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My Baby’s First Birthday and Trump’s First Year

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“Weave, weave, weave me the sunshine out of the falling rain,” we sang during last month’s preschool assembly. “Weave me the hope of a new tomorrow, fill my cup again.”

I had never heard this particular Peter, Paul and Mary song before but, like the 3-year-olds surrounding me, I picked it up pretty quickly. As my 11-month-old crawled all over my lap and ate Cheerios off the floor, I sang along and I wove my hands back and forth.

Suddenly, however, I felt a lump in my throat. Tears fell down my cheeks. “The hope of a new tomorrow” — the lyrics felt like such a lie.

While we were at the assembly, our elected officials were passing the new tax bill — one that has been widely criticized for its disproportionate savings for the wealthy that will likely be paid for by future cuts to Medicare, Social Security, and other government programs.

I mechanically moved to the music, occupied with worry about how our government seemed intent on destroying the world of tomorrow for selfish gains today. The preschoolers, innocent to such ironies, sang along cheerfully.

When I found out I was pregnant with my second child in June of 2016, Donald Trump had just clinched the Republican presidential nomination. The idea that his bigoted messages could galvanize so many should perhaps not have been surprising, but it was. I felt full of love for the tiny new being growing inside me, and yet full of despair at the amount of hate in the world.

In October of that year, I learned I was having a boy, and initially I was disappointed. I loved my 2-year-old daughter, and I had visions of young sisters with matching dresses and bouncing ringlets. But then, the Access Hollywood tape was released: The man running for the highest office in the land was on record bragging about sexually assaulting women — and he was getting away with it.

Suddenly, I felt differently about my pregnancy. I thought, counter to my feminist instincts, “At least he’ll be a man.” I thought about my responsibility to raise him to respect women’s bodies and spirits. And I worried about my daughter: How could I protect her from the gender-based violence and discrimination that seems endemic to our culture?

On election night, my husband and I had friends over for pizza and beer. What was supposed to be a night of historic celebration turned into what we will forever refer to as “the worst party ever.” As more and more states turned red, I held my hand to my belly. The baby’s kicks amplified throughout the night as adrenaline pumped through my placenta to my blissfully ignorant fetus.

For days, I couldn’t stop crying. My daughter was rattled by my emotional fragility. While she didn’t grasp the magnitude of what had happened, she did understand that a day that had begun with matching Hillary T-shirts and “I Voted” stickers had ended in some sort of horror.

My daughter — who, like many children, has an innate desire to fix things and be helpful — tried to comfort me. She developed the habit of bringing me stuffed animals whenever I was watching the news. “Here’s something soft for you to hold, Mommy,” she said.

My son arrived 11 days early, on January 18th, 2017. Three days later, I watched the inauguration coverage on CNN, silently weeping — a combination of postpartum hormones, maternal love, and utter devastation. I became convinced that my son made his early arrival just so that I would have someone to snuggle on that hideous, rainy day.

In the weeks that followed, I spent those sleepless newborn nights nursing the baby in our rocking chair. With my daughter, I had passed those hours mindlessly reading parenting blogs and looking at friends’ pictures on Facebook. This time, clutching my phone, I scrolled like an addict through news stories and social media updates about the dismantling of so much of what I thought was good and right about this country. There was the Muslim travel ban. The reinstatement of the global gag rule. The confirmation of an inexperienced billionaire as the education secretary. The appointment of a climate change denier to the head of the EPA. The bad news seemed endless.

In the eerie solitude of the pre-dawn hours, my mind swirled with anxieties over new motherhood and a world that appeared to be coming apart at the seams. Some of the headlines were almost comically evil: One morning, as the pink dawn crept through our curtains and I snuggled in bed with my newborn, I learned about Trump’s decision to allow hunters to kill hibernating bears. I clutched my own cub a little more tightly.

Over the last year, like many exhausted liberals, I have ping-ponged back and forth between disengagement and over-engagement with current events. I’ve obsessively deleted and then reinstalled social media apps from my phone. I feel an obligation to pay attention to what is happening in the world, and yet I know it pulls me away from being present with my children. “Why are you sad, Mommy?” my daughter asks as I gaze, horrified, at my Twitter feed. “No phones at the table,” she reminds me as we sit down to dinner.

As I approach my son’s first birthday — and the conclusion of Trump’s first year in the White House — I find myself reflecting on what I have learned as a mother and a citizen of this country. In many ways, I feel depleted, worn down by a year of sleeplessness, tears, outrage, and ever-expanding emotional needs. But in other ways, I feel stronger. I see the resilience in myself, my husband, and our daughter, in bringing a new person into our family and adjusting to life as a family of four. And I see the resilience of so many of my fellow Americans who are working, advocating, and resisting. We are weaving the sunshine out of the falling rain.

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