Out of the Mommy Mystic

 

People often say after you have a baby you are in a fog.

Yes.

I feel like I’ve been living in London for the past year.

After giving birth, there was a fog that covered everything, and slowly- so. slowly.– I have emerged from that fog.

It happened as my life slowly returned to normal, and I slowly returned to myself.

At the beginning, the fog was very tangible- my body felt mushy, my brain felt mushier, and my emotions even mushier.

Then, I started to work my way through the mush, back to me. As all of the physical changes started to even themselves out, there were the other gradual changes of returning to life as normal:

  • when we moved the diaper changing station from my dresser to the changing table in Eve’s room
  • when we moved Eve from the co-sleeper to her own crib
  • when I returned to work
  • when I was no longer nursing 3-4 times a day and pumping 4 times a day
  • when I was no longer nursing or pumping at all
  • when the initial anxiety lifted
  • when the initial depression lifted
  • when I started fitting in my regular clothes again
  • when Nick and I were able to be intimate again
  • when Nick and I actually liked each other enough to be intimate again
  • when I had the energy to read the Bible and pray again
  • when I had the stamina to exercise again
  • when I had to motivation to get things done again
  • when I was no longer eating dinner after 10pm
  • when I had the ability to be thoughtful to my friends and/or pray for them again

And the list goes on.img_6307

It is only each time I emerge through another layer of fog that I realize the fog I was in, and with each layer I feel more like myself.

The most recent layer of fog was breastfeeding. Now that Eve is fully weaned I am getting my old energy and motivation back. I am able to do things I used to do, like exercise, complete multiple tasks after dinner each evening, and wake up earlier. In my head I thought that maybe I was just using breastfeeding as an excuse to be lazy and not do things that needed to be done- but holy smokes, do I realize a difference now that Eve is weaned.

I’m still wondering if my brain will ever return to normal. So far I feel like a spacier version of my old self that can no longer hold complex thoughts in my head. Maybe that’ll be the last layer of fog to lift. Or maybe my brain will never return to its previous brilliance.

Regardless, I finally feel like I’m myself again. So, I’m relieved to announce after an arduous and beautiful journey of pregnancy and my first year as a mom-

I’M BACK.

Marriage and Babies

Did you know that the first year after a baby is one of the highest rates of men cheating on their wives and of marriage dissatisfaction?

Well Nick and I can say from experience, we understand why.

Having a baby was tough on our marriage.

It. Was. Tough.

Anyone in our close circle knows this, because we asked you to pray for us. And we are so thankful for prayer.

I love Nick. We love Eve. And actually, the first six months after Eve was born went relatively well. We loved getting to know this beautiful little lady and becoming parents together. We learned a lot and we laughed even more. 

IMG_4592.JPG

Then month six. I don’t know what it was, but at that point it felt like something snapped. Nick was working three jobs, and I was working or home alone with Eve, and we weren’t connecting, and it. was. tough.

A baby changes things. Exhaustion changes things. Suddenly frustrations that I used to let go of felt huge. I didn’t have the time or the energy to do some of the things I used to. I felt alone. I felt exhausted. I felt anxious. I felt overwhelmed.

When I tell people how we’re doing better, I can’t really put words to why. What has really changed? It has felt gradual and almost invisible but things have changed.

I suppose Nick deserves most of the credit. I became so frustrated and hurt that I shut down and didn’t want to address our conflict anymore.

Nick pursued, and pursued, and pursued me. We talked, and cried, and talked, and cried (the crying mostly on my part).

The worst times were when our arguing woke Eve up.

That was an awful feeling.

And so we continued to talk and cry and work and …slowly…change.

And then

closer

and closer

and closer.

And now we’re feeling pretty close, and life is feeling all sorts of wonderful and sweet like it once had.

And we definitely don’t have it all figured out. 

And we are still struggling to love each other better every day. 

And God meets us in our mess. 

And we are so grateful.

 

Dear Eve, what you wouldn’t learn from Instagram about your first year

Dear Eve,

Immediately after you were born, the words of Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball were on repeat in my brain: “You came in like a wrecking ball…I never fell so hard in love…” (which, it turns out are not actually accurate lyrics, but that’s what was in my head). I know. I’m totally embarrassed to admit this. Of all songs, Miley Cyrus…but it fit, and that’s what I was singing in my head.

But really, you came into this world and wrecked my life. In the most perfect and painful way. Going from only being responsible for myself to being responsible for the most beautiful little (tiny, actually) human being I have ever met was…well, there is just no word for it really.

I want to tell you some things about the first year. I want to do my best to share so much of this journey with you, because if you choose it, you too will be a mama someday, and I don’t want you to feel alone or like you’re crazy – although in my experience, you might actually be crazy for some of it…but even then, I want you to know that it’s totally okay to be your own kind of crazy that first year- and probably for the rest of our lives as mamas.

Here are a few of the behind-the-scenes realities of our first year together:

  • In the beginning I was constantly asking you if you knew I was your mom, “Do you know I’m your mommy Eve?”, I would ask you over and over. I was really asking myself. Because even though labor and delivery was a pretty darn hard 12 hours, that’s still a quick turnaround from Krista the woman to Krista the mom. And transitions in life can be so wonderful, but they are always hard too. Even the best transitions include loss, because you’re leaving something behind. 
  • Having a baby was hard on our marriage. Months 6-7 especially, were ones of conflict between your daddy and me. We had tough work schedules and not enough together time and the exhaustion of a baby, and we struggled. But when relationships get hard you have to look at your own part, and your daddy and I both had to stop pointing the finger and work on our own stuff. And your dad and I are committed to each other, and we will always work things out. 
  • The joy of knowing you this year has been accompanied by the sorrow we feel with and for sweet friends who have lost a child or struggle to have children. And you will find that in life there is always good and bad, beautiful and painful, joy and sorrow occurring at once- and we have to allow ourselves to feel them both and feel them with loved ones, in order to be whole.
  • In the first months with you I was so aware of my temptation to make you my world (Helen Reddy’s You and Me Against the World often playing in my mind as I nursed you). The beauty of having you in our lives is so overwhelming, so powerful, so strong, that I constantly question both if it is real and what I would do if I ever lost you. But I must be cautious not to make you my everything, because no one person can fulfill us. Only God can do that. 

It’s been a hard year, Eve, and an amazing one. To say we are grateful for your presence in our lives doesn’t quite feel like enough. But we are so grateful! Watching you grow, holding you, kissing you, loving you- is such a gift. The fear of losing you is almost more than I can bear. Thank you for being part of what made our lives great this year. We are so thankful to call you–our sweet, curious, cautious girl–daughter.

How Ending the Mommy Wars Starts with Understanding Who We Are

I’m not sure when the so-called “mommy wars” began, but I’m sure it was after families stopped living in multi-generational homes and close-knit communities. I am sure of this, because I don’t believe we would be so judgmental of other moms if we were living under the same roofs and witnessing the complete and total love that motivates most of what they do for their children.

My thoughts about the mommy wars seems so obvious that I’m sure it has already been said, but I haven’t read it anywhere, so I’m going to say it anyway just in case it actually is something new.

So here’s my thought- or, my question, really:

What if there isn’t one right way to mom? 

What if there is not a “right” way or a “best” way? What if there is just “your” way or “my” way? And what if “my” way is best for my kids and “your” way is best for your kids?

I haven’t been a mom very long, but I have known a lot of moms, and one thing always stands out to me- moms mom from who they are.  Here is what I mean- the moms I know make decisions about parenting that fit who they are (I wonder if this could be why it is so hurtful when someone questions or criticizes our mommy choices…), and as such, serve them and their children well.

For moms who like to live spontaneously, feeding and sleeping schedules may feel like work. They and their children may thrive on more of a go-with-the-flow atmosphere in the home.

For moms who love structure and routine (like me:), having a feeding and sleeping schedule can give the freedom and peace of mind to help them bend more and be more responsive to their children’s needs.

So we make choices as moms that are true to who we are and allow us to parent from a place of strength and calm.

I’m too lazy to look it up, but I think I read a study when I was in school about how a mom just has to be a “good enough” mom- meaning, as long as she is loving and nurturing the child will turn out okay, regardless of all the peripheral parenting choices. I read another study that stated the “best” mom was the “best fit” mom- meaning the mom whose personality fit best with the temperament of the child.

Sure, those could both be true. But doesn’t it also make sense that a mom who finds her own groove and raises her children in a way that comes from who she is might create the most genuine and caring environment for her children?

IMG_3639.JPG

One of the cool things about getting pregnant and having a baby this past year is how many of my friends were going through the experience with me. For example, two of my grad school friends gave birth with me in 2015.

The three of us chat often in an international group text (along with a fourth friend who doesn’t have children yet and will most likely add even more diversity to our myriad of mothering choices). We have chatted about the many differences in our experiences: the ways we responded to our pregnancies (and all the joys and woes that go with them), our three completely different birthing experiences, and our various differences in parenting choices (from diapering, to feeding, to sleeping). I do not feel judgment from them, even though we choose to mother differently. And I love hearing about the various ways they see, view, or do things with their babies.

Same goes for my sisters. We share many similarities, but also have different personalities- to which my parents can attest. All of my sisters are amazing moms, but no two of us do things exactly alike. When my twin sister visited this past summer, we shared a playful banter- she teased me about how structured I am in my parenting and I teased her about how lax she is in hers. We have chosen to parent differently, but we have also chosen to respect each other’s parenting (despite the occasional friendly banter of course). We are constantly affirming one another and telling each other what a great mom the other is.

 

So maybe instead of asking what the right choice is as a mom–because trust me, you can find evidence on both sides of every mommy debate–we can start asking ourselves what the right choice for me is.

Oh, and by the way, it’s not our job to ask what the right choice for anyone else is.

And maybe as we start asking ourselves that question, we will not only stop questioning other moms, but will feel confident enough in ourselves that we won’t feel the need to defend and explain ourselves to others.

We all want the best for our kids, and our kids don’t need us to be doubtful and insecure.

Our kids simply need us to be ourselves. 

 

IMG_4392

 

 

How I Lost My Superhero and Found My Real Strength

I used to do it all. I used to go to work and school and exercise and volunteer and cook and clean and do my quiet time and keep up with friends and….

I used to be amazing.

Turns out having a baby is the nemesis to my superpowers.

I was recently processing this with my supervisor at work- how my identity has shifted through time. The most recent shift: from accomplisher and master of all tasks to tired mommy with spit up all over my shirt and toys all over my living room floor.

I used to get so much done in a day that I made Martha Stewart look like an amateur (not that anything I did looked as good as hers).

Now, it takes me days – sometimes weeks, sometimes months- to do the smallest task.

For example, a few months ago I decided I wanted to send my friend a card. In the past I would have grabbed a card from the card drawer, written said card, addressed, and mailed it- all within the hour.

This time I thought of writing a card, but couldn’t start immediately because Eve was asleep and the card drawer is in her room. Then several days passed when the only time I remembered I should write the card were while Eve was sleeping. Eventually I remembered to get the card out while Eve was awake. Then it sat on the counter several days until I had the energy to actually write in it. Then it was another several days before I had my laptop open and on in order to look up my friend’s address. Then another few days before I made it out to the mailbox to mail the card.

The process of sending a friend a card went from an hour to literally months (which meant she’s getting a summer card around Christmastime, thankfully she’s a very gracious friend).

I’m exhausted even writing about this process.

But see!!! I am no longer amazingly efficient. Incredibly productive. Remarkably on top of things.

Nope, I’m just an average working mom, doing her average best, to keep up her average life.

AND

I was going to write “and I am totally and completely okay with that,” because I know I should be. A more honest statement would be that I’m working on being okay with that.

I’m working on being okay with clutter in the house, and only cleaning once a month if that, and not doing the little extra things I want to be doing for friends and family.

There are a lot of ways my priorities get out of wack. I often fall into the trap of valuing what I get done over how well I am loving the people around me.

Nick is good at helping me with that.

And even though all of the things I used to accomplish felt good, many of them were temporary things.

Loving my daughter is so much more meaningful. Though my many tasks took up a lot of energy, nothing takes as much of my self as loving my daughter.

Loving Eve means being present. It means being intentional. It means being real.

Loving Eve means prioritizing my relationship with God, and my relationship with my husband, and my relationship with myself.

I want to love God, Eve, those around me, and myself so fiercely that Eve learns to do the same.

Loving requires knowing my identity is in Christ in not in accomplishments. Loving requires courage. Loving requires real strength.

And this is the superhero I chose to be.

*So, remember this post when you come over and my house is a mess…

 

 

 

Dear Eve

Dear Eve,

Happy 6-month…anniversary? birthday?

Well, whatever you call it, congratulations on surviving six whole months on planet Earth.

Can you believe you’ve made it this far already? Do you remember the first time you were out of my tummy? I’m convinced that when we were both startled awake several times during that first night, it was from very similar nightmares regarding the trauma we had both endured during childbirth.

Phew, glad that’s over, aren’t you?

When you were first born, six months seemed so far away. During weeks three through six you were having three hour crying spells every evening, and everyone said “It gets better. Just get to six months.”

And now here we are. But it didn’t take nearly that long for us to enjoy you.

Your coy little smile
Your crazy hair- that has gone from allover thick, to mohawk, to comb-over
Your chubby little thighs
Your adorable cooing
The way you raise your hand in the air as if you have a question while you nurse
Your baby-soft skin
Your big blue eyes with dark lashes
The way you bury your head in my shoulder when meeting someone new
Your inquisitive eyebrows

I could go on.

In the past six months your daddy and I have marveled at how you’ve become a little human.

You’ve learned to hold your head up
To grasp things in your hand (and initially, even that your hands were attached to your body)
To put things in your mouth (we secretly love it when you miss and accidentally hit your forehead)
To suck your toes
To sit up
To rollover (you were a little slow on this one, but according to your dad, everything isn’t a competition)
To laugh

Your daddy and I have loved cuddling you, playing with you, creeping in at night to watch you sleep.

You have made us parents for the first time.
We hope we can love you well.
We thank God every day for you, Eve.
We are so grateful for who you are, and who you are becoming.

IMG_3513

Nursing, and Pumping, and Breastmilk Oh My!

First of all, I’ve noticed that anytime I want to talk about breastfeeding or breast milk I feel a little ashamed- because it includes the word “breast.” – or maybe not ashamed, that feels too strong. I think just slightly uncomfortable, like “what if my saying breast makes someone else uncomfortable?” But breastfeeding is pretty cool -dare I say magical– and I want to work on eliminating any discomfort I feel around it- because that must come more from cultural associations than the actual event of breastfeeding.

IMG_3604

*warning* graphic discussion of breastfeeding issues to follow 

There’s a lot I didn’t know about breastfeeding.

Just add it to the tome of things I didn’t know about becoming a mom- not because I don’t have a great mom or many friends who are great moms, but because I’ve always been focused on things that concern me. Until recently, that didn’t include babies.

I had heard breastfeeding was painful. I had heard that it can be difficult at first. And I had heard that most people love it or hate it.

I’ve found all these to be true except I probably have a love/hate relationship with breastfeeding rather than all one or the other. 

Here are the things I had not heard.

Breastfeeding is MESS-Y. It is hella, hella messy y’all. When you let down (letting down just means the milk actually starts coming out), you let down on both sides. So at first I would be feeding Eve and then I’d think she wet through her diaper, only to realize three days later (I was a little slow due to the fact I was still recovering from the trauma of childbirth) that it wasn’t in fact bladder leakage, but my breast milk leaking all over poor Eve. I now use a burp cloth on whatever breast Eve isn’t eating from.

Another example of messiness is, of course, at the start when your boobs are adjusting to her eating schedule and they leak EVERYWHERE any time baby goes a longer stretch without eating. It’s like “yay! Baby slept a five hour stretch…DANG, my boobs are rock hard and my shirt is soaked with milk!” I vividly remember one night when I got up in the dark to feed Eve and as I was changing her dipe, poop started spraying everywhere. As I was cleaning her up, my boobs started squirting, and *voila!* poop and milk everywhere. And by the way, there were many nights I was dripping breast milk as I changed her diaper. Waterfalls of milk just become the norm after awhile…Why didn’t I just where a bra and nursing pads you may ask? Because at that stage my nipples hurt and I didn’t want to.

I’m very grown up about all this breastfeeding stuff…

This brings us to engorgement. Friends, if I hadn’t experienced it, I would not think it possible for my boobs to be in this state. Huge. Hard. Full of golf balls. Pain. Full. I got help from a lactation consultant for this one, and let’s just say she had Eve eating in every possible position and for such a long time that I thought she would explode. But Eve was fine and my breasts were drained. After a lot of taking, Eve really gave to mom that day by emptying me out.

Pumping.

Oh pumping. Let me count the ways I hate pumping. It hurts. It’s one of the least comfortable things I can imagine. When I’m working, I pump FOUR TIMES A DAY. This means I pump before work, twice during work (while eating, writing notes, making phone calls, etc), and once before bed. Then, at the end of the day, I have to wash a mountain of pumping parts. By hand. I despise this. I just want to go to bed! Why must I wash!

I didn’t expect that I would come to see breastmilk as liquid gold. I am telling you LIQUID. GOLD. That stuff is made of my blood, sweat and tears, people. A little part of me dies every time Eve doesn’t finish a bottle and we have to pour breast milk down the drain. There have been more than one occasion where Nick has witnessed a mini-meltdown because I accidentally spilled or spoiled milk. Once I dropped a bottle after pumping and just stared at it spilling all over the carpet in horror until my husband ran across the room to pick it up. Another time I realized I had forgotten to put the milk in the fridge after work and wasted THREE whole bottles! I’ve noticed Nick tries to secretly pour out any wasted milk before I see it to shield me from witnessing the waste.

I was also unprepared for how difficult it is to feed in public and how little I care about anyone seeing my boobs while I feed. Mothers I had seen feeding their babes in public always made it look so easy. But the reality is that Eve gets hot and I get hot, Eve gets frustrated and I get frustrated. She tries to throw the cover off as I try to get her to eat quickly. It’s hard people, hard.

The most shocking part of breastfeeding is the exhaustion. I have trained for and run a marathon. That does not compare with the fatigue my body feels daily from breastfeeding. Given the choice between running a marathon or breastfeeding for a year- I would take the marathon.

Instead of calling it a feeding, I have jokingly referred to nursing as a draining of my life blood. That’s exactly what it feels like.

As Eve eats I feel more and more like I need to sleep. I start to feel like I haven’t slept in days. I typically have a million things I plan to do when she’s done eating, but by the time she finishes I feel like I can just summon enough energy to put her to bed or lie next to her on the floor as she plays. My husband barely recognized me without my usual flurry of productivity whirling around the apartment.

And as a side note, while I’m doing Eve’s last feed of the day, which can last an hour or more, I have adapted the lyrics to Give Me Jesus from “In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus” to “In the evening, when I nurse, give me Jesus.” It seems to help a little. Feel free to steal.

Though it is hard and messy and painful, I am thankful for the opportunity to breastfeed my beloved babe. I am thankful for the bonding and the quiet one on one time. Breastfeeding forces me to put every single thing in my life on hold in order to focus on providing for my precious daughter. It brings my focus back to relationship. It rips me from my usual state of doing, back to the most important state of being

And I relish the sweet time breastfeeding gives me with Eve.

When my year is up (if I make it that far, which I hope to), I’ll be happy to be done with the pumping and messiness! But I’ll also miss the closeness and bonding with my little girl. I know breastfeeding Eve is something I will never be able to have again once she is weaned. So I am grateful for this phase. Painful and messy as it may be.

IMG_3432