Your Last 24

Republished at: https://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2019/04/a-patients-last-24-hours.html

There are those 25 minutes before my work day begins that I either drive in silence, or blare the radio and jam out to pop hits priming myself for the unexpected hours ahead. When the music is loud and the tempo is upbeat, it transports me back to being 21 on a summer day in Chicago, before kids and bills, headed nowhere too important, definitely not too fast, stuck in traffic on Lake Shore Drive. But lately, I’ve trended more towards driving in silence. Calmed by the gentle hum of the engine, feeling the gentle pull of the turns in the road, letting my mind settle. And lately, my mind has been on you.

My heart settles into a dull ache. It pulls me in and hollows me out. I feel unjustified in feeling this way. These are not my feelings to feel. These are not my emotions to own and declare. There are people more deserving of telling this story. It is not me. But here I am. These emotions clinging onto me for the past 5 weeks now, and I don’t want it just to be in my mind. I don’t want this hollowness in my chest to go unidentified. It means too much. So, I’m going to talk about you.

I met you on a busy night in the emergency department. You were short of breath, you were sweaty, your heart rate was going too fast. I thought within seconds of meeting you, “He is sick.”

When emergency medicine providers say someone is sick, it doesn’t mean the usual sick.  We do not throw around the word “sick” haphazardly.  It does not mean you have the sniffles, or a bad cough, or fever, or appendicitis, or a broken leg. When we say “sick”, we are on high alert. Our heads turn.  Our focus shifts from everyone else in the emergency department to you. You are the one that needs us most. We will take care of everyone else, but you have taken priority over everything else that must be done. Bluntly put, when we say “sick”, we realize–perhaps before you do–that you are struggling for your life.  We are worried that you may get worse and die.

Everything had happened so suddenly, your wife told me. You had seemed fine. Maybe a little fever. Maybe a bit of body aches. Then tonight, you were suddenly short of breath. Sweating. Feeling your heart beat out of your chest.   You have no idea what suddenly changed. I don’t want to get into the medical specifics. Though I replay them over and over in my mind. I pour over your chart again and again. What more could I have done? I’ve talked to my closest colleagues. I’ve lay in bed at night and replayed everything.

I remember exactly how you looked when I walked in the room. I remember your wife sitting there on the edge of her seat.   I remember you said you have three kids. Two boys and a girl. I remember how old they are. I remember the name of your youngest. I remember the puzzled look your wife gave me, “What is going on?” I remember explaining to the both of you what was happening. How infection was taking over your body, taking over your organs, shutting down your body. You asked me how long you would be in the emergency department. I explained you needed to be admitted to the intensive care unit. You both were a bit puzzled. How could a healthy 43-year-old become sick so fast? I explained that I was worried about you.

I don’t worry about a lot in the emergency department. I can handle it. I can fix it. But you. I was worried about. I did everything my training had taught me to do.  You were getting better. I felt slight hope that maybe things would turn around. You were admitted to the intensive care unit.

The next day, I checked on your chart when I got to work. You had died.

You have a beautiful wife. You have three amazing kids. You are the nicest of people. You are hard working.

You are no longer with us.

My heart aches. My heart aches, but when it aches, it is an unworthy ache. Because the heart ache of those that love you, those that were your life: your wife, your children, your parents, your siblings, your nieces and nephews, those are the ones that are truly hurting. And this makes my heart ache more. I wish you were alive. They wish so more than my words can do justice.

I did everything I knew how to.  But it wasn’t enough to save your life.  I wish I could have done more. I am so, so sorry.

I was maybe one of the final ten people you met in your life. For you, I was only part of those last 24 hours. For me, you will be in my heart a lifetime. I can’t even say this without grimacing, because what you mean to me doesn’t even compare to those that love you most. But I just want you to know, you have affected me. You will stay with me. You will live on in every one you touched along the way. Even in your last 24 hours of life.

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A Work Day That Ends in Sushi

Previously published on:  http://www.coffeeandcrumbs.net/blog/2016/4/8/a-work-day-that-ends-in-sushi

My husband and I waited seven years to get married; in those months after we became engaged, before I even picked my dress or wedding colors, I had already started planning for the family that occupied our daydreams. We’d have three kids; I was sure of it. We would have two boys and one girl. Of course, our baby girl would be the youngest so she would have two older, protective brothers. They would come on cue two years apart.

Instead, I picked my strapless A-line dress, we settled on red roses and ivory linens with gold trim, we got married, and we had six miscarriages.

I would get pregnant, and just as we would allow ourselves that hopeful glimpse of the first trimester final stretch, I would miscarry. It was crushing. Yet it became a cycle that I became all too familiar with. My emotions became a pattern of predictability: excitement, anxiety, devastation.

By my third miscarriage, the emotional strain of losing each baby I had lovingly carried  brought me to the point of buckle-at-the-knees desperation . . . followed by a sinking relief. I felt relief that I wouldn’t have to wake up another morning asking, is my baby’s heart still beating? I would let my anxiety wash away, replaced by a heaviness in my heart, and almost a strange sense of peace. It was a dark place to be, but a familiar dark place. A place that I could control.

In the midst of uncertainty, I even developed a miscarriage routine. Routine was something I could do. And something I could do well, on my terms. It was a way to say, “I got this.” Even if I didn’t.

 I would realize I was miscarrying, and continue through my day. Continue to care for other people, to smile and joke, when inside, I was hurting so much. I was thinking, “I know you are hurting, patient-in-my-emergency-department, and please be assured I will do my best to take care of you, but you see, what I can’t tell you is that my baby is dying and I am hurting too.”

My baby is dying right now as I stitch up this cut on your finger. My baby is dying while I try to figure out why you are having abdominal pain. My baby is dying while I tell your loved ones you are having a heart attack. My baby is dying and I can’t take care of her the way I can take care of you.  My baby is dying and no one knows it but me.

After work, I would call my husband, then stop to get the sushi I had craved since learning I was pregnant. I would go home and focus on the pain of my cramps, because that was exponentially easier than acknowledging my broken heart. When everything passed, I would mentally brush my hands off and ready myself for the next time. That was my routine. My miscarriage routine.

I was riddled with guilt over everything about it.

During this two-year period, I felt like a failure. I felt like a weak woman. I felt I was doing something wrong. I felt it was my fault. I felt guilty. I felt inadequate. I felt out of control. I felt ashamed. I had never felt so vulnerable and nothing had ever felt so personal.

A year into the process, I went to an infertility specialist and received the million-dollar work-up. Nothing was wrong. How could nothing be wrong? But test after test confirmed that, “Congratulations! Nothing is wrong!” Translation: there is nothing we can fix. I was started on this medication and that medication, because “It’s worth trying.” I was hopeful, but hopeless. I was exhausted from this constant testing of my emotional strength.

And then it was our seventh pregnancy, and this time–twins!!!! Twins!!! My excitement was quickly followed by a flood of anxiety. My husband and I kept our news to ourselves. We held our breaths.   We had been through this. We tiptoed around our fears, whispering to one another, stifling the excitement we held in our glances towards one another, and we waited. And waited. And my belly grew. And I had no cramps. And I had no bleeding. And I saw their heartbeats. Time and time again.

The infertility specialist said we didn’t need him anymore. I sat still in his clean, slightly-dated office, in the same blue upholstered chair with its thin wooden arm rests, the same chair I had sat in for two years, staring at the same framed picture of him and some big fish he had caught with his nephew, and I weighed the heaviness of his words. Then I broke down in wave after wave of tears. We didn’t need our infertility specialist anymore.

We passed three months. And four months. And five, and six, and seven, and eight!!!!! And two healthy beautiful babies were born.  They are beautiful to this day. I stare at them sometimes, and marvel at how they came to be.

Sometimes when I am tucking in my five-year-old daughter at night, I tell her, “Do you know that you are more beautiful than I could have ever imagined?” What I mean to say is, everything about her existence is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.

When we decided to have a third, I was ready for the journey. I was nervous of going through the process again, but having had our twins, I knew it was more than worth it. The day we decided we wanted to try again, I put up my defenses against my own emotions.

Five weeks later, just like that, we found out we were pregnant. I braced myself. I was fearful this would become another pregnancy that would fall victim to my routine. I went in for ultrasounds every week. Week after week, there was a heartbeat—I couldn’t believe my ears. And then our beautiful baby girl came into our lives seemingly seamlessly. It was too good to be true, but it is true.

These three beautiful babies of ours.

I realize now after eight pregnancies and three babies and innumerable dreams for our family, there is nothing to be ashamed of. There never was. There was nothing I failed at.

 These days, when I see the chief complaint of “possible miscarriage” show up in my emergency department, I want to see that patient. Not because I can provide better care than my colleagues, but because I want to share my story. Mother to mother. I want to give them hope and I want them to know they are not alone. I am unashamed of the tears that fall from my face when I share in their grief and acknowledge my own. I want them to know it is okay to grieve and natural to feel defeated, and then it is okay to hope again when you are ready.

Sushi has once again become my favorite food. When I eat it now, it doesn’t taste the way it once did. I don’t feel like I am swallowing heartache, loss, and failure. These days, when I stop for sushi at the end of a long day, I bring it home to share with my three children and husband. We talk about what was good about our days, what could have been better about our days, what we look forward to tomorrow. It has become our family favorite meal.  No words can express what these days that end with sushi mean to me now.

I am thankful for everything I have been through. It has given me what I have, it has given me who I am, and it has given me what I have to share. And most of all, it has given me and my husband our beautiful, healthy children.

A Memory of Sundresses and Heels

As previously published on:  http://www.scarymommy.com/ever-evolving-marriage/

All of our mornings begin the same. We wake up as if in mid-panic, frantically racing against the clock to brush our teeth, take a quick shower (or sometimes not—thank you, top knot, for being on trend at this season in my life), throw on some clothes and get the kids ready for school. Sometimes we tag team, sometimes one of us has been up way too late with work and one of us takes the morning duties, sometimes we both have been up way too late and we both take the morning duties, or one of us takes one for the team and let’s the other sleep a little longer.

This particular morning, I can’t remember who was up late or if we were both up late, but we both got up in a frenzy, bleary-eyed, hurriedly getting ready for the day ahead. At one point, I remember being half-ready, opening a dresser drawer to grab a shirt as my husband passed by hurriedly pulling his undershirt over his head. I thought about how we have evolved.   Six years ago, there would probably have been a pause, a flirty comment about his half-dressed wife, or a playful kiss or hug. This morning, like every morning, there was a sense of immediacy. There were demands that needed to be met before it was too late, and we were already waking up, mid-rush. Our three kids’ teeth needed to be brushed, they needed help getting this arm in this sleeve or that button buttoned, and our littlest needed her nighttime diaper changed as its bulging bottom taunted us with what would happen if we waited. There was breakfast that needed to be prepped, and hair that needed to be combed and put in braids. There was my husband that needed to be ready to go to work, and my need to at least have my teeth brushed and no remnants of yesterday’s mascara under my eyes when I dropped them off in the morning. It was our morning routine of the race against time.

Yes, today, our day-to-day routine and the way we interact in these routines have changed.

I have a vivid memory of walking with my husband through the middle of campus when we were in college. It was a gorgeous mid-morning spring day. I remember the green ivy that added so much richness and life to the brick walls of those old buildings. He was walking me to chemistry class.  I remember realizing that I had forgotten a sweater to pull over my strappy dress because though it was sunny and warm outside, chemistry class was always freezing cold. I remember the gentle, lazy click of my heels on the uneven paver stones. The thing about this memory, is that I was wearing a strappy, floral dress to chemistry class. In heels. And that was who I was when my husband met me. I was this girl that dedicated an hour every morning to blow-drying and curling her hair, to getting ready and wearing little strappy numbers. And heels. Always heels. I could do anything in heels. I could do a four-hour experiment in Physics lab in heels. I could run the entirety of campus in heels. I realize this is not everyone’s college years, but these were mine. And this is the girl my husband got to know 14 years ago.

And today, that person that my husband met is so far from the person I am today. I truly can’t remember the last time I took an hour to get ready. Maybe my best friend’s wedding over the summer? And wasn’t that because we had to figure out how to iron, pin, and drape our saris? I can’t remember the last time I wore heels for more than a short evening out. Which reminds me, I really should get new work sneakers . . . And dresses? Who can live in dresses? Are you insane? The way I am constantly bending down to pick up one kid or the other or squatting to pick up the trail of Cheerios that follows my toddler through life? How would I do this in dresses? My wardrobe of athletic wear and lounge wear run the gamut of colors and seasons and serve me very well on a daily basis . . . and sometimes a two-day-at-a-time basis . . . I think back to that person I was, and can’t imagine how horrified she would be to see me now. Putting on jeans for me on a day off is a good day. Blow-drying my hair? Wow. I MUST have a special event I am going to. It’s not that I don’t take pride in how I present myself, I do try to be healthy, dress appropriately for occasions, and try to stay fit, but today, there are too many stacked priorities to have time for those things that seemed to fill my college days. While getting ready was most certainly once a priority that floated easily in my top five essentials, it has quickly been bumped down by school drop-off, grocery and meal preparation, work meetings and obligations, juggling our schedules, picking up toys and mystery bits of dried food from the floor, days dedicated to my family, laundry, laundry, and laundry.  And laundry.

I think about how relationships and marriages grow. They are ever evolving as our lives change; it fascinates me to think how so many variables can change and one couple still find unity and consistency in one another.  I wonder, does my husband ever think about what happened to that girl he met?  Does he ever wonder if we will ever be those two people who met a decade and a half ago?

Oh. But I already know the answer. There is so much more to what we have now. Right now, we have a family. We have three children with the most beautiful souls. They are kind. They are empathetic. They are considerate. They are full of smiles and happiness and joy. They are well-fed, well-dressed, and well-loved. They love each other and their family. They are these truly wonderful little people because of us.  We have taken the two of us, and have nurtured and entwined ourselves in rich, green ivy, and made it so much better.

I may no longer be that girl in a sundress and heels, but I am so much more. I am the reason we have groceries in our fridge. I am the reason we have healthy prepared meals at dinner time. I am the reason our home is furnished and there is a place for every toy. I am the person that knows where my son left his Batman watch last week. I am the reason that fruit I bought and the leftovers from yesterday will get used in tonight’s meal. I am the reason my daughter will make it to dance class on Thursday on time with her jazz and tap shoes and water bottle. I am the reason my son will start soccer in April. I am the reason our kids have a five-year check-up with their pediatrician tomorrow and the reason their school knows I will be picking them up early to get to that appointment. I am the reason our kids have clothes that fit them and bows that match. I am the reason my kids think women are strong.  I do it far from perfectly, but I am the core of our family. I am the strength, the love, the force.

Do I wonder if he ever truly wonders what happened to that girl he met 14 years ago? No. Not deep down. Because I am still that girl, but I am so much more.  We are so much more.  So, if he passes me again tomorrow morning, and there is no coy, flirty comment made, I know that it is not because anything has changed. It is just that life has evolved. Today, we show our affection in different ways. Did I tell you that last week he let me sleep in and took the kids to school and came back with my usual Starbucks drink order before heading to work? The sheer joy and melt-my-heart ode to our love that hot, steamy caffeinated beverage brought me in my five-hours-of-sleep haze just proved that nothing had truly changed. It just looked different.

My husband and I, we are far from being those college kids we were when we met. We have become an unrelenting team under a mound of responsibilities. This is the season of our lives. And we are the right people for the job. Because underneath it all, we are still two people who love each other deeply and are unwavering in our commitment to our family. We can do this, one day at a time, with a couple short cuts here and there and a couple frantic moments . . .  or daily frantic moments . . . But we will get by, and we will do it with as much respect and love for one another as ever.

 

The Sound of Resiliency

As Previously Published:  http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2016/08/laughter-thats-sound-resiliency-hear.html

Sometimes, the loudest sounds I hear in the emergency department are laughter. It may seem irresponsible. It may seem discordant. It may seem callous. To me, it is the sound of survival. It is the sound of resiliency. It is the sound of making it through the day.

My father was at work when he suddenly became cold, clammy, and collapsed to the ground unresponsive. His staff did the right thing and called 9-1-1. He was rushed by ambulance to the Emergency Department. He had vital signs taken, an EKG done, and blood work drawn. It was an experience that shook my family. My dad on the other hand, was exasperated. He minimizes his health and upon arriving to the Emergency Department, was already scheming ways to get himself discharged. He had no such luck, and was ultimately admitted for further monitoring and testing. Today, he is back to his healthy self, and doing well.

I remember speaking with my father while he was in the Emergency Department. He commented, “All these people. Bunch of jokesters. Everything is a joke!” I could tell he appreciated it. He is not one for dramatics, and their sense of humor helped him get through that visit. It helped me too. It made me feel he was in familiar territory, that culture of humor that pervades all emergency departments across the nation.

It may seem like a strange place to hear laughter. But here is the thing. Working in the Emergency Department is more emotionally draining than I could ever have fathomed. No matter how high of spirits you are in when you walk in the door, the day will wear you down. You keep up your coat of armor, you navigate the fires, but inside, you feel yourself being broken down. It comes from all directions. It comes from the deepest sadness of sharing bad news with your patients. It comes from the confrontational situations you never wish you were in to begin with. It comes from the stress of hoping that everything is going to turn out okay in a way that will comfort your patients and their loved ones. It comes from the pressure of working fast, the responsibility of not missing any one thing, juggling too many tasks to count at one time. My words could never give that heavy pit in the stomach that follows us through the day true justice.

And so how do we cope? We laugh. We joke. We check in with one another through everyday banter to ensure that we are all still okay. It is the only lighthearted part of our days, and I assure you, we need it to get through. No day for us is a typical day. We are sharing in some of our patients’ lowest moments. We are here to provide support, to provide comfort, we are here to absorb it all, and ultimately, we find our own ways to release what we put on our shoulders. If we allowed ourselves to be consumed by our stress and our sadness from each moment, we just couldn’t come back and do what we do tomorrow.

So. I ask you. Please forgive us if our loud voices and laughter seem callous. Please know it is the opposite of that. It fuels our resiliency, it allows us to take care of the revolving door of patients coming in and out of our emergency department. It allows us to bounce back, it is our way to decompress and de-stress and face the next challenge of our days with the renewed energy and compassion that we need to get through today in the healthiest way possible.

When The Village Is Not Available

As Previously Published:  http://www.scarymommy.com/parenting-without-village-worst-days/

Last night was parenting misery at its finest. My husband was out of town, our part-time nanny and our back-up part-time nanny have both recently had changes in their schedules and are no longer available, my in-laws wouldn’t have been able to make it to our house in time, my close friend emergency contact was at an event and unavailable. So there I was. My village unavailable. Three kids. Hit with the worst migraine I can recall having in the last four years. The last time I had a migraine this awful, our previous full-time nanny had changed her dinner plans, come over for the last hour of the kids’ day, to just tuck them in because I was too debilitated to make it another hour. I awoke from that haze of a migraine to see the dishes in the sink washed, the house picked up, the kids in bed, and blissfully clean quietness. If I wasn’t already in love with our nanny before, I certainly fell hard for her at that minute, right then and there.

Well. Now the love of my life has moved to North Dakota (my former nanny—not to be confused with my husband), and there I was. Sharp, stabbing pain coursing through my left eye to the back of my neck, the nausea warning me as to what was to come, the dimmest light making me feel as if I was staring into the core of the freaking sun, barely able to keep my eyes open. I profusely thanked my type A self for pre-prepping dinner for the kids. I plated their food and poured them their drinks, then curled my throbbing, pounding, close-to-vomiting self up on the couch. I called out orders from the couch to my newly promoted baby-sitting five-year-olds. “Is your baby sister done with her food? Is she eating? Can you get her some fruit? Can you make sure she doesn’t stand up in her high chair? Can you make sure she doesn’t stick her fork up her nose?  Can you get her milk?” I had been so proud of my aspiring Martha Stewart self for making the most adorable fruit skewers with peaches, blackberries, grapes, and strawberries. Now I was cursing myself for making those damn fruit skewers, imagining my 21-month-old stabbing her unsupervised eye with a skewer. Thank goodness for my doting son that plucked each piece of fruit off the skewer for her and put them on her high chair tabletop.

It was five o’clock and I was on the verge of breaking down wondering how I was going to shuffle my kids to take a bath, brush their teeth, get in pajamas, and make it to the end of the night. I could barely move. The voices of my boisterous five-year-olds had never sounded so LOUD; they were like splitting daggers hitting me in my left eye. If I moved, I might throw up. If I spoke, this intolerable pain was going to become worse. I could feel her adorable, piercing brown eyes staring quizzically in my direction, wondering why her mama was curled up in the dark on the couch and not eating with her. She just kept saying, “Mama. Mama. Mama.” To which I answered sparingly. My five-year-old baby-sitters finally told me my 21-month-old was done eating. I took a deep breath (mostly to pep talk my stomach contents to stay within the confines of my stomach), mustered up the last drop of energy and cleaned her off. She kept saying, “Nose. Nose, Mama. Nose.” I looked at her nose. Sure enough, she had stuck a corn kernel up her nose. Had she ever done that before? No. Did I have any energy to react? No. I took some tweezers and pulled it out. “Nose. Nose, Mama. Nose.” I looked up further. Ah yes. Another corn kernel jammed up the crevices deep into her left nostril. I thanked myself for choosing to go through the years of schooling and the years of training that made me a master of foreign object removal from toddler noses. If this was the pinnacle of my MD degree, it had made it all worth it. I removed it. Checked one more time. No more corn kernels. I reminded myself that next time I asked my five-year-olds to babysit, to add to the list of sub-standard expectations, “Can you  make sure she doesn’t stick food up her nose?”  I gave her a meek talking to, using half my energy to speak to her and half my energy to keep my nausea at bay. It was 6 o’clock, and she usually goes to bed at 7. But hey, what’s an hour. So she went to bed at 6:15 because I had no more left in me to make it another hour. I was lucky to be able to put her into pajamas, a night-time diaper, and to remove one of her pigtails.

I called down to my five-year-olds to come upstairs, get their pajamas on, and we would reconvene in my bedroom. I announced it was a bath and tooth-brushing national holiday and no one was getting proper hygiene that night. They lounged in bed with me, and watched indulgent amounts of cartoons—My teacher says TV is really bad for your brain. Duly noted, my dear daughter. Thank you for the public service announcement—while I curled up under the covers, and made a cameo appearance only to expel my stomach contents in the bathroom. In never before recorded history, I asked them to please tuck themselves into bed. They rolled with the punches. My son hugged me, kissed me, “tucked me in”, and turned off all the lights, and hushed his sister, “Be quiet. Mommy is sleeping. Stop talking to her.” And without much more fanfare, I heard their doors click closed and silence. I felt so, so thankful that the day was over, even more thankful for the best kids I could ask for, and laid in the dark willing this fierce pain in my head to subside.

The pain did subside, and today, I am back to myself. I remember a colleague saying that a sick child was no excuse for not coming to work. That everyone should have a back-up to their back-up to their back-up. Well, some people are not so blessed with a village to take care of their kids. And while I am that fortunate, sometimes, the stars just do not align. I am so lucky that for me, these moments are fairly rare. I don’t know how you do it, parents out there without a village. But I am in absolute awe of how you make your family work, whatever your family looks like. Keep it up, all you parent warriors. It isn’t easy, but man, if your children are fed, their teeth are brushed most of the time, they take a bath some of the time, then hey, from where I stand, you are killing it.

My Mistake: Imperfections are Real

Previously Published:  http://www.scarymommy.com/parenting-open-about-imperfections/

Since having children, I’ve started living my life in unexpected ways. I’ve changed my attitude and daily life in ways I never imagined I would or could. I’ve done these things to be the example I want to be for my children.  I’ve dug into my inner confidence and shown them that I am confident in who I am, I am confident in the body I was given and take care of, and I am confident in what I do. I’ve tried to show them I will put forth my strongest, best efforts, and that I will never shy away from responsibility. I try to show them I am passionate about what I do.  I try to show them the importance of a work ethic. I try to show them the importance of resiliency.   I try to show them that nothing matters more than love and your family.

Today, I realized that in all my efforts, what I’ve failed to show them is that imperfection is part of who we are and that it is okay. Please don’t get me wrong.  I am far from perfect, and I am the first to acknowledge that. I have insecurities, I am more likely to win the “most improved” award on any given day than “most likely to succeed”, and there are a million things I wish I could learn to do. But, in the eyes of my five year olds and 1 ½ year old, their mommy can do anything. They know that there are some things that mommy is better at, that daddy is better at, but they truly believe, we can do anything. And what I came to think about today is perhaps I am doing them a disservice by nurturing this impression.

This past week, our nanny that had been with us for four years before she moved, came to visit for a week. Today, she left to go home. Minutes after she left, we were driving away in the van. I looked back at my five-year-old son, and saw him biting his lip, blinking his eyelids rapidly, red circles forming around his eyes. My sweet, sensitive boy was sad and missing our nanny. When the van stopped, I crawled into the back seat, and wrapped my arms around my sweet boy. His tears brought tears to my eyes. I was just as sad as he was that our nanny had left. “I know buddy. We all miss her right now.  Look what you’ve done. You’ve made mommy cry.” I chuckled lightly. I saw my son look at me, wide-eyed, startled at what was happening. I realized then that my son had never seen me cry. Me. Sap that cries at every “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” episode. Me. Sap that cries at every Ellen DeGeneres give-away clip. My son, searched my teary eyes in panic, to make sure that everything was still right, that I was still me, and this was going to be okay. I smiled at him, “You know, buddy. It’s okay to cry. Mom cries too.” He looked at me unsure, and continued to stare, slightly bewildered, but slowly became reassured as I smiled through my tears and joked with him.

I realize that in trying to be an example to my kids, I have ignored a huge part of life and living and success: failure and imperfection.

I haven’t set my new year’s resolution yet, but I suppose my new year’s resolution, and maybe my new parenting resolution is to show my kids real life.  Show them the bad with the good. Show them the challenges I face, the failures I confront on a daily basis whether they are big or small. Show them that tears happen. That disappointment is part of life.

Without showing them I’m not always the best, I can’t show them how I regain my confidence. Without showing them my mistakes, I can’t truly show them strength. Without showing them my imperfections, I can’t show them how I try my best. Without admitting that I have to do things I don’t like to do, I can’t show them how I own my responsibilities and pursue my passions. Without telling them about the challenges I face, I can’t show them the importance of a work ethic.  Without telling them about my failures, I can’t show them the importance of resiliency. Without all these things, I can’t show them that no matter what, there is still love and there is still our family.

I guess what I want to say to my kids is, sorry. My bad. Let’s try this again tomorrow. And that’s okay.

This is the Time of Our Lives

Previously published: http://www.scarymommy.com/family-life-time-of-our-lives/

My baseline default mode for the last five years has been “frantic.” I gave birth to my amazing twins, and if I thought I was “busy” before, I was sorely mistaken. The kind of acrobatics I came to accept as normal with juggling life and these “darling” newborns of mine was nothing short of chain-my-right-arm-to-a-40-pound-weight-and-ask-me-to-balance-a-stack-of-fine-china-on-my-forehead kind of acrobatics.

I remember a conversation I had with a colleague who confessed that he was not yet ready to have kids. “I’m not ready to give up my freedom,” he said. I didn’t think twice about what he said, really. Not ready? My ovaries have been rioting with their readiness for years! This conversation faded over my pre-baby months, and resurfaced with a vengeful vigor post-babies as I began to understand exactly what “give up my freedom” truly meant.

Giving up my freedom meant holding onto my full-three-hours-ago bladder just 10 more minutes (or 15 or 60 more minutes) while I finished changing my daughter’s dirty diaper, got their snack ready, and wiped up that weird stain on the carpet, and—is that another dirty diaper I smell? Dear lord, children! This is not a race to fill up the diaper pail!

Giving up my freedom meant forgoing brushing my teeth today because I had just finished breastfeeding the twins, and my daughter was already asleep, but my son was bright-eyed and ready to goo-goo and da-da-da, until of course, my daughter started to stir and wake up again.

Giving up my freedom meant staving off the surfacing panic as I came to the realization we were out of diapers in 3, 2, 1…and I needed to go to the store with both my infant babies.

Giving up my freedom meant date nights with my husband—wait, I can’t stop rolling with laughter. What are date nights with my husband?

I never knew what “I’m not ready to give up my freedom” meant. I could have smacked my colleague. Why hadn’t he shaken me ferociously and waved his hands frantically in my face while shouting and knocking some insight into my head so I truly knew what he meant? And by the way, was he some kind of secret sensei for figuring this out without ever having experienced it himself? Or was I just blinded by my ovaries?

“I’m not ready to give up my freedom” is an ever-changing phrase these days. As my infants grew into little toddling an-injury-is-a-step-away cuties, it was a game of chase and keep track and forgo finishing that sandwich you have been craving for the last six hours. As they became so smart and so verbal, it was a game of respond to their every demand for blueberries, milk, their favorite stuffed dinosaur and clap vigorously at their potty-training-in-training achievements. Today, it is a game of “why?” and congratulatory compliments over their new family portrait with house and tree and sun.

I think back to before I had kids and how much that is all I longed for—to have a family. These idealistic daydreams I had of family life, of Janie and Jack-clad children playing sweetly with their not chipped or half missing set of wooden Pottery Barn Kids blocks. I think about the things that kept me busy before kids, that I still try to accomplish with a fraction of the attention and energy I paid it in the past. I think about my constant struggle between enjoying my kids and maintaining this person in this life I lead before them. And then, it all came together. I came to realize that maintaining this pre-children life was no life to be maintaining, because it wasn’t my life.

This is my life. This is our life.

This is the time of our lives—this life that my husband and I have nourished and that is the center of our world. These three kids of ours, that are constantly in tow, like our very own pack of three little ducks clipping at our feet. And it is a full life and an amazing life. And this is what I yearned for and am so, so lucky to have in all its imperfections and all its fullness.

When life changes, let your expectations change. This is the time of our lives. This is the time of our lives when the dishes can wait in the sink after dinner, because it is the holidays and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is on TV, and you are so excited to share this part of your childhood with your children.

This is the time of our lives, when my hair might (will) still be wet when I pull it back, because there are kids filled with joy who want to be a part of my day right now. There is my daughter who wants to show me her latest dance-twirl-robot move in her pink tutu with stars and flower-print leggings and princess slippers. There is my son who has 20—make that 40—questions during a football game as he discovers his love of the sport, and I discover the unexpected love I have for witnessing his flourishing passion for something.

There are their questions and commentary and the way they process and regurgitate information and memories when we engage in undistracted conversations that make me marvel at how their brilliant minds are growing.

There is the time when I step on another Cheerio and resist the urge to run for the vacuum and Swiffer WetJet, because my 18-month-old squeals in delight when she sees me break for the vacuum, thinking instead that I am coming to chase her, and she takes off in the cutest diaper-butt shaking baby sprint, clapping her sticky hands with pure glee. Why would I want to do anything but chase her? There are still the occasional 3 a.m. wake-ups when I pick up this sweet, sweet baby of mine and indulge in her warm tired body, snuggling on my chest as she falls back to sleep, burying her head deeper into my shoulder.

“I’m not ready to give up my freedom” these days means that I will never go back to those pre-kid days and I wouldn’t want it any other way. This is the time of our lives. The time I always daydreamed about, and now it is life and it is reality. This life is bursting at the seams. It is love. It is full. It is joy. It is tiring, exhausting, unrelenting. But it has never been better.