The In Between

Today out of nowhere I focused in on your legs in your high chair. I mean really looked at them. They looked so long it was comical! Your feet are resting on the little foot rest on the bottom rung. Almost too big for this chair. Almost ready to move on to something new. Ladies and gentleman, we’ve entered the in between.

One part baby and one part little girl. You still have moments when you cry uncontrollably and can’t communicate what’s wrong. You just need to be held by mommy until the world stops moving so fast. But you surprise me every day with how much you know and understand. You want a baby sister and chocolate ice cream for breakfast. You run away from me as fast as you can, but turn around every few seconds to smile and make sure I’m still there.

This phase of life is so sweet but also hard on my heart. It’s the first time that I can feel you pulling away, even if it is just baby steps. I love watching you grow strong and discover the world around you. You’re becoming “you” and figuring out – sometimes frustratingly – how you fit into this great big place.

One part of being a parent that I never really pondered before I had you was the letting go part. And it turns out it might be the hardest part. For years, I had my fingers grasped so tightly around the idea of you. I wanted and needed you here with me. And once you arrived you needed me too. For two years we’ve been side by side in the trenches. But day by day you need me a little bit less. “I do it self” is a regular phrase.

You’ll start preschool this fall, and just the thought of being separated from you brings tears to my eyes. But I’m facing the letting go part head on. As much as you need me to hold you, you also need me to know when to let go. I will always be here to give you all my love, but there are some things that I can’t give to you. The gift of making new friends. The gift of new experiences and perspectives. I have to step to the side, if just a tiny bit, to let you find those things for yourself. And it is going to be damn hard on me.

For now we’ll live in the in between and savor the baby and big girl moments alike.

Am I Missing It?

Eight months are gone in the blink of an eye, and they’ve also dripped slow as molasses. “The days are long but the years are short,” they say. It’s the biggest parenthood cliche and for good reason.

Some days I feel at home in my new role as mama, and other days I still feel like an outsider looking in. Between two worlds — my old self and new — I’m still finding my way.

IMG_1019But my little girl, she is fresh and new to the world. Every day is an adventure and she is just starting her story. What role will I play? I want so much to get this thing right. Be her guide. Be her favorite person. Be her inspiration. Should I continue to work so we can provide her with the best? Show her that she is strong and smart and capable, and doesn’t need to rely on anyone else. Or should I stay home and be her safe haven, teaching her the things that only a mother can? Spend these sweet early years together learning and growing. Can I do it all? Will it slowly burn me out and make me less? Less of a mother and less of myself?

In the worry and the fear of making the right choices, am I missing the beauty of every single new day? The big gummy smile with one little half tooth poking through when I walk into the room. The new pincher grasp, gleefully tossing puffs into her mouth like they’re going out of style. This squirmy, loud, happy, adventurous little person is changing and growing and I cannot miss it to worry and stress.

The answers will come. Life will move forward one way or another and we’ll continue to write our story. The most important part is that I don’t miss it.

A Well Deserved Retirement

Celebrating dad's retirement at a Penn State game

Celebrating dad’s retirement at a Penn State game

My dad’s arrival home to our little powder blue split level house was one of the most exciting parts of the day when I was growing up. He’d pull up in his Buick (always a Buick) after a long day at the office and my brother and I would run outside to show him the frog we found, or to take him for a ride in the Radio Flyer.

I have so many fond memories of my dad from when I was a child. I remember him teaching my little brother to ride his bike without training wheels, and the sheer joy on his face when he finally figured it out. I remember in junior high when he would practice softball with me endlessly in the backyard – perfecting my role as the slow but steady closing pitcher. I remember nights in high school when I was up crying about a boy, or nervous to go away to college. There was my dad, telling me everything would be ok. And most recently, when I told him how hard it has been to deal with infertility, he told me “You may not become a mother when and how you thought you would, but it will happen for you.” He is a man of few words, but they are usually the right ones.

Now that I have been in the workforce for 10 years, it is hard to imagine coming home from work and mustering up the energy to be such an engaged and loving parent. Some days, it is hard to be a good spouse. If I can be half the parent and all-around good guy that my dad is, my future kids will be very lucky.

Today was my dad’s last day of work. He has worked hard his entire life to support our family and give us a wonderful life with so many opportunities. Congratulations, dad, on a well deserved retirement!

Hanging out with dad

Hanging out with dad

To the Lonely Mamas

I saw this blog post shared on Facebook a while back and really enjoyed reading it: Are You Lonely, Mama? It is very easy when you’re infertile to envision this secret, exclusive club that all new moms belong to where they all instantly make friends with each other and spend their days watching their adorable babies grow up. It never really occurred to me that it could be lonely at times. Hard, yes. But lonely, no. I’ve had way too much time to build up parenting in my mind and I’ve really put it on a pedestal. So thank you to the author for bravely sharing that it isn’t always bliss.

But I would urge you to try to see things from my point of view, lonely mamas. When I scroll through Facebook, all I see are babies and happy parents. I see my friends with new lives and priorities, leaving me behind. Every morning, I walk past the middle bedroom in our house — a tiny little room between our bedroom and the guest bedroom. When we moved in two years ago, we started calling it the nursery. I decorated it in my mind. I pictured bringing our sweet baby home to this safe place. Now we call it the spare bedroom and we keep door closed because those thoughts and plans are too painful. Friends have stopped asking when we’re going to have kids. Some friends have stopped reaching out at all.

After more than two years of trying to get pregnant, my husband and I are in infertility limbo. I never imagined we’d be here. The mental and physical toll has been completely exhausting. We’re heartbroken, but we’re surviving. I’m lonely, too — for something I’ve never had.  As we head into our first IVF cycle, I hope that someday we look back on this as a season that made us stronger and prepared us to be amazing parents. Like the author, I’m trying not to let this loneliness steal this season from me.

It is very easy from my perspective to feel frustration, jealously, and even anger toward new mamas. I have friends who dealt with infertility before we started trying to have a baby, and I remember thinking they were insane. Every Facebook birth announcement or happy family out to dinner made them rage. But now I know. Infertility is a dark place, and you can only understand once you’re living there. I try to keep those feelings at bay, but I would be lying if I said they never consume me.

So I say to you lonely mamas — I get it. Being a mom is the hardest job. It can be isolating. At times, you miss your old life. Continue to share your feelings about motherhood — the loneliness and the joy. But I hope at the end of the day, you find comfort knowing that you’ve been given the best gift in the world. And you’re so very blessed to be given the opportunity to be a mama.

Crying in the Elevator at Whole Foods

Well, it happened. I cried in public. When I first talked to my mother-in-law about how we were having trouble getting pregnant, she opened up to me that she and my father-in-law had trouble, too. She recounted with very real emotion the pain she felt when she saw pregnant women or mothers and children. She told me she even broke down and cried one day at the mall, thinking she might not have a family of her own. This made me think I must have my shit together because I definitely haven’t cried in public yet! Until yesterday…

I was at our local Whole Foods after work to pick up a few things for a get together. I managed to arrive at a time that I can only describe as baby hour. There were babies EVERYWHERE. I went about my business and made it out of there in record time, with my guac and artisanal cheese. Yum! I make my way into the elevator and BAM! There is a mom with her baby, who looked to be about six months old.

Now I’ve seen a lot of frazzled mothers of babies. Tired mothers. The occasional bad mother. But this particular mom had this look in her eye like she had just fallen in love. I smiled at the baby, because who can resist smiling at a baby in an elevator? This was the mother’s in to tell me that her daughter had just said dada for the first time and she couldn’t wait to tell her husband. Sigh. I haven’t seen someone look that over the moon in a long time. Out of nowhere, I started crying. I congratulated her and quickly moved my sunglasses down over my eyes. An elevator is a very intimate space and I prayed that the door would open soon before she wondered what in the world was wrong with me.

I think my emotion was a mix of sadness for myself, and also happiness that this type of love exists. I hope I can experience it one day. Thank you to this mother for simultaneously breaking my heart and restoring my faith that this journey will be worth it in the end.