She won't recall her first valiant steps, but my heart will ache with remembrance forever.Read More
I had a friend in college...we'll call her Mary. Mary was a surprise and a gift. We met doing summer theater together. She was the darling of the theater department and I was an awkward outsider. She wore cool thrift-store blazers and turquoise statement rings. She was confident and funny and I was totally intimidated. But somehow, my dorky-little-Christian-conservative-self weaseled my way into Mary's affections. We became the best of friends that summer.
We bonded over our mutual obsession of the Cranberries and Mel Brook's movies. We went to farmer's markets and danced in the parking lot to Caribbean music blasting from the car stereo. Mary taught me to love Eddy Izzard, Thai food and dark, German films. One time we stole lace doilies from the costume department and wore them on our heads at Busch Gardens for an entire day. We actually wore them on the rides and people were so confused...and we just laughed our heads off. We were total freaks together and it was the best.
You never would have guessed, by the way that we got along, how much we actually disagreed. As much as our souls connected, our political and religious beliefs could not have been more different. We literally had opposite perspectives on just about every major issue. But our opposing views didn't cause us to shy away from those issues...OH, we talked about them...for hours...hundreds of hours we talked about politics and God. We had impassioned, unfiltered discussions about faith and philosophy. Two strong, opinionated women disclosing their deepest darkest thought processes. And despite our very different perspectives, talking with Mary was safe. I never felt judged by her. And it's not because I held back on what I really thought, it's because Mary respected me. I'm certain she felt the same. In all our disagreements there was an assumption that the other person was loving, and kind and beautiful.
I wept with that woman. We went through some intense things together and to this day, she is dear to me. We trusted each other, even though we didn't always agree.
I doubt either of us ever truly "changed" the other's mind when it came to politics and religion...but I am absolutely changed by Mary. She taught me that behind that "opposite viewpoint" there is a human...a beautiful, crippled soul that has reason and history for "why". And Mary is lovely, unique, valuable and worthy of my respect.
She taught me that it is possible to be united with someone you disagree with...to even enjoy, belly-laugh with, love someone you disagree with.
When I look at the political landscape of 2016 and the way we dehuminize the "opposite view"...I wonder what type of beauty we are missing out on? I wonder where the idea came from that in order to respect and love someone, you have to agree with them?
I don't think everyone needs to agree...in fact...how dull would that be? Diversity of ideas is freedom. Lets never change our right to debate and disagree! But lets DO take time to consider each other. These are the things we learned in kindergarten and Sunday school, right? :) There is a reason that one of the first things we learn in life is to "Love your neighbor as yourself". "Do unto others as you would have them do to you." The Golden Rule. Its one of the most vital things we will ever learn.
Different view points will never be the problem. It's our refusal to love each other that will be our downfall. There is a living, breathing human-being behind that opposite view. God, help me to remember Mary.
Yesterday, I dropped my Aunt off in Springfield, and headed back home to Kansas City under dark, ominous, cloudy skies. Sure enough, about 30 minutes into my return trip, the rain poured down, blurring visibility to less than 10 ft. in front of my car.
I went slow, cautious and aware that accidents and terrible things happen in a matter of seconds. But despite my caution, I felt the sudden jerk of my steering wheel; the slip of the wheels and cried out "Jesus, help me!", repeatedly as my car hydroplaned 360 degrees on the soaking-wet high-way and into the the muddy, grassy ditch, where it continued to spin. As soon as my car stopped, I sat in silence with my hands over my face, shocked. Everything was slow and fast at the same time. My mind reeled as uncontrolled as my car had moments before: "How were there no other cars on the road when I lost control? Thank God, no one else was hurt! Thank God, my daughter wasn't in the car with me! Am I ok? I feel ok? How did my car not tip over? It felt like it would tip over. Is my car ok? Thank God, no one was hurt!"
When I opened my eyes, I saw, about 50 yards up the road, a man in a red shirt, running towards me. I breathed. I got out of my car as a young, college-aged guy named Chris gave me a hopeful smile and said, "Are you ok?" I immediately hugged this stranger and told him through tears how scary it was. "I know!" he said, "I saw it! I wanted to make sure you were ok." Chris in the red shirt. I'm sure I'll never see him again, but I will always remember how he made me feel; that I wasn't alone, in a very scary, lonely moment.
I was able to drive my car out of the ditch (another miracle) about 1/4 of a mile to the nearest exit. It was obvious that something wasn't right with my car. I pulled over to inspect the damage. And sure enough, my right, front tire was completely blown out. So there I was, in southern, rural Missouri, spare tire parts scattered on the gravel road and my husband on FaceTime. I was helpless and shaken and frustrated and in no condition to decipher a bunch of medal parts to change a tire. Oh, and it started to rain. And my phone battery was dying.
It was then that Mike pulled up. Mike was a stranger too and I'll probably never see him again. But he changed my tire for me. And he escorted me the nearest Walmart service center...the only place open on a Sunday afternoon in southern, rural Missouri.
I'm usually a pretty capable, quick woman. But for those few hours I was like a child. I was shaken to my core and needing help from people.
As I made the 100 mile trip home, I cried on and off, in awe of what had just happened. Mostly, I was so thankful to God that no one was hurt and that my car was mostly ok. I listened to the radio about the shooting in Orlando. I wept for the families who have been thrown into a devastating nightmare that will take a lifetime to heal. I kept thinking of the faces of the people who had just helped me...and the words of one of my heroes, Mr. Fred Rogers:
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster", I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers--- so many caring people in this world."
Its such an odd and confusing juxtaposition to reconcile. In the same day, my heart is overwhelmed with gratitude to God for sending people to help me and grieved and broken over the senseless killing of human life. Its a world were evil and good coexist. It's not simple, but it is the truth.
The burdens and troubles of this life are great and many. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by it sometimes, but in the midst of horrifying and brutal darkness, there is also a glorious and radiant light.
I saw the helpers yesterday in rural Missouri, I see the helpers in Orlando. Let us be comforted, as Mrs. Rogers told her son, and look for the helpers.
The other night, Nick was out late at a concert and I was home alone with my 1 year old, Millie. She was having a rough time getting back to sleep, so I brought her into bed with me so that we could both, finally, get some rest.
As a parent, you become well-acquainted with interrupted sleep and the feelings of being jolted awake in the dead of night by the sounds of a crying child. This night, however, I found myself jerked awake, in a complete state of grogginess but aware that someone was standing over the bed grabbing Millie. In my confused sleep-state, I convinced myself that someone had broken into our house and was kidnapping my daughter. The terror that overwhelmed me in those few seconds caused a cry so deep, so raw, so visceral. "NO! NO!", I screamed, only for Nick, in his sweet and gentle voice to reply, "Honey, it's just me, I'm putting Millie in her crib." Relieved and traumatized, I laid back and cried, over-come by the intensity inside of me. The whole thing transpired in less than 5 seconds, but goodness-gracious, it felt like the entire Earth might as well have stopped spinning.
The next morning, Nick and I debriefed on the night before. "So THATS what 'that' sounds like", he said. He was referring to the guttural scream of "No! No!" that I had let out when I thought my baby was being stolen. We half-laughed and marveled at the intensity of it...the animalistic behavior. It was a bloodcurdling, low, fierce and horrid sound that I couldn't imitate if I tried. We concluded that something of that nature is produced from a primal, instinctive place that is tapped only in the face of wild threat.
It's alarming and awesome to consider a love so untamed and intrinsic that I could, literally, growl like a bear. And then I think about the day I gave birth to Millie. My friend made an audio recording of the last bit of labor when I was pushing. Those last shouts and groans right before Millie entered the world gives me chills to this day. It's almost embarrassing how unhindered and raw the moment was. But it was also something of transcendence...it was holy...almost inhuman...and yet...the most human; almost unearthly...and yet....of the earth.
This is motherhood; "the most human...and of the earth".
I understand mama bears, and mama wolves, and mama tigers and every ferocious beast of the earth that is a mother. I am a ferocious mother-beast...and it is something I have absolutely no control over. It comes out when spontaneous threats arise. Nick joked of the other night, "I'm glad you didn't have a gun...I may not be here today."
This ferocious mother-beast carries a love that is so big and untamed that it scares her. It overwhelms her. It makes her laugh. It makes her cry. When you get right down to it, her bones...her ligaments, her flesh, muscles and all her organs...are walking around outside her body. Her raw, fleshy heart is learning to walk, spitting out avocados and playing music downstairs with daddy.
The desire...the instinct I have to protect my daughter; to keep her safe from harm is greater than any love I could ever have for myself. Yes, a mother's love is sacrificial...but don't you know that we would have it no other way? This love...this love....it is visceral.
This morning, I woke up and did what any normal human being would do: rolled-over and picked up my phone. I scrolled through Facebook and Twitter. (It's a compulsion that rarely leaves me feelings uplifted and "more alive".) Simply put, its a life-suck.
During the course of my scrolling I come across a Buzzfeed article of a dad posting funny things on Twitter that made me laugh, and a video of a christian evangelist telling amazing stories that made me cry. I should have stopped there. I proceeded to stumble upon a disparaging post about women written by someone I respect. I debated with myself for 10 minutes on whether to respond or not, concluding that anything I wrote would either be ignored or turned into some annoying Facebook debate; thus, futile. Because I'm a glutton for punishment, I hopped over to Twiltter where a barrage of passive-aggressive political posts shot tiny knife-lasers into my eyeballs. The world is shit. It's 9:00 am and I'm reaching for the preverbal towel to thrown the damn thing in.
Here's the thing. My life? It's small. Not so impressive to anyone other than my Mom and me. Today, I have to go to the grocery store. I have an email to send. Laundry to do. Dinner to cook. If I'm in the mood, I can organize the garage. I have a daughter that I have the immense privilege to love today; to represent the love of Jesus as purely and truly as I possibly can. She's growing so strong and so quickly. The time is precious. I have to drink it in.
A few miles away, my best friend, partner and lover is working his butt of for his family. He wakes up everyday at 5:30 am to take care of us and he does a damn good job. He deserves my best because we love each other. And sometimes my best is an encouraging text, when he's tells me he's having a "melancholy day".
Listen folks, you and I are both going to bump into things today that will make us feel like crap. Social media, being one of them, a melancholy day...being another. The demon 'Buzzkill' is a real thing. I don't mean like the cousin of 'Beelzebub', I mean...that discouraging, depressing, intangible temptation to believe the worst about the world and ourselves.
Here's the truth about your story today. All those people on social media...they're just like you: trying their hardest to get by. But they are very far away. They don't know you and you don't really know them. They're not your family or friends so don't worry about what they're saying (or not saying) today. What is in front of you? A grocery list? A 9-5? Three screaming kiddos tearing your kitchen apart?
If all your wildest Pinterest boards came true, it would not be enough to bring lasting joy and peace to your heart. Social media is a bit of a fantasy world, isn't it? There's a little bit of truth, but a lot of not truth. All that 'not-truth'?...it can kill the simple joy that you will stumble upon in actual real life, today.
So you have a grocery list? You shop the CRAP out of that grocery list! Say hello to the girl at the meat-counter. Try every sample! You have a 9-5? Ask your boss how he/she is doing today. Hardly anyone ever asks the boss. You have to organize your garage today? Put Bruce Springsteen on blast and go to town. Let gratitude swell inside of you for the simple joy of holding your child's hand.
Lift your hearts up to the Lord, the giver of Life, the giver of every good thing. Choose it. With every fiber of your being, reach for joy. Don't let the buzzkill of a couple "not truths" control your story today.
I woke up Christmas morning at 12:24 am to a crying baby. She made it back to sleep, but I, the mother, had an impossible time "settling back down". I stared at the ceiling for a good 5 hours before deciding to finally get up, turn the Christmas tree lights on and occupy my racing mind with a book on the couch. It was a protest, really, against my insomniac body and it took all my strength to not run to the kitchen, grab a knife and start stabbing every pillow in sight whilst screaming the F word at the top of my lungs.
I've had my bought with sleepless nights and its maddening, I tell you, maddening.
But what was even more frustrating, was knowing what an frigg'n zombie I was going to be when the sun rose and shone it's bright face on a world ready to celebrate "the happiest time of the year”. So much for feeling “like a person” on baby’s first Christmas. (Insert all the cuss words.)
I awake around 10 am, much later than anticipated, and sludge my way to the kitchen to make breakfast. Touching raw bacon on 3 hours of sleep is slightly better than death. I’m opening wrong cabinet doors and such. Suddenly I’m hyper aware of floors that haven’t been mopped in weeks, cookie frosting glued to counter tops and the half-finished high-chair that I had planned to refurbish and make Millie’s “big” gift sitting in pieces in the garage. I absentmindedly crack eggs into the sink instead of the bowl. (Insert all the cuss words.)
I want to cry. I just want to freaking cry on Christmas. I’m cutting a slimy pineapple, when “Ave Maria” comes on the Christmas mix. I let the melody wash over me, push it’s way into my tired bones.
I know it’s Christmas morning and we should be thinking about Jesus and everything but I can’t. I can only think about Mary. Her son is God…but she probably just felt like me, most of the time. So vulnerable with volatile amounts of love. Tripping constantly on failure and tiredness. Feeling the weight of being this tiny person’s historian…to remember every precious thing he can’t. To savor each celebration. To make him breakfast was just another intentional act of happy selflessness.
But then when you think about Mary, it’s impossible to not think about Jesus. They are forever linked. Mother and son; even sharing one body as she carried him in her womb. She came from God and then God came out of her. How wonderful! How weird! How absolutely like God to invent such a marvelous and confounding reality.
Hail, Mary! Full of grace! How often did you want to pound your head against a wall in mind-numbing exhaustion? How many midnight feedings? How many incoherent breakfast-makings? How many big celebrations having a real, “womp-womp” moment?
Hail, Mary! Full of grace! Your love is relatable and inspiring. You show us that we are full of grace as well.
From the Book of Common Prayer, First Sunday of Advent
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
Early on humanity knocked over the china-cabinet and ever since we’ve been doing our damnedest to avoid impaling ourselves with shattered glass. On a good day, we might super-glue a piece or two back together. Even in our best efforts, it’s all still felt a little bit wrong, hasn’t it? This life. This clunky, unyielding, sparkling, drunk on bitter-sweetness life.
I like to think of the holidays as an exceptional time when we gather together and crawl around on the floor looking for broken china pieces. Our fingers are tacky with glue as we collectively try to mend what was broken. And what was broken? Something so costly, so precious, so priceless. It was our fault and now we’re trying to make it right. It’s so sweet and sad. it’s sweet because the attempt to “own up” to our wrong doing is so pure-hearted. But at the same time, sad, because we are truly incapable of making it how it’s supposed to be.
It’s kind of unpopular to talk about our sin. But that doesn’t mean that sin isn’t a real thing and doesn’t affect us on a daily basis. And assuming that sin is a real thing, something so dark and grave must be dealt with. But how? Let us put all our hope in the fact that the owner of the china-cabinet is not angry and mean. Let us hang all our hope on a Father who is slow to anger, rich in love and delighted in his children…yes, even children who knock over costly china-cabinets.
And now we see that the bright star of this story is not clumbsy, little you and me, it’s not even poor, toppled, shattered china-cabinet. It’s great, good Father, who follows the trail of broken glass to find us hiding in the corner, head bowed down into our curled knees. He lifts us up and wipes our red, puffy faces. The glue cap drops to the floor as our clenched hands relax. We lay our head on his shoulder as Daddy strokes the sticky hair from our wet cheeks. “I will take care of this,” he whispers. And we let him. Because that’s what happy, loved children do.
What better way to cast away darkness, than with a great, bright light ascending into he world. What better way to undo our mess, than by the love of a God who takes care of us.
In great humility, Jesus, the living image of God, has come to us to bind up our broken hearts, to release us from our prisons. And we will let him because that’s what happy, loved children do.
When it comes to romantic relationships our society is obsessed with finding the "perfect match" or "soul mate". Personality tests, attraction, chemistry...these are the things we talk about when we think of compatibility. It's all a little nebulous, but apparently "when you know, you know"...that spark or indescribable connection is what separates the others from "the one".
There is a notion that finding someone who is truly compatible with you is the bedrock of a strong marriage. It's about finding the "right person" to spend the rest of your life with; that one person who will bring out the best in you and vice versa. Family background, future goals and attraction are the basis of this decision making. We think of this compatibility as glue, and the stronger the better.
There's only one problem...compatibility is not what holds a marriage together. I want to release you from the burden of feeling like you need to have a compatible marriage in order for it to be strong. Most likely you find yourself nestling up to someone each night who has glaringly obvious differences from you; in many ways feeling like your exact opposite. Not so compatible.
There was probably a time when you felt like total twinzies and that the day you met each other, you might as well have won the lotttery, the odds were so fantastic. "Oh my gosh! Your favorite all-time movie is the 1982 version of The Scarlet Pimpernel too? We need to get married right now!" Sure you were aware of some minor differences; your extroversion and his introversion were more cute than anything else. But fast forward 5 years later with a baby lying in-between you at the end of a long, hard day. In fact it's been a hard week, month, year? Financial burdens, non-existent date nights, health-problems, whatever. Suddenly, your deep need to use words to make sense of your anxiety is clashing hard-core against his deep need to find an inward solace. Not so cute any more, huh. So you lay in your bed in the dark, screaming in your head, hoping that Jesus cares and wondering how the hell to talk to each other.
But then you remember that your marriage is more than friendship. It's more than amazing chemistry. It's more than future hopes and dream. Your marriage is a covenant; two people coming together. Two people sitting on opposite sides of a river bank making a decision as to how to build a bridge.
And right there....
Right there is the secret. Right there is where the dreams come true. It is in the building of a bridge, between two opposite sides that the love we hope to find in life is cultivated. The strength of your marriage is not subject to your compatibility. The strength of your marriage is contingent on your ability to come together despite how absolutely different you are.
And let me just say, the romance and depth of passion found between two incompatible people choosing to unite as one... is magical. It is the stuff that fairytales and chick-flicks wish they could have.
Compatibility may have been what brought you together, but it is not what will keep you together.
Here's to all the incompatible marriages out there. May we build our bridges tall and strong.
I'm pretty sure I've said 'thank you' before, on my birthday, mostly ironically. "Thank you mom, for pushing me out of your vagina." "Oh, you're welcome," you say, "It's the greatest joy of my life."
I know what you mean now, Mom.
We're kind of raised to make birthdays intrinsically about 'us'. I'm one year older today! Yay me! Good job, me! I managed to stay alive another year! Hopefully, this year has taught me to be a little smarter in the future, a little more grateful, kinder. And I will gladly receive any gifts...and cake. Mmm. Cake. (I should have made the title of this post, "MMM, Cake".)
But Mom, I remember you behind the scenes, orchestrating so many of my birthdays. I remember the 7th birthday roller-skate cake that you re-made vanilla because I didn't want chocolate. I remember you decorating the mantel with streamers for my 13th. Each year we would go to the store and pick out special invitations to send to my friends. What theme do I want? You would let me decide. And you made it happen, Mom. A celebration. A party for me! And every year you'd ask me what I wanted. My birthday meant a couple wishes came true.
But this year I'm thinking of the birthdays that I can't remember. The birthday where I tasted my first piece of cake. The birthday where I toddled down the hall in my cone-shaped party hat. The day 33 years ago that changed your life and my life, Mom.
I think about how hard you must have worked. How your body was pushed to it's ultimate limit. The excitement of meeting your first baby. The fear that you wouldn't be able to protect her forever. The overwhelming awe of a whole new, tiny person, wriggling in your arms, taking her first peak at the technicolored world. All the possibilities. All the anxieties. All the love. Formed from your own body, now sleeping in your arms.
Today I remember that 33 years ago, you were marked with love. A heavy, eternal love that you carry with great joy.
Really, thank you. And happy birthday, Mom.
There's so many thing that have to get done today. Call the insurance company. Do the dishes. Do the laundry. Reply to emails. Brush your teeth, for god's sake. And yet, my baby needs me. When I put her down she cries. When I hold her she doesn't. My baby needs me.
Sometimes it feels like "I didn't do anything today." I didn't accomplish a list of impressive busy-nothings. There are people outside my window, all over the world, little ants marching with great accomplishments. And I'm in this little matchbox house, filled with coo's and cries and cuddles and diaper changes. My "checked-boxes" are fewer than ever. Things are slow now, and quiet and soft.
So I'm gonna sit on the couch today. And I'm going to hold her. The bills will be there tomorrow. The laundry will be there tomorrow. God knows the dishes aren't going anywhere. But this. This is not going to last forever. Someday she's going to grow strong and tall and wild and free. She's going to take on the world and I will watch her with a full heart and tears in my eyes. But today, she needs me. So I'm going to hold her...and that will be enough for both of us.
It's hard to believe that just 4 months ago I pushed a watermelon out of a pea.
Just let that sink in.
To my pregnant/new mom readers, if you're anything like me, you're wanting to know if all the crazy science-fiction stuff happening to your unrecognizable body is normal. Take heart, dear one. It is. To those moms who have already "been there" let us give a collective "mmmmmmmm-hmm". And to the poor high-school boy who stumbled upon this page, "Don't have sex until marriage. You're way too young. Also, go give your mom a hug."
During pregnancy and post-partum (ahem...and even now) I didn't read one book. I just googled everything, which may or may not have been a good idea. But I had burning questions at 2 a.m. that needed to be answered pronto.
So I'm here to help you, freshly out of the "fourth trimester" myself; armed with all the expertise that comes from experience and the internet.
You want to know what to expect postpartum or just confirm that you're not a total freak of nature. Hey gurl, hey! I gottchu. Anyone else, not wanting a huge dose of 'real-talk', turn away now.
Imagine running a marathon with the worst diarrhea cramps of your life and drumsticks stuck up your butt. You'd be tired. And hurting. But so GD relieved it was over. Also you get the most insane, awe-inspiring prize at the end that surpasses your greatest dreams....a baby. Welcome to postpartum-hood, sister.
Your body is a shriveled mess. Your hormones are like, "What's even happening to uuuuuus?!! We don't even knooooooow!!!" And you're holding this soft, warm, bundle of inexplainable joy and awe; learning how to clean her gross little belly-button and trying not to accidentally kill her. Everything is so wonderful and intense and unknown. You may feel like a freak. You're not. You just had a baby. You just went through the most physically, emotionally and spiritually demanding thing of your life. It's gonna cause some ripples. Just sit back a ride the wave. It won't be like this forever. So snuggle that little newborn. Drink in this short, short period. Take time to savor these precious moments with your spouse. With time, your body will begin to heal. But until then, here are some of the physical things I encountered during the first few days and weeks.
You'll have a hard time breathing.
I was more than a little taken back when the nurse informed me, shortly after giving birth, to be careful when I got up, because I would have a hard time breathing. She was right! I took about four steps towards the bathroom and was practically gasping for air. Apparently, its some gobbely-gook about when the baby's still inside and everything is super cramped, all your organs are holding up your diaphragm. You haven't noticed this massive shift, because it took 9 months to get there. But in the moments following the birth, everything sort of lets loose and is just jiggling around; especially your diaphragm, which is all floppy and unsupported. This is the technical, medical explanation. You're welcome. Bur regardless, it took me a few weeks to actually feel like I could breath normally.
You'll have a hard time walking.
Not gonna lie...I hobbled for about 2 weeks...but especially for the first few days. Not trying to scare anyone...but there is a certain amount of trauma down in the nether regions. Also, your muscles are so sore...like "I just massively worked out for 24 hours" sore. Literally. (Side note: You will be so hopped up on baby-love hormones, which greatly overshadow any sort of pain. Plus, nothing, I repeat, NOTHING is as hard as childbirth...so in comparison to that, it really isn't that painful. Perspective, people.)
You'll be terrified to poop.
In all your postpartum check-ups, it seems like everyone is obsessed with asking you if you've had your first BM yet, and how many times. After labor, you'll probably be constipated, coupled with the nether region trauma it can get a bit dicey. Also, hello hemorrhoids. Really it's mind over matter. Drink lots of water, eat lots of berries and take lots of stool-softer. I was braced for the worst and it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. Plus I had just given birth so again, nothing was as hard as that.
Peeing might be more painful than pooping.
No one prepared me for this one. So I'm preparing you, incase this is your situation. I ended up needing a few stitches "down there" because of a little thing called "2nd degree tearing". (Again...not as bad as labor and childbirth.) They give you this little squirt bottle with some sort of clear liquid that is supposed to "neutralize" any sort of burning. Yeah. So there was that. After about 2 weeks, everything heals up. So it doesn't last forever and your baby makes it all worth it!
And while we're talking about peeing, your gonna wet your pants a bunch.
Kiss that thing called "dignity" buh-bye, cause it's just not gonna be a thing for a while. I was one of the pregnant women who seemed to lose bladder control way back in my 1st trimester. So anytime there was a cough, laugh or sneeze coming, I was ready. Even after the child is born, it doesn't go away for a couple of months. They say 'kegels' work, but I'm pretty sure they're just lying to us. It all naturally starts to heal itself. I'm 4 months postpartum and it's mostly under control. Mostly.
There will be blood.
You're body will be gradually ridding itself of the extra 50% of blood that it was producing during your pregnancy. It's called 'lochia' and it's basically like a really heavy period. Within the first few days, it's not unusual to have some pretty big blood-clots. It's recommended to buy those super, jumbo, mattress-sized pads. Or if you're my doula, just get adult diapers...which I may or may not have done. This part wasn't bad at all, more annoying than anything else.
Sweats and chills and crazy, BO, oh my!
Like day 2, I would wake up in the middle of the night DRENCHED in sweat. During the day my teeth would be chattering as I shivered under the covers. Your body is getting rid of all the extra water weight. I actually lost 25 lbs in the first week! Crazy! The sweats and chills calm down after a few days....but the body odor?...it was bad....like for a couple months. Who knew? Not me! Now you do!
Your uterus will contract and it doesn't feel good.
After your placenta detaches, your uterus starts contracting. Even the slightest push on your tummy is like sharp shooting pains. Everything is super tender. Breastfeeding actually helps the uterus shrink because it releases some hormone that I forget and am too lazy to look up. By week six, your uterus will have shrunk back to it's pre-pregnancy size. Amazing.
Your milk will come in and you will hate your life for a second.
Even during pregnancy, your breasts will produce colostrum, which will be the first thing your baby eats. It's watery and sweet and is perfect for you newborn's digestive track. After about 2-3 days your milk will "come in". If you thought your boobs were big before, just wait. I have to say, that this was one of the more discouraging moments for me during the first week. It's uncomfortable, awkward and can be excruciatingly painful. Your nipples can get raw, plugged ducts, and your breasts get engorged...like melon hard. I kept asking my mom and doula if this was normal, if my boobs would "look like a porn star's forever". They assured me that it was normal and that in a few weeks my breasts would regulate the milk production and get a little smaller and much softer. They were right. It progressively gets better and better and after a few weeks, your breasts return to about what they were during pregnancy.
Supposedly cold cabbage leaves placed on the boobs can help with engorgement pain...I would say it helped a little. Also, you may find yourself leaking quite a bit in the beginning, that too starts to fade as your body becomes more accustomed to you milk supply.
Not only are you dealing with the bizarre physical changes to your breasts, but you're also having to figure positions and latches and pumping, etc. This is all new to your baby as well and can be quite frustrating for both of you. This was my "low moment", so if you're there, hang on! It really, really does get better. Breastfeeding my daughter is one of my favorite things now, though the first few weeks were very touch and go.
Your hips and pelvic bone are sore for awhile.
During pregnancy, you bones and ligaments have loosened quite a bit to accommodate your growing baby. It takes a few weeks for everything to tighten back up again. I found that around week 5 most of the pain was gone, although I'm 4 months postpartum and still have some stiffness in my hand and feet joints.
Your stretch marks may look a little angry.
Believe me when I say, I was overJOYED to not be pregnant anymore. And though I wasn't even close to my pre-pregnancy size, I felt like a skinny-minny just to have the baby out! It takes a few weeks for your belly to go down. And you may find your tummy covered with bright red stretch marks. They would stare at me all angry-like in the mirror. But those too fade. And I never thought I'd say this, but I actually feel a little proud of them now.
Everyone is Different
And most importantly, remember that no two bodies, pregnancies, babies are alike. Some women might agree with every item on my list, while others might be like, "you wore diapers?". Yes. Yes I did. Some women complain of hair-loss, that has not been my experience. Some women lose weight from breast-feeding, also, not been my experience. Maybe you had a c-section or are experiencing postpartum depression. These are common, normal things that many women have experienced as well. Though you are perfectly unique, you are absolutely not alone.
Give yourself grace and time. You're a badass who just gave birth to a person.
Postpartum Must-Haves Kit
- Jumbo Pads (about 2 weeks worth)
- sprinkled with a few drops of water and placed in the freezer. Trust me
- Granny Panties
- For the jumbo pads, of course.
- Grown-Woman Diapers
- for the first 2-3 days.
- Breast Pads
- There will be a lot of leaking if you want to protect you clothes. But also, the early days of breastfeeding can be quite cumbersome and the pads can be a little annoying. Your call, but you may want the option.
- Nipple Cream
- Lots of people use Lanolin cream for cracked/sore nipples. Coconut oil is also an option. I ended up using neither, but some people swear by it.
- Cold Cabbage Leaves
- To place on your giant, swollen breasts. You're welcome.
- Witch Hazel Wet-Wipes
- For the hemorrhoids. These are a MUST.
- You'll want them, in general, when going to the bathroom.
- Make sure you get Stool-Softner and not laxatives. You don't want to dehydrate yourself.
- Things will be sore. You will need this.
- Pre-natal Vitamins
- Keep taking all of your pre-natal Vitamins. B Vitamins are especially important during post-partum.
- Water, Water, Water
- Drink it. Non-stop. All the time. Coconut water is nice as well.
- Comfy PJs that you feel really good in.
- Scented Candles
- Epson Bath Salt
- Extra Clean Sheets
- There will be so much body fluid between, sweat, breastmilk, baby spit-up, you will want to change your sheets every other day. And by you...I mean, someone else who changes the sheets for you. You're a princess for the next few weeks. Don't lift a finger.
I'm scrolling through my friend's Instagram and I feel it; a rising sense of dread making its way up. It starts in my chest and tenses my jaw. I love my friend. I truly do. But I want a perfect life too. I'm sure she never has late bills or weeks without sex. She doesn't have old, smelly carpet in her house dying to unearth the glorious wooden floor beneath. She has marble counter tops and trips to Norway. I have a molding shower curtain and a neighborhood I'm not crazy about. I've stacked my life against hers and it's not pretty. She has more/better. I'm wanting/sad. The black, sticky, toxic slime sludges it's way through and clogs the fountain of gratitude. I sink lower and lower into the dumps of hopelessness and self-pity. The things that I was totally content with this morning now feel shabby. Sure my house is rented, sure it's small, sure there's lyme in the toilet...but it's home. It's the place we got married in and had our baby. We painted the walls pretty colors and hung long, white curtains. I could easily count 100 blessings in my life, but now everything seems so meager next to her flat stomach and perfect abs.
And that's why jealousy is poison. It kills beautiful things. It makes things as if they are not. And it is potent. There is but one tonic; one cure to cut through the toxicity. A single, precious commodity that is too often undervalued...the truth. "The truth" shows us what is a lie, what is warped, what is fantasy and reality. The TRUTH is, I don't know the deep, raw inner-workings of my friend's life. (We really don't know what goes on behind closed doors.) But even if her life is as beautiful as I perceive, that still doesn't make mine any less beautiful.
The TRUTH is that there is not a limited amount of blessings in this world. The TRUTH is that there is a table big enough for everyone to be invited to; to sit down, eat and drink until full. The TRUTH is that there is a precious story behind how we found our home. And there is a story behind my heart getting scrubbed as I've scrubbed our lyme infested toilet. There has been a lot of learning, a lot of loving behind these imperfect walls...and that is incomparable. The truth shows me that when I see my life clearly, without the deception of comparison, it is impossible NOT to be grateful. Its also fun to watch black slime disappear down the drain.
I fall into the category of "people who hate slow walkers"...which is adjacent to the "people who hate slow drivers" group. It takes me about 2 seconds to pee in public restrooms. I will awkwardly walk from the car to my house with 18 grocery bags and laundry detergent balancing on my head before I go back for a second trip. None of this back and forth nonsense. I'm fast. I like to go fast and get to the point. If you have something to say to me, don't beat around the bush. I make snap decisions and some of my best work is under pressure.
So when Little Miss Quicky-Pants-McGoo has a baby, apart from scrambling for burp-cloths mid spit-up, things get decidedly slower. We hunker in for the expected postpartum recovery period, where my greatest achievement is walking to the bathroom or nursing my baby without screeching in pain. I MILK (no pun intending...sorry) this postpartum period. I lay in bed for weeks, watching TV and cuddling my sleeping babe. People bring me food and vitamins. It's like I'm on vacation.
It's not until her 2 week baby wellness visit when I actually have to leave the house by myself. Yes, our appointment isn't until 2:30 pm, but in first-time mom world, this translates to 8:30 am, which everyone knows is unreasonably early. I walk through the steps in my head of how to most efficiently and effectively get my new, tiny, real-life person, and my struggling postpartum arse out the door without looking like homeless people. Feed the baby. Feed the mama. Wash the baby. Wash the mama. Dress the baby. Dress the mama. All of which is much easier said than done. But somehow it was managed and I find myself left with just enough time to finagle her into an unfamiliar carseat and get to a doctor's office I have never been to before.
As I buckle her into her carseat, she begins to cry...newborn, wailing, cry....with TEARS!!! I'm 2 weeks into this new mommy thing and while she's had her moments...I've never actually seen any real tears. I begin to frantically unbuckle her, to loose her from this carseat of death! I'm panicking and upset and alone and oh God, where's my mom?! And now I'm crying. I practically rip her out of her carseat. I sit on the floor, clutching her in my arms as we both sob. It was emotional. It was dramatic. It was hormonal. And despite her not liking her carseat, we eventually make it to the doctor's office.
The point is, now simple things take me 100 times longer. There's no "zipping in and out" of the grocery store with an infant. There's hauling carseats and deciphering baby wraps. There's no "popping in" or "whipping up". No. Things are unquestionably slower. I can't depend on feeding the baby "quickly", because what if the baby doesn't like the position I'm feeding her in and cries instead of eats? I can't just not feed my baby...and I can't just say, "Baby, tell me why you're crying!" and listen to her eloquently describe the angle in which she would like to be held. I have to use trial and error. And that can take a long time. What if we're all ready to go to church and as I place her in the carseat she spits up all over us both? What if I'm changing her diaper at 5:00 am and magically half her head becomes drenched in pee? What if I awake in the morning and stare at her beautiful, sleeping face for 2 hours? What if instead of answering text messages right away I have to blow raspberries on her tummy and gushy cheeks? What if she's fussy and the only thing that calms her is when I hold her? Other things have to wait; therefore, everything has to slow.
And I've found that as I've been forced into this new pattern of "slow living" the word "savor" comes to mind. There are several times throughout the day where it's just her and me. Its quiet and she's snuggled against my chest, nursing, looking into my eyes. I drink in her small, sweet pants and grunts. I live for those sounds. I stroke her soft, feathery hair and feel the warmth of her tiny fingers wrapped around my thumb. I'm aware of how fleeting these moments are and that they will not last forever. Its slow and still and good. And something is changing on the inside. My heart is expanding. There is a gentleness rising up. I can feel my love getting taller and my patience getting wider. This slowness isn't weakness, it's strength. Strong like a mountain. Unyielding, fierce and gracious. This baby is teaching me how to be a woman.
And with all her "ba-da-bing-ing" and "ba-da-bang-ing", Little Miss Quicky-Pants-McGoo did not anticipate this side of motherhood.
People say that being a new mother is hard, and I agree. But it's not for the reasons I use to imagine...at least not yet. When people ask me, with a slight grimace on their face, how I'm handling being a new mum, it takes me a second to answer. They're essentially asking if I'm getting enough sleep, adjusting to the demands of an infant, getting a grip on breastfeeding, etc. I appreciate those questions because people are trying to show that they care. And yes, the postpartum period can be a bit of a bodily-nightmare. There were a few days where every single one of my private parts felt like mutilated, clumps of "oh my god, what the hell is that!?". And hormones...oh, the hormones.
But what I have found is that the EASIEST part of being a new mother is taking care of my daughter. Let me explain. Obviously taking care of a baby has it's challenges, but what feels EASY about it is that I don't have to second guess my role. My job-description is clear: 1) Love my daughter. 2) keep her alive. I am more than excited about the fact that, though my job is challenging and full of unbelievable responsability, it is also simple.
The hard part is feeling like the only thing I got done today was make my bed. The hard part is having our income cut in half because I'm staying home now. The hard part is figuring out what my passions are and how to do them with an adorably, gushy baby in tow. It's the peripheral stuff that gets complicated and hard. The core center part, which is my daughter, is easy...and by 'easy' I mean, enjoyable and clear.
I think many of us are aware of the stereo-type that "our kids are annoying" and mom can't wait to kick back with a bottle of wine and Netflix at the end of the day. And I'm not denying the fact that we all need a break to watch 5 episodes of Mad Men in a row. Hallelujah! But I want to speak to the pregnant mama, or the woman who hopes to be a mom someday, but is scared that all the "hardness" will slitfle the love meant for her child.
Being a new mother is wonderful...and the best part about it...is the kid.
Being a new mother is hard...and the hardest parts are not the kid. You may have some sleepless nights. You may find yourself crying because your baby won't eat and you have no idea why. You may get peed on, pooped on, spit on. You may look at the news differently and see Syrian refugee children through the eyes of a mother. You may order pizza 5 days in a row. Your boobs might sag in ways you've never dreamed.
But the love you will feel. OH the love. It is a love that almost feels like fear...but in a holy way. You will feel like a part of you, that has always been there, has suddenly awoken. You will feel powerful and weak all at the same time. Her little hands, cheeks, body will be the most beautiful you've ever seen. You will marvel over the work of creation and worship God in a deeper way. This love will make you open your arms to the challenging things.
The hard part about being a new mother...is not the kid.