Monday, August 10, 2015

Feeling at home in an "unfinished" space

Since we bought a house ONE YEAR ago (!) and shared a generous photo of the front door, our friends, family, acquaintances and fellow bloggers have asked to see pictures of the space and I've categorically avoided it. When people come over to our house, I'm often apologizing for the lack of furniture, excusing our hand-me-down couch, and generally making people feel uncomfortable with how much I appear to hate how things are set up and plan to change everything when we have the time/money/ability.

Recently, I started to hear these excuses come out of my mouth as my guests did. And I looked around and started, just a little, to see our house not just as potential, but as our haven, here and now.

I even cleaned off my church pew bench for the picture!

Unintentionally-styled mantle featuring our name in wooden letter blacked out, pine cones
leftover from Christmas and commentaries, of course! and no furniture :'D
 I don't want to make excuses and spend time wishing it looked prettier and better and that I had better and more consistent taste. (On different occasions my style can be described as eclectic, vintage, industrial, rustic, craftsman, mid-century, blah, blah, blah. Don't fit me into a box! and all that).

And I don't want to spend any more time wishing we had the money for stuff to hang on my wall and white ceramic animals (kidding!) and giant potted plants and to remodel the bathrooms and landscape the back yard and make a dreamy outdoor dining space with market lights, and, and, and...I hope someday we do have money and time and that I can make a decision on some of those items. But I also want to enjoy our house NOW.

I embrace that we have ratty, hand-me-down furniture, because we have a baby who is messy and climbing and slobbering and will eventually be jumping and catapulting and spilling and generally destroying all the nice things I have and would like to have. and we'll probably have another one or two of those destructive, imaginative fun-making creatures and they'll ruin even more of my prized belongings.

Speaking of my baby, his room is my favorite.

My baby model slacking on the job.
I hope E and any future babies will be able to have fun piling cushions on the ground and jumping off of them, and making forts with my throw pillows and hand-knit afghans and that they won't remember their mama yelling at them to "don't touch that" and "be careful with that" and "If you do that again, you'll..."

And for that, I will sacrifice having instagram-worthy photos of my home. At least for 20 years or so.

This post might make my husband crazy, because he has been telling me all of the above, in not so many words, for the past 10 months, but hey - that would have been too easy, right?

a pastor works here. and a kid makes huge messes here.

(this is the ikea bekvam kitchen cart that I stained and painted)

That oven is original to the house and it works! My favorite thing in the kitchen.

please note my prize, giant zucchini on the counter.
The butler's pantry is awesome for storage but separates the kitchen from the rest of the house.
Master bedroom

How do you make your space a home, even if it's not magazine worthy?

(Also, serious question, how do you decide what to put on your walls? I am seriously gun-shy about committing to decor.)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Send hugs and coffee

I was very easy on myself in the first month after E was born. I kept my commitments to a minimum, I didn't get out of bed for a week after I had him. I prepared myself for sleepless nights, napped when I could, asked for help when I needed it (a lot) and generally, I took gentle care of myself.

I looked at my post-partum body in the mirror and I said, it's okay, body. It's only been a few weeks since you birthed a baby human. Just wait until you can start working out again and you'll get there.

I looked at my bloodshot eyes and I said, it's okay self. You'll get sleep soon. He's doing better already, and it will only go up from here. In the meantime, coffee.

I looked at my husband and we said, this is temporary. We'll have time and energy to talk and reconnect again soon. Look at this beautiful creature we made. Look how much we've figured out already!

And things got better. Week by week, they got a little easier. When I got ready to return to work, I was excited. It felt doable, I felt competent. I was nervous, but I was prepared.

Spoiler alert: I was NOT prepared.

After four months of successful breastfeeding, I've struggled with my milk supply when pumping at work. I started taking supplements and am on a rigorous feeding/pumping schedule every two hours to keep up with the demand, but it still wasn't enough and we have to start supplementing with formula.

I gained weight this month trying to eat enough calories to make milk. I stopped my workout routine, because I was tired and would rather cuddle with my baby after work than be at the gym. My closet selection is waning.

The four-month sleep regression hit and for the past six weeks, we have been waking up every 1.5-3 hours all night. Then I got pneumonia (yes, seriously). I am a walking, coughing zombie.

I'd be lying if I didn't say it has been hard.

This last month has rocked my world. E was such an easy newborn that I started to think life would always be easy. I started to envision parenting as a series of milestone-reaching moments and achievements. Because sleep, weight loss, breastfeeding, our ability to recognize E's needs and respond - didn't we have that all figured out? I did not think I would get worse at these things! but I did. (Go ahead and laugh—you pro parents—at my foolishness.)

I did not know that the regressions and steps backwards and steps sideways are all a part of the process.

What wonderfully transformative time this is. Learning to sacrifice not just my time and my body and my emotions, but also my expectations and my pride. Realizing that this baby is learning new things and growing and changing every day. Thanking God for grace that covers over all of our missteps and middle-of-the-night murmuring. Loving on this sweet bundle who makes our life so much fuller and better.

The process might be painful and the learning curve is huge, but our little boy has made life so sweet. (and he gets cuter every day! We definitely got the best part of the deal.)


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

For Unto Us a Child is Born

In this season, we are thankful for Jesus, the greatest gift of all 
for the glimpse into our Father's love for us with the gift of our own dear son.

A very Merry Christmas to you and yours!

all photos by our favorite: Photographs by Anjuli

Monday, December 22, 2014

It's making sense. [state of motherhood, three months in]

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote a post wondering how I would know if I was ready for motherhood. I had truly hoped that my hesitancy about parenthood would change with that positive pregnancy test, but it didn't. Less than a month after I wrote that post I was crying (NOT happy tears) at the two pink lines staring determinately up at me and really feeling like life was over. I battled fears, anxiety and honestly, regret for much of the next 36 weeks.

As it turned out, I was right. My life was over.

But it was replaced with a life that is fuller, deeper, and so much bigger than it was before. Every experience is magnified and intensified. I don't think Eric and I lacked or were at a loss before we had E, but our lives are different and truly better with him.

Lately, I have been asked variations on the same question,

"So, is motherhood what you expected?"

I have a hard time knowing how to answer that, because I don't want to gloat or sound insincere. I know for a lot of moms, it is harder, more overwhelming and more exhausting than they imagined.
But when I say that being is a mom is SO SO SO much better than I imagined, it is just scratching the surface.
All of the bad things I dreaded either aren't as bad as expected or have become totally irrelevant. A lot of the things I was worried about not being able to do, we can totally do (this is coming off of a four-hour plane ride with a three-month-old after five days of family chaos, which we all survived really well). We can still travel, go out with friends, and have fun. And what we can't do right now, I hardly miss. I know we'll do those things again!

Before E arrived, I just knew that I was going to hate parenting an infant. The poop and the crying and the blobby-ness and not knowing what I'm doing. And then that infant that I had wrestled with for months and shared my body with and wished away more than a few times, was placed on my chest, I was just in complete wonderment. I was in love. Suddenly it didn't matter that I don't like infants in general, we had OUR OWN BABY HUMAN. Who needs me and knows me. That first wave of realization that I was it - the mama, the nurturer, was a game-changer. It still is.

I love being a mom.

And E. My sweet baby son. I could write pages and pages about the way he intertwines his little fingers and unfolds them again so that he always looks like he's cooking up a devious plan or really worried. The way he burrows his head in the crook of my arm and rubs his face until it's red trying to get just the right kind of comfortable for a nap. The desperately excited look on his face when he is trying to talk in response to Eric or I.

The love I feel for this kid is limitless and overwhelming. It's more immense and joy-filled than anything I could have expected. I have no idea what I'm doing. And at the same time, it makes perfect sense.

This is the kind of crazy talk I would roll my eyes at before I became a mom, so if you need to gag, I GET IT.

Motherhood just has a way of changing you...


Monday, November 17, 2014

long-awaited arrival [birth story, part two]

Read part one of my son's birth story here.

I was SO glad to have avoided traffic as I worked through 4 surges on the drive to the hospital at 2:30am. I remember feeling much more alert and aware than I expected to be. The whole drive I had coached myself that when we checked in, no dilation number was going to bother me. I knew I was making SOME progress, and that was enough for me.

We checked in to the hospital around 3am, and it took about 20 minutes for them to get me in a room because they lost all of my paperwork! We gone in to the hospital two weeks earlier to provide copies of my insurance and drivers license, but of course, when we arrived this night, they couldn't find anything! I remember being pretty patient, responding to questions in between surges but Eric was visibly irritated and my doula kept asking if we could just get into the room!

When we finally got into our room, I had my first (ever) cervical exam. OUCH. Part of it was that we had a terrible traveling nurse (I later told my doctor about her and he apologized and said she was no longer at the hospital). She was really cold and didn't seem to listen at all, more concerned with the hospital policy than even my own doctor's orders.

I was positive for group b strep, so I knew I needed IV hookup when I got there, and also that there would be mandatory fetal monitoring. My doula had already been SO helpful up to this point with the thousand phone calls and texts from me - encouraging us when labor was lasting forever, but here is where she really kicked in to gear.  She set a timer and sat next to me adjusting the monitor to make sure that it didn't fall off or move with the baby. When the 20 minutes was up she was bugging the nurse about getting it off me so I could get in the tub. She knew the hospital and staff and got us extra pillows and supplies. She was right with me the entire time, and provided whatever I needed (even when I couldn't vocalize it) in seconds. It made me feel so at ease.

About two hours after arriving to the hospital, I sunk into the tub. It felt heavenly. My doula set up LED candles all over the room, turned the lights way down, and put lavender essential oil on a cloth near my head. This was the best stage of labor for me. I was in the hospital and had been assured I wasn't leaving without a baby. I was laboring really well, although things has slowed down a little bit to 3-5 minutes apart. Everyone said that was normal as the transition from home to the hospital is disruptive. As I waited for my body to kick things into gear, I was still able to talk a little bit to my mom and Eric in between surges.

The awful nurse came back in around 6:30am and made me get out of the tub for more monitoring. While I silently cursed her and waddled back to the bed for the IV and fetal monitor, we found out that my doctor was on a 24 hour shift at the hospital starting at 7am - yay! Our doula went to the charge nurse before the shift change and requested a nurse she loved and had worked with before. By morning, things were looking so much better - I was so relieved about the shift change for the nurses and my beloved doctor being there and I thought things were moving.

After monitoring, Eric and I decided to take a short walk up and down the hallway to keep things moving. It was eerily quiet. I don't know why, but I really thought labor and delivery would be louder and more chaotic. I was conscious of trying not to make much noise when the surges came during the walk. It was so weird knowing that we were in our last few hours of just being the two of us.

Back in the room my doctor came in to check my progress at 8am. He was WAY more gentle than the nurse had been, but he didn't have good news for me. I was still at three centimeters and my contractions hadn't been picking up. He suggested breaking my water to kick things into gear. I started bawling. It seems silly now, but I just remember wanting to avoid ALL interventions and I knew this was going to be the first one in a cascade of them. I was also nervous that the intensity would get to be too much for me. He kindly left us to make a decision and it took me about 10 minutes of crying before we agreed.

Water breaking was so weird: gushy and warm and freeing. Immediately afterward I felt excited because there was no turning back now! With so many false starts and stops, there was something so reassuring about the definiteness of the water bag being broken. Very shortly though, my back labor picked up in intensity. I had been feeling some back pain with each of my surges since I got out of the tub, but it really intensified. During every surge I had my doula, my mom and Eric pushing on me - one on each hip and one on my lower back. It is hard to describe how hard this was. Up until this point I was able to be so mentally present despite the discomfort (okay, PAIN, I said it. it frickin' hurt!), but this was a new level. I was in denial that I was experiencing back labor though, because the sensation was so different from what I expected. The next 3-4 hours are a complete blur to me. I know I was back in the tub for a little, but I didn't like it nearly as much. I leaned on the bed a lot. I wasn't talking at all in between surges and I was groaning loudly and often.

After another monitoring session around noon, my doula suggested a hot shower, which sounded good to me at this point because the shower had one of those removable heads and I could direct the pressure right on my lower back. I wanted a little time alone, so everyone left me in the shower for a little while. Then Eric came in and started to ask me questions about how much longer I thought I could keep going like this. He had been my number one support and cheerleader, but now I could see he was visibly upset watching me struggle. But at that point, I didn't care - I bit his head off.

Our birthing class had emphasized getting through one surge at a time rather than trying to project how many there would be or how long the whole process could last. I reminded him of this in an irritated manner, and then got out of the shower to complain to my mom and my doula that Eric wanted me to give up (e.g. get the epidural).

It was then I noticed that the nurse, doula and my mom were all conferring. They all thought it was time to get some more help. I protested. This was not in my plan! The nurse asked if she could check my progress before I made a decision. Around 1pm - 10 hours after arriving to the hospital - I was still three centimeters dilated. (She was nice enough to say to me that I was almost four). Despite my determination not to be discouraged and to "calmly accept whatever turns my labor takes," (fromt he hypnobirthing tracks) I felt really torn. I wanted a natural birth and I knew that I could do it, but so many things were going wrong - between the back labor, complete lack of progress and not having slept in three nights. I decided to wave my white flag.

It helped that everyone around me, who had affirmed and encouraged my desire for a natural birth, thought the epidural was the best and wisest decision at this point. But even writing about it now, eight weeks later, with my perfect, healthy babe sleeping next to me, I struggle with it. I feel like I gave up, like I didn't get the experience I wanted. Part of me is mad at my body for not cooperating. Part of me is disappointed with myself for not pushing through. Part of me was mad at God for allowing it to be so hard.

I'm still working through these emotions, but ultimately I know that I made the right decision, because I made the decision that brought my son into this world. And I know that this difficult decision was the first of many hard parenting decisions I will have to make on this journey. One decision I will be judged for, among many I will be judged for.

I struggled and fought to bring forth this child, just as millions of women have since Eve, and I succeeded. I birthed that baby and gave him life. I am a warrior mama.

I am a warrior.

I wish I could say that the epidural turned things around, but as it turned out, something else was turned around - my baby's head. At this point that the nurse confirmed what my doula has suspected for days, that the baby appeared to be presenting sideways in the birth canal - asynclitic. This is what was causing the back labor and likely, the lack of progress.

After the epidural, around 2pm my legs got hot and heavy, and I fell asleep for two heavenly hours. I continued to doze and when the nurse came back in to check me at 5pm, I was confident that my body being able to rest and relax would have gotten things moving. Finding out I was only at 5 cm and my surges had dramatically slowed down caused another emotional breakdown. My doctor came back in to confer and suggested we consider pitocin. I was determined to avoid any more interventions, so we started going through every 'natural' labor augmentation technique. I tried using the hospital grade breast pump, my doula tried pressure points on my feet, and at one point my leg was propped up on a table and three pillows to try to get the baby to move. After a few hours, the surges hadn't intensified or regulated, so we agreed to the pitocin, really thankful for a doctor who had allowed me to make these decision at my own pace.

 It was 8:45pm. We all sat and watched the internal monitor to note the intensity of the surges, which at this point felt like braxton hicks again - I noticed the tightening, but wasn't in pain at all. At 10:30pm the nurse checked me and her face immediately betrayed good news.  finally good news! I was dilated to 9cm and about 80% effaced. The pitocin had worked the baby out of his stuck position. She smiled, we laughed and I felt the tension leaving my shoulders for the first time in days. I thanked God for those drugs. I even put on mascara to celebrate.

finally go time!

Within an hour I was fully dilated and effaced and started to feel pressure. One of my conditions in getting the epidural would be that it was turned off for pushing so I could feel it. Boy, was that intense. Pushing may have been the hardest part of labor for me - I just was not prepared for the intensity and constancy of the pressure. After an hour and fifteen minutes of the most mind-bogglingly concentrated effort of my life, my doctor came into the room and I knew I was finally close (the nurses and doula had been saying 'you're so close' for thirty minutes, so their word couldn't be trusted). Eric was at my head holding my oxygen mask, a cloth on my forehead and being so amazing and encouraging. My mom and my doula had each of my legs and suddenly the room was full of people. I remembered thinking it was so crazy - one second there was no baby, and then (push, push, push!) there was.

And there he was. White and purple and goopy and squalling. And, a BOY! Eric announced it to the delivery room and everyone cheered. (Eric himself was shocked - he had convinced himself our baby was a girl).

I looked into that baby's eyes in awe and wonderment and I couldn't believe he was just staring back at me like he already knew me. I wrote this to a friend right after he arrived:

In that moment, I didn't feel the elation I expected, I just felt very peaceful. I thought "oh! It's you. Of course it's you."

I had been so nervous about meeting and welcoming a complete stranger into our perfect family, but he wasn't a stranger at all. I had known him all along.

He is our son.


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