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Category Archives: New Mother

Resenting Motherhood

Photo0283Last week, my seventeen year-old son broke his toe playing frisbee. Suddenly he was home, on the couch, instead of at school or at work or out with friends; and he wanted our connection and support. I treasured the time, but I also resented it; and I’m not sure why.

…Maybe it’s because he takes so much for granted that to be asked anything else is outlandish.

…Maybe it’s because the last time we needed him–when my husband and I were simultaneously struck down by the flu–he abandoned us; after we spent days and nights tenderly caring for him and his brother.

Both of these points are valid, and that’s where I want to focus, even though I can tell that this isn’t the whole story. The body doesn’t lie. And mine has been screaming. Up the right side of my rib cage.

So I show up.  Here. On this blog. And listen:

…I feel angry.

…and more than my own anger, I sense my father’s rage, with me, when I was my son’s age.

…What we fought about were bedtimes and laundry and who was the boss, but what we were really engaged in was the excruciating shedding of roles.

I must be shedding now too. My skin has been itchy for weeks. Maybe ever since my son decided upon a college.

But I don’t focus on that. I narrow in on his increasing lack of respect, contribution, consideration and caring.

“If you weren’t my son, I’d break up with you,” I say.

“Why?” he asks, sounding concerned.

“Because I would never let another man treat me this way.”

“How do I treat you?” he says, sounding hurt.

And then I realize,

…we aren’t living in the same world,

…or speaking the same language,

…or seeing the same things anymore.

This isn’t fair!

Fairness is where I get stuck. How is it fair that he sleeps here (all day), and eats here (some of the time) and relies on us and our provision in so many ways, but so easily dismisses what we need: like respect for our resources and time and patience by not using 6 towels in one week and leaving them scattered on his floor, wet, among candy wrappers and clothing and god knows what else, and then calls me to go look for something he left behind.

“Just don’t look in the bottom drawer, Mom.” (I did.)

Ironically, he has chosen a college room-mate based on his tidiness: “I just can’t live with someone who is going to trash our place.” (This makes me want to cackle and curse him with the sloppiest room-mate on Earth.)

Oh, and last month, when he took OUR car to Canada with his buddies, he cleaned it from top to bottom–BEFORE they left; and returned it …you know how.

And work? He gives them 150%.

And even with a broken toe, he can’t miss his game this afternoon to pick up his brother so that I can go to the doctors for this excruciating pain on my right side, the pain that won’t let me bend forward or backward or even turn side to side; despite the fact that we dropped everything to help him with his… toe.

I get it. I do. I know he’s transferring all of his good nature, his passion, his consideration–to the world outside of his family; but does he have to be so cliché? I’ve parented out of the box these past years; can’t he grow up out of it too?

He just called. He forgot his sneakers. Could I drop them off on my way to the doctor’s appointment (the one that I had to arrange alternative coverage for) so that he doesn’t have to wear his hikers to “watch” his game?

…Seriously?

…The audacity!

It does no good to point out the absurdity of his request. I am in a one-sided relationship. Only he isn’t a bundle of joy gazing lovingly into my eyes like the sun rises and sets on me.  Instead, I am the dark cloud who obstructs his obliviously sunny sky. Unless he needs something. Then he pours it on. And I feel like a door mat.

(I leave the sneakers behind.)

But if I really listen to the pain in my ribcage that made it hard to breath,  there’s something more…

…That evening, when he was home, in the living room, like he used to be, and he asked me to come over to the couch so that he could show me something on his computer; and I sighed, put down my work, and shimmied in beside him, where he sat with his foot propped up with ice… something happened…

…As he hit play, my attention narrowed, not on the screen, but to…

…Our bodies

…Touching.

From shoulder to foot, I felt the heat of his body and mine; and in a flash, I remembered everything… the longing I felt for him to come into my life, the preciousness of his growth inside my belly, the tenderness with which I anticipated his newborn needs, the day-to-day companionship of ours years at home together.

There was a stabbing pain in my third eye as I returned my attention to the computer in front of me where my 17 year-old was sharing a cover of one of our favorite songs, sung by a group of Norwegians with bad haircuts:

While listening, I noticed that we raised our eyebrows at just the same time, and then grinned in the same moments, and then turned toward each other and nodded, just as the voice of the last vocalist swept us away.

I always thought of this song as epic, as biblical, as archetypal–between a man and love. But today, I hear a mother’s story. And I feel the excruciating finality of what has been a soul-consuming journey…

Maybe there’s a god above
And all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you

And it’s not a cry you can hear at night,
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Motherhood is such holy work, and I fail, again and again, to keep the sacred front and center. I was good at holding on when he needed that, but I’m not sure how to let go; or at least how to do both at the same time.

But baby I’ve been here before
I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor
You know, I used to live alone before I knew ya

And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
And love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

What do I do when that little boy, who held my hand and talked to me about life: “Where do faces go when we die? Does the sun know everything?” “Can I marry you when I grow up?” reappears beside me, with thick hairy legs, and a voice deeper than his father’s?

Well your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya

She tied you to her kitchen chair
And she broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

This is labor, I think. This is the ripping apart of two souls. Just as it was at birth.

There was a time
You let me know
What’s real and going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?

And remember when I moved in you?
The holy dark was moving to
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

I remember the first time he moved in me, and how we became one, until he grew so large inside that he began to press under that same rib, until it hurt so badly that I could hardly breath, and I wanted him gone, and when he was, I ached that he was no longer there.

Well I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?

Well it goes like this:
The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I love you, Lloyd. I’m so sad you’re gone. I can’t believe you’re still here. I don’t know how to live without you. I don’t know how to live with you. I don’t know how to let you go and love you at the same time.

But I’ll keep trying.

Kelly Salasin, Mothers Day 2013

ps. Dad, sorry for playing the piano that night beneath your bedroom.

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the blessing knot

Renoir, visipix.com

We’ve all heard the expression “a blessing in disguise” and there may be no better example of a disguised blessing than parenting.

Raising children stretches us in so many uncomfortable ways–from our finances to our time; our patience to our sanity; our sense of self to our sexuality–that we often miss the blessings, as the list of challenges unfolds… indefinitely.

What is not indefinite (though it often seems so) is our time with our children–as children. And I for one, don’t want to be one of those who bemoans missing this blessing, however it may be disguised.

Like the rocks.

When my oldest was a little guy, he collected rocks–to the point where they filled every window sill in our small farm house. As soon as I would covertly return the rocks to their rightful place beside the stream, he’d fill the house back up with another load. It was futile struggle… until yoga.

One Saturday afternoon, I complained to my new yoga classmates about all the rocks around my house. I’ll never forget what my teacher had to say. Kelly, did it ever occur to you that your son is trying to ground the energy in your home?”

Wow.

Here my son was offering a blessing; something we dearly needed in the face of all the chaos of early parenting, especially with three fire signs under one roof, and I had missed it.

My husband had a similar realization this afternoon.  Our youngest begged his father to come into the woods, but he resisted. “I’m tired,” he said, “I’ve mowed the lawn. I’ve whacked the weeds. I’ve turned over the garden beds.  I just need some time to really relax.”

Modersohn, visipix.com

Eventually our persistent one wore him down, and Casey found himself nestled against a tree in the middle of the forest gazing at Aidan at work.

“He really didn’t need me to ‘do’ much,” Casey told me later, “He just wanted my company. And in giving it, I got what I really needed–in a place where I so often forget to go.”

Another disguised blessing.

Perhaps the best example of missing a blessing comes from a time outside of parenting for me.

As a young mother, I signed up for a day-long retreat at the local yoga center. I don’t remember much about the program, except for the break from my routine, and the nice blueberry tea that we shared.

There was however, one unforgettable moment, that has become a symbol for how easy it is for me to miss the blessings in my life.  As the Buddhist nun who led the retreat dismissed everyone for lunch, she paused by my yoga mat, where I was engrossed in a task. “Is everything alright, Kelly?” she asked.

I looked up, surprised to see her, and then explained that there was a knot in the red satin blessing string that she had given me, and that I was having a hard time getting it out.

She watched me at work for a moment, and then she smiled, saying, “Kelly, the blessing is in the knot.”

Kelly Salasin, Mother’s Day 2011

 
2 Comments

Posted by on May 9, 2011 in Insight, Mid-Life Mama, New Mother

 

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My Homebirth–at the hospital

Beardsley (visipix.com)

by Kelly Salasin

I never dreamed of a homebirth, never even imagined it or knew it was something that people chose to do. I had been brought up in a medical family–with three generations of allopathic physicians, and I assumed births took place as they should–in the hospital. This is where my mother gave birth to each of her nine children, and where she enjoyed the few days break from keeping house and caring for a newborn (not to mention siblings.)

By the time I got around to wanting a child, I was the same age my mother was as a parent of four. Having grown up in this large family, and being “blessed” as the eldest, I was in no rush to become a parent. I’d done my share of diaper changing and late night feedings. By the ripe age of fourteen, I had few illusions about the instituition of motherhood, and loads of skepticism; that is until I was denied entry into this vocation.

Up until that time, I had viewed motherhood as some necessary evil, some hurdle I had to cross in order to pass into proper adulthood. Thus, I took it for granted that motherhood would be there waiting in the wings, whenever I was ready to succumb.

I was somewhere in my mid-twenties, unmarried, when it hit me. BABY HUNGER. All of the sudden, I HAD to have a baby. It didn’t matter that we were still renting and that my boyfriend had just gone back to school. The urge came on so strong and so unreasonably that I had to restrain myself from thoughts of simply stealing one.

As the primary breadwinner, it was completely impractical for me to get pregnant until my partner had his degree so instead I read everything I could on pregnancy and motherhood and being READY.

During that time we planned a wedding and fantasized about relocating to the mountains and living in a log home.

At 28, I could wait no longer and I convinced my husband to “start trying” before he graduated–since babies took nine months to be born anyway.

A year later, we still weren’t pregnant–and when we finally did conceive, I miscarried at the end of the first trimester. I hadn’t known that that was a possibility either.

Suddenly plans and jobs and certainty made less sense to me. We left our home at the shore and moved to the mountains of Vermont where we conceived–right away–only to miscarry again at 6 weeks.

When we were emotionally prepared to try a third time, we knew we needed something different–and that’s how we found Mary. Mary was a naturopathic physician and a midwife–but mostly she was smart and caring and attentive.

Although she only attended homebirths, Mary agreed to work with us into the second trimester when she would turn us safely over to an MD. By that time however, we had fallen in love with her–and couldn’t imagine anyone else delivering our long-awaited baby–even if that meant we had to have a homebirth.

This third pregnancy was just as tricky as the previous ones–with a month of bleeding in the first trimester, early contractions in the second, and a challenging delivery in the third.

My son’s labor began at home on a rainy Tuesday morning–two weeks earlier than expected. It started with a sharp kick and the breaking of waters, followed by minute-long contractions, five-minutes apart. By the time the midwife arrived, I had already dilated 8 centimeters.

It was then that Mary discovered that the baby was breech–so she made arrangements for us to be transported over the mountain to the nearest hospital.

When I was rolled into the Emergency Room, the staff couldn’t believe that I was in labor–let alone in transition. With Mary at my side, I was calm and present despite the mounting anxiety.

After some negotiations, they permitted Mary and my husband to accompany me into the operating room where my exquisitely planned homebirth was transformed into an emergency c-section.

The doctor on call had to yank my son out of the birth canal–along with all of my pre-conceived roots about how motherhood and I would become one.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on June 14, 2010 in Fragile Life, Insight, New Mother

 

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