I started this blog almost five years ago. I was sitting at a Starbucks near my boyfriend’s (C, who would later leave me, and come back, and marry me) house, racking my brain about why I’d been so much happier in Japan. And when I looked back, it was all of the little things that stood out to me. Walking home from school while my students called my name and waved. Cooking in my kitchen. Re-learning how to ride a bike (yes, you can absolutely forget). Watching the seasons change from the light coming through my windows.
A small, slow life.
I really wanted to reclaim that life once I got back here. Examining what’s come to pass in the last five years, I can see that I never really did. There were moments of it, sure. I quit my desk job and joined lululemon. There, I found the joy of a team that operated like a family, laughing and eating meals and practicing yoga together. But when C left, I had to take a second job to afford my studio apartment where I lived alone, and I worked seven days a week for almost a year. Not small or slow. Just tired and broke!
There were moments in that apartment, though. Coffee on my balcony. Listening to music while I cooked or cleaned up at night. Reading a book on my meditation cushion. I had glimpses of it.
But if I’m really being honest, the last five years have been big and fast. Lots of promotions at work. Heck, I was married to work. A breakup, reconciliation, engagement and marriage. A pregnancy. And the third trimester of my pregnancy is when everything changed.
Small life, slow life. And I fought it like hell.
The end of my pregnancy had been difficult. I was getting dizzy spells and huge waves of nausea. I didn’t know that the baby’s umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck three times. Sometimes I had to lay down on the floor of the bathroom at work just to keep from passing out. The more I fought it and tried to get stuff done, the more my body fought back to make me slow down. Finally, the IUGR diagnosis came from the doctor, and I got on the couch and barely got off for the month leading up to her delivery.
I assumed once V entered the world that things would pause and then go back to normal.
But you already know that they didn’t.
We had to have her tongue tie cut. Breastfeeding was still extremely difficult, and looking back I wish we’d had her lip tie cut too. I’m seven months in with this baby and I’m still feeding her and pumping around the clock just to get my supply up.
Then the colic came.
We were stuck in the house for months because she’d scream bloody murder in the car. (It was the reflux. I didn’t know that.)
Then, the slow weight gain. V is such a small baby. At her 4 month checkup, she only weighed nine pounds. Our pediatrician told me to stop breastfeeding immediately and to put her on formula made up of 54% corn syrup solids. Nope. So we got a second opinion from who would turn out to be our new pediatrician. And Violet gained three pounds in two months, all on breastmilk.
More recently, she is having trouble with solid foods. Her little digestive system is just so behind. She cried for a full three hours once after eating because it hurt her so much.
I took more time off of work to be with her and feed her as much as I could.
All this time, I’ve been trying to do things my way. But around the time she’d stopped gaining weight, I learned that I was going to have to drop my own agenda and try it out her way.
And that is when V gave me the gift I’ve been chasing for years.
Walks to the park, putting feet in sand for the first time.
A squeal of exhilaration during a first ride in a swing.
Immediate soothing when hearing “Baby Beluga.” (To this day it calms her down in seconds.)
The love and anticipation of being tickled.
Hours and hours in a rocking chair, gently rocking back and forth, back and forth.
But I also look at her and my heart swells with unbridled delight. And I have never so willingly shoved my own desires aside and fully lived solely for the happiness of another.
These seven small, slow months are coming to an end and it absolutely makes me emotional when I think about it.
It has been hard. So hard. Every day, at some point I tell myself to just hang on until the end of the day, till bedtime. Every night at 3am, I remind myself that I’ll sleep eventually.
But when I really pull the camera back and look at the big picture, I see it so clearly. Right there in front of me.
My daughter gave me the kind of life I’d always dreamed of, even though I fought it the whole way. She forced me to think in literal baby steps. Small victories, slow days. And while it was hard, it was everything I’d ever wanted. I’d do it again in a second flat, and more.
But beyond all that, it’s even deeper. I am changed. I look older, and I’m so tired. But though the struggle was hard, I am fulfilled.
Because my daughter taught me how to live.