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

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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.  

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 😉

Guilty Un-Guilt

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

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

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

That is until the guilty un-guilt started.

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

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

Except I don’t believe that.

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

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

I don’t think I should feel guilty.

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

One MiniMe to the Next

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-KH-