. I made eggs for breakfast but my toddler “Only eats eggs on TUESDAYS!” So she screamed and wailed for approximately 30 minutes (even though she has no idea what day it actually is). Obviously.
  7. It’s so damn hot I can’t stand wearing the “quality” nursing bra to support my 15-pound-each breasts – it’s so ITCHY! – but the cheap ass (comfortable) one from Target gave me a clogged duct and if I don’t wear the 6 feet of “quality” material around said boobs (and nursing pads), milk drips out of them and onto my clothing.
  8. So basically, my choices are: uncomfortable, hot and itchy or uncomfortable, wet and milky.

(Embrace that, bitch.)

  1. I’ve been taking my placenta pills like a motherfucking boss but sometimes I wake up and I’m sure I have A.) Ruined my life and B.) Permanently ruined my life.
  2. My toddler just peed on the pool deck.
  3. Sometimes, my 12-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son bicker so long and so hard about something so stupid I actually pack up the insane toddler and screaming newborn and go to the park just so I don’t have to hear their voices for 15 minutes.
  4. When we get there, they sit on the bench beside me and whine that it’s hot.
  5. While my boobs itch.
  6. Then I usually say something horrid like “GO AWAY NOW.”
  7. And feel guilty about it because I know time flies and carpe fucking diem.
  8. I embraced motherhood 15 minutes ago. Now I want to sit on this bench and play Candy Crush and pretend I’m still 21 and hot and living in Barcelona.
  9. I have so many people demanding things from me ALL DAY LONG your voice has just become ONE MORE VOICE in the long line of voices asking me to do things and consequently I don’t hear you, at all.

But really, what part of “join me in the fight against helpful parenting advice is unclear to you?” Why can’t you just say “Yep.” When I bitch about motherhood? Why do you have to give me helpful words or whatever the hell that is because you know what I hear? All I hear is “If you were a better mother you’d be enjoying every second!”

18. Well shit. Now I can’t embrace the moment because you just told me to “embrace the moment” and now I feel guilty for not embracing the fucking moment.

19. And this leads me to think about how my tween will be 18 in 6 years and instead of living “in the now” I’m wondering where the last 13 years went and how come I didn’t “live in the now,” then, when I still had a chance and she was younger and nicer.

20. I’m thinking about money. Namely, the way we have none.

21. I’m wondering how that article that’s due this evening is going to get written when my baby decided that the only palatable life activities are nursing, sleeping against the boob (because I DIE WITHOUT THE NIPPLE MOM) and pooping.

22. I’m crying over nothing.

23. I’m answering questions from my kids about why I’m crying over nothing.

24. I’m making a mental note not to watch rescued-elephant videos ever again.

25. It’s 4pm and I just realized the circus needs to eat. Again. Why must they eat so often?

26. The dog ran away, out the broken fence. We need to fix the fence. He’s a sweet dog. I love that dog. I need to pay more attention to the dog. Sorry, dog. (No worries. We found the dog.)

Hey. Hey you. I AM EMBRACING MOTHERHOOD, just not at this moment. Why isn’t that okay? I ENJOY MY KIDS, just not at this exact second. Why is that a problem? Aren’t all jobs annoying at some point? Don’t all jobs have some aspects that suck? I mean if I were a lawyer and I hated doing time entry would you be like “Enjoy it.” Embrace it. Time flies. Someday you’ll be too old to record your time.” No. Of course not.

But this is motherhood, you say. Motherhood is precious. It’s all so precious!

NO. No it is not.

Sometimes it’s not precious and I really, really think we’d all be better off if we stopped telling mothers to “enjoy every moment” when some moments are really, really (sometimes literally) shitty, full of nothing more than grit and dirt and work and grime (with a hint of cuteness).

27. I was up until midnight writing an article. My baby woke up at 3am and wouldn’t go back to sleep until 5am. At 6am my toddler woke up and bounced into my bed “I’m here to cuggle (cuddle)!”

28. It’s hard to embrace something when your eyes won’t open and your head is pounding and your arms are stuck under an almost-crying newborn and a flailing 3-year-old.

29. It’s 5am and I’m torturing my newborn with that snot-sucking device so he can finally sleep, FINALLY.

30. But I can’t sleep because I’m 97% sure he has whooping cough.

31. Better get on Google and explore whooping cough. What time does the pediatrician’s office open?

32. Oh great. It’s 6am! Here’s Georgia! Toddler cuddle time!

33. My kitchen smells vaguely of vomit and mildew.

34. My voicemail is 90% full. I fucking hate voicemail. Text, people. TEXT.

35. I have 17 flagged emails in my work inbox that need attention and my auto-responder says “Just had a baby” even though it’s been 5 weeks and they hover in the back of my mind like the most irritating buzzing fly you’ve ever heard.

36. My kids are eating mac and cheese again. I can only imagine what the processed cheese-like substance is doing to their brains.

37. We need to go to Costco but the tired. Oh. My. God. The tired.

And this baby.

And these kids.

THEY’RE JUST EVERYWHERE. And it never, never ends.

the haircut in question.

the haircut in question.

 

Eventually I give up, fuck it, park my ass on the chair and watch some 30 Rock reruns. For a minute I laugh, we all laugh, as the baby tries to nurse Rocket’s nose. And Georgia did her swimming lesson without crying. Came out beaming “I was SO GREAT in that pool, mama!” And the dog jumped in the kid pool like it was his own personal Raging Waters and my husband got an amazing haircut that makes me want to, ahem. And the grin on Ava’s face when she got her prize for reading 4 books at the library’s summer reading challenge. Oh, the innocence. It was almost as if she were 6 years old again.

I saw it for a second, just a second. My second, and hers.

As her smile hits my heart, I hear an explosion in Arlo’s diaper and something wet on my arm. I change him in the back of our hot SUV while the kids argue about who sits in front and Georgia removes her clothes, again, because that makes sense. I see my coffee in the stroller like a silent beacon of hope.

So there. 37 reasons I’m having trouble embracing the fucking moment.

And 1 or 2 that keep me trying.

 

Now please, for the love of God, stop telling me to embrace the moment. I’m embracing what I can, as best as I can, along with every other mother I know. And besides, 

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A letter to my newborn, while I’m still a damn near perfect mom

by renegademama

Dear Arlo,

I was looking at you today and thinking about how right now, today, the day you turn 3 weeks old, I’m a damn near perfect mother to you. I think this is why I love, crave, the newborn stage. Maybe it’s just biology, evolution. But for me, I think it’s more, because for me, it’s the only time I truly feel like a 100% capable mama. Like I’ve got this shit IN THE BAG. I’m a knock-it-out-of-the-damn-park newborn mama.

My job is defined. My role, clear. I nurse, clothe, bathe and hold you. I give you the breast to comfort you, whenever you want. I don’t have to think about it. I don’t have to wonder. I don’t believe it can be done “too much.” In fact I think that’s the biggest crock ever. I wrap you up and carry you against my chest. For hours. Sometimes I lay you on your back so you can kick and look around and I can watch you and coo at you and smell your head. This is what we do, round and round, I know it and love it and own it completely (because you’re my 4th!). I’m tired, oh, so tired, but I know how to mother you now.

I know just what you need. I know what to try.

And this, I know, will fade.

You cry. I change your diaper, clean your little umbilical wound, wipe each little roll of your legs and pick you back up. Kiss, kiss, kiss. 

Your brother Rocket is 8 years old. The other day at camp another boy made fun of him because his toenails were painted. The boy taunted him then ran around telling the other boys how “Rocket has painted nails like a girl.” They all laughed. When I asked him what he did in response he said “I just walked away.” I wanted to die for a minute, because I can’t fix that. I see my son and his dropped eyes and the feeling of rejection and horror as all the other kids laugh. And I’ve got no moves. No arsenal. No sound or breast or wrap to pull that pain to me and make it go.

Your crying almost always subsides when I hold you close and kiss your temple.

But in that moment with Rocket I feel only a rage that’s useless, the desire to pummel some stranger assholes raising asshole kids. I’ve got nothing to offer my boy. The clichés don’t work. I want to beg him to stay true to himself no matter what the other kids think or say, but is that real and true and valid? At what point do we fit in because it’s easier, or, and this is the saddest part, SAFER?

When you stir, I pat you, rock you, nurse you again. Again. I check you when you’re sleeping, feel your nose and toes to be sure you aren’t too hot or cold. I keep you at my bedside or on my arm, against me. I know you should be right here. Now. Nowhere else. I do not question.

Your sister Ava will be 13 in November. Sometimes she looks at me and I almost can’t find my child anymore. She’s changing so fast and sure I’m left in the dust, where I should be, and I can’t stop biology. Soon the teenage years will come then she’ll be gone. I yell at her sometimes (man she enrages me!) because my God she’s just like me and I simply can’t stand it, the thought of her inheriting the ways I suck. I lie down at night and think of the ways I’m failing her, how I could be better. How soon, soon…

I do not fail you, newborn. Not yet. I’m your perfect mother.

You cry, I hold. 

Feed. Change. Rock. Bathe.

Two days ago Georgia had to have dental surgery because her 2-year molars came in with virtually no enamel and they all needed root canals. One was extracted. I saw her in that surgery gown holding her Tigger and I had not one single move to keep her near me, to fix it. I had to let her go, down the hall, to be put under anesthesia, endure pain. They said it wasn’t anything I did. Or maybe it was medication I took while pregnant or breastfeeding. Doesn’t matter, does it? I cannot save her from that which is coming her way. I have nothing up my sleeve. I watch and love and hide my tears so she won’t see I’m terrified.

When you take a bath I put a warm washcloth across your belly and chest and legs to keep you warm, tell you I’m here. You cry anyway when I wash behind your ears. You’re so dramatic with your wailing. But in the hooded towel you find your tiny fist and I say “It’s okay, little buddy” and it’s enough.

It is enough. 

 

So hey, newborn, Arlo, I think I just want to thank you, for these few weeks of damn-near-perfect motherhood, while you’re just barely detached from me and my job is so clear.

Thank you for this time of meeting all your needs, pretty much all the time, or at least knowing how, more or less, to do so, without my personality flaws getting in the way. Your personality doesn’t clash with mine. Your whining doesn’t drive me around the bend. You don’t irritate me. I don’t irritate you.

Not yet.

You haven’t gotten sick yet. You aren’t defiantly yelling “no” for no apparent reason. You aren’t losing your shit because I gave you the blue cup instead of the red. Your hormones aren’t raging. My temper hasn’t screwed up our day. My impatience hasn’t snapped at you when you ask me the same question fifteen times. You don’t want to play board games I can’t muster the energy for. You don’t need camps I can’t afford. You aren’t worried about the bullies in junior high. Or the bullies anywhere. Nobody cares that you can’t read yet. Other people’s douchebag kids aren’t near you. Nobody makes fun of your baby acne.

You are only you. And I, I am only me. We’re just these two physical beings – still kind of primal and raw and distilled – so now, just for now, I’ve got everything you need.

Tomorrow will begin the series of letting go, and I’ll be ready for that, I think, or actually not at all, but I’ll do it anyway because it will be my job then, but it’s messier and harder and uglier than this.

This is simple. I’ve got this.

One day I’ll see you and I’ll have no move for you, either, no way to fix it, soothe it, clean, calm, or make it alright.

But not today.

So yeah, little one, thank you for these few days of perfect motherhood.

I guess I had forgotten I had it in me.

You’ll forget I had it in me, too.

But for now, we’ve got each other dialed, kid.

You and me.

Love,

Mama

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Once again, thank you Sarah Maren for the photos. Sarah took these portraits on June 8, when Arlo was 4 days old. It was a fucking lovely afternoon of our families hanging out. She’s an artist and a dear human and wonderful friend.

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Welcome to our world, Arlo

by renegademama

If there is one cosmic message I seem to receive more than any other, it’s this one: “You are not in charge of this rodeo, Janelle.”

(So sit back, asshole, and enjoy the ride.)

I wanted to have a May baby. I really, really wanted a May baby. My husband was off work for the better part of 3 weeks in May. On June 7 was a family reunion that occurs once every 15 years. I wanted to go, and I wanted to take a week-old baby. My due date was June 3. I had a vision. I always have a vision. WHY WON’T THE UNIVERSE GET IN LINE WITH MY FUCKING VISION?

Of course, strategically-timed-baby-delivery is a bit harder when you’re planning a homebirth. Midwives offer visualization techniques and Amish birthing herbs. They do not offer Pitocin.

But I did try castor oil. At around 39 weeks, I gave it a shot. They said I could. It didn’t work.

It worked with Georgia, but I was a few days past my due date when I tried it with her. All it did with this one was make me sick (I’ll save you the details) and sap my strength. Also my soul, but I digress.

After the failed induction attempt I surrendered. Fuck it. The baby will come when it comes and I’ll either make it to the reunion or I won’t. Profound, I know.

Three weeks passed. Actually it was a couple days, but we all know how long those days feel. I was enjoying false labor ALL.NIGHT.LONG, or at least every night until 2 or 3am. You know, contractions that hurt enough to keep you awake, come regularly, get your hopes up, but don’t actually evolve into anything? Yeah, those. I love those. Those are fun.

Around June 1 the baby dropped so low into my pelvis I peed teaspoons every 30-minutes and enjoyed near-constant cramping and pressure and an existential misery that took my breath away. Okay, drama. But for real sometimes I would sit on the toilet and almost cry. Everytime I peed I’d think “was there blood on the paper? Anything? ANY FUCKING SIGN?”

I was sure my water was going to bust at any moment.

So much pressure.

But it didn’t.

At my 40 week appointment on June 3 I pretty much hated all humans. I couldn’t sit very long. I couldn’t stand for long. I couldn’t lie down (my bladder was all “UM you need to pee, bitch.”)

Precious, precious end of pregnancy.

On the evening of June 3 contractions began again around 9pm, and I figured it was more false labor. I had resigned myself to forever pregnancy at this point. But these continued through the night and into the next day. They came every 15 or 20 minutes but were mellow. I took Georgie to the dentist, picked up a prescription, got haircuts for Georgie and Ava. I wanted to believe it was the real thing but I had been misguided so many damn times I just assumed it wasn’t real.

But they kept up.

By 7 or 8pm they were 10 or 15 minutes apart and still manageable. I would stop and breathe through them, but they weren’t long and I was clear-minded. I ate dinner. I made cupcakes so we could sing him or her “Happy birthday.” I knew my baby was coming, but clearly it was early labor. Early labor can go on for hours. I’m no schmuck. This isn’t my first rodeo.

(oh yeah, just when you think you “know…” that’s right. you get served.)

At 7:30pm or so my mother-in-law picked up the three older kids. The plan was that they would keep the kids while I labored at home and bring them back when it looked like I was getting near the pushing stage, so they could be here for the birth.

I texted my dear friend Sarah, who was going to photograph the birth, told her I’d call her when it got closer. Did the same with my mom.

The contractions kept on, 8 or 10 minutes apart, 30 or 45 seconds long, and they just sort of stayed that way. I had to stand up and moan and lean against the wall during them, but they just weren’t really evolving. I called the midwife at 10pm and told her they were 10 minutes apart and I’d call her when they ramped up. I told her I was restless and anxious. She said take some skullcap, go for a walk and take a bath.

Mac and I took a walk around the neighborhood. It was hot. When a contraction came I would hang from his neck and lean on him and bury my face in his chest. I couldn’t believe the strength I found against his body. During my last 2 births I was kind of a lone birthing wolf (or whatever). I didn’t want to be near anybody or touched. This time was different. This time I felt dependent, overwhelmed. I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want the work, the pain. I was just so tired.

This pregnancy was really, really hard. I’m pretty tough, but this shit damn near killed me. Three kids, teaching 3 classes, writing, moving, all of it. The last two months were the hardest months of my life, at least since I’ve gotten sober. I was so uncomfortable, so tired, and yet life just kept on. Kept on. And kept the fuck on. So much work. I had nothing left for this birth.

It seemed incomprehensible that I would face 7 or 8 or 9 hours of MORE WORK at the end, but there was no choice. The only way through childbirth is through childbirth.

Like life, I guess.

We got home from the walk. Still 8 or 10 minutes apart. I got in the bath.

They seemed to stop for a bit. It was probably 10:45pm at this point.

I thought “OH HOLY SHIT they’re going away.” But then, after what seemed like a long time, a contraction came that felt a little different. I felt a little panicky, scared, freaked out. I got out of the bath and thought “Well shit, that felt a little like a transition contraction.”

But it couldn’t be. The contractions aren’t hard enough, fast enough, I’m nowhere near that point!

I hadn’t labored actively at all, or I didn’t think I had. I was confused. I was in labor but I wasn’t. In my past births, there was a time when the contractions came hard and fast and long, my whole belly like a raging machine – 60 second pains, 90 seconds. It was all consuming, insane. I left this world for a weird “labor land.” All lucid thought ended.

These never went past 45 seconds. I never entered that place.

I remember standing out of the bath and thinking I just can’t do this. Mac held me and I cried. “I can’t do it, Mac. I just can’t do this work. The pain, all of it. I can’t face it.”

I had another contraction. He pressed on my lower back and it helped.

Out of the tub, I leaned against a dresser and had 2 or 3 contractions 2 minutes apart. What the hell’s happening? Why are they coming so quickly? They were just 10 minutes apart?!

He called the midwife and we told Sarah and my mom to come.

I had 5 or 6 contractions 2-minutes apart, maybe 30 seconds long. I knew I was entering active labor, and I just dreaded the hours to come. I knew I had A LOT OF WORK ahead of me.
I asked Mac if the tub was full yet. I asked him if he remembered to put the sea salt in, and I even helped him find it. Always the multi-tasker. Or, control freak. Probably both.

As I was walking across the living room to the birthing tub, I stopped and leaned against the high chair (yes, it was in the living room. Don’t ask.) to have another contraction. The pressure built and my water broke. Everywhere. Like a flood.

With the rush of waters I felt my baby’s head slam down, way down. Like coming out down.

He was coming.

“The baby’s coming NOW!” I was shocked.

So calm, he said “Get down to the ground. Get down to the ground.”

He ran across the room and grabbed some towels, threw them beneath me. I squatted, the head was crowning. I squatted more and the head was out.

“Get it out!” I yelled.

“You have to push the baby out with the next contraction,” Mac said.

“Are you holding the head?”

“Yes, I’m right here.”

I bore down a tiny bit, and out slipped a baby. I ripped my shirt off to hold him and tried to turn, but felt the umbilical cord. Duh. Mac passed him between my legs and I pulled him to me, kissed his gorgeous self, laughed, looked between his legs “It’s a boy!” (Though I already knew that, the whole pregnancy).100

“Is he okay?” my voice shook.

“Well, he’s crying,” Mac answered. We laughed.

Mac grabbed blankets. They were already warm. He had them prepared already. My heart explodes for him.

We sat together and laughed again, gazed at this little creature, talked to him, loved him, suddenly the three of us in a quiet, darkened room.

I couldn’t believe it was real. Here he was. After virtually no labor, he came. After no time at all, he was in my arms. Peacefully, gently, quickly.

Maybe he knew I didn’t have the strength. Maybe the universe knew I needed this, like this.

A birth so fast I barely knew I was birthing. A perfect baby fallen into the arms of his father. We named him Arlo Theodore Valentine.

064Since he’s our last, we just gave him all the boy names we’ve ever loved.

The midwives showed up about 10 minutes after he was born. Sarah and my mom about 30 minutes later. At one point I saw Mac literally jumping up and down. Adrenalin, I guess. He was born around 11:15pm, an hour after I called the midwife for the first time, telling her I’d call when real labor started happening. Ha.

We sat and talked and laughed and I smelled him and loved him. I thought for sure he was a regular-sized 8-pounder (since he came out so fast), but he was 9 pounds, 8 ounces. I had not a tear. The power of movement in birth. The power of the woman’s body.

The next morning, the other 3 kids came and I thought if somebody tried to tell me 6 years ago that this would become my life, that it would ever get this good, I would have laughed in their face.

In a birth like this, everybody’s born again. The heart bursts open, raw, exposed. People fall in love all over again. The man who sat beside me 13 years ago when we were 19 and 22 years old, as I birthed our first baby and we breathed together, to last week, as he caught our 4th baby, second son, the remaining portion of our hearts.

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And then, newborn breath.

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And hey! Three more days to help fund The Before Project. Seattle-based filmmaker Terence Brown is making a documentary about tweens, “exploring those raw early days of growing up.” As a mother of a 12-year-old, I am both in love and terrified by this strange, liminal tween place. Talk about gray area. There are moments when they seem so grown up. Other moments not totally unlike my toddler.

Please click here to help fund this project. Though Terence has reached his initial goal, he is using thousands of his own dollars toBefore project ad fund the making of the film, so every additional dollar will make a profound difference. Also, there’s only 3 days left, and every backer (even at the $1.00 level) gets access to the finished documentary.  

In Terence’s words: “Last year I thought it might be interesting to film some very short interviews with a class of 4th graders just to see what they would say. Here’s what they said: 4th Grade. Now that this group of 60+ kids is heading to middle school, I’m planning to film more extensive interviews with each 5th grader this June.  I’m going to spend roughly 30 minutes with each student, asking them a wide range of questions.

The final project will be a documentary short called ‘Before.’  My goal is to explore and even celebrate this awkward and thankfully fleeting phase of life. The final video will live on a site we are creating called thebeforeproject.org. Our plan is to create an interactive site where people from around the world can contribute content and stories about the tween years.”

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39 weeks…and crazy happened

by renegademama

The other day, I looked in the mirror as I was getting in the shower and I saw myself, 39 weeks pregnant, huge and round.

I saw breasts nearly resting on an enormous belly.

I saw the stripes racing down its curve.

I saw the layer of fat beneath the belly, the hips. I saw enormous thighs.

And for the first time in my life, I saw something beautiful.

No, I saw something absolutely fucking gorgeous.

And I’m not talking about some mind candy bullshit self-talk. I’m talking about reality, a sudden, unexpected shift in what I saw.

My own eyes.

For some reason, I saw beauty. Real beauty.

I saw the belly I’ve been ashamed of and the untamable breasts and the thighs that are too thick, and I thought to myself “Gorgeous.” A smile moved across my face. So unexpected, to see that after all these years of shrouded disgust. I saw something else, it was as if my eyes saw the same but my brain and heart saw something new, so foreign.

The round was lovely, its curve so powerful and determined and soft.

The deep lines of stretched skin that came when I was 22 and pregnant with my first baby, reinforced and redrawn and recreated a second, third and fourth time. The pain and transformation and power of each stripe, I saw.

The round that holds my heart and life and new life. My own line to my own mom once, now wrapped around the unknown. Soon to be known, or sort of known, dear unborn child. My last child.

It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, so I’ll show you, too.

The belly.

But really, the face. There’s a look of pride on that face, on the face of a woman who gained 60 pounds instead of the “proper” 25-35 (25 for a woman of my weight!), who has been ashamed of herself and her body, thinking her husband was just so full of shit when he looked at her and smiled with joy and adoration, maybe a quick tear, “You’re just so cute.”

I usually want to punch him in the face. Because his adoration mocked my self disdain. Maybe not anymore. Maybe I see what he sees. Not “cute,” I don’t see cute and probably never will, but I see beauty that almost never ends, that touched me days before the belly will end, the curve, its roundness, only the stripes to remain and remember.

I don’t know why it took this long to see, but I’ve seen it now, and I’ll never doubt again.

It may not be truth for anybody else, and it certainly isn’t for society, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t the truth for me, now.

And I caught it, just in the nick of time.

This is where I am, 39 weeks. gorgeous, miserable, ready.

change is always within. always.

change is always within. always.

P.S. Dear baby, if you’re listening, I would just like to clarify that just because I suddenly and inexplicably find my huge belly “beautiful,” I’d also be TOTALLY INTO IT if you, like, exited that belly. As much as I enjoy your head sitting so low in my pelvis I can barely walk or sit, and the uterine contractions that keep me up all night (but don’t produce an actual baby) and peeing 1500 times a day, and all the other joys of this glorious period of my life, I’d enjoy smelling your breath a whole lot more and we’re all really, really fucking excited to meet you. (Did I just swear at my unborn baby?)

Speaking of talking to unborn babies, my midwives told me to “talk to my baby” to help coax him or her out. So a few hours later, I was inspired. I looked down at my belly and said “Hey there little one. FYI, only assholes stay in past their due dates.” Not totally sure that’s exactly what they had in mind, but shit. It’s all I had at the moment.

Due date is June 3.

Don’t be an asshole.

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Hey, we have a new sponsor, and she’s a badass. She’s an artist, actor, screenwriter, filmmaker and short story writer. Yes, you read that correctly. And she writes a blog but it’s basically cooler than mine (and possibly yours) because there’s pictures and shit. Not stupid clip art (not that I’ve ever used stupid clip art) but actual DRAWINGS, as in, by her. And they’re real and raw and gritty, the blend of dark sarcasm and humanity that makes my heart sing. And resonates on that level. You know, the human one. Look at her portfolio. Read her blog. And then buy something from her Etsy shop. But first, meet Lindsey from Tense and Urgent, in her own words:

Hello, I’m Lindsey ConnellTense-and-Urgent

I live in Toronto with my husband and two kids, 4 1/2 and 2. They’re bananas and of course I’m wild about them. I am an actor, screenwriter, filmmaker and short story writer. All fun activities to do at home in a room by yourself with your cats, a mirror, and cigarettes by your side. A year ago I started Tense and Urgent because my cats/cigarettes had been replaced by children (not all at once) and because of the ensuing sleep deprivation, my ability to think of any story longer than a paragraph was seriously taxed. But one-liners or captions for drawings, I could do. And painting and drawing while listening to “This American life” became kind of the perfect way to spend my time.

Christmas-Sweater-764x1024 My work deals mostly with relationship stuff, parenting, existential dread… life stuff. And the tiny moments in a person’s life when something clicks or shifts- when a realization comes or something is professed. Often the people in my work are staring straight into the middle distance, caught in an epiphany. But there’s humour there, too. And lightness. It’d be a big drag if my cards made people feel lonelier, sadder, and dumpier than they did before they saw them, but they are called “Tense and Urgent” so that was fair warning, I think.

This website and blog are still evolving. I hope to start adding different elements to this website eventually. Short films, small animated pieces, postcard fictions. Stay tuned.

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