Vienna

growing-plants

Maybe it’s because winter makes me restless. Maybe it’s because I’m shifting (always shifting, my friends) into a different season of parenthood. Maybe it’s because I haven’t gotten pregnant again – a whole other personal journey I shouldn’t divulge to the internet world. Maybe it’s because we’ve been weaning and my pre-pregnancy hormones are alive more than they’ve ever been since becoming a mother. Maybe it’s because some new kernel is growing in me – the part that is ready to shed and grow. Maybe it’s because New York City does things to you, it constantly pushes you to grow. Shed and grow. Shed and grow.

I’m ready to pursue. As I worked part time over the last 2 years, I told myself to keep my career on low-simmer. Just keep it alive, Cass. Vienna will wait for you.

This weekend, I’m finally wrapping up my FEMM certification after nearly 3 years. I was 6 weeks pregnant when I sat in my first FEMM class. It wasn’t supposed to take that long but you know, here I am. I recently solidified La Leche League Leadership, another pursuit that seemed to drag on forever. They said there was no rush and that it should happen organically. Ok. I’m on the lookout for my next continuing ed opportunities. I’ve got some direction, trying to shed and grow.

These certifications don’t mean much in the professional world. No, I didn’t get a PhD or become an MD, or even get a degree. But they matter to me. I finished something. I’m even starting to finish books. I’m trying to take my time with things. Vienna waits for you. I’ll never forget when my 4th grade teacher had a sit down meeting with my parents because he said I “never double checked my work, blew through tests, and was reliably always the first one done – head and shoulders before anyone else.” B+. Not bad for one gust of exam flurry, eh?

I’m still like that. Even throughout college, I was nearly always the first one done. At age 27, I’m trying to parent myself through it when I catch myself rushing through something that maybe I can slow down on. Vienna waits.

I never considered myself competitive. I never took board games seriously. I figure skated but chatting with boys on the bleachers was a more motivating factor than a gold medal. I was not an award junkie. I was a solid A/B student. You should have seen me at ultimate frisbee – are we supposed to care about this?

This was not necessarily because I was lazy, or not good, or even sub par. I now realize it was largely out of fear. If I didn’t care and won – great. If I didn’t care and lost – then I had nothing to lose. It was a win-win. My ambivalence towards succeeding was more protective armor than an actual personality trait.

So here I am, on the dawn of my next career venture, trying to figure out to what extent I should care. I want to care and I’m scared to care. I’m scared I will care and either fail, or worse, change my mind. Is there room for that? There has to be. Even the most regal of trees lose their leaves from time to time. There has to be more wiggle room than I think. Can I get quiet enough to listen? Can you hear it?

It’s ok. You are ok. You are not your accolades. Your are not your titles. You are not your social media following. You are not your certifications.

Do I believe that? Maybe. Maybe not. I hope Vienna is waiting.

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Dear Newly Postpartum Mom,

I wrote this on my daughter’s 2nd birthday, a few weeks ago. This piece sat in my drafts folder while I contemplated whether or not I should post. Today, the feast day of the Immaculate Conception (Which I know is technically about Mary’s conception), I can’t help but think about how saying yes doesn’t always look pretty. Sometimes, being open to the vulnerability of what is out of our hands can feel like one giant contraction. But that’s how growth works. It may be difficult and painful, but there’s usually something incredible on the other side.

2 years ago today, I gave birth. I remember telling a mentor this time last year, “Yea I guess I’m just still processing her birth and my postpartum experience.” Without a beat, she replied, “Oh you’ll be doing that for the rest of your life.”

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Dear newly postpartum Cassie,

Everything is scary. You feel like you’re drowning. You have forgotten what the light of day looks like. I promise it will return and I promise everything you are experiencing is temporary. Not that that helps in the moment, I suppose.

You will eat at a table again one day. You won’t eat fresh direct casseroles for the rest of your life. You will connect with your husband again. Just not for now.

They tell you to sleep when baby sleeps – you don’t like doing that. That’s ok – you don’t have to. You wonder why you aren’t bonding with your newborn. Everyone says the connection is like lightning from the second you lay your eyes on your babe. That’s the case for some – but not for everyone. Don’t rush it, your bond will come, slow and steady, but with the force of tectonic plates moving. Give it time, dear.

Your daughter has colic. She screams for hours. Sometimes it’s more than 6 hours a day. Nobody should be expected to go through that without some effect on their sanity. Hire the postpartum doula. Forget the money – it’s worth every precious penny. Hire a housekeeper once or twice a month while you’re at it. The baby is fine. The baby will be fine. Her needs are very simple. Yours, however, are not. So I beg of you, invest in yourself now. The 4th trimester is actually, mostly, about you. And trust me, the rest of the kid’s life is about them. So take the time now.

There are no parenting styles right now. There is only survival. You have years ahead of you to hone and refine the type of parent you want to be. That’s not today’s project. Today is not the day to become a french parent, a dutch parent, a free range parent, or a hippie love earth mama parent. Today’s project is to eat, sleep, heal, and recover. Which reminds me, accept help. ASK for help. You can’t do this alone! You shouldn’t do this alone!! When someone offers a casserole, the answer is, “Can you come tonight? I like chicken.”

Newborn babies are blobs. They don’t really have much personality (especially before that first smile) and they’re kind of…boring? They sleep (or not), they poop, they move their hands in weird ways, they cry, and they boob. Sometimes I feel like we think a 9 week old baby should behave like a 12 month old. Not that a 9 week old isn’t cute in its own way. And it’s good to talk so the baby can hear words and what not – but you don’t have to pretend to have conversations about the ethical and moral implications of (fill in the blank with the current news of the day). It’s okay to not talk to your newborn. Sometimes you just want to do those dishes in silence. The days of talking will come – oh they will. I promise. Maybe silence isn’t so bad in this season.

You will feel guilty about holding her when she cries. Or wearing her while she sleeps. There are no bad habits right now. A nap schedule? Wtf is that? Nobody knows! And def not your newborn. Your kid doesn’t even know that she’s not still inside of you. She can’t even see, save for shapes and blobs. You can’t spoil the baby. Use the boob. Please, it only works a short time. The boob will solve 99.99% of your baby’s needs right now. Speaking of boob, get alllll the lactation support. Hire the IBCLC. (It will end up being a lasting relationship and you will more than get the $300 out of it.) If someone gives you advice that doesn’t sit right with you – ask for another opinion. Don’t settle. Find your cheerleaders and focus on them. Breastfeeding really does get so much better. Find your village, get your army, and lean on them until it does.

Oh the 5 letter word. You know the one – it rhymes with sheep. Put the damn books down. Unsubscribe from the email lists and block the facebook groups. It will work itself out. I promise you this. The sleep industry is fueled by fear. Don’t buy into it! Your personality really doesn’t fit well with sleep training, basically you’re inconsistent (re: lazy). So work with it, don’t work against it. This can be your friend. Shut off your damn phone at 2am. Stop counting the hours – coffee is lifeblood. Just relax. Your daughter will become the most amazing independent soul. She will sleep through the night on her own but it won’t be easy getting there. Take care of yourself, take care of yourself, take care of yourself. OH. And buy a king size bed. It will be life changing.

You will go to a lot of mom’s groups in the beginning because you are desperate for human conversation and a semblance of socialization. Maybe go easy on the moms group thing. You weren’t the type to socialize daily before having a baby so don’t expect yourself to suddenly blossom into a socialite. (Besides, all they do is talk about sleep at the groups and you’ll walk away feeling like a giant failure anyways.) The mom friends will come. Again, just give it time.

Basically, postpartum is one giant, emotional, extension of labor. You might just walk away from this thing with the tools and grace and patience to become the parent you want to be when that time comes. Until then, get as many massages as you can. Indulge your postpartum appetite, and enjoy the taste of beer again on your palate before crashing for the night at 8:30 pm. This, too, shall pass. Pinky promise.

 

Sincerely,
Future Cassie

Naivety, Social Responsibility, and the Holidays

This Sunday, we begin another season of Advent. Apparently, I’ve got a lot of questions about this. 

They say around your mid twenties, your prefrontal cortex in your brain finally completes its process of growing. This is a why teens make impulsive and reactionary decisions, don’t wear sunscreen, wear impractical clothing, and have higher car insurance payments. In other words, the part of the brain that makes judiciary decisions literally doesn’t exist (in full) yet.

In the last couple of years I can point out specific events and actions that prove my prefrontal cortex has probably completed its development. After getting in our fender bender earlier this year, I drive extra safe and don’t take chances on the road. I remember in my teen years unthinkingly believing that a car wouldn’t actually hit me. (Spoiler alert, they can and do.) I will grab my umbrella even the if the chance of rain is slim. Bring the extra jacket. Wear the comfy shoes. I’ve got 27 years of experience here and one too many blisters. 

This past Thanksgiving was a time of reflection for me. I was able to see the holiday through my child’s eyes – not unlike how I experienced it as a kid. There was seemingly unending football on the TV. Lots of pie and sweets. A photo shoot at the quick-studio in the mall. As far as she was concerned, the daily routine from home had fallen to the wayside and it was party time. Fun was the name of the game and there was not much more to be thought on the subject.

My semi-newly developed prefrontal cortex sees things differently. On the one hand – it’s good. I’m growing, becoming less reactive, becoming more confident in the things that matter, and less certain of the things I once thought were unquestionable. But it was difficult to enjoy Thanksgiving for me this year.

The Macy’s day parade used to be a silly fun thing to watch. This year, I couldn’t deny it was just one giant commercial. Black Friday – just another ploy to get you to spend more money. Football, once a significant part of my culture and life, and glue for bonding with my father, wasn’t so easy to stomach with knowledge of not just the concussion controversies, but the corruption within the system as a whole. Even the turkey and pie didn’t taste as good knowing that someone, somewhere was hungry and cold. Yes, I’ve known these things all along, but somehow this time around, they over-shadowed the holiday.

I have a theory (that I haven’t fully developed yet) about religion manifesting one way or another in society. If it’s not Christianity or Islam, it’s Veganism or Social Change. We want to feel like someone can save the world, supernatural or not, because we have to cling to hope for something. Otherwise why would we press on?

Religion provides society with a moral code, an uplifting message – a pep talk if you will, community in which to live, thrive, and connect with, and most importantly, a redemptive factor that promises we can and should try to be the best people we can. Even after we have failed to do so. If we aren’t receiving these virtues through an organized religion per se, they still find a way to reach us. 

Catholic guilt gets a bad rap. But I find guilt has nestled its way into our culture regardless of who or what you pray to. You can barely enjoy anything these days without someone shaking their finger and giving you a lecture about it. Fast fashion, factory farming, class disparities. All important topics in grave need of attention. Guilt serves a purpose, but unlike in the Catholic faith, guilt in the secular world has no reconciliation. The message of redemption, forgiveness and absolution lies in the wild west of earthly things. We know the human spirit, full of goodness, is also full of imperfection and vice. Can humanity, alone, save humanity? To be honest, we don’t have a great track record.

As Catholics, especially, we have an urgent responsibility to care for each other. Last week’s reading was quite clear. But different people have different vocations and even different seasons in our lives call for different types of giving. We aren’t all called to be Martin Luther Kings, Mother Theresas and Pope Francises but we are all called to be and do something. The vastness and uniqueness the saints are wonderful inspiration for finding our individual vocations. On a philosophical level, I frequently struggle with the best way to give. (Is this fiscally? Is this in action? Does the action necessarily have to yield obvious benefits? To give a very simple case, is giving the dollar to the homeless person on the subway a duty? Does it matter that the dollar may not actually help them? Perhaps it is in the act of giving that matters, not the end result?) I’m inconclusive, constantly journeying through this query.

In the spirit of advent season, it’s a time to gather, celebrate, and most importantly, give. My prefrontal cortex wants desperately to do it right. But how do you give and simultaneously enjoy your blessings? The last thing I want is for guilt and shame to overshadow the magic of the season (guilt has never been all that productive of an emotion anyways) –  and particularly for my child with whom I want to share the unadulterated and innocent joy with. There has to be a balance I can strike here. I’m genuinely interested in this conversation and would love to hear your thoughts. (If you’ve somehow miraculously made it this far in this long, far too pensive blog post.)

How do you reconcile social responsibility and the advantages you might have?

Leaving Babyhood for the First Time

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Find artist Katie Baklinski here.

I can’t help but feel the ever shifting movement through time as we close the season of babyhood. She’ll always be my baby. But she’s not a baby anymore. With the start of preschool (Yes, in NYC, preschool starts at 2. Which apparently is a year younger than the rest of America.), the breaking down of the crib, the advent of toilet training – I am forced to relinquish the baby years. This makes me sappy and sad, which is particularly strange because it’s not like I was all that fond of the whole infancy thing.

My first year postpartum was overshadowed by sleep deprivation, depression, anxiety, and a relentless yanking on my self-esteem – or rather lack thereof. We should be commemorating the breaking down of the crib with champagne bubbles and party streamers. Yet the paradox of parenthood triumphs, as always. So, we wipe the tears, move on with the tide of the day, because the new new will change again another day.

She took to school better than any parent could have ever asked for. (In fact she was quite upset the other day when it was time to go home.) I am left with a little more free time on my hands. As we enter the third year of Amata’s life, her needs have changed and she just doesn’t need me in the same way that she did last year, which was different yet than the year before that. I collect myself to adjust to the new needs. She certainly still thinks the world of me. But I’m not always the de facto favorite person to hang out with. I had to pick my jaw up from the floor yesterday when I went to pick her up from a friend’s house and she firmly planted her feet and said, “No mama. I stay here.”

Well okay then.

Who am I when my child needs me less? Who will I be when she goes to kindergarten? When she’s at middle school dances? High school football games? Am I who I want to be? Am I what I want her to see?

I’ve been scratching my head feeling futile with the whole “part time working mom” thing. I love what I do but gosh it feels like I have one foot in and one foot out. I hardly cover childcare, it’s not like I’m some bigwig CEO. Maybe it would be easier if I only had to focus on staying at home. That was my primary gig. Or maybe it’d be easier if I worked full time. Then I wouldn’t be answering phones while pushing a stroller and missing the bus and scrambling to find a pad of paper while my kid mews for “more raisins”.

Nah. I’m gonna keep going. I’m gonna keep on keeping on. It’s weird, right? The second our kids are born, they usurp every second of freedom and energy. And slowly, while not in a linear fashion, but in a gradual-eventual-trend-of-upwards fashion, they take less. Or maybe it’s the same, but it’s in a different way. It will be many years before my kid(s) are out of the house – but it will happen one day and I want to make sure I’ve taken the time to give to and nurture myself. Sure I’m a mom – but underneath the stained shirts and baggy eyes, I think there’s still a Cassie in there.

The tides – oh they are always changing. Parenthood is never stagnant. It’d be a shame if we got too comfortable.

 

New York, A Tale of Love and Hassle


We’re coming up on our 3 year mark living in NYC. How did that happen? How in the heck have I not been chucked out of this place yet?

Living in New York City decidedly brainwashes you. Sure there’s amazing opportunity here, that skyline at dusk will always bring a pitter patter to your heart, and you won’t find another single place in America that boasts the variety New York has – but let’s be honest. You have to put up with a lot of bullshit. Literally sometimes – we’ve all seen poop in the subway. Even the most seasoned New Yorkers have a love-hate relationship with this place.

The sordid smell of garbage wafts through the air waiting to bombard you at the most unanticipated moment. People are rude – not because we’re assholes. There’s just too many freaking people and we can’t possibly be nice to every stranger. Especially when they’re in our way. When I leave the city, I physically feel my nervous system slacken. The energetic sphere of this island is always buzzing and whether or not you’re aware, you’re absorbing it. Whenever you are excited about an event, it’s likely the lines will be long, the view from your seat will suck, the temperature will be too hot or too cold, and it will cost you an arm and a leg. You can forget toppings on your hotdog. But we keep doing it! And we even convince ourselves that we like it! Because magical moments happen, and like a drug, we want more of them.

I hear from out of state relatives and friends, “I couldn’t do that, I don’t know how you do it!” And honestly, I don’t either. I guess I just do. It was never the plan to raise a family in New York City. It’s still not really the plan – I’m assuming we’ll get kicked out of this place sooner or later. I really thought it would happen long before now. But here we are.

Anyone who knows me even in passing – knows that I had a really rough transition to living here. You could say we had a rocky start. It’s gotten immeasurably better – but I’m still fantasizing about a slower paced life one day. I forget what it’s like to drive to Target to buy your home goods and park right away and not fight elbow to elbow with fellow customers and drive home right up to your doorstep.

When we first moved here, we had no friends, no jobs, and no apartment. We moved with a car full of stuff and a healthy dose of naivety. That’s ok. What else are you supposed to do as a 23 year old newlywed? Now we have a beautiful little girl, good jobs, a pretty nice apartment, and a whole community of support and friends. The thought of starting over somewhere is overwhelmingly daunting. But people do it, why would we be any exception? You know how the saying goes, if you can make it here….

But this place does stuff to you. In wonderful ways, in challenging ways, and even in dark ways sometimes. Some days, like when it takes over an hour to find a parking spot and I have a screaming toddler in the back and I’m carrying 17 bags 5 blocks to my apartment, because that was the closest parking spot I could find, from one simple trip to the pool, I ask myself “How much longer do you want to do this?”

I don’t know why I’m sharing this. I guess to say that yes, New York is wonderful and wild and exciting. And even though I’ve learned to handle many challenges with grace and we’ve come a loong way, it’s not a picnic. I used to think money solved all the problems. It helps, but it’s not a cure all. When we first moved here, I wanted so badly to get out. Three years later, I’m scared to leave and kind of scared to stay.

So when people ask me if we plan to stay here, I never know what to say. No? Maybe? It’s complicated? I’m grateful for the growth I’ve experienced during my time here. I’m even more grateful for the wonderful people my life has been opened up to. The memories and experiences and opportunities are irreplaceable. But I could get a much better quality of life somewhere else. And until then….I’ll just take advantage of the good things this concrete jungle offers. The crazy part is I will probably miss it one day.

 

The Motherhood Co-Op


May! May is here! And I’m finally feeling that late spring city vibe where the flowers are cheap and the vitamin D is ample. It’s a haul for me every year to get through January-April (which is ridiculous because that’s 1/3 of the year). But beach days and pool trips are just beyond the horizon and I think we can all collectively sigh about that.

A few months ago, I joined a mom’s group. Like a legit group with a (minimal) fee. I’m still mildly embarrassed about it but I’m telling the internet so obvs not that embarrassed. The woman who started the group had young children at the time and worked as a freelancer. It was originally a coworking space that had childcare. This got too complicated to sustain legally, so it ended up just being a group with the option to share a bulk of time at the coworking space and the option to do childcare swaps throughout the week. Her kids are older now, so she doesn’t need the childcare, but she organizes all the weekly activities, brunches, happy hours, and day trips. (Which tbh is worth the fee alone. Half the time I just want to be told where to show up in this city with a trillion options.)

Joining this group has become probably one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself and my kid. Some call it a pre school co-op. Others call it a mom’s group. I’ve also heard it’s our village. But sometimes I think to myself, “This is just how it should be.”

Maybe it used to be this way with neighborhoods before the internet and what not. But I didn’t experience that with my daughter as a baby. So to have this group that meets weekly, sometimes even multiple times a week, where the kids grow to know each other and drop each other off at their houses for a day off feels so organic. Instead of paying absurdly high prices for toddler classes, we just get the kids together to play to interact and learn about human nature. No wait lists, no late fees, no clamoring to get the best seat. And it’s also nice to know there’s some structure behind it – someone is organizing and coordinating. Otherwise, we get pulled into our lives and forget to make the effort.

I recently heard someone say they would have no qualms about having kids if they lived in a commune. Rightly so. I’ve done the lonely motherhood thing. It’s hell. (Which came first the isolation or the Post-partum depression? You tell me.) So I find this group inspiring and exciting. We’re all just making it work. The city has a way of making people get creative to fulfill their needs.

So that’s what’s been filling our time these days. I am in a motherhood co-op. And it’s one of the best things to happen to me since moving to New York City. (Among many other things.)

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Why Have You Forsaken Me?

My husband was so kind today as to take the brunt of toddler wrangling today in church. Palm Sunday is powerful – dare I say it, even more powerful than Easter to me.

Look, I’m far from immaculate. I can’t say that I’m truly present for even half of what I’d like to be in my faith. I’m horribly insecure that others are judging me, and I frequently question if it’s all a load of bullocks. In short, I guess I sympathize with Peter. But the Passion. Oh, the passion.

“When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay, (the matter grows too difficult for human speech,) but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.”

Chesterton is of course referring to Jesus’ final plea on the cross, “Eli, Eli,  Sabachthani?” Translated to “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Naturally, out of this arises a lot of philosophical questions. If God is omniscient, and Jesus is God, well then why did he feel forsaken? Didn’t he know what was in store for him? Did he know that he would be resurrected? Nay. This matter certainly grows too difficult for human speech.

The passion is beautiful and formidable storytelling. But it’s consoling for me to think that God would know intimately my every struggle, including my constant wrestling with the faith. That nothing is too uncharted. Maybe he knew what my struggles would be long before I did.

When I first “reverted” to Catholicism, I wanted answers. And fast. I wanted to know my every comeback for every query. And then I needed a counter argument for the counter reaction to my original comeback. This was tiring, and frankly, vain. My relationship with Catholicism is much more intimate now. It’s far less about negotiation and more about my inner grappling with the need to have a spiritual life. I stopped focusing so much on looking for answers and instead put my energy in existing. And existing as best as I could. But really, in short, what I have with my faith is a love affair.  It’s hard and tiring and exacting but it’s too beautiful and fulfilling to ever leave. Kind of like parenthood.

Every now and then, I muse about leaving the church. The usual. This is dumb. Nobody does this anymore. The faith asks too much of me. Being open to life is really hard and I’m tired of everyone else looking at me like I’m crazy. And what about those abuse scandals? Yea, I said it. I’m really not okay with that. It makes my stomach fasten into a knot, and I kind of want to puke when I think of it.

There are a plethora of philosophical misgivings I have about the idea of God. But I guess I feel like at the end of the day, I shouldn’t put too many eggs in the basket of my own logic. If there is a God, do I really think I know more than him?

My child disobeys me and we, too, disobey God. Can you blame us? We’re just exploring and confused and growing. Thank goodness for that forgiveness thing. My toddler thinks she knows what’s best for her, but I know her logic doesn’t necessarily have her best interest in mind.

I’ll probably never truly leave the Catholic Church. I mean never say never, but probably never. The Eucharist and the stories of the saints and the mass and the traditions mean way too much to me. It gives me too much life. I’m so far from nihilism, I don’t think I have it in me to withdraw from moral law. And while I stomp my feet (a lot) about the things I don’t like about being Catholic, I can rest assured that my creator, too, didn’t like it all that much at times either.

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These Days


I hate spring. Allergies, pollen, rain, the tumultuous transitional weather – it’s not for me. So these days, I’m just getting through and trying to find the good in the every day.

We recently moved to a new apartment. It’s only a couple blocks from our old place, but it has 2 bedrooms and many conveniences (re: luxuries) that we didn’t have before. In unit laundry! A dishwasher! A backyard! (Even if it’s small and concrete that means a lot in this city.) It feels honestly a bit self indulgent. I can do laundry a step away from my bathroom. In my PJ’s! Still reveling in it, I suppose.

When we initially moved to New York, the first placed we signed on was in Brooklyn. It was a tiny tiny basement studio and our bed was no more than 4 feet from our kitchen. We didn’t have any closets and for all intents and purposes, the bedroom was the living room. We made it work and I still have some fond memories of that place. But I never thought we could come this far in 3 short years. It’s made me a little uncomfortable to be honest. Do I deserve this? I am only 26 years old – what makes me think I should have these sort of amenities?

Motherhood in New York is so vastly different than doing it anywhere else. There are some real advantages that give you an upper hand (it’s convenient to be able to walk to places), but there’s also some very unique struggles (not convenient to get on the subway with a toddler who does not want to be sitting still in a stroller or worn in a carrier. Geesh, mom.)

These days, we are well into the season of toddlerhood. We are constantly zipping from one activity to the next. While very different from last spring, we are still busy. Busy in a different way. I have simultaneously more and less free time than the itty bitty baby season.

Moving to a new apartment has given me lots of tactile projects to do. Reorganizing drawers and shelves and odds and ends. I’m starting to grow a small herb garden and also getting into cocktail making. (They obviously go hand in hand… 😉 ) I was going to give up social media for lent but I chickened out. I decided to focus more on being intentional with my time – no matter what I’m doing. Whether I’m doing a load of laundry, rearranging furniture, making dinner, or giving my daughter a bath. I’m making space for daily prayer and basically stopping to look around every once in a while.

Kyle once told me that life is divided into 3 major chapters. Learning, Producing, and Reflecting/Giving back. Obviously there’s some overlap – we never stop learning and we should always reflect on past decisions and moments. But these days, I’m definitively in the chapter of producing. And even though I’m completely exhausted by the end of the day, what better way to exhaust your energy than on rearing your little one(s)?

People keep telling me how fast it goes and how they miss “those days”. I often want to punch them in the throat for this trite cliche. But there is something I can take away from it. I’m up to my ears in spills and tears and stains and poop. (Poop? Yes, poop.) But it will pass. Like the itty bitty baby season – which I swore would last a lifetime.

I frequently feel like in my adult life that I missed the starting gun. No one told me when to run. I said the other night, “This is it. The starting gun happened. These are the memories, the moments, the cliches.” I remember on my wedding day, feeling like “Oh this is it? I feel so…ordinary. How can this be that day?”

Life feels ordinary 99% of the time. It seems to only feel extraordinary when I stop to think about it and drink in the exhaustion and hustle. So maybe that’s my goal for this lent season. My goal of ditching social media was really all about being more present and alive anyways – so maybe I should be focusing on that. I know, it’s not very original but it’s honest and that’s all I have to offer.

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In Recovery

I’ve had an explosive 3 years. I graduated college, got married, moved to New York City and had a baby in that short, short amount of time. Things have (relatively) calmed down, for the time being anyhow. But I still find myself in a major writer’s block. I barely blogged in 2016.

This wasn’t necessarily an intentional choice. Almost every day, I pull up a blank word document with that blinking cursor. She prods at me with her inquiries, “Well. What are you going to say?” she asks. After sitting there, dumbfounded for a few minutes, I reply, “Well, I guess nothing. Nothing for now.”

These days, it seems more important for me to observe rather than to declare. I have a lot of processing to do – all the while maintaining my commitments as a mother, wife, employee, and woman. Everyone in this city is striding at the speed of light from one errand to the next. Zipping on trains with their important briefcases and important phone calls and emails. I’ve come to realize that no one really takes you seriously in your 20’s – nor should they. Hell, I shouldn’t even take myself so seriously. (Notoriously cerebral Virgo over here.) I have so much to learn simply by taking in the trials and tribulations of early adulthood. I’ve been a recovering power-seeker for a while now. My recovery is going well, but I’ve got a long way to go.

I keep thinking about what I want to do with this blog. It’s not a lifestyle blog. I don’t proselytize about Catholicism anymore. I don’t even write about NFP all that much anymore. (Although I’m still fiercely passionate about it.) I seem to have far more questions than answers and frankly, I don’t really know if people want to read about questions. I feel like we want convictions and confidence and a 12-step-foolproof-blueprint to achieving the life of our dreams. No? Well that’s heartening.

Part of it was New York. Part of it was young marriage. The other part was early parenthood and a nightmarish postpartum experience. It was the perfect storm for a distorted ego to deflate – and fast. I have this bursting need to apologize. To who? I’m not sure.

So, I’ll continue to write. I’ll always continue to write. But I guess I’m not guaranteeing that I’ll say much. This isn’t the season for that.

A Reflection Approaching 1 Year of Motherhood

 
 I suck at gentle parenting. Attachment Parenting. Compassionate parenting, Positive Discipline, Empathetic Guidance, RIE. Whatever you want to call it – I suck at it. It does not come naturally for me and I spend more time beating myself up about how I’m not the parent I thought I would be than I do actually just embracing the parent that I am.

I’ve written before about the cliques that accompany joining the parenting club. The cafeteria we all eat lunch in. But to be honest, I have had a hard time blogging over the last year. Not because I don’t have things to write about – I have plenty to write about. It just all seems to stem from a place of uncertainty and confusion. I keep reflecting on the year I’ve had. I keep trying to process all the whirlwind of life I’ve encountered. But it just ends up looking like a plate of spaghetti. It’s all intertwined, I can’t pull apart the pieces and I don’t know where one ends and the other begins.

I’m sure there’s some parents out there that feel very self assured in their parenting style. I envy you. It’s just not where I’m at. I thought I would be a certain type of mom. I’m not. So I don’t know where to go from there. For whatever dumb reason, I can’t let it go.

I have asked myself a million times how I could have handled postpartum better. I should have hired more help, I should have cleaned less, should have worried less, should have traveled less. I keep thinking of some magical words I can spare to other women who might be in the same boat. I am quick to remind myself that very few, if any, words would have truly helped me cope with the hormonal mess I was. Sure more help would have been nice. I could have spent more time with self-care. But it almost feels like a disservice to the struggles I endured to say I could have merely “worried less”.

As I approach little Amata’s first birthday, I can say I’m abundantly joyful to be a year away from last winter.

I remember at my 6 week checkup, my midwife admitted that she wasn’t really a “baby person”. As she was checking my blood pressure, writing down some notes, she casually asserted, “I’m all about birth obviously. But the newborn stage was never for me.”

I’m pretty sure she meant those words. But even if she didn’t, I was so relieved to hear them.

Ironically, my daughter’s birth was beautiful, a piece of cake (as far as births go anyhow). I’m the textbook definition of the type of birth so many women yearn for. You always hear how an uninterrupted first hour after after birth, no medications, lots of skin to skin, delayed cord clamping, low interventions are supposed to help give rise to this magical bond. I know plenty of Ceserean mamas that bonded the second their baby was handed to them. I caught my own kid. And my first thought was, “Gosh I’m so exhausted.” So there you have it – life isn’t so black and white. What followed were some pretty dark months. I felt like a home birth failure. It wasn’t supposed to happen that way. I really believe that my journey of processing those months will take a lifetime. With each passing season, I gain new perspective on them.

We think it’s so unforgiving, this Motherhood thing. We think if we didn’t have the perfect birth or the perfect postpartum or the perfect breastfeeding experience or the perfect sleep regimen that we are screwed. But actually, I think motherhood is one of the most forgiving roles we will ever have. It’s sloppy and euphoric and taxing. But we tirelessly try. And it’s the trying that matters. The trying that forgives.

My mother recently compared motherhood to driving. She said you can teach someone to drive, how and when to shift gears, and the rules of the roadway but driving is primarily a feeling. You feel when to shift. You have a certain consciousness for the other drivers on the road – how fast they are going, an awareness for your space and motion.

So this past year, I’ve had a crash course on driving. It has been so formative and intense and sudden. My joys are plentiful, but so are my struggles.

That seems to be all I feel called to write about these days. So bear with me.