dear baby

words wrangled by a first time mama

The Lean and spin. And other words of advice.

There are things you don’t really understand until you become a mother. For me, it was how much I would relish what I now call the lean and spin.

A few weeks ago our pastor shared about how after he’s been away from his kids for a while, coming back home his kids always run to his open arms and he picks them up and spins through the hug. He called it the spin.  As a new parent, my 18 month old daughter loves the spin. As if out of no where, she comes barreling toward me from the other side of the room, tiny arms spread wide, just waiting for the spin. It doesn’t matter if she’s hugged me 1,000 times that day. Each and every hug literally brings her immense joy from the top of her head, to her tiny piggy toes.

What I live for though, is the lean. When I’m holding her and she leans her full body weight into mine. Or I reach down and kiss her and she leans her forehead into my lips for kiss. How she leans into my legs and begs me to pick her up. Her tiny hands opening and closing reaching for my cuddle.

Recently I was talking with some other moms about the things I’d tell myself if I could go back to my pre-pregnant self and tell her about motherhood. Or what I would tell any woman about to embark on this wild motherhood journey. Obviously my advice is limited. I’ve only been in this club for 18 months. But the other moms I was sharing with had some incredible advice and I wanted to share it here.

The first piece of advice I came up with connects back to the beginning of this post. The lean and spin. The snuggles, the leans and the spins- at the end of even your hardest days, they will be payment enough.

My second piece of advice was this, sometimes you’ll look down at this child you created and your heart will feel like it’s going to burst. Like a balloon with far too much air. But the thing about your mother’s heart is that it’s far stretchier than you could ever imagine. And it will grow far bigger with each passing moment.

So to any soon to be mother reading this, here are some words of wisdom from the great mothers- the ones who relish the lean, who live for the spin- the mothers who’s hearts stretch far and wide.

Everything is a phase so whether things are great or not going so well, it won’t last forever. – Jessica Stowell

That unicorn baby you always dreamed of won’t happen but you won’t love him any less. Enjoy the bed sharing and the breastfeeding. Take more nursing pictures. Buy a rocking chair. – Carmen Armstrong

Everything you thought mattered in life and you let upset you from other people’s opinions to crib sheets to how you looked one day doesn’t. What’s really going to be important is that precious baby that you created and keeping a smile on her face. Your little baby will put everything into perspective for you and you will finally the learn the real meaning of don’t sweat the small stuff. – Danielle Pietrantonio

Do not say you won’t or you will. Go into motherhood with an open mind. – Elaina Armata

Be the parent you want to be and not what others want you to be. – Shannon Pearson

Go with your gut and your intuition – as a mother you know best, regardless of what people say. If you think something’s wrong, keep pushing for answers because no one loves your baby like you do! Also, what you envisioned in your mind for your child, may not be reality. But, that’s okay because the child you have is soo much better than what you envisioned. Life will be different, yes, but you’ll learn as you go and in the end, you’ll be a pro – even if you feel lost and defeated at first. I never imagined having a child with special needs – completely different that what I envisioned for my child and our life, but life isn’t always what you think and you make the best of everything! – Caitlin Anne

Just because it isn’t easy and you don’t love it all the time doesn’t mean you weren’t meant to be a mom. Everyone struggles sometimes. Be kind to yourself. – Christa Mazich

 

I hope these words give you a glimpse of the many lessons you’ll learn in motherhood. It’s not an easy ride. But the pay off is indescribable. Especially every last one of those leans and spins.

Sharing is Caring- Why I hope Sophia will be a Share Bear!

Recently I read a blog post about sharing and it lead to some great discussions with other moms about teaching our children to share or to wait their turn. As if those two things are mutually exclusive.  I believe they’re not. I believe I can teach Sophia to share and to wait her turn. But if I ever did have to choose between them, I’d choose sharing and here’s why.

When I am eating a blueberry muffin (or really, anything,) Sophia will run over and ask for a bite. She’s not hungry. She doesn’t need it. She just wants to have a bite. Who knows why. And when I say “absolutely” and offer the muffin to her, the smile on her face and the way her entire being lights up is what convinces me that sharing is the better lesson than waiting her turn. And certainly a better lesson for her to learn than, the muffin is mine, not hers.

Possessions are things. Just things. And I hope to teach my daughter just that. They are things and they don’t matter as much as people. And certainly not as much as a person’s feelings. So I say share. Because then my daughter will learn that people matter. And bringing a smile to someone’s face by giving them something they ask for is an important piece to the puzzle of learning how to be happy.

I will also teach my daughter to work for what she wants, that no not everything is handed to her and that no not everyone else is going to share with her. I will teach her to wait her turn. I think I can teach her to share, and to wait her turn and to love others even when they don’t show love to her.

Because one part of happiness that many people never figure out is that making someone else happy makes you happy.  Our happiness, for better or worse, is largely proportionate to the happiness we bring to others. I firmly believe that sharing teaches this lesson.

I also hope I can teach Sophia that we aren’t sharing because we hope that others will also share with us. We share because it makes us happy to see others happy. And learning to share in order to make someone else’s day, to make someone else smile, and to bring happiness to other people is far more gratifying, fortifying and empowering than learning to wait your turn.

The rest.

Rest.  It used to be sleeping in on Saturdays, binge watching mindless tv from the couch, sitting by the pool sipping a daiquiri- before you Sophia, rest was a Sunday afternoon and a book with a cup of hot chocolate on the couch.  Now? Rest is so much more.

On Wednesdays we take you to swim lessons Sophia.  You love the water.  You dive into the water without fear and you kick your legs and paddle your arms.  14 months and you are a natural in the water.  It amazes me and humbles me to see you swimming and taking you to swim lessons is one of the highlights of my week.

On swim lessons night we like to eat dinner out- recently we had our swim night dinner at Chikfila.  We sat next to a mom having dinner with her daughter.  After they finished their meal the mom bought an ice cream for them to share.  She took one bite before the little girl looked up with big brown eyes and said “mama, I can have the rest?”  And the mom just smiled and said, “well of course baby.”  And she watched as her daughter, with excitement and glee clapped her hands and gobbled up the remaining few bites of ice cream.  As I watched this exchange I thought and this is what motherhood is. It’s the rest.

The constant “mama can I have the rest?” and “well of course baby.” Mama can I have the rest of your time? your sleep? your sanity?  Well of course baby, you can have it all.  In fact it was always all yours anyway.  From the beginning when you grew deep inside my belly, I gave it all to you.  My strength, my blood, my heartbeat, nourishment and warmth.  In  a million different ways before you ever had words to ask, your eyes pleaded mama, I can have the rest?  And I gave it all.  And I would do it again and again because watching you grow, smile and delight in every thing I give you is impossible to describe.  Your eyes gleaming when I pick up that toy a thousand times because you think it’s hilarious to throw it on the ground over and over again, your contented sigh as I give you my body to rest on as we rock our evenings away, oh baby, of course it’s all yours.

No one told me watching a tiny human take the rest of me would be the greatest joy I’ve ever known, but truthfully I probably wouldn’t have listened even if they did.  I wouldn’t have known what it feels like to watch your eyes light up as I give you the rest of my blueberry muffin, or your precious giggle as I give you the rest of my morning instead of giving it to sleeping in. Yes, baby.  You can have the rest, for all the rest of my days.

These Toddler Days

We call you tiny human.  Because somewhere in the last few months you went from our little nugget baby, to a bubbling, babbling toddler who must touch everything.  Every. Thing.  Your eyes widen at each turn- every drawer and cabinet is your playground and chasing the cat from room to room never ceases to delight you beyond what we could have imagined.  Your laugh.  Your tiny little giggle has now somehow turned into the full body cackle that no matter how loud or frequent, never, never, never gets old.  We could listen to that boisterous chortle for the rest of our lives and it would never be enough.  Your pointer finger.  You point at everything and ask “wats dat?” in your brand new, still wobbly voice.  And I swear I never tire of sharing the world with you little girl.  I cherish these repetitive moments because I know all too well that one day you might not come to me with your questions.  You might go to google or texting your friends and the thought of that truly divides my heart into irreparable shards.  So ask me a million times, a million ways and I will tell you each time and with all the excitement I can mirror from your eyes into mine.  My tiny human who changes faster than I can blink, who jumps into the pool at swim lessons with not a shred of fear, my tiny human who has made my life so rich and new.  When I watch you toddle around picking up toys, sitting down with your Mickey Mouse clubhouse book I wish with all my heart I could freeze time for just a few moments.  Let me hold these minutes close as I scoop you up for a hug you want no part of.  You twist and giggle and wiggle and say “no no” when I try to steal a kiss.  How quickly this happened, having to steal your kisses. Even as I write this I am mostly in denial of how much you’ve grown, all the milestones you’ve met and surpassed. I look at pictures of you and think but it was just yesterday. But time to dwell on yesterday is so fleeting with a toddler chasing after tomorrow so fast.  So tiny human I will soak up every minute of these toddler days with you.  Have patience little girl, if I rock you a little longer, if I steal a few more kisses, if I spend my days and evenings just watching you grow.  You’re not my baby anymore, you’re so much more and these toddler days won’t last.

You Take My Breath Away

Dear Sophia,

The joy I felt the day I found I was pregnant with you took my breath away. Weeks later as I sat on the doctor’s table and watched as the ultrasound tech searched for you deep in my belly, seeing your heartbeat flicker on the screen, yes, you took my breath away. The relief that washed over me was palpable, it was a warmth and strength no words can describe. Weeks went by and I listened to your heartbeat on our doppler. The many minutes I spent just listening to your fighter’s heart gave me such hope. It never gets old hearing your heartbeat. The fact that now I get to hear your heartbeat against my chest every night as I rock you to sleep still amazes me. No one prepared me for how deep my love for you would go. How could they? How could anyone have possibly known? When I think about the times in my life that have taken my breath away – losing loved ones, leaving home for the first time, my first kiss, seeing your daddy for the first time, falling in love, your daddy down on one knee asking to marry me, your daddy at the end of the aisle in the big white church on our wedding day, seeing your heartbeat for the first time…it’s as if all those moments lead up to the very moment I lost my breath meeting you.  And now every night as I rock you to sleep, I hold my breath and wish for time to slow down.

All my love,

Mama

Holding you.

My body is no longer my own.  My eyes dart open fiercely fighting the dark of night to find the steady rise and fall of your chest.  My ears stir endlessly at every coo you make.  My hands fumble with snaps under the cover of 2 am.  And my arms, they hold you dear to my chest.  My chest is where you nestle and pull on the strings of my heart wrapping them tightly in your tiny palms.  And as I hold your little body I soak in every second – cherish them for the perfect beauty they are and you are.

It’s the middle of the night and I’ve picked you up all tense and balled up, your tiny fist wailing about and it’s me that unravels it all.
My voice whether singing lullabies or reading the phone book, it’s my voice that lulls you back to calm.  It’s the rhythm of my breathing that settles you in.  Every beat of my heart that slowly unties the knots in your tiny body.  My arms about your precious little belly that untangle your sobs.  And suddenly you’ve melted into me.  You are a puddle.  A sleepy, dreamy sweet puddle. Sound asleep on my chest.  And I sigh.  This power I hold is overwhelming.  This ability to be your calm center.  To relax you and bring you back to steady.  To be your mother.  Oh baby girl, I hope I can always be the one to bring you back to steady.

I hope my arms are always the ones you run to when you need to be settled.  When your heart is twisted in pain, wrenched and aching I hope it’s my arms that unravel and soothe you.  When your stomach is in knots and you’re wringing your hands with no idea what to do, oh sweet baby girl, I hope it’s the steady rise and fall of my chest that unties those knots and guides you through.

I drink in this incredibly brief, impossibly fast flash of our lives where I get to cuddle you.  I get to hold you against my chest and warm the chill of your cries.  I get to be your safe spot and you burrow into me so deep I think you might actually be touching my heart.  I know this time is but the blink of an eye and I don’t want to miss any of it.  Sleep is what I used to want most at 2 am.  But now?  Now what I want most is to hold you tight.  To feel your jagged cries become the even deep breaths of sound sleep.  To know that just by holding you I am loving you.
Baby girl I hope you always know, my love for you runs deep in these arms of mine.  You are welcome to dive in anytime.

The day you were born and your first week….

Dear Sophia,

Just about 11 weeks ago Daddy and I woke up at 6:45 am. We showered and got dressed. We made our way to the hospital. It was a calm, peaceful day. The sun was shining and we listened to Carole King’s “Tapestry” album as we drove to the hospital. We remarked how amazing it was to not be rushed or running frantically to the hospital. We signed in at the hospital and made our way to the 2nd floor, labor and delivery. We took a picture under the Labor and Delivery sign.
Labor and delivery

The nurses prepped me for surgery. I was very nervous but all the nurses were so kind and they kept me calm. I was given an epidural. It wasn’t horrible but it did take her 5 tries. At the time I thought that was normal. I learned later, that no, that was definitely not normal. After my epidural kicked in the nurses wheeled me to the operating room. I was excited and scared and had no idea what to expect. The procedure had been explained to me by nurses and my doctor, but still I wasn’t sure exactly how everything would happen. Daddy was soon seated by my side and I could hear the doctor’s talking. They started right away and within minutes they could see you in my belly. They knew you were going to be a big girl by the length and size of your legs! Everyone was a flurry about what a big girl you were and before I knew it they were holding you up for daddy to see. It was 10:57 in the morning. They whisked you over to the scale and I still hadn’t heard you cry. I asked them why you weren’t crying and as if right on cue, you started wailing. It was the most precious little cry I’ve ever heard. You weighed in at 11 lbs, 2 oz. You were quite the big baby and all the nurses cooed about how precious you were. They brought you over to me all bundled up and I swear you smiled at me. We took our first family picture. I’m glad they took this picture because these first few moments are fuzzy in my mind, but the it’s clear from the picture baby girl, you made us so very happy.

IMG_4597

They finished sewing me up and I was wheeled to recovery. You and daddy made your way to the pediatrician. Your blood sugar was low and you needed some special care immediately to bring it back to normal levels. After about an hour they took me up to my room and you were taken to the nursery. It would be 12 hours until I would see you again. I was exhausted and on so many pain killers that those first couple of hours are pretty much a haze for me. Finally, at midnight the nurse came in and said that if I could get up and walk I could go and see you! I was determined to get myself out of that bed and down the hall to you. Daddy helped me walk down the hall to you. At first the nurse didn’t want me to hold you. To this day I don’t understand why. I had only held you twice in 12 hours and I was aching to have you in my arms. I wasn’t rude, but I told the nurse that I would absolutely be scooping you up and holding you. And that is what I did. Words don’t exist to describe how amazing it was to hold you. My heart was literally beating out of my chest. The world melted away. It was just me and you. I stared down at you and your little face took the very breath right out of my chest. In the tiny palm of your tiny hand my heart took up residence. That very minute little girl. I swear. I haven’t seen it since.

We weren’t able to take you back to our room because your blood sugar was still not stable. And eventually you were moved to the NICU because you needed even more specialized care. Daddy and I spent your first few days visiting you in the NICU. You had many visitors there and every day you got stronger and better. On the 4th day my doctor was ready to discharge me and we prayed your doctor would be ready to discharge you. Thankfully, your blood sugars were stable and you were ready to go home with us. We got you ready to go in your car seat and carefully made our way home. You looked so cute in your going home outfil all snuggled into your car seat.

Our first night home with you was amazing. You seemed to fit right in with us and our little family was created. You slept pretty well the first night. I stayed awake all night just staring at you. I was too excited to have you there with us to sleep! Eventually I was able to sleep and we spent the first few weeks of your life just soaking you in and enjoying everything about you.

Sweet Sophia, you were born on 11-11-13 at 10:57 am. I saw a commercial today that put it into words perfectly. Yes, I made you sweet Sophia. But you? You made me a mother. And you made me and daddy your family. It’s been a whirlwind 11 weeks. And every minute I have cherished being your mother and daddy, your father. You surprise us every single day and we are in awe of the blessing you are. From the day you were born, to this very minute and I’m quite certain for all the rest of my days- you precious girl are the greatest thing I’ve ever known.

Just before you were born…

Dear Sophia,

Today you are 8 weeks old. And I still have not written this down yet. I’ve been encouraged to tell this story, your story and I’ve resisted. Truthfully, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because some days I still can’t believe you’re mine. Maybe it’s because some days I still struggle to believe I can do this whole motherhood thing. But your story deserves to be told. So here we go. This is part one. Part two will follow in a separate post.

About 5 weeks before you were born daddy and I went to the doctors. My blood pressure was high and the doctor was worried about a pregnancy induced complication called Preeclampsia so she sent me right to the hospital. I was admitted and kept for two nights as they ran tests and concluded that I did have preeclampsia. This was not great news. It meant that we would have to induce you earlier than 40 weeks and I would need to be closely monitored for the remainder of my pregnancy. I worried constantly about you and those last 5 weeks were very difficult. I was on bed rest at home which meant I basically had to stay in bed all day. Most people would say that bed rest is a dream come true. But it’s not for a mama waiting on her baby. Every day I was scared my blood pressure would be too high and they would have to take you early, too early. But you and me, Sophia? We made it 5 weeks together on bed rest.

Around 37 weeks (4 weeks into bed rest) you decided to turn breech. We had an ultrasound to see how big you were and it was confirmed that you were breech. At 37 weeks you were measuring 9.9 lbs! Oh baby girl was I one scared mama!! The doctor scheduled us for C-section on November 18th and I was very scared. I had a lot of fears about a C-section. I was scared that I would have a bad reaction to the epidural, that I would be too doped up on medicine to be coherent when you were born, that family would get to see you and meet you for the first time before I did. Mostly I was scared that having a C-section would make me feel like less of a mother.

We finished setting everything up for your arrival. I packed our hospital bags and had them waiting at the door just in case. Daddy and I were as ready as first time parents can possibly be (which is not really ready at all.) I had one more appointment before you were to arrive and it was on November 8th. My blood pressure was very high and the doctor didn’t think I would make it to the 18th so he rescheduled my C-section for November 11th. Things moved really quickly after that. I went to the hospital for pre-op bloodwork and we called Bubba and Gussie (Grandpa and Grandma) and told them you would be coming a week early. Daddy and I settled in for our last weekend without a baby and we waited for Monday.

It was only just 8 weeks ago now and yet I can’t seem to remember what we did that last weekend before you. I’m sure we slept a lot. (Or I slept as much as I could with my huge belly!) And I’m sure we speculated about what it would be like to have you in our lives. I think we tried to prepare as much as we could, but honestly there was no way to prepare for the day we had you.

Believe you me

Belive you me, my dear Sophia, most days I will have no clue what I am doing. I will forge ahead blindly on faith and hope and tackle whatever comes our way but I will make mistakes. I will forget things. Important things. Things that might feel like they are breaking your heart. I will huff and puff instead of carrying on. I will be tired and confused and I will let my emotions get the better of me. Sometimes I will cry because I love you so much it hurts. I will stumble, I’m sure of it. And it won’t be graceful or elegant. I’m sure it will be ugly. It might even leave a mark. I will worry. Believe you me, I will worry. I will say the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time and it will feel like the whole world is crumbling. I will beg you to stop crying. I will fail at times. And I will fail hard. I will lose track of time and take time for granted. I will not be perfect. I will sigh in frustration when I should be sucking it up with gratitude. I will lose my cool. I will feel broken and helpless. I might even think I wasn’t cut out for this.
Oh Sophia, believe you me, I will be, say and do all those things. Oh but I will do much more. I will say I’m sorry. I will comfort you and kiss away your tears. I will hold you for as long as it takes. I will remember the day I found out you were growing deep in my belly and relish in the joy that moment brought to my life. I will love you to the moon and back every day. I will get back on the horse every time I fall off and show you the beauty of making mistakes and learning from them. I will give you second chances and hope you give me some too. I will believe in you. I will show you how beautiful you are to me and how beautiful you can be to this world. When I fail, I will admit it. I will try to slow down and make memories that will last you a lifetime. I will try my best every day. I will help you pick up the pieces when they crumble. I will be your safe place, your first home and your forever home. Believe you me, Sophia when they ask me what’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life I will always say being your mom.

Baby Sister

Dear Baby,

In March I was still so broken and sad.  I was still missing you and grieving the loss of you.  And yet something miraculous happened.  Daddy and I got pregnant again.  We didn’t want to believe it at first.  And the weeks leading up to our first ultra sound were agonizing.  As I laid on that table and waited for the tech to show us a baby, I thought of you.  And how I knew you were watching over your little sibling.  I imagined you as an angel covering this new little life with protection.  And sure enough, we saw a baby with a strong heartbeat.  A fighter’s heart.  Blueberry baby, I know you were with us that day and have been with us every day since.  Now I am 23 weeks pregnant and we know you are having a little sister.  A new baby doesn’t replace you.  But this little girl is a fiesty little fighter and I know she gets that spirit from you blueberry!  I still think of you often, especially now because your due date is coming up so soon (a week from tomorrow.)  I wonder what it would be like to be anxiously awaiting your arrival and to be 39 weeks pregnant in the dead of summer.  I think even though I will not meet you til I get to heaven, it helps to know you are looking out for your baby sister.  Every step of this journey I have felt a calmness and peace and I think that’s you.  Thank you for being our guardian angel.  Your baby sister Sophia will always know who her angel is.

Doing my best down here,

Mama

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