Mamahood

Remember This

The bunk beds arrive this week.

I whisper this in the darkness as I haul myself out of bed, once again, at the sound of my three-year-old’s cry. We’re past the days of Mama, hold you! but we are still in the realm of Please change my diaper and sing me a song.

The light from the boys’ bathroom illuminates the hall and as I open the door to their bedroom I look straight into Henry’s beseeching blue eyes, a full head above the crib. The mattress creaks under the weight of his three-year-old body. To the left, Jacob’s brown eyes are still closed, thank God, but who knows for how long.

It’s a ritual I can do in the dark: pants down, legs up, clean diaper under the bum. A ritual that terrified me those nights in the very beginning, when Jacob’s limbs were so tiny and fragile, his voice so loud against the quiet of the night. And now, five years later, I’m on to the second child and I can hardly remember the details of those nights. 

I mostly remember the feeling of panic.

Now, freshly diapered and back in his pjs, my youngest asks if we can both crawl into bed with big brother. It’s another ritual, a new one, one we began when we moved into our new house this summer.

It’s a ritual that must come to an end.

“Why do you stay with them when they wake?” my therapist asks me. These days we talk via video chat but she can still see the dark circles under my eyes. “You don’t comfort them and remind them it’s time for them to sleep?”

I do tell them it’s time for sleep, but then I gather them together like security blankets and wrap myself around them. 

They need me, I tell myself. This house is new. Their room is cold. But also: The rhythm of their breath brings me comfort.

We are together. We are safe. We survived another day.

Henry curls himself under my chin, burrowing deeply into blankets and into my stomach. “Mama?” he pleads, “Please sing me ‘Rainbow.’”

I clear my throat and begin to sing the song that first tumbled out of me as I rocked his older brother so many years ago. It was Jacob’s song, but now it belongs to all of us.

At the sound of my voice, Jacob rolls toward me, his blue lovey blanket gently flicking my cheek. He sucks his fingers just off-beat from the song.

For a moment, my exhaustion doesn’t matter. They are anchoring me, like a weighted blanket, reminding me of where I am and just how far we’ve come.

I don’t know If they’ll remember this, but I know I never want to forget.

This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series “Remember This.”

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Faith, Identity

Creating New Life, One Step at a Time

Hi friends. It’s been a while. So much has happened in the last nine months since last I wrote, not the least of which is getting pregnant with our very first child. A child! Our child! Our son, to be exact. Jacob.

This week I passed the 35 week mark, which means we are in it for real now, folks. This guy is coming, whether we’re ready or not. We have tape and paint and rollers to transform the extra pink room upstairs into a little boy’s woodland dream. We have a bassinet. We have a few diapers and some newborn onesies and, of course, my boobs.

And honestly, as much as we have left to accomplish, I feel like even if he came tomorrow, we’d make do.

As much of a life-changer becoming a mama is, it’s not the only thing that’s changed this year. We also adopted a cat named Opal, who fills our days with laughter and — when she’s not in the biting mood — sweet snuggles. I joined a new tribe of sisters through Stratejoy’s Elevate Mastermind program, committing to a year of flourishing into the best version of myself. I applied for and was accepted into a master’s program at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology. I started my first term in May and LOVED my classes. Loved them so much, in fact, I’m actually considering taking a class this fall, with the bambino in tow (we shall see). Last weekend I drove to Canada and walked an entire half marathon. At almost 8 months pregnant. (And I’m feeeeeeeling it now, folks!)

I didn’t write a novel. And you know what? I’m okay with that. Because I have been living my life and leaning into what comes next, one step at a time.

I’m glad to be back here again, sharing with you little pieces of my journey.

More substantial posts are in the works! Stay tuned. In the meantime, if you’re interested, here are a few glimpses of how I’ve been working out my faith and my path on the Stratejoy blog:

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Identity

Through a child’s eyes

The other night I attended a potluck barbecue hosted by my new friend, Jess. It was one of those perfect Pacific Northwest summer evenings when the blue fades to gold and the air takes on a shimmer that seems to promise the season will never end. Jess was the loveliest, most gracious hostess and spent the evening refilling glasses of sweet strawberry sangria, praising her friends’ cooking, and making sure we all had a chance to play horseshoes or corn hole."arin" by nina

It was while I was playing my first round of corn hole that I first noticed Nina. Perched on a stool, brown eyes sparkling, she giggled with a friend and offered commentary on our game. Now let’s be clear about something: I am not good at games like corn hole. (Or darts. Or bowling. Or mini golf.) True, sometimes I’ll have a night when I get the bean bags in that hole again and again and again (this may have something to do with what Jess referred to as the “beer-in-one-hand” balancing system). But not usually. Most of the time, I am consistently, objectively bad at these types of games. One friend recently said “you’re very precise…you’re just not always accurate.”

Life lesson there, perhaps?

Anyway, the night of the barbecue, I was very precisely lobbing my bean bags up into the air and onto the grass just short of the corn hole board. And sparkly, giggly, seven-year-old Nina was bouncing up and down on her stool, offering us encouragement and occasionally bursting into song.

“Oooohh….you almost got it! So close! Toniiiiiiiiight….weeee are you-uuuuung! YEAH! I’m gonna play the next game and I’m going to be on YOUR team.” She grinned right at me.

Was she for real? Was she mocking me? I couldn’t be sure. But in the face of her bright-eyed, Fun!-singing youth, I felt decidedly uncool. And old.

And was I really comparing myself with a seven-year-old? I turned my focus back to the game.

Later, I noticed Lee, another lovely new friend, talking with Nina in conspiratorial tones. As I got closer, I realized Nina was schooling Lee on all things Nina. And she wasn’t just telling Lee – she was inviting her to engage with her, to evaluate her, and to guess.

“What is my favorite color?” (Turquoise)

“What is my favorite thing to do?” (Put on makeup)

“What is my favorite fruit?” (Watermelon)

She was so joyful, serene, and confident that we all wanted to know her, to delight in her. I laughed. She was delightful! Of course we delighted in her. And yet…her confidence made me uneasy. How was it, in the face of this buoyant, beautiful child, I could feel so threatened and insecure? Was I really comparing myself to a seven year old? Again?

In retrospect, I realize I spent a lot of time that night comparing myself and my own perceived inadequacies against  the strengths I saw in pretty much every other female at the party. I was on high alert – we had just moved across the country, to a new town. These women were the wives of my husband’s fellow Army hospital interns; I wanted to make a good impression but was in such a funk I felt certain to fail. One woman entered  with such beauty and grace she could have been a celebrity. And I thought, Gosh, I feel so frumpy and clumsy. How does she just glide around like that? One woman told me about juggling kids and a new pregnancy with the responsibilities she has as leader of one of the Army’s Family Readiness Groups. And I thought, Gee, she is so selfless and giving and speaks about her life with such humility. Why am I not involved like that? Others manned the grill (why can’t I cook?) or laughed easily with strangers (why am I so introverted?).

By the time twilight descended I had decided I was the least interesting person at the party.

All self-pity and social  anxiety aside (because really, that’s what this was), I had also decided that Nina was the most interesting person at the party. She really was. That kind of confidence and joy is magnetic.

After tiring of the questions game, Nina picked up her colored pencils and began to sketch a portrait of Lee. Portrait Lee had long eyelashes, strawberry blond hair, sassy earrings, and eyes that twinkled. In short, it was Lee. Nina, the child artist prodigy, then turned to me and said, “Ok, Erin, you’re next.”

We often laugh about the incisive honesty of children, but much of the time, we don’t like to recognize what they see in us.  In their art, we may end up with crows feet or a hunchback or dressed completely in black with hair coming out of our noses.

I was terrified of what she would see in me.

But Nina was gracious. She sketched me warm and open and kind. She saw through my insecurities to the genuine delight I found in her sweet spirit and chose to focus on that. In that moment, as silly as it may seem, it felt I had made a true friend.

And it makes me wonder: how much simpler would life be if we saw through to the heart of people, and that’s all we concerned ourselves with? If we saw them as a child sees them? As God sees them? As the best version of themselves?

What if we saw ourselves that way? What if we could wake up each morning and walk confidently knowing we were designed to be exactly the way we are…and that despite our imperfections (anxieties, habit of playing the comparison game), know we are worthy of delight?

I’m not sure it’s possible, but it’s certainly worth a try.

Here’s to Nina, and here’s to all of you childlike spirits who’ve graciously seen the best in me, even when I couldn’t.

xoxo,

e

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