Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Dog Days of Motherhood and Other Things About My Day.

I've got a million different ways I could start this and have tried to find the time to string these words and thoughts together for the last 2 months. Literally. These days I write when I can-- Carpool, 5 minutes in the bathroom, when I'm tied to a rocking chair-you get the gist-and I write because I kind of find it to be cathartic and stress releasing.
I will start, first, by saying that I love my life. I am richly blessed beyond what I deserve and I don't know why. I'm also a generally cheery person who loves to have fun, but takes healthy doses of "down-to-earth" on a regular basis. I don't call myself an optimist or pessimist, but a realistic optimist with the some pessimism looming in the corner rearing it's ugly head at times. I enjoy the small things in life, but realize the big picture can be daunting at times. My glass is always half full, but my plate is over filled. 

This picture says "Happy" but I see "Sleepy"
I'm writing this here so that I can look back here as a reminder of what my life looked like in this season and see how far I've come. And someday, when I'm through the thick of this fog, I can look at young momma's walking around in what they likely wore yesterday, covered in spit up, with cheeto dust in their hair and tell them "honey, I know. It's all going to be ok, let me buy your lunch" and finally, I write this so that someone reading can know that they, in fact, are not alone. And you're not. So here goes nothing...or everything. 

Everyone is busy. Everyone is tired. Everyone has a full plate. But I had forgotten what 5 months of rocky sleep will do to a person. It turns out, it's not so good. And whoever said that the jump from1 to 2 kids was the hardest, clearly didn't go on to have 3 or more. But the truth is. One is hard. 2 is hard. 3 is hard. 4 is hard--you get the gist. Parenting is hard.You go momma!
 What is also hard? Trying to do "life" while nursing every 3 hours, round the clock (yes, I chose this path), changing diapers, spit-up, blow outs, fuss fests, nap strikes, nursing strikes, and so on and so forth, but dang, shes cute. But why oh why won't she eat during the day? But dang, she's cute.

Let's add Homeschooling a first grader to the plate. The kid can't do anything independently (again, another choice. A choice I have been questioning since Christmas), being tied to a table for 4+ hours a day teaching a person, literally everything they know. Math, reading, phonics (don't even get me started), science, social studies, spelling and--my favorite--handwriting. FOR THE LOVE, BUMP THE LINE. Is it Summer yet?
 And then there is the preschooler who is around here somewhere. I just follow the mess trail to a big pile of my mom guilt, glitter and nail polish spills and there she will be. Bless her little heart. Middle child, she is.
  I then turn my head to see my husband who works 2 jobs to keep our world spinning. He is my rock, my dream catcher, my teenage dream. He is mighty fine, but sorry. That's gonna be a hard no from me, dog. 
Let's not forget groceries--the bane of my existence these days and pure torture when taking all 3-- and there's the laundry, keeping up with a house (Mrs. Mister Clean over here) and a floor that hasn't been mopped since Christmas, and cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the daily, except who am I kidding? It's cereal or ball field most nights... And that's just the basics. 
 Why don't we throw in a photography business with emails to answer, calendars to manage shoots to do and photos to edit. Again another choice, but it affords us the ability to do things we can't do otherwise. 

And baseball. Why? I ask myself every other day. Because my kid loves it, that's why. 

Oh crap. And ballet. Let's just remember to go. It's the one thing I can do for our girl...wherever she is.

And let's host small group. It's one of my only chances to talk with adults during the week, It stays. And it's our joy to do it.

But wait, when did I last shower? No worries! I'll just change my nursing pads, undies, slap on some gloss, throw on a hat and it's all good, because...That's a no from me dog.

And ya know what? Thank goodness for Social Media. It's the only view of the outside world right now, so yeah, I indulge.

I open my Bible, read a few verses and then a spill, a fall, or a fight. Get behind me, Satan. I go to work out and 15 minutes in, a spill, a fall, or a fight. The jiggle-y bits will stay for now. I go to lay down for a nap and then a spill, a fall, or a doorbell ring...I'll sleep when I'm dead.

Sister-friend, Have you ever felt like you're on an island, alone with your burdens and exhaustion? Your husband is around, but isn't tethered to that island like you are? There have been times that I have felt jealous of my husband. While he's equally as busy, his burdens are just as great, if not more so, he spins lots of plates, but he can freely roam. He isn't shackled. He can get on a plane this week and be free and he will be. He can drive somewhere without listening to the Moana soundtrack on repeat. He can eat with both hands. He can sleep and only knows of the rough nights when I give him a swift kick under the covers, or give him "the look" when he says "wow, last night was good, right?" Moms are always "on call" 24/7. 

 Yes, I've been there over these last few months. Even when we've gone out of town, I'm still shackled to that island. BUT while I may feel alone on that island, I know I'm not. In the dark of night (sometimes 2 or 3 times), I have time with my Lord and last baby. I remind myself the He promises to give rest to the weary and He grants sleep to those he loves (Matt 11:28-29, Ps 127:1-2). There's my silver lining.

I have had days where things have not gone according to MY plans and my attitude has followed suit and it has spilled onto my little island like flood waters and that day has turned into days, that has turned into a week and the guilt has mounted like Everest. The weight of that ugly becomes so heavy that I remind myself that even a crack heads kid loves their mom (yes, I've thought this), I have to be better than that, right??? And then I have to step back. I'm doing the best I can. I will screw up, I will ask forgiveness of my husband, of my kids and of my Lord. He always forgives. Fresh slate.The Lord has given me this work. It's hard work, but good work. It's all gonna be OK. Like I said at the get go- I love my life. Like, really love my life. What you see from me is the real deal, but see this too and know that this high-on-life girl has lows too. This particular season has just been physically and mentally exhausting, but this too shall pass and too soon. This is the thick of it. The dog days of motherhood. I'm convinced that we will be at this Full Plate Buffet for quite some time. And just when I think the plate can't fill anymore, the server will give me a bigger plate and that one will fill up too. I know the table might look different and it'll be a new menu of options, and I will still be tired, but there is no tired like the new momma with young kids tired. Some day in the near future, I will sleep more than 3-4 hours at a time and I will have a little bit more time (maybe??) to write or shower or both, back to back! But tonight I will go to bed thinking "maybe the baby will sleep through the night? Or for at least 4 hours in a row!"
You're not alone, sweet mom! 

(excuse typos. Ain't no one got time fo dat)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

I Love Lucy and She's 4!

I don't know what it's like to have an older sibling as I'm the oldest of 8 kids in my family. Not only that, but I'm significantly older than most of them. I'm so much older that I'm more like an aunt--or even a mom to about 5 of them! I am 6 years older than my sister that is closest in age to me and that's the closest thing I have to a typical sibling relationship. And I was not very nice to her as a kid. As a matter of fact, I was downright awful. I don't have many regrets in my life, however one of the biggest regrets I have is the way I treated my little sister. But the Lord is good and showed me my ugliness, (perhaps too late, after the damage was done) and brought me to repentance. I hope she knows how sorry I am and thankfully, we have a good relationship now. I would do anything for her and she has my back as well.
Why on earth am I mentioning this in Lucy's birthday post? I do have a point, I promise. When we were kids my little sister was the most beautiful baby/toddler/kid ever! Everyone knew it...and I knew it. I, on the other hand, wasn't quite as cute. I had a big personality along with a big head that made up for what I lacked in looks. My sweet sister was very shy and timid and hid in my big ugly shadow and I jumped on that weakness. I suppose I was jealous or annoyed or selfish or I don't know what, but I know I said and did such unkind things. One thing I do remember being ugly about (although the list was long) was her smile. She had a crooked little smile and I would get frustrated with her when we were smiling for pictures and she wouldn't "smile right." I'd voice my frustration in a way only I could and she kept smiling the way she did because--well--that was her SMILE!!! So, what's my point? My girl has her smile. My Lucy has the same crooked little smile that my little sister did and I'm so glad she does. It's a forever reminder to me of having patience and being kind. I'm so thankful the Lord saw fit to give my girl the smile she has. He is good. 
This year Lucy was thrust into a new role a couple months ago. She can now add Big Sister to her lot in life and she shifted from baby of the family to Middle Child. I spent a lot of time with my girl before our baby made her big appearance into this world. Twice a week we had "Momma Lucy Days" while Coop was at school. I showered her with all the milkshakes, chicken biscuits, Starbucks frapps, and Happy Meals that daddy's money could buy, along with allll of my undivided attention. It was the sweetest time and I am so glad we had that time together. Just me, her and that crooked little smile.

She is a great big sister, already better at it than I was. She is nuts about her baby--too nuts! And while I have tried my hardest to make sure she doesn't get the shaft that comes along with being the "middle child," it seems to be happening anyway. Mom guilt is a very really thing and I am suffering from it the most with her. I homeschool her big brother and when I'm not, I'm nursing a baby and when I'm not nursing a baby, I'm taking a nap. Yeah, she's been on her own a lot these last few weeks. The plus side is that she is fiercely independent. She plays on her own remarkably well and one of my greatest joys in life is hearing her play. I thought her brother was imaginative, but she really puts him to shame. 

She is so girly, but can hold her own in the woods with her brother too. If you ask her brother who is tougher and braver, he will say his little sister is every time.
She has an attitude that is bigger than the Titanic and is sharp as a tack with her mouth (it gets her in trouble). She is really funny for such a little thing. And she has a mind of her own. Don't ask her to show anyone anything on demand, she won't.  
Her brother is easy as pie and happy go-lucky, but she is a girl with many facets. She keeps us on our toes for sure!
She loves to put make-up on and to do get her nails done. It's her life right now. If you give her a tube of chapstick, she will have the entire thing applied to her lips by the end of the day. No joke. 
She loves to sing and dance and to change her clothes 2 dozen times per day.
She is fierce, but she's extremely sensitive and I am reminded of this many times before noon.
She wants us to call her "Sweet Pancake" and her feelings get a little hurt when we call the baby pet names and not her. Lucy loves her daddy and he's crazy about her.
She is all girl who loves all things pink and she says she wants to be an animal doctor someday. I think she would be perfect at that.
Tonight I tuck in my 3 year old for the last time and tomorrow she will be 4. I am so thankful formy girl and all of the sugar and spice she brings to our life. I pray big things for her! Let the good times roll...

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Eliza's Great Escape: A Birthday Story....

All photos (except 2) were taken by Joanna Penny
**This retelling is detailed. I didn't want to forget a thing. While you're welcome to read it, I'm really writing it for myself to serve as a reminder in the future**

When I found out that I was pregnant for a 3rd time, I thought that maybe I would like to try to deliver a baby Au Naturale, without an epidural.  And as much as I have loved to see those cute Anesthesiologists, those epidurals aren't worth the eye candy when I'm hurling into the blue bags, convulsing and shaking my way into motherhood. My other 2 labors lasted between 8 and 10 hours, both chock-full of convulsing and throwing up, hours of pushing (with the first), delivering a 9 lb 8oz bouncing baby boy and then a 8lb 6oz, brown haired beauty with dimples, respectively, and both with brown eyes. So I began to prepare my mind to go the natural route. I read a number of books on the subject of natural childbirth and really started to think that maybe I could do it. But soon self doubt would kick in and I'd think "there is no way!" and just as quickly, I would tell myself that women have been doing this since, literally, the beginning of time--I'm a WOMAN. HEAR ME ROAR! I knew I was going to need support though, so I highlighted and tagged a few pages for Mr. Clean to read and told him that I was going to need his commitment and involvement. Unlike the last 2 times where he slept his way through all the "fun" and woke up in time to see a head come out. You think I'm kidding. Now one thing about Mr. Clean is when you ask him to do something, he does it. And that guy does it 100%, so when I asked him to support me and coach me through natural childbirth, he took it pretty seriously. After he read his required reading he walked into the room, book in hand and said "Ashley, you are NOT prepared for this. You really need to start training" (you can laugh out loud, I know I did!! Training? This is NOT a triathlon) and with that, my uber diligent, super focused husbandhad me on a very strict training/nagging regimen. I was not allowed into bed until I got in my required daily squatting and stretching routine. Many nights, I did it, but many nights I just stared at him and put my butt in bed.
So here we were, 40 weeks later and my confidence in myself started to wane as the inevitable was fast approaching. Here's how I envisioned this "show" playing out: On Friday, I'd go to the doctor, he'd tell me I was at 3cm, he'd strip my membranes to get the ball rolling. He'd tell me that He'd see me at the hospital later that night, I'd breathe, relax and maybe even laugh my way through those contractions, I'd ride those waves, I'd read my inspirational flashcards, we'd have dim lights and my special music playlist would serenade my baby into my arms. I'd have her Saturday morning and would be home on Sunday. You can laugh again. I am.
So what really happened? I went to the doctor on that Friday...with a cold. I had decided I didn't want to risk having a baby that night as I felt so lousy, so he checked me and I was only dilated one centimeter so he wouldn't have been able to help me anyway. I went home and cleaned and organized like a madwoman on Saturday, I went to Scalini's for their labor inducing eggplant parmesan on Sunday (my due date) and went walking and lunging my way around the neighborhood. My due date came and went and I went back to the doctor, and  that time I was at 3 cm and she stripped what she could, but I really felt as if this child would stay for another month if I let her and we scheduled an induction for the following Sunday, just in case.
As Tuesday rolled around, I felt nothing. I went along my day as usual. Took Cooper to breakfast and dropped him off at school, took a nap, spent the day with Lucy and later in the afternoon Mr. Clean told me to lace up my shoes, we were going to walk our neighborhood. He was ready for this baby to come (the house was spotless and he was caught up at work)! So we walked. We walked 2 miles and I pulled Lucy in the wagon up the hills. We came home, I cooked dinner, cleaned up the kitchen and sat down to watch Wheel of Fortune at 7pm. And then it hit. My first contraction. A couple minutes later, another and then another. I decided to start timing them and they were about 3 to 4 minutes apart and strong. I went to the bathroom, and I lost my plug and what seemed to be a pocket of water. At that point, the contractions were becoming very strong, so I told Chris that I thought it was time and to pack the kids up for grandparents and I was going to take a shower quickly. Yes, I took a shower. I had just walked forever, so I was sweaty and I wanted my hair done! I also thought maybe it would help ease the pain (that's what the books said to do). Well,  it was the quickest, most painful shower of my life. I spent most of it on my hands and knees moaning my way through the contractions...we needed to go. I went to do my hair (because, you know, pictures), but my blow dryer broke coincidentally and at that point "wet hair, don't care". It was time to GO! We loaded up and as I shut the door to the house, I told Chris I was scrapping the whole natural route, I wanted the epidural and I wanted it as soon as we got there and I didn't want him to talk me out of it. I didn't know how long this labor would last, but the pain wasn't worth it. I had called my mom and my photographer friend to tell them it was time and I collapsed in Chris's arms as the pain became unbearable. I began to cry. The time was 8:40 when we pulled out. Chris called his parents and told them we were coming in hot and they needed to meet us at the curb. He literally threw everything on the side of the road, handed off crying kids and off we went, running stop lights, hazard lights blinking and high beams flashing. It was the one time in my life I didn't mind his aggressive driving habits. At this point the contractions were coming every 2 minutes and the pain was unbearable. I braced myself and moaned and yelled our way down 575. Chris didn't know what to do, so he offered his hand for me to squeeze. I did. I put on my labor playlist and tried to breathe, I tried to remain calm, but that was easier said than done. In between contractions, I really tried to focus on the music. I remember hearing Amos Lee's "Arms of a Woman" as we sped down the highway and as we pulled into the hospital, Patty Griffin's "Oh Heavenly Day."  We got to the hospital just after 9.

As we pulled up, we left our car at the Labor and Delivery door, hazards on and Chris went on the hunt for help-- and a wheelchair. Apparently, the Labor and Delivery doors close at 9 and they want you to go to the main entrance. Wherever that is. I was growing impatient waiting on him (for about a minute and a half) to return so I started to look for my own way. I got about 10 steps before another contraction hit so hard it took me to all fours, in the middle of the breezeway, screaming at the top of my lungs. People drove by. No one stopped. At least, I don't think they did. After what seemed to be an eternity, the love of my life arrived with my chariot. A swivel chair from an office desk. I pointed for him to try another door, which again was locked, but I saw 2 people in scrubs and I began pounding on the door, yelling. The sliding doors magically opened, and they just stared at me as a yelled my way through a contraction. Still staring, Chris told them I was in labor to which the man said "I can see that, just wait til she get through that contraction." Turns out, Mr. Bedside Manner was the anesthesiologist on call that night, I wasn't as enamored with this guy as the other anesthesiologists of my past. We took what seemed to be the longest Sunday Stroll of my life up to the 3rd floor, stopping for every contraction. Mr. Bedside Manner told me if we could just get up stairs he'd hook me up with the drugs. And when we got in the elevator, he told my husband that there was no way I was going to be getting an epidural. And with his Twizzlers in hand, he left us, never to be seen again.

The women at the registration desk looked at us like we were crazy, over dramatic, first time parents or something. You think they'd never seen a woman in labor before! At this point it's some time after 9, my contractions were not stopping. I might have had a minute between each, but they were insistent I go to triage to hook me up to all the monitors, get my IV going, and find out allllllll about me. None of that ended up happening. I was pretty sure I might just die or pass out from the pain.  I remember looking at Chris and telling him I was scared. The room was a furnace, and the nurse kept telling me not to push and that I needed to calm down and wait. She checked me quickly and I was at 8cm, and she was still insisting that we go through all the formalities as she took her sweet time doing it all. In reality, we were only in there a matter of minutes, but it might as well have been hours. Things were moving quickly for me and she needed to know it. I told her I was feeling so much pressure, that I wanted to push and finally I screamed "I NEED TO POOP!!!!!!" I knew that those were all key words they need to hear to know, this is for real. She stopped what she was doing and yelled something out the door and the next thing I knew I was in a room with a half dozen people running around trying to prepare the room. It was almost like they didn't know what about to happen. My mom made it in time and they grabbed the first midwife they could find until mine could get there. I had never met her, nor did I care, but I am so glad she was the one that came. The Lord knew that she was the right person for me.  I was scared and panicked but the midwife took control beautifully and helped reign me in. She knew just what to say to help me get the job done. Things went so quickly that whatever Mr.Clean and I had read those weeks leading up to that moment was for nothing. We lost our heads and if it were a play we had been rehearsing for, this is what you would call "choking." But Leah, that wonderful midwife, fed me those lines and we made it through to that final curtain call. I pushed 5 or 6 times. No one was in that room except for me and Leah, she reminded me not to scream but to growl, deep growls to push that baby out. She encouraged me by telling me how great my pushes were. She looked in my eyes and told me that she could see her head and she had dark brown hair, I needed to push one more time so I could see my "diamond."
 The next push was a blur. Water broke everywhere and I remember with my other deliveries that I was worried I'd poop on the table. Not this time. I didn't care what came out and I didn't care how much came out, just get out! And I'm quite sure it all did come out. The next thing I knew, I looked down and a baby was in my arms. It was surreal. With my others, I had HOURS to prepare my brain for what was coming, even during the pushing, I was fully present. This time it was all business. And what has probably taken you much more time to read, and much, much longer for me to write, really only happened in less than 20 minutes from the time I got to the hospital to holding baby. We showed up at the hospital after 9pm and I had Eliza Grace at 9:33, all 8lb 7oz of her. I couldn't believe how light her hair was and I was shocked that she had blue eyes!! I thought she looked so much like Cooper and none of us could believe how big she was. Meeting a new life is surreal. I can't explain it. With a single push our world is rocked forever in the most miraculous of ways.

After she was born, my mom stayed with me while Chris went to park the car and to get us registered. They waited for him to come back to cut the cord and they had a billion questions for me after Eliza joined the world. It was slightly overwhelming. It was all a blur. I kept saying "I did it! I can't believe I did it!!"I just wanted to hold my baby and look at her, but because we bypassed all of the formal introductions and paperwork, we had to do all of that after she came. Thankfully my sweet inst-friend who came to photograph the birth made it about 2 minutes after she came, and it worked out perfectly, because I don't think I want to see any picture of me during the birth. I'm told it was not pretty, but she captured everything else and I'm so thankful for it!! Because of her pictures, I could relive what seemed like a dream at the time. That's the power of a picture.
 Her first shot when she walked in

She also came the next day to capture our kids meeting their new baby and the little "Born Day" party we had to celebrate. It was a room packed full of family and love.
I've been asked many times if I had it to do over again, just like that, would I?? Mr. Clean says YES, for sure! Me??I don't know. It was a pain I can't describe. And here we are only 3 weeks later and I'm already starting to forget just how deep, hard and fast that pain was. But it was over very quickly and I didn't throw up a single time. So, I guess maybe I would go that route again if I had to.That is the only way to do a drug free delivery. Fast and Furious.
She has been the sweetest baby and we can't get enough of her, and just like I tried to savor my last pregnancy as much as I could, I'm trying to enjoy every minute this newborn stage. It was rough the first 2 weeks as I had bronchitis and trudged through the early days of nursing, which is never a cake walk for me, but we made it through the woods! If you made it to the end of this post, Congratulations! Unfortunately I have no medal for you, just like there was no medal for me once she came out! But that, my friends, is the story of Eliza's Great Escape.

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