To My Forgotten First Child

Note: I wrote this one years ago. It’s been sitting in a folder since then. And though my first child has grown and our family has changed, it still speaks to me. In so many ways, I’m still working to make sure she doesn’t feel forgotten.

Dear First Child,

Yesterday, I laid down on the couch as your little sister brought her toy doctor kit to me and started doing a check-up. It was the first time I had sat down all day, and as soon as I was on my back, you were there next to me, curling up in the crook of my arm and resting your head on my chest. Your blonde hair tickled my chin, and my heart. You smelled of pepperoni pizza and Oreos. I breathed that in and held you close and thought of my own childhood.

While your sister worked away, checking my blood pressure and listening to my lungs, you reached up to softly kiss my cheek. “I love this, Mommy,” you said, and over and over again for the five minutes that I was there, you said a version of the same thing. I love snuggling with you, Mom. I love spending time with you. I love when we cuddle. I love being with you. I love you.

And it struck me then, in that moment with your warm weight against me, that it had been too long since I had held you like that. You are the oldest of three children. I am busy, I am tired. There is a long list of things to do that calls for me every day, and a baby who needs to be breastfed frequently and a toddler who demands more from me than you do. And though I tell you I love you all the time, and put fairy wings on when you ask if I’ll pretend to be Tinkerbell, and read a story (“just a short one, okay?”) at your request, it’s always done in a rush, in between this thing I have to do and that thing I want to do and and there are a thousand thoughts swirling in my head as I sit with you and that’s not okay.

You never really ask me for much of my time. You never seem to mind that I have to leave after watching just one coffee table performance of “Let It Go” so that I can vacuum the house or change someone’s diaper. You are always so happy to just get a passing squeeze or high five or “I love that picture you drew!” You know that you are one of several and I have many responsibilities and not enough time or energy for everything. And though you act out in other ways, when you so willingly accept that my resources are limited, it’s easy to forget that you still need me. Just as much as the others do. And as we laid there yesterday, your bony shoulder pressed into my armpit and your sweet voice saying, “This is so nice, Mommy,” I feared that you felt easily forgotten, too.

Just minutes after our quick snuggle, I rushed off to take your fussing baby brother out of the swing and to start dinner, but I vowed to do better. And today, I did. We built a fort with blankets and kitchen chairs, and I crawled in there with you and made up a story about a fox who makes funny noises. You laughed aloud and I felt like Mother of the Year.

Thank you for making me feel that way.

And the next time that I fail (because surely I will) and get distracted by everything and everyone else who needs me, please come to me and wrap your arms around my waist and look up at me with those huge eyes under those long eyelashes I have always coveted and then I will remember. I will remember that you were my first, you made me a mom, and you still need me.

You may feel forgotten, my love, but I promise that you aren’t and I will try every day to prove it to you.

I loved you first,

your mommy

I’m a Writer

I think I was born to be a writer. Not because I can form pictures out of words like John Steinbeck. Not because I can create characters that you remember and fall in love with like Wally Lamb. Not because I have a deep understanding of similes and imagery like F. Scott Fitzgerald. Not because I can craft a poem that says something more than the actual words in the poem like Emily Dickinson. Not because I can make an entire magical world come alive like J. K. Rowling.

I don’t excel at any of that. That’s not what makes me a writer. Let’s get real…I’m a mediocre writer at best.

But still, I’m a writer.

It’s taken me years to be able to say that. Years to realize you don’t have to get paid for what you write to be a writer. No one even has to read your work. Does the tree in the forest make a sound if no one is there to hear it? Why yes, yes it does. And you can be a writer without a following, a writer without a fanbase, a writer even if you are the only one reading your work.

Me? I’m a writer because there are sentences that drift in my blood begging to be written. This very blog post was penned at midnight, just as I was about to crawl into bed. My husband was asleep, and I was exhausted and desperate for rest after a day’s worth of mothering, but I suddenly knew what I wanted to say for this first post and how I wanted to say it and the nagging of the words couldn’t be ignored. I had to write. That’s not all that make me a writer, but when words demand to be written and I listen and I write them, then I am a writer.

Years ago, I discovered blogging in one of my darkest hours. I was three weeks post-miscarriage, struggling to conceive our second child. I had been a writer for most of my life, since writing that first lousy poem that my teacher raved about in the fourth grade. Through childhood and adolescence, I felt compelled to write constantly. I can recall escaping the boredom of household chores and the loneliness of a being an introverted only child by crafting characters, and dialogue, and story arcs in my head and then on paper. In college, I majored in English and studied the works of famous writers and learned how to find my voice in writing. I learned how to write for real and how to edit for real. I learned the pain of pouring your heart into something, only to delete all of it but one single, powerful word because the rest of it was garbage.

And then I graduated, got a job I hated, got married to a man I loved, started trying to have a baby, moved across state lines, had a baby… And I forgot about writing. Or maybe I didn’t forget about it, but I ignored the call. It’s a cliché, but in motherhood, I lost a piece of myself. I was tired and overwhelmed and I had no choice but to neglect the writer in me as I tried to keep a tiny human alive for the very first time.

And then I lost a baby.

I lost a baby and I was bitter and broken. I had to purge the grief somewhere. There’s truth in the image of a tortured artist. I was desperate. I was raw. My pain was ugly and my art wasn’t always pretty. But the words poured out of me fast and furious and, as much as it hurt to release them, I found healing in doing so. I had let writing go years before, and yet it found me again when I needed it the most.

And so here I am once more. I’m a wife and a tired mother, still in the trenches, still praying for grace, but I can feel that the seasons are changing. Things feel different now, I feel different, and the call to keep writing is strong. As with all things in life, there is an ebb and flow to the words, and I don’t know how often I’ll be here. I don’t know what this blog will become, if anything, or who will read it, or if that matters. I don’t even really know what I’ll say, though I hope I can craft something beautiful , curate all my thoughts in one place, give voice to the pain and beauty of being a woman, a mother, and a human being.

I don’t know if that’s possible or if I’ll be very good at it, but what I do know is that I am a writer and so I have to write, if only for me. What I do know is that writing feels like an old friend, familiar and safe. Even when I find the process miserable and I find myself angry with my inability to say what I want to, I write because it makes me feel human, and whole, and seen, and known. I write because it gives me life.

I write because I can’t not write.

I write because, I think, God made me a writer.