Wireless Motherhood: When Social Media is the New Village

Moms, especially new ones, need as much support as they can get. But how do online communities stack up against real life connections?

Hey, mamas, anyone else awake? I’m having a really tough time tonight with anxiety, and have no one to talk to.

I wrote that when my son was five-weeks-old. It was 3 a.m. He was sleeping soundly on my chest, and I remember wondering why I couldn’t just enjoy this moment with him. It was so quiet, even the crickets had stopped their incessant chirping. My son’s breaths whispered across my skin with each exhale: it was a completely pristine moment.

Yet there I sat, anxious and alone. There were so many unknowns, and in the middle of the night, as a new single mom, I had no one to talk to. Within moments, women from around the world were commenting that they were thinking of me, sending positive thoughts, hoping everything was okay, there to talk if I needed. They were awake too, facing their own struggles.

In those early weeks and months, I remember feeling more than once that social media was my lifeline. The harsh glare off my phone was a beacon of hope, there in the dark with my son cradled against me.

Anxiety is just one of several perinatal mood disorders (PMD) commonly experienced by women during and after pregnancy. Postpartum depression is the most renowned, but PMDs also include psychosis, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies, to name a few. An estimated 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression alone.

Despite their prevalence, women who experience these disorders can feel incredibly isolated. Depression, insomnia, and panic attacks do not fit the socially constructed mold of blissed-out new motherhood. This sets the stage for mothers to be riddled with guilt and shame for not being able to connect, or sleep, or leave the house. There were so many moments when I sat with friends, smiling and nodding, all the while wanting desperately to say: “I am so overwhelmed. I need help.” It’s hard to show the rawness of motherhood, because it still feels so taboo.

Perinatal mood disorders have been the dirty little secret of motherhood for far too long. It’s becoming easier to talk about, as celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Drew Barrymore, and Kristen Bell come forward and share their experiences. Actress Hayden Panettiere’s personal struggle was even mirrored in her character’s storyline on the TV show “Nashville” last year.

And that does help. Yet hearing that these seemingly perfect women have also struggled doesn’t necessarily make a mama feel less alienated as she watches the hours tick by in the night, alone and anxious. This is true largely because our society is highly autonomous. We prize individual triumph and the ability to succeed on your own above a group mentality. This mindset has its benefits, but also tends to alienate new mothers. In fact, this has become such a big issue that psychologists have wondered if postpartum depression is a misnomer, and should instead be called postpartum neglect.

Parenting takes a village

The old adage that it takes a village to raise a child is used frequently because it’s true and relevant. Parents are trying to navigate raising children in a society that has lost its village mentality. The idea that the collective is watching out for the best interest of the child, fostering his growth, and supporting his parents, is truly lost to us. If I didn’t make a concerted effort to get out of the house, I could easily spend day after day isolated at home with my son. This leaves parents, and new mothers especially, feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and alone, which is why the Internet can be such a useful resource – there at your fingertips you have access to a modern virtual village.

Memories of the earliest days of my son’s life are foggy, at best. Though I clearly remember the way his soft little body curved against mine, twitching in his sleep, the nights are a blur of monotony and sleeplessness. Midnight cries and grunts were the new soundtrack of my life. Three o’clock in the morning was my son’s party time, and when I had finally convinced him to fall back to sleep, I was usually too wired to sleep myself.

These moments were both miraculous and torturous – watching him sleep I wondered (as many parents do) how I had managed to make a complete human, but also how such perfection can cause such exhaustion. Shrouded in the darkness, my mind racing, I found myself turning more often than not in those early days to my phone for company. I took my motherhood wireless, and connecting online saved me.

I was lucky enough to stumble across an online mom group aimed at women with a similar due date. In its infancy, the group had hundreds of members, and was a place to turn to during those early, unknown days of pregnancy with questions about spotting and first ultrasounds. After almost two years together, we have whittled the group down to less than 100 members.

Together, we have suffered miscarriages, lost loved ones, divorced, and gotten married or engaged. We have supported each other through surgeries, pediatric scares, and domestic violence. We have cheered on, disagreed with, and learned from each other. We have encouraged mamas to seek medical help for warning signs of postpartum depression. We have laughed and rejoiced, shared stories, and marveled at each other’s little ones as they have grown and learned new skills. Most importantly, we have supported each other, despite our parenting differences. This group, to me, is the epitome of what the virtual village can offer.

I’m also part of some online mom groups that I rarely participate in: ones that are area specific, ones that are for working moms, for single moms, for breastfeeding moms, for writing moms. When it comes to types of mom groups, possibilities are endless. This can be a critical lifeline for mamas who do not have like-minded moms near them: LGBTQ moms, moms who adopted, single moms, moms who formula feed, moms who breastfeed, moms who struggled with fertility, moms who work-out, moms who co-sleep, moms who sleep train – the list goes on.

With access to these groups, you have the ability to contact women with vast experiences and knowledge from your very own living room, and can get support and advice without having to travel 5,000 miles to get it. For many, these online forums can be the first place they realize that they might have a PMD, and that they are not alone.

Moms can be bullies, too

There is, of course, the darker side of virtual villages: mommy shaming and the mommy wars. After experiencing postpartum depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsion after the birth of her daughter, Jessica Hanlin, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and owner of Mama Bird Wellness in Colorado, dedicated her work to helping mothers and families through their own experiences with these struggles.

Her postpartum support group has its own private Facebook page for mamas to connect after-hours. She sees the benefits of the virtual village firsthand, but also warns about the division that can be reached with such easy connection: “More input means more opinions, and often a more direct, less compassionate communication of these opinions.” This is also why it’s important to remember that the mamas we turn to online only hear a snippet of your stories; they do not know your or your baby’s social, personal, or medical histories. They have a window into your life, but their responses are deeply reflective of their own stories.

It’s easy to anonymously deride a mother who is parenting differently than how you would. This is always a risk with online interactions, and mom-bullying should not be taken lightly. Parenting decisions are so personal, and we tend to think that someone is doing it wrong when they are doing it differently than us. A question about supplementing with formula for a baby who isn’t gaining weight can quickly be met with derisive comments about how your body should provide enough, formula feeding ruins your child, why haven’t you done your research, I can’t believe you are going to do that to your child. In other words, you’re a bad mom. And those are some of the nicer comments I’ve seen. These comments can further isolate and alienate a mother who is already deeply struggling. This is why face-to-face interaction and support, from loved ones and professionals, is such an integral part of a successful postpartum existence.

So, what about real life?

I was part of real life groups, too, but rarely spoke up when I went. This was partially because I felt that the other moms just weren’t having the same issues as me. I was the only single mom in most of the groups that I tried out, and the only one dealing with the legal and emotional repercussions of an absent co-parent. I felt that sharing my story would garner more pity or curiosity than useful advice. In this regard, the relative anonymity of my Facebook group made me feel safe – safe to say, “Hey, I’m really struggling,” without feeling that I was a freak show for other moms to gawk at. My virtual village allowed me to show up and be vulnerable when I was struggling the most, when I didn’t want to face anyone or when my real life mama tribe was inaccessible.

For me, in-person mom groups filled a different need: one of camaraderie, and adult conversation. It was rewarding to get out of the house every week and sit in a circle of women who would show up at your door in a heartbeat if you asked for help. Kerry Stokes, doula, childbirth educator and founder of the Full Circle Doula Cooperative, leads a new mom group in her town. Several of the mamas in that group, myself included, have benefited greatly from having a tribe of mothers in their community.

From help packing and moving, to babysitting, play dates, and meal trains, real life moms can offer help where your virtual mamas cannot. Stokes agrees: “I don’t think online support groups are enough for any one mom, but it sure is a start. Motherhood and postpartum is a very raw time, and it needs to be represented and validated as such.” She began her new mom group after struggling herself and not finding the local, in-person tribe that she needed.

Can the Internet stop postpartum neglect?

Of the professionals I spoke with who specialize with the postpartum population, all agreed on the need to balance online and real-life support. Shelly King, a psychotherapist who works with women and couples during pregnancy, postpartum and parenting, believes that virtual villages can and do provide instant access to input, advice, knowledge, and support that mirrors what was once provided by family and extended support networks.

She notes, however, that technology, despite providing instant access to people and resources from around the world, can leave one feeling very disconnected. “Technology is amazing,” King says. “Online networks are so supportive, and yet nothing compares to being seen, heard, and felt in the presence of another kind, caring, nonjudgmental human being.” Going online can certainly help you overcome the stigma and guilt associated with PMDs, but sometimes being truly seen in the moment, in person, outweighs the vast advice you can find online.

It’s no secret that motherhood is a huge and vital job, and one that cannot be accomplished single-handedly. It really does take a village, and after centuries of raising children with that mentality, we are still instinctually driven to find our own personal village.

Yet, at the end of the day, can virtual villages replace real-life help? The short answer is no.

There are benefits of face-to-face interactions that you cannot get online. They are, however, an important fabric of the postpartum support system that can truly help a struggling mother. When it comes to the health and wellbeing of mothers, the more positive support the better. As King points out, using social media as part of the support network is not an either-or situation, but a both-and. Turn to them when you need a little extra support at four o’clock in the morning, or have an issue you want input on from been-there-done-that moms. Then, when the sun finally rises, and the rest of nearby humanity wakes up, find your real-life tribe. 

What do you think: Can the virtual village replace a physical community and help with perinatal mood disorders? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

How Could I Give You Only Half of My Heart?

Everyone promises you’ll love all your children just the same. The truth is, it’s hardly possible. But there’s no question you’ll have enough to go around.

Walking through the familiar halls of the birth center, I clung to the tiny hand of my one-year-old and headed for the exam room.

Coming in the opposite direction, a mom with a newborn and toddler in tow locked eyes with me. She glanced at my babies – the one who could barely walk, and the one still nestled snugly in my womb. She saw one of my hands resting gently on the crest of my stomach and the other pulled and stretched downward.

“Don’t worry,” she smiled softly. “You’ll love them each the same as the other.”

I smiled as the mom hormones rushed through me, and I fought to keep the tears from welling in my eyes. How could I possibly love anyone as much as the boy I’d been blessed with last year? How could I open my heart to anyone else? I didn’t know.

It’s not true what they say when you’re pregnant with your second child. Not even a little. You won’t love them both the same. There will be days when one needs you, and the other wants only to push you away. There will be days when one self-assuredly ventures out on his own while the other stays close to your breast.

There will be days, long days, many days, filled with yelling and fighting and laughter and tears and sticky sweet snuggles. They will become monsters and firemen, doctors and bad guys, princesses and mommies.

You won’t love them both the same because these two children aren’t the same. You won’t love them both the same because they don’t need you both the same. Don’t be afraid though. You will love them. You will love them fiercely and entirely and with every fiber of your being. And their differences, their quirks and strengths, their faults and follies, will worm their way right into your heart. 

Our first child was planned meticulously. We timed my ovulation and tracked my basal temperature. I knew the estimated due date for every upcoming cycle. I obsessed over the tiniest details. When we got pregnant right away, I did everything by the book. When we found out it was the boy we’d both secretly hoped for, we were over the moon.

He was born in October, so I had the whole winter to cuddle that tiny little thing against my breast. The love was easy and simple. He was exactly what I had wanted.

But because he was so perfect and everything worked out the way I’d planned, I blamed myself whenever anything didn’t feel right. When he wouldn’t sleep, or woke up soaking wet, or was sick or injured, I knew it was my fault because I was the one who had planned this all so meticulously. I felt indebted to him for the perfect arrival he’d been, and I worked tirelessly to pay back my debt with love.

He’d stuck to his part of the deal. Now it was my turn.   

Then, before he was even a year, before he could walk or talk or sleep through the night, I found myself in the bathroom staring at another positive pregnancy test. But this pregnancy test wasn’t bought months ago, stored carefully at the correct temperature, and taken out ceremoniously on a day circled on the calendar.

Instead, I’d woken that morning with a start. I felt just slightly nauseated, hungover but without having had a sip to drink. Suddenly, jarringly, it occurred to me that my irregular, still-breastfeeding period hadn’t made an appearance in well over a month. I sat up and sent my husband to the store for the pregnancy test that I threw on the counter after reading. 

“I’m pregnant. I knew it,” I snapped at my husband, who was smiling. I was not. I stomped out of the room.

“I’m going to miss my brother’s wedding,” I snapped again. My only sibling had, just days earlier, finally set a date. Now, as I quickly counted the calendar in my head, I realized it was days apart from when this baby would arrive.

“And I’m definitely not going to spend my own birthday pushing out another kid,” I grumbled, when I realized that there was a decent chance that I would.

This was not how I had planned it.

I spent the rest of that week wishing this weren’t happening right now. I wanted another baby, but I wanted him later. It wasn’t supposed to happen now. Unplanned pregnancies were for teenagers and losers. Addicts maybe. Ignorants. Definitely not mostly-happy married couples with mostly-happy babies.

It didn’t take long to adjust to the idea though, and soon I was just as excited about baby number two as I’d been about my first. When we found out it was another boy, I beamed through tears of joy just imagining my two sons growing up as brothers, a year and a half apart, and best friends.

The pregnancy was harder physically, but easier emotionally. I knew what to expect and, this time around, I couldn’t blame myself for anything, as this had not been something I’d planned. I felt such relief at owing no debt. This hadn’t been my idea.

Even his birth was blissful. When my birthday and due date both came and went without a baby, I downed a few shots of castor oil, put my older son to sleep, and caught my baby in the bathtub three hours later. I was completely amazed by him.

Yet somehow I could never shake the knowledge that when I first found out he was coming, I wasn’t filled with love immediately. I didn’t cry tears of joy when I saw those parallel lines on the pregnancy test. I felt guilty.

When he got sick just a week after we brought him home, I felt like there was some karmic justice due to me. We spent a week back in our local hospital – just him and me – before the doctors decided he should be transferred to the bigger children’s hospital in the city. He wasn’t dying, or even really that outwardly sick, but the idea that he could be, and that I’d somehow wished him away for even a moment before I’d ever met him, burned inside of me.    

He’s better now, but when I hold him and his tiny hands press against my shoulder blades, his arms and legs clenching his body against mine, I feel how desperately he wants to be with me. I wonder if it’s because I love him back with the same desperation. I yearn for his affection. I savor his quiet moments.

I can never love him hard enough to erase that moment when I wished he wouldn’t be.

He climbs up my body, clawing, all bony nubs and sinew. He clutches around my neck and we squeeze each other just a little too hard. It’s as though we’re each trying to absorb the other into our very selves. My heart aches for him at the most unexpected moments. He’s exactly what I needed, even when I thought we were already perfect without him.   

But my older son’s body melts into mine. He leans into me with the ease of someone who’s been here forever. My arms drape gently, comfortably over his shoulders. The kisses and snuggles are so simple, so easy, so sweet. When he slips into my lap, hands me a book, and nuzzles his nose under my chin, it feels just right.

He is the perfect fit.

Before I go to bed, I sneak into their rooms to check on them. My older son, his yellow bangs stuck to his forehead in ringlets, his face hot and his breathing heavy. I pull his blanket down and tuck a light sheet around his shoulders. He stirs and rolls over, laying a hand heavily on my shoulder. When I kiss his forehead where the ringlets meet his brow, he quietly blows a kiss back at me, eyes still closed and head unmoving.

In the adjoining room, his brother is curled into a tight ball. At the sound of the door his head pops upright. “Mama,” he sighs blissfully, reaching a hand through the rails of his crib. He clenches my fingers in his balled up fist while I stroke the soft baby hair at the nape of his neck. His face relaxes, but his grip is still tight. I use my other hand to pry open his fingers and free mine. I lean in and try to kiss him through the crib rails but I come up just short, getting only a breath of him.

These boys, who’ve stolen my heart. These boys, one sensitive and calculated, the other passionate and fiery. These boys, who’ve always been this way. I could never love them both the same. I could never give to one exactly what I give to the other.

I could never give them each just a half of my heart.

An Open Letter To The Mom With A Toddler And A Baby

Hang in there. It gets better.

I saw you today in the grocery store. I saw the fatigue on your face and the glimmer of a tear in your eye as you told your busy toddler “no” for the fifteenth time.

I saw you wince, then adjust the baby sling on your shoulder. I noticed that your steps were slow as you pushed your cart down the aisle, probably because just being outside of the house felt like a treat.

I saw you today and I remembered. I remembered struggling through that stage with two children of my own. When the days seemed endlessly long, and the tedium threatened to overwhelm me.

I saw you today, and I want to tell you: it’s okay.

Some days, you will be doing well to just get through the daylight hours with everyone alive and fed. Those are the times when the baby fusses, your toddler rebels, or you feel like you are drowning in laundry and kid-created messes. During those times, it’s okay to leave the TV on all day and never change out of your pajamas. And if your partner returns home from work in the evening to find pizza delivery on the table instead of a home-cooked meal, that’s okay too.

Some days, you will awake with a plan for the day. You are going to clean! Cook! Complete a project from start to finish for once! Sometimes you will accomplish your mission. But more often, your plans will be destroyed by a diaper explosion, followed by a toddler dumping a bag of cereal on the floor, topped off by both kids refusing to go down for a nap. If you yell on those days, it’s okay. If you take a little longer than usual to fold clothes in the laundry room while polishing off a package of Oreos, it’s okay. If you put both kids to bed and hide in the bathroom to get yourself together, that’s okay too.

Some days, you will browse Pinterest or Facebook and compare yourself to those picture-perfect parents who post projects and advice. Suddenly you will think that you are clearly not providing enough educational activities at home. Why haven’t you created a sensory bin for your toddler or introduced your newborn to classical music? And instead of purchasing your nursery layette at a chain baby store, you now wonder if you should’ve sewn your own, or ordered custom bedding and decor created for your baby by an Etsy seller. Really, your kids and their rooms are okay.

Some days, another mom’s comments and suggestions will make you feel terrible. When she observes your child eating Cheerios off of the floor she will remind you of the toxic chemicals you use to clean the linoleum. Her children go straight to bed every night without argument, she will inform you. And when you put your toddler in time out, she will boast that her children have learned to listen, so that she hardly ever needs to give her kids consequences anymore. If you momentarily hate her, that’s okay.

Some days, you will find yourself feeling irrationally angry with your partner, all because he or she gets to leave the house to work and you don’t. Then, when you finally go out with friends, you will sometimes find it hard to enjoy yourself because you are so tired, and because you feel unexplainably guilty for leaving the baby for a few hours. That’s okay, too.

Some days, you’ll hear or read a variation on one of these quotes: Enjoy every moment!l Before you know it your kids will be grown and gone! You’ll miss this someday! Those comments might make you feel both angry and guilty. Angry, because you are already tired of advice from well-meaning grandparents. And guilty, because some days you really don’t enjoy being at home with your children. That’s okay.

The best thing I have to offer you right now in the frozen food aisle is to tell you that this parenting thing does get easier. And that even on those days when you feel like you are failing, you are enough. It’s okay.

Someday, you’ll say that too.

5 Ways to Stay Connected to Your Little Ones When You’re Traveling for Work

Ways to connect while traveling for work (or fun) that help ease separation and keep the family bond strong.

Usually, I work locally, but every other month or so, I spend a couple of nights in another city.

As my travel date draws closer, I tend to keep my son up a tiny bit later for an extra story and to hug him a bit tighter when we cuddle. Work travel has its advantages (like a full night of uninterrupted sleep) and its disadvantages (they’re only young once). But at the end of the day, it’s simply a part of my job and a part of my life.

One thing that I’ve learned since beginning my life as a working parent is that time away from my son doesn’t have to be lost time. While I’m not there to kiss the boo-boos or chit-chat about the highs and lows of preschool life, I have found ways to connect with my son from afar that eases separation and keeps our bond strong.

Here are five ways to connect with your child when you find yourself on the road for work:

1 | Play FaceTime Hide-and-Seek

I don’t know how people parented before FaceTime. My little guy’s life is screen free except for when he wants to chat with his cousin or his grandparents on my iPhone.

FaceTime hide-and-seek is simple: Your partner hides their phone somewhere easy (in a drawer, behind a curtain, in the laundry basket) and sets your little one to find you. The sight of your child’s face towering over you and split with a grin feels wonderful. Exaggerated sneezing on your part is optional, but highly recommended if your child is having difficulty finding you.

2 | Read a favorite bedtime story

While hearing your little one’s voice over the phone feels wonderful, nothing quite beats hearing their quiet, tired little sighs as you read the stories they’re used to hearing your voice read.

Before you hit the road, pull up the text of little one’s favorite books on your iPad or Kindle and let them keep the physical copy so they can flip through the pages as you read.

3 | Leave a favorite snack or treat

Before I leave town, I like to bake (or buy) something special for my little boy. When he’s telling me that first evening that he misses me, I direct him to the microwave or the oven or the cabinet where I’ve stored his something special.

As he races back to the phone, treat in hand, I know he feels loved. And I, from afar, feel like I’ve sent my love through space.

4 | Be a part of their routine

While you want to connect with your little one, you don’t want to throw their routine for the parent at home. FaceTime during bath time, or have your partner prop you up at the dinner table or next your kid while they play so you can connect during the times you normally would.

Sometimes my husband props the iPhone on the shelf of my son’s play kitchen. As he cooks and cleans, I’m right at face level so he can pretend to feed me or chit-chat as he goes.

5 | Create a special coming home routine

The day after I get home from a business trip, I take my son out for a mommy-and-me breakfast. Because I work full-time, we rarely eat a morning sit-down meal together, so this outing feels particularly special.

If my son starts to feel sad in my absence, my husband reminds him he’s got a great breakfast coming up. That cheers him right up.

Posted on Categories _Connections

The Memories That Stick and Those We Trade For New Ones

I was shocked that my mother had forgotten so many details of my birth. But after I had my son, I realized there was so much I too had forgotten.

When I first learned that my son was swimming around in my belly, I craved nothing more than information.

I wanted to know how big he was and how fast he was growing and when he would get his arms and his fingers and his eyes. I wanted to know when my belly would begin to swell and when I would begin to really feel pregnant.

I dug into my grad school books on fetal development and signed up for weekly emails on my baby’s growth, but the information was vague, all averages and anecdotes. I didn’t care to know that the average woman began to show between 12 and 20 weeks, or that her labor often lasted between 16 and 24 hours, or that the average baby was between 7 and 7.5 lbs.

I wanted to know when I would start to show and how long my labor would be and how much my little one would weigh.

To satiate my curiosity for personalized information, I turned to the woman whose experience I thought mine would most closely mirror – my mother.

As we laid together on the couch, talking about the future, I asked her about the past. I wanted to know what time I was born: “Sometime in the morning,” she responded. I asked how much I’d weighed and how long I’d been: “A little under eight pounds and pretty long, but not that long,” she said.

I was shocked that the details of my early life had been somehow lost over the decades.

Confused by the vagueness of her memory, I dug deeper. My first food? She didn’t remember. My first word? She thought it was “car” or “dada,” but it was tough to recall. She didn’t remember exactly how old I was when I first rolled or crawled or walked, though she guessed for each.

I understood it had been a quarter of a decade since the events I was asking her to recall had taken place, but I was shocked that the details of my early life had been somehow lost over the decades.

When I asked what she did remember, she told me about how happy I was on the day I met my little brother and the way I used to stay up late talking to my sister who wanted nothing more than to go to sleep.

She told me about swim lessons and softball games and afternoons barefoot in the creek. She also talked about middle school dances and high school tears and the fact that even now, pregnant with my own child, she still saw me as her baby.

As my belly grew, question after question that had raced through my mind in the early weeks of pregnancy was answered. As it turned out, I would never have morning sickness, I would start to show around 14 weeks, and I would gain over 40 pounds. My pregnancy would last exactly 40 weeks; contractions started just after 4 a.m. on his due date.

On the day of my son’s birth, more answers fell into place: Labor was nine hours, he drew his first breath at 1:19 p.m. He weighed nine pounds, nine ounces and was 21 inches long. His eyes were slate blue, his head nearly bald. His knees were thick and his cry, soft and sweet, left me breathless with joy and disbelief.

It was the most wonderful day of my life and I swore, in the moment, that I would memorize every detail, and hold onto the memories forever.

As I began to test my memory I realized that there was already so much I had forgotten.

A few weeks ago, just after my son’s second birthday, I was chatting with a friend about my boy and how quickly he’s grown. I recounted the day of his birth, still beaming with pride and overcome with joy.

“Was it cold on the day he was born?” she asked, and suddenly, I couldn’t remember.

I’m sure it was, he was born in January, but I couldn’t remember a thing about the weather on the day of his birth. As I began to test my memory, I realized that there was already so much I had forgotten: What I had done the day before his birth, what I packed in my hospital bag, what my son wore home from the hospital, and how we spent his first afternoon once we got there.

Though the prospect of losing these details once puzzled and horrified me, in that moment, I began to understand. Once, my boy was just an ultrasound. I treasured the curve of his elbow and read tenderness into the way he sucked his thumb in the grainy black and white image. I swore I wouldn’t forget when I’d felt the first kick.

Then he was a birth story, the hours and the pushes and the weight and length, and I treasured the details of his arrival, ascribing kindness to his promptness. I swore I would remember them all.

And then he was a first roll and a first babble and a first laugh. I treasured them all, trying my best to capture them in video or journal or photograph.

Now he’s my boy, strong and tender and kind, and as I treasure every moment of his early boyhood, I’m trading old memories for new ones.

The human brain can only hold so much.

The human brain can only hold so much. The memory of the weather on the day of his birth was probably replaced with the memory of his first steps, with the way his hand slowly loosened its grip as his foot stepped forward. The memory of the contents of my hospital bag was likely replaced with the memory of his first day of preschool and the nerves and tears that swallowed us both.

The memory of his first outfit and what we did when we got home from the hospital was probably replaced with the memory of his first joke, told just last week.

Becoming skilled in avoiding bedtime, he called me into his room with a panicked sounding, “Mommy! Hanky foot stuck!” I ran in to help and, when I noticed his foot was neither tangled nor trapped, I asked, “Stuck where buddy?” With a giggle and a grin he spit, “To the end of Hanky’s leg!”

If these are the memories that stick or, if someday they disappear, too, replaced by something even better, I think I’ll be okay with that.