An Unpaid Actress

I sit alone in my car a lot. In the parking lot at my office, in the visitor spaces at various schools throughout the district, in my driveway and garage, outside the gym both before and after a workout. If I get to work on time, sometimes I still don’t get to work on time because I just sit in my car by myself for a few extra minutes before forcing myself to start the day. Not finishing a song on the radio. Not trolling social media. Not ending a phone call with a friend or family member. Just basking in silence.

I read an article on The Mighty today about living with anxiety, and one line screamed off the computer screen at me: “I’m not faking being sick. I’ve been faking being well.” Damn. Blow my face off with truth. I can relate to that. Because I often feel sick even though I don’t look it. And more often than that, I’m perfecting my acting skills to function in every day life.

Let me tell you a secret. One that might shock you unless you know me really, really well, and even then, you might try to argue to the contrary. Here it is…

I’m an introvert.

Extrovert introvert

Yes, I possess strong opinions. Yes, I can be overly talkative. Yes, I spent eight years standing in front of classrooms teaching students. Yes, I conduct meetings with parents and professionals regularly. And yes, I am introverted. Completely and truly. And this fact, combined with diagnosed generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder, cause me to either pretend or retreat. There’s not much in between.

I never played a sport. That’s actually an understatement. I quit every extracurricular activity that required group participation…ballet and tap dancing, gymnastics, basketball, volleyball… I’m not a joiner. I don’t want pressure or attention. I’m a 30-year-old woman having an anxiety attack because her online graduate course requires one group assignment. But seriously why? Group work is the worst.

I digress…

I hate parties. Hate planning them. Hate hosting them. Hate attending them. Love buying gifts. Love seeing my family and friends. But hate the parties. Hate the lead-up to the parties. The drive there. Did I forget something? How long will this be? Will I see anyone I don’t know/don’t like/who doesn’t like me? Loud music and multiple conversations happening at once and brightly colored decorations and agendas and fireworks and seating arrangements and omg don’t even get me started on games.

I don’t go to concerts or festivals and honestly, I plan every visit to Disney down to the minute so I have fast passes for rides and reservations for dining and I don’t have to stand around because crowds of strangers. So many strangers.

When I’m anxious, I often don’t know where to start. I make to do lists, but can’t prioritize. I wander the bakery of the grocery store and can’t make a choice on what to get. Sometimes, I leave with nothing. I clean my house vigorously in an attempt to get my life under control. My chest hurts. I cry. I feel out of breath. I think about the ugliest worst case scenarios for myself and for those I love and freaking Syrian refugees I’ll never meet and mothers who lived through the Holocaust and that student I had a few years ago who didn’t have running water in his house.

When I’m depressed all I want to do is sleep. Or eat. Or both. I can’t bring myself to tackle my to do list because what does it matter? It seems there’s no point to anything in life. I spiral quickly. Remind myself there’s so much negativity and hurt and pain in the world and I can never fix it.

It is beyond challenging to wake up every day and go to war against your own mind. But that’s mental illness. It’s irrationality and exhaustion and side effects of medication and isolation. It’s seeing the good days as warning signs that very bad days are ahead because you never have too many good days in a row.

Here’s another secret: if you think I’m outspoken, you would be truly aghast at the amount of thoughts I keep to myself. Really. I bite my tongue multiple times daily. I filter myself to spare others’ feelings, to maintain professionalism, and other typical reasons we “think before we speak.” But again, it goes deeper. Some of the things that flash through my mind when I’m at my most anxious or depressed are so horrid that I don’t dare utter them for fear I’ll bring them to life. For fear that others will want to commit me to some sort of institution. So I hold them in. All these detrimental, ugly thoughts. They swirl inside. Among rational, wife-, mother-, work-related “normal” thoughts. They interrupt. They confuse. They feed off each other.

This is life. Introverted. Battling anxiety and depression.

This is sickness that you can’t take a sick day for.

This is real even though so many people shake their heads and say it isn’t and cry drama.

If I was diabetic, I wouldn’t ask you to take insulin with me, but I might ask you to understand if I needed to pause a meeting to check my blood sugar or eat a snack.

Validate me. Validate us.

Because it would feel really good to spend a day as the real me, instead of living as an unpaid actress.

I’m Sorry.

sorry

adjective

1 I was sorry to hear about his accident: sad, unhappy, sorrowful, distressed, upset, downcast, downhearted, disheartened, despondent; heartbroken, inconsolable, grief-stricken. ANTONYMS glad.

2 he felt sorry for her: full of pity, sympathetic, compassionate, moved, consoling, empathetic, concerned. ANTONYMS unsympathetic.

3 I’m sorry if I was brusque: regretful, remorseful, contrite, repentant, rueful, penitent, apologetic, abject, guilty, ashamed, sheepish, shamefaced. ANTONYMS unrepentant.

4 he looks a sorry sight: pitiful, pitiable, heart-rending, distressing; unfortunate, unhappy, wretched, unlucky, shameful, regrettable, awful.

exclamation

“Hey, that’s my foot!” “Sorry!”: apologies, excuse me, pardon me, forgive me, my mistake; informal my bad.

“I’m sorry.” When said genuinely, this phrase can reconcile friends, family members, or lovers. When said genuinely, this phrase can heal wounds, create forgiveness, resurrect burnt bridges, express sympathy or empathy. When said genuinely, this phrase can mean, “I feel for you” or “I wish I hadn’t done that” or “I’ll never do that again.”

Though I’ve received quite a bit of support and encouragement since my announcement that my son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, I’ve also encountered both ignorant and patronizing responses, all of which I wish I could un-hear, un-read, un-see.

One of these sentiments is: “I’m sorry.”

I know people mean well. I know the intent to show care and compassion. But I’m sorry means that you wish my life was different than it is now. I’m sorry means that you regret my situation and wouldn’t want it for yourself. I’m sorry means you are “heartbroken” for me or “full of pity” for me. And you know what? I’m not sorry. 

I’m not sorry that my son is walking, jumping, singing, playing, throwing, and kissing me goodnight.

I’m not sorry he’s breathing deeply and sleeping sweetly, peacefully through the night in the most angelic positions under a sheet with no pants on–because three years old means always wanting to be naked apparently.

I’m not sorry that I see his father when I look in his brown eyes or that when he leans my face against mine to look in the mirror, our chins and skin tones are shockingly identical.

I’m not sorry that he spins around, that he makes Tarzan noises, that he likes to pick up every leaf and every acorn when we walk, that he stacks blocks and knocks them down, stacks blocks and knocks them down, stacks blocks and knocks them down.

I’m not sorry that he has a warm home, a dog to play with, food on the table. I’m not sorry that eats and digests everything with no problem or that he uses the bathroom completely independently.

I’m not sorry that he uses crayons and markers and glue or that he plays with trains and musical instruments at school.

I’m not sorry that my husband and I can take him to the beach and watch the wonder and excitement on his little face as the wind blows through his hair, as he digs his toes in the sand, as he walks into the water.

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Photo courtesy of Amanda Ashley Photography

I’m not sorry that he hugs his Mickey Mouse or his Rudolph or that he asks me for a specific movie we’ve already watched over and over again, and then climbs up on the couch next to me–or even better, in my lap–to watch it.

I’m not sorry that he has advocates, support, living grandparents who are involved in his daily life, cousins, aunts, uncles.

I’m not sorry that having autism means he has to try harder to achieve goals.  Because the trying harder will make the success that much sweeter.

I get that you’re sorry. I get that you mean well.

But I’m not sorry. So, honestly, you don’t need to be either.

Development and Difficult Decisions

I sit here crying as I type these words, not because my son is ill or because we lost a family member or because of some tragedy we saw on the news. I sit here crying because I love my son so fiercely, and because I’m angry at myself for self-doubt and weakness.

I spent a good portion of my adolescence under the supervision of, for lack of better words, controlling adults who manipulated my mind and heart under the guise of religion. Though I have always had the care and support of loving, determined parents, I wasted many days listening to the poor advice and misguidance of “leaders” at the church I used to attend. Don’t mistake what I say. There were (and still are) very kindhearted, honest, godly people at the church I attended and I was privileged enough to have some great experiences there. However, many of my negative experiences… Well, I refuse to repeat them on a blog. They stay in my heart and now haunt me only my dreams. Unfortunately, despite years of teaching myself to forgive others (and myself), and despite years of retraining my brain, I still fall back into the same self-doubt.

Since I became a mother, my son became my teacher. I knew next to nothing. I didn’t finish any of the pregnancy/motherhood books. And even if I had, it wouldn’t have taught me what he’s been able to teach me in just over two years. He is the one who has made every transition go smoothly, he is the one who has made every rough night of teething sweeter by his hugs and kisses. He is the one who truly taught me what parenthood, what sacrifice, and what unconditional love means.

In our time together, my son has amazed and surprised me. He rolled over at 3 months, crawled before 8 months, walked at 10 months, and melted my heart by saying “Mommy, I da doo” long before I ever thought a child should be able to speak.

I faced some difficulty early on in the mommy world and more importantly, in the mommy blogging realm, where often times, judgment abounds. Breastfeeding versus formula feeding, daycare versus staying home, extended rear-facing versus forward-facing. You all know it. Mothers, unfortunately, became other mothers’ worst enemies.

For the most part, I stood up for myself and my choices. Anytime someone questioned a decision I made, I would listen, then look at my healthy, happy child and brush it off. Try to forget it. To date, my kid barely ever cries. He loves me and he loves his father and other family members. He loves his toys and his dogs and he is CONSTANTLY smiling and filling the room with laughter. He runs and climbs and plays and hides and loves, loves, LOVES the water.

But in the past two months, after play dates with other children and after hearing talk of what should be happening developmentally with his speech at this age, I’ve begun to waver. Question. Doubt.

Instead of pushing comments aside and remembering that my family is my family, my intuition is real and valid, I have let those little seeds of doubt planted in my brain grow to fruition like a cancer and consume my thoughts the way I did when I was an impressionable teenager being controlled with negativity.

And I hate it. Every minute of it.

I don’t hate people who express opinions. I don’t hate people who write articles. I don’t hate people who voice their concerns or offer unsolicited advice. I don’t hate people who judge. I don’t hate friends who have asked me questions out of genuine care for me and mine.

I can’t control anyone but myself. And right now, I’ve begun to hate myself.

I’m sitting at home at night googling like a madwoman trying to figure out exactly how many words my son should be saying. He’s so physically capable, but what if he’s mentally delayed? Should he point? He should really know 7 body parts? Well, he only knows belly button and nose… He should listen to commands? Well, yeah, he picks up his toys on command…

I’m reading comments from people who want to instill fear in others about Asperger’s and Autism. “Don’t do what I did and assume it’s just a boy thing…”

My gut instinct this whole time has been that he is an only child, often spoiled, he has his needs met before he has to ask for them, he likes being a baby, and he’s quiet. It’s his personality. He reminds me a lot of my brother and my husband. My husband is quiet and can be shy. He is not a social butterfly nor does he feel the need to say many words when he can use few. My brother was practically a mute until 3 years old because I talked for him. Why should I assume there is something with my son because he’s like his father and uncle? Why should I hear people talk of developmental disorders and ESE labels because he doesn’t string three-word sentences together on a regular basis by his second birthday?

My cousin’s son was told he had Asperger’s. Eventually, they determined he was actually ADHD. I know the frustrations that come with having a child diagnosed young and dealing with therapists and making sure that your child is well-adjusted and has the tools he needs to succeed. I don’t take any of that lightly. I am thankful that science and medicine have come such a long way that we do see warning signs earlier than families did when I was a child. Sometimes, though, I fear it’s out of control. At least right now, for me, it’s out of control. And the anxiety attacks that I’ve been having this week and the tears I’ve cried this week have been out of control. The disconnect I’ve let happen between my son and me because I’m constantly wondering, “Shouldn’t he be able to answer that question” is out of control.

Mind you, the tears and anxiety surround ONLY what to do and what not to do. Who to listen to and who not to listen to. I am NOT crying thinking something is wrong with my son. Even if there is, I would never cry about it. He is perfect in my eyes, and whatever he needs physically, mentally, emotionally, we will make sure he gets it so he can be as healthy and functional throughout his entire life.

Today I realized, I can control myself and I can control my relationship with my son.

I called a friend who works in early childhood education, who suggested that I teach Will to sign words like “yes” and “thank you” if he’s not saying them. I called another friend who is a speech pathologist and sent her videos of him, and she suggested to get him around kids more but mentioned that his phonemes sound appropriate.

And finally, because of what has been said and because of observations I’ve made around other 2-year-olds, I took my son to the pediatrician. My last attempt at some serious advice so I could put my fears to rest.

“He does not speak in full sentences. He does not speak a lot. He says about 50 words. He likes to count. Sometimes, he tells me he has to pee. Sometimes, he doesn’t. He doesn’t say yes. If he wants something, he just gets excited at the mention of it but he never really points to things. He says ‘eat’ when he’s hungry and ‘water’ or ‘milky’ when he’s thirsty. He says ‘come here’ and ‘come on’ and ‘I go walk’ when he wants to go outside. And he’ll walk over to get his shoes on. If we’re walking and I say to slow down, he slows down, and he’ll pick up his toys on command. But in comparison to the other kids we’re around…”

This is what I find myself saying.

“He will get on my mother-in-law’s table and pick up an orange and say ‘o-winge’ but if I ask him, ‘What is this?’ he looks at me and says ‘Noooo.’”

And you know what my son’s doctor said?

“That’s personality. That’s not speech delay. There is a wide spectrum of normal speech at this age. I wouldn’t worry.”

Personality. My instinct the whole time. Quiet and stubborn. My husband in miniature form.

The doctor gave us a referral to an organization that will evaluate my son’s development and speech for free, if we want it for peace of mind, and I’ve been wrestling with the idea and discussing it with my husband all day.

And here’s what I decided:

If I had not done the compare-my-son-to-his-friend thing, if I had not let small comments seep into my spirit, if I had not started looking up experiences of others on chat threads, I would think nothing is wrong with my son. He communicates with me. I communicate with him. He understands me. I understand him. We’re not frustrated. If he doesn’t know his ABCs this month, I’m okay with it. If he wants to respond to Mr. Grouper on Bubble Guppies, but not tell me his colors, I’m okay with it.

I talked to a good friend whose son is a lot like a mine, I watched my son walk off our back porch into the rain and say, “It raiiiiin! Happyyyy!” And I decided.

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My son is my life. And my son is happy. It’s my job to look out for him, to protect him, to teach him, to make decisions while he is too young to do so for himself. So, I’m making a small decision today. We’re not having a stranger come into our home with a clipboard to scrutinize our son. Not yet. Prayerfully, not ever. And I won’t even let my propensity to regret step in the way of my decision right now. If in a few months, we discover Will does have problems speaking or learning, I will not say “I wish I had…” because right now, this feels right. In the words of Atticus Finch, “It’s not time to worry yet.”

My husband and I are in full agreement that if in October, when he is 2 ½, we notice little to no improvement, we’ll call that number. As it is, he’s said three new words this week: “ready,” “el-funt,” and “door coze.” As it is, he learned to say “pig” and started to count backwards from 10 last week. As it is, he’s growing, changing, learning. As it is, he’s fine. We’re fine. And even if he has a problem in October or next year, or the year after, we’ll always still be fine.

The New Me

I work two jobs, raise my son, attempt to spend time with my husband, dog, and other family members, and exercise 6-7 days a week. Since I chronicle so much of my journey as a working mom over at Liberating Working Moms, my own blog tends to go by the wayside and this year, I want to change that.

I’ve had some serious successes of late, including reaching my New Year’s resolution of reading at least one book each month in 2012, and set the same goal for 2013. I’ve also lost 21 lbs since July 19, 2012. That’s 8 months. 8 months of changing my lifestyle. 8 months of tracking my caloric intake and exercise regime on myfitnesspal. 8 months of watching my body transform. 8 months of growing stronger each day.

I think why I am able to better balance my life, why I am able to attack this new part-time job in the midst of a demanding full-time one, is because I have taken my health into my own hands and improved it.

I admitted that working out makes me a better working mom even though I often feel guilty about the time it takes away from other aspects of my life. But it’s true. Exercise boosts my energy level and helps me finish out my days strong. Exercise actually lifts my spirits if I’m having a rough day, tapers my hunger if I’m wanting to fall off the wagon of nutrition and dig into a box of Swedish Fish—which, by the way, I still do from time to time. All in moderation.

So, I stick to a pretty heavy workout routine each week even though it changes dependent on work and family schedules. And I follow my own advice when it comes to health and fitness.

And that’s how I’ve gotten where I am today.

Here’s my story:

In high school, I wasn’t very active. Don’t get me wrong—I was involved in things. I sang in my church choir, edited the school newspaper, and served as President of National Honor Society. You know, the dorky things. I did NOT—and still don’t—do organized sports. I’m clumsy. A better spectator than participator. And it never really hurt me. I worked out at the YMCA from time to time, but nothing routine. When I graduated high school, my weight fluctuated between 115-118, and at 5’2, that fit. Perfectly normal. Healthy BMI.

In my first year of college, I worked out at the gym on campus, but the food on campus hurt me a little bit. I don’t remember exactly how much, but I gained a couple of pounds. Let’s say I was 120.

By the time college ended—I switched schools and commuted, so longer commute meant less time to make food meant eating out more—I was 125. I told myself I was getting older. My metabolism slowed a bit. Nothing to worry about. 125 was far from obese.

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USF graduation–2008

I got married. Who knew being happily married meant you would gain weight? Before I knew it, the chips and salsa at Chili’s led to 5 more lbs, and I was 130 lbs at 24 years old.

Then I got pregnant.

Ironically enough, my darling son didn’t think I deserved to eat while he occupied my womb, so 9 months of consistent nausea and vomiting stopped me from gaining weight. On the day of my son’s birth, April 23, 2011, I weighed in at 144 lbs—only 14 lbs gained in over 38 weeks of pregnancy.

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38 weeks pregnant/144 lbs/2011

I felt good about that. Less that I gained meant less I had to lose. The day after he was born, I weighed 136. By the time he was a week old, I was 127—3 lbs less than pre-pregnancy and the weight just melted off.

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5 days post partum/127 lbs/April 28, 2011

However. I resented that I hadn’t been able to binge and crave during pregnancy. So once I had my son, I went into full-on I CAN EAT AGAIN mode.

By the end of 2011, I weighed 140 lbs—a number I swore I would never let cross my scale.

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140 lbs/January 2012

I joined a gym.

I went 2-3 days a week, tried the elliptical for about 30 minutes each time I went, and saw no changes. Because I really had no desire for it. I wasn’t making a lifestyle shift. I made excuses. I’m older now. I’ve had a baby. My metabolism is slower. I’m not eating that much. Maybe there’s a pill I can take.

By summer of 2012, I refused to get in a bathing suit. In July, I attended a work conference, and none of my work pants—all size 6—would button. I was devastated.

I weighed 142 lbs. 2 lbs shy of what I weighed when I gave birth to my son.

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142 lbs/July 2012

And that’s when shit got real.

July 19, 2012 was the first day I began logging food and exercise into myfitnesspal, and I haven’t stopped since. I weighed in at 140.6 the day I began logging online. That website has been a godsend, as it opened my eyes to the amount of carbs, sodium, CALORIES in some of the things I was consuming on a daily basis. It showed me how to be more balanced and accountable.

My only goals were to get healthier and fit in my clothes. I find that it is IMPERATIVE to make small goals, meet them, and celebrate success by creating the next attainable goal. Once I reached 5 pounds lost, I told myself I could achieve 5 more.

I began going to classes at the gym, and slowly saw weight come off. By the first day of the 2012 school year, I had dropped 5 lbs and could squeeze into my work pants. I refused to buy a new wardrobe for my unhealthy body.

By October, I could see the change in the mirror. My face? No longer full, round, fat. My body? Slimming, shaping. I even went to the sprayground with my son IN a bathing suit and felt completely comfortable. I was “me” again.

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First “after” photo/128 lbs/October 2012

A few more months of hard work went by, the scale moved a bit, and my clothes were falling off. Which called for some jeans shopping 🙂

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January 2013: 122 lbs, wearing size 4 skinny jeans, bitches!

As of today, I have lost 21 lbs. I fluctuate between 119-121 on any given day, and am determined to see the 118 that I saw on the scale when I was in college. I’m also determined to tone my body like I never have before. I want to see some biceps and abs!

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119.6 lbs/Feb 2013/The start of some ABS!

This post is not to brag. This post is to remind myself that I can do this. That I will keep doing this. That I will not return to an unhealthy lifestyle. And maybe, to inspire others to take control of their lives, their energy levels, their bodies, as well.

Unpaid Maternity Leave and Human Rights

Last week, Huffington Post published an article concerning the United States policy on maternity leave alongside a video from one of their live chats with working moms, with that included a popular eye-opening graphic I’ve seen floating around the Internet for quite some time now.

When I found out I was pregnant, I didn’t even think it would be an option to experience maternity leave with pay simply because I had never heard of it. And there’s good reason for my not hearing of it, because it doesn’t exist. The graphic doesn’t lie: as an American citizen, I simply do not have the option of paid maternity leave.

Continue over to Liberating Working Moms and read about my thought on unpaid maternity leave as a human rights issue…

Do Over.

*Disclaimer: This is not in any manner, shape or form going to be the most eloquent blog post for two reasons: 1) I’m realizing as I’m writing it that there aren’t adequate words in the English language to convey what I mean and 2) it’s pretty late and I’m tired. Here goes…

I’m honest about the fact that I possess many flaws. Two of my most negative traits are that I regret often and hold grudges like it’s my job. And now that I’m a mother? Regret daily. What mother doesn’t have a bad day, lash out at her children then cry herself to sleep thinking she’s a terrible mother? What working mother doesn’t question if she’s doing the right thing for her family?

Those regrets are normal, typical, universal.

This one? Might not be.

I’m at that age where pretty much every one of my friends has been pregnant, is pregnant, or is shortly going to announce that she is pregnant. Hell, it seems like every friend who was pregnant WITH me when I had my son is pregnant again, and kudos to them because I could never do it.

Okay, not every friend. But pretty damn close. And since I’ve been through pregnancy—which I hated with a red hot passion and wouldn’t do again unless someone offered me a million bucks, and even then I’d only consider it—I often listen to my friends’ experiences and compare theirs to mine.

Last night, as I held my son in my arms while he slept, I couldn’t help but feel that twinge of the uterus. You know, that feeling when your ovaries whisper, “You know you like this… Don’t you want to do this again?”

And the answer came to me immediately. Yes. Yes, I want to do this again.

But no, before you get excited, I really don’t want to do this again. Not with another child. I want to do this again with my child. My William. My only child.

Because the first time around? Oh, how I would change things.

I don’t want to be pregnant again. I don’t want morning sickness again. I don’t want anxiety and depression and fatigue again. I don’t want to live nine months feeling like a stranger inhabits my body.

I don’t want to care for a newborn again while caring for my toddler. I don’t want to figure out another child’s idiosyncrasies. I don’t want to wake every 2-3 hours. I don’t want to hear incessant colicky crying. I don’t want to get so wrapped up in a new child that I forget my first child. I don’t want to clean up spit up and wake up just to check if the baby’s breathing (… I still do this. He’s 17 months old. When will the paranoia end?)

I guess what I want is a do over. That’s right. A do over. I want to have my first pregnancy again. My first delivery again. I want to look at my son for the first time again. My first night in the hospital with my son again. My first night at home with my son. My first maternity leave. My first walk with the stroller. My first wrap with the Moby. My first baby bath. My first baby book.

I want to do all that over. With this kid.

You know why? Freaking hindsight.

To be blunt, there are so many ways I feel like a badass parent. And then there are ways I feel like a shitty parent. But I know at the end of the day that I’ve tried my best and I’ve loved my kid to death while trying.

What I don’t know? Why some of my friends’ experiences are so different from mine. And why that’s fair. And if they ever experience the same kind of regret or indignation.

Some of my friends have never so much as gagged during their pregnancies. SERIOUSLY? I spent every waking moment with my head in a plastic bag or a toilet. But okay, that one I can chock up to hormones, every woman’s body being different, etc, etc.

Some of my friends had little cute signs that said “THIS BABY IS BREASTFED” on the little bassinet in the hospital. The nurses gave my son a pacifier without asking and pressured me to bottle-feed. But okay, I can chock that up to my absent-mindedness, my lack of assertiveness, my unwillingness to make DECISIONS before my son came.

But I think the biggest realization I had that made me feel certain my experience having my son was not as … I’m searching for a word… perfect? enjoyable? I don’t know. Maybe there isn’t a word for it. This realization came to me when one of my dear friends told me her story and one small aspect stuck out.

She mentioned the nurses bringing her daughter over to her for “skin to skin” contact. Wait, what? What’s skin to skin? Why didn’t anyone think it was important for me to have that with my son? Would I have even wanted it if they had offered? Would it have made that first very emotional and exhausting night any different? Can I even remember how long it was and how many people visited before I got real one-on-one time with my son?

These thoughts plague me. My first thought when I found out I was in labor was, “Oh God. I’m supposed to work tomorrow. He can’t come today.” And to this day, I feel guilty about it. Regret. Because I didn’t know. I didn’t know I would love him. I didn’t know how sweet he would sound and smell. I didn’t know that he would become the happiest, gentlest, funniest child I’ve ever been around. I didn’t know.

So do I want to try for another baby? Nope. Not even a thought right now. And I guess that’s the difference between me and many of my friends because they are currently experiencing or will experience another pregnancy, delivery, baby, and they may get to rectify some of the things they wish had been different the first time around. But for me? Would I want to experience those life-altering, precious moments with William again, with a clear head, an open heart and maybe a little more knowledge from those around me? If only…

Mysterious, Unfair, and Sad

As a teenager, I spent many a night in the four walls of a charismatic Christian church. I fundraised for international mission trips and spent what could have been exciting, relaxing, sleep-in kinds of summers in third world countries praying for and feeding people I would never see again. I sang in choir. I kept daily journals of the Scriptures I read. I practiced and performed drama skits with allegories concerning God’s love of the world.

And I loved every minute of it.

Inside, though, a battle raged. Because the more I loved God, the more I loved people, and the more I hurt for them. When you care, you hurt. It’s a mathematical certainty. And I wonder if this truth is part of the reason why I went from being so charismatic to much more mellow about my faith. So maybe, it would hurt less.

Truth be told, I prefer my quieter faith because I am a more understanding, open-minded person. By no means am I the shining example of what a Christian should be on the day to day, but I believe in my heart of hearts that whether I am in a church every weekend or not, I will raise my son to be a kindhearted, moral, God-fearing person, and hopefully, he will choose to live a life that will encourage and inspire others.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, when I was that fervent, overzealous, somewhat of an outsider teen, I carried the world on my shoulders. Every commercial about every starving child brought tears to my eyes. The news of late-term abortions, articles about young men and women killed in war, friends and friends of friends diagnosed with cancer… all of those things weighed me down. I felt responsible. I felt obligated. Obligated to pray. Obligated to think. Obligated to feel. And even sometimes, guilty because I had more than they did, or because I was happier than they were. Like somehow, I didn’t deserve it.

Becoming a mother has given me an entirely new sense of intuition and emotion. I posted a Facebook status the other night about how I never understood why people would say, “He’s so cute! I just want to eat him!” about a baby. Why would you want to eat him if he’s cute? Didn’t get it. But now? Oh man, I could gnaw on my son’s chubby little legs all day long. I totally describe him as edible. Because he is! And I only understand that because now, I experience it as a mother instead of as an outsider.

Before my son was born, I knew many people, some very close to me, who had experienced miscarriages. As a child, my mother told me the story of her mother giving birth to a baby boy who passed away in the hospital—she would’ve grown up with an older brother. My grandmother remembered being the only woman on the delivery floor without a baby in her arms. As a teen, I knew a woman from church who had stopped feeling her baby move in the 9th month of her pregnancy. Doctors couldn’t tell her what happened. She had to deliver the baby “asleep” as they used to call it, and have a funeral for her.

I remember thinking that they just shouldn’t make caskets that small.

I felt for those women. I really did. But now. It’s almost hard to type the words.

I followed Diana of Hormonal Imbalances as she planned for the birth of twin baby boys but tragically lost them just shy of 20 weeks. I read as she ached for them, as she cried that they didn’t have birth certificates but then by the grace of God and the kindness of a doctor who heard her little ones breathe, ended up getting those certificates—proof that those children made an impact on the world, even though we all already knew they did. I paid attention as a childhood friend gave birth to a son with anencephaly and waited over two years to finally blog about it and let the world know how she felt about her angel son and his short but powerful life. I remember her small baby shower where people ate, fellowshipped, prayed, sang songs. They didn’t bring gifts because she knew her little boy wouldn’t last very long on earth.

These women are the epitome of strength, and my heart, my stomach, every part of me as a woman and as a mother aches as I read their stories, look at their pictures, read their posts. To know that so many women have had to say goodbye to their little ones breaks my heart, frightens me, and even makes me feel guilty that my little guy is safe tonight, breathing heavily in bed.

Mothers should never lose children. It’s not the natural way of life. But in the same way, children should never lose mothers. One of my favorite students lost his mother to cancer when he was in middle school. And every time I looked at him and read the things he wrote in his journal, I would think, “His mother should be here to read that. His mother should be here to see him.” Because now, I’m a mother. And to think that my son would have his first girlfriend, get his driver’s permit, get on the bus for his first day of high school without me? Unfathomable. He would want me. He would look for me. He would need me. And more than that, I thought about that young man’s mother. How hard it must have been for her, having cancer, knowing she would leave her boy behind…

I hate thinking these things, because they make me so incredibly sad. In fact, I let this post sit on my computer because I thought I’d just be depressing people unnecessarily. But it’s real life and I don’t like to sugarcoat things. As a Christian teenager, it was always hard to grasp why good people had to experience such deep suffering. As a new mother, it is hard to understand why someone people, who don’t belong being parents, are able to have healthy children, while others are not able to have children or when they do, have to say goodbye.

Some things in life are mysterious. Some are just unfair. But in the end, I guess the only thing that brings me any form of consolation is the knowledge that for centuries, women have experienced and survived loss. They have can handle it, have handled it, and will continue to handle it. Because women—and mothers in particular—are resilient. Everything we do as mothers is for our children.  And even those who lose their children on earth know they have to go on, for their children. To do their children proud. To keep their memories alive. To give them the honor they deserve. Even if, on a daily basis, it brings them pain and tears.

To parents who have lost children, or children who have lost parents: I love you and I pray for you. And I so very much admire your strength.