There are moments when the monster wins

Walking up the stairs with my arms full of laundry and my coffee cup balanced on the top, I tripped.

I didn’t fall, but my knee hit the stairs and I dropped everything. The hot coffee burned the front of me and also managed to get on most of the newly cleaned white clothes I’d been carrying.

On another day, I’d probably laugh or curse. Or maybe I’d do both.

Not today.

Today the tears I’d been holding back came rushing forward violently. Before I knew it, I had to sit as my body convulsed with sobs, the deep kind that take over every inch of your body. I felt like my insides were ripping apart and that nothing could ever be right again.

After a few minutes, I stopped.

Grabbing a white sock to dab my eyes, I started to clean up the mess. I’d have to wash all the clothes again, spray clean the carpet, wipe down the walls and put burn cream on my chest.

I moved through the motions trying to squash down the pain inside and just go forward, but I could feel it clawing at me. Its talons scratching my gut, begging me to just succumb to it.

So, I made my way to my bed. Pulling the covers over my head, I let it come. The pain didn’t disappoint. It was faithful in its ability to crush me and tear at me. I buried my head in my pillow and screamed.

This happens sometimes.

The weight of life just crushes me and everything just becomes too much.

My mind becomes a prison in which I am stuck reliving decisions and fighting against my own reality. Over and over the same records play until I want to smash them against the wall.

Then the fantasy takes over and my mind becomes a blur of alternative realities where I’m not here in this bed screaming in pain, but I’m happy and living a completely different life constructed from dreams of what might have been.

Sadness, disappointment, grief, regrets, guilt and fear all swirl around until it almost becomes a game to see how deeply I can feel.

Then it just stops.

The tears cease, my gut unclenches and I roll onto my back and look at the ceiling. I will myself to slow my breath and to be calm.

I roll onto my side and look at the green walls of my bedroom.

Flashes of the day my husband and I painted it run through my head, along with images of cool forests and tall trees.

I stare at the walls and concentrate on being here.

I’m right here.

Scanning the room, I take in all the little mementos of the life I have.

Moon lanterns made at camp, my collection of old perfume bottles that were my grandmothers, a painting of a creek running through a forest that hung in my childhood home and two large pictures of my children as babies.

My boy. In this picture he has this little drop of drool right on his chin and he is staring straight at the camera. I love looking at those sweet wispy curls and I still get lost in those amazingly bright blue eyes.

My girl. She is wearing this adorable pink knitted bonnet and dress that her grandma made her and is lying on her tummy. Those soft and chubby cheeks fill the picture and I remember how I couldn’t stop kissing them.

Nothing is so bad that I can’t endure.

Sacrifice.

It’s what being grownup is all about.

Sarah: That’s not fair!

Jareth (Goblin king): You say that so often, I wonder what your basis for comparison is?

–Labyrinth

Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

–The Princess Bride

I’m up and writing, but that monster is still calling me back to bed. I can feel its pull, almost hear its talons clicking together in anticipation of ripping at my gut some more. It doesn’t always give me a choice, but today I have some fight in me.

I’m going to fight.

Time to shower and leave my home.

Reinforcements, a good book and coffee, are greatly needed.

Sadly, I am acutely aware that I am not even close to alone in this battle and that so many will relate to this piece. Know that although I am often lost in my war, I am here to support yours. If you need an ally, you’ve found one.

I’m still here.

bridgette

Then again, sometimes things are just bullshit

His hands and feet have always been filthy.

When he was just a few days old, I would look at his tiny nails and wonder at how it was they were always in need of cleaning and cutting. I’d use my teeth to carefully trim them and then gently soak them in water to release the dirt.

As he lay in the hospital bed, I keep looking at his feet. When was the last time I cut those toenails? I need to teach him to take better care of himself.

Guilt courses through me like ice and I lean forward to touch his shoulder. He shudders and frowns at me.

“Stop trying to help me mom. You can’t do anything!”

I hate those words and I frown back.

That can’t be true. I refuse to accept that. I am his mother and I am responsible for everything that happens to him. This is my fault and now I have to fix it. I NEED to make it better.

“Let me rub your head.”

“Your lips look dry, let me put some chap stick on.”

“How about I sing you a song or tell you a story?”

“I love you.”

He screams out in pain again and his body starts to shake.

“Just stop mom! STOP IT! You can’t do anything!!!”

I swallow hard and force myself to keep it together. He needs me to be tough.

All I can do is sit here with him and listen to him cry.

I hate it.

This whole situation is complete bullshit.

Anger bubbles up at the hospital staff and the impossibly slow way they are moving. I hear the nurses discussing another patient and I want to slap them across the face. How can they endure his cries of pain? Why are they not running around helping us? Why are they so calm?

Hours go by and we move through the motions.

X-rays.

IV in the arm.

Painkillers that barely touch the pain.

Confirmation that his wrist is indeed broke in two places.

Crying, shaking and begging for water.

Waiting to be put under.

Heart monitors.

Nurses come and go.

Papers to sign.

Drugs given that I don’t fully understand.

Bones reset by what the doctor calls “barbaric procedure.”

Waking up and wanting all the “tubes out.”

More x-rays.

Waiting to be released.

Paying.

When we finally get into the car, it feels as if we’d been gone for days. We are hungry, tired and emotionally drained. As we cue up in the drive-through for some well-earned milkshakes, I look at my boy in the mirror.

“You know I really wish I could have done something to help you,” I tell him. “I hated seeing you in so much pain.”

“You couldn’t mom,” he says. “There was nothing you could do.”

There it is again.

Bullshit.

It has been a week and he is on the mend. He will get his regular cast on Friday and the pain is under control now.

But I’m stuck. I’ve written and erased this blog post a dozen times. The truth is, I am struggling to understand all the emotions that this event has evoked.

Guilt: I keep replaying his fall off the play structure in my head and I can’t stop blaming myself. After all, it happened after school on my watch. I have told him to not stand on top of the monkey bars about 30,000 times, and I was about to yell at him again when he fell. If only I had.

Fear: My body keeps flooding with the memory of how completely and utterly incompetent I felt as I saw his clearly broken arm. I didn’t know what to do and I am fearful of all the ways it could have been so much worse.

Weakness: Not being able to fix my sons pain or even comfort him made me feel like a very inadequate mother. I don’t recognize this pathetic, uncertain and full of worry mom I am turning into.

Embarrassment: The school is looking at playground safety closer and sent out a note about how parents need to watch their kids after school. Clearly, if I had been a better parent none of this would have happened. Right?

Despite my best efforts, I can’t seem to shake all this crap away and turn it into something positive.

“He learned his lesson,” falls flat and I’m not even sure it’s true.

“I learned my lesson,” puts too much blame on me and it feels icky and wrong.

Really, it was an accident. Kids get hurt all the time and it just happened. There is no lesson or getting over it.

I guess sometimes bullshit is just that.

Bullshit.

Cooper with cast

But at least he is cute.

Turning bullshit into strength

My body won’t go fast enough and I’m angry at myself for being so weak. As I crest each dune, I have to stop and catch my breath.

“Please let him be OK. Please.”

Dark thoughts circle and I try to push them away, but they scream out at me.

“What kind of mother are you to let this happen? What is wrong with you?”

My eyes scan constantly looking for him. I call his name occasionally, but that causes the panic to rise too much.

“He is fine. He is fine. He is fine.”

When I finally climb over the last dune, the entire beach stretches out before me.

ocean

My eyes search for signs of him, but he isn’t there.

My heart drops.

I was sure he would be right here.

Certain of it.

The tears that I’ve been holding back begin to flow and I walk as quickly as I can to the first two people I see. It’s an older couple cuddling on a blanket.

“Have you seen a little boy? He has brown hair, orange and black glasses and was wearing his pajamas?”

The words rush out and I fight back a sob in my throat. I search their faces as they look back and forth between each other.

“No englash,” one finally says.

In frustration, I march away from them and pull myself together. There is no reason to panic. Nothing to be gained by that.

Stay calm.

As I walk down the beach, stopping to ask everyone I see, it becomes clear to me that he isn’t here and hasn’t been here.

Where could he be?

I spot two lifeguards at the top of the pier and start walking that direction. It is time for reinforcements and that realization frightens me. As I walk, I replay the entire morning in my head.

I spent about an hour after breakfast writing some poetry and a short story in the tent while the children explored. I did not know exactly where they were, but I knew they were fine. We have been to the Bodega Dunes campground about a dozen times now and I feel very comfortable there. Each time we go, I extend the boundaries a bit more.

Camping is one of the few times I feel my kids get to experience that true feeling of adventure and freedom. But it is a tricky balancing act between trusting they will be fine and knowing that it is my duty to protect them from harm. I might always seem very calm on the outside, but I’m often waging a war in my head.

“He is getting really high in that tree. A fall now might be fatal, but he is a good climber. I should trust that, but I’m scared. I can’t watch.”

“The kids have been gone too long. I know they are having fun and they are together. I’m certain they are fine, but what if they are not? How would I know when to look for them? Maybe I’m trusting them too much.”

“She is swimming pretty far out in the water, if she starts to drown now I won’t be able to make it in time. I should call her back…but I want her to be confident. She is doing really good.”

That morning, they came back on their own to check in and I felt very good about the day. We decided to spend the afternoon at the beach, so I needed to pack up some food, sunscreen and towels. I tell my boy to stay nearby and to get dressed for the beach.

“I don’t want to go to the beach right now,” he says.

“Well, that’s not an option. We are all going together, so don’t go too far.”

I busy myself with packing and then realize he is gone. We wait about 30 minutes for him to return and he does not. That’s when I start circling the campground looking for him.

That was nearly three hours ago, and the calm is fading away. The darkness is taking over.

I reach the pier and walk up to the life guards.

“My son is missing,” I tell them without tears. All business.

One man asks me a series of questions and I answer them. He writes details about my boy on his hand.

9 years old

brown hair

glasses

pajamas

missing 3 hours

It’s all so casual, as if I’m ordering up tacos or making a grocery list.

It’s all so slow and calm.

I want to scream.

I want to cry.

I want my boy.

The other man is scanning the beach as we talk.

“Is that him?” he asks.

“Where?” I say.

“Over there, by the water. Looks to be a nine-year-old boy.”

“I can’t tell this far away, looks like an adult to me.”

“Nope. Definitely a kid.”

He jumps off the pier and runs in the direction of the shadowy figure walking with a stick. When he reaches him, he waves at me. It’s my boy.

Thank you God. Thank you.

We walk toward each other. When I reach him, he has been crying, he is covered in sweat and we both hug each other.

“Don’t you EVER do that again! What where you thinking?” I begin.

He stops crying and explains. While our friends planned to drive all the stuff to the beach, the kids and I were going to make the long hike there. He made the decision to just go on his own, so he could explore and continue the game he was playing. He made it there, but couldn’t find us and tried to hike back. That’s when he got lost. He wandered the dunes for a long time and had just made it back to the beach. His plan was now to get help.

“Did you learn a lesson?” I ask him.

“I’m sorry mommy. I love you.”

I want to be mad and scream, but I can’t. I’m so grateful he is safe that I just want to love on him. While we wait for friends to arrive with food and water for us both, I playfully bury him in the sand with only his head and feet sticking out.

“You’re never leaving my side again,” I tell him.

coopinthesandWe play at the beach for a short time, but we are getting sunburned. All our beach supplies are back at the campground. Our friends are driving back, but my boy wants to take the trail and see where he made the wrong turns. I think it could be good closure, so I agree.

I hold both my children’s hands as we head up the first dune. Right away I know this is a mistake. I almost cry when I get to the top as my lungs scream out in protest. My daughter decides to take this moment to fight with her brother about who is going to be second in line. My son then complains that he is hot. They both then start a barrage of whining that makes me vibrate with anger.

I grab the walking stick my boy has been using and bang it against a rock as hard as I can until it breaks into tiny pieces.

“This day is complete and utter bullshit.”

Silence.

“Mom you just said…” my boy begins.

“I know what I said. It’s true. Today has been a bullshit day. I hate today. This is not how I wanted things to go. It’s BULLSHIT!”

I scream it loud and the kids giggle and look nervously at each other.

“Say it,” I tell them. “Scream it!”

“Really?” they both ask.

“Yes, scream bullshit. I think you will feel better.”

We all yell together.

“BULLSHIT!”

We start hiking in silence and occasionally the kids mutter bullshit under their breath. I start to feel bad about this outburst and realize I need to change it. We have lived with that feeling enough.

I stop and turn to them both.

“You know what?” I say. “Today was bullshit, but let’s change it. We are strong. Do you know how much we hiked today? What we have overcome? We are strong. Let’s say that.”

They have skeptical looks, but we do it.

“I AM STRONG!”

It takes some time to hike back and we get turned around. It really is an impossibly complicated maze of trails. But we laugh, have fun and feel strong together.

We turn bullshit into strength.

It’s not perfect and it might seem insane to some, but I’m feeling proud of myself for how I handled things.

Life is filled with so many moments that will just bury you if you let them. You have to dig deep and find it within yourself to focus on the strength.

I could have chosen to spend that hike yelling at my boy and punishing him. I could have made him feel terrible or filled him with shame and fear. I could have allowed my pain to envelope all of us and cloud everything after that.

But I made another choice and for that I am truly proud.

photo

Sometimes things are as beautiful as a rose

RoseAs we walk around the blacktop, her little hand in mine, I can feel her body tense up.

She was fine all morning, but the reality is here.

We stop and she looks at me. Her new haircut frames her face in the light perfectly and it hits me how completely I know her, how intimate we are without words.

Her eyes tell me all the fears she carries right below the surface.

“I’m scared.”

“Nobody will be my friend.”

“I’ll miss you.”

“I don’t like this.”

I smile at her and then squeeze her hand gently three times in mine.

“I love you.”

She squeezes back four.

“I love you too.”

We walk more. Both of us look forward, lost in our own thoughts and emotions.

Does she know how I feel, I wonder? Are my eyes telling her all the fears I carry close?

“I’m scared.”

“I don’t want to be alone all day.”

“I’m going to miss you.”

“I don’t like this.”

Before I know it, her teacher is playing a harmonica and signaling it is time to lineup. I stand back with all the other parents.

She stares at me from the line and I ask if she wants a kiss. She makes fishy lips and we both laugh.

I walk over, give her a quick hug and kiss, and then stand back to watch her walk to her new classroom.

I follow her like a lost puppy and then I’m temporarily struck.

My little sidekick is going away.

She won’t be with me most of the day anymore.

I’m going to be alone.

I really, really don’t like this.

When we get to the door, I watch her teacher. He stands on his knees so he is at eye level, he takes her hand into his and he welcomes her with so much kindness and genuine love.

His words from an e-mail the night before pop into my head: “I will do my best to take good care of your hearts, and then you will come and pick them up at the end of day.”

Yes.

I take a deep breath and I let it go slowly.

I don’t cry. I don’t even feel sad anymore.

Before I have time to really examine my feelings, this wonderful teacher invites all the parents to walk in and see the children at their desks.

My girl is in the front row, paying attention to him talking and she is perfectly at home there. The classroom is warm, inviting and feels so right.

This is good.

If you’re unfamiliar with Waldorf school, entering first grade is huge. This class will be together until they leave the school in eighth grade. I really couldn’t have asked for a better environment for my sweet, sensitive girl.

This is going to be wonderful.

I walk out and actually feel excited.

For us both.

She will learn to read.

I will learn to run.

She will learn to knit.

I will learn to write a book.

She will learn how to be out in the world and make friends.

I will learn how to have goals and reach for them again.

It’s going to be a good year for us both and I’m really happy.

The first day of Waldorf school includes an opening day ceremony where the eighth graders welcome the first graders with a rose. We are at a new campus this year that only goes up to fourth grade, my son’s class.

When I found out my boy would be handing his sister a rose, it was as if the universe was giving me a gigantic hug.

We all head to the tiny outdoor amphitheater. So many familiar faces, hugs and smiles. The ceremony begins with the teachers and staff singing a lovely song about harmony and unity.

Then my son’s gorgeous teacher, who I adore beyond words, strums the guitar and leads the entire school in singing:

“From you I receive

To you I give

Together we share

By this we live”

rose2

As we all sing, my sweet boy hands his sister a beautiful white rose and they walk together across the stage. I feel giddy, silly and almost break into hysterical laughter.

My life is shifting in so many ways right now and this one moment, one rose given to another, seems to symbolize all that is good and wonderful in my life.

The ceremony is over and I get in my car. I have friends to see, errands to run and freedom to feel.

Yes, freedom.

I’m opening myself up to what might be. I’m saying yes to opportunities, allowing myself to be vulnerable and releasing all the anxieties that hold me back.

This is scary, but it is going to be amazing.

 

The monster strikes at midnight

“Mommy! Mom! Help!”

Jolted awake, I sit up in bed. I look at the clock and think it must have been a dream. Just as I settle back onto my pillow, I hear the most frightening scream.

“Mom! Help me! I’m so scared. Where are you?”

The sound of his voice sends me bolting out my bedroom door. His panic and intensity scares me so much that I almost fall.

I look in his room and he isn’t there.

His voice sounds far away and I start to panic.

“Where are you?” I yell.

“Downstairs bathroom! Hurry mom! Help me!”

Heart pounding I leap down the stairs and run toward the bathroom. As I do, horrible images enter my head and it feels like an eternity until I reach him.

There he is. Sitting on the toilet. He is completely naked. Tears are streaming down his face and he is shaking.

“Why are you downstairs? What is wrong?” I yell.

My husband enters the bathroom right behind me. I hear my daughter calling out now from her bed.

“What is wrong?” I yell again.

“I was going to the bathroom and then this terrible, scary bug came at me,” he sobs. “I was screaming for you forever. I think it’s by the door now. I am so scared.”

We look near the door and see it.

Another fucking centipede.

You have to be kidding me.

I cradle him in my arms and calm him down.

“It’s OK,” I say. “Daddy will kill it. It’s just a bug. Your safe.”

My husband jumps into super protector mode and kills it with a broom. I gather it up with toilet paper and we flush it down the toilet.

I follow my boy into his bedroom. He grabs his panda, snuggles under the covers and slowly starts to settle down.

“Don’t you EVER do that to me again,” I tell him.

“Sorry mommy,” he says. “I was so scared.”

“I know love, I know.”

After his breath returns to normal and he is settled in, I quickly check on my daughter and head to bed.

The second I enter the safety of my room I start to laugh hysterically.

It’s just all so ridiculous.

In a matter of seconds the laughs turn into sobs.

Big, giant sobs that take me down.

My husband looks on in confusion, and I can’t explain it.

Sometimes it’s all just too much.

I spent my afternoon holding a dear friend who had fallen hard into the darkness and weight of depression and pain. It was a dark day and it scared me.

I know that feeling.

I fear it.

I pray it never returns.

I go to therapy every week to keep from letting it take hold of me again.

When I get home I see the news of the death of Robin Williams.

Bam.

Pow.

Ouch.

Here it is again.

Depression isn’t something to be taken lightly or that can be “willed away” by people who love you.

Sometimes all the good, wonderful things in the world aren’t enough.

The pain can be deeper and more pervasive than love.

I sit and weep for my friend, for others who have lost the battle and for myself.

After a few minutes I stop.

I go back to my son, grab him up and hug him hard. He returns it with full force.

“I love you so much,” I tell him. “You know that right?”

He smiles and makes his sweet little cooing sound.

“Yep. I love you momma.”

Today is another day.

cooper

NOTE: I have been humbled by all the love and support that has poured my way regarding “Exposed by my children for what I really look like.” I can’t answer all your emails, but know that I’m grateful to each and every one of you that have written me. May you all see your beauty and embrace it.

The saga of the magical blue unicorn

I have to admit it. She is pretty glorious.

That silver-flecked mane, fuzzy blue fur and pretty pink hooves can cause fits of “ahhs” in most anyone. Then, if you hug her, you’re just done for.

It’s over.

She owns you.

I do think her silver horn with pink rings is a bit tattered. But the ridiculous softness of her muzzle on your cheek makes you forget all about that.

Lately though, she has caused a major upheaval in our happy home and I’m frankly ready to send her packing.

We have a history so it’s hard to just toss her out on her furry blue stuffed bum. But I’m close.

So very close.

Maybe I should start at the beginning of this sordid tale. It all began at a garage sale about four years ago.

“You aren’t getting another stuffed animal,” I tell my kids as we cruise around the neighborhood. “Books, yes. Stuffies, no.”

My children have a very severe stuffed animal addiction.

I’m not kidding.

Seriously, I have never known two children to be more stuffed animal obsessed than these two.

They have “stuffy pits” in their rooms and boxes in the garage of the second-string stuffed animals that get rotated in and out of the pit.

I wish I made that up.

I created this mess, but it is beyond me now.

I’m fairly certain both my children will be carrying a beloved stuffed animal down the aisle with them when they get married.

It’s happening.

Back to the day of the garage sale:

“No stuffies,” I repeat over and over at each house as both children hold up an array of ratty-looking animals proclaiming things like:

“I don’t have a skunk stuffy!”

“But look at his eyes mom!”

“This one told me he NEEDS me!”

I stayed strong and we almost made it home with a few new books.

That was until my boy saw her.

She was sitting on a blanket in the grass, her mane sparkling in the morning light. He danced over to her, swept her into his arms and literally cooed.

I swear. It was a coo.

I braced myself for what I knew was coming.

“Oh mom,” he started. “She is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Just look at her. I need this unicorn. She needs me. I have to have her.”

This is when something crazy shifts in my head.

My adorable little boy is begging me for a pink and blue unicorn. The sweetness/cuteness factor was too high. I tried to resist. I did.

Then he kissed her and hugged her so tight that I thought my heart would burst.

Damn it.

We are getting another stuffed animal.

She was the light of his life for about a month and then she was replaced by some other favorite. Although she wasn’t his “number one” anymore, she never left his bed – the place of honor and love reserved for the best of the best.

Then one day, about a year ago, his sister took her and started to play with her.

“I love her!” she proclaimed over and over.

My boy, in an attempt to feel like he is growing up, gave Miss Unicorn to his sister.

“Really brother?” she said and then cooed.

I swear. She cooed too.

“Yeah,” he said. “She is yours now.”

I could see the look of doubt and regret right away, but his need to feel older and like a super brother won out.

That day.

Since then, there has been a serious of feuds regarding the ownership and care of this beloved unicorn.

“I found her on your floor!”

“You gave her to me!”

“You don’t give her enough attention!”

“You gave her to me!”

“She loves me more!”

“You gave her to me!”

“I wish I never let her go!”

“You gave her to me!”

Buckets of tears and many yelling matches later, sister has held tight to her claim.

It’s been clear to me that she has no real attachment, but that she doesn’t want to give into her brothers desire. Because, clearly, “he gave her to me!”

Yes. I certainly get that.

My parenting philosophy on kids fighting is to stay out of it unless it comes to blows or until I can’t stand to hear it anymore.

Then I storm in, yell and everyone ends up fuming alone in their rooms.

Mother of the year.

Yesterday the unicorn battle flared up again and I thought my head would explode.

“That’s enough!” someone (who sounded suspiciously like me) yelled very loudly. “Everyone just stop talking! Rooms! Now!”

Miss Unicorn then went into a secure location to recover from the trauma of it all. I considered never, ever letting her out.

You’ve caused your last fight you sparkly-mane troublemaker.

Then this morning happened.

My boy was sad. He is going through an emotional growth phase, 9-year-old stuff, and he woke up feeling overwhelmed by everything today. He lay on the living room floor feeling the weight of life and crying his eyes out.

I lifted him up, blanket and all, and cradled him on the couch. (No small feat, anymore. He is getting enormous.)

As I was comforting him, here comes sister with Miss Unicorn.

My brain went into a tirade.

Are you freaking kidding me? Please don’t start this shit. Don’t you see how sad he is! Really? What is wrong with you?

She comes right up to us and rubs the unicorns muzzle on his cheek. She uses the horn to wipe away his tears and smiles at her brother.

“You can have her back,” she says. “Don’t be sad.”

He smiles and hugs the unicorn tight.

“I love you,” they both say at the same time.

I may have cooed.

Thank you magical unicorn.

unicorn

An hour later.

“Well, maybe we can share him?”

“No. I don’t want to do that.”

Shit.

Today my arms really ache

securedownloadShe hands him to me and he fits perfectly in the curve of my arms. I feel the warmth of his head and the weight of his body.

He tenses up and wrinkles his forehead. His fists sway near his face in that uncontrolled manner of the newborn.

Some ancient motherly instinct kicks in immediately and my body moves its familiar dance. Sway. Rock. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Heartbeat.

Breath.

Love.

His small body relaxes, his face calms and his hands settle quietly in a perfect pose against his faultless cheeks.

There is nothing like holding a baby.

As I take in everything about him, my sweet nephew, I start to feel that ache from deep inside scream out to me again.

Quiet I tell it.

My daughter and son run by in a rush of swords and energy. They sweep through the room and they are so loud. He wrinkles up his forehead again as he takes in the kids he will someday play with.

Quiet I tell them.

They run out screaming battle cries and erupting into laughter.

I focus on the beautiful new life in my arms and all at once it becomes too much.

I will never have another baby.

The reality of that hits me hard in the stomach and I fight back tears.

Quiet down.

I know in my heart that I am blessed more than some. I had two amazing pregnancies and births. I held, slept and nursed my babies constantly and I don’t regret a single second of any of it.

I got to experience all the joys of babyhood.

Twice.

There are those close to me that have never had the chance, some whose path to motherhood was anything but easy and others who have given up all hope.

My heart breaks for them and the injustice of it all.

Soon my mind is racing with crazy possibilities. Surrogacy. Vasectomy-reversal. Adoption. Become a midwife. Foster kids.

I grasp toward anything but acceptance and peace.

Quiet down, I whisper to myself.

The baby shifts in my arms and I lean down to kiss his soft head and take in his smells. He makes cooing noises and I smile.

I look at my sister and her husband and they are positively glowing. This is their time. Their journey is just beginning and it makes me so happy. I think about all the joys and struggles ahead of them and my heart feels like it will burst with excitement.

There is nothing like holding a baby and I’m filled with gratitude toward these young, new parents. They drove over so I could hold him and they delight in sharing their bliss with me.

He stirs in my arms and I know that others are waiting a turn to hold him.

Just one more minute, I plead.

Just. One. More.

My arms are empty again and they ache so much. My yearning is deep, primal and painful. It fills me with such a sense of loss that I find it impossible to explain or convey to my husband.

I know the acceptance will come. It must.

But today, alone in my quiet bedroom, I’m going to let the tears flow.

I will never have another baby.