Today’s post comes from my I-love-her-too-much-for-words baby sister, Alexandra Ghoman. (Who is not a baby anymore, but still.) Alexandra blogs at A Loves J about life as a not-so-newlywed, touching on topics as varied as faith, fashion, family, an adorable dog named Huckleberry, and the occasional semi-sarcastic guide to cruises. When she was still just a teenager, wise-beyond-her-years Alexandra was a great comfort to me during the years when we couldn’t get pregnant. I’m sorry to say I am now returning the favor. If you, or friends you know, are experiencing infertility, know this: You are not alone. God hears; God sees; God cares.
The One She Needed to Write
by Alexandra Ghoman
she’s a woman caught between stages. she’s fixed somewhere between just married and happily ever after. she’s not sure who she is. she’s not sure who she’s becoming. she’s unrecognizable. she’s ever-changing. she’s ever the same. she’s defined by this. she’s undefined. she’s all the things. she’s none of them. there’s a chance she’s crazy.
she feels dramatic. she hates that. she wants to pray. she cries instead. when she cries, it’s not soft and sweet. it’s snotty, red-faced, and audible. she feels embarrassed. but she feels a little better when she stops.
she goes on living. breathing in, breathing out. she listens to friends. she congratulates good news. she smiles. she laughs. she aches and she aches. she answers “fine.” she means it sometimes. other times, fine is a fine line. but overall, she’s fine.
she doesn’t want the moon. she doesn’t crave the stars. she daydreams of normal. she dreams of no meds, no shots, no incessant blood tests. she dreams of pink lines and plus signs, nausea and swollen ankles, booties and sleep-deprivation. she vows to savor. she vows to never complain. she makes promises she knows she can’t keep. she does it anyway.
nothing is bad. it’s more the absence of good. she has seen what could be. she has felt what might be. she wishes it came easy. she wonders if it’s her fault. she wonders if God knows, if God cares. she wonders what he’s doing up there. she keeps going. she keeps praying. she keeps going.
she meditates on His promises. she wonders what it all means. she holds on for dear life. she rides the waves of uncertainty. she fixes her eyes on the Father. she paints his or her face in her mind. wondering what kind of special human is being prepared in the heavens. she thinks it must be someone special. someone she can’t wait to meet. someone she’s always known.
I’m haunted by this nightmare where you come to me as an insecure preteen and ask, “Mom, can I see my baby book? I need some dates and things for a school project.”
Choking back tears of shame, I dig out a dusty blue and yellow book. You pluck it from my guilty hands. A few souvenirs and ragged coloring pages slip out. To you, they look random, unimpressive, disorganized, but I remember: That’s the first time you drew a circle. That smiley-faced blob there? The picture you drew of me on our third Mother’s Day. That thumbprint collage? Your first preschool art project.
You flip through, and I know what you’re seeing: A handful of haphazard photos, too many half-empty pages. I try to distract you with the highlights: There’s an ultrasound photo—that grainy peanut is your very first picture . . . There’s a coming-home-from-the-hospital shot; you’re swaddled, pink and scrunchy, in the striped hospital blanket . . . Look, twenty-six pictures from your epic first birthday party . . . A few play dates at the park . . . And then we skip ahead to your first day of preschool (that stain there? definitely raindrops, not tears) . . . er, one blurry shot from preschool graduation . . . Okay, let’s keep moving.
In the margins, you’ll find a few handwritten notes:
Seven weeks:Still not sleeping, but oh, that smile!
Five months:You must be teething. You drool through four outfits a day.
Eight months:You love bananas, your daddy, the dog, and screeching at the top of your lungs.
Eleven months:You lunged forward today, trying to pinch the dog. First step? Maybe?
Twenty-two months:You got into the magic markers. I need a new kitchen table.
Twenty-nine months:I wish I could give your pacifiers back. You miss them so much.
Three years:You got your first princess dress today. You smiled so big, I thought your cheeks might pop.
You flip to the back pages. The tooth chart is woefully empty. I managed to jot down the month when your first tooth came in—not the day, I couldn’t remember which day—and then I drew a sad little frowny-face when it came back out again, five years later.
The how-we-celebrated-your-first-five-birthdays section? Well, I did a killer job on the first birthday—see the pictures? see the cake I spent three days researching on Pinterest and sculpting in the shape of Elmo?—after that, the birthday party pages are all blank.
Worst of all, I picture you flipping to the chart of firsts, that page where I’m supposed to write down every first from your First Year of Life, and even some milestones from your toddler years. Your baffled gaze runs down the page, finding only a few scattered notes. You’ll never know the exact date you spoke your first word, or which day that first pointy tooth poked through, or how much you weighed at your eighteen-month doctor visit.
And I picture your expression crumpling in confusion, an accusation etched in your eyes as you glare at me, mystified and hurt: You don’t love me enough. If you really loved me, you would have made me a baby book I could be proud of. You would have written down all of the things so we could remember them. Didn’t you care?
And I’ll try to explain, to help you understand:
I didn’t write down exactly which day you spoke your first word because I was too busy clapping, too busy savoring the sweet sound of that voice I’d been trying to coax out of you for so long. You were so excited, so proud of yourself, and you wanted me to listen. And I did.
There wasn’t time to mark down which day your first tooth came in because you were so fussy that you wouldn’t let me put you down. You just wanted me to snuggle you and rock you and sing to you. And I did.
I forgot to record how much you weighed at every doctor visit, because after all the prodding and shots, you were always tired and grumpy, and so was I. And so I got my coffee and you got your chocolate milk and we called it a day. We just cuddled on the couch and watched Elmo until we both felt better. And we did.
I didn’t write down what we ate at your second birthday party, because I’d learned my lesson from the first party—a blur, the whole grand cake-sculpting affair—so for the next few years, I got a store-bought cake, inflated balloons with my own breath, blew some bubbles, and crazy-danced with you and a few friends. I put down my camera and watched joy twinkle in your eyes while you played silly games and tore open gifts. When it was all over, you wanted to ignore your presents, ball up the wrapping paper, and have a wrapping-paper fight. And we did.
I didn’t actually forget to take pictures of your preschool graduation. It’s just, my eyes were so cloudy, I couldn’t focus the lens right. But I tried.
And every time I found a spare rainy afternoon and thought to myself, “I could catch up on the baby book today,” a chubby fist tugged on my pant leg, a sunbeam smile flashed up at me, and a little voice lisped, “Come play with me, Mommy.” And I did.
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This article first appeared on The Huffington Post.
3. Sugar-free, vitamin-filled, cavity-fighting lollipops that coat kids’ teeth in the perfect level of fluoride.
4. Emergency toilet paper and diaper air-drop delivery. Your nine-year-old used up the last square of toilet paper just before bedtime? No problem. No need to resort to tissues or—heaven forbid—paper towels. Call the air drop hotline, and an emergency super-soft eight-pack will land in your front yard within five minutes. Your husband forgot to mention that he used the last diaper while you were out, and every diaper bag has already been cleaned out? No problem. Call the airdrop hotline. (For a small additional fee, milk, bread, children’s ibuprofen, humidifiers, and poster board for your fifth grader’s last-minute school project can also be air-dropped.)
5. A drive-thru kid-wash. Hold child out the car window—or better yet, buckle them into a small bucket seat that attaches to the side of your minivan, like a motorcycle sidecar—and then kids go for a fun ride! While Mom and Dad put the van in neutral and relax inside, rocking out to non-kid music and munching on hors d’oeuvres, the happy child gets sprayed by colorful soap bubbles, tickled and cleaned by a fun scrub brush, and gently blown dry. For an extra fee, their teeth can get brushed and flossed, too. When you pull the child back inside the van, they are ready for bed: clothed in fresh pajamas, hair combed, teeth shining. The minute you get home, you can toss a clean, happy child in the bed.
6. An instant food lukewarmifier. What’s a food lukewarmifier? It immediately heats or cools any food to that perfect but elusive lukewarm temperature that picky kids demand. No need to cook your child’s food, then put it in the freezer for a never-fast-enough cool-down, only to find that you’ve over-cooled it, and now you have to microwave it all over again for exactly nine point two seconds. All while your starving toddler shrieks and stabs your table with their baby fork.
7. Pacifiers that gradually wean the child automatically: Like, maybe the pacifier begins to release a gross-tasting flavor (probably kale) when the child reaches 18 months of age. After a few hours or days of this flavor, the toddler decides, “Hey, I don’t like my pacifier anymore. All done. Habit broken. Now Mommy doesn’t have to get a second job to fund my braces.”
8. Emergency mute buttons for children. For those humiliating parenting moments when your child points at a stranger and shouts something horrifying like, “Look, Mommy! That man has a baby in his tummy!” These buttons would come with remote controls that reach to the back of the car, across the dinner table, even across the playground or shopping mall.
9. Family-size invisibility shields (complete with sound barriers). Press a button, up goes the shield, and voilà—instant privacy. Your kid starts throwing an epic tantrum in public, and you can’t properly deal with them while all the bystanders are glaring at you and judging your parenting? Shields up! Your potty-trainer yanks down their Pull-Up and tries to use a potted plant in the mall for a toilet? Shields up! Your child goes digging for gold in their nose in the middle of a restaurant? Shields up! Your toddler walks up behind you, goes for a hug, but accidentally hikes your skirt up for the whole world to see? Shields up!
10. Cough medicine for babies that is safe and homeopathic and actually works. Because BABIES COUGH ALL THE TIME, ALL NIGHT LONG, WHENEVER THEY GET THE SLIGHTEST SNIFFLE, AND NO MATTER WHAT PEOPLE SAY, HONEY AND VICKS BABY RUB DON’T HELP AT ALL. (Okay. Rant over.)
11. Mad-Eye Moody Eyeballs for moms—you know, from Harry Potter. These magical eyeballs can roll 360 degrees, see through the back of your head, and even spy on people through walls. (Ideally, you would be able to assign a different Mad-Eye Moody Eyeball to each of your children, to help you keep track of multiple kids at once on crowded playgrounds.)
12. Go-Go-Gadget Arms. You remember, from the classic 80s cartoon “Inspector Gadget” (recently revived on Netflix). These arms can extend like 50 feet in any direction, even around corners, to rescue people and grasp unreachable things. These arms can morph into drills, screwdrivers, crock pots, dental equipment—whatever shape you might need. A pair of Go-Go-Gadget Arms would especially come in handy while driving with children in the backseat: Toddler drops pacifier on minivan floor and begins to shriek? Go-Go-Gadget Arms to the rescue! Three-year-old gags on a piece of apple and may need the Heimlich maneuver while you’re doing 65 on the Interstate? Go-Go-Gadget Arms to the rescue! Six-year-old can’t put straw in juice box and has a meltdown? Go-Go-Gadget Arms to the rescue! Brother keeps pinching sister and making her cry in the back seat? Go-Go-Gadget Arms to the rescue!
13. Emotionally intelligent holograms of Mommy that can attend any function with your children, for those times when you need to be at two field days, one swim meet, one parent-teacher conference, and a piano lesson all at the same time. A basic hologram would not do. The hologram must be empathetic: able to comfort the child who has lost the sack race; cheer enthusiastically for the child who has won third place in the 50 backstroke; nod and “hmm” at everything the teacher says; and commiserate with (while also gently disciplining) the child who forgot to practice piano this week.
Okay, your turn: What inventions do you really need to help you survive motherhood?
So I fell off the blogging bandwagon this winter and spring, but I have 13 good reasons. Scout’s honor.
1. I had a baby in January. (I offer photographic proof below. Need I post 12 more? Nevertheless . . . )
Sawyer Kate, the sweetest-ever blogging distraction
2. It is not a wise idea to post things online when massively sleep-deprived.
3. Did you know that the average newborn goes through 10 to 14 diapers a day in the first few weeks? Yeah. Mine definitely fell in the “to 14” end of the diapering spectrum.
3. I’ve been using what remains of my beleaguered brain cells to finish up my latest manuscript, Wishing Well. It’s done and submission ready! (Clouds part, angels sing, my husband faints with joy. Or perhaps relief, or horror—or then again, maybe that’s just the sleep deprivation, creating a narcoleptic attack.)
4. When you try to find a babysitter for four young children so you can write, people either laugh hysterically in your face, or run away screaming. Sometimes both.
5. This baby only weighs about 12 pounds right now, but she somehow creates more dirty laundry than the rest of the family members combined. I suspect she is secretly proud of this accomplishment.
6. And while we’re discussing mind-boggling levels of laundry, my dryer has some sort of rust issue, so that it’s putting lovely brown streaks on all our clothing…meaning I have been forced to hang most of our clothes to dry like someone straight out of the 1950s…LAUNDRY HAS TAKEN OVER MY LIFE.
7. I feel compelled to add here that while all this talk of having four children and drowning in laundry may make me sound like an old, boring person, I am no such thing. Exhausted, yes; old, no; boring, definitely not. Or so I tell myself. This is not a reason I have not blogged, it’s simply a fact that deserved a few lines.
8. In February, in the post-baby haze when I was too tired to write, I got a serious case of HGTV addiction. I spent any free moments (and there weren’t many) obsessing over that captivating question: Will they love it or list it?
9. In March, it was still cold, when it was supposed to be warm. And who can blog with cold toes?
10. In April, I decided to reread The Clockwork Prince in order to prepare for The Clockwork Princess. I have been consumed.
11. Did I mention I had a baby?
12. Did I mention sleep loss?
13. All this to say…I’m gradually digging out of the baby burrow I’ve been snuggled in all winter and spring. I haven’t stopped writing—I never stop writing; that would be like ceasing to breathe!—but the blog had to go into hibernation for a few months. Up next is a list I’ve been pondering for some time now: 13 Things I Wish I Could Teach My Dog.