Only Three Things

I feel like there’s a lot on my plate lately. Partially because there is, the juggling of the every day, the balance of the activities that take up the space on my calendar and the time in my day.

But there are also big decisions on the horizon that seem to loom over me as I ponder potential paths.

My husband is a medical resident and we are only 18 months away from the end of his four year residency. 18 months away from our next chapter in life, and I am not at all ready, for I am quite pleased with where we are now. After 4 years of college, medical school, and residency, we will be in a position to either do one more year of training in a fellowship year or go ahead and job search. The tricky part of this, is that we can not agree on where we would like to be.

Since moving to Richmond, VA in 2010, I have fallen in love with it. I love our home, the city and the sweet friends that we have made here. My husband wants to move back to GA, where we both grew up and where most of our family still lives. Though I see where he’s coming from, I am so tired of starting over in a new city with no support systems every four years. I wish we could just stay here.

So the current compromise is that my husband will apply for a fellowship year here in Richmond, and then we will do a job search in Georgia to move in the summer of 2015. It at least gives us one more year in Richmond.

The next big decision looming over me is next year’s preschool for my son. Next year we could stay at the private preschool he’s been going to since he was 2, or we could move him to VPI, Virginia’s free public preschool program. Financially, we would love to save the tuition, but I just don’t know if it would be the right choice to move schools.

And finally, there’s this dialogue beginning to open about potential family planning. My husband and I have had this conversation before, and decided that we would have an only child. Though I have been a “one and done” advocate since my son was born, part of me feels like maybe I should at least consider giving my son a sibling. I feel this huge time crunch on this decision, too, because I just feel like our window for potential siblings is shrinking. I guess I feel like if they are too far apart it would not be worth having another one because the age gap would be so large. And I’m also finally, FINALLY not completely traumatized by my birth experience  I am owing it partially to my New Year’s Resolution to “let go” and partially to the fact that after 3 and half years, my mind and body are beginning to be at peace.

So I have all of these rough drafts of ideas floating around in my head and my husband and I were passionately discussing them this weekend while he cooked dinner. Our son was making play dough pancakes nearby and asked, “What are you guys talking about?”

I answered, “Oh, Mommy and Daddy are just talking about some important things coming up. We have a lot of big decisions to make, like where you will go to school next year and where Daddy is going to work and family planning.”

After some quiet pondering my sweet son replied with the perfect perspective, “But, Mommy, that’s only three things.”

My husband and I laughed and agreed with his evaluation. “Yes, I guess that is only three things.”

And three things isn’t really all that much, is it?

A New Path

I have been feeling lost lately.

Not knowing what direction to go in next.

Not knowing what path I want to walk down and not really even knowing how to decide where to start.

I’ve been pondering so many different things that sometimes I feel that they collide and explode in my mind, jolting me awake from some distant place and bringing me right back into the Now.

And the now involves sticky fingers and a runny nose and lots of cleaning and lots of re-directing. The now involves lots of cuddles and lots of stories and lots of imagination and wonder. The now involves not enough money and not enough time and a restlessness and a peace all at once. And in all honesty, the heart of now is pretty amazing.

As I navigate the now of my present with the possibilities of my future I ponder the “right” choices. The “right” way. The path that will lead me to where I am meant to be.

Change is scary and new beginnings can seem insurmountable.

But through my life, I’ve been through enough changes, enough loss, enough new beginnings, that I’ve become a bit jaded to the magnanimity of them.

Tonight, I found out that a new beginning I had thought about was not going to work out. And I literally said to myself, “Well, that didn’t work out. Let’s see what happens next.”

Ummm, really self?

This is HUGE for me. HUGE. I am a perpetual self-doubter, emotional roller coaster, hope-too-hard and fall-too-far kind of person.

And tonight, at the loss of an opportunity, I just wasn’t.

It was a simple as that. And maybe that’s a new path in itself.

Get Over It

A few months ago, while visiting my mom, she brought up something she found on Facebook.

“Oh, Julia, did you see that funny picture on Facebook? Of the pumpkin in the labor and delivery unit for Halloween? Wasn’t that hilarious?” 

“I saw the picture. I didn’t think it was that funny, but I thought about you and thought you might like it.” (My mom used to be a labor and delivery nurse.)

“You didn’t think it was funny? I thought it was hilarious. I thought you would like it!”

Why is she pushing me on this?

“I guess I’m still just a little sensitive about my birth experience. That pumpkin is obviously having a vaginal birth, and not everybody gets to do that, so I guess I just didn’t think it was that funny.”

“Julia, you just need to get over it. And the sooner you do, the better,” my mother said in a tone that rang in with a combination of a sigh and finality.

I sat in stunned silence from the sting of those words. Get over it. Get over my birth experience.

Having a baby is supposed to be the most wonderful experience of your life. You are supposed to feel awe and wonder at the amazement of your child. You are supposed to fall into a complete immersion of love as soon as you give birth and lay eyes on this new little person. You are supposed to say that having a baby changed your life, was one of the best days of your life, and you can’t imagine your life being any different.

You are not supposed to say that you had a terrible birth experience. You are not supposed to say that after 7 hours of natural labor and 5 hours of labor with an epidural, that the emergency c-section you had to have made you feel like a failure. You are not supposed to say that you have no memory of meeting your son because you were so over-medicated. You are not supposed to say that you had pain in your incision for 6 months following your son’s birth, because you should be healed by then and that seems like complaining. You are not supposed to say that even though you always thought you would want more kids, that experience makes you never want to be pregnant again. You are not supposed to say that even though you love your son, the day of his birth was one of the worst days of your life. You are supposed to “get over it.”

I grieved that comment for a long time. I grieved comments made by my mom and others in my family who have been insensitive to me about my birth experience. I am aware that the end goal of a pregnancy is a healthy mom and a healthy baby, and I am extremely grateful for the amazing gift of my son. But doesn’t the experience of giving birth matter?

Having a baby is a life changing event. If you have a positive birth experience, it can be awe-inspiring, spiritual, and life affirming (I’ve heard.) If you have a negative experience, it can haunt you, dishearten you, and devastate a piece of your heart.

My mind ran through a list of comebacks, but I choose to say nothing. I chose to sit there in silence and look out the window. I choose to dismiss the comment.

There was nothing I could say to make her understand, in that moment, the impact of those words. There may be nothing I can ever do to make any one else understand the way my birth experience has affected me.

My grief over my birth experience does not detract from the joy I have for being a mother. I feel truly blessed and honored to have my little boy. But I can choose to grieve and process my experience in my own time. It’s ok for me to have these feelings. It’s ok for me to gather the pieces and process the puzzle in my own way. I think that when a profound event happens in our lives, we never really “get over it,” but rather find that it holds less intensity with the passing of time. As a dear friend once told me, “There is no time limit on grief.” I couldn’t agree more.

I Made All the Right Parenting Choices. So Did You.

It is easy to judge other people’s parenting. Before you become a parent, you probably have pre-conceived notions of the type of parent you will be. So when you see moms dealing with a full-out temper tantrum in the middle of a grocery store, it’s easy to think, “My child will never do that, or “I would handle that better.”

After you become a parent, it’s easy to see other parents making different choices than you are and think, “Why are they parenting that way?” or “I would never do that.”

It’s easy to feel judged as a parent. Even though you are often wrapped up in your child, you are also always aware of disapproving looks that might be thrown your way in public or even from among your own family members.

It’s easy not to feel confident in your parenting skills because you will hear different advice from different people and sometimes it’s hard to remember that ultimately your opinion about your baby is the only one that matters.

There are so many issues in parenting to get heated about. There are so many different beliefs about the “right” way to raise a baby. And it’s ok to believe in the way that you are parenting. I believe very strongly in the parenting choices I have made. I know I have made the right choices. I am passionate about my decisions, but I will try not to judge you for feeling passionate about yours.

What’s hard in parenting is to realize that just because someone isn’t doing it your way, doesn’t mean they are doing it in a bad way. We want to believe that we are doing the best for our child. So we will defend and argue and judge others if it doesn’t fit in with our ways, because no one wants to believe that they are intentionally making bad choices for their children. The debates about staying-at-home vs working and breastfeeding vs bottle-feeding are so heated because every parent feels that they have made the right decision. It’s wonderful to know that you made the right choice for your child.

But it’s not ok to judge others for making the right choices for theirs. Every parent wants the best for their child. If we could all begin to understand that behind every parenting decision is a good intention, maybe we could stop judging that mom in the grocery store with the tantrum throwing two-year old. Or stop gawking at that mom breastfeeding her baby in the restaurant. Or stop telling the woman who chose to formula feed that she’s depriving her child.

Hopefully, by the time these children grow up, they will all be smart, successful, sweet, contributing members of society. But there are a lot factors that will pave the road for that child to grow up. Fighting or judging about the baby stuff doesn’t help get them to the grown up stuff.

Make your parenting choices responsibly. BELIEVE in your parenting choices. Defend them if you have to. But then remember not to judge someone else for making different choices. Because if you have researched, thought about, and really made an honest effort to do the very best parenting you can, then you have made the right choice; whatever choice that may be.

 

*This post is a summation of my thoughts after reading these thought-provoking articles about parenting last week: Snap JudgmentsMom Judgments, and Take a Bottle. I’ll admit, I haven’t always followed my own advice, but after reading these articles and doing a lot of thinking, I came to the conclusions I wrote in this post. I hope you will, too. I would love to hear your thoughts. 

Here

My “what-ifs” are plenty, if I let them seep through

to my current memory and what I’ve been through.

My days are long and trying if I analyze

all the choices I made that brought me this life.

My heart can feel heavy and sad and full

if I try to remember that life is not easy

and that times have been hard and that times have been grand

and that all along I haven’t really followed a plan.

Or maybe I have, but the plan wasn’t mine, and so I’m on an adventure not knowing what else I will find.

And the hours are fast and the minutes are slow

if I question the choices I made long ago.

But if I stay here

here in THIS moment

Then I must trust that this is ok.

It’s ok to be here and to feel this way.

Whatever way I’m feeling, whatever my life looks like

that ok. It’s OK to be who I am today.

Just because I didn’t know

the woman that I would become

or the twists and the turns I would find

doesn’t mean this isn’t a good place to reside.

The days are joyous and exciting and lovely

if I can stay here in the present and bubbly

with fulfillment that comes from knowing, that I,

here in this place,

am right where I should be.

I’m right where I am because of choices, that’s true, but regret is no fun and often no use

And today my choice is to be happy

HERE.

Wherever that here is

it’s good to be there.

Wherever your “here” is,

I hope you are aware

that beauty surrounds you

even in your darkest place. Beauty surrounds YOU

if you just embrace

that choices have past and time has flown

and you have lived and you have grown

all to bring you here to this moment.

I hope that you treasure it, I hope that you own it

as yours, yours alone, your very own story.

Your very own beautifully voyaged place of glory.

*This poem was written in honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, and inspired by a prompt from Blogher about making decisions and having regrets.