Three Years Ago Today: A Birth Story

10669108_2448876388212_6300732187177903828_oTucker and I arrived at the hospital promptly by 5:30am to be induced, as our little miss was estimating at 10lbs and was already almost 2 weeks late! Little did I know, it wouldn’t be until the next day that we met our sweet little girl.

The labor was anything but what I expected. I didn’t respond to being induced; the pitocin was cranked up high after 6 hours of labor not starting. Then, all at once, my water broke and STRONG irregular contractions started, peaking without fully coming off of them. I labored for a hour before begging for an epidural with these medicine-induced contractions and no doula or education for pain management. The epidural wore off after an hour, and I was given a booster. Once that didn’t work, they took the epidural out and restuck me (still didn’t completely work). My temperature spiked and baby’s activity slowed. Then the oxygen mask. Then the anxiety meds. Hours and hours went by . . .

My sweet nurse took me by the face and told me “I’m here. I’m here. We’re gonna make it.”

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THREE years ago today, Tali arrived early in the morning after 4am. After the labor hadn’t gone as planned, and no progress had been made after four hours, after my body had gone through 23 hours of medicine-induced-contractions, an epidural removed and redone, anxiety medicine, and oxygen, the doctor said the words “Failure to Progress” and the word “C-Section” was spoken. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt like I had failed. I felt like my body failed. I felt like something was wrong with me. In that moment I felt like the most miraculous moment of life was stolen from me: watching an innocent babe come into the world, your child. It was like sand through a fist: the tighter I tried to hold on to it, the faster it slipped through my fingers.

Tucker was exhausted both emotionally and physically watching me fight through labor. I was exhausted mentally and physically as well. I couldn’t bring myself to say “Okay,” so Tucker did for me. Tucker was rushed off to get dressed and I was sent into a sterile, white-walled room, with obtrusive bright lights: anything but the serenity in which I wanted. I couldn’t see the doctors’ faces, as they were covered with a mask. I was told to lay my arms out flat. Tucker came in and stood over me, his eyes the only recognizable part of him that was visible.

I was so scared. Behind the curtain they’d be cutting into my body, pushing internal parts to the side to bring my daughter into the world. This isn’t the way it was supposed to be…Then, before I could think about much more, Tali was born into the world crying. I saw tears in Tucker’s eyes as he said “She’s beautiful.” In that moment, I “saw” her for the first time through his eyes – a shared emotion. I told Tucker to go to her, that I’d be okay. And, that’s my last memory.

Although I was “awake” during these pictures – I don’t remember them. I don’t remember holding my daughter for the first time. I don’t remember breastfeeding her. I don’t remember the first time I looked into her eyes. I don’t remember how she moved. I don’t remember how her skin felt or how she smelled. My first memory is looking across the room and seeing someone holding her. I remember a room full of people.

But yet, despite all the circumstances, when I saw her, all I could think about was her. That perfect moment hung in the air. She’s mine. She’s my daughter. She’s so perfect. She’s so beautiful. I brought her into the world. I’ll do anything for her. I love her.

Happy Birthday, Tali.

 

 

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Stay-At-Home Mama, Your Job is Invaluable

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Imagine with me a certain work environment:

You work seven days a week. Your boss, Boss B, calls you every morning at unpredictably early hours to wake you up with an urgent task. Once at work, Boss B stands over your desk as you type out his report, but as soon as you are about to finish what took an hour, he slams your computer shut and laughs. Then, he demands he needs it within the next 5 minutes. When you need to use the bathroom, Boss B follows you, listing off all the things he needs from you and recapping what you haven’t done yet. If you don’t pee fast enough, he starts counting, knocking on the door to the loud, demanding cadence of his voice. Oh and your colleagues? They critique you throughout the day, telling you what you could have done better and that they themselves can easily pull it all off. The day comes to a close, and you must drive him home. You must listen to his music on the way home, not yours. And, he never leaves your side. Also, did I mention you have zero sick leave? Notta. Zilch. Sorry my friend.

Sound like an exhausting job? Maybe now you understand the energy it takes to be a stay-at-home mom. It’s a 24/7 job that never ends and goes without breaks. You’re a cook, a psychologist, a maid, a recreational specialist, a teacher, a coach, a cheerleader, a motivational speaker, a nutritionist, a nurse, and at times a pirate or perhaps a firefighter, or even Elsa. Even vacations are with this tiny Boss B, and so is your lunch break. When nap time arrives, you only relax with part of your mind, the other part in expectation of when your child will awake.

In our society, the significance and energy of being stay-at-home mom often gets downplayed. In society that emphasizes name suffixes, awards, resumes, concrete accomplishments with a start and end date, academic and career achievements, we sweep under the rug the abstract: raising a generation how to be compassionate, how to love, how to think, how to serve. Unfortunately, sometimes stay-at-home moms begin to fall for this lie too, to feel they themselves are less valuable than the suit wearing woman, exchanging their computer of honor for a wipe to clean little red bottoms. 

From working mom to stay-at-home mom (or shall I just say from mom to mom), let me tell you, I SEE YOUR VALUE. And your value is unimaginable, and your job is one of the most physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding careers there are – and one of the most rewarding and beautiful.

You are raising generations. And, you are on the clock constantly: You are teaching a child to love unconditionally. You are teaching a child to think deeply. You are teaching a child compassion. You are teaching a child beauty in a world full of hate. And mama, you are raising GENERATIONS – your love will not only affect this little one, but your little one’s teachings will create ripples in the people he or she comes into contact with, and with the children they someday raise. And when you shut yourself in a closet to cry so no one sees, or when you hide in the bathroom to eat that last cookie, I want you to remember this: Your job has immense value, and I see it.

Your career may go unnoticed. Your achievements unrecognized and unnamed. Your paper resume may sit empty. You may be critiqued for every tiny decision you make. You may feel insignificant when you say “I’m a stay at home mom” – but NEVER feel the need to make an excuse as to why you chose this path. And NEVER accept the lie that you don’t contribute to this society simply because you don’t have some official title and business card.

Mama, you are immensely valuable, an unstoppable force of love, selflessness, steadfastness, and compassion. You are the spark that will someday ignite a flame. You are planting the seed that grows and matures into a forest. Never see yourself as less than this. Never.

Body Image: Your body’s sole purpose isn’t to please a gaze

 

 

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My body wasn’t meant to please your gaze. My body’s purpose is not to sell your brand of clothing, makeup, hair color, shoe brand, etc. Its sole purpose is to not be a over-sexualized symbol to turn the heads of men. Its purpose is not to wear a bikini in the summer. It’s not for other women to have an object to compare their body to. Its purpose is not to retain my 16 year old figure.

My body is meant for many things in fact. And a sexualized, ‘perfectly shaped’ being is not the highlight.

My body is for usefulness: it’s to move, to jump, to run, to breathe, to child rear, to breastfeed, to digest, to hear, to see, to feel, to climb, to make, to read, to create, to go, to write, to play music, to contribute, to renew, to grow, to age . . .

My body is made to express: love, art, kindness, compassion, beauty, gentleness, frustration, anger, to serve, to hug, to kiss, to hold, to be held, to assist…

My body is to create: to create peace, to create shelter, to create art, to create music, to create joy, to create new things, to recreate old things, to create a space for community, to create a family, to create beauty…

My body is for my husband: to love, to make love, to serve, to hold, to assist, to laugh, to cry, to grow old with, to behold, to take care of, to admire, to create with…

My body is for my children: that I may bring them into this world with the growth and marks of pregnancy and the pains of labor, that I may pick them up when they are sick and cradle them. That I should chase them when they take off the first time they ride a bike without training wheels. That I should have bags under my eyes because I didn’t sleep because they were awake and lonely. That my hair and nails aren’t done because instead I spent the money to go on a trip with them…

At the end of my life, I want my body to be marked. Marked with smile wrinkles. Marked with scars from adventures. Marked with stretch marks, my tattoos left by my children who forever changed my life. My breasts will hang differently from breastfeeding. My hips will be worn and achey from playing on the ground with children and grandchildren. My skin will be aged from playing in the sun and gardening. My nails will be torn and worn from working hard and serving others. My feet will have callouses from staying active and moving.

And, my life will be full.

Women, allow your body to be marked by life — in the most beautiful of ways. Embrace the shape you are in, the skin you are in, the hair you are in, the type of clothes you can afford, the color of your features, the shape of your legs, your thighs, your marks, your scars. Remember all that your body is and does and has been through — and its endless beauty in these moments — It’s not just some outer covering meant to please some passerby’s eyes. It never has been. It never should be. And it should never be your definition of its worth.

Miscarriage: The Invisible Child

Today I cried a bit.

And yes most people don’t talk about miscarriage publicly. I do. I do because so many women have experienced it. I didn’t realize just how many until I experienced it and those who never spoke about it sent me a message. I probably got over 30 messages… And those were only the ones who felt they could tell me. So, I want you to understand.

You don’t truly “get over it.” You don’t just “get better.” In some ways, it never “gets easier.” Just, mourning takes a new shape with passing days, months, years. And it hits you, the emotion, when you least expect it, publicly. Talking to a friend. Someone tells you they are expecting. A pampers commercial comes on. You see a mom holding a baby in the mall. Someone has the same month due date and every picture they post reminds you of where you should be but you aren’t. Someone celebrates a child’s first birthday and you stand at a party where everyone is laughing and tears unexpectedly fall… but you try to wipe them away before anyone notices. The due date month comes and goes and you imagine what it would have been like, but instead the halls are quiet in your house at night. Quiet enough that you hear the silence and drown in it. It’s a silent type of suffering… Pain that’s buried in the mundane routine of life, that’s hiding in a corner and there’s no warning it’s there until you take that corner to get where you’re going. Maybe I’ll have another baby someday. Maybe we won’t. But you don’t “replace” the loss. The invisible child grows with your family. And each year that passes you see your invisible child taking their first steps, playing with their siblings, blowing out their birthday cake candles. The invisible child is always with you. You never kick him out. But you embrace him for what he is. Laughter you can’t hear, but feel. A hand you can’t hold, but that touched your heart.

 

Tattoo for My Daughter

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“When the scar, this scar, formed I was astounded to find that for the first time people looked at me. Not unkindly, and with interest. And they were not the sort of people I had known before. Oh no, these were interesting people, people who were not unmarked by life. And my mark, my scar, made me in some way approachable; this blemish gave me confidence. And it occurred to me then, or very shortly thereafter, that perhaps it might be best to wear lives upon our skin. And so I do.”

– Excerpt from “Marks” within the collection of dramatic monologues “Talking With…” by Jane Martin –

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What is a tattoo? There’s something different about this type of art. It’s the inner reflections of our soul painting the outer shapes our bodies, the willing waiting canvas. We all wear our tattoos, but some are just simply more visible to others. Some are kept written on our hearts while others are cemented in ink. Some people, you see, just choose to make it more permanent, to make the memory physically present when it seems it’s slowly slipping out of their grasp. And unlike an artist who paints on a canvas, who can choose to walk away from their creation, to recreate, to rehang, to store, to sell, this type of art remains with you, a part of you. It goes with you. It matures with you. It tells a story.

As soon as I was pregnant, I started thinking about this permanent design on my body. I knew its form, its shape, and the potential location. I knew it perfectly captured my journey into motherhood, a moment that forever changed my life. To capture even a glimpse of this moment on the canvas of my body would be beautiful, sacred even. Although, I was equally anxious, anxious to have a new mark.

I watched the design take shape for months, my fingers tracing every new line, the artist working delicately with great care to document my journey. I smiled. And, I hesitated. I showed my husband, his own fingers tracing the change to my skin, telling me, reassuring me of its beauty, insisting I be confident if people thought otherwise. He marveled in its design, a physical representation of what was growing not only in my womb, but in our hearts.

Today, my design is still taking shape. It’s still growing with me, changing color, changing form, changing texture. And, I imagine with time, it will continue to. The design is recognized as “stretch marks” by most, those outside of motherhood. To me though, they are my “tiger stripes” or my “mommy marks” or “mommy lines.” Most people would tell me to prevent them. To hide them. To have a body untouched by my journey in life.

No. I will not hide them. I am not ashamed of them. I will not be scared to show my tattoo, life’s mark. You see these lines on my body? These lines mean this body, my body, carried life! Created LIFE! Sustained LIFE. With no practice, no preparation, my body knew what to do to make itself a home. For nine months, my body worked, watched, and waited as her entire being was being formed from a blueprint invisible to the naked eye. It was present as her heart took shape and when the first beat of life sounded.

My body is beautiful, and its journey is beautiful. I display that beauty outwardly with this tattoo. I show you my journey through the lines. The artist? My daughter. Who better to mark my body with her life? With the life we created together as a family.

We all wear our tattoos, but some are just simply more visible to others. Some are written on our hearts while others are cemented in ink, while some are written on the canvas of our skin as the wrinkles in our faces, the dimples in our cheeks, the scars from surviving a fire, and yes, even the lines of childbirth.

Mommies, celebrate your lines. Celebrate your journey. They are not flaws. They are resilient, strong, and beautiful. Wear your tattoo with pride.

Photo subject and credit: Mandi Brock

The [Im]perfect Nursery and the Joy of Simplicity

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“So, what’s your theme?” she asked me.
“Theme? What do you mean?”
“Your nursery! Animals? Butterflies? Princess? And what about the type of wood of your nursery furniture? White? Dark wood? Light wood?”
“Lavender?” I replied unsure of myself.

I knew this lady was trying to be helpful and considerate in asking me the theme of my baby’s nursery. She wanted to make sure she bought a gift for the shower that would perfectly coordinate. In all honesty, this thought hadn’t even occurred to me until this moment. Decorating a nursery? I suppose in America it would be considered a rite of passage. I know, I know . . . SURELY I would have seen all the advertisements in baby magazines and all the nursery picture posts by friends; however, when you find out you’re pregnant, plan a full wedding in two months, move twice, and figure out the very basics of being a wife, being pregnant, and becoming a mom, it doesn’t leave much room for browsing magazines and window shopping. Even if I HAD seen these beautiful coordinating nursery ads though, I still probably wouldn’t have paid it much mind. We see “perfect” all the time in ads. The perfectly fashioned female model. The perfectly polished, fast sports car. The perfect office space promoting creativity and relaxation. No one pays attention to the “perfects”! Well, perhaps I underestimated how big of a rite of passage the “perfect” nursery was. For me, this really stressed me out.

Up to this point, I had really enjoyed the simplicity of pregnancy. Wait . . . before you crucify me, hear me out. When you’re pregnant, there are less choices and you stick to the basics. When you’re pregnant, only a few items on the menu appeal to you. When you’re pregnant, entertainment choices are limited (no theme parks, no hiking, no rock climbing, etc). When you’re pregnant, only the handicapped bathroom stall will do. When you’re pregnant, bedtime is as soon as you get home. When you’re pregnant you give up on painting your toenails. When you’re pregnant, high heels are a definite NO. When you’re pregnant you grow out of your bras faster than the Irish sunburn, so a Victoria’s secret lacy little thing with velvet trim and push up padding for 80 bucks is out of the question. My favorite part was that, for once, I had a small manageable closet of maternity clothes and the choice between two pairs of shoes that were comfortable and fit my swollen feet. It wasn’t really hard to get out of bed and be ready in the morning . . . well, besides the sitting up from lying down part.

My family helped us out a lot on relieving my tension of figuring out a nursery. Tucker’s brothers (who by the way are GIANTS and don’t have to have a step stool to reach a ceiling) painted Tali’s room lavender. And, with the help of friends and family, we bought white matching furniture and received simple fitted sheets and other necessities in the color lavender. No, there weren’t decals on the wall. There wasn’t a rocking chair nor a decorative pillow embroidered with the letter “T.” We didn’t have a matching quilt, picture frames, diaper pail, hangers, lamp shade, lavender princess booger wipes… or whatever else you can buy in a “theme” for a baby’s room (you’d be surprised). By the time my labor was induced, the room wasn’t even completely put together. Tali’s new clothes from showers were still laid out all across the floor, her toys were in their plastic store-fresh containers lining the hallway, and the dresser was still in pieces with a manual on how to assemble it lying beside it. And, as I cried out in pain in my hospital room as Tucker embraced my hand and we waited to meet Tali, in my purse I still had a long unfinished checklist of things I absolutely must buy, things I absolutely must do, and books I must absolutely read.

When Tali arrived, I learned quickly how little we really needed. Although we had a lot of beautiful and thoughtful items from showers, to get us through those first few weeks all we needed the most were a carseat, about three footie pajamas, a pacifier, diapers, wipes, a bath towel and baby soap, breastfeeding supplies, a swaddle blanket, and a crib. The consumer baby market would be ashamed. Of course I needed a wipe warmer with a built in digital clock and room thermometer; an automatic spinning, music playing crib mobile; and sanitizing, alcohol free, gluten free, paraben free, dye free, calorie free baby safe pacifier wipes!

My husband and I didn’t have a lot of money, but we were happy. It really doesn’t take thousands of dollars worth of stuff to bring a baby home. And, there’s no shame in not being able to afford it. In fact, I learned quite a lot while I was pregnant and those first few weeks with Tali. I was happier with less. I was happier with more time with Tucker and Tali, less time organizing the clutter, and more money to spend traveling to see family.

So to the moms out there like me overwhelmed by the expectations,

You’re doing great! You don’t have to have a straight-from-a-magazine room for your baby! You don’t have to have the latest fashions or the trendiest baby clothes! The room doesn’t have to be tidy. Toys don’t always have to be put away from sight. Chores can wait.

Mommy, you’ve adorned your baby in love. You’ve decorated her room with your voice. You’ve grown rich in her laughter. And perhaps save a penny or two and go buy yourself a coke, and after she finally falls asleep, slide yourself down the wall onto the floor with your messy dirty hair, your unshaved legs, your pile of dirty laundry in the next room and breathe. And smile. You’re doing great.

That “Crazy” Mom Without a Hobby

Tali,

You’re almost one! And this momma is in tears. I’m crazy about you. For nine months, I rebuilt my life to prepare for yours while you were in my tummy. Mommy and daddy moved twice, changed jobs once, and finally settled in a place we knew you’d be safe. I felt your first wiggles, your first hiccups, and heard your heartbeat. I watched you put on a show for mommy and daddy the first time we saw you on the ultrasound. I wrote about you, dreamed about you, talked about you, and celebrated your new life. You took your time in my belly, pushing me into 42 weeks and I gained over half my original body weight. Baby girl, I couldn’t even roll over in bed then! I was too big! The day you were born I labored for 23 hours. I had the epidural put in twice, was put on oxygen, and had numerous other unexpected complications along the way. I cried when I learned I wouldn’t be able to continue, and we were rushed into surgery for a C section. My body was wrecked, but my love was overflowing. I don’t remember seeing you for the first time; mommy wishes she could remember, but I had so many drugs in my body and was so exhausted my memory didn’t hold on. But I remember holding you in the hospital, I remember your perfect nose, lips, fingers, wiggly toes. I’ve never seen so much beauty in my life. During maternity leave, I couldn’t walk. My body was having a hard time healing. Daddy would get up and bring you to me. I would nurse you and pray over you. Pray over your safety, your happiness, your future, your faith. We went on our first walk a few days after being home. I only made it a block before I doubled over in pain, but we finally made it out of the house together. I loved being home with you. I loved holding you while you slept on my chest. We couldn’t go anywhere or see anyone because you were a little fussy, but I gladly gave up seeing my friends to hold on to you. When I went back to work four weeks later, I cried. I had the smell of you on my shirt, a picture of you in my agenda, and a pump to try to continue to give you nourishment. Every three hours I went to a room at work and pumped because I knew that this was the best way to nourish your body and keep you healthy. For many weeks, I also cried in these moments. I felt like I abandoned you. It felt so wrong to be away from you. I missed you so much. I wanted you with me. You got the flu a few months into your life. I was so scared. Your tiny little helpless body. I didn’t know what hurt, I just tried to hold you, and comfort you as you squirmed and cried, and then cried because you couldn’t breathe because your nose was stuffy. Mommy cried too. Mommy and daddy got the flu too. You kept mommy and daddy up all night and it was hard to function with the flu and no sleep, but we did it together. We saw your first smile, heard your first laugh, saw you roll over, heard your first babbles, saw you first play with toys, saw you first sit up on your own, and held your hand for your first steps. Mommy took so many pictures of you… probably too many. Mommy couldn’t stop telling everyone about your accomplishments. You celebrated your accomplishments too — you would wrinkle your nose, grin, and clap your hands looking from mom to dad for approval. You’re still working on walking though; you’re a little wobbly and you kind of look like you just got off a Merry Go Round, but you’re almost there. Don’t worry, I have plenty of film to show your friends someday. I always thought that my grades, my career, my volunteering were what made me alive, what made me significant, but I never knew this type of love, this type of happiness. YOU are my biggest accomplishment and being a mom my greatest blessing. I don’t want more. In fact, I want less—and more time with you. Of course I posted pictures of you almost everyday! I couldn’t think of greater beauty in the world, and I wanted to share it.

Tali someday you won’t understand why I want to know every detail of your day, why I pray for you every moment I get, why I will cry when someone hurts you, why I will jump with joy for your accomplishments, why you will catch me staring at you when you get all dressed up with bouncy curls, why I will want pictures of you with every new step in your life’s journey, but it’s because although you were born on an early morning in September, you will always be a part of me, you will always be with me. You will always be my better half. My life was perfectly adjusted to fit you in it, and God picked you for me and me for you. Someday, you might know this love too, but in the meantime, I guess I’ll just be a “crazy” mom “without a hobby.” That’s okay though. I’m okay with that. Someday you’ll understand. Until then, I’ll keep taking my photos, writing in the memory book, celebrating with you, weeping with you, and teaching you all I know about life. I love you Tali bug.