#OhThePlacesHughWillGo

I was really surprised when I found out that my mom wasn’t perfect. I kind of always thought she was, and I don’t think I realized that until I turned eighteen. My mom taught me a lot of things and one the best lessons I learned with her was how wonderful it is to go on walks. It was a subtle lesson, one that I didn’t recognize until this summer.

Growing up, I had an aversion to any form of exercise, it made me feel really uncomfortable and I never enjoyed it. My perspective started changing when my mom started to get into running. It  started around the time that I was 13. She would go on a run every day, and a longer one on Saturdays. After a few months of this, she would invite me to go on a weekly Saturday hike. We would hike all around our town, usually between 5-7 miles. I loved that time with my mom, and with nature. We weren’t 100% consistent but every time we went on a hike, I would feel so much love and joy.

Now that I know how important it is to have a healthy relationship with my body, I am hoping that Ethan and I can show this to Hugh by our example. We go on lots of walks and hikes, it’s one of my favorite ways to connect with Ethan (our love language is “Quality Time” and walking is one way we communicate that). My belief in the benefits of walking increased when I was pregnant and I was introduced to this piece, called The Hunting and Gathering Mama.

A while ago, I made a #OhThePlacesHughWillGo as a way to document our adventures. I don’t always take a picture of our hikes, but it’s a fun way to memorialize them.

I am grateful that my mom observed my behavior and needs and found a simple way to help me learn. This simple lesson, and so many others, has made my life so much better. Thanks Mom.

Two Years Old

The nice thing about the name Hugh is that when you sing the “Happy Birthday” song, it rhymes perfectly. Hugh is officially two years old. It’s a little crazy to me that I have a two year old, but it will probably start to sink in the week before he turns three.

A few days before Hugh’s birthday, someone generously gave us tickets to LegoLand. While I was excited, I was also a little nervous, because we’ve been potty training Hugh for the past couple of weeks, and he’s been doing really well. I didn’t want to have him wear diapers all day, so we had him stay in his underwear and just planned to have him sit on the toilet every hour or so. Well, he didn’t have an accident at all during our trip there, which was awesome. When we pulled into the parking lot and started to get everything out, we realized we had left Hugh’s backpack at home! We totally had a moment of panic as we imagined all of his extra clothing at home and not with us. Luckily, Ethan’s sister is amazing, and was able to drive it to us.

Ethan and I hadn’t been to LegoLand in over ten years, so it was fun to see the changes. There were a lot of things for Hugh to do and he had a lot of fun. He really liked Miniland USA, which is a bunch of tiny cities made out of Legos; this really surprised me, but there were a lot of cars and boats, so that probably had a lot to do with it. It was fun to see him playing around with everything, and we did buy him a Lego set (but from Target).  It was a really good day.

There were a lot of really cool variegated plants there as well, I need to find the names of them.

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Harvesting Oranges

We’ve been living in California since May, and it’s been wonderful and challenging at the same time. My in-laws have been very generous and have let us live with them.

Ethan got a really wonderful job, one that will have us living in this area for the next couple years, but it’s taking some time to get used to have him gone for so long! When he was in college, he would work a twenty hour week (or less) and his classes would have the hours spread around. Now, not seeing him for eight hours has been a really difficult obstacle to overcome for me. (I acknowledge how spoiled I have been for the past three years).

Hugh and I have been trying to find different activities to do, as a way to mix things up. (If you have any suggestions for simple activities for two year olds, hit me up.) Luckily, Gram and Grandad have a wonderful property that has lots of things to do, like picking oranges. We picked some older ones, so I could dehydrate and then make into garlands. I love the smell of oranges.

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A Little Eucalyptus Leaf

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*Content Alert: miscarriage*

Dear Baby,

I found out about you on Wednesday and you were gone by Tuesday.

Most of the time in between, I spent dreaming of our future. Carrying you in my womb, having dad check what position you were in, listening to your heart tones with the stethoscope, working together during your birth (would your brother attend your birth or no?), would you have brown hair or blonde? Would you laugh at Hugh and the silly faces he makes? I imagined nursing you, fresh from birth, with some vernix on, watching you grow and learning about your personality.

And then you started leaving me. I should have held back, not imagined all those moments. I should have stayed silent and not held my belly with anticipation.

I first realized you were leaving very early Sunday morning, I got up to pee and noticed some blood on the white bedsheets. I was a little nervous, but, maybe it was implantation bleeding or something. I went back to sleep.

Throughout the morning, I did regular things: ate breakfast, showered, got Hugh dressed, went to church. At church, I went to the bathroom again, and noticed some mucus mixed with blood and felt more alarmed. I texted a few friends who I knew had bleeding early on in their pregnancies, asking for their experience. It felt nice to get their advice.

We came home from church, and I made snacks for choir. I listened to them sing and dad commenting on their vocals, while I started to feel the cramping intensify. The choir members left and I sat on the couch, feeling my cramps turn to contractions. I finally truly realized that these weren’t signals you were staying, but that you were leaving. The contractions kept coming, and I really felt like I was in labor. I was giving birth to you, but you are so small, I couldn’t even find you in the blood loss. Dad is taking really good care of me, I want you to know.

I loved having you here. I don’t know why you left, but I am trying not to blame myself. I water the plants and admire them when I feel sad. I try to remember that I am not alone in this experience, and to be grateful for the time I did have with you. I found a eucalyptus leaf that fell from Gram’s tree by the pond, it’s the size you probably were. So tiny.

Thank you for letting me be your home. I loved the time I got to be with you.

*I wrote this letter more than a month ago. Some days are still really rough, but I am trying to be grateful for what I did have. I bled and felt physically weak for a little more than a week afterward. It was hard calling the midwives I interviewed, but they were understanding. Ethan’s parents were able to watch Hugh for the first couple of days, for which I am so grateful. Ethan took me for Thai curry one night, and I am so glad he did.

The last few weeks I have been less resentful toward pregnant women, and for that I am so grateful. I . . . wish this was an easier experience. It takes my breath away, thinking about how much harder it is than I thought it would be (before this happened to me).

I told a friend what happened and she said she got some advice for when things like this happen: “to feel happy when you feel like feeling happy and to feel sad when you feel like feeling sad.” So, maybe you or someone you know is going through this, maybe that thought will help you like it has helped me.

The Glasses Mothers Wear | Ashley’s Story

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Ashley is one of the most authentic people I know.  Her story reminds me of a lesson I learned while reading Eleanor’s Story, an autobiographical book about a girl growing up in Germany during WWII. Eleanor’s experiences were filled with darkness and the only thing that helped her get by was the little moments: a bird singing, or her mother picking flowers and putting them in a vase. I think Ashley’s story is really valuable (and it’s almost like she’s saying my words and feelings). I really believe that little bright moments make a vast difference. 

I always anticipated becoming a mom. Not because I had any real experience with babies or kids, but I just felt like it was something worth doing with my life. After being married for roughly ten months, my husband and I decided that we were ready for a baby. I really felt like our relationship was in a good spot and a baby fit perfectly into our plans.

My pregnancy was normal and had the typical problems. I definitely had back pains and constant heartburn and sleeping at night was impossible, but really I had a good pregnancy without any real difficulties. I remember thinking at about seven months that I was okay being pregnant because I sure wasn’t ready to go through labor. By nine months pregnant, I was more than ready to have the baby come out. Again my labor was fairly straightforward. I was in pain and exhausted then I got my epidural and didn’t feel a thing after that.

Our daughter entered the world at 1:09pm. To me, this was my first moment of motherhood. Not when I saw my baby but when she cried for the first time. Nothing was more beautiful in that moment then her cry. My first thought was, it was all worth it. All the pain, sleepless nights, stress, planning, worrying, every one of those hardships were worth it to bring this baby here to us. My husband and I both cried for the first twenty minutes of her life just over come with joy that she was here.

Now that my daughter is now approaching two, motherhood means something completely different than that precious moment when she was first born. Motherhood is hard. It is demanding. It is sacrificing. It is humbling. I really struggled adjusting to being a mom. I remember the fist six weeks of being home as some kind of emotional nightmare. I did not expect to look pregnant when coming home (people told me to but I was not ready for the reality of what my body would look like). My husband and I decided I would stay at home and raise our daughter. I went from teaching 250 kids in school to spending my days with my non-talking daughter.

My husband went back to school and his part time job. I felt isolated and alone as all these changes were occurring in our lives. I also felt a lot of pressure to breast feed because that is what is best for the baby but no one talked about what would be best for me. She ate every two hours, night and day, for the first seven months of her life and refused a bottle and a binky. My milk was a constant struggle for me and I almost lost it three times in the first five months of breast-feeding. Something that was supposed to bring a special bond with my daughter made me feel limited and stressed.

I feel like motherhood is divided into two camps; those who see it through rose-colored glasses and are always promoting how wonderful motherhood is and those who constantly talk about the difficulties and trials of motherhood. In reality motherhood is a mixture of both. It took me a few months to realize that motherhood is not all rose-colored glasses. It is hard. You have to learn to put your child before your own needs on every level. Your child depends on you for life. I think moms try to clue you in with little hints of sleep now or this worked for me but nothing can prepare you for becoming a mom. It is hard and it is okay to feel that way. It is okay to be frustrated and be sick of changing diapers. I realized that cuddling my daughter all day everyday isn’t all that great. That sounds so bad, but sometimes I really wanted to take a shower or to go to the store and not stress about her needing to feed in the middle of the store.

I felt liberated realizing that I could love my daughter while still struggling with being a mom.

You can’t discredit the rose-colored glass-wearing moms though. There are moments when being a mom is amazing. It will blow you out of the water. Hearing my daughter cry for the first time was amazing. It made pregnancy worth it. The first time she really laughed, full belly laugh (at her dad’s batman voice), it made those first six weeks worth it. The first time she cried “Mommy” in the night, it made all those sleepless nights worth it.

Motherhood is about small moments that make all the hard stuff worth it. It sometimes is tedious and something validating doesn’t happen everyday, but when those moments come, it is all worth it. My experience is not different or unique from a lot of women, and in a lot of ways my experience has been typical, but I felt like I had to be happy about it all the time. I felt like being realistic about what I was feeling or going through made me a bad mom or just bad at being a mom. It took a lot of time by myself while feeling like I had no one to talk to about this to realize that most moms probably struggle at one point with being mom.

I think I fall into a third camp of moms who see both sides of motherhood, the rose-colored glasses and the trials of motherhood, but they don’t know how to convey the hardships without undermining the positives. Being a mom is the hardest thing I have ever done but to this day, I still feel like it is worth doing with my life and one of the most rewarding jobs out there!

Positive Social Media

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One of the things that has really helped me throughout my pregnancy, postpartum, and breastfeeding journeys has been social media accounts. The following accounts have helped me feel less isolated and helped me remember that what I was feeling… well, I wasn’t alone. (P.S. Like the cute little watermelon thief hand? Ha).

Here are some of my favorite accounts:

+CONCEIVING AND PREGNANCY SUPPORT

Fertile Alchemy

Oh Baby Nutrition

 

+BIRTH

Pomegranate and Seeds 

bEARTH (my midwife friend, Gloria)

Isabell Steinert

Birth Becomes Her

 

+BREASTFEEDING

Breastfeeding Art

 

+PARENTING / HONEST MOTHERHOOD

Happy Babies Parents Education

Soul Work for Moms

 

Honest Honey Bee (in case you haven’t checked my account out, ha.)

TRIBE de MAMA

MOTHERHOOD MANTRAS

 

+POSTPARTUM

Exposing the Silence Project

The Fourth Trimester

Take Back Postpartum

 

I would love to hear about your favorite social media accounts! Share their handles in the comment section. ❤

Arms

IMG_5398 copyI had just turned sixteen when my mom made a comment about not being a huge fan of her arms. I looked at my arms, realized that they looked the same, and decided to hide them. Even though it was summertime, I wore dark jackets and long sleeves to hide my arms. I didn’t want anyone to see them.

Years later, my arms still haven’t really seen the light of day. They are big, they jiggle a lot, and have stretch marks all over them. When I’ve worn short sleeves, I feel super self conscious and imagine everyone looking at me and thinking, “Wow. Look at her big arms.”

I was still thinking along this line until some experiences taught me a different way to think about them. One experience was when I was sitting in a body image support group with an awesome lady as the leader, Tara Tulley. I described, with anger and tears, my hate for my body, most especially my arms. She just listened and then gently said at the end, “You want to be a midwife, right? What do midwives need their arms for? What are your arms for?”

I sat back and thought. I thought about what I use my arms for. I thought about it the whole ride home, while washing the dishes, cooking dinner, rocking my baby to sleep, rubbing Ethan’s back, and while giving a spontaneous hug to a friend.

My mind thought, “hey, maybe I do need my arms for things. And maybe, maybe it doesn’t matter so much what they look like.

Time passed, and after this initial thought, I didn’t think too much of it. I sort of forgot and still disliked my arms. I didn’t start thinking about them until this week.

Since we have been living with my in-laws for the past month, I’ve been doing yard work – sweeping, picking up horse manure, weeding, and creating a compost pile. I’ve been using my arms. I have noticed my arms getting stronger and I really enjoy using them. I am starting to feel pride in my arms.

While I work, I think. I think about the sexualization of bodies and what we can do as a society, as parents, as individuals with bodies. And then I remember what Tara said. I start to connect the two. One part of me thinks that the only purpose of my body is for looks – that’s the part that hates my arms. The other part recognizes that my body is a do-er  – a tool for me to use, to create, to uplift, to support. I need to figure out a way to make the second part become more dominant.

What doesn’t matter is what other people think about what I look like, or what I think other people think about what I look like. What matters right now, is what I think and feel about my beautiful and useful body.

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