Dear Instagram Mom

Sometimes I feel like my blog is misstitled. Like I feel almost as though it should be something birth control oriented because I talk about miscarriage and the hardships of parenthood, not the rosy aspects of raising kids. Seriously though, children are an absolute joy and my life would be so incomplete without them, but I would be dishonest if I told you they don’t drive me batshit crazy sometimes (sorry for my “french” mom…).

Today, for example. I have coffee every Friday with two women who are phenomenal. We get together over the roar of our kids playing/crying/nursing, and we intentionally talk about real things. One lesson you must learn as a mom, you don’t have time to shoot the breeze. You get to it, or get off the pot. I’ve always hated small talk, so this aspect of motherhood is one I fully embrace and quite enjoy.

So today my friend and I were discussing life, as per usual. And it came into my head that the woman we were lamenting about was the typical “Instagram mom.” You know who I mean. The one who Pinterests crafts and documents it. Who has a rocking body, despite an infinite amount of children/breastfeeding, and goes on weekly dates with her husband in which they are never tired, or just wanting to sit on the couch and sleep. She finds joy in every mother-f-ing second spent with her kids. She’s a DIY queen, and her home is always clean and in the best Joanna Gaines state.

Dear Instagram mom, do you exist for real? Dear Instagram mom who puts on the front– WHY?!? You are only causing SO MUCH STRESS for the rest of your peers. I’ve got wrinkles and stretch marks from my babies. Yeah, I try to work out once in a while, but most of the time I have to pick something that can be easily interrupted because I’ve got a four year old and one year old crawling all over me. For goodness sakes, I went to poop today and decided to close the door (God forbid) and opened it to find my four year old crying because he couldn’t find me. Seriously?

But my real questions are, when, dear IG mom, do you find time to shop/wear/keep clean the clothes that you have that are not only trendy but functional? What does your husband do that you can afford a $95 baby carseat cover that doubles as a nursing cover that the rest of us schmucks have to use a regular blanket for? How did you “just wake up like that” not covered in spit up or yogurt, or dried milk? How did you get your hair done just so? Where do you find your infinite drive and energy? And how are you and your husband so bright-eyed looking in your weekly date night pictures? How do you get a weekly date night? How are you not just wilting on the couch? WTF?!? Dear IG mom, please do not keep your secrets from the rest of us. Share them. Write them down and publish them for the world to read. I would gladly pay money to find out the secrets of your ways. Also, if this is just a front for your social media audience, I beg you, please stop it.

Sincerely,

Regular mom.

 

You live how far from home?!?

Before I write this out, let me address the big issue: Kyle and I CHOSE this. We could have easily (and still could) lived closely to our families. But we decided not to. Why? Because, “the mountains were calling and we must go.” But for real. The beauty of the Pacific Northwest has few rivals. We were young, Judah was young, and so we went. We love life here, but it is hard. Why? Because we have children under the age of five and we are what I like to call a “single-parent family.”

I define this term as a family unit that is alone. One without close by aunts, uncles, and grandparents. “Close” meaning within a day’s drive with kids, so less than 10 hours away. If you can raise a hand to that, solidarity.

Let’s review some pros and cons of this decision.

Pros:

  • We get our kids all to ourselves during their baby years.
  • There is one constant enforcement all the time. There is no, “well at Aunt so-in-so’s or at grandma’s we…” It’s just here. It’s our rules or the highway, and in these formative years, that ‘s pretty irreplaceable.
  • We do what we want when we want. There are no obligations, ever.
  • We have chosen specific people to be our family. Family is assigned, you cannot choose it, but since our move, we have been able to fill in with people who we love. This is a privilege that is known to few.
  • Our marriage goes through it all together and because of this, we are strong. I love my husband with a fierceness I have never known before. He is our family’s rock. He is my rock. He provides. He aides me. There is no “we’re at the grandparent’s for the day so Imma sleep on the couch.” He makes memories with our kids. He helps me out. He is involved. I think the world of him, and so do our kids. There is nothing we could do without him.

Cons:

  • There is no “can you take my kids for an hour so I can______?” You know what we get? Deal with it. Bedtime is at 7:30, you better last until then.
  • Dates are few and far between. We get one this coming Friday thanks to some friends, but the last time we got one was over a month ago when those same friends offered to take our babies for a few hours.
  • When we are at our wit’s end, we either pass the kids along to our spouse to single parent, driving them to their wit’s end, or we push through.
  • Neither of us gets things done after the kids are in bed. Because we don’t get dates, this is our sacred “together” time. I refuse to clean, do laundry, work on anything other than time with my husband during the few hours we have after our kids are asleep.
  • My kids have a minimal relationship with their extended family. Grandparent’s day at school is my worst nightmare. We have friends that have willingly filled in, but I still remember my own grandparent’s day as a 29, almost 30 year old woman. It’s pretty traumatic. PTL this year’s was cancelled due to snow.
  • I haven’t met my niece and she’s 2. Lennon hasn’t met her aunt and uncle and cousins and she’s almost 1 1/2. This alone makes me cry. I missed out on holding my newborn niece because we live over 50 hours apart. I’ve always dreamed of being  the aunt to take my nieces out for the day, but I can’t. That’s not in my cards. I have one who is a teenager now, and I would die to go to the movies and talk boys and clothes and writing with her, but I can’t. I love each of them so much, but they will never really know, because I am not there to cultivate that bond with them.
  • We can’t have our nieces and nephews over to play. We can’t be there when they play basketball games, accomplish something academically, or are dedicated at church.
  • Vice versa. We dedicated Lennon at church last year, and there were no blood family members present.
  • We can’t share happy things, like the purchase of our first home, with our siblings.
  • Visits are expensive. We can’t go on vacations together as a family of four because we prioritize visiting our extended families who are far away. Thankfully, where we live is magical and allows for awesome memories on its own, but still–we do have a drastically long rainy season where we are stuck indoors.
  • We sacrifice sleep…a lot. Lennon still won’t sleep through the night and is not a good napper. Kyle and I are both introverts and thrive on occasional alone time. I typically need three cups of coffee a day to feel normal. Kyle has sacrificed sleep to gain alone time to refuel. This is what we do.
  • We don’t get to prioritize our marriage. Discussions and tension has to wait until our kids are tended to because we are all we have. Yes, it does make us closer, but also it does make for some extended trying times.
  • It’s lonely.

Yes, the pros are few and the con’s are a lot. But at the same time, this is where our family thrives, believe it or not. This season of difficulty in parenting is brief, and it is our hope that because of this season, our family unit is solid .

My parents raised my sister and I away from family. We were okay. My mom and dad always encouraged my sister and I to go where we were happiest, where God led us. They trusted us, they went before us in this type of season, and it was alright. It is because of their example that I know everything will be okay. It is because of this that I know no matter the distance, the bond I have with them is unbreakable.

So, parents out there who complain after a hard day or difficult week, remember, you could live 38 hours away from your nearest relative. Think of those who do. Think of those who don’t have the luxury of a monthly or weekly date night. Think of us who don’t get to go grocery shopping alone. Think of others who crave a hug from their mom’s from time to time, but just can’t have it. Yes, we chose it. Yes, ultimately we love it, but no, it doesn’t make it easy.

**Editor’s note** I am not asking for help. Again, we have chosen this. I’m simply asking you to review your perspective. We wouldn’t trade our position, I’m simply wanting to be heard that some days are hard and also to let you know, I’m not the mom friend to talk to about not having breaks.

Your Hair is Everywhere, Screaming…help!

Anyone else’s 14 year old self get my Dashboard Confessional play on title?!? Come on you guys, who was not into Dashboard at that age? My 7th and 8th grade self would have died and gone to heaven if even one boy would have paid me attention. I was the “friend girl” through and through. I digress…

Anyway, let’s talk postpartum hair. I mean, for the mother-f-ing love! First, you lose just a TON of it. Just tons. It feels like every time you shower or brush it out, you’re going to go bald. You can’t do anything with it because it’s so thin, and it is EVERYWHERE and not in that Dashboard Confessional kind of way.

Then…the regrowth happens. And it’s not cute. It’s just not. It sticks out, straight up, like bangs you didn’t ask for. Lord knows you need a haircut, but it’s not going to happen anytime soon because what are you supposed to do with these little tiny baby hairs that are just not endearing? And, whenever you wear it up in a messy bun, it’s just weird looking. Like, half your hair is an inch long and hanging down, but not in an “I have really cute trendy bangs” kind of way. It’s more of a, “Did your toddler cut your hair?” kind of way.

Also, don’t get me started on the grays. Between the lack of sleep your body is now experiencing plus that added stress of an additional life, they just pop up like wildfire. This is yet another thing no one told me about before having a baby. It would have been nice to know.

So, first time moms who stumble upon my lowly blog, you’re welcome. You’re about to embark on a year plus of serious hair weirdness. May I recommend you increase your supply of bobby pins, hairspray, and headbands. Also, embrace the gray hair until  you can get your boobs free enough of that baby to go and have a proper hair cut and color. Just for some realistic ideas of that…I haven’t had mine done in over a  year.

Insert all the emojis.

 

Dear Bethany,

It’s okay.

It’s okay that your dishes from four days ago are still in the sink.  The ones in the dishwasher are clean, and we all know you’ll get to them eventually. You have not one, but two dirty crockpots? No problem. At least you used them at some point.

It’s totally fine that you haven’t dusted in a while. Little children are still running in and out of your house, so even if you did, no one would notice anyway. Don’t worry about the fact that you haven’t done you or your husband’s laundry in so long that he had to wear old underwear to work. He rallies for you and is proud that at least the kids have clean clothes.

And speaking of your awesome husband, it’s no big deal that you haven’t shaved your legs in a significantly long time. He’s also cool with it that you didn’t get the opportunity to shower today because your schedule and children were both slightly crazy. He’s watched you birth babies, and still finds you sexy. Honestly, there’s not really too much beyond that which will make you physically unattractive to him.

It’s not the end of the world that your child, after over a year of efforts, still will not always poop when he has to. This too, shall pass. Don’t stress over the amount of times you have to say, “stop making fart sounds,” “no, we are not talking about poop right now,” or “for the love, put your shoes on!”

You had canned soup for dinner last night? No big deal. A little processed crap never hurt anybody. At least you saved $20 and opted out on going through the McDonald’s drive through for the 85th time this year.

Don’t feel bad that you forgot to pack diapers for your daughter today when you dropped her off in the nursery and she ended up needing a diaper change and had to be put in a diaper much to small for all that junk inside that trunk. She survived, and the nursery workers have extra diapers just for moms like you.

You’re doing great. You’ve got this. Mom power and all that hoopla to you. Because you know what? Sometimes the stars align, your baby takes a long nap, your oldest is actually quiet during “quiet time,” and you get to clean your kitchen and listen to Kaleo at the same time. And, after that the heavens open and it’s 65 and sunny on an Oregon November day and you can get outside with your littles and rake the entire backyard with a 20 pound baby on your back. And despite being hit with a rake over a dozen times by a certain four year old who is very slowly learning spacial awareness, you got the entire yard raked and your kids got some precious vitamin D. Then, your babies entertain one another long enough for you to punch out this letter to yourself.

Don’t worry, mama. If you don’t get it done today, it will be waiting tomorrow, or the next day, or even the day after that.

You are capable.

Sincerely,

Yourself.

 

Another Goodbye.

Early in the morning on January 6, Kyle and I rejoiced together–we were going to have another baby. We excitedly told our son, Judah that he was going to be a big brother. We had wanted our kids to be fairly close in age, and were elated to be expanding our family.

Being new to the area, I had no idea what doctors were the best, but some friends filled me in, and we were able to find a great one. We scheduled our first appointment to meet her and begin the journey to having another child.

Because this wasn’t my first pregnancy, I began to show pretty quickly. Here I am one evening before bed, approximately seven weeks along. It was exciting to me to be looking pregnant so soon, I always loved the “cute” pregnant time, when you have those small baby bumps, regular sized ankles, and a normal amount of energy.

photo-2

Kyle and I Skyped with our parents, who were all overjoyed with the news of adding another grandchild to the family. A bit later, we told our siblings and a select few friends. We began planning out how we’d configure our living space for another little one, and I dug out all my old maternity clothes, and began taking inventory of new purchases I’d need to make to keep myself comfortable in the upcoming summer months with a big belly in tow.

A few weeks passed, and we were scheduled for an ultrasound to pinpoint a more accurate due date. On February 4, one month after finding out our exciting news, we woke up early and excited. We never had an early ultrasound with Judah, so this was a new experience for both Kyle and I, and we were so excited to see our little babe. I remember going into the doctor’s office and seeing a fellow patient come out of the door to the waiting room looking at pictures of her ultrasound, a smile spread across her face. She was looking at some of her baby’s first precious photos. This made my excitement grow ten-fold.

Shortly after observing this woman, Kyle and I were called back to the ultrasound room. I got ready, and my doctor came in, time to see our baby! She spread that warm jelly around my belly, and immediately, we saw our little babe. There it was! So small, but so defined. We could see it’s little nose, and the beginnings of what would be hands and feet. As soon as I saw it, my heart was overflowing with love. It was real. We were a family of four now. Judah was a big brother, and we were parents of two. I couldn’t wait to meet my child.

The doctor adjusted the wand once, and asked me if I had been experiencing any abnormalities. When I said no, she smiled at me. Then she let me know she was going to refocus the picture and walk us through what was on the screen. First, she said, “Here is the pregnancy.”

I beamed. That was my baby! Here it is! But I should have known. It was foreshadowing. She didn’t call it a baby. She called it, “the pregnancy.”

The smile that was spread across my face was quickly swiped away with the next five words the doctor spoke. Five words that changed me. Five words that changed Kyle.

“Unfortunately, there is no heartbeat.”

Unfortunately. Unfortunately. That word echoes over and over in my head on a daily basis. Unfortunately.

Immediately I began to weep. I could see my baby, my precious baby, but it was gone. Taken from us in an instant. Gone before I could ever hold him or her. Gone before we could meet it. Gone before we even knew if it was a boy or girl. Gone before Judah was able to play with him or her. Gone before we could say happy birthday. Gone before we could whisper, “I love you.”

Gone.

The rest of the appointment was a blur. I remember asking her how far along the baby was and she told me 8 weeks. After that, all I kept hearing was, “unfortunately” over and over again. That, and feeling the strongest desire to run so fast to the car and just sob uncontrollably. Somehow, we made it through the rest of the appointment, and thankfully, no one was in the waiting room when we left. I don’t know if I could have bared to see a happily expecting mother in that moment.  (*Side note, I’m okay with seeing expecting mothers now. In fact, it still makes me smile just as much as it did before.*)

Kyle and I cried together in the car, and I wept for the rest of the way home. The worst part to me was that my baby was alone. I couldn’t hold my child during their final moments. I couldn’t kiss my baby and soothe any discomfort it might have felt. I was helpless. Sure, my baby was with me, but I couldn’t mother him or her the way I wanted to–the way I would have, had I been able. I felt so devastated that its life and final moments were spent alone.

Kyle was so strong, has been so strong for me. He’s let me cry, talked with me, weighed our next steps, and took care of Judah when I couldn’t.

In the midst of our heartache, we have been surrounded by so much support. From new friends who barely know us, to old ones who call or send texts from afar just to check in. We have felt so much prayer from both family and friends, and our healing has begun because of it.

During our days of hardest grief, we were battling with what steps to take next. Frankly, insurance blows. It’s terrible, and I was so angry that we had to navigate over-priced deductibles and fees when we should have solely been focusing on grieving and celebrating the life of this little child. Luckily, God answered our prayers and has provided for us in ways we never expected.

This weekend, Kyle and I will be saying good-bye to the earthly parts of our baby. We know our child’s soul is already dancing in Heaven, and we cannot wait to be reunited someday.

Sweet baby, it was such an honor, such a privilege to carry you for the time I was able. I hope with all my heart that you know how loved you are. That you know how highly anticipated your arrival was. That you understand the joy you brought to our lives. And, so you don’t go without hearing it, happy birthday. I love you.