Brothers and Sisters

As a highly experienced mother of two – three weeks, two days and counting! – I’m starting to realize that almost nothing in the world gives me greater joy than watching my two babies love on each other. Currently that love flows most visibly in one direction: Carter to Aila. But, I’m sure somewhere in her sleeping, pooping, nursing brain, Aila Baby is registering all of Carter’s affections and learning to love because of them. Continue reading “Brothers and Sisters”

Angel Babies

“Oh, Joanna.”

“The baby stopped growing at five weeks. There is no heartbeat. I’m so sorry.”

Andy and I stared at the ultrasound screen, searching for hope. But there was nothing. The strangest part is we were devastated, but we weren’t surprised. Instead of being filled with joy about my pregnancy, I had been consumed with worry and fear for eight weeks. I couldn’t sleep at night. When my doctor told us the news, it almost made sense.

I couldn’t stop the train of self-blame running through my mind. Was it something I ate? The thyroid test I put off too long? A work out I tried? Stress? Weak prayers?

Fear and doubt followed soon after. Would I be able to have more children?

There were bouts of total calm and random attacks of uncontrollable crying. There were waves of gratitude. For Carter. For Andy. For an early not late-term miscarriage. For those who prayed for our family. For Christ and the comforting touch of the Spirit.

The miscarriage happened when I was at the EPAPA graduation, celebrating with former students and colleagues. Between speeches, hugs, pictures and laughter, I ran to the bathroom every few minutes as my body bled. Though the clash of conflicting feelings was jarring, this timing felt like a tremendous blessing.

The EPAPA community of students, parents and teachers became my second family when I worked there. My students will always be my babies – even if they think they’re so grown –  and my colleagues became my closest friends. Graduation was a reuniting of family members in a celebration of dreams fulfilled. The love and joy of the occasion lifted my heart and spirits. I was genuinely happy. It’s crazy, but having a miscarriage during graduation gave me the love, hope and strength to endure my heartbreak. God truly works in mysterious – and perfect – ways.

He blessed Andy and me in other ways as well.

When Carter was a newborn, he used to smile and babble up into the corners of our room, gazing intently at nothing my eyes could see. I think he was talking with angels.

A few weeks before the devastating doctor’s appointment, Andy and I lay in bed trying to put Carter to sleep, but Carter goofballed around. At one point, he played at our feet laughing hysterically and babbling toward the corner of our bedroom. Andy and I laughed, flabbergasted because we had done nothing funny. Carter Bao Bao, I remember asking him, Are you playing with your baby brother? He’ll be here with you soon.

Carter told dad the big news with his Big Brother shoes. We will save them with hope it will happen one day.
I believe we live as spirit beings before we are born to gain our physical bodies. I felt sure that the baby’s spirit had come down to pay his big brother a visit.

After the miscarriage, I couldn’t stop thinking about this bedtime moment. Was it the baby coming to say hi, I’ll be with you soon? Or was the baby saying goodbye, see you in heaven? Had his spirit entered the embryo developing inside me? Did the baby I lost have a spirit? Or was it just a collection of dividing cells?

One day, Andy hugged me and whispered, Our baby’s spirit didn’t come down yet. We didn’t lose one of our children. A feeling of peace washed over me. I knew he was right.

And like that, I began to heal and feel hope again.

I know I have a Father in Heaven who watches out for me. He sends me angels. I have Carter. I have Andy. I have family and friends who lift me with love. I have so many people to love. Even in times of deep pain, God finds ways to ease the burdens and give me peace.

I hope that my angel babies are still up there waiting to come down to join my family. They will come when the time is right.

Taking Back Those Judgy Parenting Thoughts

There’s nothing like having a baby to make you question all the judgmental thoughts you’ve ever had about parents. I think I’ve spent a significant part of the last year and half retracting – outwardly and internally – judgments I’ve made about people and their kids. Traveling for a week in New York City somehow brought these thoughts into sharper focus.

I take it all back. I’m very very very very very very sorry. Please karma, you don’t need to come around for me. I’m embarrassed – no, horrified – to admit I ever thought this way. Here are some judgy-wudgy thoughts that I take back, delete, repent of, erase and throw away forever:

1. People Who Use Children’s Leashes are Inhumane Monsters
I used to glare at people who used leashes on their children with deep disgust. How humiliating and dehumanizing, I would never do that. Just keep up with your kid; how hard can that be?

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

After about ten million heart attacks in the subway/street/park when Carter waddle-ran a little too close to the edge or a little too far away in the crowd, Andy and I kept him strapped into his stroller for the better part of our NYC trip. Carter would rather be running around, but we didn’t want him to get lost/hurt/injured/kidnapped/run over/smooshed…It was super stressful and tiring running after the little dude. Is keeping Boogie strapped into a stroller better than putting him on a leash?

At least on a leash he’d be able to run around.

I still don’t think I’d ever use a leash. But, the thought crossed my mind. I get it now. And I’m sorry I ever judged anyone for using one.

2. Babies Crying on the Plane. Can’t you Get Your Kid Under Control?
Um. Sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry. File this one right next to, “Can’t You Get Your Kid to Stop Kicking My Chair?” Sorry sorry sorry! I take it baaack!

No one is more unhappy or more distressed about the crying plane child than the child or the parents of said child. Period. No one wants the baby to calm down and feel better than his parents. And, when the crying child is kicking and screaming and generally being a hot mess, I’ve learned a little empathy or a high-five-for-braving-travel-with-child is maybe a more appropriate response than an eye roll. And besides, what are parents supposed to do, hop on a private plane? Road trip cross-country?

3. Parents Who Change Kids’ Diapers in Public are Disgusting
I started changing Carter on my brother’s couch one day, and he turned to me to ask disgustedly, “Uh, are you seriously going to change him on my couch???” Apparently this is gross?

Mid-diaper change in Central Park. Hard enough to find a bathroom, let alone a changing table!

Since Carter, my threshold of gross has gone through the roof. Nothing phases me now. Poop on my hand? Eh, a little soap will wash it off. Barf on my face? Wet wipe that mug. Boogers? Oh, I’ll get them with my finger. Or they can slowly dribble down until I find a cloth…later. Pee? A little pee never hurt anyone, keep that onsie on a little longer, it matches better than the ugly backup t-shirt.

As for public changing, I say if you don’t want me to change him in public, install some more changing tables! Especially in restaurants! And men’s bathrooms! It is incredibly hard to find changing tables in public places, and given the choice between wandering around forever looking for one that may or may not exist, I’d rather change the diaper in two minutes right over there on that bench, thank you very much.

4. Why Did You Bring Your Kid to the [Insert Type of Public Place] if S/he is Going To Freak Out? 
I’d like to think that I’ve never looked sideways at the father or mother of a child having a complete melt-down in some public place. That I only thought happy, supportive thoughts to buoy that poor parent in her time of need. But, it’s simply not true.

What was I thinking?? That small children shouldn’t be taken out in public until they can be seen and not heard? That parents of said small children should be quarantined in their homes forever until their children develop a perfect sense of logic, self and social awareness?

I’ve learned that trips outside the home with small children are both sanity-savers and crazy-makers. Now, when I see anyone with one or more small children in tow, I think, More power to you, you brave, courageous soul! I know it took you 45 minutes to run around the house to pack the diapers, bottles, toys, books, clothes, snacks, wipes and shoes. Then another trip back into the house to grab all the stuff you forgot. Plus the constant stress of splitting your brain in half: one half to do whatever it is you left the house to do – buy groceries, play at the park, return books at the library – and one half tending to the needs and safety of your little humans. I’m amazed that you are fully dressed and wearing shoes! You deserve a medal!

5. Why Are You Letting Everyone Else Take Care of Your Kid?
Sometimes, in big groups, I’d watch parents sit back and let all the other adults take care of their children. And I would wonder, Isn’t that your job?

I love love love love love my little Booger more than anything in the world. Spending time with him (and Andy!) is the joy of my life. But sometimes, breaks are nice. Super super nice. They don’t come often. If there is someone willing to run around after Carter I will take the opportunity in a heartbeat!

I’m grateful to every kind person who has whispered to me, Don’t worry, I’ve been there. Thankful for the sweet strangers who have offered me help. Filled with love for those who have held and played with Carter; smiled at him and waved when he trips down the airplane aisle; or who have laughed when he tries to grab their phones.

And to all those judgy-wudgy jerkfaces like me of yesteryear? I say, if you’re lucky, your time will come. Until then, turn those little glaring eyeballs elsewhere!