innocence does not find near so much protection as


I’m gonna cut straight to the chase here as I have company over any minute and need to get to a few details:

I had an entirely new strain of Mommy Guilt after a little bit of time sober.*

I worked on it as best I could. I prayed about it. I confessed it. I journaled it. I cried over it. I talked to people about it, very specific people, and larger support groups. I meditated on it. I discussed with supportive and awesome people, people including my mom and Ralph who are my most fierce and loving supporters and would forgive me any damn thing and go to any length for me, and whose love sustains me in important ways. And of course I talked to my children, but cautiously, as they don’t need to (continue to) be innocent victims of my difficulties.

I did all this because I was That Serious about getting over this guilt, which has never helped me in any way – but has kept me from getting better. I did all this because I couldn’t live that way any more, and I knew enough to get help from others.

But it didn’t go away. Not too quick. The guilt. Little tiny pieces got clinked off here and there, gradually melting like the soul-sucking ugly dirty icy soul snowball it was, but that dingy core remained, deep down inside.

Until. I don’t know. Something this morning. I was thinking about all the mistakes I’ve made, which I’m happy to tell anyone in detail if they want to IM or DM or Chat or text or call or write or email, but I won’t elaborate right here right now, and in the back of my mind I recognized how tired I was of it all, the Guilt, the feeling so so bad over things I can’t change, things that others have forgiven me, including the relevant parties, but I seem to not be able to Let Go.

And what I thought was, one thing I’ve realized is through the whole business, this nine-plus years of being a mother, is I did actually learn something about being a skilled and loving mother. This whole time.

It isn’t as if I don’t know how to do it all.

When I got that little moment of clarity, things got simple. I finished tidying up the house, had an early-morning bath with my son, tucked him under blankets and cuddled him every time he asked, and took him out to breakfast (he wore his kitty costume) where he charmed the diner owner into a chocolate chip pancake (not on the menu) and got a chocolate shake, yes this for breakfast, but I just let him order what he wanted, and I drank a glass of water and some meh-coffee and just enjoyed my time with him.

I remembered that my job is to help my kids when they need it. Not be a Good Mom. No one else’s fucking business except me, and the kids.

Nels couldn’t finish his breakfast and wanted to give the other half to his sister; I took the food home and kept it warm / cold and when Phoenix woke up she said, “Mom I still feel a little sleepy – can I have breakfast in bed?” And I put down what I was doing and said, “Absolutely.”

Then later before I went to an appointment we talked about their plans while I was gone, and I said, “When I get home I’d like you to help me get the house cleaned up a bit.”

And when I got home I nicely asked them if they were ready, and they were, and we cleaned up together and did all that stuff. It didn’t take long. Dishes, laundry, cleaning their room, stripping the beds, feeding the kitties and the gecko. I wasn’t rude to the kids, and I told them Thank You for their help.

And I sat and listened to them any time they wanted to sit on my lap and talk to me.

This is all stuff I’ve known how to do and learned and have done through their childhood. Even while I made a lot of mistakes, big and small. I still learned a lot, all that time.

So today what I realized is, I know how to do this, I know how to take care of them. Thank sweet baby Jesus in his Golden Diapers for that.

Oh, and this morning? When I gave Phoenix her tray in bed, she said, “Did I mention that you’re the best mom in the world?”

Both kids say that, or the equivalent, a fair bit.

And I’m no longer going to argue with them outloud, or even (this is harder) in my own head.


* P.S. Mommy Guilt ≠ Parent Guilt or any other kind of guilt for that matter, if you don’t know what it’s like, consider yourself blessed!

my punani wears a superhero cape

Recently I was at a group function and I got sandwiched between two C-section Mamas – that is, women who’d delivered their first babies this way and were planning / had planned future births to be surgical ones – who related their experiences. One of them professed a preference to repeat surgery should she become pregnant again, and by partial way of explanation said, “I’ve already ruined this part of my body [gesturing toward abdomen], I don’t want to blow out, you know [gestures toward crotch] … too!” This gave me a giggle, although part of me wondered if a great deal of people really believe your vagina blows out if you give birth through it. I’m picturing something like a tattered fruit rollup or one of those tire fragments you see on the freeway (and in case you were curious, mine seems to have held up rather well – in fact, has even sustained some improvements). I was content to listen for a while without comment – but the “birth choices” conversation carried on long enough that I eventually weighed in with my own experiences and opinions.

One thing I’ve learned from new Mamas is that the subject of birth can be controversial. Even among good friends, the tension in the room can amp up a bit when the subjects of labor, the use of medicine or drugs, safety issues, and pain tolerance comes up. I think this urge to discuss and defend fades with time, since I do not hear too many detailed birth stories from women in my mother’s generation (some of them are quite dismissive that we care as much as we do, damn their eyes). I’m guessing that usually by the time your youngest child is in primary school your birth story / stories have been alloted to a Cliff Notes version and you’ve made peace with how it all went down. But in my microcosm these last few years I have heard birth stories told back to back for hours on end at these functions.

Women aren’t silly, though, to care – whatever differing opinions they may have and however passionately (and occasionally ignorantly) they may hold them. Birth is as major as death and as universal, and how we give birth effects every aspect of how we nurture. There’s also the subjective experience itself. Honestly, birth can feel empowering and life-changing like nothing else (it can also feel like a drawn-out, confusing torture session; a clinical procedure softened by narcotics and culminating in a pink baby swaddled in arms; or a horrible nightmare suffused with deep strains of anger and mistrust). It can feel like you climbed a mountain all by yourself – a spiritual, emotional, and physical ordeal that you kick the ass of on your own terms and under your own power. Not all women are fortunate to have this kind of birth – but I’d like all women to get a shot, a truly informed choice, in the whole business, and our culture is nowhere close.