Seeking Sympathy (Guilt Need Not Apply)

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seeking sympathy

As my pregnancy winds down, the discomfort increases. At my last prenatal appointment I mentioned the increase discomfort since my last full term pregnancy wasn’t even close to being this uncomfortable. My midwife nodded knowingly. She agreed that being four years older the second time and having a little one to care for absolutely creates new issues and discomforts.

 

What she did not do was judge me. She let me complain quietly. Nodding her head in agreement or at the very least, in sympathy. She didn’t remind me of my blessings. She didn’t rub in the fact that I repeatedly said that I would give and go through anything for another child. She just listened. She reassured me that it was very typical. She just let me talk. This seemingly small act had a huge impact on me.

 

Most people around me know our story. They were by our sides during our multiple heartbreaks. They saw me slip into a depression and struggle with what I presumed to be our fate. They also witnessed our hard decision to stop trying to conceive. They saw my husband and I slowly come to terms with our only child status and eventually embrace our tiny family.

 

They were there when we announced our surprise baby. They held their breath with us as we waited to see that itty-bitty heartbeat on the ultrasound screen. They exhaled along with us at our 11-week scan, when we saw a healthy baby. They have been there and we are eternally grateful.

 

Most have been so supportive. SO supportive. But, there have been a few people who have unintentionally said some less than supportive things, disguised as support.

 

Sometimes, I need to complain. I need to sit down with someone I am close to and whine. Pregnancy is TOUGH. Yes, it is amazing and miraculous and beautiful but it is also painful and uncomfortable and hot. It is queasy and achy and exhausting. Even though the life inside of me is an enormous blessing and will never be taken for granted, the process of growing her is taking a toll on my mid-30’s body.

 

I am in my third trimester now, about a month away from meeting this little squirming person we created. And you know what? I hurt. Physically. Sometimes, when asked how I am feeling, I may mention the sleepless nights and searing back pain. It does not make me less grateful.

 

All the gratitude and blessings in the world still do not make 20 plus weeks of extreme nausea any more bearable. It doesn’t take away the discomfort of 15 weeks of pre-term contractions. It doesn’t make sciatic pain or pelvic separation any more enjoyable.

 

What I do not need is another well-meaning person to say, “Yeah but it’ll all be worth it!” Or, “Just remember what a blessing this is!” Or, “Be grateful you get to go through it, you thought you never would.”

 

These words may have all of the good intentions behind them that the world can hold but it does not make them sting any less. Ever been in pain and exhausted and not sure if you’ll make it to the end of the day without collapsing in a weepy pile only to be told to count your blessings? It is a super guilt inducing feeling and it is not something I want to be feeling.

 

What I need is more nods of understanding. More sympathetic ears. Maybe even an “I have been there” belly rub.

 

I spend 90% of my time counting those blessings. I talk about them, I write about them, I take photos of them, and I breathe them in. The people who try to remind me of them inadvertently make me sad. They should know how grateful I am. It is insulting, frustrating and hurtful.

 

It has led me to not share how I really feel. I fear coming across as taking for granted the very dream I held onto for so long. So, instead, I focus on the good and let the guilt over the less-than-stellar build. And build. And build. Until I end up crying myself to sleep, wondering if I really am just ungrateful. Maybe if I could muster more gratitude, the discomfort and pain would be more bearable.

 

One look at any drug store aisle of analgesics and the answer is clear. There is no bottle labeled, “count your blessings as needed for pain.”  I am not ungrateful I am human. I am a human growing another human while caring for a small human. It is ok to complain sometimes. It is ok to admit moments of weakness. It is all part of my truth and I cannot deny that or let it make me feel guilty any longer.

 

I would have loved to have a picture perfect pregnancy. One with no swelling, little to no pain. One where I glowed for 9 months while our miracle baby grew inside my belly. But that isn’t real life. Well, maybe for some, but not for me.  All-day morning sickness and crazy Braxton Hicks contractions are my reality. Swollen fingers and expanding feet are what is happening. I may be glowing but that is mostly because today is 80 and it is supposed to be sweater weather.

 

All of this is totally ok. It is perfect because in the end, I will have my second daughter. I will get to hold her and look at her and eventually the memories of the pain and discomfort will fade. They will never fully disappear though, as they shouldn’t. The memory of them will perfectly balance out the immense feeling of gratitude that will wash over me as I lay eyes on our new baby.

 

So, if you hear me say I am sore, haven’t slept in days, or feel so nauseous I might scream, please do not remind me to count my blessings. You can rest assured that I have counted and recounted them. I have talked about them, written about them, photographed them, and breathed them in. No, I do not need to be reminded of all I have to be grateful for. What I do need is to be allowed to express my feelings, my truth, without fear of guilt or judgment. I need a sympathetic ear and a smile.

 

A donut and belly rub wouldn’t hurt either.

 

seeking sympathy

I See A Fly On The Wall

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Some days we get up, get ready, and Go! Go! Go! Other days, more so recently, we stay home. Our pajamas are our uniforms and the television our entertainment. These are the days we talk the most, snuggle the most, laugh the most. Normally I would feel the twangs of mommy guilt but instead, I enjoy these days, just her and I.

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IMG_3422Sometime around her 2nd birthday our daughter decided that when we get coffee, she would as well. She grabs a small to-go cup and asks us to fill it with milk from the self serve coffee station. A lid goes on it and she sips her “coffee” alongside mommy and daddy.

Last week she and I stopped at our local food co-op to get coffee. She grabbed her cup and I filled it for her. I watched as she carefully sipped it while strolling through the store, stopping to say hi to the (many) people we saw who we know. Once we got to the register she carefully placed her cup on the counter and announced that she had a small coffee. The cashier smiled knowingly and handed it back to her after ringing it up. My girl held it in two hands, once again carefully sipping it.

We made our way into the car and I buckled her into her carseat. I placed her “coffee” in her cup holder. I turned up the stereo and we drove off. At the stop light I reached up to adjust my mirror. In it I caught this moment. There she was. My little girl, sitting in her seat, legs crossed. She was happily singing along to Katy Perry and sipping her beverage. It was a moment anyone else may have missed or not noticed. But I did. In that moment I saw my baby girl, growing fast. I saw her as a kid. Her very own person, yet with so much of me.

I caught her eye and quickly snapped this photo. She giggled and went back to singing. These moments are exactly what it is all about.

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IMG_3419I woke up to tapping on my house. Not my window but on the wood siding of my house, right under my bedroom window. I got up and went over to investigate. I was greeted by this little woodpecker and her mate. They apparently heard that our house was an all-you-can-eat buffet of sorts. What they didn’t hear was that the owner of said buffet is heavily pregnant and exhausted.

I tried to stay nice as I asked (demanded) that they leave. In response I got the mail trying to fly INTO my house. I give up. This place has gone to the birds.

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IMG_3358It feels like yesterday that I took the test that FINALLY said I was pregnant. And now, here I am, looking like I am trying to smuggle a basketball in my shirt. In a few (short) weeks we will welcome our second daughter. It still feels like a dream.

It is amazing how long the days can be but the months have flown by. Here in New England fall has started to take hold. I couldn’t be more happy and more excited. Every nudge and roll, every hiccup and kick is one more reminder of what is to come. I CAN’T WAIT!!

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IMG_3278We have a tradition every night at bedtime. After stories and before hugs and kisses we all ask each other, “What was your favorite part of the day?”

This ritual started over a year ago when my husband was away for work. He was gone for four weeks and it was the first time we had ever been apart. It was hard on all of us and I needed to stay focused on the good in our lives, even if it was a tiny detail.

Every night my daughter and I would talk about what our favorite part of the day was. Recalling the fun we had would make going to bed without our favorite guy a bit easier.

Daddy came home later that month but nearly 16 months later we still ask. Her answers vary, depending on our day. Recently though, her answer has remained the same.

“Spending time with my whole family.”

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Fly on the Wall

This post was part of the Fly On The Wall writing challenge. A group of bloggers all write and post on the smae day, sharing snippets of their lives for you to read, as though you were a fly on our wall. Please do check out the other writers. They are an amazing group of bloggers.

http://www.BakingInATornado.com                           Baking In A Tornado

http://www.therowdybaker.com                                The Rowdy Baker

http://www.justalittlenutty.com/                                Just A Little Nutty

http://themomisodes.com                                         The Momisodes

http://spatulasonparade.blogspot.com/                       Spatulas on Parade

http://thesadderbutwisergirl.com                               The Sadder But Wiser Girl

http://followmehome.shellybean.com                          Follow me home . . .

http://stacysewsandschools.blogspot.com/                  Stacy Sews and Schools

http://www.menopausalmom.com/                             Menopausal Mother

http://www.gomamao.com                                        Go Momma O

http://dinoheromommy.com/                                     Dinosaur Superhero Mommy

http://www.someoneelsesgenius.com                         Someone Else’s Genius

http://batteredhope.blogspot.com                               Battered Hope

 

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One School, Two School, Home School, Public School

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oneschool

For the past couple weeks, every time I log into Facebook, my newsfeed is inundated with adorable children, freshly scrubbed and smiling. Some have backpacks, some hold signs. Some look excited and others a bit nervous. Each photo makes me smile and then a wave of anxiety washes over me.

Like so many things in parenting there is no right answer when confronted with the question of where your child will be educated. The options are as limitless and your time and funds allow. Public school, private school, charter schools, home school, unschool. When going over our options it feels like I am reading from a Dr. Seuss book.

 

One school, Two school, Public school, Private school,
Charter school, Home school, Old school, New school.
This one you get to by car.
This one isn’t very far.
Say! What a lot of schools there are.

 

We knew that eventually our musings and idealistic conversations on the topic of our child’s education would have to focus and become a real decision making process. But when you are up nursing a six week old or helping your one year old learn how to walk, it seems like a far-flung reality. No rush. Right?

Well…..

Kind of. We dragged our heels. In our defense, we were renters up until last year when we made our house officially our home and signed those really scary and exhilarating papers. We lived our lives one 12 month lease at a time. We had no idea where our next adventure would take us, leaving school a hard choice to make. We didn’t know where we would be living. No idea on what town, or even state. We tossed around the idea of home schooling our daughter. That way, it wouldn’t matter what our zip code was.

As we settled into our house and it became clear that we were going to buy it, our discussions became more serious. Were we still going to home school? Or would we send her to the public school that was nearly in our back yard? We checked out private schools but I couldn’t justify the expense. We paid taxes. A lot of them. For school, one that I could see from my kitchen window.

Our daughter turned 3 and we decided to wait on pre-school for another year. I worked from home and made sure her days were full of play and friends and hands on learning. Maybe next year, we said.

As the winter turned to spring and pre-school registration arrived we decided to tour the program, get on the waiting list, and see what happened. A month later we got the acceptance letter. Now, we really had to make a choice. She would be four this summer. This was our last chance to send her to pre-school. We weighed the pros and cons. We talked to her. We further explored our options. I searched for the owner’s manual that I was convinced she HAD to have been born with. (I had no luck finding it….)

After weeks of conversations we decided to hold off on formal pre-school and instead become more active in the local home schooling community. We saw this year as an opportunity to test the home school waters. Would it work for us? Would it work for her? Both my husband and I were happy with our decision and our daughter was excited to not have to go to school every day.

Then, the back to school photos started rolling in. The school behind our house woke up from it’s summer slumber and the sounds of laughing children filled our yard every noontime during recess. I started wondering if we had made the right choice. Our daughter started asking when she would be able to join the other kids at school. Our confidence in our decision faltered. Had we made the right choice?

That is the thing with parenting, life even. There is rarely a right or wrong choice. When you find yourself standing at a fork in the road, there is no way of telling which turn will work best for you. All you can do is make a decision and hope you had enough information and gumption to have made the best one.

We are sticking to our plans to home school this year. As kindergarten registration comes up next spring we will revisit them. We will have more discussions and we will tour the school. We will talk to our daughter and together, as a family, decide what will work best for us.

In the meantime, I am resuming my search for that owner’s manual. It has GOT to be around here somewhere. Right?

 

oneschool

Showered

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showered

 

I am still in shock at how close we are to the arrival of our second daughter, the baby we never though would be. Even being seven months into this pregnancy, I have days that I wake up and only open one eye, cautiously waiting to feel those morning jabs in my belly, half expecting that it was all a dream.

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My incredibly talented sister painted this for me. I had no words, just tears of disbelief and gratitude.

It was a dream. One that we have been blessed to have come true. It is amazing.

Last weekend my mom and sisters threw us a baby shower. The theme was rainbows, in honor of our rainbow baby. We were surrounded by love and laughter. Even far-away friends were there in spirit. It was perfect.

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Since Saturday more than a few people have been in touch, sad that could not attend. They sent their love our way but wanted to do more and have been asking about registry information. And then, there is the relentless crew of INCREDIBLE people over on the Juicebox Confession Facebook page who have been nudging and begging asking me to throw a JbC virtual shower of sorts.

I have dragged my heels about it. Felt too weird to be asking people to buy a stranger (with emphasis on STRANGE) gifts. Then, a wonderful reader said this:

“We have all followed your story. We cried along with you during your losses and celebrated along side you with your joys. We have been through it all with you and want to be able to celebrate with you.”

After I stopped sobbing and collected myself I realized that I am forcing no one to buy anything. It isn’t about that, it is about CELEBRATING!! Happiness and gratitude and joy and love. Who am I to get in the way of all that?

So, I am sharing our two registries. No obligations, no expectations.

We are registered at TARGET and AMAZON

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This is the card that Full Metal kid gave me. I ADORE him.

Also, did you know my good friend, Chrissy over at Full Metal Mommy, is expecting her third baby a month after I am due and IT IS A GIRL?!?! She has two boys (the eldest is one of my daughters oldest and best friends!) and is beyond excited to have a little girl. If you feel so inclined, she is not registered anywhere but wouldn’t say no to gift cards, baby girl clothing, and Starbucks. You can mail it to her c/o me at the following address and I will make sure she gets anything sent her way. Why should the celebrating be limited to just me? SHARE THE LOVE!!!

Where do you send all of the baby bounty? I would be crazy to give out my home address and since I have the teensiest bit of sanity left, I am using my hubby’s work address. Here you go:

Michelle Stephens (In-Sight Photography)

45 Flat Street Suite 1

Brattleboro VT 05301

 

I love you all. Big.

Guilty(less) Pleasures

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After an extraordinary amount of peer pressure missing Sunday Confessions, I AM BACK! I contacted Ash over at More Than Cheese And Beer to see what this week’s prompt was.

“Guilty Pleasures,” she responded.

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I nearly chocked on my peanut butter M&M’s. Could that prompt be any more perfect? I am 30 weeks pregnant, laying on the couch, eating candy and watching a  Keeping Up With The Kardashian’s marathon on Hulu Plus. I was a walking, talking, breathing guilty pleasure.

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I started taking notes. PB M&M’s, bad reality TV, caffeine-free Coke (from a can only), wearing pajamas all day, chocolate chip cookie dough Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, my bed, fudge, tabloid magazines, jelly donuts, fashion magazines, red lipstick, more jewelry than any one girl needs, NAIL POLISH, Caramel Macchiatos from Starbucks, baby shoes. These are a few of my favorite guilty pleasures.

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I read my list. I read it again. And again. Then I got a snack because it made me hungry. Then, I started thinking. None of these things make me feel guilty. None. They make me super happy. Sure, some are not the healthiest snack/food/beverage choices but, SO WHAT? I don’t dine on candy and ice cream for dinner every night. Usually. I tried to find the guilt in my guilt pleasures.

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There was none.

No guilt. Just a list of pure awesome that makes me beyond happy. I had been convinced that these things should be guilt inducing because they don’t help to squeeze me into a mold. They don’t go along with my love of whole foods and healthy eating. The surely are not the choices of a so-called “natural parent”. Clearly these are things that should leave me feeling riddled with guilt, right?

Wrong.

I don’t need to fit neatly into some box with a label on top that sums up the contents. It is more fun to do and be whoever and whatever makes me happy. Some days it is relaxing by the river while my husband takes photos and my daughter frolics, naked in the water. Just soaking up the sun and breathing in the air provide me with all I need. Other days, it is a reality TV marathon, jammies and my BFFs Ben & Jerry.

No mold, no box, just me.

My confession? My guilty pleasures bring me absolutely zero feelings of guilt.

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Have something to confess? Head over to the More Than Cheese and Beer Facebook page and let it all out. Interested in participating in next week’s Confession? Click HERE for all the details.

MoreThanCheeseandBeer

Requesting Relations

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Requesting Relations

I have tried. I have fought against every particle of my being and tried. I have swallowed an immense amount of anger and tried.

 

But this, this one thing that should be meaningless, this one thing that should not have any effect on me. This one was the final straw.

 

Our relationship began rocky. I was a seven year old girl who had never had a father, at least not that I could remember. Then my mom introduced us to this guy. I heard her say she loved him. I heard they were getting married. That we were moving away from the only town I ever knew, away from my family. Not far, but far enough.

 

I didn’t know how to feel. I was sad. And angry but she seemed happy. He was ok. I never felt especially close to him. He was my mother’s husband. I could comprehend that. Then they said he would adopt us. My sister and I would be his daughters. He wouldn’t be our stepfather. He would be our dad.

 

I watched from our car as my absentee father, a man I did not know, signed the papers to allow the adoption. I cried silently, never letting anyone see my sadness. I had a photo of him. Taken before I was born. I would spend hours staring at a man I had an uncanny resemblance to but didn’t even know his birthday. My emotions were jumbled. Hatred and love coexisted. I longed for what I never knew.

 

The adoption was finalized on March 7, 1989. Everyone seemed so happy. So, I did my best to be happy. I had a chance to have a father. I was a little excited and a lot terrified. I didn’t know what it meant to have a dad and I was pretty sure he had no idea what it meant to have a nine year old daughter. I daydreamed about us figuring it out together.

 

As the years went on, we did not figure it out. He would bark orders and make arbitrary and rigid rules. I would rebel and scream. He would yell and swear. I would dream of leaving. Nine years after becoming father and daughter I did the best thing I could for our nearly non-existent relationship and I left. I moved out, never to look back.

 

With the lack of literal common ground our paths hardly ever crossed, only a few times a year at family gatherings. Maybe a random phone call. We had nothing in common besides a last name and even that was just on paper. Conversations were awkward at best. I had nothing to say to him, he seemed to be forcing himself to speak to me. I asked him to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, he on one side, my maternal grandfather on the other. Our only commonality was about to end at a ceremony he escorted me to.

 

My daughter was born a few years later. I had my own family now, one without tension. One I loved unconditionally, something I could never give the man who became my father 21 years earlier. I watched as my daughter and her father fell in love. I shed tears of joy and tears for my own longing for something I would never have.

 

Eventually the phone calls stopped. We stopped exchanging niceties at family gatherings. The silence that stood between us was a relief to me. I no longer had to push away feelings and offer an olive branch to him. I no longer had to play the role of adoring daughter when all I wanted was my birth name back. I found comfort in his absence. I had my own family.

 

Then, one day while checking out Facebook I saw that he had created an account. I saw that he had listed my siblings as his children. The familiar yearning for family, for a father washed over me. I didn’t hesitate and I clicked “Add Friend” and waited. Days turned to weeks, weeks to months. I still waited. I saw him interacting with my mom, my siblings. Conversations with the rest of my family that I was not involved in. I was on the other side of the digital window looking in. Maybe he hadn’t seen the request?

 

I waited. It has been over three years that I have been waiting for him to approve my friend request. I am done trying. There is only so much a person can take before it takes over them. Clearly family is more than a shared name and common relatives, more than bloodlines and heritage, more than a common address and parental rights.

 

A family is about unconditional love.

 

I will no longer wait for him to accept my request.

 

*This post was originally written and posted on December 8, 2013. It took me over 8 months to submit it to become one of my weekly columns in The Reformer. Thank you to More Than Cheese And Beer and her Sunday Confessions for allowing me a platform to write this.

And Then, She Was Four

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**This post is part of the Use Your Words Challenge. Participating bloggers each submitted 4-6 words or short phrases for someone else to turn into a cohesive post. The one rule is that all words must be used at least once. Each piece will be unique, as we all write in our own voice and style. The fun twist is that we do not know who received our words, until now! Keep reading to see what I did with the words Crumpets and Bollocks submitted. The words are: banana, dream/dreamed/dreams, hugs, lavish, pearl clutcher, and facetious. Enjoy!**

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“Happy Birthday Mommy!!!!”

 

I could barely blink but managed a huge smile. It wasn’t my birthday, it was hers, but she insisted on wishing her daddy and me a happy birthday anyway.

 

“Happy birthday sweetheart!”

 

I couldn’t think of a better way to start my day than with smiles, giggles, and, of course, birthday hugs. I slowly sat myself up as she bounded out of my room. Blinking the blurry sleep out of my eyes, I rubbed my tummy. The tiny baby growing inside met my hand with a nudge.

 

By the time I made it to the kitchen a what-to-have-for-breakfast discussion was well underway. Usually cereal, toast, or a banana were her options but today they didn’t seem quite special enough for a newly turned four year old. My husband and I looked at each other and smiled, sending our daughter to the other room to sit and wait. The first of her birthday surprises was about to be unveiled.

 

I slid the silver platter out of our refrigerator and my husband grabbed the lighter. Four tiny dinosaur candles were lit. Their flickering flames bounced off the hot pink sugar that decorated the tops of the cupcakes. As we rounded the corner, singing “Happy Birthday” to her, it was clear that she thought we had been being facetious when we said she could have cake for breakfast. It was a Stephens’ family tradition, cake for breakfast on your birthday. One I personally looked forward to every year.

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While our sweet girl ate her cupcake breakfast we brought out her presents. It is the one time of the year we get to lavish her in all that she loves, even if it is on a small scale. Every gift she opened was met with squeals and smiles. My heart nearly burst as she thanked us and declared the day, only 1 hour in, her best birthday ever.

 

We spent the next hour playing with her new toys and introducing them to her existing entourage. Occasionally she would stop and thank me. I would fight back tears and tell her how welcome she was, knowing she would never comprehend how much I adore her. This little girl and her tiny sister, napping in my belly, were our dreams personified. Birthdays were a big deal for us. The anniversaries of having our dreams come true.

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Eventually we put the toys away and got ready to head out on our next adventure. As I was getting dressed I glanced at the clock, 8:49am. Two minutes until the moment she would turn four. I announced the two-minute countdown, much to her delight. As the time neared I did my best pearl clutcher impression, pretending to be shocked when I asked her how old she was going to be.

 

“FOUR, Mommy!! I am FOUR!!!”

 

I smiled at our amazing little girl. Four of the very best years of my life stood in front of me with giant, sparkling blue eyes and a grin that could melt the most hardened of hearts. I rubbed my growing belly and took a second to breath in the immense amount of gratitude I had for that moment, every moment that had led to me to this one, and every moment to come. As I exhaled I glanced at the clock. 8:51am. And then, she was four.

SENSES-Touch

 

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Please check out the other challenge participants:

http://Bakinginatornado.com                                            Baking In A Tornado

http://spatulasonparade.blogspot.com/                          Spatulas on Parade

http://themomisodes.com                                                  The Momisodes

http://thethreegerbers.blogspot.ch/                                Confessions of a part-time working mom

http://www.eviljoyspeaks.wordpress.com                      Evil Joy Speaks

http://followmehome.shellybean.com                             Follow me home . . .

http://www.someoneelsesgenius.com                             Someone Else’s Genius

http://www.crumpetsandbollocks.com                           Crumpets and Bollocks

http://berghamchronicles.blogspot.com                         The Bergham’s Life Chronicles

http://thesadderbutwisergirl.com                                    The Sadder But Wiser Girl

Focusing

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focusing

“Momma? Are you sad? I see your tears? Everything OK?” She runs to me as fast as her nearly 4-year-old legs can carry her. She wraps her small arms around my no longer small waist and squeezes.

I thought I had hid them well but she somehow saw the tears. They started when I hung up the phone after hearing the words, “Head to the birthing center, they will be waiting for you.” They became plentiful as I made the phone call to my husband, telling him what I was instructed to do.

I squeeze my tiny daughter back. We’d been through this before and had a beautiful little girl as the result. Everything would be OK, it would just be scary getting to OK.

The contractions had started weeks ago. The familiar, painless, tightenings that signaled that my uterus was “practicing” for the big day still months away. When they came on I would slow down, drink some water or juice and put my feet up. They usually left as quickly and uneventfully as they had come. This day was different. They didn’t go away. I laid down and they still were there, every few minutes. Then, cramping and pain started with them. So, I made the phone call. The one I didn’t want to make this time. Not this pregnancy. I wanted this one to be uneventful and perfect. It was most likely my last and such a miracle, I didn’t want a moment marred by hospital visits.

I arrived at the hospital soon after hanging up the phone. Within minutes I was hooked up to a machine that kept track of the contractions. A thousand questions later and I was left to lay very still, relax, and wait, clicking a button ever time I felt the baby move. My husband and daughter chatted and played next to me. I silently prayed, hoped and wished. “Please, let the contractions stop. Let me go home and enjoy this pregnancy. Let my baby be safe.”

The contractions eventually stopped, just as abruptly as they had started. My OB was called and tests were performed. I was sent home with instructions to take it VERY easy. “Don’t do anything you don’t have to. Ask for help when you can. Be easy on yourself. That sweet baby is easier to take care of while she is still inside than if she is born early.” Not prescribing full bed rest just yet, she suggested I do a modified bed rest and stick close to home. I nodded, wiped away the tears, and silently swore to comply.

As I fell asleep that night, my doctors words resonated in my head. “Don’t do anything you don’t have to. Ask for help….” Without knowing it, she had said something I had been needing to hear for months.

Slow down.

Between parenting a 4-year-old, spending most of the summer alone while my husband was away, and being six months pregnant, I had not slowed down since early Spring when the morning sickness knocked me on my butt all day long. Maybe these contractions were my body’s way of telling me to stop. Just stop. What was I running around for? What good was coming of this non-stop, have-to-do-all-the-things pace I was trying to keep?

No good. None. Instead, I found myself arguing with my daughter daily, not having time for my husband ever, and laying in a hospital bed at 26 weeks pregnant praying I wasn’t in labor. For someone who loved being pregnant and wanted to enjoy every moment I sure wasn’t acting like I wanted it to last.

My go go GO! attitude was taking it’s toll. On me. On my husband. On my daughter. And now, on my pregnancy and unborn baby. It had to stop.

I had to become OK with days filled with too much TV. Days spent snuggling on the couch or quietly playing Legos. I had to become OK with asking my husband to switch the laundry and bathe our daughter. I could not do it all and trying to was leading me to an early labor and possible delivery. It was not worth it.

I have less than 13 weeks until my due date now. That is only 10 weeks until I will be at the point when my first was born. This pregnancy, the pregnancy I didn’t think I could have, is flying by. Meanwhile, my 3 year old is going to be 4 in a week. Somehow in the flurry of trying to do it all, control it all, make it all happen, my dreams started to come true. The family I always wanted is being created while I stressed about laundry and appointments.

No more.

Dreams come first now. I WILL enjoy these last weeks of pregnancy. I will sit and feel my baby hiccup inside my belly, even if it means allowing my 4 year old to watch another episode of Scooby Doo or comb my hair into the craziest “makeover” you have ever seen. I will enjoy watching the transformation from 3 to 4. I will have longer conversations with this amazing tiny person and LISTEN to her instead of pushing back when she tries to get my attention. I will realize that my life isn’t the only one changing and that we all need a little slack and extra hugs. I only get these moments for a very very tiny amount of time. Before I know it, the hospital stays and stressful days will be a distant memory. Why allow it to dictate how I live now?

In the end those details won’t matter. The piled up laundry, missed appointments, and extra TV show won’t even register. What will matter is how happy I was, how much I loved and how much I was loved. It is time to focus on what matters and let the rest go.

 

 

Never.

by
Never

 

Before my daughter was born I knew exactly what kind of parent I WOULDN’T be. My list of “things I’ll never do” was longer than my current grocery list.

 

It is easy to judge in the waning afternoon light, swinging on a hammock, eight months pregnant with your first child. There is no way to know any better.

 

That hope of perfect and idealism is something new moms all over grasp onto. It is the daydream that fills the hours until they get to hold their sweet babies for the very first time.

 

Then, reality hits. The best-laid plans are left out in the rain while a sleep deprived mom tries to make it through another day.

 

Suddenly you find yourself up to your eyeballs in situations you never thought of. Those “I would never” statements become laughable. In those nine months of pregnancy one detail is usually over looked.

 

Children have minds of their own and are as individual as fingerprints.

 

My daughter is about to turn four any minute. You can tell by her stretched out, no longer a chubby toddler, appearance. You can hear it in her use of full sentences when she talks. It is also in the slight hint of annoyance in her voice when asked to do something she would rather not do or in the shriek she emits over being told that cookies are not, in fact, a good breakfast choice. It is clear in the never ending questioning and subsequent debate that is the soundtrack of our lives.

 

It is clear in her yearning to make me happy. It is also clear in her inability to listen to simple requests to use her indoor voice when talking to me from 6 inches away. It is clear in her growing independence.

 

She has developed her own thoughts and opinions. Some of which are in direct dispute with some of my own. She has challenged me to rethink everything I ever thought I knew about parenting, life, and the world in general.

 

It is the most amazing and frustrating challenge I have ever accepted.

 

I try to approach parenting my child the same way I approach my entire life now. I throw away any and all “never” statements and open myself to the possibility that I actually know nothing and am continually learning. I try to stay in the middle of the road, learning from both sides until I reach my destination a better, more balanced person.

 

The mommy/parenting wars that I see happening online and at the nearest playground all the result of people hanging out on either side of the road, refusing to acknowledge that maybe their neighbor across the street is onto something and knows a thing or two. I know because I have spent my fair share of time on either side of that street before I finally stepped into the middle, tail between my legs.

 

It happens from trying to parent in black and white when the world is purple, blue, yellow, green, and red. It happens when we assume that there is a right and a wrong way of doing things. It also happens when parents are villainized for not being the serene, calm, gentle parenting poster child.

 

I try to do the very best I know how to for my daughter. I, just like her, am still, and will forever be, learning. In some ways we are growing together. And just when I think I have the hang of it she will turn over a new developmental milestone and I will have no idea what I am doing again.

 

I can either hold tight to my “nevers” or I can roll with it, enjoy the ride (yes, even the bumps), and maybe learn a thing or two. But, I have to be open to it.

 

And that, THAT, is the hardest part.

 

Saying to myself, and maybe to the friend I bump into at Target, that I was wrong and have no idea what I am doing, is humbling, a tad embarrassing, but also liberating. I realized that I needed to let myself off the hook. I no longer had to try and squeeze myself into a mold that never felt right; that I didn’t have to subscribe to every word of the newest parenting philosophy. That sometimes, in order to be a kinder, gentler parent, you have to start with being kind to yourself.

 

Also, that parenting styles come and go and they are never, ever, a one size fits all offering.

 

I will allow myself to fail. I will screw up and feel bad and apologize profusely all while teaching my daughter that Momma is human and humans are beautifully and perfectly imperfect. Perfection is all relative and I am doing my best to be the perfect parent for HER. Something that even this imperfect person can strive for.

 

She doesn’t need me to parent the way the newest book tells me to. She doesn’t need me to stay on one side of the road any longer, unwilling to hear what the people on the other side are saying or doing. She needs me to look at her, in this moment, and do my best. She needs me to be willing and open to whatever challenges and joys and hardships will come our way.

 

She needs me to love her the best way I know how. She needs me to be her momma, to parent her in a way that fits her and only her. She needs me to stop bullying myself for my own perceived failures and instead, simply, listen to her.

 

She needs me to never say, “never.”

Adventures In Solo Parenting

by
Adventures In Solo Parenting

“How is being a single parenting going?”

 

It was an innocent question. There was nothing loaded about it, just a sincere inquiry.

 

But, it rubbed me the wrong way.

 

My husband travels for four weeks every summer as part of his (awesome) job. The plan was to have our daughter and I join him this year but after that tiny digital screen read “pregnant” last February, our plans changed.

 

So, off he went and here we stayed. My daughter and I. And two dogs. And a five month pregnant belly that has taken on a life and personality of it’s own. I knew there would be challenges, but we rallied last year, this year would be no different.

 

I am surrounded by friends and family. I made plans to keep us busy. I developed a routine that allowed for flexibility but also predictability. I made sure my daughter understood that daddy was coming back and that momma wasn’t going to leave as well.

 

I reiterate daily that daddy is coming back.

 

Because, I am not a single parent.

 

A single parent does what I do for four weeks, alone. They don’t have morning phone calls to look forward to. They don’t have a calendar counting down the days until their partner will return and life will go back to normal.

 

Solo parenting IS a single parent’s normal. It isn’t just an annual summer adventure. It isn’t a test of their strengths or a 28-day reminder that they are capable of going it alone.

 

I am not, was not, a single parent.

 

I am parenting our child solo physically but I always have the emotional support I need from my husband. During a particular trying situation he called to say hi. After hearing about our trying day he talked to our daughter for a few minutes. He was able to work out what she was dealing with and ultimately remedy the situation.

 

He co-parented from 1,700 miles away because I am not a single parent.

 

My single mother raised me and my sister for nearly a decade before she remarried. She had a great support system but ultimately she was the sole caregiver for her two very young daughters. She made all the decisions on her own. From how to potty train to what to have for dinner every night, she didn’t have someone, be it at home or miles away, to consult. We grew up as products of her choices, no one else’s.

 

When the bills were due and money was tight, she didn’t have someone to help her figure out the family budget. After my sister and I went to sleep, she didn’t have someone to sit on the couch with and decompress after a tough day. She was a single mom. She had herself and us.

 

After I tuck my daughter into bed I can curl up on the couch and grab my phone. Within minutes I can share the details of my day, the hard parts, the funny parts, the mundane, with my husband. I get to hear about his day. We get to connect, vent, and decompress together.

 

Because I am not a single parent.

 

My adventure in solo parenting will come to an end. Our family will once again be geographically together. Our separate adventures will come to a close and the household responsibilities will once again go back to being split down the middle.

 

I will be able to take a Saturday afternoon nap without having to bribe or negotiate with my daughter. I will be able to take a shower in the morning while she and my husband have breakfast together. The dogs will go back to their routine nightly walk and I will once again be able to use the bathroom completely alone. With the door shut.

 

But, most of all, I will have my husband back. He will be here to hold me when I am sad. I will get to see his smile when I tell him about our day. I will be able to see his gestures as he talks about his. Our daughter will have her beloved daddy back. Our house won’t feel so empty, that missing piece will fill back in.

 

“I am doing ok. So far the kiddo and I are mostly just having fun,” I answer. Deciding that explaining why I am not a single parent may just be too long of an answer for such an innocent question. “My adventures in solo parenting will be over soon. Thank you so much for asking.”