Mama arms are strong, but Mama hearts are stronger

Mama arms are strong.
They carry and carry, lift and lift.
Making sure babies are held and toddlers corralled.
Muscles defined like never before.

Mama arms are strong.
They carry and carry, lift and lift.
Making sure lunches are made and backpacks are packed.
Loaded with bags as she heads out the door.

Mama arms are strong.
They carry and carry, lift and lift.
Making sure sheets are bought and pictures are hung.
Embracing in the dorm as she whispers, “Just one more”.

Mama arms are strong.
They carry and carry, lift and lift.
Making sure wedding details are sorted and hearts are at peace.
Wiping her eyes as the pair grace the dance floor.

Mama arms are strong.

But one day those physical arms won’t be needed to carry, won’t be able to lift.

And that is just fine.
Because those strong Mama arms?
They do their job well, but they merely represent.

Represent the strength and love of a Mama’s heart.

Because Mama hearts –
They carry and carry, lift and lift.

Carrying their babies close forever, no matter how big.
Lifting their love to the heavens to pour down on their kids, no matter how far.

Mama arms are strong, but only because the love in Mama hearts is far stronger.

And that strength lasts for always.

The sanctification process that is the postpartum period

sanc·ti·fy (v)

present participle- sanctifying

Webter’s Dictionary defines this word as:

“set apart as or declare holy; consecrate”

“to impart or impute sacredness, inviolability, or respect to”

“to purify”

I gave birth to my third baby two and a half weeks ago so I am in the throes of the postpartum period – or the 4th trimester, as it’s often called.

Diapers overflow the trashcans in basically every room.

Spit up is on virtually every shirt I own, and every onesie he wears.

Giant pads still grace our bathroom, alongside the squirt bottle sitting next to the toilet.

Stitches, not yet dissolved, a physical reminder of the force a 10lb6oz baby has when making his way through the birth canal and into the world head-first.

Lanolin cream stashed in all the common nursing spots, to hopefully prevent the cracks and blood that accompanied my previous two nursing journeys.

Sleep coming in two to three hour stretches, bleary eyes half open as I answer the midnight cries of the babe by my bedside.

This is not my first time experiencing the postpartum period.

But, it is my first time seeing it as sanctifying.

“To purify.”

As I rock my sweet babe in the middle of the night, clad in giant pad and spit-up crusted nursing tank – I am being purified.

As I sit out from the pool until my stitches have healed, with my guy strapped to my chest, perfect lips trembling in the way only newborn lips can – I am being purified.

As I do the tenth load of laundry in a week, in between cuddles and snuggles, the scent of laundry soap mixing with that distinct baby smell that only lasts so long – I am being purified.

As work is put on hold, the general busyness of life comes to a slow crawl, but the hours in the day are long and repetitive – I am being purified.

As I have to tell my daughters I can’t play with them right now, but witness them dote lovingly on their brother – I am being purified.

Purified from selfishness. My body, time, and energy are devoted to caring for the wee one that depends on me for survival.

Purified from pride. Motherhood is the ultimate humbler, reminding me I can’t do it all and help is to be accepted.

Purified from busyness. Slowness is forced upon me, and it is a gift.

Purification and sanctification.

So, yes, this 4th trimester? It is intense. It is messy. It is painful. It is exhausting.

But, oh. It is healing. It is beautiful. It is love-filled.

It is sacred.

And for it, I am exceedingly thankful.

Babies aren’t babies for long, so I’m gonna hold this last one a little bit longer.

My first baby and my almost-here-3rd-baby.

There’s something surreal about discovering your first baby’s first loose tooth the same week you hit 38weeks of pregnancy with your 3rd baby.

Like, that first baby tooth could fall out the very same week that 3rd baby is born.

A wide gap tooth smile meeting a gummy one- one kid already having outgrown the very tooth the other has yet to even begin to grow.

The unexpected full circle-ness hit me in the gut as I stared at my “baby”’s excited face right as I felt a tiny fist punch me in the hip.

Just one more shock to the heart and confirmation that my first baby is slowly, but much too quickly, putting more and more distance between who she is now and the day when she resided safely in my body.

That distance will just keep growing, as she starts Kindergarten the same week the new little one will go to daycare for the first time – in 4 short months.

I stare at her as she dances with so much fire and personality in our living room- with more rhythm than I’ve ever had- and see her as the couple week old baby who couldn’t keep her pudgy legs from moving to the beat.

I watch her help her two-year old sister “do gymnastics” in the backyard and clearly remember her curly little head jumping courageously from the stairs as an unusually coordinated toddler, demonstrating the fearlessness she still exhibits today.

I see these things happening as I rub my, now huge, belly and can’t help but think God knew what He was doing when he graced us with this new little guy – right when He did.

I’ll have a new tiny sidekick to rock and read “That’s not my Monkey” to, as my big girl starts to read books on her own.

I’ll experience the joy of watching wobbly legs take their first steps as I watch long, strong legs walk confidently across the balance beam at gymnastics.

I’ll have one more time of experiencing the all encompassing dependence on me, right as my first born needs me less and less.

With this almost-here-3rd baby, I’ll experience his firsts and know just how incredibly special and fleeting they are. Marveling in a way I didn’t know to with my first baby’s firsts, and didn’t have the time or energy to with my second baby’s firsts.

And as his little baby teeth start to pop through those pink gums, I’ll see a glimpse of the future as I look over at his big sister and see her first grown up tooth popping up at the same time.

I’ll see these things and feel my heart burst with pride and love and all the things a Mama heart feels as she watches her babies grow up before her eyes.

And I’ll squeeze that new little baby even harder, and hold him a little longer.

Because I know first hand how fast my babies lose that title of “baby” to everyone but me.

Becoming Mama to someone new – Can you ever actually be ready?

“Are you ready?”

They see my large, round belly and waddling gait at 37 weeks and ask.

I think about the logistical things they could be referring to and say, “Almost. We should probably buy a few more diapers. And pack the hospital bag.” Because this is the 3rd baby and eh, it’ll be fine.

“Are you ready?”

They see me loading my 2 little girls into our van and ask.

I think about adding another little to our crew and say, “We are excited! The girls are excited to have a little brother. I think they’ll be a big help. Just need to put the infant carseat in the car.”

“Are you ready?”

They hear me mention work and ask.

I think about the projects I’m passing off and the 12 weeks of unpaid time off I’m taking and say, “I’m ready to not work for a bit, but still can’t believe my company doesn’t have any paid time off.  Good thing I’ve got some time saved up!”

“Are you ready?”

They remember my previous 2 birth stories and ask.

I think about the birth course I’ve taken, the app I listen to every night, and the 300 page book I’ve read  in an attempt to calm my nerves and be as prepared as possible this time around and say, “Actually, I’m way more prepared for labor and birth than I was with the other two so I’m feeling hopeful!”

“Are you ready?”

I hear this question over and over now, and usually answer it with some half answer like the ones above.

Not quite sure what the asker means.

And not quite sure how to honestly answer.

Because this isn’t my first time buying diapers and pacifiers in anticipation of midnight changings and fussy cries.

It isn’t my first time anticipating the pain and frustration of breastfeeding during those early days/weeks/months wondering if I’m doing something wrong.

It isn’t my first time organizing tiny clothes, thinking there is no way a human could fit into anything so small, only to be surprised when it fits just right.

It isn’t my first time giving birth, or recovering from the huge physical, mental and emotional feat that is childbirth.

It isn’t my first time adjusting to an additional child, feeling torn between wanting to spend as much time with the first kid as before, but needing to tend to the new one instead.

I’ve done all these things. Most of them twice.

So you’d think, the answer to the question at hand would be an easier, “yes!”

And maybe for those things listed above, that’s true.

But…

“Are you ready?”

My mama heart knows.

It knows that those things above, while important and huge and sometimes overwhelming, are not the biggest adjustment of having a child.

Because it isn’t my first time.

Not my first time having my heart ripped from my chest to forever walk around outside my body, in the same surge of power and guttural cry that marks the end of a nine month oneness with another human being.

Not my first time feeling an instant love, almost terrifyingly powerful, mixed with slight panic as I gaze down and realize this tiny person snoozing in my arms is 100% reliant on me.

Not my first time rocking and praying in the wee hours of the night that I will be the best Mama possible to this little soul entrusted to me on this Earth.

Not my first time feeling comingled grief and pride as I watch my baby become a toddler and my toddler become a child, seemingly in an instant.

No, this isn’t my first time.

Not my first time becoming “Mama” to someone new.

And somehow, that makes me less sure of the answer to the question.

“Are you ready?

Because, my Mama heart knows.

There’s no way to actually be ready for the transformation that takes place in your heart, mind, and soul when a tiny person looks up at you for the first time –

As their Mama.

My heart will always be your home, little one.

I feel you in there, little one.

Gentle, but there all the same.

A jolt here, a tickle there – reminding me of your miraculous presence inside my body.

Soon, your daddy will be able to feel your kicks with his hand and your sisters will squeal as they see my belly rumble and rise.

But for now, you and your life-proving acrobatics are all mine.

I see you there, little one.

Just a little bump, but there all the same.

Trusty jeans not fitting, favorite shirts stretching out – my slowly expanding body evidence of your own rapid growth.

Soon, strangers will ask to feel my obviously pregnant belly, flowy shirts no longer obscuring the life within.

But for now, my subtly rounded tummy is mine to wonder over and relish in.

I imagine you in there, little one.

Your tiny facial features hidden from the world, but there all the same.

Will your eyes be expressive and kind like your sister’s? Will you have your daddy’s smile?

Soon, your face will be ooh’d and ahh’d over by family and strangers alike, the focus of much adoration.

But for now, the details of you are known by my imagination alone.

My heart beats for you all the while, little one.

From the moment I saw the tiny “+” indicating your presence, you’ve been a part of me.

My heart pumping blood through our bodies, keeping us connected and alive.

My Mama soul whispering to yours in the confines of our hearts and wee hours of the night.

We have a special bond, you and me.

So, while I will rejoice when you are here in my arms and I get to share you with the world, I am cherishing these months where you are mine and mine alone. 

I pray you feel my love, little one.

Gentle and strong, there all the while.

For now, while my body is your home.

But also for always, because as long as it’s beating-

My heart will be your home, my sweet little one.

I get it now, Mama.

I get it now, Mama.

The sad face you wrote on your menu plan for the day we all left.

The day your kids got back in their cars and drove further and further from you to their homes they no longer share with you or each other.

I get it now, Mama.

When your oldest asked if you wrote that sad face and you answered with a shy little smile, “I didn’t think anyone would see it.”

The little sad face meant just for you and your Mama heart.

I get it now, Mama.

Your excited welcome at the familiar front door as we all piled in after days in the car and months apart.

The toy boxes ready and sheets all laid out.

I get it now, Mama.

Your lack of complaint as the babies woke the house in the middle of the night.

Your willingness to rise early with excited wee ones so your daughter could rest.

I get it now, Mama.

The trips to the park and the favorite foods.

Your fridge stocked as full as the rooms in the house.

I get it now, Mama.

I get why you wrote that little sad face at the end of the trip.

Your babies were all home. Under your roof once again – laughing and joking like days long gone.

And then they all left.

Now that I have babes of my own- I get it now, Mama.

The sadness that must still bring – to see your babies buckle their babies in car seats and drive far far away.

I get it now, Mama.

And some day, if my babies are grown and live 1,000 miles away, I know I will prep and plan for their visit to make it the best of the year.

Then when they all leave, I’ll write a little sad face as my heart twinges inside no matter how proud I am of the lives they all lead.

Because once you’re a Mama, your heart is no longer your own. A piece goes with each baby no matter how far they go.

So, I get it now, Mama.

The little sad face.

But don’t worry, Mama.

I’ll always come back. To your house that was my home.

Because that piece of your heart that lives within mine?

It’s a tether of souls that continues to grow. And as I get older and my own babies grow, my understanding of your love for me as my Mama deepens and expands.

I get it now, Mama.

The love so great and so pure it makes you write a little sad face when your babies are all gone.

Oh Mama, I get it now.

Take the blurry picture, from those moments come memories

When I think back on this season of motherhood, this season of my children’s childhood, I know I’m going to remember it like this.

Blurry. Unfiltered. Greasy Haired. Tired Eyed.

I could try to pose and pre-set, and maybe achieve a pretty feed, that thanks to technology will probably be there for me to look back at in a few years. But that wouldn’t match the memories that will be fighting to maintain real estate in my ever-filling brain.

My memories of that cheese crusted still-chubby-for-now cheek squished against mine in elated excitement to be taking a picture with Mama. My memories of that tiny arm reaching around my neck, sticky fingers tangling in my hair as the minuscule muscles flex, forcing my head up and my mouth to smile. Memories of a pure kind of joy that comes from being so unequivocally loved and adored by these little people that carry around such a big piece of my heart.

And why would I want to alter those memories? Why would I want to filter out the cheese and angle down the ferocity of the hug?

These are the little things that make this season of motherhood so messy- yes -but they are also the little things that make it so so special.

They are the things that make it memorable.

So, I’ll keep squishing the crusty cheeks and I’ll keep taking the blurry pictures.

I owe it to my future self to do my best to capture as much crust and joy as I can in both pictures and memories.

Because I know there will come a time, soon, when memories and pictures will be all I have left of this crusty, wonderful season.

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.