Solo. For a Minute.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

 (bandana-hair is my life right now. And maternity leggings. 37.9 weeks pregnant, don't mind the stale "selfie smile" attempt here. I felt sheepish.)


I just dropped Quinn off at his first day of preschool. He gets to go to a great Rockwood Early Childhood classroom two mornings a week, for three hours each time. 

This means that today, for three hours, I am solo. Just me. (Well, and Fiona the cat and also this nearly-cooked baby in my tummy.) I get to be solo exactly 5 times before baby is due. I'm not going to lie: I've been  looking forward to this two-week span the entire summer. I have been fantasizing about what I might do with each small window of solo time. Take myself to breakfast? Sew? Get a massage? Shop for a coming-home outfit for the baby? Go back to bed? It's been a lovely lovely thing to anticipate and dream about. 

And now I'm here. Today, I've chosen to put on Alison Krauss Pandora and take some time to write. I truly think I've been missing a piece of me this past year as I've taken less time to "write myself into well-being", as once said by essayist Nancy Mairs. Just the centering activity of putting aside duties and electronics and worries and letting myself freewrite this messy brain of mine into words... It's so incredibly cathartic, healing, and nurturing. It helps me understand myself better, and thus go back out and understand my world better... My kids, my loved ones, my life choices.... I find more clarity, more purpose, and more gratitude. 

So this morning, I write. I've been thinking about my hopes and wishes for this last go-round with a new baby. I've been incredibly nervous about the coming storm--- the utter disruption of the rhythm my family has been settled into for quite some time. It'll have been 3.5 years since we managed life with a tiny baby. Three years since we moved to this house. I am, of course, incredibly excited and grateful for this baby to join us. But.... anxious. I know myself, and I know that the hormones will throw me off my game for as many as two full years, and I worry about how that will manifest this time, with three very vibrant, very needful kiddos already here. On a smaller scale, I have high hopes for taking newborn photos of my littlest one, and if I let myself think about it too much, I begin to get anxious about the success of that project. I get anxious about Lucy's recent regression back to nighttime accidents, and wonder how we'll manage multiple kids with nighttime needs while we are dealing with that desperate, awful newborn-stage sleep deprivation.  

I am clearly putting some high expectations onto a pedestal-- the IDEAL life versus what I fear we are facing. And because I'm doing this, and letting myself worry, I am feeling no rush to "get this baby out", as so many many 38-week pregnant ladies beg for at this stage. Please, baby-- STAY IN. Let me have this two week haven I've been dreaming about. 

But in those two weeks, also let me begin to gently talk myself down. Remind myself that those high expectations for how life SHOULD be-- organized, predictable, rested, cheerful, adventurous, creative-- are not the only way, and are only going to break my heart if/when real life fails to measure up. I want to take time over these next two weeks to gently talk myself through the messy beauty of what reality will really be like soon. To gently reset those expectations and begin to get ready, and maybe even excited, for the phase we're about to enter. 

 This is very very likely my last baby. Last time doing this. And the early weeks are so fleeting, so foggy, and so ephemeral-- so hard to keep ahold of. I don't want to lose even more of those moments to a "despair of expectation". Instead, here is what I want:

I want to remember to really look at my baby in those first moments, instead of worrying about Joe or someone else grabbing the photographs I think should be happeneing in those moments. 

I want to feel her in my arms, wet and floppy and new and alien, and just remember how it feels to have her so long in, now suddenly out. 

I want to let myself be tired in those first hours in the hospital, but not let that make me get selfish. I want to try to be tired with my baby there with me, as much as possible, instead of feeling like, "I'll have days and days with her soon. Someone else can take her for now." I want to soak as much of those first hours up with her, before I am home and in "real life", as I can. 

I want to forget about my hair, desperately in need of a haircut, and just throw on the bandana and get back to the task of looking at my baby's fingers and toes and eyelashes. 

I want to really see Joe being a daddy again. I want to watch him hold her, talk to her, soothe her, and really SEE. I want to soak it in and remember how lucky I am to have him as my partner. 

When we get home, I want to work like hell to put on blinders to things that are out of place or piling up in the corners. I want to shake off that twitchy feeling when  I see those things. I know from past times that my fragile, tired, hormonal post-birth self is extremely sensitive to those stupid things, and it's STUPID. I want to work on breathing in calm and breathing out that incredible need to have order and control. 

I want to feel gratitude for the help my amazing mother-in-law will be offering nonstop while she is here. I want to remember to look her in the eye and tell her thank you. I want her to feel my gratitude full-force. 

I want that exact same thing for when my mom and dad are here and helping. It's far too easy to let the inner adolescent rear her snappish head at my parents when I am tired or stressed or feeling stretched thin. And that is utterly unfair to them. I want to take deep breaths and really SEE them, see their service and deep love and just be grateful. 

I want to remember that I've gained some pretty cool "baby whispering" skills as a newborn photographer, and try to tap into that utter confidence I feel when handling someone else's baby--- that trust that of COURSE this baby is going to go to sleep, any minute now. With my own babies, the stakes are higher, and I get rattled so much easier. I want to push that down and let the calm confidence rise up. 

In fact, I want to be brave enough to let the kids snuggle or hold my baby for her nap if they want to... even if that means it's not a "good" nap or the baby might wake. I want to live in the moment and trust that even if baby wakes earlier than I would've liked, the trade-off to have had such tender moments between siblings is WORTH IT. This baby won't be this tiny for very long. 

I want to speak my truth to my kids and my husband without that twang of annoyance behind it that happens even now when I feel overwhelmed. If I am not handling things well, I want to be able to speak gently but firmly as I explain to them, "I am having a hard morning. I am not doing a good job of holding this baby and getting you dressed for school. I am sorry. Can you help me?" or other similar truths. 

I want the kids to feel like I trust them. With baby. With doing more things on their own. With being able to help me help baby. I want them not to bear the brunt of my emotional stress. I want to try so hard to take a breath before I speak so I don't have an edge to my voice all the time. 

I want to remember to count fingers and smooth downy soft hair down and kiss the tip of her nose when she has woken me for the 5th time in a night. I want to remember that this tiny baby will be a toddler in no time at all, and breastfeeding will only be for one more season, and sleep will come again one day, but this time will never come again. 

I want to be brave enough to ask someone to come hold her if she ends up colicky like Lucy was. To be brave enough to ask for one hour to go for a walk or a drive in utter silence while I regroup. 

I want to stop and SEE. As much as I can, as tired as I will be. I want to work and work and work on being mindful and in the moment-- not seeking escape or distraction or rewards or external validation. I want to go inward and pull my family close to me and just stay MINDFUL. See. Look, through the chaos and mess and even through the not-so-beautiful emotions, and still find something exquisite and miraculous there. I want to keep seeing, even when I want to run away.

I will need so much grace: from my husband, from my children, from my parents, from my husband's parents.... from myself. I will be a mess. I will be a genuine, post-partum mess. I will be raw and I will be snappish. And I will need my loved ones to forgive me again and again. But that means I also need to learn how to more freely GIVE GRACE BACK. Let them make mistakes or do things differently than how I'd do them. Let them fumble in their attempts to help and serve. Let them have bad days of their own. Let them have confusing and icky feelings too. I need to remember that they deserve gentleness at least as much as I do. Probably more. I need to take deep breaths and let things go and give grace. 


As the next two weeks zoom by, I need to reread these wants and hopes, and begin to prepare. And I hope that if I can reflect gently on these wishes, that I'll begin to see the changes ahead not as a "coming storm", but as a glowy, fleeting, incredibly special, even if hard, time that we'll only get for a little while. I hope I can begin to feel confident that we'll not only survive, but love it. I know already how much I'll love looking at, holding, and photographing my tiny one. But I want to breathe in confidence that I will even possibly love the chaos and hormones of that time as well. That is is EXACTLY what I will be meant to be doing, and that with help and mindfulness, I might be able to do it well... With grace and lots of breathing. 

Until then, I am going to grab the hours and days in these two weeks and squeeze the marrow out of them-- with equal parts nesty productivity and self-absorbed "treat myself" moments and as much cheerful normalcy as I can give my kids  before the world flips upside down. I am going to work and rest and play and wait. And all shall be well, all shall be well.... all manner of things shall be well. 


Oh, and because even third kids deserve some attention, here are Quinn's "first day" photos from this morning. Can you even handle the cuteness??



  1. Oh, my. Good words all. Adorable Quinn. If it is just a layer cut, want me to do it Saturday morning?

  2. Anonymous9:36 PM

    This post has help me immensely this evening. Preparing for little brother to come into the world with a rebellious toddler has me at my wits end. Thank you so much for the words if wisdom. I needed this.

  3. You are beautiful! Your words are beautiful. Your hopes are perfect! Can't wait for your new adventure! Put me on speed dial to hold that baby while you shower, walk, or leave for a Diet Coke!!!😘


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