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Shadow Puppets

My son has been struggling with sleep. They call it the four month regression, and there have been days that I’ve felt nearly destroyed by my lack of sleep and frustration.

I was fighting his urge to stay up later.

I was fighting his desire to feel in control of his sleep schedule.

I was fighting his need to be with me.

And, he was fighting right back. He was crying and screaming, clearly frustrated that I didn’t get it.

Finally, I realized that the struggle really had become about ME. I was trying desperately to cling to that quiet time at night. It was MINE, dammit.

A few nights ago, I let go. Our sweet boy began staying up with us in the evenings.

I was so concerned with losing my “me” time.

As a result, we’ve had “us” time… almost no tears at all at bedtime… we’ve had more cuddles, more playtime, more giggles… Just more.

On Friday night, we climbed into our bed, the three of us. I clicked on the flashlight on my phone, and we made shadow puppets on the ceiling. My boy fingered his fluffy blanket, smiling and laughing as his daddy made funny shapes and told stories.

Later, as Ryan and I sat in the quiet of the house, I realized that maybe that night was the best in my whole life.

That’s a big statement, but the sweetness, the pure innocence of it… I can’t remember feeling so complete, so deeply rooted in a moment.

These people… I mean, they are the reason I am in this space and time.

If there’s a lesson to be found, it’s probably that I simply need to let go. That’s not why I’m writing about this, though.

Really, I just want to remember it.

Most of my life, I’ve written to make sense of things. Now, I don’t have the time for the deep reflection necessary for that type of writing. Instead, I just want to record these perfect, beautiful snapshots of a life I never expected to have.

Nobody, but Nobody

Now if you listen closely
I’ll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
‘Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.
— Maya Angelou, “Alone”


I wrote my way out of my childhood, discovering who I was in the spaces between words. There were times in my life that defied my ability to write about them, and for those, I found solace in the words of others.

2007 was one of those times.

It was the year that my first marriage quietly came to its final, legal end, taking with it the relationship I’d carefully erected my whole life around. It was also the year that I met the man who made that life implode.

That man… God, falling in love with that man was the most fun I’ve ever known in my life. It was a beautiful, exquisite torture.

And, on July 26, 2007, I was preparing to leave him. At one point in our relationship he told me he wanted space, so I was going to give it to him. (I remember writing that in my journal, and it still makes me smile.) I was moving 2,000 miles away, and I was leaving tomorrow.

I’d picked the next day, a Friday, because I knew his lease was ending on the 31st of the month and he’d be moving back home to a city 70 miles away in distance, but a million miles in other ways.

I didn’t know how to be left, so I was going to do the leaving. I knew how to do that.

That Thursday night, he made dinner at his apartment and we ate in front of the TV amid cardboard boxes. Every bite tasted of melancholy and anguish, as I waited to give him my final parting gift: an engraved bracelet with his initials on the front and the phrase “nobody, but nobody” on the smooth silver that would sit against his skin.

It was a reminder and perhaps a warning.

When he opened the black box, his face crumbled, and I mean CRUMBLED, and I realized that I didn’t know what this all meant to him, what I meant to him. At all.

I didn’t really believe that I was someone worth crying over. And, maybe, I didn’t believe I was someone worth loving.

I’d spent the whole relationship, no, my whole life living as if the sun rose and set only for me. To protect myself, I’d always made assumptions. I assumed that someone like him could never love someone like me. I assumed that my leaving and really my having been there, too, were scarcely more than blips on his radar. I assumed that the way he’d been distancing himself from me for months — even before he knew I was leaving — was because of some flaw in me.

What I’d never assumed, what I’d never even considered, in fact, was that I was the love of his life.

And, I was leaving him in less than 24 hours.

The Permission to Hope

Recently, a friend of mine wrote me to ask a simple question with a not so simple answer.

How did you get through the first trimester of your pregnancy?

What she meant, of course, is how did I avoid losing my mind from fear and anxiety after the loss of my twin pregnancy.

I told her the truth: I wasn’t calm. I had nightmares almost every night for the first eight weeks. I spent my days battling a sense of hopelessness. I would wake and dread walking into the bathroom. I just knew that today would be the day I’d see that swipe of red, that spot, the sign that meant that this dream, too, would come crashing down around me.

Being pregnant with a “rainbow baby” is an altogether different experience from simply being pregnant. My friend was struggling with this, as did I. So much of my anxiety was spent grieving the pregnancy before and the innocence I’d lost because of it.

No longer did I simply expect things to go right. No longer did I believe that these things wouldn’t happen to me. And, I was angry — no, LIVID — that I felt like this.

The problem with a rainbow pregnancy is that you never see it close up. You never know at the time that this is the one. Only looking back over the landscape of your life through those nine months are you able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Rainbow pregnancies are an exercise in faith. And, I think we’ve established that I’m not particularly good on that front.

So, no, I wasn’t calm or even joyful. I was terrified. With each week that passed and as we grew closer to telling our families (We waited until 15 weeks!), I felt more and more despondent. The longer the pregnancy went on, the more devastated I’d be and I knew it. I’d been there before.

Of course, we made it to the second trimester and beyond. With each milestone, I’d tell myself, “Okay, Jasmine… You can BREATHE!”

But, I never really did.

Well, I did and I didn’t. My mantra all those months was that my beautiful child was worth my going out on a limb of hope.

I painted the colors of Elliott’s rainbow with each flicker of hope, with the fleeting moments that made me dig deep to trust the journey instead of getting ahead of myself to cushion a potential loss.

There is nothing — not one thing — you can do to prepare for a loss. Whether it happens at 13 weeks or even at four, it is crushing and you will grieve all the moments that were and those that will never be.

Being a mama requires intense bravery. For me, I found this even before the birth of my beautiful boy. It is a courageous act to love something so fragile. What I know now is that this feeling, this fear, never really goes away.

Pregnancy is a fragile, beautiful experience that prepares you for an even more fragile and beautiful experience: motherhood.

Give yourself the permission to hope.

That’s the advice I offered her, and it’s a pill I need to swallow myself. After so many years of infertility, I’ve already found myself fearing that a second child won’t be possible.

I tell myself to be grateful for what I have, and I am! But, also? I’m still chasing the dream I’ve always had, the one that began seven years ago when we started trying for a baby. Kids in the yard. Kids with an S.

Which brings me back to hope. Hope, faith… all the touchy feely ones that ask you to trust in the pot of gold you can’t see? Yeah, I hate those.

But, there it is. Hope. Permission granted.

Mama Life: 13 Weeks

Thirteen weeks.

Simultaneously, these weeks have crept along and passed at the speed of light. Living on Planet Mom, I guess that makes sense?

The BEST part, of course, is watching Elliott learn about the world and himself. Lately, he’s done a lot of learning. Family has visited, developmental leaps have happened, and daddy and mama have slowly figured out some semblance of a new normal.

That new normal, of course, involves a lot of chaos, a lot of getting into a routine and then catching the almost immediate curve balls that fly our way.

These 13 weeks have been filled with more laughter, joy, insecurity, fear, and love than I experienced in all of the 33 years prior to them.

I’ve become the mom I wanted to be and also the mom I said I wouldn’t be. I’ve made choices I judged others for in my pre-mom life, spoken words in anger and exhaustion in a manner I wish didn’t exist within me, ate a shocking amount of trashy food in the interest of simply eating, and pushed myself to and beyond my physical and emotional limits.

All of that, and yet, when Elliott sees my face first thing in the morning, he breaks into a grin that invites the sun to rise. It shocks me each and every time. I worry and fuss over my messy hair, the fact that I don’t get nearly as many showers as I’d like, my lack of makeup, my no-fuss clothes. Whatever Elliott sees, though, is absolutely beautiful through his eyes, it’s clear. And, God help me, I need to find the lesson in that.

For all the feelings of failure and disappointment (in myself) that this mama experience brings out of me, I have done something right, maybe the only something that matters. My child feels loved and adored, he is nourished and challenged, clothed and warm.

I have been destroyed by this love, and in that old place, I am building a new person: my mama self.

What I’m Watching

  • The Walking Dead
  • Sister Wives
  • The Pioneer Woman

What I’m Reading

  • Sisters in Love (Melissa Foster) – (Finished — Really silly.)
  • Breakthrough (Michael Grumley) – (Finished — Loved! Found on Kindle Unlimited)
  • Leap (Michael Grumley) – (In Process)

What I’m Cooking

What I’m Loving

  • Snuza Hero – This is a lifesaver for me. Elliott has acid reflux and stops breathing sometimes at night. This clips to his diaper and goes off when there is an interruption in his movements (breathing). LOVE. I can actually sleep now!
  • Anna & Eve Swaddle Strap – Elliott still can’t really sleep without being swaddled due to his high moto reflex. We learned pretty quickly that the old fashioned blanket swaddle was not an option and switched to the cotton Halo Sleepsacks, which we loved. However, now that he’s bigger, he’s too long for them. The strap is absolutely the answer. It’s significantly more secure than the sack (he’s a little Houdini), which means less fixing and fussing during the night for mama.
  • Baby’s Only Formula – From very early on, it was clear that I just do not make anywhere near enough milk to solely breastfeed. We’ve been supplementing with formula (and hating it!) ever since. I was researching Elliott’s pretty severe acid reflux symptoms online, because I really felt it was connected to his formula (we’ve tried several). I stumbled on a forum of moms talking about the same issues and how they resolved it by using this organic formula (which is, admittedly, not easy to find in stores). We bought a can (which is 1/3 the price of the formula we were using, by the way!) and his symptoms have all but disappeared. He doesn’t choke in the night. He doesn’t stop breathing. He rarely spits up. I cannot sing the praises of this stuff enough. Note: It is marketed as a toddler formula, and this is because the company wants to encourage people to breastfeed for the first year. I read the report from the FDA and it is “cleared” as an infant formula. Definitely do your own research before taking my word on it! 😉

(None of these are affiliate links, and I wasn’t compensated for this. These are just products I’ve found and adored.)

My sweet baby boy turns three months old tomorrow. Sometimes, I see the boy he’ll be lurking in one of his many expressions and I am reminded again and again how precious these days are. May I remember in the wee hours as I realize now that this exhausting and humbling experience is a fleeting, beautiful gift. That’s my mama prayer.

Dear Elliott

I think this is a love letter.


Someday you’ll understand how much your mama hates being cliche… How many mamas have written these cheesy letters? But, then, that’s love, I guess. It changes everything. I should know.

I’m sitting in Starbucks. I’ve slipped away to work, to write articles about adwords… a profile of a fabulous woman entrepreneur… and a short story about a magic iPhone… All things I’ve said I’ll do. I tend to over-commit.

And, yet.

I’m here thinking of you. Thoughts of the way you smile or your sweet gurgle sounds are bouncing around my head, climbing stair steps on the words of the conversation at the next table.

I can’t remember when I’ve been this consumed by someone.

Wait, yes, of course I can. Your dad.

Whatever that something is that he has… it’s hereditary.

You both take my breath away.

As the days turn into weeks and now months, I find myself rehearsing the memories I want never to forget. I turn them over and over in my mind, cataloging them, filing them into drawers marked “keep.”

This love story — yours and mine — it moves so fast.

Again, like your dad. It was nearly nine years ago, though it seems just the other day, that he told me he could see you in my eyes. I closed them quickly for fear this boy I barely knew would see me, too.

He did, and he never lost sight of you, either.

You have been a part of our love story for a better part of a decade. Someday maybe, you’ll realize how unique that is, how precious and rare. Someday, you’ll see that perhaps there was never a child more desired on this whole Earth than you.

I hope in the way that I can so clearly remember those moments before you joined us, I will also freeze-frame the memories that we’re making.

I want to remember the first time you met my eyes with recognition and the way it feels to lift you to my shoulder and feel your warm cheek against mine. I want to keep forever the way you looked the first time I saw you watching the passing scenery as we drove. I have no idea what you saw that day, but I saw the whole world.

Sometimes, I lay next to you and watch you sleep, and you turn toward me, wiggling your little body closer even with eyes closed. Oh, how I hope you always feel like you can turn to me. And, even when I’m sitting in the dark, wishing with all my heart for sleep, I want to keep that moment, too… Someday, it will be the last long night, and I won’t even know until it’s gone.

For nine whole months, I was afraid to love you. You came streaking through a long, dark night to change my mind, a tiny supernova here to rescue a woman who didn’t even know she needed saving. You brought me hope. You made me brave again.

My sweet boy, you are worth every cringe I might make for writing a love letter. I love you with all the syrupy sweetness of a fairy tale.

You’ve completely shattered me. I will never, ever be the same.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that.