Tag Archives: momlife

To My Daughter, On Your First Birthday

4 Jan

 

zadie1Dear Zadie,

A year ago today I’d already been in labor with you for 24 hours. Nothing was going as I’d hoped it would. We were in a hospital, not a birth center. After 24 hours of laboring with no medication, I’d succumbed to an epidural. And then, in the late afternoon on January 4, after trying to push you out for 3 hours and you keeping your head at the wrong angle for 3 hours, I was wheeled into an operating room for a c-section. Your dad saw you first–your tongue was sticking out ( you still do that), but his first words were, “She’s so pretty!” You really were. You were a beautiful newborn, and so strong, and acted like you knew what you were doing from the beginning. Breastfeeding? No problem. Sleeping long stretches between feeds? No sweat. You were what the books call an “angel baby.”

Angel or no, I’ve never been a baby person. And, unlike you, I didn’t know what I was doing. So as my body tried to recover from that marathon labor and then the c-section, I tried to figure out how to take care of you.

It’s true that most of it is instinct. It didn’t take long to get the hang of diapering, even though I’d only changed one diaper before! It didn’t take long to figure out nursing, or how to tie you snugly onto my chest with a wrap. But it took a really long time to adjust to the fact that this was my life now—that my life was about you, instead of me.

When I think back to those days, I remember a lot of long, lonely days in our house in Denver, pushing you in a stroller through our snowy neighborhood, all bundled up so I could only see your nose and eyes. I think of sitting next to you on your activity mat, once you were a little older, and being bored out of my mind. I couldn’t wait till you were an older baby, moving and playing and babbling. I imagined making it to your first birthday, and how I would feel totally adjusted to my new normal of being a mother, and I would be confident in my parenting—I would know what I was doing.

It’s like your first birthday was this finish line that I was running toward, and I pictured myself getting to the end of it and collapsing in a heap, crying tears of joy and relief, like someone who just finished running 100 miles in the desert. But of course, your first birthday is not the finish line. Parenting will change as you change, but I will always be your mother, and for the next several years I will still be responsible for pretty much everything about your existence. I’m still getting used to this idea, this “new normal” a year later, as embarrassing as that is to admit. I wish today was a finish line, where I’d get to hobble off and have my blisters tended to, and get a massage, and eat a great meal followed by 12 hours of sleep in a cushy hotel bed. I’ve been waiting for my chance to recover, to rest, but the cruel fact of motherhood is that rest looks different now. Rest looks like getting to sleep in till 7:30 on a weekend because your dad gets up to feed you. It looks like lighting a candle and making a cup of tea in the evening, after you’re in bed. It’s not enough, but it’s something.

I guess if you ever read this, you’ll be old enough by then to know that I’m not very good at hiding my true thoughts. Other people are good at putting on a brave face and faking it till they make it, but not me. So this is the only way I know how to write you a birthday letter, to include the fact that I feel like a failure as a mother sometimes.

However, while your birthday does have me reflecting on the traumatic first few months of my experience as a mother, it also has me reflecting on all the beautiful moments we’ve shared together. Your first birthday is the official Beginning of the End of your babyhood, and for that my heart breaks, which is a testament to how truly, indescribably special and lovable you are, that you have a mother who has never really liked being around babies mourning the fact that you will soon no longer be one.

This is such a magical age, where you astonish me every day with something new that you’re doing. You just started walking last week, and it’s so much fun to see you staggering around like a tiny drunk pirate as you try out your new skill. You love to have me carry you around while you point to things and say, “dat!” so I take you to them, like you’re a queen and I’m your slave. You get really punchy sometimes and shake your head for no reason, and you have this wonderful dance where you rotate your torso and hold your arms out stiffly and clap in an off-beat sort of way.

You love to have us read to you, and lately you’ve been very into this “Baby’s First 100 Words” book, which is many pages filled with many simple photographs accompanied by their names, like a frog, a tree, a goat, a hat, a truck. As I point to each item and say its name, you study the page with a furrowed brow, looking for all the world like you’re studying for the bar exam. You love to play spontaneous games of peekaboo with strangers at coffee shops, ducking behind something and then popping up (!) again, with a huge smile on your face.

You’re like your dad in some ways; fairly content to do things on your own, but not a loner. You are super playful and get this very mischievous look on your face when you’re going to do something you think is funny. You like trying to place objects on my shoulder, my head, my face, my shirt, to see if they’ll stay there. You love squeezing stuffed animals as hard as you can, and have taken to carrying around a stuffed dog that’s about the size of your torso, even though it severely impedes your limited walking ability, so you basically use it as a crash pad. You love hanging out with other kids, and you often cry when we come to pick you up from the church nursery because you don’t want to leave.

Most of your tantrums involve food, and I must admit you get your hangry tendencies from me. Right now pears, clementines and club crackers are your favorites, but you also love the ube (sweet potato) scone we get at our favorite coffee shop—once when I pulled it out of the bag, upon seeing the scone you squealed, “Mommy!” excitedly. But you still don’t call me mama, which feels ironic and awful but I know better not to take it personally, even though you’ve been calling your dad, Dad, for a long time now. You’re starting to babble in earnest, as if you really are talking about all sorts of things, and it makes me so excited to hear you say more words (other than “ball,” “bye,” “dad,” and “up, up, up!”).

I’m excited to hear you talk, and to see you run, and to see you kick a ball and stir cupcake batter and sing a song and do a cartwheel and jump off a diving board and splash in the ocean and roll down a grassy hill and ride a bike and write a sentence and draw a picture and do a dance with your friends you made up—I’m excited to see it all.

And I’m excited to know you in it all, too; to know you as you discover your first favorite color, and favorite animal, to know you when you go to school for the first time and find your love of reading (hopefully!), and when you make your first really good friend and when you have the best time ever at camp and when you do something you’re really proud of and when you do something you’re not so proud of but learn from, and when you have your first heartbreak and when you decide whether or not to go to college and whether or not to get married and whether or not to have kids, and if you have a baby I’m excited to know you as you become a mother and discover all the wonder and pain that lie behind that curtain.

It is an incredible privilege to be a front-row witness to a person Becoming, and while I don’t always feel like I’m the best person for the job, I’m so thankful I get to be that person for you, to be your mother.

Happy birthday, Zadie.

Love,

Mama

When Becoming a Quitter Became Good for My Soul

15 Dec

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You must know this about me: I’m not a quitter. If I start something, I finish it. Some people love starting things: projects, chapters in life, new tubes of toothpaste. I like finishing them (let’s not get into how often I feel paralyzed about starting something and so never do). When I was in college, I took a temperament analysis that ranked my level of self-discipline off the charts. I liked this about myself.

But, time, age, marriage, and motherhood have changed me. I’m no longer off-the-charts disciplined (maybe that’s a good thing!), and now, I guess I’m a quitter, too.

It all started at the end of October, when my husband, my roommate, and I decided–impulsively–to do Whole30 together. Whole30 means for 30 days you only eat whole foods, and you avoid sugar, grains, beans, peanuts, dairy, and alcohol. So, in other words, you’re eating a bunch of meat and vegetables for thirty days. It was awful. I almost immediately entered a crazed state where all I could think about was food! I was in a terrible mood. I didn’t see the weight loss, or any of the “non-scale victories” the program touts, like better sleep, more energy, better mood, better skin, etc. Two weeks in, I was still hungry all the time, and I was super stressed out constantly thinking about what I could eat and planning meals/shopping lists.

It was dumb. I thought about it and realized it was not a good program for me. I’m much better at moderating my intake of something rather than abstaining all together. Also, I’d had a pretty dysfunctional relationship with food for several years in my twenties and this just seemed to trigger that. And, as much as I hated to admit it, even though Zadie was 10 months old at the time, I still felt like I was getting used to all that’s involved in being a mom. Adding a strict diet program on top of that felt like so much pressure.

So I quit. I didn’t finish Whole30. I didn’t even finish Whole15. On the 13th day, I quit. And I kept eating within the program for a few days–I didn’t just go out and eat a pizza or something. I just needed that weight lifted off of me, and the feeling of freedom I had was amazing. I also felt proud, because I realized that I had honored my story, my temperament and my needs in this situation. Before I quit, I dreaded having to tell people I didn’t finish the program; I couldn’t do it, I was too weak. But the freedom that came from honoring myself in my decision extended to the freedom to tell people I had quit, without shame.

It felt so great, I’m thinking of quitting something else: stay at home motherhood. I’ve written about it here before, but I just don’t know if it’s for me. To be honest, I’ve been agonizing over this decision for a couple of months now. Partly because the only kind of motherhood I’ve experienced so far is the stay-at-home variety, and it’s hard to imagine what it would be like to mother Zadie if I weren’t with her all the time. But it partly feels like I’m giving up. Like I couldn’t handle something that lots of women handle beautifully every single day, with many more kids, or kids with special needs.

I wanted to give staying at home a try; I tried and it sometimes feels like I failed. I enjoy being with Zadie immensely, and have moments of heart-exploding joy and love with her every single day. But I also have many times throughout the day when I just don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t want to be a full-time caregiver. I don’t want to continue to lose other parts of myself in order to be the one who changes Zadie’s diaper and feeds her and reads to her all day. It’s difficult to not feel selfish, or weak, or to worry that I’ll regret my decision to go back to work.

But after my experience quitting Whole30, I’m curious: what if instead of giving in to guilt and social pressure, I take a good look at myself, my strengths and weaknesses, my skill set and my dreams, the needs of my family as a whole, and make the decision from there? And if that decision is to “quit” being a stay at home mother, what if it leads to the same feeling of freedom and release from pressure that I had when I quit Whole30?

So I guess sometimes it’s good to be a quitter. Maybe it’s more about knowing when to quit?

 

For New Moms Only

3 Oct

dear-brave-mom-of-a-newborn.jpgOK, not really for new moms only! But I have an essay up on Mom the Brave today, in their “Dear Brave Mom” category. It’s an open letter to the mommas of newborns…that’s such a crazy time; for some it’s pure bliss, but for others (like me!) it’s sheer survival. Head over to Mom the Brave and give it a read, or share it with any friends you have who are in that crazy, hazy newborn stage! 

When It Takes a Long Time (Like, 7 Months) to Start Enjoying Your Baby

31 Aug

JoyZadieArboretumIt takes me a long time to adjust to change—an embarrassingly long time. Motherhood, and taking care of a baby day in and day out, has been no exception. In some of my grumpiest, most melancholy, or—let’s be honest—crazy moments, Robert has said something to the effect of, “Well, at least I know you’ll be back to yourself around January 4…” referencing how it takes me about a year to adjust to any major change.

Adjustment is what I was longing for the first several weeks (OK, maybe the first few months) of Zadie’s life—to feel used to it. For everything to not feel so scary and unfamiliar. To not see Zadie as a stranger or little alien. I longed for relief from the new, from having to figure things out. You know how when you get a new job, you go home and dream about doing it? All day I nursed Zadie and changed her and bounced her on the yoga ball to get her to sleep. Then all night I’d dream of nursing her or changing her or bouncing her, or just of her crying. I’d wake from dreams that she was in our bed, and then feel so confused when she wasn’t, and look for her frantically before realizing she was sleeping peacefully in the bassinet beside me, where she always was.

My fear was that my resistance to change, my slowness to adjust would make me miss Zadie’s first year. I worried that I would wake up on her first birthday to find that she was finally not a stranger to me, and that I finally enjoyed being her mother, only to realize I’d missed out on her only year of true babyhood.

Thankfully, I started to enjoy my baby before her first birthday. It was slow at first—right around three months, I had moments when I was just in awe of Zadie, and sincerely enjoyed being with her and taking care of her. The moments of overwhelm and fear and exhaustion definitely were more abundant, but still. I look at a photo of us on Easter, back in March, when Zadie was almost three months old. She had started to truly smile, and to be less larva-like, and the smile on my face in that picture is the smile I always wanted to be on my face when I was with my baby. As I got to know her more, and as she became more active and playful, I began enjoying her more and more. This past month, Zadie’s eighth month on this earth, I feel like I’ve fallen totally in love with her. She’s just so sweet, so beautiful, so strong. She makes my mama heart swell with pride and love for her.

But now that I’m into Zadie as a baby, I’m preemptively mourning her growing older and bigger. In those early weeks I kept wishing for her to get older and bigger, so things wouldn’t be so hard and scary and I wouldn’t be guessing as much about how to take care of her. I thought the baby stage (and, let’s face it, the toddler stage) would be something I just had to get through, in order to have my daughter, a person with whom I’d have a lifelong relationship. But now I don’t want the baby stage to end—her sweet little gummy smile (no teeth yet!), her diaper booty, the way she scoots across the floor on her belly, the way it’s so easy to get her to smile, the way she squeals in delight on our walks at what I can only imagine is the thrill of seeing trees and flowers for the thousandth time instead of the millionth. I love the way she drops her head onto my chest or my shoulder when I hold her and sing “Jesus Loves Me” before her nap or bedtime. The way she’s so pleased with herself when she stands or bangs two toys together or claps her hands. The way she plays with her loveys in her crib for half an hour after her nap without even making a peep. The way she eats with gusto, like a little football player. How she brings stuffed animals to her face so she can give them open-mouthed kisses, and how she teases Asher whenever she’s holding a ball and knows he wants it, waving it under his nose and laughing. The way she holds her hand out, bent at the wrist, when she meets new people, as though directing them to “Kiss the royal hand.” Her new thing, burying her face in my neck shyly when she encounters strangers.

I spent the first few months of my baby’s life wishing time would speed up, so we could be done with the terrifying newborn stage. Then the next few months I was still future-focused, thinking things would be better or easier once she wasn’t nursing so much (true), or she could sit up on her own (also true), or some other milestone. Now we seem to have stepped into a crazy time warp, because it’s going by shockingly fast; every Monday I blink and it’s suddenly Friday. I know better now than to wish for a certain event in the future—it’ll come. Now I have more moments where I want to stop this train of life from moving so damn fast, taking my baby away from me.

Or is it just that I’m resisting change once again? Realizing that at every new phase and age Zadie enters, I have to readjust and readapt my methods, my schedule, my very heart.

Learning to GOMO Instead of FOMO—With a Baby!

25 Jul
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Zadie’s first time at the beach! Leo Carillo State Beach.

Remember the term FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)? When that term was in heavy rotation, I totally understood it and felt it often. I wanted to be a part of the action; I never wanted to be left out. As a single person, it was hard to commit to a plan because I wanted to know I wasn’t missing out on anything else. But after having Zadie, I moved from FOMO to FOGO—Fear of Going Out! I knew I was missing out on stuff; I had a newborn for goodness’ sake. But I was afraid of going out, afraid she might have a meltdown and I wouldn’t know what to do. As she got older, I found consistent naps to be the key to avoiding meltdowns, so I guarded naptime with the zeal of Gollum for his precious ring. But Zadie naps three times a day, and that leaves very little time for going out.

Recently I heard about Eventbrite’s GOMO (Going Out More Often) campaign, where they’re encouraging people to get out of the Netflix rut and go enjoy life this summer. It immediately struck me as a great way to remember to get myself out of my comfort zone and take Zadie on little (and maybe sometimes big!) outings as we resettle in Los Angeles, where there are amazing events happening all the time!

When Robert and I last lived in Pasadena, our absolute favorite summer activity was going to see free concerts at the Levitt Pavilion in Memorial Park in Pasadena. We’d ride our bikes to Pita Jungle and pick up some falafel wraps and dolmas to go, then settle on a picnic blanket with a thermos full of a refreshing cocktail and listen to live music.

It’s a bit tougher now with a baby whose bedtime is 7:00, but I know Robert’s been dying to go out more often, whether it’s a hike or to lunch at a fun place downtown or even camping (that’s pretty far-fetched if you ask me!).

So partly for Robert’s sake, and partly for my own sanity, I’m trying to GOMO this summer! I had the opportunity to put my money where my mouth is this week, when a close friend invited me and Zadie to visit where she and her family were camping at the beach all week. She actually invited us to stay a night or two, but I know my limits! Still, I decided to pack up a beach bag and hit the road with Zadie, heading out to Malibu on a day that was supposed to be in the high 90s here in L.A. I timed it so we’d drive during Zadie’s first nap, and hopefully she’d sleep in the car, and then driving back during her third nap, hoping again for sleep and also to beat rush hour(s)! I thought maybe she could take her second nap in the carrier while we were at the beach.

Well, guess what? Zadie was an angel baby all day. She slept the first 30 minutes of our drive, then studied her hands quietly for about 45 minutes. J She didn’t sleep on me at the beach, but she had a great time and played independently (read: chewed on a package of baby wipes) on a beach blanket for what felt like the longest time! And then she slept the entire 90-minute drive home. It was a small miracle. As for me: I got out of the apartment, drove through the vineyards and canyons to be greeted by the perfectly blue Pacific Ocean on the other side, caught up with dear friends, and enjoyed the cooler beach weather. And, I saw that maybe Zadie only needs 2 naps a day, so we’ve been trying that and it’s opening up a lot more time!

Over the weekend we went to a friend’s birthday brunch, I took Zadie to Trader Joe’s on my own (that was a first for us, believe it or not); we went to church for the first time since being back in L.A. (and she did great in the nursery!), and we ended the weekend hanging out at a local park, where a mariachi band suddenly showed up and Zadie had her first live music experience.

It all started with one little trip to the beach, and now I feel like the world is my oyster! It reminds me of a quote I once read that said something like, “Everything you could possibly want is right outside your comfort zone.”

What about you? Were you afraid to go out when you had a baby? Or did you just strap that babe on and go about your life? Any tips for someone who needs to GOMO? (Besides “just do it”—I don’t find that very helpful!).

Can’t Hide My Crazy: Thoughts on Motherhood

16 Jun

 

 

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At my bridal shower several years ago, all of my friends wrote down little snippets of marital advice for me. My sister Rachel wrote something about how I ought to “hide the Moyal craziness” as much as I could. Now I’m not sure if we Moyal girls are crazier than other women (maybe we’re more passionate?), but I’ve never been able to heed her advice very well. Going through transition and change tends to bring out my nutty side, the part of me that wants to control things and goes into a tailspin when I can’t. Even when I’m in a season of positive change, like when I moved to Norway for a year, or when I started grad school, or when I married my husband—I still feel crazy and have an embarrassingly hard time with the transition. When I began grad school, I felt I needed to study every second and read every assigned page and get A’s on everything. When I got married, I needed to be the perfect wife, but I was unsure what that meant, and the confusion compounded my craziness.

Now, transitioning into a season of motherhood—and stay-at-home, round-the-clock motherhood, at that—the crazy is back with a vengeance. This time I have a little baby to try to control. I can hear you laughing, reader who has spent any time at all with real live human babies. They cannot be controlled. Even with Babywise, even with schedules and ideal wake times and the Baby Whisperer to solve all your problems. What worked yesterday might not work today. What worked this morning might not work this afternoon. A perfect nap day with a sweet-tempered baby might be followed by a day of 30-minute naps and unexplainable crying jags. The unpredictability alone is enough to make a person like me go bonkers, but add in the extreme stress a mother feels when she hears her baby cry (multiple times a day), and the emotions that come with such a world-rocking change of pace, role, routine, and even body… So let’s just say I’ve had my share of meltdowns since my daughter was born.

But here’s what makes me feel even crazier: the sense that I’m alone in these unstable, out-of-control feelings. Instagram is full of whimsical shots of babies with sweet captions about motherly love. Friends with kids barely remember the baby years. Some mothers in my post-partum group said things like they were loving every minute of motherhood, and that it’s been sheer bliss since their babies were born. Other moms with little ones are afraid to be real about how hard things are or how much they dislike their own baby sometimes. With the exception of the author Anne Lamott, the great Saint of All Normal Women Who Feel Normal Emotions, most people aren’t sharing the ugly details of this season of life. I get it. I don’t want to share, either, for at least five reasons at any given time:

  1. Someone reading might be desperate to have a baby and so far unable to. This makes the complaining mom completely rude and selfish and thoughtless.
  2. Someone reading may not have kids and judge the complaining mom, thinking, “What’s so hard about taking care of a baby?”
  3. Someone reading may have had children a long time ago, and now that their kids are grown, this person wants to scold the complaining mom about not cherishing these years while her kids are small.
  4. Someone reading may have four children and never experienced these types of negative emotions regarding mothering, and will judge the complaining mom as immature, selfish, and not cut out to be a mother. (OK, so I suspect this last one does not actually exist…but these are the moms who act like they’ve never experienced negative emotions about mothering, making me feel like a total monster who should never have had kids.)
  5. No one likes a complainer.

But there’s a difference between complaining and sharing your psychotic emotions so you can get out of your own head for a few minutes. I’m not into the type of articles that float around Facebook, all about how the author hasn’t showered in 2 weeks, forgets what non-spit-up-on clothes smell like, and only eats Cheerios off the floor for every meal. Those essays are ridiculous. My complaining is less about my baby (because let’s face it: she’s pretty much the best baby I could ever ask for), and it’s not even about the work of caring for her (it’s not rocket science, nor is it working in the salt mines); my complaining is actually about my own inability to cope with being a parent.

There’s a shame cycle in play: I crumble when a nap time runs short, or have a meltdown because I just need a break and when will there be a day when my neck doesn’t hurt and will my body ever be the same again. I experience these negative feelings (and yes, sometimes they are projected onto my daughter and I think ugly, resentful thoughts about how hard she’s made my life), and then I feel shame about the negative feelings and why I can’t just buck up and be an adult, and the shame creates even more negative feelings, till the crazy comes out and I tell my husband that I’m just going to get in the car and drive away and never look back.

I know I need to have more grace for myself. Lately I’ve been reminding myself that I went from pretty much just taking care of myself and my dog (and my husband, on occasion), to becoming a full-time, round-the-clock caregiver to a completely helpless being. That is enough to make anyone lose it once in a while.

So what do we do, when the crazy bubbles up inside of us? Calling my sister always helps. Getting out of my own head, where the baby’s sleeping habits have taken on the importance of issues like global warming and conflict in the Middle East. Telling myself I can take a break; it’s OK to space out sometimes while the baby is on her activity mat; it’s OK to leave her for a few hours with my husband on a weekend, and not just to go run errands.

And gratitude—I’m terrible at that one, but it’s truly a game-changer and a healer. Looking into my baby’s eyes and getting that hit of oxytocin, feeling overcome by how utterly beautiful she is, singing Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” to her, and kissing those soft, sweet, smiling cheeks.

Letting Go of My Past Self: Thoughts on Motherhood

11 Apr

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“After a while you could get used to anything.” This quote, from Albert Camus’ The Stranger, struck me as profound when I read it as a senior in high school. The main character says he believes he could live inside a dead tree trunk, with nothing to look at but “the sky flowing overhead,” and little by little he would have gotten used to it.

This is about as deep as it gets for a 17-year-old, and to be honest, the line has stuck with me as a sort of mantra through different transitional times in my life. The discomfort of change can be paralyzing, depressing, crazy-making, or can just plain suck. But I’d remind myself that I could get used to anything. Working at a summer camp where I had to be ready to leave my dorm at the ungodly hour of 6 am every morning? Sure, it was tough at first, but I got used to it. Reading a required 1,200 pages a week as a grad student? Of course it was intimidating, but I got used to the workload and to spending Saturdays in the library. When I became a teacher, I thought I’d never get used to getting up every day in front of a bunch of kids, but I did.

And back in January, when I suddenly had a tiny baby to care for, and had to learn to handle her and wash her and change her, when I spent hours a day on the couch learning how to feed her, I knew that at some point in the not-so-distant future, I would get used to this, too.

It’s the less tangible parts of my new role as a mother that are harder to become familiar with.

It’s like when I got married and became a wife. It didn’t take long to become accustomed to the weight of my wedding ring on my finger, or for waking up next to my husband to feel normal. But it took so long to get used to my new identity as a wife, to get used to a totally different way of being in the world: married rather than single.

So it is with motherhood. I’m no longer staggering under the workload of caring for my baby. I change diapers all day without blinking an eye. I can strap Zadie into her car seat or wrap her up in a sling with ease. I settle down to nurse my baby a half dozen times a day and (usually) don’t think twice about it. I haven’t slept in since New Year’s. All of these things I’m somewhat used to.

What I can’t get used to, though, is the sheer weight of responsibility I carry now as Zadie’s mother. It is my job to protect her, nurture her, and sustain her with my own body. The diapers and the breastfeeding will stop one day, but the responsibility I have for my daughter will continue for years. While it’s an incredible privilege to be her mother, if I let myself think about it much I feel suffocated by the burden I carry for her health, her happiness.

Recently I had a bit of an existential crisis about it—I longed for the days when I was only responsible for myself. I wanted to hop into a time machine and go back to my early twenties, to my traveling days, to Israel and Australia and Norway and Ireland and the rest. I wanted to strip off the heavy cloak of motherhood and be free again. I felt a weight in my chest that felt remarkably like grief, and then I realized: it is grief. I’m mourning the loss of my old self. She started dying during my pregnancy and now she’s gone forever.

I read a little devotional yesterday that had these words to share:

Out of Christ’s death comes life, and so for us. If there’s something you need to pronounce “dead” or “deadly” in your life, pronounce it. If there’s something of your past life that’s simply on a ventilator, let it die. It’s the only way you will know life, know the resurrection life that Jesus promises.

That desire to hop into a time machine was a wish to bring the dead back to life. But the only way to experience life now is to accept the death of my old self and embrace the new one. On that first Easter Sunday thousands of years ago, women who were mourning Jesus’ death arrived at his grave to pay their respects, but instead angels and an empty tomb greeted them. “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” the angels asked.

Why do I look for life in my past? The only life I can experience is here, now, in the present. That’s where God is working, that’s where the Holy Spirit is hovering over the darkness in me. A few years ago I wrote an essay called “To Be Born Over and Over Again,” and I had no idea how true my words would become.

In Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, one character says, “To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to die one hundred deaths.” And this, truly, is what I am resistant toward. I am resistant toward those hundred, those thousand deaths that make up a true, growing life, keeping us from stagnation and decay. The death of dependence as I walked into adulthood and learned to pay my own bills and manage my own affairs. The death of childhood friendships as we diverged into different life phases—marriage, children, singleness—and could not keep our ties tight enough. The death of dreams, of relationships, of innocence, of longtime habits and sins, of ideals and ignorance. We all die these deaths.

And yet if we have lived long enough to be marked by death, we know by now the great mystery that death brings life; all births require a kind of death. To live is to die a hundred deaths, but you might as well say to live is to be born over and over again. It is the approach to that birth that we fear and resist and see as death. But the pain of letting go of my girlish dependence made way for the birth of the woman Joy. One day, this fear and pain of giving up my independence will make way for myself to be born again as a mother—just as the literal pain I endure will bring forth my own baby.

…But the birthing process, and the first terrified and joyful weeks, will be raw, because that is an essential quality of new life. And I must labor again when I agonize over my children’s taking flight from our nest, and I must be reborn as another woman, another Joy, and learn to give birth to other ideas, relationships, and dreams. Oh God, let me never resist the deaths and the births that make up my life.

And that’s still my prayer. That I won’t seek the living among the dead. That I won’t stagnate and refuse to die or to be born again. That I will be changed, marked, by the deaths and births in my life, and become a better self because of them.

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