Mom Expectations-No Thanks

January 7, 2018

Yesterday I got out of the house AND took a shower! Double win!  I spent my time out getting myself a 2018 planner because I’ve been without one for over a week now and I’m barely surviving (type A personality problems). When I am out on my own, I feel like I can breathe again. Lilah needs so much from me that sometimes I don’t even realize that I’ve neglected myself until there’s someone else watching out for her and I can just take a minute to be fully in my body. I don’t know whether it’s my own personality, or the pressure of our culture, or just this overall sense of fear that these moments will disappear and I won’t be able to get them back, but I often feel mom expectations strangling me.

It started when I was pregnant. The pressure to adorably capture every single week with a bump picture was suffocating. I never remembered, and part of me just didn’t care about doing it. But I would see other pregnant friend’s posts on social media and I would immediately panic because I wasn’t doing that. Was I missing something? Was I neglecting to capture these memories for my baby girl? And now she’s here, and the pull to capture every little moment, and document every smile, is even stronger. Sure I take a lot of pictures (have you seen that sweet little face?), and I journal most days and include Lilah milestones in that, but not a lot of planned memory capturing going on here. Of course I had high hopes going into this mama thing that I would create an organized online photo album and write all about Lilah’s day every single evening. But instead, our pictures of Lilah are hanging out somewhere in the cloud, and sleep is much more important to me at night than anything else.

Yesterday afternoon, after a particularly panicky moment in regards to my failure to organize my daughter’s memories, I found myself thinking about what is important to me from my childhood. My amazing mom kept journals and calendars for us and it really is fun to see what I was doing 2 weeks after birth, but honestly I can count on one hand the amount of times I have looked at those. But that picture of me running down the beach in my duck bathing suit? I look at that all the time. And that blanket I slept with until I was 10? It houses more memories than I can even explain. And above all else the most important things have been the things my parents taught me. The hours and hours a day my mom spent teaching me to read and write my name. The evenings when my dad would come home and wrestle with us until we could barely breathe we were laughing so hard. Those things above all else, I hold onto.  The other stuff, while sweet and fun to look at, isn’t a must. I don’t have to do it, and Lilah will be okay, I will be okay.

When wrestling against a certain expectation, I always ask myself if this would be important to the Ingalls family (you know, Little House on the Prairie). And what I mean by that is, was it something that they needed to survive or be happy? It’s my favorite way of bringing myself back to the basics. What do I need here? What does Lilah need here? Is this thing I am obsessing over really all that important? Did Ma and Pa keep endless memory boxes for Laura and her siblings? Nope. They didn’t even have photographs then and yet no one cared that they didn’t know what they looked like as a baby. And I bet that Ma spent way more time experiencing and way less time documenting. And hey, that’s not to say that I’m not going to bask in the beauty that is modern technology, but I’m sure I can learn a few things from the way that they lived their lives.

While I know I will forever battle these expectations of momhood- which bottles to use, or if co-sleeping is safe, or should you really give an infant Tylenol before shots-I am working every day to  create experiences whether I capture them forever or not. Documenting events will not be my obsession, but experiencing them. Lilah may not have a neat little picture album, and the journal of her first year of life may be filled with her mama’s own struggles and insecurities, but I will make sure that she has beautiful, challenging, comforting memories to hold onto for her entire life.

Making Real Memories-resisting the urge to capture perfection

December 8, 2017


For many many years of my life I struggled with an eating disorder. Perfection was my goal and my expectations were unattainable, and yet I starved my body to try and reach it. Still years later as I live in recovery and continue to learn to love food and nourish my body, the need for perfection creeps in every so often. And when it does, I expose it. Because I will never go back to that place. I was made for so much more. My weight does not define my purpose or my beauty. But that doesn’t mean my brain doesn’t try to pull me back to that dark place, where all that mattered was on the outside.  For me and many mamas I know, those months after childbirth, when everything is a little bit bigger and clothes don’t quite fit, can be a source of so much frustration, sadness, self doubt.

Two weeks after Lilah was born we had a photographer in our home to capture our new little family. I spent hours at the mall with Eric a few days prior, trying to find an outfit that would hide my new mama body. After lots of dressing room tears I found something that I thought would kind of work. Hopefully the photographer would get all of my good angles so that I would look skinny. The day of the shoot I cringed as I put on my outfit. As I put on my makeup I thought to myself, well at least my face looks okay, and I tried not to stare at the lumpiness spilling over the waistband of my jeans. The photo shoot itself was magical. I was on cloud nine, in my own little world with my Eric and my Lilah. I remember thinking, what could be better than this?

A few weeks later we got the pictures back and they were breathtaking. Our sweet little baby looked angelic, and all her tiny features were captured so perfectly. And then there were the family moments, the mama and Lilah moments. Those were breathtaking too, freezing those moments of connection in time. But my eyes couldn’t help but drop down to the thighs that were quite a few sizes bigger than what they once were, and the belly that hadn’t yet shrunk from housing my little girl. I cringed again. I decided I would just post the pictures that didn’t showcase my new size, that way no one would notice that I wasn’t “perfect” anymore. I would just frame the ones where I wasn’t one of the main subjects of the picture. That would keep me hidden.

Fast forward a few weeks, to right now, this moment as I sit in bed watching my baby’s chest rise and fall as she sleeps. The moments. Oh how precious they are. I want to remember as many as possible, bottle them up and save them forever. And then I realize, ALL the photographs we have of these first few months are so precious. The ones of us giving Lilah her first bath, where I still look pregnant and puffy, but my smile stretches from ear to ear with pure happiness. And still to come are the Christmas pictures where I am still 50 lbs over my pre-pregnancy weight, and nothing quite fits me yet. But am I willing to sacrifice the memories just because I am not currently meeting my own standards of perfection? Lord no. NO NO NO NO NO. I want to remember. I want to look back on these pictures and remember how my body grew this little person, and fed this little person, and spent nights rocking and burping this little person. I want to remember all the squishiness, every single pound.

And when Lilah is older I will resist the urge to mention how huge I was when we look through her baby photos. Instead I will say, “look how happy mama was to finally have you in her arms”, “look at her smile and the way she looks at you”. Those were the best days baby girl, the very best days.

The Birth of Lilah Grace.

November 14, 2017

 

My blog has been under construction for over a year as I’ve been working to reset my heart and soul. I needed some time of silent reflection, and in many ways still do. But so many of you dear people have been asking me about Lilah’s birth story, so I’ve decided to share it here.

I used to find new mamas to be a little obnoxious-sharing their birth stories, posting a zillion pictures of their babes on social media, complaining about how nothing fits anymore. And yet here I am, wearing 1 of 5 pairs of oversized pants I wear in rotation, taking yet another picture of my little girl for instagram, and writing about my birth story! Who am I? But it’s true that once you become a mom your perspective really does change. The entire act of bringing an itty bitty human being into the world is humbling and amazing.

September 28th, my due date. No Lilah Grace. I had yet another doctor’s appointment. I was 4cm dilated and yet no sign of a baby. Going over your due date is like some special kind of torture. It is completely depressing. By 39 weeks you’ve been trapped inside your own body for long enough, your stomach hangs out of pretty much every shirt you own, and forget about tying your shoes.

DISCLAIMER: I had an annoyingly good birth experience and some of you may want to punch me as you’re reading this, so be prepared.

On Saturday September 30th I woke up at 4am with a new kind of discomfort, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. But by 6am it was clear that I was in labor. I woke Eric up so he could help me get into the shower (because that’s what the birth class taught us), but having a contraction while standing in a slippery shower totally sucks, so back to bed I went. I called my doctor around 7:30 with contractions 3 in a row, every ten minutes. It was a weird pattern and he felt that I should wait to go to the hospital. But my body doesn’t really ever do anything conventionally, so around 8:30am we started preparing to go to the hospital anyway. I was afraid they were going to send me home, so I would scream “WE HAVE TO GO NOW” during a contraction and then sit on the couch and suggest we wait a few more minutes. Finally, when I was sure I was going to die, we decided to go. We arrived around 9:30am at the local hospital. It took us a good chunk of time to even get to labor and delivery because I insisted on walking, but had to stop every 2 minutes or so as my contractions got closer together. People passing in wheelchairs and rolling hospital beds looked at me with pity as I groaned my way down the halls.

When we made it into the initial exam room, the nurse began asking me questions about the kind of care I wanted, etc. I think I would have said yes to selling my child to her at this point, I was in no state to be in a conversation. The initial exam showed that I was 5-6cm dilated. My goal had always been to wait until 7-8cm for an epidural. Knowing how my body doesn’t follow the rules, and that it might take the anesthesiologist a while to get to my room, I elected to call him right away. No sooner were we up in my delivery room, he arrived. I was at 7-8cm.

It’s funny how much you don’t care about your own disgustingness during labor. I mean, it crossed my mind when I was sitting with my butt out towards the doctor, but he has the drugs so you get over it. After 3 minutes of complete and total hell, the epidural was in. By this point I was 9 1/2 cm dilated, it was 11:30am. Within another half hour, I was 10cm dilated (see, I told you it was annoying). However, my water had not yet broken, and I still needed antibiotics since I was strep B positive. So they started my IV and told me to hang tight…UM K? At this point my blood pressure started to drop and so did the baby’s, so in they came with an oxygen mask and some medication, speaking in doctor lingo. i remember tearing up a little bit, looking at those nurses hovering over me. I’ve never quite liked being a patient, and dislike even more not knowing what’s going on. But they were able to stabilize us and all was well. The transitional shakes started to set in. Eric said it looked like I was freezing cold, and was hard for him to watch.

For the next few hours we watched Home Alone 2 and waited.

2:30pm, my water breaks.

4:00pm, I begin to feel the urge to push.

4:30pm, In comes a midwife and off we go! I remember saying to myself “it’s just like a long run, just keep going”. I can’t even remember how many times I pushed. I had requested a mirror and so not only did I watch my baby girl’s head begin to crown, but I saw myself from a totally new and horrifying angle. Anyway, eventually she was close to being born and so I no longer was paying attention to the mirror and was pushing with all my might to bring this little thing into the world. And then at 5:18pm, out she came. Our little Lilah Grace. I wasn’t overcome with emotion like so many people say-I was kind of in shock. I remember thinking “what just happened?” “did that just come out of me?” “oh my gosh she looks exactly like Eric”. I couldn’t believe that she was mine.

When they put her up on my chest, I noticed how blue she was, and when her little body wasn’t pinking up, they took her to the table in the corner to examine her further. I watched as they put a little mask on her face. I felt uneasy, scared, sad that I wasn’t holding my baby. But I kept repeating to myself, as I have the entire 6 weeks she’s been alive, “she is a gift, not yours but God’s. have faith. deep breaths”. As the midwife stitched me up, I watched as a series of NICU doctors came in to inspect my baby. it was decided that she needed some help breathing and so off she went down the hall to the NICU.

A few hours later after I was fed and cleaned up and sewn together, Eric and I went to the NICU to see her. I had been there many times before, not as a mom, but as a social worker. It is a hard place to be. So many little lives fighting. So many mamas and daddys overwhelmed with sadness and fear. As they wheeled me over to my little girl, I was so humbled. So humbled that my little girl was okay. That she was born full term, healthily plump, and that she would be leaving the NICU in just a few hours to be reunited with us up in our hospital room. My heart ached for the mamas who would spend months visiting their babies in this sterile room, and ached even more for those who would never bring their babies home.

When the wheeled her into our hospital room a few hours later, I felt like I was really seeing her and holding her for the first time. Studying her little features, watching her chest rise and fall. This was the baby I had carried all this time. The little girl I had prayed over, sang to, talked to in the car on my way to work. Finally here she was.

So far on this mama journey that I have just begun, I am realizing that I will never survive raising my daughter if I cannot rest in the truth that God is in control and I am not. That no matter what may happen in this lifetime, no matter how much time I am given with my sweet baby girl, that God is good. I am doing all that I can to cling to that and to rest in peace and joy.

 

Nothing is done and I don’t care.

August 6, 2017

It’s not in my nature to turn projects loose unfinished. I obsess over the little things until I am so tangled up in my own thoughts and feelings that I can barely function. So it is quite out of character for me to publish something on this blog of mine that’s still a major, slow, work in progress.

Yet here I am.

This morning when I woke up, it just hit me. I don’t care if this thing is perfect. I just want to write. I want to write for that piece of myself that needs to share my heart. I want to write for my baby girl, who will always know that her mama has dreams and hopes and stories. And I will write for all my friends out there who suffer in silence. Who carry burdens without saying a word. Who feel alone in a scary world, alone in the midst of a faith they can’t make sense of, alone in this world where expectations feel so high and grace feels so low.

What I am learning about myself is I am incapable of pretending. Of course there are times when I fake it-we all do. But in the general sense of the word, I just can’t. If I don’t live with my heart on my sleeve, something inside of me starts to shrivel. It’s always been one of those things that I could barely stand about myself. I always felt like the annoying girl who was prone to word vomiting all her life experiences. But then one day, Eric told me that is one of the things he loves most about me. My bravery with my words. How he never has to guess what’s going on in my heart and mind.

That changed everything for me.

So here I am. Messy blog, messy hair, messy house, messy life. I vow that this will be a safe place. Not only for others, but for myself. No expectations. No standards to live up to. Just a blank space to write it all down.

For The Days You Just Can’t.

March 17, 2016

Sometimes I have one of these days every couple of months, sometimes they come all in a row for months on end, threatening to never leave.

For a little over a month now the days “I just can’t” have been hovering over me like a dense fog, allowing me to function but just barely. Our family is facing great pain, I am struggling with purpose, money is tight, and each time I find a job it seems to fall apart.

Defeated.

Have you been there? Are you there right now?

The other day I spent 12 hours on the couch. I had the day off, and I sat down to watch the news while eating breakfast and decided that it was a day I just couldn’t and so I didn’t. I planted my butt in front of an NCIS marathon and did everything in my power to love myself with grace for the entire day.

I think that’s the key to days when we just can’t. Sometimes we have to go to work and meet deadlines and feed kiddoes and run errands, and so we muster up all that is within us and we go and do it.  Maybe on those days we get a scone and caramel latte and all the strength of Jesus we can get. But every once in a while, when we feel like we just can’t, maybe we don’t.

Are you with me?

Maybe some days we stay in bed. Who cares?

And maybe some days we eat ice cream for breakfast lunch and dinner because it was a really hard day and we just need to have so much grace and love for ourselves.

I am learning this.

As I claw my way through the dark days, desperately clinging to Jesus, I am learning to have grace for myself.

I am doing the best that I can, you are doing the best that you can. And when it really comes down to it, there’s a reason for the days we just can’t. They mean something. It is our psychological response to something that’s too big for us. Sometimes that thing has haunted us for our entire lives, sometimes it’s just for this season, but it’s almost always something we can take a closer look at.

Hidden beneath every struggle is a better version of ourselves, if we can just listen.

So you who are sitting in a day you just can’t, or a series of days you just can’t, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We can Skype if you want. And it’s okay if you’re eating cereal out of a mixing bowl, and haven’t washed your hair in 4 days, because I know that place.

Together we can do this.

An Open Letter To Myself On A Wednesday In February

February 18, 2016

You are enough. You are enough. You are enough.

Hold onto that truth.

I know it feels like the world is spinning too fast and you can barely see straight in front of you. But keep moving forward. One step at a time. Moment by moment.

Deep breaths, baby steps. You got this.

Give yourself SO much grace.

Love yourself in every way you know how.

You can do hard things. You’ve always been able to.

You are not alone. Never have you ever been. The God of the universe is holding you in His hands. Can you believe it? He’s got you, there is nothing to fear! Lean into Him, let Him take it all from you.

Rest.

You are okay.

Nothing that you do or do not do defines you.

You are enough, just as you are.

Now snuggle into a million fluffy blankets, breathe deeply, and rest.

For you are so loved and you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

 

 

 

When God Lets Us Down.

January 31, 2016

God is always good.

But it doesn’t always feel that way, does it?

God doesn’t always move mountains.

Sometimes we’ve been sitting on the rough side of rough our entire lives, praying faithfully, doing everything we can on our end and God doesn’t come through for us like we feel He should.

We may spend days on our knees in prayer, we may have the faith to move mountains, we may really need Him to come through for us in a specific way. But that doesn’t mean He will.

Sometimes God let’s us down. It’s true, we can say that.

His ways are higher than our ways. But sometimes, I think we fall into the trap that He has to heal us because He loves us. For reasons greater than we could ever comprehend, it doesn’t always work that way.

So then I wonder, what if we just trusted Him to love us in those ways we can’t understand, and trusted Him to take care of us in the deepest sense of the word.

For the past week I have been praying almost continuously for a loved one who is in more pain that I can even imagine. I pray for peace and strength. But above all I pray for healing. And I will never ever stop praying for healing. But today as I drove home from work, I realized that I don’t just believe that God has the ability to heal, I expect Him to. He has to, right? That’s His job.

But what if He doesn’t?

Then He is still good. And I will rest in His peace and His truth forever.

Life is so much bigger than what is going on around me. I have to trust that God is in complete control, and that He knows what He is doing.

Grabbing hold of faith, but letting go of expectations, letting things unravel as they may.

When God let’s us down it is only because our expectations are limited to what will be the least painful for us and those around us. We assume that is what God is after too. But what if He is after something greater, something more?

It is a relief to me that no one will ever fully understand the God of the Universe. That’s one thing in my life that I can’t even pretend to control. I just look up to God and say, “thank you for taking care of all this crap down here”. And then I rest in the truth that His goodness, though it may look different from my definition, is true goodness.

 

Resting In The Arms That Won’t Let Go.

January 26, 2016

I opened my computer today to finish an article for Deliberate Magazine, and I couldn’t. I sat for an hour with my fingers on the keys, willing myself to remember how to string words together, yet I couldn’t remember how.

That’s always how I know that my heart needs to write about something else.

My heart is heavy today.

I have always been pretty good at tricking myself into thinking that I am in control of my life.

And then every once and a while, life hits me like a ton of bricks and I realize, once again, that I am not.

The heaviness that reminds me I am not in control, has become so beautiful to me.

I know it sounds odd. Heaviness is painful, not beautiful. But for me, the heaviness leaves me no choice, but to surrender. I cannot hold it on my own, and so I no longer am able to pretend that I am in control. I can exhale into the truth that I cannot do it on my own.

I prefer it this way really.

I don’t want to run through life on adrenaline, caffeine, and pride. I want to sink into the arms of my Savior. I want to release all that life hands me to Him.

So as I sit here, saddened by the pain of a suffering loved one. I am clinging to Jesus in a way that I have not for many months. And I am so thankful for the heaviness that reminds me of His presence, His goodness, His love for me.

Maybe one of these days, It won’t take so much heaviness for me to rest in the arms of my Savior. But regardless, I know He won’t let go.

 

 

 

Let It Snow.

January 23, 2016

It seems as if time has stopped and everything is on hold.

The snow is still falling steadily outside my window. The few objects left in the storm’s way have taken on obscure shapes as the snow piles on their surfaces.

On most snow days I would bake some ooey, gooey cinnamon rolls for Eric and I, brew up some coffee, and enjoy a late breakfast. But today, I have made yeast free, sugar free, grain free blueberry muffins that may or may not be edible when they come out of the oven.

I have been on a strict diet for a few weeks now and will be for a few months. It’s main purpose is to rid my body of some bad bacteria that got out of control and is taking over. It’s nothing serious but it is a royal pain, not to mention a first world inconvenience. So for now, no cinnamon rolls for me.

It’s always quite interesting when you have to monitor what you eat. For someone with a history of an eating disorder, it’s like walking a tight rope. Monitor every little thing you put in your body, read and re-read packaging to make sure you can eat that. But don’t become too obsessed. Life, once again, revolves around food, and I am suddenly very aware of how different I am from that girl 8 years ago. Stronger, wiser, gentler with myself.

These past few months have been a series of triumphs and setbacks, medical bills we can’t afford, treatments that did nothing, a spirit crushed with fatigue and hopelessness. But it has also been filled with the grace of God, the power of His goodness, the blessing of His people surrounding us.

Life hits all at once. That’s just how it works. No sooner have you begun treading water again after a near drowning and another wave hits. But i’m learning that it’s not about getting out of the way of the waves,  it’s about learning to ride with them. And I have found the only way to keep afloat when riding gigantic waves is Jesus.

And so I praise Him today for his goodness, his faithfulness. I praise Him for the times life is beautiful and for the times it is too messy to untangle.

I thank him for this snow, this forced break.

It’s His permission to us to stop trying so hard and to just be for a little while.

All we can do is sit and watch it unfold all around us. We can’t control it, we can’t stop it. It’s out of our hands.

So let it snow.

Let it snow.

 

Who Am I?

January 16, 2016

Is that not the age old question?

And although I hoped against all hope that I would escape the baggage that question brings this year, I am slowly realizing that I have not. In fact, as the years pass, the stronger the question:

Who Am I?

As a Christian I know that I am a child of God, prized, loved, pure, perfect in the eyes of my savior. But the resounding truth is often muddled with the noise of the world all around me.

Who Am I?

I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin, friend. I am a writer, a teacher, an actress an athlete. I am sweet, I am sassy, I am thoughtful, witty, sad, happy, angry, and a thousand other things.

And yet, I am none of them.

Whenever I let one of those things define me, I falter.

Sometimes I have to remind myself,

“if you were none of those things you would still be enough.”

Some days I believe it and some days I don’t, but I keep saying it to myself over and over. Because, I don’t want to live a life searching, chasing down identities that I can hide behind for a while.

“Who am I?” isn’t really the question. And while I know that i’ll continue to ask it in some form my entire life, I will not let it define me. Because who I think I am in any given moment, isn’t really who I am at all. All these things I think and say that I am, barely scratch the surface of who I am in the eyes of my King.