Tuesday, May 10, 2016
"Nine months on, nine months off." This is the mantra of any new mother seeking consolation in her old pair of skinny jeans. We hear this timeline and tell ourselves it seems reasonable to "get back to" our former bodies as if counting calories or taking walks was an actual time machine for our thighs.
For some, nine months is nine days. For others, nine months is years and years or never again. But, one thing is true for any mother - your body is never the same after having a baby. This isn't a story about weight loss, though. No, there's a much bigger lesson here than cracking the code to losing weight. (Otherwise I'd be sharing terrible tips like how to survive on a steady diet of Goldfish crackers and frozen waffles.)
Since driving myself crazy with body image issues in my youth, I strive to keep a healthy and reasonable outlook when it comes to my self-talk and body image. But, it's not easy. I don't step on the scale very often, but last week I weighed myself and to my surprise saw my magic number: I'd reached my pre-pregnancy weight. I felt a sense of relief and pride as any semi-normal, semi-neurotic, red blooded American woman would. With my baby approaching her 9 month milestone, it seemed I'd met the goal right on time. I slipped on my Spanx, buttoned my jeans, and headed out the door with my head held high.
I took my middle daughter to Preschool as usual, toting her backpack and baby sister on my hip as we walked her to class. The hallway is always bustling with kids and moms in the morning, so it didn't phase me when another child walked up and started smiling at baby Vivian. Then, the child turned to me and said the words every non-pregnant woman cringes to hear: "Are you pregnant? You look like you're going to have another baby!"
After I punched the kid in the face...(Okay, I'm kidding, but in my imagination some version of that story definitely took place)
After I politely (and rather directly) corrected the youngster, I caught myself being completely deflated by what I had been proud of only moments earlier. I sucked in my stomach and silently retorted with a million "Seriously?s" in my head, frustrated by the false announcement. I paused. I sighed. An innocent, tactless, little twerp had put me in my place and I was ready to hand over my body image rights to the opinion of a five year old. Hmm. Who was being more ridiculous in this scenario?
Like most women, I've grown up in a society that has taught me to value a pound of flesh over an ounce of character, so my worth gets easily wrapped up in thoughts of cellulite and muffin tops. The world bombards us mamas with images of celebrity-bumps-begone, invading our realities with unattainable expectations that if we really had our acts together the jiggly belly that once housed a human would disappear before we checked out of the maternity ward. Our reality lines get blurry at the crossroads of "enough" and "perfect" to the point that we doubt the beauty of our inside the moment we question the beauty of our outside.
If we let the world decide how we're supposed to look, and we allow that judgment to affect us, our big mama butts don't stand a chance.
I've never met a mama who didn't admit her soul was changed the moment she held her baby for the first time. Motherhood changes us, inside and out. Yes, my jeans will never fit quite the same way again. My booty is flat and my tummy is puffy and scarred forever. Don't even get me started on the nursing boobs (heading south like their trying to make it to Rio in time for the Olympics). It's true, my physical body is full of evidence that I've carried creatures into this world. Beautiful, magical creatures...that turn into the very people I sit with and laugh and discipline and hug every day.
I look like a mom, and it's awesome. Because for every little pooch or sag that shows on the outside, there are a million more signs of life on the inside that are far more important.
My pregnancies taught me to be patient, to sit in awe, to truly feel life, and to love the unknown. My children grow me, challenge me, strengthen me, stretch me, and enlighten me daily. By getting to know who they are, I'm forced to shake up my instincts and be intentional with my thoughts and actions according to their needs. They have made me more creative, selfless, generous, patient, or loving than I ever thought possible. It is suuuuuuper difficult and uncomfortable, constantly learning how to parent these magical creatures that keep changing and growing along with me...but, I wouldn't trade it for a Victoria's Secret figure no matter what.
Mamas, it's time to love our whole selves, inside and out. Let's really own this mom body thing. Let's set the scale aside and buy new jeans and laugh off ridiculous comments from silly kids that are still trying to figure out how that baby got in your tummy in the first place. Let's compliment each other more often and smile when we are too tired to think of anything to say. Let's have the beauty of the soul-changing miracle we endured be evident in our self-talk and show up in how we care for ourselves.
I'm not saying this is easy or happening overnight. Maybe it will take another nine months to believe all the truths I start to tell myself today. But, we can do it, mamas. You and me, and our beautiful baby-making-bodies at every weight, in every shape, full of treasures from the inside out. No buts about it.
2 Corinthians 4:16
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
This is not a big deal. I mean - it was planned, it's temporary, and I know that my husband is coming back on Friday so the chances that I actually drown in the sea of laundry that's accumulating is slim.
But, whoa man. There are mamas out there right now, doin this single-bit every day, and I am on my knees bewildered at their survival. I know some single moms that are truly ROCKING it, churning out edible lunches, kids with matching socks, and children who actually say please and thank you without prompting.
Single moms, my hat's off to you. As Mother's Day is right around the corner, I want you to know that you are seen and loved and seriously amazing the crap out of me right now.
Maybe you are widowed or divorced or separated. Maybe you're not technically "single", but you might be single-handedly ruling the roost for now. Maybe you are married but your husband is overseas or often called away on work. Whatever. You are truly momming hard.
I'm sorry that the world has shoved you under such a semi-deprecating stereotype as "single mom". As if it's any of the world's business how or why you have the jersey but no teammate in the crazy game of parenthood. I'm here to verbally hug you and say I really don't care how or why you are single, but I think we should come up with a new term altogether that embraces your amazingness at thriving partner-free. How about Super Star Mom? Momtastic Gal? Hmm. "Grand" Mother is already taken, so we'll have to keep brainstorming I guess.
Nevertheless, if you are momming hard on your own and your children are alive and well - BRAVO. I don't know how you do it.
Some of you may have not chosen this exact path for yourself. You may have had hearts broken or dreams shattered at one point in your life. There have been looks of judgement and glares of disappointment. No doubt someone has been unkind in their effort to "fix you" or been condescending in their unsolicited advice. I'm sure I've done my part in overlooking your needs or extraordinary selflessness, and for that I sincerely apologize.
I don't think you are living a "Second Best" life. There may have been bad people or bad choices or bad examples in the past that have led you to where your feet are planted today, but that doesn't mean you can't grow and flourish into something beyond your wildest dreams. God can use you exactly where you are, and He's already blessed you with children who stretch your patience and love boundlessly, giving you opportunities daily to see God's goodness. If that's not life's BEST, I don't know what is.
You are brave and beautiful. You have probably faced impossible choices and maybe no one was there to hug you or high five you when you put your children's needs above your own. You can be a living example of a loving sacrifice, and that is everything in parenthood, and God honors that. You are cared for by a God who knows your every need. You are more than enough for your children, and God has given them a whole, made-in-His-image, perfectly-chosen-for-this-position mother in YOU.
This Mother's Day, stand proud. Be that Mawesome... Shazam-a-mama....Ma-mazing, (nope, still striking out on this renaming thing) but BE THAT and know this mama is sitting back and praying for you to feel all the love and comfort and hope that you need. I hope your kiddos drench you in blessings and that the Holy Spirit fills you to the brim with peace in the assurance that you are His forever and ever.
Happy Mother's Day
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
I don't know what it's like to receive a diagnosis of infertility. When it took me nearly a year to conceive our first child, my fertility appointment got changed to my first prenatal visit as I found out I was pregnant after months of trying. I don't know how devastating that diagnosis can feel, so I'm not going to act like I can understand what a couple is going through as they learn that news.
Many of you are like me, in the 90% of couples who are able to conceive within a year of trying. But, apart from actually having the babies in our arms, we are exactly like the other 10% of mothers and fathers waiting to hold their precious bundles of joy. We have felt the desire to want an expression of our devotion to raise as our own. We have known the gut-wrenching love inside of us waiting to erupt into the next generation. We understand the soulful yearning that echoes beyond our own purpose into something bigger than ourselves. In this, we are united. We are parents...with babies or without.
This week is National Infertility Awareness Week, and it's a silent epidemic on relationships that many are too confused or uncomfortable to address. But, as long as we're all here on this crazy planet together, I think we need to do our best to raise awareness and support for those couples who are holding up love and patience in the wings. If it takes a village to raise a child, then the village helps now and not just after the pregnancy test turns pink.
You probably know someone who has had trouble conceiving or sustaining a pregnancy. Most of us know stories of miraculous conceptions, incredible adoptions, or IVF success. When we know a couple is trying, it can be awkward and difficult to know what to say or how to help. But, many times, we don't know the intimate details of a couple's struggle. Often, as the topic is sensitive and unique for each couple, we simply don't know who may be walking through this tender and challenging season.
RESOLVE.ORG is the website for the National Infertility Association and they've started a campaign to help #StartAsking how to support couples dealing with infertility. There is a myriad of resources and information on the website for couples, family, and friends who want to help with this issue.
Not sure where to start?
Here's a great List of 25 Things To Say (And Not To Say) To Someone Living With Infertility
You can also learn about Fertility Facts here or Reproductive Facts so that you can educate yourself and build the support you or your friends need through this journey.
While I may not personally know the journey of infertility, it's a topic I study a lot in my research for helping couples and families. I fill in the gaps of my experience with facts and testimonies that help me gain understanding. And I try to empathize as much as possible, using other experiences I've had that remind me what it's like to have dreams crushed or hopes unraveled.
The feeling of disappointment is universal, so you have something to offer to this community even if infertility hasn't been part of your personal narrative.
Building awesome families is close to my heart, and my own little brood was loved long before I held them in my arms. If you're reading this, you probably relate!
Pray for those couples still waiting in the wings, be sensitive and compassionate, and do what you can to learn more. You never know who God will place in your path that might become part of the incredible village that is raising our next generation.
For those waiting to hold babies... I love you. I might not know who you are, but your patience and strength are incomprehensible. I hope with you. I pray with you. I believe that God has placed a calling on you in this time and season for a purpose greater than anything we can know or feel right now. And I have faith in the Heavenly Father that the beyond-yourself-love that you possess will not go unused. I lay your desires at His feet and I wait with you.
Psalm 130:5 NIV
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
UPDATE: Below is a helpful info-graphic made by the team at OvulationCalculator.com who offered it to me to share with you! Check out their website for more helpful tips about #NAIW and how to #StartAsking.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Last night, we let baby Vivian "cry it out" a couple times in the night. Before you applaud or criticize, let me tell you that my philosophy for sleep training primarily centers around the idea that everyone in the house should simply take "the shortest route to rest".
Sometimes this means nursing her for five minutes to get her back to sleep. Sometimes this means jumping up at her first cry to silence her before my other two daughters wake up. Sometimes this means turning up the whitenoise in everyone's room so we can hunker down into hibernation mode. If you've ever raised a zombie-baby (and this is my third) then, you can understand!
Vivi has been waking up every two hours on the dot for the last several weeks. At times this has fluctuated (as often as every hour, but only as long as 4 hours max) so yes, all that to say, I am quite exhausted. She's almost 8 months old, so the time of her "needing" food in the night has passed, but that doesn't stop her from needing me! I don't mind spoiling a baby, but when it comes to seeing her yawn and rub her eyes throughout the day because her own rest has been compromised, something's gotta give.
Besides, when I say "cry it out" what I really mean is "yell it out". This baby isn't sad, she is just AWAKE! She will shout from her crib and blab nonstop until she either crashes back to sleep or someone comes and sees what all the squawking is about. So, through all the "MAMAs" and the "DADADADAs" last night, I found myself praying and praying that she would find peace and comfort in our absence.
Honestly, I wanted to yell through the door back at her, "YOU'RE OKAY! YOU HAVE EVERYTHING YOU NEED! WHAT YOU REALLY NEED IS SLEEEEEEP!" But, of course that wouldn't have done any good. She was fully convinced she needed me, whether for entertainment, comfort, or milk, she wanted to be snuggled up in my arms. While my mama heart was aching to give her all she desired, I knew that her needs were best met in what she could not see. The girl needed sleep, and if I had gone in to help her, I would have only stimulated her more which would have set us all back.
It was around 3am when it occurred to me how often I do this to God in my own prayer life. I shout my demands, telling God what I think I need help with, ordering my blessings like I'm reading a fast-food menu! Too often I am distracted by what I see (or want to see) that I totally forget the fact that God is working behind the scenes on behalf of my own good, to provide what I truly need. I'm bratty and short-sighted, while God is thumping me over the head with His Word and shouting "YOU'RE OKAY! YOU HAVE EVERYTHING YOU NEED RIGHT HERE! TRUST ME!"
Well, God is much more merciful than that, thank goodness! He covers me in grace and I'm once again reminded at how many gaps there are in my prayers. I'm so grateful He fills in the blanks for us and has already set in place the provision for what will bring Him the most glory. I'm reminded how Oh yeah, duh my prayers are actually not a checklist for things I want, but rather a sacred communication and form of worship that connects me directly to my Creator.
Sometimes I cry it out. Sometimes I yell it out. Sometimes it feels like God is silent and nothing is happening and I'm stuck. And somehow my needs are met, all the same. God has already provided what I need, regardless of what I think I need. I just need to trust in Him. Wow, thank you Lord!
Now, when I hear that yelling baby in the night, I will try to focus on the presence of peace that will follow. I listen closely for the hush that follows the cries, for the calm that settles in after the confusion has faded. When that happy, well-rested baby wakes up in the morning, I am grateful that the temporary cries brought about much longer-lasting peace.
But God has surely listened and has heard my prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.