Sunday, March 12, 2017


The first few months of parenting should only be graded on a pass/fail basis.

Is everyone alive by nightfall?  Congratulations.  You passed. 

For a while, the fact that Bobby was fed, clean and breathing was my only validation.  “Is he happy?”  I wondered.  “Does he feel safe?  Does he know who I am and how much I love him?”  These concepts are unfortunately too nuanced for a newborn grading rubric.

But at three months something amazing happened.  On Christmas morning as we changed Bobby into his festive pajamas, he let out a soft but distinct giggle.    

“Ha-whooo” he chirped, smiling up at the family around him.


My daily goal became making Bobby laugh.  Grunt like a monkey?  No problem.  Pant like a dog?  You got it.  Recreate the sensation of flight while singing the Superman theme song?  Up, up and away!

Then last week we graduated to a new, exciting level.  For the first time ever, my son saw me.

We stretched out on my bed facing one another.  He pushed his little palm against mine and marveled at how our hands looked together.  Then he gazed into my eyes and smiled.  Like two acquaintances sharing their first profound conversation, I could feel us forming an even deeper friendship.


Sure, my definition of a good day has changed.  It's not great when Bobby takes a giant crap on my new pants --- but it can still be a great day.  He'll look up at me with those big, beautiful eyes; smile with the recognition that I'm his mommy and suddenly I'm whole again. 

This plus the 'poop curve' work out to about a B.

If perfection is a drug, motherhood is cold-turkey rehab.  Throughout my recovery, I've discovered it's possible (for the first time in my life) to embrace the small joys amidst the chaos.  I've developed a tolerance for those C- days and it's honestly one of the greatest gifts motherhood has given me.

As Don Henley once wrote "all the things I thought I knew, I'm learning again."  In a lot of ways, every day of parenthood is like the first day of school:  humbling, inherently vulnerable and challenging to any and all preconceived expectations.  But even if Will and I don't make the grade every single day, ultimately I know we'll pass with flying colors.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


I took a deep breath and laid the changing pad on my bed the way I'd seen my mother do a hundred times.  I elevated Bobby's head with a folded receiving blanket and removed his pants.  I carefully unsnapped his onesie and rolled it up.

Instantly, he began to cry and kick.

"I know, baby." I said softly.  "I know you don't like to be cold, but this will be quick and painless!" I assured him.

I wiped him clean; applied cream to his bottom and shimmied a fresh diaper under his wriggly little body.

Just then he started to poop again.

"Ohh!  Okay... okay... no big deal."  I said over his screams.

I sealed the soiled diaper long enough to grab a clean one from my dresser.  As I made the switch, he peed and... IT.  GOT.  EVERYWHERE:  my clothes; his clothes; my comforter; even his little face.  Did it get in his eyes?  What about his mouth?  I silently panicked.  Now covered in his own urine, his screams got louder.    

"Okay... okay..." I repeated.

Drying his face with a nearby burp cloth, I moved him to a less soiled side of the bed.  I changed his diaper and clothes and placed him wailing in his bassinet.

"Alright Bobs, give Mommy onnnneeee second" I said, frantically stripping the bed. 

I had just managed to stuff the comforter into the washing machine when I heard it:  the incredibly distinct sound of him pooping AGAIN.

"Whaaat?  How??"

My hasty diaper job had failed him and now his fresh clothes, his sheets...everything...covered in poop.

My breathing quickened with exasperation.

"Okay...okay...okay" I picked him up, smearing my already pee covered clothes in his excrement.  Relocating to the hall bath, I grabbed the changing pad and laid him on the bathmat.

What do I do?

"Okay... okay... okay."

I darted quickly back to my room, stripped the bassinet sheet; paused the washer; stuffed it in.

"Okay... okay... okay."

His shrieks were bouncing off the cold bathroom walls straight into my head; and it felt like a tiny light bulb was burning hotter and hotter and hotter in my brain.

The sweat beading up on my brow, I knelt down to undo his diaper.  As if he'd been saving it for the perfect moment, another aggressive stream of pee shot out from beneath.

The shower curtain.  The bathmat.  The surrounding tile.  Me.

"Okay... okay... okay."

And he was screaming and crying as I cleaned him, changed him, moved him, paused the washer, crammed in the bathmat, wiped up the floor, sprayed down the shower curtain. Then suddenly...




The light bulb exploded.  It all came caving in.  My whole house in a washing machine.  My shit stained clothes.  My stretched body.  My filthy, piss covered skin.  My itchy, unwashed hair.  My dehydrated muscles.  My desolate stomach.  My dizzy, sleepless brain.  My hollow bones.

I'm failing.

The weeks of bleeding; of being a human dairy; of being touched only when someone needed something.

I'm failing.  I'm failing.  I'm failing.

My head was noisy.  A cacophony of voices.  You wanted this.  But I'm so tired.  You're weak.  But I'm so hungry.  You should be happy.  Why do I feel like crying all the time?  Grow up.  I'm so thirsty.  You don't have time for this.  The rest of my life---one unending diaper change.  You ingrate.  You're not worthy.  Your son deserves better.  YOU wanted this.  Would it be better if I wasn't here? 

Suddenly it was quiet.


And inside, the crowd chanted in unison:

The Percocet's on the nightstand.  The Percocet's on the nightstand.  The Percocet's on the nightstand.

Shocked and scared of myself, I curled up on the floor and I cried.  And I cried.  And for a month, I didn't stop crying.

I had outbursts.

I cancelled plans.

I pushed people away.

The question "what's new?" suddenly felt hostile to me.

What's new?  He's hungry - I feed him.  He shits - I change him.  'What's new?'  Are you for real?!

But eventually, I knew I needed help.  I called my old friend Dr. J.  She told me about the abrupt hormonal shift that happens after birth.  She encouraged me to open up to Will and the rest of my family.  She told me to do only what was necessary to care for my son and myself.

"The laundry can wait" she emphasized.  "Prioritize sleep."

And I did.


Pregnancy is hard, but at least for nine months taking care of the baby is synonymous with taking care of yourself.  After he's born, the two tasks seem separate and conflicting.

But I'm very lucky.

I'm lucky to have a husband that received my pain with kindness and understanding; who stepped up to help every way he could.

I'm lucky to have a family that took shifts relieving me for date nights and alone time.

Most of all, I'm lucky I got better.

So many women don't.