My Mother’s Day Story

Two days ago, my two-year-old suffered what we believe was an anaphylactic reaction to a dinner I made for our family. What began as a toddler’s panic-stricken expression escalated quickly into vomiting, gasping for breath, and our very first (and hopefully last) Epi-pen use.

I held down her tiny frame with my body as tears rolled down her cheeks and she struggled to find air to fill her little lungs. I then injected her with a shot of adrenaline, capping off the exact scene that’s been playing in my nightmares since she was first diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies at 12 months. This situation is the very source of my anxiety — the reason we don’t go to restaurants anymore, the reason I wince at birthday party invitations, the reason I hold my breath every time I introduce a new food to her.

And in a matter of minutes, my nightmare played out — unexpectedly, as is usually the case — in our own home.

As my husband and I held her down, I was struck by a dichotomy of both fear and calm in the air. I was terrified. She was terrified. My husband and son were terrified. Everyone knew what was happening. But there was also a force that emerged from within myself, one that never existed in my anxiety-fueled nightmares. It was a quiet strength.

I am the type of person to break out in a heart-pounding sweat just talking to her allergist about what could happen in these circumstances. I am the type of person to drop the AED kit in CPR class and forget the whole resuscitation process under the pressure of a very friendly instructor watching. I am an incredibly nervous person by nature, never the one anyone would call for help in an emergency. And here I was, in the moment I feared most, thinking of nothing but what had to be done.

I didn’t fumble with the Epi-pen. My panicked eyes didn’t glaze trying to hastily read the instructions, and my hands were shaking but controlled. I opened it. I braced her, warning her that what was about to happen would hurt, and told her I was so sorry. I prayed for God to be with us and to help me. And I did it.

I scooped her up, strapped her into the car, and sped to the hospital.

Losing a child is every parent’s worst fear. A few times over the course of the next few days, tears flowed as I allowed myself to crumble under the crushing realization of how close we came to this. My chest caves thinking about it, my own lungs gasping for air.

So it seems my Mother’s Day gifts came a few days early this year.

The first is a deeper sense of gratitude. Upon our middle-of-the-night return from the hospital, I laid my daughter in my bed and clutched her there until the sun came up. I kissed her endlessly, remembering my promises during that car ride when I said I would give her all the treats and jewels and cuddles she wanted if she would just stay calm and keep breathing. We are one of the lucky ones.

The second gift was more unexpected. The closest name I can find to describe it is empowerment.

Looking back on how the episode played out feels like an out-of-body experience. Watching myself — the fumbling, awkward, risk-averse mess that I am — stepping forward and taking action to save my child’s life feels like a new lease on my role as a mother. Who was that woman?

The nightmare still lurks in the back of my mind, knowing this can happen again. But knowing I had the strength inside myself to handle it lets me loosen my white-knuckled grip on the fears that once crippled me. We’ve now been there. We know what it feels like. And should this ever happen again, we will know: we got this. As horrifying as this experience was, and as much as I wish it never happened, what a bittersweet gift it’s proven to be.

Anaphylaxis may not be a part of your family’s story, but being a parent almost ensures you will have to face your greatest fear at some point. I like to believe, especially now, that there’s a strength that runs through all of us. Whether a spark of the divine or the most human part of us, it’s there — even if we don’t know it yet — lying dormant until the moment we need it.

So if and when you find yourself staring down your own personal nightmare — though I hope you never do — remember the lesson I learned this week: never doubt a mother’s strength — especially if that mother is you.

Happy Mother’s Day ❤️

Evie_dandylion

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The Grief In Growing Up

Last night, I put my littlest baby girl in her own bed, in her own room, for the first time.

I should have been happy. Happy she’s growing up. Happy to have my own room back. Happy I don’t have to worry about my husband snoring her awake in the middle of the night. It marks the beginning of the end of so many sleepless nights and early mornings. In real life, this is where I’d insert a joke about how I haven’t slept through the night in five years, and how great this move will be because if I put Desitin on my toothbrush one more time during the hazy edges of the day, my mouth is going to suffer an identity crisis.

But as I laid her in her bed and walked away last night, all I could feel was a gripping sense of loss.

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10 Things Grosser Than Nursing In Your Own Bathroom

An image of a woman breastfeeding her 11-month old while sitting on a toilet has gone viral, causing an uproar this week after the image was uploaded to her Instagram and Facebook pages. (To view the photo in question, see her public response to the Huffington Post.)

Though some people have praised her bold candor, the photo has also brought an onslaught of criticism for Elisha Wilson Beach, wife of actor Michael Beach, for her lack of concern over the seemingly unhygienic practice, for bolstering the message that mothers never get a moment to themselves, and for oversharing. Plus, if her husband took the picture, he probably could have just helped her instead. Fair points.

Beach has publicly responded to the criticism, saying all mothers do things behind closed doors but are afraid to talk about them for fear of judgment, and that a sense of humor has gotten her through many of motherhood’s challenges. Sounds reasonable.

The Internet responded to her statement with a resounding, “Ew, but poop.”

So here are my two cents, because the world needs one more opinion about this photo: The moment you lay spread-eagle in a room full of strangers to deliver a child is the moment your sense of shame goes out the window. There is very little that can embarrass us or gross us out after having several strangers elbow-deep in our birth canals while interns clean up the spills and discuss their plans for sewing our taints back together.

And the attempt to normalize and find humor in the often-repulsive struggles we all face is the mission statement of 99.79% of parenting blogs in existence. This isn’t new.

I can’t say I’ve nursed a baby on the toilet, but I’ve certainly held a baby while I’m there (and have also wiped another kid’s butt with a baby in my arms) because you do what you have to when you’re in survival mode. For what it’s worth, the concern is usually less focused on baby’s proximity to turds and more focused on pulling pants back up one-handed. Not easy — I’ll wait while you try it.

*humming the diarrhea song to myself*

So in support of this woman and her argument that motherhood is gross and we should all just embrace it rather than judge each other for it, I present to you my personal list of 10 Things Grosser than Nursing On Your Own Toilet:

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The Ugly Truth About Mom Jeans

What’s worse than April snowstorms, Caillou marathons, and trying to apply eye drops to a stabby two-year-old?

I’m up on Scary Mommy today talking about the mother of all first-world problems: post-baby jean shopping.

Cringe with me as I recount my trek to the mall with mom jeans on my mind. Thanks for sharing with your friends if you hate jean shopping as much as I do!

 

Achieving Unflappable Mom Status

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I was the stereotypical mom walking through Target with a screaming two-year-old this morning.

Unlike our typical public outburst, though, which is usually followed by shame-fueled sobbing in the parking lot, today I have RISEN ABOVE and believe I have reached a higher level of motherhood. Whether I’ve become desensitized to the cries of my offspring or have just developed a newfound ability to cut through the ruckus to get a job done, I realized I am no longer fazed by the antics of hellion children in public.

At the height of this morning’s pandemonium, my blood pressure remained steady. My voice was calm and still, knowing nobody was sick or hurt. I was deliberate and level-headed, never wavering or giving in to demands. And then, when it became clear there would be no redirecting or coming back from the edge of tantrum, I walked out — baby strapped to my chest, three-year-old’s hand in mine, and a raging two-year-old on my hip, flailing backwards and screaming. My expression was stoic, Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” blaring in the background (or possibly just in my head?), and there was a swagger in my gait as I strut through the parking lot. Shades down. LIKE A BOSS.

I think this liberating phenomenon is one that must be reached after dealing with a certain amount of child-centric BS and public humiliation. If there are any moms out there who were able to maintain this level of cool with their first, my hat is off to you. For me, I felt like I had finally just gotten my black belt in motherhood.

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How to Win at Motherhood

Have you read all the books and blogs and pediatric brochures? Are you interested in having a child who is better looking/smarter/richer/taller than all other children? Do you want your friends to know you’re making great parenting choices while theirs are stupid?

If you dream of being the quintessential mother, head over to Sammiches & Psych Meds tonight for my easy-to-follow tutorial about elbowing past the competition and winning at motherhood.

Have a great weekend all!

XO, Catherine

On Jesus and Jellybeans: Talking Easter With Littles

This past week, I sat down with my son, wrapped my arm around his shoulders and braced myself for a conversation I’d had a feeling was coming. The shamrocks had been packed away, and in their place came a stack of Easter books. Many of them were filled with images of fluffy bunnies and colorful eggs, but there was one that showed a man, almost naked and nailed to a piece of wood. And this year, my son noticed.

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