Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

The Photo I Really Wanted to Share

Green Bay WisconsinI have a vision for everything. I am easily influenced by space and clothing and light and color. I can see how one thing connects to another thing to convey mood and emotion. It’s why I love planning parties and putting together outfits and making art. All of these things use my creativity and my analytical brain to assemble beautiful stories.

Pandemic Pregnancy

When we found out we were pregnant in July, my brain immediately strung all the joy together in neat little rows. An April due date meant sweet pastels for clothing and bunny stuffies for their first Easter basket. It meant late winter maternity photos in a grove of evergreens and announcement photos in an apple orchard (perfect timing as I would be 14 weeks mid-September). Three and a half years seamed like a wonderful age difference, and we talked about what it would be like to share the news with Juniper and how great she would be as a big sister. I was carried away as if this wonderful news were a symphony that lifted me straight through into the future. I could see it all.

I envisioned the nursery – white furniture and a brand new bookcase filled with all the art I had made while pregnant. There would be windows that needed replacing, and we should probably switch Juniper to the larger room, that’s only fair, and maybe the crib would need repainting, and should we get new carpet now before that baby is old enough to crawl or is it better to wait until both kids are grown?

My mind could see it all, but my actions were more hesitant. We didn’t buy the cute baby booties or tell all our friends the news. In fact, I tried to suppress that visioning instinct. After all, it was early. And we had been here before.

Miscarriage / Infant Loss

The tests looked normal, my levels were rising well. I ordered the clothes for our apple orchard session and booked the photographer. Then one day I woke up and I didn’t feel pregnant anymore. Shortly after, I ended up in the E.R. and heard the thing I really didn’t want to hear. I choked on sobs through the double-layered masks I had worn to keep myself and my new baby safe. It was all happening just like before.

At the hospital they wouldn’t let me see the screen or print a photo. I was hearing that it was all over, that there was no heartbeat, but I hadn’t even seen the baby I would never meet. I walked out of there with nothing. No sign that this baby had ever existed, no tangible way of knowing that this baby I had carried for 9 weeks was anything more than a fever dream. And it hurt. There was the hurt of losing the pregnancy I desperately wanted, but there was also the hurt of having nothing to remember them by, of losing this entire future I had imagined for us together.

After more ultrasounds to confirm (with a plea for a photo) and the physical act of miscarrying, our apple orchard outfits arrived.

I folded them up and left them on the dresser. The thing they had arrived to celebrate was no longer happening.

I was grieving. And even with the support of those who love me best and the reassurances of people who had been there before, I felt alone in my grief. I was grateful for my little ultrasound photo, but I was haunted by the fact that I never got to celebrate this baby. Those outfits sat on the dresser as though the life I had planned for myself had been cancelled. And I realized that I wanted those photos. I wanted to celebrate my pregnancy in an apple orchard with my family. I craved a substantial way to hold onto all the joy that this pregnancy had brought us during those 9 weeks in the midst of a pandemic. When there was next to nothing around us that felt good, this baby was our bright spot, here to bring us hope.

Our Bright Spot

So here it is. The photo I really wanted to share.

The vulnerability of the act of sharing makes me uncomfortable. I am not healed; I am still in the middle of this. My impulse is to never let anyone ever know I wanted something I couldn’t have. I worry you will think I’m ungrateful for the child I already have. I fear your pity, or worse, your deep and exposing empathy. But I am writing this because I need to celebrate the best thing that happened to us during this pandemic. Though the time may have been brief, the love is without end.


Read about our first miscarriage: Loving a Baby After Losing a Baby and The Fog of Grief.

Personal Post: Suddenly a Stay at Home Mom

Stay at home mom, business ownerNot every women dreams of being a stay at home mom the way not every women dreams of being a mother. I never wanted to be a stay at home parent. I have to shake off guilt around saying this because I know some will interpret this plain statement, as me not wanting to be with my child, and that simply isn’t true. I love Juniper to the moon and back. She is my world, my playmate, my favorite person. And to those who are stay at home parents and to those whom desire to be, more power to you. The world is currently serving you an extra slice of respect.

For me, I crave time alone in quiet reflection to be my best self. I like to work independently and simmer on ideas in solitude. This way, my spirit is recharged, and when I see my family I appreciate them so much more. I see them with renewed eyes and so much gratitude. I designed my life for this. I built a business and outsourced, found excellent childcare and backup childcare, and set rigid boundaries so I could still spend most of my week with my family. And in my independent time I could fuel my business, source ideas, and make art.

The New Normal

Like many of you, I’ve been living in a “new normal” for the past few weeks, one in which my usual offerings as a business owner are not relevant. One in which I find it hard to even plan for a future in which they are, because the forecast ahead is so foggy. I am uneasy, I am worried, I am adapting. As I develop ideas during brief toddler naps, and try to complete existing work in little pockets of weekend time, I find myself in hustle mode, trying not to panic.

In my time with Juniper I am often distracted and impatient, and not proud of some of the choices I’m making. Is anyone feeling this? There are simply not enough hours to do all things well.

Your Feelings are Valid

I realize right now, I need to stop and check my privilege. People are dying in this pandemic. People are suffering. People are working on the front-lines in healthcare, and food service, and delivery, many of them with preexisting conditions that make them extra vulnerable. People are worried about how they will make rent, how they will get food, and if they will be safe at home. I am not one of those people, and I am constantly aware of how good I have it and how small my struggles are.

But I just need a moment to say that sometimes it’s still hard even when others have it harder. And it’s okay to feel scared or worried. It’s okay to be sad over the holiday traditions you are missing, the favorite spots you can no longer visit, the people you cannot hug, and the regular-everyday-put-on-pants-and-go-to-work life you aren’t living right now. Your feelings are valid. My feelings are valid.

We’ve Never Done This Before

It’s okay to not be ready for a positive spin. It’s okay to not get dressed today. It’s okay to put an iPad in front of your toddler so you can get some work done, or clean the house, or drink a glass of wine while no one touches you or asks you for anything. It’s normal to lose your temper, to feel stuck, to feel resentful. No matter what position you’re in, we’ve never done this before. We’re all just making it up as we go along.

In the meantime I will try to give myself as much grace as my best friends would give me (which is a lot). Because we’re all doing the best we can. My kitchen is covered in flour, my dining room table, in seed packets, and my living room is currently an obstacle course to prove this point. And yes, sometimes I will be working. Sometimes I will send Juniper away or ask her to play by herself so that I can complete a project or answer an email.

And I know, deep down, this isn’t hurting her. Juniper doesn’t need a 24/7 playmate and cook; she needs a mom. And sometimes moms work. Sometimes moms have big ideas they need to act upon. She is seeing this, and even if she doesn’t get it right now, it will be something she will understand later. The world becomes a better place for every woman out there each time we let go of how we were told things were “supposed to be done”. I was never one for arbitrary rules anyway.

Cheers, mamas!

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Film scans above shot on 35 mm Kodak Portra in summer of 2019 and scanned by Dwaynes Photo in Parsons, Kansas.

Personal Post: Giving My Daughter Space to “Do it Wrong”

35 mm Film Photos Door County Raising a toddlerTalking about parenting right now means putting a vulnerable voice out into a critical culture. This isn’t to say our generation is somehow more judgmental than past generations; we just see more of one another’s lives thanks to social media. So now instead of collecting “feedback” from your auntie and mother, you can also collect it from that friend-of-a-friend from high school and someone you used to work with. Oh joy. And whether or not you choose to post to social media or comment on the posts of others, you are probably still consuming the media and drawing your own conclusions.

The good news is this criticism has sprouted from the best of intentions: concern for the safety of children. But when concern for safety becomes concern for lifestyle and we aren’t prepared for how to interact in this culture, we end up stuck in a place of shame, guilt, and fear of “doing it wrong”.

Parenting in the Toddler Years

That said, I know some people will find my parenting too hands off (I get looks as my daughter runs through the farmer’s market 20 feet ahead of me) and some will find me too rigid (really mom, she can’t have any juice?) I’m sure others will find ways to see me as overprotective, old fashioned, or crunchy, but for myself, I am quite surprised at the kind of parent I turned out to be.

When I thought of the future, I imagined myself fretting over my child’s every move, holding my arms around her to protect her from bumps and bruises, chewing my nails and saying that warning phrase one extra time to give myself peace of mind. But what I failed to account for when I imagined myself as a mother, is that I would be a mother to a little person with a personality all her own.

Juniper is fast and loud. She climbs everything, devises complicated ways of stacking things to reach what she wants. She likes the fastest rides and the biggest challenges. At two, this kid eats more at a meal than I did in middle school. She is bold and talkative, and usually searching the house for her galoshes so she can find a way to be outside…even if it’s raining…even if it’s 6:00 am…even if it isn’t her house. She. Is. Wild.

But this wildness comes from her curiosity and her passionate impulse to consume everything as though life is something to be swallowed whole. And can I just say what a gift it is to see life this way?

Leaving Room for Imagination

Things I haven’t the smallest interest in, she will find deeply fascinating. Toys which have a specific use will gain new life with her interpretation of their purpose. She wants to reorganize the crayons instead of coloring with them, use the bath boats as teacups, and make car noises as she pushes the doll stroller. And I’m going to let her. Just like I’m going to let her eat the uncooked zucchini that fell to the floor as I was making dinner and wear swim diapers over her clothes. She can ride in the cargo portion of the stroller, wear all my jar lids as bracelets, and refer to every full grown dog as a “little baby puppy” (with her voice high and her nose scrunched).

Doing these things “wrong” isn’t going to hurt her or anyone else. She’s learning what it means to make her own decisions and she’s figuring out how things work (or devising new ways for them to work). And, when it comes right down to it, it would be pretty self-important of me to tell her the “right way” to play.

What Does it Mean to “Do it Wrong”?

My grandma has a story from when she was a little girl that has always stuck with me. She was at school in art class drawing a sky filled with pink, fluffy clouds. When the teacher saw it, she told my grandma it was no good because clouds aren’t pink. Imagine all the ways we can crush a child’s spirit in the name of teaching them the “right way” to do things.

And whether those clouds were pink or neon green or floating underwater or made of cotton candy or drawn with dandelion rubbings, I never want to be the person who makes the world a little smaller by closing the door on possibility and imagination. Grandma gets her revenge every time sunset turns clouds from white to yellow, yellow to orange, and from orange to a bright, rosy pink.

I guess what I’m saying is, Juniper will have plenty of opportunities to learn the correct pronunciation of the word, the right purpose for the tool, the proper way to respond to the circumstance, but for now, there is play. There is big, big play. And I’m going to give Juniper all the space I can to “do it wrong”.

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Film scans above from this summer (May-July) from 35 mm Kodak Portra negatives.