Archive | Motherhood

The Reason I Write

The Reason I Write | kaileenelise.com

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”
(Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear)

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. In journals. In letters. In essays and poems. In newsletters and blog posts. I started kaileenelise.com in 2009 as an escape from my day job. I wrote from coffee shops before going into work. On my lunch breaks I scrolled through Twitter and read the archives of my favorite sites. I connected with women from all over who were also seeking creativity, inspiration, and a little peace in our everyday.

Writing has always been there for me. I like how it transports me back in time to revisit memories through a new lens. How it propels me into my future hopes and dreams. How researching an idea feels like swimming far below the surface. How sharing what I’ve written can feel like coming up for air.

When my hands are on my keyboard, or my pen is pressed firmly onto the page, the chatter in my mind slows down. When I’m searching for the thoughts, the words, the details and feelings, I take deep breaths. The kind that lift my chest, expand my rib cage, and expose my heart.

I write because it’s cheap therapy. I write because I like to hear myself talk. I write because it feels good to start at zero and end up somewhere else. I write because of the rare occasion when the words magically spill out onto the page or screen and leave me feeling like they came from somewhere else. I write because whenever I take a break from writing, my mind gets soggy and my heart starts to harden.

All of these reasons are insignificant compared to the biggest reason of all. And it’s the one I always forget about, like when you’ve seen a movie a thousand times, but aren’t quite sure what happens at the end until you watch it once more.

I write because revisiting my words – weeks, months, or years later – grounds me, roots me, connects me to myself and the universe in a way nothing else ever has.

A few days ago I was cleaning up my files and sorting through a dozen half-written essays when I came upon this,

My sweet Baby O is seven weeks and two days old and our lives as a family of three have settled into an unpredictable rhythm. We can count on the sunsets and sunrises to mark time. There are coos, smiles, diaper changes, cries for help, endless feedings, and moments when I stop to wonder how we got so lucky. They say having a child will change you, and of course I knew that the very second the pregnancy test was positive, but it’s impossible to know how.

I am so new at this. I don’t know what I’m doing or what’s around the corner. But lately I’ve noticed a voice within that is calling me to be better. Ground, calm, gentle, nice. These aren’t traits at the top of my list of strengths, but now that I’m this baby’s mama, all I want to do is shed my rough edges and be soft.

This, my dear friends, is the reason I write.

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Too Tired for Anything but Real Housewives

Too Tired | kaileenelise.com

“There never was a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep.”
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

The dishes are done, the baby is down, and my bra is off. I slump onto the couch and a long list of “shoulds” rushes over me.

Soak the onesie in OxiClean from today’s experiment with beets. Meal plan. Write the grocery list. Catch up on months 7, 8, and 9 in the baby book. Order photos from the last three professional photo sessions. Unsubscribe from all the junk mail that’s overcrowding our recycling bin. Send those prints off to Framebridge. Clean out my closet. Start planning our summer trip. Finish reading that book. Finish writing this essay.

The “less than necessary” and “must be done” buzz and swirl around me like a busy bee. I swat them away and reach for my second glass of wine.

My bones ache. My muscles groan. My hair is falling out by the handfuls. I’m nearly ten months postpartum, but my body feels like someone else’s on a regular basis. And it often feels like I’m living someone else’s life… because I am.

All day I’m on his schedule. I anticipate his needs, decipher his cries from coos. When he wakes up, I spring into action. When I see him fading, I pounce into our “sleepy routine” and use Jedi mind tricks to lull him to sleep.

Dressing him is like wrestling a tiger. Changing diapers is like pinning an alligator. Mealtime is like feeding a snapping turtle. Motherhood, at this age, is a full contact sport and my battery drains hour by hour until my next cup of lukewarm coffee.

In the early days when my son was a cuddly little creature who didn’t know day from night, I found comfort in the stillness of 3am feedings. That was when I got a break from the “shoulds” and settled into a space that was just me and my baby. Even on the worst nights when I felt like I was the only mother in the world who was ever this exhausted, this confused, this overwhelmed… I knew the summer sun would rise in the morning. Each day was a fresh chance to do it all again, a little better this time.

As my son grew from brand new baby to infant, the seasons shifted. Winter came and with it a dark blanket of sleep deprivation covered me. After 5 or 6 months of not sleeping, it is no longer cute or sweet or darling to wake up several times through the night. I was exhausted, but staying up later and later. I was searching for that stillness from before.

One of those nights, I was lounging on the couch, scrolling through my Instagram feed, with the TV on and my glass of wine close by. As my husband headed upstairs for the night he asked, “Honey, why don’t you just go to bed?”

Because all day I’ve been living his little life. I get to live mine when he’s sleeping. And sometimes, most of the time, I’m too tired for anything but Real Housewives.

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Soothe Yourself

Soothe Yourself | kaileenelise.com

“The life of a mother is the life of a child: you are two blossoms on a single branch.”
(Karen Maezen Miller, Momma Zen)

I babysat a lot growing up. In high school I was one of the only older girls in a neighborhood full of young families. Any weekend I was free and wanted to work, I had a job. I loved playing with the little kids, but babies were my jam. I spent so many nights rocking sleeping babies and dreaming of what my life might be like someday.

When I imagined being a mama, I thought of soft blankets and board books, bouncing balls and towers of blocks. In my imagination, the diapers and messes, tantrums and late nights were someone else’s problem. In my imagination, I decorated the nursery and playroom while someone else handled the mounds of laundry. In my imagination, I cooked delicious, organic baby food. Someone else went to the grocery store and washed the dishes.

When I was pregnant, I did a lot to prepare for labor and delivery. I took classes, read books, and listened to podcasts. I went for long walks, did special stretches, and practiced breathing techniques. I hired a doula and wrote up a birth plan. I started each morning with positive mantras and went to bed each night visualizing a smooth birth.

I filled our freezer with home cooked meals, made postpartum baskets for the bathrooms, and stocked my closet with cozy clothes. I decorated the nursery to please myself… not my baby. It felt like a selfish indulgence, but this was a room I’d been dreaming about for years. I figured he’d eventually have opinions about these things. Best take advantage of being able to choose a theme of neutrals with pops of gold over a clashing mix of trains and trucks and PAW Patrol.

In college I earned my degree in Elementary Education. I loved organizing supplies, creating lessons and leading the classroom. I was good at breaking down big ideas in ways the little ones could understand. I didn’t have to teach to a test, interact with parents, or deal with school politics. Instead, I got to sparkle with the brilliance of a shiny, young student teacher.

Before becoming a mama, I had a secret thought about motherhood. I believed my babysitting experience and college degree were excellent preparation, advanced studies for the well-adjusted parent. I wiped poopy butts and snotty noses. I answered silly questions and commanded the attention of twenty kindergarteners. Deep inside, I was smugly confident I wouldn’t just be good at mothering, I would totally rock it.

These pieces of me float around my mind, each one trying to reconcile the other. All the things I thought I knew. All the things I imagined I’d become. All the stories from my past. All the dreams for my future. I never realized motherhood would bring about so much learning. I thought for sure I would be the one teaching my son, but now I see it’s the other way around. I’m clueless. I’m a beginner. There is so much I do not know.

When things are hard, I see myself trying everything to soothe my baby. I tell him he’s ok. I say it’s alright. I’m sorry your teeth hurt, that you bonked your little head, that the yogurt tastes too sour, that the grass itches your feet, that you are scared of that ball. I’m sorry I don’t know what to do, but I’m here and I’m trying.

As I bounce him and sing to him and try to soothe him, I find that I’m soothing myself. All those past versions of me line up and wait for a turn… for a hug, a kiss on the cheek, a bolstering up, a song to fall asleep to. And even though I am nearly 32, I realize that as I’m raising him, I’m raising myself.

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