Mommas

In honor of this past Mother’s Day, let’s talk about all things Momma.

I’m a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurse.

In many ways, the NICU is where we effectively crush the idealized image any expectant mother might have visualized in her mind.

Lying on the floor, littered among the wet blankets and strewn papers from the bustle of admission, lies the birth plan so carefully crafted while her babe lay still nestled in her womb.

As my hands lie that small wet body on the warmer, I swiftly move the sphere of control from her shaking hands into my own; a frightening world filled with the scream of monitors, the whirl of ventilators, and tubes…..so very many tubes….

And when she has been deemed stable enough to move from the delivery room, she is rolled in on a stretcher for her first glimpse of her beloved baby caught in a tangle of wires and tubes and lights.

The tears come.

And then the guilt.

My own son came into this world in the most perfect way. He never thought to burden me with morning sickness or heartburn or acne. I tittered and cooed at his marathon hiccups and he adored long, lazy, walks that would lull his earnest kicks to sleep. I would sing to him the same husky lullaby my mother sang to me and lay quietly in the afternoon sun counting his barrel rolls. He continued his first born ambition by gracing me with a seamless delivery and when they laid him on my chest, blinking and squinting, through a pinched face, I thought my heart would explode.

My job affords me a singular gratitude that many new mothers might take for granted. I know how easily things can go wrong at any given moment. I reveled in his seeming perfection; counted his toes and fingers out loud and smiled when he summoned me with a lusty squall from his fully developed lungs.

The tears came.

And then the guilt.

Guilt?

All mothers experience it.

It’s simply the innate desire to do right by this tiny fragile being that you have brought into this big wide world.

I was blown away by the power and the fury of making decisions that, in the context of my child, seemed monumental.

How long should I breastfeed? Is he getting enough milk? Should he have BPA free bottles, toys? When should he start solids? Should I make my own organic baby food? Should I use cloth diapers? Does he have the right developmental toys? Should he have screen time? Is he hitting his developmental milestones? Should I try to teach him sign language?

And on and on and on….

Hours and hours of research dedicated to all of the above and more; questions begetting questions begetting questions….

And the capitalist market and Pinterest and Facebook feeding into the comparative parenting machine, fanning the hot and heavy fires of maternal guilt.

My salvation came in the form of my daughter two years later.

The joyful, exhausting, juggling act of an energetic two year old toddler and a newborn daughter threw a biting deluge upon the fires of doubt and indecision.

I suddenly started to understand the simplicity of my own childhood and began to slowly let go of the guilt of expectation. Over planning gave way to puddle splashing, earthworm saving walks around the neighborhood; coloring in a pool of afternoon sunlight and blanket forts in the middle of the living room.

Now that’s not to say that you won’t find me occasionally scouring Pinterest for the perfect school Valentine’s card; the results of which might show up on the next list of Pintrosities. But I believe I have my eye on the right ball now; not one of the ones I’m trying to juggle in the air but rather the one I’m tossing back and forth into the laughing arms of my child.

And for my NICU Momma, the one that is asking, “What did I do wrong?” “Why is this happening?” “Why me, why my baby?”

I press her shaking hands into mine and wipe away those frightened tears; I hug her exhausted shoulders and whisper to her that she didn’t do anything wrong. As we peer together through the plastic, I try to turn her gaze away from the medical paraphernalia to point out the sweetness of those tiny toes or shiny button eyes searching for the one that sang those husky lullabies.

I want to shelter her; protect her from the riptide of guilt that threatens to pull her under. But I cannot. Only she can learn the delicate dance between expectation and reality. Only she can define what it looks like to be a mother to her child; so I simply say:

“Congratulations, you’re a momma now….”

Free Sausage

I saved $130 on my grocery bill last week.

How?

Not through the laborious tedium of cutting coupons or visiting three different stores to stock up on the $0.99/lb ground round.

Nor did I sacrifice my commitment to organic fare, pasteurized eggs or fresh fruits and vegetables.

I was simply mindful.

I set out to buy one pack of uncured bacon instead of two……but then I noticed the nondescript yellow coupon announcing a package of free uncured pork sausage in return for buying something I had already intended to purchase.

As I gently pulled off the proffered sunny savings, the bellows of my hesitant mind offered up a startling vision of the gnashing of missing teeth and tiny fists pounding the floor, wailing a piteous Sunday morning lament in the absence of, the much revered, weekly treat, of two packs of bacon.

But as they cautiously nibbled on the golden edges of their patty, their eyes widened and those greasy little fingers reached across the table for another…..and another.

And so………..In quite this manner, I traversed the familiar aisles considering alternatives and snatching up available coupons and deals applicable only to the two week meal plan scrawled on the lined list before me.

And as I stared at the bored expression on my checker’s face, I realized that he was telling me my total…..

Wha?

No?

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

All because I was mindful.  All because I bought only what I truly needed.  All because of minimalism.

And what did I do with my savings?

I went straight out and blew it on this beautiful red leather purse I’ve had my eye on for a couple of months now?

 

Bahahahahahahahahah……did I get ya?

 

No, I drove my children to the bank.  We spun through the glass revolving door until we were dizzy with laughter and it spit us out into the glass atrium filled with moist plants and the rarified air of money.

I watched quietly as the tethered pens scritched heavily across deposit slips adorned with the hesitant penmanship of six and nine years.  I watched quietly as they gingerly approached the beaming teller to slip their monetary offering across the cool granite surface.

I quietly watched as they strode away, shoulders back and heads high, filled with the importance of their accomplishments and basking in the promise that their new savings accounts held.

So what did choosing free sausage instead of two packs of bacon give me?

Everything.

Minimalism

IMG_6143I have discovered minimalism.

Its tenets have pierced through my armor, irritating the decades old flesh of complacency.

I nestle down into its message like a feathered nest and gather the warmth around me smelling the freshly woven grass of home.

I can feel its liquid sense seeping into the pink involutions of my brain informing decisions and denoting action.

Every other Monday I have lunch with my children at their school; a precious island of laughter, sweet embraces and anxious stories shared in a fleeting half hour span.

Last week my daughter briefly left the table to refill her water bottle and I glanced around the stage at the other parents sitting scattered among the tables.  I dropped my eyes to the ground when I noticed that all, save one, sat staring at their phones as their children desperately clamored for their divided attention.

No judgement.

No criticism.

The cats in the cradle and the silver spoon….little boy blue and the man in the moon…..when you coming home dad…..I don’t know when but we’ll get together then son…..we’re gonna have a good time then….

Oh the adult world; simmering with deadlines and staff meetings, homework and spelling tests, doctors appointments, bills and teeth cleaning and more and more and more.

Minimalism.

To make a conscious decision to stash that phone away for thirty minutes and raptly stare into the flushed face of your immorality as they regale you with tales of their latest Pokemon trade or point out the tender flesh of a skinned knee.

To find more happiness by choosing less.

And as I watched each of my children skip away to join their class, I felt myself instinctively reach into my purse for the object that was now the keeper of my time and I thought to myself…..

What if I went and unearthed my grandmothers wind up watch?

An exquisitely delicate piece of metal, gears, and cogs that could hang lightly on my wrist and tap out the rhythm of simplicity; sound the drum of gratitude for what we already have and echo the pulsing beat of life.

Minimalism

 

 

 

 

It’s a matter of life and death

We say so often in this world that it is a matter of LIFE and DEATH.

Well yes, it is.

Yesterday, I ushered out of this world a new soul who drew her first and last breath in the span of one…..single…..day.

She was fragile and delicate with a transparent elfin beauty that surprised her expectant parents.  She stared into this new world as she struggled to raise a tiny cry and then……she was gone.

Death.

And as I guided her parents through their first diaper change and showed them how to swaddle their dying babe; as we washed her pale and lifeless body and carefully dressed her one last time WE were living.

Life.

In my profession, I have borne witness to the vagaries of the human condition.  The ramifications of a duplicated gene here, a missing one there, first trimester deficiencies or unfettered drug and alcohol abuse.  From missing jaws and limbs to eyes and balloon like skulls; intestines grown hot and steamy outside pale and tender abdomens to gelatinous miracles that pay testament to the brilliance of modern medicine.

However, what I am brilliantly failing to say is that even the experience of death is life.

Those parents, their baby, that moment in time; that DEATH is a part of my LIFE forever.

And so in the end, I hugged them tightly to me, told them what wonderful parents they were and then quietly left with their shattered hopes and dreams.

I slipped that tiny body into its plastic encasement and watched and waited silently for one last breath that never came before I slowly zipped it closed.

And then I left.

To live.

 

 

 

 

 

Glimpses

I’m a mindful stalker.

I sit on the uncomfortable metal chair in my single bulb lit room carefully tearing out my articles by Eckhart Tolle and Pema Chodron.  With my sweaty hands, I maniacally arrange the typewritten letters on meditation and pain body into a veritable shrine of awareness.  I slink among the fringe of society sniffing at the blissfully unaware, the chronically stressed and the turbid furor of the masses.

But it is the fate of every deranged stalker to obsess without acquisition; to only glimpse the object of adoration.

I fall asleep during meditation.

I don’t just have a monkey brain; mine has been injected with some apocalyptic virus that makes it screech and foam at the mouth while it gnashes it’s gigantic canines.

I’m grateful; grateful I haven’t strangled my kids after they have been at each other’s throats for twelve hours straight.

I try to “move through” my emotions until I’m lying on the ground drowning in self pity and tears.

Instead of acquiring the peace brought through the teachings of Buddha, I am modeling his belly through a worsening love affair with comfort food.

Maybe.

Maybe one day.

Until then, this stalker must be content with glimpses of the NOW.

When they do appear, they present themselves with a crystalline beauty that takes my breath away.

Today I was giving a newborn her first bath (I’m a NICU nurse).  When I first began, she was wailing and screaming, her soft soapy skin red and slick.  But as I wrapped her in a blanket and gathered her in my arms to wash her hair, she stopped and looked up at me with a huge set of black button eyes and curled her sweet lips into a beatific smile and I just stopped.  I stopped and stared at the sheer magnificence of this tiny new life snuggling down into my arms and I smiled back.

A glimpse.

When my children are away from me, it’s the glimpses that come rushing back.

The feel of my daughters silky hair as it slides through my fingers.

The weight of my sons lithe body as he drapes himself over me like a puppy.

The sweet timbre of their voices drifting into the darkness as they rush to tell me “just one more thing” before bed.

In the exhaustion of motherhood, I plait those golden strands efficiently and with purpose.  I peer over those long limbs to make sure that he is truly reading and as I listen to those last earnest thoughts, I shush their next effort with the worry of their need for rest.

Now that they are not here, the admonishment comes swift and severe.

Why didn’t you appreciate your glimpses more?  Why?

Because I’m a bad student.  I’m a stalker.  I’m only allowed glimpses.

Maybe.

Maybe one day.

Maybe one day I will pull the string on my single bulb, open the door of my basement room and come blinking out into the brilliance of enlightment.

Then they won’t be just glimpses anymore….