As Brakes alluded to in his debut post, I’ve been working on a major project; a real labor of love (No, I am not pregnant. Bite your tongue.) My mom turned 60 yesterday. As many of you know, she has lived a very unusual life thus far. My childhood was peppered with stories and lessons that she taught me, mostly gleaned from her vast worldly experience. After recovering from her heart transplant in 2005 (Please, be a donor!) my sister, Meghann, and I began to campaign for Mom to write her memoirs. She resisted our pleas, so we took matters into our own hands. Over the last six months we have spent hours and hours putting into writing our version of the tales she’s shared with us over the years. We self published our 200 page manuscript on blurb.com (highly recommend self-publishing! It is a total hoot to see your name in the byline without having to navigate the politics of a nasty publishing house, deal with picky editors, or really write very well at all. Brakes says Blurb brought out my inner-narcissist. I can’t imagine why he feels this way. Maybe because I would only answer to Authoress for a solid 48 hours and I informed him that future Nobel laureates don’t have to change poopie diapers?) And yesterday we presented it to her at long last. This has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding projects I’ve ever taken on but I loved the closeness it made me feel to my sister, family, and most especially, my amazing mom.
In honor of her birthday, I’ll share with you one of my favorite excerpts from A Complicated Woman:
K never knew how much she still needed her mother until she became a mother herself. From the moment she pushed sweet Eloise out (I won’t go into gory details but suffice it to say it was a med-free delivery and sweet Jesus it hurt!) (Gas Edit: Big surprise, one of my favorite chapters has to do with childbirth! Don’t think I can’t sense you rolling your eye’s, readers. I promise one of these days I’ll write a blog post that does not include reference to my pachina.) she was ill-equipped for all of the emotions that come part in parcel with motherhood. There was the love, the pain, the exhaustion, the obsession, the fears, the peace, the laughter, and the tears.
The tears did not stop for weeks after Eloise’s birth. K literally had salt burns coursing down her swollen cheeks in the hospital. She was completely unprepared for the job she’d been excitedly anticipating for her entire life. From the time K was a small girl, her greatest ambition was to be a mother so when she met H and they eventually made the decision to begin their own family, K confidently anticipated finally fulfilling the role she felt she had been in training for since the beginning of time. When Eloise was born and the strong postpartum hormones were inundating her body, K felt surprised at her reaction. She was, of course, madly in love with her baby girl and she was humbled by the privilege of getting to be Eloise’s mama, however instead of feeling finally complete, K felt quite lost. It was as if she was on the outside looking in on a woman who had just gotten everything she had ever wanted and K could not understand why she was not happier. Maybe it was the aching hienie from K’s third degree tear and subsequent internal hematoma. Maybe it was the exhaustion of an intense labor. Maybe it was just the natural reaction of someone who has gone through a trauma and was facing major life changes. No matter what it was, K did not feel like herself, and for someone who is typically self-assured, this was a very frightening sensation.
There are no words to describe the extreme relief K felt when she saw her mom walk excitedly through the hospital room door. As she proudly showed Shanlee her new granddaughter, who was fiercely suckling at K’s breast, she watched the emotions play out on her mother’s beautiful face. Shanlee’s expression showed wonder, amazement, pride, and love. K finally felt like she could exhale. She handed the baby over to “Movy” and began to relax for the first time in what seemed like days.
After a harrowing week in the hospital the new family was finally allowed to return home. Shanlee had been holding down the fort in their absence. The cupboard was full of oatmeal cookies (K needed a cookie every time she nursed to keep her supply up or so she claimed), the fridge was bursting with Guinness (also for K’s supply), and the dogs looked a freckle heftier from Movy’s generous ministrations of dog biscuits and rawhides. She followed the couple into the house snapping pictures of her darling grandbaby as they made their way up the porch steps.
As the new parents introduced their daughter to her doggy-sisters Shanlee busied herself unpacking the copious number of hospital bags. “The mini-DVD player and scented candles, K had brought as labor tools, had turned out to be completely unnecessary, after all,” Shanlee laughed to herself as she put away the old work-shirts of Tom’s K had worn while recuperating.
Over the next week, as K struggled with taking care of the baby, H struggled with care of K- This new K; a K who cried all the time and seemed to be walking around in a fog. And Shanlee struggled with taking care of everything else. She gave the baby her first bath, she made breakfast in bed for the new parents, and she acted as a cook, cleaner, and lactation consultant. Shanlee worked tirelessly being her kids’ biggest cheerleader, a shoulder to cry on, and a soft place to land. When H had to go back to work, she generously acquiesced to his plea to stay for a bit longer until K was back on her feet. A couple of weeks later, when Shanlee noticed the animation beginning to return to her daughter’s face, she knew that it was time to go. It was a fine line between helping and enabling and Shanlee knew that her K needed to fly solo in order to get her confidence back.
K and Eloise both sobbed in the car on the way home from the airport but Shanlee was available by phone a few hours later. And Shanlee has stayed available. She has answered every phone call, email, and Skype with patience and love. She has guided K through Eloise’s first fevers, teeth, and giggles. She has listened and agreed, as K waxed poetic about her darling daughter’s many gifts and talents. And when she saw K again, when Eloise was almost seven weeks old and K was still acting a little cloudy, she sat K down and told her to buck up; she no longer had just had a baby and at a certain point K needed to pick herself up by her bootstraps and snap out of her fog. K heard the wise words of her mother, and she started to move through her exhaustion and rediscover the joys in her life. From the moment of her birth, K had delighted in every particle of Eloise, but she viewed the rest of her life with an air of lethargy. A week later H took K into the city and got her a makeover as a birthday gift and soon the sparkle returned to his wife’s face. She was laughing again and crying less. She was hungry and not just for oatmeal cookies and baby smooches, but for fun and experiences beyond the four walls of the nursery. Shanlee had spurred K to action and as a result, given H his wife back.
10 months later K still calls Shanlee several times a day to consult with her on sleep schedules, solid foods, and Halloween costumes. But now Shanlee has the comfort of knowing that her daughter, K, can look after her granddaughter, Eloise, with all of the competence and joy that Shanlee took and takes in looking after K still today. K is finally relishing the role for which she was born to play; she is the type of mother that her mother raised her to be.
Thank you Mom, and happy, happy birthday!