Reflections on becoming a mom of two (and counting)

Reflections on becoming a mom of two (and counting)

When I first became a mom, I think I was a lot like other first-time moms, dumbstruck in love. Like, heart torn in two and half gone. And it wasn’t just the love-at-first-sight thing, everyone describes. When I first set eyes on that red and wide-eyed little bundle, yes, I loved her, but I wasn’t expecting that feeling to grow so exponentially, so quickly. As the days passed, I found I could look at her, just stare, for way longer than considered polite and kiss her more in one day than I’d kissed in my entire lifetime.  I would wake up in the wee hours to nurse and rock my squishy, little red-head half-awake, but fully in love. She would wake up early, and we would side-lie nurse, falling asleep, more as one body than two. In the hours while she slept during the day, I would lie outside and journal and write her letters and reflect on how full of purpose and happy I felt. Elated really. And the surprise at that feeling was sweet as the buds just starting to blossom.

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Then, when she was about three months old, my husband became very ill. It started as a migraine that would not go away. Not a drink-a-coke-and-take-an-Advil-migraine, but a throw up, lay in a dark room for days, can’t eat or sleep migraine. From there, he had intense waves of pain and pressure in his head that would often cause him to lose his balance and fall down or not be able to speak.  I called 9-11 on multiple occasions and witnessed my larger-than-life partner fall like a toddler learning to walk. Doctors, even brain surgeons, couldn’t figure it out. Test after test came back negative. We began to wonder if trips between hospitals was our new normal. Finally, about two months later, he was diagnosed by an eye-doctor of all people, with hemorrhaging behind his eyes caused by excessive spinal fluid in his brain. To correct it, he’d need a spinal tap. Just as we had answers, it seemed, miraculously, symptoms were beginning to subside naturally. It was bizarre.

After missing out on nearly three months of his daughter’s life, he was back in it, and we were back to our normal groove. But the whole thing shook me pretty hard, and I found myself struggling with residual anxiety and illegitimate fears. I longed for those days basking in the sun and enjoying my newborn baby. I can’t say it was this longing that caused us to try for number two or our general understanding that multiple kiddos was always the ‘plan’, but I was getting those little itches to have a wee one in my arms again.

A few months after my daughter turned one, I found out I was pregnant. As we began to spread the news, we were met with a whole different set of reactions. This time around, instead of excitement and pleasant trips down memory lane, people seemed to smile knowingly and say things like “get ready” or “two is a game-changer.” I began to have flashbacks of older friends and acquaintances with multiple children who walked around like the half-dead, pale skin, dark under-eyes. It freaked me a little. On top of it all, I was still dealing with residual anxiety and learning how to cope with and conquer unwelcome thoughts.

When our son was born, a huge, cheesy babe, I was just as excited to meet my new baby as I had been the first time. But new feelings and thoughts were present too. I was concerned about my first-born, how she would feel, what she would think. Would I put too much pressure on her, would she still feel loved? How could I love this new baby with the same attention and fervor as I’d loved my first? It was like my heart, already half gone, was parceled out again and my brain scrambled with a fork.

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And boy oh boy, was the second time around different. No more sleeping-in with a newborn snuggled against my breast. No lying in the sun reflecting and journaling during day naps. No leisurely strolls through the market for groceries. With a rambunctious toddler and less-than-ideal little sleeper, we were the undead. We were the zombies walking around crabbily with coffee in one hand, daydreaming of a night-cap to (hopefully) usher us into a full sleep cycle before the first siren-like cry. I remember looking at my Fitbit several times in the morning and seeing only minutes of “deep sleep” recorded.  With our first born now blossoming into a willful human being, we were also trying our hand at the art of actual parenting. It was bumpy and uncertain and confusing and maddening (and still is!) And with the little sleep and irregular nutrition, my entire personality evolved into a survivalist. I would eat and sleep whenever I had the chance. I would lock all the doors and set the alarm while my child watched television so I could sleep when the baby did. I would shower…when I could. I would work out almost never and lived for the nights when relatives or babysitters took my children, and I didn’t have to think about anyone else for an hour or two.  I look back at that time now with hardly any memories of my son’s first three months of life.

56828224_2109337889161544_5642036706958901248_o.jpgBut we got through. Yes. We all did. My children were nourished and grew in life skills and abilities. They even began to play together. I learned to tackle Target, go on walks (with the dog), cook dinner, road trip to my parents’ and back, and do so much more with only myself and my multiple young children. Though not yet the ‘mini-van- mom’ I channeled her inner calm and learned to do life with screaming and food smears in every scene. Though my son is not yet two, the months between his arrival in the world and where we’ve landed today are as different as Earth is from Jupiter. And I’m proud. Not just of myself, but of all the mamas (and dadas) who have made it through too.

As I tell this story, I know some dear friends getting ready to embark on the journey into multiples. I myself am about to add another little babe to our clan (which has really ushered in the interesting comments!) And I want to leave some sort of encouraging note. But instead of advice, I’ll just share what I know. I know there will be the dark months—the ones I won’t remember, and maybe shouldn’t, — there will be the curveballs and power struggles. The who’s turn battles, the reorganizing of vehicles and schedules and priorities. There will be the moments when prayer is the only way I stay sane. But I also know that in this dark and freaky tube-slide there’s little pinpricks of light and laughter along the way. Just like I was surprised at first, I am still surprised to feel flooded with love without warning, as my daughter muddies her entire outfit and my son runs awkwardly through the lawn, white hair bouncing like a halo above his head. I’m so thankful for my children and this wild and terrifying journey. And from what I’ve heard, these years go fast (but the days sure are long!!)

Xoxo

On loving your neighbors (and actually knowing their names)

Besides the back of my dog’s head, you are looking at a shoveled driveway. But it wasn’t shoveled by me or my husband. And nope, not by our dog either.

The story behind it:

It’s about half past one and my dog starts barking at the front door. I’m shushing him, as usual, because I just got the babe down for nap, and I’m working on the toddler now. But then I hear voices. I look out the window and see a troupe of middle school to high school-age girls in my driveway. Actually they are shoveling my driveway!!

I watch for a second, dumbfounded. Is that really my driveway? Am I so sleep deprived that I’m seeing things? The girls are nearly done, so I open the door and call out to them. I recognize a few of them as direct neighbors and a few others from summer bonfires. I thank them profusely, offer snacks and ask if they’re a Girl Scout group or something of the sort. Nope. Just doing this for people who need it done. Just walking through our hood and spontaneously blessing the woolly socks off people.

I snap a picture, thank them again and text one of their moms. What a daughter. What a blessing.

This has officially made my day.

I hear “love your neighbor” a lot in the circles I run in. It’s a catch phrase and a catch all for people trying to convince you to be kind to that guy you don’t like. Or thoughtful of others’ struggles and perceptions half way around the globe.

But half the time we don’t take it literally. Half the time we don’t even know our actual neighbors by name.

I’m lucky enough to be part of an amazing neighborhood where I know most of the people I live by. But that doesn’t mean I can’t make it even better. I’ve been a little stuck in my own world of raising little humans and hanging with mommies that go with them.

But my hood is where I live, the people who quietly (or loudly) exist nearest to me. People with basic and complex needs. People with families and drama and struggles. People like me.

These girls reminded me that loving my neighbor starts with knowing my neighbors! With saying hello.

And it continues with simple things. Homemade cards and hand-me-downs. Shoveled driveways and mowed lawns.

And an extra large batch of blueberry muffins.

Comin at ya, neighbors!

101 things

My kids are napping. At the same time.

This is the result of both tedious planning and dumb luck. I aim for this goal each day, but it is ultimately out of my hands and in the pudgy fingers of my littles.

One is snuggled in his crib, the other taking up residence in my bed. And, because I can’t be in my bed, I am now on the couch, draped in the sunshine coming through my window. thinking.

Of the 101 things. The tasky-things. The to-dos, must-dos and should-dos. And I don’t even have to really think because I look up and my to-dos surround me.

But I’m not doing them.

There is a conveyor belt of never-ending _______. Especially when you’re a parent of littles. They spew their toys and clothes (and fluids) everywhere and don’t give any poop emojis about it. They go through outfits like they’re working a runway. They ‘help’ and undo whatever you just did. It’s maddening. If you let it be.

But maybe we don’t have to do so much. Maybe choosing a thing or two each day that we enjoy might be more satisfying than another check mark. Maybe we could stop acting like martyrs (admit it, we do this!) and start enjoying life a little more.

My babe is awake already, and because he’s erupting snot like Old Faithful, I’m going to bring him out and cuddle his boogery-butt.

But I’m also going to finish this paragraph.

Because I don’t have to let to-do’s rule me. Because sometimes writing makes me happy. And because I believe that happy parents are better parents.

But even more than that, truly happy people are better people.

In joy,

Mama-megs

**Inspiration via my mommy friends at ECFE and a MOPS talk about throwing away your to-do list for one month

thank you, _________

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Who doesn’t love Jimmy Fallon? I mean, he’s got this spark and yet very peaceful vibe with his humor, unlike so many comedians today. Everything he does is pure magic, so I decided to steal/adopt his idea of thank-you notes because I am just full of sass. And since Jen Hatmaker stole it first (#WWJHD?)  and I share a certain kinship with her, I decided that it’s sort of my destiny to write these satirical ‘thank-you’ notes too.

Here goes– my thank-you’s round one.

Thank you Urban Outiftters,
for reminding us just how bad high-waisted shorts look on all but 2 percent of our population. Due to your utter disregard for normal body types and shapes, we are now given the honor of once again having to face the entourage of teens sporting impossibly long cracks and crotches, while somehow simultaneously showing us the very beginnings of their buttocks. As an added bonus, apparently the no-bra phase of the 90’s is back. Awesome. Hats off to you!

Thank you iPhone news alerts,
for your constant reminders that there is incredibly important world events happening, such as Anderson Cooper rolling his eyes and baby animals being born and President Trump “lashing out” at this person or that publication. I don’t know what I would do without these completely unbiased and factual current events. I mean, forming my own opinions would be nearly impossible and, dare I say, uneducated. Without the stunning insights of our nation’s most sought-after news sources, what kind of terrible person would I become? Oh news alerts, you keep me grounded, informed, a small step ahead of my loveable yet ignorant peers.

Thank you greeting card industry,
for forcing my hand into creating bulky and poorly glued homemade cards and envelops for the people I love. Whenever a holiday or birthday rolls around, put off buying cards I cringe at the thought of what it will take to avoid buying.  If I wanted to spend 4 plus dollars on paper, I would buy a coffee at Starbucks, dump out the water and fill it with my tears. You drove me to this poorly drawn stick figure. You drove me to this.

till next round….

image via unsplash: @aaronburden.

Swelling vs. Pouring: Love is not Proud

 

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Love is not proud

If pride had density and could be measured, I imagine it swelling. Air filling a balloon, blood filling a bruise. There’s really only so much room, and the balloon pops; the bruise becomes painful, skin stretched and tender to the touch.

Except it isn’t so obvious.

We are in a world so swollen with pride; it feels natural to join right in. To collect our rights, our fears, our love, bottle it up to swell inside us. Without even noticing it grows like a mold in the folds of our insecurities as we beg to be noticed, appreciated, celebrated. For: our work, our beauty, our craft, our ministry. It’s slow but always swelling.

But love is always in the emptying.

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It makes me think of a story about a widow, her son, and a traveling prophet. When the prophet met her, she was gathering sticks for a fire. She’d saved only enough oil and flour for a single meal–the last meal–for herself and her son. She had one meal to her name, nothing more, certainly nothing to give. But the prophet asked her for bread, saying something that must of stopped her heart. “The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty.” And against all logic, she brought him her last scraps of food, pouring out her flour and oil… to find that it kept on pouring.

Love is always the emptying. The pouring out and pouring in, the giving up of: rights, words, debts. It fills up our gaps, the cracks and holes in other hearts.

Then, just when you think you should stop, bottle it up for yourself, you hear Him speak: pour me some water, bring me some bread.

And, against all logic, it keeps on flowing.

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

 

balloon image via unsplash- hiperstermum
lightbulb imageimage via unsplash- sharonpittaway.com

Weeds

The other morning as I walked around our cozy little house with my watering can, I saw the weed that I’d been avoiding for months. It had grown to an astonishing length. Nearly taller than the hosta plant it was leaching from, and here I was dumping water on it again.

It was one of those pokey weeds with jagged looking leaves and little stickers that lodge into your skin when you touch them. So, naturally, I avoided touching it, leaving it for weeks and weeks and promising myself that I’d get on my gloves one of these days and pull it out.

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I’m not going to pretend I’m the first person to compare gardens, plants, and weeds to spiritual walks, but hey, I’m going to be one of them. Because this weed grew for no other reason than my own complacency. I let it grow right up alongside of my healthy hosta until finally it was too big to ignore. I think that’s what complacency is in our lives–seeing problems, but ignoring them until they nearly demand to be noticed.

Recently my husband and I went through some scary stuff with his health, some stuff that is still lingering. With all the hospital visits, sleepless nights, 9-11 calls, dr. visits, we began to do something we needed to do for a long time; we started to pray. Not just the prayers you mumble before falling asleep, but prayers that take time to mine from your soul because they are so deep and old within you. We started to play worship music in our home, to meditate, even sing the words together–something we’d only really done together in church so a slightly off-key melody is drowned out by those around you. We talked, cried, prayed and sang in a new way not because we became suddenly more spiritual, but because we needed to. Because we couldn’t be complacent anymore. And it was so, so good.

The funny thing is, when I put on my gardening gloves that morning (okay, I don’t even own gardening gloves… I put on my husband’s leather work gloves) and  pulled out that weed, I began to see more.  I pulled out another short stubby one, one sprawled across the earth, then another frail looking one with surprisingly grippy roots. Weeds I hadn’t really noticed before littered the ground, and I felt good. There was my complacency pulled out down to the roots,  and there was a clean little plot of hostas, their purple buds just beginning to flower.

Baby O’s Birth Story

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I decided to write about my labor and delivery experience in a place where I can always find it with the hopes that it helps other women who want to try a natural birth.

Monday
At almost a week overdue, I’d been feeling tightness in my abdomen off and on for days, so the fact that I was feeling it again didn’t surprise me. I prepped a roast that day and snacked a lot, feeling even more hungry and thirsty than usual.  The day had been warm and bright, so that evening my friend and I drove to the tennis courts to watch my husband and brother play. Throughout the game, I was having sharper more focused pain, and even sitting down became uncomfortable. I turned to my friend and said, “this can’t be labor, can it?” Around dusk, I called out to my husband, E , and said it was time to go. On the drive home, I nonchalantly mentioned that I might be having contractions– and they seemed to be coming about 10 minutes apart. He was calm, knowing I’d had these pains before and they hadn’t lasted.

Back at the home front, my doubts about being in labor grew smaller as the pain grew sharper, wrapping me in a way I’d never felt before. I encouraged my husband to eat, get showered and get ready to go. I grabbed the birth ball and mat. E lit a candle, put on calming music, and we began to time the contractions.  As the contractions came closer together, I took out a encouraging notes from friends and began to read them. I found myself going back to the birth ball again and again, leaning over it to sway through the gripping pain and letting out low sounds as I visualized my body opening up. E was with me on the floor, rubbing my back and timing the length and space between the pains. Finally, around one a.m., with contractions only 3 minutes apart, we left for the hospital.

Prodromal labor
Immediately upon arriving, the nursing staff put us in a labor room, and the nurse and midwife began to assess how I was progressing. Soon enough, we discovered that though my contractions were only 3-4 minutes apart, and I seemed to be actively laboring, I was dilated only a very slight amount. My options were to take a strong drug for the pain and another drug to help me sleep (with the hopes my body would keep working while I slept) or to go home. Striving for a drug-free birth, but confused at what my body was doing, I didn’t know which path to take. E and I took a moment to chat alone, and he helped me remember our goals. We decided to go home. Walking back out those hospital doors, stopping in the hall as my body continued to contract was beyond physically painful. I felt both frustration and fear, the tears I’d saved for when the pain was worst starting to finally escape. But the beautiful thing about tears is that they are another kind of birth, a release of anger, frustration and fear. I let myself cry and then resolved to continue the journey.

Tuesday
That night was a restless one; sleep came only between contractions which kept coming at 5, 6, and 7 minutes apart for some time. A dose of antihistamine was a big help giving me those much-needed minutes of rest in between. However, as my body relaxed, contractions slowed down to around 10-15 minutes apart, leaving me confused at why labor would not progress.

The next morning, contractions were still pulsating through me, and as I labored, I clung to E and to the hope that my body was moving in the right direction. We made an appointment to get my cervix checked rather than going to the birth center right away. Though I’d hoped for better news, I again had to fight discouragement when I heard I was dilated only 3 cm. The midwife assured me that my body had done some major work over the past 12 hours and she was confident the baby would be born that night.

Going home again inspired another bout of tears, and the resolve to have this baby tonight. With each new contraction, I fought fear, battled the temptation to panic.  A quote that had been an encouragement to me throughout pregnancy now became an anchor:

Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers–strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.


I felt anything but strong, yet something deep within me rose up, and in my weaknessGod gave me strength
; I kept going and kept going–swaying out the pain with E right by my side. At around 7:30 that evening, we left for the hospital again, deciding that this time, we were coming back with our baby.

Delivery

We were both excited when we heard our favorite midwife was on the birthing floor that night, and then further blessed to have a nurse we’d gone to college with. But shortly after, we had to fight discouragement yet again. I was still only dilated around 3 cm. Again, the options for drugs were presented. Again, E and I consulted alone and I decided to try a more natural intervention. I was exhausted from laboring for the past 24 hours, but still did not have peace about disrupting my body’s natural process.  I requested to have my waters broke, and Sarah, our midwife, looked at me and said, “Okay, but then you’re having this baby tonight.”

“Bummer,” was my sarcastic response.

Feeling my waters break was the most euphoric part of labor–the wild rush of warmth against my skin, the knowledge that there was nothing but a few centimeter between me and my baby girl. Afterwards, I got in the tub and labored– feeling the loving hands of my husband and the nurse on my back each time a contraction came, hearing their prayers over me and our baby. Before long, I started to feel the urge to push and suddenly wanted to get out of the water.

When they checked me this time, I was dilated to 6cm! We were having this baby!

E was excited, and though my hopes had finally come to fruition, the next batch of contractions felt like my entire body was being wrung out of energy and stamina. I could feel myself involuntarily pushing, could hear myself asking for something for the pain. Then, only moments later, I was on the bed, and Sarah was telling me “Okay, Megan, it’s time. Grab your legs and get ready to push.”

Grabbing my legs I bore down, trying to place my energy where I felt unbelievable pressure. I reached down and felt the soft slope of my baby’s head. She was so close! Sarah coached me through each push, E at my right and constantly encouraging. I heard myself screaming, but not the high-pitched, I-just-saw-a-spider scream. It was a war-call, a cry of  aggressive determination that I’d never heard myself make before.  Around 40 minutes in, it became apparent that my perineum wasn’t going to budge enough for her head. Trusting Sarah and my husband’s opinion, I asked for an episiotomy. And into the pain and the stinging, I pushed, Sarah helping me use each contraction to the fullest. A few more pushes– all my physical and spiritual and mental self into those moments, all my resolve and hope. And suddenly release. Suddenly she was there, on my belly, all red and teary and whole.

“She’s here? She’s really here?” I just kept saying. Because through it all I could’ve never imagined the amazement I’d feel, how quickly everything–the pain, the fear, the struggle–felt like a dream when I ran my fingertips over her feather-soft skin.

Our baby girl.