I’m reading a book about creativity in motherhood. The author’s diligence and tenacity towards her writing craft makes me think about all the times I could sit down and write but don’t. The book makes me want to take my writing more seriously, make it a priority again. I think about adding it back in, maybe just a little.
I make grand plans and set my alarm for 5:00 A.M. I’ll get up before the kids get up and write for an hour. When the alarm goes off, I snooze it for ten minutes. When it goes off again, I stumble downstairs, pour myself a cup of coffee, and stare at my computer screen. I write one sentence. Then I shut my computer and go back to bed until 6:15 when my kids get up.
Soooo that didn’t work. Soooo I’m not a morning person. Soooo I’m not going to try that again.
But I still feel like I’m supposed to be writing more, so I decide to try writing during nap times. In small margins of borrowed time. That sort of works. Sort of will have to do.
I need an outlet to distract me right now. I’m living in another in-between time: no longer pregnant after two miscarriages but hoping to be pregnant again. It’s a stage of grief and moving on and hope and I don’t know what. Maybe writing again will bring healing? Maybe writing again will just give me something else to think about? I’m simultaneously trying to raise two little boys, thoroughly caught up in the throes of young motherhood, desperately needing this outlet.
In the creativity book, the author prays to have a sign from God and then she starts finding ladybugs all over the place. She considers the ladybugs to be her sign, a sign that her craft is worth pursuing, worthwhile.
I’ve never prayed for a sign before. It’s always felt hokey to me, too much like confirmation bias. But I’m compelled, despite myself, by the ladybugs.
I decide to pray for a sign too. I don’t know what exactly my sign is for. A sign that I should start writing more? Or perhaps a sign that God is still with me after back to back miscarriages? A sign that I’m doing a good job in motherhood? Or d, all of the above? I don’t try to come up with anything inventive, so I say an offhanded prayer for a ladybug—just one—too.
I’m feeling a bit adrift lately. I thought I would be having a baby right now, and I’m not. I thought I’d be more confident in my motherhood, more sure of myself, and I’m not. And I’m reminded that I once thought I would be a real writer, and I’m not.
So, yeah, I wouldn’t mind a sign of some sort, some sort of assurance. A little nudge, a little side hug, just to feel seen.
The plane ride is going surprisingly well.
Auden sits across the aisle from me, and he’s munching on crackers and fruit snacks. He’s been watching a downloaded PBS show on my phone for the past hour and has been content. George sits next to me and is eating the same snack, swinging his legs happily. I wouldn’t say he has been as content as his brother, but I have a collection of things to occupy him in my ginormous Eddie Bauer backpack underneath the seat.
This is my first time traveling alone with the boys. Until now, I haven’t been brave enough.
My parents have a beach house in California. They go out there about once a month, and they’ve often extended an invitation to join them. I have, of course, but only when I’ve had someone to travel with me. Most times I say no, merely because the thought of going through the Denver airport alone with two kiddos freaks me out. I’m already an anxious traveler (each time I board an airplane I’m certain I’m not coming off alive) and I’ve never raised enough gumption to attempt a trip as a solo parent. But this time when they invited me to join them at the beach, I found myself saying yes.
A few months ago, I started taking a new medication for anxiety and it’s slowly changed me into a lighter being. I didn’t realize the extent of the low level of anxiety I was living with until it was, one day, gone. So I credit the decision to come on this trip to the tiny salmon colored pill I now swallow every morning.
“Can I do this?” I asked Rob the night before the trip. I was packed and ready, but the reality of doing something once so scary was hitting me. Could I actually travel without him? Going by myself is one thing, but going with two little boys? Think of all the things that could go wrong! Could I actually face this fear?
“You got this,” Rob said.
So, here we are, a few hours into the trip and it’s actually going well. We stood in line at security for forty minutes, and the boys were obedient, patient, and dare I say pleasant? Nothing went wrong or was off schedule. And so far the plane hasn’t gone down.
I lean back in my seat and close my eyes. I feel calm (thank you, pill) and competent, proud of myself for braving the airport. Rob likes to call me a “boss mom” as a joke and right now, I feel like just that—a boss mom. I did it. I did something I didn’t think I could do, something that my anxiety once kept me from doing. Boss mom, indeed.
I roll over, grab my phone, and turn off the alarm. It’s our second day in California. I can hear the boys already up in the kitchen, up with my mom—God bless her. I need to get up and get the day going. But first, my temperature.
I track my cycles—or lack thereof—on a phone app. Every day, I log my morning’s basal body temperature (taken by an armband I wear at night) and any fertility indicator showing up in my body. The app does its thing with the algorithm to pinpoint ovulation. I’ve been doing it for a year and a half, long enough to know my body does not follow a typical pattern or cycle, and long enough to know that ovulation is this disappointing, illusive friend in my life—a friend whom I often hope for but who rarely shows up.
It’s for this reason we needed help getting pregnant, for this reason we’ll need help again. Still, I track. I track because it’s recommended by my OB. And when we go through the conception process, tracking helps me know when to take certain meds. I track because I’m always hoping the illusive friend will show up on her own, without the need for medication. I track because I like having body literacy for myself, and I have my soap box about how every woman should understand how her body works. I track even though, for me, it is a lot like looking at pieces of an infuriating upside down puzzle of a body that is not working as it ought.
I watch my armband sensor sync with the app as I listen to the boys’ muffled chattering in the other room. They’re excited for their beach day. Syncing, syncing, syncing, uploading, uploading…97.01. Ugh.
It’s a typical temp in the never ending follicular phase for me. I expected as much, but I still feel the sinking disappointment as I get out of bed and go brush my teeth. I thought maybe, just maybe, I’d see a rise in temperature. Maybe I ovulated, which means maybe I’m pregnant, which means—but no. 97.01. When you want something so badly, you can convince yourself of it.
Even though I know we will do the fertility medication in the summertime, I keep hoping that ovulation will just happen on its own. I keep hoping my body will just work right, even though months of tracking have proven otherwise. I don’t want to go through the fertility process, the whole rigamoral of hormones and blood tests and ultrasounds. I’m like my two year old, stomping his foot and shaking his fist: Not again! I don’t wanna!! I don’t want to wait. I want to be pregnant yesterday. No, that’s not quite right. I want to never have miscarried.
It’s May, the month I was due with Isla. It’s May, the month I should’ve been pregnant with Finley. And now it’s almost been a full calendar year of trying for a baby. A whole year?! What if it never happens? Could I have peace with that?
I finish brushing my teeth and washing my face. I find the boys eating strawberry yogurt for breakfast out at the table. I kiss the boys and then I make a cup of coffee in my mom’s fancy espresso machine. At home I drink my coffee black but today I add some cream. I’m still pushing down the disappointment that rises in my chest. Can’t I just get over this? You’re not pregnant! I tell myself. You’re just not! Your babies are dead, remember? Both of them. You’re empty.
“Everything okay?” My mom asks.
“Hmm? Oh, yeah. I’m fine.” I could tell her my thoughts, but think better of it. I often feel misunderstood when I talk about this topic; I recognize I sound impatient and whiny. So rather than trying to explain why I feel so lonely in longing to be pregnant again, I just stay lonely.
“Go sit out on the patio with a blanket. It’s gorgeous out there. I’ve got the boys.”
Ah, the perks of vacationing with the grandparents.
“Thanks,” I say.
She’s right—it is gorgeous. They have a beautiful ocean view from their back patio. I sit in one of the recliners with a fuzzy white blanket and my creamed coffee and take it in. Stunning, every time.
I think about praying. I want to pray, God, please please please let my body ovulate. Give me a baby! Help me get pregnant! but I’m so sick of that prayer. I’m worn out from that prayer. I’m disappointed by that prayer. And what good is that prayer, anyway, when you just go on to lose the baby? Not once, but twice? I don’t know what to pray anymore. I really don’t.
“I just need to know you’re here, okay?” I whisper. “You already know what I want.”
“Mommy, look! Aunt Elly, come here!” Auden and George are crouched down together, their noses inches from touching the sand.
We walk over to them, letting the evening’s high tide lick the edges of our feet. My parents are finishing up dinner in town, and we decided to kill some time and keep the boys occupied by walking the beach strip. There’s something so cute about little carefree kids on a beach, and I wish I could bottle it up and take it home with me to remember forever.
“Another one!” Auden motions me over to look at the crab they’ve dug up. “Look, Mommy!”
“Wow!” I say in my “mom voice,” the voice that feigns interest in all things four and two year old. “Okay. Good job! Now let’s keep looking and see if you can find any more.”
“Okay,” they say in unison. George takes my sister Elly’s hand and they follow after Auden, who has started running ahead. Everyone remarks at how athletic he is already, and I assure them he doesn’t get it from me.
I keep walking slowly, savoring the evening. It’s so pleasant here. The boys have been so happy today. Really, they’ve been happy all week. So have I.
I stop and pick up a shell, a white one with brown stripes that I will bring home and put on my dresser to remember the trip. I’m so glad I decided to come. The beach is nice, obviously, but more because the concentrated time with the boys here—and coming out solo— reminded me that I’m a more competent mom than I give myself credit for. I’m not perfect, but I’m a good mom. I’m a boss mom! I needed the boost of confidence.
From where I stand, I watch the boys find another crab. They get excited all over again, like it’s the first time, and they crouch again in the sand with their aunt to watch it wriggle its legs in protest as they poke at it.
From time to time, when I’m watching my kids and they don’t know I’m watching, I can quite literally feel my heart fill with love. I know that sounds so horribly cheesy, but I’m not making it up. I can actually feel it happening in real time—a real, tangible feeling. It’s like the heart inside my chest is a little red balloon, and sometimes when I watch my children, I can feel it quickly inflating with, what—I think it’s love?—and expanding inside my chest. So much so that my chest really feels two times bigger than normal, borderline uncomfortable. The first time I felt it, I was holding newborn Auden against me, doing skin to skin in the hospital room. But I swear I feel it randomly, usually when I’m watching them and they don’t know I’m watching.
Does every mom feel this feeling? I asked my own mom once and she said she still gets it with her adult children. “I’m consumed with love for you in this instant” I’ve said to my boys on more than one occasion. Will I still feel it when they are grown men? I’m not sure, but watching them crouched down in the sand, their blonde heads bowed low, I feel it.
This is a good life, I think, watching them. Even if there’s only ever two of them.
The thought startles me for a second. Even if? Even if I never get pregnant again. Even if I never have another baby. Even if my life looks differently than I thought it would. This is a good life. I am not empty.
“Mommy! Come quick!” Auden stands and waves at me. “Come see what Aunt Elly found!”
I walk over to them, taking note of George’s now wet pants that will have to go into the wash. He’s crouched so low that his little butt got dirty in the wet sand. Whatever. I already have a pile of laundry to do before we head home.
“See, Mommy? See?” George says.
“It’s a ladybug,” Elly explains. “We found it in the sand. Kind of an odd place for it.”
Sure enough, there it is. Crawling not far from the crab. Elly lets it crawl onto her index finger and the boys squeal in delight. Then they take turns, letting it crawl onto their own hands.
“Okay, let it go free,” I say after a while. Auden lets it crawl from his fingers back to Elly’s and she gently shakes it back to the sand. We start to walk away.
“I prayed for that,” I say, remembering.
Elly gives me a funny look and I shrug. I know it sounds weird. I don’t explain that the ladybug feels like a special little nudge, that little side hug I was looking for. I feel seen.
“Oh, look, there’s more,” Elly says. She points to where about eight more ladybugs crawl.
“A lot more!” Auden announces. We look and, yes, there’s even more by his feet. Gosh, so many. Twenty, thirty ladybugs? A whole host of them, crawling around a puddle of water. We watch them all, mesmerized, for a few seconds before continuing our walk down the beach.
Auden takes off running again and Elly runs after him. I reach down for George’s hand and we walk side by side, his tiny fingers interlocking with mine.