Tough Days

Last week I visited the hospital where Judah was born exactly two years ago. As I drove home, along the same winding route, I found myself flooded with emotion as memories of that first year came rushing in.

The drive home from the hospital two years ago wasn’t so hot. It was my idea that Isaiah (then a mere 16 months old) should be with us to bring home the new baby. Unfortunately the timing coincided with his lunchtime and naptime. Isaiah banging on the metal bassinette as the cranky hospital nurse went through her endless discharge directions. And because I was holding a newborn and had a fresh C-section, I couldn’t physically restrain him. Although I tried anyway, sure I was ripping my stitches.

The drive home wasn’t any better. Both babies were screaming and crying. Not only was this a shitty moment, it went against all of my expectations for what the drive home with a new baby should be (and we all know our expectations of how things should be will always set us up for failure). I think it was on this drive when I had the first taste of that miserable anxiety. Wanting to either scream or get the hell out of the car.

Unfortunately this was only a foreshadowing of what was to come for the next 9 or so months.

So what would I say if I could go back and whisper something in my ear that day, two years ago?

That day when I was so tense and edgy and cagey and nervous and mad and tired and sore.

What would i say?

  • take a deep breath and let it go.
  • don’t be so testy. don’t worry about the rules. don’t find so much blame. so it was the wrong move having isaiah come with us. let it go. give him a snack. give him what he needs. and try to give the baby a reassuring hand.
  • i’d say get as much sleep as you possibly can. for real. because every ounce of your health starts with getting sleep.
  • leave the f*&^ing housework
  • get grocery delivery for gods’ sake. it’s worth every penny.
  • have martha, my angel of a housekeeper, come over. (actually, i hadn’t met martha yet.) find a martha–someone who will come over and spread their touch of joy around my house. someone who will see what needs to be done. catch me up on the laundry. bring groceries. hold the baby for me.
  • find a baby holder. because this new baby cried every single time i put him down for months.
  • god forbid find a different way than trying to get isaiah and judah up the steps after daycare every single day. i had all kinds of hangups about having a nanny, but in retrospect, it would have been so much easier.
  • get on medication for postpartum anxiety sooner. talk to someone who would help me see that I had postpartum anxiety, something I had never even heard of.
  • stop being so angry and find out what the root is. figure out what i need.
  • don’t be so judgmental to my spouse about doing everything “the right way.” the newborn days are not about doing anything right. they are about survival.
  • let it go.
  • i’d go back and just give myself a hug and say just enjoy this time.
  • find the joy in this moment and revel in that. 
  • find other moms. such trite advice but so helpful to see how others are coping and to laugh through tears.
  • get out of the house more. that winter was brutal.
  • stop having so many people over! why were we having people over every weekend? those visits that never seemed to end. Isaiah and their kids going crazy from being winter housebound. Me just wanting to go upstairs, put on pajamas and sleep w/ my baby.
  • what if i just admitted to everyone that i was a total wreck? why was I so afraid to let that show? trying to keep up appearances was exhausting. i’d go back and say to all those visitors. “i’m a wreck. what day can you meet me at the driveway to carry these babies up the steps?”
  • breathe. let it go.



The details leading up to it really aren’t that interesting–It was my husbands birthday last Monday. We were all at home that morning because it was Columbus Day. So instead of having the normal structure of a “mommy day,” we treated it like a typical Sunday morning–letting either mom or dad sleep in until the kids completely lose it somewhere around 10am.

Since it was his birthday and all, we gave dad the “gift of sleep” even though I was feeling like crap–exhausted, a little sick, and unsteady. When the deteriorating of the toddlers kicked in, the flareups came fast and furious. And I observed myself yelling at them not once but at least three times. At that point, it was only 9 am. I just couldn’t wake him up yet.

I am not a yeller by nature.

When I find myself giving in to anger by yelling, it means I have reached my peak of problem solving and am feeling completely out of control.

Many times danger is involved, like yell #3 that morning when one toddler was swinging on the refrigerator door while the other was wedged inside the fridge and I had a full pot of boiling water on the flaming gas stove just beside the stove.

It was ugly, terrible screaming because I was exhausted on all levels and wasn’t able to see what the situation needed to be resolved. (Baby gate, anyone??)

So often as mothers, our judgement is blurred by lack of sleep and lack of space.

Once I regained my composure (and averted danger), I shuttled the kids out to the backyard. This involved a whole mess of protests, tears, and flinging themselves on the ground as I tried to shove their little New Balances on their feet.

When my husband came outside around noon, I did my best to give him a bright Happy Birthday! before I hightailed it upstairs for a break. I lay in my oldest son’s room and melted into tears. Why was that morning so difficult? Why had I snapped so easily, so often? Why was I so frayed?

 It would be so easy to become a yeller and screamer.

It’s even sort of justified in the refrigerator/stove scenario above. But it makes me feel like crap. It is not at all the kind of mother I want to be. It is not at all the kind of environment I want to create in my home.

That morning, crying in my sons’s room, I read from Buddhism for Mothers, which actually has a whole chapter devoted to anger.

Among the many inspiring passages I found, one of the most helpful was the author’s perspective on the Buddha’s Discourse on the Forms of Thought in which the Buddha presents five options for dealing with disturbing thoughts.

They are:

1. Dwell on the positive

2. Consider the results of our thoughts

3. Distract ourselves

4. Consider the alternatives.

5. Use our willpower.

As the author points out, what’s so fantastic about this list is that they are options.

So while sometimes it might not be not possible to use a typical toddler distraction (“hey you hanging on the fridge handle which could easily plow your brother right into the open flame of the stove–how about a tickle?!!”). But it would be a useful exercise to think back to a less dangerous situation you didn’t feel so hot about and consider other ways you could have handled it based on the “5 Ways to Not Lose It” menu above.

I apologized to my children later that day.

Isaiah, my oldest, clearly remembered the incidents of that morning, and by apologizing I hope I am showing him that we are all human. And even if I was right (no hanging on the goddamn fridge), I didn’t handle it right.

Anger is such a fleeting emotion.

I can’t even remember the other 99 things I’ve yelled about recently. But the aftermath of giving in to anger sits in the home, like tobacco on a smoker’s wall.

Here’s to not giving in.

My glorious 10-day vacation on Cape Cod is coming to a close, and so out of habit or obligation, I’ve spent most of the day thinking about my life direction.

Life planning used to be just about me. Then it was about me and my husband. Now it’s about  me, my husband, our two boys, and possibly another child, who knows.

Perhaps to help me wrap my head around where my life is heading before I even make any plans, I have this compulsive habit of charting out my children’s ages/stages by year.

For example,

2011 Judah turns 2, Isaiah 3.5, me 35

2012 Judah turns 3, Isaiah 4.5, me 36

2013 Judah turns 4, Isaiah 5.5. Isaiah starts kindergarten. Me 37 (last year to have another baby?)

2014 Judah turns 5 (starts kindergarten?), Isaiah 6.5 in 1st grade, Me 38

2026 Isaiah graduates from high school (ahhh that’s a little better–nice and far away)

And so on.

Seeing my life through this lens, a few things surface.

  • My god, how quickly it really is going to go by. I mean, kindergarten? First grade??
  • I probably have two years or less to decide if we’ll have a third child. Not necessarily based on ability but personal preference.
  • How will my work schedule change when my children are in school? If I have a third child? And how does that affect the career choices I need to make now? Work more? Work less?
  • What kind of milestones do Ian and I want to hit before the kids start school?
  • Do I want to get a Ph.D.? If so, when? And in what?

The boys will wake up from their naps soon. We’ll go down to the water and collect hermit crabs and snails. I’ll have one of my last Sankaty Light Lagers of the summer.

And all of this will have to wait until another day.


Image from jackmck54


In the midst of a really bad storm, you can be so focused on trying to remain calm and get everybody through it alive that it’s not until well after the storm has passed that you think–holy shit! How did I survive that? That’s exactly how I feel about the two under two years.

The Hardest Things About Having 2 Under 2

1. If you had a C-section, you can’t pick up your toddler for six weeks. And we’re not just talking about fun romps around the house. We’re talking about getting them out of daycare and into the car, carrying them up and down the stairs, lifting them onto the changing table, and putting them in their crib. Obviously you are going to have to pick up your toddler. But not without some shooting abdominal pains and fears of something really horrible happening to your midsection.

2. You can’t nurse your newborn without worrying your 16-month old is going to fling himself into the fireplace to get your attention. This is a rational fear because it’s what your toddler threatens to do every time his arch enemy finally gets a good latch.

3. Your toddler is still too young to be left in a room alone. But he can’t sit still. If you are nursing, you will rarely have the luxury of doing it sitting down.

Isaiah, the day we brought his newborn brother home
Isaiah, the day we brought his newborn brother home

4. There is a high possibility that you will open the front door with one boob hanging out of your nursing tank.

5. Your toddler has not yet learned how to wait for anything, especially food. Meals are prepared under a blizzard of wails. And when your newborn starts eating solid food, you have to feed it to him. Every single spoonful. Which means the days of feeding the toddler cheese chunks while you shove some organic “chickn” nuggets into the oven are over. You are strapped to your newborn’s highchair, so you better have dinner ready for your toddler, too.

6. You live on a diet of Cheerios, “chickn” nuggets, apple sauce and beer. No wonder you look like shit.

7. Your newborn thinks his Earth’s Best Split Pea Soup puree tastes fine straight from the fridge. Because that’s all he knows. You will carry immense guilt for this.

8. The aftermath of every meal will make you want to cry. Except you’re too exhausted to cry.

9. You will not have time to fix yourself a glass of water. Which is probably good since going to the bathroom is also out of the question. (Especially when your only bathroom is on the second floor.)

10. A young toddler may or may not have the attention span to watch more than five minutes of television. This young toddler may also be unsteady on his feet and runs a reasonable risk of emergency-room grade damage to himself at every corner.

11. Meanwhile, your newborn does not take to the bouncy seat, swing, or other expensive vibrating contraption happily. He may tolerate it for a couple of minutes. Then he’ll be demonstrating the strength of his lungs.

12. There’s nothing like a screaming newborn to put your toddler in the mood to destroy something.

13. Getting in and out of the car, especially in the winter, is enough to give any sleep-deprived mother agoraphobia. Unfortunately, staying at home with two young children all day, no matter how tired you are, is probably the very worst move you can make.

14. Getting into the house, especially when that involves scaling 20 steep and narrow stairs, is the bane of your existence. Each week is a new tactic. Most fail. Once you finally move to a new house, you almost wish you had video of those afternoons so you could cry for yourself.

15. The biggest goal of every weekend is getting both kids to sleep at the same time. It rarely happens, so you and your husband fall into a pattern of tag-team napping, all day long. This goes on for months.

16. Despite all of this, your husband still expects “the good stuff.” He will not get “the good stuff” and probably not “the mediocre stuff” either.

17. You wonder if having twins would have been easier because at least then people would drop off hot covered dishes and make sympathetic remarks at the grocery store. (Who am I kidding. I don’t take both of them to the grocery store.)

18. When other moms of toddlers ask what it’s like having two under two because they are thinking of getting pregnant again, you launch into an incoherent monologue about the stairs, the godforsaken stairs. Those moms avoid you.

19. Living in sickening fear that your toddler will kill the newborn. You see the news headlines: “Toddler climbs into crib and suffocates newborn.” “Toddler strikes newborn on head with Toy Story sippy cup.” “Toddler feeds organic hot dog to newborn, who chokes while mother is in upstairs bathroom.” You realize you probably need professional help

20. The heart-aching love you have for both of them as you grasp on to their last hints of baby-ness, forgetting all but #20 of the hardest things about having 2 under 2.