Guest Blog: Mothering In The Trenches by Lindsey Smallwood

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Today's post is brought to you by my friend Lindsey Smallwood.  Lindsey has two kids under two, and I've TOTALLY been there and love what she has to say about motherhood.  Check out her other work in her profile below.

“Oh, hang in there, you’re in the trenches.”  

Inevitably I seem to hear this phrase at least once a week when I’m out in public with my sons, ages 2 and 1. Whether it’s following some kind of meltdown after not getting a snack at their desired moment or when they start heading in two different directions toward danger at the playground, there are a lot of sympathetic nods and “I’ve been there” smiles. And while an “in-the-trenches” war analogy seems a little over the top, I will admit that this season is challenging in ways I never expected before motherhood.

If it’s not stopping my toddler from snacking on deer poop at the playground or trying to put away laundry while the baby takes it out again, it’s some other exercise in keeping little people alive and accomplishing small tasks at the same time.  It’s messy and exhausting and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But I have found a few things that make this whole experience a little easier.

1)   Buckets. Buckets. Buckets.  
You guys, it’s buckets for weeks around here. We have baskets for toys and bins for puzzles and boxes for diapers and wipes. The clothes are in baskets - not folded, mind you, but they’re in there. The mail has a basket, the snacks have a basket, even the toilet paper has a basket. Why the basket mania, you ask? Because with two kids under two, nothing stays in the same place very long. I am picking things up all the live long day. And whoever advocated that there be a place for everything and everything in it’s place knew what they were talking about because it feels so good to put things back where they belong. Baskets have the added bonus of hiding what’s inside them so yay – just toss it in and no one knows that there are forty unread magazines under my side table. Just a pretty basket. Or twelve. 

2)   Family dinner is not my number 1 priority.  
An older mom mentor of mine helped walked me through this one. I feel like ever since our first session of pre-marital counseling we’ve been drilled with the idea that having dinner together as a family is the most important thing you can do. And while it is a great time to reconnect with my husband, family dinner with two under two really isn’t a thing. They’re dropping food on the floor and asking for more fruit and spilling their milk. It’s lively and exciting and no conversation happens whatsoever. So lots of nights, I feed the little guys before my husband gets home and then once we get them to bed, we can have an at-home date night, just the two of us. When they’re a little older, we’ll make this a goal again but for now, as long as everyone goes to bed fed, I call it a win.

3)   I have a mom-uniform.  
The year after my first son was born, I just wasn’t sure what to wear. I was used to dressing professionally for work, but dresses and heels seemed like overkill for life with little ones. For awhile, I lived a lot of days in yoga pants. But sometime after the birth of my second son, I discovered what a difference it made in my feelings about myself and my to-do list when I took the time to dress well. For me, that means 3 pairs of well-fitting pants, a handful of tailored tops in bright colors, and simple jewelry I can wear with most outfits. I spend no time thinking about my outfit most mornings, and love knowing that whatever I pick fits and looks good.

4)   My diaper bag is a survival kit.  
Seriously. Find me in case of emergency. I’ve got a change of clothes for everyone, snacks, assorted medications and toiletries, books, games, toys, sunscreen, baby wipes, water bottles, and oh yeah, diapers. I tried really hard in the beginning, I had this cute little diaper bag and I only took a handful of items with me but I’ve surrendered to the giant monster bag that probably would get raised eyes as an airplane carryon and I happily tote around everything we will ever need in it.

5)   There are all kinds of moms in my life.  
This is what’s carrying me through. There’s the grandma in my Bible study who tells me stories of how she did things in her day. There’s the fellow mom of toddlers who I meet at the park to have real talk with. There’s the mom friend from book club who has stories about soccer teams and read-a-thons and is gently preparing me for the seasons to come. There’s the mom of teenagers who makes dinner for us sometimes and cuddles my babies because hers are all lanky and awkward. There’s my mom, who loves my boys even more than I do and is always ready with an encouraging word.  All this mom-love reminds me that these years and this role is so short, always changing and a beautiful gift that I want to savor as long I can.

Even when they’re coloring with my lipstick.

Lindsey Smallwood hopes to leave a legacy of good relationships and bad dance moves. A former pastor and teacher, these days Lindsey works, writes and raises her babies in Boulder, Colorado. Read more by Lindsey at her blog or connect with her on Facebook at or Twitter @lindseysmallw

Five Reasons To Have A Birth Plan

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Let me start off by saying (and meaning) this:  There's no wrong way to have a baby.
Photo from Daphne's birth by Mathieu Photography

My goal for giving birth has always been "walk away with a healthy baby that's mine".  If that's how my story ended, I knew I would be grateful and satisfied.  This didn't mean that everything would go how I wanted it to go, and it certainly didn't mean the baby would be delivered according to my plan (or anyone else's for that matter).

So, why have a birth plan?

Before my first baby was born, I over-educated myself into the illusion of security, learning as much as possible about nearly every birth-scenario so I could spare myself any surprises day-of.  But, babies don't read your plans or your minds, and when the time comes there is bound to be surprises whether you have prepared at all or not!

My first two daughters were spontaneous labors that went on for hours and hours drug-free, followed by an epidural, and ending in a c-section.  My third daughter's birth was a planned c-section, and while everything went according to schedule, I was glad to have thought through the day ahead of time.

Why spend all the energy and time thinking you are a hippie-mama going drug-free only to find out when push comes to shove (literally) that you turn out to be an epidural-getting drama queen?  Why sort through calming verses and meditations for soothing your anxiety and pain when you know you'll have an IV drip and get a c-section?

Here's why:

1. A Birth Plan helps YOU know what you want.  

You might not even know what your expectations are until you start to jot them down on paper.  You may have a vision (haphazard as it may be) for what the day looks like and still not realize that you have joy or disappointment hinging on small things like "wearing my favorite chapstick" when you are at the peak of a contraction.  A birth plan can help you sort through what's reasonable (dim lights) and what's preposterous (a tranquil haven that stays a perfect 70 degrees and silent with only the glow of a lavender scented candle to warm the setting).  It can help you weed through your ideals (drug free and natural) as well as your limitations and tolerance for what's acceptable (  Bottomline, you can't expect others to know what you'll need in your best/worst hour when you haven't taken the time to think through it yourself.

2. A Birth Plan helps OTHERS know what you want.

Even your beloved husband is scratching his head as to how he can best help you in your moment of dire need.  If you don't know by now that your husband can't read your mind, then I really hate to break it to you that your doctors and nurses can't either.  Even if you are planning a home birth with a doula or midwife, they are going to have questions about your comfort and pain management along the way.  If you are having a scheduled c-section, you'll still need to convey your opinions adamantly regarding things like cord cutting, skin-to-skin, and pain killer options.  Maybe you know what you want and you can easily inform those around you with the command of a drill sergeant.  But, for those of us not giving birth to robots, it will make it much easier in the long run if you have talked through your expectations ahead of time and how you prioritize those ideas.

3. A Birth Plan helps BABY remain the focus.

This seems counterintuitive.  How can a paper all about your expectations help keep the focus on your newborn?  Because the less everyone has to worry about wondering what you want and need, the more they can channel their skills and energy to that screaming creature who just entered into the universe.  If you can include choices about the baby on your birth plan as well, you can put your mind at ease knowing your birth plan can be easily referenced for your choices instead of trying to remember in the middle of it all if you chose salve-on-the-eyes for the baby or whether you wanted to postpone the Vitamin K shot.  A LOT happens just minutes after the birth, and you don't want the burden of "having to think" placed on your or your husband's brain.  Free it up so you can fully embrace the bliss of staring at that new little bundle of joy you just brought into the world.

4.  A Birth Plan helps HUSBANDS understand.

Sure, hubbies are included in #2.  But, more than just understanding your expectations, husbands have been (most likely) taking a crash course in all-things-baby since you announced the pregnancy.  Birth is SCARY - and that's totally normal.  It's a terrifying roller coaster of emotion to usher another human into the world, and your brain isn't meant to fully comprehend sentences like "What do you want to do with the placenta?" when you are just barely grasping the fact you took part in the creation of life.  A birth plan can help a husband truly take part in the process of labor and delivery, knowing how best his time and energy is spent in the midst of the wild ride.

5.  A Birth Plan helps MOTHERS in the future.

This blog is a perfect example!  Here I am, dishing about my own experiences, hoping to reach an audience of new mamas understand that their birth stories are important - no matter how the scenario plays out.  It's an opportunity to get to know why we think what we think about birth, share it with others, and help them understand their own journey.  Looking back across my three birth stories, I can compare them to the plans I had anticipated and grow from the story that ultimately came out of it.  It rarely goes how we think it will, right?  But, healing from disrupted plans can help us curb disappointments and turn them into lessons of hope for others.

When you are about to have a baby, it's easy to feel like the only person on the planet that's ever felt that way.  The more we can hold our expectations in our hands and learn to understand them, the easier it can be to let them go if the need arises.  After all, learning to adjust and adapt to the unpredictable will serve you well once that baby arrives (however that may be)!

Babies, Babies, Babies

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon is when you learn about something new and then all of a sudden it seems to pop up everywhere.  Never is this more true than for pregnant women and new mothers.

Once you become pregnant, the whole world starts having babies.  You notice "Baby On Board" signs in traffic, you can't help but glance at a woman's growing belly across the aisle in Target, and suddenly you find yourself judging everyone's name as if it's a genuine possibility for your offspring.  Everything has to do with babies, and more and more birth announcements show up on your Facebook newsfeed than you ever thought possible.

I'm not immune to this anomaly.  I know of at least 8 babies that have been born in the last six weeks, with more pregnant friends still awaiting their turn.  (Seriously, what was happening last Fall, people?  Did they put something in the water?)

If you aren't pregnant yourself, chances are good that you know someone who is or have had a baby somewhat recently.  So, I'm embracing this phase and gonna be talking a LOT about babies in the upcoming posts.  Breastfeeding, c-sections, body image, and more. (Comment below on what YOU'D like to hear about!)  It's a wonderfully terrifying time of life that continues to bewilder me with purpose and pride.

I wear a lot of hats.  I'm a wife, a writer, and a marriage counselor, with personal interests in cooking, films, and puppetry. (Okay, not that last one.  I was just throwing in a curve ball to see if you were awake.  If you didn't catch it, go pour yourself another cup of coffee and hug someone.)

But, of all the titles I hold, mother is my favorite by far.

With so many mothers in the world, there still seems to be a lack of honest stories being shared about real women experiencing it.  I find myself cringing with insecurity all too often, wondering if I'm doing enough or doing it right instead of just enjoying the act of doing it at all.  

As my life shifts and changes, as my heart grows to allow for the capacity to love yet more for this newest baby in my life, I want to remind all you mamas out there that HEY - we're doing this thing called motherhood, and we're not alone.  

In a world where we can be inundated with babies and growing bellies all around us, let's not forget that behind each little creature is a mother who is trying to keep it all together.

You're not alone, mama, let's chat.

Hallelujah Again: Victory Over Unemployment

Friday, September 25, 2015

Two years ago today I announced that our job search was over and Josh had accepted a new position after nearly 4 months of unemployment. (See the TimeHop pic below!)

Well, today I'm thrilled to announce the exact same great news!

It's weird, right?  Spooky and wonderful, honestly.  My husband's contract was not renewed at the school he worked at due to budgetary reasons back in July, so we've been unemployed for the last three months.

It is with great pride that I tell you he's accepted a position as Marketing and Business Development Coordinator at a local engineering firm!  He starts October 12th, and prayers as he transitions to this new position would be greatly appreciated.

As I read back over my post about his new job from 2 years ago, God reminded me how His truth is timeless.  Here is an excerpt from that post that rings completely (albeit, eerily) true again today.  Thank you for celebrating this news with us!

From September 25, 2013...

And here's where I get real honest with you.  Here's the part where you are feeling all "oh, how nice that worked out for you" and I'm about to blow that thought right out of the water for, just keep reading.

The night before we got the job, God told me something.  He said, plain and simply, "You know that if he gets this job it doesn't solve your problems, right?  Only I can do that."  I kind of brushed that off and said another prayer for the job, and then I BEGGED God for the job and then I thanked God and still said "but, please God, seriously, please let him get this job".  I didn't quite let what God told me sink in all the way.  I wanted Josh to get that job.  It would be problem solved, and so my heart and mind were set on that.

Then, he got the job.  And, I felt relief.  I felt joy.  But...I didn't feel any more secure than I had the day before.  In fact, neither Josh nor I jumped up and down like we had in the past when much smaller victories were won (You got a call baaaack!!!!  You got an interviewwwww!!!)  Not this time.  This time was different.

Josh got the job.  Hallelujah.  But, that's not the victory here.  The victory - the moral to the story - is the three and a half freaking months that came before the job.  The miracle is the survival, the journey, the long road of impatience and questions and doubting.  The loving marriage that sustained the waves of tumultuous worry.  The food on the table brought by friends.  The cards of encouragement and support sent by loved ones.  The pride found in working a blue-collar job.  The strength of a family cared for by a community and body of Christ.  THAT'S OUR VICTORY.

I never could have guessed it.  Even a few weeks ago I could have told you what this blog post could have looked like - a long and relentless bragging about my husband and how awesome he is and how good God is for rewarding his efforts.  No.  Not at all.  Don't get me wrong - Josh is my hero - but, we're giving credit where credit is surely due, and that goes entirely to Jesus.

Here's something else - Satan hates it when we give Jesus the credit.  And today, just as we were eager to awake with feelings of assurance and celebration, we were spiritually attacked from all sides as Satan did his best to steal our joy and distract us from the goodness of God.  I'm really being honest here, gang.  Today was ROUGH.  Even my daughters were stressed out and overly emotional and the littlest things seemed like the end of the universe in our home.  Each one of us was in a terrible mood, annoyed and frustrated, irrationally snappy and completely out of sorts.

We literally had to stop in the middle of our morning and pray aloud in our living room to just invite the Holy Spirit to be present with us, to help us focus on His peace and faithfulness, and to not let anything distract us from the beauty of the moment and the assurance of God's goodness.

But, here we are.  We are here to CELEBRATE and let you know that God IS good.  Wholly good.  And the job is wonderful...but, it is merely a facet in the structure that is our lives as they should be lived out according to God's will.  We are grateful - but, not fooled by the false sense of security that money and benefits offer in this world.  We are humbled, and we are sincerely blessed by the long three and a half months where our faith was stretched far beyond the boundaries of our liking.

Thank you, thank you, thank you - to each of you who prayed for us, supported us, encouraged us, and fought the good fight through the victory of the wait.

God is using us here.  God has big plans for us.  God is good - really - all the time.

We're so grateful to celebrate God's goodness with you!

Guest Blog: My First Mom-Friend by Rachel Oliver

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Today's post is brought to you by my friend, Rachel.  Check her work in her profile links below!

For the first year of motherhood, I worked part-time. My life was very much immersed in being mom, wife and employee, and I found a great deal of personal satisfaction and even community from my days spent in the office.

Then I left the workforce to stay home full-time, and my life became very isolated.

I had imagined all the fun things my daughter and I would do once I was home full-time, but the reality of her age and our newly-shrunk budget left me home and bored all too often.

Thanks to Netflix and naptime, I caught up on all my favorite television shows and quickly began looking for more. I cried through Army Wives, and found myself becoming jealous of the women depicted with close friends who lived right next door. All of my friends worked or lived 30+ minutes away, making daily or even weekly gatherings a challenge.

That’s when Liz moved in two doors down. With fiery red hair and an outgoing personality, not to mention the fact that she didn’t know another living soul in Denver, we became fast friends.
Our daughters are 10 months apart in age and, while we found activities that they might like, we really enjoyed finding excursions that gave us opportunity to grow our friendship.  We spent time at the indoor mall play area during the cold winter months, would go for early morning stroller walks as the weather warmed, not to mention just popping over for a quick chat or to borrow a  serving of applesauce.

Just shy of a year after moving in, Liz and her family packed up and moved away. Okay, only 20 miles away and we still see each other at least weekly.

But what I learned from the first friend I made as a mom with a mom, was huge.

I learned to step out of my comfort zone. I may have been lonely as a stay-at-home mom but it wasn’t enough to compel me to try new things until Liz came along and invited me to go and do. And even then, sometimes I just wanted to stay home in my PJs; and sometimes that’s just what I did. But when I let go of my reservations, I found that spending time with a friend was refreshing to my soul (not to mention how much better my attitude became).

I learned that to best help my daughter become a good friend, I needed to model healthy friendships to her. My daughter may have only been a year old when Liz and I first met, but the habits I am forming now, including and especially in regards to friendship, will speak to my future relationships and in turn, to hers.

I learned to offer grace to other moms – and to myself. Mom friendships are beautiful and unique, a special type of comradery. They also include distinct challenges: sick kids, meltdowns, and blowouts affect schedules while time together is full of interruptions and the distractions of a wayward toddler. That’s also why they work; moms get other moms.

I learned that mom-friendships are worth getting out of PJs for. Whether I have to walk next door or drive 30 minutes away, friendships with other moms are worth pursuing and being available for.

I’ve been blessed to have many friends over the course of my life: childhood friends, college friends, work friends. Adding mom friends has been a special blessing. By offering grace to each and grace to ourselves, mom-friendships have helped me through life’s good things and hard things, and have made me a better mom, better woman and a better friend.

So what about you – where do you find mom friends?

I'm Rachel. 
Mom to one, trying for two, stuck with a couple crazy dogs and loved by a fabulous guy. I'm a stay-at-home-but-rarely-home mom with a knack for saying "yes" too quickly, especially when it comes to outside commitments and Diet Mountain Dew. 
I blog at rachel+reagan
Follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Everyday Wisdom Magazine OUT TODAY

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

I am thrilled to tell you about a new publication that comes out TODAY called Everyday Wisdom!

It hits stands today at Barnes & Noble, Walmart, and a variety of grocery stores.  You can also purchase it online if you click here!

I am blessed to have contributed a few articles about hope, dealing with difficult people, and not judging others based on their appearances. I also have the joy of offering a special excerpt from my book, For All Maternity in this special issue.

It's a beautiful magazine with no ads that you'd be proud to display on your coffee table at home for years to come.  Since it's a quarterly magazine, it's something to collect and share or give as a special gift to someone who loves encouraging words from a Biblical perspective.

This is not your average magazine.  (And I don't make a dime off it if you purchase it.)  I'm genuinely endorsing Everyday Wisdom because I believe in the beauty and truth it can bring into your home.  I know you will find it uplifting and a great resource for Scripture-based advice for many areas of life. Go check it out!

You Know You're a Mother When...

Monday, September 21, 2015

With three children under six, my motherhood currently trumps other aspects of my identity.  I'm cool with this.  I welcome it, truly.  I know that there have been days when the other hats that I wear (wife, counselor, student, sister, friend, writer, etc.) eclipse my parenting, and these moments will come again as my seasons cycle frequently and with much overlap.

a smothered mother is the very best kind
Right now, as I nag my 4-year-old to stop throwing crackers as I type and sort through which burp rag is salvageable until I get a chance to do laundry again, I'm embracing the role that challenges and fulfills me the most:  motherhood.

Maybe you can relate!

You know you're a mother when...

reapplying deodorant constitutes "getting ready for the day"

supper is the bane of your existence

you have more My Little Pony songs stuck in your head than Taylor Swift tunes

Target's Cartwheel app offers you the highest appreciation of your day 

you feel a deep level of success after using the Nosefrida on your infant

running out of paper plates is your recurring nightmare (when you actually get to sleep)

you haven't finished a fresh cup of coffee in one sitting since college

it's not creepy at all to sit and stare at your sleeping child while a million things could get done

you only take selfies when you can't get your kid to sit still enough for the photo you want of them

you have contemplated what it would be like if Handy Manny and Bob the Builder ever met

your dining room table looks more like a Michael's craft store than a Martha Stewart catalog 

locking the bathroom door brings equal amounts of guilt and relief

you've prayed about naps/bedtime/quiet as fervently as if it could prevent global disasters

your [overworked] vacuum understands your daily disdain as well as anyone 

you've said "Please stop _____" at least 800 times today

nothing grosses you out anymore

you have a love/hate relationship with TimeHop which usually leads to weepiness no matter what

you're exhausted, smelly, weepy, happy, frustrated (no, these aren't the seven dwarfs) and wouldn't trade in your life for anything else in the whole world (if you don't feel this way, just wait until about 8pm when the children are asleep and your heart swells up with that crazy love only a mother knows!)

So, I'm 35

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Today I turn 35.  Or, as I like to tell people, "If you need advice on being 29, just ask me, I've been 29 for years now." [insert obligatory laugh track here]

I don't understand time.  I hate it, actually, and it makes no sense to me that yesterday I was in one phase of life and today I'm in another.  Yesterday I could check a different box on an assessment form and today I'm upgraded to the 35-40 margin of a census.  Sigh.  Time is dumb.  Time is a temporary restriction reserved to this planet, and my soul is restless in its grip.

But, the getting older part...that I like.  Society might tell me to pick up a wrinkle cream and start cutting back on sugar, sure.  Media compels me to worry about things like retirement funds and cholesterol, fine.  But, as my physical body reminds me I'm no teenager, my mind and spirit charge full-throttle ahead in anticipation of what I have yet to know in this life.

My teenage years were heaped in wonder, doubt, and naivet√©.  My twenties were full of adventure and wrought with insecurity. My thirties are officially halfway over and so far it's been a roller coaster of decisions, milestones, and deep rooting.

Most of all, I have found incredible joy in learning what I do not know.  Getting a Masters degree, while a great accomplishment, reminded me that there are realms and realms of introspection and revelation awaiting me as I grow as a person.  I am in awe of anticipating what's left to discover about myself and how God will shape and use that in my time on this earth.

To say this last year has been exceptional would be an understatement in my book.  It's not that long ago that I would have laughed in your face if you told me I would have published a book, received my Masters, and had a baby all in one year! (Yes, I'm exhausted.) With these milestones under my belt, one can't help but reflect and project with some concern "Um, what now, God?"

So, I'm 35 and have no idea what's coming.  We have three children, no jobs, 2 Masters degrees, and our knees are somewhat sore from pleading with God to know what's around the corner.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

At 35, I know much much less than I did when I was 20.  Because today I can calmly, confidently say that I know that there's so much I don't know.  I'm not insecure in this fact.  I'm not fearful or frustrated that there are uncertainties all around me.  Because of all the things I don't know, I know full well and better than ever before that my God has got me in His grip.

Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.  Proverbs 16:3

I can't tell you what the next 35 days hold, let alone the next 35 years.  But, I have 35 years to look back on as a testament of God's faithfulness and provision for me in this life.  As those days grow, I pray my trust in Him grows as well, allowing the wonders and doubts around me to blossom into His promises.

Thank you for my life, Lord.  Wring it dry with Your use.

Vivian's Birth Story

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Vivian’s birth story is so different than her sisters’.  We knew since Daphne’s birth that if we were blessed with another child the birth would be a scheduled c-section.  After Matilda’s c-section and Daphne’sattempted VBAC that ended in a c-section, I learned that my body was not meant for vaginal delivery.  I had X-rays taken at a chiropractor a couple years ago that showed a curve in some lower vertebrae that would have made natural delivery impossible for me (which I didn’t know until after Daphne was born, otherwise I wouldn’t have attempted the VBAC!)

When my due date for Vivian came back as August 19th, we requested the c-section to be scheduled on August 16th – Josh’s birthday!  While most people don’t want to share their birthday, Josh was ecstatic at the idea and so I prayed my body would nestle that sweet baby until then.  Nearing the birth, our doctor let us know that they don’t usually schedule surgeries on the weekend, but it just so happened that she was going to be on-call for Sunday, August 16th, so she was able to specially schedule us so that we could keep the date (granted, the baby’s well being was the most important thing in the world to us, but we were thrilled that we could keep the double-birthday dream alive!)

This pregnancy was wonderfully uneventful, but not easy for me.  At 34, I physically felt the difference of four years since my last baby.  I was also not in very good shape, so the additional 30ish pounds that I lumbered around with seemed extra taxing. While this pregnancy was planned for, I think I underestimated the toll it would take on my body while also raising 2 kids, finishing grad school, and working part-time at the mall.  Whew!  I did my utmost to appreciate every jab and kick and hiccup in the womb, knowing this temporary discomfort represented a lifetime of joy to come. 

As with my last two pregnancies, people started asking me if my due date was close when I was only about 20 weeks along.  I carry my babies like a beach ball, so my giant belly often bewildered people, as I would tell them how much longer I had to be pregnant.  I will admit that I’ve always found this part of pregnancy frustrating and hilarious.  I also knew that it was pretty much true since my first baby weighed 8lb. 9oz. and my second was 9lb. 5oz.  Chances were good this was no tiny pipsqueak I was carrying!

The week before Vivian’s birth was precious to me.  I savored little moments with the older girls and sat in the nursery praying over my belly, dreaming of how our family was about to change.  My parents made the big drive from Kansas and the night before the birth we got together with my brother’s family (who also live in Nashville) to have dinner together one last time before the big event.  While they celebrated with Mexican food I enjoyed a Smoothie King smoothie to soothe my pre-surgery tummy.  I couldn’t believe the time had finally arrived.

Knowing I was going to go into surgery within hours was nerve-wracking, no doubt.  Knowing I was going to have a baby was like anticipating the ultimate Christmas. It was super weird to know I was going to meet her soon.  Having gone into spontaneous labor with the previous two, this was a welcome change, but it felt as unnatural as it did peaceful.  I was too giddy about meeting her to really be worried about the surgery itself.  I knew that as uncomfortable as I was being pregnant, my pain would only increase post-partum before it got better.  Still, it was a wonderful change to be able to go to sleep (as restless as it was) and wake up to her birthday.

We woke up early and gathered our things.  The older girls were insistent on saying goodbye to us, even if it meant waking them.  So, even though it was just after 6am, we hugged Matilda and Daphne and bid adieu to our house of four Pardys as we headed for the hospital. 

Since it was Sunday, the hospital was nearly silent when we walked in.  We brought chocolate chip muffins for the nursing staff and quietly filled out paperwork as we put on our wristbands and I changed into the lovely (ha) light blue hospital gown. The nurses were extremely kind and each one of them smiled as we shared in the excitement of our baby girl sharing a birthday with her daddy.  We met the anesthesiologist, a few more nurses, and before we knew it the time had come.

I was rolled into the OR at 9:14am.  Josh was in the hall getting “suited up” in his daddy-hazmat suit, eager to join me.  It took 3 tries to insert the spinal block for the surgery (yes, this is as unpleasant as it sounds), but it wasn’t a surprise to me since my previous epidurals took a few tries as well (thanks lower vertebrae!)  Within seconds, my lower half was completely numb.  Josh came in and sat by my head as the curtain went up in front of our view. 

The tugging and pulling and pushing of a c-section are not without discomfort.  It’s one of the strangest sensations I can explain, being totally coherent and knowing you’re being turned inside out just inches away. We had requested a “family centered cesarean”, and as soon as her head emerged, they announced it was time to drop the curtain.  There was no way I could have prepared myself for what came next.

“Her head is out.  Are you ready to meet your girl?” the doctor asked.  I took a deep breath.  For some reason, when I imagined this scenario, it all felt very distant from me.  I thought about it as if from a third person experience, and only saw the baby as a blurry image. 

But, THERE SHE WAS.  Her little head, held in the hands of the doctor, inches in front of me and coming out of my own body.  It was shocking and beautiful and the most exhilarating moment of my life. The curtain and my giant belly blocked the view of anything disgusting (for which I am grateful, as I was a little hesitant if I could handle seeing anything too gruesome) They slowly “walked the baby out” which means they squeezed her slowly through the incision in order to best mimic a vaginal birth and help the infant squeeze out fluids that may have been ingested in the womb (which naturally occurs in a vaginal birth).  At 9:46am, she was out.

They quickly patted her down, cut the cord, and handed her down to me for immediate skin-to-skin.  Vivian was here.  My girl was here.  She was real and sweet and laying against the outside of my body.  I burst into tears.

Vivian Margot Blessing Pardy was here.  I said her name for the first time to someone other than Josh, and the whole staff starting congratulating us.  Everyone was so joyful; it felt like confetti should fall from the ceiling (apart from the fact that my body was totally opened up on the table, so I’m real glad it didn’t).

This was the first time I got to be the first one to hold my new baby.  In the past, they had always handed the baby to Josh for father skin-to-skin time.  But, this time, this hospital offered to let me hold her first and I jumped at the chance.  It was magical, to say the least, and nothing comes close to that feeling.

I was stitched up and Vivian was weighed and measured.  They transferred me to another bed and minutes later I was holding my precious baby again, getting rolled down the hallway to recovery, ready to show my little love to the world that awaited.  We passed by nurses and doctors and I was filled with so much love and joy that it honestly felt like my own little private parade (if I lived in a musical, this is the part where nurses turn into dancers and the doctor bursts into song).  We made it back to our recovery room where we swooned over our new bundle of joy and gathered our thoughts into words that didn’t hold a candle to the fireworks of feelings we held inside. 

Vivian, you are so loved.  We wanted you before we knew you, and we pray and hope your future holds as much joy as your arrival brought. You are our little blessing, and we know you will bless those who enter your presence.  You’ve already blessed me immensely and I can’t wait to get to know who you are and who you’ll become.  (But, feel free to take your time!)

Welcome, sweet girl.

This is Real Life

Friday, September 11, 2015

A diaper explosion/outfit change at midnight.  Kid #1 comes down with a fever by 1am.  A spit-up catastrophe around 4am.  Everyone is up by 6-something.  Kid #2 has a fever by 7am.  I have a doctor's appointment at 8:15 and the baby cries the whole way there.

This is not an exceptional day.  This is not out of the ordinary, not really.  This is just LIFE.

We like to think that these days come with extra patience and feelings of triumph that keep us on our toes when an inkling of complacency sets in.  But, really, truly, this is the nitty gritty that is the building blocks for all things good and weird in the world of parenting.

I used to think there was a chapter missing in my proverbial parenting manual when days like these would occur.  I would imagine other mothers caring for their less-whiny-than-my-own sick children and happily nursing in the middle of the night with the energy of an Olympian.  Somewhere around the second kid it dawned on me that maybe all other parents really were as tired as I was.  Maybe this is what it's all about - this rapid-action chaos that adds up into years that leap by with a glance.
sick kiddos

So, here it is.  The junk you won't see on Instagram to shame your own crazy-laden-lives.  We got kids, we got needs, we got Jesus (hallelujah!)  This means life is a MESS and totally worth living.  This means spit-up on my clothes has value and beauty.  This means Redboxing Barbie movies before noon is an act of compassion.  This means typing this blog one-handed while nursing (true story) keeps me humble and honest and grateful for those other parents out there one-handing their own battles.

bills, burp cloths, coffee - YES.
my (grocery shopping) hero

Purpose rarely comes with glamour.  These days might carry stress and frustration, but they are no less marked with value than the happy, predictable moments we so often long for.

God, keep me still in these times.  Help me see the beauty in the mess and the value in the chaos.  Thank you for the trials and the triumphs, and teach me how to show my children the importance of both!

Meet Vivian Margot Blessing Pardy

Thursday, September 10, 2015

She's here!  She's arrived!  And though it's been a few weeks since I've touched the blog, I couldn't jump back into writing without first introducing you to the beautiful reason for a pause in my blogging...

Please join me in celebrating the arrival of my third daughter!

Vivian Margot Blessing Pardy

Born Sunday, August 16, 2015 
(on her daddy's birthday!)
at 9:46 in the morning
8lb. 1oz. and 18.75" long

She is a happy baby and her older sisters just adore her.  It hasn't been the easiest recovery for me, but I can't complain as I stare into the eyes of this perfectly healthy baby, thanking God for the miracle of another precious life that has been gifted to our family.

We've got a LOT of catching up to do - and I'm bursting with stories to share!  What was it like to have a planned c-section? How did the girls react to their new sister? How did you come up with that name? and so much more...

Here are some more pics of the sweet girl to stir up/appease your baby fever.  Enjoy!

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