The New Face Of Self Care

Self care looks very different with a baby. Self care used to be painting my nails, or cleaning the house (not fun, but necessary for my ability to function well), or an hour-long phone call with a writer-friend, or taking a day to sleep in and read a book cover to cover.

See where I’m going with this?

None of these are remotely feasible anymore. Like my writing process, my self-care is changing:

  • Any day I let myself take the time to use shampoo and conditioner, rather than my husband’s 2-in-1 is a good day. I did that this morning and the little one was screaming when I got out. But I took a breath, grabbed an extra towel for my suddenly leaky boobs, and let my husband handle it. (Which he did beautifully. It was an ego boost for him, a needed break for me, and some solid daddy-time for a daddy’s girl – an all around win!)
  • Cleaning? Um. I’ve been watching cobwebs grow and learning to be ok with it. The baby in my arms is so much more important than dusting.
  • I try to keep the house stocked with fruits and vegetables – preferably those I can eat with one hand with little to no prep time (or prepped in advance, when the rare opportunity presents itself) – to balance out the quick-shove-something-in-you-mouth-and-get-back-to-the-screaming-baby convenience food. My body thanks me and the baby thanks me. Or will when she’s older. Maybe.
  • I give myself permission to be in sweats or pajamas all day every day.
  • But make sure they’re clean.
  • And exchange them for actual clothes if I have to leave the house. This helps me feel like a more functional, if less comfortable, member of society. But I discovered an added benefit the other day when I made the dubious decision to wear a flannel shirt (that usually never leaves the house) grocery shopping. I nearly walked out the door without buttoning it.
  • Self care means bringing my laptop to bed and causing myself muscle spasms from awkwardly typing one-handed while rocking the baby and hoping the light from the screen won’t wake her.
  • And sometimes self care is letting her scream another couple minutes so I can pee and fill my water bottle and grab a snack and make sure my notebook and computer are in arms’ reach for the next endurance stretch.

Through it all: baby snuggles. Which are quite possible the best things ever.

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I Am Superwoman: Part Two

In case you missed it, you can find part one here.

With everything going on, I made two requests of my baby-to-be: arrive in October – anytime, so long as it’s October – and be under eight pounds.

I thought those were reasonable enough, and she apparently agreed.

At work, I managed to pass along the bare minimum of training so our new hire could run the office by the end of September. When October arrived, I could finally breathe. Training continued and October 6th became my last day to work. With the baby due on October 15, I hoped that would give me time to get the house in some semblance of order.

Early, early the morning of October 3rd, she decided she’d waited long enough. After a two hour labor (I’d never heard the term “precipitous delivery” before, but now am intimately familiar with it), our perfect baby girl arrived.

The thing about such a fast labor? My body never had time to catch up. In more ways than one. See, I never felt that flood of endorphin- and hormone-laden emotion everyone guaranteed would hit me like a freight train. The nurses put her on my stomach, and I felt nothing to differentiate her from any other baby I’d ever held.

I wondered what was wrong with me – what had broken and how I could possibly be a decent mother like this. I worried that I’d made a terrible, awful mistake.

Then that night when a scare landed her in the NICU an hour away from me, I wondered if I was about to lose her and this was my body’s way of protecting me.

She’s fine, by the way. Amazing, in fact.

In all that lonely soul-searching (I didn’t breathe a word of this even to my husband, who followed her to the NICU that night), I remembered that all relationships take work. I’d never considered that choice and that effort extended to parent-child relationships, but it makes sense. You have to work at it. You have to make a choice to work at it.

Or I did.

That choice for me was a no-brainer.

Everything since has felt so incredibly perfect and right. I’m loving motherhood. And you know what? I’m pretty awesome at it. My husband calls me superwoman.

Busy Busy Theatre Bee

Though I’ve been quiet on here, I’ve been busy. It’s funny how creative things seem to spawn more creative things.

I’ve had a ridiculous number of offers and invitations to audition, participate in a reading of a new play to be presented to a professional theatre company, participate in a staged reading of Macbeth (as Macduff!), to be in a show later this summer . . . even an offer of a role that I had to turn down because of other theatre conflicts.

Being in a position to turn down a role sounds like a pretty fantastic humble-brag – especially when even getting cast just doesn’t happen much – but it’s stupidly stressful.

It’s been more than a little frenetic when I stop to think about it, so I try not to. But I’ve made new friends and new theatre connections. We’ll see where they take me! And it’s also an amazing ego boost to be offered so many opportunities.

At the most frantic point, I did three auditions in a week and a half. Because that’s what everyone does when four months pregnant. (At least first trimester exhaustion had relaxed its grip by then.) One of those an open call for a professional theatre, which is something that has terrified me.

The experience was absolutely terrifying. But now that I’ve done it once, maybe it won’t intimidate me so much to try it again.

It doesn’t feel possible that all this has happened in the span of three months. While attempting to negotiate the reality of a first pregnancy.

Seasonal Confusion

Seasons cling in Maine. My corner of Maine, anyway. They’re slow to change. They can be subtle and take their time coming in and are often reluctant to go out.

Twice a year I forget which season we’ve left, which we’re in, and which we’re changing into. They come in the spring and fall while the branches have no leaves and weather and temperature change fast enough to cause whiplash.

Maine seasons are stubborn and deliberate. You don’t wake up one spring morning and find everything has suddenly blossomed in the night. (Unless of course you have opened your eyes for a couple weeks.)  I guess our seasons have faith that we can figure them out . . . though sometimes a hint would be nice.

In the fall, after frosty nights and warm sunny days set the trees on fire, when those flames begin to fall, it’s like watching a tapestry unravel one thread at a time until you’re left with only the weft.

Our seasons argue. They don’t get along like the seasons out in Seattle, where they mixed and mingled until I barely had any sense of the passage of time.

A week ago, it felt like winter all over again, and now it feels like summer. I love these stubborn, argumentative seasons.

Except winter in March. Still can’t find much to love there.

Why I Write

I’m currently savoring my way through Jeff Vandermeer’s Wonderbook and came across a section that made me question why I write.

Telling stories seems to have always been a fact of life. Somewhere, I still have notebooks filled with a toddler’s illiterate scrawl in crayon rainbows. My grandmother still tells me I can stop breathing easier than I can stop writing.

How I came to declare writing as my passion and life is a story I’ve told perhaps too many time. The why is something else entirely and, after some thought, I believe I’ve figured it out.

Jeff Vandermeer suggests that are born out of negative experience, whether a terrible tragedy or a minor disappointment. For him, it was his parents’ divorce. Mine was a small child’s constantly disappointed search for magic.

Pretty non-hallucinogenic flower!

Magic is everywhere, if you choose to see it.

I wanted fairies, and unicorns, and talking cats. When I couldn’t find them, I made up my own adventures.

Even better: I found that magic, after all. It’s a conscious choice in how I experience the world, but that makes it no less the magic I searched for as a kid.

So here is a different sort of love for Valentine’s Day. Whatever your love, I hope you take time today to celebrate it.

The Devil’s Puppet Show

Oh, Internet. I have so much to tell you! Potential theatre-related opportunities are cropping up in the strangest (and best) of places. They may amount to nothing, but just the experience of trying will be priceless.

Dracula has been insanely popular. Even our “slow” nights draw decently sized audiences. An iconic story like Dracula performed in a haunted mid-nineteenth century stone fort? Yes. Just, yes.

(It also helps that we’ve had some rather fantastic reviews.)

I can’t quite believe we only have two more performances.

Something I find hilarious: we’ve been nicknamed the Devil’s Puppet Show. And that’s meant seriously. Apparently, by folks who don’t know the story. It makes me laugh. A lot.

My Massachusetts-based sister drove up to surprise me at last night’s show. I figured it out ahead of time because neither she nor our grandmother can lie or misdirect to save her life. Not to me, anyway. When Gram wouldn’t say whom she was meeting at the show, I had a suspicion. When I mentioned the mystery to my sister, she did a lovely brick wall impression. As she does when she doesn’t know what to say or do.

There are some drawbacks to reading people well, but that didn’t diminish how awesome it was to see her when we got to the fort.

And after the show, hanging out with some of the cast, I ended up voluntold into a karaoke rendition of Cell Block Tango. Even Dracula sang karaoke. It was amazing.

How have you been?

Sun

Lady slippers

Sun makes everything better.

Lilacs and apple trees are finally blooming. The lady slippers are beautiful!

do more when the days are longer. Things that have been sitting on the to-do list for months are finally getting crossed off. I’m going more places and hanging out with friends more often. The extrovert hat is out and having a blast.

Best of all, more writing is happening. Productivity is not what I would like it to be. It’s not what it was this time last year, but I’m working towards that – baby steps.

Sun makes me happy.