A Girl In Bloom: Mother's Day Special
“A chromosome divides, multiply and thrive...” [Darwin]
The next thing you know, you're responsible for this little life for the rest of your life. "It's the toughest job you'll ever love." That's what they told me motherhood would be like. There's truth to that, but it doesn't begin to truly encompass what you will experience. Honestly, it's just one of those things you have to experience for yourself because words will never be adequate. All I can do is tell you my journey and hope that you can identify or benefit from it in some way. It will be different for everyone, but still remarkably similar.
When I was 22, Natalie and Johnna made their grand entrance into the world. It wasn't an ideal birth. They were delivered via emergency cesarean, four weeks early. I missed the first week of their lives due to complications and a negative reaction to the medication I was given. I remember the day I finally got to go visit them in the NICU at the hospital. I was so tired from being sick, but I was in disbelief that these beautiful little nuggets who were part of me for so long were now suddenly in this big, big world, exposed to the entirety of the human experience. It was now my responsibility, duty, and honor to guide their way.
Being a military wife at the time, and having a husband who wasn't really present even when he was there, meant that I did 24/7/365 shifts of mothering. Imagine: a new mother, with two infants, all alone, most of the days and nights. We all know that the human body can only take so much before it feels like about to break. [About to Break]
There were days I'd wonder if I'd make it through. I'd cry while sitting in the floor, holding both of my girls, feeding them bottles at 3 a.m. because the point of exhaustion was just too great. Those little faces and hands and toes and smiles - they pulled me through. “I laugh from within, I know these days will end.” [Red Summer Sun]
Before they turned three years old, Noah was born thanks to another unplanned, but less emergent, cesarean. I had three children under the age of three, all in diapers, all on my own before Noah had hit the two-week mark. I felt like I was a train, but there was no one at the helm. [Narcolepsy]
I turned even more into my music as an escape from "reality" for that break for my own mental health. One of the first lullabies I ever sang to Noah was "Motorcycle Drive By." I slowed it down a little and sang it in the quiet Mommy voice. He seemed to enjoy it (until this very day, at seven years old, he still requests it).
Let's just say, I had always imagined more children than just the two. But I never expected to have them all so close together! Noah was completely unplanned in every way possible. I craved buffalo wings and chocolate when I was in the early stages of his pregnancy. I think that explains his flair and sweetness. I was listening to, as per my usual, a ton of Bowie, Beatles, and Third Eye Blind. There is a song for every mood from these guys. “Self-Titled” was on repeat a lot. Maybe it was because it was the first album and I found some kind of comfort in that familiarity during a time when my life being turned upside down, in the best but most chaotic way.
Maybe it was because Stephan and Third Eye Blind were there for me when I was becoming a woman, and they were now able to be there for me when I was becoming a mother again. And they were my children's first live concert. They've carried us through many rites of passage. I've always loved my music. But now that I had these tiny humans to share it with, it became even more important. It was a tool I used to get them to dance to get their wiggles out so that they were ready to nap - it was something I could use to help lull them to sleep. As they are growing older, the lyrics are words of wisdom that I can use to help them find their own way through life. "We become the things we do" is one of my favorite things to remind them of. Another piece of advice passed down from Papa Jenkins that will forever echo in their ears is, "Every moment of your life is a chance to get it right."
Natalie, who is technically the oldest by one minute, has always been very high-strung and had issues with anxiety. Ever since she was around the age of 18 months, you could tell she had problems with it. For her, “Jumper” has held special meaning since around the time she turned seven. Her sudden outbursts of anger from the frustration she felt because "no one understands" caused so much turmoil between the two of us. I didn't know what else to tell her except that I told her to step back from that ledge and face her anger demons head-on so that they don't control her.
“The angry [girl], a bit too insane, icing over a secret pain. You know you don't belong. You're the first to fight, you're way too loud. You're the flash of light on a burial shroud. I know something's wrong. I would understand. Everyone's got to face down their demons.”
Johnna, the "middle child" who has the most sensitive soul, dealt with bullying at school last year. She was physically assaulted and emotionally taunted by another girl every single day. The experience had her retreating into a cocoon. She wasn't really her bright, happy little self anymore. She was terrified to ride the bus, which is where it seemed most of the incidents were occurring. The school really didn't intervene the way I feel they should have, so it was up to her to stick up for herself. She needed the confidence to do it, though, and I was at a loss for what to tell her. I mean, I'm a grown woman who hates confrontation and lacks that courage to speak up against being mistreated, so what do I tell her? What advice can I give? I have played Third Eye Blind albums in front of my children since they were conceived, really. But they would hear the music and not the lyrics. So I told her to just sit back, be quiet, and really listen to what Stephan sang during Wounded.
She heard, “The bruises that you feel will heal, and I hope you'll come around 'cause we're missing you. Well nobody took your pride away. Back down the bully to the back of the bus, 'cause it's time for them to be scared of us. You're screaming 'I don't care, baby, I don't care!'”
The song ended, she looked at me and said that she wasn't afraid anymore. She told me, "I think Stephan wrote that for me," with this beautiful, relieved look on her face. Noah's response: "He did, because he's my best friend." Cue all of the tears. I've always said that Noah somehow absorbed some of Stephan's essence in utero.
To, somewhat, prove me right, when he was nine months old, we were watching “Third Eye Blind: Ten Years Down” together and he points to the television at Stephan and says, "Dada," several times throughout the show. And at age five, he met Stephan for the first time and was dubbed his “Mini-Me” thanks to the Rick Owens outfit replica he donned that night. He still keeps a signed photo of the two of them beside his bed. He's always adored "his father." Why do we think Noah chose to learn to play the guitar? He found some connection with him, just like we all kind of did.
My family doesn't exactly agree with my exposing the children to "that music" or with bringing them to concerts. But I think that they have gained valuable insight into life and unforgettable experiences BECAUSE of this. We all have even gained extended non-blood family because of the connections we've made throughout this journey. Exposure to other cities and people who are a little different from our norm. Learning to be social and handle yourself in a crowd. Commiserating with people who have similar baggage as you. Learning that you are not alone with your struggles. I think that's parenting done well. And, for us, it's because of Third Eye Blind.
Here's what we need to take away from all of this: Momming ain't easy. It's just not. It's challenging as hell. Especially if you have to pick up the slack and also be the dad - but it's worth every sleepless night, tear shed, and button pushed! As moms, “We are lucky. We are golden.” [Blinded] We won't be perfect. There will be chaos beyond comprehension sometimes. “Sometimes it's enough to breathe.” [Back to Zero] No matter how tough it may seem, there is always hope - “don’t give in.” [Don't Give In] Find inspiration in one another. Rely on your instincts, no matter what "they" say. “Mom, it will be alright.” [Second Born]