Friday, December 30, 2016

It's Different With Three

I won't lie... when we were thinking about having three kids I googled "life with three kids" and "three kids is it hard?" and other absurd combinations I could think of. My research didn't glean much. And how could it? One kid for one family compared to five kids for another could be comparable in degrees of difficulty based on personalities and whatnot.

While pregnant I spoke with friends of three kids and with smiles that almost seemed to conceal something they didn't want to say, they replied "oh yeah it's good." I knew they HAD to be hiding something, but since my current state assumed three kids were inevitable they decided not to scare me right then and there.

We have had three kids in our family for three and a half months... here are a few things I've noticed for myself...

- IT IS A CIRCUS AND THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE AROUND ALL THE TIME! And being an introvert that has been an adjustment. ;-)

- 60... that's the number of little nails that continue to grow. For some reason adding 20 nails to the mix has thrown me off my game and I find that someone ALWAYS has nails in need of upkeep. Why does this matter you ask? I'm not really sure... I think it's because I'm a violinist and nice clean extremely short nails are how I've rolled most of my life. And thus if I see a nail trying to get overzealous with dirt or length I take a deep breath... and if possible... run for the closest nail clipper.

- Bathing...  When Mikayla was a baby I would give her two baths a day because she loved them. Nolan once a day and Colin? He's lucky if he gets a few a week. And then there are the older two and constantly trying to remember when they last bathed... I've taken to the "smell" test... if their hair smells funky in they go!

- Clothes... It has been known that Colin will still be in his pjs at the end of the day. And yes... I've taken him out of the house in his pjs. I would have gasped at babies in pjs back in the day... didn't their mother's want to change them? Didn't they know that an infant realizes routine and if not properly dressed for the day and then dressed for the night he will lead a coup against sleeping for months and months? Not to mention all of the adorable outfits... Ah the brain of the first time mom.

- Priorities... my life currently revolves around priorities. Eat breakfast or wash the dishes? Take a shower or make it to school on time? Get dressed or do a puzzle with Nolan?

- Time... is it possible that it goes even faster then before in moments and painfully slower in others?

- Love... It is amazing how love grows and multiplies and there is always enough to go around.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

How am I?

How am I?

Many know I fought long and hard against postpartum depression after the birth of my second son almost four years ago. Because of all I faced I found a new purpose in life... to become an advocate for mental health, to break the silence of an illness that is as real as any physical ailment, to be a listening ear for women who feel shame in depression, to help others support their loved ones in their times of need and to find a new depth to myself that only God could have orchestrated.

How am I?

Leading up to the birth of my third child I had many moments of fear. I was told I had a 50% chance of facing postpartum depression again. My odds increased after my miscarriage, however I had faced the truth - depression and anxiety may be a part of who I am now and I chose to accept it.

How am I?

On the day my son was born my thoughts lingered on the baby who I miscarried a little more then a year before. I couldn't see the face of my new gorgeous boy without thinking about the other baby who I never met... and yet... My heart was filled with joy and thanksgiving as I held my baby. I was fully able to be in the moment as stared at my miracle. The love and peace I felt with my new baby filled me with courage.

How am I?

Three kids is beyond overwhelming. Three kids has dropped me into the bucket of chaos where I feel at times there is NO escape. Three kids makes me feel outnumbered in a whole new way. But the sun still shines. The moments of pure joy make it possible to face the next moment of intensity. The dark cloud of depression is not nearly as intense. The red insanity of anxiety is dulled. The tools I spent months honing to face my darkness have become second nature. My heart praises God in the good times and the bad. It is well with my soul.

How am I?

God has put many in my life who uphold me in prayer. Many in my life who remind me of the truth of who I am. Who help me banish the lies that sometimes creep into my head. Those who I can go to without shame or fear. Those who accept me for who I am, flaws and all, crap and all, imperfections and all. I could not do life without these people.

How am I?

There are setbacks. Most days I don't have to fight anymore between my positive and negative mind, but then there are still the days that I do. Those days are hard. But then I look to God, I look to my people, I look to myself and who I have become and then I stand up, dust myself off, and keep moving forward.

How am I?

I am here. I am staying here.
I am ok.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Becoming a Mother-Person

It's crazy to think a woman can grow a person for 9+ months, that this person will make his/her way out of you in 12+ hours and then BOOM you are considered a mother. All of the sudden you have been inducted into the most prestigious club there is on earth with one ear splitting cry of a tiny needy person... when just the day before you were fully wrapped up in yourself and who you had been becoming for the past 25+ years. 

Sure books were read, newborn prep classes taken and advice was given, but there really is no amount of preparation that can truly equip you for the life altering change you go through as a person. Learning to take care of a tiny person is one thing... learning to understand the new you is a whole other. Can this change happen so rapidly? So quickly? So overnight? I believe we are meant to believe it does, however I have learned for me that it has taken time.

Becoming a mother-person is a process... a process that is constantly evolving. The wisdom that I have ascertained over these past six years have been invaluable. Looking forward to the upcoming birth of my third child has filled me with a certain excitement that I finally understand what being a mother means to me. I am not talking about being an expert in newborn care 101, preschool tantrums or navigating the total crazy random things your 6 year old does... heck no... I will constantly be surprised by these things, unknowing how to handle them and also floundering on a daily basis. Rather, I am talking about who I am!

I unknowingly fought the idea of being a mother-person for many years.  My internal argument... I was still me wasn’t I?  I wasn’t a 100% selfless being who went with every whim of her children and moved heaven and earth just for them. I had to reserve some identity for myself... I had to be ME!! But I didn’t know who me was and instead of one identity, I had taken on many AND I had made them unattainable. I strove to be a fully unique, dedicated, driven, dare I say perfect and separate person as an employee, wife, friend, musician, thinker, follower of God, woman, daughter, sister, mother.

The thing was I had the idea of who a mother was supposed to be all wrong. I felt I was lowering myself to think of my role as a mother to be my calling at present. I rejected that God had called me to this very precise position in order to shape and mold me into a new identity. One He had predestined for me, one He knew would make me a whole rounded person. Being a mother doesn’t mean being selfless and living for your children 100% of the time. To me, it is an intricate weaving of past, present and future self into someone who is fully unique, imperfect, learning and growing. I had been battling that true identity for 4 years and it was getting exhausting. Exhausting to not be able to fully measure up to who I thought I was supposed to be and exhausting to not be able to accept my true identity.

Something finally clicked about a year ago. Maybe it was my depression and the process of having to put myself back together again from the nothingness I had become. Maybe it was the amount of time I spent being a mother. Maybe it was the hundreds of hours of therapy I had done learning to be more self aware, learning to love my imperfect self. Maybe it was because I was finally letting myself let God lead. Maybe it was all of the above... but I have now fully embraced being a mom, being content and also being me... they are all the same thing!  It’s hard to describe but as I birth this baby I will not be re-birthing myself this time. I am no longer a reflection of who I want to be... I am now who God means for me to be right now and that is empowering, encouraging and exciting! I am whole. 

The Real Belly

I pray my son and daughter can grow up loving their imperfections and embracing every mark on their bodies. As I stare in the mirror at my ever growing belly, and my war-torn stretch marks that continue to multiply, I have tried to accept that NOW is the time for my body to go through yet another change... and I will fully embrace that change! I know that after I give birth I will have months of waiting until my belly goes down... that's just how my body is... and I will try to embrace that as well! We are all different and unique and comparing just drops us in the crapper. So here's to the next 9 months and seeing what my body can do.

"Mama why does your belly have those marks?"
"Because I have had the blessing of growing three people inside of me and it stretched me out a bit. Some ladies get marks on them and some do not"

"Does it hurt?"
"No it's just uncomfortable"

"Is this baby I'm feeling!?"
"Yes it is"

"Can baby chestnut hear me? LALALALALALALA"
"Um yes he/she can"

"Did you feel that!?"

"I love this baby!"
"And I love you!!!"

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

An Ode to the End

How my daughter views my massive baby bump
You'd think I'd be all sentimental at this point in my pregnancy... especially since the plan is for this to be the last baby. The last experience of the miracle of life growing inside of me. I had thought these last 6 (maybe less!?!?!) weeks would be of me cherishing my growing belly, my glowing self and the silence before the screaming.

But alas... I have never been pregnant in the DEAD of summer, I have never been pregnant with a THIRD baby and goodness I had completely forgotten how UNCOMFORTABLE this whole thing is... especially this time around. And so to remember this time in a realness you can only expect from me...

My legs fall asleep while I sit down to pee
My belly is itchy as itchy can be

When I sleep the baby thinks it's time to play
And if I don't take a nap I'll be a grump all day

Chasing after kids when you're as large as a house
Makes you look like a mad elephant instead of a mouse

My belly has become a dangerous thing
Because of the children who fall with one swing

Chores such as laundry and cooking and cleaning
Are done at the speed of a snail who is weaving

But at least I can laugh and so can the kids
And so can the stranger who's all up in my biz

So body you're amazing as you grow this little person
But hey I think baby building has become quite an aversion

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Mother's Blessing - Celebrating Baby Chestnut!

I first got the idea to have a Mother's Blessing while re-reading my favorite birth book... Birthing From Within. With each pregnancy I have found re-reading my library of birth books to be very helpful in preparing for a natural birth. I typically read them until about a month before the due date and then I drop it all and try to quiet my mind until the baby arrives. This time around will probably be the most challenging to quiet my mind with two little cuties taking up most of my brain space. ;-)

Having walked through so many turbulent times with my depression and miscarriage I wanted to celebrate this pregnancy in a personal and meaningful way. The premise of a blessing is to nurture the mother-to-be and celebrate motherhood. This focus and the empowerment behind it sounded so encouraging for my next step in life. I also wanted to include my dear friends and family in a way that they would also feel blessed and loved as mothers and someday mothers.

I love seeing an idea evolve and flourish. This is how my blessing came to be... creating makes me happy and is healing. I bought candles for each woman and added a chestnut tree charm. After each person introduced herself we lit the candle to add her presence to our gathering. After the blessing each woman took her candle home and will light it when I'm in labor as a reminder to pray for me and so I can be comforted knowing I am supported. I also had each woman bring a verse or poem or word of wisdom which she then wrote down on a piece of fabric. My friend will create a flag which I can look on during birth and beyond and remember how loved I am by God and those around me. I especially loved the part where all shared what they had written. It was not only incredibly encouraging to me, but to all who were present.

Mikayla's involvement also evolved into something very special. From the pedicures with mama before the blessing, to the matching dresses and flower crowns (which were really fun to make!) to the specialness of being the only kid there to the reading of her special message to the baby... this big sister was celebrated! She did amazingly well throughout, and though the occasional sigh would escape her lips (she is 6 after all) I think she felt treasured and loved.

Being outside has always been a saving grace for me throughout my life. Climbing trees and reading in them when I was young, laying under a tree for hours at a time with Dhrumil before kids, walking to catch my breath after a tough day or running through the corn fields... God's beauty is all encompassing on the soul. I knew my sister's mother in law as an avid gardener and her backyard is always beautiful in the summer. She graciously allowed the use of her beautiful space and also her collection of serving-wear. Each element added just the right touch. I also had lovely women help with food and decor as well as setting up and cleaning up and taking pictures (thanks Margaret for these). I couldn't have done it without them!
And then of course the most important part of the Blessing... the women who have been there for me and who have been such an encouragement in my life. I treasure each of those who were there and my many other friends and family who were unable to make it... God has put each of you in my life for a special reason. I'm ready for this new step in my God-ordained "job" as a mama of three!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Acceptance of Imperfection... again

The high pitched sobs were loud, hot tears poured out over a red face distorted by a mixture of feelings and the body stance was that of defiance. I was witnessing my son trying to come to terms with his emotions, but not yet equipped with the tools to do so... thus a tantrum had ensued. Nolan was upset that his sister set up morning snack and unbeknownst to me, had wanted to do so himself. As I tried to help him over the hump of unbridled emotions into one of acceptance, I was struck with sympathy for his situation. On many occasions acceptance of my circumstances have made me want to do exactly what Nolan was doing and throw myself into a tantrum. But... I'm an adult...

Pregnancy amnesia is real! Now almost into my third trimester and I had forgotten the random aches and pains, exhaustion, moods, hunger, aversions, clumsiness, human incubator, vessel of life, breathlessness and sleeplessness that comes with this joyous time. And did I mention it takes me five times as long to complete any task? (Granted I now have two kids)

Until a few weeks ago I hadn't realized how much pressure I was putting on myself to have a
"perfect" pregnancy. My first trimester was wrought with morning sickness, but with every nauseous feeling I praised God because that meant my baby was still growing. In my second trimester, when I was finally able to believe the baby was going to live, I willed the joy to continue being real because darkness wasn't allowed! And then I hit a few days of feeling down and a week of not being able to sleep and everything was thrown out of whack disrupting the perfection I had unknowingly been trying to achieve.

Accepting I'm an achy imperfect preggo!
I feel like pregnancy, just like postpartum, comes with a "you should be" stamp. If you are not happy and glowing there is something wrong with you. If you are unable to continue to "do it all" you need to sign up for more yoga classes. If you can't attend to everyone's needs then how in the world are you going to take care of another life!?

And then self awareness caught up... I was doing this to myself again. I wasn't accepting my present circumstances, I wasn't accepting that I am a human with flaws. I wasn't allowing myself to remember the difficulties of creating a HUMAN BEING! I was again throwing up the bar so high that I would NEVER reach it, no matter how thankful I felt I should be. This carrying a life thing... this thing is hard. And that's OK! I had to accept that these last few months are going to be hard... and that's OK! Three mile walks filled with braxton hicks? Ok just walk around the block... very slowly. Making dinner filled with braxton hicks? Ok just sit down and leave dinner and give the kids a sandwich. Kids going insane and I'm unable to keep up with them? Fine just let them wreck the house. Fear of not being able to do it all with three instead of two? UM DUH you will never be able to do it all...

And so I head into my last trimester an imperfect, tired and achy Mama, but one who is SO excited to take one step at a time and fully embrace the joy that comes in the moments. How exciting to be growing and learning one little kick at a time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Rainbow

Being pregnant after a miscarriage has been a completely different experience for me. I approached my first two pregnancies with a sort of naive sense of wonder. Unbridled joy and entitlement were my friends and I went about life without even pausing to let my mind go "there".

My third pregnancy was different... it had been almost three years since I had been pregnant and I felt anxious. I had seen precious friends lose their babies and I knew much more of life's suffering. I had been joyful for those few weeks and yet I had moments where I felt that my sweet baby would not live here on earth with me. I had to continuously remind myself that I was not in control! And when that ever so small, but ever so precious life left me... a small part of me left as well. I never realized how someone so small could so deeply effect me.

Today was my third prenatal visit, but I was still extremely nervous. I have been having trouble accepting that everything is going to be ok this time... that the baby is in fact going to make it and at times... that he/she is still alive. Hope has seemed like something I wasn't allowed to have... I was safer without it.

It felt like time stood still while I waited for the midwife to place the doppler on my belly. I half expected not to hear anything... and then in what felt like an eternity, but was only a moment, the sweet sound of my baby's heartbeat drumming happily away was heard. I could tell the midwife sensed the relief that flooded over me in that moment. As he took my hand to help me sit up he spoke with sincerity "You have been forever changed by your loss... not only do you have the realization that a baby can be easily lost, but that you yourself can experience it." And in that moment I was able to again accept that my feelings of fear were ok. And then move on...

A few weeks ago as I sat staring at my growing belly I was struck with fear and frustration. I was missing someone I had never met... how could I possibly start to love another? How could I even begin to allow myself to remember that God was good after my other baby was taken away? And then a sure small voice said...
I am with you, your baby is in my hands
But God my other baby was in your hands and he/she will never be with me on earth
Yes but that baby was never meant for this earth and instead is with me now and will never have to face fear, disease or pain. It is ok to hope. I know your heart.

Peace washed over me... I was reminded how even when I was so so angry at God for my depression
and feeling completely abandoned... that he was there with me through it all. That I am now a person who I NEVER thought I would be. Confident in Christ who made me! There is no shame in hoping, in believing that this baby is going to be ok... that I will be ok. 

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. - Romans 5: 1-5