Greener grass

This morning, I awoke to the adorable chatting and fussing of my nine week-old infant daughter.

Moans and groans followed–not from the nursery monitor. From me. I attempted to separate my eyelids from my eyeballs unsuccessfully several times before managing to pry them partly open. I turned my bleary gaze toward the alarm clock.

6:33 a.m.

ImageAbout 30 minutes later than the time of day I used to set the coffeepot for back in the day when I worked a “real job” and got paid in actual cash for showing up and performing tasks. I contemplated the drastic 180 degree pivot I’ve made since then as I hauled my pathetic parts out of our warm, fleece-laden sanctuary and plodded a few painful steps into my bathroom to hurriedly brush my teeth before trudging down the hall to feed our daughter.

Thud, thud, thud.

My daughter heard my heavy, aching feet, attached to my still-sore knees from the after-effects of swelling during pregnancy. She began cooing and turning up the volume on her hunger protests. I pasted a semi-smile on my face, recited her special verse to her, and leaned over to lift her out of the crib, cracking at least three vertebra in the process.

“Babe.”

Silence.

“James?”

Peaceful silence, the sign that my better half had chosen the better path and stayed in bed a little longer.

“Babe, babe, please….”

A tired voice croaked in response.

“Yes?”

“Coffee, please. I need it.”

The champ managed to drag himself out of bed long enough to get the coffee going before collapsing once again into bliss.

As I sat in the recliner about to nurse my daughter, a lamp illuminating her chubby little cheeks as they grinned at me in anticipation of the goodness coming her way, I reminisced about the green, lush grass of my former life.

I’m not referring to my lawn, trust me. I used to celebrate when the parched heat in August finally sucked the life out of my lawn; I could finally stop paying those men with Bad Boy mowers to spend 20 minutes on my acre of land each week or relying on my generous friend’s husband to mow it out of pity for me.

No, I’m referring to the “greener grass.”

Image

Three years ago, photo by Say Cheese Photography

The lifestyle I led as a single, sexy lady who’d just turned 30. The beer and wine imbibed on my front porch under a full set of stars while carrying on scandalous conversations with my friends.  The cigarettes I carelessly smoked as accoutrements to all of my fashionable ensembles that clad my skinny arse. The concerts and coffeehouses I frequented with friends, one of my many cashmere or hand-knitted scarves casually knotted around my neck. The countless novels I consumed voraciously, my cats perched on the edge of my couch. The miniature meals I cooked for myself, never needing to consider plating for more than numero uno. The insistence that monthly facials were not a luxury–they were an essential budget item. The notion that having lunch plans AND a meeting after work meant I was swamped with responsibility. The absolute silence that enveloped my home–always–since I chose to rid myself of the annoying din of the television for an entire year.

Aahhh.

My daughter’s bright eyes gazed up at me, and she cocked her head to the side and flashed me a genuinely joyous grin.

I suddenly recalled that the grass on the other side was also cluttered with weeds and required tedious maintenance. Working two jobs at times and still not making ends meet due to living way beyond my means and to the debt acquired by my frivolous ex-husband. Driving one hour each way to arrive at jobs I wasn’t truly passionate about and dealing with, let’s face it, the inevitable work drama and estrogen fest resulting from too many females in close quarters. The creaks and crunches outside my bedroom window that kept me awake night after night as I attempted to sleep in a house too big for just little ole me, keeping my bedroom door locked just in case. The horrible dating experiences that resulted from my countless attempts to find companionship. The quiet ticking of my clock, as I sat curled up under a quilt in my living room, pondering and praying and contemplating and wondering and waiting.

By myself.

ImageAs I sang one last morning song to Maggie, her heavy little eyes closing and opening more and more slowly, I sipped the cup of coffee my husband had poured for me. The mugshot on the cup captured a tiny moment in time when my three week-old newborn baby lay cradled in my arms, squinting her eyes at the brilliant sky, our 100 year-old barn behind us.

My life is different now. I can’t sit on my porch in the morning with a cup of coffee and spend an entire hour watching the grass grow. I can’t show up at the spur of the moment to enjoy my friend’s excellent guitar picking because the one pair of jeans I purchased postpartum now sag too significantly to avoid mooning the public. I insist on screening family members and friends prior to their visits since many of them pooh-pooh the flu epidemic. I don’t have the luxury of spending two hours waking up before arriving at work, listening to my own loud musical selections while downing an ungodly amount of caffeine.

I get about five minutes before it’s go time each day.

As I burped my baby this morning, the sunlight barely creeping in through the sheer curtains, I listened to the nearly inaudible ticking of the same clock that used to count the seconds spent in mostly meaningless, lonely ways.

My time is almost always accounted for these days. Thank God that how I’m spending it matters.

ImageIt’s the middle of January, and the grass has never been greener.

Right where I belong

“What’s one feeling you’ve had since having her that has surprised you?”

Photo by Say Cheese Photography

Photo by Say Cheese Photography

One of my best friends posed this question to me a few days ago as I rocked my drowsy five week-old baby girl.

How’s she doing? Are you recovering from the delivery? How do you like breastfeeding? Isn’t it crazy how fast they grow?

I’ve been asked these questions countless times lately. Maggie’s doing well. I’m recovering well. Breastfeeding is complicated but worth it, I think (ask me a month from now). And yes, it’s insane how quickly she grows, changes, and develops adorable rolls of baby chub.

But my friend’s question caught me off guard. Not many people have asked how I feel about being a mom.

Honestly, I hesitate to write about it. I hesitate because when I was pregnant, I felt skeptical of all the women I knew who believed that pregnancy was beautiful and the most wonderful experience of their lives. I doubted their statements about how the negative moments would one day vanish from memory. I admit that I often rolled my mind’s eyes while listening to them recant their fond recollections of pregnancy.

I hesitate, expecting to elicit eye rolling from those of you who can’t relate, to tell you that while I still detest the pregnancy process, I love being a mom.

I don’t just adore my little darling because she’s sweet and beautiful when she’s sleeping. I don’t just love her because she is the product of the most precious relationship I’ve ever had. I don’t just like her when she’s smiling, cooing, or cuddling me.

I mean that I love being a mother in the core of my being.

Most of my life, I’ve found meaning and significance in my career and educational journey. I’ve prided myself on making perfect grades. I’ve patted myself on the back for being an expert problem solver, finding holes and filling them in every job role I’ve ever held. I’ve planned out my days based on making meaningful contributions to others through work and volunteer efforts. That worked for me very well. It made me feel complete and significant.

Until now.

004I am most surprised that right now, I feel more like I am right where I’m supposed to be, doing precisely what I’m supposed to be doing, more than I’ve ever felt that way in my entire life. More fulfilled than I could have possibly imagined I’d feel. More perfectly aligned with God’s goals for me than I’d dreamed.

Even at 2 a.m., while sopping up projectile vomit and wiping away my own tears of pity for my daughter. Even after changing five diapers in 15 minutes while nursing a 48-hour migraine that I can’t alleviate with medication while breastfeeding. Even during the afternoon when I plop my exhausted pajama-clad self into the recliner and gaze around the room at the unswept floor, the pile of laundry to fold, and the Christmas cards to address.

Always, I am where I belong.

 

Angina

Me and Liz, 2010

Me and Liz, 2010

I experienced my first bout with angina at 28 years old while walking through a Wal-Mart parking lot one cold winter night with Liz, my former stepdaughter, who was a gangly 13 year-old at the time. A pickup truck full of men, appearing to be in their 20s, drove by us and honked, hooped, and hollered. At LIZ. Not at me. I’m sure their cat calls were for my precious 13 year-old because I donned the world’s largest, bulkiest, floor-length coat that night. Liz’s long legs were covered in skinny jeans, topped off with a cute puffy jacket.

Along with the curses I hurled in the direction of the pickup truck, I remember turning to Liz and putting my hand on my chest.

“Oh my gosh, it’s my first official chest pain.” Apparently the idea of my precious Liz being eyeballed by perverted men was too much for me.

Photo by Jessie Covington of Say Cheese Photography

Photo by Jessie Covington of Say Cheese Photography

Three weeks ago, our daughter Maggie was born. Even after the trauma of delivery and the complications of our recovery, I find myself riding the emotional and hormonal roller coaster daily. When she eats and looks up at me, cracking a smile out of the corner of her mouth, I cry. When she cries out in pain and frustration from a gassy belly and pesky hiccups, I cry. When her dad holds her and looks down at her in adoration, I cry. As she steadily outgrows each and every one of her newborn outfits, I cry. When her umbilical cord finally came off yesterday, as I changed her in her dark, cozy bedroom after feeding her at 3 a.m., I cried, knowing that the last tangible symbol of our physical connection had passed.

Sometimes when I cry, that same sharp, achy feeling fills my chest.

I know now that it’s not angina, and it wasn’t angina that night in the parking lot with Liz.

That was my heart breaking a little bit, unable to hold in all that love.