Dear Charlotte: your Dad is a master letter-writer

[Charlotte: The following is a letter written by Dad as part of my Christmas present in 2017. He has, for years, been an amazing letter writer and this one is one of his best. I have many tattered and yellowing pages that he wrote me from Africa back in the early 2000s, but until Christmas I hadn’t gotten a letter from him in years.  This one is for both of us.]


December 2017

My dearest love(s),

You know more than I that the year since Donald Trump’s election has been a unique year for everyone, but most of all for women. I have been inspired by your criticism of our president for a variety of reasons but most definitely for his disrespect for women and disregard for women’s issues. While one day I might have appreciated Trump’s acknowledgement of “locker room talk”, what has become public about Men’s treatment toward women in the last year has taken that term to a new level, and I can no longer associate myself with that and can not promote to our son as a right of passage.

Your attention to women’s issues, while it has always been there, has inspired me to think more deeply about how everyone in our society should play a part in acknowledging problems, redressing issues, reconciling, and moving forward to create a more equal and respectful society. Your thinking has caused me to reflect on the world between women and men. I have reflected on how I relate with women, how my male peers should do so, and how we should teach our kids about women and gender issues. My reflection is because of your passion.

You know that I enjoy music for its musical and lyrical enjoyment, and this summer I came across an NPR project for and by women which, in this case, addresses women in music. This year Turning the Tables promoted a list of the 150 top albums by women musicians prioritized by the artists’ popularity, societal and/or industry relevance, and their address of women’s issues.

I collected the top 10 albums for you from a variety of locations which will be made a available to you digitally. Included in this shared file resides lyrics of each song on each album in respective order and also an NPR review of each album. I thought this list of albums might provide some meaning to you in terms of exposure to important women artists, ideas that were important to them, and perhaps some ways which you might relate.

To Charlotte in particular – You are currently almost five, and it is almost impossible, maybe reluctantly, for me to conceive how life will be like for you when you mature into a woman. While living in the present, I am just enamored with your infectious smile, intelligence, and curiosity. But someday you will be that woman, and you will be confronted with a variety of struggles that your brother and I will never experience ourselves. While your mother and I promise to always be here for you when you encounter trying times, but we may not always be able to be there, nor will not necessarily seek our help. In short, there will be times in your life when you will face many of life’s challenges independently, and thus someday you must develop that strength, constitution, and support systems on your own. Your mother and I are here to help you in this regard.

Charlotte – these 10 albums does not serve as a guide in womanhood. That is not my point. I simply think your reading this message might give you a tiny glimpse into your mother’s life at this moment; what has partially occupies her mind, how she might look at the world, and maybe even her perception of how our society perceives her (and you). If you’re wondering what the hell I’m writing about, just ask. We can fill you in,  

You two are the most important women in my life, and I want you to know that I respect you more than I may normally communicate. I don’t know how or when our society will unshackle itself of gender discrimination and despicable disrespect, but I believe that we are living in a pivottable moment which point we are beginning to witness the testimony of women that will force change to occur in the home, in the government, in public, and in the workplace that women demand in a free society. In this world, women and men will be judged by their merits. I have faith in this, and I hope change will occur very soon.

I hope you get a chance to enjoy!

Your loving husband and father

Fred Follansbee (Dad)


Welcome baby Baxter!!

“I can’t feel my hands.  How can I sign the paper if I can’t feel my hands?  Also, I have to push. NOW”.  Scribble, scribble.

Surely the nurse at Mercy Hospital thought I was a huge b*tch.  But this baby was coming, and I wasn’t going to have it in the hospital lobby.

The morning had started like most of our Sundays, with breakfast and a long walk.  I went my parents for my birthday BBQ, leaving Fred and Charlotte at home to meet me later.  But within a few minutes of Fred’s arrival, he had me hobbling into the car with contractions that were 6-7 minutes apart, out of nowhere.  “This will take all afternoon” I thought.  I probably had just walked waddled too far that morning.  We drove 2 miles home and mentally prepared to hang around the house….but by the time I got up the stairs, we were turning right back around.

1:40pm:  “Call the midwife!  Tell her…..”  (woah, big one.  breathe, breathe, breathe).  “Tell her I can’t talk and I might throw up!”  She advised us to line up childcare for Charlotte (done), pack our bags (done) and get to the hospital.  This was just an hour after the first contraction.

Fred was breaking every traffic law he could, calling Aunt Julia and speeding through red lights amidst my urging to “go faster!”  Scarborough to Portland is a long drive when your contractions are 3 minutes apart.  Gripping the seatbelt and digging my heels into the floor, it was all I could do NOT to push.  We fled the car and left it (running) in the traffic circle at Mercy hospital, where a security guard sauntered over with a wheelchair.  “I have to push!”  I tried to scare him into moving faster.  Faster!

The moment I stood from the wheelchair, my water broke all over the floor.  “Just breathe through this one, and in between the next we will get onto the bed,”  Ellie the midwife soothed me.  Her voice was the only calm thing in the room.  All around me nurses flitted about and Fred nervously held my shaking hands.  I later found out that Ellie was already holding the baby’s head as I stood in the middle of the room.

Six minutes and three pushes later and I heard the sweet, hiccuping little cry of a baby–a boy!–as I struggled to lay down.  My eye caught on the clock next to the bed.  2:22pm, just 13 minutes after I’d shouted at the nurse who wanted me to sign papers.

Frederick Baxter Follansbee, known to us as Baxter, joined this world ten days early.  6 pounds, 10 ounces and 19 inches long.  Like most things (ok, everything) in my life now, this post took me forever to write.  Things just don’t seem to happen on time, or efficiently anymore!

Baxter’s birth was the last thing that happened quickly around here.  So quickly, in fact, that Papa has already dubbed him “Speedy”.  This boy was in a hurry to join the party, and nothing was stopping him.  But if given the choice between Charlotte’s 14+ hour labor and his 13 minute debut, I’d take his any day!  [click on the pictures to enlarge].

September 7, 2014.

To all the supermoms out there

[Let me preface this by saying that if you are a mom, I already think you are a supermom.  If you manage to do anything at all besides feeding and clothing your baby, you are a supermom.  If you work and have a baby, you are super.  If you find time for yourself and have a baby, you are super.  It’s hard, and it’s selfless, and it’s tiring.  So maybe I should have titled this post, “To all the super-supermoms out there…”  But I digress.]

There are times when Fred and I look at each other in disbelief, and say “I just don’t know how she does it!”  It sometimes takes all four of our hands to feed/clothe/burp/entertain the baby and still get dinner on the table.  There are days when I think we are so tired, we might drive right off the road on our commute to work.  There are moments when I wish that we had a nanny, or a housekeeper, or anyone at all who could feed the cats/vacuum the living room/pay my bills/write my lesson plans.  And there are two of us adults here in the Follansbee house, and only one baby.

When we say “I just don’t know how she does it”, we are referring to our handful of friends that have twins.  Not one baby, but two.  Two mouths to feed, two butts to diaper, and two sets of tiny little clothes that somehow make up a mountain of laundry (not to mention two sets of bottles to wash, two personalities to stimulate, and two different nap schedules to navigate.  Should I go on?)

These mamas of twins that I know are decidedly not going crazy, nor are they maladjusted hermits that live in a house full of spit up and poopy diapers.  No!  They find time to run and workout!  They create date nights with their husbands!  They work!  They cook actual meals instead of just popping the Trader Joes frozen bag in the oven!  They have people over!  And, above all, they have successfully breastfed TWO babies!

How do they do it?

I’ve gone around and around this in my mind, and I’ve decided that these mamas are just a tad more organized, a lot more patient, and blessed with a lot more energy (and milk) than me.  I have a fabulous husband that does 10,000 different chores without so much as a grimace.  I have the luxury of a summer off from work, and all four grandparents that live within a 10 minute drive.  And still I feel like we’re barely making it sometimes.  If I had to multiply that by two, I’m pretty sure I would be downing glasses of cabernet every night and never return to work.

So, to my supermom friends (and you know who you are), you are my heroes.  You are the people I think of when a little itch of a complaint begins to scratch at the surface; when I don’t feel like pumping at 5am; when I have to fold yet another basket of onesies.  You are the ones I picture when I suddenly find the time to run, but don’t feel like it.  “But she can do it, and she has two babies at home.  I best get my butt out the door.”

Although I know why you do it (those precious little toothless smiles), I do not know how (eating ice cream straight from the freezer? xanax?)  Take it from me, as a mom of just one, I am more than doubly impressed.