Good job!

May 27, 2015

This is so cute…


The Unknown Soldier……

May 27, 2015

I fear our country is headed in the same misguided direction:

May 27, 2015

Eternally Faithful

August 3, 2010

My father and mother met at college. They never thought about dating each other because they were forbidden to do so. Not explicitly, but it was just understood that a Jewish boy from Brooklyn (whose parents were Russian Immigrants and clung to their religion as the only constant in their lives) would never date a Roman Catholic girl from Queens (whose parent were Irish Immigrants and extremely devoted Roman Catholics).

It wasn’t so much that being from Brooklyn and Queens was a barrier (though believe it or not, there are cultural differences) but the Jew and Catholic elements definitely did.

As in all good romantic stories, true love won out, and they got married and went to Iowa for graduate school (where apparently, in 1963 they were the only Catholic and Jew in the state, and where cultural differences with New York were absolutely clear). They eloped, and cautiously told their parents afterward. Both sets of parents took the news poorly. My father’s family had him declared dead in his temple. His parents sat Shiva, and covered all the mirrors. They said they would never speak to him again.

My mother’s family said “Never Darken This Door Again” (direct quote).

Nearly seven years later, my father called both sets of parents. He wasn’t sure what the outcome would be, but he said, “We had a baby girl today, Sarah Elizabeth.”

My father’s parent’s reaction was (after the first reaction which was “What, no boy?”)

“Mazel Tov” and they said they would make the trek up to Geneseo from Brooklyn.

Being New Yorkers from “the city” they didn’t realize that Geneseo, being 20 miles south of Rochester and 50 miles East of Buffalo, was pretty far from Brooklyn, despite being in the same State. They showed up eventually. When they came they brought a mezuzah, and chicken fricassee with kasha (my grandmother’s specialty. Years after her death the thought of that dish STILL makes me gag). My mother’s mother said “Well, if God sees fit to bless this curious union, who am I to stay away?” Having been to Canada several times, my mother’s parents knew how far it was to Geneseo, and made it a few days later. My grandmother made lace curtains. Apparently no Irish woman worth her salt can live in a house without lace curtains. My mother tried to pawn them off on me when I bought my first house. Nice try mom!

And so began the tense and tenuous relationship between my parents, their parents and me.

My parents tried to equally weight both religions. It was difficult to do in a town with fifteen churches and two temples, one being Mormon and the other Jehovah’s witness.

The closest Jewish Temple was about a half and hour away. Plus the only other Jewish kids in town were “half” like me. There were four other families where the father was Jewish and the mother was not, and two families where the mother was Jewish and the father was not. All of us saw each other during “Jewish Holidays” in a feeble attempt to expose us to Judaism in a town where is was viewed along the same lines as Satanism.

We all suffered the slings and arrows of anti-Semitism, which led all of us to defend ourselves by saying “We’re only HALF Jewish!” The reply to this was often “Then we’ll only burn up HALF your Jew ass!” We felt we could never speak up in class. If we did well in school we were taunted, “All you Jews think you’re so smart! That’s why you all end up doctors and lawyers!” I know it seems odd now, but at the time that was really insulting. If we didn’t do well in school it was because “You Jews have weird brains.”

My family was less than a safe haven. When we made the LONG treks to my mother’s family during Thanksgiving and Christmas I was often taunted by my cousins. Everyone got presents, but all my cousins got “extra” presents from their godparents. I never did, since I didn’t have a godparent. When I questioned this, my cousins would say “You don’t have a god parent because you aren’t ALL Catholic, and your father is a Jew so you are going to Hell.” When I bring this up now to my cousins all of whom are over 30 now, I get blank stares. “We NEVER said that!” Of course, that’s the Irish Catholic part of the family “Ignore it and it will go away, or at least pretend it never happened.” Well, at least that’s MY Irish Catholic family. A lot of alcoholics too, but SHHH! Don’t notice!

Ironically the only school my parents could think of to send me to get away from the virulent anti-semitism was an All-Girls Catholic High School. The other “half Jew” families did the same thing. So, there we were. Except, lo and behold, a large percentage of the school population was Jewish too! It was a shock. Of course a large majority of the school was also Irish Catholic, which was also surprising to me, as the town I was living in had a VERY small Catholic population, and very few people mentioned they were Catholic. The Protestant and Baptist Churches had a corner share on the market there.

It was very diffcult having an Interfaith family. Fraught with shame and ignorance. I always felt, on some level, I was an outcast, an outsider and “different” from everyone else. I was “othered” no where more than in my own family. Yes, my grandparents were now on speaking terms with my parents, but it was fractured, and the damage was hardly reparable. We rarely saw family members, and often were not invited to family events. After more of the ‘you are going hell” types of comments, we stopped going to relatives for the Holidays. My parents established “family’ within their community of academics. To this day my parents friends and their children are more my family than people I am actually related to by blood.

When I finally went to college, I began to embrace both sides of my religious and cultural heritage. In some ways I feel it actually gives me something in common with MORE people, as I have an understanding of two different religions and cultural backgrounds.

I feel it makes me more sensitive, because I know how cruel words and actions can be.

Time may not always heal all wounds, but in general it will bring up many more issues that will often distract people from old ones. My parents suffered greatly from their families because they had married outside their faith. This summer they will celebrate their 43


Anniversary. Many of my mother’s Catholic cousins who married the “right” people are now divorced. Several of my cousins have married interracially, and one of my cousins can not marry the father of her child because he has another wife somewhere else, which he finally told her once he went to prison for attempted murder.

My mother’s brother, after the death of their mother, finally “came out”, at the age of nearly 70, and introduced us to his life partner of more than 30 years.

I guess the point is, start shaking that family tree, and you never know who is going to fall out. It probably isn’t who or what you expect.

I suppose it is not surprising that I married a man with distain for religion, and where I had religious overload growing up, he never had exposure to any kind of religion. We aren’t really sure where to go from here now that we have children, but we’ll figure it out eventually. At the very least we are teaching tolerance for all people, that part we definitely have figured out.

In the meantime, my children are learning all about the holidays through “Rankin-Bass” productions, books, friends, preschool and TMC groups.

For example, one day a close friend and her two children came over for a playdate. She was wearing a cross with tiny diamonds. My then four-year-old said “Wow! Can I see your necklace? I just LOVE your sparkly airplane!”

In the end, it’s all about perception, and love of each other. I hope my daughter will always be able to see the sparkles. Even when she eventually learns it is not an airplane.


Bad Things

August 3, 2010

When I became a mother nine-and-a half-years ago, it was an enormous transition. Ever since that moment, I have experienced many transitions both as a mother, a woman and a daughter.

I have been through the newborn stage (thrice) the infant stage (thrice) the toddler stage (thrice), the preschool stage (will be thrice in January) and now my eldest will be entering Fourth Grade.

Many of the Touchpoints (thank you Dr. Brazelton!) I have experienced with my daughters are milestones and stages anyone can find in a book. The first smile, beginning to sit up, crawl, walk, run, jump, speak, read etc. What I am finding to be quite difficult these days is the transition of my eldest child from being a preschooler to being an extremely independent person.

My daughter’s independence has caught me off guard and, as much as I cannot believe I feel this way, injures me. I see her moving away from me more and more, seeming to need me less and less, while becoming a person in her own right. Certainly she has always been so, though now it has more finality to it, more poignancy. She relishes her time away from her family in school, playdates, parties—especially sleepovers—and camp. She loves to tell us about events where we are not present and seems to thoroughly appreciate her time without siblings or parents. It has struck me that she is truly an individual with her own life, separate from mine. I suppose this is normal and natural but something I did not expect until years from now. I am not prepared to feel so slighted, though exhilarated at the same time, seeing my daughter using the wings I have so fervently fought to give her. She is so confident in her new life as a child ready to be in the world, developing her own friendships (not ones I have cultivated for her) and writing her own script. I am not ready to feed her to the world in all it’s injustice, pain, and fear. Though I continually tell her there are “no monsters” I secretly cross my fingers behind my back for this lie. Adults know about real monsters. We know they are not scary looking, green, fanged or furry. We know they pass through the world looking like everyone else when they do horrible, unspeakable things—sometimes to children.

As adults we know so much about the world and yet, our children enter it full of hope and glory, because we work for them to experience it this way. We want to protect them and it is difficult to let them fly away, especially when they are so small. I once read that “childbirth has to hurt or you wouldn’t be able to give your baby up to the world.” I suppose I felt that years ago when my daughter was cut away and became a separate person, though truly up until this point in her life, I have been the controlling force of where she is at all times. Whom she associates with, what her life is like. To some degree that changed with preschool, though I still had a lot of control, as I was extremely involved in her school and her life. Now as I think of “the bus” whisking her away for several hours alone I feel the stab of loss. I know I will feel this again and again as a mother, the loss, and the pain, as a child changes and grows. It is bittersweet, like so many things in motherhood. Beauty, pride, love and pain all at once.

One thing I was never prepared for, as my daughter’s cord was cut so that she could be whole, was the never ceasing fear of “something bad.” I blame the media for a lot of this, but also the continual presence of the boogey man cloaked in the “I knew this woman once whose child —” We all have our fears about our children. That “something bad” will happen beyond our control to help them. We all know stories, some true, some imagined, about the death of a child, a terrible disease, an accident or some horrible tragedy a family has endured. We secretly hope these families, our friends in most cases, did something to bring on this terrible, horrible fate. We want to believe it was something concrete they did because the randomness of such things means it could happen to us, to OUR child. In one of my “ I knew this woman” stories, I had a friend whose five-month-old daughter died of cancer. When I met her, my first-born child was seven-months-old. My friend often talked about her child, the tragedy, and the diagnosis and losing battle to a true-life monster, I would listen very intently. Sad and empathetic to my friend, I hate to admit I also searched every word to try and find something that would point to why it happened. Some piece that would alleviate my fear that the monster would find my child and I would suffer this all myself.

I feel so much of motherhood is a process of holding one’s breath. Hoping we are doing everything right, knowing we are not, and wishing that all the good will outweigh (and prevent) the bad.

Every stage thus far I have been waiting for this feeling to go away. When I had a newborn I thought, “Once she passes this stage I will be able to relax a little.” Once she can talk I will relax a little, once this milestone or that, is over I won’t worry so much. Of course this is true in some ways and completely ridiculous in others. Yes I could breathe a bit easier once I passed the newborn period and felt more confident about taking care of a baby. Though I also learned with every new joy and every new stage there are new fears, new worries. Once when a friend of mine had a six-month-old and my two children were three-years-old and ten-months-old, asked me “Don’t you miss your kids being six-months-old?” “Don’t you wish they could have stayed like this forever?”

I smiled because as much as I loved that stage and truly enjoyed the baby time, each new stage, new month, new year, new age brought additional joys—and sorrows. I don’t miss any time (though I wish I had a minute-by-minute film of each child’s life so I could go back and watch every moment so that nothing would ever be forgotten or missed) of my children’s lives because (I hope) I have enjoyed all the moments and will (I hope) continue to love their lives. I suppose I just never realized each new moment is both easier and more difficult at the same time. I feel like each moment with my children slips through my fingers. Many times I want to stop time so I can savor everything and it is impossible. As mothers we are in a constant state of moment and seconds that seem to speed by hurdling us toward the teen-age years at light speed. Well, except for the hours between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Those hours seem to drag on a wee bit too long.

We are never “done” being parents and there is never a time where we feel we can let go of our children and be on our merry way. There are many moments with my own mother when I am frustrated that she does not see me the way I want her to, or does not treat me as the adult person I am. I am beginning to realize that it is probably very difficult to see your children as adult people when you have held them in your arms as infants. When you have soothed a fever, changed a million diapers (especially the poopy ones that go all the way up the neck) been at various times soaked in breast-milk or formula, covered in vomit or other bodily excretions, kissed a sweaty head, deeply inhaled “fresh-from-the-bath-baby,” it is probably one of the most impossible things to put those memories and feelings aside when this person is standing before you with their own children, stretch marks, wrinkles and grey hairs. When the pain of childbirth is impossible to recall and we long for the days when we waited for the bus, knowing it is safer than we thought.


Confessions of a Germaphobe

August 3, 2010

There are many of us out there, but there are more of you. We blend in with everyone else at first. No one knows who we are most of the time. In general you make fun of us but we know you don’t understand what made us who we are. Often you annoy us, and at times we secretly hate you for ignoring a cough, a runny nose or low-grade fever. We go unnoticed until that day when you see us wipe down a table with a medicated or Clorox wipe, whip out the purell before and after a playdate or leave a park if we see a suspiciously pale child with a nasty sounding cough. You know who we are, and unless we explain how we got to be this way, you think we are a joke. We are “germaphobes”.

I did not intend to be a germaphobe. Before I had my first child I read a lot of parenting articles on how it is beneficial for children to get sick. That they build up a stronger immune system, and that the more sick one is as a child, the healthier one is as an adult.

I read about how more and more children are getting allergies and asthma from our environment being “too clean”. Years ago, when our immune systems had a lot to fight off, we were healthier people. Now that our bodies have nothing in our environment to fend off, the body turns on itself, which is better known as an allergic reaction.

Before I had my first child I scoffed at the germaphobes I encountered. I felt they had no idea how crazy they appeared not allowing their babies to put things in their mouths, or play with other children, or go to places like “Gymboree” or a “Y” class. I vowed not to be like that.

Fate had other ideas.

When I was pregnant with my first child I got sick and developed pneumonia. The illness coupled with pregnancy hormones “triggered” a recurrence of asthma. I had asthma as a young child, but by age ten had completely “outgrown it”. I was forty weeks pregnant, and expected to deliver any minute. Because the baby was already full term, I was put on a course of antibiotics and steroids to combat the pneumonia and asthma. I could not breathe. It was terrifying. I had been going to a birthing center, and was told I was not going to make their protocol. I was being scheduled for a caesarean section with a doctor I had never met. I was so sick the surgery was delayed. I was frantic about what all the medications were going to do to my unborn child, but was told that it would be fine. However, the albuterol used for my asthma is also a drug used in a pre-term situation to prevent the onset of labor. The albuterol caused me to go two full weeks post-date with my pregnancy. The placenta was breaking down, the baby was losing weight in utereo, and she was in danger. I was one day away from a scheduled c-section. I bid a tearful goodbye to the birthing center and my midwives. I felt so betrayed by my body.

A sure-fire way to get me to do something is to tell me I can’t do it. Once I was told I could not have a natural birth, I stopped using my inhaler and had my baby at the birthing center hours before my scheduled section. As soon as my daughter was born, the asthma disappeared. After I gave birth it was clear to me, even if no one else agreed, that my daughter did not look right. She was dry, cracked and terribly skinny. She was nearly twenty inches long, but only weighed six pounds. Her umbilical cord was short and thin. She looked just like a mummy.

I breast fed her, was a stay at home mom, and due to her January birth, we were rarely in contact with anyone but our newborn group. My daughter was gaining weight, but still seemed so tiny next to all the other babies. Around four months of age she got her first ear infection. Then another. And another. Then she began to get sinus infections and high fevers. I felt my baby was always sick. Around age seven months she got her first (of many) case of croup. We were constantly in the Emergency Room of doctor’s office for croup, ear infections and high fevers. My baby seemed to be on a steady stream of antibiotics, only to finish one course and have to begin another. I was getting extremely frustrated with the pediatrician, so easy to dispense antibiotics while dismissing my concerns as a lunatic “first time” mom. “Kids get sick”, she would say. I retorted, “Yeah, but this much? Doesn’t this seem excessive?” I went through four pediatricians before I found a practice that seemed more able to dialog with me about my daughter’s illnesses.

Only one doctor in the practice took my insurance, but he and I were not very compatible. When my daughter was eight months I developed ductal breast yeast. It was the most painful experience of my entire life, bar none. Clearly my daughter had thrush, but she was symptom free. As soon as I cleared up my yeast problem, it came roaring back. Finally a breast specialist said “Even if your daughter seems to have no symptoms, she must have yeast somewhere, because she is more than likely the cause of transmission. We have to treat her for thrush too.” We battled yeast together, my daughter and I for two years.

I felt I was constantly in the pediatrician’s office, and my daughter began to develop more and more illnesses—some I had never heard of. I started to worry about germ exposure, and began to question people before they came over or before we went to their home “Any runny noses? Any coughs? Anyone sick?” I knew I was getting on everyone’s nerves, but my own nerves were shot with my constant trips to the pediatrician’s office or Emergency Room.

Finally when my daughter was ten-months-old I lost all patience with the pediatrician. She had stopped gaining weight, and she had been refusing all solid foods. I started to scream at him that he was not helping her, and that I knew, felt deep down inside, that there was something wrong with her. He sighed. He was just as frustrated with me, but all he said was “Ok, she is ten-months-old now, let’s see how this month goes. If she gets sick this month, we’ll have her tested.” During that month she came down with Roseola, strep throat, herpangina (full blown coxsakie virus), bronchitis, an ear infection, and a sinus infection. Clearly the month had not gone well. The pediatrician suggested I see his partner, an osteopathic pediatrician who was a former pediatric oncologist. As a former pediatric oncologist, he had an idea my daughter had a Primary Immunodeficiency Disease. Sure enough, after her battery of tests, she tested positive for an IgG subclass deficiency.

And so with her diagnosis of IgG deficiency, I was on my way to full-blown germaphobia.

Knowing was half the battle, or so I hoped. Unfortunately in the case of an Immunodeficiency, the illness happens, the hospital visit happens, the bad things happen whether or not you can put a name to the disorder.

When you have a child with Immunodeficiency, the first thing that you ask is, “Will he/she outgrow it?” You dread the answer, because there’s a chance, a big chance, the answer is “No.” In our case, we were told, “Well, there are three possibilities. She’ll get worse, she’ll get better, or she’ll stay the same.” In pushing for more details, you ask, “What does the ‘get worse’ possibility mean?” Apparently, it means, your child can just get sicker and sicker, and possibly die before age 18. No matter what else is said, you always have in the back of your mind, “can get sicker and sicker and possibly die before age 18.” And when you see kids with runny noses, coughs, or hear moms say, “He threw up all night, but seemed fine this morning so we brought him to the class.” You have this completely irrational desire (even though it is brought about by very real fears and medical truths) to punch them in the head and scream at them that they are making your life miserable. Of course THEY aren’t making your life miserable, but you want to blame someone for the hell that comes with every new illness your child contracts. Additionally, when your child has an immune disorder, they are not able to build immunity, so they can get the same virus’ again and again and again. They can’t be vaccinated, because they can’t develop the antibodies. So, you worry that in addition to all the “regular” diseases out there, your child will contract something that “normal” kids are vaccinated against.

When my daughter was three, we left the New York Metro Area, and moved to Massachusetts. Coincidentally (or maybe not?) she got better. Every six months when we had her immunoglobulins tested, she was showing more and more signs of developing a satisfactory level of IgG. By age 8, she was completely within normal range. When she gets sick, she can still get “more”sick than typical children who never had an immune disorder, but for the most part, she has become a “regular” kid. But the damage was done. I live in dire fear of illnesses, germs, and the potential of one of my children getting deathly ill. I had two more children, both of whom (thankfully) do not have immune disorders. Even so, when any child in the house is sick, I go to a dark place. I hate it. I go to insane degrees to keep them “safe” from germs. I am still paranoid about being around sick people, or recently sick people. For years, I carried around a prescription of a rare antibiotic my daughter had to take for a particularly rare disease she had when she was 2 years old. The prescription was for a refill, should we need it, and happily, we didn’t. But I kept that prescription in my wallet for years and years. It was tattered, most of the writing had rubbed off, and it had become almost lint-like. Somehow though, I believed, or wanted to believe, that having it in my wallet was like a Talisman. Guarding against the worst case scenarios, protecting my child like an ancestral totem.

My daughter will be ten on her next birthday. Ten. Double digits. A decade. I feel a sense of pride in that. Although images of my sick child in a hospital bed with a 106.5 fever still haunt me, I eventually threw away the Talisman. It was difficult, and I sat with the soft, nearly disintegrated, paper in my hand for a long time. I had a tough time letting go of the idea that my daughter would get sick if I threw it away. But I did. Because sometimes, we have to do that—throw things away. Generally our fears and ideas are the most difficult to throw away—and often, the most necessary. So, when you see, or hear, or read about a mom who is a control freak germaphobe, remember that everyone has a reason for their actions. Even if you think it’s crazy or bizarre, know that there is probably a traumatic history behind it. And just for good measure, pass the Purell.

I am a man

August 3, 2010

I am a man

I stopped going to the gym, wearing high heels and full-face make-up. I just didn’t have the energy to put in the effort. However, I did manage to still keep current with the latest in maternity fashion and keep up my hair (color and cut—in those days I actually got FOILS!!) waxing, pedicures, facial and dental appointments. I also continued to wear lipstick or gloss and mascara. Not a lot of effort, but some. Going “out” was rare, but on those rare occasions I did manage to pull off some full-face evenings and the occasional high heel.I don’t know when I stopped trying. I think it has been a gradual process, slowly but surely I’ve given up. It all started, I think, right around baby number 1, which for me, was seven years ago. It was also 60 pounds ago and 10 clothing sizes ago.

Then came baby number two. I still wrangled the hair (no more foils) waxing and some pedicures in the spring and summer. I went to the dentist and had an occasional facial. I downgraded my wardrobe completely and, unwilling to completely part with my “thin” clothes put them in a plastic Rubbermaid bin in the basement—where they still reside after three moves in three different states.

I made some attempts at beauty rituals, and tried my hardest to get to some kind of event at least a few times a year where lipstick and mascara were de rigueur.

Now with baby number three and a new business, the old gray mare ain’t what she used to be. I keep meaning to book a dental appointment (it’s been a year but shhh! don’t tell anyone!), truly. It’s just been tough to find the time. My basic wardrobe these days is t-shirt and jeans chic. But I don’t want to invest in anything too great in the size I wear right now because I am still in total denial that I even wear this size. Likewise I am in total denial that even at my old weight, my body will never, ever look like it did pre-pregnancy. The shar-pei like quality (as in wrinkly dog, not High School musical character) to my abdominal skin screams out “extreme make-over.” Likewise the boobs that once rivaled those of Pamela Anderson which are now nearly at my waist. If I know I won’t be leaving the house except for perhaps a drop-off or pick up, I’ll skip a shower. It gives me twenty more minutes to sleep. I have to make sacrifices like that these days. Shower or sleep? Invariably I pick sleep…unless it’s been a few days and I start to offend even myself. If I know I am going “out” or will be seen by strangers, I manage a shower and wash my hair with actual shampoo. I get out of the shower and run a comb through my hair, brush my teeth and get dressed, even including a bra. Hey, that’s the same routine my husband has had for years, minus the bra. Clearly, I have become a man. I dress like one, and have let so many beauty regiments go I might as well be man. It is absolutely easier. So there it is. Another instance where a man has it easier, and I’m just copying it. By letting go. I’m not sure if this is actually a good thing or not. As soon as possible I will go. I know those “thin” clothes are down in the basement, and I keep meaning to find a way to get back to the gym. I will absolutely get my now gorilla-esque legs (don’t even ask about the bikini line!) waxed soon. Really. I mean it. And a pedicure too—just as soon as the warmer weather gets here. I also need to do something about the new “Lily Munster” thing I’ve got going with my hair. I have a great gift certificate for a facial, which has been gathering dust on my desk. I’ll use it. I swear! It just might take a while. Like another few years. I hate that I have let myself go just so I can keep life functional. Because that’s what it is. I am operating at a just functioning level. No more than that. My hours and minutes are so closely rationed one stomach bug in the house will lead to utter chaos from which we may not truly recover. I need some kind of device, a robot or a special machine that will tend to me in my sleep without actually waking me up—I can’t spare a moment of sleep. It would be great to wake up and see my hair and nails done, skin perfect and glowing, legs smooth and shiny and a pre-pregnancy body underneath the flannel sweatpants. It’s a pipe dream, I know. The only thing I can do is spend the time making it happen, which I sorely lack. I still brush my teeth every day though. At least I’ve got that going for me.

The Worst Mother

August 3, 2010

I always knew I wanted children. One reason (among many) my first marriage ended was that I knew I could never have children with that particular man. It was a deal breaker. I cherished my ideal children in my heart for years. Despite my various life goals there were always babies in the background.

I had always loved children and worked as a babysitter throughout my teens and early 20’s. I enjoyed babysitting, and always envisioned life with children just like babysitting—but better. I imagined the wonderful quiet time with my children, the books we would read, the activities we would attend, the museums, the zoos, the playgrounds, the theatres, the travel. Hiking, sightseeing, I imagined everything I did with a baby on my back. I could not wait to have little ones soaking up the world around us and showing them all the beauty I could find. I wanted to be a “perfect” mom. The kind of mom who was always happy, smiling, loving life and who would make crafts with her children, bake cookies, and never raise her voice.

My husband, the “real” one, always wanted children too. However, his idea of children was more tempered than mine. He wanted to be a father, but was worried about all the continuous vomit and diarrhea he imagined was imminent. He focused on all the negatives, and I just could not understand how he could be so hard-hearted! Couldn’t he see how exciting babies were? I just could not see any negatives.

Once our first child arrived, it was a very difficult transition, but not for the reasons I expected. It never occurred to me that I would not be able to function without sleep. My daughter was chronically ill and it never occurred to me that I would have a child with health issues. My husband, for his part, never anticipated all the love he would feel for his child. He truly embraced parenting and loved all the joys he had never expected. I was overwhelmed and a nervous wreck.

I had no roots where we were living. I was flying solo with a sick baby and a husband who traveled half the month to China. Despite the stress, I truly adored my daughter. I couldn’t wait for our day to begin (even though technically, it never ended). I cherished our time together, and even with the doctors, specialists and hospitals, it was still a glorious time in my life. Not at all what I expected, but still beautiful. I flew off the handle quite a bit at my husband because of the stress, but my daughter seemed like a perfect, albeit ill, cherub.

I joined a “Mommy Group” and things improved in some ways. As my daughter grew, our days were more active and she became my beloved playmate. We did crafts; we went to mommy and me classes, the zoo—everything I had expected. She rarely, if ever watched television. I felt like a great success as a mother.

Toward the middle of my second pregnancy I started to lose my patience. My perfect little lamb was getting to be a terrible two, and it was shocking to me. Again, something I didn’t expect. I was feeling more run down due to the barrage of illnesses my daughter had during that time, and feeling crummy from pregnancy. I snapped. Then I yelled. Only once, but I yelled horribly, and my daughter started to cry. I had made her afraid, and I felt awful about it.

I had tried so much to be the “perfect” mom the first two years of my daughter’s life, and in some ways probably succeeded at being the ideal mother I wanted to be, but with a great disservice to myself. I was struggling so much to be the maid, the nurse, the cook, the errand runner and two weeks out of the month I was a single parent. I was just so frustrated and then it all blew and I became one of the things I swore I would never be: THE YELLER. I started to yell more and more. At first I felt if I could just keep the numbers under ten times, it wasn’t so bad.

After the second baby was born, the genie was out of the bottle. I felt like I was losing my cool all the time. The new baby had reflux and colic and never slept. She screamed eighteen hours a day. I started to yell all the time. I felt like the worst mother in the world. I had a moment, which I laugh about now, but which was very real and awful at the time. I was driving down a highway while visiting my parents when my first daughter was two and my second daughter was eight weeks old, and screaming, as usual. My older kid was making an enormous mess in the backseat with a creamsicle. I was feeling horrible. Tired, sore (breast infection) and angry (husband in China) and just handle it anymore. I pulled over to the side of the road and got out of the car. I could still hear the baby screaming. I thought, for just a moment, if I walked out into traffic I wouldn’t die, I would just get hurt badly enough to go to the hospital and get some sleep. Someone else would have to take care of my kids, and I could just rest. I got back into the car and screamed at the toddler about making a mess with the ice cream, I so stupidly had given her. Until she was four years old she would never eat a creamsicle so much did she fear my yelling again.

When I returned home from my visit, I went to a therapist. She refused to give me any medication because she said I was just tired and that “of course I was feeling all these things and that yes, I needed to find something else to do beside yell, but not to blame myself.” I thought she was an idiot. Of course I had to blame myself. Who else? I was the one yelling. I felt I was becoming the worst mother in the world. I felt like an utter failure. The television seemed to be on constantly whenever we were at home. Luckily, we kept busy, and were out of the house most of the time. I felt that I was just yelling like some kind of psycho. At BABIES! What was wrong with me? I had chosen to be a stay-at-home mom, I wanted this, but I just didn’t know it would be so hard. Just the mountains of laundry were enough to cripple my spirit. I cried to my husband that we had to change our lives. I couldn’t continue on the way things were. Something had to give, or I was going to go off the deep end. Although I felt I was already there.

We moved to Northern Massachusetts and I thought that would change everything, that I would stop yelling. I didn’t know a soul, but joined The Mother Connection so I could meet other moms with young children. It definitely helped, but wasn’t the “quick fix” I expected.

I could not, and still can not, understand how I can get so frustrated; so angry, so upset with the two people I love most in the world. I still cannot wrap my brain around how I allowed myself to get swept away into yelling. They are little kids; they have no malice, no ulterior motives. I still find myself yelling. I attend parenting workshop after parenting workshop. I have days where I am super in love with being a mother and there is no yelling. There are days I can identify with those mothers of urban legend who find super-human strength enough to lift a truck off their children’s bodies. Then I have “Medea” days where I want to throw myself under that same truck. I never expected the highs and lows being a mom. I guess, truth be told, I never expected the lows. I am still living out my dream mother fantasy of adventures, zoos, museums, activities and cookies. There is big love in motherhood. The big love was what I expected and longed for but I still fall short of the perfect mom I wanted and thought I would be. There is big love, but also, big failure, and big despair. That was something I don’t think I could have ever expected. I suppose I had always heard motherhood was a lot of ups and downs, a lot of ebb and flow. I never expected my experience would be the same.

One summer day I took my two daughters to a beach. We had an amazing time. The kind of day I want every day to be. At the end of the day, we watched the sun settle into the horizon and watched the tides change. It occurred to me, on that “non-yelling” day, watching the ocean was a wonderful metaphor for my years of motherhood thus far. If there was ever a day I wanted to savor, it was that day. The day I could tell myself (and my daughters) that this was all it is. The tide comes in, the tide goes out. Good days and bad days. Ebb and flow. Ebb and flow. Ebb and flow.