My Doula Was Four Years Old

Two years ago I am 39 1/2 weeks pregnant and my daughter becomes a four-year-old doula by mistake.

On this date in 2019, I wake up around 3:00 in the morning on a Friday. I use the bathroom. No one else is supposed to be awake at this point in the morning, but my daughter is going through a phase where she isn’t into sleeping. This turns out to work in my favor, because when she comes in to our room to find us, she becomes delightfully helpful when she finds that my water has broken and I am not exactly able to move. I am not in pain, so I am just kind of waiting for someone to find me, and look at that, my little girl shows up. I tell her what is happening, and she pats my belly and talks to the baby. She is excited, I can tell; she is freaking out, I know; but she is somehow able to read the room — she is calm and happy instead of jumping around and screaming.

Like I say, I’m not in pain yet.

She stays with me and talks to me for another twenty minutes or so before I tell her to go get Daddy. At this point, she is screaming. “Daddy!” It is early — around 4:00 or 4:15. She retrieves my husband, but because I am quiet and my daughter-doula reclaims her calm, he somehow goes back to sleep.

I am finally able to remove myself from the bathroom. I turn on the lights and my husband decides the time has come to make banana bread.

I know. But in his defense, he did the same thing for our other two babies. However, I was in labor with my first baby for something like 37 hours (for real) and I labored with my daughter for 12 or so. He is certain he has time.

So he’s down there pre-heating the oven and mixing batter and I call the midwife. She’s like, “Yeah, it could go one of two ways. Your third baby could take a few days or be very fast. Have you started contractions?” Just as I am speaking with her, my first contraction begins.

I get off the bed and hang up the phone. Hm. I wonder how this will go — oh. Here’s another contraction. Yep. Hm. I’d really like to put my pants on. Nope. Not going to move. Not for a minute.

Soon I’m nervous, and my to-do-before-we-leave-the-house list unfolds from my mental bulletin board like one of those accordion files you see on old-ass websites. Oh yes, I have several tasks to accomplish before I can leave this house and have a baby. The first task is to put on my pants.

Nevermind. Can’t move again.

Well. This is escalating quickly. This is business.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, the oven is successfully preheated.

My son, a kindergartner, by now is awake and shuffling around. My daughter continues to check in on me. I continue to wish I could bend over to put on my pants. At one point between contractions I pull on one leg and drag the other pant leg loose around on the floor as I haphazardly throw items into bags for the hospital stay. You know, those tasks that should have been done a couple weeks ago.

Somehow, I manage to get downstairs. I whisper to no one, “We need to go to the hospital.” My husband is measuring ingredients and digging around inside the cupboards for bread pans. My son wants breakfast. My daughter is not in earshot.

OK, another contraction is over. I have time to cut the tags off of my son’s new shoes that he wants to wear to school today. I can pull the rest of my pants on and bend over to the shoes. I have 60 seconds.

Task complete. New shoes situated next to his backpack by the door.

At the kitchen table, I buckle.

“We need to go to the hospital.” My husband mixes more quickly; maybe I’m serious.

“We need to go to the hospital. Call your mother.” I am concentrating very hard. I need to make it to the mudroom to put on shoes.

My husband gets on the phone with his mother, who lives blocks away and who is primed to handle the kids when we need to go to the hospital.

My kindergartner eats granola and yogurt. My daughter is excited and is starting to worry because I’m starting to turn into a person who is not a person but an animal and who doesn’t sound like Mama.

My husband pours the batter into a pan. “She says she’ll be here in a few minutes.” To which I respond with a contraction.

My husband starts to wonder if perhaps I’m going to have a baby.

His mother arrives around 5:30. I am gripping the kitchen table and trying not to vomit. She says to me, “Well, let me know if I can do anything,” and goes to the couch.

“We need to go to the hospital. Hospital. Hospital.” I have the guttural animal voice now.

My husband puts the bread in the oven and starts to get coats for him and me. I shuffle into the mudroom. That’s it. That’s as far as I can go. It’s over. Lay me down; I am having a baby right here. “Hospital! Hospital!” I have my socks in my hand but I am not putting them on. I can’t imagine putting on a coat. Somehow, my husband put my shoes on.

“Nope, we’re going to the hospital,” he declares.

Probably, my daughter gives up her job as doula at this point. Probably.

OK. I think I have 30 seconds. Let’s get this belly into the van.

My husband sort of ushers me down the steps from the house to the driveway. He opens the van door and somehow the van is already on — it is November; maybe he pre-heated the van for me just like he pre-heated the oven. I see the clock. It is just after 6:00. I heave a leg into the van and decide no, we are not going to the hospital. In fact, we are having the baby right now. In the doorway of the van.

“No, we’re going to the hospital,” says my husband, who is still a human.

A few minutes later we get me in the van and I recline the fuck out of that seat.

The hospital is 10 minutes away.

My husband blows through some stop lights and at one point he takes a parking lot instead of a street. We park in the Emergency Room parking lot and at this point I’m swear-screaming. My husband runs inside and comes back with an EMT or someone similar who parks a wheelchair next to the van. “I’m having the baby I’m having the baby I’m having the baby” I sort of spit at him. “In the van.” I tell my husband to roll the seat all the way down and the dude with the wheelchair is a different species than me and is very calm and authoritative and he simply tells me to get in the wheelchair. He and my husband assist as I roll out. My god. The pain.

The ceiling is flying and is bright and I am not sure how I’ll survive this. Elevator doors crack open and I hear all sorts of beeping and people and then my husband is told that we have to stop for a picture. He bickers. He swears. They insist; it’s for security.


He’s running down the hall and I hear some nurses directing us into the triage room. Let’s just check and see if she’s really in labor, OK? Now can you tell me your last name and date of birth…

A midwife runs down the hall. She hears me. “No no no, she needs to come over to a delivery room. Right across the hall.”

The rest is lots of nothing I can remember. Baby babe is born about six minutes later.

Everybody at home loves the banana bread.

The Never Enough

My at-home indoor workout the other day was interrupted after 20 minutes when my toddler woke from his 25-minute-long nap (if you can call it that), and I dragged him out of his crib, careful to engage my pelvic floor that has been destroyed thanks to my getting the “You should do pelvic floor physical therapy as soon as you have a baby” message only after having my second child. I tucked my third baby into my side on top of my bed so that maybe, just maybe, I could get him back to sleep quickly enough to get back to that workout that I budgeted exactly 30 minutes in my day to do. As I tried to nurse him (yes, I still nurse him, partly out of he’s-so-cute-and-he’s-my-last-baby and partly out of how-the-hell-else-will-I-get-him-to-relax but also partly I-give-him-vaccine-antibodies) I had the thought, “Why is this not enough? Why do I feel like everything I do is not enough?”

I was sweating and nursing and budgeting and re-budgeting time and determining what, if any, housework will get done, and what, if any, Other Work — like writing, or engaging with clients, or sending out invoices — will get done before I had to go get the big kids from school and embark on the evening to-dos. All while trying to relax so the toddler would relax so I could stop relaxing and finish my workout.

So why is everything I do not enough?

Maybe it’s because I bury myself in impossibilities and ambitions.

Impossibilities include:

    Clean the house every day.
    I mean, clean one room every day.
    Don’t scream.
    Go to the bathroom alone.
    Exercise every single day so that I don’t scream every single day.
    Write every single day.
    Practice/make music every single day.
    Sleep some.
    Build the business.
    Be better at everything I do.
    Do more of everything I do.

Ambitions are:

    All of the above, plus grace.

Or maybe it’s because I’m a lady who has lady problems and who has been to lady doctors who simply tell me they don’t know why I’m having lady problems and that I should just attribute it to stress and to take some Excedrin. If I weren’t a lady, these problems wouldn’t be a mystery; dudes would be all over them and have done multitudes of research on this and I wouldn’t be left alone out here to struggle along all by my-lady-self.

Or maybe it’s all not enough because I’m under the impression that I’m supposed to be doing all of this and be happy at the same time. What does “enough” even mean? If I do enough of this or enough of that I’ll have arrived? At what? What is the goal here?

I think the best approach is to understand that this is simply how it is. This is how things are. These are the conditions in which I’m living at this moment. How I feel about these conditions — the qualities I attribute to them — are completely separate from the fact that the conditions exist.

I will continue to do all the things I do because it is what I’m supposed to do. I have an almost-two-year-old who will follow me into every bathroom I enter. How I feel about this is irrelevant and will not change the fact that he will do this. We are entering into the cold, dark six months of winter here in Minneapolis. How I feel about this is irrelevant. We are approaching the holidays that are forever altered for my family and this is simply how it is for us.

So why is it that I feel like what I do, and don’t do, for that matter, is not enough? Because it isn’t enough. It will never be enough because I don’t know what enough even is.

Parenting As Ambition

I have a second grader, a kindergartner and a maniac who is about to turn two. My daughter asked me a couple of days ago if I always wanted to have three kids. I told her I did. She said, “Well congratulations. You got three kids.”

I’ve been thinking about this. I heard a woman introduce herself by listing her ambitions. She included “motherhood” as one of them.

I never, ever considered motherhood this way. And yet my daughter is wrong. I didn’t get three kids. I did not struggle very much with fertility issues or pregnancy complications, though I did have a miscarriage. However, my husband and I did plan to have a child. And then another, and then even following the lost pregnancy, we planned to have yet another. We made three people. People!

So why did I not think of having children as ambitious?

In the lead up to Halloween, I saw a lot of memes depicting moms yelling after their costumed kids. Say thank you! Did you say thank you? Wear a monster costume, don’t be a monster in costume.

Why is it, in these eight years I’ve experienced parenthood, that I have not thought about how daunting this task is? Did I minimize its enormity because there are so many women out there in the world who do it? Because people can be totally unprepared and unwilling, and turn into parents anyway?

Why is parenting not the most highly regarded occupation there is? It is most definitely an occupation. But not only do you not get paid to be a parent, it takes more money and much more energy than you actually have, and it re-arranges and discombobulates any future you had in mind, because every day is mysterious. You are tasked to engender kindness and compassion in your humans. You are to teach them to stabilize their emotions when your own are completely out of whack since you haven’t slept in eight years. “You can always be kind,” I can say as much as I want to them, but then you have to deconstruct what kindness is.

We haven’t started potty training the maniac, but we’re already getting questions from the second grader about puberty.

And these are the little, little kid years. These are the physical years. These are the years when we’re all learning how to sleep. All of us.

I know adolescence is its own animal, and I’ll know it when it bites me like one.

But no one ever talks about parenting adults. No one ever talks about what it’s like to have spent the years forming and developing and enjoying and not enjoying your child when they turn into their own person, after they’ve absorbed from you what you’ve tried hard to give to and keep from them.

That’s the bravest, hardest part, I think. To feel them when they’re not there, because they used to be there, and now they’re not.

There is so much heartbreak and devastation. There is enormous love and so much else.

There is simply too much to even consider. There is too much.

Now, off we go to get my kindergartner and my second grader their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. My maniac will wait, with me, in my lap, for as long as I can keep him there.

But It’s Iowa

We kept the kids home. We un-enrolled from our lives. We ordered little kid masks. We took them out of swimming lessons. We didn’t go to parks for a time. We put up a playset in our yard. And then a pool. And then two other pools, after the first and second ones broke. We didn’t go to Thanksgiving or Christmas last year. We turned a room or two into a “school room.” I facilitated distance learning for my then-first grader while trying to get my then-too-little-for-traditional-school online school options via I did this while the baby transformed from an infant to a toddler to a climber.

We wore special masks. We turned down social invitations. We tried to enroll the kids in special vaccine trials. We got vaccinated as soon as possible. We kept our kids up-to-schedule with their other vaccinations.

We kept our oldest home from school, even after the district opened up in February of this year to going back to in-person. Finally, at the end of March, we did send him back.

We didn’t do traditional camps over the summer. We did do a lot of outdoor stuff, like mountain biking, and in my case, running.

We haven’t been to an indoor restaurant for a long ass time. Years? But really, who wants to dine indoors (or anywhere, ever) with kids. We don’t go to movies. We don’t go to the fucking Frozen musical that would be so cool for my six-year-old daughter to see.

All of the adults and old-enough kids with whom we socialize are vaccinated. Some are even antsy to get a booster.

My husband took our older two kids to a Cub Scouts camping trip (outdoors, clearly). I took my toddler to Iowa to see my family. Who is grieving. Who is sad. Who has lost so much.

In Iowa, my toddler caught COVID-19. My toddler. Who doesn’t go to daycare. Who doesn’t go to ECFE. Who doesn’t go to Sunday School or playdates. Who follows me around, day and night. He caught it from family who have, now confirmed, breakthrough cases.

And now I have the virus. As does my husband. My big kids, so far, do not.

But they’re out of school for the next two weeks and, woe is me, I will be facilitating some lackadaisical version of distance learning for a second grader and a kindergartner while keeping my mask on and my toddler upstairs. Maybe I will employ Alexa somehow.

We have mild symptoms. Other than anger. My anger (and self-pity) is pretty severe.

Plus, it’s my birthday on Friday. And I had special plans.

In Iowa.

Patreon Launch

I launched a Patreon campaign.
Is that you call it?
Well, that’s what I call it.

Find it and all its offerings at

I’m challenging myself to write one 30-word story for each day this month. Day 1 is complete.

I’m also looking forward to reading three short stories for the Short Story Club this month:

“The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892)
“White Rat,” by Gayle Jones (1977)
“Staying Behind,” by Ken Liu (2020)

Here’s to summer. School’s out for us on June 11. And then what? Lots of finding things for three kids to do all … damn … day …

The Insurrection and the Kids

I’ve been thinking about the kids.

Truly, I think about kids all the time. I am surrounded by my own. They crawl on me and attack me with tickle fingers and yell at me and defy me and crawl on me some more. I manage them and change them and sometimes feed them (that job mostly falls to my husband) and nowadays I teach them.

When Trump took office, I thought about the kids in a different light. Now after the insurrection on the Capitol on the 6th, I wonder how our kids — and their kids — will function together.

I recognize that I say “our kids” and “their kids.” I’m specifically thinking about the kids and grandkids of the people who stormed the Capitol.

Many times in the four years since Trump took office, we’ve had questions from our oldest child, and sometimes our middle child, too. Why did he say that? Is he mean? Is he a bad guy? etc. And yeah, we answered those questions as succinctly and honestly as we could. Many times I’d ask my son how he felt about whatever it was he was bringing up. He isn’t being kind. He isn’t thinking about others.

Our kids weren’t asking questions about the guy’s policies. They were asking about the way he conducted himself, as a person.

This guy has led so many adults astray. He has done serious damage to family units and pushed family members apart. My concern lies with the kids who overheard Fox News commentary for these past four years, or heard their parents and aunts and uncles and grandparents speak glowingly about that guy. How are these kids going to manage in the classroom or on the field or whenever there is anything that does not go their way? This tantrum that the former president threw resulted in five people dead. How is that being explained?

Of course it was a horrible day and I hope Trump will not be allowed to run for public office in the future. And of course there is a lot of immediate aftermath here that will I hope be handled in Congress. I just wonder how these kids are going to be together in the future. How will they function in a group? How will they ever resolve any conflict? What does resolution even look like, when you have THAT as a model?

I worry.

Distance Learning Returns

Just a little look-see at my day.

  • Wake up at 4:17 to a screaming baby.
  • My husband brings him in to nurse.
  • Oh look, there’s the seven-year-old next to me in bed. Huh. I didn’t notice him. Thank god he no longer kicks me in the face while he sleeps. I guess he’s getting taller and is not that flexible anymore?
  • Nurse the baby. Think about Samuel L. Jackson and his “Go the F*** to Sleep” book but not because, of course, I want the baby to go the fuck to sleep, but because oddly Alexa the evening before suggested this book to read aloud to my five-year-old when she asked it about reading suggestions.
  • Remain awake but in bed with the also awake and also in-bed baby and sleeping seven-year-old for the next two hours.
  • Finally after 6:00 I called my husband from the seven-year-old’s room to take the baby.
  • Sleep for about an hour.
  • Get up and get ready for a video visit with the pediatrician to address why the baby’s cheek hasn’t fully healed from the impetigo he had and then learn that we will have to take him to a dermatologist. Great.
  • Vacuum the rug in the “school room” (dining room turned classroom for the distance learning we have been doing for almost a year now) so that all the other seven-year-olds on Google Meet don’t judge me for having crap on the floor.
  • Get the first grader onto his first meeting.
  • Take the baby’s first outfit of the day off as it has been encrusted in food and then put him down for a nap.
  • Get the five-year-old on her Zoom class.
  • Engage in first fight of the day — nee, year! — with the first grader who doesn’t want to do any of his work and begins to cry because I won’t give him a break after the very first class of the day — nee, year! — because that baby is asleep right now and damn it if we don’t try to be productive while that is the case.
  • Give the first grader and five-year-old lunch early because the first grader says he’s hungry and he doesn’t want to do Social Studies.
  • Oh look, the baby’s awake.
  • Feed the baby and wonder why I bother putting clothes on him.
  • Coerce the big kids into their 1:00 classes somehow.
  • Keep the baby from pulling down the still-standing Christmas tree.
  • Repeat.
  • Listen to the first grader begin his list of what he wants for his birthday coming up in August while not realizing he hasn’t even unboxed most of his Christmas gifts. I’m so glad I went overboard on presents this holiday.
  • Shit, I haven’t eaten yet.
  • Go find the baby next to the Christmas tree.
  • Yell at the first grader that he needs to do all of the SeeSaw activities even though he has decided he wants to take up napping again.
  • Let the first grader nap while I put the baby down for one, too.
  • Fully realize the mistake in the above decision.
  • Continue letting the five-year-old watch YouTube Kids.
  • Do a small percentage of work while the house is fairly quiet.
  • Coax the first grader awake with the promise of a snack.
  • Get the baby.
  • Listen to the first grader whine for the next couple hours as I try ignoring him, helping him, doing something entirely separate from him but conclude that there is no way I can painlessly get him to finish his work. He flops on the couch, and then he flops on the other couch, and then he flops on the floor to find a comfortable position in which to finish his one last worksheet of the day. The baby crawls over and drools on the iPad, and so the first grader complains about that and finally finishes his last activity after 5:00 PM.
  • My husband comes up from working downstairs and I do one more pull-the-baby-from-the-Christmas-tree before going upstairs to sit in our room and remember the hit-by-a-truck feeling I’d had when this all started in the fall.
  • Going great.

    The End of 2020

    How did we make it through this year? So many people have suffered or died or been kept apart from family and friends who were suffering and dying.

    I’m not sure I’ve ever spent a Thanksgiving and a Christmas away from my family. This year we did.

    I’m not sure I’ve ever felt compelled to learn about anti-racism and really try to deepen the limited knowledge I have of it. This year I’ve read more and thought more and tried to teach my kids about what I’ve read and thought. I’ve joined a discussion group that reads and considers various articles and papers written about race relations in my professional field. This year I’ve had troubling conversations about race and white supremacy, much of the time with extended family.

    I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so alone while being in the same room as all of my immediate family members. Facilitating distance learning is difficult. Assembling a makeshift gap year curriculum for my five-year-old is annoying and it makes me sad. Chasing my infant around the house while doing both of those things is exhausting.

    I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so much as I have this year.

    Of course there were many, many happy happenings in our household. But today, right now, I’m acknowledging the hard.

    And we made it.

    Christmas Card Picture

    My Son and I Love Dory Fantasmagory

    My oldest baby kid is in first grade. He is loud and energetic and currently obsessed with planes and robots. (Specifically, he is interested in a robot called Spot made by Boston Dynamics that can be purchased for $74,000. He is pondering where it will stay when Santa brings it to him on Christmas.)

    “Honey, you’re not getting Spot for Christmas.”
    “Why not?”
    “That’s more than a car.”

    “And they don’t sell it to individuals. It’s for companies.”
    “Santa will bring it. It will stay in my room next to the RC plane.”
    “Hm. You won’t be able sleep in your room. It’ll be too full.”
    “That’s OK. I’ll sleep with you.”

    He has high hopes for Santa. And for us (but let’s be honest, he sleeps with us more often than not).

    This year has been unforgettable for so many crappy reasons. One of the good reasons, though, is that I will hopefully never forget that this was the year when my son really, really learned to read. He has been in full-time distance learning the entire year, and thankfully he has a great first grade teacher. Every day over these past few weeks the teacher has read one chapter from the fantastic Dory Fantasmagory series by Abby Hanlon.

    There are five books in the series. It follows a little girl whose name is Dory, nicknamed Rascal. Rascal is the youngest of three kids and she has a wonderful, exuberant imagination wherein a villain named Mrs. Gobble Gracker tries to catch her to keep as her baby. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I bought the books from our neighborhood Wild Rumpus bookstore and watching my little guy thumb through the pages and describe certain illustrations to me from his car seat while we drove home was one of the most special moments in my parenthood to date. Because he knew what was coming, and because he knew he loved what was coming, we blew through the series. He even elected to go to bed early so that we could read two chapters instead of just one. We are done with the series and are now reading The Lulu Series by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Lane Smith.

    And now I want to write a children’s book. Agh. I don’t know how to do that…

    Other news:

    I wrote an article for one of my friends and colleagues who runs a music therapy private practice here in the Cities. Working and Parenting in the Pandemic offers insight into a few music therapists’ lives who try to manage their clients and their kids’ distance learning when it is nearly impossible.

    Here’s to the end of 2020. 🙂

    In the middle of the summer in the middle of the pandemic

    I have re-done this website yet again because it’s a Sunday and no child is on top of me and I have millions of things to do but I am refusing to do those things.

    Also I haven’t been here for… some time.

    And here we are, in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of the summer in the middle of that pandemic, and I have a seven-month-old and a four-year-old and a six-year-old and a husband and I don’t know where I fit in between all of them. Living in the cracks, lately.

    What will we do this fall, when we have to decide whether I become a full-time home educator? Will I lose it? Will my kids? There is no way, as I see it now, that my kids will be safe if they go to in-person classes, nor will their teachers nor our older family members.

    I can’t work right now because the music therapy clients I was seeing are not accepting non-essential visitors. So I guess I’ll be a teacher! Yikes.

    I should probably write about it. There are lots of obstacles to doing that, but really it’s the only thing I like to do. So I should do it?