Clare Saumell VanderWeele

essays on living

Category: Parenting

On Survival vs. Sacrifice

I was wrong. I sat down at my computer and wrote a blog post about being in the trenches, telling the world about the year that had felt chaotic. A year where I could barely catch my breath. A year where I believed I was in survival mode.

It wasn’t an unfounded belief. A lot happened. I screamed a baby into the world, I emptied my bank account into a new house, I coaxed my anxiety-ridden first grader into a new school, and I nursed a baby into healing after a host of afflictions ranging from a fractured skull to oxygen-starved lungs and buckets of snot and vomit. All that along with the usual craziness of balancing full time jobs with housework, cooking, family and friends, playtime with the boys, and much-needed sleep.

It felt like survival, but I had been prepared for that.

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In the Trenches

I park the car at the monastery’s tree farm, haul the baby into his stroller while Nicholas dances around excitedly, and hand the saw to Mike as we prepare to trek through the muddy fields for the perfect tree.

I make the mistake almost immediately.

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To the mamas

“Motherhood is a carnival mirror in that you see, at times, the absolute worst version of yourself, and at other times, the absolute best,” writes blogger Erin Loechner.

And she’s exactly right. Because being a mom is HARD. And sometimes we don’t want to do it, don’t enjoy it, don’t feel we are cut out for it… and feel immensely guilty for feeling all those things. We yell a little too much, check the time a little too often, breathe soul-heavy sighs of relief when they finally go to sleep. And that’s when we look in the mirror and see the ugly. The pinched, stretched, bloated, twisted parts of ourselves.

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A Desperate Mother’s Day Wish

It was 3am, every single day of my pregnancy: I would wake up sobbing, convinced I was going to be a terrible mother.

All the mistakes I’d ever made came flooding back to me, and I imagined my child making the same regretful decisions, simply because it was I who made him.

When he was first laid on my chest, tiny and slippery, I breathed his name and marveled over the fact that he was mine.

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Birthday Wishes

I’ve found out over the years that I’m pretty good at killing things.

Walk in my house and you’ll see the ridiculous number of plants that thrive in my home. But in reality, they are a mere fraction of all the ones I’ve ever owned before inadvertently killing them off.

And it’s not just plants. I’ve lost count of the number of fish I ever saw floating lifelessly upside down before I decided to get rid of the fish tank.

This year, though, I’ve planted a hundred promising seeds. Tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, watermelon, cauliflower, and more. Some are growing already, their tiny green heads poking up above the rich soil.

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To My Son on His 3rd Birthday

You love trains, puzzles, and peanut butter. Your laugh starts deep in your belly and is the most infectious giggle I’ve ever heard. You don’t go a day without singing, even if it’s Jingle Bells in April.

You have my fair hair and your daddy’s round hands. And you still ask for kisses when you fall over.

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I dread the day you realize I can’t protect you from the parts of life that are scary and dark. The day when kisses won’t be enough to heal. Continue reading