My Haunted House

October 25, 2010 at 10:00 am | Posted in Family, Lollipop | 18 Comments
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Leaves. Acorns. Scarves. Fall.

Pumpkins. Scarecrows. Hayrides. Halloween.

This time of year is one of my favorites. But since I’ve become a mother, it’s also bittersweet — and no amount of candy corn can sugar-coat the melancholy.

Five Halloweens ago, I was a first-time mother with a two-week-old.

Koala Baby: Lollipop's First Halloween

I was shell-shocked. Physically broken. In a sleep-deprived haze I felt sure was permanent.  Worried about a slightly underweight newborn who preferred sleep to milk. Feeling guilty and ashamed that I didn’t know what she wanted, what she needed.

She cried. I cried. She slept. I slept. She woke in the middle of the night. I begged her not to. We were together constantly. All day and night, we sized each other up, trying to figure out how we were going to coexist.

What I remember most from those first foggy weeks is how I felt: unsure, unprepared, scared. I was used to picking up new things quickly. I considered myself smart, confident, industrious. But that person disappeared along with the daily showers I was used to getting. I despaired that I would never learn to be a good mother.

I subsisted on Halloween candy. During the exhausting and incessant cycle of nursing, supplementing, burping, pumping, rocking, tiptoeing, and repeating, I would snag a Snicker’s square or a Kit-Kat stick. Or both. The sweet chocolate was a soothing balm for my shaken soul. When I was sure of nothing else, I could count on Hershey’s.

Eventually, of course, I emerged from the fog, as most of us do. I learned. I made mistakes. I found a new and powerful strength within myself. I discovered that deepest of loves, the one everyone tells you you’re supposed to feel when you become a mother.

It took time. It took chocolate. It took patience — my own, my family’s, my Lollipop’s.

This Halloween, I will lead her from house to house. I will help her unwrap Tootsie Rolls and Sweet Tarts. I will exclaim over all the pirates and princesses we pass.

And I’ll notice the jack-o-lanterns, as I always do, with that strange and lingering mix of resilience and sadness. In the bright flickers of light burning inside them, in the dancing shadows they cast, I’ll see myself.

How have holidays become more poignant for you since becoming a parent? What stands out most from your first weeks as a mother or father? And what was your child’s first Halloween costume?



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  1. Yes! I take so much more pleasure in holidays now that I have children (children who are old enough to appreciate them). Halloween and Christmas are particularly magical for us.

  2. Before I had my daughter Halloween was just another day – once we moved here to the US we’d have some candy to hand out to the trick or treaters coming by but that was it. Now I look forward to it, as I see my daughter’s excitement grow and this year I can’t wait to go trick or treating with her, to see all the homes that are so amazingly well decorated, to watch her knock on those doors and gather her rewards. Children make you see such events and experience them in a whole different light.

  3. My son’s first costume was a Native American costume complete with headdress, moccasins and bells… Adorable. Maybe not PC, but sweet.

  4. Oh, Stacia, this post resonates so deeply. My oldest was almost two months old by the time Halloween rolled around in 2007, but all of those feelings you describe (not to mention the subsisting on candy) are so familiar. And your writing is lovely, as always.

  5. I definitely enjoy the holidays so much more now that I am a mother. I love being able to see the excitement through my son’s eyes. The only sad thing is that we have yet to spend ANY holiday together with my parents (it’s always just the 3 of us) due to geography and our work schedules. Maybe someday before it’s too late we’ll actually have larger celebrations.

  6. Holidays for me are fun again. For a while before my son was born, they were sad and lonely.

    His first Halloween costume was Pablo the Penguin from The Backyardigans… even though he’d never seen it.

  7. This was beautifully written…but can I just say, Thank God for chocolate. It does make the world a better place.

  8. Stacia, poignant, eloquent, meaningful. All of it. You just described how I felt after the birth of my first perfectly. Thank you for the gift of your words.

  9. I was NEVER into Halloween until Little Miss came into the picture. Then last year we took her trick-o-treating at 10 months (she was Princess Leia) and this year, I’m excited to do it again with her. We still don’t decorate our house for Halloween but I’m at least eager to see her in her outfit this year. We’ll be going to a party with kids in costumes. And for the first time in a loooooooong time, I’m also dressing up. Prior to this, I would’ve politely declined and stayed home. It’s funny how things change when you’re a mom…

  10. I spent the first few weeks learning what “tired” really meant. Later, I learned how long I could go without a shower and that I could almost anything with a baby attached to my breast!

  11. Beautiful post, Stacia. The first two months – especially with the first baby – are sooo hard. Overwhelming. Scary. You described it perfectly.

    I’m not a huge fan of Halloween. I carve pumpkins with the kids for their sakes, but I’m not really into it. My son probably won’t go out this year (he’s almost 13). I remember his first costume was Tony the Tiger (Frosted Flakes – they’re Grrreat!). He was almost two and so cute! Miss M is really looking forward to Trick-or-Treating this year… she’s going to be Super Girl!

  12. Oh, yes. Those early days were so high, so low – an eerie jack-o-lantern one hour, a jolly Santa the next. This is our first year to celebrate holidays in earnest with Jack, and he does deepen their meaning.

  13. Very honest piece Stacia. I remember the sleepless nights and the horrible trouble I had breastfeeding and the fact that I needed my mom, but she was tending to my Dad who was having chemo. Such a blitz of emotions. I remember my daughter’s first Halloween – she dressed up like a Pumpkin and I loved the way her legs had layers of baby rolls.

  14. What stands out from my first few weeks (make that months) of new parenthood? Sleep deprivation. Horrible, horrible sleep deprivation. I remember saying to my husband, “Now I know why they use this for torture.”

  15. Maybe as my kids get older, I will see the utility of holidays. Right now? I am more apt to forget about them entirely, until the day after, because my brain apparently cannot hold more than a few items of pertinent information. Namely, doctor’s appointments (with reminder calls and e-mails), birthdays (again, reminder calls and e-mails), and my debit card pin.

    But, I do enjoy living them vicariously through a friend’s blog! How exciting that your oldest is turning a year older and enjoyin Halloween!!

    As for those first few months of motherhood? I can’t remember much except sleepless nights, colic, and homework assignments. Oh, and love. Pure love for my miracle. : )

  16. Those early days of parenting were so surprisingly, overwhelmingly, crazily hard. What I wouldn’t give to have a do-over, knowing what I now know!

    Maybe it’s bittersweet for you as the mom, but I can guarantee it’s just sweet for your daughter!

  17. I feel like all holidays are more special again. There so great when you’re a kid, then you grow up and even though it’s still fun, they lose that child-like joy. Having kids brings all that back. Love, love Halloween and Christmas(!!)

    I remember an early day with Wonderboy when I was going crazy. It was June, so it wasn’t Halloween candy, but for some reason we had a bucket full of treats. I went through most of them.

    Things had gotten better by the time Halloween actually rolled around – WB was an elephant!

  18. That baby looks so yummy I could just eat her up!!

    The holidays have always been special for me, I suppose it’s a function of having married young. Or not. But some things are just MORE fun with the kids around, Halloween especially!

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