All In

I need your help.  It’s that simple and that hard.  Why?

I was born in the wrong generation.  I would have thrived at a time when books were all read by the turning of crinkling pages and the highest-tech device in a home was a VHS rewinding machine.  (Did you have one of these?  They were da bomb.) While most people moved on from VHS tapes decades ago, I only begrudgingly surrendered our VHS player right before William was born, and I still sometimes miss that rabid-chipmunky sound of having to watch something in reverse to get back to the beginning.

Alas, here we are.  2018.  A time when we can watch movies on our phones  (or so they tell me).  Due to evolving technology, book publishing is not what it used to be either.  At least in the world of non-fiction, publishing has become more about platform than content (which I fear says a lot about the times in which we live).  I’ve been working with a literary agent in New York on getting a collection of motherhood essays published, and feedback from publishers has been that they really like the work, but I need more followers, a bigger social media presence, and things like twitter.  I am not good at these things.  But some of you are good at these things—some of you are very good.  And I need your goodness.  And your kindness.  And your social media savvy.  So I’m asking if you would help me, and I’m trusting that some of you will (which I hope says much more about the times we live in than anything else).  So if you’ve ever read any of my essays, and they’ve made you smile, or laugh, or cry, or think about the world or your place in it, I’m asking if you would help me get the word out—to your mom and to your sister and to your best friend, and maybe even to that person from that thing you went to one time who you don’t really know but is technically your friend on Facebook.  The goal is to reach out to anyone who might like to read along and to get them to follow, too.

Here’s the blog website to follow:https://aladyandababy.wordpress.com

Here’s the Facebook page to like and follow and share: https://www.facebook.com/ladyandbabyblog/

Here’s the twitter account: @kerryaharris4

A huge thank you from me, and Lady, and the babies.

Kerry Anne

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Encore

I could just use a cup.  I have thought this nearly every time I’ve bathed William since he’s been old enough to have a full bath.  I could just use a cup to pour water over his head and rinse out the shampoo, but the problem with the cup idea is that it always comes too late—after he’s already in the water and I’m already on my knees with sleeves rolled up and shampoo in hand.  So instead of using a cup, for years now (YEARS!) I have just taken the washcloth and gently rinsed the suds out of his hair from back to front, counting down from ten as I go.  But as William has grown, the countdown has become insufficient.  After “three…two…one…” there are still suds everywhere, so I’ve taken to adding, “Encore!” at the end of the countdown, over and over, until all the suds are gone. Then one day our conversation went like this:

“What’s ‘encore,’ Mama?”

“Sometimes musicians play concerts in really big arenas and their fans are having so much fun that they don’t want the music to stop.  So after the last song has played and the musicians have gone backstage, the fans call out, ‘Encore!’ as loud as they can, and they shout and cheer until the musicians come back and play another song.”

“Oh.”

William contemplates this for a while and then looks at me, suspiciously.  We do a lot of imaginative play in our home.  Bubble wrap turns us into astronauts; boxes take us on safari adventurers; blankets lead to hidden caves or pirate treasures.  But this—this apparently is just too much.  My two-year-old stares at me not with disbelief, but pity.  I see it in his eyes.  This time, he thinks, Mom has gone too far.

“It’s a real thing,” I say. “Encore.”

He stares back, eyebrows slightly furrowed.

“You’re not a musician,” he says.

“No.  But sometimes we need to keep going even after we think we’re done, so…”  I douse him with water and shout, “ENCORE!”

The genius of the encore is it can technically go on as long as you need it to.

Well, the genius, and also the insanity.  Much of new-baby life resides in the world of the encore.  For example, say you think you’ve fed the baby a sufficient number of times in the middle of the night.  Surely, twice in the wee-small hours is enough.  Not so.  Encore, mama.  Get your booty out of bed.  And then before the sun is fully up, encore again.

Toddler life resides in the world of the encore, too.  For example, perhaps you think you’ve mastered potty training. It’s been weeks since an accident, and you truly believe you’ve made the final performance of cleaning up messes–only to find the brand new cloth couch soaked in (in polite terms) “#1.” Or the white carpet stained with “#2.”  Or soiled bed sheets, or soiled underwear, or soiled things that you didn’t even realize could be soiled—like the wall?  Encore.

Or maybe the encore happens when you’re on the way out the door, and the baby spits up all over herself, and the toddler decides his shoes are worth throwing a tantrum about (Why? These are the same shoes he has put on hundreds, maybe thousands, of times before.  The EXACT SAME SHOES.  I try to explain this to him, which obviously, only makes matters worse).

Some days dealing with the encores of motherhood takes everything you’ve got, and you don’t have an entire fan base cheering for you at the top of their lungs. It’s just you.  It’s you, and these things that feel like they are undoing you.

My children have undone me.  Physically.  From carrying them and then delivering them, my muscles have come undone—so much so, in fact, that I have been referred to see a specialist.

“Your core,” the physical therapist tells me, “is very weak.  I don’t mean your abs.  I don’t know why everybody in the fitness world thinks your core is your abs. Really your core is your whole abdomen.  It’s the top and bottom and back and front.  And yours, my dear, is weak.”

Having kids changes your fundamental make up. It takes something out of you.  Puts something into you.  Takes more out of you.  Stretches you (and leaves marks behind). Rearranges you. Physically.  Emotionally.  Practically.  Not just your body, but your hopes, your priorities.  Your definitions.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the core is the “basic, essential, or enduring part; the inmost or most intimate part.” Apparently, my inmost, essential parts need strengthening.  Because instead of rising to the occasion of the encore, I feel like curling up in the fetal position and saying, “Someone else?  Isn’t there someone else to feed you and wipe you and teach you to be kind?  Someone…? Anyone…?”

There is no one.

The prefix “en” means to “cause to be.”  Becoming a mother weakens the core; becoming a mother strengthens it.  It is during middle of the night feedings that we prove our merit.  It is when we must clean yet another pair of underwear (or just this once, throw a pair away) that we learn we have what it takes to survive.  The very things that undo us are the things that cause us to be strong.  And not just strong for the world to see—but strong on the inside.  The front and the back and the top and the bottom.  The parts that hold all the other parts together.

Though the word “encore” does traditionally entail the reappearance of entertainers to great fanfare,  the word’s lesser known meaning is “a second achievement especially that surpasses the first.”

The encores of motherhood are not pre-staged.  We do not hold back our best performances in order to reappear to the intoxicating applause of loyal fans.  Most of motherhood occurs in obscurity, behind closed doors, never seen or heard by anyone who will fully remember it.  We give to the point of exhaustion.  And then the encores come, and we must somehow find a way to give more. So we do.

Bath time has become one of my favorite parts of the day.  William’s too.  When it’s time to wash out his shampoo, there is still no cup, but on purpose now.  I like to hear him say, “Encore, Mama! Encore!” And as I hold the baby in one arm and gently squeeze water over his head with the other, I like to imagine that though we are all alone, there is a heavenly host of angels on their feet, clapping and shouting and cheering for us.  And for the wonder of the encore.  And for the unknown, unseen, unrecognized achievements that surpass them all.

E.A.H.

Perhaps we spend our lives searching for meaning, seeking to make a difference, hoping to leave the world just a little better than we found it—never realizing that we already have, that our mere arrival has changed the ones who love us so irrevocably that they will never be the same again. We cause our parents to sacrifice. To give. To love with more love than they knew they could love. To be less like themselves and more like Christ simply because we entered the world in the smallest of ways.  And the most profound.

Elizabeth Anne Harris began to change the world on April 23, 2018 at 2:02 am; 7 pounds 9 ounces; 20.5 inches long.  She is healthy and feisty and forever loved.

Exceptions

It is spring, and it is snowing. Fresh daffodils stand like white-capped soldiers braving the storm. Bradford pear trees that lost their blooms are once again frosted in white. This snow is not the calm, gentle, flaky snow of winter, but rather it tumbles from the sky in big chunks and great diagonal heaves as if the spring itself is in revolt. With every falling flake there is a growing sense that this is not the way things are supposed to be.

There are laws of nature, laws of science—and according to those laws, when you heat something up, atoms move faster, and a substance expands; conversely, when you cool something down, atoms move slower, and a substance contracts. These laws of expansion and contraction determine everything from our weather to how we use the stove to heat up dinner. All matter obeys these laws. Except when it doesn’t. Except when there are exceptions. Water is one of the only substances that expands when it freezes. This is why we have snowflakes. It’s why a thick, insulating layer of ice forms above a lake or sea or ocean instead of sinking below and killing off the bottom dwellers of our fragile ecosystem, disrupting life as we know it. Albert Einstein once said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Water, it seems, is a mystery, a scientific anomaly, an exception that goes against the laws of science to perpetuate life.

It is spring, and it is snowing, and the new baby is coming—not yet, but soon—and my body is in revolt. I have the normal symptoms like back pain, not sleeping, and swollen feet (or perhaps growing feet—they grew a half size with William, and by all accounts, they appear to have grown another half size this time, which is more than slightly concerning seeing as if this keeps up, depending how many kids we have, I’ll end up with feet like Bozo the Clown). I also have things showing up wrong with my blood work this time—like Group B Strep and extremely low platelet counts. There are other unmentionable things too, which other women who have been pregnant can tell you about if you so dare to ask them. Finally, there are the extremely weird things, like how pieces of glass are now coming out of my left foot.

That’s right. Glass. Tiny shards of it.

When I was in fourth grade, I was in a car accident. My mom was driving our (super cool) Volvo station wagon, and my sister and I were in the back. The Volvo was hideous. But my mom was convinced it was the safest vehicle on the road, and her conviction somehow gave the vehicle superhuman qualities akin to Ms. Frizzle’s Magic School Bus. While our station wagon may not have been able to fly to the moon, it was, by all accounts, otherwise invincible. If given the option to traverse the roads in a military tank or in our Volvo station wagon, my mother would have—hands down—chosen the Volvo.

Unfortunately, GPS was not yet invented in cars, so while we were invincible we were also, more often than not, lost. At least we were lost when we were going somewhere new. On the night of the car accident we were driving to someone’s house on the other side of the bridge for my soccer team’s end-of-season party. Neither my mother nor my sister liked anything about my soccer craze, but they could not dissuade my inexorable devotion to teams that never won. So there we were. It was nighttime. We were lost. It was drizzling. And our safety-abiding Volvo was stopped at a stop sign.

There are laws of the road—universal laws, laws that even my two-year-old knows: red means stop; green means go. We stopped. But the other car did not. The other car that was going very, very fast did not stop. When we pulled out, I saw its headlights, bright and blinding, coming straight towards us. I didn’t have time to think or speak or shout for my mother to GO! Before WHAM.

The jerk. The propulsion forward against seatbelts. The explosion of airbags. The shattering of glass. The rebounding against the seat. Then blood we could see—and what we didn’t know to fear—the blood we couldn’t.

The oncoming car hit the driver’s side. My mom’s side. My side.

My sister was, miraculously, completely fine.

My mom was not. Her pelvis was shattered in seven places, but we wouldn’t know that until later. At the time all we knew was that though she wanted to, she could not get to me when I said to her, “Mom—my foot. My foot’s stuck in the door.”

Somehow in the crash my leg had swung in between the seat and the door before the door had crushed inward from the tonnage of the other car. I could see my thigh, my knee, and then farther below—the tip of my black and white stripped Adidas shoe. But my foot, my ankle, and all the bones in between were all trapped. For a moment it was as if the leg were not mine, as if I could not feel the pain.

Then came recognition.

“Mom, my foot. It hurts. It’s in the door.”

She tried to undo her seatbelt, but between the deflating airbag and the too-high console and the bones we didn’t know were broken, she couldn’t get out. So she told my sister to help me.

My sister was only in middle school herself. Unlike me, she had never worn the husky pants. Though her slender frame could hold me down in a tickle contest, if I had the wherewithal to sit on her, I would triumph. But as fate would have it, her string-bean arms were my only hope.

I don’t recall her ever saying, “I can’t” or, “How?” I just remember us praying. Praying hard. To God. To Jesus. To anyone who was listening. To everyone we could invoke to intercede on our behalf.

Then my sister slipped over to my side of the car and yanked out my foot. It wasn’t very dramatic. My leg just popped right out—out of the door, out of my shoe, out of danger. Circulation returned, and though my leg was bruised and bleeding and broken, it was not lost. She had saved it. Later, when my dad would visit the totaled Volvo, my shoe would still be lodged in the smashed-in door. My father would not be able to get the shoe out. He would have no explanation for how my sister was able to remove my foot–let alone my entire leg.  Except that there are only two ways to live your life.  And what some call anomalies, others call miracles.

After months of physical therapy, my fourth-grade body was as good as new, with one exception—there were still a few shards of glass lodged inside my foot. I couldn’t feel them because of the nerve damage, but they were there. The physical therapist said they would just be a part of me from now on, these tiny shards. It’s been years since I’ve thought about the glass, years since I’ve remembered the pain and the joy of walking again after not walking for a long time. And in those years, these feet have run half marathons and have danced the cha-cha in Spain and have paced the floors of maternity wards.   They have done so many things that I, honestly, have taken for granted and forgotten to be thankful for.

But now, the glass has resurfaced. In pregnancy, ligaments loosen to prepare for delivery, and apparently the ligaments in my ankles have loosened enough for the glass to wriggle free. I will spare you all the gruesome details, but suffice it to say, the glass is now cutting itself out.

It sounds painful, but it’s not nearly as painful as what is about to come my way. For William’s delivery I had a several page birth-plan complete with breathing techniques and miniature LED candles, but after hospital interventions, suffice it to say, things did not go as planned. This time around, I reduced my birth-plan to one line: Give me the drugs. Perhaps two: Give me the drugs, and give them to me as soon as possible. There are some courageous warrior women who give birth without pain medication, but after William’s birth experience, I was resolved not to be one of them. Except now, I may not get that choice. Due to my ever-decreasing platelet counts, I medically may not be able to have an epidural.

There are laws of science—laws of expansion and contraction. In giving birth, paradoxically, contractions cause expansion. Contractions work to dilate the body so that a fully formed baby can come out—a baby that started as one cell and divided into two cells, which divided into four cells, and so on and so on until the baby has about two trillion cells all working together. Two trillion. Along with laws of science, there are also laws of probability. The fact that two trillion cell divisions must occur perfectly to produce a healthy baby is astounding. What’s more astounding is that around the world approximately four babies are born every second. Before you can take a deep breath, four new babies have made their debut seemingly against all odds.

At some point in the next few weeks, I will go into labor, and I will most likely be screaming at John that this is not the way things are supposed to be.  Except it is. Contractions will cause expansion.  I will chew ice chips.  I will pace the halls on my two (ever-growing) feet.  And I will have a choice about how to view life, how to see its exceptions, how to embrace the exceptional. Life is not without pain. It is also not without joy. So whenever the time comes for this new baby to arrive, I will try to relax and remember these things as I pray to God, and to Jesus, and to anyone who is listening for the world’s next tiny and infinite miracle.

The New College

If you are a first-time mom, you may not know this, so I feel the distinct need to warn you that something ABSURD may be coming your way.

It’s preschool–more specifically, it’s fact that if you’re even thinking about signing your child up for preschool, you’re probably going to have to do so nine or more months in advance. In other words, you have to prepare for preschool longer than you actually had to prepare for the birth of your child. See—absurd. Anyway, this preschool sign-up phenomenon appears to be universal. We don’t live in a big city like New York or even D.C. anymore. We live in small-town North Carolina. Still, here, the waitlists are endless, the open houses have strict requirements, and the registrations are binding with hundred dollar deposit fees. Thankfully, our small town does not yet require entrance exams for two-year-olds, but I’ve heard tales of these things happening elsewhere.

I offer these tidbits only because when I realized that if I wanted to get William into preschool somewhere next fall, several of the open houses had already started happening and the registration dates were only weeks, or in some cases—days—away. Thus commenced for us what I’ve termed: “Preschool Week,” a frenzied and all consuming equivalent of “Shark Week” except that instead of being confined to the Discovery Channel, we had to meet the sharks in person.

Our first preschool tour was at 11am. When I showed up at 10:59, I was mentally high-fiving myself for my timely arrival until I saw eight other families already waiting, feet tapping, in the lobby.  The preschool director passed me her last handout.

Now that we’ve all arrived,” she said, “we can begin.”

Say what??? Does no one know that parents are supposed to be late? That things like bathroom stops and spilt milk and tantrums seem to always happen on the way out the door, and these are not things you can just overlook. They are things that must be dealt with. Immediately. And they make you late, but it’s okay because they make everyone late?

Apparently, they don’t make everyone late on preschool tour days. A woman with a three-year-old and a newborn arrived before me. Note to self (and to all potential preschool surveyors): arriving on-time is not good enough; you must arrive at least five minutes early.

I was all set for an early arrival at school number two when I read on its website “no kids allowed”—something that made a whole lot of sense, since, you know, it was a preschool.  So I crossed that one off the list and moved on to school number three. I arrived there promptly (though the gathering room was already packed) and brought William (since kids were technically allowed). While several other parents had brought their well-behaved children, many did not, including a woman with curled, brown hair sitting to my right. She was pristinely dressed in a pressed blue blazer and matching shoes with golden medallions. I made the executive decision a few years ago not to buy anything that needed to be pressed ever again, so I was wearing something wrinkled underneath my bright red hooded jacket (a staple of clothing that I love, but that also makes me look like Little Red Riding Hood, or an oversized Hot Tamale).

Unlike the first tour in which the preschool director talked as we walked through the halls, this tour began with a forty-five minute information session, complete with a slideshow and a four-page printout presentation. William sat patiently in my lap for about the first two minutes, and then I directed him to the small stack of toys in the middle of the aisle. While the freshly-pressed brunette took notes on every word the preschool director said, my son took a pig and started slamming it into the top of the farmhouse.

It sounded something like this: Slam, Slam, Slam. Squeak. Then William’s laughter. Then his look to me for approval and praise.

He wasn’t doing anything malicious, just having fun, so I said, “Oh yes, that’s very good! But here… Let’s try this instead.” I then offered him a quiet picture book.

He ignored the book and resumed smashing the pig against the roof to try to get it to squeak again. I couldn’t tell exactly how loud the pig banging was—that is, if the banging was not actually that loud but only loud to me because I was focused on it, or if it was, in fact, bothering everyone.

It was at least bothering the well-dressed brunette. I smiled at her and offered a shrug that was meant to convey: kids, what can you do? She gave back a tight-lipped smile that didn’t reach her eyes and then returned to her detailed note taking.

At about this point, I looked around and noticed that everyone else was taking notes too. Like EVERYONE—moms, dads, a couple of the rising four-year-olds… I decided I should also take notes so that the director didn’t single us out and block our enrollment.

I usually have approximately seven different pens rolling around the bottom of my oversized diaper bag—along with old receipts, small picture books, a miniature cow toy, a cheese stick or two, some hand sanitizer, and (on more than one occasion) a magic trick. I was certain I had at least one writing utensil in there somewhere—if not a pen, then a marker, or a broken piece of crayon. But as the search commenced, I couldn’t find a single thing to write with. Soon I grew fervent, digging deeper and faster, and becoming progressively less aware of what was going on around me until I glanced up to see the brunette staring, mouth slightly agape, with a look on her face that said: this is why we need an entrance exam, to weed out people like them.

I decided she must be the kind of person who carried extra pens, so I whispered, “Do you by chance have a pen?”

She shook her head once and then glued her eyes to the slideshow. After that, I gave up on the pen situation and decided to take notes on my phone.  I soon realized, however, that instead of looking like I was taking notes, I looked like I was texting. And not texting like a normal person. Texting like a fiend. I was suddenly overcome by the desire to get rid of all evidence of my fiendish behavior, so I swiftly tossed the phone back into the pit formally known as my bag.  This violent reaction obviously screamed “not guilty” and overall really helped my case.

Eventually, this preschool session ended, as did the others on our list, and it was time for executive decisions. I decided against sending William to the school that used thirty minutes of screen-time during the day. I also decided against the one I really liked but would require approximately an hour of back and forth driving every day because with a new baby coming, that just seemed kind of far. Ultimately, I opted for the one I liked closest our house. But instead of just signing up and being done with it, that’s when the worst part began.

I have heard tales of how twenty or so years ago moms would line up starting at four in the morning on preschool registration days to sign their kids up for slots. To some this may sound crazy. To me this sounds like something I could get behind—waking up early one morning with the guarantee that the best slots would go to the most devoted moms—there’s a kind of meritocracy to it. Although, I know if I got there at four, people like the stylish brunette probably would have arrived at three. Still, I could have at least beaten out those slackers who arrived at five or six, or heaven forbid, seven o’clock in the morning.

Anyway, to eliminate the need to deal with crazy people, preschools in our town have eliminated this merit-based system and have instituted a lottery system whereby each child is given a number that is physically or metaphorically pulled out of a hat. A determined mother, therefore, can do nothing except turn in her paperwork and pray that the lottery is kind to her.

The lottery was not kind to me.

The preschool I chose was connected to a church, but not to our church, and its lottery system went something like this. First picks went to returning kids and their siblings. Second picks went to church members and then to members of affiliated churches. Last picks went to community randos. I was a community rando. Out of 36 children who wanted to be in two-year-old preschool, William was picked 34th. Not dead last, but essentially so—we didn’t get our first or second or third choice. We did, however, get a one-day slot on Mondays. When I told John about our luck, he suggested that maybe we should try for a different preschool that had two-day options still available; the school that didn’t allow kids on the tour had its registration tomorrow, so maybe I could just try to register there and see how things went.

When I arrived the next day and asked if I could just take a peek around, I was shunned and ended up crying on my way out of the building because how was I supposed to make a decision without even getting a chance to look inside?  By the time I reached the parking lot, I was slightly hysterical. If I thought my car would provide refuge for me to cry in peace, the hoards of people arriving for registration made that impossible.  (The car also, as an unfortunate side effect, did not offer the convenience of a tissue, thus forcing me to wipe my runny nose on my Red Riding Hood sleeves).

It was there, with snotty sleeves, that I’d had enough—enough crying, enough worrying about making the right choice. Mostly, I’d had enough of the cultural pressure that has turned preschool into the new college. It’s not college. It’s preschool. It’s sort of a big deal, but not really. One day a week is more than fine, and notes don’t need to be taken—not with pens, or cell phones, or anything. They just don’t. Our children are two and three and four-years-old. The most important thing they’re going to learn in these early years is how to get along with others and how to share, which is apparently something that some preschool-probing mothers need to relearn. If it takes a village, then preschool is part of that, but so are we all—and we’re missing the point if we’re so consumed with our visions of our children’s future success that we fail to see how, right now, they are looking to us for approval and praise.

So if you are about to enter the preschool phase, here’s my take: prepare yourself early, show up on time, forget the pens, and ignore the haters. Then tell your toddlers to bang on. And maybe, for the first day of school, put some tissues in the car.

 

The Cookies

“What’s mommy doing?”

It’s William’s new phrase. Most often the answer is something he already knows but for some reason wants me to verbalize, so all throughout the day I answer with: “I’m driving” or “I’m cooking” or “I’m folding your pajamas.”

It is a simple, straightforward question—what are you doing?—and it’s not one intended to produce heaps of guilt unless, of course, the person being asked, “What are you doing?” is doing something she shouldn’t be.

William’s second most popular phrase is: “Want some of that.” As in, I just fed him a healthy, well-balanced lunch, but he sees my lightly toasted English muffin loaded with butter, and though there is no way he can physically be hungry after his sandwich and apples and carrots and milk and cheese stick, it’s not hunger that consumes him. It’s desire. So he points and says, “Want some of that.”

Perhaps it is human nature to want what is on someone else’s plate more than we want what is on our own. William is not exceptionally greedy, just mildly so. He doesn’t want all of what I have—just a part. Just a taste. Just enough to take a little from the integrity of the whole. Just some. For YEARS I have been doing this to John, so I guess it serves me right. Payback, as they say, is … well… a polite young woman.

So this polite young woman shares.

Except recently I’ve been craving sweets. A lot of them. As a rule, I don’t keep sweets in the house because unlike a normal human being who can have one slice of cake or one scoop of ice cream, the inner child in me comes out and I can’t stop myself from consuming the whole thing. And I’m not talking about the cute, carefree inner child. I mean the inner child that for years wore the “husky” pants.

“Husky,” which is an appropriate title for a dog or a football player, is not an adjective coveted by little girls. So while others ate candy bars, I was given celery. While others had gummies, I received grapes.

Slowly the huskiness faded, not from a growth spurt (when one grows at a rate of a centimeter or two per year, “spurt” is also not the appropriate word for one’s growth progression). No, the huskiness faded from learning how to run, and also (God bless that woman) from my mother’s insistence on the celery.

I have, generally speaking, never fully reverted to the husky days since then. Although, I have flirted with them occasionally—and during this pregnancy, thanks to all the holiday dessert leftovers, my sweet-craving, pregnant self has been steadily packing on more than the appropriate amount of pounds since Thanksgiving. William has benefited (or suffered) from my cookie consumption because amid trying to teach him to share, I feel obligated to share a little, too. Over time, however, I’ve started to worry that I’ve been giving William too many sweets. A more cognizant woman whould have taken this as a sign to cut out sweets entirely. I took it as a sign to cut out sweets in his presence. For weeks, as soon as I put William down for his nap, I would run downstairs to the kitchen like a raccoon to a fresh garbage load. With lights off and cabinet doors wide open, I would shove my face full of cookies or cannolis or slices of pound cake in perfect solitude.

Then it hit me a couple of weeks ago that my glucose-screening test was coming up and my intake of sugar to normal food was not at an appropriate level. To put an end to the naptime eating I “hid” the sweets in freezer section of our side-by-side refrigerator. Hiding, as a general practice, works best when one doesn’t know where the hidden items actually are.   Nevertheless, at least the bottom drawer of the freezer was out of my direct line of vision, and in order to eat the frozen goodies I’d hypothetically have to allow for a certain amount of time for them to thaw.

Unfortunately, instead of stopping me, I realized that by actually hiding myself in the freezer, I could consume the sweets at any time of the day without William knowing what I was doing. He could be sitting right in his booster seat, and I could be “putting something away,” while actually using the freezer door to shield my clandestine cookie consumption from view. It was genius. Pure genius. Sure, the frozen cookies weren’t as good as normal ones, but they were still cookies. Cookies, more importantly, I didn’t have to share.

This covert cookie eating went on successfully for some time. Then as these things go, I got too comfortable. I got sloppy.

I know, rationally, that right after breakfast is not an appropriate time for eating cookies. It is, however, an appropriate time for cleaning up breakfast dishes, and recently William and I have gotten into the routine whereby when I am washing dishes, he wades into the playroom to play with his trains alone. I can still hear him and see him from the sink. But the playroom is out of sight of the refrigerator, and on this fateful cookie-eating morning, I recognized my opportunity and seized it. Opening the freezer, I crouched down to the bottom drawer and pulled out the Ziploc bag of chocolate chip cookies. After the first cookie, I decided that I could lump at least one more in with the category of “breakfast,” therefore making the calories null and void. The second cookie was my downfall.

When our freezer is open too long, the door starts to beep, warning you to shut it. I ignored the beep. Lady and William did not ignore the beep. From the playroom, I heard the pitter patter of little footsteps, followed by the thump of a tail against the wall. They knew I was eating. And they were coming.

Instead of stopping, instead of closing the cookie stash as fast as I could and hiding the evidence, I began shoving the rest of the chocolate chip cookies in my mouth like someone in a hotdog eating contest. There were many things I should have thought in this moment. Instead I thought: CHEW FASTER! THEY’RE COMING!

The pitter-patter quickened. The tail thudded louder. Suddenly they were upon me.

I didn’t even have the wherewithal to stand up. I just squatted there at the bottom freezer drawer until that cherubim of a face looked me in the eyes and said: “What’s mommy doing?”

Is this what I’ve come to?

Hiding in our freezer, shoving my face full of frozen chocolate chip cookies?

I couldn’t even open my mouth to tell him the truth because there was so much in there that if I did, half-frozen cookie crumbs would come spilling out.

William smelled the cookies, which had been noticeably absent from the counter for some time now.   He looked harder at me and then at the freezer. I could see his mind churning, thinking: cookies are not stored in the freezer. But the smell was undeniable. It was probably oozing from my pores.

“Cookies?” he said, realization sweeping his face. “Cookies!”

I was still chewing–as fast as I possibly could, while also trying to keep my jaw from moving so he would know what I’d done.

He pointed to my mouth.

“Want some of that.”

I wanted to explain, but I had to swallow first, repeatedly. As he waited, I pulled out the empty freezer bag and tried to show him that they were all gone. He looked from the bag, to me, then back to the bag, incredulous.

“Want some of that, please?”

Before he started to cry, or I actually had to explain, I reached deep into the bottom freezer drawer and pulled out a bag of red and green M&M’s from Christmas.

“Look, William!” I said. “You can have a red M&M!”

He looked at the disappointing bag of M&M’s. I don’t even like M&M’s, but I’ve kept them around because when the baked goods are all gone, M&M’s suffice as something sugary and not good for me. Perhaps, in his own way, William rationalized this, too. When I handed him a red M&M, he didn’t oppose it, but he also didn’t eat it—not yet.

First he asked, “And a green one?”

I obliged—how could I not—and he popped the two tiny candies in his mouth, satisfied.

***

Later, I wanted to confess what I’d done. But when I started to tell John how I’d been eating too many sweets and generally had been acting like a pig, or a rabid raccoon, he did the nicest thing in the whole world—and probably what any husband of any pregnant woman should do—and he told me it was okay, and that I look fine. That I’m pregnant. That the extra pounds are good for the baby. I wanted to be shamed, but instead he responded like I was normal—like this is America, who doesn’t occasionally shove their face full of frozen chocolate chip cookies?

So instead of telling him the truth, I just said, “Okay,” and I pulled my shape-wear up a little higher.

And also, tomorrow I decided, maybe I’d try to eat some celery.