This morning I’m thinking about how the end of my pregnancy with Maggie is a metaphor for the way she moves about in the world. Pretty much every morning, no matter how much time I give her and prep her for the fact that the bus is indeed coming at 8:14am, just like every other morning, she waits and waits and waits and waits until the very last minute to get ready. No amount of gentle cajoling or reminders gets her to budge. Then she just acts like, “What the hell is your problem? I’m coming!” when I’m anxious and yelling about getting her out the door on time. Just like her birth. She waited and waited and waited and waited until the last possible moment at 42 weeks when they were requiring me to be induced, and then she arrived the night before induction, in less than 20 minutes at the hospital, like, “What the hell is your problem? I was coming!” And she always gets there. There’s a lesson for me in there somewhere about how to help her and myself move through the world. Not sure I’ve grasped the practical realities of it yet.
I’ve been struggling with how to write this post, or even whether to write it at all. Should I write it just for me, or write it to share? And I’ve decided to share it because this type of loss is something that is all too common among women, and I feel like we just don’t talk about it enough: I have had two miscarriages in the past year.
Andrew and I have been very lucky with our pursuit of expanding our family. Griffin and Maggie were conceived and birthed with very few complications. Two for two made us confident in the decision to try for a third, albeit a little more cautious considering our ages (I am 37, Andrew 42).
Miscarriage number one happened in March. I knew it was a statistical probability, but when it actually happened, I was a little stunned. It was still early in the pregnancy (I should have been around 8 weeks), and I was just starting to wonder about the baby and how it would change our family. After we found out the pregnancy wasn’t viable, I mourned the loss of a possibility more than an actual baby, and told myself to feel thankful for the two healthy kids we already have, feel thankful that I didn’t lose a baby later in pregnancy or at birth, or god forbid, lose a living child. I truly was thankful for all of those things, AND there was still a sense of loss that was greater than I expected. Much greater. It really threw me, including making me question whether we really should try again for a third child. I struggled with rocking the boat of the good thing we’ve got going on with the four of us, whether I wanted to risk going through a miscarriage again, how far I would be willing to go for another child…
In the end, we decided to try again. I got pregnant again at the beginning of August. The estimated due date would have been Andrew’s birthday in April, and we joked about how it seems like we’re destined to have all of our babies in April (Griffin’s birthday is April 8th, Maggie’s is April 24). I hoped the baby could wait until May, just to make life a little less crazy in April. I was relieved that this pregnancy felt different from the last: I had nausea, I was exhausted, and just overall, felt more pregnant than the last time. Then I had an early ultrasound, and the dating showed us off by about two weeks. This was a bit of a worry to me, but there was a heartbeat, so I clung to that. Then, three weeks ago, I began to bleed. We found out a few days later that this pregnancy was also not viable. I should have been 11 weeks.
I am mad. I am disappointed. I am weepy. I feel a little broken. I wish I had some answers. I am holding my two kids, whom I adore, adore, adore (even when they’re driving me nuts), tighter and making sure they hear me say, “I love you,” all of the time. I am marveling at the wonders they are, and thankful for the relative ease with which they came into our lives. I am in awe of how other women do it: those who keep on trying and do not succeed, those who lose their babies later in pregnancy or shortly after birth, those who lose their growing babies or children. This LOSS. It is deeper than I ever knew possible. To be attached to a being who doesn’t even exist yet feels so strange, and yet, there it is. There is truly no amount of logic that can explain the sadness of losing the idea of what could be, especially in the face of the richness that I already have.
There are many ways that people explain or deal with this type of loss. Many people take comfort in the idea that their unborn children wait for them in the afterlife. I respect that belief, but I do not believe in divine intervention, heaven, or an afterlife. What brings me comfort is the idea that women have held this loss before me. They have held it, grieved it, and pass on the knowledge of the struggle to me. I have met a lot of women since revealing I have had a miscarriage who have this knowledge, and while I don’t think it should define us, it is a part of who we are. This kind of knowledge deserves to be shared, whether it is a quiet acknowledgement or detailed processing with friends or family, I encourage people to talk. I hope it helps.
This post was written as a way to talk about my miscarriages, and I had started writing it before the second miscarriage had passed and completed. (For those unfamiliar with miscarriage, it generally takes a few weeks to pass, from the start of bleeding to the end.) This second time around, I did pass most of the miscarriage naturally, but unfortunately, not all of it passed cleanly and I started to hemorrhage in the middle of the night. This resulted in a large amount of blood loss and a visit to the ER. While in the ER, as I was being assessed, I suddenly started going into hypovolemic shock (shock caused by an excessive loss of bodily fluids). It was the scariest event of my life, and for a few incredibly terrifying minutes, I felt like I might die. Thankfully, the ER team at HCMC stabilized me quickly, and with fluids and a procedure to stop the bleeding, I was discharged to go home six hours later. This fact, that I was in serious medical distress at 5am and discharged on my own two feet by noon, continues to baffle me. Luckily, I did not need a blood transfusion, but I am anemic and have been slowly recovering with lots of rest, nutritious food, iron supplements, and TLC from family and friends. Frankly, my ER experience has eclipsed my feelings about the pregnancy loss. The potential for loss had I not gone in to the ER has haunted me the last couple of weeks, and I have spent a lot of time feeling grateful for trusting my instincts to get medical help when I just didn’t feel right, grateful for the support network we have, and most of all, deeply thankful for my life and three of the most important people in it.
Let’s be honest: being a stay-at-home parent is hard. And tiring. With colleagues who throw tantrums, pin you to the couch demanding milk, want you to pay attention to them every minute you are awake, and very infrequently express gratitude for your efforts, it can get a little deflating.
We’ve been having a hard few weeks. Griffin is…well…three and a half. This equals riding a roller coaster of emotions on an hourly basis. One minute, he’s delightful and pointing out amazing observations about the world, the next minute, he’s throwing a screaming tantrum because I dared to open the garage door without him. Maggie has evolved past the take-anywhere-do-anything ease of newborn-hood and entered babyhood, which for her, consists of being quite content as long as I am within 12 inches of her at all times, most preferably holding or touching her. God help us if I leave her line of sight. She’s sitting up now, which is awesome, but Griffin’s favorite thing to do is tip her over, because, you know, he “just wanted to.” This past weekend we added a family cold to the mix, which left us all a little more cranky and a lot more tired. With Andrew’s demanding school schedule this year and my recent daily challenges with the kids, it’s probably safe to say the parental reserves are starting to run a little low.
Today, though, had some magic in it. It started in the morning when Griffin sneaked into my room and loudly whispered that he needed help putting on his underwear. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary, but there was something about the way he crept in and was trying so hard to follow all of the morning time rules of being quiet and gentle that made my heart burst for him. <loud whisper> “THANKS, MAMA. GOOD MORNING, TOO. I LOVE YOU, TOO!” and back to his bed to read books until his orange sun lit up. We made apple waffles together after Maggie woke up, and then decided it was a good day to go to the sculpture garden and then a park. And that’s exactly what we did, and it was…magic. The weather was stupendous, everyone was in good spirits, I was fully present and fully loving my job. Days like today help fill me up, and I’m thankful to get a gift like this, especially when I most needed it.
The first half of this post was written two nights before Maggie was born. I had no idea it would be two nights before her birth, and I hadn’t quite finished my thoughts, so I didn’t post it. But the waiting was such a part of her birth story, I thought it would be appropriate to start with what I started writing not knowing when her arrival would be.
I am nearly 42 weeks pregnant with our second child, and this waiting has been a surprise to me. Griffin was born 11 days past his estimated delivery date, and I was definitely not expecting to go longer with this one. But here I am, 12 days past the estimated delivery date with no baby in my arms, and it is an hourly roller coaster. There are many things to be said about birth, due dates, medical pressure to induce, and all of the things that go along with our current culture’s views on pregnancy and birthing, but that’s for another blog, and perhaps personal conversation over tea.
But what I know and want to write about is that pregnancy (and waiting to birth) is probably the most public private thing that I have gone through, and I simultaneously want to connect with other women, and cocoon myself from the world while I wait. The end of this pregnancy has been very different from my time waiting for Griffin. Today I feel really great physically, all things considered, and even went to yoga this morning where I stretched and squatted and felt graceful. Three years ago, I was experiencing agonizing pelvic pain for nearly a month, which kept me grounded on the couch and subsequently lead to incredible swelling and discomfort. Today, I have been experiencing pre-labor signs for weeks (increased contractions, cramping, dilation, prodromal labor) which lead me to believe I would be meeting this baby sooner. Three years ago, I experienced very little until 24 hours before Griffin was born. Today, I have to start each day with a game plan to include a very energetic three year old AND the thought that I could go into labor at any time. Three years ago, I had the luxury of scrapping plans with no consequences and no planning if I went into labor. Today I am 35, technically of “advanced maternal age,” and under a lot of pressure to induce (something I’d like to avoid for myriad reasons that are personal, as they are for every woman). Three years ago, my OB pushed to induce by 42 weeks, but I never got there.
I’ll be honest: I’m tired of waiting. I do want this baby out. I am concerned about the statistical risks associated with going past full term (which is 42 weeks, not 40). I’m tired of trying to encourage labor through means that, I’m increasingly believing, exist solely to make you feel like you can control something you have no control over. I’m tired of hearing about every Joe Schmoe’s trick for getting labor started, and I’m tired of being lead to think it’s something I’ve done or haven’t done.
But today, at this hour, at this minute, I have come to believe that my baby is doing something for me I’m only now just getting. S/he is my own personal Buddha, giving me the opportunity to cultivate a new kind of patience. This may be patience I need for this particular child; it could be patience I need as the stay-at-home mother of two children; it may be patience I need to become the best human being I can be. I read this very lovely post from a midwife in Duluth the other day about the waiting time being a place of in between, and it seemed to be written just for me. I am truly in between in so many ways.
. . . .
Maggie’s Birth Story
On Monday, April 23, Andrew, our doula Cynthia, and I spent a long time talking with one of the midwives at HCMC about what we were going to do next. I would be 42 weeks the next day, my amniotic fluid was getting low, and the baby was still not out (although looking very healthy by all measures). I really, really did not want to induce. I honestly didn’t think I would make it to the point where I would have to start thinking about induction, but there we were, and I just didn’t want to believe it or commit to a plan that involved medical intervention. I reluctantly scheduled an induction involving breaking my waters for the next morning, still with the thought that I could back out if I woke up not feeling right about it. I went home and cried and pleaded with the baby to please, please come out on his/her own. I called our doula, I called my parents, I made arrangements for Griffin for the morning, and I made sure everything was in order to leave for the hospital if we followed through with the appointment. I tried to surrender to this plan, one I hadn’t wanted.
I had experienced more prodromal labor (for the fourth time) that afternoon and evening, but the not-quite-the-real-thing contractions subsided by 9pm, and I went to bed around 11:30 feeling resigned to the fact that this baby was quite content staying inside, and I may just be the first person in history to be pregnant forever (ha).
Around 1am, I woke up with a very strong contraction that had me breathing hard and doubled over from the strength of it. It lasted over a minute, but it wasn’t the first time I had experienced a strong contraction in the last few weeks, so it was hard for me to let myself think that it might be the real thing. I timed it and stayed in the bathroom to see if another was coming. I waited for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes. Nothing. Deflated, I crawled back into bed to try and fall back asleep. At 1:30, I had another that was so strong, I literally leaped out of bed, waking up Andrew. This one was even harder than the one I had at 1am, and after that, they started coming every three minutes. This time, it definitely felt like the real thing, and even Andrew knew it was time when he heard me moaning and saw my legs shaking.
Andrew called our doula and my parents, and I called the hospital to check in with the midwives. Having experienced a 14 hour labor with Griffin (4 hours of which involved me pushing), I probably wouldn’t have even called the hospital had it not been for the fact that I had started bleeding. I felt really in control of the contractions, and while they were close together, I figured I had a few hours of laboring at home before we had to head in. But after talking with the midwife on the phone, she kindly suggested that it sounded as though I was working pretty hard through the contractions and since I had started bleeding (a normal part of birth, of course) it might be a good idea to head in soon. Andrew called our neighbor, Anne, who had volunteered to hold down the fort until my parents could arrive, and as soon as she got to the house, we headed for the car.
I was still feeling very in control during the contractions. I would drop down to hands and knees during the waves to moan and breathe, but then I could carry on a conversation in the two to three minutes in between. It felt like the early labor I experienced with Griffin, but I was still glad to be headed into the hospital. I frankly was looking forward to trying to birth in the water! I knelt backwards in the front seat (it felt very wrong not to wear a seat belt, but the hospital was only a 12 minute drive from our house) and continued to breathe and moan through the contractions. I suggested to Andrew that he needn’t stop at the red lights, and I was truly entering into the laboring zone. We arrived at the emergency room entrance around 2:30, and the admittance desk nurse actually asked me to fill out a form. I said, “Are you freaking kidding me?” and gave him a look like, “Did you not just see me on my hands and knees in the street?!?” but scribbled out my information and promptly moaned through a contraction right there on the floor in front of him. Another nurse rushed down with a wheelchair as the admitting nurse said, “Skip triage and bring her to the Nurse Midwife Unit.” Damn straight.
We waited for the elevator and got up to the hallway with the Midwife Unit when another contraction came on. I told the nurse to stop and I got down on my hands and knees again to do my thing. The midwife and nurse on duty then saw me through the glass and rushed to greet us. (Andrew describes the experience as a huge warm hug, and I couldn’t agree more.) We got to the birthing room around 2:40am, where I had another contraction right there on the floor. The midwife, Kate, and nurse, Sarah, were so wonderful and made me feel like they knew I knew what I was doing, and had I requested to birth standing on my head, they would have been cool with it. Kate asked to check me for dilation, and declared, “You’re fully dilated!” which I just couldn’t believe. The contractions were heavy, strong, and close together, but I really had no idea I had been in transition. Not more than two contractions later, I felt the urge to push. At this point, our doula Cynthia arrived, and just in time.
The pain during the pushing was unreal and unlike what I had experienced with Griffin. Ring of fire, indeed, and my contractions were so close together, and the intensity was so strong, I had a hard time even knowing when I was having a contraction. It was the only time I felt out of control, but with the calming words of Cynthia and Kate, I was able to get back into the zone. My water exploded, and Kate encouraged me to feel the baby’s head. It was so soft and nearly out, I was able to muster the focus to continue. (Again, I had experienced four hours of pushing with Griffin, so I was not expecting to have a quick birth, but the baby wanted out NOW.) A couple of pushes later, out she shot, and she was born at 3:00 AM on the nose. I truly could not believe it. A girl! So fast! I just birthed a BABY?!?
She did not come out crying and lively, so there were about 5 minutes of mild worry, but she quickly was up to standard and was snuggled up on my chest. She latched on almost right away, and I spent the next hour or so saying, “I can’t believe this. I really can’t believe I just birthed my baby in an hour and a half.”
We had about two hours of bonding time before I sat up to go to the bathroom and had an enormous hemorrhage. Apparently, it’s not entirely uncommon for women who birth quickly to lose a lot of blood through hemorrhaging, but it was a little frightening to lose so much blood so quickly. Thankfully, the nurse, Sarah, was on it fast, and the kindest, gentlest OB came to the rescue. About an hour and a very uncomfortable procedure later, I was back to normal, still stunned to have Ms. Maggie Wren in my arms.
As I hope you know by now, we will be welcoming another baby into our family in April. Griffin knows there’s a baby growing in my tummy, but it’s still a little abstract for him (it kind of is for me, too, for that matter). He’s heard the heartbeat at the doctor’s office a couple of times, and since then, he enjoys laying on my chest and listening to my heartbeat. It’s a sweet snuggle time for us. I have a pregnancy book next to my bed that he likes to page through to look at the illustrations and ask, “What’s that baby doin’?” to which the answer is usually, “Well, that baby’s getting bigger and waiting to be born.” We’ve talked about umbilical cords and belly buttons, and how he grew in my tummy and I had to go to the hospital to give birth to him, how he took his first breath of air and cried and cried, and how he hasn’t always had words, or been able to walk and jump. He’s seen pictures of himself as a baby, but I don’t think he’s made that much of a connection until today, when we spent about 20 minutes watching videos of him as an infant. He was absolutely fascinated, and admittedly, so was I. The earliest one I easily found was of him rolling over, and he requested to watch it at least eight times. Each time, I marveled at how very, very much he has developed in two and a half years. I see who he is now in those videos of him as an infant; he has the same laugh and expressions, and I feel like I have a better sense of what he may have been thinking then. But most of all, it made me so grateful to have this kid in my life who delights me and frustrates me and makes me laugh and cry and overall, makes me a better person (even though his behavior pushes me into my own tantrums some days). What a miracle it is that this child, who came into the world completely helpless, now zooms on his bike down the sidewalk “like a rocketship!”, recognizes letters and numbers, sings songs, and does many, many things “all by myself.” I think it was a gift to both of us to take the time to sit and watch those videos today; it deepened both of our understandings of who Griffin has become, and I think today, I really needed that.
Hey. What happened to us over here? We used to write so much more than we have in the last few months. Heck, we didn’t even get the third leg of our huge trip to Europe *in June* properly documented, and it’s just snowballed from there. We’re feeling a little like slackers in the blogging department these days, but the lack of posts has been for an overarching big reason: we’ve been busy and life is full. We’ve been documenting lots of events with photos, but we haven’t even taken much time to sort through those…sigh. Andrew and I both really like to devote time to writing posts and making them fun for our friends and family to read, and time has seemed to be in shorter supply this autumn.
I’ve actually been thinking a lot about time and Facebook lately. As a stay-at-home parent, it has been a wonderful way for me to feel connected to people I love, to share the little daily things Griffin says or does, and sometimes (oftentimes) get immediate feedback (read: sympathy) for days that are less-than stellar. But Facebook goes away hourly. Things I write or read there are surely logged, but it’s not like a journal or this blog. I can’t really go back and reflect, and when it comes to my development as a parent and things I want to remember about Griffin’s rapid growing up, Facebook is no substitute for what we have here. This blog is absolutely for sharing with family and friends what we’ve been up to; but it is also, in many ways, taking the place of a memory book or journal that we will treasure for years. I feel like my time on Facebook has taken away some of the recording I would like to do with this blog, and I’m starting to rethink how I record our daily lives. Some of those little things that get put as status updates on Facebook are actually things I’d like to remember: Like the other day, I was in the basement doing laundry, and Griffin had stripped down naked and ran through the hall with maracas yelling, “It’s music time! It’s music time!” Or how he’s lately taken to flushing the toilet by saying, “Bye bye pee pees! Bye bye poo poos! I’m going to Griffin’s house! See ya tomorrow! Bye bye!” Or at breakfast on Friday, he asked for “more juice please? Hey Mama! I’m a good polite-er!” Those things are ending up as little anecdotes on Facebook, not being recorded for all of us to remember. I have visions of Griffin going back through our blog and reading about his life in his early years, and if I write it all down on Facebook, he’ll have nothing to read!
The point is not to give up Facebook. I think it helps me feel connected to adults in a life that is mainly devoted to toddlerhood, and I’m grateful for that. But I am going to try to change the way I blog. I’m trying something different where, instead of immediately recording little daily things on Facebook, I write them down as “Things to Remember” posts every once in a while on the blog. They won’t be the most eloquent or cohesive posts, but I think they’ll satisfy my need to record a few more memories.
And here’s one to start me off: Today, after he tried on the dragon costume I made him for Halloween, Griffin said, “I’m not a dragon anymore. I’m just a real boy.”
I can’t believe it’s been so long since I wrote you a letter, but I guess in all the busyness of this past year, I’ve let it slip through the cracks. We moved from California to Minnesota, Daddy has a new job, we bought a new house, and now you are two. I have been looking at pictures and videos of our last two years together and you’re already a world away from where you were as an infant…maybe even an entire solar system. I expected you to change, but I just didn’t know what it would look like. You surprise and delight me every day!
I thought you might like to know what you’ve been up to lately: You love to jump (with both feet! You just learned and are quite proud of yourself), run, and climb. Your main way of communicating is with words, saying things I sometimes understand, but more often have to decipher with context clues. One of your favorite activities is still sitting down with a book, which delights both your dad and me, and we’ve moved beyond board books to actual stories that you are often very engaged in. You want to do things by yourself, oftentimes pushing my helping hand away saying, “Griffin! Griffin!” which means “I can do it myself.” And you can. You can do an enormous amount of things yourself: drink from a cup, eat with a spoon, identify objects, shapes, and colors, entertain yourself with puzzles or trains, climb up into your booster chair, sing, climb up and down the stairs, build a tower with Legos, to name just a few. You wave at everyone and say, “Hi!” in the sweetest, friendliest voice, as if you’ve known complete strangers your whole life. You wave goodbye to everyone and everything: “Bye-bye Daddy! Bye-bye football! Bye-bye pants! Bye-bye phone!” You love taking baths. When I open up the medicine cabinet you point to the “tye-lo-lo-lo-lo-nol” (tylenol) or ask for a “car-bib” (car band aid) for your forehead. You love being tickled and chased. Our nightly bedtime routine involves you saying, “Mommy chase! Daddy chase!” and one of us will chase you up the stairs as you squeal with anticipation of being caught. Now that it’s warmer, you want to be outside ALL of the time to explore, throw rocks, dig in the sand, and look at the “tooo-lips”. You’ve even taken an interest in the “pee-pee potty” and wearing underwear, which you really like. What you like even more is taking off the underwear, running around giggling and yelling, “NAKED!!!”
You really are one happy kid. Don’t get me wrong: you have your tantrums and frustrations, but in general, you really seem to love life. Along with this passion for living comes an immensely cuddly and affectionate personality. You give kisses and hugs, many times without a request. I hope this lasts forever, but know there will probably be a time when it will be icky to get a kiss from your mom and embarrassing to be hugged by your dad. It’s hard to imagine you older, though, so I’m just enjoying where you’re at now and savoring as much as I can. We are in a good groove these days, you and I, and life is sweet.
I don’t know when you’re actually going to read this letter. Will it be when you’re 10? 13? 18? 21? This may be hard for you to believe, but you aren’t the only one who has been changing. My heart has grown by a whole solar system since you were born, too. I love you so deeply, it’s really difficult for me to even describe it. Do you know that now as you’re reading this as a “big kid?” It’s probably hard to imagine me as a person before I was your mom, but I was. I lived an entire 32 years before you were in my life and have had many people and experiences that have made my heart grow with love, including your dad, who made it (and continues to make it) grow immensely. But you have made it grow in a different way, and in a way I could not have expected. And I thank you for that.
So happy birthday, my two year old! I do not know what the future will bring, but I do know that I live each day being thankful for you and that I get to be your mom.
Griffin has been taking much delight in all things that zoom lately. If there’s a plane in the sky, he’ll find it. If there’s a school bus coming down the road, you can bet he’ll point it out. I decided it was high time we took a day devoted to transportation.
Let me just begin by saying that I have so much respect for folks who, either by choice or not, get their little ones around using public transportation. A car affords a freedom that I’ve been taking for granted, especially in the winter, and I realized this morning as we were rushing to catch the 9:14 bus that life would be a lot more complicated if we didn’t have our own wheels. That being said, I also really enjoyed taking public transportation with Griffin today. I got to engage with him about what we were seeing out the window in a way that I simply can’t in the car, and more importantly, we got to look at each other and interact with other people, which just doesn’t happen in the insulation of our own car.
Anyway, we received two free Metro Transit passes when we moved to St. Paul (sign up for a land line and, in addition to getting lots of unwanted phone calls for people who used to have your number, you get all kinds of free things in the mail!), and with his sudden interest in zooming vehicles, it seemed like the perfect excuse for a field trip. Fortunately, we live just a block from major bus routes, so arranging to get to the airport was as easy as a web search and walking two blocks to the bus stop.
As the bus pulled up, Griffin waved and said, “Hi, Bus!” We got on and he was beaming with excitement. We rode through our neighborhood, down across the frozen Mississippi, and arrived at the Light Rail station. A small wait afforded us the opportunity to explore every nook and cranny of the station, and then the train pulled up! We got to ride through tunnels, past lots of different colored houses and stands of trees, and finally arrived at the airport, where we disembarked. It took a little creativity to find a place where we could watch the planes (post-9/11 has made it very difficult to find a place to watch, I found out), but a couple of trams and moving sidewalks lead us to the perfect place to have a snack and watch planes take off. It was perfect.
We had a great morning together (and it was free!). Griffin got to explore his new passion, and I realized that maybe we need to be taking the bus more often, not just because it’s better for the environment, but because it might just be better for me and Griffin, too.
Even before Griffin was born, I was disgusted with how horribly gendered all of the baby clothing out there is. Trucks for boys and butterflies for girls; blues, greens, and browns for boys, while girls have every color of the rainbow. I tried pretty hard to put him in gender neutral clothing from the beginning (which mainly consisted of stripes) but as he has gotten older, it’s getting harder to do. It seems like anything interesting looking (and not bloody expensive) is either made for boys or girls, not both.
It’s not that I don’t want Griffin to be a boy, whatever that means at this age. It’s just that I hate how important it is. He’s already going to be getting plenty of messages from others (and maybe subconsciously from Andrew and me) about what boys and girls are supposed to do and say. I want him to like what he likes for as long as possible before he’s aware of the “supposed to-s” and they inevitably influence his thoughts.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently because of four pairs of pants I bought for Griffin from the girls’ section. First off, since he’s a cloth diaper wearing kid, he needs at least a size up to fit his gianormous butt, and secondly, many boys’ pants are made of really stiff material (corduroy, jean, etc) which aren’t very generous with the diapers or freedom of movement. Many girls’ pants are made of stretchy cotton, which is perfect for his butt and doesn’t necessitate buying too-big pants, plus it accommodates his desire to run around as fast as possible. How perfect, right? Wrong. Girls’ pants are…well…girly. Actually, I would consider them way more FUN than boys’ pants, but if I were being honest, most people, including me, would look at them and think “girl.”
So living up to my standards for myself, I bought two pairs of rainbow striped pants, one green with multi-colored polka dots, and one brown with multicolored cutesy forest animals. They’re super fun and bright, and I think they’re great. They have been part of his rotation of pants for a while now, and I’ve been surprised how much of an indicator they are for gender. Most people refer to him as a girl when he wears them and then get embarrassed when I reply with the pronoun “he.” I try to make it clear that I don’t care if they think he’s a boy or girl, but one woman even went so far as to say, “Oh, of course he’s a boy! Now that I’m really looking, I can see that masculinity in his face!”
Most surprising has been the development of Griffin’s preferences as he solidly stands in toddlerhood. Andrew or I will dress him in some other pants, and if he catches sight of any of the four pants from the girls’ section, he gets incredibly excited and signs wildly to help put them on. He smiles big as we change him into his preferred pants and giddily prances around the house. I love to see him happy in his ability to choose and am delighted that he finds pleasure in such bright colors and patterns.
But this is a blog post because I feel like what I’m doing in buying girl pants for him is a statement. I suppose it might also be so if I put a girl in cargo pants and truck t-shirts, but somehow that doesn’t seem equivalent. I was actually prepared to have a girl to whom I would tell, “You can do anything, wear anything, be anything! You have the whole world at your feet! Pink or punk, whatever you want!”; give her a childhood much like my own where I was encouraged to build and fix things, play sports, cook, bake, and play with whatever interested me. While the pinks and princesses are certainly overwhelmingly popular with girl marketing, it seems more mainstream if a girl isn’t wearing pink or has trucks or prefers dinosaurs over dollies. I wasn’t ready for the fact that while I certainly would be supportive of my son wearing fairy wings in public, much of the people around me would not be.
As I read and hear about other parental struggles, I’m coming across many more parents distressed about their boys being teased and ridiculed about “girl” things than the other way around. It makes me wonder what is going on here: What is it exactly that people are afraid of? If I’m not concerned about my son wearing girl pants, why should you be? But here is where I get tripped up in my own thinking as I take it one step further: Would I put Griffin in a dress? Would I put clips in his hair? Would I buy a sparkly princess shirt for him?
The answer to all of these questions would be an emphatic YES if he wanted them (and frankly, it would be that way with a girl, too). But my intention is not to use my son as a way to make a statement; I just want him to be who he is. By giving him the choice to wear rainbow pants and play with magic wands, I feel like I’m saying, “You can do anything, wear anything, be anything! You have the whole world at your feet! Pink or punk, I love you for who you are.”
It’s a full-on blizzard today, and I couldn’t be happier. We were supposed to be moving into our new house but delayed it yesterday due to the impending storm. Last night, I was incredibly skeptical that we’d actually get any significant snowfall; I have more memories of the weather powers-that-be predicting storms that produced a paltry inch or two than memories of massive snowfalls. But this has been a true winter event: the airport is closed, interstates are closed, buses have shut down, and the world has slowed.
It occurred to me today that there’s probably a little part of me that still wishes I was Laura Ingalls Wilder, toughing it out on the prairie. I love the winter, but I know there are a lot of people here who truly hate the weather, snow in particular. I’ve had many raised eyebrows when making small talk and someone says, “Oh, I bet you miss that California weather!” and I say, “Not really. I missed the winter.” There are also plenty of people who think I’m going to get sick of it really fast, that I’m thinking back on my winter memories with rosy-colored snow goggles. And that may be true.
But here’s what I know is true right at this moment: I feel so alive. Call it cheesy, call it granola, call it whatever you like; I could not get this feeling in California, no matter how hard I tried. Snow demands attention, and when it comes down to it, I kind of love that it’s not easy to live with.
Today we had the idea of trekking the six blocks to our new house in order to shovel the walks in time for the movers tomorrow. We all suited up, but after only half a block, Griffin was not too happy (even though he was hitching a ride in the carrier). I volunteered to head over to the house by myself, and Andrew headed back to the apartment with Griffin. Most of the walks were not shoveled, and the streets had not been plowed, so it was just me, marching through snow, sometimes in drifts up to my hips. I arrived at the house and shoveled. Yes, it was hard work, and yes, it would probably stink if I had to do it every day, and yes, I had a great time. Maybe it was being alone for over two hours, maybe it was the familiar scrape and feel of the shovel, maybe it was the satisfaction of doing something start to finish without being interrupted, maybe it was the quiet stillness that comes with snow. All I know is that there is no place I’d rather be right now, and I’m loving every minute of being back here, smack dab in the middle of winter.