Friday, September 30, 2016


Softly, I walk into his nursery. Sheep nightlight, white noise, kicked-off sheets and comforter. Teddy-bear blankie always flopped under one arm.

I sit on the bed, and do the thing moms beholding sleeping three-year-olds do instinctively: the brushing back of the hair, the kiss on the forehead, the sigh of love/regret/relief. I stand up when the thought comes, the thought that makes me quietly bolt from the room. The thought that feels like fear and has taken up a disturbing residence: This joy is not yours.

You’re not like life-plan moms. The ones filling Facebook with their firstborns because they’ve turned 30 and are at just that perfect place where they’ve traveled, remodeled, and established their careers.

Not like the country-song moms. The ones who married high school sweethearts and returned to hometowns. Now with a baby or two, seamlessly embraced into the secure warmth of a dream life.

Not like the mom-moms. These ones who somehow seem to know how to do this thing: they order clothes in time for season changes, they schedule AND frame family photos. They’ve got big green yards and garages full of kid-things; they’re the ones you text when there’s a fever or a nursing question. They’re the women who take care of you, too.

Not like the creative moms. Who seem to neutralize life’s chaos into calm and decorate their houses with thrifted treasures. Taking time with the things they touch, moving slow enough to actually see the art growing before them…living art becoming heavier in laps, always needing a size bigger. This joy is not yours.

I realize that I romanticize these women, blot out the parts of their lives that don’t fit my desired narrative. In a mixture of self-pity and what seems to be solid reason (they didn’t find their daughter dead, and I did, and their babies very likely won’t die) I choose to hold onto my bits of evidence, like so many photos. Soul crouched over as it builds this mean mosaic: Proof, substantiating the fear that I am cursed.

I leave Tobin’s room, my heart unable to take in the tender sight of him sleeping. I know it’s the same reason I sometimes have trouble looking him in the eye when he’s awake. I’ve run hard. Not one to surrender, I’ve pushed away: every stubborn ounce of me denying my story, the stunning disappointment I feel towards my life. There’s no sadder cliche than a heart hardening to love and happiness, but damn, it’s so much easier than staying soft.

And this is why I write. To name the lie, to give it words so I have words to fight back with. To next time linger on the edge of the bed and open to it all, to my boy and my story. Maybe that’s healing, that gradual opening back up, even if only for a few seconds. Lean over and smell. Let my heart be a mom’s heart, whatever kind of mom I am, because even though I’m battered I’m not left out.

It feels like the lie, but it’s not: This joy is still mine.

Photo | Molly Lo


Your 5th Birthday

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

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On your third birthday I got a tattoo on my collar bone. The Roman numeral three, three for your third and three for the three days that matter: the day you were born, the day you died, the day I’ll see you again.

The farther away I get from the day you left us, the better. I’d blot out the whole month of November. The more time between that day and now, the closer to hope of seeing you, the better.

The day you were born I remember waking up in labor, so excited, showering and straitening my hair. Driving to the hospital in the middle of the night, just as we hoped it would happen, like leaving for a road trip when it’s still dark.

I remember my forehead pressed against the cool window as the sun rose, having a contraction and watching the headlights of cars driving down 70th. Cheerful and abstract, the world starting another day.

Oh my God Lucy, the moment I scooped you out of the water to my chest–we didn’t know if you were a girl or boy, and I forgot to look.

There is only one time. The pink wrinkly skin of brand new new life, the clenched delicate fingers and tiny nails, the temperature of your skin on mine.

Only one time you see a daddy behold his tiny daughter. So perfect, you in his arms swaddled and he held you kind of like a question, becoming a stronger version of himself. Everyone thought I’d died in labor because he cried so hard announcing you’d arrived.

Only one time your family walks though delivery room doors to see such a perfect treasure. First grand baby, first niece, first everything; dark-haired, so beautiful to every sense.

Your birthday, Lucy, I want to feel. I sneak out to my car at work and cry. I cry in yoga; I cry in a second. I plan a party for you. Doing my best to part with everything I flirt with, to go directly to the soft place underneath the compulsion to escape this pain. Your birthday is a good day.

I remember waiting for you to come during this lovely season change, this season that feels like waiting even if you’re not waiting for anything in particular. It’s always pricked my soul with a touch of melancholy and I wonder if it’s always held a secret.

You’d be 5. I’d be different if you were here. I’m so different than I was when I first held you. I love you, Lucy Garland.

“A new soul—I imagined a little flame, burning bright and given to me for a time.

 The miracle of it.” 

Above, from Lucy’s birth story written five years ago | Pic, my sister Talia’s farmer’s market flowers for Lu


Season Change

Monday, August 29, 2016


Tobin had a fever this weekend. I held him, flipping through the pages of Chrissy Teigan’s cookbook while he watched Kung Fu Panda on Netflix. I was only 10% listening to the cartoon, until the part of the episode where Mantis is taken captive and learns patience. The narrator said something to the effect of, “for the first time, the world outside was moving at a faster speed than Mantis was.” The line caused me to look up because over the past few years, I’ve done a shitty job of mostly everything BUT moving faster than my fears and feelings.

I’ve written before that honesty is more than the absence of a lie, that it’s not a passive state but an aggressive pursuit. Awareness. Honesty is aggressive because it requires downtime and thought. Personally, I enjoy the act of untangling life’s messiness through writing but I can also tend to do just about everything else in a day but make time for that reflection. Partly because it seems like a luxury I don’t have time for in the face of all the practical things that need to be done, partly because I’d rather numb out and am afraid of truth.

Honesty is aggressive because it means listening to the still small voice we would write off as cliche, but can’t. Brushing our teeth, on our commute, not always speaking in words. Often boiling down to, “You’re not being true.” Don’t we all lie to ourselves, subtly, more than we lie to anyone else? And doesn’t it take something of us not to let the voice dissipate into distraction, until the inevitable moment we regret not listening?

I’m wired to move, connect, achieve, and excel and I must have mental stimulation. I thrive off of fun; I get through the day-to-day by having non-day-to-day things on the calendar. Being busy is often criticized as this mass cultural issue we have, a badge of our collective self-importance, but it’s certainly not one-dimensionally negative: Being busy keeps me out of trouble, unless I’m busy getting into trouble. It adds richness of experience and connection to my life, and often is intertwined with the challenge of pushing towards goals (a.k.a., personal growth.) When one is healing, moving from one thing to the next on a schedule can be very important. However, moving fast just doesn’t do a damn lot to help one deal with the soft and honest places inside.

As I write this, I’m laying in bed. I haven’t slept well for months; I caught Tobin’s cold times ten, and it’s the special kind of sick partly caused by a run-down soul. I suspect that I’ve let fear run my schedule again, instead of love. I suspect that slowing down and re-prioritizing go hand-in-hand, and I suspect that this next month, Lucy’s birthday month, is best honored with a devotion to simplicity and reconnection. It’s time for me to take a step back, practice patience with priorities in place, and let the world move faster for a season. I’m listening to the still voice, telling me that the miracle will happen there.

Photo | Molly Lo