Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Dear Ben: We Are Scared

Dear Ben,

In between family snuggle time and heart-melting brother cuddles, there are tears. From all of us. 

There is blood. There are tantrums. There are lost tempers.

There is a long scar that I don’t like to look at, not because it looks bad, but because it reminds me of how scared I was right before they cut you out of me, and how the last thing I remember before I went under was crying out that it burned. You have a faint, matching line beside your right eye where the scalpel nicked you, too. I take comfort in the idea that in some way, we did that part together. There is trauma.

Daddy draws a diagram of the hospital rooms for me; where I was, where he was, where they brought you to me. We combine our separate memories to try to stitch together the story of your birth. My body was there, but he heard your first cry. Neither of us saw you, but that cry meant you made it to us, whole and breathing and everything that they told Daddy not to expect. 

When I woke up, they brought you to me and you were perfect and I asked over and over if you were ours: I wasn’t there, so I needed them to be sure. As soon as we got back to our room I saw you looked just like your brother and then I knew for certain.

We fiddled with the car seat for half an hour before we got you out of the hospital. There was no ceremony, no wheelchair, no escort, just a slow shuffle through the long, empty corridors to get to the car. On the way home we listened to the music I thought we’d play during your birth, and Daddy and I held each other’s hands and cried.

I was scared to take you home because I felt so vulnerable; partly from being bruised and bloody, and partly from realizing how close we are at any moment to losing any one of us. 

Once we were home with your brother, it felt better. When we are all together, I can count our four fragile bodies. I can gather my family into one bed and feel your skin and measure your heartbeats. I can breathe you all in and smell breastmilk, grass and dirt, sweat and laundry detergent. I can try to work out what and where is safe.

In between caressing your soft, duckling-fuzz hair and arguing with Daddy over what colour that hair will be, there is grief. In between teaching you what a kiss is and your brother reading you books he has memorized, there is gratitude. There is relief.

Love came easy with you, little Ben, and with it came the deep, dark fear of knowing that we almost lost you. We are tender and bruised. We are worried and joyful and sometimes sad. But we’re going to try to let love be the story.

-Your Mother

photos by Sharalee Prang

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Dear Small Boy: Any Moment Now

Dear Small Boy,

Yesterday I picked up this used baby carrier. I washed it and sat on our back deck while Daddy mowed the lawn, and I watched YouTube tutorials on how to use it and practised looping it through, pulling it around, tightening it, and doing it all over again. The rainbow carrier made me feel excited to put a small baby in it (that’s you), snuggled to my chest, and that’s a moment that I hold tightly to.

I’ve become accustomed to perinatal depression meaning that I’m not excited to have a baby. I’m just excited to not be pregnant. And I’ve learned to accept this part of my brain and heart and biology, mostly with a shrug and sometimes with a lot of tears and anger and fear. 

So when I feel that little nugget of joy or contentment or anticipation I treasure it up and ponder it in my heart. 

It’s the chestnut I carry in my pocket and rub with my thumb until it is perfectly shiny.

It’s the hand I hold to my heart when I wake up in the middle of the night, gasping and reeling.

It’s the cool grass between my toes when I run outside barefoot just to take a deep breath and check that the mountains are still there. They are. 

You will be here soon, kiddo, any moment now, and I will hold you close to me in a rainbow carrier.

Your Mother

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Dear Small Boy, Round 2: Another Mother's Day

Dear Small Boy,

It’s Mother’s Day, and you have the hiccups.

Your daddy and brother have gone out on a mission to fetch breakfast I think? We are waiting quietly in bed for their return.

Hic, hic, hic, on the bottom left of my belly. Hic, stretch, hic.

You are the last baby I’ll carry in my belly, this I’m certain of. As interesting and extraordinary a privilege it is to create a human in my body, I do not take well to this work. So as I struggle to see this through to the end, to you joining us on the outside, I seek hard for moments with you to treasure. I mine for them and clutch tightly to any sparkle I find in the damp and the dark.

Your brother and daddy are home, I hear the clump, clump of the disintegrating rain boots your brother insists on wearing in 20 degree weather, because he can put them on himself, and he likes to “stomp”. The table and chairs scrape over the floor above me. They burst into the bedroom and, trying to carry everything, Daddy spills coffee all over the flowers and the floor. They have brought all the wrong food; runny eggs and sauce on the sandwich, raisins in the chocolate, and not a waffle in sight. But the latte is good and I eat three servings of side potatoes and decide to ignore the coffee stain seeping through the sheet into the mattress.

We have packed up all of the vases, so I come upstairs to find your daddy has put the flowers into an empty coke can. This is our last week in the house I grew you in that you’ll never see. You and I carefully navigate the stacks of boxes together. Your brother asks for the “biggest squeeze in the world” while we snuggle on our crumb-y couch, and we give it to him. The four of us are getting ready for something new.

-Your Mother

Monday, April 20, 2020

Dear Small Boy, Round 2: How to Take Care of You and Me

Dear Small Boy,

I found a sunny spot on the deck.

I watched a bee fly into our house through the open door.

I listened for your brother who was supposed to be napping but was “karate chomping” an imaginary enemy in his bed.

I thought about making myself throw up.

I wondered where we would put you. Where do you put a baby who has no home yet? On me I suppose.

I took a sip of water.

I scoured the Internet for a reckless purchase to make me feel happy.

I heard your daddy’s worry vibrating from downstairs. 

I felt you stretch and poke around inside me, reminding me it’s getting cramped in there (I know, bud, I know).

I counted down 9 weeks.

I breathed in the fresh air. There are trees around the deck.

I did the best I could in the moment.


Your Mother

Dear Small Boy is a series of letters about perinatal depression. 

Friday, March 8, 2019

Happy International Women's Day, I Am Tired

Happy International Women's Day, I Am Tired.

My son, clearly a shill for the patriarchy, woke me up at 4:30am. He came into bed and said, "Hi, Mama. Hug, Mama?" It has been so many hours since 4:30am.

Happy International Women's Day, I Am Guilty.

We have made it through our whole roster of Daniel Tiger. We are sick and exhausted and there is no Daniel Tiger, I AM Daniel Tiger. He is me. Meow meow, Toots. Ugga mugga. A better mother would have...

Happy International Women's Day, I Am Scared.

I will start the new job and I am scared I'm too stupid, now. I miss things, now. And I'm told that being a mother makes me an asset, but I'm not sure I see that, now.

I am scared I'm not enough and I am scared I'm too much. I am definitely too much, this I've been told. I am scared I have failed my son and he will miss me during the day and that I'm making the wrong choices, always the wrong choices, and the stakes are so high.

Happy International Women's Day, I Am Privileged.

I will never know the experience of BIPOC women and yet I will continue to benefit from their labour. My rights as a woman were earned on their backs. My voice is louder and more respected. I have more than most of the world but it never feels like enough.

Happy International Women's Day, I Am Disliked.

I am too loud, I am inappropriate, I am insensitive, I am annoying. I am distasteful. I am a burden. I am invalid. People don't like how I walk through the world.

Happy International Women's Day, I Am Ignored.

I am too old and fat to be considered a sexual prospect, too young and blonde to be considered an authority.

Happy International Women's Day, I Am Hungry.

Hungry for food, hungry for acknowledgement, hungry for travel, hungry for rest, hungry for justice, hungry for change. They make lollipops that suppress hunger now. To remind us that hunger is shameful.

Happy International Women's Day, I Am Aching.

Aching for another minute with my child. Aching for another minute alone. Aching for another minute with my partner where we do not discuss schedules or errands or cleaning or taxes or or or or or

Happy International Women's Day, I Am Angry.

My tolerance for bullshit is low. I'm losing friends and ruining parties. But I only have pictures of me smiling.

Happy International Women's Day.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

A Moment of Silence

A moment of silence for the relentlessness of parenthood.

A moment of silence for sleeping in.

A moment of silence for my once perfectly symmetrical breasts.

A moment of silence for the noise, the banging, the shuffling, the breaking of glass, the whining, the cry in the middle of the night.

A moment of silence for the weight of his small body lying on mine, the soft skin of his belly brushing up against my arm.

A moment of silence for staying up too late.

A moment of silence for every moment I wish for my old life back.

A moment of silence for the gasp as I see him fall, the slow motion of his head hitting the ground, the rush over to him, his arms clinging around my neck. A moment of silence for his sobs into my shoulder. The check for blood.

A moment of silence for the way he shouts "Mama!" when he hears me walking through the door.

A moment of silence for my career. For the lack of acknowledgement, the lack of care, the lack of space.

A moment of silence for my marriage, for what it used to be, for learning how to reinvent it.

A moment of silence for travel.

A moment of silence for his cuddling noise, "Bbbbbbb", as he nuzzles his head into my arm.

A moment of silence for my vocabulary.

A moment of silence for the ceaseless chatter as I crouch next to him on the potty, fruitlessly.

A moment of silence for the hours of work planning the birthday party he will not remember.

A moment of silence for being his favourite person in the world.

A moment of silence for the endless, fleeting, days. For the hours I try to fill.

A moment of silence for the way he shoves his hand up my sleeve when we cuddle.

A moment of silence for the weeping when I think about him leaving one day. For the fear of not knowing where he'll be or if he's safe.

A moment of silence for the hours we spend looking at photos of him after he's fallen asleep.

A moment of silence for his perfect bedhead.

A moment of silence for not knowing what to do.

A moment of silence.

Photo by Sharalee Prang

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Dear Small Boy: On Your Birthday

It was a snowy December.

It snowed while we waited for you to arrive. We took midnight walks along the path, urging you to get moving, our boots crunching and the light from the street lamps making the ground sparkle. The branches were weighted with snow and I walked slowly, slowly because you were so heavy inside me and I didn't want to slip. Every night we knew that our walk might be the last one before you came.

We lay on the couch next to the fireplace with our stockings hung with care, three stockings, watching Saturday Night Live and big clumps of flakes falling outside, waiting, waiting.

I wanted you to be born before Christmas, you see. I was terrified you'd come on Christmas Day and your birthday would be ruined forever.

The day before you came I woke up early and I knew. I let daddy sleep and I got up and baked butterhorns while the light came through the kitchen windows and the snow fell and slowly, slowly you started making your way to us.

You got closer and closer and the snow kept falling and we pulled out all of the Christmas movies to watch, one after another, to distract me from my body getting ready. When I couldn't be distracted anymore we got in the car and drove through icy roads in the dark and I shouted and punched the car window and daddy carefully, carefully got us to the hospital. That car ride felt like hours and hours and hours.

When we got to the hospital I shouted and cried and cracked the respirator of the laughing gas because I bit it so hard. Finally I got some relief and the room got calm and quiet and we were ready for you.

             You waited until the wee hours to arrive and then all of a sudden you were here.

We couldn't wait to bring you home so we got an early check-out, on your birthday. Tiny, sparse flakes fell in the darkness as we carried you out into the world in your car seat. We buckled you in and drove slowly, carefully, home.

You are scary and exquisite. You are joyful and fun and precious and every moment with you is fleeting. You are almost always inconvenient. You are a wonder and a glory. You came to me in winter, making my life more complicated and frightening and beautiful. You are the snow to me.