Thursday, May 19, 2016

23 Reasons My Kids Are My Best Friends

Not too long ago, I read an article by a woman explaining why her child isn’t her best friend. While I agree with a lot of the points she made, I was a little taken aback by one particular line:

“See, when I hear mom friends of mine refer to their infants, toddlers or even teens as their best friend, I can’t help but feel sorry for them.”

I have twin boys, and I’ve referred to them as my “best friends” plenty of times.

And I don’t feel like that makes me pitiful.

Don’t get me wrong, I have adult friends, too. In fact, I’ve also referred to my mom as my best friend. She is. So is my husband. And so is one of the women I ran cross-country with in college.

But so are my kids.

Maybe that makes me a Best Friend Whore. Or a Polybestfriendist. Or some other whacked-out term that I’m sure a few of the people reading this article will coin and crucify me with.

But guess what? I don’t care. I believe that you can have more than one best friend as well as different types of best friends. My kids happen to be a couple of mine. Here are 23 reasons why:

1. They never judge me. When they see me shamelessly spraying aerosol whipped cream into my mouth, or eating cream cheese spread with a spoon, their only criticism is that I didn’t offer them any first.

2. They know exactly how to make me laugh. Sometimes it’s a goofy face. Other times it’s a joke that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. And sometimes it’s just the sound of their laughter.

3. We tell each other everything. Me: “Mama is feeling really overwhelmed right now.” Toddler: “I made stinkies.”

4. They help me pick out my clothes. Every time I look down at my feet and see one green sock and one blue one, I think of their enthusiastic faces as they pulled them from my sock drawer. And I smile.

5. They know how to make me feel better. Just the other day I was having some body image issues and was crying while talking to my husband about it. Out of nowhere, my son ran up to me, said, “Mama sad,” and wrapped his little arms my neck. And not in the typical toddler-chokehold way.

6. We w(h)ine together. Toddler: (tugging on my pants) “I’m thiiiirrrrsty.” Me: (uncorking wine bottle) “Me too, honey. Meeeeeee too.”

7. We talk about boys (often while w(h)ining together.) Mickey Mouse, Elmo, Jake, Boots, Daniel Tiger. We’ve analyzed the best and worst qualities of them all.

Toddler: “Dora’s monkey has red shoes. I want red shoes. I want redddddddd!” Me: (popping open a bottle of red) “Me too, honey. Meeeee too.”

8. We can go hours without talking and the silence is never awkward. It’s called nap time. And it is glorious.

9. They think it’s funny when I fart.

10. We often match without planning it. Sweats, t-shirt, and no bra FTW!

11. We binge watch Netflix together. Confession: I kind of like watching Sofia the First. (It’s on Netflix now!) The theme song is catchy and it gives me the warm fuzzies when I see how she’s always got everyone’s backs in the castle. Plus, I find Cedric’s cynicism totally entertaining. Oh, and that high-and-mighty Amber bitch? Hilarious. Seriously, it’s like an allegory for the various parents you might encounter at the playground. If you haven’t streamed it yet, you should.

12. We’ve seen each other naked. I’m kind of responsible for bath time and diaper changes so…yeah. And it’s not uncommon for me to be startled mid-shampoo by an inquisitive little toddler peeking around the shower curtain.

13. And we are honest about what we see. Me: “Oh, bubba, looks like you’ve got a little rash on your booty.” Toddler: “Mama no wee-wee.”

14. Actually, they are honest about pretty much everything. Toddler 1: “Mama’s face…ewwww.” Toddler 2: “Hair! Lot of hair on Mama’s legs!”

15. They’re always there for me. Like…ALWAYS.

16. We dance like Meredith and Cristina in Grey’s Anatomy. And we are each other’s “person.”

17. They keep my secrets. They can’t even pronounce the words “passive aggressive,” so there’s no way they’re going to tell Mrs. ***** that’s what I called her the next time we run into her.

18. I have more selfies of them on my phone than of anyone else.

19. They do my hair for me. Peanut butter and jelly beat even the strongest mousse on a salon shelf. And who needs to pay for a professional haircut when your kid will just yank it out for you?

20. We have inside jokes. For example: “We’re going to sit quietly and look at books now so Mama can get some writing done.” HAHAHAHAHAHA.

21. They make me feel beautiful. Because whenever I look at their vibrant faces and marvel at the incredible things they can do with those amazing, miniature bodies of theirs, I remember that it was my body that made them.

22. They motivate me to be the best version of myself. Because I know that’s what they deserve.

23. I would do anything for them. If you’re reading this, and you’re a parent, I don’t think any further explanation is necessary.

 © 2015 Samantha Wassel, as first published on Sammiches & Pysch Meds

Friday, May 6, 2016

That A Hand So Small Can Hold So Much

Sometimes, my sweet boy, that little hand of yours holds me captive.

A hand so small, with fingers the size of caterpillars and knuckles no bigger than Japanese beetles. (You’re on a bug kick at the moment.) Each finger is tipped with a perfectly-crafted whorl, a physical rendering of your propensity for constant motion.

The skin of your palm is still soft and unweathered, though there is a seemingly permanent layer of dirt beneath your fingernails—a touch of imperfection that accentuates the perfectness of your tiny toddler hand.

A hand so small, and yet it does so much.

It presses dandelions into my palm—staining it yellow, like your fingertips—connecting us with the bright mark of your unadulterated kindness. I smile, happy that you’re still too young to recognize the weeds in this world. You see beauty in everything.

It clutches a popsicle stick on a hot summer day, then tugs at my shorts as you ask for more, leaving its print behind in a shade of purple that my Tide pen is no match for. I look up to see that same purple smeared across your face like war paint, and my irritation melts as quickly as the frozen treat in your hand. You make it so hard to stay angry.

It points to the word “red” when we read Pete the Cat, and gestures excitedly as you tell me that Pete’s red shoes are your favorite, because they look like the ones Daddy wears when he works out. I kiss the top of your head, touched by the love and admiration you have for the man I married. You (and I) have excellent taste.

It digs in the dirt and plucks roly polies out of the grass, pinching them between inquisitive fingers. I cringe when you offer them to me, but can’t help laughing as you flick them across the ground like teeny marbles. You are such a boy. (But Mama's not, so we’ve really got to get over this bug phase.)

It grasps metal Hot Wheels cars, running them up and down the length of my body as though I’m a living racetrack. I laugh as you call out “speed bump” when you reach my nose (until the tiny tire gets caught in my nose ring). You are so creative.

It meticulously picks all the marshmallows out of your Lucky Charms, separating them by color before popping them into your mouth. You offer me one, and I smile when I see the shape in your hand: You are sharing your heart with me.

It reaches for my phone whenever I pull it out in front of you, not because you want to play with it, but because you want to toss it aside. (You hate it when Mama texts.) I allow you to do so, and instead of reading the letters LOL on a screen, I laugh with you as we read your favorite story. You remind me what's most important.

It points to your boo-boo after you take a tumble at the playground, indicating the spot I need to “kiss all better.” I touch my lips to your scraped knee, then watch you jump up and resume playing as though nothing happened. You still believe Mama can fix anything.

It holds your favorite blanket close to you, wrinkling the soft fabric in the tight grip of your minuscule fingers. (I bought you that blanket before I even met you.) I smile, and the skin around my eyes creases, mirroring the folds in your blanket. I cherish those lines: They are love wrinkles.

It helps your brother pick up toys at the end of the day, then gives me a high-five when I tell you how proud you make me. I revel in the slight sting as your itty bitty palm slaps mine. You still think high-fiving Mama is cool.

It wipes at the tears that run down your face when someone hurts you, and closes around my fingers when I, too, try to brush away your pain. At other times, when you see me hurt, you return the favor. Your compassion brings even more tears to my eyes.

It slides into mine when we go for walks around the neighborhood, your grip slipping ever so slightly when we both start to sweat in the sticky summer heat. I pause to dry my hand on my shorts, and you immediately reach for my other one. You’re not ready to let go. I'm okay with that.

This hand so small: It explores and discovers, it expresses and creates, it comforts and shares.

A hand so small—a hand that grew inside me, in that sacred space where you and I first shared the gift of life. A hand that, now fully formed, continues to share that gift with me every day.

A hand that is a literal extension of the perfect person my body created, and a figurative extension of myself.

Sometimes, I marvel at the irony of its smallness, wondering how a hand so small can hold so much.

Because when I see the beautiful things it does, I still feel it there—inside me—holding on to my heart.

© 2015 Samantha Wassel, as first published on Mamalode

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Translation Guide to Common Toddler Phrases

I love my kids fiercely. Truly, I do. I love them to the moon and back, and to Neptune’s known 14 moons and back, and to wherever the hell my sanity has escaped to and back. But as much as I love them, I often find myself being driven 50 shades of apeshit when they talk to me.

Basically, I’ve learned that you can’t take anything a toddler says at face value. Almost everything that comes out of their mouths has a hidden (usually vindictive) meaning. If doublespeak were a federal crime, my kids would be convicted felons. And I’d be their prison bitch.

I’ve come to refer to this way of talking as “Twat-dler Speak,” for reasons that will become increasingly apparent as you continue reading.

Spoiler alert: It’s not because I make a habit of talking like Tweety Bird.

If the seemingly sweet words spewing from your kid’s mouth seem to be spiked with sour undertones, chances are he or she is speaking Twat-dler. To save you the time and stress of trying to decode the perplexing language of a two-year-old, I’ve taken the liberty of translating a few of the most common Twat-dler phrases that I’ve heard thus far as a parent:

Twat-dler: I’m not tired.

Translation: I am, in fact, so exhausted that I’d probably pass out the moment my little head hits the pillow, but there’s no way in hell I’m letting you have thirty minutes to yourself to salivate over your DVR’ed episodes of Cupcake Wars while stuffing your face with store-bought Cosmic Brownies. So instead, I will force myself to stay awake and then proceed to take out all my crankiness on you.

Twat-dler: No, don’t need to go potty.

Translation: Of course I need to go potty, dipshit. I pretty much always need to go potty. But there’s no way I’m going to do it on that plastic little seat you forked the extra 25 bucks over for because it makes cool car noises. Screw the potty chart stickers. It’s much more rewarding to see the look on your face when I splatter it with shit during diaper changes.

Twat-dler: Big mess.

Translation: I just crapped myself silly, and you better get on that shit (literally). But don’t think for a second I’m not going to kick and squirm the entire time.

Twat-dler: All done! (said after pooping)

Translation: Bitch, please. I’m just getting started. There is SO MUCH MORE SHIT where that came from.

Twat-dler: All done! (said during a meal)

Translation: I’m actually still starving, but I refuse to give you the satisfaction of seeing me eat what is put on my plastic, segmented toddler plate. Instead, I will express my raging hunger in one or more of the following ways: screaming, whining, or chucking this delicious, painstakingly prepared meal you made on the floor, and then laughing maniacally while you clean it up.

Twat-dler: No!

Translation: Yes! Wait, no. I mean, yes!

Twat-dler: Yes!

Translation: No! Wait, yes. I mean, no! HELL NO!

Twat-dler: Night night!

Translation: See you in approximately six minutes when I’ll suddenly become (hungry, thirsty, convinced that my teddy bear is actually alive and evil like Lotso in Toy Story 3).

Twat-dler: I want to go outside!

Translation: Come near me with that bottle of sunscreen and I will literally eat your face.

Twat-dler: I’m sorry.

Translation: I will be repeating this offense again in approximately three seconds.

 Twat-dler: I’m hungry.

Translation: If I don’t get some fruit snacks in the next five seconds, someone’s gonna lose a nipple.

Twat-dler: I’m thirsty.

Translation: I want fruit snacks.

Twat-dler: I want crackers.

Translation: I want fruit snacks.

Twat-dler: I want chicken nuggets.

Translation: I want fruit snacks.

Twat-dler: This is yucky.

Translation: This is not a package of f*cking fruit snacks.

Twat-dler: I want fruit snacks.

Translation: I specifically want (Hello Kitty/Thomas the Train/Despicable Me) fruit snacks. And if you offer me any other kind, someone’s gonna lose a nipple.

Twat-dler: I want (Hello Kitty/Thomas the Train/Despicable Me) fruit snacks.


Twat-dler: Please.

Translation: I really don’t know WTF this word even means, but you grownups are always rewarding me for saying it so I’ll play along. NOW FETCH ME THOSE FRUIT SNACKS, BITCH!

Twat-dler: Thank you.

Translation: You need to go get me more fruit snacks. NOW.

Twat-dler: I love you.

Translation: You are a total sap who allows three little words to brainwash you into submission, forgiveness, and just being a pushover in general. I OWN YOU, WOMAN!

Surprisingly, Google Translate has not yet added Twat-dler to its list of languages. Until it does so, you may want to print this out and stick it on your fridge as a quick guide for babysitters.

And make sure they know where you keep the (Hello Kitty/Thomas the Train/Despicable Me) fruit snacks. Unless they don’t mind putting the money you’re paying them towards nipple reconstruction surgery. 

© 2015 Samantha Wassel, as first published on Sammiches & Psych Meds (under the title “What Your Kid Really Means When They Say…)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Difference Between a ‘Sheltered’ Life and a ‘Simple’ One

It’s a running joke among my husband’s coworkers that we are a “modern Amish family.” The nickname has less to do with how we dress (I could not rock a bonnet; also, I’m not aware of any Amish who wear Star Wars T-shirts), and more to do with the fact that they mistake our simple life for a “sheltered” one.

I don’t consider my family sheltered. We own a vehicle (two, in fact), use cell phones (smart ones, even) and rely heavily on electricity (coffee maker = Mom’s lifeline). Heck, we even use that Interweb nonsense to keep in touch with friends and family via The Facebook. We are not socially reclusive, nor do we keep our kids on constant lockdown in order to protect them from the big, scary world beyond our humble home.

However, some of our choices—like staying home to watch movies on the weekends, or considering a trip to the playground a social outing—tend to be viewed as hermit-like in today’s go-go-go society.

We rarely go out to eat. We don’t travel much. We don’t have cable or Wi-Fi in our home. And the latest technological gizmos? Forget it. Our largest single annual expense is our cumulative grocery bill, because food is—you know—a basic necessity. We live simply—frugally, you might even say—not because we have to, but because we choose to.

I don’t believe that kids need to be exposed to a million different things, or own all the trendiest gadgets, in order to get the most out of life. Nor do I think that I’m an irresponsible parent for making our home their primary source of recreation and entertainment.

In my experience, when you’re constantly busy, you don’t have time to slow down and reflect on what you’re doing. You don’t have time to take the experiences you do have and weave them into memories that will last a lifetime.

The phrase “Less is more” is a cliché for a reason.

When I think back to my own childhood, I remember simple moments. I don’t remember the details of our annual Cedar Point trips or the expensive toys I got for Christmas, but I do remember digging for worms with the neighbors. I remember sitting on my mom’s lap as she read me Little Golden Books.

Like diamonds forged from coal, my most treasured memories are born of the seemingly ordinary and mundane, but they sparkle, and their clarity and value are undeniable.

Those are the kinds of memories I want for my own children.

Memories like these:

–Sneaking fruit snacks from the pantry when Mom isn’t looking and sharing them with siblings in an elaborate fort constructed out of blankets.

–Throwing a bunch of stuffed animals on a bed and pretending it’s a pirate ship. “Walking the plank” to land in a sea of pillows, while Captain Hook prods you with the clothes hanger he has shoved up his shirt sleeve.

–Brewing “witch potions” in the backyard: using a stick to stir water, mud, leaves and bugs in a plastic bucket while muttering random incantations—then seeing the look on Mom’s face when she’s asked to taste it.

–Using broken tree branches to draw creepy-looking characters in the gravel driveway.

Me and My Little Bro, circa 1999

–Staging picnics in the backyard, telling creepy stories over a campfire, and waging hedge-apple wars with the neighbors (then showing off the bruises like they’re battle scars).

–Putting on fashion shows while wearing Mom’s old bridesmaid dresses, and strutting down the hallway like it’s a runway.

–Playing marathon games of Monopoly with siblings on a snow day, then sipping hot chocolate topped with rainbow-colored marshmallows.

–Lying on the concrete while a friend traces the shape of your body with sidewalk chalk, and laughing hysterically when Dad sneaks around the corner of the house to spray you with the hose.

–Licking cake batter off beaters and begging for just one more bite of raw cookie dough.

–Setting up a sprinkler in front of the swing set on a hot summer day, or splashing each other in a cheap plastic pool in the backyard.

The Minions, circa 2015

–Turning the basement into a movie theater and personalizing brown paper “popcorn bags” with stickers and sharpies (and taking advantage of Mom’s free refill policy).

–Staging wrestling and boxing matches—Dad’s old socks serving as makeshift boxing gloves—and selling family members construction-paper tickets to the show.

–Picking out stacks of books to read on a rainy day, or going outside barefoot and dancing in the puddles.

–Catching fireflies in old iced tea jars and smiling when they light up inside the glass—then shrieking hysterically the moment one lands in someone’s hair.

–Taking long bike rides in the sunshine, and reveling in the reward of a well-earned slushy at the local ice cream shop afterward.

–Helping Papa plant his garden, even if it’s just an excuse to play in the dirt (because what kid doesn’t love playing in the dirt?).

The Minions and Papa, circa 2015

I don’t want my kids’ childhood memories to be a blur of fancy hotel stays, nice restaurants, itinerary-driven vacations or expensive birthday gifts. I want them to remember what it was like to really be a kid—to be able to find the uncommon in the common, the extraordinary in the ordinary, and the beauty in simplicity.

Because once you become an adult, life becomes unavoidably—irreversibly—complicated.

In my eyes, I’m not sheltering my children from the real world with the lifestyle we’ve chosen.

I am showing them all it has to offer.

© 2015 Samantha Wassel, as first published on The Mid at Scary Mommy

Thursday, March 24, 2016

21 Things to Do With Your Kids If You Want to Screw Them Up

It was recently brought to my attention by a few blog commenters that baking cookies with my kids is an unhealthy choice of activity. Actually, I think the exact word used was “destructive.” Basically, I’d shared a post recounting a “fat day,” on which the shadow of my eating disorder was being a particular bitch. Instead of allowing the critical self-talk to send me back into a spiral of unhealthy behavior, I’d chosen to focus my energies on bonding with my kids. I mentioned that we baked cookies.

BIG MISTAKE. Apparently, I wasn’t just baking cookies with my kidsI was setting a poor example for them by not “loving myself” or “taking care of myself and my body.” I was teaching them that it’s OK to ignore the inner critic inside of you, the one that tries to goad you back toward destructive behavior. I was letting them believe that — gasp! — it’s perfectly acceptable to eat a damn cookie every once in awhile.

Thank God someone pointed out my misguided thinking. I would hate to continue to set a poor example for my children. They should probably know that baking and eating cookies is irresponsible and could land them in the same position as those hyperbolically overweight humans riding around in hovercrafts at the end of Wall-E.

This refreshing revelation got me thinking about some of the other “fun” things I do with my kids, and how those activities might negatively affect them in the long run. It seems I’ve been parenting irresponsibly for quite some time now.

What can I say? The road to hell is paved with good intentions. And, apparently, cookie dough.

For those of you looking to join in on the destructive parenting trend, I’ve taken the liberty of compiling a list of ways to do so. Here are 21 activities you should do with your kids if you really want to screw them up.

1. Bake cookies. If you want them to be fat and lazy.

2. Take them to the zoo. If you want to teach them that captivity and bondage are amusing concepts. You might as well just start reading 50 Shades of Grey to them at bedtime.

3. Fly a kite. If you want to instill a disrespect for nature. What if it gets stuck in a tree? BOOM. Littering. Or, worse, what if a bird flies into the string, strangles itself, and dies? You’re basically raising animal abusers. Before you know it, they’ll be throwing plastic six-pack rings into the ocean to murder all the dolphins.

4. Push them on the swings. If you’re really stupid. I mean, whoa. You’re doing two taboo things here: (1) teaching them that it’s OK — fun, even — to push people, and (2) encouraging them to be “swingers.” Bullying and sexual promiscuity for the double-win.

5. Allow them to race their Hot Wheels down one of those plastic racetracks. If you want to bail them out of jail for reckless driving someday. On that note:

6. Hit up the McDonald’s drive-thru while you’re out running errands and split a milkshake. If you want them to think it’s cool to drink and drive.

7. Draw with sidewalk chalk. If you want to raise graffiti-loving hoodlums. If they’re not incarcerated for the reckless driving or a DUI (see above), they may end up in the slammer for defacing public property.

8. Build a fort. If you want to mold them into deranged sociopaths by encouraging seclusion and unhealthy antisocial behavior.

9. Take them to the library and let them pick out a few books. If you want to raise shoplifters.

10. Play dress up. If you want to lay the foundation for a life dedicated to sleazy identity theft.

11. Take them to a fast food place with a play area and allow them to hang out in the ball pit. If you want them to know it’s cool to play with someone else’s balls. IN PUBLIC.

12. Play a card game together. If you want them to end up in Gamblers Anonymous.

13. Play tag and/or hide and seek. If you want them to learn to hide or run away from their problems.

14. Start a (leaf, stamp, rock, etc.) collection. If you want to see them on Hoarders: Buried Alive one day.

15. Play with puppets. If you want them to think they have the right to speak for someone else.

Note: If you have a son and pretend it’s a girl puppet, you’ll be raising the quintessential anti-feminist, male chauvinist. You’ll also be implying that it’s perfectly acceptable to shove his hand up some random girl’s hoo-ha.

16. Exercise together. If you want them to develop an unhealthy exercise addiction and body image issues.

17. Push them in the stroller. If you want them to grow up to be lazy bums always looking for a free ride.

18. Play Simon Says. If you want to raise little dictators. Better yet, just change the name of the game to Adolf Says.

19. Plant a garden. If you want to inspire them to start their own marijuana plantation. You’ll want to really focus on the weed-pulling aspect.

20. Go for a bike ride. If you want them to join a motorcycle gang when they’re older.

21. Write a bitchy, satirical article exposing the ludicrousness of some random sanctimommy’s unsolicited advice. If you want to teach them not to give a f*ck about what other people think.  (This one won’t actually screw them up … I hope.)

© 2015 Samantha Wassel, as first published on Scary Mommy

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I Smile at My C-Section Scar

It spans across my lower belly: a thin line of translucent white, fringed with red, curving slightly upward on either end. It stretches and contracts with the gentle rise and fall of my breathing, widening like a smile.

And I can’t help smiling back.

Because when I look at this scar, I don’t see a flaw.

I see perfection. I see a portal to another world: a place filled with love, life, security—a nourishing utopia, where you formed your perfect little nose, your perfect little cheeks, the perfect little wrinkle between your eyebrows, all ten perfect little fingers, and all ten perfect little toes.

I don’t see deformity.

I see beauty. I see a tattoo that extends all the way to my heart and connects it to yours. I see your soul, your vibrancy, your life—carved into me.

I don’t see the mark of someone who had it “easy,” someone who “didn’t really give birth.” I don’t see inferiority.

I see a literal birthmark. I see the spot where they slit me open while I cried and prayed, hoping that I would hold your tiny living body in my arms when it was over, yearning to feel the warm touch of your skin against mine and the familiar rhythm of your heartbeat against my chest, sensations that I’d grown to know so well internally. I see the mark of quintessential motherhood.

I don’t see weakness.

I see strength. I see the jagged edge of love and fear, protruding from my skin like braille. It says life. It says perseverance. It says you and me—we’ll be together at the end of all this—whatever it takes.

I don’t see failure.

I see triumph. I see a battle scar, marking the ground where we fought—together—when you decided to come 10 weeks early. I see will and determination. I see victory.

I don’t see the cold cut of surgery.

I see the tender swell of life. I see a landmark, a historic site where you breathed your first breath, cried your first cry, opened your eyes to the outside world for the first time. I see the precise latitudinal line of where you went from simply living to being alive. I am forever marked by your coordinates.

I don’t see regret, or the disappointment of having a nontraditional birth. I don’t feel disconnect.

I see a property line, extending to my heart, where you first staked a claim, and where you continue to rule today. I feel the memory of the gentle tug as they lifted you from my body—your grasp on my heart never wavering— and the familiar pull on my heartstrings whenever I picture your fragile, red little body rising to meet me. I remember the warmth of your cheek against my lips, and I feel the unique, undeniable magnetism of a mother’s love. I feel connection.

I don’t see detachment.

I see intimacy. I see a doorway, housing the first chapter of your life, locking in the memory of every kick, every hiccup, every flutter of your tiny, miraculous heart. I see devotion. I see it etched in my skin like a signature on a contract, a promise of love and responsibility. A promise of motherhood.

So I will not be ashamed. I will not be made to feel inadequate. I will not feel insecure or embarrassed.

I will not drape a towel or wrap over my bikini line at the beach. I will not turn away from the mirror when I step out of the shower. I will not cover the mended flesh that brought so much beauty into this world.

I will not mask my pride.

I will not be told that I “had it easy,” or that I “didn’t do any of the work.”

I will not feel weak. I will not feel like less of a woman. I will not feel like less of a mother.

I will not allow the loose, slightly puckered skin surrounding this scar to make me feel ugly. Because it is beautiful, and I am beautiful, and you are beautiful.

I will not feel marred, or “butchered,” or broken.

Because I am whole, and it is this scar that has made me so. It is a poignant paradox, a line marking the spot where I was both ripped apart and put back together; and when I look at it, I will remember the day when you were both taken from and given to me.

And I will be grateful.

Because this scar made me a mom.

© 2015 Samantha Wassel, as first appeared on Mamalode

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Pain of Motherhood

Sometimes when I’m with you, little one—watching you, holding you, loving you—it hurts.

Sometimes it hurts to have this abundance of love—this all-consuming, overpowering, intoxicating and soul-crushing love—and not have a space large enough to keep it. It’s infinite. I feel it when you whisper “I love you, too, Mama” after I tuck you in at night and when you wrap your skinny arms around me. I feel it tingling in the tips of my fingers when they trace the soft line of your jaw, your head resting on my lap as you drift peacefully off to sleep.

And that time you pressed your little lips tenderly to my forehead? I think my heart almost erupted inside my chest.

Sometimes it hurts when I lift your little body up in my arms and realize that I won’t always be able to—that you won’t always want me to. It’s a pain of balance and a pain of paradox: The lightness of you in my arms is counteracted by the heaviness in my heart. You’re getting so big, so fast. And though I love seeing the little boy you’re becoming, I also miss the little baby you once were.

I miss your smallness.

Sometimes it hurts as I witness you break out of your tentative toddler shell. You explore your surroundings with a burning curiosity that fills me with both pride and a little heartache. The more of the world you discover, the less of your world I become. And while I am proud of your burgeoning independence—of your determination to play an active role in your own life—it pains me just a little to know you won’t always need me by your side to guide you through it.

There is a comfort in being needed.

Sometimes it hurts when I can’t find the words. I can feel them there, inside me, desperately trying to form, but there’s no language both strong and delicate enough to capture the essence of you. So sometimes all I can do is stare in silence, marveling at your tiny personhood, trying to memorize every piece of you, every movement, every intricacy:

Those tiny feet that carry you across the playground. Those miniscule fingers that artfully craft Lego trains and dig itty bitty tunnels in the dirt. Those bright, animated eyes that peep at me through the hole in your bagel at breakfast. That delicate little brow that furrows when you sit on the couch and flip through your favorite book. That nearly-imperceptible chip in your front tooth from the time you fell at the playground, a tiny flaw that somehow only adds to your perfection.

 Sometimes, I watch you, and it hits me: All those things—those things that make you YOU—are a part of me. You are a part of me. You—and all of your startling perfection—were born of me.

I live in your heart, and you in mine. Your soul was nourished by my own, and I will always carry a piece of it with me.

You have changed me in the most profound, complete, and beautiful of ways. You have altered my body, my mind, my heart, my soul.

And sometimes, little one, it hurts to love you so.

But it’s a beautiful kind of pain, and I wouldn't trade it for all the comforts and security in the world.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

An Open Letter to the Woman Who Called My IVF a Sin

First of all, I never asked you.

You, who were raised Catholic (like me), brought up to believe in the healing power of love and sacrifice, do you know how much I sacrificed for these children? How many needles I faced? How many procedures I endured? How many times I went to the ER convulsing in unbearable pain? Do you know how many tears I shed?

You, who conceived your first child because you “forgot the condom that one time,” have you ever even considered what it’s like to walk the proverbial mile in an infertile woman’s shoes?

Do you know what it’s like when your body breaks the very heart it harbors, refusing to indulge its deepest desire?

Do you know how it feels to cry over another negative pregnancy test, only to dig it out of the trash an hour later, praying that a second line has magically appeared?

Do you know how much love contributed to the creation of these children? That they are born of the love between a husband and wife, between parental hopefuls and an imagined family, between a mother and the mere idea of her future children?

Do you think the fact that they spent an infinitesimal portion of their lives in a laboratory before I carried them changes any of that?

Do you know that every time I felt them move inside of me, my heart was filled with gratitude?

Do you know how my body nourished them? How we shared the same nutrients, the same oxygen, the same heartbeat?

Do you know that our hearts fall into that familiar, synchronized rhythm when I hold them close to me now? That our hearts still speak to one another?

Can you imagine how much I love them? How much they love me in return?

Do you really believe something that brings more love into this world could be a “sin”?

You, who said my cyst-ridden ovaries were just “part of a bigger plan,” did you ever stop to think that maybe meeting the miracle workers at the fertility clinic was also part of that plan?

If you saw a child hit by a car while running across the street, would you neglect to call 911, chalking the accident up to “destiny”?

You, who said it was immoral to use “any means necessary” to get pregnant, do you realize that most cases of infertility are considered treatable medical conditions?

If one of your loved ones was suffering from cancer that could be cured with chemotherapy, would you urge her to decline treatment? Would you tell her it’s wrong to fight fate, and that she should die prematurely, at the hands of a tumor, even though there are gifted and compassionate human beings who could help her?

You, who accused me of tossing out “unused” or “weak” embryos like trash, do you know that I refused to discard even the lowest medically-graded embryo?

Do you know that any embryos I didn’t have transferred back to me were treated with the utmost care, and that they are safe in a medical facility, tiny glimmers of hope with the potential to gift us — or another struggling couple, should we decide to donate — a beautiful baby?

You, who accused me of “taking life for granted,” do you know that I cried over every single egg that didn’t mature?

Every embryo that formed but halted in its development?

Every transferred blastocyst that didn’t “stick”?

Every blood-stained pad that meant my womb wasn’t enveloping the child I’d so desperately yearned for?

Do you know that I lit candles? Laid out prayer cards? Wept until I no longer knew what it was to have clear vision and dry cheeks?

Look at my children — my beautiful, vibrant, born-of-love miracles. Watch them light up a room and bring a smile to even the most somber of faces.

Listen to the way the word “Mama” dances off their lips, like a precious secret, a verbal love letter addressed to the woman who gave them life.

Watch them gaze upon the world with wide eyes, finding joy in the mundane, laughter in the silence, love in the emptiness.

See their eyes sparkle when I ask them if they want to go for a ride in the wagon. Watch them point out the airplanes overhead, mimic the sound of a passing train, laugh at the dandelion seeds that float through the sky and tickle their noses.

Hear the wonder in their voices when they catch a rare glimpse of the moon in broad daylight, their cries of excitement reminiscent of a barnyard, as they turn people’s heads with boisterous outbursts of “Moo! Moo!”

See them wave to the mail carrier, shout “Hi!” to the UPS driver, and smile at the garbage man.

Watch their brows furrow with genuine concern when they see someone get a “boo boo” at the playground.

Listen to them sing “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star,” out of key but full of life.

Let them take your hand in theirs. Feel their tiny, dirt-caked fingers embracing yours in a grasp of unadulterated trust.

You can call me a sinner, and I won’t deny it. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no saint.

I am human. I am flawed. I have made mistakes, and I have plenty of things to apologize for.

But being a mother is not one of them.

© 2015 Samantha Wassel, as first appeared on Scary Mommy

Thursday, February 25, 2016

What You Don’t See When You Look At That “Skinny Mom”

She sees you, looking her up and down, your eyes traveling the length of her slender-by-society’s-standards body. She sees the sneer on your face, the slight look of disgust – or is it envy? – that flickers over your features. She sees you divert your gaze the moment her eyes meet yours.

You see “one of those skinny bitches.” The kind that other moms poke fun at on social media. The kind alluded to in many a blog post, spoken of in tones of bitterness and jealousy, cast as an outlier, used as a scapegoat so that other women can feel “normal.”

But you don’t see everything.

You see the shadows, dips, and curves of muscle, the smooth sinew that flexes beneath her skin as she bends down to scoop her son up in her wiry arms.

Not the constant repetition of numbers in her head, the oppressive reiteration that governs her day: counting pushups, counting calories, counting the miniscule cookie crumbs she allows herself to eat off her kid’s lunch plate, and the minutes she’ll have to work out to burn them off.

Counting everything besides the things that really count.

You see a narrow, delicate waist, resting above slightly protruding hip bones.

Not the queasy stomach inside her, the one that is filled, not with food, but with the sickening feelings of self-doubt and insecurity. You don’t see the way she slips her hand beneath the hem of her shirt, assessing what her delicate fingers find there, pinching love handles that are as nonexistent as the love she shows herself.

You see a “runner’s body,” bronze cheekbones, and a tan complexion.

Not the inner voice that tells her she can outrun anything, even the demons that haunt her, telling her she isn’t – and never will be – good enough for anyone or anything. You don’t see the destructive thoughts in her head that she is so desperate to escape, or the sense of calm that overcomes her after a hard run, when the only feelings she’s left with are the burning in her lungs and the trembling in her quads.

You see one of those moms, a woman who seemed to drop all the baby weight two days out of the hospital, who looks like she’s never carried any extra weight on her slender frame, let alone the weight of two children.

Not the woman who cried through years of infertility, who struggled to get pregnant due to both a medical condition that was beyond her control, and fear that she knows should have been within it. You don’t see the conflicted heart, the one that nearly broke as it struggled to make peace with the cruel paradox: a body she hated, housing the children she loved.

You see a “fit mama.”

Not someone who questions every day whether she’s fit to be a mama.

You see a toned body, someone who has the time and discipline to exercise regularly.

Not the anxiety and panic she feels if she sleeps past 5:30 and fails to get a workout in before her kids wake up.

You see a c-section scar that spans a flat stomach, resting beneath taut abs.

Not the emotional scars left behind from an eating disorder that haunted her for years, and still rears its ugly head in her moments of weakness.

You see her engaged with her kids at the playground, laughing as she scurries after them up the tube slide, her lithe body swinging freely as she chases them across the monkey bars.

Not the dark places her mind goes to as she pushes her kids on the swings, or the guilt she feels for allowing it to go there. You don’t know that her time with them is always tainted because – no matter how hard she tries – she can’t just enjoy the moment.

You see someone who’s lucky because she “doesn’t have to worry” about putting on a bikini when she takes her kids to the beach.

Not the tears she sheds in private as she tries on a million different bathing suits, finally walking out of the store empty-handed, convinced that each one accentuates one of her many flaws.

You see a size zero.

Not someone who feels like one on the inside.

You see someone who turns heads.

Not someone who wishes she could disappear.

You see her body.

But you don’t see her.

Are you even really looking?

© 2015 Samantha Wassel, as first published on Scary Mommy

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

To the Woman Lost in Her Eating Disorder

To the woman struggling, the woman caught in the death grip of her eating disorder:

I see you. I know you’re trying to hide—to disappear—but I see you.

I see you because I was you.


Do you remember those yellow rubber Livestrong wristbands that were all the rage in the early 2000s?

I do. In fact, I’ll always remember. I’ll remember because while other people were using them to show their outward support for a worthy cause, I was using one to support the ongoing deterioration of my self-worth.

I was using one as a catalyst for my own self-destruction.

I can recall, very vividly, slogging away on an elliptical in a tiny workout room near my college campus, periodically sliding that yellow band slowly up and down my withered arm: I would start at the emaciated wrist, traverse the path to a bony elbow, cross the spot where the bulge of a bicep used to be, and finally end at the top of a protruding shoulder bone.

I would leave that bright yellow band there, for a few minutes—tucked beneath my armpit—and relish in the knowledge that it still fit there, that all my hard work was paying off.

I would leave it there to remind me that the hours of exercise, the days of starvation, the constant sense of being half-alive, was worth it.

That isolating myself from friends and family was worth it.

That living the shell of the life I once knew was worth it.

That being numb was worth it.

That ED—the disease that had possessed me with a ruthless, unforgiving ferocity—was worth it.

I convinced myself that as long as my arm was skinny enough for that little yellow band to encircle every part of it, everything I was doing was worth it.

And yet, even though I believed my destructive behavior was worth all of the consequences, was worth losing myself, I never stopped feeling worthLESS.


That’s what anorexia does to you. That’s what an eating disorder does to you. It tricks you into thinking that you’re working toward something—an accomplishment, a meaningful goal, a happy ending in which you’ll finally feel fulfilled.

But there are no happy endings, no dreams fulfilled, no real achievements. Those are all figments of your imagination that ED plants in your mind to keep you under his control.

You can never reach your goal because there’s always another one. There’s always more weight to lose, less food to eat, longer workouts to perform.

There’s always more you can do to become less.

And so it becomes a manipulative cycle. ED convinces you he’ll make you happy if you just keep giving him a little more of yourself, until finally there’s nothing left to give. Eventually, you’ll forget that you ever even hoped to be happy, because happiness becomes an elusive, intangible concept—like the soft serenity of a cloud in the sky that you can clearly see but know you’ll never touch.

It’s like signing a contract with the devil. You sell your soul for empty promises, and you end up with nothing but—

Emptiness. In every possible sense of the word. Physical, emotional, mental, spiritual.


This is the part where I’m supposed to talk about the turning point in my life. This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you that everything works out in the end, that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

That you are stronger than your eating disorder.

But I’m not going to do that. Not today.

Today I’m going to tell you the truth, and the truth is that not everyone beats ED. The truth is that you’re not inherently stronger than your eating disorder. The truth is that you have to choose to be.

The truth is that people die from this disease. The truth is that I was almost one of them.

The truth is that you could be one of them, and that if you don’t make the choice to fight, you probably will be. I don’t believe you want that. I don’t believe that youthe real you, the you without ED—is ready to sacrifice your life to this disease.

So don’t. Instead, CHOOSE. Choose right now not to become an empty statistic. Choose right now to fight for what you want.

Do you want to be that girl on the elliptical, measuring her worth with a small yellow band, suffering quietly—senselessly—as a means to an (unhappy) end?

Do you want to continue sacrificing yourself for empty promises?

Do you want to BE empty?

Do you want to just keep going through the motions, the ones that are slowly killing you?

Or do you want to STOP?

Stop and look at what you’re doing to yourself. Stop and ask yourself if there's something you're blatantly ignoring: an instinct, a deep-rooted feeling that you want to stop, a sign from the universe... 


It was right there—literally at my fingertips—all along: the words I needed to see.




You have to choose. No one else can do it for you.

Choose to live. Choose to be strong.

Because even though I’ve never met you, even though you don’t know me, I know you. And I see you.

I see that you’re worth it. Just like I was—just like I am—worth it.

It’s about time you see it, too.


For more information on National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and what you can do to help save a life, check out And please, if you know someone who's suffering, consider sharing this post <3