Thursday, March 3, 2011


I just read an article called "25 Things I Wish I Knew Before Having Kids." I nodded at some of them, shrugged off others, and thought about what my tip would be. I suppose mine would be something like #6 (you can read and read all the baby books in existence, and sometimes they just won't apply to your child), except I skipped reading all the baby books.

I did have images of how things would be. I pictured family and friends visiting in the hospital. I saw myself in bed holding my baby. I had ideas about what I'd do: I'd use a sling. I'd breastfeed. I'd puree organic vegetables and fruit when it was time to start solids. I'd use cloth diapers. We'd keep making bread and go hiking and do all the things that people told us we wouldn't have time to do once we had a baby.

I didn't picture the baby being taken away to another hospital before I had held him. I didn't expect a baby too weak to work at the breast, empty bottles when I pumped and pumped and pumped. I didn't think my baby would get most of his nutrition from bulked up formula or something that looked an awful  lot like Crisco put in through an NG tube. I never saw the oxygen tanks or the endless appointments or the ambulance rides. I didn't picture him turning blue in my arms. I never imagined a code. I didn't think I'd say goodbye to my baby before we got around to doing all those things people told us we wouldn't have time or energy to do.

Huh, where did all that come from? What I thought I was going to say is that sometimes the way you want to do things, the way you think you should do things, doesn't work, so you adjust. You find out not what the best thing for babies is, but what the best thing for you and your baby.

That holds true for every one. I have advice for mamas of rainbow babies, too. Give yourself permission to have bad days. Not my baby is in the hospital or my baby isn't breathing capital B capital D kinds of Bad Days, but regular old, run-of-the-mill bad days. It's okay to not like it that your baby has cried for five, seven, fifteen hours straight. You can be grateful that they are able to cry without actually enjoying the crying. You get to be exhausted and overwhelmed like everyone else. And it's okay to want a break. Usually when I have these thoughts it goes something like this: I'd love to be able to go for a run or to yoga or I'd like to have ten minutes to think or write or finish a conversation (but I just want a quick little break with my baby to come back to after).

I remember after Henry died I mentioned that I had just gotten up at 10:30, 11 AM. "Lucky," my friend said. I was bitter and wanted to ask her if she really wanted my kind of luck. She had been up half the night with her baby. I was up longing for mine. I knew even then, in the depth of my grief, that if I had another baby some day, there would be days that were hard, as much as I wanted the opportunity to face those challenges, I wouldn't love every minute or every situation. I gave myself permission then to have bad days. I am endlessly thankful to have my girls here with me, living, breathing, healthy. I feel lucky to have time with them and accept the tantrums and the colic and the sleepless nights as part of parenting, but somedays are hard. Some days I feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and inadequate. Some days I have cried right along with the baby. Yeah, I've had worse, but I still have (little b, little d) bad days.

What's your advice?


  1. It would have to be the same as yours. 15 months down the track from having Angus, I am glad to have this wisdom now. I was so adamant at the start that I was NOT to have bad days with Angus or complain about a single thing, as I was just too busy being grateful he was here. I now realise I can do both at the same time - be grateful and have Bad Days. Capital B, capital D.

  2. This is advice I still need to hear. Some parts of being a new parent are really difficult, even while I know how lucky I am, and I often feel like I shouldn't be stressed out or sad at all, which is hugely unrealistic. I love your distinction between Bad Days and bad days.

    My advice would probably be, Don't be afraid to ask for help or for a break.

  3. I needed this advice today as I'm feeling slightly overwhelmed. Then guilty for feeling overwhelmed. Ick, it's a horrible circle of guilt and inadequacy!

    I also had a lot of ideas about the sort of mother that I would be and all the things that I would do. I don't manage all of them. I don't think I would have done even if everything had gone perfectly.

    As for my own, it would probably have to be something along the lines of #6 too. Or just 'brace yourself.' I had a recent conversation with a friend about the horrors of exposing your cellulite whilst giving birth which nearly made me collapse with hysterical laughter. I could only tell her that her cellulite would be the least of her worries!

    Love the new pic of your girls, Kathleen is looking so grown up in her lovely frog pjs!

  4. This would be my advice, too. In fact, I already give it to all my wonderful friends who tell me how differently they look at those little b little d bad days than they did before Hudson died. I tell them that it's OK to be frustrated, overwhelmed, even angry sometimes-- that they don't have to just suck it up because they don't have it as "bad" as I do. The real challenge will be enabling myself to practice what I preach once this baby is born. I am actually a bit overwhelmed at how much I feel like I have no idea what to expect. A friend asked me if I was ready to have a newborn again, and I almost scoffed. I told her that the physical and mental labor of parenting a newborn was absolutely nothing compared to the emotional challenge I now face of parenting after the death of my beautiful little girl. The former, while it can be tedious and frustrating at times, is pure child's play compared to the latter. And the latter is a job I have to do for many, many years to come, far past the newborn and toddler stages. I just hope I'm up to it. You are an inspiration for me that way. Thank you.