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.

Save

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.

Save

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.

Instinctual Motherhood

In my current season of life, I get 2ish hours a day to myself. My daughter’s morning nap and then her afternoon nap. This season is short lived, seeing as she will eventually only need one nap and then no naps at all. And if I’m so blessed to have more babies, I will have older toddlers and children to care for. So this is in fact a season. But it’s such an exquisite one. (Most of the time, anyhow.)

I have to be very mindful of how I spend those 2 hours. I hate when I hear her awakening to realize I’ve spent the past 60 minutes scrolling on facebook. I like to use the time to read, to write, to bake, to create, if I don’t have work stuff to take care of.

I recently started cloth diapering. Which is slightly ridiculous because I inherited a full use of cloth diapering materials before Amata was born. And I’m just getting around to it at 9 months. It seems to fit in with this chapter where I feel such a powerful urge to be resourceful, inventive, and methodical. Of course it’s more work and more time. But it feels oddly grounding and satisfyingly domestic. For now anyhow. 😉

I’ve been making anything I can from scratch. Baking bread, canning vegetables, making jam, concocting homemade desserts, anything really that involves using my hands. Seeing as I work on my computer, that’s usually the extent to which my hands labor. These somatic projects allow me time to be reflective and meditative.

There’s so much I have found that is instinctual in babies’ early months. With breastfeeding, newborns cluster feed to ramp up your supply, especially in the evening. Our bodies make the most milk at night and that is also when babies (painfully, annoyingly, frustratingly) wake and get their calories and the highest quality milk. With baby led weaning, I watch my daughter take baby bites out of an entire plum and spit out the parts that are too big to swallow. While I find  that she is moving towards a more toddler like disposition, (so things aren’t quite as instinctual as they used to be) I haven’t lost touch with the fact that motherhood, like babyhood, is largely instinctual. If we can get quiet enough to listen to those instincts, there is pure gold there. People frequently told me “babies are smarter than we think.” But I believe mothers, too, are smarter than we give ourselves credit for.

Motherhood has given me superpowers that include a new reservoir for patience, ability to listen to my intuition, and an explosion of creativity in domesticity. Maybe I’m crazy, but I think the uptick in tactile tasks is an instinctual way for me to savor the season.

Before giving birth, I was really terrified of labor. I kept thinking, “How is *that* going to to come from *there*?” Everyone kept telling me, “Your body knows what to do. It’s different than anything else you’ve ever done.” Well, motherhood seems to be an extension of that. It’s different than anything I’ve ever done. It pushes me to my limits, and then past them. And you know what? I’m really really thankful for the opportunity to grow and learn about myself through the process of motherhood.

We commonly ask pregnant women with a hint of anticipation, “Is it your first?” While I’m embarrassed to admit it, I always find myself a little less excited when they say no. I think with first time pregnancies, the suspense and excitement lies in the fact that both the mother and baby have yet to be born.

I revisited my journal recently from those early early months of new motherhood that were darkly shadowed and overpowered by anxiety and depression. I wrote about how I felt like I had been born into motherhood and I needed time to transition into that. It’s been a long 9 months, but I feel like both my little one and I have grown into our new selves with much more enjoyment and delight than I ever thought possible. (Not without bad days and nights, of course.)

If I could go back in time, I would tell my newly postpartum self that I just needed time, flexibility and a wholeeee lotta grace to grow into this new role. And that I would. I would grow and stretch and my heart would swell. That I didn’t need to be any other kind of mom than me.

And that’s just how I’m feeling today. Now, I have diapers to launder and dinner to throw in the crock pot. I’m just a regular old domestic kinda gal, what can I say?

10 Things About Being a Mom in NYC

When I see extended family members and friends they always ask how I am “doing it”. By that, they mean having a baby and living in New York City. Well, it might not be the most ideal thing in the world, but I have found many conveniences and advantages to being here with my babe. So here it is, the good, the bad and the ugly.


1. Babywearing. All the time, anywhere. We brunched one day for 5 hours going from place to place with friends while Amata stayed cozy cozy in her carrier. She napped when she was tired. She nursed when she was hungry. We didn’t have to get in a car once. (This was when she was younger and not nearly as mobile.)
2. The dollar. You want to do a sing along class? Great. That’ll be $165 for a 30 minute class. (Kidding! It’s only $50 for drop in, silly.) Things cost here. There’s a lot of fun activities to do, but you have to get creative if you’re trying to get around on a dime.
3. Activities! There are ways to get creative though. Sure, you don’t have a backyard with a kiddie pool, but you have story time at the Met! Water sprinklers in Central Park! The Botanic Gardens in Prospect Park! And did you know that there is a movie theatre in Williamsburg that hosts a weekly movie where you can bring your baby (under 1)? Okay, there’s some crying and fussing and you don’t get a whole lot of movie watching done but they will bring you snacks and cocktails. Also there are probably 37 meet ups on any given day within a mile range that would be up your alley. There really is anything and everything here.
4. Community. I’m sure there’s community no matter where you live, but there really is something special about being somewhere so physically close with your neighbors and people in the hood. I think with city living, you are more dependent on people. So we naturally appreciate the connections. When I was pregnant, the UPS guy delivered so many of our registry items. Our giant rocking chair. The car seat. The bassinet. Then we had the baby, and he was delivering diapers. He has watched this kid grow in person, sadly, more than some family members (because of circumstances, not by choice!). There is this connection where everyday items I use, I know who personally helped get it to our doorstep.
5. Community. On the flip side, all this close knitness has a downside. I know people are going to tell you how to parent no matter where you live. But because there’s an increased volume of people here, there’s an increased volume of unwarranted advice. I’ve had two separate people ask me on the same train ride, “Don’t you think she’s cold?” and then “Don’t you think she’s too warm?” When you’re riding 7 inches from a stranger on public transportation, there’s bound to be some conversation you didn’t ask for.
6. Convenience. After our home birth, we sent every piece of laundry out. Yes, even the sheets I gave birth on. Around 7 months of pregnancy I was fed up with carrying groceries so we started getting them delivered. We haven’t looked back. In the early days postpartum, we ordered casseroles like they were going out of style. The bodega down the street? They’ll deliver pretty much any hour of the day. I would do Target shopping at 2am while nursing my newborn. The modern day method of shopping is two thumbs up for this NYC mama. It was also easy and convenient to go out for just a cup of coffee in the middle of the day in those early weeks where I wasn’t ready to socialize, but just wanted to get out for 15 minutes. The coffee shop across from our building we call “downstairs”. Kyle will sometimes ask, “Do you want to go get a bagel downstairs?”
7. Aaand inconvenience. Like the stairs. Oh the stairs. I live in a walkup. Granted only the second floor. But yea, it’s an art to carry the stroller, the diaper bag, the picnic blanket, a lunchbox and a car seat down the stairs. Did I forget anything? Oh, right. The baby. Has that happened in real life? Yes. Sadly, yes. But I never have to go to the gym. So there’s a bright side.
8. R-E-S-P-E-C-T You have to hustle here. So if you’re hustling with a little one, you deserve mad respect. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had an elder man (usually hispanic) do a sign of the cross and say, “God bless you and the baby.” I don’t know why this is a thing, but it happens almost every time I’m out with the babe. I usually get a seat on the subway. And people generally are really happy to see a baby here.
9. Diversity. Kids grow up here seeing all different walks of life. All different religions, races, and economic brackets. I think that’s kind of cool.
10. Small living spaces. This is a pro and a con. We don’t have much storage space so we really have to think twice before buying that new amazing wing ding bing toy that takes up a fourth of our living room. But it’s cozy and I don’t have to worry about keeping my eye on her. She’s nearly always in my line of sight because that’s how my apartment is. She still sleeps in her crib in our room for the first half of the night and then eventually comes in the bed with us. I suppose now it just feels normal to sneak into our bedroom at 10pm. Sure, she’ll get her own room one day. But we’re making it work for now. Also, it’s pretty easy to clean all the floors and tidy things up in 30 minutes. Who needs more than one bathroom anyways? 😛

We don’t know how long we will stay in the city but we’re really having a fun time with it. Especially this time of year, there are so many exciting things to go and see and take advantage of. And little Amata can always say that she was born in a New York City apartment. That’s gotta give her bragging rights on the playground, no? 😉

The Blessing and Burden of Living Online

“We used to live on farms. Then we lived in cities. Now we live on the internet.”

The world wide web has done many a wonderful things for us. The internet can create relationships, cultivate ideas and movements, expand options for bringing in income, particularly with flexibility of space and time, construct global communication, and raise awareness for current events going on virtually anywhere on the planet. I’m not about to bash the internet, even though social media gets a really bad rap. I am after all, writing on a blog that lives online.

But with all of these advantages comes a hefty responsibility that reveals a weakness in the human spirit. I often wonder if the internet makes things our business that don’t belong to us. Knowing about tragedies going on around the world makes us feel knowledgeable and enlightened. We rush to our timelines to state our thoughts and opinions. I want to show solidarity. I want to show mourning. But do you ever feel like it is an empty vessel of exploitation? Do you ever feel like someone else’s living nightmare is merely your Facebook status?

I don’t want to belittle tragedy. Tragedy is, by definition, tragic. There are things happening every day in every corner of the world that merit grief. And because of the global weave the internet has knit, we hear about it much more frequently than generations before. To have this awareness is not all bad, but it’s not all good either.

We react impulsively to a sliver of information. Whether it’s about politics, an organization, a religion, or an event. We read a headline, misinterpret the bigger picture. Is this headline accurately portraying its ratio of significance? Sure this existed before the internet, but never in the capacity it is now.

I’m not a saint. I read the fodder. I have opinions. I don’t have answers. I do have lots of questions.

I have a daughter and a husband. I live in a small community, even though it’s in New York City. I often wonder what good it does to deliberate too much on bigger issues going on in my country and world. I do not work at the UN. I am not a representative for my community in the government. Sure I’m a voter, but even that only gets you so far. Maybe it’s more important I focus on my direct neighborhood and family? I don’t really know what this means. To be honest, it sounds catchy, but I don’t know where to start.

Maybe it means being present and involved in local issues, like the fact that the demand for schools K-5 is astronomically higher than the supply in the 1-2 mile radius in my little neighborhood. Or maybe it involves knowing the people in my building, being compassionate to them in small ways. We can’t fight everyone’s battles. I feel like I live online but forget to be intentional about my present physical space. Which is a shame, because I am in such a wonderful season of my life.

Many react to this by ridding themselves of being online all together. For me, this is throwing the baby out with the bath water.

It’s easy to give up the internet and delete your Facebook. It’s easy to ditch your smart phone. It’s hard to use your online space deliberately and honestly. It’s hard to stop yourself from scrolling like a zombie, and rather to make it a point to use the internet for its virtues, because it has many. I have loved blogging over the years and connecting with people through ideas and beliefs.

So I’m going to try to be more intentional throughout my day. I don’t really know how yet. I’m going to try to be more present in my physical life with the people I see day in and day out in my community. It’s cool to see how much we depend on others when you live in a city like New York. So much of my daily life depends on others showing up to their jobs, stocking their shelves, driving their truck. My own job often connects me with women in a vulnerable time in their life, either pregnant, trying to get pregnant or newly postpartum. As the brilliant and candid Thomas Merton said, no man is an island. In fact, the internet puts everyone on the same land.

f9d9e4b4f3da395731eb14ae0dd0cd88

So. That’s what’s going on in my brain space today. What are your thoughts?

You Can’t Sit With Us: Navigating the Cafeteria of Parenting

It’s hot. Summer in NYC has arrived. And even though I grew up in the hot and sticky, unbearably balmy summers of the South – there is something about summer in this concrete jungle that feels like a different form of anguish. Some mornings I feel like I would sell my left hand for a dip in a pool. (Looking at you waterfront luxury buildings!)

Anyhow, the times are changing and we aren’t feeling quite so infant-ish these days. Well, probably because my little girl is not really an infant anymore. She’s eating (re: playing with) solids, drinking from a sippy cup and growing more and more opinionated by the day. I am finally one of those moms at the coffee shop in the middle of the day I used to muse at. “They look so…normal. So used to having a baby,” I would think as I held my newborn, frazzled, agonizing over how I would make it through the day. It changes, it really does.

As I grow closer to my girl, we create a stronger bond each day. She recognizes and knows me, I actually feel like we have a relationship. I love the intimacy as I nurse her down for her naps. I love to tote her around the hood and take her to coffee with me. I adore the mornings when we’re all in the bed and enjoying breakfast as a family.

I’ve pulled my hair out plenty of times trying to figure out what type of parent I want to be. “Attachment parenting” doesn’t come very naturally for me. I’m trying to forgive myself for that. I am not the most patient of parents. I get frustrated even though I know she isn’t crying to be outright manipulative and mean. I look at other mothers who seem to have it more together. If I talk to a mama that oozes “gentle parenting” I feel vulnerable and self-conscious. Have I been insensitive and cold? If I talk to a mom who values a more independent relationship with their child, I feel like I’ve been too clingy with my girl.

Sometimes I feel like because I was 24 when I got pregnant, without a career in place and without a 5 year plan, I can not be at the table with the mommies in power suits. Then, because I had a home birth, it must mean I’m a hippie and worship the moon cycles so I can’t sit with the moms who vaccinate. (We actually do vaccinate.) Oops, now I can’t sit with the crunchy moms. And because we haven’t sleep trained yet, and we bed share (for the time being) and exclusively breastfeed at 6 months, well, let’s just say there’s not a lot of tables left to sit at.

Of course, the irony is that nothing is ever so black and white. We don’t fit in perfect little boxes, and neither do our babies. But I’m not so sure my parenting style is something I can easily define. It changes as my child changes. It will change if I have hopeful future children. And I’m willing to bet that you, too, don’t fit squarely into a cafeteria table seat.

I heard something recently that really spoke to me. When it comes to parenting you have 3 questions to ask yourself. Does it respect the child? Does it respect you? And can you live with it? That’s it. There’s nothing in there about your mother, your mother in law, your neighbor, or that mom in that playgroup.

This realization isn’t really all that novel. But it’s important for me on my journey. I was given Amata and she was given me. There must be a good reason in there somewhere for that. I’m trying to cultivate a more relaxed atmosphere around my parenting choices. So few of the bajillion decisions I make day in and day out will make or break us.

Postpartum anxiety wrecked me. I think the immediate sleep deprivation that followed birth was a shock to me. I knew sleep would be scarce but it hit me in a way I didn’t expect. I panicked and grasped desperately to manage my new life, to find a new normal. But there is nothing normal about the postpartum time. My boobs were leaking through many shirts a day, my lady bits were healing from the mammoth task of laboring and delivering a child (even with a complication free birth), I’d wake up soaked in sweat even in December and did I mention that my hormones felt like this?

Jack_Nicholson__TH_2662450k

Heeeeere’s Johnny.

I still find myself clenching my teeth when we’re out and about and Amata is awake during a time she would normally sleep if we were home. I still feel my blood pressure rise when I’ve tried to set her down for what feels like the 876th time (realistically? It’s probably more like the 5th or 6th time) after she peacefully falls asleep in my arms. I still get uptight when she wants to snooze two hours before we usually do bedtime. But hey, listen, I’ve come a long way. I’m learning to slacken up a bit. I’m aiming to let go and be in the moment, that is always fleeting with childhood.

I’m not an “attachment parent”. I’m not a “babywise” parent. I’m not a free range parent or a helicopter parent. I’m just Cassie. I’m a Cassie parent. I breastfeed. Often in public. I feed her purees sometimes, I give her food to eat with her own hands sometimes. She sleeps in a crib sometimes, she sleeps in our bed sometimes. We haven’t sleep trained yet, but maybe we will, who knows. I love baby wearing, I adore my woven wrap and frequently use my ring sling. Sometimes I desperately need a break from being so close to her. We don’t cloth diaper. (Although if I owned a washer and dryer you can bet your bum I would.) I had a home birth, no I did not eat my placenta. I’m neither proud nor ashamed, this is simply our story.

Frolicking Through Fields of NFP

One evening, as we were wrapping up dishes after dinner, Kyle and I were musing about all the things we would do if we weren’t Catholic. (Sleeping in Sunday morning was high on the priority list, pre-baby, anyhow.) I joked that NFP would be stuffed away in some sock drawer. But then I retracted and said, “Well actually, I wouldn’t go near the pill again.” He then asked, “You think you’d get an IUD?”

I dried the pots and pans pondering his question. “I mean, never say never,” (Parenthood has quickly taught me this.) “But no, I don’t think I’d want an IUD. Just the principle of it. Personally, I don’t want anything there but a growing fetus. And the risk of implanting somewhere outside the uterus.” I shudder at the thought of it. “The other implant doesn’t really appeal to me, either.”

Kyle laughed, “Ok so what’s left?”

I added, “I mean, maybe I would consider a diaphragm. Condoms are so ew, after you get used to not using them. So I guess….yea. I guess it would be FAM. I might use phase 2, I might not. I dunno. I guess that’s what I would do if I wasn’t Catholic.”

Simcha Fischer already pointed out this valid reality. NFP is the worst option.

Except for all the other ones.

I mean pregnancy is a nice form of “contraception”. Until you get too big and you just want to cry when your husband so much as even looks at you longingly.

And I enjoy EBF over plain old NFP. (Ecological Breastfeeding, or rather for me, just the lack of fertility than can accompany breastfeeding.) But then there’s the whole not sleeping more than 3 hours at a time, general dealing with baby(ies), being relegated to lovemaking within spurts of “I think she’s down.” Ah, well, you can’t win ‘em all.

Approaching our two year wedding anniversary (1 pregnancy and 1 baby later), I’m thinking about the role NFP has played in our marriage. We definitely communicate differently about intimacy. We certainly approach family planning with a more open mind than most of our peers. But I don’t know that we are brimming ear to ear over here simply because my cervical fluid is a topic of discussion at the dinner table. At this point in our journey, it just kind of feels like normal. I can’t really imagine our marriage without it.

I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while. Then I stumbled across this piece (I Hate NFP (But I Need It Anyway) and laughed thinking, “Yes, good sir. Thank you for this.”

Yes, NFP is counter cultural. No, I haven’t frolicked through any fields lately. (Does Central Park count?) Yes, I have planned a getaway weekend or romantic date night to find “Helllloooo phase 2!” (How do you think my wonderful, adorable little girl got here?) But you know what? In my eyes, it’s the best option for us.

I’ve been charting for 5 years. In those 5 years, I have gone through some….life events. Before getting married, I always wondered why NFP couples had babies so soon after getting married. I vowed not to be that. I wanted NFP to basically replace birth control for me. I came to find that for us, NFP wasn’t a replacement, it was so so much more. It’s a way of living out our faith, it’s a lifestyle, it gives us extra juice day in and day out that allows (re: challenges) us to grow together both spiritually and mentally. I stupidly didn’t expect that.

Since making my film, Miscontraceptions, I’d say I’ve evolved a bit. I still shout about fertility charting from the roof tops. Every woman should know what their fertility looks like. Cervical fluid should be a common sex ed topic that both men and women know about. But if you’re like “Yea that’s cool and all….but…no,” about NFP, I get it. It’s a radical choice.

Abstinence is weird. And so is having babies. So with NFP, you’re kinda screwed no matter what. I’m learning to just embrace it. After a while, you think other methods of birth control are really weird and creepy anyways.

So, to-mate-oh, to-mah-to. We’re all weird and it’s all ok.

NFP Meme - That'd be great

Anyone else feel me here??

 

*I’m always a little sensitive to those who struggle with infertility. Infertility can be a very difficult journey, in its own category. This post was written from the point of view of a couple who blessedly hasn’t struggled with conceiving, but recognizes the fact that couples dealing with infertility might not identify.

These Trenches Were Dug By Love

I didn’t want to be another mommy blog with another piece on how wonderfully sloppy this whole motherhood business is – but, well – whatever. Here I am and here this is. Take it or leave it.

My introduction to motherhood has been laced with moments of joy and awe along with frustration, impatience, and tears. It’s been a rocky one. After my near perfect pregnancy and relatively easy labor, postpartum hit me like a ton of bricks. Maybe it was because Amata was tongue tied, underweight, colic, and “spirited” as they say. Maybe it was because I suffered from a heavy dose of PPD/A. And yes I just shared that, it’s more common than you think. Maybe it’s because I am young, far from family…yada yada yada. The list can go on. Frankly it doesn’t really matter why the last 5 months have been challenging – it only matters what I’m doing to take care of myself and my family now.

As a first time mom, I struggle with – how should I put it – anxiety about anything and everything, but particularly why my kid isn’t sleeping. I guess I always envisioned that babies were difficult to get to sleep, but once you got them there you could just place them placidly in their crib. And well, I don’t know, when they woke up again (maybe 6 hours or so later) you would peacefully waltz into their nursery and nurse them in a rocking chair, moonlight streaming in while you lovingly kiss their furry little head until they doze off again.

Then I had Amata. I can’t tell you what kind of sleeper she is because it literally depends on the week. We have gone from bed sharing to having her sleep in the car seat (these were the early, early days) to being in the bassinet next to us, to some kind of hybrid co sleeping/bed sharing to making my husband sleep on the couch so just Amata and I can share the bed – who knows what it will be next week. Parenthood doesn’t just humiliate your opinions once. But over and over and over again and frequently on the same issue. I no longer say “I’ll never ___________.”

Motherhood rocked my world, the transition was shocking. Those first three months felt like time had been placed in a filter of molasses. Will I ever eat at a table again? Will she ever stop screaming? Will breastfeeding ever get easier? Will I ever connect with my husband again?

The short answer is yes, we eat at the table. (Most of the time.) Amata is still “spirited” but the hours of screaming have waned (for the most part). Breastfeeding is the least of our worries now and my husband and I are adjusting to our new relationship. While it’s different than before, it has a sweetness and dedication much deeper than on our wedding day. And I often think – this is only the beginning!

After I read just about any book on the shelf that involved the words, “baby” and “sleep” and “through the night”, I resolved to not pick up another book. But I now like to add an exception. It’s not only okay, but it’s nourishing for me to read anything that serves as an encouraging voice. Not telling me what to do, or how to do it – rather reinforcing that while this season is incredibly challenging, I could miss it, if I don’t remember to look around every once in a while.

The sweet little smiles in the morning as my baby girl coos in the bed with us. The quiet, intimate cuddles in the middle of the day when I’m nursing her to nap. Her precious little toes and deliciously chubby fingers. That shout out in the dead of the night that says, “Mama, mama, where are you?” These moments are fleeting. And as exhausted as I am, it’s so cliche, but one day she won’t need me like that anymore. Those months zoom, and I know they’ll bleed into years.

I’ve been so caught up in getting my baby to sleep and behave like the books tell me to that I forgot to enjoy everything else. The trenches are hard enough, I don’t need the extra pressure of some doctor in some far away land telling me I’m ruining my child because she’s not napping at the drop of a hat on a structured, perfect schedule. That works for some moms and their babies, but I guess it just hasn’t worked that way for us as of now.

Amata is well on her way to crawling. We’ll probably be starting solids soon, and after that, well, she’ll basically be headed to college. So sometimes I look at my exhausted face in the mirror, pajamas with spit up on them and hair that hasn’t been combed and say, “Hey, mama – there’s a lot to love here.”

These trenches are unrelenting and mammoth, but they were dug by love.

1c1ff4809198f8cb52411c1dddcf7918

Painting by Lauri Blank