For some reason, lately I’ve been really wanting to sit down and write about parenting. Not parenting styles or techniques; the actual act of being parents. What it means to be a parent. I guess. Honestly, I have no idea what I want to say, so I’ll just keep typing and see what comes of it.
Before kids, I used to be one of those people who looked at moms and said, “that’s never gonna be me.” Those moms with messy hair, frumpy clothes, and screaming kids biting at her ankles. I promised myself that even if I ever did have kids, I’d never lost sight of who I was or give up my freedom. Joel and I were at a restaurant once and we saw a couple with young children. They looked tired; just beaten down and worn out. They didn’t smile very much or seem to enjoy their meal or each other’s company. Even if their kids were quiet and well-behaved, the couple seemed to be short-tempered and irritable with each other. The wife especially. She looked downright unhappy. They had both ordered strong drinks. We watched them and smugly agree we’d never be like that.
Fast-forward to 2 kids, 2 dogs, and a house in our small hometown, if my past self could’ve seen all this, she would’ve run the other direction. She would’ve told me I was crazy. To be perfectly honest, she probably would’ve called me a loser (my past and present selves seem to make fun of each other a lot…). But I wish I could go back in time and explain to my smug, childless self all about the way things really are.
Sure, newborns are hard. Amazingly hard. Like, so hard, I sometimes really wonder why so many people choose to have multiple children. Elliott had to get his 2 month vaccines today and he hasn’t really stopped crying all evening (*Edit: I wrote this a couple of weeks ago; Elliott is now almost 3 months). I’ve been a mess. Seeing my baby in pain absolutely kills me! Then there’s endless poopy diapers, feedings, and the whole not being able to put him down thing. He freaks if I try to put him in his swing or rock-n-play for even 5 minutes. It’d be awesome if I could get my teeth brushed before 1:00 in the afternoon some days. Or eat lunch. Not to mention the toll it takes on your marriage. Newborn babies can take a solid, happy, loving marriage and reduce it to a strangled, non-communicative, emotionless train wreck in a matter of minutes. Insults hurt much, much worse at 3 in the morning. All it takes is some poor schmuck suggesting to his struggling breastfeeding wife that she try supplementing with a little formula to incur the fiery wrath of a thousand flaming suns. And most likely some very “adult” words.
Don’t forget about the jealous, teething toddler with a temper that would put Gordon Ramsay to shame. Try brushing her teeth. Just try it.
I’m 2 months post-partum, and still, none of my clothes fit. I have a lovely, jiggly muffin top now, no matter what pants I wear. So I wear loose-fitting tops and maternity jeans. Yep. Mom apparel. I scrubbed a giant cast iron dutch oven while wearing a screaming Elliott in the Moby wrap, gently bouncing up and down, and getting Cassidy’s lunch made the other day. How’s THAT for multi-tasking? I went out to dinner with my mom and sister last night sans children and felt so guilty about it that I could barely sleep. I bit Joel’s head off recently for no good reason (actually, I bite Joel’s head off a LOT). Not to mention feeling like a complete and utter failure as a parent, a wife, and a decent human being on most days.
But even with all that going on- man, it’s good. It’s good to be a parent. This morning, I had a lovely, beautiful, moving moment with my children in the kitchen. Elliott was in his rock-n-play absolutely screaming his head off while Cassidy was “vacuuming” the floor around my feet with one of those noisy, awful roll-y popper things. I was struggling to get lunch ready and my kitchen was an absolute mess. It was pure chaos. Like a scene straight out of It’s A Wonderful Life when George Bailey wonders “why do we have to have so many kids?!” Except for whatever reason (lack of sleep? Empty stomach?) something made me stop, take it all in, and just smile. I stood there in my loud, filthy kitchen…smiling. Smiling at what my life has become. I was EXACTLY the kind of “mom” I thought I never wanted to be…and it delights me. What a JOY to be surrounded by 2 beautiful, messy, loud children! To see baby spit up on the shoulder of my husband’s shirt. To see Cassidy’s toys strewn all over the living room. To have a baby cooing softly in the background when Joel and I say our prayers at night. WHAT. A. JOY. IT. IS.
Yes, there are times that Joel and I are that unhappy looking couple at the restaurant. Some days are just really hard and we can’t help but let it show a little. Strong drinks will definitely be ordered, defeated glances might be exchanged, one or both of us may have to take the baby outside when he gets too loud. But even at the end of the worst possible day, we both go to bed thanking God for our little family. No one could ask for a better life than ours.
VBAC: Vaginal Birth After Cesarean
Let me start by talking about c-sections. They can save lives; yours or your baby’s or even both. Sometimes, a c-section is the only safe option for giving birth. Thank God for smart, skilled doctors who are able to do what needs to be done to deliver your baby safely. I had one almost 3 years ago and it gave me the most precious, beautiful, smart, funny little girl who ever walked the earth. I don’t believe that anyone who chooses a c-section is weak, afraid, or incapable. I think each woman must decide what is right for her personally (sometimes we don’t even get the choice). This story just happens to be about me and MY choices and MY body. All mothers are incredible. However we deliver our babies is right for each of us. Period.
A bit of background on my c-section: I was your typical induction failure. My doctor absolutely refused to let me go past 41 weeks, so I was induced at exactly 1 week overdue. I wasn’t dilated at all. My body was nowhere near ready to give birth. I went in at 8:00am, they gave me the epidural, then broke my water. At 8:00pm, after pushing for 2 1/2 hours, my doctor suggested the c-section. Cassidy was born and everything was ok; however, I never really realized what kind of emotional scar her birth would leave on me.
When we got pregnant this time, we had long since moved to a different town, so I had to choose a new doctor. I ended up using a midwife this time around. The hospital in our town is super VBAC friendly, and I considered it briefly. Believing a repeat c-section would be safer than a VBAC (I was almost completely ignorant of and uneducated on the entire matter), I ended up choosing a repeat c-section. Our hospital does what they call a ‘gentle c-section’ or ‘family-centered c-section’, where the infant is immediately placed on the mother’s chest, cord clamping is delayed, and the infant never really leaves the mother’s breast until much, much later. It sounded pretty good to me! I honestly believed I wouldn’t be tough enough to endure a vaginal birth. I didn’t believe in myself and thought that my body had failed me once before and would probably do it again. I probably just wasn’t meant to give birth vaginally. I found myself making excuses for my repeat c-section to others to make myself feel better. “Well, the doctor told me last time that I never would’ve gone into labor on my own, so I probably wouldn’t this time either…”. But there was still a nagging voice in my head- “are you sure you want to do this?”
The months went by and I tried to prepare myself mentally for another surgery. I wanted to solidify my decision and feel at peace with it, so I decided to watch a couple of videos of vaginal births to scare me into it. THAT would make me feel better! Only it didn’t. I ended up watching a video of a mother giving birth, unmedicated, in a birthing tub. I somehow finagled Joel into watching it with me and we watched with our mouths agape as this woman endured all kinds of pain and embarrassment and made horrible grunting noises. We sort of chuckled and made a few immature jokes. Then after all her struggles and pain, the woman gave birth to her baby; and as she held it up to her chest, she and her husband cried and she said over and over, “I did it…I did it.” with so much joy and pride and emotion. As I watched, I realized there wear tears running down my cheeks and I knew deep down I wanted that too. That night, I asked God to show me what to do.
At my 37 week appointment, upon expressing my doubts to Shannon, my wonderful midwife, she told me I could do a trial of labor IF I were to go into labor on my own before the scheduled c-section. Yeah, ok, sure. Why not? That made me feel a little better. She asked if I wanted her to check me just to see if I was dilated at all. As she checked me her eyes got wide and she said, “do you want to know?!” Um- YES!
2 1/2 – 3 cm. already! Woah. We were so blown away we just laughed and decided right then and there we had some big decisions to make. She told me my body was favorable for labor and if I did a few things to prepare, VBAC. WAS. POSSIBLE. She told me to go home, pray about it, talk to Joel and decide if I wanted to try for a VBAC. When I got home I was practically dancing- I was elated. All it took was one look at me for Joel to know that we needed to go for the VBAC. I had asked God to show me the right path to take and He had smacked me in the face with it. I was incredibly scared, but I knew if I had faith and trusted in God, He would bless the birth of our baby boy. I just knew it in my heart. So I stopped worrying. And I got down to business.
I researched. I read books. I got on baby discussion forums and read about 3,000 birth stories. I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (an amazing book- I learned so much and was so empowered after reading it) and bought essential oils to help strengthen contractions. I saw a chiropractor to make sure my body and the baby were ideally aligned for labor. I became totally committed- not only to VBAC, but doing it med-free. I knew exactly what I wanted, and I knew that with help and support from Joel and faith in God and in my body, this was going to happen.
We were all convinced the baby would come early. But my due date came and went with only a few braxton hicks contractions here and there. The 4th of July we decided to have the family over for a cookout. We ate burgers and watermelon, went swimming, and watched the fireworks (Cassidy was mesmerized!), hoping for a firecracker baby. Nope. No baby. The next day, Joel and I noticed my contractions were actually really close together, so we decided to start timing them. They were about 4-5 minutes apart, lasting about 45 seconds to a minute. That went on all afternoon. In the real world, to normal people, that means labor. But I was in total denial. Joel was starting to really flip out, especially since I was so stinking calm and nonchalant about the whole thing. I casually strolled into the baby’s room and browsed his closet to pick a cute coming home outfit, all while Joel is following me around on pins and needles. I called our friend/nurse Rachel and she came over to sit with me for a few hours. We visited while I bounced on my birthing ball and folded towels. I was getting really discouraged and doubtful that I’d ever go into labor; I knew I was about 5 cm and my body was ready, but still- nothing. Rachel and Shannon (my midwife) both told me to relax and rest for awhile and Rachel left and said she’d most likely see me later that night. Yeah, ok…whatever.
We watched a few episodes of Seinfeld and played in the floor with Cassidy. Then Rachel texted me and said I could try rocking back and forth on hands and knees to try and kickstart labor. So I got down on all fours and rocked. Cassidy thought I was playing ‘horsey’, so Joel had to get on the floor too and play horsey with us. So there we were, the 3 of us, all on hands and knees in the floor. When I went to stand up- “POP”. I looked up at Joel and said, “Water…broke……..OOOOOOOOWWWWWWWW!!!” and waddled as fast as I could to the bathroom. Cassidy thought it was funny that mommy “tee-teed in her pants”. After that- intense, searing, blinding pain. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk. We called our parents and Rachel and as soon as our parents got to the house, Joel loaded me into the car and we flew to the hospital.
The rest was a blur. It all happened so fast. The car ride to the hospital was probably the worst part; each bump was excruciating. We got to the emergency room where Joel threw me into a wheelchair. The lovely ladies at the front desk were clearly in no hurry and began asking us all kinds of unimportant questions (“what’s the nature of your visit?”. “Um, I’m in LABOR!!!”). A middle aged couple sat staring at me as I panted and writhed in pain. An elderly woman hobbled on one leg in front of me. Another lady was rolling around on the floor moaning and puking into a large plastic cup. “Just get me the heck out of here!” I kept thinking. The pain was unlike anything I’ve ever felt before; I even bit Joel a couple of times, not even thinking. And suddenly, my body started pushing on its own. “I’MPUSHINGI’MPUSHINGI’MPUSHING!!!” Joel then went into Angry Joel Hyper Mode and started yelling at everyone, “get her into a room NOW!”. You better believe those ladies kicked it into high gear then! They got me to triage and a nice, calm looking doctor came in to check me. His eyes got huge and he looked totally surprised and said, “woah, she’s complete! The head’s right there!” I didn’t care about anything at this point; I just wanted this baby out!
Rachel got there in just enough time to insist that I wouldn’t give birth in the ER. They had just enough time to wheel me to an L&D room. Even with the intense pain I was in, I still had the presence of mind to remember all my research on optimal labor positions- I switched over to hands and knees and started pushing. Pushing provided some relief, but all the doubt and insecurities all came back to me as I remembered the last time I tried to push out a baby. I kept crying out, “I’ll never be able to push him out!” But Joel was right there by my side telling me he believed in me and how proud he was of me. He was truly amazing. I gathered all the strength I could and pushed. It was amazing how my body just knew exactly what to do; I just surrendered to it and did what felt right. I found myself making noises I’ve never made before- low and growling. Again, I was just doing what my body told me to do. It was amazing.
3 pushes. Three. And our sweet baby Elliott was born weighing 8 pounds, 10 ounces; 21 inches long. 37 minutes from my water breaking to holding Elliott in my arms. I’ll never forget seeing my perfect little boy for the first time as the nurses slid him underneath me. I scooped him up in my arms, rolled onto my back, and held him on my chest. Joel was crying and saying, “you did it! You did it!” There was so much joy and happiness in those first moments after his birth. I’ve never felt more proud in my life. I was just like the woman in the video…I had done it. Words can’t express the kind of elation I was feeling that night. There’s not another feeling like that in the world. I felt like superwoman. After I got stitched up (2nd degree tear- ouch), Rachel rewarded Joel’s and my hard work with a big, gooey, chocolaty brownie she had made. After that, she took us to a room where there was a wonderful hot herbal bath waiting for us. There was soft “spa-like” music playing and the whole room smelled like lavender. She brought us cheese, crackers, and juice to snack on while we soaked. We felt like we were at a resort! Such treatment! We gave Elliott his first bath and relaxed and soaked for an hour or so. I was so wired and happy I couldn’t sleep that night. I just held Elliott on my chest and kept reliving his awesome, awesome birth.
The next day, Elliott got to meet his big sister for the first time (what an emotional moment that was!). Of course I cried like an idiot when Cassidy climbed up into my arms- those postpartum hormones are NO joke. I was so happy to see her and have her meet her little brother. She was perfect with him and still is. She loves to give him kisses and hugs and “help” mommy and daddy when we change his diaper or give him a bath. She’s an amazing big sister. My heart is so full these days…these kids are just so stinking awesome. Joel and I are very happy with our little family of 4.
The past month hasn’t been easy (duh), but we learned quite a bit our first time around, so this time hasn’t been nearly as hard for us. The good news is, I’m able to breastfeed this time, which is a HUGE blessing! It was insanely hard for the first 3 weeks, but I powered through and I’m so thankful I stuck with it. It’s not perfect yet, but I know it’ll only get better from here. Joel and I are working together as a team and we’ve got a pretty good routine down now. I’m so proud of him and the amazing father he is. I’m not saying it’s a cakewalk to have a newborn at home- there are hormones and mood swings and sleep deprivation to consider- but anytime I feel myself starting to get “blue”, I just think back and remember Elliott’s birth and smile. His birth was such a blessing to me- a truly healing experience. I am so thankful to God for leading us down this path.
Jesus said it best- “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.” John 16:21
I’ll always cherish the birth of each of my children; they are both so very different, but both gave me the exact same thing- a healthy, beautiful baby. That’s all any mother can ask for. It doesn’t matter how a child comes into the world, it’s an experience each mother should remember forever and cherish in their hearts. I’ll never forget this very special VBAC and the amazing blessing it was in our lives.
Elliott was born on July 5, 2014 at 7:07pm, weighing 8 pounds, 10 ounces, 21 inches long. (I know this update is just a *little* late…life with a newborn and toddler ain’t easy and finding free time is almost impossible).
2 weeks old
Our little dude came fast and furious- the birth story is a real doozy! I’ll be posting the full story in the next couple of days- I can’t wait to share it with you!
3 weeks old
He’s doing so well! He gets fatter and cuter every single day!
Cassidy loves her little brother so much (really!) and she’s been such a sweet little helper. She helps us change diapers and she brings us blankets, pillows, etc. She’s been a real trooper! She loves to give him hugs and kisses and sing to him (seriously, how sweet is that?!).
We are so in love with our sweet babies.
At one month old, Elliott is already weighing 11.5 pounds (we make big babies, apparently…) and thriving. He’s a little chunk! He eats every 2 hours on the dot (even at night…*sigh*), which was hard for me at first, but we’re starting to really get the hang of it! Hopefully, we’ll start getting a few longer stretches of sleep at night very soon. I’d be thrilled with even 4 hours. Even though sleep is a fleeting memory and we’re a little zombie-like, life is very, very good and Joel and I are so happy with our little family of 4.
Good news! We are ALMOST done with the nursery! There’s just a little painting that needs to be done and then all the furniture can be moved in and pictures hung on the walls. I have been terrible about procrastinating this time around and now we’re all rushing around at the last minute trying to get everything finished before D-Day (June 26th!)! I promise I’ll share pictures when it’s done!
In the meantime, I have zero interest in trying new recipes/photographing said recipes/blogging right now. All I care about right now is spending every last minute with my little family of 3 and enjoying Cassidy’s last days as an only child. Obviously, after that, all hell is going to break loose and we’ll have a newborn to take care of. What’s my point? I’m taking a break for awhile. Honestly, blogging is not high on my list of priorities these days, so I’m not going to stress about it anymore. I’m going to walk away for awhile and enjoy my family. I’ll be back- with updates, definitely. I promise I will let you all know when baby boy gets here and keep you all in the loop. Just no food stuff for a bit. Bear with me! And wish me luck!!!
(No food post this week. I’m going through a “Life, PLEASE SLOW DOWN!!!” phase right now, so I haven’t cooked a decent meal in awhile.)
With the baby due in exactly 5 weeks (um, wow), naturally, Joel and I have been getting the nursery ready. Which means, we had to clean out our “junk room” (great, NOW where am I going to put all this stuff??). My mom and I actually tackled the closet today and in doing so, I found numerous boxes of memorabilia; newspaper clippings, cards, and pictures from my time at college, old birthday cards from family, and lots and lots of pictures, love notes, and cards from the time Joel and I were still dating and engaged. Joel was at a business dinner tonight and Cassidy is at her grandparents’ house for the night, so I grabbed a box and began rummaging.
I was filled with all kinds of warm fuzzies sitting alone in the middle of the floor of my soon-t0-arrive baby boy’s nursery reading syrupy sweet love notes and looking at pictures. For one thing, they were good for a chuckle or two- I looked like a chubby 12 year old and Joel had way more hair (and *cough* maybe a few less pounds *cough*), but golly, were we happy.
[the night we got engaged; 2005]
Looking at all those incredibly sweet, precious memories and keepsakes made me stop and think- are we the still the same? We held hands tighter, kissed longer, wrote more on our cards to each other, walked closer, talked longer, and literally gazed into each others’ eyes…often. “Do we still do…any…of those things anymore?“, I asked myself as I sat there alone with my memories. “Pshaw! SURE we do! All the time!” I told myself. But then I started really thinking about it.
We hold hands…sometimes. Maybe on date nights. If we have a long-ish walk from the restaurant to the car.
We kiss each other. Sure. If Joel isn’t too buried in his work or I’m not completely tied up with Cassidy at the moment. So…mostly good morning and goodnight. Hey, it counts.
We might have sort of run out of super sappy things to say in our cards to each other on holidays and occasions. All the sentiments are still there, we just blew threw most of them in the first 2 months we were dating. You can only find so many ways to say “I love you”. But you know, sometimes a plain old “I love you” is just what I need to hear.
As far as the gazing into each others’ eyes thing? Yeah, that hasn’t happened in…I don’t even KNOW how long. Our honeymoon, maybe? If Joel gazed into my eyes tomorrow, I’d think something was way wrong.
I guess we’re not the same anymore. It seems like we don’t do any of the sweet little things we used to. Let’s face it, there’s just no time for hand-holding, eye-gazing, and letter-writing. On most days, we’re lucky if we remember to stop and give each other a kiss good morning.
Oh, but I forgot to mention how I look at Joel when I see him rolling around on the floor and horsing around with our precious daughter. He tickles her and makes her literally howl with laughter. And sometimes when we’re lying in bed at night, he’ll reach over and pat my belly and feel the baby kick. Sometimes I’ll make him a big plate of pancakes in the morning and bring it to him while he’s working (he works from home). Before every meal, the 3 of us will hold hands as Joel prays. On Mother’s Day, he’ll sneak out early in the morning to buy me powdered sugar donuts and a thoughtful card. In the summertime, after Cassidy is asleep, we sit out in the backyard with a glass of wine and just talk. Our lives are pretty stinking busy and hectic most of the time, but we manage to make time for just us. He puts his arm around my shoulders at church. I’ve learned to embrace geek culture (“ANOTHER Marvel movie coming out?? Great, let’s go see it!”).
So I guess even though we have changed; quite a bit; we’ve developed a new love language. We may not do all that sappy, syrupy, gushy love stuff we used to do, but we still cherish each other. It might be slightly less dignified (pregnancy ain’t pretty, folks), and slightly less shiny and new, but the love’s still very much there. We’re still selfish and prideful and downright mean sometimes. Luckily, one of the great things about growing older together is that you get better and better at apologizing and realizing there are more important things than weekend plans or someone not doing the dishes. We’ve known each other for over 17 years and when I look back on all the seasons of our relationship and how we’ve evolved, shaped each other, adapted, and grown as a couple, it’s just…special.
Nope. I don’t think we are the same. We’re better.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been exactly a year since the tornado came through our little town. I have to admit, we’re all sort of on pins and needles around here…just waiting for it to hit again. In remembrance of that horrible night and what my family had to endure for the months following, I’m leaving the story here, a year later, for you to read again. If you want.
Click here to read my story
Hello there! I apologize (sort of…not really) for the super long hiatus I’ve been on! The months of November and December have been action-packed, to say the least. And it isn’t to say I haven’t wanted to post over the last few weeks, because believe me, I really, really have! But since I no longer have a reason to keep quiet….here goes! We are experiencing our own little Christmas miracle this year–
that’s right: Baby #2 is on the way!!! Cassidy is going to be a big sister and we are THRILLED. I’m 12 weeks along and due late June/early July. And of course, feeling rotten. Actually, the rotten part is (hopefully) almost done. I was pretty sick for awhile (i.e. the first 2 months) and had NO desire to eat food, think about food, or blog about food. It’s still not great, especially at night, but I really feel like I’m on the downhill slide.
We’ve talked to Cassidy about her new brother or sister, but I don’t think she quite getting it. We’ve got 6 months to get her used to the idea, though, and I’m sure she’ll start getting curious as soon as I start showing a lot more.
So now you know the reason for my disappearance. Thanks to those of you who missed me and sent me messages to check on me- that was greatly appreciated! After the holidays I hope to get back into blogging and back to a more normal version of myself (who knows, maybe I’ll even find the energy to change out of my pajama pants every now and then!). Until then, I want to wish you all a VERY merry Christmas and a happy New Year! Have a wonderful time with your friends and families and don’t forget the real reason we celebrate each year!
We got a new playmate for Izzy! Meet ZuZu, the newest member of our family! She’s about a year old and we *think* she’s part Chihuahua, part Maltese. Who knows, though.
(just look at that spotted little tummy!)
For quite awhile now, I’ve really been feeling like it was time to adopt another dog. Izzy is such a fun-loving, playful girl, so we didn’t feel it was quite right for her to be an only “dog-child”. As much as Cassidy loves pestering Izzy, we still thought she could benefit from a non-human friend. As sheer luck would have it, out of the blue, a friend of ours announced she had rescued a little dog from the side of the highway and was trying to find a good home for her. Honestly, ZuZu was nothing like what we thought we were looking for in a new dog, but once I met her, I was convinced she was the girl for us!
It all depended on how she interacted with Izzy and Cassidy (no pressure, Zu!). We brought her home and let the dogs run wild together in the yard. At first, Izzy wasn’t sure how to react to all of ZuZu’s energy, but she got the hang of it and eventually, they started playing really well together! Success!
We took ZuZu to the vet and got her all checked out, microchipped, vaccinated, and spayed, then promptly brought her home to STAY! Here it is a month later, and ZuZu and Izzy are best buds- they play SO well together (all the time!). She is so gentle and sweet with Cassidy and has our entire family wrapped around her little paw! We all love her so much already and Joel and I are SO happy we were lucky enough to adopt her! Welcome to the family, ZuZu!
*sigh* Until next time, Galveston!
Howdy folks! I told you we were gearing up to take our very first family vacation. Well, it happened last weekend. And surprisingly…it rocked. Every aspect of it was wonderful (except for the hellish car trip home…that made us both rethink this whole parenting thing). Here are a few pictures from our trip to Galveston, Tx. (all photos are unedited. Frankly, I’m just too lazy…)
first time on the beach- she was terrified of the sand!
Needless to say, she slept VERY well each night…
More pictures to come soon!