Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Humility in Motherhood

After Noah was born, I spent a lot of time telling myself, I can'tI've written before that I eventually found the second half of that statement to be ...but God can! Now that Rosie's been here for a year, I'm finally seeing the hidden subtext I'd never noticed before: When I say I can't, I'm really beating myself up because the message is, "I should be able to, BUT I can't."

This has been a revelation to me in the past week or so. The embarrassing is, I'm not trying to hold the world up on my shoulders and do all the things. To many, my calendar might look pretty clear. So when I'm saying I can't, it's not in response to not being able to run the local MOPS group single-handedly. I'm saying I can't get through the day with my kids without having moments of wanting to run away for a week. I can't stop myself from yelling when discipline gets challenging (the fatigue of a second child is definitely bringing out the yeller in me that I had pridefully thought wasn't there before). I can't organize fun activities for the kids when it takes everything in me to get out of bed again.

I have trouble sharing and verbalizing these things because many of my friends have more kids. They have more obligations. They work more hours outside the home. And if they don't, well, I find myself feeling bitter and resentful that they DO have more money, or more childcare, or family in town, or a bigger house.

I'm seeing that humility goes both ways: I can feel shame in feeling like I've been given more than I can handle, and I can feel shame in the fact that I can't handle more.

Last weekend, I listened to a podcast episode on self-care and self-comfort. I really liked the distinction between the two, and the suggestions they discussed. I asked some friends what they did for self-care and self-comfort. More as a conversation starter than anything, but it brought out some ugly responses in my mind. Why CAN'T I get up in the morning before my kids if the mom of three under three can? Why CAN'T I go to the gym in the morning and put my kids in childcare? My answers ranged from practical to petty: I can't wake up before my kids because I'm often awake either multiple times or for for multiple hours between 2-5am. I can't go to the gym in the morning because I'm already anxious about germs after how bad last winter was, and since Rosie still takes morning naps, I can't be at the gym first thing before other kids and their germs start to filter in.

Then I started beating myself up about the fact that I still haven't figured out how to work out consistently with two kids around. (Sleep-deprived monkey brain is a REAL THING.) Then I remembered that Rosie and I were sick for about 4 months straight from mid-October through mid-February, including several ER visits and one inpatient stay. And once the sickness passed, she was in a habit of waking up every 45-90 minutes for WEEKS and I was so exhausted I had to take the month of March off of work completely. So then self-flagellation turned to self-pity, which quickly went down the path of "no one understands how hard my life is." I'm left trying to justify my own difficulties and my own capacity, which is really unnecessary.

Clearly, I'm not in a good head space. But God has been gracious to me in that he seems to be giving me some tools and insights to get out of this vicious cycle. When we night-weaned and sleep trained a month ago, I had really high hopes. I registered for a month with a personal trainer. I bookmarked a bunch of new recipes. I checked out a ton of parenting books from the library. And you know what? If anything, we are sleeping LESS. HUMILITY YOU GUYS. He's leaving no doubt in my mind that the ONLY things I can focus on right now are the basics: sleeping, eating, breathing, walking. I can dive deeper into these disciplines instead of trying to cast a wider net of "shoulds."

The funny thing is, I've been beating myself up for A YEAR thinking, if I can just find the best devotional routine, or a quick mid-day recharge, or a self-care routine, or a daytime babysitter for 2 hours a week, I can find rest in the midst of the crazy. I have no doubt that God invites us to rest in the midst of the crazy. Even Jesus went away to be alone (and sometimes got interrupted when he did).

But sleep deprivation is real. I constantly feel like I'm coming down with the flu. My whole body hurts and I'm tired down to my bones. My short-term memory is shot, and my word and name recall is just embarrassing. Instead of adding more "self-care" things to my list of obligations, maybe I need to remove some of the "self-harm" things? The social media that's fine in and of itself, until I spend the precious little free time I get scrolling on my phone. The playdates that I like to plan because they mean getting out of our messy house, and they occupy my 4 year old so he's not constantly pestering me, but they also interfere with a daily routine and leave me tired AND missing out on my 45-60 minutes of mid-day down time.

This even extends to my other work, minimal as it might be. My hospital job was my very favorite thing before Rosie was born, but it's been a struggle for the past year. Maybe it was maternity leave: the bliss of having every single weekend free for three months. Or maybe it's just that now I need more downtime to balance out more chaos. Whatever it is, I'm just over here trying to maintain the status quo until God gives me some clear direction one way or another. I ALMOST quit in March, which is a whole post of its own. But I haven't written it yet, because everything still feels so undetermined.

My lactation consultant home-visit business has been, surprisingly, growing. I see one client a week, and often turn another 1-2 down because of time constraints. When I only have a few consistent rest times during the week, seeing a client during that time and striving to get both kids down and quiet and tidy up the house... is burning me out. And as always in my life, I have trouble distinguishing between whether I'm being called to push through and do the hard work, or whether I'm being called to lay that work down.

So I wait. And I'm faithful with the bare minimum: sleeping, eating, breathing, walking.

Because when I acknowledge that I CAN'T, I'm really acknowledging that I'm not God. And that's RIGHT where I need to be.

Monday, September 10, 2018

When the Weather Changes but Your Season Doesn't

For as long as I can remember, summer has been my favorite season. It's when I recharge, fill my bucket, and remember everything I love about life. I live for hot days, farmers markets, long morning walks, and late sunsets. But I don't know... this summer, I never got into the groove.

Usually, the end of summer finds me feeling nostalgic and overflowing with gratitude for how I grew and how life changed over the months that span between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Yet this year's Labor Day came and went a week ago, and I can't muster up any sort of comprehensive feeling about this summer. It just kind of happened, and that is all. But what's even more alarming is that, if I'm perfectly honest, I was pretty over summer by early July. I don't know if I was tired of the weather, or the season of newly-mobile-baby, or sleepless nights, or what. It all probably blends together, honestly.

The thing is, the life season I'm in isn't bad. It's not overly heavy or traumatic or anything like that. But when I think a little more, there are a lot of external factors that have created a cumulative sort of chaos. Some of the stories aren't mine to share. Some of it is just work stress from Ross' promotion and my own unit being short-staffed. And some factors are simply a product of living with two little people.

This past spring, I really found comfort in the idea that you don't have to be blooming to be growing; yet, even that has led to some guilt. I know I'm not putting disciplines and practices in place to deepen my roots-- instead, I'm just making it from one day to the next, putting off the hard work until "tomorrow." And here I am, one hundred "tomorrows" later, feeling like I didn't put any work in to change my season.

But do you know what's astounding to me? In the past few weeks, God has poured kindness upon me in a million little ways I wasn't expecting. I feel really undeserving.

If you catch me in a moment, I'm probably going to give you two dozen reasons why my life feels out of control today (sorry friends). But honestly, while those reasons are giving me total monkey brain, they aren't weighing me down like they could. I'm really grateful for that. God seems to be reminding me that it's his work and not mine that will make the difference, and I feel... okay about that.

A few weeks ago, we finished up summer travel. Ross didn't have a work trip for a while, and Noah was about to start preschool again. So we decided it was time to night wean Rosie. Sometimes she was waking up 1-2 times a night, but other times she'd be up at 11pm, 2am, and 5am and that's just too much at 12 months. So we night weaned and really after the first night, she did so well with it! She slept from 7:30pm-5am a few times, and I felt like I could take on the world.

I was making big plans: routines, exercise, maybe starting a podcast. But mostly I was more than ready to be a happier, more well-rested person. But you know, then she went back to waking up 1-2 times a night. I don't know why. And I had two weird little health crises (I'm mostly fine now). And Ross was out of town this past weekend. And today I'm feeling just as tired as I was a month ago, and more than a little discouraged. I realized I was expecting my life season to change along with the weather and the calendar. And when it didn't, I felt a little gypped.

But yesterday made me look back on the past 3-5 weeks with new eyes, and I can see a whole lot of kindness that has been bestowed upon me in spite of my disappointment and inaction. I'm going to a women's conference next month, and last night they shared this verse: "He who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold I am making all things new.' Also he said, 'write this down for these words are trustworthy and true.'" Revelation 21:5.

It's the second time in the past month that this promise for all things new has been pressed upon me. And it reminds me that HE is making all things new. It also reminds ME to write these things down so I don't forget sweet little ordinary (and not-so-ordinary) gifts from God.

... Noah's first week of school was astonishingly awful. School itself was fine the two days he was there. Home was a disaster, and it brought out what was possibly my very worst mothering week ever. It's funny, Jen Wilkin says, "the heart can't love what the mind doesn't know," and I've been beating myself up over this. I need to be reading my Bible daily. But you know what? Unbidden one morning (one of those long mornings in which so much chaos happened before 8am, I really should write it down so I can laugh about it years from now) a line from a hymn popped into my head: "I asked the Lord that I might grow, in faith and love and every grace." I couldn't remember the rest of the song, but looking it up brought me to tears and I listened to it on repeat for days. "'Tis in this way,' the Lord replied, 'I answer prayers for grace and faith.'"

... I've been wanting a mentor for YEARS. Six years, to be exact. I've had 3-4 tried-but-failed attempts at this, and honestly over the past year I'd kind of given up. Then you know what happened? A whole lot of stuff I don't know details of or have control over. We had a sudden change in MOPS leadership and I was telling the new coordinator about my hopes for the mentor mom who would be at my table. As I was ending our conversations, I said, "It's funny, I've been praying for a mentor for years, and for some reason God seems to be thwarting that plan." And a few days later, who but my new coordinator, one life season ahead of me and bursting with a love for discipleship, reached out to ME saying, "I can't stop thinking about what you said, and I want to be your mentor!" Really, God? Just like that? And then for good measure, our group shifted again and I ended up with a new mentor mom at my table and her church members just rave about her spiritual leadership skills. Okay, God, I'm paying attention.

... Our neighbor has borrowed our lawn mower a few times this summer. He borrowed it again on Saturday and, when he heard Ross was out of town, he went ahead and mowed our front lawn without saying anything. What a thoughtful little act of service, especially since Ross and I have been arguing about lawn care recently. (Because wouldn't you know, taking care of your yard costs time and money!)

... Last Wednesday, I was determined to start taking better care of myself. The kids were bumping around in my bedroom, but they were playing nicely together and no one was crying. So I sat on the couch and ate my breakfast in peace for 10-15 minutes. The oatmeal was still warm, and I didn't have to get up once. It was glorious and I felt re-charged. I got up to check on Noah and Rosie, and I couldn't even believe my eyes. They'd emptied the bottom rack of my closet, and the entire dresser, AND MY FILE CABINET and dumped it all on the side of the bed. The pile literally went from the bed to the wall and was as high as the mattress. Fifteen minutes of destruction that would require hours of repair. My attitude went south REALLY quickly, and never recovered that day.

Which is funny, because mid-morning, a friend texted me about the book she's reading called Desperate: Hope for the Mom who Needs to Breathe. She said, "Reading this book and thinking of you, because maybe it can be our next mom's book club pick. It is speaking to my heart! Just wanted to say you are so encouraging! I know your life is so crazy (and has been for a long time!) but I am really inspired by how you love your kids and even reach out to other women for the book club and breastfeeding and everything you do. I just see the Lord using you and refining you in this hard season in a way that only He could do, using your unique gifts and strengths. You are an amazing mom for your kids, and I'm so thankful to share life with you!" Well, that made me tear up and it gave me some new perspective.

... But then out of the blue, that same night, I started having crazy back spasms. Some sort of referred pain, not a muscle spasm (Flexeril, heating pad, and Advil did nothing). It was CRAZY. On par with labor in terms of pain, and even in terms of characteristics because I was having these spasms every few minutes, to the point of tears. The next day, I texted my friend back. I was still in pain, but it wasn't nearly as bad. Ross was leaving town the next morning, I needed to find childcare so I could get an abdominal ultrasound the next day, and all of this was going to cost MORE MONEY. I was frustrated because I try so hard to take care of my body and it still malfunctions often. I was having a pity party because I was going to be parenting alone and in pain all weekend. And despite all that, my sweet friend STILL invited the kids and me to dinner that weekend. We went over there on Saturday, and it was total chaos with Rosie opening cabinets and climbing stairs. Noah didn't fall asleep until 11pm after all the excitement, and I'd only slept for one hour the night before. But you know what? It filled me up to chat with my friend, and I was so grateful for her presence, and I slept great that night.

... Speaking of money and bodies that don't work, I lost two hearing aids this summer. One of mine and one of Noah's. With the new technology, they recommend buying two new ones since the aids "communicate" with each other. Which means 4 new pieces of medical equipment that insurance doesn't pay a dime for. But. Remember when Rosie was in the hospital last winter? And then when she went to the ER this spring? The ER visit cost $8,000 and it was a horrible experience. $8,000 for Benadryl, Advil, and a Nurse Practitioner visit? Just... no.

So I applied for financial aid, and we qualified. Which meant that we didn't have to pay for her inpatient stay, or for her ER visit, OR for any care that she received at that hospital through the end of the year. This was phenomenal news! It meant we could actually get her hearing tested at a one-year visit (this was recommended because of family history, but I was dreading it because our insurance doesn't cover it). It meant I could have our pediatrician order her one-year labs and allergy tests at the hospital, too. I'll happily drive across town for free lab work. It also MAYBE means that Noah's hearing test will be covered, as well as his hearing aids, since it all falls in this financial aid window. WHAT. We aren't positive that this is true, but I'm making all the phone calls. If it doesn't cover the aids themselves, I also applied for a grant that will cover 60%, which is better than nothing. Meanwhile, I'm going on 3.5 months with only one hearing aid and it's driving me crazy. I hate making medical decisions based on money. But I'm so grateful my kids have been covered.

... And then you know what was re-iterated three times at church yesterday? My transient troubles, and the power of God.

"Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared" (from Isaiah 35)

"The Lord gives sight to the blind" (from Psalm 146)

"And people brought to Jesus a deaf man who had a speech impediment, and begged him to lay hands on him... He put his finger into the man's ears... He looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, 'be opened!' And immediately the man's ears were opened." (from Mark 7)

Do I think God will give me perfect hearing tomorrow? I wouldn't hate it if he did! But I also know that he made me this way for a reason. He will provide for me, even if it's not as direct as free hearing aids. And the more important thing is that my ears are tuned to His voice.

... This this brings me to church yesterday. It was a sweet, sweet day, and it deserves its own post. Walking home yesterday afternoon, I was so tired but so full.

I'm writing it down. God is good. I feel seen and loved and undeserving and happy and really, really tired.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

A New Thing

Shortly after Noah turned one, a verse from Isaiah captured my heart. So it's sweet to me that Isaiah 43:19 grabbed my attention a few weeks ago, right before Rosie turned one. 365 days of life with two kids, and I haven't quite caught my breath yet. I felt like in dark places after my first was born, God was close to me and drew near to me. I learned a lot of deep and meaningful things in the first 15 months of his life, and I don't feel like I've had that same experience this time around. Thankfully the lows haven't been quite as low, and I've certainly done a thousand things differently, too. But I feel like I also haven't had the highs, the breaks, the -- dare I say it -- rest that I was able to get during the day with just one kid. (My one-child past-self hates me for saying this, by the way, because nothing takes away from the fact that it was a HARD season. Yet, I find myself comparing now to then and wishing for old hard instead of new hard.)

I'm not saying God still isn't still present and with me now, but I guess I'm having trouble on my end. I have double the distraction and half the sleep. With Noah, I was certainly quite tired (don't hear me understating this because time and distance has taken the edge off), but after about 8 months, he finally settled into a nap routine and I had two "breaks" most days even though nights were still awful. But I cherished those two breaks! They allowed me to sit and waste time, to do physical therapy, to do a workout (yay endorphins), to journal and do Bible study, to nap. I'm still figuring out how to catch a break this time around. And I'm wondering why I think I'm entitled to one? The line between self-care and selfishness is hard for me to navigate right now.

With one kid, once we got into a rhythm, we could more or less plan on it sticking for 2-3 months until the next big change, at which point we'd have a week or two of frustration, an a-ha moment, re-calibration, and a week or two of adjusting to the new normal. With two kids, my Type A brain is reeling. (And it's "only" two kids!)

It's hard not to miss the downtime of morning nap. I dread laying one down only to leave the room to get bombarded by, "MAMA WILL YOU PLAY WITH ME" for an hour and a half while all I yearn to do is drink hot coffee and eat my breakfast in introverted silence. Sometimes I have it in me to sit down and engage and enjoy sweet one on one time with my firstborn. I never regret it, but it's the hardest thing to do right now, and consequently it almost never happens. So then I feel guilty, too.

It's hard not to miss morning walks. Noah and I took really sweet morning walks the summers he was 1 and 2 (they dwindled a bit last summer once the heat wave hit and I was in my third trimester). Walking with the two of them now is still better than not walking, but it wears me out for the rest of the day if we manage to do it! The heat is unbearable right now. Or maybe it's the humidity that makes it ungodly, but between that and almost pushing my own body weight when we walk, it's not as relaxing as it used to be. It's hard for me to admit that the season of little littles dwindles as my oldest grows too big for the stroller.

It's not at all helpful for me to compare seasons, but it's hard not to. There are wonderful things about not being home with just a baby all day. But the hard things stand out more right now. It's clear to me over and over again that my expectations are left wanting, yet I'm not quite ready to let go of them.

So... they tell you every kid is different, and I guess I'm just learning that in a tangible way. And each journey with each kid is different, too. With the first, every age and stage seemed distinct and surprising and new. With the second, the first year seemed more fluid and about 5 times faster. Some things are similar: both of these kids have a feisty attitude, they had major major sleep regressions from months 4-7, they didn't fall into a nap routine until 8 months, they don't sleep through the night until after a year. But the chaos and noise and NEED is compounded. While my heart is ABSOLUTELY filled with twice the love, I'm finding that twice the patience, twice the kindness, twice the energy... that's harder to come by.

I ended up crying at a playdate at the park last week when everything kind of accumulated. I forget to give myself permission to say that things are challenging. Like, I complain about them out loud, but I don't actually give myself grace for them! Life with two is hard. And it's been compounded by work stress for Ross and for me (another post entirely), by financial stress, medical bills, the fact that we built a new friggin' building in our backyard this winter in addition to all the sickness and sleeplessness. My car has had more in repairs than it's actually worth in the past year and a half, and the check engine light came on again. I LOST MY HEARING AID the weekend of my brother's wedding. Then I LOST NOAH'S HEARING AID a few weeks ago. Family drama with loose ends that leaves us feeling inept and unsure. Feeling completely invisible and not recognizing myself in the mirror.

Anyway, this wasn't meant to be a long-winded list of grievances. This... is where I am. A little bit of chaos with a lot of emotional responsibility mixed in. I want this to be my starting place. This holy, parched, broken ground where I NEED a new thing to spring up.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Recipes I Want to Make: Late Summer Edition

I'm in a serious food rut. I want to eat all the fresh produce right now, but dinner time is my least favorite time of the day and it's all I can do to get something edible on the table. I'm hoping to shake things up over the next few weeks, thanks to some of these ideas.

Summer Panzanella Salad

20 Minute Thai Avocado Salad

The Best Shredded Kale Salad

5 Minute Magic Green Sauce

Great Day Dressing

Spicy Fish Taco Bowls

Speedy Fiesta Bean Bowl

Zucchini Soba Noodle Bowl

Thai Red Curry with Vegetables

8 Minute Pantry Dal

Vegan Cajun Pasta

Red Pepper Cashew Pasta

Vegan Gluten Free Blueberry Waffles

Endurance Crackers

Walnut Maple Cereal Bars

Almond Butter Fudgsicles

Blueberry Chia Pudding with Salted Seed Brittle

Mini Cookie Dough Fudge Pops (I actually make these without the cookie dough, with 1/2 cup chocolate chips instead of the other chocolate, and only 1-2 Tbs maple syrup. SO good.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

You Don't Have to be Blooming to be Growing

God, cast a vision for me in this crazy season. I'm loving these words right now from Coffee + Crumbs: Grow Your Hope with Ruth Chou Simons.

"As mothers, how can we grow our hope?"

"I think as moms we have a tendency to look at what's right in front of us. We're always attending to the next crisis. It's the tyranny of the urgent with moms, right? It is that child that's screaming, the milk that's spilled, the discipline that you need to really have the right words for but can't think of. And it's always that next big thing, where to send your kid to kindergarten, whether or not you're spending enough time nurturing their gifts, feeling mom guilt. There's all these things that we're feeling like we're always behind on. And I think one of the things that really causes us to grow in a season of motherhood, is to actually look always further and beyond, and to constantly consider that you're running a marathon and not a sprint.

For a long time, early on in motherhood, I kept thinking that I was going to arrive around the corner. I kept thinking, 'oh if I just read this book, get with the right playgroup, make the right choices, or just do it right today, train my kids to put away the dishes, tomorrow won't be that way. Or next week, I won't have to deal with this anymore.' And a few years in, I realized, no no no. This is a marathon. This is designed for me to press into the constancy of being pruned and changed in motherhood. And it's the marathon of my kids not arriving, and neither will I. And that's not to make us feel like, 'oh my goodness I'll never arrive.' But rather, the process, the progress, the in-between IS the thing. We talk about the journey is the thing. It really is, in motherhood. And I think sometimes we wish away that process and that season... thinking that if we just narrow on these few things and figure it out, then we will arrive and we can save ourselves some of that discomfort and this chafing of motherhood, the chafing of working with young ones who can't tie their own shoes and cry about everything. Really, that IS the content of your life. That is the very thing that you get to do right now, and influence, and build up. And so, I think we, as moms, there's a reason women in their 60s and 70s say, 'oh if you only knew how fast it goes,' and sometimes it's wonderful and sometimes it's annoying. I think that women who are older forget, and sometimes I forget as well, which is why I try to speak in a way that never undermines another season. But the reality is that we forget so easily that when you're in the trenches, you kind of don't know where you're heading. You don't really know exactly what it's going to be. And I know that older women are hoping to encourage that, but sometimes it's not just a picture you hold up. Sometimes it's actually holding that woman's hand and walking her out through the trenches.... You don't have to have the same circumstances to be going through the same life lessons."

Monday, April 30, 2018

Preaching to Myself

I'm sitting in the backyard shed. In silence. Alone. And I'm not even sure where to start. This moment was a looong 9 months in the making, and I'm fairly certain it can/will end at any moment. But I wanted to sit here with my cupcake and my nettle tea and my thoughts, because I'm behind on my thoughts. I'm not sure I knew that was possible, but as someone who needs to deal with emotions by naming them and moving through them, I can tell you it's been pretty chaotic for me to not have time to sit in silence and reflect.

And I've been wanting to reflect on a lot of things lately. So it surprises me that today's reflections are on body image of all things, since these thoughts seemed to come a bit out of the blue. I've been organizing and putting away baby clothes and maternity clothes over the past few days, and even though it's nice to see my old clothes in my closet, the reality is that I won't be wearing most of them any time soon.

It's funny, because my 17-years-ago-self would be really focused on sizes and numbers right now. But let me take a minute here: 17 years ago. Every time I think about this, I'm overwhelmed with gratitude that the peak of my anorexia is now half a lifetime away from me. My past self never even fathomed all of the fullness that life beyond recovery held, and my present self is moved beyond words by the ways in which God pulled me from the muck and mire and set me on solid ground.

So anyway, it's hard to name what I'm feeling right now. I experienced a lot of freedom and healing in my pregnancy with Noah and the subsequent postpartum recovery I went through. I was in physical pain every day, and I felt like my body had come this far only to betray me. It took a lot of time and money and work and tears to move beyond that. But aside from the pain and physical recovery, there was also the ever-present bodily recovery in the sense of recognizing who I saw in the mirror. Just like the weight gain curve in pregnancy, I learned that my body had its own weight loss curve postpartum, and that I really couldn't comfortably and safely impact the progression that happened.

I gained 30 pounds in 38.5 weeks of pregnancy with Noah, lost 15 pounds (7lbs 8.7oz of that was a bouncing baby boy) within a few days of delivery, and pretty much hung out there for 7-8 months. I lost maybe 5 pounds around that point, another 5 pounds after 14-15 months when Noah started sleeping through the night, and another 2-3 pounds when we weaned at 26 months. For much of the first year with Noah, I was run into the ground. I've talked about this plenty of times before, with the house under construction, the colic, the pain, the postpartum anxiety, the sheer sleeplessness, the anemia, the fatigue. I was trying to work out and take care of myself, but I was not quite sure what that really meant and it took quite a while to find a new normal.

Before getting pregnant with Rosie, I was still technically hanging onto the last 3-5 pounds, but as I told a friend, I really had neither the time, nor money, nor f*cks to give at that point. I was happy and comfortable and active. I was a little softer than before (literally and figuratively), but I fit into most of my old clothes and I was mostly just so grateful for a body that allowed me to carry and birth a firework of a baby, to breastfeed him as long as I wanted to, and to carry him around and play with him and take long walks and snuggle at naps.

I gained 30 pounds in 38.3 weeks with Rosie, and again lost 15 pounds right away (7lbs 15.3oz of sweet baby included). But post-Rosie, getting "back into shape" hasn't really been a focus, in a good way. I was meticulous about physical therapy in pregnancy and postpartum since my first and foremost goal was to avoid another painful recovery if at all possible. I stayed on top of acupuncture and herbs. I focused on lots of nourishing and healing foods. And I'm grateful that purely focusing on replenishing and restoring has brought me this far. Physical recovery has been so different this time. I've been so grateful for that, I didn't really care about anything else. But the fact of the matter is, I sit here 9 months out a solid 15 pounds heavier than were I started 18 months ago, and much more... stretched out... than I was after the first baby. So yeah, the weather is warming up and I'm not wearing layers and sweaters and vests, and I'll be honest, I'm realizing it's been a while since I really evaluated the situation in the mirror.

I'm a bridesmaid in my brother's wedding in 4 weeks and I'm honored and psyched to be a part of their big day! But I took my dress to the seamstress this weekend and had to face the fact I'm also the mom to two babies on earth and two in heaven and I'm 5 years older than all the other (childless) bridesmaids. Let's be honest. I've lived a whole lot of life in those 5 years. Life that I'm grateful for and overwhelmed by and wouldn't trade for the world, but life nonetheless. And it shows.

It's hard for me to express this in a non-navel-gazing way: how I am so thankful for life right now and every single thing that brought me here, but how I also maybe wish I looked a little more familiar to myself. And that really is it. It's not about being a certain size or weight, but being at home with myself again. I've grown a little detached in the chaos of adjusting to two kids and getting through the long winter.

A friend recently shared her pregnancy news on a text chain with a few of us, and she was asking about weight gain. Everyone was sharing their stories, and I said, "I gained 30lbs on the dot for both of mine, but they were both 1-2 weeks early. With Noah I gained really rapidly in the first tri, then stalled in the second, then gained steadily in the third. With Rosie, I gained nothing in the first tri (so sick), gained really rapidly in the second, and then stalled a bit between 25-35 weeks. I panicked a bit both times because it wasn't a perfect linear progression. But your body does what it needs to do, and all you can do is eat as healthily as appetite allows, and be as active as you have the energy to be. Pregnancy and postpartum was/is redemptive for me in learning to trust how God made my body. With both kids, I lost 15 pounds right away, and the other 15 pounds seems to hang around for a good year. I'm in the middle of that now, but trusting and remembering that it goes away (fairly) easily when I start sleeping through the night again and having more energy during the day."

Really, though, other friends' answers were better for me to hear. Emily said that after having 4 babies, "I honestly feel more at home in my body even though it's a far cry from being in shape. After seeing the healthy humans I made, I see it in a much more positive light."

Alison's response stopped me in my tracks:

"I truly view my body differently since being pregnant and breastfeeding. Your body is literally giving life to another! That is so amazing! It definitely helps to put the gaining weight part of it into perspective. BUT it is still hard! And it's okay to feel those feelings of grief. Some seem to get right back to themselves after birth and that just wasn't me. I definitely hold onto weight while breastfeeding and my supply is very sensitive, so I couldn't make any big changes to my diet or activity level while nursing. I am done nursing [my second] and just now feel like I 'have my body back,' so to speak, after almost 4 years of being pregnant and breastfeeding.
They have been the most precious years and I obviously would not trade them for anything, but it doesn't mean that it's not hard to give that part of yourself up. But I'm learning, too, that that's motherhood! Giving of yourself over and over and over to your kids, but also finding time for self-care. And that looks different in every season. But in the early years I'm finding the 'giving up of yourself' is definitely heavy on the physical side! And I think the changes our bodies go through are kind of an outward representation of that sacrifice of our needs. But it's just a season."

I really loved her answer, and it gave voice to some of my thoughts about the giving of yourself. I feel like motherhood, for me, has really been a season of listening and learning and being patient. This is hard for me, as a verbal processor who likes to be bossy and know all the answers! But VERY slowly God is beginning to connect some of the dots for me. These body image thoughts have been rolling around for the past year and a half, ever since I got pregnant with Rosie, and they came full circle when I was listening to a podcast this morning and the conversation came around to body image in motherhood.

In the episode, Hannah Anderson says, 

"Again, we have to go back to this definition of humility, as recognizing and honoring the difference between God as God, and our identity as created, limited creatures who are dependent on Him. If we have that frame, and we move to talk about our bodies, it’s amazing to realize that one of the very things that defines the difference between us and a transcendent God, is our physical bodies.  
One of the catechisms that children often learn is, your God does not have a body. God is a spirit; He does not have a body. Even living within the boundaries of this physical flesh and bone is a limitation to begin with. Our bodies are our first reminder that we are not God. We fight this all the time, whether we’re skimping on sleep, or we’re skimping on food, or skimping on exercise, we’re essentially saying, “I don’t have to live within the boundaries of my physical body. I can live beyond them.” The first thing that humility teaches us about our body is that, it has been given to us to remind us of our limits. It is a walking, 24/7 reminder that we are not God. 
But Christ, when he entered human flesh, He also elevated and honored it, so there is no shame in our bodies. We feel the shame because we feel the limitations, and we press against those limitations. We look at our body, we feel them decaying and we feel them breaking down, and we are, quite frankly, embarrassed by them. We are ashamed of them in ways that God is not ashamed of them. Jesus Christ was not ashamed to carry human flesh.  
I find it fascinating that when He was raised from the dead, He was not ashamed to have marred flesh. He was not ashamed to carry the marks of love and sacrifice in His body. Again, this goes back to who are we listening to about our bodies? Jesus Christ is saying, “Your body is valuable and honoring and it’s been given to you to remind you of your limits, but also to make you dependent. It has been given to you to serve in sacrifice, and it’s going to carry marks.” That’s what Christ is telling us about our body. The world is telling us, “Your body is given to you to be a goddess. You are to transcend normal human limits...”  
At the root, there is essential conflict of, who we are going to listen to? Are we going to listen to culture around us that tells us a broken, limited body is a shameful thing? Or are we going to listen to the voice of Christ who says, “Come to me, I’ve got the same kind of body? And mine’s as messed up as yours is.” Not what the world is saying is beautiful, but high honor and value and love the things that the world does not love. So humility frees us, again like you said, takes that burden off, when we’re seeing our bodies the way God sees them. We don’t feel the weight that the world is putting on us for our bodies. 
[...]This has great potential for us to teach our children, and even our daughters, to honor what their bodies are, and will be. If you think about Christ coming back with wounds in His hands, it is these very wounds that He used to convince Thomas of His love, and to draw him to Himself. In many ways, whether we’re coming up in a swimsuit season, or whether we’re going to be outside more, and we can’t wear jeans and sweaters, all the time any more, we are going to be exposed. Yet it’s these very things that can be a connection, especially with our daughters to say, “Hey, this is where I carried you, this space.” ...Celebrating and honoring the same way Jesus said, “Come touch my hands. Come see it and believe that this was a good, valuable sacrifice. I am here and I did this for you.” We’re carrying a parallel kind of mark of sacrifice and love, and our children need to see that love embodied in us, rather than us shamefully covering and self condemning."

This really resonates with another podcast episode that I've been thinking about since I heard it last week. (Yeah I've been listening to a lot of podcasts lately. I need a different soundtrack in my head aside from kids crying and my own self-condemnation and frustration! It's good for me to listen and let truth wash over me without having to engage in conversation, or be heard, or interrupted.)

In this episode, Gloria Furman reminded me, "God is ONE. He is triune and he is one. There's no disunity in the eternal counsel in the Godhead. So he's ordained, designed, called, equipped, strengthens you, holds you accountable, and rewards you... He is not in conflict with himself. God has ordained THOSE kids, THIS marriage, THAT home, THIS financial situation and budget, THESE challenges, your weaknesses and your strengths, and he expects you to depend on Him for everything you need. His grace is sufficient for you. And he will give you what you need to persevere in your faith through all of that."

With that, I just heard the back door slam and Noah's running across the yard with a snack in his hand. But these are truths that I will be coming back to again and again. Nothing goes out from God and returns back empty, so I can rest assured that even these extra 15 pounds hold a purpose. They remind me that I'm not God, that I need him daily, and he has me here for a purpose.


When I look back on the past 5 years, I think spring has been such a hopeful time for me. Two of the past 5 springs, I've been visibly pregnant and anticipating adding a new addition to our family. And two of the past 5 springs have found me blinking bleary-eyed at the sun through sleep-deprived eyes, desperate for fresh air and refreshment after a winter filled with sickness and sleeplessness.

I think there's a fine line between being a masochist and being a mother. Motherhood is sanctifying. It's self-sacrificing. I know this, yet I also find myself pulling back and asking how much is too much? "Will is cost me this, too? Should it?"

God promises rest to the weary, but he doesn't promise a baby who sleeps through the night. I intentionally didn't pray for a "good sleeper" when I was pregnant with Rosie. In part, because I thought that dealing with the tongue tie, breastfeeding issues, and food intolerances early on would naturally fix some of the problem. But also, I prayed for sleep for a long time with Noah. A long time. God answered in the sense that, yes, between 18 months and 2.5 years, Noah was at long last a phenomenal sleeper. But I was in a pretty deep hole by that point, and it took me a long time to recover physically and emotionally.

We instituted gentle nap and nighttime sleep assistance with him around 7 months, and did some more firm "sleep training" at night around 14-15 months. At that time, Noah felt safe, comfortable, knew we would meet his needs, and he was developmentally ready to sleep. We let him cry a bit, but since it had all been so gradual, he never cried more than 20 minutes or so. He was ready.

So what happens this time when I'm ready but my baby maybe isn't? The longer I'm a mom, the slower I am to judge others, but still pretty quick to second guess myself. I feel like right now I can't be the mom I want to be at night AND during the day. Rosie's 9 months old and wakes up 2-5 times a night.

In the past few weeks, my 3 year old has started saying things like, "Rosie, you have GOT to let me have some quiet time." And, "I'm so grumpy in the morning because Rosie kept waking me up at night." Now, I'm not entirely sure that he really hears her crying at night, but he hears me complaining the next day loud and clear.

When do I feel mistakenly entitled to sleep, and when is it a matter of fuctioning?

I need to be able to distinguish between entitlement and self-care! And I need to sleep train my baby.