Book Reviews

Must-Read Book: The Long Hall

tlhkindlecoverThey were like any other young married couple in love and expecting their first baby, anticipating the labor and delivery with typical anxiety but thrilled to be on the cusp of parenthood. Yet life has a way of striking down even the best-laid plans straight out of the blue, turning something that should have been a celebration into a devastating tragedy beyond measure.

Charles Gulotta’s haunting memoir, The Long Hall, is an intimate and painfully raw journey beginning with the sudden turn of events the day his wife went into labor and the years of grueling recovery they both faced long after. His story is told with incredible insight and honest emotion. At its heart are the central concepts of love and family, and how we must all find the strength deep inside to carry on even in the face of immense loss and grief.

Charles’ story will stay with me the rest of my days. It’s a compelling read filled with beautiful writing.  I read this book in two days as I couldn’t put it down. It’s a rare book that manages to simultaneously break my heart and renew my spirit.  I found myself alternately laughing out loud or weeping with grief.

The following is an excerpt describing the moment he and his wife, Jill, discovered she was pregnant with their first baby:

We found out in November of 1984. Jill had missed her period and was feeling strange, and already suspected what was going on. We bought a home pregnancy test, took it out of the package, and clutched it as if we were holding the future in our hands. Here was the thing that would give us the most significant piece of information we would ever receive, and I remember thinking that it didn’t look important enough. In fact, it looked a lot like those kits we had when I was a kid, the ones that told us if there was enough chlorine in the pool. Yet, it represented the link between not knowing and then knowing that we were going to have a baby.

It was just a plastic tube and a small bottle of liquid. Jill filled the tube with urine, and added a few drops to the bottle. We were supposed to check back in an hour. If a doughnut appeared in the urine, that meant she was pregnant. Seeing the words doughnut and pregnant in the same sentence seemed a little weird, but that’s what it said.

We were scared out of our minds and so we joked stupidly about the doughnut thing. If it was a boy, should we name him Duncan? With Jewish parents, does a bagel appear instead of a doughnut? When we finished the stupid joking, we still had fifty-eight minutes to wait. We decided the time would pass more quickly if we took a nap. Lying on the bed, I stared at the bottom of the windowsill for fifty-seven minutes. I thought Jill had fallen asleep, but she had spent the whole time staring at the back of my head.

When the hour was up we raced to the bathroom, turned on the light, and picked up the tube. Something shaped like a ring was floating in the liquid. We screamed, looked at each other, looked back at the tube, and screamed again. I had to remind myself that the doughnut was not the baby, but was just the chemical reaction. We looked again to make sure, then poured the doughnut down the drain, which also felt weird.

Later that day, we drove to Jill’s parents’ home, to tell them. Bob took the news with nervous silence, then a warm smile. Barbara looked at me and yelled, “What have you done to my daughter?” It was a question that would echo in my head for years.

The following details the fateful day she went into labor and the devastating turn of events that would change their lives forever:

We called the doctors’ office and the nurse told us to get to the hospital. So this was it. Here was that car ride I’d thought so much about, the one you see on television and you think, please don’t let it happen like that. I’d practiced it over and over in my mind. We’d done a trial run the week before. We’d been to the hospital for the new parents’ tour. We should’ve been ready, and we were. Everything was under control. My driving was smooth and effortless. We could have been going to the supermarket for a loaf of bread, except it was almost midnight, and you leave your house at that hour only for life-altering events.

After parking the car, I felt bothered for just a moment by the bright yellow EMERGENCY sign. I opened Jill’s door and she climbed out. Then we walked slowly through the doors of Bridgeport Hospital.

It was 11:40. The day we would have our first baby — July 12, 1985 — was itself about to be born. We were in that moment when everything changes. The bridge from here to there was twenty feet of linoleum. We stopped at the desk and answered questions. Name, address, insurance. A thin man in pale green scrubs appeared out of nowhere, steered a wheelchair up behind Jill, snapped the footrests into position, and pushed her toward the elevator. We had no way of knowing, but Jill had just walked the last twenty feet she would ever walk. Right there. That faded, scuffed stretch of hallway. She was thirty years old. I was twenty-nine. We had been on top of the world for the past four years. But the world rolls. Sometimes you roll with it, and sometimes it rolls on top of you.

Charles Gullota’s memoir is a must-read, it will forever change the way you view love and loss, life and death.  It shines a light on the tenuous grasp we all have on our own lives, how our innate personalities and who we thought we were — our hopes, our dreams, the very essence of our being — can be snatched away, snuffed out in an instant like a flame. Yet, it’s tragedy that forces us to embrace the here and now, compelling us to fully live each day while we still have a chance. Only love has the power to heal us in the end.

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The Long Hall is 320 pages, and can be purchased for $12.95 from Amazon.com. The e-book edition is also available, for about $3.99 US, in any country where Amazon has a Kindle store.

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cg-on-2011-02-21Charles Gulotta is a freelance writer and incredibly popular WordPress blogger at Mostly Bright Ideas. His blog is a WordPress Recommended Humor Blog and was Freshly Pressed numerous times. I had the pleasure of meeting Charles and his lovely wife, Maria, a few years ago and yes, he is just as warm, witty, and insightful in person.

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Family · Motherhood

The Year of Our Miracle

It was seven years ago when one little pill was the reason my daughter lived.

Previously, I had suffered several miscarriages. My doctor suspected a blood disorder and ran a million tests. One morning, his nurse called to inform me that I had a blood clotting disorder and wasn’t able to absorb any folic acid. And it was impossible to sustain a pregnancy without the help of a blood thinner.

I had just found out I was pregnant again for the third time in as many months so with tears flowing down my face I frantically begged the nurse to tell me what to do.

“Take a baby aspirin, immediately!”

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For the next nine months, I took that one tiny orange pill every morning. I think the fact it said “baby aspirin” right on the box was truth in advertising. Because this along with a mega vitamin B pill is what sustained my baby. Also, lots of prayers.

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Today this baby is the brightest star in my world. She’s unbelievably sweet, giving and loving. She brought home a project from school yesterday listing what she’s thankful for this Thanksgiving:

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I am thankful for the love because it is great.

I am thankful for my family because they love me.

I am thankful for my mom because she loves me.

This thanksgiving, I am forever thankful for you, Little Miss J.

Happy 7th birthday!

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Uncategorized

Coming Back to Life

bbwToday, I’m excited to be a guest blogger over at Eric’s
(aka Le Clown from  A Clown on Fire) blog Black Box Warnings. It’s a safe haven where people are invited to share their personal experiences with mental and physical health.

I’ve written about a deeply personal and painful subject–my struggle with postpartum depression after the birth of my son.
When a Cold Day Dawns, the most difficult post I’ve ever written.

Thank you, Eric, for giving me this opportunity.  Bringing these buried thoughts out into the light has helped me heal even more.

Please, come on over and check it out, along with the other fantastic bloggers and posts. Thanks for reading!

Motherhood

So You’re Having A Baby…

Hmm…I think I need to have a talk with you about this baby thing…

Bundle of joy coming your way soon? Is the diaper bag all packed and ready for the hospital? Nursery all set up? Newborn clothes hung neatly in the closet?

Sweet! You’re ready!

Right?

Maybe not? Well, here’s the lowdown. The things you really need to know about having a baby. Toss aside that What to Expect While Your Gut’s Exploding and Your Cervix is on Fire and Your Boobs Throb and Burn like Giant Blazing Orbs of Terror and You Swear to God You’re Gonna Hit the Man that Did This to You Over the Head With this Damn Book, book.

I’m gonna give it to you straight, first-timer. You can trust me. The following facts are coming from a mom who has endured ten years of loaded diapers, leaky bottles, breastfeeding fiascoes, postpartum depression, asthma, colic, croup, never-ending ear infections, and night terrors (mostly mine).

These are the things that will change once you have a baby:

  • Your house will smell like poop.

You may go out and drop some serious cash on a Diaper Genie. You may think this will somehow magically dispel the noxious waste that will be sitting there for days. You will be wrong. And you will fight over taking turns to empty it. The diaper pail almost ruined my marriage. When my youngest was finally potty trained, my husband and I were so ecstatic, we renewed our vows. At the end of the ceremony, we set fire to the diaper pail and danced around it naked under the moonlight. Nothing says romance and freedom like flaming poop.

FREEEEEEEE-DOOOOOOM!

Oh, you’re using cloth diapers instead? Yeah, I did too, for a time. Poop. Poop everywhere. On the floor and in your hair. Poop on your socks. Poop on your smocks. In the washer, on your hands. I do not like this Sam I am, I do not like green poop and ham. Sorry…where was I? Oh, yeah. Basically, your days will be an endless slog through poop. And you’ll find yourself discussing your precious Miracle of Life’s bowel movements anywhere, anytime.

“Oh, God! It was horrifying! You should have seen it! It was blue! The poop was blue! And brown! With a little pea-soup green mixed in! It was so nasty! And chunky! And it was this huge amount too! Like someone had dumped a bucket of elephant dung down my baby’s back!”

“Yeah…that’s….great. Uh…can you pass me the baked beans, please?”

  • Strangers will come up to you constantly.

From the time you’re pregnant, to the time your child is a terrible two, everyone on the street will want to approach you. Grandmas are the worst. They’ll come at your baby with the accuracy of a heat-seeking missile. “OH! He’s SOOOO cute!” Soon cheeks will be pinched, germy hands will be poking chins and bellies. Arm yourself with a giant bottle of Purell. Threaten to throw it at them. It’ll be okay. Once your baby is three and throwing a massive tantrum in aisle 9 of the Stop-n-Go, no one will ever want to go near your child again.

I double dog dare ya to try and pinch my cheeks now, Grandma!
  • Suddenly everyone is a parenting expert.

No matter how you decide to raise your baby, there will always be someone ready to tell you that you are wrong.

“Oh, you’re formula-feeding? Well, that’s bad for the baby!”
“So, you’re nursing? Oh, that’s terrible!”
“Binky? It’ll ruin his teeth!”
“Thumb sucking? He’ll be in therapy!”
“Co-sleeping? She’ll be in your bed forever!”
“Wait! Come back! Why are you running away? I didn’t get to tell you how you’re ruining your child’s life forever because you’re not feeding her organic alfalfa sprouts mixed with guava juice and your own saliva!”

Here comes the vile green choo-choo train! Eat it up or you’ll never get into Harvard!
  • You’ll find yourself doing gross things.

Sticking your entire face in your baby’s butt to smell if they’ve pooped or peed. Licking a warm brown spot to see if it’s poop or chocolate. Licking your finger to clean off dried bananas on your baby’s face. Then tasting it to make sure it’s banana, not poop. Reaching into your baby’s nose to extract a crusty booger. Digging around in their nostrils like a mama monkey picking nits off her baby. You’ll do all these things in public. At a restaurant. You won’t even care. If it’s disgusting, you’ll do it without batting an eye. You’re a parent now. You’ll be scooping puke out of car seats, changing diapers on top of trash cans at gas station bathrooms, whipping your boob out at Target to feed your screaming baby as nipple pads flutter to the floor in some twisted ticker tape parade. Days of modesty are long gone now. Welcome to survival mode.

Aha! Hold still, I think I see a booger!
  • You’ll do anything for sleep.

My firstborn never slept. My second baby slept much better–sometimes five hour stretches at the age of two months. I’ve seen both sides of the sleep spectrum. I’ve been to hell and back. As a newborn, my son slept an hour if we were lucky. Naturally, we did anything to get him to fall asleep. We sang, hummed, hushed, cooed. We wrapped him in a blanket burrito, bounced him, rocked him, walked in slow circles while hushing and humming the theme to Three’s Company. At one point, we took turns driving him in our car around the block over and over at all hours of the night. Severely sleep deprived, the turning point came at 2 am one night when I saw Mr. Furley standing in my kitchen using my breast pump. This stuff happens. I’m not trying to scare you. Just remember to get, at least, a solid block of four hours sleep, trust me on this one.

Get some sleep soon or this man will haunt your dreams forever.
  • You’ll be so in love, it hurts.

Oh yeah, that baby of yours will steal your heart, rip it right out of your chest, and hold it in their chubby little hands. Pieces of it will break off over time. This is when you realize all the above is worth it. Or that God really did make babies cute, sweet, and lovable for a reason.

As my husband once eloquently put it (after another sleepless night with our newborn son),
“Can we take him back to the hospital? Just for a few hours, so we can get some sleep?”

She’s pretty dang sweet, isn’t she? She still hasn’t given my heart back yet.

So congratulations on the new addition to your family! Savor every moment. Forgive yourself for others. You’ll make mistakes. The first baby is just for practice anyway. You’ll get the hang of it, hopefully by your second or third.

And I’ll be here for any parenting advice.

My best advice: Don’t listen to anyone’s advice, especially mine.

Humor · Motherhood

Mom for Hire

OBJECTIVE            To prove that when you notice the huge 10 year gap on my résumé, snicker and ask, “What were you doing all that time?!” I wasn’t merely sitting around twiddling my thumbs and eating bon bons.  (Although some days I did take a few breaks and did just that.)

WORK EXPERIENCE          

2000-2002              Fertility Specialist

  • Managed  and supervised an in-depth  and labor-intensive fertility project overseeing one disgruntled employee.
  • Daily progress was tracked with temperature readings, charts, graphs and my husband whining, “Do we have to do this AGAIN?!”
  • Goal was achieved after attending several meetings with various nurses, OB-GYNs and finally one prayer-filled seminar with The Big Guy in the Sky.
  • Assisted in creating an entire human being using only my body.
  •  Increased members of family by one healthy baby boy, increased household grocery consumption by 50%, decreased maternal brain cells by 30%.

2002-2003                Newborn Coordinator

  • Directed various sleep studies involving the length of time it takes for a subject to start hallucinating giant gummy bears dancing in the kitchen in relation to the few minutes of choppy haze-induced slumber one has per night.
  • Involved in product evaluations. Determined diaper wipe warmers are about as useful as another a hole in the head.  Also, breast pumps are not more effective if you crank the setting up to maximum and grit your teeth to get through the searing pain.
  • Managed one colicky baby every night for three months and implemented several tactics such as, walking baby around in circles while shushing, driving baby around neighborhood at 2 am and sobbing hysterically along with baby.

2003-2006                   Developmental Therapist/Lead Teacher

  • Lead instructor for a toddler child with sensory issues and more energy than an Energizer Bunny on speed fighting with the Tazmanian Devi in the midst of a hurricane..
  • Taught child how to count, how to recite the alphabet. Instructed child on proper hygiene, sleep habits, eating habits, social decorum. Lessons included: Hot Wheels are not for the toilet. Crayons are not edible. The cat is not a giant fuzzy doll that hisses. Addressed behavioral issues. For example, how not to hit, bite, kick another human being.
  • Subjects included: Respect, Kindness, Love, Curiosity, Imagination
  • Daily therapy provided:  giggling hysterically, dancing like everyone was watching, and running around the outdoors with wild abandon. Seeing the simple beauty, magic and joy in everyday things.
  • Goals achieved: 1) Raised one loving, caring, sweet, happy boy  2) Increased heart capacity by 1000%.

2006 to present             Mom Extraordinaire

  • Aided and assisted in creating and maintaining another human being using only my body.
  • Supervised two active, clever, bordering on maniacal children on a daily basis.
  • Provided safe, loving, nurturing home.
  • Taught subjects such as: sharing, caring, taking turns, being respectful of others, loving oneself
  • Goals Achieved: 1) Raised one sweet, loving, caring, happy girl. 2) Increased heart capacity by infinity.
  • Other Duties as Assigned: Chef, referee, maid, chauffeur, coach, dish washer, singer, dancer, party planner, counselor, public relations, nurse, doctor, teacher, professional hugger, boo-boo kisser, hand-holder, tear-wiper, confidence-builder and self-esteem engineer

SKILLS AND QUALIFICATIONS

    • Time Management  Able to flip pancakes, clean ketchup off ceiling, figure out an algebraic equation, unclog toilet filled with Polly Pockets, do 10 loads of laundry, drive kids to various practices, classes and play dates simultaneously.
    • Debating  Successfully presented and defended stance that Halloween candy consumed in large quantities for breakfast is a bad idea; flinging a Barbie at your brother’s head is a bad idea; jumping off the roof of the house into a snowbank wearing only underwear is a bad idea.
    • Patience  Able to withstand endless hours of ‘Why?’ questions, followed by listening to relentless whining, Spongebob episodes and sibling games of “But I’m Not Really Touching You!”  and “Stinky Feet”.
    • Love  Provided endless quantities on an as-needed basis until my heart hurt.

References Available Upon Maturity of Children.
Ask them how I did in 15 years. My guess is not too shabby.

Motherhood · reflections

Always Remember This Thing Called Love

The night before my son’s recent ninth birthday, he sat down on the couch next to me, heaved a sigh and said, “Tomorrow, I become a man.” I wiped away a tear, giving him a brief hug before he squirmed away in horror and ran off. He was right–he was becoming a young man right before my very eyes.  A bittersweet pang filled my heart.

A few minutes later, I heard a commotion in his room. When I walked in, he was jumping on his bed. Grinning at me, he yelled, “Hey, Mom! Check this out! I can jump so high, I can kick my own butt!”  I was never so proud than at that very moment. Seems this manhood phase might not be so near on the horizon. All was right again with my world. He will always be my baby boo.

The day our firstborn came into our lives, I had just endured 24 plus hours of excrutiating back labor. My son was sunny-side up. (I hardly think such a painful predicament should be compared to how one prefers their eggs for breakfast, so I like to say my son was ass-backward.) This produced depths of pain I had never knew existed. Most of the labor was a blur of me screaming expletives, my husband running frantically around with a cold washcloth, and my desperate attempt to concentrate on a focal point to get through the waves of spine-splitting contractions. My focal point was a cluster of a few bright red leaves on a tall maple tree outside the hospital window. Every year, when fall comes and the leaves start to turn, I am transported right back to the day my entire world changed. My son came into my life.

When the nurse placed him into my arms, it was as if a tiny warm piece of heaven had been gently placed inside my soul. The light inside me grew–radiating into every fiber and pore of my being as I gazed down at my baby boy. How did I ever not know my son? It seemed my entire life, he was always here, just out of reach. Now he was gurgling and cooing in my embrace in a hospital room.  We were finally together.

At first, my husband and I struggled with the typical newborn issues: sleep deprivation, breastfeeding difficulties, reflux. But soon we both realized something was very wrong.  At four weeks old, he was pale, not gaining weight and sleeping no more than an hour at a time before his heart-wrenching screams began again.  The pediatrician assured us that this was normal with colicky babies.  I was sent home with a dreadful weight of anxiety crushing down onto my shoulders. We rarely slept. And when I did manage to dream, they were filled with my son’s cries and me reaching out for him, unable to soothe his pain.

By six weeks old, my husband demanded they give our son an ultrasound. This wasn’t just normal colic or reflux that was tormenting our sweet baby boy.  Our doctor consented just to appease us, still attributing our worries to being first-time parents. I fed him a bottle, then an abdominal ultrasound was performed with my son in my lap. He writhed and cried with such agony, my heart felt like it might shatter. I looked into my husband’s eyes, hollowed from lack of sleep and constant worry. Then our son vomited, like he had been doing for weeks on end.   Suddenly, the technician’s eyes grew wide and a doctor was called in. “You need to pack your bags and head straight to Maine Med,” he said.  “He needs emergency surgery, right away.”

In a rush of panic, we arrived at the hospital and a surgeon met us in a little waiting room. Our son had pyloric stenosis, a congenital condition seen in newborns. According to the surgeon, the opening that leads from the stomach to the intestine was completely blocked by his pylorus muscle. It had grows to about two and a half times normal size.  He would need immediate abdominal surgery and a tiny incision would be made to allow the milk to pass through again.  All this time, the milk (having no place to go) was going back up his throat, effectively burning it with the stomach acids. Thankfully, it was a relatively easy procedure and he was almost guaranteed a full and healthy recovery. The tears started to flow with the tremendous relief that we finally knew how to help our baby boy and  ease his torment.

The next night was spent hovering over my baby, an NG tube slowing draining his stomach contents. I was almost delirious with no sleep and constant worry. I softly sang, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” as he continued to choke and sputter while the tube did its job.  In my haze, I pressed the nurse’s button almost every hour. A nurse would appear, assuring me that he was not choking and he would be okay. But nothing could untie the knot of worry deep in my gut.

The next morning, my husband and I stood in a long dark hallway and held hands as we prepared to watch our son being wheeled away to the OR in a cold steel crib. The nurse had offered to put a small teddy bear inside the crib for us and I cried as she placed it right next to his tiny body. I reached down to kiss his cheek and he was gone.

The surgery was a complete success and our son was soon back in our arms. He would recover quickly. I could already see a faint light in his eyes as the nurse helped me feed him from a bottle. My sweet bubbly baby was slowing coming back to us. Yet he would need to stay at the hospital for two more days.

A nurse we hadn’t seen before helped us get settled into a private room. We prepared ourselves for another noisy sleepless night, sitting upright in a hard chair. We only wanted to make sure our son was okay and refused to leave him. The nurse shut the door and gently suggested we leave him there and go to a hotel so we could finally catch up on our sleep. My husband wearily looked at me and raised his brow. The idea of any sleep was tempting, but we both felt tremendous guilt at the idea of leaving our son, even for a few hours.

The nurse put her hand on my shoulder, her voice dropping into a faint but stern whisper. “Listen. You two married each other because of one thing: Love. And that love has helped to create a beautiful child. You need to remember why you had your son in the first place. Go to the hotel. Be together.” Her smile radiated such warmth and comfort, I knew she was right and that my son would be fine, even if we left.  She cradled our son in her arms. “I’ll help you get a hotel room and I will call you to make sure you checked in okay.” My husband and I simply nodded, our minds still a muddled mess. “My name is Michelle, by the way,” she added, smiling again.

Later at the hotel, the bliss of uninterrupted sleep quickly washed over us. Six hours later, I awoke to a dark room and checked my cell phone. There was a message from our nurse, Michelle. “Hello again, it’s Michelle,” her soothing voice filled the room. “I want to make sure you are both okay and settled into the hotel. Don’t worry about anything. Your son will be just fine. Take care of each other and don’t forget what I told you. Always remember.”

After a few days, our son was being released from the hospital. Our worries were lifted as he began to thrive and eat like a normal baby. His chubby cheeks had color again and my heart felt at peace. I wanted to thank the amazing nurses at Maine Medical Center before we left.  I approaced the nurse’s station and asked if Michelle was on duty that day. I wanted to thank her personally for what she did for us. The nurse gave me a confused look.

“Michelle? There is no nurse here by that name.”

My husband and I looked down at our son, wiggling in his car seat.

“Are you sure?” I asked with a nervous laugh.

“I’ve been here for years and know of no Michelle, sorry,” the nurse insisted.

As the weeks went by, we both would bring up Michelle and attempt to attach some explanation to it. But we know in our hearts, her words were true. And we will never forget them.

To my son:

We helped to bring you into this world with our love.
And we will always be here to hold you up with our love.
Always remember
We love you so very much.

Happy birthday, baby boo.

Motherhood · reflections

Baby Talk

Whenever someone tells me how many kids they have, I usually respond with, “Well, I only have two and believe me, that’s all I need. I am happy with the two.” One of my friends has seven kids. In this day and age, she may as well be telling people she owns a White Bengal tiger. She is always quick to say that no, she is not nuts and yes, she wanted seven kids. She is happy with the chaos.  Considering some days I can barely handle the two I have, I bow down to her Super-Mama-Greatness.

But maybe she just had lots of practice. I would hope by the seventh child, you’d have some idea of what it takes to be a good mom. Could I be a Supermama, too? Could I ever possess that calm, clear-headed confidence she has? I had my doubts.

I know my four year old is my last child. Every milestone that goes by, my husband and I sigh, “well, no more diapers, no more binkies, no more sippies, no more tantrums” (she still has tantrums, but I prefer to call them diva moments now). Watching my kids grow out of these trying stages, we are relieved and sad at the same time. So it was surprising that I decided to take on a friend’s three month old baby this spring.

She is all sugar-n-spice and instantly charmed me with her drooly toothless smiles and the rolls on her chunky thighs. Oh and her feet, they’re so tiny! And look at her little fingers wrapped around mine! Oh! And she’s light as a feather! I can’t even pick up my own kids anymore, so this was something that warmed my heart. The first day I babysat her, I was gone. I nestled her little body in the crook of my neck and gently shushed her to sleep. I never thought I’d be holding a baby so soon again. And I realized something as the months flew by–she was easy. Easy to feed, easy to change, easy to play with, easy to put down for a nap. It was remarkable how good I was at this baby thing. Have I become the Baby Whisperer? I said to my husband, man, I could have had three kids and I would have been just fine. After years of second-guessing every mommy move I made with my own kids, I discovered that when it comes to raising a baby, I can do this! And do it well.

I didn’t always have this confidence. I was that constantly frazzled and worried helicopter mom. More like a dive bomber plane ready to swoop in at the first sign of distress. Now, looking back, I realize sometimes my swooping only made the situation more anxiety-filled. I hovered over my firstborn son, fretting and trying to anticipate every thing that could go wrong (but never did). Add to that the seed of mommy guilt sprouting in my mind that I wasn’t doing the “right” thing, I was a mess those first few years of my son’s life.

Yo, Mama! Chill out! I won't be this young forever y'know...

I’d be on edge listening to him on the baby monitor. Was he crying? Was he okay? Was he breathing? I’d take him out for a walk in the stroller. Is the sun too hot? Is the wind blowing in his face too much? Does he need his binky? Will he be sucking on this binky until he’s 15 years old and suffering from the world’s worst overbite?  Shouldn’t he be potty trained by now? Will he be the first kindergartner to wear diapers to school? Why does he keep calling milk “guk”? Shouldn’t he be fluent in three languages by now? Oh, the pressure I put myself under.

I think back to this old state of mind and shake my head. I wish I could tell that woman to chill out a little, enjoy your son while he’s still young.  Thankfully, by our second baby I had a chance to push all of those little nagging fears out of my head. I didn’t rush every milestone. I knew that most likely, my daughter would learn to walk (i.e., tear apart the entire house) and talk (i.e., never stop talking) in her own time.

Why rush things, Mama? Look at how sweet I am!

On top of this, I had to endure the constant “advice” from others (moms and non-moms alike). You’re not breastfeeding? You’re not bottle-feeding? You’re not cloth-diapering? You are cloth-diapering? You’re not playing the baby Mozart tunes in utero? With my first child I actually used to listen to these comments. Now, I couldn’t care less what others think about how I’m raising my child. I figure out what works best and go with it. Simple.

And with this new little baby I’m taking care of this summer, it’s all gravy. Why wasn’t it this easy with my own kids? I suppose I have the benefit of taking care of her on a full night’s sleep. I enjoy her giggles and coos for a bit and then get to hand her back to her parents at the end of the day. Must be how grandparents feel.

If only I had lived more in the moment when my kids were babies, if only I had the sense to let all of those insignificant anxieties go. Thankfully, my kids are still young and I can redeem myself and know I have the chance to savor these moments.

And wait to be a grandma.

Me and my baby brother (showing off my nurturing side already!)
My dad, showing me how it's done.