This too shall pass…

This too shall pass. These four words have run through my semi-sleep deprived mind many times the past 3ish months. As my due date came and went but the back pain and other late stage pregnancy symptoms remained, I thought “this too shall pass- this baby can only stay in so long.” During each contraction of my short 3 hour labor on June 6th -“this too shall pass” was the quiet voice of my mind while “ahhh it hurts so bad, I can’t do it” was coming out of my mouth. While the nurses rushed me up from the triage room, rolling me into the elevator on the bed as I said “I need to push!!!” – When the doctor told me there was no time for an epidural and I could feel the tingling in my nose signaling tears of fear were about to fall- that mantra ran in my mind hidden by the panicked look of pleading I gave my mom and husband as they reassured me that I could in fact do it because I already was doing it. When my doctor said “one more push Kiley!” I bid farewell to the tears threatening to well in my eyes and yelled some garbled war cry of pain and desperation and pushed my beautiful baby out into the world all the while “this too shall pass” was on repeat deep in my mind.

As I sat in the hospital with the nurse pushing on my tummy saying I needed extra medication to stop the bleeding in the form of pills that did not enter through my mouth- “this too shall pass” was thought with an immature smile as I laid in that bed full of all the things no one talks about but are oh so present during those first few days (let’s be real…weeks). As the doctor told us we were going to have to stay another night in the hospital because Maylee was jaundiced and we had to watch as she lay under the lights with her little mask- “this too shall pass.”

As I latched my new baby to nurse her with looming dread and painful memories of how hard the first month of nursing was with Brynn- I gritted my teeth as the familiar physical pain came along with discouraging thoughts of “not again…” Unlatching my baby a week or so later and seeing the pinkish milk dribbling from her mouth, and a pit in my stomach knowing that pink milk meant the scabs had been ripped off and blood had been drawn … again. Trying to hold back tears and failing as I told David “I just wanted this time to be different…”- I reminded myself more consciously “this too shall pass,” closed my eyes and re-latched that baby as he reassured me that we could switch to formula if it didn’t get better soon.

As feelings of guilt for missing another bed time routine with Brynn came flooding in because I needed to latch, unlatch, and re-latch Maylee in the quiet of the other room – “this too shall pass.” As doubts of my abilities to give my Mama self 100% to both kids surged and I was afraid Brynn would resent me or Maylee- “this too shall pass.” As Brynn screamed from timeout, Maylee screamed from being over tired and David and I looked wearily to each other and picked which screaming little person we would tackle- “this too shall pass.”  As early morning gas wracked Maylee with pain and my Mama’s heart with a longing to make it go away- “this too shall pass.”  As we stocked up on almond milk and coconut milk ice cream because my beloved dairy was causing Maylee to have that gas- “this too shall pass.”  As I fumbled with the nursing cover, and started having anxiety sweat bead around my temples while Maylee screamed for her food during our first public feeding – “this too shall pass.”   As Brynn said “no,” shot me a defiant death glare and expressed an audible “hmmph” for the umpteenth time – “this too shall pass.”  As I cleaned up pee from a girl who was trying out underwear and said “I don’t need to go potty” then proceeded to pee everywhere- “this too shall pass.”  As a 2am feeding turned into an hour that turned into two hours because Brynn woke screaming from a bad dream right after Maylee went back to sleep- “this too shall pass.”

This. Too. Shall. Pass.

And …it did.

My labor started naturally and progressed quickly. I experienced the worst pain of my life against my plans of a nice medicated experience (I am ALL about those meds) and at the end of it got the greatest reward- my sweet Maylee Grace. The bleeding stopped and I recovered physically much faster than I did with the induced, epidural delivery of Brynn 2.5years ago- not needing even an aspirin this time around. Maylee’s jaundice cleared and we were sent home with our little bundle.  The pesky weeks of basically wearing adult diapers and awesome mesh undies ended and my body started to feel like a human body once again. Maylee and I persevered through 2 weeks of countless hours of pain, blood, engorgement from oversupply, crying from both of us, unlatching and re-latching until we figured out the “natural” process of nursing and have been able to make good use of that over supply (although my motto remains “fed is best”). Bedtime routines were resumed and Brynn holds zero resentment towards me or her little sister whom she adores. Night time feeds dropped (almost all the way!) and sleep was recovered.  Feeding in public, while I still am not a fan, does not terrify me or dictate outings.  Almond milk is actually pretty good, and Starbucks has a new almond milk frap that does the trick. Brynn is potty-trained during the day and loves her pink and purple underwear she gets to wear. Those moments passed. They passed.

But you know what? They passed. They are gone now. Gone.

The onset of labor issued in the last 3 hours of a 9month pregnancy that I loved. When my sweet MayMay was pushed into the world, it took her out of the one place I knew I could keep her safe, it broke the physical connection we had, it took away the little whispers throughout the day to the faceless baby in my belly that only I could feel. Achieving nursing success diminished the deep feelings of determination and grit I had to draw upon to keep going. It stopped the whispers of “Come on baby, we can do it” to my tiny learning partner.  Dropping most night feeds meant dropping the extra milk-drunk baby snuggles and foggy soft singing to my little late night companion. Regaining sleep and schedules meant my twelve weeks of getting to focus all my attention on my littles had passed and I found myself pulling out the pump and bottles and going shopping for post-baby body business clothes. It meant dropping off my sweet baby who looked too little to leave at daycare, with her proud big sister and switching between 2 daycare cam feeds as I sat at my desk and pumped. It meant trading holding my little bundle while she slept during a nap, wondering how I got so lucky to be the Mama of not just one, but 2 beautiful little girls, for gazing at pictures of them both on my phone during my lunch break. With the first week of no potty accidents for Brynn came the realization that my toddler had just stepped up a big step on the ladder leading to being a big kid and was a long way past the times I held her milk-drunk in my arms.  Because the moments had passed. They too had passed.

And with each 2.5yr old tantrum that passes, my Brynn Brynn learns more and leaves one more day of innocent rage over not getting chocolate milk behind her- zooming towards bigger worries and experiences that will leave more of a mark than the absence of chocolate milk. And as I count down the months, weeks and days until Maylee is 12months old (or sooner…) and I can put away the pump, bottles and nursing bras- those days, weeks and months will be counting down until I once again have no baby to snuggle, but a toddler to chase. It will mean once again looking at pregnant mamas with nostalgia instead of sympathy for what’s going to come once those labor pains start or are induced.  And as the constant badgering of “Why Mama??” questions end, so will the belief that Mama knows everything and can make everything better.  As the early morning drops at daycare cease, the drops at school will start.  As the little voice stops whining from the car seat for chicken nuggets, that little voice will stop randomly saying “Mama, you’re my best friend” from that same car seat. Little shoes and toys tripping me after I’ve asked them to be put away will disappear, but so will the little feet and hands that go along with them.  The little hand that pulls me close during bedtime and says “lay down Mama, lay down with me!”  As blowout onsies disappear from the laundry pile, so will the chubby rolls of baby fat that are perfect for squishing and kissing.  As the over-excited “I wanna give Maylee a kiss and a hug!” exclamations and over exuberant hugs that have to be monitored with a “Gentle Brynn…” lessen, the inevitable sibling bickering will begin.  And as the difficulties that come with having small children eventually ease, the new difficulties of having grown, independent children will begin.

Parenting is hard. Being a new mom is very hard, and much of it no one warns you about or prepares you for. So I will continue to reassure myself in the midst of the numerous difficult moments that parenting brings that “this too shall pass” (despite those well meaning but damaging messages of “enjoy every moment because you’ll miss it when they are older.”)

However.

I will also be warning myself during all the incredibly sweet times that “this too shall pass.”

 

 

*** To my new mama or mama-to-be friends: Having moments you would like to pass, tears of frustration, and feelings of not knowing what you are doing in those early days are 100% normal.  But postpartum depression and anxiety are real things that are more than just exhaustion and nervousness.  We as a society don’t like to talk about the possibility that such a wonderful event like having a child does some intense things to the body and all sorts of hormones are coursing that can cause that joy of being a new mom to come with other scary thoughts and feelings.  Please do not feel like you have to just put on a brave face and fight away those “baby blues.”  Tell someone, answer truthfully when the nurse asks if you’ve been sad at that post-natal appointment, go to counseling, take medication…do what you need to do to start feeling better.  None of these things makes you less of a mom- in fact, taking care of yourself is the best thing you can do for that little one whose life is in your hands.  PPD and PPA are as real as any other medical condition and should be treated as such. I personally have not experienced PPD or PPA but am very passionate about mental health in general and feel very strongly that we do such a dis-service to all the Mamas out there by glamorizing new motherhood (and it is wonderful) without properly educating and preparing for what happens/can happen during childbirth and after baby is here.  There is soooo much focus on pre-natal care (with good reason) and pregnancy support, but what about after baby is born? There are no monthly post-natal checks on Mama.  So Mama- you’ve got to speak up and do those mental checks on yourself. And let’s as a whole, do better for the Mamas of the world. Let’s check in on them, not just their cute little babies during those first few weeks-  let’s give them permission to hate nursing and cry from pure exhaustion-  and let’s encourage professional help when it is needed. ***

Ok…rant over 😉

Advertisements

Busyness Anticipated

This week has been and will continue to be the end of sorts and the beginning of sorts. I turned in my last paper and final for the semester, closed out my client files and left campus for the last time until the end of August.  The counters were installed yesterday, and the bathrooms are being finished these next couple days in our new house. We had our third and final sonogram to make sure baby girl is head down and getting ready to make her entrance into the world (all looks good!). Today is May 3- I’m due June 3rd, which means we’ve entered the last month of only being responsible for one little person’s life. I got offered an internship position for the Fall/Spring that I’m gladly accepting and looking forward to after my summer “off”.  We’ll be moving into our new house hopefully this weekend, giving our incredibly gracious, hospitable, patient friends back their house, space and sanity.  It’s been a good week. It’s been a busy week. It’s been a busy season. Between David and I, we’ve been in a 4 month season of 3 jobs, full time graduate school, studying for the 3rd and final CFA test, buying/renovating a house, living with friends, raising a delightfully strong, independent (read: strong-willed) 2 year old, attempting to potty train said 2yr old, growing a human, leading a life group at church, volunteering in the children’s ministry, and attempting to not let our daughter associate meal time with chicken nuggets being chucked backwards from the front seat into her car seat. We’ve had multiple ER visits, multiple car breakdowns, bodily fluids from various orifices at various times of utter inconvenience, family visits, hours of Veggie Tales songs in the car, a week vacation in CO, toddler meltdowns, sweet cuddles, tears, laughter, lots of ice cream, and little sleep. Like I said, it’s been a busy season.  And while some of the busyness is coming to an end/winding down this week, a different kind of busyness is about to begin.  The busyness that’s coming to an end- school and pregnancy for me (and work for awhile once baby comes), working late nights at the house for David- has been a busyness that’s physically exhausting and stressful at times, but is nothing compared to the busyness that lies ahead. The busyness of class and papers, installing flooring and painting and sitting in lots of traffic in between- these things can be done with dutiful preparation and a good work ethic. Which I can say David and I both have.

What’s coming is different.

What’s coming is a busyness- and with that- a tiredness that penetrates deep. What’s coming is a season I’ve been anticipating with a mixture of overwhelming joy and a knowing, nervous apprehension. What’s coming is something that can’t really be prepared for no matter how many onesies are washed and ready (currently none), or how cutely the nursery is set up (currently baby2 has nowhere to sleep…we’re working on it), how many bottles are washed (should probably try to find them…), or how many tubes of lanolin cream are ready (literally can’t even think about that right now).

What’s coming is a baby.

What’s coming is excruciating physical pain of labor immediately followed by an excruciatingly painful burst of love that causes the chest to constrict and arms to open. What’s coming is sleepless nights of diaper changes and feeding sessions that evoke a juxtaposition of emotions so intense it’s dizzying. Gratefulness that you have a baby and that baby is breathing, peeing and eating; anxiety and self-doubt from not being able to get the hang of nursing immediately even though its “so natural”; physical pain from said “natural experience”; exhaustion from  lack of sleep; love for the tiny human you grew and now get to hold and comfort; fear that maybe you aren’t doing everything just right; hilarity from thinking you could ever do everything just right; delirium from lack of sleep and routine… all of these and more all in the span of hearing the first cry that jolts you awake until the babe is back asleep full and dry and you pass out from sheer exhaustion until the next cry.

These emotions. They are the busyness that’s coming.

They are what scare me. They are what cause my nervous laughter when people ask if I’m ready. They are what I think of every Sunday when my app says that somehow another week has passed and now there’s only a month left of this pregnancy that I thought I just found out about.  When I feel my little love rolling around in my belly, those swarms of emotions start bubbling up along with my acid reflux.  I’ve had people say “Well it’s your second so you know what to expect right? It’s not as scary?” Wrong.  It’s the knowing what to expect that makes it more scary. When I was 8 months pregnant with Brynn, I had everything “ready”- all her cute onesies were washed and folded in her dresser that was carefully positioned in her cute little room complete with Etsy signs and blankets. But I was not prepared for the real work of having a newborn. The work of experiencing and dealing with emotions as I’d never experienced them before.   I was smacked with them that 8th of November as I finally pushed that giant baby out and they handed her to me, with no instructions or textbook about how to handle them.  They were just there. All over the place (just like all the other things in that delivery room).  And it’s going to happen again in about a month.

I’ve been thinking though.

Because thinking is what I do when pesky emotions are involved. I’ve been thinking about this concept that I’ve been using to attempt to help my clients these past few months. I’ve been spending months reading articles and listening to TED Talks and podcasts to help formulate my treatment plans.  I’ve been thinking that maybe the timing of this research has actually been perfect.  I’ve been thinking that maybe I’m more prepared to deal with this impending emotional rollercoaster than I think I am.  I’ve been thinking that the conversations I’ve been having with mom friends, reminiscing about birth stories, laughing about the horror that took place in those labor and delivery rooms/operating tables and the weeks of recovery that followed, have been adding needed tools of humor to my toolbelt. I’ve been thinking that David reminding me about how he “was convinced one of the 3 of us weren’t gonna make it out of those first couple weeks” has helped reassure me. I’ve been thinking that seeing my little baby Brynn transform from toddler to child in front of my eyes has been preparing me this whole time.   I’ve been thinking that being unprepared is sort of what’s making me prepared. This thing I’ve been thinking about is self-compassion.

It’s one of the emotions that I had to learn last time as I was slapped in the face with all the others.  One that I had to learn as I experienced Mom guilt for working and going to school. One that I had to learn as I had to pump for the first few weeks and feed Brynn from a bottle because we just could not get a latch that didn’t leave me bleeding and Brynn screaming. One that I had to learn as I realized that I didn’t “enjoy every minute” like everyone kept demanding I do as a new mom. One that I had to learn as I couldn’t get my year old to sleep through the night.  One I had to learn as I got up because my 18month old still cried out in the night.  One that I had to learn as I got up last night because my 2.5yr old still cries out in the night sometimes. One that I learned as I secretly relished getting up to sing her a song back to sleep because pretty soon it won’t be just her and I know I’m going to miss that specialness.

I’m not talking about self-confidence or liking myself- those I’ve never really had a problem with. I’m talking about being compassionate to myself in the midst of the emotions that aren’t the ones that are advertised on the diaper commercials.  Of being kind to myself when feeling sad after dropping Brynn off at daycare when she says “I don’t want to go to school. I want to stay with Mama.” Not ignoring the sadness or pretending it isn’t there- but knowing its ok to feel sad in that moment because I’m human. I’m talking about extending the same compassion to myself when I get annoyed too easily because I’m 8 months pregnant and just don’t feel like lifting Brynn onto the toilet for the 4th time in a row when I know she’s just stalling going to bed that I would to a friend.    I’m talking about acknowledging the fact that motherhood is not all butterfly kisses and smiling selfies –  and that’s ok.

And I think that maybe this time I might need an extra large dose of self-compassion as I experience all those emotions of having a newborn plus the emotions that I’m sure will surface as my heart expands to hold both my little loves at the same time. As an added layer of pride and surge of love occurs as I see Brynn hold her little sister for the first time, after months of practicing with her baby doll and talking to her through my belly. As my girls start to develop a relationship formed by blood but hopefully bound by love and friendship.  As our little family starts to make memories in our house that’s been prepared by the same hands that will hold our girls.  So many emotions for this self-proclaimed “thinker” to experience and look forward to with knowing, nervous apprehension and overwhelming joy.

So maybe those people are right after all- maybe I am more prepared because I know what to expect.  Maybe the fact that I’m expecting the unexpected with an attitude of compassion is what constitutes as being ready this time around. I think that’s really the only way to be ready for the anticipated busyness that’s coming.

And I think I’m ok with that.

 

My Forever Baby

“I’m not baby. I Brynn!”  This was your response to me the other day, and has been many times since then when I said “Here ya go Baby” and handed you your Minnie Mouse sippy cup. Your little toddler face all scrunched up in that already perfected “Come on Mom” exasperated look. Not baby?? But you are my Baby Brynn! Of course you aren’t the only one.  I also have been hearing “You know, you don’t have a baby anymore. Brynn is a full on child.” And I look at you, my sweet little 2 year old, and I see what they are saying- physically I see a tall, thinned out kid who runs and jumps and tries to sing the ABC’s and speaks in little sentences and wants her full head of curly hair done like Poppy’s from Trolls.  My eyes see it. Yet…. Not my baby??

Last night you patted my tummy and said “Baby in Mama’s belly” and gave your little sibling a “baby kiss” (as opposed to a “big kiss”) and I wondered if that is where the “I’m not baby” is coming from. Do you think there can only be one Mama’s baby at a time? I often wonder the same thing little love. After having you, I was terrified of having another kid because I didn’t think I could love another little person as much as I do you. And now that I am pregnant, I love the little baby growing in my belly, but it is still hard for me to comprehend how my little Mama heart is going to multiply once again so it can live outside my body in yet another little human. Because that’s what happens you know. My heart didn’t just expand to hold more love for you, my little Brynn, it multiplied and then when you entered the world, you took that heart with you into the world. Everytime you get sick, my heart hurts; everytime you cry “Mama!” in the night, my heart hears it and wants to go to you, even if I know you are just trying to get my attention; everytime I see you being big and brave and daring, my heart skips a beat thinking about you falling; everytime you ask Dada if he is ok when he coughs, my heart swells; all those things and more sweet girl- because you carry my heart around with you everywhere you go. And I guess your sibling will too come June.

But they won’t take that heart from you Baby Girl.

That heart you took from me on November 8, 2015 that made you my baby- you keep that forever. When the new baby comes and our attention gets pulled from you- you’ll still be my baby.  And when you start Kindergarten and probably won’t bat an eye going to your new classroom- you’ll still be my baby.  And when you don’t want Dada and I to read you books, because you can read them yourself- you’ll still be my baby.  When you decide your friends are cooler than your parents and want to hang out with them instead of us- you’ll still be my baby.  When you get in trouble at school for talking too much- you’ll still be my baby. When your attitude blossoms along with your body into teenagehood- you’ll still be my baby. When you graduate high school and move away to college- you’ll still be my baby.  When you get married and start a family of your own- you’ll still by my baby. And when I’m old and grey and you are not so young yourself- my baby still you will be.

And that’s the thing I’m learning, little big one, that no matter how old you get, or how many siblings you have, you will always be my sweet sweet Baby Brynn.

Mama loves you now and for always.

 

hillners-2

On this momentous day…

I dropped you off at daycare this morning and your teacher said “She looks so cute today!” and she was right, I dressed you up extra cute today and told her why; “It’s her birthday today!” She said , “Aww, how old is she turning? One?” I confirmed, and she said “Really? I thought she’s been one for a long time now?!” I smiled and nodded because you’ve been surprising us from the start.

You surprised me when you made two little lines appear on the stick. You surprised me every time you kicked me from the inside of my body. You surprised me when you didn’t want to come out. You surprised me when you came out and were almost 10lbs. You surprised me when you instantly became my second favorite human on this earth. You surprised Dada and I when you started smiling at us at four weeks old (no one believed us until they saw it for themselves). You surprised us when you shot pee at our faces during your first few days of life. You surprised us when you got sick and we had to take you to the ER. You surprised us at how scared we got. You surprised us when you started rolling over. You surprised us when you started sitting on your own. You surprised us when you started pulling up on things when you were 6.5months old. You surprised us when you started standing on your own at 8months old. You surprised us when you started walking at 9months old. You surprised us when we went on a 18hr car ride and you barely cried at all. You surprised us when you started pointing at things and making noises that sounded like questions. You surprised us when you started saying “mama” and “dada.” You surprised us when we said “go get your shoes” and you walked over to the shoe rack and brought us your shoes. You surprised us when you pointed at the ball and said “ba?” You surprise us when you hear an airplane, you look towards the sky pointing until you can see it and you squawk in delight until it is out of view. You surprise us with your enthusiasm for trees. You surprise us with you constant giggles and cackling. You surprise us when you give us kisses. You surprise me when I pick you up from daycare and you squeal and run to me with your little arms reaching up for me. You surprise us when you run and you are only 12 months old. You surprise us when we are putting your clothes on and you know when to switch your bottle from one hand to the other so we can pull your arm through the armholes of your shirt. You surprised us when daycare told us twice they had to move you up to the older classroom because you were trampling the other kids your age. You surprise us with the size and potency of your diapers. You surprise me every morning when I realize I can’t wait to go to your room and get you up for the day. You surprise me when Dada and I say to each other at night after you’ve gone to bed “I miss Brynn, let’s go wake her up to play with her!” You surprise me that I’m afraid to have another kid because I’m afraid there is no way I could love anyone else this much. You surprise me with your extroversion. You surprise us when you get delirious when you stay up past your bed time. You surprise me with your love of people. You surprise me with your wonder and awe at everything you see.

On this day that you will read about in your textbook as not one of the better moments in America’s history, I say this to you my daughter:

Keep surprising people. Not with the fact that you learned to walk early or with the success I’m sure you will have in school. Those things are great, but this world has lots of early walkers and good students. What this world needs to be surprised with is your joy. Keep surprising people with your genuine, indiscriminating love of people and love to be around people. Keep surprising people with your excitement over things the world deems mundane. Keep surprising people with your ability to make people laugh in spite of, or despite, themselves. Keep surprising people with how much you make them care. Keep surprising people with your squeals of delight and screeches of endearment. Keep surprising people with your refusal to give in to the darkness that permeates our world. Keep surprising people with your curiosity and desire to learn. Keep surprising people with kindness. Surprise people with your ability to love people with differing views. Surprise people with your empathy. Surprise people with your desire to seek out truth. Surprise people with your selflessness. Surprise people with caring less about creations than their creators.  Surprise people by standing up for those that get discriminated against. Surprise people with your confidence in yourself. Surprise people with your lack of bitterness in such a bitter world and time. Surprise people with peace in discouraging times. Surprise people by advocating for those who can’t advocate for themselves. Surprise people with grace in ungraceful situations. Surprise people with enough independence to admit your dependence. Surprise people with strength of character. Surprise people with your lack of hate in a hate saturated society. Surprise people with humility. Surprise people with comfort when they are hurting. Surprise people with love.

Because baby girl, this world needs to be surprised and you’ve been surprising us from the start. Don’t stop now.

Happy happy 1st birthday my sweet baby Brynn.

Mama loves you.

 

 

“You are protected, in short, by your ability to love.” -Albus Dumbledorebrynn

Guilty Un-Guilt

I went to a conference for work a couple months ago. It was in a city a couple hours away so we were put up in the Embassy Suites for two nights. It was quite a fun trip, despite it being a “working” trip. My co-workers and I (3 other fun girls) road tripped it in a company van, went out to eat on the company, enjoyed the free food, drinks and massages the hotel had to offer, and got to attend the Crisis Prevention Conference put on by our boss. It was very relaxing.

Of course I did have to sneak off every few hours to my room to pump milk for my 4month old I left at home with Daddy and Didi (David’s mom). And I did so happily.  Both the pumping and leaving Brynn at home.

Yes, you read that right. I was happy to leave my precious, happy, smiling, joy-inducing 4month old baby girl at home for two nights and 2.5 days. I looked forward to it for days before and enjoyed every minute of it.  I got two nights of completely uninterrupted sleep in a giant bed all to myself. I didn’t get any spit up or snot rubbed on me.  I didn’t change one poopy diaper.  I didn’t have to plan my wardrobe based on if it would be easy to nurse in public. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

That is until the guilty un-guilt started.

At one point during the conference my boss introduced us to the attendees so they would know who they could ask for extra copies of their slide print-outs and who to complain to when the coffee ran out. When she got to me she said “This is Kiley. She left her brand-new baby at home to come help out.” This elicited many “awws” and I smiled and waved.  At the break, people kept coming up to me saying “Oh honey, I’m sorry you had to leave your baby! We appreciate you being here.” And “I remember trips like these, feeling guilty the whole time for having to leave my babies” and “Oh my goodness, I can’t believe you left a baby that young! Who is watching her??” I started responding with “Oh it’s ok, it’s a nice break.” And “She goes to daycare during the day anyway and my husband is loving some extra daddy-daughter time at night.”  But those responses were usually met with confused and concerned faces so I just started smiling and saying “Let me know if I can answer any questions for you.”  One lady actually asked me “Don’t you feel guilty? I would feel so guilty.” With my face reddening I politely said something along the lines like “gotta do what you gotta do” while thinking “Well I didn’t feel guilty until now. Thanks.”   At lunch, one of my coworkers said “Dang, maybe you should pretend to feel guilty…I think most moms do when they leave their kids.”

And then I started feeling guilty. I still didn’t feel guilty for enjoying myself and leaving her at home, but I felt guilty for not feeling guilty.  Apparently being a good mom is feeling guilty for wanting to sleep without a baby monitor by your head. Apparently being a good mom is feeling guilty for enjoying your work and the little perks that come with the job.  Apparently being a good mom is feeling guilty for trusting other people to take good care of your baby.  Apparently, guilt is a quality of a good mom.

Except I don’t believe that.

I’m not sure why we as moms/parents think it necessary to give each other unsolicited “advice,” or share experiences in ways that are blatantly judgey or just passive aggressive “you need to do this if you want to be a good parent.”  Even the statement “Enjoy every minute now because they grow so fast” bothers me now because when you don’t (not if…when) it implies you are not doing your duty as a parent. It makes you feel like you are being ungrateful for one of the best things in your life, even if your heart is in actuality bursting with love and gratitude but your mind is not “enjoying” the wailing at 3am.  As I’m learning, motherhood is hard enough without the self-doubt that can creep in when someone questions something you are or are not doing. Hard enough without the shrinking feeling that can spring on you when someone says “well my baby never did that,” or “if you try this, that probably won’t happen.” God did not leave us very many specific instructions on parenting, so let’s stop trying to force our own Parenting Ten (or 100) Commandments on each other.

I personally think I’ve done a pretty good job as a mom so far ( I know I know “wait until they are two blah blah blah”).  I work full time and enjoy working. I am starting grad school in the fall so I will also be a full time student and am already reading my textbooks because I am so excited to be learning again. And I don’t feel guilty. I don’t feel guilty that I’ll probably wean Brynn from exclusively breastfeeding before she is a year old. I don’t feel guilty that I don’t enjoy breastfeeding and pumping. I don’t feel guilty that I get annoyed when Brynn pinches me, even though I know it’s not on purpose. I don’t feel guilty for not liking poopy diapers. I don’t feel guilty that it took us awhile to let her “cry it out.” Or that we sleep trained “wrong” because we both had to get up at 630 to go to work and just wanted some sleep.  I don’t feel guilty for putting her in daycare even though “you can’t trust any daycares.”   And you know what?

I don’t think I should feel guilty.

You know why? Because while at work I log in to the daycare cam and smile when I see Brynn trying to get the other babies to play with her. Because walking in to the daycare at 4:30 and seeing her light up when she sees me is the highlight of my day.  Because she will grow up knowing work and school are viable options for a woman/mom. Because it doesn’t matter how I feed my baby, she is fed. Because I change her diapers even though I don’t enjoy it.  Because she sleeps. Because I thank God every single day for this little person I don’t deserve to be a parent to.  Because when I got home from that  work trip, the first thing I did was go in Brynn’s room, pick her up and bask in the evident love and affection she has for me. I looked at her smiling and giggling, reaching her hands out to caress my face as she bounced back and forth in excitement because her Mama was home. Because she loves her Mama. Because she knows her Mama loves her. And I will not feel guilty about that.

One MiniMe to the Next

When you announce to people you are going to be giving birth in the next 9 months, they suddenly become very interested in your life. I’m not talking about just family and close friends; no, I’m talking everyone. Questions people would never dream of asking become ok and your answers become almost like “rights” people have since they know you in some capacity. “How are you feeling” aka “Have you been throwing up daily/ do you have hemorrhoids from being constipated yet?” somehow slips into conversations about work or casually over dinner. “Were you trying, or was it a surprise” aka “Were you and your husband intentionally having sex to procreate, or was it just a night of passion that now you will always remember because a baby was conceived?” is asked by grandma, grocery store cashiers, aunts, co-workers, siblings, someone you went to college with whom you haven’t spoken to literally in years; as if the most intimate thing between you and your spouse is now an acceptable discussion topic. And if you decline to answer, there are looks of indignation and outrage at your insensitivity to their God and American given right to know! There are others, such as “ Are you going to quit your job” that can have different meanings depending on who is asking: “Are you going to embrace your womanly duty and devote every waking moment to the child you are bringing into the world like you should?” or “Are you seriously giving up your career and dreams for someone who is just going to take take take from you?” or maybe they really are just curious. All these types of questions (and plenty more…) are ones that no matter how many times you answer them, are still a little uncomfortable to answer and you may fumble over words, making the whole experience that much more awkward, but you do it with a smile on your face because people are excited for you, and that’s just how pregnancy goes. At least this has been my experience thus far in the 19 weeks I’ve been pregnant. So when people asked me the one question I knew a sure answer to, I was relieved; “Do you want a boy or a girl?” My immediate response every time? “A boy.” “Why?” they ask. “Because I’m terrified of having a girl.”

Now the irony to this is that this question, although seemingly innocent enough is really the only one on the list that actually matters. Who cares if you get morning sickness, or don’t. It is no one’s business how your child was conceived and really at this point, it doesn’t matter because you are having a kid whether it was “planned” or not. It is also really no one else’s concern if you are going to quit your job or keep working – you are the parent so it’s your decision and responsibility to do what’s right for your family. However, this question that asks “Do you want the responsibility of raising a boy or a girl in the current society” is one that should give us pause, or at least cause us as soon-to-be parents to think beyond what color we prefer to decorate with. Not that our preference has anything to do with the outcome (in most cases), but really this should make us think even more. It should make us want to prepare as best as possible for the challenges and joys that will inevitably come with each gender.

As David and I sat in the ultrasound room and heard our tech accidentally say “Her arms are covering her face” then watched in amazement as she pointed out the proof that inside my belly is in fact a tiny little girl with tiny little hands and a tiny little heart- my normal sized heart skipped a beat in a moment of fear and I said “how sure are you??” When she said “I am 99.99999% sure you are having a girl,” I looked at David and saw reflected in his eyes what I was suddenly feeling: pure joy.

I had walked into the room with the feeling we would be having a girl precisely because for years I have always said, “If I’m having kids, I want all boys.” I had always said this because I am not a “girly girl,” I was so bad at ballet as a kid my parents took me out and put me in soccer. I had my mom take me to the hair cut store so I could get all my hair chopped off so I didn’t have to worry about putting clips or bows in it, and so it wouldn’t get in my face while I kicked butt in soccer. My friends were primarily boys through elementary school and to them I am eternally grateful for teaching me to make fart noises with my hands. I cared none for school dances in middle school, but prided myself in winning the Constitution Team competition and tutoring elementary school kids. I couldn’t stand the girls in high school who obsessed in the mirror over their make up or boys and instead chose to spend my time being a straight A student who also played field hockey. I didn’t go on a date until college, and that was fine with me. I didn’t kiss anyone until I was 18, something that was again, fine with me. I knew I didn’t need a boyfriend. I knew I could be successful and happy on my own because I WAS successful and happy. In college I continued to get A’s, make friends and enjoy life. I liked myself. I told myself I didn’t need to get married, and probably wouldn’t. I did a semester in the mountains because I love to learn and love to backpack. I climbed half dome in Yosemite. I taught the other girls how to poop in the woods. I was told my confidence was intimidating, and I was proud of that. I did meet a boy, but we were equals. Best friends. I did fall in love, and I said “I love you” first. I knew what I wanted and wasn’t afraid to tell him. I did leave him for a semester to study at Oxford University- by myself. I did get married, but our marriage is one of equality and love, not based on roles or expectations based on our titles of “wife” and “husband.” We went to China for a year leaving friends and family behind. And loved it. We both work full time now and enjoy working. David does the dishes and laundry more than I do. I can barely cook. David is kind and caring and asks my opinion about things and genuinely wants to know. We have fun together. We respect each other. As equals. I still like myself and still have a level of self-confidence bordering on pride. I may curl my hair now, and wear make up occasionally. I may be pregnant, but do not use it as an excuse to get people to cater to my beck and call, nor use it as an excuse to shirk my duties of being half of a 2 person marriage. I will not be quitting my job when the baby is born. I will be going camping in a few weeks and am extremely excited. I still find bodily functions hilarious and am not ashamed of this fact. I can currently feel my baby kicking me and while I think it is incredible, it creeps me out a little as well. I am not a typical wife, and definitely not a typical woman. All this had caused me previously to think: what would I know about being Mom to a girl? About being the most influential female figure in her life? I am nothing like what society defines a “girl.”

But I realized in the split second after hearing “It’s a girl” all of this is exactly why I am equipped to raise a girl. All of this is precisely why when I left the ultrasound room, I was no longer terrified of raising a girl but extremely proud and excited to have the opportunity to teach my daughter how to be a strong, independent, intelligent woman. I do know how to be a girl. The exact kind of girl I want my daughter to be. Just like my mom. All of this is why I can’t wait for our daughter to be born.

And so to you daughter I say this: When you are an infant I will dress you how I want to dress you. But once you can talk and tell me your preference, I will take you to ballet, or I will take you to roller hockey. I will buy you a Barbie doll or hot wheels- or both. I will let you wear ruffle socks with cargo shorts and a t shirt but I will also let you wear skirts and headbands. I will take you to get your hair chopped off, or I will braid your long locks and put bows at the ends of each braid. I will be at your softball games, or at your soccer games, or at your tennis match, or at your fencing match, or swim meet, or chess game, or your American football game. I will never tell you that you can’t do something because it’s not “girly.” I will tell you I love you more than you want to hear it. I will allow you to do things on your own- and as much as I won’t want to, I will allow you to fail. I will allow you to fall down and scrape your knees, but I will also be there to put a band-aid on it until you can do it yourself. I will not let you win at games. I will tell you when you are good at something and encourage you to keep working at things if you can’t quite get it. I will demonstrate self-confidence and self-like so you will love yourself and be confident in who you are. I will remind you over and over that God’s opinion is the only one that matters- not the other girls or boys at school. I will go prom dress shopping with you or support your decision to boycott prom. I will not talk down about my body or myself because I know you will be taking cues from me on how to view yourself. I will laugh with you. I will laugh at you. I will make you do chores. I will take you on mom-daughter lunch dates to Carl’s Jr and laugh at the regulars we see every time we go in. I will be there when you call me crying from college and tell you to go outside because you will love the sun as much as me. I will lovingly use sarcasm with you, but if it hurts your feelings I will be sensitive. I will go wedding dress shopping with you and laugh if the dress looks ridiculous. I will also go apartment hunting with you if you live by yourself or never get married. I will tell you that you are worth it. I will tell you that you can do it. I will push you to be the very best you can. I will feel sad when you study abroad or live in a foreign country but will encourage you to have life experiences. I will not coddle you. I will instill in you strength and power. I will not shelter you from the world, but instead introduce the world to you and tell it to get ready.

How do I know these things will work? Because I remember all the things my mom did and still does. I saw how she carried herself as I grew up and still carries herself: with confidence and self-assurance. I remember the things she said to me, the things she did for me, and the things she taught me by example. These are those things. And now those things are manifested in my very character.

So yes little one, I was terrified that I wouldn’t know how to be Mom to a “girl.” But I know now I can raise a girl who will turn into a Godly woman your father and I will be proud of. Because I am a woman and I will show you.

-KH-