When Things Fall Apart

Day 1.

On the first leg of my travel from Cabo to Nashville, I write this blog on the ways leaving my daughter for the first time since her birth is touching my heart.

After boarding the second leg in Houston, we deplane before takeoff due to a mechanical issue. The gate attendant says there is a chance the flight will be cancelled but stick around the terminal in case they can get the problem figured out.

I go to find a sandwich. Good delis are one of the things I miss while living in Mexico, so I happily sit down to a grilled turkey sandwich with pesto and a bunch of veggies. However, my lunch becomes less appetizing when I realize television screens featuring different news channels are littered throughout the dining area. I can’t find a spot to sit without one in view.

The TV in front of me displays a closeup of two groups of people – one in dark uniforms and helmets and the other in plain clothes – rushing up against one another.  Punches are thrown. I turn my gaze to the TV to the right where 4 newscasters are clearly arguing about something. Thank goodness I can’t hear what’s coming from either screen, but I still need to take a deep breath as I return my focus to my sandwich.

Television – especially the news – was not part of life for us in the Baja, and I can feel the effects of this seemingly mild dose in my nervous system. I notice a wave of anger surge through my body with the thought about how invasive our fear-driven media can be.

I walk back to my gate, and my flight’s passengers are lined up to hold tickets on tomorrow’s Nashville flight in case our delayed flight is ultimately cancelled. I get in line.

Wearing Beats headphones around his neck and a ruddy face, the overweight Caucasian man in his 50’s in front of me in line is yelling at the booking agent. He is supposed to see U2 in Nashville and won’t miss the concert for the airline’s mistake.

The booking agent asks him what U2 is, and the angry passenger exclaims with quivering, pimpled cheeks, “Only the most famous band in the whole world.” The booking agent looks up briefly to say, “Oh, I’ve never heard of them,” and then down again as he types away searching for flights.

I am secretly rooting for the delay to last well into the evening so that I can finish the work project I am engrossed in. This kind of undisturbed free time is a rare commodity these days, and I am happily checking low-level urgency items off my list.

12 hours after my arrival at Cabo airport, I land in Nashville. I call Dave from the Uber.

“I have bad news,” he says. He continues on explaining that our nanny Leti expressed her desire to quit via text while he was waiting for his flight back to work in the Bay Area to depart (and I was in the air to Nashville).

Leti had been planning to come with us back to the US for the next 5 months, but after a short stint in a too-hot, somewhat isolated Mexican surf town, she has decided she isn’t cut out for live-in nannying, and she plans to go back to Pescadero immediately.

I am stunned. She is supposed to take care of our daughter for the second part of my time here in Nashville.  We go into problem-solving mode. I will fly back to Cabo tomorrow. No, my mom will stay in Mexico to will take care of Lily and miss her grandson’s high school graduation. No, there must be a better way to make this all work. We decide to sleep on it.

Because we are at least confident that we can make something work and that we don’t want a nanny who doesn’t want to be there to be alone with our child in a remote part of Mexico, Dave lets Leti know that she can go the next day.

Sleep is relative. Between my mild obsession with finishing the work project I started during my delay, the effects of the blue screen from late night computer use, and my unrest about the care for my daughter and how this could have happened, I toss and turn most of the night.

Day 2.

I spend the morning catching up with Tyler, an old friend with whom I am sharing an Airbnb for the wedding weekend. I vent to him about the goings on with our nanny.

He suggests that my mom take Lily back to the Bay Area with her where I can meet them. Ah! The blessings of a calm, unattached perspective! I note how limited our scope for problem-solving can become when we are triggered. We are grateful to have landed on a win/win solution.

We hear that Leti was gone by 6:30am. I am still so confused. 24 hours ago, when I left for the airport, she had Lily in her arms and was telling me in Spanish with a big smile on her face, “Don’t worry; we are going to have a great time. We have everything taken care of!”

We rearrange plans to have my mom take Lily back to the Bay Area where I will meet them and stay for a few days after the wedding.

I decide to take an Uber to the nearest Whole Foods to find a healthy lunch and end up in the shopping district. I buy something at Nordstrom’s that I like but don’t need.

Dinner with an old friend brings calm to the end of my day. We have a fun time catching up over curried cauliflower; though her remark about two kids being easier than one because you’ve already lost yourself after having one presses my buttons. I didn’t lose myself with one. And her comment rubs up against my fear of that happening with a second.

After dinner tonight, I choose no screens before bed; I am ready to sleep.

Day 3.

Tyler and I take a walk to check out downtown Nashville. The sidewalks are full and moving is slow. In the streets, the parties are on wheels as people drink tall slushies on pedal bars and open-air busses blare country music to the background of bachelorette party squeals.

Dark clouds cover overhead, and a proper southern thunderstorm has us running for cover before hopping in an Uber back to the Airbnb to prepare for the wedding.

Our friend’s wedding is on the river, and Tyler is officiating. We’ve known the groom for years, and it’s clear he’s waited for the right one.  Guests laugh at Tyler’s jokes and the vows have more than just the bride and groom in tears.  At the reception, I drink water and eat excellent spicy fried chicken. The newlyweds surprise us with a gender reveal, and the couple is showered in blue balloons and confetti!

Day 4.

I take an early morning direct flight from Nashville to San Francisco and am so glad to see my girl who is sleeping in the car with my parents who pick me up. Lily makes it home before asking to nurse. My commitment to my plan to wean her is not strong enough to outmatch her desire.

We celebrate my nephew’s graduation, and then I get a long nap.

Day 5.

Dave and I meet with the owners of a house we’re hoping to rent in the town where we’re building. We’re ready to put down some roots. We don’t end up getting the house because they’re looking for renters who will stay more than a year or two.

We return to my parents’ house, and Lily is feverish and puking. We spend the rest of the day nurturing our girl.

Day 6.

Lily wakes still groggy. I cancel a couple coaching calls, and with my mom’s help with Lily, am able to hold onto a couple, too.

By the afternoon, Lily’s health is returning; she is eating again and moving around. She seems to be settling back into her pre-trip desire for nursing, and I don’t have good enough reason to stop her, especially with her being sick. Once she is well and I am more rested, I’ll spend some time thinking about what a long-term, gentle approach to weaning could look like.

Day 7.
We are returning to Mexico for another week before we move back stateside. Without childcare, I am unsettled about how I will keep working. The unexpected situation forces the questions:

Why am I working?

What takes precedence – the consistency of my daughter’s care or my work? And, does it have to be an either/or?

I have two calls with Bay Area nannies scheduled later this week. As I write this, I realize this is an issue of privilege.

At the same time, I acknowledge my commitment to be a mom who holds onto herself. Yes, my family and resources allow for support of my mothering – something I wish all mothers had. Because I know that when I am well-resourced, I am able to be patient, present and in service of my daughter, family and community over the long term – even through these bumpy times.


  1. Toni Smith on May 31, 2018 at 11:19 am

    Loved reading this, Stephanie, and seeing your beautiful face! I appreciate your wisdom, honesty, insights – and your great writing skills. Sending love to you 3!!

    • Stephanie on July 5, 2018 at 9:32 pm

      Wonderful to hear from you, Toni! Thank you for your note. Sending love <3

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