Where you lead…

Near the beginning of my maternity leave, I decided to pick a pretty long winded series to watch. Something with lots of seasons to make it really easy for me to settle into those long nursing sessions and “time off” that translates into “trapped at home because it is WAY TOO HOT to do anything outside.” Netflix was the answer, my friends.

I decided to try out Gilmore Girls. I was never a regular for this show although I’ve seen bits and pieces over the years – but never enough of it to know what to expect or how it would end. It had 7 seasons so I knew it was a good fit for 12 weeks of leave.

I finished the last episode recently and find myself feeling a little sad now. It’s over. I had become pretty tight with my Stars Hollow friends. I felt comfortable yelling at the characters when I knew they were making the wrong decisions. I depended on Sookie to make me delicious sounding treats whenever I was having a rough day. Now it’s over and there are many questions I still have. Fortunately, they are coming out with 4 extended episodes this year so I don’t have to wait nearly as long as those who were on the bandwagon while the series was airing originally.

il_340x270-769818447_b79zBut there is something bigger than all this hiding between the lines and I didn’t realize it until about half way through watching this series. While I was home with our first child, Daxton, during maternity leave – the song Three Little Birds by Bob Marley would always be playing in some form when I needed it most. It was a reminder when I needed it most “don’t worry….every little thing’s gonna be alright.” The universe knew what I needed to hear and it  became a personal mantra for me. I even have a piece of art hanging in my bedroom now with those lyrics to remind me.

I have always been a writer at heart. It started with lyrics when I was younger – the first thing I wanted to do when I bought a new CD as a kid was to get to the jacket and read the song lyrics before I even listened to the first note of music. I wrote poetry, short stories – my minor in college was creative writing. It’s a passion  I don’t get much time for now. But I’m always listening, trying to catch the muse (and the 20 minutes to capture my thoughts before they drift to the abyss).

So with Daykin here, I wondered what our song would be. How would I find it? I haven’t been  listening to much music with her like I did Daxton – probably because my 3 year old son demands Jake the Pirate to be playing on the TV as soon as he gets home so there isn’t a lot of time for background music this time around.

13620294_645261903623_4738712822116736659_nBut about half way through this Gilmore Girls binge, I realized I had been singing the theme song to Daykin every single time. I found myself humming the tune at night time as I was trying to get her to bed. I listened to the full lyrics and realized they could be applied to the wonderful relationship between a mother and a daughter – after all, it was the theme song to Gilmore Girls which is 7 seasons of watching the relationship between a mother and daughter. Of course. This is our song, it was under my nose the whole time!

It’s funny how life happens this way. You ask yourself a question and if you throw into the universe, sometimes you find the answer was in front of your face the whole time.

I’m glad to have a special song that applies to each of my kids. It seems like the type of thing I hope they might appreciate later in life. When they hear that song playing – they will know that it was the song I kept close to my heart for each of them.

Lyrics to “Where You Lead” (original lyrics, obviously some were modified for theme song!) by Carol King

Wanting you the way I do
I only want to be with you
And I would go to the ends of the earth
‘Cause, darling, to me that’s what you’re worth

Where you lead, I will follow
Anywhere that you tell me to
If you need, you need me to be with you
I will follow where you lead

If you’re out on the road
Feeling lonely and so cold
All you have to do is call my name
And I’ll be there on the next train

Where you lead, I will follow
Anywhere that you tell me to
If you need, you need me to be with you
I will follow where you lead

I always wanted a real home with flowers on the window sill
But if you want to live in New York City, honey, you know I will
I never thought I could get satisfaction from just one man
But, if anyone could keep me happy, you’re the one who can

And where you lead, I will follow
Anywhere that you tell me to
If you need, you need me to be with you
I will follow where you lead

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The Real Guilt Trip

I thought I’d felt guilt before in my life. And then I became a mom – and it felt like any previous guilty feeling I’d had was a drop in the bucket.

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Love at first sight

Then I became a mom of 2 tiny human beings and my world has flipped upside down. I think I have cried more due to guilty feelings than anything else during this first month at home with our newborn and my 3 year old.

No one, and I mean no one, is as good at giving you a guilt trip than an innocent little 3 year old. This morning, I overhear him telling daddy in the next room, “I miss mommy a really lot.” Meanwhile, I’m trying to sleep because I’ve been up multiple times to nurse and soothe baby sister. Guilty as charged.

Now that I’m starting to feel more human again after the debacle of my c-section recovery, I’ve been able to do bath time with Daxton and a few times – I’ve even had enough time to put him to bed as well in between Daykin’s frequent evening nursing sessions. Each time I’ve put Daxton to bed  – the guilt trip starts again. I’m reading him a book, tucking him him and he’ll whisper, “Mommy, will you hold my hand? I miss you.”

I miss you, too, bud. I do.

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Our family time on the couch

This whole 2 kid thing is challenging for my body and my heart. Physically – I’m just not able to handle Daxton 100% yet – he’s knocking at 40 pounds door and he is super fast. So I can’t lift him yet and I certainly am not feeling up to running after him. So our time together is watching a tv show or movie while I’m nursing sister. When she’s napping in the evening and he is home – I do my best to be the one to fix him dinner. I ask him to sit next to me so we can snuggle. I remind him who my favorite boy is (it’s him).

But still – that little sweet voice is in my head everyday about how much he misses me and while it’s incredibly sweet – it breaks my already swollen heart. It pulls at my already over plucked heart strings.

Because he’s right – I’m not around as much. I am not the mom to him I was just a few weeks ago and he’s not old enough to really understand the rationale behind that. I am so thankful he hasn’t placed his resentment on his baby sister. We are lucky in that way – things could be so much more difficult. He’s acting out and showing us his independence a lot lately by demonstrating he doesn’t have to do what we say. I hate that the time we do spend together seems to always include him being “in trouble.” I guess that’s why they say we have “threenagers.”

The  biggest challenge so far has just been trying to really “be there” for both my kids in a

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Daddy trying to calm Daykin as she demands immediate feeding!

meaningful way. I am the only food source for Daykin, so I have some pretty tight timelines and limitations on what I can do outside of being with her day and night. I know that’s a choice I’m making, but I still stand behind it. And Daxton understands that a little bit – but in the end, when it’s bedtime and he’s holding my hand and she is screaming downstairs with her “feed me NOW” cry – I’m torn into 2 pieces. I want to be in both places, but know I can’t. And then the guilt comes when I have to choose.

I know it will get easier. We’ll find a routine. Eventually Daxton will want nothing to do with me for bedtime – he won’t ask if he can wake me up in the morning time to come and cuddle with me and sister. There will be a day when he’ll be sitting across the table from me and won’t engage in conversation because I’m not cool enough. So I want to be there for him now, I want him to know how much I love him and I never want him to feel like he is second string. It’s a strange phenomenon when you have 2 kids – how you can love them both so incredibly much and there is no first or second – they both own your heart equally.

So I’m working on figuring it out…but I’m nowhere close yet. And this is the part that makes all this really hard despite all the joy both my children bring to me. I keep telling myself this moment in time is just a blip and what he’ll remember is who I am to him consistently over time. He won’t remember this part of his life when mommy can’t be there for him everytime he needs me. Oh, but I will. The mommy guilt is thick.

Well, that’s where I am right now with this whole mother of 2 thing. Caught between grateful and guilt ridden.  

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Recovering, finally

It’s true what they say…”the days are long but the years are short.” I am feeling that completely as I realize that today will make 1 month of Daykin being here! I haven’t had any time to write since her arrival – things have been so chaotic. But she is sleeping at the moment so I’m stealing the time to capture some of my thoughts!

Daykin Lennox Manoni arrived on Wednesday, May 11 at 12:01 pm. She was 8.1 oz and 20 inches long. The first thing the doctors commented on was her full head of blonde hair. She arrived bow ready🙂

I had a planned c-section and the surgery went well. Part of the reason I had to have a c-section was due to a large cyst they found on my right ovary. They wanted to remove it. So on May 11, I delivered an 8 pound baby girl and a 2 pound cyst. Isn’t that crazy? They ended up having to remove my right ovary, but my doctor said based on the cyst size and location – my right ovary hadn’t been functioning in awhile.

My recovery from the c-section has been anything but simple. I’ve had a csection before, so I knew what type of pain to expect…but this time it was worse. I had this really hard “lump” above part of my c-section incision and was suffering from these crazy chills and night sweats. I thought it was all hormonal stuff until about a week later when I was putting Daykin in her PJ’s and looked down at the rug in her room where I was standing and it was covered in blood. I freaked out and started checking her everywhere until I realized I was the one bleeding. It was everywhere and I have never been more glad that my mom was staying at my house with me.

Long story short – my csection incision  re-opened and I had an infection and a hematoma (a solid swelling of clotted blood within the tissues). I had been running a fever for days but again – just thought I was having hormonal hot flashes, etc. I spent the next week going to the doctor’s office every single day.  I had to keep my “wound” packed (which is about as much fun as you think it would be), take an antibiotic 4 times a day which required me to set an alarm in the middle of the night in addition to my wake up times to feed my newborn. I also had to see a wound care specialist who called in Home Health to visit my house several times a week to change out my packing.

For a few days, I had to wear a wound vac, which is a machine that basically suctions onto your wound to help it heal faster. It means you have to carry around this black “purse” where ever you go.

Lastly, I had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics which gave me itchy hives all over my body. For those that know me, I already suffer from skin allergies, so this was no joke.

Needless to say, recovery has been a LONG and painful road for me. I am fortunate that the wound vac thing didn’t last for very long and they felt good about canceling home health moving forward as of my last appointment. So I’m now in charge of keeping my wound bandaged and I’ll go to what I’m praying is my last wound center appointment next week.

So, a month into this newborn thing and I’ve been through the ringer. I feel extra proud of myself for still being able to take care of Daykin and keep breastfeeding. She is happy and healthy weighing in at 9 pounds and 9 ounces at her most recent appointment. I figure all this chaos of recovery will be a good story to remind her of when she is causing me grief later in life. I can hear me now..”Daykin, do I need to remind you what I went through in the first month of your life?!”

But look at this face, I’d do it all over again.

 

 

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I’ll Catch You

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This is my last day before my whole world changes. Knowing I will meet my daughter for the very first time tomorrow is overwhelming, exciting, anxiety inducing and includes “all the feels.” Of course, I’ve had months of preparation…feeling her kick and punch constantly have served as a wonderful reminder of the little one growing inside me. And now that the day has almost arrived for us to meet her, I find myself feeling a little shy – like it’s a blind date. What will she be like? Will she look like her daddy just like her brother did? Or will I see a bit of myself reflected in the shape of her eyes or curve of her lips?

Will she know how much I have prayed for her and loved her since the moment I learned of her existance? Will I be able to show her that love unconditionally the way I want to? How will my heart grow without bursting? Having a second child is easier in some ways, I guess. I can tell myself, “I’ve done this before.” But in many ways, I haven’t. I haven’t been the mother of a newborn and a toddler before. I am scared that I won’t be very good at it and one of them will always be wanting. I worry that I may not have enough to give to be the mother they both deserve.

And then I think of the women in my life – friends and family who have more than 1 kid, and I see the love and affection they have for each other. I can do this, many have done this before. I know it will be a big job and I’m not really sure there is any training, any reading or any conversation that is going to make me feel prepared. Trial by fire, my friends.

But babycakes, I do solemnly swear – you will be loved by your mommy. And I will do everything I can to keep you safe, raise you to love and respect others and to know God. I have spent months preparing for your arrival, and on this last day – my mind is full of what ifs and worry and wondering if I’m ready.

The truth is, if you are – I am. Because that is how motherhood works. There is nothing that can prepare you – but I liken the experience to those automatic reactions our bodies create. Like when you drop a pen and your body immediately reacts to catch it – there is no thought or skill…it just happens. It’s in my DNA to be a mother – and despite not knowing what to expect, I do know that I’ll catch you.

Baby girl, you are my favorite girl. And I can’t wait for you to meet my favorite boy – your brother who already loves you so much that it makes my heart beat faster. Every day, he talks to you, gives you kisses and hugs and I cannot wait for you to recognize his voice upon your first meeting. His sweet voice singing you good night songs and shouting “I love you” at belly button level – you will know him as big brother. He will catch you, too.

Your daddy hasn’t a clue what’s in store for him, but I can’t wait to watch him fall in love with you. It’s a special bond between daddy and daughter and I am sure you will have him wrapped around your tiny little finger in no time. He will make you laugh, his jokes will make you roll your eyes, and no matter where you are – he’ll catch you.

I am honored to be your mother, and so excited to meet you in person for the very first time tomorrow. I know you will change my life in ways I can’t even fathom right now. But I’m sure we will navigate this new world together….the 4 of us.

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The Elusive Muse

It’s rare. These pockets of time in between always having something to do and somewhere to be. It is 10 minutes, 20 at the most and i have forgotten how to just….be. To stop looking at my phone for emails that aren’t really to me. To stop flipping through the endless stream on FB, insta, pinterest….

So, in one of those rare moments today, I forced myself to sit, isolated, for those 15 minutes. I listened. I heard water rushing down from a fountain. I heard snippets of people mid conversation as they walked by. A dog barking,  the rumble of engines from a nearby street.

download (1)It is beautiful there in my own silence and I can’t believe I had forgotten this place where i used to visit all the time. Not a physical place….but a place in my mind where I could exist and daydream and let myself write. Those are my best moments as a writer. Not forced, but inspired.

It’s been a long time since I really felt like a writer and I miss it like an old friend who I could share all my deepest, darkest secrets with who drifted away because I just didn’t keep in touch. I own that. It’s like losing your singing voice. A few weeks ago at church, we sang a hymn that I actually knew (which seems to rare as all the songs are different!) and I was feeling extra confident and trying my best to sing. But my range isn’t where it used to be, I’m out of practice. And that’s how it feels with writing, like I’m out of practice.

I know I romanticize my writing experience in college. I was in creative writing courses and I was constantly in writing mode. Those moments of sunshine out in the quad and having my notepad handy to capture any creative thought feels so far away. I often want to dig through all those old boxes of writing and re-read those stories and poems, the creative nonfiction I wrote because I remember it being so good. And yet, I don’t – because I don’t want to read it and realize it was…just okay.

Maybe I need a new muse. Maybe I need to start getting to the point faster. Maybe I just need to write whether it turns out great or not and be okay with that.

be-writingThat’s a start.

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Remembering the “Me” in Mother

I am not sure what the magic number is, but I was just far enough away from vivid memories of a newborn and those daily struggles as a new mother to be open to the possibility of trying for baby #2. I’d see others having babies and it made me miss those tiny fingers and toes. I wanted to smell that new baby smell and relive that bond that only a mom and baby can experience.

We were fortunate to get pregnant again within a reasonable time frame…and here I am, 29 weeks later feeling a bit terrified of this tiny life growing inside me. Don’t get me wrong, I am so excited to meet our baby girl in May. It is what I wanted. But as the final trimester is now in play…things are starting to feel a lot more real. Unlike my first pregnancy where I spent my time imagining what was in store for me – now, I don’t have to imagine. I know. I think that is why I am pretty much terrified of what’s next. I think back to the first few months with Daxton and I remember it was hard. It was beautiful and perfect and the hardest thing I’ve ever done. How in the world will I survive that same experience on top of having a 3 year old?

I have a lot of thoughts swirling around in my head about my ability to be the type of mom I want to be to both my kids. I think about being the type of wife I want to be when I have 2 kids. And I think about the type of daughter, sister, aunt and friend I want to be when my life takes this new twist in just a few months. Man, it feels overwhelming.

Then I reflect for a moment. I take a few deep breaths and I realize I forgot to think about someone pretty important in all this thinking. Me. How will I be good and kind to myself when I have 2 kids? I forgot to ask myself this really important question in the midst of preparing for meeting my first child. And I’ve spent the last 3 years not figuring it out totally, and that makes me sad. It makes my husband sad.

So i’m going to try to be mindful this time. I’m going to be nicer to myself. I’m going to be more willing to ask for help and believe it’s not a sign of weakness on my side. I’m not going to torture myself if breastfeeding doesn’t work out like I want it to. I am going to make time for myself to do things I enjoy and love – like seeing my friends and making plans even if it’s a little inconvenient or hard to get ready for with 2 kids. I’m going to rely on my husband to take care of things when I can’t and trust that someone else can be in charge of washing the bottles correctly or pairing the tiny socks and finding the right drawers to put away the laundry correctly.

3f4ffe4ac23adcc5f25a322df290998dI realize the hardest part of being a mom for me is tangled up in my need to love my family fiercely and my inability to extend that same type of love and compassion to myself. And that makes everything harder. Self created hardship, I know.  So my goal is to keep loving fiercely and add myself to the list of people I want to be thoughtful of during this next season of my life.

Being a mom is about being willing to put someone else before your own needs. I don’t expect anything different this time around, I know my life, my hopes, my dreams will all be wrapped around a tiny little finger.  I know my daughter will be the next love of my life and my heart may burst. But I must make more room, my heart has to grow even bigger this time – because I have to find room for me again despite how hard it will be.

Sometimes we forget that there is a “me” in mother. Maybe it’s just coincidence, but I choose to believe it is because we need that reminder. Because I’m not “the best me” when I’m not extending the same kindess and love to myself that I am offering everyone else. To be a better mother (and all of those other things I want to do be good at), I’m not overlooking me this time.

I have to believe my kids will thank me one day. My kids will always come first, I think that is in the DNA of being a mother…but I have decided I deserve a place on the list, too. This new chapter of my life is going to be really hard. I’m going to be really tired. But it will be full of love, and it’s not just going to be about loving my children but remembering to love me, too.

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Beyond the Thank You

First off, I have to admit that finding time and creative energy to blog weekly has been a challenge for me. I guess that is part of the intention though, to push myself. So here I am…week 3. Thank you to those who have reached out to tell me you are glad I’m blogging again…blogging can sometimes feel like talking to an empty room. So, thank you for making me feel heard. It makes a big difference to me!

Okay, that actually segways into my intended topic nicely today. On with it, as they say…

When is the last time you thanked someone? Not just a quick, “Hey, thanks!” or the generic thank you note we end up writing after we recieve gifts (unless you are the rare amazing gift thank you card writer, I know maybe 1 person in this category!).  I’m talking about a real sincere and specific thank you.

It’s been awhile for me too, so don’t feel bad if this has you thinking and coming up short.

Let me back up for a minute. I had the fun experience this past week to go back in time to my last job and participate as an employer at a student career fair alongside a few of my colleagues. It felt strange to be on the “other side” – but I fell into step with my old colleagues right away, laughing and joking and catching up with things happening. They are family like that – you don’t have to talk everyday to feel connected.

Anyway, after a long day of standing and chatting up students and alumni about my company, I was so ready to sit down (p.s. cute shoes + pregnancy isn’t a match)! As I was finishing up my meal, a young lady with a familiar face tapped me on the shoulder.

“Dre? I’m not sure you’d remember me, but I’m (insert name here) and I was one of your ACAD babies.” (read: she took a freshman 101 course that I taught).

Me: “Oh wow! Your face was familiar but I wasn’t sure since you were here as an employer how I might know you! How are you?”

Her: “I’m great! Actually, that is why I wanted to come and talk to you. I never had a chance to thank you. The whole reason I’m here today recruiting for my company is because of you.”

She went on to tell me that as a result of her being in my freshman 101 course, she came to see me later in her college life to help with a resume. Then I helped her with a resume to get an internship. The internship turned into a full time job where she is happily employed now that she has graduated.

Of course, all of this was so great to hear. There is nothing that makes a career development professional more pleased than to hear  someone is happily pursuing a career they love because you helped in some way. But during her story she said something that really stood out to me:

“I figured that you might not always get to hear the success stories of the people you help, and I’m so appreciative of the time you spent with me. It really helped me get to where I am today. Thank you.”

She’s right. It’s so rare in life to get the end of any story. We play a minor role in a lot of peoples lives, and often we are in a different place by the time the story of that person plays out. We don’t know the impact we have on someone through our actions, our words, our referrals, by just offering a friendly smile on a crap day.

But that’s why it’s so important we take this whole “thank you” thing more seriously. My heart grew about 3 sizes when she shared her success with me. It made me feel so good that I had a positive impact on someones career, even if it was just helping her get on track with a resume and internship.

downloadHow hard would it be for us all to take time to reach out to someone who made a difference in our life? Did you ever tell someone  what they said made a difference? Maybe it wasn’t a life altering thing, but maybe someone’s well timed joke or delivery of baked goods was just what you needed when you felt like giving up.

I am going to take time to be more sincere with my thank you’s. I won’t overlook the power of good manners, but I don’t want to miss the opportunity to sincerely appreciate someone when they have made a difference in my day, and even more so – if they’ve made a difference in my life.

I challenge you to do the same.

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