Back to Dirt


As a child, I played outside every single day in my Miami suburbia neighborhood. I ran barefoot through mud while sprinklers sprayed the lawn. I played basketball in the street with the neighbors. I created chalk art up and down our sidewalks. I played softball in backyards where we used our shoes as our bases and felt the grass between our toes.

As a teenager, I turned mostly into a city girl. My days were spent on the phone, shopping, drinking Starbucks, and hanging out with my friends. I was an athlete and got outside time during our games and practices, but my free time, outside of time spent playing softball, was certainly spent indoors.

As an adult, my outside time was spent at Disney or the beach. I lost the part of myself that was connected to the earth and I never missed it. Until my life changed. Until the world changed. And I suddenly found myself pregnant with twins in a pandemic. High risk twin pregnancy, even without the pandemic, was made more high risk with a virus running rampant. My wife, the breadwinner in our house, was furloughed. Our beloved cat of 11 years died suddenly and tragically in our arms. My family living with us temporarily, was spending more time than anticipated attending open houses as a result of a closed, newly masked world.

I found myself, a person with diagnosed anxiety, feeling the stress of my circumstances. Sometimes when the stress would hit new heights, I would waddle my round pregnant body to what was normally a deserted backyard. Being out there, sometimes with my wife or my family, and other times alone, I could breathe again. My mind would stop racing and my heart would feel a little lighter, as I would rub my belly and feel the babies move while feeling the breeze blow my hair with the sun shining on my face.

Now, with the babies here, I find a similar phenomena occurring. The world is still in a pandemic and my pandemic babies have spent the majority of their lives inside our house. We take daily walks to try to get some outside time, breathe in some fresh air, and get a change of scenery. During this time, I noticed that my wild children inside the house- the ones that had us rushing to baby proof everything since they are climbing and in perpetual motion- are still. They don’t cry. They don’t whine. They stop wiggling. They spend our walks quietly looking around, taking in a world they haven’t been allowed to explore.

So one day, in what has now become our little Saturday mid-day ritual, I grabbed our outdoor play pen tent, popped it open on the front lawn, laid out some blankets, spread out a few toys, and brought them outside to lay in the shade and just be. Once again, they were in awe of just the every day in our little neighborhood: cars driving by, neighbors walking their dogs, airplane flying overhead, the wind blowing the branches. Our front lawn became an entirely new frontier.

My wife and I sit there and explain things to them. Grounding ourselves to the present, rather than feeling worry about the future, and introducing them to the little moments that probably seem rather insignificant to anyone who didn’t have to worry about bringing their babies to target or to run errands with them in a pre-covid life. We narrate the happenings to them. “Oh do you see that? Look at that red truck.” “Do you hear that airplane? It’s flying in the sky above you.” In a time, when the indoors of many places are not safe to my unvaccinated for covid babies, the outdoors gives them a peek into the fact that there is more to life than their play room.

And it’s here that this city girl has gone back to dirt too. Outside, I’m not spraying the house or wiping every surface with Lysol after any masked vaccinated visitor enters. Outside, I’m encouraging my kids to feel the dirt, pick the grass, grab a leaf. There is so much that we have lost in this covid landscape and very few things we have gained. While there are not many things I would want to keep from our quarantined existence, I think that I’ll hang on to earth now for myself and my kids, even if it’s just in my little lawn.

Guilt, Shame, and Mother’s Day


Can we talk about shame for a minute? 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, especially as we rounded the corner on Mother’s day. That may seem odd, but hear me out. In the last 9 months since becoming a parent, we’ve read countless articles, bought an inordinate amount of organic baby food, followed a bunch of pediatric psychologists, physical therapists, and food and sleep experts. We’ve poured over their social media feeds, and followed advice from one resource and then the next on sleep schedules, and how to best start solid foods, and how to get your x-month old to reach x-milestone, in the hopes that we were doing the best we possibly could by our kids. Then, on the days when we didn’t, on the days when we napped too long in the evening because the afternoon was a bear, so the dreamfeed was too late and it took too long to put them back down because they awoke too much, those days, we were filled with guilt and anxiety about whether we were doing a good enough job. Guilt and shame go hand-in-hand with mothering, I find. You get way more of the good stuff, the love, the cuddles, the euphoria of holding your little ones, but the shame and the guilt…they’re there also.

You know, we use the term “pandemic parent” a lot in our house because it explains our behaviours so accurately. Here in the Albrecht Household, we still live a relatively quarantined existence, much in contrast to that just outside our door. Right around the time that vaccinations started to ramp up and the people who previously weren’t comfortable going out, and had the opportunity to stay in, were starting to go out again, we started asking ourselves questions about whether we were keeping the kids’ world too small. We’d see friends with kids out and about again, or family members having gatherings and wonder, are we doing the right thing? 

We’d ask these questions, talk it out, and ultimately come to the same conclusion everytime. We are pandemic parents. They are pandemic children. And until officially stated otherwise, as far as we are concerned, we are still in a pandemic. I’ve had conversations with people who had the opportunity to parent prior to COVID, many of whom are much more comfortable, at this point, putting their kids in team sports, and having people around them. Please understand, this isn’t a judgement against them. On the contrary, I’ve watched them in wonder at how they could exist in this moment with such freedom, where we feel so confined. I’ve watched them take their own forms of calculated risks and asked how can they possibly? And then it occurred to me: We are not only pandemic parents, but we are first-time parents, who became first-time parents to premature twins in the middle of a global pandemic. So, then my mind reframed the question: how could we possibly not behave as we have been. How could we, knowing what we know, having experienced what we experienced, have made different choices? The conclusion: We couldn’t. And so, I stopped judging us for it, stopped feeling guilt about it, and realized that the decisions we were making for ourselves and our latkes were born, not of fear, but of experience. Perhaps, if we had parented prior to being quarantined for half a year during Aly’s pregnancy, our perspective would be a bit different. Perhaps, if our kids weren’t born premature and we didn’t spend two weeks in the hospital with Aly’s preeclampsia like a ticking time bomb, masked, and scared, and overwhelmed. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. But we were, and they were, and we did.

Shame/guilt is a funny thing as a parent. You can feel like you’re doing the best you possibly can, listen to all the experts, of which there are many, for all the things, do all of the things they tell you to do, and still, you will never feel like you’ve done enough. What is that about? What kind of cruel trick is that to play on people dedicating their entire existences to raising good humans? 

I’m not blind to our privilege. We’re blessed to be able to do the things we do for our kiddos and feel guilty for not being able to do more. It just leaves me to wonder if anything will ever feel like enough, or will the guilt of inadequacy always rear its head on hard days and the days you feel like other parents have something figured out that you don’t.

So here’s to all the moms and mom-figures out there that are doing the work and still feel like they do a crappy job some days. You’re doing the hardest thing in the world. In the face of unimaginable odds, you’re raising a person to take on this incredibly difficult world that happens to be an incubator for a virus right now. Here’s to you, because honestly, hard things are our everyday.

This Motherhood Thing


Sometimes a 6 month old can be so difficult to put to sleep, but then they start to do it for themselves. And a part of you breaks when you realize a part of them no longer needs you and then you begin to settle when it dawns on you that this is as it should be, always.

I don’t think I’ve ever analyzed anyone as much as I do my children. Every movement, every breath, every sound, can either bring joy, concern, or a general sense of confusion, when I have no clue what they want. I feel like I could spend all day watching them and still not know them entirely, especially because we have two. It’s double the watching! It’s been six months and we’re still getting to know each other, but they’re getting to know themselves as well and it’s a wonder to behold. There’s a sense of accomplishment evident in their eyes when they figure something out or frustration when their bodies aren’t quite caught up with their minds yet. I’m riveted with every expression.

People are inherently complicated. We have likes, dislikes, thoughts, emotions… Here’s what I’ve come to know in my limited time as a parent: babies are just small people with the same complexities. It’s intimidating as hell when all of that is going on and they have limited ways through which they can communicate it to you. I have trouble sometimes, and I have words at my disposal. Had I only noises, faces, and body language, I’d surely fail, though I must have done it once upon a time. I worked harder then, I suppose. Words made me lazy.

I’ve been a parent for almost 6 months and almost immediately any preconceived notions I had about it were thrown out the window because real humans are completely different from the theoretical ones I’d planned raising in my head and dreams. For example, did you know that you don’t know everything as a new parent, even if you know that you won’t repeat the mistakes your parents made? Or, that even if you do learn things along the way, which you hopefully do, those learnings are only transiently useful because babies constantly change the rules on you? Or, did you know that there’s no room for judgement and tons of margin for error in this thing we’re doing and we have to hope and pray that the daily trial and error we pursue in raising kids will be ever in their favor but when it’s not, that they’ll be more forgiving of us than we are of our parents? And, did you know that babies literally grow before your eyes and from one day to the next will change a feature or habit and you won’t know you missed it until it’s gone, but more than that, you’ll regret not having captured it enough in a picture or a video or just in your memory? 

I jokingly said to Aly the other day that I wished I had a camera in my eyes, so that I could capture every moment and I facepalmed when I recognized what I was describing as memory, then sorrow settled over me because memories can be fleeting and I don’t have confidence in my memory’s capacity to retain every moment of this time.

Did you know that days are too short and too long sometimes and it’s never the one you want when you need it because these moments can’t all be frozen, nor would you want them to be because part of this crazy magic is seeing them change and grow? We joked the other day that we’re going to be a little sad when Arabella gets teeth because her toothless smile is so damn precious it lights up every room. But I have a feeling her smile full of teeth will be just as luminous as her Mommy’s.

I’m overwhelmed daily. Yes, because raising twins is hard, but more so because I couldn’t/wouldn’t imagine doing anything else. In the mornings, when I’m just stirring awake to the sounds of the baby monitor letting me know that Benny or Bella is ready to face the day and so we must all be, I take stock of my aching body. I feel the sting in my hips and lower back from the constant up and down of floor-time and transporting babies from one room to the next, feeding and burping two growing babies, and a general lack of sleep that my muscles and bones need to recover from all of that. I hear the crack in my knees and ankles from the countless trips up and down the stairs everyday, and I feel the ache in the shoulder I had surgery on just before the babies were born that isn’t quite fully healed because I didn’t finish physical therapy prior to their early arrival. Then, I plan my next 15 minutes. It’s usually the same. I make their bottles, set the coffee to brew and throw some water on my face before I check the clock to ensure we’re on time for the day to start as their schedule dictates. My legs carry me up the stairs but I’m beckoned by the sound of Aly lightly playing with the babies and little squeals of delight. I feel my soul light up when I think about the smiles I know I’ll get in just a moment’s time. This is my happy place. It’s aching and exhausting and hyper-scheduled, which is counter to everything I was before I was a mother but it’s phenomenal and it fills me in ways I didn’t know anything could. 

This motherhood thing is painful and a panacea, it’s stressful and blissful, it’s challenging and rewarding. I went into it as someone I knew, in skin and a body that felt familiar and comfortable to me, and am seeing and feeling myself transform into something I didn’t know I could be, but feels like a better version of who I was.

On hard days, we look at each other and joke, “have kids they said, it would be fun, they said.” You know what, they were right… even on the hard days, at the end of the night, we find ourselves scrolling through the many pictures of them in the in-between moments when the day wasn’t so difficult.

Momming is weird because it demands so much of all of you, but you would give it willingly, even if it wasn’t necessary, if it meant that your child’s life would be better for it. It’s about self sacrificing but not sacrificing self because our kids benefit the most from the best of us, we’ve found, at least. It’s about an abounding and transcendent love for your children, your spouse and yourself because attention must be paid to all in order for life to reach equilibrium. 

Six months has been transformative, to say the least. I’m daunted and excited for what lies ahead.