We Will Figure it Out Together – by Kendra Carlson Phillips


Mothers are not the nameless, faceless stereotypes who appear once a year on a greeting card with their virtues set to prose, but women who have been dealt a hand for life and play each card one at a time the best way they know how. No mother is all good or all bad, all laughing or all serious, all loving or all angry. Ambivalence rushes through their veins.

Erma Bombeck

Today’s Guest Post on Motherhood is by Kendra Carlson Phillips. After reading this post I immediately had tears in my eyes.  

I want to thank Kendra and Cathy this week for submitting their posts on Motherhood!  I truly love and appreciate them.

There are so many clichés about motherhood that to explain my opinions on the matter is to risk adding to an already long list. However, I shall try my best. On August 2, 2003, when Rhiannon was born, I became a mother. Some will argue that I became a mother the moment my husband and I conceived our daughter – sperm meets egg and “bam!” – motherhood. I disagree. To me, motherhood is a much more complicated, lengthy process; a badge to be earned. For those first nine months, I was more of an incubator. My body nourished this tiny being as I carried her around constantly. My food became her food. My breath and heartbeat kept her alive. But I could not see this child, or even feel her yet. I felt oddly disconnected from this magical being growing inside of me.

Once she started kicking, it became more real. And once we confirmed it was a girl, I started to really feel my heart expanding. (Yes, “confirmed” – somehow, I just knew she was a “she.”) Although I was thrilled to be pregnant, I began to feel the pangs of guilt right away, as the societal “norm” often failed to match my own experience. I expected to be glowing and happy every minute of every day. I wanted to relish every second of this pregnancy, feel joy at every movement, and be thrilled as my belly grew on a daily basis.

Most of the time, I truly was happy. But my chronic anxiety reared its ugly head at times, especially in my third trimester. As my uterus expanded exponentially, I started to feel suffocated. Lying on my back, it was hard to breathe. I could not banish the thought that no matter how strong the desire, I could not take her out or take her off – not even for a second. I had been taken over by this person growing impossibly large inside of my own body. I was stuck like this until she decided to come out. I often fought back panic and almost ended up in the emergency room after a particularly terrifying anxiety attack. I did not tell anyone how I felt; after all, I should be one hundred percent joyous. And this claustrophobic, suffocating feeling? Well, surely no one else was plagued with such crazy thoughts. I kept them to myself. One afternoon nearing my due date, I was putting her tiny clothes away and had another anxiety attack upon the sudden realization that in a matter of days, an actual person would be wearing these clothes. What was I doing? I was going to be a mother? I had no idea HOW to be a mother. I would be responsible for her very life. ME. I was terrified.

After a short, but painful and difficult delivery, Rhiannon was born. She weighed in at nine pounds, three ounces and was twenty-one inches long. Although I required oxygen near the end and was threatened with the terrifying forceps (“just PUSH!”), she was absolutely perfect. Perfect round head (not flattened!), perfect little fingers and toes, and perfect, wide, knowing eyes. I will never forget how she looked at me, as if to say “wow, you really have no idea how to do this, do you? Well, we will figure it out together.” Ready or not, I was officially pushed into motherhood. There was no turning back.

For 36 hours, I enjoyed the hospital bubble – the nurses who would come to my aid with the push of a button, and whisked Rhiannon away to the magical nursery so I could sleep. The nurses gave me a quick tutorial on how to breastfeed (yes, it is a natural, beautiful thing; no, it is not intuitive). Before I knew what hit me, I was deemed fit to leave the hospital with a two-day old child. I practically begged the nurses to stay – even if for just one more day. They smiled politely and reminded me that my health insurance would not pay for that luxury. I was wheeled out of there by a reassuring nurse who told me that I would be “just fine.”

The days following my release are a blur of exhaustion and tears – my daughter’s and mine. Of course, I loved her. From day one, I would have thrown myself in front of a bus for her. But being a mother was just so terrifically difficult. She would not latch properly, so she was not getting enough milk. She therefore became jaundiced. Immediate guilt ensued (“I cannot even feed her properly!”) She did not sleep well, and wanted to nurse every five minutes. I was depressed and anxious and desperate for sleep. More guilt. One particularly brutal night, I woke my husband and told him (in all seriousness) that he should find another wife. I was not cut out for this. I could not do it anymore. I would run away and live the rest of my life in solitary, knowing that another, more stable female would raise my daughter. To my husband’s credit, he laughed and told me to go to sleep. Somehow, that moment made me realize that perhaps I was not as alone as I felt. And was it possible that my feelings of craziness were actually normal?

As the days went on, I became accustomed to the exhaustion. Breastfeeding became slightly easier. At one point, I decided to accept the fact that she would require formula supplementation. I relaxed a bit. In fact, I actually started to enjoy nursing, as the endorphins flooded my body and I realized that my body was again nourishing hers. I enjoyed Rhiannon. I loved to watch her sleep. I took endless pictures.  I was starting to know my daughter. I was starting to truly love her – no, fall in love with her.

Now, she is almost nine years old. My husband and I laugh at these early, crazy days. Yes, life is much easier now. But motherhood is an ongoing process. Every day, I become a little more her mother. With each passing day, month, and year, my motherhood badges increase in number. I have become more patient than I ever thought possible. I have learned to step away a bit and let her make her own mistakes – learn her own lessons. I have wiped tears, cleaned up after bouts of sickness in the middle of the night, and tried to kiss her pain away. I have remembered how to feel joy and awe at the sight of butterflies alighting nearby and have learned to love the magic of a starry night all over again.

I believe that before she was born, Rhiannon chose me to be her mother. I feel privileged and honored to be chosen. It is a huge responsibility, but an incredible joy. And if I had to pick one “a-ha” moment in the last eight-plus years, it is this: although there are a few things I can teach her as she grows, one of her missions on this earth is to be my teacher. Thank you, Rhiannon.

Kendra lives in Seabrook New Hampshire with her husband and daughter Rhiannon.  She describes herself on Twitter as:

Mom. Wife. Vegan. Attorney. Writer. Spiritual. Animal-lover and a New England sports fan.

You can follow her on Twitter, or her blog:  A Passionate Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mourning the little girl and embracing the young lady <3


Mourning the little girl and embracing the young lady

In 1996, when I found out I was pregnant, I was magically embracing the thought of a new baby, and although the pregnancy was not planned, I was genuinely excited for myself and this child who was going to be in my arms in almost 9 months.

We were not rich, nor were we prepared, however, I quickly realized that I had a support system, thus, slowly but surely my nesting happened and we were ready for her arrival.

My pregnancy was not easy and I could not wait for the day to meet my baby. We did not know whether it was a boy or a girl until the day I pushed her out and arrived on my stomach as fast as I could say ouch!

I was trying hard to see what my baby was. The nurse quickly opened the baby’s legs and said: “Is this what you wanted to see?” Then the tears came, flowing as warm as a gentle summer breeze. I could not believe my eyes! I had my baby girl!

I was so in love with her. I could have never imagined feeling a love so deep for someone. This love could move mountains, displace air, and rock the oceans. Each and every breath she took was mine.. I could not stop staring at her in her little crib, which was right next to my bed and said to myself: “She’s mine, alllll mine! My little baby” (Tears well up in my eyes as I write this because the feeling, even though it happened 14 years ago, is still so fresh in my heart.)

As she grew, she amazed me even more. Always laughing, always playing and always by my side, she laughed like me, she wanted to dress like me ,she loved Oprah like me, and even at 4, she loved to argue with me. Once, while looking at a book of animals, I pointed out a spider to her. She yelled “Mom!!! That’s not a spider! That’s a tarantula!!” God bless her, she was absolutely right.

She had her favorite doll whom she baptized “Newbaby”. We played with Newbaby together. Newbaby even called me Nanny! When my daughter was hospitalized Newbaby was too and they both ate pancakes. The doll, still had a piece of pancake stuck in its mouth for a very long time until I decided to wash her. Newbaby followed us everywhere until the day came Newbaby shacked up in a drawer. Then I knew! It was over.

Today, I am mourning my little girl and trying really hard to embrace the teenager. I’m finding it really challenging, call me a wuss or wishy washy, however, I can’t seem to handle the fact that now: I’m an alien to her. She doesn’t connect with me, she often looks at me in disdain, and the way she talks to me, MY GOD, I want to slap her silly…. but I don’t and I never will. What kills me is that I studied Child Development and Childhood Psychology but I feel so lost.

We must argue twice a week, and even know the experts say: “Don’t engage, don’t engage’’ I engage..and then give myself cr@p every time. Lately I’ve been frantically googling “How to speak to teenagers” or “How to raise teenagers” and stumbled upon http://www.empoweringparents.com/ which has given me guidance on  how to communicate with my teenager. I do succeed at some of the stuff, however, my emotions often get the best of me and then I explode or cry! I really feel that I suck at this!

Don’t get my wrong, my daughter is a bright, funny, amazing girl. Just lately, she is crabby, disrespectful, sneaky and wise! She knows how to push my buttons, and I let her do it.!

So, thinking back to her younger years, I console myself in knowing that the values I have passed on are now little seeds planted in her soul, and maybe… just maybe I will see one sprouting really soon.

I love you baby girl. With all my heart and soul.

Mom