Two years ago this evening I was quietly laboring to bring Reinger into this world. I had returned from an acupuncture appointment and had the motherly knowing. I mowed the lawn, watered the garden, prepared meals, cleaned the house, showered, and even dried my hair. I made a list of things that would need to happen in the morning and who would do them. Mom could call the dentist and cancel that appointment I was trying to squeeze in before the baby came. I'd also need to put money in an envelope for someone to give to the man that was helping me with the garden. Hospital bags were ready, snacks for laboring and recovery ready to go. I knew but didn't say a word. I laid with Leif as he drifted off to sleep, knowing that it was our last night just him and me. Knowing that he would very soon be a brother and that he would no longer be my one and only.
As Josh and Leif slept, I labored. I walked the stairs, squatted, lunged. In between sets of lunges and stairs, I sat on the toilet and excitedly examined the bloody show and visualized the energy moving down, pulling Rein with it. I did this all night, occasionally laying next to Leif to rest. The contractions were strong but manageable and exciting. Waves of gratitude and joy. My July baby would sneak into June...a peace offering from the Universe after what had felt like a month of torturous hell.
The next day did, indeed, bring Rein to me... but the universe threw one last test at me first. One last mountain would have to be moved when my head down baby that was so ready to be birthed turned transverse at 8 CM. I'll save that story for tomorrow... that story of grief and fear and pain that was necessary for Rein to take his first breaths.
Tonight, I'll watch my boys as they drift off to sleep... Rein, in his last day as a 1 year old. I'll probably cry as I think about how I wish I could keep them little forever and pray that Leif's promise "we'll always be your babies..." stays true. I'll also cry knowing how incredibly lucky I am. Lucky to be born with a particular skin color and in a certain country that allows me particular privileges. Lucky that because of this skin color and country of origin, I will not have to worry about my boys being shot by police on a routine traffic stop. I will probably never have to flee my home to save their lives. I will probably never have them ripped from my arms or told they are being taken to be bathed, only to have them taken to a "tender age detention center". Lucky because me and my children were born on 3rd base. We didn't hit a triple. No, it was just luck. I'll cry because I know there are mamas out there grieving not knowing where their babies are. I'll cry because our government has been in the business of ripping children from their mamas since the beginning. I'll cry because just dipping my toes into that emotion makes me want to scream in agony.
Tomorrow, on Rein's 2nd birthday, we'll march. We'll march to let our government know that we will never be okay with treating living beings with such cruelty. We'll never be okay with using this uniquely disturbing form of torture. We'll march to let them know we won't shut up until all of those children are in their parents arms. We'll march because we were born on 3rd base I want my children to know that when other's suffer, we all suffer. Their humanity is wrapped up in ours and ours in theirs.
Mamas, Rise Up. We can do hard things.
My cousin, Allie, is an actuary. I once asked her if she could figure out my chances of dying. She smiled and told me not to worry about it (as it turns out there’s a 100% chance). There are so many ways to die– disease, violence, and accidents– it seems like a miracle that any of us make it as far as we do.
From one cell we grow into these super complex beings. Each with the same basic anatomy but with completely different characteristics and personalities. I’m not even going to pretend to know how it all works but what I do know is that it is pretty miraculous that it all keeps doing its thing with little help from me. I used to like to go under water in the bathtub and listen to my heart beat—it amazed me (still does) that this thing inside of me just kept ba-bumpin’ away to keep me alive. I love to feel my heart beating faster while I’m running. I also like to lie very still and see just how slow I can get it to go. It’s really quite incredible.
In June 2010, my 4-year-old nephew’s body stopped working. His creativity and joy for life got him into a situation that turned out to be deadly. For the next 5 days his body was kept alive by machines while we desperately waited for a miracle to happen and the swelling in his brain to go down. On the fifth day, after accepting that his body would never be able to work on its own again, he would never wake up from his sleep, his parent’s did what no parents should ever have to do, and took him off life support.
When it was time to say goodbye, my brother and Tera held him for the last time while Payton let go. My very loving and very large extended family sat in the waiting room with our eyes down. Every time the door opened our heads flew up. Finally, after what seemed an eternity (only 22 minutes) a nurse came to tell us Payton was gone. We sat crying and holding each other while chimes rang over the intercom, announcing the birth of a baby—a new life with a heart that went ba-bump, lungs that filled with air, and 8 other working systems, came in to the world just as Payton was going out.
Payton’s parents were so courageous and had decided to donate Payton’s young, healthy organs to give others a second chance. We stayed in the waiting room as the organ donor team operated on Payton. A while later a team of 4 doctors came and told us how amazing Payton had done and how many gifts he had given. It seems as though Payton new exactly what to do—because he let go so quickly, more of his organs were able to be saved. Through our extreme pain and gratitude, we each came forward and hugged and thanked the doctors (who were also crying) for giving us hope by turning our greatest loss into others’ second chance at life.
In the days, weeks, and months to follow I often thought about the recipients of Payton’s organs. I prayed for them, that their bodies wouldn’t reject the new parts and that they would live full lives. I wondered if they had a level of gratitude proportionate to the level of our pain. I wanted to know if they ever thought about the grief that we live with. I feared that they wouldn’t live lives worthy of Payton’s sacrifice.
Then it struck me, it’s not my concern whether they were grateful for their gifts—my own gratitude is where I should be. It’s of no use to me to wonder if they think about our pain—I should be focused on loving myself and my family through the pain that we share. It’s not my place to judge the quality of their lives—I should only concern myself with the quality of mine.
Steve Prefontaine, a running icon who also happened to die tragically at quite a young age, is famously quoted for saying, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” Most of us will never be Olympic athletes. You may not feel like you are incredibly “gifted” at anything. But if you are reading this now, it means you have an INCREDIBLE gift—you’re alive. All of those systems are working together to keep you alive. Your heart continues to go ba-bump in your chest and that, my friends, is a gift worthy of your gratitude.
I can’t control how the recipients of Payton’s organs will choose to live their lives. I can, however, control how I live mine. I can choose to care for my body. I can push it to explore new boundaries. I can give it my best so as not to sacrifice this gift. I can be present each moment and choose to live with gratitude for this thing in my chest that keeps going ba-bump.
So, here’s to my precious little nephew, whose zest for life inspired many, and who probably would have gotten a time out for using the “H” word. I’ll honor your short but beautifully lived life by giving a big“hell yeah” to living as fully as you did.
Motherhood is nothing like I expected it to be. Its dirty, exhausting, and sometimes maddening. Its the baby eating the dog food and the dog eating the baby’s poop. Its a toddler tantrum in the middle of a parking lot. Its eating your dinner on the toilet because you just need a few moments alone. It’s the baby trying to bite your nipple off and refusing to sleep unless your bodies are touching. Its dog hair fluffs flying across the living room, even though you literally just mopped. Its always having food on your shirt from the kids. Its someone using your leg as a snot wiper.
But in between these moments, there are moments of pure gold. Its the baby sleeping soundly while and you’re 4 year old joining you for yoga. Its a kiss on the lips from a little boy who thinks you’re the best. Its those kicking legs and joyful grunts your baby makes when you return to him. Its all of these things and more.
It will probably take years off my life in stress but add even more back in love.
Oh, Nutella, it was a great idea but the delivery sucked. I don’t mean the taste–they were pretty on point with that–but the ingredients are, well, subpar. Sugar is the first ingredient on the list… followed by oil, skim milk powder, reduced fat coco powder (stop taking the fat out of whole foods, Food Industry!) and then some preservatives. Ew.
I was inspired a a recipe a friend shared on my Facebook. I’ve been getting so many fun recipe ideas since Leif has gone grain free! Thanks, Friends. Since we’re celebrating Leif’s 3rd birthday this weekend, I thought it was a perfect time to whip of a batch on these “nutella” cookies. Super simple ingredients. Super delicious.
I have been slowly working my way through Mo Gawdat’s book Solve for Happy. One of the things he says that has helped him to be happy, even in times of immense loss, is a happiness list. His list is forever growing. When I started my list last week, it had things like coffee, the post run high, my kids’ smiles. There’s one BIG thing though. There’s an experience (or 2 actually) that so fully flood my body with contentment when I think about it. It has happened twice to me but in two very different ways– The moment when I finally met my babies. With Leif, the labor was painful and long. The labor itself was not peaceful but powerful, painful, and exhausting. The emotions that reached every corner of my body when I pushed him out were absolute Heaven.
Rein, was different. My labor was peaceful, even zenful. I enjoyed the waves of contractions that rang in my hips. I enjoyed working through each one. Then, as we know, the birth took a quick turn (literally, he turned transverse) and I ended up with a traumatic cesarean. I can still hear my own voice sometimes, the screaming– “Why isn’t he crying?!?!?!?!” Yesterday, while running, I remembered this. I felt my heart racing and tears pooling in my eyes. And then I said to myself, “He’s alive. It’s okay. He’s okay.” When they placed him on my chest, the experience was much different. It was relief. It was “Oh My God, we’re both still alive…” It was “Welcome home, how was a I complete without you?”
When the world feels really dark, this is where I go. I go to those first moments of holding Leif and Rein. Their wrinkly bodies on my bare chest. My lips, between joyful cries, telling them how much I love them and kissing their heads over and over while midwives and doctors sew me back together (I needed to be sewn up after both births–just different places).
This is the feeling I pray ushers me into the afterlife when my time on earth is done. This is the sacred space where I will always feel at home.
I have always been a fan of cookie dough. As a kid, I’d still it when my mom made cookies. Thankfully, I didn’t die from eating raw eggs. When I became vegan, my love for cookie dough did not diminish but my risk of getting salmonella did. I love cookie dough more than I love actual cookies…and that’s saying something because I really love cookies. This recipe blew my mind though. This is about as guilt free as it gets when it comes to eating cookie dough. This can be eaten by it self or added to smoothies or banana nice cream for a blizzard like experience.
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"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing" ~ Jack Kerouac
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