Category Archives: my journey as a mother

It Is Important. 

This post also appeared on My Big Jesus

 Sometimes, at the end of the day, I look back and can’t think of a single thing that happened. I can’t think of anything I accomplished, or anything that was done.  There isn’t a checklist that got finished, or a project that was completed. I mean, I made meals that were at least partially eaten, and then I probably cleaned the rest off the floor.  I made bottles, changed diapers, maybe took the kids to the park. I might have helped with some craft, or at least handed out markers and paper. I probably turned on a movie, folded a load of clothes, or filled and ran the dishwasher.

Those things are so mundane to me sometimes. And often, they’re littered with scoldings, time-outs, or even shouting. Sometimes there are tears- theirs and mine. I get wrapped up in the second-to-second happenings: “He called me a name!” and “She pushed me!” I can’t let those things go unaddressed, lest they happen ten times more often. But I tire of punishing and reprimanding and repeating my pleas to “apologize” and “forgive”. I tire of the endless dirty laundry, and potty breaks with a “buddy”.

I was so overwhelmed by these things that last week at church, survival was my prayer request: day-to-day grace and patience in my crazy-busy, yet accomplishing nothing, stage of motherhood.

The gal who prayed for me, sweet woman that she is, happened to know exactly where I was – really knew. She not only prayed straight through to my soul as a fellow believer, but as a mother who had been (fairly recently, too) exactly where I am. She didn’t offer a cliche about how the days are long and the years are short. She didn’t encourage me to cherish those moments when they need me so much. She said simply that it was hard, she had been there, and I’d survive these intense years. But the biggest thing that hit me was this: the work that I’m doing is important.

Let’s say that together: It. Is. Important.

When I look around my frequently messy home, or catch sight of my often dirty hair, I can be discouraged that I did so much while accomplishing so little. I’ve got grubby handprints on every window in the house, snot on my jeans, and no one has gotten out of their pajamas. Am I even doing it right? But the answer is undoubtedly yes. I am doing it right, because I’m loving my kids, including lovingly disciplining them. I’m doing my best to raise them to be kind, helpful, and independent. I’m giving them endless snuggles, smooches, and hugs. I’m reading them books, and teaching them as much as I know how to teach. I’m praying for them, with them, and in front of them. I’m leading them, hopefully, into a relationship with Jesus. That work is Kingdom work, and it IS important.

 

A Letter to Myself Before I Became a Mother

  
Dear innocent, young girl,

I want to write you, even though I know you’ll never see it. But maybe it will make us both feel better, and let us share a little of ourselves with each other. Oh, if you only knew what’s coming. I could tell you so many things, but you wouldn’t even want to hear them right now. It’s difficult to understand the lifestyle, the struggles, all of the feels that you will experience later. You might even have a chuckle or two (or hearty laugh, actually) at some of the things coming for you.

But in lieu of us having a little laugh at my (our) expense, I thought I’d give a piece or two of advice. You know, a friendly few suggestions to maybe try out before you get to where I am now: wading through a pile of children on my way to the bathroom in the morning, hearing shouts floating up the stairs before I’ve even heard my alarm (by the way, my alarm is a crying baby). Here are my three big pieces of advice:

1. Sleep late. I know you do already, or I wouldn’t know how much you’d miss it. But do it more often, as often as possible. And you know what else? Go to bed early. I know you’re a night owl and you love staying awake in the wee hours, but just try it out once or twice. You might find that you like it!

2. Travel. You don’t have any idea how cheap and easy it is to go places right now. It will be again, but not for a while. Get out there into the world beyond your town. Visit friends that live far away, go to different time zones while your body can spring back easily, get on an airplane without any tag-alongs (and I don’t mean Girl Scout cookies), eat fancy food, visit museums and see shows. You’ll find that each of these things is either more expensive, more difficult, or altogether impossible, at least for a little while. Travel enough now to save up some memories until your children are older and you’re not using your paycheck on diapers.

3. Sow seeds. This seems broad, but it can be specifically applied to three areas: your family, your friends, and your career. You will be busy when you’ve got little ones. And not any sort of busy that you’ve ever experienced. You won’t have much time to build new relationships, so sow good seeds into the family and friends you’ve got now. You want them to stick around during that time when you’re largely an unshowered, frazzled mess, alive solely because of coffee. They’ll be forgiving (and even helpful!) because you’ve spent years loving them well when you had the time and energy for it. Your career will thank you as well. Work hard and long while you don’t have those little ones who need you at home. You’ll build a base of trust and integrity, and likely receive grace later when you have a sick babe or preschool play to attend.

The last thing I’ll say, free and childless one, is when you do get ready for children, and you are expecting one of your own, don’t brush off what those mothers you meet will tell you. New mothers, old mothers, working mothers, stay-at-home mothers will all impart wisdom to you in their own way. Sometimes, you won’t know why they need to tell you those ridiculous things, or scare you with their labor stories, or be the hundredth woman to tell you, “Oh, just wait!” They’re all right; what they say will be true at some point during your mothering experience. You will be tired, you will get fed up, and you will feel the craziest, strongest, most permanently bonding love you’ve ever felt about anything. Open your heart to it, because it’s the best thing you’ll ever feel.

Top Posts of 2015

Well, 2015 was a landmark year for me as a writer. I was published on three sites other than my own, and even paid for my work! That’s something that I never thought would happen, and I’m so proud of myself, if I’m allowed a little pat on the back.

gold-2015-clipart-1

So, in honor of a successful year of writing, AND because tons of my blogger friends were doing this, here are my top five posts from 2015! Thanks for reading, commenting, sharing your lives, caring about mine, and contributing to my success!

Things I’ve Heard at 33 Weeks Pregnant – a hilarious account of all the things that strangers tell you when you’re very obviously pregnant.

10 Tips for Soon-to-Be Moms – a first installment of a series (the second is here!) of tips and tricks for moms, soon-to-be moms, and friends of moms.

Why I Decided to Stop Breastfeeding (and You Can, Too) – my breastfeeding journey with D

Accidental Announcement – that one time I told y’all I was pregnant, but I didn’t mean to.

An Open Letter to Friends Who Don’t Invite Me to Stuff Just Because I Have Kids – because I have feelings, and I still want to hang out!

What were your favorite posts of the year?

My Journey as a Mother: Breastfeeding (Part Three)

If you’ve read my other posts about breastfeeding my kids (here and here) you’ll know that breastfeeding has looked different – with varying levels of difficulty – each time. My youngest sweetie, Davis, is three weeks old now, and I can honestly say it’s been another less-than-I-hoped-for sort of journey so far. 

 When D was born, I already had enough experience to know that I needed a nipple shield, so I was armed with it in the delivery room for the first time he nursed. During our hospital stay, he nursed fairly well, despite being pretty sleepy and exhausted – it’s work to be born!

When we got home, he was increasingly difficult to wake up and keep awake to eat well. Therefore, he wasn’t getting enough each time, but would wake often to eat. It wasn’t exactly cluster feeding; it was more that I couldn’t get him to stay awake through a feeding. This was, looking back on it from my spot at three weeks, already making my supply decrease even before he was a week old.

When we went to the pediatrician for his two-week check up, I knew what was going to happen as soon as he got on the scale. He was still 5oz short of his birth weight, and I could see the rest of the visit playing out in my mind. My eyes welled up with tears of fear and guilt before we made it back to our exam room. How could I not be giving my child what he needed? Why was it that my body couldn’t manage to nourish my babies after it had done so well for nine months?

At his two week check up, he was still not back up to his birth weight, and so my pediatrician suggested supplementing with a little formula (or expressed breast milk, of which I had little) after every feeding. She gave me some samples – some ready-to-use and some cans of powdered – so that I wouldn’t have to buy any if I didn’t end up needing it for very long. When we got home that afternoon, we tried our first bottle with a couple of ounces of formula. He was very wary of it, and took some convincing to start eating it. He didn’t have much before we stopped for a burp, and when he sat up straight, he immediately puked up most of what he’d eaten. You can imagine how excited I was for that to happen. So we cleaned him (and everything else) up, and I mixed in a little breast milk with the rest of the formula, thinking it might improve the taste and also be easier on his stomach. He took it a little more readily, but still threw up the majority of what he’d taken.

You can imagine I was getting a little worried now. If he can’t keep formula down, and my milk supply is low, how am I gonna beef the kid up? Well, we switched the brand of formula and started off with very little formula in the breast milk, and he’s gotten more and more used to it. He still nurses a little, and it’s still not terribly efficient, but I think it’s helping keep my supply from dropping more than it might if I was exclusively pumping. But he’s gaining! And I’m taking my fenugreek (gross, by the way), drinking TONS of water, and eating my oats. It’s work, especially with a couple more little ones, but I’m doing everything I can to help him be healthy and growing. I don’t know how long I can keep up the pumping (honestly, it’s tough to find time to sit down and not have to get up while I’m doing it) but my goal is to at least get him to six weeks with having mostly breast milk with only a little bit of formula supplement. It’s what’s working for us right now, and when it doesn’t work anymore, we will change it. You can only do what works, right? Whatever is the best thing you can manage is what you do.

My Journey as a Mother: Family Planning (or Lack Thereof)

I’ve been inspired the past couple of weeks to write about our family planning. Or lack thereof. There have been several articles I’ve read on the subject, about opinions on child spacing, and in the light of #mommitment I wanted to share my story (lest y’all think I’m crazy for having my three under three and a half).  

You see, when Hubby and I decided we were ready to start having children, we did what any couple’s first step is: I stopped taking the pill. This was January of 2011. We’d been married for a little over a year and a half, and we knew we wouldn’t immediately get pregnant, but we thought we’d see what happened.

What happened was a few months of “not not trying”, where we didn’t really plan out days or anything, but we knew we’d “pulled the goalie”. Then, after the few months of that, we started actually trying, planning days to try to conceive, and keeping track of every single thing – did you know there were APPS FOR THAT?! After a few months of that process and no baby, I’d spent way too much on pregnancy tests and not enough on newborn-sized onesies, so I tried a new approach. I started taking my basal resting temperature. That meant that right as I woke up, I would take my temperature before getting out of bed, record it, and wait for it to one day spike – ever so slightly-  which meant I’d be ovulating. Well, that day came, and so obviously we tried to conceive. Then the next morning, and the nine or ten after that, my temperature never went back down. I basically thought the system was busted. I can’t be ovulating every day. Well, I wasn’t. Because I was pregnant.

When EK was born 10 months later, I was nursing, and while I know that nursing isn’t birth control, I didn’t go back on any sort of birth control when she was born. Hubby and I figured the Lord had a plan, and we were good with whatever it was. My cycle didn’t come back until four months post-partum, and I breastfed until six months. We weren’t trying to get pregnant, but we obviously weren’t preventing it, either.

In March of the next year, when EK was 11 months old, I found out I was pregnant again. We were thrilled, and couldn’t wait to start telling our families, but before we even got to that point, I was cramping and bleeding, and ended up miscarrying at 7 weeks. I was told that I would start my cycle back in 4-12  weeks (Really? What sort of help is that?!) and not to try to get pregnant again until then. I guess they were basically telling me not to rush back into it, and let my body get back to normal. Well, I was obviously emotionally wrecked and not really in a hurry, at least until my body did what it needed to do. A couple of months later, I was out with some girlfriends, who asked me about it. I started counting the weeks, and realized I was at 13. They hadn’t said it would be any longer than 12 weeks (although, how accurate is it, truly?) so just for good measure, I went home and took a test. Positive! Boom.

This time, I had no inkling how far along I was… I’d had to period to reference my ovulation and conception. It wasn’t until my ultrasound at TEN AND A HALF WEEKS that I’d have the baby before the year was out. How’s that for a crazy few months, and an enormous blessing at the end of them?!

After J was born at the end of that year (2013), I nursed him for eight wonderful months, and when he weaned himself, my cycle started back. I had exactly two periods, and found out I was pregnant again. And here I am! 27 weeks with my third little miracle.

Now, did I plan it out this way? No. Did I try to plan differently? No. Am I aware how blessed I am to be fertile and healthy and blessed with three children in four years? Absolutely. I know everyone is not this way – and especially on timing, wouldn’t necessarily want to be this way. Are we often a bit of a madhouse around here? Yes. Do I expect it to get much better? Not for a while. But do I love my little tinies, how close they are together, and how happy they make me? 100%.

I do get some comments and looks at the grocery store when people see me with my littles, and obviously another on the way. “You sure had them close together!” and “You know what causes that, right?” are things I hear a lot. Yes, they are obviously close together, thankyouverymuch. Yes, I CLEARLY know what causes that. I’m a grown woman, amIright? So while I didn’t try to ensure my kids would be mistaken for Irish twins, or likely straight up triplets when they hit high school or so, I wasn’t against having them all in diapers at the same time, or all in college at the same time. I’ll survive. And they will thrive.

I’m Making a Mommitment.

Lately I’ve realized that my social media newsfeeds are overtaken by things about parenting. Blogs giving me suggestions, companies trying to sell me their products, friends posting questions, opinions, and pictures of or related to their kids… I’m totally inundated by “mom stuff”.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of these articles, products and opinions contain labels about a parent’s style. How the mom delivers her baby. How she nourishes her baby. How the parents help their babies sleep. How the parents plan to transport, potty train, educate, and discipline their offspring. There are a thousand ways to rear a child, and no one has any business telling other people they’re doing it wrong, or to try to force their way on someone else. We’re all doing the best we can. This video is a great one along those lines, I think:

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago about helping mothers (especially expectant mothers and new mothers) feel celebrated and loved. Well, this is part of that. Melissa at One Mother to Another (she’s the best!) brought a movement to my attention. It’s a #mommitment for us to all make to each other, to support mothers, one and all. Whatever our similarities or differences, to set them aside and support each other’s efforts to be the best parents we can, in the best way we know how.

My #mommitment to you:

I pledge to accept you as you are, no matter your situation, choices, or style. I promise to support you, in any way I can, no matter whether we made the same choices for our little ones, or if we couldn’t be more different. I vow to be in your corner, defend you, stand alongside you, laugh with you, cry for you, be happy for you, or mourn with you. I will listen to you respectfully, and respond with kindness. I will share my opinion with grace and understanding. I will not judge you, condemn you, or scoff at you. I will not label you or assume things about you by the choices you have made. I will celebrate your special journey as a mother.

I will do these things because we are bound by an invisible tie. We know some things about each other without being told. We have similarities that cannot be chosen – they are inherent. We are mothers, and we should stand together. I know that sometimes, I will need these things from you, too. I have often asked questions, needed advice, and just plain needed to vent. We all need each other, and building barriers because of styles and “labels” doesn’t help any mother, or any child. 

So there it is. A commitment to you, fellow moms, to be supportive, loving, kind and helpful. To NOT be judging, belittling, unkind, or harsh. I’m passionate about ending the mom wars, and spreading the love and support to all moms. Hear me? Every. Single. One.

mommitment

If you’re interested in reading about the mom behind the movement, visit Julie’s page Next Life No Kids and read about her journey, and her movement. You can also find her and the mom movement on Facebook and Twitter. Join us, and make your mommitment to end mom wars with compassion and support.

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My Journey as a Mother: Confessions of a Night Owl

Y’all, having early-rising kids is hard.

That’s a statement that (if you know my kids well) would get me stoned by many. My kids rise between 7:00 and 8:00am. I know there are a LOT of you with kids that get up WAY earlier. But this is still a struggle for me a lot of days… because I’m just not a morning person. Now, if I can get up (after several alarm snoozes), take a shower, make myself breakfast and coffee, and have a while to myself, I’m not so bad. I mean, I taught school for 6 years and was fine by the time I got there. But that’s an hour or more after I woke up, and frankly, before that, I’m not worth seeing.

My kids, however, often get the blunt end of my morning crankiness. I try not to be mean or anything, but often I’m blase and awkwardly quiet – avoiding using my voice at all costs. They are chatterboxes, full of life and cuteness no matter what time it is, and I’m giving them 10% (unless you count the 90% of my strength it takes to change the inevitable poopy diapers and not choke).

I have heard from a lot of my stay-at-home mama friends recently that they’ve made resolutions to get up before their kids. The reasons are different for everyone: chores, quiet time, uninterrupted shower, breakfast with their husbands, working from home, or any combination of these. For me, it sounds great. It sounds like the perfect solution to not getting much alone time, needing a shower first thing to wake me up, and being able to ingest some caffeine before I had to speak out loud.

But in practice, it just isn’t going to work.

For one, my kids each get up at different times than the other kid and at different times every day. There’s almost no way I can plan on how to give myself thirty minutes or an hour without accidentally giving myself two hours or negative twenty minutes. I might have one up by 6:15, and one sleep till 8:00. I might have them both up between 7:15 and 7:30. On the rare occasion I need to be up to leave the house early, and don’t set an alarm, because the kids will definitely wake up, I will wake up all on my own around 8:05. Of course.

Secondly, if I knew I had a guaranteed hour (let’s just say I would), I’d probably be arguing with myself over a shower, a whole pot of coffee, two loads of laundry, a kitchen deep clean, and three new blog posts. And that list completely left out any quiet time in the Word before the rest of my world distracts me. See! Too many things vying for my attention before my people are even awake.

But at night, like right now as I write this (it’s 9:57pm) I’ve written several blog posts, done a load of laundry, and I have some one-on-one time with the Hubby planned. I’m not even tired yet! I mean, my pregnant body is sorta sick of standing up, but I’m not sleepy. I could probably keep going for several more hours, or until I lay my head down. I don’t have trouble falling asleep when I let myself rest. I just have trouble waking up, no matter how much sleep I’ve had. That’s got to be a problem, right?

The only exception to this weirdness about not waking up well is when I have a newborn. Somehow my hormones or my motherly instinct is jumping that first couple of months of my child’s life. It’s like my body knows I’d never be able to support a newborn unless I made a change. I can magically pop out of the bed when I hear the hungry cry of a baby, and after a quick pee, I’m rushing into the room, changing a diaper, whipping out my boobs, ready to nourish my child. That energetic waking goes away the first few nights of sleep I get uninterrupted. God forbid the sleep schedule should regress a little…

But most days, I man up. I don’t roll over and beg my late-night-working husband to do the morning routine instead. I love those little chatterboxes, and their ridiculously chipper morning attitudes, no matter what time it is. It’s tough, but so are a lot of things about being a mother. I’m sure I’ll do tougher things. But for now, my daily struggle of waking up in the morning, compounded by pregnancy and my night owl tendencies, will continue to be blown away by the morning blessings of my cuties, their smiles, their smells (am I right?!), their snuggles, and their relentless need for breakfast. I love those guys.

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