The Demand to be Better Every Day

Photo: Ursa Minor at around 6ish months old. He has a smile that can light up the world. With that smile, that brain, and those curls… he will either save the world or destroy it. Either way, keep your eyes peeled for this one. He’s comin’ world, he’s comin’.


I started my path to being my best self two years ago yesterday.

Ursa Minor woke me up in the 5 o’clock hour with cramps that turned into intense contractions. We had already been in the hospital for about 18 hours because we were going to induce (I really just couldn’t be pregnant any freaking longer), but he decided that he’d come spontaneously. He also decided that Labor wasn’t his bag. I was in labor for about 90 minutes total with him. Barely enough time to get the epidural going. He started up, he broke the water, and he decided to come out. I was having coffee and nursing a baby by 7:30 in the morning.

Whereas everything with Ursa Major was brand new and scary, things with Ursa Minor were intuitive and fun. The Husband left to go take care of Ursa Major that first night, so I actually spent two days in the hospital alone with our newest, which was special. Two days with no toddler. Two days with no husband. Just me and a new baby, figuring each other out. I learned very quickly that he preferred to be attached, that he became cold very easily, and he didn’t really trust other folk. That was fine by me, because I felt the same way. 🙂

I was anxious to get home to Ursa Major, though, as my two day stay in the hospital was the longest stretch of time I’d been away from him since he was born. I knew he was in good hands, but I still wanted to get back to being a mom. I think I was also anxious to get started on being a “mother of two.” The sooner I could figure out our systems, the sooner our family could achieve our new “normal.”

My pediatrician, upon hearing my request for an early discharge, gave me a surprised and sorta dirty look. “You’re gonna be a mother of two forever. Enjoy being a mother of one with a staff to help you out for just another 24 hours. They are probably going to be the best of your life for a while.”

I respect truth tellin’, and Lord if she wasn’t tellin’ it.

I feel like I stumbled through my life events before Ursa Minor was born. It isn’t to say that I haven’t been thoughtful about what I’ve done in my life, or that I haven’t worked hard to achieve the things I have… I’m just saying that I sorta meandered from event to event with expectation and always thinking about the external elements (This will make [x] happy/proud) rather than my own intrinsic motivations.

Ursa Minor, from day one, has been the child for me. I couldn’t be fuzzy about my days anymore, and I had little room for error. Having two young children to manage meant that I needed to think faster, work harder, be stronger… even when I was running on little sleep. Ursa Major didn’t care that mommy slept for two straight hours the night before–he needed to get outside in the sunshine. and have a mother who was attentive to him. Ursa Minor didn’t care that it was naptime and I needed to read a book to  his big brother, he needed to nurse and be held. I needed to become organized, efficient and attentive, expanding the definition of what a “successful” day looked like for us as a family, and for me as a mother.

And that is the most important part, because “me as a mother” and “me as a woman” were starting to collide at around this time. I’d just turned down my dream job at my dream school not two days before I went to go deliver Ursa Minor. My husband was grappling with the numbers for the budget, but I was grappling with the implications for my career. I knew that I’d never get that particular opportunity ever again, and I can’t fully express how much it hurt me to know that. I’m pretty sure that I will never be a classroom teacher ever again. Where I wanted to spiral into a funk (and in a way, I did, sitting at a table in a Cambridge restaurant months later), I couldn’t. There were other demands on my life. There as a demand, specifically, from him.

So I started locking my hair, started looking for other opportunities, started creating work for myself, started picking up skills useful for each of us. I started really thinking about what we eat and drink (banning soda from this house was one of the best decisions I ever made), I started this blog, took over a playgroup, got hip to preschool and started that arduous journey to homeownership. I’m not saying that Ursa Minor commanded that we do all of these things. I’m saying that Ursa Minor didn’t let me have any excuses. Even on the bad days… the sit on the couch and do nothing days… I really was doing something. I can’t do nothing any more. I always have to be busy. Our new neighbors call us “industrious.” I think that’s the perfect word for us now.

I’m “that mom” now. Peggy brought a loaf of fresh pumpkin bread to preschool for snack yesterday, telling Ursa Major’s teachers, “Kyra is putting all of the rest of us to shame! I just refused to bring Pirate Booty this time around when she’s bringing muffins!”

When I told The Husband that story last night over dinner, he smirked and said, “You own this mommy thing.”

Yeah, no. I don’t. I know that I don’t. I’m not even sure that it’s a good thing that I make it look like I do. I think that there were many choices along the way that got me here.  Much training, much thought, much trial and error, much failure. If I were a mother of one, I doubt we’d be here, right now, like this.

I’m not my best self yet. I’ll never achieve perfect, I know. I don’t think I’ve attained whatever I’m supposed to be. I do know that I’m a significantly different and better person than I was two years ago, and I’m so grateful for that.

Of course, now that Ursa Minor is two, the big question is: “So when are you going to go for that girl?”

I usually laugh heartily, explaining that I have my hands full. I often tell friends that I’m done, that I want to “shut the factory down” and be content with these two healthy, beautiful children. I’m very, very lucky to have two healthy, beautiful children.

But I’ll confess: I don’t know if I’m done. As Ursa Minor leaves “baby” to become full-blown amazing Toddler, I’m wondering how much I’m going to miss these tender baby moments. I know that I have the capacity in my heart to love one more child. Do we have physical room for another? Maybe…probably not. The money? Yeah, probably not… The energy? I’d make it if I had to…

The Husband, last week, said in all seriousness that the boys are “certainly a handful” and that he “could be done.” It was a sad moment for me. I thought that he wanted more. He could change his mind, and I certainly could, too. I have a little bit longer of a window (I told him that we have until I’m 35), so a million things can happen. And they will. So we won’t hold our breath in the meantime.

One of the best parts of Ursa Minor being born in the spring is that Mother Nature makes new-green and bright pops of color his birthday present. Behold, the fun surprises from yesterday:

Tulips! (?) growing by the barn! We had no idea that there were bulbs planted here. We're SO excited!
Tulips! (?) growing by the barn! We had no idea that there were bulbs planted here. We’re SO excited!
GRASS!!! (SUCK IT, MOTHER-IN-LAW!!!) Beautiful grass is sprouting in random places around our lawn!! YAYYYY!!! The boys thought I was crazy as I, literally, leaped from patch to patch and danced. Yes, danced. I danced in my front yard yesterday.
GRASS!!! (SUCK IT, MOTHER-IN-LAW!!!) Beautiful grass is sprouting in random places around our lawn!! YAYYYY!!! The boys thought I was crazy as I, literally, leaped from patch to patch and danced. Yes, danced. I danced in my front yard yesterday.

I’ll have Quiet Thoughts on Friday. About what? Well, I don’t know yet… but I’ll be here. Or maybe I’ll be outside dancing on top of my newly growing grass. See you then.

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