Friday, October 14, 2016

The (Un)Natural

When I was pregnant with the original Bear Cub, I had someone tell me, (and I quote): "I just don't really see you as the mom type." What the crap, right? Not the best thing to tell an already frazzled & very fat pregnant lady. After I convinced myself that punching her in the throat would do more harm than good, I realized that she was right.

I am not the mom type. 

Before you all start giving the comforting responses (read: "That's not true!" or "Everyone is different!" or "Of course you are!"), let me explain. I am truly, honestly, and completely 100% ok with this. I have accepted it and here's why. 

As a Christian, sometimes God calls us to step out of our comfort zone in order to stretch our faith and give Him glory. For some, this manifests in entering the mission field. For others, it's quitting a mainstream job to start a non-profit. For others still, it's joining a small group or serving their community. For me? It was motherhood. 

This woman (who shall remain nameless), hit the nail on the head with her brutal honesty. First of all, y'all already know how I feel about children. I never volunteered in the nursery and I only babysat in order to afford the newest MxPx cd. Even then, babysitting consisted of sitting the kids in front of The Little Mermaid and hoping they didn't talk to me. I never played with baby dolls or dreamed of my future children's names. The idea of being a mom scared me. I didn't think I was cut out for it. In fact, when I married the Man, I was tempted to never have children. 

Then I got pregnant. [Ok, so it wasn't that abrupt - we did talk about it and mutually agreed that we wanted a family. Roll with me.]

Anything and everything that had to do with the original Bear Cub's labor/delivery/recovery went wrong. 36 hour labor. Failed epidural. 2nd degree tear. Colic. [Oh the colic. Just thinking of those long nights makes me want to run for the hills!] Severe postpartum depression. I would collapse in a crying heap on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. At the darkest, my mom drove down from Chicago to take care of the BC because I couldn't get off the floor. What kind of mother struggled to take care of, let alone love, her own child? I was pushed to my limits in every way. I couldn't understand why other mothers had babies who would coo and smile and sleep while mine seemed possessed by the devil himself. It was hard. I struggled. I cried and begged for relief. Motherhood did not come naturally. 

Eventually, the colic dissipated and I sought treatment for my PPD. I went back to work. The Bear Cub started sleeping through the night. There was a light at the end of the tunnel. Looking back, God used the mess of motherhood to strip away parts of me that needed removing. He took me so far out beyond my comfort zone that I had nowhere else to turn but into Him. He drew me close as I relinquished control. My faith wouldn't be what it is if it weren't for motherhood. I am still not the "mother-type" (case in point, BC watched 582 episodes of Wild Kratts today instead of doing a Pinterest craft), but I would lay down my life for my children without a second thought. I have learned what it means to love unconditionally. I have the responsibility and privilege to introduce my boys to God's love. It is my job to raise them according to His will, in His timing, for His glory and I am proud to do it. In the end, that's all that matters. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Whole Story

Facebook doesn't tell the whole story. That being said, I wish I could’ve summed up our true feelings behind our pregnancy announcement in one honest, yet cheeky catchphrase. “We’re pregnant, but we’re not really that excited because we don’t know what’s going to happen so we’re just praying!” It doesn’t exactly scream for likes. Nor does it tell the whole story.

Less than a year ago, the Man and I went for a 12 week ultrasound with our second baby. I had been feeling pretty nauseous, irritable, and hormonal, so we had no reason to believe anything was wrong. The technician immediately found a fetus, but no blood flow and no heartbeat. Our little one had stopped growing and for whatever reason, my body wasn’t showing any signs of miscarriage. We were given three options: undergo an immediate D&C, take hormone pills to induce a miscarriage, or just wait for my body to respond. After a lot of discussion, prayer, and a second ultrasound, we decided I would take the pills so we could grieve on our own in the privacy of our home. It was devastating and horrible. 

A month later I went in for a follow up, which included several blood tests and more ultrasounds. We discovered that I have a congenital uterine anomaly, and my specific diagnosis poses a significantly higher risk of late-term miscarriage. We were given the option of exploratory surgery, but since the recovery time would only prolong our efforts to try again, we decided against it. Our doctor was optimistic at our chances because I was able to carry the Bear Cub full term, so we would try again and pray. And pray. And pray.

We found out we were pregnant again just after the New Year. At 7 weeks we confirmed a heartbeat and were even able to see our littlest Bear Cub. We waited. We prayed. We guarded our hearts. We spoke in “if’s” and “hopefully’s.” At 12 weeks we heard the heartbeat via Doppler and our doctor cried with us as we rejoiced in the milestone. Two more appointments - both times, a strong heartbeat. At 20 weeks, an ultrasound revealed a healthy and growing baby boy. More tears. More prayer.  

At 29 weeks, I started having regular contractions so we went to the ER (because heaven forbid issues arise during normal business hours, right?). The nurses confirmed that I had started progressing, so I was given two different medications to stop labor. They worked and we were able to go home. Repeat 5 days later. More gray hairs. More prayers than ever. 

Now we're here, just a week shy of full-term. I'm hesitant to say we "made it," but as far as we know, our littlest Bear Cub is strong, healthy, and still growing. And I am a whale. As it should be.

We don't know what is to come, but we are continuing to seek His will, in His timing, for His glory. Behind every post is a story. This is ours. A testament of God’s faithfulness and provision, regardless of the outcome. May it always be so. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

We've all heard it - the question that is asked of us from the moment we can talk:

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

In elementary school, I wanted to be an astronaut. We had just finished the space lesson and I thought riding in a space ship would be pretty cool. But then I watched the space camp video where the kids have to ride in the gyroscope and it scared me to death. I got sick on the Tilt -A-Whirl and they certainly didn't make a Dramamine strong enough for zero-G's.

After watching the games in Atlanta, I wanted to become an Olympic gymnast. But by the age of 12, I had taken zero tumbling classes and could barely complete a cartwheel. So I switched my dream to become a professional basketball player. The WNBA had just started and I thought I could be a star - except I stopped growing in 8th grade. Professional basketball isn't the best market for a 5'5 white girl who can't jump and hates to run.

In high school I meandered through several choices from a writer to a forest ranger to a lawyer. In college, I thought I wanted to be a teacher. That is, until I went on my very first field experience and realized that I don't like kids. As I've stated previously, kids are sticky, they're loud, they throw up without warning, they smell and a lot of them are smarter than me. So I dropped out of the education program and majored in English.

AKA - I don't know what I want to do with my life.

I can guarantee I did not expect to become a wife and mom living on a 16 acre farm with goats and chickens in Southern Indiana. So how did I get here and why am I here?

The "how" part is easy: marriage is a life sentence and the Man got a job in Louisville. So I followed.

But why am I here? Why don’t I know what I want to be when I grow up?

Because if I knew why I wanted to be here – if I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, it would leave no room for God to work His way in me. I am such a type A planner/organizer/doer that I have to think everything through to the last minuscule detail. I imagine every possible scenario and create workflows to accomplish time-sensitive goals. I make lists, I highlight, I take control and make things happen. I succeed at all costs.

I end up leaving God out of it.

When I am left in the background, the in-between, the unknown – the uncertainty forces me to trust in something greater than myself. God takes me out of my comfort zone and drops me in the middle of nowhere (literally – have you ever been to Pekin?) and says, “Be still and know that I am God.” It is here in the gray area where God is revealing Himself to me. He is transforming me. He is moving. He is working - even though I feel like I'm doing nothing of significance.

When the Bear Cub smears chicken poop all over the kitchen floor or eats the dog food for the umpteenth time, I start to question if I should be doing something else. When my husband doesn’t return my phone calls and there’s a report of an officer-involved shooting – I wonder if this is what God has for me. When my peers are receiving their doctorates and offered positions at big name companies – I doubt my purpose. Am I just a mom, a cop’s wife, an HR specialist?

"Be still and know."

I cannot rely on my relationships, my personality, my intellect, or my physical ability to accomplish the Lord’s will. I am called to Be still and know that He is God. And clean up chicken poop.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Last Chapter

As a Christian, it seems the idea of "faith" has become a cure-all for all of life's troubles.

Lost a job? "I'm relying on my faith."
Health concerns? "I'm trusting in God."
Family issues? "Our faith is our foundation."

But what is faith, really?

When we packed up and moved 280+ miles away to a new place where the Man and I knew hardly no one, we said we were trusting God. But the "trust" part manifested itself in job searches, unpacking boxes, and finding new friends. We were doing something to live out our faith.

When the Man goes into work each night, I have faith that God will protect him. But my faith is confirmed as he puts on his bullet-proof vest, loads his weapon, and turns on his radio. These tangible things keep my faith from wavering.

So when we were faced with the sudden and unexpected loss of our second baby, I really struggled with understanding how faith works. I had no control over what was happening. My body wasn't cooperating so I couldn't do anything. There were no treatments, no remedies, no medicines that could stop it. I couldn't change, fix or do anything. All I could do was wait. And trust.

I remember driving to a vacant parking lot late one night and spent 45 minutes yelling at God at the top of my lungs. I cursed, I cried, I sobbed, I punched the steering wheel (not my best idea) - anything to physically act on my grief. Yelling somehow helped me bridge the gap between my anger and what seemed like a silent God. Yet unknowingly, through the choking sobs and cuss-laced accusations, I was surrendering my faith into Jesus' hands.

I'm learning that faith isn't for the faint of heart and "trusting God" is so much more than a Christian catchphrase. Faith is the freedom to be honest, knowing that God can handle my mess of emotions. Faith is believing that the darkness won't last forever. Faith is forcing myself to hope. Faith is ignoring the doubt. Faith is giving up control. Faith is finding the good. Faith is claiming truth. Faith is not knowing the answers. Faith is not understanding why. Faith is admitting life is unfair. Faith is doing nothing but cry. And sometimes faith is just waking up and choosing to live that day, that hour, or that moment because you have to believe that the last chapter hasn't been written yet.

I know mine hasn't.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Why Can't We Be Friends?

Ok, I know - I get inspired, write a few blog posts, then fall off the face of the Earth. This is my standard operating procedure and I've accepted it. You should too.

Let's get to the point.

Mom-Shaming.

Parenting is hard enough - why do we feel the need to judge or criticize other moms who may be desperately trying to make it through another day? We don't know everyone's story, so how can we make accurate assumptions? We can't. Sure, one day I may actually do my hair & makeup and waltz into the local Target in non-yoga pants with my charming Bear Cub who decides to give a dashing smile to every woman in sight.

But most days? Most days I consider it a victory if the Bear Cub and I make it out the door with pants on. (Today, he made it 45 minutes before blowing out of his shorts. Such is life.)

Anyway, Mom-Shaming is real and it needs to stop. I'm sure this isn't a recent phenomenon, but with the rise of social media, mom-shaming is all of sudden the source of tweets, posts, instagram's, hashtags, etc for the public eye. Whether it's in the form of overt opinions ("BREAST IS BEST!") or the not-so-subtle humblebrag, ("Boo! I can't wear my favorite jeans because I've lost so much weight baby-wearing.") I don't expect all moms to agree on the same philosophies, but I do expect a reasonable amount of respect. Differing opinions are ok - inducing shame & guilt for those differences is not. I think Mom-Shaming causes unnecessary insecurity, doubt, and low self-esteem. Regrettably, I have succumbed to this behavior and please believe me when I say I'm working on it. I've been convicted of my thoughts because I don't want other moms whispering behind my back when I'm trying so hard to keep us all alive.

So what if a mom uses formula over breast-feeding? Cloth diapers or disposable? Child-led weaning? Technology-use? Toddler breastfeeding? Sleep training or co-sleeping? Homemade or store-bought? Natural foods or Happy Meals? Spanking or time-outs? Ultimately, we are called by God to raise our children in His image for His glory. He will not reward based upon Earthly principles and standards, so really, us moms should breathe a huge sigh of relief. (I would, but I'm so out of shape I'm sure I'll end up in a coughing fit.)

Hang in there. We're in this mess together.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Two Shall Become Three

A pregnant friend of mine asked me the other day if having a baby impacted our marriage. Once I stopped laughing, I told her that having a baby changes EVERYTHING and NOTHING about marriage all at the same time.

This Saturday marks our 6th wedding anniversary, but the Man and I have been together for almost 9 years. Nine years of love, independence, freedom, and (let's be honest) selfishness. We graduated college, got "grown-up" jobs, moved 300 miles away, and bought a house with only each other to account for. Those years were a blessing and a curse. On one hand, we were able to strengthen our relationship and ride out some very tough times without the responsibility & stress of another living being. On the other, we were used to just us. Quiet. Restful. Skinny. Bliss.

Before the Bear Cub arrived, we braced ourselves for a hit to our marriage. I spent long nights and early mornings praying for God's protection over our relationship - that God would bind our hearts together and unify our efforts as new parents. My growing belly was a daily reminder that our lives were going to change drastically (the Man helped with his snarky fat jokes, referring to me as his "cray-cray baby momma"). Everyone gave me their unsolicited advice and I did my best to be prepared.

But no one warned me that becoming parents would make me fall desperately in love with my husband again. The Man took on his new role as Dad readily and flawlessly. He loved to swaddle the Bear Cub, carefully wrapping the blanket around his tiny little head, whispering secrets only known between a father and son. For the first few weeks he would tend to my every need and complete chores without being asked. My heart soared.

Two weeks later I was sobbing in the bathroom with a handful of poop, blaming the Man for wrecking my body and driving me out of my ever-loving mind. We couldn't agree on anything. Neither of us had slept. We ate frozen pizza and mac n' cheese for every meal. I peed every time I sneezed, coughed, laughed, breathed. He couldn't do anything right and I cried ALL THE TIME. Lord help us if this was to be our new normal.

We've learned that in order to stay sane, we need to remember the days of just us. Yes, a lot has changed, but the Man is still the wonderful, generous, kind, strong, and honorable person that I married. Our days are filled with poop, spit-up, crying and no sleep, but he is still my best friend who makes me laugh like none other. It's vital that we still sing along to Styx while making dinner or fall asleep on the couch to Frasier reruns or spend entirely too much time in the gym. We need to remember why we chose to spend our lives together, for better or worse.

So yes, parenthood has influenced our marriage, but we won't let it define it. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

50 Shades of Frumpy

So I just finished reading this "momblog" written by a beautiful (yet humble) 27-year-old Christian woman with 3 kids. In her blog, she uses terms like "hot mess" and "tragic" to describe herself, all while looking glamorous in her size 4 jeans alongside her GQ-esque husband and J.Crew model children. 

Girlfriend, let me tell you about tragic. 

Please hear me out first - I believe comparison is the #1 self-esteem killer for all women, especially new moms. We have the habit of trying to measure up to the breast-feeder, the cloth-diaperer, the coupon-cutter, the homemade everything-er, the stay-at-home caregiver, the "I lost all my baby-weight in two weeks while sitting on the couch eating bon-bons"-er. Everything we do is met with criticism. We can never be good enough for everyone. 

I wholeheartedly believe in the healing power of honesty. For years I have fought the battle of trying to be what others wanted me to be, only to end up stressed, disappointed, and exhausted. I'm learning to let go of my impossibly high standards and accept my hot mess for what it is. 

For example?
  • 5+ months postpartum and I still wear maternity clothes on occasion.  Yes, I do have real pants with a zipper, but sometimes I just need an elastic waist. My clothes still don't fit correctly despite my workouts, but we cannot afford to buy a new wardrobe so I make do. 
  • Stretch marks are a pain in my tookus (which is also covered in stretch marks). Whoever said stretchmarks are a badge of mommy honor needs to be punched in the face. They're hideous and I am incredibly self-conscious about them. 
  • Being a full-time working mom is the best decision for our family. I am not cut out to be a stay-at-home mom and I feel no shame admitting that I enjoy going to work each day. In fact, I am a better mom because I work. My fuse is longer, my compassion is deeper, and my time spent with the Bear Cub is not taken for granted. 
  • Yoga pants accentuate my lack of a butt. I can say with confidence that I am NOT the reason for all of the "yoga pants aren't modest" articles. 
  • I don't pluck my eyebrows. If people want to focus on the condition of my eyebrows, they're missing out on life. 
  • Because I am a working mom, I have supplemented with formula and the Bear Cub is doing just fine. 
  • I had an epidural and GOD BLESS IT! I tried to go naturally, but my body wasn't having it. My mind wasn't having it. The Man wasn't having it. No shame. 
  • I am terrible at keeping track of the Bear Cub's milestones. First smile? Not sure. First time he rolled over? No idea. First laugh? No clue. First tooth? Not yet. Poor kid is only going to have a handful of Facebook posts to remind him of his first year of life. 
I say all of this in hopes that you'll cut yourself some slack and find contentment in the woman God has made you. We aren't meant to be anyone else - we are meant to be the best mom, wife, sister, daughter and friend to those around us. So to the rail-thin, Jessica Alba look-alike? We are on the same team. I was just picked last. :)