Chubby Cheeks and a New Chapter


For a short period, it was my sole responsibility to find housing for us in Virginia.

Have I mentioned Virginia? It seems I have not. Let me start from the beginning.

First the plan was medical school. Trent applied, was accepted, and paid a few deposits before he found clarity—he didn’t want to become a doctor. He decided that an MBA was a better fit, so he applied to programs, was accepted again, and paid a deposit at Duke before he found clarity—studying somewhere else felt right.

And thankfully, it felt right to me too. Unmistakably right. We knew it when we felt it, because it felt so different from all the decisions before. Sometimes, that’s the only way you can be sure about things.

So here’s the new plan, although we’ve finally accepted that our plan will always be up for revision: Trent’s going to storm the castle as a kick-A consultant and social entrepreneur and I’m going to chip away at post-bac classes for Speech Language Pathology. And finish (er, start) that novel. And paint the town red with that baby of ours.

And what town is this exactly? Charlottesville, Virginia—everyone who knows anything about it rants and raves. It’s a cute little college town surrounded by vineyards. It has a thriving creative writing community and a well-known foodie scene. Dave Matthews lives there and so does John Grisham. The entire UVA campus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for crying out loud. It’s heaven on Earth as far as I can tell. And we’re going to be happy there. I can feel it. I can feel it in my bones.

Which brings me back to the housing search. It’s still ongoing. And no, it’s not my sole responsibility anymore. We worked out our budget and Trent said, “Why don’t you handle the housing?” And I thought, “Is this a test? Cause if it is, I’m going to fail it. I’m going to fail it in style.” And true to form, I fell in love with a townhouse, a mid-century modern beauty far out of our price range, and I couldn’t let her go. I asked for an intervention and now we’re on the hunt together. So if you know of any leads on apartments in Charlottesville, please let us know. We’re in the market for someplace sensible with hardwood floors and lots of light, someplace suitable for a family of three ready to take on the world.

Listening to: A few tracks from the dreamy album of lullabies Trent got me for Mother’s Day. You can pre-order it here.

Also, this. You’re welcome.


Mother’s Day



People always talk about sacrifice on Mother’s Day. It’s a holiday buzzword that leaves me on edge, because talking about sacrifice forces mothers into boxes.

On Mother’s Day, people always praise the incredible acts of self-sacrifice mothers submit to, and as a mother, you have a choice to make. You can accept the praise, basking in the nobility of all you give up for your children. Or you can reject it, claiming that you love motherhood so much that nothing feels like a sacrifice. You can hop in the box that says “Dutiful Soldier” or the box that says “Angelic Motives” and sorry to mix my metaphors here, but it’s really one hat or the other.

I didn’t become a mother to embark on a noble journey of sacrifice. I haven’t experienced it as something I owe mankind to pay things forward. No sense of duty propelled me into this.

I didn’t become a mother to dive into a rosy life of wonder. It was never that I couldn’t imagine anything more enjoyable and fulfilling than spending my days with little ones. I could imagine quite a lot.

And if those are my options—be worthy through sacrifice or worthy through motive—I might just never be worthy. If that’s what Mother’s Day asks of me, I’ll opt out of this holiday now.

The truth is I became a mother because I want to know as much of human experience as I possibly can and this seemed like a big fat part of understanding humanity. I became a mother because there’s something about bearing and raising this crazy girl of mine that I’m sure will help me know God and love mankind in new and powerful ways. I became a mother because relationally and biologically, the chips fell that way. I’m not a selfless soldier. Sometimes I wish I was. And I’m not a natural nurturer either. But I’m sure that I can learn to be. I want something out of this. I want everything out of this. I want squeeze every drop of growth out of motherhood, and sorry to mix my metaphors here, but I’m doing this thing full-throttle.

The truth is, it’s a process. It’s a trying process, a joyous process, a learning process. On Mother’s Day, and every day really, people should talk about that.

 Listening to: Edie Carey & Sarah Sample, “Lullaby”

Body After Baby


I love Scarlett Sara Murphey. I love her good and plenty. I love the way she licks her lips with her curly little tongue and I love the way she spazzes her legs when she’s hungry and impatient and I love the way she flings her arms out spread-eagle when she’s sleeping like a log.

But man. After Scarlett, my body will never be the same, now will it? My legs, my hips—they look like they did before I got pregnant, but looks can be deceiving. My pre-pregnancy pants have no chance of getting over my newly widened hips—no, not a prayer—and the sinkhole where my belly button used to be? Sometimes I look at it and think, “There’s no coming back from this.”

Tonight I stroked my strange, squishy stomach, scrunching up the thick wrinkles of stretched-out skin until it all looked like a giant, fleshy prune, like a cartoonish face, like something hilarious. And I laughed. Out loud. I laughed and laughed so hard and deep that my whole body convulsed and I woke the sleeping baby in my arms.

Because what else can you do?

Looks Like We Made It



My brother-in-law, Troy, was recently quoted saying, “If Sam and Trent can make it, anyone can.” And although I was, for a fleeting moment, zealously offended, I quickly saw his point. It’s true. Trent and I are bull-headed in opposite directions and have been volatile—extremely volatile—right from the very start. We are lovers. We are fighters. We are champions of married folk’s “Most Improved.” If we can make it, anyone can. And we’ve made it four years already.

In honor of our fourth wedding anniversary (WHAT the WHAT?!?), I will now add a few items to my ever-growing list of things I love about Trenton Murphey. Take note.

  • He regularly points out cute squirrels. No, really. He did it just yesterday. I’ve seen plenty of squirrels in my day. We all have. We’ve all seen them and grown immune to their cuteness. Not Trent Murphey. Trent Murphey has the awe-filled eyes of a child.
  • He has trouble with facial recognition. It’s bizarre. And what’s more bizarre is how endearing I find it. One time we went to see the latest Bourne movie (the one without Matt Damon), in which the main character has a beard for the first twenty minutes of the movie and then he shaves it off. The movie ends. The lights go up. And Trent says, “Hey, what happened to the guy with the beard?”
  • It kills him that Scout has started off life as a mama’s girl. Absolutely kills him. But lucky for Trent it won’t be long before she realizes he’s much more fun than I am.
  • He’s an early riser. He wakes before dawn daily without complaint. It’s something I admire from a distance.
  • He has an incredible falsetto. I mean it. Pipes like Justin Timberlake, I tell you.

Until next year when I list more hairbrained reasons I’m in love with my husband … Murph, I’m glad we saw this thing through to better days. I’m glad we didn’t give up on each other. Look around—we’d have missed some good stuff if we had.

Listening to: Awolnation, “Sail”

Scarlett (Called Scout) in the Flesh



Meet my little babe. Officially. Isn’t she delicious?

Scarlett Sara Murphey—she was 7 lbs. 14 oz. when she was born almost three weeks ago, but now she’s got plenty more chub on her bones. Her hair—dark like her namesake Grandma Sara—is getting thicker every day and she now has two cute chins where she used to have one. She’s a good little eater and a good little sleeper and she makes her will known in the waking hours. So far, she’s a Scout when she’s sleeping but when she’s awake, she’s definitely a Scarlett. Miss Scarlett’s got a solid set of lungs and she isn’t afraid to use them. Her pouty lips and milky complexion spell out trouble with a capital T. We Murpheys have a thing for trouble.

For the first week, I lived on adrenaline. I loved her so much it jolted me alive. I didn’t sleep. Ever. (Read: Almost ever.) I didn’t even want to. I just wanted to live, live, live and suck up every second of that perfect little girl. The learning, the healing—it was all taken in stride, one twirling, leaping, stride of boundless love and goodness.

It’s caught up with me since—the sleeplessness, the change. It’s caught up and made me weary. I thought the perfection was too good to be true. And it was. But what’s true is that we’re learning. We’re figuring things out, things like how to clip a newborn’s nails and how to make the bathwater just right and how to have an utterly unproductive day and feel content at the end of it. For now productivity, I tell myself, is keeping Miss Scarlett alive.

Listening to: The Sirens, “Go To Sleep You Little Baby”

Scout’s Birth Story


I sat in the bathtub at 5 a.m. listening to the thunder. The contractions were strong enough now to keep me awake. Today is the day, I thought.

And I liked the idea of becoming a mother in a storm.

I went to the doctor for a routine visit that morning and he told me I was five centimeters along. My body had done plenty of work already.

“Call me when they’re five minutes apart,” he said and sent me on my way.

We walked all afternoon in stores and malls, dodging puddles in parking lots, and we watched TV all evening with me drinking gallons of blue Powerade and bouncing on a ball. Dad got antsy timing contractions. Nana rubbed my back and told me to trust myself. And at midnight, we made the call and put the bags in the car.

And I liked the idea of becoming a mother in the night.

Seven hours passed in the darkness as I labored in a chair, on a bed, moving, rocking, sitting, standing, humming, bending, groaning, doubting. I inhaled and I exhaled and I cried dry tears. And your posterior position inside me sent waves of pain up my back, waves that reached my shoulders. And your dad tried to help, but he couldn’t, so he just counted very slowly and I listened through the pain.

“Four centimeters, maybe five,” said the nurse as the sun rose in the sky—pain without progress. And my heart sank. And I cried wet tears. And I told them it was time.

And I liked the idea of becoming a mother in one piece.

I held your Dad by the wrist as they put the needle in my back and I felt little shivers in my feet as my legs went numb and I laid back and cried happy tears, because for the first time in seven hours, my thoughts caught hold of you. For the first time in seven hours, I remembered you were coming. For the first time in seven hours, I felt calm enough to love you.

So I loved you. And the love swallowed up the regret.

And my body relaxed. And my body progressed. And I watched your heartbeat on the monitor in the dewy daylight while Dad and Nana slept. And for six more hours the nurse came and went as I cried fat tears and knew you were getting closer.

And I liked the idea of becoming a mother.

The doctor came when the numbness was waning and the waves of pain were crawling up my back again. And he told me it was time. Dad and Nana held me while I pushed and pushed—pain with progress—and for the first time in 22 hours, I felt powerful.

It happened so fast: the blue baby that appeared in the doctors hands, the quick somethings he did to turn it pink, the little cry—your little cry—the audible sigh of relief.

I watched your dad beam as they bathed you in the corner, oblivious to the nurses kneading my stomach to stop the bleeding. I sobbed as they weighed you and put you in my arms and I whispered, “I’m your mom, little girl.” But I saw that you already knew.



When we got married our friends, Evan and Justin, performed a personalized rap at our reception and promised that when we had our first baby, they’d rap again. And they did. Oh, they did.

Scout’s Rap-a-bye

Dustin off the record from 2010
On the day you wed we said we’ed rap again

We’ve done weddings, birthdays, parties, and more
But yours is the first baby will be rapping for

You’ve been to the doctor to see baby in your belly
But our lyrics are smoother than that petroleum jelly

The Murphs are expanding so make some room
for the little tiny girl coming out of your womb

Her name is Scarlett but you’ll call her scout
listen up baby to what this rap’s about

Hush little baby don’t you cry
Uncle Justin and Evan are here for your rap-a-bye

Hush little baby don’t say a word
Your mama named you after to kill a Mockingbird

With the wit of your mom and the charm of your dad
You’ll be sure to win the hearts of many a lad

With the right amount of cool and the right amount of smarts
You’ll be great at sports and great at the arts

Scout, we love your parents so take it from us
Here’s some advice from J Reid and E Gus

Listen to mom and dad, they know what they’re doing
And no talking back with your baby cooing

Say please, thanks, and I love you
And never forget girl, we bleed blue

April 8th, the best day ever
You’re sealed into a family that nothing can sever

We love you Scout, have a great life!
You’ll be a great sister, daughter, mom, and wife!

Uncle Justin and Evan have rapped it just right
So close your little eyes and sleep through the night!

She Came


When I touch her, I get this tingly feeling that spreads up my arms, filling every cell with some kind of magic euphoric helium that lifts me off the ground. I run my finger softly down the bridge of her nose and suddenly I’m rising, floating upward like a fairy-dusted orphan shoulders-first into the sky.

So far, motherhood is a familiar story and my little babe, a happy thought.

It’s a wonderful surprise.

Listening to: Jose Gonzalez, “Heartbeats”

Still here, folks.


Sending out my weekly public service announcement: Public, I’m still pregnant. 41 weeks today.

My body feels good—possibly even too good—and my spirits are on the up-and-up. I think I’ve finally surrendered all control. Next week we’ve got a full pelvic exam on the docket, then possibly some non-stress tests, but we’re taking it a day at a time. I’d really rather not be induced if I can help it. I want this little lady to make her own way if she can. And so far, we have no reason to think that she can’t.

My mom has been saintly. Truly. I know she came here to hold a baby, but if she hadn’t spent the last two weeks distracting me, supporting me, walking with me, I’d have been stuck at home with my own thoughts. I shudder to think of the monster I might have become without her. She’s been here long enough to watch spring in Atlanta bloom in full. And hopefully, she’ll be here to meet her granddaughter.

My best friend Monica is here for the weekend, another welcome distraction, and Trent’s on spring break this next week. He needs it. And I need it too. He needs to sleep and regroup and take some time to sort out big decisions about his future. Our future. Our life after the school year is one big question mark at the moment. We haven’t really thought past this baby. And strangely, we’re both OK in limbo.

“I never thought that when we got to this point, all we’d feel is love,” he said as we drifted off to sleep the other night.

I’m surprised too. I thought we’d feel more tension, more stress, more worry, more resentment, more … something bad, anything bad. But here we are, days away from our life changing forever, and we feel pretty happy and peaceful. There’s calm before the storm.

Thoughts from a Due Date


Saturday was my due date, the day I started thinking crazy thoughts.

My mom arrived in Atlanta a week ago and now we have a routine. We wake up, make raspberry leaf tea and eat breakfast while we write in our journals and study a bit. Then she does a Jillian Michaels video in the bedroom and I do a prenatal yoga video in the living room. We shower. We leave.

My mom and I go to museums, antique shops, bookstores and bakeries. We take an afternoon walk at a park or trail somewhere in the city. We come home. We eat dinner with Trent. We play cards. We plan. We sleep. And then it starts again.

The routine has been protecting me from thinking too much about my achy body, about looming changes, about passing time. I’ve been too preoccupied to fret over how wrong I was—in my heart of hearts, I thought this baby would come early. Everyone said she wouldn’t, but my heart of hearts believed.

On Saturday, we broke from the routine. Trent was home. Our plans were different. The protective shield of habit was down. On Saturday, I started thinking crazy thoughts. I started listening to the mildly insensitive things people say to pregnant women. I’ve been trying to funnel the energy of those interactions into learning and not hurting. But on Saturday, I started hurting. I started believing, against all reason, that it was my fault that I wasn’t going into labor when everyone seemed to want me to. I started accepting blame for this baby not being ready to be born. My mom assures me over and over again that there’s nowhere else she’d rather be. And yet, I feel guilt for needlessly taking her away from her life and responsibilities back home. Sometimes, when I slip into dark mental spaces, I start taking guilt from everywhere and trying it on for size.

In the middle of the day on Saturday, Trent saw me drifting. He’s seen it before. He knows what to look for. He interrupted my thoughts with his arms, wrapping them around me so surely that the hurting lost its edge.

“Sam, you’re good enough,” he whispered.

And for a second, I really felt that I was.

Listening to: Cat Stevens, “Wild World”

How Madwomen Survive


I love this poem by Marijo Moore. That is all.


I come from a long line of madwomen and of this, I am proud.

Strong women with determined resiliency,

open minds, and hands that knew no idleness.

A great grandmother who became accustomed

to the whiskey-colored breath of strangers

in order that her children be fed.


A grandmother who captured and killed

the white chickens of neighbors

for the same reason.

And a mother who tried and failed

and tried and failed and tried and failed

and tried and failed to understand the reasoning

behind the lies of men who said they were her lovers.


I come from a long line of madwomen and of this, I am proud.

There is a difference in madness and craziness:

Craziness causes one to twirl and twirl until a great breath

sucks her spirit home leaving her mind and body to laugh on their own.


Madness allows the mind and body to function

while the spirit dances to the heartbeat of the stars.

I come from a long line of madwomen and of this, I am proud.

Women who folded their shame

into the gathers of their pride

wrapped them both around their ankles

and continued to dance, letting everyone know

they were not afraid to dance backward if it meant survival.


I come from a long line of madwomen and of this, I am proud




This afternoon I submitted my last freelance writing assignment due before the six week break I plan to take when this baby is born. And then, I emailed my editor and told her I had time for another.

I talk about how ready I am to not be pregnant anymore. I talk about how I’m done thinking of my body in poetic terms like a piece of fruit—supple, ripe and glorious—and now think of it as big. Just big. Big and in the way. “I’m over it,” I say. “Let’s do this.”

But the truth is, there’s a part of me that’s terrified by the thought that there is nothing left between me and this baby—no more baby gear to purchase, no more childbirth books to read, no more freezers to clean, no more loose ends to tie up. People keep telling me I should make the most of this time. “You should go out with your husband and take lots of naps,” they say. But the truth is, our budget is gearing us up for full-time studenthood next fall and sleep, with all of its tossing and turning and bathroom breaks, just doesn’t have the same allure that it used to.

Relax? Relax. Relax. Relax. Relax … I chant it to myself, which naturally makes me antsy.

It’s like that saying my mom always recites:

“Happiness is like a butterfly. The more you chase it, the more it will allude you. But if you focus your mind on other things, it will come softly sit on your shoulder.”

For now, I’ll just keep adding to my to-do list.

Listening to: Stevie Nicks, “For What It’s Worth”

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