Motherhood

Others Call It Living

I turned the corner west, towards the mountains, and took a deep breath as the winter sun tried to stay awake, barely past five. With white capped ridges in the distance, I turned the car to crunch over the layers of snow, fallen over the last few days. I parked, and with the door closing behind me, walked into a warm house where my baby had been cared for for the last six months. 

We’re transitioning her to a new place of care this week, and with yesterday’s last pick-up, I was feeling heavy. My feet shuffled reluctantly out of their home, and as baby’s carseat clicked into place, I told her that we just went through our first care transition with her. 

I’m not fearful for where she’s heading next; it’s sure to be delightful. However, the lingering weight came more from a place of longing for days I wished away. At three months old, I could barely care for her and myself. Since, she’s grown, and I’ve grown. 

I’m surprised how quickly this next chapter approached. We’re all bathing regularly now. Baby is almost ready to crawl. She’s moving into full time care outside of our home!

I, too, am crawling towards something new. 

As my birthday approached and I realized while yes, I am aging, so is my mother, and my in-laws, my husband, and my baby too. Marching towards the inevitable, some people call it. Others call it living.

This January has been cold. Hibernating looks different than last year. I find myself in bed earlier, with warm socks on my feet and hands tucked into sloppy sleeves of old sweatshirts. I float in flannel sheets, holding space for the new me that’s emerging. While Covid is still present, my panic around prevention has dissipated. Not all transitions need to be chaotic or fearful. 

I let the embers of awakening warm me.

To be in the middle now, with only one parental layer above me, and now a generation to care for below, brings a buoyancy of a different kind. This floating in the middle feels ladened with responsibility. Motherhood is teaching me to receive with grace, and to hold tightly to the people with whom I get to age.  I am caretaker now, in a different capacity, and I’m also learning to be cared for differently. 

I let the vacillating wishes of time to move faster mix with wishes of longing to grow. I wonder about what’s coming next, while staring in awe, at the little creature we’re responsible for as witness to how quickly things shift. 

We walked through another transition, yes, and I’ve found time to breathe before bed. Living. Beautiful, heartwarming things. 

Zebra Stripe Blinds

When I sit down at my home office for our daily work check in, the light comes through the blinds creating zebra stripes on my face. I try to move the laptop camera to remove the shadows, and still the sun dances through the gaps. While the team Zoom call is short, only fifteen minutes or so, I find myself quickly giving up on my attempts to create a steady flow of light on my reflection.

Searching for beauty feels these days feels a little bit like living through the blinds. Christmas and New Years passed in a blur. We spent time with family, juggled a baby and her gear between houses, and intentionally rested. Last week was only the first week back sending emails and coordinating, and I was quick to move towards overwhelm. On Sunday, during another failed nap time, I wept about all of the things my old-self would have accomplished. The shadows of shoulds seem to be drawing lines, keeping me from fresh morning light.

Yet still, I’ve been ruminating on the joys of baby being witness to the mundane. Piles of burp clothes and bottles in the sink feel less than glamorous. However, the noise makers on the floor mix with tiny socks and colorful books, reminding me of the gift of a child so many others long for. How quickly these days will pass. I want to be present for them when I can.

A friend recently shared how passing into a new year used to fill her with melancholy. The aches of what could have been and fears of what might be in the year ahead shaded an attitude of possibility and creativity. On December 31st, I wasn’t feeling sad for what could have happened in 2022. We packed in a lot of life in those 365 days. I did, however, feel a bit of dreadful wonder at what may be this year. There are many unknowns on a clean slate. I’m so good at filling blank pages with catastrophe.

Much like the mixing light on my face in the mornings, I want to approach 2023 with an openness rather than foreboding. I didn’t set a resolution. Instead I’ll be focusing on the mantra, “Uncertainty doesn’t mean bad things are going to happen.” I’ll hold space for the negative possibilities (Hello. My name is Katie and I’m prone to anxious and catastrophic thoughts). And I’ll also intentionally move to let more light in.

When responding to a birthday invitation I recently sent out, a friend shared, “Thank you so much for including me. One more step back to “normal.”  Feels fun and also weird, doesn’t it?” 

Choosing to live in the light is fun, and after the last few years, it is weird!

So here’s to more time in the ball pit my baby received for Christmas. More invitations for brunch. More connection. More reminders that hospitality and caring for one another may be more important than promotions or the next big project. Here’s to reviving the sourdough, playdates in the park, and hugs for our childcare providers. Here’s to redefining the possibilities in uncertainty and in the handholding when things feel shaky.

Here’s to the continued search for beautiful things and the reminder that letting in the light, despite the shadows that may come, is a beautiful thing.

Pink Threads

Remember the game Telephone? Someone starts with a quirky sentence and whispers the story to the person sitting next to them. Then that person, who likely messed up a word or two, whispers their recollection to the person sitting next to them, and on and on it goes until at the end, some new configuration of a previously silly sentence holds loose, small connections to how you began.

You giggle and shrug your shoulders and say, ‘Wait a minute? What did we start with exactly?” And what did she say that got us here?

I’ve been thinking of the messages I’m getting on womanhood, on mothering, on expectations of my complex and powerful sex and wondering, “What exactly, did I start with?”

My grandmother was born at home weeks premature. They wrapped her in cotton batting and covered her in olive oil, laying her to sleep in a shoe box.  She was that tiny. Her resilience came on day one, and day two, and day three as she grew proving the odds wrong. I come from small but feisty stock.

Jump seventy years ahead and join me as I sat with my two girl cousins as late teenagers. Young women, as they say.  Also present at the outdoor table are my mom, my aunt, and my grandmother who filled in my story as their relationships stitched together foundations for my formative years.

Stich-stich-stich- went the pink thread.

In unbalanced iron chairs my cousins and I rolled our eyes as we were told, we did not, like Grandma wished, inherit her bone structure, but rather my grandfather’s stocky German bones. We may have her strong spirit, but I got my grandfather’s thicker wrists.

And as we bounced along through time and I spent time with my now aging grandmother she’s started telling me stories. Of nights with martinis at fancy office parties, or the horrific boss who chased her around a desk. The things I watched on Mad Men were her life. I stand on tiny shoulders and work with the knowledge that when sexual harassment shows up at work, I can bravely do something about it. She raised four kids, made hundreds of hamburgers, worked, and always said, “You can pay the doctor or you can pay the grocer” so fresh vegetables were on the table every night.

Stich-stich-stich – went the pink thread

And as we jump again and I’m standing on the cold clay tiles of our kitchen floor in the house where I lived until I was thirteen. I can hear myself groaning as the summer sun danced through the front window. “Gazpacho salad again?” I’d whine. Vegetables – fresh and seasoned – were present on my plate.

“Eat up” my mom would say as her working contributions to our household turned into nourishment for my growing body. I’d take a bite and with each crunch of cucumber ingest my grandmother’s values at the table.

Stich-stich-stich – went the pink thread.

As a young girl I had so many evenings around a kitchen table with people who loved me. My mom took the best of her mother’s lessons and imparted them in me. How to make a pie crust is important. As is the presence of formal dishes and fancy settings at a holiday affair.

Stich-stich-stich – went the pink thread.

Time jump again and I’m 24 years old, registering for wedding gifts. “No china?!” my mom proclaimed loudly in the very public restaurant we were sitting in.

“No.” I stubbornly said, “We don’t have room for china. And I’ll just inherit a bunch of plates later.” Our voices escalated to the point where our concerned waitress came over and asked if we were ok.

We toned it down.

Time jump again and I learned at the age of 27 that you don’t inherit china when your dad dies. Instead, you witness a weeping mother with hunched shoulders sitting next to the Christmas tree. It was the first round of holidays without him and I wished I had some fancier fucking plates.

I put out some cheese, cut up some pears, and put them on the only piece of Tiffany’s anything gifted to me as an engagement present. The platter would have to do. Then our sink broke leaving Mom and my husband washing dishes in our bath tub by hand because, as I’ve been told, real men know how to help out with dishes in whatever room they may need to be washed.

Stich-stich-stich went the pink thread.

This past weekend, at nine o’ clock pm, my mom kissed me on the cheek and said, “You must be tired. You planned two Mother’s Days this year.” Her statement caught me off guard and then I nodded.

I did. Yes, I did. Because my mother taught me to show people they matter. Showing up is important. Taking care of others is vital and making them feel special is an added bonus I’ve taken on. Nurturing comes easy to me because my mom nurtured me so very well. And I’m rather exhausted. For the family work of connection and celebration has now fallen to me.

Stich-stich-stich goes the pink thread.

And at the age of thirty, as everyone keeps asking me about children and babies and my aging ovaries I simmer and switch between maybe and no way, not yet. How does one know they are ready to become a mother? My grandmother didn’t have the choice to control all those blessings like I do. Many states now are trying to take that choice away.

So I pause and I jump back through time and I wonder:

Grandma – What sentence did you start with in our game of telephone? We’ve taken your words and your dreams and your vision and kept the stitches going, sewing new stories in our own ways.

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I’m thankful for the pink threads connecting us all as we continue to love each other, no matter what words jumble up the sentences of where we started.

Mother’s Day weekend just passed and I’m thankful for beautiful and brave choice my grandma made to be a mother. For my own mom who knows the power of magic in thoughtful gifts and just the right words to bring comfort to my fears. I’m thankful for my mother-in-law who shaped my husband and accepted me with open arms at her table. These women. These stories. These sentences. Beautiful things that leave me here, stitching together sentences for you.