Thoughts on Motherhood: Runaway

Written by Mommy Mailbox contributing author Mallory Hanna


This summer my six-year-old daughter stepped on a baby. She must have thought the pink patterned blanket was a stray towel in the grass because she ran right through the circle of chatting mothers, stepped on the baby and didn't even know it. An anxious silence followed and then the baby wailed.  In a wave of disappointment I muttered her name and watched the gravity of that baby's wail seep into her heart and spread across her face, the same round fair face that cried through Cinderella, and whenever her little sister is sick, and when she learned the truth about hot dogs, who fosters the fragilest of hearts branded by an empathy unyieldingly pure and pliable.

When she saw the circle of shocked faces and realized what she had done she sobbed and fled full speed through the shaded pavilion, beneath the trees and into the neighbor's yard and as she neared the street I yelled her name with a fierceness that stopped her in her tracks.

The running haunts me; for it is not the first time she has fled from feelings seemingly to heavy to bear. Sometimes at night all I can see are her pigtails swaying as she grows smaller in the distance, her sobs echoing behind her. It stimulates the aching vulnerability embedded within her first breath in a small hospital room at summer's end; it has followed me through every fever and every nightmare, hovered above me for seven hours on her first day of kindergarten and haunts me while I sleep. And though there are a million times I've felt helpless and frightened and paralyzed this was the first time I felt torn between my daughter's fragility and the well being of another child. I felt my daughter's guilt like it was my own. And if that child were seriously hurt or worse; how could I console her? How could we face the family who lost a child because of mine? And how could I possibly ease the throbbing guilt that pushes my daughter to run?

After I yelled her name she shuffled back tear-stained and trembling. Explanations escaped in muddled sentences and I held her close for coming back. I told her I knew her heart, that I'd known it for six years and even before and let's go check on the baby. She found the baby in her mother's arms, having just nursed, and the tears returned as she wept an apology. The baby's mother looked her straight in the eyes and said, “I know it was an accident, I'm not mad at you, it's ok, I know, I know.” What I knew of grace and heroism was sitting in the shade of an oak tree, holding her baby and caring for mine, giving her permission to breathe; a goodness radiant and medicinal for all in its wake. Afterward my daughter carefully placed one hand at the baby's feet and one on her head and she kissed the baby's cheek.  She stepped away red-faced and puffy, a heaviness giving way, lightness accumulating, a baby cradled by her mother, a sprinkler sparkling in the grass, a bowl full of watermelon waiting at the picnic table.    



We Stand Together

Written by Contributing Author Jenna Vela

motherhood interview

There was a day last week where my morning was so hectic that it pretty much took my breath away. My oldest is out the door just in time to catch her bus, and she definitely left with a smear of peanut butter on her cheek. As I’m getting my other two into the car my 2-year-old has the blowout of the century. Perfect. The 4-year-old is having a meltdown because her favorite dress is dirty and she hates the pants she’s wearing. Alas, there’s poop everywhere and we’re ten minutes late but finally get on the road. In the midst of all of this, I realize that I forgot to eat breakfast. Everything intensifies in those moments… have you noticed that? The hunger hit me so fast that I reached back behind me and searched the floor to see what I could find. “Mom, wait! Those french fries are super old and gross and probably smell like old socks,” my Annie says. I agree with her and eat them anyway.

Being a mom is funny like that. It’s like the best thing in the world but sometimes it’s also the worst thing in the world. Motherhood is up and down and insane and beautiful and makes you want to rip your hair out and hide in your closet, but also makes you cry the ugly happy cry because you’re so damn grateful.

At the end of the day there is one thing that we all share through this journey of madness: LOVE. Love for our children. Love for our little families. In my opinion though, one of the most important types of love is the love that we have for each other.

I go to the YMCA five to six days a week. I drop my kids off in the childcare (which they happen to love, thank goodness), and I take a little time to better myself. I stretch, I breathe, I turn on music, grab my best friend and we get to work. We have two hours to kill it together, and you better believe we make the most of it. A lot of times we end up laughing and looking like idiots, and other times we barely talk because we are focused on the work we came to do. Lately, I’ve been noticing other moms doing the same thing. They’re looking straight into the mirror and they are sweating, focusing, and working hard. We are spread throughout the gym—some running on the treadmill, some coming and going from yoga, some walking around looking a little weary on what to do next.

It hit me the other day that this gym of random, quiet mothers is kind of like a big secret melting pot of love. We smile as we pass each other. We stop and say, “You’re lookin’ good, mama.” We don’t know each other personally, but we’ve become comrades here in our place of self-betterment. Eventually we learn each other’s names, maybe how many kids we have… We congratulate each other on the little victories while we pass by, like busting out three sets of heavy curls even though we only got a couple hours of sleep the night before. We hardly know each other, but we take care of one another. Even a simple “Hey friend” can make all the difference.

Slowly, but very steadily and without any focused effort, a tiny community of support, encouragement, laughter, and love is created. And seriously, that’s what I need as a mom. I need to feel love, encouragement, and some good old solidarity from other women who are in the trenches with me. I’ll forever appreciate a quick glance across the room followed by a smile and a strong nod, and all of a sudden I feel like I can conquer anything. That’s what we are supposed to do as women… we rally, we help each other, we listen, we cry together, laugh at inappropriate things together, take care of each other’s kids, and ultimately without even knowing it, we end up taking care of each other. It’s all because we are filled with that love that stems from being a mom…and spreading it around to others in our same boat is one of the most selfless acts we can do.

You are beautiful, smart, hardworking, kind, patient, and a million other things, my fellow mothers. I support you. I applaud you. I salute you.

Most importantly, I love you.
Have a couple old french fries on me and let’s do this.

Mom of Boys

Written by Mommy Mailbox co-founder Sarah Homec

I just had my third boy. I kind of can’t believe it. How am I an “all-boy” mom?? I come from a family of all girls. When I had my first baby boy, I was terrified. What would I do with a boy?! I have learned the answer, and that is just to love them.

I can’t even count on all of my fingers and toes the many times each week when other women would look at me in disbelief and pity when I was pregnant and would share that I was expecting my third boy. So many times I heard, “How do you feel about that? Are you disappointed?” Time and again, I would shake my head in disbelief. Disappointed in what? A beautiful, healthy baby? I couldn’t have asked God for anything more! I admit, when we had our ultrasound that so clearly showed a baby boy in my growing belly, my husband and I were both shocked. But that doesn’t mean that we wish for one second for our family to be any different than what it is.

I remember when we first moved to Arizona and I reconnected with a high school friend who is also an “all-boy” mom. She winked at me and said, “We boy moms have to stick together.” I cannot tell you how true this statement is. Boys are a breed all of their own. They are so loving and helpful and kind. And then one moment later, they are wrestling and fighting and shouting. My boys have so much energy each day that often at night, as I put them to bed, I feel so exhausted from trying to keep up with them that I am sure I can’t stand up for even one more second. But I would never trade my busy life with boys for a second.

I have stared at them in disbelief as they have peed in the trash can in the bathroom instead of the toilet, watched them wipe their tiny poopy bums on the shower curtain instead of with toilet paper, and taken them to the doctor to have a small foreign objects removed from their nostrils. And through all this, I have learned another valuable lesson: Let It Go. My boys have taught me to keep things in perspective and to place value on things (and moments) in life that are truly valuable.

I love to feel their tiny arms wrapped around my neck, and the very very slobbery kisses on my cheeks as they tell me they love me. I love to sit and build Legos with them all afternoon, and I love to take them to the park and watch them run around with their friends. These are the special moments that make motherhood, especially the difficult days, all worth it. I’m not saying that being an “all boy” mom is easy, but it is definitely worth it.

Yes, I may not ever have a daughter, and I may not get to experience all of the ups and downs that come with raising a girl. But I wouldn’t trade the opportunity I have to shape my small boys into strong men for anything. I love my three little boyfriends, and I’m happy being a mom of boys.

A Pantheon Of Mothers

Written by Mommy Mailbox contributing author Mallory Hanna

thoughts on motherhood

After the birth of my second daughter I started a slow but earnest search for mothers. I wanted to read their accounts in literature, I wanted to see their perspiration in a painting, I wanted to study thick-legged women cradling their babies in statues of marble. I took 6 humanities classes in college and not once did I see some ancient homage to motherhood, or read an epic poem about the phases of childbirth. I was a young mother with two daughters and still felt like I was reeling from the whole undertaking. My identity had transformed and it felt revelatory, destined even, but my brain was fuzzy, my definitions now hazy, my heart, with all its stretching and scarring, was on fire. Where were the mothers describing this muddle of emotion and weight? So often I'd found repose in words and pictures and suddenly it felt as though an entire canon of mothers was missing.  

There's not much written about the tunnel vision of early motherhood, you won't find famous labor stories in the history books, mostly because those experiencing it have little capacity to think beyond their duties. The time I spent with mothers was always fleeting, filled with unfinished sentences, interrupted thoughts, the untimely cry of a toddler tripping on the stairs. But I clung to those moments like a gift, clung to other women's wisdom and experience to help define my own. I saw women translated somehow. I had been surrounded by them my entire life and never knew the depths of their existence. Years earlier I was speechless the night my boss miscarried; six months pregnant and then nothing but an ache in her belly. I see her ashen-face and swollen eyes and me in her path with no words, trying to conjure the smallest understanding of her loss.  I watched a teenager hand her baby over for adoption, she sobbed against the shirt of her mother, her hands squeezing the fabric into worn, wet, wrinkles. I thought of my neighbors still changing diapers in their seventies, carrying their daughter like a baby from her wheelchair to bed, singing Blue Moon in her ear and kissing her cheeks.  Acquaintances became heroes, aunts became saints. I forgave my mother everything. I started seeing mothers everywhere. I saw them crying in the hallway after sending their last child to Kindergarten. I saw them humiliated in the grocery store. And when my daughter threw up all over me in a waiting room, they were there handing me wipes. I have seen great courage in checkout lines, on airplanes, in public swimming pools, at birthday parties. I've seen women lose themselves only to rise again new beings with unparalleled resilience and generous hearts. I've seen women boldly  declare “mother” before profession and nationality.

These became my stories, my statues, my epic poems, written in the faces of women and mothers, and grandmothers, aunts, and sisters, with goldfish flooding their purses and spit up on their blouses; the first to offer a diaper, a blanket, the extra peanut butter sandwich they packed just in case someone forgot.