Restful Chaos

The past three and a half years have been one long busy season. Busy as in: working full time with one baby, then adding full time graduate school, then hubby getting a second job, then getting pregnant with baby #2, then buying and remodeling a house/living with friends until a couple weeks before baby 2 was due, then having baby 2 and continuing with full time graduate school and work (while nursing and pumping this past year), while being Life Group leaders and Sunday school teachers at our church for 2 of those years. There was little sleep, lots of mac n cheese, and many moments of pure exhaustion.

When I was about 6 months pregnant with baby girl 2, our oldest was 2 and we were in the middle of our house reno/living with gracious friends phase, there was a 2 week period that the exhaustion was at it’s peak. At the beginning of one week, we were at the ER with our 2 year old, and in the middle of the next week we were back at the ER in the middle of the night for my husband. I remember getting home with him, taking a quick shower, getting dressed, taking our daughter to daycare, working from home while watching over the hubby, picking our daughter up, dropping her off with a friend to watch her while I was in class that night, and stopping by Starbucks for some much needed caffeine on the way to school where I would be seeing counseling clients that night. I sat outside on the bench in the Texas February sunshine with my iced coffee thinking, “This is crazy. I can’t function like this much longer.” I opened my Bible App, and looked at the plan I had started maybe 2 days before- called “Finding Balance in Life.” It was a plan that utilized an app called “Abide” (which I fully recommend!) where there was a meditative like devotional that you listen to. I sat there in the sun (which in and of itself is one of my self-care mechanisms) and listened to the trained-to-be-soothing voice of a man saying, “Are you tired? When Jesus asks us this it makes us stop and think. Are YOU tired? Do you wake up tired?” I chuckled to myself as the perfectness of the timing of this particular daily devotional was not lost on me. The voice proceeded to repeat Matthew 11:28-29- “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden. And I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

It was read in different versions, and when it read the Message version (which is usually not my fav), it translated the verse like this, “Are you tired? Worn out? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.” And that was what I needed. I didn’t need a vacation away from my busy life, or even for the busyness to end or slow down. I needed to go to the One who could give me rest in the midst of the worldly busyness that this season came with. And you know what? After that quick twenty minutes in the sun (which I 100% believe is of the ways I enter into the presence of God- enjoying and marveling at His creation), with fresh caffeine flowing through my body and the promise of rest that goes beyond 8 straight hours of sleep (what even is that?) – I did feel refreshed. Refreshed by the grace and strength of a God who loves his children. I was able to walk into my counseling sessions ready to pour into my clients with the mental energy, empathy and attention that I did not have an hour previously.

I wish I could say that throughout the next year and a half until I graduated this past month, I faithfully abided in the One who could give me the rest I so desperately craved – during midnight feedings with a baby who, despite all efforts to sleep train with allll the different methods, still wakes up at a few days from being a year old; or after a day of 8 clients back to back; or during the late nights of studying for my licensing exam that started after the girls went to bed; or during the monthly trips to the pediatrician or urgent care for chronic ear infections- but I am human and so my Bible app stayed closed many days and I tried to manage on my own. Let me tell you, those days of trying to be strong on my own, while I managed to physically do it, were not restful. But the days that I did at least try to enter into the restful presence of the ultimate Counselor, while I still felt the physical tiredness that comes from little sleep and lots of expelled energy, my mental/emotional fatigue was lessened significantly.

Jesus didn’t say, “come to me and feel ready to run a marathon” or “Pray and all your troubles and responsibilities will go away.” He doesn’t even say that he will give us physical rest- He said, “Learn from me and you will find rest for your soul.” For your SOUL. Often the stressors of life, even good stressors like babies and opportunities to pursue a career you feel is using the talents and gifts given to you, go beyond physical tiredness and cross into “soul exhaustion.” This “soul exhaustion” is what Jesus promises to help carry and alleviate- and all we have to do is go to Him. I think that going to Him looks different for all of us. For me, it means spending time meditating on the Word, listening to calm music, going for walks with the family, laughing with (at) my goofball husband, basking in the sunshine, or spending late hours at the local ihop with good friends who Jesus uses to pour into my soul. These are things that God used during these 3 years to help my soul find rest while I did hard things that I’m proud to have accomplished, but am glad are over.Since I graduated a few weeks ago, I’m done with night classes and homework assignments, and after next week I’ll be done nursing/pumping (which seriously takes a lot of time and energy!). This means that the busyness of the past 3-year season has diminished significantly. However, I’ve still got a marriage, a very spirited toddler, a baby who still wakes up at night, church responsibilities and a full time job. So, I’m going to continue to do my best to find a new balance in life while abiding in the One who can help me stave off the soul exhaustion that threatens to creep up in the busiest of seasons as well as the everyday chaos that is what we call Life.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”- -Matthew 11:28-29

Chalky Free Time

“What are you going to do with all your free time now??”

I’ve heard this question several times since graduating from grad school a couple weeks ago.  And it gives me pause. Coming out of a 3-year season where all our days and most of our nights were full of work, school and various other responsibilities- this has been my normal.  It was normal to leave the house at 7am and return at 9:55pm.  Normal to start homework or studying at 8:30pm after the girls went to bed.  Normal to realize David and I hadn’t been out by ourselves in at least a month. Normal to know that Saturday was the only day of family time we had, but it was also the only day we could run errands or try to be social.  Normal to blink and see that our newborn was 4 months old and our 3 year old could tie things. This was normal.  So now that I’ve graduated and no longer have night classes, or homework, or just the mental knowledge that there was something else I should/could be doing for school- there has been an adjustment to a “new normal.”

A new normal of going to the same job every day and coming straight home afterwards with time to play before dinner.  A new normal where Friday night movie nights do not end with me studying.  A new normal of being home for all bedtimes. A new normal of being able to write for fun on a Saturday morning while the baby naps and Dada and Brynn are out riding bikes with friends. A new normal of being able to hang out with our sweet sweet foster nieces and nephew and their incredible parents.  A new normal of prioritizing date night at least every other week.  So when people would ask during those first couple days/weeks what I’m going to do with “all my free time” there was a little voice inside saying, “should I be doing something else besides working full time and actually spending my evenings coloring the sidewalk with chalk and attempting to actually cook some dinners?”  Should I pick up a hobby? Should I enroll Brynn in a community dance class? Should I join a gym (ok, I probably should exercise)? Maybe I should volunteer more?  Should I start driving for Uber to make some extra money? People kept saying I had all this new free time so clearly I should be doing something more…right?

One day David said something to me out of blue along these lines, “Don’t feel like you need to rush into picking up something new now that you’ve graduated..” I forget the exact words, but I realized it was true. I needed to give myself permission to laugh when people asked me that good intentioned question and respond with, “oh you know…keep working full time and being a wife/mom.”  Give myself permission to enjoy this “new normal.”  To enjoy my kids being little. To enjoy laughing with David at the craziness that comes with parenthood.  To go to Costa Rica for a week with no kids purely because we can and we want to. To go see friends on a weeknight. For David to be able to go see friends on a weeknight. To build forts in the living room. To catch caterpillars and watch my girls’ faces light up with wonder when they pop out of their chrysalises as butterflies. To make silly houses of straws. To have dance parties DJ’d by a toddler-controlled Alexa after bath time. To cuddle with a Mama-infatuated baby, not to spoil her, but to cherish this time where she still wants to cuddle with Mama.

My parents were visiting a couple weeks ago and my Dad said, clad in his famous proud-dad face, “You should be proud of all you’ve accomplished these past few years, Kiley. It was hard and you did it.” And my mom said in her experienced Mom voice, “And now, you can experience being ‘just’ a working mom, instead of a working, going to school Mom. You really haven’t experienced that before.” And they both were so right. I have been taking inventory and reflecting on the past few years and dang it- I AM proud of what I did. What our little family did. I am very proud.  But I’m also so very glad that season is over.

And I am so very excited for this next season of Motherhood. 

So very excited for this season of creating memories dusted in sidewalk chalk and love.  

Sweet Baby May, Don’t Forget Your Mama’s Heart Song

My Sweet Baby May,

As I rock you to sleep, I feel your soft, still squishy cheek pressed against my chest. I feel my heart beating rhythmically inside that same chest and imagine the sound waves bouncing soothingly off your eardrums in a familiar sleep inducing pattern.  It is the same pattern that composed the soundtrack of your creation.  From the time you were just a tiny cell, my heart beat was there, pulsing with nutrients and blood, giving you life.  When your little ears couldn’t yet hear, my heart beat was vibrating in the fluid cradling you, lulling you in a cocoon of safety and love. As your tiny ears started working, my heart beat was the first and constant song playing in your head. 

Your Mama’s heart song, playing for you.

Oh my love. Do you remember that song now as you lay sleeping?  Does it still comfort you now that you have officially been out in this great big world longer than you were held in my womb? Now that you have heard many songs and rhythms more complex and loud?  As you learn to scoot and crawl, I see you look back at me as if questioning if it is ok that you are moving further from me. Are you listening for my heartbeat little one? Seeing if it will reach you as you cautiously venture further away?  Is it what causes you to reach your arms up to me when I walk by? Is it what compels you to cry out for me in the night?

Are you finding your song, my love?

I think you are.  I think you still remember and still feel the song within you. I can tell by the way you look at me in that special way that is just for your Mama.  I can tell by the way you fall asleep fastest when it’s me rocking you.  I can tell when you reach your little hand up to feel my face, eyes still closed, while you nurse in the middle of the night. I can tell by the way your face lights up when I walk in the room, and by the wails of despair when I walk out.  I can tell when we cuddle in the rocker and your eyes flutter trustfully.  And I think, when you pull your head in close for snuggles after daycare that you are checking to see if your song is still playing for you.

And oh, is it playing.

Your song will forever be playing, sweet one.  Long after your soft pudgy cheeks have thinned and you no longer press your ear against my chest to fall asleep.  It will still be playing when you no longer look back but bravely venture full force into the world.  I know there will come a time when you no longer remember how much it comforted and surrounded you in the early months of your life- both inside and out of the womb, but it will still be playing.  I know there will be a day that snuggling with your Mama is a thing of the past, but it will still be playing on that day.  You see little one, your song is my life force.  That heart beat keeps me living, just as it kept you alive when you couldn’t survive on your own.  So my sweet girl, while you will grow up and forget the lyrics of your song, I hope you will not forget the rhythm of love it has been beating for you from the beginning.  I hope you will know that no matter how big you get or how far you venture, those sound waves are reaching out for you from inside my chest.  I hope you feel the vibrations of safety and love surrounding you even when you are far away.  And when you feel down or troubled, I hope that rhythm of your song is what plays in your head and in your heart.

And oh sweet baby May, know that for as long as I live, your song and the memories of us listening to it together will be playing on repeat in my heart.  Know that your Mama will always be here playing your song, welcoming you with open arms to come have a listen.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

“Because I am a woman and I will show you.”

I wrote these words when I was 19 weeks pregnant with Brynn and had just found out she was a girl (you can read the full post here). I was scared and excited and determined to raise a strong, independent little woman- with zero knowledge about what the heeccckkk was about to happen. I had no idea just how strong and independent that little girl would be at the tender age of 3 ½ or that there would be another little woman arriving on the scene in 2.5years.  I wrote about being the primary female role model for my little girl but had no idea just what implications came with that. I mean, I knew…but I didn’t know.  I wrote about allowing her to wear tutus and bows but didn’t know my living room floor would be perpetually littered with a variety of tutus in different colors and material with batman action figures nestled between them.  I wrote about not letting her win at games but didn’t know just how many games of Disney matching I would be playing or how often I would legitimately be losing to a 3year old. I wrote about letting her fall down, but didn’t know just how hard that would be for me (#enneagram6).  I wrote about putting Band-Aids on scraped knees but didn’t know how many Band-Aids I’d be putting on toenails because a “tiny piece was falling off and getting caught on the purple blanket” in her bed. I wrote about maintaining confidence and modeling that to her.  But I didn’t know that there are some days in Motherhood that shake even the firmest of confidences.

I. Had. No. Idea.

But mostly- I didn’t know what strength and independence that little girl and her future baby sister would teach me.

I didn’t know I would find a physical strength inside myself I didn’t know possible when I pushed out a 9lb11oz baby and then an 8lb14oz baby (without the epidural that time!).  I didn’t know I would experience probably the lowest my confidence has ever been when nursing was so painful and so frustrating, only to become one of the things I’m most proud of myself for sticking with. I didn’t know the physical, mental and emotional strength required for months (years because my kids hate sleeping) of nightly night feedings/soothings.   I didn’t know the amount of independence that would be required to ask for help and support from friends and family.  I didn’t know the kind of strength it takes to maintain a semblance of professionalism at work and grad school when your baby girl was up screaming all night so you slept on the floor next to the crib.  I didn’t know about the independence forced on you and strength forced from you when you take a newborn home from the hospital to a toddler who still needs your attention and a routine to be maintained.  I didn’t know how much strength it takes to remain patient and calm while a toddler is throwing a tantrum and a baby is screaming from gas pains. I didn’t know the kind of strength it takes to apologize to a 3 year old and ask for forgiveness for not remaining patient and calm.  I didn’t know the independence it takes to defend your choice to work and go to school instead of stay home with the kids.  I didn’t know the kind of strength required to feel like you have no idea what is going on, but realize you are somehow now the adult in charge.

I didn’t know the strength and independence that comes from being broken and wrung raw.

I didn’t know about Motherhood.

So today I say to you, my sweet baby girls:

Because I am a woman, I hope to show you what I’ve learned from being your Mama.

I hope to show you it takes strength to ask for help.

I hope to show you that you will fail, but you can try again because you are strong.

I hope to show you that plans will go awry, but you can use your independence to be adaptable and grow.

I hope to show you that your body will not be perfect by society’s standards, but it is strong and it is yours.

I hope to show you that confidence is important, but humility demonstrates strength of character.

I hope to show you that compassion and strength are not mutually exclusive but rather dependent on one another.

I hope to show you that there truly is strength in numbers – find your people and stick with them.

I hope to show you that it takes strong determination and hard work to reach your goals.

I hope to show you that your dreams and goals are worth fighting for with every bit of strength for the sole reason that they are yours.

I hope to show you that you have options in this world but it will take independence and strength to assert your yourselves in some of those options.

I hope to show you that without God’s strength, you will flounder, but with it you will soar.

I hope to show you self-compassion is a strength that will help you through hard times.

I hope to show you both so many things. So so many things.

Sweet girls, I know you are watching.  I know because I hear, “when I’m older I’m going to put cream in my coffee” after I pour creamer in my coffee in the morning.  I feel your little hands pet my hair while you announce, “when I’m older, I can have hair long long like yours and braid it like yours.”  I see your little eyes watching my hands as I demonstrate clapping and see concentrated focus while your chubby baby hands lurch towards each other in an attempt to mimic my behavior.  The gravity of these simplistic statements and movements is not lost on me my tiny loves. I feel the weight of my responsibility as your Mama and so I am trying my best.  Trying my best to demonstrate strength and independence in all forms because I am a woman and what I show you will inform your concept of what it means to be a woman.

What a weight that is.

Oh, but what an honor.

Mama loves you both, my little women.

“I know, Mama”

3 year olds are a trip.  Vocabulary is exploding, energy is endless and emotions are intense.

B has been surprising us daily with her use of words recently.  She’s always been ahead of the developmental curve in terms of cognitive ability- but recently we’ve been marveling.  The other day in the car, she was saying something (she is always saying something- like literally, unless she’s asleep, she’s talking….) and neither David nor I could understand one of the words.  (She has this nasally pronunciation of certain letters going on that makes it difficult sometimes.)  She kept repeating it over and over and I kept hearing “red” but it was clearly not the word she was saying.  In the past when this has happened, she would start crying out of frustration that we didn’t understand what she was trying to tell us.  However, this day she said “No, not red. ‘wet!’ .. like rain!”  I know it seems basic, we do it all the time, using context to get our point across, but it seemed so advanced for our little tiny 3 year old.  Later that same week she was trying to say something that we once again couldn’t understand- something that sounded like “call” or “mall”.  She said, relatively patiently- “No, like little. Not big, but little- ‘SMALL.’”  Small. She was describing, using synonyms and antonyms, the word small.   It’s amazing to me to think that just 3 years ago, she was a 3 month old baby who couldn’t do anything but eat, sleep, poop and smile.

With this blossoming of vocabulary, she is better able to demonstrate her understanding of concepts and express her desires more effectively.  This has diminished significantly the amount of frustration tantrums and general amount of crying.  It’s also allowing us to get to know her as the unique person she is becoming. She tells us great imaginative stories about her and her baby sister escaping jail with the help of nice monsters.  She cried indignantly, “My teeth are too sharp! WHY DID THEY DO THAT TO ME? I DON’T LIKE IT WHEN THEY DO THAT TO ME!” after biting her cheek for the first time a few weeks ago (side note: I was laughing so hard I couldn’t console her as she cried. Good thing David was there). She makes up games to play with hidden coins and shirt sleeves.  She “reads” her books to her sister while occasionally pausing to stroke her face and say “I love you.”  She tells strangers on the street about her love of ballet and demonstrates with no self-doubt her ballet moves she’s learning “Fridays in ballet class.”  She dances with abandon at Zoo light show and tells us in no uncertain terms that she “dances better” than us.  Her teachers constantly tell us how quickly she learns and grasps concepts and how they are sure she is going to be CEO or president of something someday.

I love it. I love her big personality and flair for the dramatic. I love her sweetness and desire to share constantly. I love her love to be around people and her constant chatter about her little best friends. I love her facial expressions that are starting to look a lot like mine and her concern for others that looks a lot like her Daddy’s.  I love her growing knowledge of Jesus and the Bible. I love her desire to learn and constant spelling of her name and Mama’s name. I love it all.

I love it all because I love her. And I love her simply because she’s mine.

And you know what? It makes me proud.  Proud of who she is and who she is becoming.  Proud that I get to be her Mama.  And- yes- proud of the job I’m doing as her Mama.

Don’t get me wrong, there are pleennntttyy of days I’m not proud of her behavior – or mine for that matter.  Her booty has a comfortable spot in the timeout corner and I threaten to unplug her purple lights or turn off her music at bedtime more often than I’d like. She bit her best friend at school out of the blue a few months ago (having no history of being a biter) and guys- I. Was. Mortified.  With her expanding use of words and knowledge of concepts has come the innate human tendency to lie and use that intellect for sassing.  Her strong independence I prayed for when she was in my tummy was granted and is now being demonstrated with glares and “hmmphss” and “That’s not fair!” and “I DON’T WANT TO TAKE A NAP! I’M NOT *yyaaaawwwnnnn* TIRED!”.  Also… did I mention she’s three?

So yes, sometimes I apologize for B’s outbursts or joke about how cray cray she is because she is at 100% energy All. Of. The. Time. But actually- I feel like her Daddy and I are doing a pretty good job at this parenting thing.  When I think about  my childhood- I don’t remember the times I’m sure my parents were embarrassed with a tantrum I had.  I don’t remember my parents holding the door shut to my room because I wouldn’t take a nap (supposedly this happened but who knows for sure 😉 ).  I remember being put in “VTO” (“Verbal Time Out”- how the heck did they get this to work?) but I don’t have negative emotions attached to those memories.  Because my parents did/are doing a heck of a job as parents.  And by that I mean they made sure we understood the most important concept a child should learn from their parents– I knew I was loved.  I knew I was loved no matter what. No matter what I did or said or broke. No matter how much I disobeyed or talked back.  No matter what.

I knew I was loved. And I still know it to this day.

So, when I say I think David and I are doing a pretty good job at this parenting gig? I don’t mean that I don’t have to sometimes apologize to my 3 year old and ask for her forgiveness for reacting poorly to her disobeying.  Because I do.  I don’t mean that I sometimes let her watch a movie just because I am done and tired and want her to stop talking for a minute.  Because I do.  I don’t mean that I feed her vegetables and make her eat them all before leaving the table every night. Because I don’t.  I don’t mean that I am 100% consistent with discipline. Because I’m not.  I don’t mean that I never give in to her whining and toddler demands. Because I do.  I don’t mean that sometimes more time passes between baths than it should. Because it does.  I don’t mean that sometimes I snap with my own sass at the little girl who is testing the limits. Because I do.

I don’t mean by any stretch am I a perfect parent. Because I am far from it. But I do think I’m getting the important message across.

Because as we snuggled on the couch during that extra TV time that probably should have been filled with books or something, I leaned over and said “I love you” and she said “I know, Mama.” And after I got done pinning her to the ground to squeeze pus out of a staph infected boil on her booty while she shrieked in pain and yelled “Don’t ever do that again!”, I said “I’m sorry, I don’t like to do this either. But I love you.” She said sniffling, “I know, Mama.” And after every timeout as we talk about why she was in timeout I say “I love you” and she says “I know, Mama.” And for the nights we do make her eat her vegetables and she gags on them because she hates them so much- I say (after exchanging covert eye rolls with David at the drama) “I love you” and she says “I know, Mama.” And when we are getting ready for bed and I go back in her room for the 3rd time to tell her to stop kicking the wall so she doesn’t wake up her sister- “Good night, I love you.” I hear her little voice say from the million blankets, “I know, Mama.”

And after I saw her little face break into tears and saw her shrink back against the couch after I got mad at her- I pulled her close and said “I’m sorry I snapped at you. I was mad because you hurt me, but I shouldn’t have reacted that way. You know mama loves you right?” she looked at me, clutched me tight and said “I know, Mama.  A lot.”

And I believe her because she does know. Her little words demonstrate big understanding.  My little girl knows I love her.  And that means I’m doing a heck of a job as a parent.

With it being the beginning of a new year, I’m seeing all these posts about resolutions with #NewYearNewMe attached to them.  And sure, I have goals I’d like to work towards and growth is always something to strive for.  But when it comes to parenting, overall- I look forward to 2019 and all the “I know, Mamas” I’m going to hear by being the same ol’ Mama that loves her babies fiercely.

#NewYearSameMama

 

(Lest you think I’ve forgotten my sweet (almost 7 month old :O ) Baby M- there is no doubt she too knows Mama loves her- she is 100% Mama’s girl 😉 )

Keeping Watch

A few weeks ago, my husband and I both got food poisoning the same day.  Well, he woke up in the middle of the night puking and stayed home from work the next day, but I only felt nauseous and really needed to get my internship hours so I went ahead and took the girls to daycare and went to go counsel people.  Bad idea. I felt terrible the whole day, utilized my uber strength and fought the urge to puke until my last client of the day left my office and I ran to the bathroom and let it fly. Then I went back to my desk, wrote a note and promptly texted my friends about my misfortune. That’s not too abnormal as I’ve always been what most would say is overly comfortable discussing bodily functions (ask my parents about our dinner conversations growing up).  As I was joking about barfing on the way home, my friends were empathizing with me (and possibly thinking I was crazy since I was laughing about being sick but hey we all cope in our own way;) ) and asking what they could do to help.

You see, they are my mom friends.

They understood that being sick was one thing, never fun to be puking anywhere or at any time. However, they also understood that I wouldn’t just be going home to lay on the couch, binge watching TV with a trashcan next to me, sipping sprite until I felt better. They knew that when I sent them a pic of the giant trash bag I snatched on the way out of my office to have in the car in case the urge came, I would be driving to pick up my almost 3year old (who has an unnatural amount of energy even for a toddler) and my 4month old baby – who literally can’t do anything for herself yet (slacker…) from daycare and taking them home where I would then have to continue to keep them alive despite feeling like I was on the verge of death myself.

When one of them responded to my pic of the bag next to me in the car with “I can’t laugh at this with a clear conscience but I am definitely laughing. I’m so sorry. Praying you won’t need to use it!” and the other responded with “I am picturing Kiley puking the whole way home while driving down the interstate. The bag is ridiculously full and she just acts like it’s an everyday thing. My friends are wonder women!” I was so grateful.  So grateful to have friends who knew. Who got it.  And who were there to laugh with/at me in my misery.  Friends who knew that I’d be nursing my baby while postponing my inevitable trip to the bathroom.  Friends who knew I’d be tucking in my toddler with my sick husband hobbling into the room so we could both read her her Bible story and sing her her song.  Friends who knew because they had been there too- because they are my mom friends.

But not just any kind of mom friends- real mom friends.

I’ve been lucky enough, or maybe my parents just did a really good job about teaching me how to make quality friends, to have real friends throughout my life- high school, college, post college and now in this season of motherhood I have added real Mom friends.  Mom friends at church, childhood friends turned mom friends, college friends who are now mom friends- here in Texas and in different states (thanks technology). Real mom friends are ones who never judge or give advice when not warranted.  Who don’t say “Kiley, you really shouldn’t stop and get your kid a happy meal even though you are sick” or “You know, if you had your baby on a better sleep routine, you wouldn’t be so tired.”  Nope.

And when I send them texts confessing my not so best moments of parenting in reaction to my child’s not so best moments of obeying- I don’t get advice about how to discipline better. I get a meme in return that perfectly depicts how I’m feeling with “I feel ya man” attached to it.

When they see my toddler having a tantrum there are no hurtful words of “Well my child has never acted like that.”  No, these are real mom friends who said “Haha, don’t worry my kid will probably hit your kid first” when I mentioned apologetically that my one year old was in an “assertive” (ok, she was pushing kids down and trampling them for awhile) phase.  Real mom friends who send me pics of their thinning postpartum hair after I mentioned how much hair was falling out of my own head.  Real mom friends who say “Oh I would be so mad too” when I told them about when my toddler colored on her new bed and I got mad.  Real mom friends who say “Is it ok to ignore your toddler if they aren’t going to listen anyway?” and don’t scoff when I respond with “I hope so because I’ve done that before.” Real mom friends who oogle over your new baby with love and affection. Real mom friends who send you pump wipes in the mail because you developed thrush from being so busy at internship to properly clean your pump parts on top of the 4 clogged ducts that same week.  Real mom friends who will meet from 8pm to midnight after work and children’s bedtime to get some pancakes, coffee and sanity- giving up precious sleep and alone time with husbands.  Real mom friends who send snapchats of their kids being weirdos just like yours. Real mom friends who help calm fears when you think you have prolapsed uterus after birthing 2 giant babies. Real mom friends who laugh with you when you find out that is definitely not happening.  Real mom friends who encourage you to go after your dreams that don’t revolve around your kids. Real mom friends who commiserate the pain of childbirth and difficulties nursing without offering suggestions unless asked.  Real mom friends who celebrate surprise positive pregnancy tests and milestones of children. Real mom friends who rock the sweatpants, spit-up shirt and messy bun with you. Real mom friends who tell you your fried chicken diet doesn’t show and who say “You guys. You both look great too. Like, we’re three sexy beasts.” Then proceed to say they are hot boxing their van with farts while waiting to pick up their kids in the same conversation.

Real mom friends don’t pretend to have it all together or expect me to either.  They are just there. Being real in the good moments, the not so great moments, and even the bad moments.

These are the mom friends I surround myself with.  This is the kind of mom friend I try to be.

If you are here, you know I like to write. You know I have a blog. You know my blog is primarily about my life as a working, grad-schooling, mother.  You know I talk about cracked nipples, intense love of my two adorable daughters and chucking chicken nuggets in my toddler’s car seat while trying my best to figure out this parenting thing.

This “real mom friend” thing is my why.

It’s why the pictures on my blog are not white washed and trendily posed like “successful blog” pictures are supposed to be. It’s why I don’t have “Top 10 ways to be a good mother” posts like “successful blogs” are supposed to have. It’s why my “blog” will never bring in any income.  Successful blogs are successful because they offer services to people and are run like a business- and props to them! However- I’m not a business person.  I don’t have marketing tools or services to offer.

I’m just a random lady, who likes to use writing techniques as a way to express thoughts as a means for “holding space” for myself and allowing others to virtually enter into that space with me.  A place for me to be a “real mom friend” to moms out there who maybe feel the pressure to be a “successful blog” mom instead of the human mom that they are. I have the blessing of having many real mom friends and real non-mom friends in the flesh in my life, but I know- through conversations with people in my own life, and through talking with my counseling clients- that not everyone has people or even one person to hold space with them in their vulnerability or celebrate with them in their joy.

Sometimes, my admission of being in grad school for my masters in Counseling is met with a response of “Oh so you give people advice about their life?” or “Can you tell me what to do about my problems then?”  And I say “no- go read a blog for that” – Just kidding, but I try to explain what my 60hr grad program that includes: a practicum, two semesters of internship that require 300hours each, and then 3,000hours of in the field practice after graduation before the title of Licensed Professional Counselor is granted- is training me to do.  And while I can talk about reframing cognitions, reality testing or various creative interventions – a huge part of what I’m learning to do is hold space for people in their vulnerability.  To be present in that space without giving in to that human compulsion we seem to have to offer advice or try to “fix”.  To give people the space to be real.  This may sound basic. This may sound like something that shouldn’t take training. This may sound like the basic concept of listening. This may sound like the very center of being human.

And yet…

When Jesus said to his friends “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” they couldn’t.  They fell asleep while their Lord was weeping and when he returned he said “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?”  Jesus wasn’t asking them to give him advice about what he was about to do. He wasn’t asking them to take a cute pic of his feet while he prayed.  He wasn’t asking them to pretend to be something or give him anything.  He was simply asking them to be with him, alert and prayerful, in his time of need.

So this is what I strive for.  To be like Jesus and express my need for others and try to do my best at what he called his disciples to do for him. Be there- because we were not created to live life alone.

This is my why.  Why I write about bodily fluids and emotions that either make me uncomfortable or giddy.  Because they are real. Because everyone has them. And because everyone needs to know they are not alone in their real-ness.

*October is mental health awareness month.  Feeling alone is so real for so many people and can have such drastic effects on life. Please talk to someone, professional or non, if you feel alone or overwhelmed. There are people who care and who want to sit with you in your real-ness.*

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 😉

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

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-