Thursday, November 28, 2019


In the least morbid way possible, I had plans for the 5th anniversary of my father in law’s death. Not like ‘wahoo here it comes plans’, but I wanted to do something to commemorate.  We were going to go out to dinner, or maybe to the beach. Mainly my goal was to spend some time just not being sad.  I wanted to make my husband laugh and smile. It seemed like the perfect way to remember dad. I can say a lot of good things about him, but high among them is that he was constantly laughing. His bad moods were few and far between and especially when the family was together he was always quick with a smile. 

True to brand for my life, things did not go according to plan.  

You know that superstition that bad things come in threes? It’s entirely untrue but I can see the validity of the leading thought. Whether it’s a coincidence or because you’re already primed to see things as bad is debatable, but it often feels that when it rains, it pours. At this already hard time of year, perhaps we were primed for more badness, but regardless of the context, my husbands Lolo (Filipino term for grandfather, there’s your learning for the day) was recently in a car accident. His health hasn’t been great in a while and as I’m sure even the least health literate among us can understand... the car accident didn’t make it better.

Nick hasn’t seen Lolo in years and certainly hasn’t gotten to say a true goodbye. Thanks to the Army, we have celebrated many holidays, birthdays and anniversaries away from family and away from each other. My list of grievances is long (as is that of any service member), however this one time, in a very big way, the Army came through for us. With only 24 hours notice that Lolo has made his peace with passing and the unspoken expectation that it will not take long, Nick was able to get leave approved to go to an unstable region, halfway around the world, to see his grandfather. 

So, rather than relaxing at the beach or eating a commemorative dinner, we spent the anniversary of Dad’s death running around like chickens with our heads cut off. Nick, busy doing paperwork and trainings and clearing security. Me, booking tickets, coordinating travel, buying plane snacks, and desperately trying to convince just one ATM on this island to give me cash from my well stocked yet apparently inaccessible checking account.  (Lester, from Chase, says it’s definitely on my end for whatever that’s worth).

I know Dad is proud of Nick and it’s easy to see why. He’s accomplished and driven; He’s a board certified anesthesiologist and he’s a Captain in the US Army. These would make any father glow. But I also know dad, and he has reasons better than these that make him proud. His son has followed in his footsteps of showing up: being there for the people you love even when it’s exhausting, impractical or expensive. Dad showed us that of any legacy we leave, loving others is second only to loving God and that these two go hand in hand.  He also taught us that nothing is more important than family and I genuinely believe we honored him well, in scrambling to get our lives together to get Nick where he needed to be: standing next to his mom and spending some time with his Lolo.

Lolo has had a good long life. He is well accomplished, well traveled and esteemed. He has stories on stories from times I have only read about in history books and from a culture completely foreign to me. He is the patriarch of six very different children who live miles (and sometimes even continents) apart and still come together more than any extended family I know.  That love and bond has spread to his children’s spouses as new members were added to the six pack.  It has continued to grow to include thirteen grandchildren and even four great grandchildren.  We would be hard pressed (literally) to fit all of this family into one room (and you know that room would be LOUD) and that doesn’t even begin to cover the number of people who would like to be at his side, thanking him for all he has done for them.

I want to acknowledge the sacrifices he made in moving to the US. It takes a kind of strength that I cannot begin to fathom to uproot your entire family and take them to a place where they don’t know the language, customs or culture and watch them start over. Now that I have children of my own, I understand even more how hard it is to watch them struggle- even when it benefits them. I’m sure Lolo had the same concerns, the same fear and the same obstacles that his children faced in a new life... but he looked beyond all of that on a leap of faith that this would be better for them, and boy was he ever right. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that my children wouldn’t be here today had he not made that jump.

How do you honor that? How do I tell him that in some way he was responsible for three of my greatest sources of joy (Aloiya, Lincoln and also counting Nick... I am not pregnant for those of you conspiracy theorists out there).

Lolo, I hope that Nick can read some of this to you. I want you to know how thankful I am, for you, for your life and your sacrifices that have trickled down to all of us that by blood or law or even just love that can consider ourselves a part of the Conol clan. I wish I could be there to do an amin and give you a hug.  I remember all those years ago when Nick first taught me how to do an amin the proper way, being terrified to offend you by doing it wrong. How silly I feel now knowing that I didn’t need to worry, how quickly I was welcomed into your family had nothing to do with my limited understanding of Filipino customs. You should know that we have taught Allie how to amin her elders and will do the same with Lincoln.  They will know where they came from and the importance of respect for their elders, those who have gone before and cleared the path for us.  Those who have carried us here.  I hope that this makes you smile.

The busy work necessary to get nick to wheels up was a welcome distraction from the nagging thought that I was going to be alone for two weeks. Yes, not truly alone, I remember that I have children, but for those of you out there offering them up as tribute for my moral support, I encourage you to do 30 rounds of “what happened?” with Allie and then we can talk about how supported you feel. Motherhood at this stage is monotonous and exhausting. It can be joyful and is fun and I would not trade it for the world but it is hard work. Someone is always crying (yes, it is often me), someone is always in need of attention, someone is teething, someone needs to poop on the potty.

Not only alone for two weeks, but alone for two weeks spanning one of my son’s first holidays... and the beginning of the Christmas season, formerly one of my favorite times of year. Honestly, there were many more and darker thoughts than that. I will spare you all my darkness. These thoughts don’t deserve the heartache it takes to type them out and make them public. And I’m certainly not ready to defend them, to make everyone understand that I don’t choose them and can’t stop them. They aren’t logical, they don’t make sense and I am doing my best. The end. 

It was disconcerting to think that the person holding my hand as I fight these battles wouldn’t be here.  He has his plate full and does not need further weight on his shoulders.  He is not my only help or my only way out of the darkness, but others I can always rely on are also currently elsewhere – where they need to be.  When it comes down to it, right now, I’m alone.

Here’s the thing though. 

1. I’m not. I’ve got people around the world who I love dearly and who, I know, have my back.

2.  I can do hard things.  It is easy for me to believe the voice in my mind that tells me that I can’t.  That I’m too weak, too small to change things. That I’m not good enough or strong enough or patient enough to be a mother.  That I quit residency when the going got tough.  That I throw in the towel when things get hard. That giving up is who I am.  (For as much as I get down on myself about that one decision, that I sometimes feel like I took the easy way out, I have never had to defend a single decision more in my entire life, and my position has not wavered: I made the choice I needed to make and to get me to where I am today.) 

There is always something to be thankful for, and I know without a doubt that I have more than my fair share.

I have two tiny humans here to cuddle and squeeze and remind me how important it is to be present and how beauty is found in the most simple moments. They remind me that I have purpose even when I feel useless.

I have a circle of people, and granted my circle may be small, but my circle consists of the best people I could ever hope for.  They build me up, listen to my struggles and remind me again and again that I am good enough. It must be exhausting to have the same conversation every time I spiral, but they do it nonetheless.  You know who you are.  Please know how much you mean to me, you all are the reason I know I’m not alone.

I have a dog who smells horrible, but gets me out of the house when I don’t even want to leave my bed. (Granted, we are off to a rocky start as I got myself locked in my house last night… but forty five minutes with a crowbar, a facetime moral supporter and a lot of expletives later, I have a newfound appreciation for freedom and also am in need of a new screen door).

I have a foster fish in a tiny tank (who is doing swimmingly, I might add) to remind me that my world could be much smaller.  

I have food to eat, clean water to drink, a warm and comfortable (albeit on one occasion centipede infested) bed to sleep in.

I have air to breathe, legs to run and eyes to appreciate the beauty around me (and after 7PM to watch all the Netflix I want).

I have so much and I have been unbelievably blessed. I am thankful for it all.  I am thankful, simply, to be alive. 

Sunday, February 3, 2019


There comes a time every day (twice per day on weekends when Allie naps at home) that the sole obstacle preventing me from living my best life (read: sitting on the couch watching Netflix, eating a snack without sharing, or maybe crossing something off my never-ending list) is a miniature human asleep on my lap.  Looking down at her tiny sleeping face, serene and relaxed, it is a surprisingly difficult struggle to put her down.   Part of it is the vulnerability in her sleeping form – she is completely defenseless and trusting that the mom who rocked her to sleep will keep the world safe until she awakes. 

Holding a sleeping baby has to be one of the purest highs in the world.  Or maybe, holding your sleeping baby is… I cannot vouch for whether the feeling translates to random babies, nor can I recommend stealing random babies in order to determine if it is universal. 

One of the beautiful complexities of motherhood can be summed up in that moment: I look forward to when she falls asleep because then I get to resume being completely me, but when she finally falls asleep in my arms, I can’t rush to put her down because it feels so good just to hold her.

It’s an identity crisis that I never expected to have. 

Some women are just born to be moms… maybe I’m even one of them, but prior to my surprise pregnancy (PSA to female readers – you’re likely more fertile than you think) I never thought it was for me.  The pain of childbirth was a deterrent, certainly, but it was more than that.  I liked my house a certain way with breakable things on low shelves. I liked the way my body looked. I liked my fly by the seat of my pants attitude towards travel and adventure – I loved the freedom to book a last minute flight out of the country or drive across several states to see my best friend because she had a bad week.  My life never felt incomplete. Before anyone jumps down my throat, I’m still not saying that my life, pre-baby was incomplete or that I, pre-baby, was incomplete… 

It’s almost as though now, post-baby, I’m irreversibly incomplete.  Before her I was whole, and now, when myself in my own right, I’m lacking. It’s as though an important part of me lives outside my body.   

I don’t want to romanticize it like that.  I’ve seen the posts, coded in “momspeak” about the magic of “seeing a part of your heart outside your body”, but that is not the message I am going for here.  I completely love my daughter and I love being her mom, but I can’t honestly say that I love mothering or that I am always okay with my new epithet being my only descriptor.

I don’t love the endless mundanity of motherhood.  There are days when I can’t wait to drop her off at daycare and days where I consider advancing bedtime by thirty minutes because my very sanity hangs in the balance…It’s as though I’ll never be satisfied. I’ll miss her when she’s absent, but struggle with the role of motherhood when she’s present.  I never stop identifying as a mom, even when she is out of the room, but it’s not as though it fits me like a magical pair of traveling pants that I’ve spent my life waiting for.  It is a constant struggle between wanting to be the best mom and be the best me.

I want to be put together and well-read, well-traveled.  Ideally I should be fit, maintain my six-minute mile and have time to cook healthy colorful meals.  I also want to be present for her.  I want her to remember that mom sat on the floor to read her the frog book a million times, or even if she doesn’t remember it, I want to be the cheerleader that she needs in order to learn to read the frog book herself.  I want her to wear the instagrammable dresses and look photo-ready at a moments notice so I can show the whole world how cute she looks to me, but at the same time I want her to run in the grass, feed herself the acai bowl that stains everything and let her see my face watching her instead of my camera or my phone. I want to feel pride in my appearance and invest time in it , but I don’t want her to inherit any of my insecurities about beauty.  She certainly doesn’t need them. 

I want her to be only her and to some extent that means holding back me… and at the same time I want to be who I want to be even if that means living 95% of my life with a contoured face and 4 coats of mascara.  How do I be the mom she deserves at the same time being the person I deserve?  How can I be my best for her when that looks so much different than being my best self? 

I am beyond thankful to be her mother but I really struggle on the days that I feel like I am only her mother.   This role, it means everything to me and at the same time, it is not enough for me.  In many ways it is the most important thing I will ever do, the biggest legacy I will leave behind, so why am I surprised when it takes all that I have to offer and still wants more.

I’m pregnant again!  I know, I know… I never even finished writing about the labor and delivery experience from last time yet here I am, knocked up again.  Remember that earlier PSA? Totally kidding, this pregnancy was even planned… as much as you can plan something like that. 

I know what to expect this time around and in some ways, that has made me more apprehensive.  I never intended to write a blog about my first days postpartum, mostly because I understood I would be busy.  Everyone told me I would be tired, and they were right.  The fatigue and exhaustion, although tremendous, were certainly not surprising.   Those days are raw and overwhelming.  Everything hurts. Everything is healing. Everything is new and fragile and stressful and amazing.

I was unprepared for the paradigm shift of becoming a mom.  In the days prior to that, when I needed to cry, I could cry.  When I was starving, I ate. When I was tired, I slept.  I had meaningful ways to fill my time beyond meeting my own basic biological needs, but usually when it became necessary, I was able to make them a priority.  After bringing home my tiny screaming incessant adorable bundle of joy, my needs were relegated to the back burner. 

You coast on fumes for a lot further than you ever thought you could.  You can go without healthy food for longer than even your college self would have liked to believe (quite the pendulum swing from the daily food rainbow and nutrient logging of pregnancy).   You can last on even fewer hours of sleep than a call shift… for weeks on end.  Incredibly, none of it is a sacrifice.  None of it takes a conscious choice – to delay your own comfort or to calm your baby’s cries?… it’s instinctive, primal.  It happens so quickly that it is easy to lose yourself in the new role. To feel as though that is all you are.  And there were run into the problems that prompted this dialogue in the first place.

It is love at its most basic form; tiny human needs you and so you do.  You do everything it takes to make tiny human happy, safe, warm, content.  You mother. You do it because you want to.  You do it because they are yours and you are completely theirs. You do it day in and day out.

You do it as their needs change around you: as they learn to smile and every moment of frustrating inconsolable cries becomes worth it, as they learn to giggle and suddenly everything is hysterical, as they learn to speak and call you “mama” - the name now written in your heart, as they learn to blow kisses and say I love you and you think your heart will crack because it is so full.

They grow and change and leave – for an hour first, as you run to the grocery store.  Then two hours as you run to target and treat yourself to Starbucks (#momlife). Then overnight once grandma and grandpa can handle them!  Someday it will be a week at summer camp, maybe a month long mission trip, then years at college. 

And even with everything at stake, it’s honestly not that hard to just hold her a little longer…  while she still fits in my arms.  Cause sometimes, it feels like I could hold her forever.