Defining death. To a child.

I love words. I love reading and writing and hearing peoples’ stories, and telling them, myself. Anyone who knows me will freely say that I’m not often at a loss for words. I’m finding, though, that as a parent of a nearly three-year-old child,  attempts to describe or define the meaning of words and actions often leave me without the means to accurately convey a concept. To be sure, some of it is developmental; small children are not the most abstract thinkers. But beyond that, there’s a desire to shield him from the ugliness of the world, at least for now, while still making good on my values to raise him in honesty and reality.

As we walked through the cemetery in our neighborhood yesterday afternoon, I thought of my mom, as I often do, and that I should visit her grave. It’s been awhile; I have a hard time ascribing meaning to that space. I asked D if he wanted to visit Grandma Patti’s cemetery, and he said yes. He immediately started chattering as we walked home, about seeing her, bringing her some of the chocolate strawberries his dad had made for me the day before. We talk to him about my mom a lot, show him photos, tell him stories, to help him understand her importance in our lives. It broke my heart to listen to him, knowing that I needed to try to explain the reality of the situation.

We got to her grave, and he smiled, recognizing my mom and dad on the etching in the headstone. “Is Papa Steve coming here, too?” he asked. I told him no. A car pulled up, and he stood, wondering aloud if that was Grandma Patti. He really believed he was going to see her. I took a breath, and asked him to sit with me. I said, “Grandma Patti isn’t with us anymore.”He asked where she was. Knowing that he attends church with his other papa, I tried to use terms that he might have some concept of; “She’s an angel now. She’s all around us. She watches us.” He just looked at me. I finally decided to try to level with him, as leveling with a three year old is always the smart choice (ha ha). I said, “Honey, Grandma was really sick. There was something in her body that made her very, very sick, and it made her heart stop working. We need our hearts to live-so we can breathe, and play, and be with other people. She can’t do those things anymore. Her body didn’t work, and now it’s here, in this ground, to be kept safe. This big stone helps people to remember who she was, and lets us come visit her and think about her.” The entire time, I kept telling myself to stop talking, to stop being so pseudo-biological and blunt about it.

He listened, looking at the ground and running his fingers through the thick grass around him. “She’s in heaven?” he said. “Yes, baby.” “Oh.” For a moment, he looked like he might start crying, and I regretted all of it. Enough of us had shed tears over her loss, and I didn’t want him to take on that burden. Not yet. He never even got to know her, just being held by her once, when he was three days old. And then she was gone. But, I think he understood, as much as his three year old abilities would permit him. “You miss your mommy, Mom?” I blinked back tears. “Yes, I do.” He gave me a little smile.

We started to get up to leave, and I said my goodbyes aloud to my mom. He followed my lead, and said, “Bye, Grandma Patti. I love you and miss you. The doctors will come and fix your heart to work again, and you will come back to life”, blowing her a kiss. More blinked-back tears. That innocence over the permanence of death, the desire to make someone else feel better, made me both incredibly sad and happy at the same time. He’s trying to understand how others feel, while learning to manage his own emotions within those contexts. That’s a hard thing, something that most of us struggle with well into adulthood.

As I drove home, him watching a show on my phone, I thought about what happened. Maybe it was OK that I shared what I did; after all, life does not exist within an absence of conflict and sadness. I want him to grow with the understanding that it’s OK to display emotion, to communicate pain in a constructive manner. Maybe he can’t really grasp the concept of death, but he can understand sadness and hurt and love. Something that my mom instilled in us was empathy, and to truly see people and their complexities, even if they aren’t on full display. This experience with D yesterday made me hope that perhaps I am starting to lay the same foundation for him, to help him intuit what is in other people’s hearts, even if he can’t fully know what has hurt them.

Advertisements

A different diet for the new year.

I’m exhausted, you guys. I’m talking, physically and emotionally, right-into-your-bones, sort of tired. Life is crazy, as it is for all of us at this particular stage in life-career, relationships, kids, adult stuff. Those are OK things, though-I can handle them, keep them in balance.

What I can no longer keep in balance, however, is the flood of negativity, vitriol, hatred, violence, horror and general terribleness that rushes into my life every time I lazily step into any sort of online environment-facebook being the number one offender, as it usually compiles all of these different avenues of media into one little neat stream. But, man…does anyone else feel like they are being crushed under the weight of all the terrible things that are happening in the world?

I’ve always been pretty tapped into world events, for better or worse. I like to know what’s going on, I want to better understand humanity. And with that, comes the unfortunate side effect of taking some of it on, personally. But lately, I don’t know-I can’t handle it. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, maybe (likely) it’s because I’m raising a tiny human to become an adult human who will be left to make his way in this world, and I’d like that world to not be burned to the proverbial ground by then. I’d like his spirit to remain intact, to not be jaded by what he sees and hears. I want MY spirit to remain intact.

This has all been accelerating for me over the past few months, thinking about the need to pull the plug for awhile on being so “connected” all the time. A poor choice of words, for sure, given that I can’t think of anything more DISconnected than looking around in a public space and seeing literally everyone’s face buried in their phones. When did we stop understanding that human interaction is necessary, that it makes us who we are?

I believe in the power of media, of social media in particular, and the rise of citizen journalism and what that means for accountability and transparency on all levels. However, what I can no longer deal with, is absent-mindedly hopping online in the same manner that people continually open their fridges even though they know nothing has changed inside, and reading that overnight,  a man has thrown his 5 year old daughter over a bridge, killing her. Or that attempts at forced censorship include a mass murder of illustrators and editors. It has officially infiltrated my heart, and it is just another thing weighing me down, that I don’t want.

So, all this to say, I’m going on a diet. A crash diet that includes no social media and very limited news exposure. I am not deleting anything (as evidenced by the fact that you guys are reading this, through a linkage between WordPress and FB or Twitter), but I removed the phone apps, and let’s face it-who the hell is on a laptop or desktop more than they ever have to be? For 30 days, I’m going to focus on remaining present, at all times, and allowing what is good to flow into my world (how’s that for some weird, new-age garbage?).

I’ll be back, at some point, if for no other reason than my son’s apparent internet celebrity. In the meantime, feel free to subscribe to my blog to get updates on new posts (because I’m going to be writing a lot more), or shoot me an email at JenniferLHurlburt@gmail.com, if you want some occasional photo updates on what the Ginger is up to. Or, be like, “Eh, whatever, who the hell cares?” Either way, see you on the other side.

Full-On Mom Jeans.

That’s the nickname I’ve given myself-Mom Jeans. Alas, I have become that asshole that I have always hated-posting a million photos of my baby on IG/FB (that no one ultimately cares about, I know this; I mostly didn’t care about your baby, either), posting inane status updates about my lack of sleep/loss of independence/back pain/baby screaminess, and commiserating with other moms about the glamorous life of parenthood. It’s annoying, and here is where I issue my blanket apology-I’m sorry. I will also not stop, so it might be a good idea to remove me from any social media feeds or defriend me altogether. Maybe block my phone number too, if I’m texting you unwanted photos. But it’s a baby! In tiny shorts!

Even more startling are my behaviors in private-perpetually tiptoeing around the house, squealing D’s name over and over again so I can get through a shower without him losing his shit (this only works 14% of the time), singing every ridiculous made up song I can conjure off the top of my head, and putting more thought into his outfits in the morning, than my own. Oh, my eating habits? That consists of anything I can grab with one hand, and stuff into my mouth, like a raccoon. This runs the gamut from healthy (apple) to disgusting (finger swipe of peanut butter). I know this is normal, and I don’t hate it. It’s just..shocking, sometimes.

And don’t even get me started about my appearance. My crowning achievement has been that I shower and dress every morning. That’s a non-negotiable for me (although I understand how many people don’t get to it). However, my mascara wand has never seen less activity, my hair is in a perma-knot atop my head, and I don’t so much care that there’s a rivulet of baby spit/drool/milk all over my shoulder. My dirtiest little secret? Even though I fit comfortably back into my pre-pregnancy clothes, I cannot make myself stop wearing my maternity jeans. Please note, I know this is in no way flattering, as they are huge and baggy on my legs and butt, but weeee! Jeans that also feel like sweatpants! Just toss a longer cardigan on, and no one is the wiser…unless you’re walking behind me in Wegman’s, and watching me hike my pants up every 2-3 strides.

It’s all just interesting to me, how you become almost unrecognizable to yourself once you become a parent. Maybe not everyone feels this way, but I do. Like I said, I certainly don’t dislike it, nor do I find it to be a bad thing, but I didn’t always intend to be a parent. I never daydreamed about having kids and all that jazz, nor did I ever think it would actually happen. But now, here I am, with this little redheaded, doe-eyed boy, and I love him so much that it almost takes my air sometimes. He has taught me so much about myself, made me happier, much less willing to abide nonsense from other people, and has given me a sense of purpose that I thought I always got from my career, but is so much more fierce now. I feel incredibly lucky to be his mom, and to have the opportunity to help guide another person to the best life possible. So what if I AM doing it with bags under my eyes and ill-fitting pants? He will grow more independent, and I will look presentable in public again. And I bet, when all is said and done, that I’ll probably miss this time.

What the hell just happened?

I’m writing this as Dempsey sleeps on my shoulder, my computer balanced precariously on the Boppy pillow on my lap, and wondering…how did we make it through this past month?
He is 5 weeks old now, 5 weeks that simultaneously dragged and flew by. And I have to be honest-the first 4 were incredibly rough. I didn’t anticipate the difficulty I would have in adjusting. On top of the garden variety lack of sleep, I couldn’t even sleep when he did, because I had such bad anxiety. Trying to recover from a c-section and care for a newborn, dealing with my mother’s death, and just generally worrying about how I was going to adapt to it all, really took a toll on me. I frequently felt sort of out of my mind, and yes-I was suffering from a little depression as a result of it all. And just as swiftly as it all hit me, it all lifted, on the day he turned one month old. I’m not sure what was responsible for the flipped switch, but I am incredibly grateful to be feeling like myself again, happy, much more rested, and able to more freely enjoy the experience.

It got me thinking about the messages that we’re sent about parenthood, and what to expect. I got the impression that sure, I would be sleepy, but life would be so lovely with a new baby, all mushiness and love. And while there were those moments, there were more frequently really difficult ones. I would cry uncontrollably in response to a simple inquiry of “How’s it going?” And no one ever talks about those things, which then makes you feel like there is something wrong with you. I started to feel like a bad parent for feeling like that, for wishing at times that I had my independence back (or even just a free pair of hands), that I could have even one more night of uninterrupted sleep.

Once I started feeling normal again, I felt more comfortable coming clean about these feelings. As I talked to other moms, I began to hear a lot of my statements echoed in their own stories. So many people said that they experienced the same thing, and that those who had multiple children recalled feeling incredible anxiety when they became pregnant with their second child, unsure if they could do it again. So, the lesson in all of this becomes: talk about it. We as women need to share our stories with one another, support each other, validate what others are feeling. Because if we don’t, we continue to perpetuate feelings of isolation, shame and guilt. Women need to know that they aren’t alone in those feelings, that it’s OK to ask for help. Feeling overwhelmed doesn’t make you a bad parent, it makes you normal. Healthy, happy babies need healthy, happy parents, and that’s ultimately what we all want for our families.

I’m amazed everyday at how much easier it gets-how we just adapt to this tiny (yet huge) little person in our lives. I look at Dempsey, watch the way he changes each day, see him growing and developing and becoming his own little person, and I feel so grateful for the opportunity to be his mom. Even more so, I’m grateful for the support of everyone in my life that supported and encouraged me in those first few weeks-it lifted me up at a time when I needed it most.

Months 3-6: Times, they are a-changin’.

Today marks my entry into the third trimester. A line I’m crossing happily, but also with a bad limp, and slightly winded. The past three months have been full of transformations, realizations, and, well…sugar. Lots of it. But, that’s neither here nor there. So, a few highlights on this journey:

For those of you not in the know, we’re having a boy. I felt all along that it was a boy, and also (not so) secretly hoped it was. Girls-they’re great and all, but I just don’t feel excited about pink, and dance lessons, and her slamming her bedroom door in my face at 15 years old when I ask her how her day was. Of course, I know he will come with his own set of challenges, but that’s stuff I can handle (scoffs naively). Or outsource to his dad. His name will be Dempsey, a name we both love, and were able to decide on easily. Not common, but also not “Pilot Inspektor” weird, either. And his middle name will be Reid, which is Andy’s mother’s family name. I like the history and significance of that. So, one tiny task down. He has a name!

I no longer recognize my body. Over the past three months, my stomach has grown to (what I perceive as) epic proportions, my back feels like someone started a garbage fire in my spinal column, my boobs are huge(r), and nearly everything winds me. I stood in front of the mirror before getting into the shower the other day, and marveled for a minute. It’s certainly not disdain or disgust I feel, because let’s face it-growing a human is a pretty powerful, amazing thing we do, but it was more like, “Is this ever going to go away?” It feels like I’ve always been pregnant, and will always be. Perhaps this is the pre-cursor to me feeling like I can’t remember what my life was like before him. Or, more likely, it’s because all I want is some effing brie, and a bottle of the smokiest red I can get my hands on. And what a glorious day that shall be. I’m also excited about the prospect of painting my toes again, without requiring a nebulizer treatment.

Humiliation 1: For the first few months of my pregnancy, I saw the nurse practitioner at my practice, a woman who I adore. She is warm, and engaged/engaging, and kind, and willing to answer any questions I have. I loved visiting with her. So, the last time I saw her (two visits ago), I brought up my mother’s illness, and how I worry about how that affects my body and the baby, because of the stress it puts on me. We had a great conversation that helped put me at ease, and she shared the fact that her father faced a very similar situation. Of course I cried a ton, because that’s something I do all the time anyway now, but I felt better. I stood up to leave, and thus started the “I think we’re going to shake hands, but you now feel obligated to hug me, given the conversation we just had” dance. We got entangled in this weird embrace that felt like it lasted for 5 minutes, and also ended with her kissing my cheek, which I don’t really think she intended to do. My face was aflame with embarrassment-I don’t particularly like physical interaction with people I’m not close to, and this was off the charts weird. Totally well-intentioned, but just really awkward. So, with that, I decided that when making my next appointment, now was the time to start rotating through the physicians in the practice. Now when I see the NP at the office, we can share a quick smile and wave from a safe distance, and go about our business.

Humiliation 2: I got a packet of stuff in the mail, that was mostly pregnancy/child-related deals, coupons, etc. So, a few of them were for free crap, like baby slings and a nursing cover. So I thought, why not? I hopped online, ordered them up, raised an eyebrow at the URL of the nursing cover website, but otherwise moved along. The next day, I paid some bills online, then ran over to the mall to pick up the iPhone 5. I made my intentions clear to the sales guy, rebuffing all his offers of additional accessories (no, I don’t want that wood-veneered Bluetooth device, OR that terrible phone case), and handed over my card to pay. Declined. Wait, what? I asked him to run it again, please, and again…declined. So, that of course embarrassed me, and I asked him to hold tight while I ran to the satellite office that my bank has in the mall. The girl at the window informed me of my balance, which was exactly what I thought it was, and allowed me to make a cash withdrawal, but also told me that maybe I should call ‘fraud protection’, because sometimes they place holds on cards that aren’t immediately visible. Having had my identity conveniently stolen previously, during Christmas 2011, my stomach tightened. Not again.
I ran back, picked up the new phone, and then got into the car, and called fraud protection. Todd, who was most likely not older than 21, took my call. He informed me that they had tracked some potentially odd purchases, and locked my card as a precaution. So, then he started to read them off to me to verify. Yes, I said, as he read 3 purchases off that were legit. Then, he says, “And this next one from “ooo, oooo-der covers.com?” “What?” I asked, and he repeated himself. “Oooodder covers?” Jesus. Oh my God. That stupid nursing cover I picked up online had a shipping charge associated with it, which I placed on my card. My face flamed red again, and I cleared my throat, trying to be an adult. “Um, it’s uddercovers.com.” “Oh, um…”, he said. “Look, don’t worry about it, it’s legit, nothing to be concerned about,” I said. I heard him take a breath in, to start speaking again. Oh my god, I thought, we are going to keep discussing this, aren’t we? “Well, usually, odd-sounding websites trigger us that something isn’t right. People’s cards get stolen and used for porn sites, stuff like th-” I stopped him. “Whoa, no no. This isn’t that sort of thing. It’s a baby site. For nursing covers,” I said. “Uh, um, yeah, well, OK, as long as it’s a purchase you made,” he hesitated. Clearly, he wanted this done as much as I did. “OK, great, thanks for your help. Are we all set then?” I asked. Given an affirmation, I hung up. Just another incident in an increasingly-long string of things I never imagined having to participate in. I guess given all the indignities that I will have to endure over the coming years, this is small potatoes. But, God, come on.

So, that’s where I am. This is all starting to get very real to me, signing up for childbirth classes, and not being able to tie my shoes without assistance. It’s scary, but it’s exciting. I can’t wait for him to be here, to figure out what our new normal looks like. And stay tuned-my friend Angie and I recently decided to attend a La Leche League meeting, which ended up being a totally hilarious (and slightly terrifying) debacle. But, that’s its own post.

Happy Sunday, ya’ll.

This is out of hand.

20130108-204712.jpg

Alright, come on. I stumbled across this tonight, while perusing feeding supplies, and I have the following problems with it:

1)the full hair and makeup.
2)the skim milk/Elmer’s glue in the bottles.
3)the Hollywood attachment of the pump, looking like it’s sitting below the nipple.
4) the fact that it’s called a “bustier”. Do not try to sexualize or normalize such a ridiculous contraption.

I get the fact that it’s a tool of convenience, but I’d feel even more weird about essentially being milked, if it were occurring hands-free. That said, I reeeeeally need this so that I can re-create this photo for all my friends. And those anti-feminists….look at me! Women can have it all! Whee! I’ve got a milker AND a MacBook! Independent woman!

Any of you guys own this? If so, lets make a coffee table book of all of us in that same pose.

A word on tragedy.

A precursor:  Some of you reading this may find it offensive, and that is OK.  Strong events evoke strong reactions, and this is mine.  I will not respond to, or validate any negativity from anyone.

Let me just put it out there-I can’t take anymore posts, news, information, stagnant lamenting about the horrible events of this past week.

What happened is beyond comprehension, because it was a senseless act.  There is no rationalizing any of it.  Innocent people died-many of them small children.  Like everyone else, it hurts my heart.  No one should have to endure such violence, and its resulting echo. I can’t even fathom what those involved feel, in the depths of their hearts.

I am bothered by the credence that tragedy is given, not just with this, but with the countless horrid things that happen daily in the world.  With every post about the gunman’s troubled past, we place a spotlight on his actions, thus making him the most prominent individual in this situation, not the victims.  Does endless information regarding his “social awkwardness” or possible Asperger’s Syndrome help us to make sense of the senseless? No.  Does post after post on social media asking others to wear Sandy Hook school colors, or regarding your own new-found fears of sending your child to school help anyone? Not likely.  As much as your heart hurts for those involved, remember that you weren’t.  Be thankful for that.  We are no more or less safe than we were the day before this happened.  Be mindful of the fact that children learning of this event will likely find themselves worrying about formerly unthinkable things, and will not benefit from any added amplification of those fears.

I do not mean to discredit the sympathy that we all feel for those involved (and I do feel a very deep, abiding sympathy), but I do take issue with the way we choose to channel it.  We are saturated with media coverage that places a high value on the quantification of tragedy; that is, referring to events such as these as “the worst school shooting in history” or “the second worst school shooting in history”.  Every school shooting is the worst one, for those experiencing it, and really, for our nation as a whole.  To buy into this rhetoric is to support the categorization of death’s significance,  according to the number killed. And that’s the exact opposite of what the true issue at hand really is.

So, pray and offer up a supportive thought for those suffering, in the silence of your day. And if you want to see change in our communities-stop talking about it, and do something.  Instead of perpetuating despair, perpetuate life.  Because in the midst of death and loss and unthinkable sadness, there is even greater love and joy and peace to be found.  Be a part of that.  Choose to move forward.