A Bit of Sunshine

Please join us in welcoming Michele to Mama Might!

When my husband started graduate school a year and half ago, I remember standing in the door frame of our new apartment with my six month old in my arms as he left for school the first day. A feeling of dread washed over me as I realized that I was stuck in 650 square feet with a baby. I had nothing on my agenda. It was blank for not just for the day but for weeks.

After a few long days, I realized a few things. If I didn’t get out of bed, no one would care. If my house was a mess, no one would see it. If my hair didn’t get brushed or if lunch consisted of eating Cheerios out of the box, no one would ever know. There weren’t cookies brought over by neighbors. There were no lunch dates or play dates. I went to a few church activities but would come home in tears begging my husband to move. There was a little extra sting because even my sweet husband was busy with his new school. As hard as he tried, he couldn’t see what my life was like at home when he was gone (which was most of the time). I had a chronically sick, crying baby and nowhere to go.

I felt completely invisible.

Now, I’m not one to sit and mope. I’m a generally happy person and I believe that life is what you make of it. After six weeks of sitting around, I went and got a nanny job with the only requirement being that my baby could come with me. Over the next year, my daughter and I created a happy life. We worked in other people’s homes. We went to flea markets and the beach. She and I explored farmer’s markets and libraries on weekends. I set goals for myself, such as walking outside for at least thirty minutes a day and to get rid of any possession that I didn’t want to clean. Through my adventures and goals, my life turned into something that was uniquely created by me, and I was enjoying it.

The thing that I kept pushing in the back of my mind was we were not at home. It was still true that if our beds were not made and dishes had not been done, that no one would notice. If we did not go out of the house, no one would care or miss us. And while I was aware of it, decided that I was perfectly okay with that because I was happy.

Then one day this all changed. A lady advertized on Freecycle that she needed a blender. I had a blender that was only used for making milkshakes, and I thought, “Eh, why not, she can have it. I don’t like cleaning it anyway.” I emailed her back telling her that she could come pick it up the next day at 2:00 PM. I thought that would be a great time. My daughter and the baby I am currently watching in my home were both usually napping by then. It shouldn’t be a problem.

Famous last words, right? I think it’s needless to say, but the next day did not go according to plan. The little guy I was watching got his first teeth in that day and would not stop crying. My daughter took advantage of this and decided to do all the things that her toddler mind wanted to do that I never would let her. When I put her down for her nap, she put her feet up against the wall and kicked it repeatedly. At one point, I realized one of the thumps was a bit off rhythm, and I realized, “Oh! There is someone at the door.” It was the lady from Freecycle, and I had completely forgotten. I opened the door frazzled and ran to the kitchen, grabbed the blender, and shoved it in her arms. She was trying to thank me and explain that she needed it to can peaches. I forced a smile and told her that it was nap time and sent her on her way.

A few hours later when I regained a bit more control, I felt so embarrassed that I treated her that way! I was so rude. I set her a quick email apologizing and then forgot about the incident (probably as my toddler shoved a roll of toilet paper down the toilet).

Exactly two weeks later, there was a knock on the door. I was surprised to see the lady from Freecycle standing at the door again. She was standing at the door looking nervous. She said to me, “Michele, I brought this for you. Thanks so much for giving me your blender. I really needed it to can all the salsa from my garden.” She then gave me a bag telling me it was for my baby and then left.

I opened the bag and inside was a beautiful yellow blanket with a card. The card said, “Here’s a blanket I made for your daughter. I hope it brings a little sunshine to your day. I know how hard it is to be a mom, but what you are doing is important. Best regards.”

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I put down the card and sobbed. The feeling of validation and love I felt in that moment was overwhelming. Even now as I type this tears are falling from eyes when I think of the tenderness of that moment. This random stranger came to my home and for the few minutes she was there she got a glimpse of my lonelier part of motherhood. She saw the mess. She saw my wrinkled and stained shirt. She saw me trying to comfort an upset baby on my hip with my toddler in another room needing my attention. She saw me trying, and she decided to acknowledge me as a person. She even remembered my name.

I don’t know much about her, other than her name and email, but I often wonder if she’s a mother. I would love to know how she learned to be so perceptive and to reach out. I learned from her how much one gesture can feed another person’s soul. I made a new resolution that day to be more like her- to keep both eyes open and to not let fear get in the way of reaching out to people. After all, you never know who is feeling invisible and needs a little reassurance that they exist and are important.

MicheleMichele is a stay-at-home mom of an almost two year old in Princeton, NJ. She spends her time figuring out how to live a fulfilling life while her husband goes to graduate school. Some of her current interests are trying to live a zero-waste lifestyle, Futurama, RIE parenting, and Waldorf schooling. She is on a first name basis with her local librarians and cupcake bakers and can be found reading some random non-fiction on the children’s floor on Thursdays afternoons. You can read more of her life at her own blog, Aisle 11.

 

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My True Love Letter

“A real love letter is made of insight, understanding, and compassion. Otherwise it’s not a love letter. A true love letter can produce a transformation in the other person, and therefore in the world…Some letters may take the whole of our lifetime to write.”  –Thich Nhat Hanh

My husband has never written me a love letter.

Over the ten years that we have been a couple, nine of which we have spent as husband and wife, I have never received a love letter from him.  He has purchased beautiful cards on (almost) every birthday, anniversary, mother’s day, and Christmas we have shared.  Most of them have brought tears to my eyes and warmth to my heart.  Many have made me smile, and a couple of them have made me laugh out loud.  Some of them have been short, sweet, and simple in their delivery of a loving message and some have covered three sides of card-stock with words so beautiful that I can’t believe they are meant for me.   Although I do not doubt that my husband has chosen these cards deliberately and with great care, they are nonetheless cards filled with words written by someone other than the man giving them to me.

I have every card I have ever received from him.  I keep them in a clear plastic tote next to our filing cabinet, and the fire-safe box that holds important documents, the kids’ ultra-sound photos, our wedding video, and three tiny wisps of baby hair in varying shades of brown.

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I have hinted at the idea of a love letter at various times over the decade we have spent by each others’ side.  I wrote one to him in hopes that he would write one back.  I have come right out and asked him to write me a letter.  He has yet to pick up a pen, sit down with a sheet of paper, and put his feelings for me into words that I can read over and over again and cherish in a special box for the rest of my life.  He has never written me a love letter.

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He has spent hundreds of hours transforming the woods that pressed against our house, making me feel isolated and anxious, into a gorgeous yard where I feel relaxed and truly home.

He has held my hand at funerals, gotten out of his seat to find a tissue, and then helped me wipe my tears so my mascara doesn’t smear.

He has gone out for Honey Nut Cheerios, in his pyjamas, at eleven o’clock at night.  Without a single disparaging comment directed towards his very pregnant, and very unreasonable, wife.

He has stood by my bedside, holding my hand, offering sips of water, tracking down pink popsicles, and whispering words that kept me calm and helped me focus three times as I laboured babies into our lives.

He has tucked our boys into bed at night so gently and sweetly that I have stood in the hallway outside their door with tears in my eyes from the joy of having a man like him as the father of my children.

He has called out a sweet greeting to our tiny daughter as I bring her down the stairs and into the kitchen where he has been making breakfast for the boys, every morning since she’s been born.

He has thoughtfully offered insight after listening to millions of my words, tumbling out of my mouth at mach speed, more times than I care to remember.  He has held me and said, “I understand”, more times than I can count.

He has forgiven me over and over and over and over.

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He is kind.  He is not jealous.  He never thinks of himself.  He does not get angry.  He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

He has come home to me every single day for ten years.

He has never written me a love letter.

Instead, my husband has given me his whole life.  Every choice he makes is largely driven by his decision to love and provide for us.

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Every time he wipes up a milk spill, every time he offers me a smile at the end of a long day, every arm tossed over my shoulders in the middle of the night, every cold, dark trip to the emergency room with a feverish child, every financial sacrifice he makes for the sake of our future, every piece of toast he gets up to butter so I can have ten more minutes in bed, every phone call I get from him while he’s at work, every flower he sends to me from the backyard in the hands of one of our sons, every time he drives our loaded mini-van to church on Sunday morning, every time he kisses us goodnight, every time he laughs with me after a rough week, he adds to the manuscript he has been working on since the day he asked me to share his life with him.

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His life is the love letter he writes to me every single day.  And when I take the time to read it, it changes me from a woman who longs for words written on paper, to a woman who knows what it means to read love in every act, every step, every moment of a life lived together.

**Shout out to Lisa-Jo Baker for writing the beautiful post that was my inspiration for this one!**

Where Are Your Stories?

**Please join us in welcoming Stéphanie to Mama Might**

Where are you, you women longing to pour out your hearts, express your anger, your desperation, and your grief?  You women longing to bring forth a life, but to whom nature has been unkind.  You, who have been told by your doctor that you suffer from a hormonal imbalance, anxiety, or from some other gynecological issue.  You, who have been told by society that your problem isn’t real, and that it must be all in your head.  (After all, you just need to relax, right?)

After eight years of struggling with infertility, I am still searching for these women.  Thank God, some have chosen to reveal themselves to me.  It is thanks to them that I am able to understand my own struggles more fully.  It would seem, however, that most of us choose to remain hidden, cloaked in desperation and shame.   Unfortunately, many of us feel abnormal, misunderstood, and worst of all, alone.  Instead of shaking free from our prison of misery, we choose to stay closed off, wrapped in our grief, plagued by emptiness. It is rare to find someone willing to share their story of infertility with the world.  However, I believe that the world needs to see and hear us, and more importantly, that we need to see and hear each other so that our burden of isolation may be lifted. This is why I have chosen to put my experience into words; not only to lend my voice to those who need to be heard, but also to help those close to them more fully understand their struggle. This is my story.
I would describe my infertility as a state of exile.  My spirit searched obsessively, not only for a way to escape my despair, but also for a way to be included in the miracle of pregnancy.  During this time I began to question and lose faith in every detail and aspect of my being.  I was suspicious of the food I ate, the vitamins I swallowed, and the drugs I was prescribed.  Worst of all I began to distrust my own body which seemed to betray me month after month.  Why, it couldn’t even do something that should have been as natural as breathing!  In the same way that I lost faith in my body, I also began to lose respect for it.  I embarked on a journey of painful fertility treatments that came with a broad spectrum of horrible side-effects.
In addition to the physical toll of infertility, my exile also greatly affected my social life and my relationships with others. Since it was difficult to watch other women easily achieve my most elusive dream, it was painful to act normal around them and be sympathetic as they described their pregnancy woes.  Little did they know I would have given anything for leg cramps and heart-burn! Their beautiful, round bellies became demons that haunted me, whispering to me what a failure I was. I began to avoid places where pregnant women might be, or where families with multiple children were present.  As a result, it is not surprising to me that my infertility destroyed some friendships.  I lost friends by avoiding them during their pregnancies or, even worse, by poorly expressing the way I was feeling about their pregnancies.  It became a vicious cycle of heartbreak that began once I learned that yet another friend was expecting, and ended with the greater pain of eventually losing that friend altogether. I dearly miss those friends, every day.
Just like a lonely prisoner who dreams of being rescued, each of my monthly cycles would begin with a small glimmer of hope.  But as the cycle progressed, that small, bright bit of hope would gradually fade until the tiny spark was extinguished in a flood of disappointment.  “Making Love” became “Making a Baby”.  This beautiful act became a means to an end, and a source of deep anxiety.  Once the period of ovulation had passed, my anxiety would become nearly unbearable.  Sleep, my only reprieve from the stress, would vanish during those two weeks of hellish waiting.  When my cycle began again each month without fail, I would again be forced to accept that the dream of motherhood had evaded me once more, and I would feel like an imbecile for having the audacity to even hope that it might have been different this time. I would tell myself that enough was enough, and that I was through hoping, through trying.  But each time I told myself I had given up I would quickly forget my resolve to stop trying, roll up my sleeves, put my faith back in God, and  pick up the fight at the beginning of each new cycle.  Thanks be to God for the gift of this beautiful faith!  I believe with all my heart that one day a second child will come as a gift from my Lord, just as my first child was.
Despite the years of suffering and the loss of several pregnancies, my deepest happiness was the delivery of a little gift which miraculously arrived from the Lord five years ago.  My husband and I waited for this miracle for three long years.  And we have now been waiting for four years for a little brother or sister to join our sweet angel.  Only God knows when this second miracle will arrive, and I remind myself everyday to have patience.
I am deeply thankful for our first little blessing, and filled with sympathy for those who wait for one of their own.  With the help of God, and other women like you, I eventually made peace with my cross.  Beautiful round bellies and all the other wonderful gifts of pregnancy no longer haunt me.  All I can say to those of you who are waiting for your first, second, or third child is please don’t lose hope.  Know that you are not alone.  And above all, don’t be afraid to share your story so we can know, pray for, and support one another.

*This post has been translated from its original French by Amanda Winsor.*

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My name is Stephanie and I am a wife, a mom, a teacher and an owner of a (very small) tutoring/educational products business. I have three passions in life: my husband, my son and teaching. My life is filled with blessings and I do my very best to live it according to my faith.  Here is my post in its original French.
Ou sont passées toutes ces femmes qui voudrait raconter, crier leur rage, leur desespoir leur chagrin. Ces femmes qui veulent mettre quelqun au monde, mais qui ne sont pas choyées par la nature. Qui se font dire par les médecins qu’elles ont un problème d’hormones, d’anxiété ou d’autres problèmes gynécologiques. Qui se font dire par la société que leur problème ce n’est pas un vrai problème parce que ça se passe sûrement dans leur tête. Après tout, elle n’ont seulement qu’à relaxer!
Suite à 8 ans de bataille avec mes propres problèmes d’infertilité je cherche toujours la plupart de ces femmes. Dieu merci, certaines ce sont dévoilées et c’est grace à elles que je peux me comprendre un peu mieux. Il me semble que la plupart semblent rester cachées dans leur désespoir. Malheureusement, la plupart d’entre nous se sentent anormales, incomprises et seules. Au lieu de sortir de nos chaînes de misères nous restons emmitouflées dans nos couvertures qui empestent la faillite. Rares sont celles qui partagent leur combat avec le monde entier. Le monde a besoin de nous entendre, mais plus important encore, nous avons besoin de nous entendre pour que notre sentiment de solitude puisse au moins être effacé. J’ai choisi de penser sur papier pour aider à celles qui ont besoin d’entrendre et pour aider à leur proche à les comprendre. Voici ce qui se passe en moi:

Je décrirais mon infertilité comme un état d’exile. Un exile ou mon esprit obsède sur un moyen de s’en sortir ou plûtot d’y entrer….entrer dans le miracle de la grossesse. Mon être entier perd confiance et doute tout ce qui l’entoure: la nourriture que j’ingère, les suppléments que j’avale, les médicaments qu’on me donne et pire encore mon propre corps qui me déçoit cycle après cycle. Mon corps ne peut même pas accomplir un acte naturel comme l’est ma respiration, ma digestion ou mes battements de coeur. Comme la confiance est minimisée, j’ai l’impression que le respect que j’apporte à mon corps est conformément perdu et je m’embarque dans des traitements qui sont douloureux et qui viennent avec un baggage d’effets secondaires.
Mon exile attaque également ma vie sociale et mes relations. Parce que c’est très difficile de voir plusieurs femmes atteindre facilement mon plus grand rêve il est pénible pour moi de vivre impédueusement autour d’elles. De mon côté je prie pour les douleurs et les maux de coeurs. Les belles bedaines rondes deviennent des démons qui me hantent et qui murmurent à mon âme que je suis une faillite. J’essaie donc souvent d’éviter les endroits ou plusieurs femmes enceintes peuvent s’y retrouver ou plusieurs familles nombreuses sont présentes. Ce n’est donc pas surprenant que mon infertilité a détruite des amitiés. Ces amies ont été perdues car je les ai évitées pendant leur grossesse ou parce que je n’ai pas exprimer mes sentiments de façon appropriée lorsque je me sentais au bas-fond en leur compagnie. Je les manques beaucoup. C’est un cycle vicieux qui commence avec des pincements au coeur de voir ces amies enceintes et qui se termine par de plus grands pincements au coeur de les avoir perdues.
Tout comme une exilée qui voit un mirage, chaque cycle commence avec une lueur d’espoir. Au fur et à mesure que le cycle avance, l’atteinte du mirage devient de plus en plus obsédante. “Faire l’amour” devient “faire un bébé “. Le geste devient un outil et devient angoissant. Une fois l’ovulation complétée l’anxiété devient pratiquement insoutenable et je me touve à rêver à pouvoir dormir pendant ces deux semaines d’enfer pour ne pas avoir à faire face au stress qu’apporte l’attente. Finalement, au bout du cycle je realise que ce n’était encore qu’un mirage et je me sens idiote d’avoir espéré au rêve. Je m’y suis fait prendre encore une fois. Je me dis que c’est assez que je ne m’y ferai plus prendre… mais j’oublie rapidement, me remonte les manche, met ma foi en Dieu et je recommence mon manège le cycle suivant. Merci pour cette belle foi. Je sais qu’un jour ce deuxième enfant me viendra du Seigneur comme l’a été le premier.

Même avec ces années de souffrances et la perte de plusieurs grossesses. Mon plus grand bonheur est l’accomplissement d’un petit miracle que le Seigneur m’a envoyé 5 ans passés. Mon mari et moi avons attendu pratiquement 3 ans pour notre amour. Voila maintenant quatre ans que nous attendons pour un petit frère ou une petite soeur pour notre petit ange. Seul Dieu sait quand un deuxième miracle nous sera envoyé. Je l’entend me dire… patience. Je suis reconnaissante pour notre première bénédiction et je suis remplie de sympathie pour celle qui essaie d’atteindre leur première accouchement. Tout ce que je peux avouer à celles qui attendez pour votre premier, deuxième ou troisième enfant ne perdez pas espoir et souvenez-vous que nous ne sommes pas seules. Dévoilez-vous pour que nous puissions nous reconnaître et s’entraider.

If She Only Knew…

Tonight while browsing through some different blogs, I came across a post, written almost exactly three years ago, which had a profound impact on me as I began to read through it.

It was written by a young mom of “two under two” and was called “Breast vs. Bottle”.

Okay…wait, wait, wait.   Before you roll your eyes and say, “Oh brother, here we go again with the whole “Booby Wars” debacle!”, let me tell you why this particular post got to me.

The first thing that struck me about this post was that the young woman writing it was obviously over-stressed, sleep-deprived, scared, and sad.  (I dare you to show me a young mother out there who can’t relate to that!)  Like all of us, she was struggling.  Like most robust, healthy, four month old males, her baby was hungry a lot of the time. The gist of the post was that she desperately wanted to exclusively nurse her son, after having “failed” to do so with her firstborn, but was having supply problems.    She nursed, he cried for hours.  She felt like a failure.  She supplemented, he slept like a log.  She felt like a failure.  She obsessively kept track of how many ounces of formula he required, and she despaired as that number grew higher and higher.

As I read, I could feel my eyes well up with tears of sympathy and sorrow until they eventually spilled over and rolled down my cheeks.  “If you only knew!”,  I whispered.  I wanted to hug her.  I wanted to talk to her, and tell her what a great job she was doing.  I wanted to help her understand that no mother, anywhere, was more perfect for her son than she was.  That she was a gift from God to that boy and that having a body which for unknown, and uncontrollable reasons, was not producing enough breast milk to satisfy a ravenous four month old, did not turn that truth into a lie.  I wanted to tell her to spend her time rocking, snuggling, giggling, singing, smiling, SLEEPING, and enjoying.  For I have learned that crying only blurs our sight, blinding us to the joy that is always there if only we would have eyes clear enough to see it.

I wanted to tell her that in exactly three years her sweet baby boy will the picture of perfect health.

I wanted to tell her that he will be one of the smartest children his age that she has ever met.

I wanted to tell her that when he smiles, which will be all the time, that people will be struck by the pure joy in his eyes.

That strangers will stop her in the supermarket to tell her how beautiful he is.

That he will do a mean Tasmanian Devil impersonation.

That he will love peanut butter sandwiches and cucumber slices for breakfast.

That he will struggle to hold heavy doors open for ladies, just like his daddy taught him.

That he will cover his ears and run away whenever she starts to sing.

That he will tell her approximately 250 times a day that he loves her “to the moon and back!”

And above all I wanted to tell her that when she tucks him into bed every night and asks him what he would like to say to Jesus, that he will sweetly and innocently thank God for his “precious Mommy.”

And that three years from now, she won’t be wasting time counting ounces because she will be far too busy counting blessings.