Baby, baby, baby… no!

Becoming a mom was my biggest dream from the time I was very young. If you’ve known me for all of five minutes you know that my daughter, Morgan, is the absolute love and light of my life. Being her mom is my calling, my passion, the thing I am most proud of.

I never really planned on Morgan being my only child — I thought I’d have at least two — but it soon became clear that I probably shouldn’t have more children. Pregnancy and those early years were incredibly rough (in fact, those first few years of being a mom were far more difficult and taxing than pregnancy itself was). My health suffered greatly. By the time Morgan was just a couple years old, I had decided that I was done having children. The risk simply wasn’t worth it. I already had all I’d ever wanted and I was at peace with the decisions I’d made.

When Randy and I met, one of the things that initially attracted us to one another was the fact that neither of us wanted more kids. When I was dating, post-divorce, I was surprised at how many men wanted to start a family or have more children. That was honestly a deal-breaker for me. But Randy’s mind was made up — no more babies. In fact, he’d had a vasectomy 10 years before we even met, which was perfect!

I’ve often said that I was not made to be the mother of more than one child. I LOVE being a mom, but I don’t necessarily love kids in general (I know, I know, you’re not supposed to say things like that). The people I’m closest to in life (my siblings, my best friend) all have 4-5 children and, to me, that seems like an absolute nightmare! I love their children, and I admire their parenting skills, I just don’t think I have the same level of patience or ability to manage a life with several children.

Even as recently as a few months ago, I joked with a friend about how I was totally over having periods and feeling hormonal, and “could someone please just take my reproductive organs from me, because I’m done with them. They are of no use to me.”

But, soon after that conversation, I started feeling very… strange. Almost sick, but not, like… a virus or anything. It felt more akin to homesickness, like my body or heart was longing for something. Then one day, out of the blue, I swear I actually heard my uterus shout, “PUT A BABY IN ME!”

I was shocked. What in the world was happening? WAS I BABY HUNGRY?!?! Ew.

That’s not possible, I thought. The thought of having a baby hasn’t even crossed my mind for almost a decade! But sure enough, I found myself remembering how much I loved being pregnant, how precious newborn babies are, and I began genuinely longing for those things again. I knew I was being irrational. Randy can’t even have kids, and I don’t actually want to, do I? But those feelings didn’t subside. In fact, the more I tried to suppress them, the stronger they got.

One night, while laying in bed, I got up the courage to tell Randy what I’d been thinking. I was certain I’d be met with things like, “You’re crazy!” “Absolutely not!” and “Why are there cracker crumbs in the bed again?” (Okay, maybe that wasn’t super relevant to the conversation, but it certainly would have been valid.)

Instead, he started Googling “vasectomy reversals.”

I know! The audacity!

I needed him to tell me I was insane; to temper my impetuousness with reason or an ultimatum. But instead, he was open-minded and willing to consider all options…??? Who does he even think he is? For a few weeks, he indulged me in conversations about this and ultimately, we landed back in the land of rational thinking. We really don’t want another child or to start over at this point in our lives. My top priorities in my life are taking care of my daughter and taking care of my health. I am truly content with the way my family looks. I don’t need or want that to change.

I’ve heard women talk about being baby hungry or worrying that their biological click is ticking, and I did experience those things before having Morgan, but I thought I was over that phase of my life. Apparently not! Which makes me think that someone really should take these organs of mine so they don’t trick me like this again in the future…

But this whole experience makes me wonder, how many people experience this back-and-forth thinking about babies. How do you know when you’re done having children? How do you differentiate between feeling baby hungry for a while and truly wanting to have a child? Is there a set of criteria that needs to be met (financial stability, emotional readiness, health status, parental age, etc.) before you’d consider having a(nother) child?

Also, and perhaps most importantly, are there any of you who know you don’t want more children, but still feel baby hungry sometimes?! Please tell me I’m not alone in this.

August 2019 Newsletter: Pretty is as pretty does

Dear Morgan,

Your birthday has come and gone which means that you’re a ten-year-old. Double digits, kiddo. A pre-teen or “tween” if you will (but please don’t because I hate that term). I’m constantly in awe of the fact that, in what seems like the blink of an eye, you’ve grown from a chubby-cheeked, fuzzy-headed baby to this intelligent, sarcastic, talented, and sassy young lady. If you know where the time has gone, can you please tell me?

Morgan, sometimes these letters are pretty lighthearted, but there’s something a bit more serious that I want to address right away. As you’ve gotten older, I’ve seen something happen that concerns me. You’ve suddenly become very aware of the way other people view you, and I can see you becoming more self-conscious and unsure of yourself. You frequently tell me that you wish you were prettier, and it shatters my heart every single time. I was a child who didn’t believe I was beautiful. I struggled with my self-confidence and body image so much more than I ever let on, so I know firsthand how real and challenging those feelings can be.

I’ve tried so hard to teach you that the content of your heart is far more important than your physical appearance. I’ve strived to instill in you the knowledge that who you are and the way you treat others is the truest test of beauty. Yet I know that it takes more than a mother’s words to make you believe those things. Morgan, if you could only see the way the rest of the world sees you, you would never question your worth or beauty again.

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Earlier this year, a dear friend of yours died. You’d been visiting Candace in a nursing home for the past four years, after watching a documentary about the healing power of music. In this documentary, you saw a man visiting nursing homes across the country, playing music for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s, and you cried when you learned how lonely some of the elderly residents of these homes are. At your behest, we began visiting a local care center, which is where you met Candace.

The two of you immediately hit it off and became fast friends. You’d take her cookies and small gifts, attend events with the residents, and simply provide company and companionship for those who needed it. You made other friends there as well, but none quite as dear to you as Candy. When she died, you were heartbroken. That’s another experience of yours that I can deeply relate to – I’ve also lost many close friends, and although I hate that you’ve felt that specific kind of pain, I also know that it makes you treasure your friendships and appreciate life’s precious moments even more. Being acquainted with death gives one the opportunity to be bursting with life, and you, my dear, are full of more life and love than anyone I know.

You’ve always had the ability to make connections and build genuine friendships with others, regardless of age, gender, ability, or anything else. You love without condition or reservation. You’ve made an effort to include and befriend kids who are teased at school. You love and care for animals to an extent that is immeasurable. You once walked down the street in the pouring rain to deliver a giant teddy bear to our neighbor whose daughter is disabled, because you knew it would bring a smile to her face. One day, you came home from school crying because you thought someone was making fun of me, and it hurt you so deeply (this was the day you learned that “yo mama” jokes actually have nothing to do with your mother). You once put gloves on, grabbed a garbage bag, and walked around the neighborhood gathering trash because “we need to be nicer to our planet.”

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Morgan, if more people were like you, our world would be a much better place. Like, “world peace, no more war, love everyone, happily ever after” kind of better. Until your hair isn’t cooperating and you can’t get it to look the way you want, because then it’s more like “watch out, everyone for themselves, hunker down and ride out the storm.” Your capacity for being grumpy and exhibiting sassiness are as immense as your capacity for love. Just another thing about you that reminds me of myself which is, frankly, terrifying.

Last fall you got a horse, which was a dream come true for you. This summer we’ve spent a lot of time, as a family, working with him and teaching you what it takes to be a horse owner. It’s a lot of work, and certainly not all fun and games (like when you get bucked off) but you’re loving it. Your current hero is Amberly Snyder – a champion barrel racer who was paralyzed in a car accident, but went on to compete, becoming the only paralyzed barrel racer in the United States. The other day, we were driving home from the grocery store and you casually said, “I like Amberly Snyder because she’s strong. I think she’s the second strongest fighter I know of.” I thought that was a peculiar thing to say, so I asked, “The second? Who is the strongest fighter?” That’s when you looked at me and sweetly said, “You are, mama.”

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I cried then, and I’ve cried every time I’ve thought of that moment since. You frequently tell me how proud you are to be my daughter, that I’m strong because of all the medical procedures I’ve been through, and that you want to be like me when you grow up. Can I tell you a secret, baby girl? You are so much like me that it’s a little bit ridiculous. But you’ve also been blessed with amazing qualities that are uniquely yours. You’ve been through a lot in your young life, but you’ve never stopped loving or sharing your light with others. You’re my hero, and if we’re being completely honest, you should know that I consistently strive to be more like you.

Oh, and one more thing. No matter what you say or whether you believe it right now, you will always be the most beautiful human being I have ever known.

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Love,
Mom

August 2014 Newsletter: Five years old

Dear Morgan,

Well, kiddo, you turned five years old this month. Which means that I haven’t written for an entire year! Remember when I used to write every month? Where in the world did I find the time to do that? Without a doubt this past year has been the most chaotic and life-altering for you so far. Years from now when you’re reading these letters, you’ll have a much better understanding of the things that have taken place over the past several months, and it is my fervent hope that your memories of this time will be of the good things rather than the difficult ones. Because Morgan, despite all the challenges and changes we’ve been through lately, we’ve had an incredible amount of fun.

 

Just the other day I was curled up on the couch while you sat on the living room floor, drawing (which is one of your very favorite things to do). As I watched your little hands working and admired the look of concentration on your face, I also began noticing other things. Your long, thin arms and legs. The way you brushed your hair behind your ear in a way that just seemed so adult-like. I listened to the big words that spilled out of your mouth as you recalled a conversation you’d had with your cousins earlier that day. I thought about how, not so long ago, your vocabulary consisted largely of babbling and high-pitched squeals, and I remembered how you used to fit so perfectly into the crook of my arm. And in that moment you suddenly seemed so old, so impossibly grown up.

Occasionally when I have these moments of realization, I panic a little. I feel like maybe I didn’t pay close enough attention, didn’t really take the time to savor all the moments we’ve shared. And that scares me a little. But all I have to do is reach back into my memory — the hours, days, weeks, months and years I’ve spent being your mother — and there you are. I remember the moment you were carefully placed into my arms and our eyes met for the very first time. I remember watching Greys Anatomy marathons when you were just a year old, and the way you’d start clapping and dancing the moment you recognized the theme song. I can almost still hear the way you called yourself “Mo-nee” before you could pronounce your name properly. I remember watching your blonde pigtails bounce wildly as you ran down a hospital hallway once when you were about three, and when you reached a chair at the end of the hallway, you threw your body into it so violently that you puked all over the seat… and then laughed hysterically. My mind is filled with thousands of memories of you, beginning on the day you were born – a day that altered my life so drastically that I sometimes feel like I’m still trying to catch my breath.

Morgan, you are such a unique child. You frequently use large words in the right context. You love to color, draw, sing, dance and do anything outdoors. You are very smart and have an ability to think logically and creatively that surprises a lot of people. You have a vivid and lively imagination and you entertain me with wild stories on a daily basis. You are stubborn and strong-willed, yet also amazingly sweet and kind. You feel your emotions in the rawest of states, and you are just as raw in your expression of them. You don’t try to mask them or keep them hidden away, you just let them fly. Whether you are enthusiastically joyful or incredibly upset, you are definitely committed to and passionate about whatever you’re feeling. This is something I love about you, but it also worries me a bit. I can assure you it is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so deeply, and because you take after me in this way, I know you’re going to experience a good deal of heartache in life. My advice to you is to stay soft, hold onto that passion, and don’t let the world make you bitter. Because even though it hurts sometimes, life is full of more beauty and love than you can possibly imagine. Let yourself experience that.

You and I both started school last week. Kindergarten for you, college for me (I went for a semester before your dad and I were married and now, for many reasons, I’ve decided to go back). It’s been a pretty big adjustment for us and you’ve spent a good portion of the last week feeling tired and cranky. Although, if I’m being totally honest, I have to admit that I’ve been a little tired and cranky too.  It’s been exciting and scary and fun and exhausting all at the same time, but as we’re becoming used to this new schedule, things are getting better. My favorite part of most days has become that quiet time in the evening when we’re sitting in the living room together, each of us working on our own homework assignments.

Sometimes when I’m sitting in class, I find myself thinking of you and trying to imagine what you might be doing at that very moment. Are you sitting cross-legged on the floor while your teacher reads a book to the class? Are you outside on the playground? Are you sitting at your desk, working on your handwriting? It’s an interesting thing, the way an entire portion of my brain is constantly dedicated to the thought of where you are and what you’re doing at any given moment. And I don’t think I’ll ever stop feeling this way, won’t ever be able to escape the nagging hope that you’re somewhere safe, feeling happy and fulfilled. I suppose that’s what being a parent is all about. You are a part of me, after all. A living, breathing piece of my heart that walks around outside my body. And as terrifying as that can be sometimes, as vulnerable and exposed as it makes me feel, I could never thank you enough for the dimension and purpose it has added to my life.

I love you so much, baby girl, and I can’t wait to see what adventures your fifth year of life has in store for us.

Love,
Mama

August 2013 Newsletter: Happy birthday, Morgan!

Dear Morgan,
Tomorrow you turn four years old, which I’m hoping means you’ll finally be done asking “When is it my birthday, Mom? How many days until my birthday, Mom? How many hours till my birthday, Mom? Can it please be my birthday now?” This is the first year you’ve understood what a birthday is, and it’s suddenly the most exciting thing in the whole world to you. In fact, just as I was tucking you into bed you said, “I can’t wait to be four tomorrow. Four is my very favorite!”
Lately I’ve spent a lot of time wondering which of the day to day moments that we share will stick with you and become your memories. What will become your rituals, your stories, the things you remember and can’t wait to tell your own children about? I have very clear memories from about four years old on, and a handful of slightly hazier ones from when I was just two or three. I worry sometimes that your first memories will be of me losing my patience or yelling about something that was most likely totally trivial, but for one reason or another I just couldn’t let go of at the time.
Instead, I hope your first memories are of good things like lazy days spent at the lake, eating snow cones under a shade tree at the park, racing down the water slide at the pool, lying next to each other in the bed of a truck and watching fireworks light up the sky, or running from waves on the beach and catching crabs from tide pools in California. Since I’m not working anymore (this is the first real summer break I’ve had in ten years) we were able to get out and enjoy all the fun things summer has to offer. And you, my little adventurer, have loved every minute of it! If I had to describe your personality using only a few words, I’d simply say that you are up for just about anything. Whatever we’re doing, wherever we happen to be going… you’re always excited to go along for the ride. And you hope with all your little heart that it’ll be a fast, bumpy ride with twists and turns and at least one loopty-loo along the way.
A couple weeks ago we were lucky enough to take a trip to San Diego with Grandma and Grandpa Carmody (or, as you like to call them, Grandma Candy and Grandpa Crazy) and one morning while we were there I came into the kitchen to find you talking with my aunt. You didn’t see or hear me, so for a minute or two I quietly stood there just watching you being your charming, brilliant, hilarious little self. It’s a rare thing for me to see you interact with other people independently. Usually I’m right beside you being the mom — the one telling you no, insisting that you use your inside voice, trying to teach you manners, doing my best to make sure you behave at least slightly better than a feral animal — so the side of you I get to see most often is a little more feisty, stubborn, headstrong. But there you were, politely asking if you could please have more cereal and recounting events from the previous day in such a sweet and comical way. And in that moment my heart swelled with so much love and pride that I almost couldn’t breathe. You’re absolutely amazing, stunning in every way. And I created you! I’m responsible for sharing you and all your awesomeness with the world and no matter what else I do in life, nothing will ever top that.
One of your favorite things we did while on vacation was go to the zoo. I’ve heard people talk about how cool the San Diego Zoo is, and I remember going there when I was young, but it wasn’t until going back as an adult that I realized it truly is an amazing place. Much bigger and far more impressive than the zoo we usually go to in Salt Lake City. You loved everything about it! One of those very clear memories from my early childhood is of riding the sky ride at the San Diego Zoo. I’m guessing I was maybe four or five at the time. My sisters and I were riding the Skyfari, looking down at all the trees and people and zoo attractions and I remember thinking “this is what it must feel like to fly.” And suddenly, the ride stopped.
There we were, suspended from a tiny cable in the sky, unable to do anything but wait for the cars to start moving again, and I started to panic a little. I suddenly began imagining all the terrible things that could happen to us. Our car might fall off that cable and we’d drop to our deaths, or maybe the ride wouldn’t ever start back up and we’d be stuck there forever. What would we eat? Where would we go to the bathroom? Needless to say, whatever the issue was, it was resolved quickly and we were safely back on the ground just a few minutes later, but I’m certain that my ridiculous fear of heights can be traced directly back to that incident.
Well of course you saw the sky ride almost immediately upon entering the zoo and eagerly said, “Whoa! Can we go on that, Mama?” As we stood in line waiting for our turn to board, I started feeling a little sick to my stomach. But I didn’t want you to know how scared I was because I didn’t want to make you worry or let my fear ruin the experience for you. To say you enjoyed the ride would definitely be an understatement. You loved it! Your eyes were wide with amazement as you looked down at the people and scenery so far below us. You smiled as the wind blew through your hair and caressed your face, and then you looked at me and cheerily said, “You can look down, Mom.”
You couldn’t see the way my knuckles were turning white from holding onto my seat so tightly, and I don’t think you noticed that the smile on my face was forced as I told you, “I’m actually choosing not to look down, but thanks anyway, love. Guess what? I have a secret, but I’m not going to tell you until we’re done riding, okay?” When the ride was over and we had reached the other side of the park, I said, “Wanna know my secret? I’m super duper afraid of heights!”
“Did you hear that?” my uncle Joe (who had ridden with us) asked. “You helped your Mom be brave!” You were so proud that you were able to help me, and for the next week you would randomly walk up to me, grab my hand and say, “Remember when you were scared to go in the sky and I helped you be brave?”
Morgan, I know I’ve said it before but sometimes I can’t help but look at you and wish you’d stay this way forever. You are the child that people envision when they think of what it might be like to have a family. The way you throw your head back and laugh with your whole body, the way your eyes have a constant expression of wonderment and joy in them. The way you squeal and clap when something excites you, the way you believe in magic and goodness and fairy tales. I wish you could stay this small, this uncorrupted and innocent forever. I wish that we could just stay here, here where you’re completely naive to the harsher realities of life, here where a hug from you is enough to save me from the sometimes overwhelming circumstances of adulthood.
But I know that I can’t stop time. I know that before long you’ll stumble headfirst into this thing called life, and I know you’re going to love it because it’s just  the kind of crazy trip you hope for. So I’m doing my best to brace myself for the bumpy ride I know is ahead of us. Just promise me you’ll do one thing, kiddo. Help me be brave.
Happy birthday, little love. I hope four is all you’ve been waiting for.
Love,
Mama

May 2013 Newsletter: "Almost Four"


Dear Morgan, 

It’s been a while since I’ve written. Nine months to be exact. This is the longest I’ve ever gone without giving an update and as I think back over the past several months, I realize what a mistake it was to wait so long. A lot has happened, kiddo, and you’ve changed and grown so much! There’s no way I could possibly sum it all up in one letter, but I’ll do my best to tell you what our life is like right now.

You currently love to collect things. “Treasures” as you call them. But it has to be said, your precious treasures are mostly, well… junk. Recently your obsession with this junk has become almost unmanageable. On any given day our house looks like a landfill scattered with things like bugglegum wrappers, bottlecaps, empty water bottles that now house a collection of centipedes or “roly poly” bugs, baggies full of grass and leaves, junk mail, or basically any and every random object that’s happened to spark your interest. You put these things in piles and stash them in hiding places throughout the house. And the worst part is that you remember exactly where you’ve hidden which pile of garbage and if I happen to do, I don’t know, the logical thing and throw them away, you have a complete meltdown. “My CENTIPEDES! My CANDY WRAPPERS! I put them RIGHT HERE! Where did they gooooo? Mom, this isn’t even funny anymore!” (Yes, you say that. And no, I cannot keep a straight face when you do.)

 

That’s another thing I should probably tell you about… how much you love “your” centipedes. And worms and caterpillars and beetles and moths and, well, any kind of bug you can get your hands on, really. What’s the deal with that? Didn’t your mother teach you that bugs are gross? You’ve been fond of bugs since before you could walk, but at the time I figured it was just a passing fancy. On the contrary, your love of all things creepy and crawly has only grown with time.

A few weeks ago you were at your uncle Tommy’s house playing in the dirt with your cousins when you found a worm. You immediately decided this worm was going to be your pet and gently cradled it in your hand while you continued playing. When the time came to leave, you asked if your pet worm could come home with us. Once home, you found a container, filled it with dirt and leaves and made a cozy new home for your little pet. Morgan, for several hours your entire life was about that worm. You talked to him, tried to get him to eat, even sang him a sweet little lullaby as you put him down for a nap. It was one of the strangest, but most precious things I’ve ever witnessed. But then, as I was cooking dinner, you came to me and said, “Mom, I don’t want my worm anymore. He’s broken.” And sure enough, that darn worm had mysteriously broken into three separate pieces. You insisted you had no idea what happened, that you just found him like that when he was supposed to be napping. I pretended to believe you but made a mental note to never leave you alone with a sleeping baby, just in case.

You’re very smart, Morgan. I know every parent thinks that about their children, but you’re really smart. And I’m not just talking about things like counting to 20 or being able to recite the alphabet. You’re smart in ways that I can’t really explain. You just get things. Things that a child your age should have no grasp of, yet you understand them so well. You’re also smart in that you know how to manipulate people. For instance if I tell you that no, you cannot have a popsicle right now, you know that if you sit next to your dad, put your hand on his arm, flash him those gorgeous blue eyes of yours and sweetly say, “Daddy, can I have a popsicle, pretty please?” he’s going to give in. No questions asked. You have that man wrapped around your little finger in a way that sometimes terrifies me. Which is why you won’t be allowed to date for… let’s see, you’re almost four now, so… another 31 years at least.

Someone recently asked me at what point you start saying a child is “almost” whatever age. Like, once they’re three and a half, are they suddenly almost four? Or is there a particular time between three and four when it becomes appropriate to say almost? I guess I don’t have a solid answer for that, but with your birthday being only three months away, I definitely think it’s okay to say that you’re almost four. And in your mind that means one thing – you can almost go to school! You’ve been telling people for months that you get to go to school once you turn four, and you are incredibly excited about that idea. You routinely fill your little backpack with papers and crayons, then sit in the corner of the living room “at school” for a while before you come to me asking for help with your “homework”. My little love, if you stay this excited about school beyond the first week you’re in attendance, I’ll be ecstatic!

The biggest change that has taken place in the last nine months has definitely been me quitting my job. For several reasons I chose to stop working near the end of last year and for five months now I’ve been a stay at home mom. Being able to spend each day together is something I’ve wanted since the moment I found out I was pregnant with you. And Morgan, I wish I could say it was everything I ever wanted or that it’s been the easiest and best decision I’ve ever made. But the truth is, while parts of it have been nothing short of amazing… it’s also really hard. Harder than any other job I’ve had. (I don’t know if saying that makes me a bad mom. I hope not. I hope it just means that I’m honest, and I also hope I’m not the only one who feels this way.)

There are days that end in tears, with me seriously questioning whether or not I was cut out for motherhood. More and more I’m learning how much you and I are alike, and while it’s thrilling to see so much of myself when I look at you, it’s also incredibly difficult because it means that we butt heads… a lot. You are stubborn and sassy and by far the most independent child I have ever met, and all of these things make it hard to be your mom sometimes.

When you’re old enough to read and understand what I’ve written, I don’t want you to read those paragraphs and feel bad. Because as hard as it can be, as frustrating as my days are sometimes, you are without a doubt the best thing that has ever happened to me. In a world that can be scary and confusing, you are my constant; you’re what keeps me grounded. When I start to question choices I’ve made, I can look at you and know with certainty that by bringing you into this world, I’ve done at least one thing exactly right. More than anything or any person I’ve known before, you have made me more capable of loving, have made me a stronger person by challenging me, and have taught me more about myself than I ever would have learned without you. Yes, the days are sometimes long and most of the time I feel like you’re a raging wildfire I have no hope of containing, but I’m overwhelmingly grateful that somehow I got lucky enough to spend so much of my time with the most loving and vibrant human being I’ve ever met.

And I’m confident that one day (maybe when you have a child of your own) you’ll understand what I mean when I say that you, Little One, are what drives me most crazy in life… yet somehow you’re the only thing that keeps me sane.

I love you to the moon and back, baby girl.

Love,
Mama