Human Mary, Being a Human Mom

My grandfather made us a wooden nativity ornament set the first year my husband and I got married and I’ve put the pieces hodge podge on our tree every year since that first year 7 Christmases ago.  Maybe I’d pause to make sure the Baby Jesus piece was somewhere it could be seen instead of hidden in the back, but maybe not. I definitely didn’t give the other pieces a second thought as I found places for them all over the tree.  This year, however, when I pulled Mary out of the box, with my 4-year-old unwrapping ornaments next to me and my 18mo old pulling the ornaments off the tree just as fast as they were going up, I paused.  I saw that figure kneeling in her nondescript robes and pictured Mary as a mom.  Yes, I’ve always known Mary was the mother of Jesus, and I’ve marveled at the obedience of her words, “let it be,” but not often have I stopped to picture, really picture, her as a mom.  Not the Holy Mother, but “mom.”  As I pulled that little Mary out of the box and found a place for her on the tree, I started thinking. I started picturing. I started picturing Mary as the human Mom that she was.  Jesus was fully human and fully God, but Mary? She was fully human. An extraordinary human, no doubt, but human nonetheless.

The verses in Luke that are read every year state quickly, “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” As I have had the extreme privilege of being pregnant and given birth two times myself, I began to think about those verses and what they actually mean as a human woman, and I started picturing Mary.

I pictured that human Mary gazing at the stretch marks adorning her growing belly, tracing them with her fingers as she pictured the tiny nose she would soon be tracing.  I pictured Mary tossing and turning at night, wadding up extra linens to support her sore back as she tried to sleep.  I pictured Mary giggling like the girl she was, when the baby in her belly kicked and rolled, causing her skin to ripple like the dessert sand on a windy day.  I pictured Mary, large and uncomfortable asking Joseph to help her strap the sandals around her swollen feet as they got ready to make the 90mile trek to Bethlehem. I pictured Mary telling Joseph they had to stop so she could pee…again.  I pictured Mary feeling the first contractions, knowing it would soon be time.  I pictured Mary, slightly panicked as the pain intensified and the alarms in her brain started going off, her voice tense and choppy between contractions, pleading with Joseph to find a place, any place, they could stop.  I pictured Mary telling Joseph the stable was fine, telling him to hurry, telling him it hurt-so-bad. I pictured Mary moaning in pain as her sweaty body rocked back and forth with the back to back contractions.  I pictured Mary feel the tell tale pressure, eyes wide with fright, pain and excitement as she gasped to Joseph – “He’s coming.” 

And oh, I pictured Mary, human as I, grunt with the guttural, instinctual cry of physically pushing life out into the world.  I pictured her half laughing, half crying as she held her son for the first time on her chest.  I pictured her trying to get him to latch, and picture her wincing when the latch isn’t quite right.  I pictured her wearily waking in the night to feed her babe as Joseph lay peacefully sleeping on the hay a few feet away.  I pictured her changing his swaddling cloths in the night, shushing him back to sleep while she paced the inside of that stable, rocking him gently in her arms, feeling her heart explode with love so pure and so profound it was a little scary.  I pictured her pondering these things in that heart.

I picture all this and more. Mary tired for weeks on end.  Mary beaming with pride over her boy learning to walk.  Mary crying quietly by herself because her son was growing so fast and she knew he was destined for greatness beyond her.  Mary as a toddler mom being frustrated that her cooking wasn’t received well at every meal. Mary realizing in panic that her tween was missing.  Mary as a mom of a teenage boy.  Mary having all the mixed emotions as she saw crowds start to follow her boy.  Mary at the cross.  Human mom Mary, wailing with despair over her son.  That little baby she held in her arms only 33 short years before in the stable on that first Christmas night – being hung up before her eyes. Dying before her eyes.  Her baby.  Yes, the Savior of the World, but also, her sweet baby boy.  I wonder, did her moans of pain as she watched the life leave her son’s eyes sound reminiscent of the moans of pain that ushered in that same life?  I can’t imagine. 

Mary – chosen by God to be Mom, in all her humanness, to the Messiah. To Emmanuel. When she gasped those words to Joseph, “He’s coming” she was gasping to the World. She knew, as she snuggled her babe and breathed in his intoxicating newborn scent, that He was not hers alone, or hers to keep, and yet… she was his mom. What a profound gift and a profound burden for a human woman to carry.

May we, as humans, as women, as moms, learn from Mary.  Learn how to demonstrate humility and grace in this role we’ve been given as moms.  Learn to love without bounds and without restraint, the littles we have been given on this Earth.  And let us remember, they are not ours alone, nor are they ours to keep.  May we surrender their little hearts and big futures to the One who formed them. 

And may we trust our role of “mom” to the One who knew the pain Mary would endure as a flawed human in her role, but also knew the great capacity for love that human heart beating in her chest held and so entrusted her with His very own son sent to redeem us all.

Using our words for good

Words. I’ve always been good with words. Good in the sense that I’ve always been comfortable with them. Comfortable with letting them slip off my tongue, or fingers, and watching them fly. Sometimes for the good, but sometimes not.

In school. My English essays came home with “A” printed on the top with little notes saying, “Great imagery!” Or, “Can I use this as an example in my next class?” But my report cards came home with little notes listed on the side saying, “talks too much.” Or, “can be a distraction.”

At home. I knew how to tell a story without leaving out any details, and quip one liners to keep the family in stitches. I also knew how to poke at insecurities and say just the right thing to set my sister off, earning us both “verbal time outs” or a stern, “Sarcasm doesn’t make you smart,” from my parents.

With friends. I could cheer up and encourage when life got rough, bringing love and validation. Then turn around and spout out judgmental lines about how a classmate smells, just to earn a couple laughs.

You see, I’ve always been good with words, but I have not always used my words for good.

And words are powerful.

I’ve done my fair share of growing up since high school and like to think that I’ve tightened the reign on my tongue, at least a little. I’m in a profession where I have the immense honor of listening to peoples’ stories and using my words to help foster hope in their lives. I write for fun, but also with the desire that my words can be used as a balm on someone’s hurt or confusion- helping them to know they are not alone. I do my best to speak love and life into and over my kids, using my words to point them to Jesus and let them know they are safe and loved.

I TRY to use my words for good now. Do I slip up? Yes. Do I find myself wishing I could take back some snide remark or sarcastic response? Absolutely. Do I speak harshly to my husband and my children? Unfortunately, more often than I’d like to admit.

But, I’m making an intentional effort to TRY to heed James’ warning in the Bible about the, “world of evil amongst the parts of the body.”

Because words are so so powerful. They can be used for great and magnificent works- or they can be used for destruction and chaos.

The apostle John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And in Genesis, God “Spoke” the world into existence.

words.are.power.

Words birth creations into existence.

It is up to us what type of creations we are bringing forth into this fallen world by way of our words. Are we speaking words of encouragement to help build people up? Or are we spewing out criticisms and judgments to tear people down?

That little “thing” you had to tell your friend… Was it celebratory news that’s birthing admiration for a mutual friend? Or was it gossip about someone you have a problem with that you allow to burst forth like spider eggs hatching from your mouth to scurry around, spreading filth and pain and distrust?

Use your words to create powerful love and acceptance.

Use your words to bring peace and healing.

Use your words to bring light and life into dark places of hurt and sadness.

And friends, if we use our tongues to praise Jesus as our savior- please please, let’s be intentional about using our words to point people to that savior, instead of turning them away.

Let’s not just be good with words, let’s use them for good.

💙Kiley

Being #mama to my Girly Wild Child

When I found out I was pregnant with my first kid, I was TERRIFIED that we were going to have a girl. I have never been girly and was sure I wouldn’t know how to be a “girl mom.” I envisioned pink bows and glitter strewn about the house. I pictured prim lace and gracefully crossed legs. I dreaded day long tea parties and whining about dirt. I thought of princesses and unicorns and mourned neglected dinosaurs and trucks. The list went on. And because I had all these thoughts, I knew in my deepest heart that I was for sure going to end up with all girls. Ridiculous, I know. I logically understood that there was a 50/50 shot, but I knew I would have girls.

Sure enough, that gender revealing ultrasound confirmed my fears- we were having a little girl. Now, those fears almost instantly dissipated once we heard, “It’s a girl!” because let’s be real, I was already in love with that little girl. But I was still a bit apprehensive. I saw the #girlmom attached to all the sweet, pink posts and the #boymom attached to all the high energy, adventurous posts and wondered how I was going to make it. I told myself over and over that I would be ok- I knew how to braid hair and was prepared to let my little girl be whatever version of “girl” she wanted to be- even if that meant tea parties in princess dresses all day long.

That was 4 years ago. And I wish I could tell that pregnant mama that she had nothing to worry about. I wish I could tell her how incredibly cool her girls – yes, plural – would be. I wish I could tell her that in four years, she would look around her house and see pink bows on the counter and glittery sequences stuck to the floor that had fallen off of a cheap Ariel dress-up costume — and she would love it. I wish I could tell her that along with the pink bows, she sees helicopter toys in the toy box and dinosaur stuffed animals on the couch. I wish I could tell her that the 3.5 year old practically lives in princess dresses and tutus, but wears them while running full speed everywhere, daring the world to tell her to slow down. I wish I could tell her that tooting and burping and an obsession with the word “booty” were all in her future despite the lack of sons. I wish I could tell her that the words “calm” and “prim” would never be used in the same sentence as her first-born’s name. I wish I could tell her that the daycare teachers would comment on the mixture of leadership and empathy they saw in that ringlet-headed little girl. I wish I could tell her to hang on tight because that Mama had no idea what was coming in the form of that 9lb 11ozs of pure baby girl.

I think back to that time and chuckle at the stereotypes I was worried about, even though I didn’t fit them myself as a kid. I chuckle because many of them are half true in our household, and it is so much fun. I also chuckle because I can’t tell you how many times people tell me once they know I have two girls (3.5 and 1), “Aw, two girls! Girls are so much calmer and sweeter than boys.” Or even, “Girls are a lot easier than boys.” And maybe those assumptions would withstand a wide reaching, randomized research study, but it doesn’t hold true in our house. It doesn’t apply to my 110% energy filled, adventure seeking, dirt loving, snail collecting, sister hauling, FIESTY little girl.

I proudly wear the label #girlmom, but I know from experience what an all-encompassing title that really is. I smile when I see #girlmom on the tea party posts, because my little girl does love herself a tea party. But I also smile when I see the #boymom posts about finding toy cars in the dryer or bugs in pockets, because to me, that also falls under my #girlmom status. And I think that is so so cool. I think my precious girls are so so cool. And mostly, I think it is so so cool that God made them exactly unique, and exactly in His image.How fun that the Creator of all things thought to give me, tom-boy turned #girlmom, a blond, curly headed little girl who loves to wear her batman jacket with built in mask over her pink tutu on ballet day.

How fun that He knew I would be the best #girlmom to that boisterous little human who puts snails in the pockets of her dress then stands up and straightens the tiara perched upon her head.

Whenever I wonder if I’m up to the challenge of raising a “girly wild child,” I think about this and it gives me confidence and strength. Confidence to be the #girlmom that our Creator created me to be for these specifically unique little girls.

I hope it gives you confidence too, fellow Mama. Because whether you are a #girlmom, #boymom or #momofboth, your children just know you as #MAMA. And that is so so cool.

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 😉

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

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-