My Journey Begins

I have known my entire life that being fat is bad. My mom struggled with body image as I was growing up, and the more she talked about bodies – hers, mine, other peoples’ – the more I came to understand that bodies, including my own, were 1) under constant scrutinization, and 2) better if they were fit.

These assumptions began to translate to other stories I learned about bodies in general and my body specifically – like that any fit woman’s body was for the consumption and enjoyment of men, that my self worth was directly tied to whether or not my body looked OK, and that body fat could also serve as a form of self-protection. It’s not my mom’s fault really, we’re shaped by our environments and I have no doubt that mom learned her own body stories from the same sort of well-meaning source.

The first time I remember gaining weight was at the end of eighth grade. My family moved from San Diego to Orange County, CA with only two months left of school. My parents were going through a bitter divorce, so both my home life and my school life were in an upheaval. I ate away my anxiety, depression, loneliness, and worthlessness. Over the summer I used an exercise tape to work out and the weight quickly came off.

The second time I remember gaining weight was towards the end of high school. I had had a tumultuous relationship with my high school boyfriend, my fit body for his consumption being a central issue. The relationship ended, but not before I had alienated myself from most of my friends and quit all of my extra-curricular sports. I stress ate again, hiding in my shame, and this time I didn’t have the will to exercise.

My chaotic home life continued well into my 20s, so my weight fluctuated a lot after high school, but I regained some control of my environment when I moved out of state in my mind 20s with my then boyfriend, now husband. The third time I gained weight was just before our wedding. Neither of us really wanted the spectacle of wedding as much as we wanted to get married, but we planned one anyway. We’d eat junk food, drink beer, and plan our wedding every night for a year. Everyone knows brides need to look perfect, and I’d ordered my wedding gown in the size I was at the very beginning of the year.

Two weeks before the wedding I confessed to my sister that I still hadn’t tried my gown on again. One week before the wedding my sister came to town to help with prep. At my request she laced the corseted bodice of my dress as I stood in the mirror, willing it to fit. The gown began to take shape and look OK, so I asked for a status update (the corset took a long time to lace properly). My sister told me it looked like the dress had another 2 or 3 inches to cinch before it was completely laced. “Oh that’s totally fine! It’ll fit! We can stop now,” I said, assuring her that yes I was sure, and no she didn’t need to keep going. Her reluctance should have clued me in.

Come the day of my wedding, my dress cinched up but it did not fit. In fact, the dress was about 2 sizes too small in the bust. It was strapless. All I heard, all night long, was how huge my boobs looked. I was mortified, and I spent the next 6 to 8 months eating my way to 190 pounds, where I stayed, loathing myself – because fat bodies are very bad – and hiding, for about 5 years.

Embarrassed, vulnerable, and on display, I did my bridal duty and smiled for every camera.

I tried halfheartedly to lose weight a few times over the years. I tried fad diets and starvation diets, I did work out challenges and personal training, but nothing really stuck. Instead, I had to come to terms with my body as it was and separate my sense of identity from my body. I had fat. I was still me, still worthy, still lovable and loved. I gave birth to a little boy, and he doesn’t care at all what my body looks like. I’m still with my husband, and he loves every inch of me. Fat is not bad. It’s just fat.

I found out I was pregnant the week after Christmas 2018. I went to my OBGYN to confirm the pregnancy and found out I was about 7 weeks along, and 208 pounds. I officially weigh the most I have ever weighed, but something strange happened when the nurse read the scale aloud – I didn’t feel embarrassment, I didn’t feel shame, I didn’t feel like I needed to hide. Instead, I was curious about what this new information meant for what I hoped would be a healthy pregnancy.

I spoke with my doctor and he confirmed: obesity in pregnancy can lead to huge complications. So, we devised a plan. My goal is to take the steps that I can to get fit and healthy while I’m still pregnant. That means a lot of walking. Pregnancy is a metabolic marvel in itself, so my body will be burning some extra calories on its own; the walking is just to condition my muscles for an easier labor. When I feel up to it, I add squats and some upper body exercises using light dumbbell. And, I’ll fuel my body by eating as clean as possible – requiring a shift in mindfullness when it comes to eating, a work in progress. My hope is that I can maintain my pre-pregnancy weight and establish some healthy habits to make my postpartum weightloss journey a bit easier.

To say that I am eager to rewrite the story of how I relate to my body is the understatement of the century. I’m grateful for all that I’ve learned about myself on the way to 208, and now, I’m ready for the next steps.

Trying New Things Is Brave

I took my son to story-time at the library today, which is something new for us, and I swear to God, I learn more from him than he ever learns from me when we try something new.

First of all, my kiddo is a master-negotiator. The moment I mentioned going to the library, he began to negotiate his way O U T of having to go.

“Mom,” he began, “There are too many people at the library and we have to wear pants, it’s better to stay home and maybe we can play in the back yard with trucks. Oh, do you think there are trucks in the back yard?”

There he stood, wearing dinosaur undies and an already-stained black t-shirt, trying to trick me into checking for toys in the backyard instead of packing up for our adventure. He didn’t want to go to the library and see new people, he likes it at home where he can do as he pleases. Same, child, same.

“Sweet babe,” I said, “Are you sure you don’t want to go to the library? We’re going to a new part of the library to do circle time! And read a book! And sing songs! Doesn’t that sound fun? Why don’t we try going for a little bit, and if you aren’t having fun we can leave?” Notice how I put it up to him, as if he has the choice? This was perhaps a mistake. He sensed weakness.

“No! No! No!” he screamed, punctuating each “No” with a foot stomp. “I don’t want to go to the library,” he said, and then, as if remembering who he was speaking to, he took a deep, calming breath and exhaled, changed his tone and tilted his head up to look me in the eye. “Mama, you have to be quiet at the library, and you cannot run.”

What an adorable creature I’ve created. This was more than a statement of fact. That brilliant kid was using all the tools and words he had in his repertoire to communicate to me the reason he didn’t want to go to the library: he had some mid-morning energy he wanted to run and scream out, and quiet library rules weren’t going to cut it. But, I knew something my babe did not know, and that was that the library would use a separate room for story time, where little kids would be free to run and sing and dance undisturbed. I persevered by assuring him I understood about his energy needs and promising that this new program at the library would do the trick, or we’d come right home and play with trucks. Then, I stuck a tablet in his hands and out the door we went.

When we got to the library we headed for the story time room, where some other mamas, dadas, and bubbas sat waiting to begin. I pulled up a spot of carpet near enough to the reading action but not too close to anyone else, and patted the ground to get boo to sit. He didn’t sit. Instead, he counted the lily pad squares that littered the floor in front of the story time chair because clearly that’s what they were for. I smiled at the other parents but mostly avoided eye contact, not really knowing what to do. Since this was the story time room, and I wasn’t too sure of the rules, it embarrassed me that my kid was the only one making any noise. Satisfied that he had counted everything in sight, he made his way over to me and asked for a snack.

“Um,” I hesitated. “Actually babe, I’m not sure if we can eat snacks in here. Let’s wait a bit.”

“Here’s a snack!” He announced, pulling a granola bar out of my bag. “Mom, let’s just eat it.”

I looked around and saw a few amused faces just as the story time leader walked in, giving a loud hello to the room. I took the opportunity to open the snack. The leader settled into her chair and explained what was about to happen, looking at the excited children before her. She didn’t even flinch when she saw Kellan eating his snack, so I took that as a sign that we were in the clear. Story time got underway and my kid mostly ignored everything. He smiled at the song singing for a moment then yelled at the crowd singing along that they needed to shush, since it’s the library. During the reading of the first book (one we’ve read a million times at home), he loudly and confidently recited the words along with the leader, to my embarrassment (again). It was then that I began to realize that he felt much more comfortable being in public than I felt.

After two books and three songs, the story time leader announced that it was time to make an Easter basket craft! I hadn’t known there would be an art activity, so I was pretty excited. We made our way to the arts and crafts table and grabbed a chair. Kellan commandeered the bin of crayons and seized a big, purple stick of glue with which to color. I explained he had grabbed glue and offered a crayon instead. He did a few scribbles and then exclaimed gleefully how much he wanted to play with the glue. Why not, I thought, and we set to gluing his Easter basket craft together. He giggled, I giggled, and then, the Easter bunny burst through the door to greet the children.

I thought the kiddo would cry, or run screaming in the opposite direction, but cry he did not. Instead, he ran directly up to the Easter bunny and poked him on the nose, like he does to our cats at home. I froze for a moment and thought about if I needed to correct my child’s curiosity, but the Easter bunny simply mimed laughter and allowed my boy to give him a big hug. I must have had the sappiest mom-grin on my face.

Easter bunny love

We left shortly after the Easter bunny made his appearance, and as we walked to the car I remarked, “Hey buddy, you seemed like you had fun at the library today. It was really brave of you to try something new.”

“You too, mama,” came the surprising reply. “That was a new library for Kellan and a new library for mama!”

Wow, I thought. He was right. We both tried something new today; he as a courageous little kid learning what his world is all about, and me as a mom, toting along a loud and head strong toddler, and trying to relearn what this world is all about. We both tried something new, we both navigated how to be in the moment, and we both settled in and enjoyed the experience. How very brave of us both.

I’m Awkward and Going In Public Is Dumb

One sunny and beautiful morning I found myself utterly kid-less! My husband had taken our three year old on a little nature hike, so I was free to do whatever I liked. F-you, pile of laundry, I thought, and headed out for some relaxing tunes, comfy chairs, and fancy coffee. I walked into my friendly, neighborhood coffee shop and immediately made a beeline for the back room. I had to pee, you see, and that’s where the bathrooms were located. The ladies’ was occupied so I pulled up a chair and set up my laptop and crossed my legs to keep from leaking.

I sat there for quite a while before I began to wonder if the bathroom might actually be unoccupied, the door simply closed but not locked. I thought about standing up to check, but 1) I hadn’t been siting there long enough for it to seem like I rushed to the back room to find a good spot to sit and not because I was about to explode, which was embarrassing, and 2) what if there was someone in there who was – oh, I don’t know – blowing their ass out because they drank too much coffee, and by my knocking on their door they’d have to confirm they were in there and had been for quite a while, which would be super embarrassing for them. I continued to sit and my mind began to shift focus.

A dude sitting nearby was doing a lot of coughing and sniffling. He was working on his laptop and in full concentration mode, but his damn nose was leaking. He kept coughing into his right hand then wiping the droplet of wet snot from the tip of his nose with his left sleeve. I wanted to get up and grab him a tissue, and perhaps kindly suggest that he and everyone else around him would be more comfortable if he went home, but my crossed leg had started to go numb and I knew I’d have to uncross it and live through pins and needles to be able to walk, and that then my bladder would make itself known again, so instead I kept sitting.

Another man came into the backroom and sat at a table across from sniffling guy. He plugged his laptop into the wall and typed for a minute, then got up and went to the restroom. I hated him.

A woman came to the back room and went straight for the bathroom door, the bitch. Boldly, she tried the handle, which was locked. Aha! I thought, So there is someone in there! Sensing the need to establish myself as first in line, I blurted out a quick Someone’s in there and blew my just-sitting-here cover. The lady nodded and murmured an ohokthanks kinda thing, and I felt satisfied that I’d be next to pee.

In the front room, a barista called out a drink that was ready and two people stood to claim it. A nonfat honey latte with extra foam. Two idiots (I wouldn’t normally call people idiots over their choice of drink because you gotta do you, but they became bigger idiots the longer I sat there trying to ignore the ocean inside my bladder) had actually ordered the same drink, hadn’t noticed each other, and were now trying to determine if another nonfat honey latte with extra foam was being prepared and, if so, what the wait time would be on that. The more unfortunate of the two patrons deferred, satisfied that he would be able to get his grubby hands on that sweet nectar soon enough.

A woman entered the coffee house with a toddler and a baby carrier, and I marveled at her bravery.

Finally, the ladies’ room door swung open. A middle aged dame of some size stood in the doorway, making no attempt to hide her discomfort. She puffed out her cheeks, pursed her lips to exhale, and rubbed her substantial tummy. Then, she hoisted her bag onto her shoulder, rocked back for a little momentum, and lurched forward, and when she did so, she moved out of the door frame and allowed the stench of whatever she did in there to waft through the backroom. Sniffles guy was immune, as his nostrils were clearly an exit-only orifice at this point. Pees-freely man took in a short, sharp breath then brought a clenched fist to his face. Bold lady muttered something like ewgodareyoukidding then promptly stood and went into the mens’ restroom, that brilliant bitch. In the front room, the barista called out another nonfat honey latte with extra foam and Unfortunate patron finally got his drink. Supermom had managed to order a beverage and was now alternating between coloring with her toddler and cooing at her baby. And I continued to sit.

Then came a text from my husband: Fun hike! Headed home now. I took a mouth breath and nodded my head. Me time had ended and I would be needed at home. But first, I had to, had to, had to pee. I uncrossed my legs and shook the tingly one as the pins and needles worked themselves out. I sucked in my stomach to clench my pelvic floor so I wouldn’t pee myself and stood up, gathering my things. I shouldered my bag and took a few steps in the direction of the women’s restroom – just in time to watch Supermom usher her babies towards the potty. Ew, stinky. Breathe through your mouth, she said, and looked up to make eye contact with me. She paused for a moment. Oh… she said. I smiled. That’s alright, go ahead. I have one at home, I told her, crying on the inside. Embarrassed, I sat back down and buried myself in my phone. I text my husband: Yay! Any pics? See you soon. I took a selfie to document the moment. I tapped my foot and scrolled Instagram. I looked at the cute hiking photo my husband sent me. I willed my bladder to expand and swallow me whole.

Then, I looked up just in time to make awkward eye contact with Sniffles guy as he sneezed a snot rocket. I gave him a sympathetic half smile and looked away. Pees-freely man gave me a slight wave. My eyes narrowed quizzically and he leaned forward in his seat to quietly ask if I had the wifi password. He’d apparently been pretending to use his laptop and had finally plucked up the courage to ask someone. Supermom and company piled out of the bathroom and I immediately stood. Sorry, she offered, her cheeks flushed. One look at the bathroom and I understood what she meant. The toilet paper was gone, the sink was wet, and the toilet was clogged. C L O G G E D. I glanced towards the front room in time to watch Supermom escort her family the heck outta there. Jesus, said Bold lady, who had emerged from the men’s room and was now taking in the mess in ladies’. Just use that one, she offered, laughing breezily. I hated her, but as she walked towards the front to make her departure, she dragged a tiny bit of toilet paper stuck to her shoe along for the ride.

F-it, I thought. I stepped into the mens’, closed the door, dropped trou, and peed for approximately 45 minutes, wondering the entire time why I ever leave the house. I thought about the weirdos I had just encountered during my one hour alone outside of the house, and I couldn’t help but laugh. I have never felt more judgmental and more dumb all in the same moment, I thought. I guess we’re truly all a little awkward. With that epiphany, I wiped, flushed, and left, promising to be a little kinder to myself and to others the next time I’m out and about.

Motivational Monday

I clicked on a YouTube video today. The title was “Tony Robbins: How to Develop WINNING ATTITUDE | Motivational Video.” When I clicked play, an ad started. The ad was a survey asking me my sex & age range; it’s purpose was to help the YouTube algorithm select more relevant ad content for me. Who doesn’t want more relevant ads? So I read the options, which were as follows.

  • Female
  • Male
  • 18-24
  • 25-34
  • 35-44
  • 45-54
  • Other
  • Or, prefer not to say

I feel like that’s not super fair. First of all, YouTube, does ad content stop after age 54? That’s ageist AF. Secondly, I don’t see how content meant for women aged 44 is relevant for me as a 35 year old. In fact, some days I feel like I have the maturity and self confidence of a mere girl, early-20s tops, and maybe I want to see that new trendy cosmetic ad to feel better. I’m a millenial, dammit, I can’t be pigeon-holed or generalized.

I took an angry sip of my latte and grabbed my iphone to scroll Instagram. That’s when I saw the following brilliance, screen captured and posted by Oprah Magazine:

Todayโ€™s Mantra: You are not too old and it is not too late. ๐Ÿ’ซโ€” Reese Witherspoon (@ReeseW) April 10, 2019

Reese, you beautiful sunshine dream. Thank you, mama, for being a beacon of kindness, for sharing your bright and shiny motivation. Even though I find your opportunistic drive and your cheery disposition a bit too salesy and inauthentic at times (your 30 years in show biz are showing), I believe you truly care. I also like to imagine that you were sitting in your Hollywood mansion in need of a pep talk yourself, and so tweeted that affirmation out to the world to motivate the masses and your own tired mama body. So I’ll take that love and say thank you.

I’m not too old & neither are you. It’s not too late. Let’s go, girl.

On Choosing a Baby Name

I’m pregnant with my second child, and from the moment our baby’s sex was revealed, my husband and I have have been bombarded with baby name ideas from strangers and acquaintances alike. Mostly of the suggestions we’ve received have been unsolicited and weird, but the sheer joy with which strangers heave their favorite names at us points to one fact: people love babies.

WHY WOULDN’T THEY (baby #1 pictured)

I get it. All of your hopes for a bright future, stunted for yourself if not dashed altogether as you age ever closer toward inevitable doom, can be loving transferred onto a precious new soul whose potential can’t yet begin to be quantified! So you’d better give that baby a damn good name, Shawna. But the choices are vast and there’s that whole other person who is (hopefully) a part of the baby making equation, so gets a say in what you name the kid, and that requires compromise. I don’t know man, picking a baby name is hard. Might as well laugh about it. So I made a video and we did.

Bug Murderer

There were a lot of firsts at my house today. We broke 90 degrees in my part of the world for the first time this year, and though it was breezy, the heat was sweltering. My son is an outdoor kid, and despite the heat, today was no different. So, to the backyard we went. After about 2.5 seconds back there, I could no longer stand it and made an executive decision to overturn the last dregs of the sandbox and fill it with water instead. “I’ll buy more sand next week,” I thought. Et voila, first mini paddling pool of the year. My joy in that moment was almost immediately squashed when my gleeful toddler mischievously plunked a tiny pill bug into the basin I’d created without even a second thought. It plopped, opened, and sank to the bottom, where it drowned, then floated back to the top. And with that, we had baby’s first bug murder.

Splashing like crazy!

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the mental health and emotional well-being of my son. Before you praise me, please note my perfectly selfish reasoning for this worry: everything bad that happens in a person’s life is always the parents’ fault, and I don’t want to (1) raise a kid who grows up to hate/leave me, or (2) raise a monster. (I exaggerate, but Charles Manson wouldn’t have become Charles Manson had he not been born to a 16 year old alcoholic mother turned ex-convict who married random dudes and stashed her child with relatives and at boarding school, neglecting his emotional needs at every turn.) Yes, of course, once we reach adulthood our lives become our own responsibilities, but personality disorders are born of childhood hardships, guys. True privilege in life comes from having an emotionally supportive and kind upbringing, and all ills begin with emotional deprivation. So you can imagine my shame, horror, and embarrassment when I saw just what was tumbling in slow motion from chubby toddler hand to the crisp, watery grave below. I’m raising a murderer.

It’s my fault not his, because he asked first. I’ll set the scene.

There I sat watching my 3 year-old happily scrape tiny mounds of sandbox sand from the pavement into his hand to fill his toy dump truck. He’d roll the truck 3 feet away then dump the sand out only to begin again. It was simple play but entertaining enough. I, however, was bored. And hot. And restless.

Soon enough, kiddo grew tired of having to scrape sand off the ground so headed to the sand box, which, I had noted the day before, was grody.

“Ah, ah, ah babe, hold on please. The sand box is dirty, dirty,” I said, the repetition of my words communicating just how filthy the box must have been. My boy paused long enough for me to get up and go to him, which was long enough for genius to spark.

“I know!” I said, “Let me get the hose and we’ll fill this with water to splash instead. Does that sound fun?”

No answer, but it didn’t matter: uhhh yeah that sounded fun.

I promptly dumped the box and sprayed it out, dragged it within leg-distance of where I planned to sit, and filled it with water from the tap. Ahhhh, delightful.

Kiddo jumped in and began to stomp. Water splashed everywhere, and it was grand. He giggled, I giggled. We were having a great time.

“Momma, come stomp,” he said. I hoisted myself out of my chair to oblige, but he jumped out of the pool and ran to his dump truck with a better idea, so I turned to sit back down.

“Momma, I’mma throw dis in dere,” came a tiny voice from behind. I lowered myself into my chair and, once placed, focused on my kid’s tiny, clenched fist. I wondered for a second what was in there, then remembered the sand he had been mounding not 10 minutes before.

“Uhh, I don’t…” I started to say, before reconsidering. Who cares if he throws sand in the tub, I thought. “Sure babe. Go for it.”

The joy on my boy’s face when given the go ahead was infectious. He was so delighted that I was elated for him. I’ve never seen such glee on my son’s face before; his chubby cheeks dimpled so hard I thought they’d crease permanently. I laughed, my eyes crinkling with pride. And then he opened his hand.

I was confused for a split second when no sand fell, but as he turned his wrist to pour out the contents of his palm, my stomach jumped into my throat.

NOOOOOOOOOOO, thought my brain.

“Wai–” said my mouth.

Thunk, went the bug.

And that was that.

Here I’ll note that my child is three and hasn’t the cognitive awareness to understand that the little roly-poly he found might not be suited for water play. There was no malicious intent, and all concern for emotional and mental well being is my own, and in fact, exaggerated for comedic effect. But still, I can’t help but think of damn Darla from Finding Nemo, with her stupid headgear and wicked grin.

But, I swallowed my feelings about the incident and gave my cutie a hug. “Was that silly, babe?” I asked kindly.

“Yeah,” he replied.

“I bet it was” I enthused, โ€œYou know what, boo? Bugs actually don’t really like water. They hide when it rains so they don’t get too wet,” I informed him, adding that maybe he can play with his bug friends in the grass, which would be fun for everyone. He nodded, seeming to understand. I gave him one more squeeze, then let him go, hoping that my words actually sunk in. He ran back to his dump truck, grabbing a fistful of actual sand this time, and I fished the half-open insect out of the pool. He ran back and paused, looking at me expectantly.

“Go ahead,” I chuckled, then watched once again with pride as my joyful boy dumped a handful of sand into the water, then splashed in after it. Not a bug murderer, I thought, just a teachable moment. Satisfied, I stood to stomp along with my boy.

I’m A Mom, Right?

I ask because sometimes I feel like I’m still in an epidural haze, only without the fun high feeling. I read an anonymous quote about giving birth recently, which said something to the effect of, “Every mother leaves her body during childbirth and travels to the stars to collect her baby’s soul to return to the world together.” Holy hell if that’s not a version of what I experienced with the birth of my son. I was present during labor, but I was also on some other plane of consciousness thanks to my best friend the epi, and I came back to the present moment just in time to feel my skin stretch so hard I thought my {REDACTED} would rip off. It all snapped right back together, thank God, and then some alien beings in scrubs handed me a very squished-up, smudged-with-something-whiteish baby, and I was in love. It was wild.

Me and babe, 2015

Motherhood has changed quite a bit from those first dazed moments. I’m now mom to a sweet and lively toddler, and while some days are still a bit fuzzy, they usually carry the bright and cheery sense of presence demanded by my son’s delightful and constant pursuit of J O Y. Still, one mainstay holds over from the newborn stage, and that is this: every now and then I snap to the present moment and I ask myself “what the hell am I doing?”

I thought it the second they handed me that babe, and I think it once every day or so. Just yesterday I realized that my kiddo is 3 and a half years old and has an entire mouth full of teeth, and that he has had those puppies for a full year and a half, yet he’s never been to the dentist for a cleaning. What the hell am I doing?

The word imposter comes to mind. Who am I to claim to be this mom person? When I talk to other young moms (haha I just referred to myself as young) in the neighborhood, or mom-types I see at the play ground or trampoline park or grocery store, etc., they all seem so much more mom than me. They do the errandy things, like the dentist. They get their kid signed up for soccer, they make it a point to do community Easter egg hunts and potlucks, and most importantly, they seem S O L I D in their decision making. Meanwhile, I’m over here handing my non-dentist going tyke his second popsicle of the day. What the hell am I doing?

I like to tell myself a story any time I start to feel like this. I’ll tell it now.

There was once a brand new mom named Shawna who gave birth to the most handsome and squishiest boy in all the land. She and her husband, John, were head-over-heels in love with their little guy, but unfortunately, the baby showed no signs of giving any shits about them and so absolutely would not sleep. As new parents are wont to do, Mom and Dad tried everything the internet suggested to get that baby to rest: they shushed, they bounced, they patted… they bribed with promises of jewels and money…. but baby would not sleep. Shawna felt powerless and, let’s face it, victimized. Family, acquaintances, and strangers had all accosted her with un-asked-for parenting advice, yet not one had thought to mention this shit.

About eight weeks in to baby’s life, John had to go out of town for a 4-day work trip, which Shawna had been dreading. She and John had long-ago worked out a shift system for dealing with the baby’s nighttime wakefulness: Mom would take the first four hours, then Dad would take the next four hours, and Mom would get up for the day with baby at about 6 am so Dad could catch a little more rest before he had to head to work. But with Dad out of town for a work trip, Shawna would have to find the strength to handle the whole day and the whole night by herself. What the hell am I doing?

Night number one went like this: bounce baby to sleep (45 minutes). Attempt to lay baby down without waking; wake baby. Bounce baby back to sleep (15 minutes). Lay baby down successfully. Lay self down in bed, confirm it is only 7pm. Grab phone and scroll through Pinterest trying to feel human; pin adorable toddler outfits and home decor, wonder if the baby will ever sleep through the night. At 8:15, baby wakes. Feed baby, which soothes him back to sleep. Decide it’s time to turn in for the night, settle in to bed. At 9:30, baby wakes. Feed baby, which soothes him back to sleep. Settle back in to bed. At 11 pm, baby wakes. Marvel at the fact that baby slept for a full hour and thirty minutes! Feed baby, which soothes him back to sleep. Settle back in to bed. At 12:18 am, baby wakes. Curse the night, feed baby. Continue this pattern until 6 am, when baby wakes for the day and Mom zombies herself into an upright, semi-conscious state.

As she poured herself about a gallon of coffee, Shawna suddenly snapped into a state of hyper-awareness with the following thought: I have no idea what the hell I am doing, but oh my God, I am doing it! She had survived the night, the baby had survived the night, and everything was O-freaking-K. In that sweet moment of triumph, fatigued to the bone and dirty with dried milk and baby vomit, Shawna felt a sudden, monumental connection to all of the mothers who had ever been and all those who would ever be. Motherhood is a contingency; it’s both universal and inexplicably personal. Countless women had stood in Shawna’s spot before, feeling her same triumph, while millions of others had escaped that particular trial only to experience something completely different but equally difficult. Such was motherhood. And every single one of those women, including Shawna, could call themselves Mom.

Community Easter egg hunts or not, yes I am a mom. The other women I see who seem to have it more together than I do – they’re just experiencing a different version of the journey. They are mothers in the best way they can muster to be. I am my own version. And even on the hazy days, everything is OK.

Suck on that, imposter syndrome, I have a pediatric dental office to contact.

Said toddler with said teeth.