The grief of being done with nursing

(Timmy circa 2 weeks old in a food coma)

"When the child is to be weaned, the mother, too, is not without sorrow, because she and the child are more and more to be separated, because the child who first lay under her heart and later rested upon her breast will never again be so close. So they grieve together the brief sorrow. How fortunate the one who kept the child so close and did not need to grieve any more!" --Soren Aabye Kierkegaard

I read this quote tonight, and my heart stopped for a moment. Last week, I nursed Timmy for the last time. It wasn't planned or desired, but it just happened so naturally that I couldn't stop it. I went to nurse one night, and he just turned his gaze to me and nuzzled into the cavity between my shoulder and head. He wouldn't even consider nursing, and his look told me it was time, so I let my tears flow quietly in his dim bedroom light, and I snuggled that baby so close so as to say nursing might be over, but we will always be this close.

We've repeated the same routine at every nap time and bedtime since.

That night I walked out of his room with a heavy heart. That's it I thought. That is my last connection to babyhood, and now it was gone. And I wasn't the least bit prepared for it. I walked into my bathroom (my quiet place), and I sat on the edge of my tub, and I let my heart be still.

My body will no longer nurture babies on the inside or out. It will, however, nurture their lives with a love for reading, being creative, being active, serving, listening, and loving. I'll have to learn to be okay with that. I think I am, though the sting is still so fresh.

Be the light


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a Christmas campaign called "Light the World." On lds.org, you can find 25 ways to "light" the world this Christmas. I know it's the 6th, and I probably should've told you about this several days ago, but my girls and I have been using the simple suggestions offered on the website to "light" Elkhart. It doesn't matter if you are a little behind, start on whatever date you read this, and you can start lighting your community immediately.

I've thought so much about light on my morning runs. I have really enjoyed doing things with my kids every morning. My girls have invited all of our neighbors and several of their friends to participate in the activities. I love light. I mean I really LOVE it. It is rare when I have my shades drawn; in fact, people in Texas would tease me about closing my blinds because I was known to walk from my bedroom to the kitchen in my workout gear in the morning, and everyone could see through the windows. We'd all laugh about it.

At Christmas time, I run different routes to see the twinkling lights throughout the neighborhood. I just love how light shines in darkness. It is perhaps the reason I love light most. I am often afraid of the dark, but even the tiniest light helps calm my tight stomach when I'm stuck in the dark. I believe people can be as bright as the sun if they let their inner light shine. We all have goodness inside us, and I think for most of us, we want that light to shine, but we get nervous or busy or frustrated, and we let our light dim. But we really can bring light to the world everyday of the year, but even if that goal seems to lofty, we can at least do it for 25 days.

I hope you'll look at yourself in the mirror and find your light. Find your strengths, and let them shine this month. Be the light in your community. Pay for someone's coffee behind you in line. Help a struggling mom push her grocery cart to the car after checkout. Smile at someone in the car as they pass you. Donate a box of oatmeal or a can of soup to the local charity. Ring the bells for Salvation Army (They are in desperate need of bell ringers, and it's the best experience! Just go to registertoring.com and sign up in your area.). If ringing the bell sounds too scary for you, place a dollar in the red can as you walk into a store. There are a million things you can do that will take you no extra time. Your light will shine brighter each time you do. 

A little reflection

It's time for me to work, but I wanted to take a minute and note down how much I love Tim. I crave him--the way he rests his hand on the small of my back and the way he uses his fingers to brush through the tangles of my hair and the way he looks at me when I wake up and stumble into the bathroom in the morning and the way he kisses my neck at night.

I have a lot of guilt about how I treated the guys I dated before meeting Tim. I wasn't always forthcoming or honest. I generally dated several people at time without telling anyone, and I struggled to get close to any one person. I hated hurting people's feelings so I often avoided the break up talk by avoiding the person all together. As a 34-year-old woman, I wish I could write each of them a letter and apologize. I was a jerk. I should've been better at expressing what I felt instead of running for the door, but I wasn't.

I've been thinking about all these things lately, and I even called a friend for moral support, and we laughed together, recalling all the stories, but when it comes right down to it, no matter how much guilt I feel about how I acted as a 20-something-year-old girl, I am absolutely sure I married the right person. He is my person. I don't think either of us knew how good we'd be for each other when we were married 10 years ago. We got lucky, and we absolutely know it.

Today Tim came home from Texas. I'd been waiting for him for hours. My body literally ached to be close to his. Seeing him standing on the concrete outside the small terminal made my body tingle. I am amazed that I can still feel these things after all these times and after all the daily distractions.

So I wasn't a very good person 15 years ago in the dating world, but I hope I am a better person now as a wife and a mother. One thing is for sure, I don't run away anymore from my feelings or my problems. I do let them sit in a corner festering from time to time, but I don't try to escape them. I face them, and I am so glad I have this guy by my side each time I do.

Being present

I'm surrounded by twinkle lights, and red and gold trinkets adorn my shelves, replacing the trendy vases and bookends. It is good to feel Christmas again; it's like a familiar friend that's been gone too long and when you see her, your heart bursts with happiness because you know your time together is going to be well spent.

Tonight as I sit here in the quiet of my home while Tim is away again on business, I find myself thinking about my life. A memory came to my mind a little bit ago about my time in Argentina as a missionary. One night (I hadn't been in the country more than 3 months) while walking home close to 9pm in the frigid, winter mist, I found myself frustrated with the cold, the rain and my lack of ability to speak the Spanish language with the clarity I desired. My Chilean companion tried to talk to me; her questions rebounded against my cold, stone body. I remember singing a hymn in my mind, hoping to escape my anger, but my anger persisted. As we approached our building I decided that I would start counting the days until I could go home because surely knowing how many days and weeks I had left would help me get through my tough moments. I kept looking toward that elusive future day when I could remove the wool skirts and heavy Dansko shoes and be warm and comfortable whenever I chose.

That future day came all too fast. Somehow 18 months flew by in the blink of an eye. I stopped counting days about a month after I started because I'm not very organized and never could stay on track, but still the day came, even though I wasn't ready for it.

I've been this way my whole life. I struggle to live in the present, always wishing to be rid of a certain trial or avoid a wicked tantrum. Somehow Mya is 9, and I find myself wondering, have I enjoyed her life enough? Or have I let it slip away? I look at Genevieve sometimes and I think how little I know about her now because she's gone at school all day and by the time we get to talk at night, I'm so focused on getting her in bed so I can work that I often miss what she's trying to say.

I can't believe I'm admitting this aloud.

But it's true. And I'm often ashamed of it. I miss such important pieces of my life because I think too much about what else I have to check off on some invisible list, and dammit, I hate lists!  I don't want to get to the end of my life and wonder how much I missed because I was cleaning the dishes or editing an article.

And so here I am today being completely candid with you and myself. I have a problem, and the problem is worrying too much about what may or may not happen if I do or don't do something. What I need to do is just live in the present, which may involve piles and late assignments.

So for this Christmas season, my goal is not only to serve my neighbor, but it is also to love my life. To love the things that are messy and frustrating, but also beautiful and real. I started this goal last week when the Morrisons came to visit for Thanksgiving, and last weekend was the best Thanksgiving weekend of my life. And you know what....the messes and dishes still got cleaned up. I'm not saying we all have to become slobs just to be present in our own lives.

Yesterday after the girls arrived home from school I invited them to help me set up a fake tree we received from Tim's uncle (we already set up our real tree in a different room). Mya, Elle and I tried to lift the awkwardly-shaped box, but the weight was too much for us once we reached the stairs, and you should've seen us trying to get that thing up 15 steps. Instead of thinking about how much time we were wasting by being inefficient, I looked at my girls' faces that were filled with delight at seeing their mom look like a total nutcase, and we laughed so hard, which therefore made the remaining few stairs hard to climb. But oh, how it changed the course of our night! We worked together to put the tree together, string the lights and gently place the ornaments.

So here's to being present and laughing, even when it seems inappropriate, and really enjoying life right now.

Lift from where you are

A dear friend of mine lost her mom a few months ago. She had battled with cancer and stomach issues and had thought that she was recovering only to learn the cancer had come back and with vengeance. She was barely 60 years old. My friend was and is still heartbroken. Her mom was everything to her, and her loss is almost too much to bear.

I have thought so much about my friend. I've reached out in different ways to let her know I'm here and I'm with her, even though I'm actually not with her. She is always present in my mind and heart, and I know she knows that.

When my friend posted about her mother's death, so many people rallied around her and buoyed her up among the crashing waves of grief. The outpouring of love was astounding. I can imagine her sweet mother watching all these women figuratively carrying her daughter out of the depths of despair; I'm sure she cried the whole time as the women helped my friend reach heavenward.

While I am not yet well acquainted with death and the grief that it brings, I have had my own experiences of being lifted above the crashing waves. Each time I had a baby, so many women offered meals and babysitting, and there were some who even came and cleaned my house (my toilets even!!). There was a steady stream of people for about a week, and I always felt so loved and cared for.

And then the week ended. And people got back to their normal lives as I expected them to, but there I was with one, two, three, five babies clinging to my ankles, one of whom was so tiny and delicate that she/he required extra love and attention, and I was forced to forge on ahead, mostly alone even though the waves were still high and often seemed like they were about to crash down at any minute.

Somehow I survived. My youngest baby is eighteen months and still requires extra attention but nowhere near the attention he once needed. The waves seem knee deep now, with an occasional tidal wave that hits me out of nowhere.

And so now I find myself in a position to reach out and lift those in deeper water, like my dear friend above. Here's the thing: people need us long after that initial week has worn off. In fact, they need us more. I could've really used an extra pair of hands the summer I had Timmy, but I often found myself sobbing as I soothed several crying babies. I am grateful for the people who still dropped by and still offered help because everything they did saved me in a crucial time. It's been a few months, and people are telling my friend that grief gets easier with time, but so far it hasn't been the case for her. It's actually been harder. Luckily, she knows some of the same women I know, and they are reaching out to her, even when she wants to hide and disappear. My friends will not let her disappear.

So during this holiday time--when everything seems so merry and bright (and it really is!)--there are people who might not feel so merry and bright for whatever reason, and if we have it in us to serve a little here and there, I hope we'll do it. Lift from where you are. And if you happen to be under crashing waves, ask for help. Reach out. There are people (like me) who don't always know service is needed unless told but are completely willing to help. Happy holidays friends!

scenes of motherhood via Tim's phone










I was scrolling through pictures on the computer in an attempt to update some frames when I happened upon the pictures above. Most of the pictures are from Tim's phone, but there are a couple of pictures snapped by the children as well.

If only motherhood always looked so happy and fun. Right now I have a five year old upstairs kicking the wall in a rage-filled fit because I won't let her usual 30 minutes of iPad time. She's been a raving lunatic today, throwing a 45 minute fit over a headband this morning, aggressively pitching her too-big coat on the ground when her teacher asked her to get out of the car to go to school, and sulking behind the Pepsi refrigerator at the store when I wouldn't buy her the gum she so desperately needed.

Frustrated that her tantrum over the headband caused her sisters to be tardy and mad when she disrespected her teacher at school, I stepped out of the car and walked over to her and whispered that we both needed to take our time apart as a time out and that we would try to have a better day after pickup. I quickly jumped in my car and did everything in my power not to peel out of the parking lot because I couldn't get far enough away from her fast enough. Upon arriving home, I sat with the babies and read a million books in between taking deep breaths and reminding myself that this too shall pass and that my 5 year old's tantrums do not define me. They do not adequately portray all the fun things I do with them, the good conversations I have with them or the lessons I teach them.

After an hour of reading and building towers for Timmy to knock over, I found myself in a sea of laundry. I folded 8 loads of laundry while bouncing Timmy on one knee from time to time and stopping to color with Birdie every once in awhile. Before lunch I ran upstairs to put the clothes away, knowing well that if I didn't put them away immediately, they would sit there for a week. And then I'd have bigger problems on my hands because a particular 9 year old of mine does not like it when she can't find the pants she has in mind for whatever shirt she chooses each day.

Motherhood is not always pretty or fun. In fact, there are days when it totally sucks. It's just the truth. I often laugh because people always give advice to new mothers about how to get the baby to sleep at night or get through those drooling days, but no one really warns about life after babyhood/toddlerhood. The days when my job is to referee fights or mediate breakups. The days when all I do is hold my kids while they cry because someone bullied them at school. Or the days when they woke up on the wrong side of the bed and just decided to screw the world and you too. Those are the worst kinds of days. Elle's having one of those kinds of days.

And I get it I guess. I have those days too. I just manage them differently, but then again I have 30 or so years on her. I guess the best advice I could give new parents or parents in the same situation as my own is to let time take its course. Phases will pass and behaviors will change, hopefully for the better. And with time, we learn to understand each other more, and with deeper understanding comes love. And love heals everything, even, and perhaps especially, little girls who can't stand their mama for a time.

home.

The smell of concrete just after it rains mixed with a faint smell of dryer sheets always reminds me of Argentina. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of Argentina. It was very much my home, even though I lived there for a short 16 months.

Every morning at 5:55am I would sluggishly tie the laces of my running shoes, and my mission companion and I would descend the four flights of stairs to the street where all you would smell for blocks and blocks was wet concrete and dryer sheets. Women would be rolling up their sleeves at the laundry mats, and men would be outside hosing down the sidewalks (unless it rained in which case God did their job for them), and I would run past and whisper, "Buen dia señor. Buen dia señora," to all the people we passed. Sometimes they'd nod in my direction with a half-burned cigarette resting between their lips, and other days they'd smile and wave back.

My companion and I would make our way to the plaza--a tiny park in the middle of skyscrapers--and I'd run my laps over and over again while my companion sat on a swing, resting her head and her eyes for an extra half hour. The only time she'd open her eyes was if she heard me fall on the cracks in the ground (I fell so much in Argentina, which is very unlike me) or if she heard an ambulance approaching from the distance.

There's a quote by Elder Holland (an apostle in the LDS church) where he says something like "there isn't a day that he doesn't think of his mission." I used to think that was ridiculous because life gets pretty crazy post-mission, but it's been 11 years since I stepped feet back on American soil, and he's right, there isn't a day that passes when I don't think of my mission. I think of the people I visited, the sounds on the busy city streets, the smells of freshly baked facturas, the connections I made, the service I received and rendered, and the God I found there.

God became very real to me there. He didn't seem so far away as I tried to help people feel their way back to Him. Helping people develop faith and a desire to be something more than what they already are is such an honor, and I'm grateful I had the chance to do it. In so many ways, it helps me teach my children. I know how to listen to their concerns and doubts, and without disregarding them, I help them see new possibilities.

Eleven years. That seems like an eternity ago in so many ways. But the fact that I can still hear their voices in my dreams and smell their food when I enter certain restaurants always brings me home.