Tim and I tried to get pregnant for three years. One day Tim was about to take the dogs for a walk. I was sitting on the porch. When he called Lucy down to the walk so they could leave, she glued herself to my legs and refused to leave me. When Tim came up on the porch and tried again to get her to go with him, she basically tried to crawl behind me. Tim immediately said to me "Maybe you're pregnant?!" After three years of negative tests, I said no way. But he was right, Lucy knew it before any of us, and about a week later I finally got my positive test. And for the next nine months Lucy did not leave my side. These are my two babies. I'm so happy to have captured their love, a love that started when Milo was basically a glimmer in our eye, just the size of a little lentil, a lentil that Tim and I didn't even know existed yet.
Today Milo had his Legos all over the floor, he had been playing with them while I sat on the couch drinking a cup of coffee. After awhile of playing, he got up to do something else for a moment. I looked down and thought to myself how I hadn't really been playing with him much lately. So, I got down and sat on the floor in the middle of the Legos. He looked over at me with a look of such disbelief, excitement, and pure joy. My heart broke. Broke. The look on his face is forever engrained in my memory. He was so happy that he walked over and gave me the biggest kiss, and then sat down to play with me, elated. I felt crushed. In that moment it hit me so hard, I realized how much I have been failing him lately.
Honest truth? There are moments of my motherhood where I know I am not doing everything the way that I should for Milo. I'm especially embarrassed to admit that sometimes I know it and I don't fix it right away. I don't know exactly why I don't... I get to wrapped up in my own head, my own worries, my own thoughts and to do lists. I keep telling myself, just this one more thing, let me get this one more thing done, and then... The one more things never end though. I know that I am not showing up how I should be, that I'm not filling his bucket as he needs. I know it and I don't fix it right away. The dumb thing is, it makes me feel awful. It doesn't really help.
Recently has been one of these times for me, for us. We have a weird mix of amazing things developing for our family and not knowing what the hell is happening next over here. My need (like? desire?) to know and control what happens mixed with my belief that the universe will provide has my insides pulling at each other daily. Change is hard and amazing and necessary. I want it, I need it, I enjoy it, but big change can also bring on the fear. I believe in powering through the fear, in changing it into excitement, but it is still there sometimes. I am one of those people whose brain is working overtime, all the time. IT. DOES. NOT. STOP. GOING. This can be a great thing sometimes, exhausting and overwhelming at others. The changes for our family mean that I am working a bit more. I am working to build my photography business more and Tim and I are also working on a new business together. Both things are super exciting and both are projects I feel extremely passionate about. Two things happen to me when I am passionate about something and when I'm trying to figure it all out. I allow myself to get into a state of overwhelm and I also get working on something and have a hard time turning off. Neither of these bode well with Milo. He is used to having me here, with him, having me present. What I have realized has been happening recently is that I am so in my own head. I'm so caught up in trying figure out our next move, that I am not getting on the floor and playing with Milo. I'm less patient with him. I am not going on walks or bike rides when Tim takes him, or playing baseball out front, we aren't reading as many books as we used to. To sum it up, I have been sucking at being an attentive mom.
Today it hit me hard that I am failing a little bit at what is most important to me, my family, my son.
But it's okay, this needed to happen, I needed a bit of a wake up. For the rest of the day we enjoyed time together. He was happy, I was happy. Buckets filled. Mama, not sucking so much.
This image is by the wonderful and wonderfully talented Kirsten Lewis. This past June Kirsten came to our house from Colorado and documented our entire day. She is not only an amazing documentary photographer, but also a beautiful and funny person. We are so fortunate to have had her here with our family. And I am so fortunate to have her as a mentor. (Not to mention her husband is fantastic and her daughter is the cutest thing ever.)
I am SO grateful to have this image. BEYOND grateful. This is how Milo goes to sleep each night, with either me or Tim. Nothing about this is staged. This is us. This is an image that I will forever be indebted to Kirsten for making for me. This moment, this moment is everything. I will forever be able to look at this and remember how it felt. So grateful, so grateful....
This past weekend, this Mother’s Day, was pretty hard for me.
This Mother’s Day, we, I, made the final decision to help my Oden, my cat, my first baby, my constant companion for over 17 years pass on. It has been the hardest decision of my life so far.
I never thought I was a cat person. Over 17 years ago, I went with a friend to the humane society because she wanted to get a cat. I was looking with her and took a couple of kittens into the little room they provide to spend some time together to see if you like each other. I had no intention of getting a cat, but I was drawn to Oden. I had a dream sometime before that day that I had an orange kitten and here was Oden, an adorable orange kitten. When I took him into the room, he was the only cat who didn’t want to just run around and enjoy the freedom of that extra space after being in the cage the shelter keeps them in. He just kept climbing back into my lap and cuddling on me. When him and I left that little room my friend wanted to hold him for a minute. As she tried to hold him, he actually climbed over her shoulder and reached out to me with his big white paws for me to hold him again. Once I was holding him again, he was content to stay put. It took a few days to actually adopt him, but he has been with me everyday since. He has been a part of almost every part of my adult life, so many stages, so many ups and downs. He has lived in six houses with me and I honestly don’t know what it’s like to be in a house without his little face here.
Oden was the kind of cat who people who didn’t like cats loved. Many, many people who have met him have told me that if they knew that a cat was going to be like Oden that they would want a cat. He was a lap cat and he was friendly to everyone. If someone came to work on something at our house, Oden was there right next to that person, watching whatever it was they were working on. He loved to be carried like a baby. I would walk around the house with him like that forever, sometimes dancing, sometimes him just relaxing in my arms looking around. He also liked to be help up over my shoulder watching everything that was going on. Basically if he was with me, he was happy. Towards the end, I slept on the couch every night so he could be with me and he would run up, jump up on me, and cuddle up on me, sticking his head under my chin like he did when he was a kitten. I believe in souls being connected and I know that he was and is my little soul mate.
It is weird to be in my house without him. I don’t like it and I honestly don’t know what do with myself. To put it mildly, I am heart broken. It physically hurts. I don’t want to ignore how I feel, but I am also trying to stay busy and I am back and forth between wanting to be around other people and feeling to agitated to talk to anyone. I am home alone right now, and it kinda sucks. Helping him end his life has been the hardest decision of my life. I still don’t know that I did the right thing.
As I am dealing with all of these feelings, I am still a mom. I still need to be here for Milo. He is also having a hard time with Oden not being here. I want to make sure he knows it’s okay to feel sad and that it’s okay to express it. And of course, I also want him to know that we will be okay.
As I am dealing with my grief, I am doing my best to allow myself some grace. There are moments where I feel okay, and there are moments where I really just want to curl up and do nothing. My stomach has been in constant knots. My first instinct is to make myself power through, to make myself continue as if nothing happened, but I’ve realized that’s not what I need. As moms we are so good at beating ourselves up for not doing everything perfectly. And I have not been a perfect mom these past two weeks. I have been overwhelmed with the impending ending of Odens life. With medicating him and helping him to stay comfortable. With my sadness thinking about the fact that he was soon not going to be here anymore, and with the torturous decision about whether or not euthanasia was the right choice and whether or not I even believed in it. I have not been as present for Milo as I usually am. I am easily agitated and I have needed to take time to myself. I have moments where I don’t even know what to do with myself. I have allowed Tim to do a lot more of the parenting alone. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t checked out. I am still here, but I am allowing myself a little bit of forgiveness for moments that I am having a hard time. In the past, I think I would have felt more guilty. I would have beat myself up about it. I have always been someone who is better at taking care of others than I am at taking care of myself. This, however, has knocked me on my ass. So today after I dropped Milo off at school and came home, I allowed myself to watch some TV, something I never do, don’t even like to do in the middle of the day. But the distraction and background noise is helpful. I am also allowing him more TV time, we usually keep it very limited and it isn’t a regular part of our days. But right now, I’m okay with Milo getting a little bit more TV. I am making sure I snuggle him and read some books to him, but I am not beating myself up for knowing that I am not fully in each moment right now. That my head and my heart are preoccupied.
If you aren’t a pet person, you might think that this is all a bit much, that he’s just an animal. And that’s okay. That’s what’s right for you. However, if you are mom, you can still take away from this that we all need to give ourselves a pass once in awhile, that we all need a little grace, especially from our toughest critics, ourselves.
Happy Mother's Day to all of the hardworking, dedicated, beautiful mamas out there! Everything you are, all that you do, it is everything. It is why I do what I do. It is why I feel honored to be a mother a long side of you and honored to do what I do as a photographer. Thank you! You have all earned and deserve this day...
So much love to you all! xoxo, Shelley