Letter to My Son on His Second Birthday

My son,

Today are you two years old. Every night for the past two years, I’ve fallen asleep thinking of you. I’ve relived the day’s smiles, hugs, milestones, illnesses, and temper tantrums. I’ve gazed at the picture of you in my head and admired your beauty – your kissable cheeks, your soft hair, your gorgeous mouth, your chubby little hands, your model-perfect eyebrows. And I’ve imagined hugging and kissing you one last time before I fall asleep.

Most mornings I wake up excited to see you. Missing you even. Some mornings my first thought is “oh no, I can’t believe he’s already up, PLEASE go back to sleep, kid.” But that’s only some mornings.

You’re my last thought at night and my first thought in the morning, and I always think I’m going to write down all of my thoughts of you so that you can read them someday. But I almost never do. So let me give you an abbreviated, bulleted list of what stands out most in my mind as you become Daddy and Mommy’s two-year-old:

  • You are funny. There’s no doubt about this. You are quirky and silly and love to make us laugh. I wouldn’t say that you love attention exactly. It’s that you truly love making other people smile. And Milo, you GET me and Daddy. You hit our funny bones every time. Lately you’ve been into making funny faces with your eyes. Daddy tried to teach you how to wink, but it came out as squint and because we laughed you do it all the time now. And then you take it a step further by rolling your eyes up to one side of your head. Or blinking really quickly. The sillier the better with you. Two nights ago you pulled out the wooden banjo that Corey got you for your birthday, stripped down naked, and ran around the house playing nude music. And later you grabbed the wooden stand that’s used to hold your broom and mop and pretended it was a mic stand. You sang the most ridiculous songs – exaggerated variations on “Bunny Foo Foo” and “Twinkle Twinkle” that you knew would make us giggle.
  • You love to dance. You are the youngest kid in your daycare class right now, and your teacher Marcy always tells us that most toddlers love to dance but that you REALLY love it. Music comes on, and you are moving – and leading the crowd with your moves. On the first day of Kavod Alef this September, Marcy turned on the radio and you busted out your moves with a grin. And then you spotted Zoe, a little girl who was too shy to dance on the first day, so you gently put your arm behind her and encouraged her to dance with you. She was apparently still terrified but the teachers appreciated your sweetness and enthusiasm. Yesterday I picked you up from daycare and you, Kieran, and another kid whose name starts with a W were running in circles to the music. Marcy told me that you had taught them how to spin until they fell down and they loved it. The three of you were whooping it up and I could hardly bear to interrupt.
  • You’re a talker. You’ve always been verbal, but your vocabulary has exploded the past few months. Every day you have new words and phrases, and each one is amazing to me because I can no longer track their origins. Where did you learn to say “Spiderman,” for instance? Or to sing into a wooden stand as if it were a microphone? You jabber from the minute you wake up until the minute we put you down to sleep. You tell us about your day, and even though you don’t have every single word, you manage to convey that today you jumped in a bouncy house, and you took off your shoes first, and you bounced, bounced, bounced, and then you fell on your bum, and you played with your friends Edie and Bobby and then your teacher jumped with you. And you tell us how you had swimming lessons and you took off your clothes by yourself, and your teacher counted to three and then you jumped in, and you swam and played and then used the potty to go pee. I love watching your ability to communicate grow. It so fun to have conversations with you and to understand better who you are, what you care about, and how you see the world.
  • You are sweet. You’ve been interacting with your stuffed animals and dolls and toy trucks and trains lately. A few weeks ago you were acting out some drama with Elmo where Elmo fell down and got an owie. You picked up Elmo, cradled his cheeks in both your hands and said, “Elmo, you okay?” Then you kissed Elmo to make him better. I nearly cried it was so beautiful. But that’s you, energetic and sometimes rambunctious and eager for action but always always gentle and good-hearted.
  • You love me and your dad. Before I had you, I had no concept of how much love I could feel for another person. And I had no idea how much another person could love me back. You are happiest when both Tom and I are with you. You want to show us both your tricks and jokes and dance moves. “Mommy, look! Daddy, watch!” are some of your favorite phrases. At night you like us to do a three-way hug, and then you like to push my and Tom’s faces together and demand that we “Kiss! Kiss!” And then you like us to both kiss you while you grin. You usually prefer that I put you to sleep. You still breastfeed, and my boobs are two of your best friends. J But after your dad leaves you always ask about him. “Mommy, where Daddy go?” you’ll ask. I’ll tell you that he went to bed, and you’ll say, “Oh yeah. Daddy tired. Daddy go to sleep.” And then you’ll put your little butt in the air, tell me whether your blanket should go on or beside you (you have strong feelings on this), and then say “Goodnight, Mommy. Bye!” And I will melt and then go downstairs to tell your dad what an angel we have, and he will agree.
  • You are happy. You are filled with joy and excitement, and this is the single thing that makes me happiest in this world. There is not an airplane or helicopter (“copatater”) or truck or train that you don’t point out. There is not a puddle you don’t splash in. Not a staircase or jungle gym or retaining wall you don’t climb. Not a squirrel you don’t chase or a puppy you don’t pet. You wave to strangers on the street and say “hellow!” Your eyes sparkle when you’re offered a cookie and you spend a moment touching your fingers together like the Cookie Monster before exclaiming, “ah num num num!” and devouring it. You love change – new scenery, new toys, new gadgets to explore. Being around you is like hanging out with a walking anti-depressant. Your joy is contagious and beautiful and one of the things I’m most grateful for.
  • You have shockingly good fine motor skills. And concentration. Besides your general adorableness, this is probably the #1 thing people comment on. You are quick to learn new skills, you enjoy figuring out a challenge, and you have an innate ability when it comes to manual dexterity. You learned sign language at 9 months old. You were the first kid in your class a few weeks ago to figure out how to dress and undress himself. You learned the “flip trick” to put on a jacket in one try. You’ve been able to manipulate doorknobs and bottle tops for months now. You’ve been building block towers, stacking soup cans, and clapping since age one. You are an extremely neat and precise eater because you manipulate forks, spoons, and knives so well. And you’re the only kid your age I’ve seen hold a pen or color crayon like a big kid. And you LOVE to figure out a puzzle. When faced with a challenge, you rarely get frustrated. Instead, you scrunch up your face, furrow your brow, and figure out how to solve it. We brought home a giant helium balloon for you a couple months ago, and you immediately untied the weight that was holding it down. It floated up to the ceiling where you couldn’t reach it. You tried jumping to grab it, but that didn’t work. I asked if you wanted help, and you said no. Instead, you went into a kitchen drawer, picked out a long pasta serving spoon, and used it to grab onto the balloon tie and pull it to the group. Milo, this was REMARKABLE if you ask me. But the best thing was the look on your face when you did it. “Mommy, look! I got balloon!” You are so proud whenever you work hard and then accomplish something new.
  • You are loved. I hope this fact is never lost on you. We’re expecting your baby sibling in about 9 weeks, and you’re going to lose your role as Constant Center of Our Attention. I worry that you’ll be jealous when the new baby breastfeeds. Or has to be held. Or needs more time that we can give to you. I know there will be a transition. But I hope you never ever question our love for you. Not even subconsciously. Daddy and I will do our best to make you feel loved, and I hope we’re successful. You are sweet and smart and strong and capable, and even if it takes a while to get used to your new role and the little usurper who’s come to knock you off the throne, I know one day you’ll be a terrific big brother. And you’ll always be our baby.

Happy birthday, my love. We’ve loved you every day of your life and we’ll continue to love you forever.

Mommy (& Daddy)

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My Body Is a Wonderland But Not the Way That Creep John Mayer Meant It

Two days ago was a turning point for me. It was the day my pregnancy-innocence was lost. It was the day I realized there was no coming back from this an unchanged – or even dignified – person. And it was the day I had the brilliant idea to post stories like the one I’m about to tell you in high schools across the country because if adolescents knew what they were truly signing up for there would be no more teenage pregnancy, my friends.

**WARNING: explicit content ahead.**

 Monday started out for me like any other day in the last ten weeks. I got up, stuffed my expanding body into the last pair of pants that still fits around it, dabbed makeup under my eyes in an attempt to mitigate the bags, and went to the office. Around 11 am things started going off course. The urge to go the bathroom hit. Great news, as my body’s inclination to poo on a regular basis had been waning in recent days. So I entered a stall in one of our office bathrooms with a sense of relief. Relief that was not to be had because while my bowels had remembered that they wanted to rid my body of waste, their ability to make this happen appeared to be hampered. So hampered in fact that the waste product itself remained lodged somewhere in the land between intestines and toilet bowl. This was new to me. It wanted to come out. It was already partway out. Why can’t my insides finish the job? Forty-five minutes of straining, sweating, and cursing later, I walked out of the loo no lighter than I had entered it. And wondering what the fuck was going on.

I took to the Internet. Google told me that there were 7.8 million pages talking about “constipation during pregnancy.” The cure – drink more water, get enough fiber, don’t procrastinate trips to the bathroom, etc. Since that pansy-assed advice wouldn’t cure a non-pregnant person of the no-shits, I knew I needed something harder hitting. My next search told me that there was over-the-counter medicine safe for pregnant ladies and that my pharmacist could recommend the right one for me.

So off to my neighborhood Walgreens after work. I walked in, headed for the pharmacy, and came to a complete stop when I saw the line of people waiting at the desk for their prescriptions. There was no way I was asking for constipation advice in front of a bunch of strangers. My husband and I still pretend our bodies don’t have gas for god’s sake. (On a side note: who are pharmacists kidding with these “privacy” nooks? They’re just separate lines for people to stand in while they scream out their health issues to the people behind the counter.) So back to the Internet to seek out drug-specific advice from my fellow ladies-in-arms in the myriad online pregnancy forums. Milk of Magnesia, they said. And stool softener. Check and check. Stool softener sounded gross but whatever. I’d buy what it took. Threw in some gummy probiotic candies for good measure and walked about of Walgreens an optimistic woman.

My husband was home when I got there. “Sorry, honey,” I said. “We vowed we’d never broach this topic, but I had to hit the pharmacy today, and now I’m going to drink this Milk of Magnesia right in front of you because that little parasite in my uterus is making me sick.” He didn’t want to know. “Nope,” was his reply. “I can’t hear anything you’re saying.” So I downed a couple tablespoons of the laxative I had just bought and waited for my girlfriend to pick me up for dinner. She was taking me out for an early birthday celebration, and I was excited to see her. And to get to dinner because food had become a new priority for me. Hence, the pants that no longer fit.

Cut to dinner. Things were good. I felt fine. When my friend asked about pregnancy difficulties, I shrugged them off. The usual, I said. No big deal. Until she started telling me a story about her job that went on longer than my suddenly very awake bowels could tolerate. I had to cut her off mid-sentence and rush to the restaurant bathroom. The ladies’ room had only two stalls it turned out. One that was out of order and one that was occupied. I waited. Impatiently and nervously but without a real sense of impending doom. And then the lone stall opened up, and I took a seat.

That is when things got bad. Real bad. The laxative had done its job, and now everything in my body wanted to expel what felt like poison from my bowels. With an urgency that until then I’d never felt. There was no part of my body that wasn’t begging me to poop. The one problem is that the piece of excrement that had lodged itself in my body was far too large and hard to exit my butt. FAR too large and hard. I was now acutely aware of what the real problem was and the phrase “stool softener” suddenly made sense to me. I strained and sweat and cursed, but it was no good. I dropped a couple of tears due to the pain. I moaned. I wanted my mommy. I writhed in pain for at least 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes of wanting nothing more than relief from the pain, interspersed with a few seconds wondering whether delivering a baby from my vagina might be slightly more pleasant. “But I’m a pretty girl,” I complained to myself. “A pretty girl!”

And then I went Lord of the Flies on myself. The pain was unbearable, and my animalistic side took over to protect me from what I could only assume was pending death-by-poo. Months ago a friend who had just given birth told me a story about how she had been forced to use her own fingers to manually break apart the excrement that refused to exit her body. I had been repulsed at the story. I had laughed at her, and then later when I told my husband about it, we laughed at her together. But in the bathroom stall, alone and in pain, I wasn’t laughing. In fact, I was inspired. The only possible solution was to dig this shit out of my body. So I did. I literally dug shit out of my own body. With my finger. That’s what I had become capable of.

Post-manual dig, I got some welcome relief. So much so that when another patron entered the restroom I believed it was safe for me to finally leave and go back to my table. My friend was waiting for me there, concerned. I told her to take me home, and she didn’t hesitate. We were driving down the parking ramp in her car when I once more had to cut her off mid-sentence. “I need a bathroom again,” I said. “My house,“ she replied. “I’m two blocks away.” I wasn’t gonna make it two blocks. This time I’d be lucky to make it another two minutes. I ran back into the mall where we had had dinner and found a restroom immediately inside the main doors. There were four other woman in the room. Two at the mirror and two in stalls, but my sense of propriety was gone. The only goal was to make it to an empty stall in time.

I didn’t make it. Not completely. I got into the stall, tried without luck to lock it, and didn’t even bother lining the seat with toilet paper. I came very close to landing my bum down on the toilet in time, but, sadly, a very cute pair of underwear were ruined before I could stick the landing. I didn’t care. Now nothing mattered except ridding my body of its toxic load. My stomach released itself into the toilet and I felt elation. So much elation that when the two woman at the mirror started commenting on how badly the bathroom stunk, it didn’t phase me. They started singing a song called “It Smells Like Poop in Here!” (lyrics: “It smells like POOP in here. It really smells like POOP in here!”) and I nearly took credit. Only now do I want to punch them a little bit.

Unfortunately, my bathroom tribulations were not done. I spent another 20 minutes in that stall facing Too Large/Too Hard Poo #2. This time I barely hesitated to implement the manual method. The method was old hat, but the pain was still visceral. Finally, I was ready to stand up. And that’s when I remembered the underwear that would not be making the trip home with me. I needed to get them off. One thing I haven’t mentioned is that this was a relatively busy mall restroom. At no point in my ordeal were there fewer than two ladies in the room with me at once. This made getting undressed and then re-dressed tricky. I had to take off my boots, prop them up so they wouldn’t fall on their sides, remove my pants and my underwear, throw my underwear away in the tampon drawer, and put my pants back on my underwear-less body all without anyone knowing and thinking I was a creepshow. One person tried to enter my unlocked stall during this time, and she nearly ruined me.

I finally made it home and crawled into bed. The shock had begun to wear off and now only butt pain and humiliation remained. I reflected what I had been through and wallowed in sorrow for a while. And then I remembered my own arrogance from the day before. Not 24 hours earlier I had started to read a post on a BabyCenter.com forum entitled, “Don’t Laugh – Very TMI – Help!!!” A pregnant woman in distress had written the post in desperation while sitting on the toilet, unable to push any harder and unsure what to do next. I had found the post so disgusting and unnecessary I couldn’t read the entire thing. What was wrong with her? Who writes about something like that? And really, who could possibly get themselves in that situation. I pulled up the day-old post on my phone and, still sore from my own traumatic toilet experience, read the full post along with all 58 responses it had received. My husband walked into the bedroom while I was reading and I told him that if he wanted to know what my night had been like to see here. We ended up reading the responses aloud. And learning a lot. All 58 posters had a similar experience to share. All had been there. All were sympathetic. Many offered advice. My favorite responder said this: “Use tp to pull it out. I’ve had to do that. My poo was the size of a squirrel!

The size of a squirrel. That says it all, folks. When you get pregnant, you will one day have poo the size of a squirrel lodged inside you. And you will need to use your hands to get it out.

So kids, take heed. Don’t do drugs. Stay in school. And for the love of god use a condom.

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How to Tell if You’re Pregnant

  1. Unrelenting and incomparable breast pain
  2. Shortness of breath when you do things like…walk
  3. Crying jags spurred by hugs, commercials, or your husband’s soup slurping
  4. Seventeen-hour naps (this one might just be me)
  5. An increase in your red meat allowance from something like two hamburgers a year to two hamburgers per dinner (this is a slight exaggeration as my husband can confirm that I left 2-3 bites of that 2nd hamburger)
  6. Walking to your car and finding it locked with the keys inside. And running. As it had been for the past 8 hours while you were at the office
  7. Getting a flat tire and having your first impulse be to abandon your car, grab you gym bag and trek to that Zumba class you wanted to get to at the gym, only to then off-road through private yards, crawl under large branches in the woods, scale a fence, fall down a ravine, climb up to a private, state-owned railroad track, and finally arrive at the gym four minutes before class is over and THEN remember you’ve yet to call for help and you’re now miles from your abandoned vehicle
  8. Leaving your entire gym bag at the gym and not noticing that it’s gone for a week
  9. Making fun of your husband for losing his credit card until you get a phone call from him at the office asking why his online activity shows that you just charged your lunch to his card and then finding his card in your pants pocket
  10. Giant, painful boobs. I can’t emphasize this enough.
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Holy Shit I’m Pregnant. Day One.

Saturday, February 9, 2013.

My first thought is this – Holy Shit. It’s not one of joy, or fear. Just complete shock. The ClearBlue Easy test sitting on the counter reads “Pregnant,” and there is no reaction but shock. I’m brushing my teeth and had already forgotten about the stick I just urinated on. My mind had been on the glass (or glasses) of wine I was about to drink with my husband, and if I hadn’t tilted my head to reach the toothbrush to the far side of my mouth and glanced over at the edge of the sink, I may not have remembered it was there at all.

I’ve taken a lot of pregnancy tests in my life. A lot. The first test was at age 15. It was also a ClearBlue Easy (I can confirm they are clear, blue, and very easy), and it was taken in the bathroom of local gas station while I kneeled on the ground and prayed every Catholic prayer I knew that it would come back negative. It was negative. Which made sense since I was a virgin. Long story there, revolving around extreme paranoia, perfectionism, Catholic guilt nagging at me for dating an older boy in my high school, as well as a still-unacknowledged eating disorder that had caused me to stop menstruating.

Each pregnancy test I’ve taken throughout my life has been mostly without merit. Period late? Take a test. Period almost late? Take a test. Dating a loser who would screw up my life if I had his kid? Yeah, obviously take a test because this is just the kind of thing I’ve worked so hard to avoid my entire life so it’s probably happening. Never mind that I’m currently using at least two types of birth control.

But now I’m 35. And married to a man I love with all my heart. And we both agreed two weeks ago that we’d finally ditch the birth control and see what happens six to twelve months from now. (Which is when we’d start to think about having a child because by then we’d have a better sense of the exact nature of the fertility issues my aging eggs and his middle-aged sperm would surely cause us.)

But no, first try was all it took. One weekend in Park City, Utah doing all the things they tell you not to do if you’re trying to get pregnant (boozing, guzzling coffee like it’s water, not taking anybody’s basal temperature, etc. Also, there was a hottub).

And I can’t believe it. Yes, my boobs hurt like hell. Yes, I needed to squeeze in a nap each of the past four days. Yes, I had told my husband, TW, while on a work trip in Orlando earlier in the week that I was definitely pregnant and if he didn’t have a pregnancy test waiting for me when I got home from the airport on Saturday night he was a bad father. But whose boobs don’t hurt once in a while? And naps while traveling make sense. And that’s just the way TW and I joke. We’re funny because we’re absurd. Which is why I loved it when I walked in the door from my trip and found a candlelit bedroom and a  vase filled with a dozen roses and surrounded by three boxes of pregnancy tests. He mixes the funny with the sweet just the way I like it.

I couldn’t wait to pee on one of the sticks, get back the negative result, and enjoy a guilt-free glass of wine with TW while we snuggled on the couch and talked about our plans for the next week. The interest rates we needed to lock on the new home we were buying, the renovation plans we were designing for the entire 4,000 square foot house. The fact that we’ve never felt so poor and would have to start cutting back on things like restaurants, shopping, last-minute trips to Sundance, etc. TW had already started buying our wine at Trader Joe’s, and we were both convinced that this was a prudent financial move that would return big-time gains. So yeah, your typical DINK Saturday night.

Selfish though we are, TW and I have always known we would want kids. We both love kids. I love the smell and feel of a baby in my arms. My blood pressure goes down as soon as I hear a newborn’s cry. I would rather hang out with a roomful of toddlers, walking around on wobbly legs and babbling nonsense, than in a roomful of adults. And TW likes the slightly older version. The kind who will let him talk about the science behind how everyday items work. And who have video games he can play.

So we’re in love, we’re married, we adore kids, and we’ve consciously stopped trying to prevent their arrival. Still, I’m fucking shocked. How is it that my body is pregnant? My body. Me. It feels like what I’d assume winning the lottery feels like if you’ve bought only one PowerBall ticket in your life. Like I’m the luckiest bastard in the world who just might fuck up the most amazing – and precarious – thing ever given to me but am obviously going to accept the gift with open arms and fuck it up (or not?) on my own terms.

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