dear daughter: a letter to my wildfire child

Dear daughter, the world cannot and will not love you like I do. It is simply not possible. You see, your veins are continuations of mine. When I was growing in my mother’s womb I held you already inside of my own, matryoshka nesting dolls of women. 

Dear daughter, you are golden like honey and also flame. People will try to consume you then pull away, scorched. Do not let them douse you to ashes. Do not let them have your sweetness and not your heat. 

Dear daughter, you are not broken. At least, not any more so than the rest of us. You are not to be fixed. You are to be taken whole and loved entirely. 

Dear daughter, I have patience enough for you and when my stores run low I will dig deep and find more. You are worthy of time and understanding and effort. 

Dear daughter, know your flaws but neither justify not apologize for them. 

Dear daughter, listen to the voice in your belly when it prods you to speak louder. Understand that passion can scare people who are not ready for it. Get loud anyway. 

Dear daughter, there is peace and goodness in silence, too. Understand that reserve can scare people who are not ready for it. Be still anyway. 

Dear daughter, do not subscribe to the mistakes of the world. Intelligence is far superior to beauty. Pretty is not your purpose. 

Dear daughter, do not subscribe to the mistakes of your mother. Kindness matters far more than intelligence. Superior is not your purpose. 

Dear daughter, know that God is love and love is God’s work and above all, above all, above ALL it is what we are called to do. Your self, your family and friends, the man who cut you off in traffic, and the people you cut out for your own peace and health. Let love humble and restore you with the rise and set of the sun. 

Dear daughter, balance is a facade. Behind its serene mask a toxic perfectionism is haunting. Let yourself bounce freely and at times wildly from one state to another. Label your days good or bad but never yourself. Allow yourself to be human – hung intentionally between animal and divine. 

Dear daughter, remember wherever or however you wander there is a place for you by my side or in my arms. Come what may, I have always and will always be a home. 

flesh

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I used to dart past mirrors and shop windows. If I happened to linger too long and catch a glimpse I would pause to rearrange my limbs and stomach into poses and shapes more pleasing to the eye. Most days I would cringe, embarrassed to be seen by even myself. Every once in awhile something magical would happen and I would think to myself, “Ok, it’s not that bad.” I was allowed to be happy for the rest of the day; if I was lucky I might even get to eat without guilt, forgiven for my sins momentarily. 

Now, I laugh as I am poked and prodded, squished like biscuit dough by the curious hands of a toddler. Her eyes are wide and thoughtful as they take in the different shapes and details of my body, her father’s, her own. I draw circles around my stretch marked belly and tell her how she grew there, how her sister grows there now. It has been swollen with hate and emptied out by hate again. But this? This is love. Some fear and trepidation, too – but mostly love. 

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I am not a force of nature, I am Mother Nature incarnate. Minuscule ravines carved out by continuous and determined pressure. Constellations of dimples and pores splayed out. Not smooth but rough like bark; bags under my eyes like the age rings of an oak. 

I make no excuses, no justifications. My body looks like it does because of what it’s made of and what I’ve done in my life. It apologizes to no one. 

(Although, sometimes I do.)

At more than one point in time my skin has burst from the containment of life – another person’s life separate from my own. The magnitude of that is often lost on me but I only need look in the mirror. 

For as much progress we’ve made as a society, we are still very uncomfortable when someone (particularly a woman) doesn’t say sorry for her physical presence. When I talk publicly about my body and my experiences it is often followed by some sort of offer to fix it. “Oh the poor dear, look at her putting on a brave face. Here, I will give her what she really needs.” I have and will always decline your magic potions and pills. You cannot wrap and dehydrate yourself to greatness, to goodness. My heart hurts. We squirm at others because we are at unease with ourselves.

My daughter looks at me with awe. She inspects every freckle, hair, scar, and tattoo – each one receiving the same amount of reverence and fascination. My body is other worldly. Marked and marred, so different from her own brand new blank canvas. Her opinion, unfiltered and unaffected, is the one I take to heart. 

So if you don’t mind, I’ll be over here – a worn, happy bag of bones and torn flesh – occupying space just as I am.

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on unplanned pregnancy

Are you still there?

Is this still a safe space?

I keep a list in my heart, of those I know who are trying or hoping or hurting. I carry it with me – heavy – every day and in everything I do. Like a precious heirloom locket I hold it closely, protectively and whisper fervent prayer for each of their names. Small breaths of love, the only thing I can offer them. I’ve been there and I know. 

To those, warriors of women, I can only hope my words do not claw at you and sting. But if they do, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.

I hate being pregnant.


My skin crawls and turns to ice at the realization that my body is not my own for the next two years, at least. There is an ever present lump in my throat, threatening to turn my churning stomach inside out. My hips and back ache as my body swells and shifts to create room, to create a home. I try to swallow back the acid bubbling up and out over my tongue. Vivid nightmares filled with guns and babies and bullets wrench me awake each night; I shake and tears burn my face as I try to come back down to reality. I have panicky flashbacks to the traumatic birth and newbornhood of my first. I wonder daily if we will bring home a new member of our family or if I’m walking through hell only to return empty handed.

My depression, anxiety, and eating disorder start to pull me down as I mourn control; I see my daughter watching my every move and try to find some sort of resolve – No, they cannot have her, too. I will not let them.

With Rosalyn, every week that I progressed and remained with a tiny heart still beating within my womb was celebration enough to carry me through. I wish it were enough right now. Right now, as I work my way through the third month all I can see is the miles that stretch out before me and I just. don’t. want to do it. I know (I hope?) that this will change as we move forward. It has to. For both our sakes.

This fruit-sized, unknown babe is taking everything I have. I end most days in tears at the thought of having to wake up and repeat what I’ve just done. Barely able to make it through work, nauseated beyond relief, completely unable to be present for my toddler or husband. It’s too much. I cannot possibly continue on.

Yet, that’s what we do, isn’t it? We keep on. We get up and just fucking do it, every day. Sun up to sun up we keep running. 

How dare I, though. Complain about this gift and privilege. Not choose to focus on my blessings. Consider this honor an inconvenience or a bother. Guilt consumes me. 

I’m in a dark place right now. But it will change. It has to. 

our little shamrock

And now for some birthday weekend photo overload!

Andrew and I both took Friday off from work so we could have her actual birthday to spend just us all day. We started out with her one year check-up with the following stats:

  • 20 lbs / 33rd percentile
  • 30 inches / 83rd percentile
  • Cute as a fucking button / 100 percentile

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Shots are never fun but Rosalyn always enjoys a chance to really show off what her lungs can do. We then had to celebrate with some birthday donuts from DaVinci’s. A DaVinci Dozen is actually 16 donuts because why not? I’m a fan. Naturally, we got Ros a birthday sprinkle donut and naturally she tasted it once before demolishing it with her tiny fists of curious rage.

We try our best to be polite and not leave a Hansel & Gretel trail of crumbs wherever we go. I wish I could say I do this because I’m a good person, but its really because I’m an anxious mess. The sweet ladies at DaVinci’s absolutely denied our request for a broom. But not to worry, Rosalyn did her part by picking up pieces off the floor to snack on.

We headed home for a post-donut nap for the tiny human while we worked on some birthday cake action. Her birthday party was St Paddy’s themed and I had these lofty dreams of decorating a cake with a sliced fruit rainbow to accompany the little gold coin cupcakes. But when I was removing the cakes from the pans it quickly became a giant crumbly mess due to my impatience. Enter sprinkles. Sprinkles hide a multitude of baking sins. Sprinkles on everything!

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Later that afternoon we headed to the aquarium and it suddenly hit me that our time with her as a freebie ticket to places like this is starting to run out. We need to go to the zoo ASAP.

Did you know Rosalyn is incredibly tiny compared to a Beluga whale?

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Now you do.

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Her favorite part was the moving sidewalk. I can’t even blame her, it’s like magic.

The morning we relaxed at home with some oatmeal nut waffles (of course) before her birthday party that afternoon. The waffles were a big hit – steel cut oats, oven toasted pecans, a bit of cinnamon and vanilla. Rosalyn cared not at all about my pretty table setting.

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Her birthday party was so much fun. She loved doling out the tissue paper, squishing fistfuls of sprinkles, and watching her older/cooler cousin Rylee with much adoration of both her motor skills and hair length. One day, Ros.. one day.

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Uh, no thanks.

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And then I made her do this:

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Best. Birthday. Ever. Welcome to one, sweetheart!

 

 

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I look rough these days. 

That’s not fishing for compliments, I promise. I’m not getting down on myself – I’m not even saying it with a negative connotation. It’s not a falsehood nor is it a problem needing to be fixed. It just is. 
A couple of weeks ago, I was having an awesome time with my small family of three. I can’t remember what we were doing. Or what day it was. All I remember is that it was a really bright, happy moment with a lot of love and laughter and, “This is exactly where we are supposed to be.” I felt in love with time and space and all the particles that make us up. It was glittering goodness. 

I went to the restroom, a smile still on my face. A quick glance in the mirror. My smile faltered. But just for one second because it returned even bigger and I laughed. I laughed at this creature staring back at me. Who even is this person? God, this poor woman. Breathing my air, beating my heart. Her skin sags, tired and worn from stretching and emptying out again. Off-color and rough from lack of sleep, water, good nutrition. Grey-blue-yellow circles drag her face down, down, down to the core of the Earth. Stretchy, comfy pants. Flowy, comfy top. Shaggy hair. Someone wrap this woman in a warm blanket and feed her soup! It’s a miracle she’s even standing without assistance, really. 

It was astounding to me in that moment I could look so different than how I felt. Do not misunderstand me, sometimes I do feel exactly how that woman looks. But not all the time. Not anymore.

Sometimes I feel guilty for my appearance not being on my “Shit I Have Together” list (it’s a very short list, by the way). Like I’m doing a disservice to moms everywhere by not breaking the stereotype that we’re all diaper bag toting slobs but-don’t-worry-my-kid-looks-impeccable. Or that strangers (hopefully not friends??) will pity my poor husband for being forever linked to a ball&chain that let herself go. Twenty six is still pretty young, right? Does that mean I still have to be young and cute? Whoops. 

The other day I went totally barefaced to work (not a huge feat considering I usually just have mascara and concealer). Do you want to know how many times someone asked if I was ok? You don’t. It’s embarrassing. Someone even asked if I was pregnant again. Fuck. 

Once more, I had to just laugh. Like, damn Rachel. Nobody ever asks the cute girl if she’s in her first trimester. And why do I weigh less than pre-pregnancy but still have a pooch? Whatever, it makes a pretty comfy seat for my baby. Snapback? No, honey. My rubber band is broken. 

I’ll probably look marginally better when my baby sleeps. But not for long. I cannot escape age. Nor do I want to. Life happens, shit happens and I don’t want to apologize for my soul being in a body that reflects that. I love makeup and I love clothes. But it turns out I don’t mind looking like crap either. 

I’m happy, she’s healthy. And my husband still tries to pinch my butt when he thinks no one is looking.