One Foot in Front of the Other


I'm sitting on my bed, drinking tea. I came up here to write for one hour, as I've been trying to do for almost two weeks now, every day. Some days, it's easy. I can't wait to get here, pouring out the words to a new poem or working one in progress like a jigsaw puzzle. Some days, like today, I get here feeling uninspired and with a whining voice in the back of my mind. I don't feel like it, the voice says. Just skip today. And I guess these are the days that are most important to push through.

I used to believe that I could write only when the mood struck, when inspiration hit. I believed that if I just waited patiently in between those bursts, another idea would come eventually. Now, I understand that the real work of creating comes between those (rare, precious) bursts of true creative inspiration. The real work of creating is just showing up, day after day, sometimes kicking and screaming.

As I sit here musing over this aspect of the creative life, it occurs to me that parenting is much the same. Most mornings, I wake up feeling unrested. I open my eyes and I think "already I have to get up with these kids? Didn't we just go to sleep?" I expect to get out of bed with the ache in my lower back and pelvis and thighs and feet having been soothed by sleep, only to find the ache is still there. It's a constant in my life. I change diapers, I get the kids breakfast, I refresh my Facebook feed, bleary eyed.  I nurse the baby. The sun comes up, the boys start to get wild and I know I need to engage, I need to get us all outside. But the ache. The tired. I just want to sit, and rock in the rocking chair, and close my eyes. But doing that is always so much harder than pushing myself to get up and get us all dressed and out the door for an hour. And eating junk convenience food for dinner always feels so much worse in the end than actually prepping and cooking a real meal.

Every day of this parenting gig I feel like I do the impossible. I wonder how the hell I can possibly get through another day, but then I just do. I'm sure most parents, moms of more than one child in particular, are familiar with the question: "How do you do it all?" I don't even know how to answer this. I shrug. Because I have to. I have to do this, I have to show up every. single. day. And feed and dress and engage with these little people because I don't have a choice. I have to do this work because I can't NOT do it. And some days are fabulous. Some days are beautiful and smooth, they just flow from moment to moment like my pen flows across a clean blank page in those rare moments of true inspiration. I push through so I can be open for those inspired moments.

So, in writing poems as well as in parenting, I just continue to show up. When I don't feel like it, when I'm tired, when I want to do anything but. I put one tired foot in front of the other, and keep plodding along.


Writing, Life


The past week was an exciting one for me in terms of writing. I met with UWO's writer-in-residence, Tanis Rideout, to go over some of my recent poems. She was so warm and encouraging and gave me some really helpful pointers for tightening up my work; suggestions that seemed general at the outset ("get rid of everything you don't need!") but that just clicked for me. I've been reworking everything I've written recently with these things in mind, being ruthless, looking at my poems line by line rather than just as a whole. Questioning each word, what does it do for the poem, what tone does it set, is there a better way to say this? I love the way a little nudge like that can just open up a whole new way of seeing. I'm going to submit these revised poems to another round of literary magazines, hoping to find them a home.

Over the weekend, London had its 2nd annual Words Fest, a festival celebrating all things wordy. I was able to take in a reading on Saturday morning at Museum London. It was invigorating for me to be among other writers, and especially to hear some localish authors read from newly published works. My favourite was Carolyn Smart, reading from her new collection of poems: Careen. Her reading was powerful and I picked up the book, a dramatic rendering of the story of Bonnie and Clyde.  I'm most of the way through it already and I'm really loving it.

Through all of this it's become clear to me that I want to connect with other writers, poets, creatives. I desperately need to share that part of myself with others who get it: who get the process, the struggle, the thrill of a new idea. Who can look at something I've written and offer constructive criticism. I think there is a thriving writers community here in London. Later this month I'm going to try to attend a meeting of the London Writer's Society in hopes of finding a critique group, and some day...when I can be away from babies and stay awake past 8 pm, I'd like to attend one of the poetry open mics hosted by Poetry London.

I see it as being a long road, but I feel my feet are firmly planted upon it and if you're still reading this blog, you'll get to come along for the ride. I suppose I see this space as focusing mostly on my journey as a writer. If you came here strictly for the baby stuff, and you don't wish to follow along further, then thank you for coming this far, at least.

I think I've found my writing time, though. In making the best of being up at 5 am with the littles every day, I've started slipping away for an hour around 7, once P is awake and we've both had some caffeine, back up to the bedroom where I write for an hour. I've always loved mornings best, and of all the times I've tried out in the last couple of months, this feels the easiest. I think it's something I can maintain. And having that writing time in the morning makes it easier for me to be present and engaged with the kids the rest of the day, something I've been working on, too.

I started this blog lamenting the loss of myself in motherhood, but over the last 6 months I see myself reclaiming my identity as writer, a poet, and that is inextricably tied to my recovery from PPD. A year ago, I was merely surviving, dreading having a third child, totally overwhelmed and depressed. Today I see myself as being on the brink of thriving, and I am so deeply grateful for that!

one year ago

One year ago, heading out of the Yukon.

On Rejection


Recently I wrote that I'd submitted a few poems to several different online and print literary magazines. I've heard back from two of those journals already, both kind-hearted rejections. And I'm okay with that. In fact, I was expecting it. It's been years since I read or wrote poetry with any regularity. It's only been weeks, a few short months at most, since I decided to dedicate myself to the craft of poetry again. So it's silly to think that with the first few poems I write, I could be published.

And I understand in a way that I didn't years ago that it's okay to be rejected, that it is absolutely a part of the creative life. It's the risk we take in creating and in putting our art out there. In her book "Big Magic", Elizabeth Gilbert asks: "What are you passionate enough about that you can endure the most disagreeable aspects of the work?" She quotes a blogger named Mark Manson, in asking "what's your favorite flavor of shit sandwich?" Which is to say that rejection is the shit sandwich that goes hand in hand with putting your art out there for consideration. And if you love your art, you'll learn to tolerate the shit sandwich, too.

Through reading "Big Magic" and in considering more deeply my relationship to my writing, I've come to understand an idea that I've flirted with for years, an idea first brought to me through "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. That is the idea that the practice of any kind of art is a spiritual one. To create is a spiritual endeavour. It's the idea that the work, whether it be a poem or a photograph or a sculpture, wants to be made, and it wants to be made through us. It is a gift from the Universe or God or whatever random creative forces coincided to put us all here, and the best thing we can do is be grateful and enter into communion with our creativity, acting as midwives to bring them into being. It's a beautiful idea, and one that softens the blow of rejection.

Because I want to create. It gives me joy to write poetry, to play with words and punctuation and line breaks, to bring a thought into being, to crystallize it on the page just so. Lately I approach poetry and writing as a form of play. It brings me peace instead of the anxiety I used to feel. I've let go of the idea that to be successful, to call myself "writer" I have to be published and widely read. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to be published and widely read, but it no longer feels like an end goal. I feel like I'm finally learning to feel joy in the process, in the magic of creating, whatever the end result may be. I will continue to hone my craft and I will continue to send my work out for consideration. I find satisfaction that someone, somewhere, read it and thought about it long enough to say "No, thanks. Not for us."

I see this shift in my mind touching other aspects of my life, too. Last week I tried a new recipe, a variation of shepherd's pie, for dinner. I put a fair amount of time and effort into the meal, first roasting, peeling and pureeing sweet potato for the topping, then chopping all the vegetables for the filling, sauteing them and making a sauce. The dish was bright, colourful, and I was excited to try it. But my boys declared it was "yucky" before they even had a bite (though Colm did eat some of the sweet potato topping) and my husband bravely ate most of his portion, though I noticed all of the kale pushed to the side of the plate in a soggy green pile. And my initial reaction was one of disappointment, and even a bit of embarrassment to think I was going to pass this very different dinner off on my currently picky bunch. I bit back tears as I cleared the plates in a huff.

But then I remembered these ideas about creativity I've been turning over. I remembered the grace with which I accepted the rejection of my poems. I realized that I took joy in preparing the meal. I myself thought it was quite good. So what if my critics disagreed? I probably won't make it again, but I'm glad I tried. In that moment my mind shifted from feeling personally offended to just observing the reactions with curiosity. I realized that I can take pleasure in preparing a meal, but I can't control peoples' taste. Just like with my art.

If we're to live a happy creative life, we have to learn to deal with the inevitable frustrations, too. I'd rather write poems that nobody else likes than not write poems at all. And the same goes for my cooking!


A Mother's Writing Life Version 2.0


The only thing constant about my writing life is that it is always changing. If I try to set myself up into some kind of routine, it inevitably falls apart within a week or two. When I think of the oft-given writing advice to schedule your craft for the same time every day, so that your muse might follow, I feel despair. Because that just ain't happening. I thought my time would be early mornings, up with the baby. But then she started sleeping a little later, and, thankfully, so did I. Then, I thought it would be during Colm's nap, but Charlotte doesn't reliably sleep for that and it leaves Aedan alone in front of the t.v. for an hour or more. Then, I thought it would be an hour several times a week in the corner coffee shop, but that's only happened twice, because life with three littles is crazy and unpredictable.

My muse must be fast and ready at all times, prepared to leap into action whenever I find 30 minutes or an hour alone. I have to trust that she is just the muse I need at this point in my life. It encourages me, just now, to imagine this spirit: she is wiry and tough, sharp-eyed and always listening. She sees the opportunity coming before I do, and she begins to hum in anticipation. And I hear that hum, hear it steady and low beneath the constant (and I do mean constant) chatter around me. Together we snatch up a pen and paper, or fire up the computer, and we create something. We put words together, or rearrange them on the page. We build my writing life new each day.

I've been drawn to poetry over these last couple of months, both because of its compressed nature and because it's my first love. I've been writing and rewriting several poems, polishing them til they gleam, til I can't look at them anymore. Yesterday, I sent them out to several online literary magazines for consideration. I'll try not to think about them and how they might be faring out there as I move on with new poems.

This morning over oatmeal and green tea, I emailed a local writer's society to inquire about their critique groups. And I joined the mailing list for the Ontario Writer's Conference, which I hope to attend in the spring.

So, even though this seems like the worst, most ridiculous time to be building a writer's life, I'm doing it. Because, like I said in this post back in July, this is the only life I can save. And as Elizabeth Gilbert points out in her inspiring new book, Big Magic, this life is temporary, so why not use it to create?

This post is part of the #WhatImWriting link up. Please visit Writing Bubble to see the other linkers!


Heart in Two Places


It's been almost a year since we left our Yukon home. We left with plans to spend the darkest part of winter visiting family in Ontario and exploring the beaches of Costa Rica. But our beach plans changed mid-vacation, and soon after returning to Ontario, we began talking about moving our family cross-country. It has been the easiest, and also the most difficult thing I've ever done.

Here in Ontario, my kids get to experience the connection to their extended family that I enjoyed growing up.  We see my sister and her son at least once a week, and we usually spend our weekends with my parents. P and I are free to go on dates occasionally; Aedan enjoys sleepovers at Gramma's; we visit my grandmothers regularly.  I didn't realize how important all of this was to me until I had kids on the other side of the country, 2 day's travel from our family. Seeing pictures on Facebook of my family's gatherings, with all of that distance between us, was heartbreaking. Watching my sister get married via FaceTime because I was too pregnant to travel, was heartbreaking. I no longer felt like living in the Yukon was a gift: it felt like an exile, self-imposed. But we had a home there, a business, and roots put down over a decade, longer for P.

We made the decision to move in distress.  From the safety of my parents' house, I felt intense anxiety at the thought of going back to our little cabin in the woods. I was dreading having another baby so far from my mom, and from all of the support of extended family. So we scraped together our resources, we made it work, somehow, and we bought a house here. What started as a trip "out" became a huge move. P has been back regularly, for work, and I've had one brief visit. The boys have yet to return, though.

When I think of our Northern home, I remember the total hush at our cabin. Even in town, there is a resounding lack of all the background noise of a larger city. No sirens wailing, no trains shunting along the tracks, no traffic hum. Rarely, a helicopter's blades cutting through the air. Instead we hear the wind in the spruce, the leaves of birch and aspen tremble, the shush of the river coursing by. Quiet so complete you can hear a raven's wings beat overhead. And the community in Dawson is like a huge extended family, looking out for one another. There are the dark parts, too, like any family. But overall, it's a caring place and an exciting one, too. There are so many possibilities there, and chances to affect real change in the community. In the Yukon it's easy to raise kids with an appreciation for nature, because you're surrounded by it. And kids who grow up there are often a little different: independant, enterprising, creative.

Choosing to leave all of that behind was horrible. But when I see Aedan playing with his cousin or when I send the kids to my mom's when I need a break, I know beyond a doubt that it was absolutely the right choice.  My heart is here, with my family, but it's back there, too. Robert Service wrote of it in his poem "Spell of the Yukon". It gets under your skin, that place. It runs in your blood and it beats in your bones. I still identify as a Yukoner; it is such a huge part of who I am today. And I know we'll return to our hushed cabin in the woods. We'll find a way to honour our two hearts.


Identity Crisis


I've been silent here these past few weeks. In that time I've been writing poetry; I've reconnected with my university creative writing professor, who has offered to serve as my mentor; I've continued down a path of healing from PPD, taking good care of myself and, in turn, my family. It's been good to be somewhat offline, but I haven't forgotten about this blog. In the back of my mind, I've been wondering what I want for this space.

I started out wanting a creative outlet, but since finding my way back to poetry and deciding to take myself seriously as a writer, I feel like what time and energy I can spare for creative writing is better directed elsewhere. And although I'd like to use this space to connect with other writers and to talk about the intersection of writing and mothering, my posts solely about mothering and how difficult it can be have also been well received. And I feel like it's really important to talk about the hard, ugly truths of parenting. That being said, I sometimes want this to be a baby-free zone, a place to guard those parts of myself that are more than "mama."

So. Where does that leave us? I love blogging, with its possibility for connection and peering into the lives of others. I'm not ready to take a permanent step away from it.  Maybe I see the answer here in this post. Maybe I don't hold myself to any one topic, and continue to write what's in my heart. I guess I just feel like I owe the writers a post about writing, the mamas a post about moming, and those who are just curious readers a post more interesting than this one!

What would you like to read more of here? If you blog, have you ever had a similar blog identity crisis? I'd love to hear how you moved past it in the comments!

This post is part of the #WhatImWriting linkup. Please go to Muddled Manuscript to visit the other participants!

395 2015 Day 51

Self-Care is Hard


I'm sitting in a corner coffee shop, near my house. I am alone. I drink a green tea as I type this post, trying not to listen to the conversations taking place around me. My back is to the door: I'm determined not to be distracted from my hour of writing time. Weeks of mental preparation have brought me here, a morning of talking myself out of it, talking myself back into it. How is it possible that 4 years ago I did this kind of thing without a second thought? Now, I sit here nervously, expecting at any minute for the Mom Police to come up behind me, clap a heavy hand on my shoulder and take my tea away, spilling it across my lap and burning me. They wouldn't take me to jail, no. Just back home to the babies.

If there are myriad blog posts and magazine articles and forum conversations dedicated to the importance of dad's self-care, I apologize. I've missed them. Self-care, the very intentional practise of putting oneself first every once in awhile, is the realm of women and mothers. We are socialized, particularly as mothers, to put everyone BUT ourselves first, all of the time. Then we read that the key to staying sane is to care for ourselves. To put the oxygen mask on ourselves first. Enjoy a cup of tea, they write. Take a long bath. Go for a run. Practice yoga. And these things all sound wonderful and simple, but the truth is, they're not. Taking care of yourself after not doing that for several years is SO HARD. I expect it will take several weeks of regularly coming to this coffee shop, sitting at this same table with this same mug of green tea, before I feel good about this. Before it feels easy and my cup truly feels full.

Why? Why is this so difficult?

Maybe it's wrapped up in my own failing self-worth. If I don't feel like I deserve even this, a couple of hours spread out across the week, then of course this time would feel stolen from the laps of my children, prised from their grimy little fingers. Of course I'm waiting for someone to call my bluff, send me packing back to dirty diapers and the endless loop of making snacks and cleaning them up.

Maybe I take some kind of sick pleasure out of being a martyr. I will spend all my time with these kids if it kills us all, dammit. But nobody really likes a martyr, they're worshipped only after they're long dead. Living with one: not fun. And I am worth so much more to my family if I'm living, and happy to be doing so.

Maybe I like to think that I'm the only one who knows how to care for them properly, the only one they want. Charlotte has started sucking her thumb this past week, soothing herself to sleep on many occasions.  And each time she does, I am surprised, happy, devastated. Already, three months old, she doesn't need me for that one little moment. If all I am is a baby-soother, a milk-maker, a bum-wiper, then of course it feels uncomfortable to be something other.

So here I am, in the world of the living. In the world of adults with complicated beverage orders, with softly playing indie folk music floating on the cool air. And around me, others talk with friends, they do a Sudoku puzzle, they read the news on their laptop. I am incognito, taking care of myself. I pencil it into my calendar: "self-care, 10 am".  It's ridiculous and it's the only way. So if you're like me, and you find it almost impossible to take care of yourself: Do it. Find a way. Be uncomfortable the first 10 times you do it, and then slowly, like I hope to, I hope you'll feel better about it, too.

I'll write my book of poems, my collection of short stories, my novel, one stolen hour at a time.

Image via Flickr user Nina Nelson. Licensed under Creative Commons

Learning to Live with Anger


It's late morning. I sit on the couch in the sunroom, nursing my baby and watching the boys play. This particular day started too early, and my attempt to sneak in some writing before the demands started was interrupted when Aedan curled up beside me, clinging to my arm and resting his head against my shoulder. Now, the boys are playing a noisy game of "you be the lizard and I'll be the dragon chasing you": they roar, hiss, screech with delight. To say I am overstimulated would be an understatement. And I'm tired, and hungry. I decide to do something about that last one. I sling the baby up onto my shoulder, and walk to the kitchen to find something to eat. And the second I am out of the room, Colm's squeals of joy turn to cries of distress. I tense up (if it's even possible for me to be more tense), my jaw clenching, and storm back into the room. Aedan has his brother pinned face-down, and he's gripping Colm's chubby little cheeks, pulling his head back. And I lose it.

With my baby still in my arms I start yelling. I forcefully pull Aedan off of his little brother, pushing him away from Colm. I scream "What are you doing? What is your problem? It's not okay to hurt people!" And as I utter those words, a voice somewhere in my head whispers: You are such a hypocrite. It's not okay to hurt people but you're trying to hurt him.

And then the guilt and the shame set in. I feel like shit, like an awful person. All three of us are crying. I promise to do better but the truth is, now that I've lost it once today I'm more likely to lose it again. This path is so worn I swear I walk it in my sleep.

Anger is absolutely the last emotion I expected to encounter on my parenting journey. So when it began to bubble up, hot and intense and unstoppable, just after Colm was born, I had no idea how to handle it. I had never experienced anything like the kind of anger I've just described. My biggest triggers are Aedan getting too rough with his little brother, and my own over-stimulation: both of these are unavoidable parts of parenting young kids. I hate this aspect of myself. I think it's ugly, out of control, and scary. Over the last two years, I have promised myself and my kids repeatedly that I will not yell. I will not lose it. I will do better, be better. And, inevitably, I break my promises, over and over again.

With the guidance of a wondeful therapist, I've come to realize some key issues with my approach. First of all, framing it as "doing better, being better" implies that what I'm doing now is wrong, and that there is something wrong with who I am today. And saying "I'm going to be better" sets me up for a big let down when I lose it the next time. Because, let's face it, just saying those words doesn't magically make it so. Learning a new way of dealing with explosive anger isn't going to happen overnight. So if I've promised to be better, and then I'm not, the feelings of shame and guilt are even greater. It's a pattern that leads to more anger, more shame, more depression. Instead of saying "I'm going to do better", I now think of it as doing differently. I'm learning new techniques. I am still me: ever evolving me.

The biggest issue I face, though, is that I am trying to live without anger, trying to deny the feeling exists, trying to squash it down. But anger is a very real, albeit a very uncomfortable, feeling. It is physically uncomfortable: we often feel anger in our bodies, the tension and the jaw-clenching I mentioned. Maybe you ball your hands into fists or grind your teeth. Maybe you feel it in your gut. We often feel an intense need to relieve that anger, by yelling or by lashing out: shoving, hitting, kicking. And that may feel like relief, briefly. And then we feel awful for what we've  done. We might feel even angrier then, at the person who "made" us lose it in the first place, and at ourselves, for losing it.  The feeling of discomfort lingers, intensifies.

So what if we just sit with our intense feelings? What if we just give those feelings space to be? Over the past month or so I've been trying this. Noticing when my anger is being triggered. Acknowledging it by saying, either in my head or outloud: "I'm really angry right now!"  I feel it in my whole body, I feel that urge to strike out, and it is so uncomfortable. I feel my anger peak, and then, gradually, simmer down and finally pass. I've noticed that when I do this, I'm actually angry for less time. There are fewer tears shed. My relationship to my kids is unscathed.

The hardest part about sitting with my anger is still dealing with the situation at hand.  Since my anger is usually triggered by Aedan getting too rough with his brother, I still have to act. Real life prevails: I can't just retreat to a quiet room and deep breathe until it passes. For now, I tell Aedan firmly that we don't push, hit, kick, bite etc. And then I go to Colm, if he needs me, and I hug him and kiss him and make sure he's okay. I hold his sweet little self until the anger begins to dissipate and then I might address Aedan more fully. For now, it works to get me through the day.

This trick of giving space to uncomfortable feelings works with more than just anger, of course. When I'm feeling depressed or anxious, I've begun to just notice these feelings, acknowledge them, and patiently watch for them to pass. And in the same vein, when I am feeling happy, joyful even, I honour those feelings by attending to them, letting them swell and crest and then gently lap at my toes as I wait for the next wave, whatever it might bring.

Were you surprised by unexpected emotions in parenthood? How do you deal with things like anger or deep sadness in your everyday life? I'd love to hear what works for you.


A Mother's Writing Life


The Journey
By Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road was full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly 
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

I recently came across Mary Oliver's poem "The Journey" for the first time. Reading it, and then re-reading it over and over, I felt like she'd peered into my life and written these words straight at me. It's the first time a piece of writing has spoken so directly to my soul.

I say this because it is only very recently, in a very intense time of life, surrounded by very small, very dependent people, and exhausted from 5 years' worth of broken sleep, that I have decided to take myself seriously as a writer.  I feel that purpose clearly and calmly.

I used to think being a writer meant producing best-selling, literary novels.  I thought it meant a brooding, solitary life. It was an idealized fantasy, and when my life didn't shape up like that, I shrugged, and with more than a little heartache, put the dream in the corner of a dark closet in my mind.  I spent years just living: fucking up, falling down, drinking and dancing, climbing mountains and being dirty. It felt chaotic, and now is even more chaotic: now looks the very least like the writing life I imagined.  But like she writes in her poem, one day I finally knew what I had to do.  And even though this looks like the worst possible time to begin, I can't do anything BUT begin.

I understand now that the writer's life is whatever life looks like, so long as there is reading and writing woven into the minutes and hours.

So I just fit it in: I write, bleary-eyed when I'm up at 5 with a gassy baby; I read while I eat breakfast, pausing to refill cereal bowls or butter another piece of toast; I write while little ones nap, pecking out words one-handed, the baby asleep across my lap; I read a few poems in the evening, lying in bed nursing, half-listening to the boys splashing in the tub as my husband gets them ready for bed. And in a few years, that much further down the road, I'll have the momentum built up to keep going.  I'll have even more time to give to my craft, my passion. I'll be so grateful to have made the start now.  Because it can be so easy to tell yourself that now isn't the time, so easy to put it off and put it off and put it off.  And then one day it's too late and you're left with nothing but regret, cold ashes sifting and falling through your fingers.

The second half of Oliver's poem feels especially true to me: her description of the stars beginning to shine through the clouds, of the inner voice becoming clearer, so perfectly mirrors how I feel about my own life right now. It feels so right, and so easy, and so essential, to be doing this, and doing it now.  To be, as she writes, saving the only life that I can.

Night Sky

Photo via Flickr user Craighton Miller. Licensed via Creative Commons

Morning Pages


The sky has just begun to lighten; the robins start to sing the sun over the horizon.  In bed beside me, Charlotte begins to fuss, as if on cue.  She kicks her chubby little legs, squirming on her back, her face scrunched up as she grunts and strains.  Her belly is tight: I try to massage it but I know my girl needs to get upright.  I swing my legs over the edge of the mattress and hoist us both up to standing.  Instantly, her body goes soft on my shoulder, her grunts quiet.  She burps forcefully as I sneak out of the room, skirting the squeaky floorboards so as not to disturb the boys.

Downstairs where it is cool and quiet, I sit on the couch, baby up on my shoulder or reclined on my propped up legs, and write.  Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist's Way, calls them morning pages.  Others might simply call it journaling. In these early hours of the morning, bleary eyed, I fill 3 pages of my journal with stream-of-conscious writing, my smooth black Sharpie pen pushing the words from my brain onto the page.

Sometimes I write out a vivid dream; sometimes I start by writing my intentions for the day; sometimes it jumps around, from the banal to deeper thoughts and back again.  And some days I get interrupted by a baby who won't settle or a little boy who woke up and couldn't find his mama.  Some days I don't make it to the couch at all, choosing precious sleep. On these days, morning pages may be noon pages, nap pages, whenever-I-get-20-minutes pages. Or they might not happen at all.

I've been writing morning pages, off-and-on, since my grade 13 year of highschool, when a creative writing teacher introduced them to us. I've gone long stretches without them.  They've guided me through emotional crises, they've helped to unlock my creativity.  They are like a talisman for me: on the days that I write them, I feel able to work on another piece of writing, to start a poem or a blog post.  I find that getting that blurt out helps more cohesive sentences to flow.  Those messy, disorganized first thoughts make way for thoughts more lyrical, more musical. During the stretches where I don't write them, don't journal at all, I am usually at my least creative.  I cease to think of myself as a writer.  Morning pages have become essential to the health of my muse, and by extension, the health of my soul.

How about you? Do you journal or write morning pages? What keeps your muse healthy?

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The Mother I Am


The mother I thought I'd be scours Pinterest for the best wheat-free homemade play dough recipe.  She tries to engage a little boy who can't sit still in mixing up the dough.  The mom that I am gets irritated when he keeps dipping his fingers in the salty mixture and licking the salt from his fingertips; she shoos him away and finishes the dough herself.  The mom I thought I'd be proudly brings the tough to the kitchen table, showing her boys how to roll it, shape it, squish it. She is disheartened when one of them eats it and the other declares it too sticky and throws it on the floor. Both boys run away after only a few minutes. The mom that I am brushes past and cleans up the kitchen, sneaking a piece of chocolate while she's at it.

The mother that I thought I'd be has carried a crate full of yarn across the country, each skein an unknit dream of a hat or a sweater to keep a kid warm. She has dozens of cloth diapers, also dragged across the country, waiting to be used.  The mother that I am contemplates taking the crate of yarn to the thrift store as she reaches for another papery Huggies in the endless work of keeping little bums dry.

The mother that I thought I'd be tries so hard to love every. single. minute. of every long day, while the mother that I am just tries to get through to another bedtime without breaking down.

She is not so strong, the mother that I thought I'd be.  Every day, as I move forward in this parenting journey, her hopes diminish, her voice grows weak.  I can barely hear her, now.  The mom that I am is hell-bent on survival, and that makes her strong.  She is wise in that she knows she'll never be able to do it all and love it all, so instead she trudges through, lifting her head up every now and again to appreciate the bits of beauty:

blowing bubbles in the backyard after two days of rain;
the boys playing quietly, side by side;
the baby falling asleep just before I am about to eat dinner;
the low, intimate sounds of all of us sharing sleep.

So I come to you, good-enough mama, strong, warrior woman, with my white flag raised, palms open and empty.  I surrender to her, the mother that I am.

365 2015 day 60

Healing from Post-Partum Depression


It is late morning in October 2013. I'm lying in a darkened bedroom in a house that is not my own, in Whitehorse, Yukon. My breasts are engorged and while my newborn boy nurses on one side, the opposite breast leaks, dampening my shirt. My eyes leak tears. My mom comes into the room, holding back tears herself.  She kisses me, tells me she loves me, and then she is gone, off to catch her flight back to Ontario. I wail into the empty house while my baby sleeps at my breast.

I am standing at the kitchen counter in our cabin, the baby wrapped tight on my chest while my first born watches Nemo for the second time that day. My fingers fly over the keyboard as I vent to my sister online. I'm crying again; it seems like I haven't really stopped since my mom left a few weeks ago. My husband has escaped into town to work, and my closest neighbour is several kilometers away; they keep mostly to themselves. I keep mostly to myself, with only babies and dogs and whiskey jacks for company.

I am stumbling in the dark of post-partum depression and I can't admit it to anyone.  I try to be strong. I never ask for help.  I yell at my two year old with his baby brother in my arms and then we all cry together.

It goes on like this for more than a year, into a third pregnancy. I'll believe I've turned a corner and then something drags me back down again.

We move back to Ontario. We move in boxes sent through the mail, in suitcases on the plane. We move in uncertainty and desperation. We hope things will be better.

It is late morning at the end of May 2015.  I'm lying in a bedroom full of light, in my own home.  My baby girl nurses, my breasts leak.  My mom comes into the room, smiling.  She kisses the baby's soft dark hair and then she packs up a change of clothes for the boys, taking them to her house for the day, a 5 minute drive away.  When she brings them home that evening, she cooks us all dinner and helps get my boys into bed.

I'm sitting on the squishy blue couch across from my therapist. The baby is asleep at my breast. Through tears I tell her I'm having a shitty day, that I want to run away.  We talk it out while the pile of crumpled tissues grows at my side. On this day I'm sad, but I'm getting stronger. I'm learning to be gentle with myself, with my kids.  I'm learning to ask for help and to accept it when it's offered.

I take my three children to the park.  I wave hello to my neighbours, chat with other mothers at the park while the boys play.  It feels simple, and easy.  I smile at the sun and am thankful.

When we hear about a "healing birth", we imagine a previous birth marred by some kind of trauma, followed by a birth that empowers, smooths over, satisfies.  We don't usually think of it in the context of what comes after the birth. But for me, this third post-partum period in my life has been incredibly healing.  Finally, I am experiencing what it's like to take care of myself and to be supported and cared for from all sides. I am able to drink in these newborn days without overwhelming sadness, grief and anger haunting my every moment. They are there, spectres lurking in the shadows of my mind, but I hold them at bay.

Freedom from the Next Thing


Not too long ago, I wrote an overdue e-mail to a friend in Dawson. I told her about Charlotte's birth, and about our new home here in Ontario, and then I wrote this:

I find myself fantasizing about Dawson pre-kids...I miss that freedom. I miss sitting by the river smoking pot and then wandering down Front St and bumping into a friend and going for tea and then hey let's go for a hike and then beers in the Tavern and stumbling home at dawn.

We lead very different lives, she and I. She is childless by choice, and has given her life to traveling all over the world from the time seasonal work in Dawson shuts down in October until it starts up again in May.  She has a life full of that freedom that I wrote about there.  She's a bit like a wandering albatross, while some days I feel like a budgee with clipped wings, unable even to fly around the house.

But she wrote me back about how she misses those days of Dawson freedom, too.  She admitted that they were younger days, not something she was up for any longer.  And she wrote about other longings: the things she didn't have in her life, or the things she did have that held her back.

It made me realize that no matter what our situation, so many of us at times wish for something completely different. It's a simple truth, but it holds. There are days when what we've got looks tarnished, over-worn.  It's just too damn hard, and the days gone by or the days we've never lived shine and glow and beckon us.  And those other realities might be nice to live, for a day or a week or even a whole year or two. But eventually, they'll tarnish, too. And we might long for what we gave up.

This has been a recurring theme in my life, and I've written about it before: always wishing for what I don't have, always thinking that the next move, the next identity, the next "thing" will make me happy. What I've been missing all these years is that these things will never grant me the deep sense of acceptance that I'm seeking. Increasingly I am becoming aware that life just is, that I am, and that the things around me change, they ebb and flow but that I am the constant. It's an inner peace that I'm seeking, rather than the perfect set of external conditions.

Having small children, being a homemaker,  is lonely. So, too, is being single and childless and traveling the world. Freedom looks different for each of us, in each changing moment. More and more I believe that for me, the freedom of my 20's--joints on the river bank and beers in the Tavern--isn't the freedom I seek.  The freedom of my 30's is a freedom from "the next thing"; it means being okay with whatever life sends my way, knowing that it will pass and change again.

I Am Enough


As I sit on the toilet, the ring around the tub glares at me and I think: I should give it a quick scrub right now.

I am not quite three weeks post-partum. And the baby is starting to fuss.  And it's 2 o'clock in the morning.

When the sun is up I watch P tidy up behind me in the kitchen, fold the laundry, put the groceries away in the fridge. I watch him with the words "I'm sorry" ready to leap from my lips a thousand times; with a feeling of guilt churning in my stomach.  I imagine he is irritated, resentful, tired. I bumble along in his wake, trying to step in and do it all one handed, the baby balanced with the other hand against my shoulder.

"Sit down, sweetie," he tells me.  "You just had a baby. Relax."  I apologize, again, but I can't sit down.

Later, I stand at the bottom of the stairs, Charlotte in my arms, while Colm stands at the top of the stairs, looking down at me, forlorn.  He lifts his arms up: "Carry you?" he calls down to me, over and over.

"No, baby," I say, tears in my eyes.  "Mama can't carry you down now. You can do it. Mama can hold your hand."

"No!" he cries. My heart is already broken; I imagine I've broken his now, too, that he feels abandoned. I've pushed him to fledge before his feathers are grown.

In one day I take the baby to Costco, then, with my sister, walk to the park and chase the kids around.  It's been two weeks, I figure.  It's time for life to get back to normal.  That night, sore and exhausted, I cook dinner, too.  The next day, my feet crotch hips back ache.

An adequate amount of sleep is something I chase: it is impossible, like a dog trying to catch its own clipped tail, but I wake up early and refuse to nap. Instead I get up with the boys and dole out bowls of cereal and almond milk; I read the news; I write; I stare out at the garden overgrown with weeds and fret that I'm not out there on my knees in the dirt. What must the neighbours think of me?

I feel like I'm doing nothing, being lazy and burdensome, when really what I'm doing is recovering from 10 months of sharing my body in what is essentially a parasitic relationship. At the end of those 10 months, I pushed a 9 pound baby out of my vagina. And now I feed her from my breasts. Quietly, pretending like it's no big deal, I'm sustaining another person's life. Why can't that be enough? Why do I undervalue this work? It is enough for my kids; why can't it be enough for me?

It is so hard for me to sit, and feed the baby and let my body heal without enormous amounts of guilt and anxiety weighing on me.  I have to try, though.

So I turn my back on the dirt-ringed tub, and hurry back to bed, curling around my baby, gently shushing her with my breast. We drift off to sleep together, and that is enough.

A Home Water-Birth Story


Sometime after midnight on May 26th, I woke not with the usual heartburn, but with mild contractions.  In the days leading up to labour, I always wonder if I'll remember and recognize the feeling of a birth's beginnings. I worry I won't notice it or correctly identify it.  But of course, it is unmistakeable.

Finally! I thought as I stumbled to the bathroom for a drink of water.  The night was warm and muggy, the fans gently whirring in the hallway.  I let P sleep: experience told me we should all just sleep, so I got back into bed, snuggling Colm to me, intensely aware that it would be the last time we'd lie in this bed in this exact way.  I slept.

In the early morning, the contractions hadn't changed much.  We all got up and I told P and the boys I thought we'd be meeting the new baby sometime later today.  The day began as usual: with oatmeal and green tea, and cereal for the boys.  I texted my mom to tell her today would be the day, and cancelled the 41 week appointment I was supposed to have with the midwife that afternoon. Then, I tried to relax and let my body do the work while I spent my last morning as a mother of two.

Becoming a mother for a second or third time is so different from the first time.  Of course it is.  The excitement and anticipation are there but there is also an undercurrent of guilt, of worry that I won't be able to divide myself to attend to them all; that I'm robbing the previous baby of his rightful babyhood, pushing him into the next stage of developement too soon.

I tried to relish that morning with the boys, tried to be loving and connected and present for them. We read books and I did the voices and I didn't yell. I put Colm down for a nap and snuggled him so hard while I napped, too.  And then, shortly before 1, I couldn't be patient any more.

The contractions were taking more and more of my concentration.  As the boys ran from one end of the house to the other, bouncing off the walls in between, I frantically texted my mom.

Can you come over now?

While we waited for her I got the boys ready to go to the park.  I paced and I fretted over when to call the midwife.  As soon as they were out the door, I headed upstairs to make up the bed in the birth room. Finally, I decided to page the midwife.

I couldn't tolerate the kids any longer, I told her.

She laughed and said she was on her way.

I told P he should start filling up the birth tub. I paced some more, the contractions getting a little stronger.

When Julie, the midwife, arrived, I was dilated to 5 cm.  My previous labours have been fast, but still I worried that I'd paged her too soon. In spite of my constant worry, the combo of the kids being out of the house, the midwife being there and the tub being filled acted as a powerful augment to my labour: suddenly the contractions gripped my belly, doubled me over as I tried to climb into the pool. Julie called the second midwife as I began to vocalize through my contractions.

The warm water was wonderful, relaxing, and I thought I'd have more time but it was as though my body knew I was eager to be done with pregnancy and onto the next phase. A few more strong contractions and I was sounding grunty. My vocalizations got louder, the pressure in my bottom was intense. The contractions were coming hard and fast, I was pushing and how the hell can I be pushing already? I thought. The second midwife arrived; I reached down to feel the baby's head bulging against my perineum. Almost there, I thought, screeched, groaned between clenched teeth. As the baby's head crowned I felt myself on the verge of losing control of myself.  The pain was more intense than in either of my other labours.  I just wanted this to be over! I pushed hard with that thought in mind and the head was out.

It is such an otherwordly experience to feel a head emerge from your body. I could give birth 10 times and still be awestuck each time.  And then, there is a blissful pause, a strange between-worlds few moments in which I felt the baby's body rotate. I could barely wait for the next contraction before I began to push hard, long, beyond the contraction to birth her body.  Your body.  You're here now, in my arms, in this hot, stuffy room in the afternoon of May 26th. Not crying yet, eyes still closed. The midwife towels your face, flicks the soles of your feet. You oblige, and take a breath and let it out with a soft cry that gets louder. Your colour is lovely, your hair thick and dark.

A girl, your daddy says, and I don't believe him until I look for myself.

Your brothers come bounding upstairs, they kiss your head and tell me I was too loud. Your grandma beams down at you, at us, and herds the boys downstairs. After all my earlier nostalgia, I don't mind seeming them go. This time is for me and  you.

Soon P cuts the cord and you are free of me, I am free of you, carefully getting out of the tub and settling into the bed to deliver the placenta.  I look at you.  We are quiet in the bustle around us, and you whisper your name to me: Charlotte.

The rest doesn't matter, the afterbirth, the afterpains, all passing irritations.  You're here, in my arms, on my chest, sleeping already.

Welcome to the world, Charlotte Maeridh.

Newborn Nights


On the afternoon of May 26th, a Tuesday, I gave birth to a little girl we call Charlotte.  Her arrival was fast and without complication, and I'll write more about it another time.  Right now, though, let's talk about the nights.

There is a bustle, a gently authoritative busy-ness following the birth of a baby. The midwives tend to me, to the baby.  There are first pees to be had, and careful first showers.  There is cleanup to be done, and first kisses from big brothers.  The midwives leave, and we eat dinner, me in bed with the baby, the others gathered around the dinner table.  The sun begins to set, grandparents leave, and then: there we are. A family made new, alone. Because there is nothing else to be done, we muddle through a modified bedtime routine.

Aedan falls asleep easily enough in his own room, in his own bed, while Colm, Charlotte and I settle down for the night in the big family bed.  The littlest ones are fast asleep.  P is on guard to bring me water and pain killers and to take the baby when I have to pee. I should sleep.  I know I should sleep, but instead I shift uncomfortably, rearrange the pillows behind me a thousand times, try in the rosy glow of lamplight to teach a new, floppy human how to breastfeed. I doze a little, but mostly I watch the window for first light.  It will be better in the day, and it is.

On Wednesday night, as the sun sets, I begin to feel anxious.  While everyone sleeps around me, I lay on my side, vigilant, curled around Charlotte's tiny body, watching her chest rise and fall.  I drift off and then wake with a start, momentarily terrified that she's stopped breathing or that I've somehow suffocated her.  She is my third baby, and we've co-slept with all of them.  I know how to do this, but still these fears choke me.  She's ok, I tell myself.  You're ok, they're ok.  This will pass.  The boys begin to stir as the sun rises, and I breath a sigh of relief.

On Thursday night, I struggle to get Charlotte latched properly, but it hurts. I cringe each time she draws my nipple against her hard palate, my toes curling.  I'm exhausted and sore and P wakes to find me curled at the foot of the bed, sobbing. He rubs my back while I try to calm down.  While everyone sleeps around me, I sit up uncomfortably in bed and Google tongue-tie and lip-tie.  I worry over why my milk hasn't come in yet.  I wonder about lactation consultants and formula supplements and jaundice. I worry that I haven't pooped yet. Each time she wakes to nurse, I eat a piece of milk chocolate and refresh my Facebook feed on my phone, trying to distract myself from the pain.

I hear the robins begin to sing, it must be close to 4 am, and the relief begins to creep in.  Aedan has stumbled into our bed, and I look over at the bodies of my three sleeping boys, a tangle of bare-skinned limbs and bedsheets and soft snores and sighs.  I fall asleep then, and wake with the morning light filling the room, a balm on my cracked nipples and aching soul.

Why is it that everything seems so much better in the light of day? I finally poop. Charlotte gets a clean bill of health from the midwife, we work on her latch, I remember the tube of Lansinoh in the medicine cabinet, I realize my milk has come in, just without the usual fanfare.  I sleep, finally.  I remind myself that the nights may be hard, but they always come to an end.

We are so incredibly vulnerable in the dark of night.  We are tired; everything looks different, sounds different. What is manageable in the day looms monstrous at night. Some nights feel completely hopeless to me, I feel like I am alone in the world, in my little pool of lamplight.  But the birds always begin to sing just before dawn: they know, and they remind me.  There is hope; the dark passes, soon I can put out my little lamp in favour of the day.

The night will pass, this season will pass, these sore nipples will pass. It will be okay.

In her house


"Where have your curls gone?" She asks my son as he bounds into the living room.

He answers her patiently as he pulls plastic dinosaurs out of a cupboard: "Nowhere!"

My mom and I exchange a look and begin breathing through our mouths as we quietly open up window screens, airing out the hot, stuffy house my Nana has lived in for more than 50 years. Mom checks the commode tucked into a corner of the kitchen: it's full. While she pulls on disposable plastic gloves to begin the task of emptying and cleaning it, I spray air freshener around the main floor rooms. We pretend like this isn't happening.

"How are you feeling today, Nana?" I ask. Her feet and ankles are swollen, the skin, tight and shiny, strains against the fabric of her sweatpants.

"Oh, not so good," she answers, watching my youngest dump pennies out of a copper pot. "Don't let him put those in his mouth," she worries. Then, to my oldest: "Where have your curls gone?"

I pull a footstool over as my mom whisks by with the commode, headed for the bathroom upstairs. "Here, Nana, lets get your feet up."  I help her swing her feet up onto the stool, knowing it will do little good to bring the swelling down, but making the effort anyway.

As I step back she eyes my pregnant body.  "When's this one due?" she asks, as she does every week.

"2 more weeks, Nana. Almost there now."

"Oh!" She looks surprised. "You'll be having the baby here, then."

"We live here now, Nana.  We moved back.  We live over on Maitland."

"Oh. Not too far from me, then."

I smile and nod.

My aunt arrives then. "Hi, Mama, how're you feeling today?" She makes a face at me, over the smell. I shrug.  Into the kitchen she goes with bags of groceries, stocking the fridge with fresh food and throwing out anything that's gone bad.  Aedan begins pestering her for toys and donuts, following her around the kitchen.

I sit and tell Nana about how sunny it is outside, about the tulips blooming in her garden, about the new royal baby just born. She watches Colm playing on the floor, and I wonder if she's listening to me. I trail off into silence. I'm never sure what to say anymore, so instead we just watch the baby together.

Mom comes downstairs, the commode cleaner now. In the kitchen, while preparing the week's meals, she and my aunt talk quietly about Nana's doctors appointments, about news from the support worker who comes in through the weeks, about the need to get her on a waiting list for a home, soon. That last is a difficult subject, one that we're all afraid to broach with Nana.

"What's all that chit-chat in there?" Nana calls out, irritated.

"No chit-chat, Mom.  Sorry." They both come into the living room. My aunt sits down on the floor to play with my kids, while my mom picks up a hairbrush.

"Let me brush your hair for you," she says. Dutifully, wordlessly, my nana leans forward in the chair she rarely gets out of, while my mom runs the brush over Nana's still-thick, white hair.

"There," Mom says.  "You look beautiful." Nana falls back into the chair.

I look down at my kids, remembering a younger woman who used to walk with my sister and me "up East" to shop at the Sally Ann, who used to ride the bus over to our house and take us to the park. A woman who, at 17, crossed an ocean alone with two small children, to meet the family of her soldier husband, who was still stationed in England.  She loved reading, and theatre, and following the royal family. She taught me to knit.

The wall clock chimes. "I'm hungry.  Is it lunch time yet?" My aunt sighs, gets up and goes into the kitchen to get a hot lunch ready for her mother. I get the boys started on picking up their toys.  Nana eyes my belly once again.

"When's this one due?" she asks.

"Just 2 weeks to go, Nana." I smile.

"You'll have it here, then?"

"Yes, Nana. We live here now, on Maitland." I get the kids' into their shoes, my keys in hand.

"Oh. Not far from me then."

"No, Nana," I say.  "We'll come visit again next week."

I lean down to kiss her soft, wrinkled cheek. I tell her I love her, and she tells me to take care of myself and of my boys. I wonder how much longer she'll be in this house, caught in a paradox of living alone, completely dependant on her kids.

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Losing myself to Motherhood (and finding myself again)


It was never my intention to lose myself, 4 years ago, when I became a mother. With the first baby, it was easy to hold on to the little bits: lying on the couch, devouring books while he slept in my lap; bundling him into a pack and going for long hikes; writing while he played quietly at my feet. But once the first began to walk, and the second came along, I felt those little pieces of me slip away. I didn't read any more, not for myself. The second would sleep in my lap but the first would be wide awake and demanding some precious undivided attention. I couldn't go for long hikes anymore, because I could only carry one on my back, and the other had to stop and examine every rock, stick, and dog turd. And writing? I had forgotten that I once called myself a writer. I felt like I had to do everything for the toddler and the baby, like I was the only one capable. Too scared or stubborn or proud to ask for help, trying desperately to balance those babies plus a marriage plus a minimal share of the house work...I was asleep every night by 8, wedged uncomfortably between warm little bodies, trying to make myself small.

Tara was all but erased. I was desperately trying, and failing, to be "Mama", to love and embrace a role I'd never imagined myself in. I felt--still sometimes feel--like I had to love the job all of the time, and there was something wrong with me if I didn't. Like I had to produce 3 homemade, whole food meals a day, grow all of our vegetables, cloth diaper even though we had no running water, entertain and nurture my kids with arts and crafts, spend more time outside than in, limit screen time, socialize them...and then still find time for myself, for self-care, for yoga or meditation, for my friends, for basic hygiene.  I was deep in depression, holding myself to impossible standards, beating myself up and feeling like a failure. I was not sure at all who I was, who I used to be, who I was becoming.

I would disconnect on the internet, with social media, lost in blogs and other peoples' lives. I would, I still do, disconnect from my kids, my husband, myself. I guess I'm always searching for a common experience, someone else who has been through this dark place, and has left a detailed road map to lead me out. And of course that doesn't exist, not exactly, because the route is a little bit different for everyone, isn't it? My disconnecting would make things worse: I'd feel like even more of a failure for struggling where others were finding a way to balance "mother" and "self". The oldest would act out against the youngest in a last ditch effort to get some kind of attention from me. I would end up yelling, feeling guilty for yelling, spiralling deeper and deeper, further and further from myself.

And now, with a third baby imminent in our lives, I am finally trying to find myself again. Finally realizing that I'm doing no one any favours by letting my boys think I am nothing but "Mama", doing it all or not at all, often angry or sad or there only in body. I can't confidently answer the question: "who are you?" but I'm trying so hard to remember. To pick up a real book instead of endlessly refreshing my Facebook feed. To start my day writing morning pages while P gets the boys some breakfast. To blog, to write poetry, to let my mind run wild again. To let the boys see that I have other interests, and that while they are still a huge part of my world, they are not all of it, plus the sun and stars to boot. As I am about to become a mother of 3, I am also trying hard to become a whole person again, to become a priority in my own life again. To remember that I am a reader, a writer, a lover of hiking and bird watching and star gazing.

I must find myself for me, for them, and for this one not yet born.