the one about my resolutions

Ah, yes.

The new year.

2015 is upon us.

And to think the world was supposed to end 3 years ago.

I have already seen my fair share of "New Year's Resolutions" posts on Facebook. Lose weight. Save money. Be a better this and be a better that.

There's always something about the start of a brand new year that inspires us all to make positive changes. I don't have a problem with this concept. Self-reflection and self-improvement is a beautiful thing.

However, as I was at the gym last evening, it occurred to me that my resolutions were going to be different this year.

I've done the whole loseweightfitinabikiniwearasize4 resolution thing lots of times before.

And you know what? I fail. Miserably. Every. Single. Time.

So, this year, I am not going to try to lose weight. Nope.

And yes, I have looked in a mirror lately, thankyouverymuch.

I'm going to make my arms stronger so that I can lift the extremely clunky and heavy car seat carrier with ease.

Stronger arms make for better pushes on the swing, an extra boost up onto that tree branch they are always wanting to climb, and the ability to line 54 plastic grocery bags up each arm so as to avoid an extra trip out to the car.

Yep. I want stronger arms.

I'm going to strengthen my legs so that I can run, skip, jump, and play with my energetic girls. So that I can stay on my feet longer without needing to plop on the couch. So that I can run out from an Underdog without getting kicked in the head. So that I can lay on my back, balance their bellies on my feet, and "fly" them into the sky like an airplane.

Stronger legs. I'm gonna have them.

I'm going to eat better. And by better, I don't mean cutting out the little treats that make life livable. I'm still going to have those. But maybe not as much. I'm going to eat better because I can't expect my children to like the good stuff if I don't show them that I like the good stuff, too. I don't want to be a hypocrite. I want to be an example.

And, honestly? I kind of hate sharing my chips when they beg for some off my plate. So maybe I will cool it on the chips. And when I have some, I will give them their own so that they can learn how to enjoy salty, crunchy goodness in moderation.

Lastly, I want to run a 1/2 marathon. I have wanted to do this for a few years now, but I just kept getting pregnant.

Running is one of those things that you can't possibly understand the joy of it from the outside looking in. However, I remember when I was running quite frequently (3 babies ago) the sense of accomplishment I felt. I stopped short of ever training for 13.1 mile race, but I'm going to do it this year.

Not to lose weight, but to prove to myself that I can do it.

And to show my girls that they can do anything they set their minds to doing.

See? Losing weight is not my goal in any of this. If it happens, awesome! But if it doesn't, as long as my body is doing all of these other cool new things, I am not going to mind.

The other day, I was moping and near tears because I was disappointed in my body. My 10 week post-Shiloh belly is still soft, flabby, and now has a few unsightly stretch marks. Somehow, I made it through a 40 pound weight gain with Noelle without any stretch marks,  but yet a weight gain just shy of 20 pounds yielded a handful of those little assholes.

So, as I was shooting down every single compliment that my husband was giving me…

You're beautiful.
No, I'm not.

You look great!
Are you kidding?
(along with an almost irreversible eye roll)

I mentioned the stretch marks and said, "How on Earth could you possibly think anything about this is attractive?"

He then said probably the sweetest thing he has ever said to me before.

"Stretch marks? Are you kidding? When I see those, I think about how you gave me the three most beautiful girls. You're incredible. I don't care about stretch marks."

Point taken.

It's not about weight. It's not about a bikini. It's not about being a size I haven't been since 2nd grade.

I resolve to love the body I have…the one that grew three human beings.

I resolve to make that body stronger and healthier.

For them. For me.

Enough.




the one about the marathon

Parenting.

There are times when I really feel like I'm winning at it.

The hugs. The kisses. The holding hands. The cuddles. The arms around my neck with a whole-hearted "I love you, Mama!"

"Thank you."

"I'm sorry."

All of that is winning.

And then there are times when my 4 year old puts on her winter coat, and, just prior to opening the door to the back deck and stomping away into the wilderness, announces to me that she is going to find a new mom because I'm the worst one ever.

Not my definition of winning.

This has been one daunting week.

Not only has she started to back-talk me like it is her j-o-b, but she has shown me now more than ever that she has too many toys and too much shtuff in general because she fails to clean anything up or take care of her belongings.

When I dare to ask her to pick something up that she has exploded all over the living room, she collapses to the floor in a pile of curls and twirly skirts and cries.

It's a good thing Christmas is 6 days away so she can get EVEN MORE THINGS!

And I'm going to be quite honest with you. In those moments, I lose my shit.

I don't walk away easily. My blood boils, my blood pressure rises, and I want to (and sometimes do) explode.

I engage with an irrational 4 year old. I begin entertaining negotiations, using vocabulary that is way over her head, and I deliver lectures that go in one ear and out the other.

Against my better judgment.

Against what I know is best.

Against what I have read in books and in blogs.

As you might imagine, that method isn't working well for me.

Case in point. Yesterday, I gave an Oscar-worthy speech on the importance of taking care of her markers so they wouldn't dry up. That then parlayed itself into a lesson on how markers cost money, and we don't have endless funds to replace markers. I topped it off with the old standby of "there are children in the world who don't have markers, so you should be thankful and take care of them."

After all of that, the markers were still left uncapped. Words were exchanged. Resistance. Tears. The whole thing. They were taken away and she was sent to her room to think about what it means to be ungrateful.

That escalated quickly.

After a good bit of time passed, I went in to speak with her about what had happened and if she knew why I was upset.

"My behavior?"

"I yelled?"

Notice the question marks? She was making guesses. She didn't know why I was upset. And she didn't know what it meant to be ungrateful.

Probably because I didn't give her a dictionary and probably because she is 4 years old.

For as verbal and smart as she is, at the end of the day, she is 4 years old. Her mind can only process so much. Her brain is only so developed in those social and emotional and logical ways.

It hit me that I may be expecting her to think like an adult…when in fact she is still a child.

When you have a child who articulates like an adult, who converses with adults, and basically thinks she is an adult…it is so difficult to remember that she was still in diapers like a year ago.

Pacifiers a year before that.

She's still a child. A day older than a toddler it feels. She's still learning. And she's learning from me.

Each time I fly off the handle, she's watching.

Each time I run off at the mouth, she's listening.

Ugh.

She sees…she hears…she remembers…everything.

In the dark moments, I blame myself. How did I mess up so badly? What have I done wrong? Is it too late to turn this around? Will our relationship forever be strained?

But in the light, I know the truth. I know that she is testing me. Pushing me. Challenging me to rise to the occasion. She wants to see how far she can go before I just throw my hands up and say "Forget it. I'm done. I quit."

And she wants to know that the answer to "how far she can go before I quit" is forever. No matter how hard it gets, I won't quit. I will always be her Mama. I will always love her. She wants to know this.

My frustration and exasperation with my daughter does not mean I do not love her. I love her so immensely that it kills me to struggle with her so much. If I didn't love her, it wouldn't hurt, and I wouldn't care. I wouldn't want to change anything. If I didn't love her, I wouldn't care about what kind of child she was or what kind of woman she would grow up to be.

I love her from the tips of my toes to the top of my (rapidly graying) head.

But I'm a real Mama. I am a real human. I am not perfect.

So, after some reflection…some coffee…and lots and lots of chocolate…I am rethinking my plan.

First, I had to think about why her behavior made me so angry. There are plenty of parents who seem to shrug these outbursts and fits off so easily. Laugh them off, even. Meanwhile, I think about and obsess over them for weeks and months. I blame myself and let them ruin my entire day.

I figured out that it isn't anger that I feel so much as it is embarrassment and fear. I feel embarrassed that my child is acting inappropriately, and I don't even have to be in public. I worry that her behavior is a reflection of my parenting (which I know, in part, that it is-- along with a mix of her age, personality, and temperament). I fear judgment from teachers and other parents.

Although most of the time she is great for her teachers and other adults. She saves the best for me.

I feel fear because I want her to be liked. I want her to have friends. I want her to be well thought-of. I fear that people will not know all of the wonderful things about her.

Embarrassment. Fear. Not anger.

So, I have decided to stop fighting fire with fire. It's not getting me anywhere. It's not anger that I feel, anyway. I must remember that.

In the moment, I need a tool to turn to so that I don't spiral out of control.

After some extensive Internet research, I found this, and I think it is great. Consequences that make sense.

Not only do these consequences make sense to a child, but they make sense to me, too. They make me feel good and not crazy. They make me feel fair and reasonable.


This chart comes from the blog, Meaningful Mama. She does a great job of explaining her reasoning, and I found myself nodding in agreement. Check it out.

If nothing else, I felt better because I knew I wasn't alone. 

Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. It isn't about instant gratification. It may take years to reap the benefits of a decision we make today. 

I love my children, and I love being their mama. 

I love the good days.

And for the bad days, I love my wine.






the one about the workout

Warning: This post is about breastfeeding. I say the word boobs in a completely unsexy way. If this isn't your cup-o-tea, turn away now.

Dear Expectant Mamas,

Congratulations! You are about to embark on the journey of a lifetime. Soon, a little human will vacate your body, and you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Pregnancy is no small thing. As we all know, it has its ups and downs. Some pregnancies are smooth sailing, and others…well, you get put on bed rest and have preterm labor and get gestational diabetes (not that I'm bitter or anything).

I feel it is my job to tell you something very important about this next phase of your life. Please read carefully, because it is advice that only an honest friend can give you.

Mila Kunis is full of shit.

Bet you didn't see that coming, huh?

For a moment, please read this crap and then come back here.

Cliff's Notes Version:
Mila Kunis just had a daughter named Wyatt (?) and she was recently on the Late, Late Show. She was quoted as saying something like, "Breastfeeding is a great workout! All I do is eat a ton and the weight just falls right off!"

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

Dead from laughter.

I remember going to a breastfeeding class when I was pregnant with Noelle, and the nurse told all of us that breastfeeding is wonderful because you can, and I quote, "eat a steak dinner every night and still lose weight."

Well, imagine my disappointment when I did, in fact, eat steak dinners quite often upon the birth of my oldest and the weight did nothing but stay on my ass.

The logic is that breastfeeding burns something like 500 calories a day, so you can essentially eat 500 extra calories and not gain weight.

Um, thanks. Maintaining this weight isn't my goal. I don't want to look 9 months pregnant and not actually be 9 months pregnant.

In case you didn't already know, celebrities are liarfaces. Mila Kunis may very well be breastfeeding and "eating a ton," but she most likely also has a trainer, a chef, 3 layers of Spanx, and a very restricted diet that is allowing her to slim down quickly.

Technically, she wasn't all wrong.

Breastfeeding is a workout.

I would imagine that holding a baby with one arm while you simultaneously attempt to apply makeup, eat your breakfast, return an email, change another kid's diaper, or fold laundry with the other arm has got to burn some calories. At the least, it builds some great bicep muscles.

Then there's the cardio exercise of throwing a nursing cover/blanket over yourself, slipping the child underneath, lifting your shirt, flopping out the goods, and feeding your child without exposing yourself. That really gets my blood pumping.

How about this. Try going to a step aerobics class post-baby. The added weight from those "gals" that  are due for a feeding provide nice resistance training (and a good excuse for well-placed "sweat stains"…if you know what I mean).

Or what about when you're feeding the child uncovered in your own home and the doorbell rings, and you can tell it's the FedEx man with that shipment you have been waiting for but you have to sign for it and you don't know what to do because, well, your boob is out. You can't take too long because he will turn and leave and you need that package today so you frantically find a cover, stand up while the child is still attached, and make it to the door in time.

Heart. Racing. Just me?

But even though breastfeeding is a proven workout for me, the act alone isn't melting pounds off by the day, lemme tell ya.

Who knows? You might get lucky. You might be one of those women who enjoys this white unicorn of breastfeeding.

We just will no longer be friends.

With love,
The Mama


the one about ugly

I have read quite a few parenting blogs, articles, manuals, books, and brochures in my almost 5 years of motherhood. I feel like, by baby number 3, we finally have a teeny, tiny idea of what we are "doing" as parents. As in, we know how to keep them all fed, safe, and (relatively) clean at the same time. We know how to love them, discipline them, and make their eyes light up with joy. We are doing this parenting thing, and we aren't totally sucking at it.

But then Noelle dropped this bomb today.

"One of my friends said I was ugly."

WHAT?

I had to ask her to repeat it because I wasn't sure I heard it correctly the first time. In one quick second, my heart was breaking and my blood was boiling all at the same time. I frantically whipped through the repertoire of the aforementioned blogs, articles, manuals, books, and brochures I had stored in my brain…searching for something that would give me wisdom for this moment.

Sadly, I didn't have anything stored up for "when your child is called ugly for the first time."

I wanted to say the right things. I wanted to give her the proper advice.

I really wanted to just tell her that kids are jerks sometimes, but I figured I would save that for when she's 11 or something.

So, I took a deep breath and explained to her that sometimes people say things they don't mean out of anger or frustration or even boredom.

Or out of jerky-ness. 

(I didn't say that.)

And then I told her no less than 378 times that she was NOT ugly. She was beautiful. Inside and out. I made her come up with 5 beautiful things about herself.

Her list was as follows:

1. Her freckles. I love that her freckles were the first things she identified as beautiful. 

2. Her eyes.

3. Her hair.

4. Her smile.

5. Her strength and how she runs really fast.

I started to discuss the issue even further, but by then she was mouthing the words, ironically, to Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" on the radio and bopping around to the beat, so I decided to save my Danny Tanner moment for another day.

In a way, having 3 girls scares me to death. I know that this is only the beginning of the hurt feelings, criticism, and self-doubt. I know that the years will amount to one big, long, crazy, twisted emotional roller coaster with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

In fact, the most common response when I say that I have 3 girls is some exasperated sound effect followed by, "Good luck with that!" or something of that nature.

So the entire world knows how hard it is going to be to raise these girls into kind and confident women, and today was just one of many "firsts" we will experience along the way.

This afternoon, she didn't need me to go on and on about how amazing she was, but someday she will, and maybe I will be a little more prepared for that moment and say something like this…

Ugly? Hmmm. Nope. You're not ugly. 

According to Webster, "ugly" means unpleasant to look at; unpleasant to hear; offensive and disgusting.

That is definitely not you.

The person who said that clearly does not understand the meaning of the word "ugly," given that he/she completely misused it. People tend to do that a lot-- use words, yet they have no idea the actual meaning. 

But my point is, you are not ugly. 

You are beautiful and gifted and brilliant. You are funny and entertaining and spunky. You are sweet and spirited and bold. You are creative and colorful and full of life. 

You are not ugly. 

Greed is ugly. Bragging is ugly. Murder and gossip and lying are ugly. 

You are not ugly.

The Colts losing to the New England Patriots is ugly.

But you are not ugly.

It is possible that the person who called you ugly might have had some sort of issue with you that they simply didn't know how to express, so he/she just picked a familiar, insulting word and threw it out blindly. It is quite possible that the person doesn't want to be your friend for one reason or another.

And that is OK. Because there are 7 billion people on this planet, you don't need to be friends with everyone. Everyone does not have to like you.

But just between you and me…I wouldn't want to be friends with someone who doesn't understand the meaning of the word 'ugly' anyway.



the one about these days

This one is for us.

It's for us to read and read again whenever we forget.

It's our reminder to take everything one baby step at a time.

The other night, I looked at you before we fell asleep and asked if we could stay young forever. We both sighed and agreed that years down the road, we will look back and believe these were the best years of our lives.

Everyone says that, but I am really starting to feel it in my gut. In my heart.

These are the best days. The ones where we trip over at least 3 pairs of pink and purple sparkly shoes when we walk in the door. The ones where we fill our grocery carts with oodles of granola bars and fruit snacks and unsweetened applesauce. The ones where, if you looked close enough, you'd surely find a diaper on the floor, under a bed, behind a couch, in a perfect just-changed ball, still needing thrown away.

These are the very best days. The ones where bedtime started as snuggles and stories and ended with tears and bribes and "not that blanket!" or "I want milk!" or "just one more book, Papa." The ones where combing the knots out of their hair after bath time is a 30 minute process and PJs aren't donned until the 5th time we ask. The ones where we flop on the couch in a heap of exhaustion, ready to go to bed at 8:30 because we know that 6 a.m. 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. will come too soon.

Chaos and crazy and, my God, the crumbs…everywhere, on everything. We've got fingerprints on the TV and the windows and mirrors. There are piles of laundry needing washed and more piles of laundry needing put away. We could open a toy store with what we find under our couches alone.

But these are the best days, and even especially when it's hard, we must remember this. Sure, they will always be "our babies," but they won't always be our babies. There won't always be Doc McStuffins Band Aids on the legs of our dining room table or ponytail holders camouflaged into the carpet or washable marker on just about everything. Eventually, this place will look more like a house and less like a daycare and it will all be ours again.

We will be ours again, too.

Which is why I want you to know each and every day that I love you.

Sometimes, "I love you" sounds more like "Babe, you have a booger on your pants."

or "That shirt smells like baby shit, Sweetie."

But in all the ways, I love you.

At the risk of sounding like a maniacal creeper, I want you to know that I watch you. When you think no one is looking, I see you.

I see you in the playroom with the girls, tiara on your head and bracelet on your wrist.

I see you weaving impressive braids into our oldest's hair. You're (scary) good at it.

I see you spinning and tossing and twirling the girls, one right after the other, over and over again, because it makes them squeal with joy. And almost puke. But mostly, squeal with joy.

I see you selecting Disney on Pandora while you make them eggs for breakfast and singing along, unashamed, to almost every song.

I see you holding and swaddling and shushing the baby so that I can get some rest.

I see you.

And in all the ways, I love you.

These days…the ones of coffee at 6 a.m. and coffee at 10 p.m.. The ones of midnight shuffling to the kitchen to fill a sippy with milk. The ones of finger prints on the walls and stickers on the furniture and crayon on anything but a coloring book. The ones of staying awake a few minutes longer, though desperate to close our eyes, just to watch them sleep.

These are the very best days.

I've always known, but now I believe.



the one about everything

Speechless.

I have tried to write this post so many times, but with each try, I fail to find the words.

For the first time ever, I think I am speechless. 

I'm going to try this one more time.

At my 25 week appointment, when we learned that my cervix was dangerously short and could be threatening a pre-term delivery, we were told then that our chances of carrying Shiloh to 36 weeks were very slim.

So we started the procardia and the progesterone injections and the bed rest along with weekly/biweekly ultrasounds and non stress tests. A few weeks later, I began managing my gestational diabetes. I wrecked my van by colliding with public transit, and the rest was history. 

The one thing keeping me going was knowing that I will eventually see her face. Someday, this will all be over, and I will hold my baby. The daily challenges and obstacles that plague me will be a distant memory. That day will come. 

Luke has told me multiple times throughout our relationship in a variety of circumstances, "It won't be like this forever."

I wanted to make it to 37 weeks. I told myself I would. And at 37 weeks, 2 days, Shiloh was born.

Just like the pregnancy, her birth was different than my other two. But I suppose now that I think about it, her labor and delivery serve as a fitting metaphor for the pregnancy as a whole.

Though I knew in my gut that this it was true labor, the process was slow. I didn't progress as quickly as I did with Charlotte, leaving me to labor for about 12 hours through the night. Like my pregnancy, it felt like an eternity. Like the end was nowhere in sight. Like the anticipation and anxiety alone would cause my heart to just give out and stop beating. 

Luke was there, of course, but as he drifted in and out of sleep throughout the night, I was left to my own thoughts and management of my pain and feelings…as I often was while alone and on bed rest. I hated nearly every minute of having my activities restricted, but I can't tell you the strength and self-control I gained as those weeks passed by. And there I was, utilizing that same strength and self-control in my hospital bed, preparing for her arrival. 

By the time it was actually "time," the pain was a 14 on a sale of 1-10. I've never felt anything like that before. And all of a sudden, even though I begged, there was no time for an epidural. Again. What seemed like a slow and sluggish labor quickly became fast and intense. In a similar way, my pregnancy seemed to drag on forever, but all of a sudden it would be over before I knew it.

They called for the anesthesiologist anyway, and I saw his feet beneath the curtain at the entrance to my room. But it was too late. It was time to just get through it. I had experienced each and every physical and emotional pain throughout this pregnancy, and now I had one last obstacle to hurdle.

It wasn't pretty. It wasn't graceful. It wasn't made for a TV movie. I didn't feel in control of my pain or my body or my words whatsoever. 

I yelled that my head was going to explode.

FYI...It didn't. 

And within minutes, the tiniest, most beautiful, dark haired beauty was placed upon my chest. Healthy as could be. Calm and peaceful. Perfect in every way.

I don't remember crying. I'm sure I did a little, but I don't remember it. I just remember feeling victorious. I remember feeling insanely proud and relieved. 

Shiloh Frances, 6 pounds, 5 ounces, of pure joy.

After learning that we made it to 37 weeks, a well-intentioned person told me with a chuckle, "All of that for nothing, huh?"

almost bought into that line of thought, too… but then I look at her and think... for nothing?

11 shots of progesterone in my butt (and another 2 shots of steroids)

150+ procardia pills to swallow

200+ finger pricks to test my blood sugar

80+ doses of metformin

Roughly 4 combined hours of NST monitoring

10+ cervical and abdominal ultrasounds

1-3 appointments weekly for 10+ weeks

Plus bed rest, food restrictions, and missing countless social events


It was not for nothing. It was for everything.






And I would do it all over again.


the one about how i can wait

Yesterday morning, I didn't want to get up and going. My back hurt, and I had another night of sleeplessness between the hours of 4-7 a.m. My girls didn't care about that, though. I would say "Up with the sun," but since the sun doesn't come out until nearly 8 a.m. these days, these girls are up way before the sun.

I fumbled around, my 36 week pregnant belly adding to the overall clumsiness of my usual morning fog. I got the girls set up with some Doc McStuffins, blankets, and granola bars, and I slid back into bed.

Just as my eyes started to close again, I heard the familiar sound of an over-saturated diaper squishing between the legs of an almost two year old, with best friend Blankie dragging behind. I was expecting to hear, "More milkie!" or "I nack," code for I want a snack.

But all I heard was, "Hi. Mama."

Yes, she punctuates her sentences just like that…with a big pause between "hi" and "mama." It's just one of about three trillion things I love about her.

She toddles over to my side of the bed and extends her arms to me. With as much strength as these flabby, haven't-seen-a-gym arms could muster, I lifted her up and over my belly mountain to the other side of the bed. 

In what seemed like one, fluid, continuous motion, she snuggled down underneath my blanket, laid her head on the pillow beside me, and fit herself neatly into the bend of my arm. 

Pretty soon, she won't be "the baby." A new baby is due to arrive any day, and even though Charlotte is still wearing diapers and relying on pacifiers, she will look instantly older the second Shiloh takes her first breath. 

And so for that reason alone, as much as I want to meet this new life who will certainly flip our family on its head…well…technically she has already flipped our family on its head…, as much as I am ready for the stress of this pregnancy to be a thing of the past and for my diabetes/diabeetus to go away so I can drink a legitimate Starbucks…

I can wait. 

I've waited 36 weeks, the past 11 of them feeling more like 11 years, to meet this new baby. But I can wait a little longer, because for now, I've still got a baby curled up in my arms. She needs me. She wants me.

Still clutching the granola bar I had given her when she first woke up, she began nibbling on it. Little pieces were falling from her hand, onto my sheets and into the creases of her neck. I picked up the remnants that had fallen away and popped them back into her mouth. And before long, she was doing the same for me. Her little fingers holding tiny chocolate chips, dropping them into my mouth as I had done for her.

Every now and then, she would pat my arm and say, "Mama" in the same way an adult would say with a sigh, "I just love you."

The moments ticked on and Doc McStuffins ended. Full daylight was streaming in through my windows. Surely it was time to get up and moving. Laundry needed started. Lunches needed packed. Girls needed dropped off at preschool. Grocery store. Doctor's appointment. I needed to get started, but I reminded myself that I can wait a little longer.

I can wait.

I can wait because right now she's still the baby. 

And regardless of whether or not Shiloh decided to come that day, it would still be Charlotte's last day as a one year old.

Today, she is two.

I can hardly believe it, but I lived 28 years on this Earth before knowing this sweet and lovely child. She has enriched our family and given us so many reasons to smile in her short 24 months.

Everything she says, and nearly everything she does, is cute.

I mean…throwing food on the floor or dumping board games out is kinda cute, but not really.

I am so excited to see the little lady she becomes. She's got quite the fire inside of her, and I know she will make such an impact as the years lead on.

But I can wait.

I can wait because right now, maybe for even just one more day (or hour), she's still the baby.

And she won't share granola bars with me forever.

Happy birthday, my sweet, precious, baby Charlotte.


the one about the olaf bag tutorial

By now you know that I am on bed rest, which kind of just means to not leave my house unless I have to do and not do anything strenuous or unnecessary. While I am not confined to a "bed" all day, I do go stir crazy and long for my past life of activity and fun.

Siiiigh.

However, one blessing has been all the time it has allowed me to get projects completed for the baby's room and for my other two girls. I have enjoyed working on items for my Etsy shop, Opal and Aqua, and attempting crafts that I normally wouldn't try due to lack of time or motivation.

I put together a little project yesterday to go with my girls' Halloween costumes. I recently wrote this regarding the fact that we were going store-bought all the way with costumes this year, and that Noelle would be Anna from Frozen and Charlotte would be a ladybug. The only problem was that when Charlotte tried on her ladybug costume, she flopped around in revolt and screamed her head off.

I am picking my battles, so I immediately ordered her the Elsa costume that goes with Noelle's, and it is perfect! I can't believe they even make these dresses this small, but it is the cutest thing I have seen. I'm telling you, JCPenney dress up outfits are where it's at!

So, on one of my outings to Target (don't get excited…30 minutes or less with a chaperone is hardly a Target trip), I noticed this* Olaf trick or treat bag. I thought it was cute enough, but when I looked at it up close, I realized that not only was it overpriced, but it was also barely big enough to hold a Kit Kat. What the heck is that? My kids trick or treat for the single purpose of bringing home a crap ton of candy for their mama, and this year it is more important than ever that they collect an impressive haul. Once this diabeetus is out of my system, I plan to go NUTS with the fun size chocolate bars. This bag simply wasn't going to cut it.

*P.S. I couldn't find a link on Target's website. As you can see, people are already selling these on eBay. I wish I would have bought one to mark up and sell on eBay, too…but that would just make me heartless and disgusting.

I liked the idea of the Olaf bag, though, so I got to looking in my craft closet and found all the supplies I would need to make two bags, one for each of my girls. I didn't spend any money on this, and it took about an hour to do. If you don't have a ready stash of felt and hot glue gun sticks, I bet you could make one bag for less than $5 total.

The best part is that I didn't measure or sew anything, so if you are not into those types of crafts, you can still do this!

This is what you'll need:

2 copies of an Olaf face that is roughly the size of a piece of computer paper
At least a 1/2 yard of white felt for one bag or a whole yard for two bags
Individual sheets of felt in white, black, brown, and orange (just one sheet per color will be fine)
Sharp scissors
A good glue gun that gets nice and hot with the appropriate glue sticks
Screaming children running in and out of your work space -- optional, not recommended, but whatevs

First, I needed an Olaf face to use as a pattern, and I came across this from Catching Up with Kate. I printed it at 250%, black and white, and made two copies. I didn't want to print all the pages of his body (once enlarged, it is about 9 pages), so I just selected the page with the face on it and printed that one.

Prior to cutting anything, I laid my large piece of felt out, folded it in half, and placed one of the printouts on the fold. This was going to be the template for the size of the bag. The fold of the fabric made the bottom of the bag, so I just needed to cut around the other three edges. I widened the bag just a little, so I cut a little more than inch around the sides of the paper to make the bag slightly larger than the piece of paper. Remember, I want lots of candy!



I did this twice (along with everything) because I made one for each of my daughters.

Next, I began cutting out the features of Olaf's face. These next pictures are disturbing and not recommended for children under age 12.



I have two copies of the face so that I can cut out not only the whites of Olaf's eyes, but also the dark shadow around the eyes to make them stand out. I also did this with the mouth and teeth. One copy was used for the mouth, and the other was used for the teeth.




After cutting out his eyes, mouth, nose, and eyebrows, I then held each piece up to the corresponding color of felt and began cutting around them. There is no exact science to this. I just held the pattern steady against the felt and trimmed around each piece. I doubled my felt because I was making two bags.

Don't mind my grown out Jamberry thumb. I mean, at least it's a testament to how long they stay on when you can see 4mm of growth at the bottom, right?




I began laying out my felt pieces on my bags, using Olaf's (butchered) face as my guide to placement. I had to play with it a little before I found an arrangement that looked right to me. The good thing is that Olaf makes lots of fun expressions throughout the movie, so you can't really mess it up.




I decided he needed some hair, so I simply cut some random brown hair (they kind of looked like tree branches) and placed them behind the top piece of felt of my bag so they would look like they were coming out of the top.


The next step was to glue! Hot glue works really well on felt and melts all the fibers together very nicely for a strong bond. You don't need to sew or secure anything!

Once I had the face pieces where I wanted them, I simply lifted them up a corner at a time (so I wouldn't lose my placement) and started gluing. Of course I had to burn my fingers a few times, but what project is complete without some burnt skin?

After the faces were glued, I opened the bag and placed a strip of glue along the edges of the bag, one edge at a time. I pressed the edges together firmly and they were sealed! No need to glue the bottom since I used the fold, and if I were to glue the top…well…that would be stupid.



All that was needed were some handles! I cut two strips of felt for each bag that were about the length of the bag itself. I placed the first handle behind the top piece of felt and glued the edges in place. I then flipped the bag over and did the same thing for the second handle.





Ta da! The finished product!



Are they perfect? No. Do they have hot glue snot strings? Yeah, you'll find a few. But…will they hold lots and lots of candy for this starving-for-sugar mama? YOU BET…and that's all that matters!


the one about time

You all know the story by now. On July 30, at just over 25 weeks through this pregnancy, my world was rocked when an ultrasound revealed that my body may not be able to carry this baby to term.

This day was the beginning of weekly progesterone injections, daily medications to swallow, and very restricted activities. 

For the past 8-ish weeks, I have probably spent 80% of my waking hours sitting or lying down. It hasn't been fun, and it hasn't been easy. Prior to pregnancy and parenthood, "bed rest" sounded like Heaven. Hours a day of cozying up in bed with a good book or Lifetime movie, people waiting on me constantly, not having any responsibilities to tend to or tasks to complete. 

Yeah, right. 

The whole term "bed rest" is laughable to me because, at the end of the day, my husband still has to go to work, my girls cannot be in the care of others all day everyday, and things still have to get done. Trash needs taken out if my husband forgets. Laundry needs done or we won't have clothes to wear. Floors need cleaned or CPS is going to come and take my children away. When we are out of milk and it's a billion hours until my husband can pick some up, well…I go and get it. My girls still need driven to preschool, and it is just easier if I do it. Some weeks, I have 2-3 appointments with the doctor(s). I have to get myself there. 

Yes, we have had countless offers from people who want to help us. And we have taken them up on a lot of them. We have had 2-3 meals delivered to us weekly since the beginning of August. This has been such a huge burden to have taken off my shoulders. Friends and family have taken our daughters on outings for hours at a time to provide some relief to both them and me. But I cannot, and will not, rely on others for everything, so we just do the best we can. 

I'm still not working. I'm still not doing photo sessions. I'm still not exercising. I'm still not taking my girls to the park or going on walks or taking a day to go to Indy for shopping or a nice dinner. We aren't using our zoo or museum memberships. We haven't been to the library in too long. I'm not on my feet for longer than 30-40 minutes at a time…because it is exhausting and painful and not what's best for me or Baby Shiloh. 

I've missed out on weddings, birthday parties, family gatherings, and countless opportunities to make memories with my husband and children. 

Tired. Depressed. Sad. Anxious. The absence of life's simple pleasures has brought me down. 

So, yesterday, we took an hour to do what families do in September.

We went to an apple orchard. 

Why?

Because time waits for nothing, and time could care less about bed rest. 

I've watched 8 weeks of sunny Summer days pass by without enjoying any of them, and in another 8 weeks, the leaves will be gone and the trees will be bare and Shiloh will surely be here, which means I will be a new mom again…learning how to balance parenting my toddlers and tending to a newborn. 

I need to make memories with my girls now. I need to see them smile and play and experience now.

Because it will never be just the four of us again. 


Time wouldn't have cared if I missed her climbing to the top of this straw mountain.


And it wouldn't have cared if I missed this smile.


Time wouldn't have cared if I missed the enjoyment of her first apple cinnamon donut.


Complete with cinnamon sugar. Everywhere.



Time wouldn't have allowed me a redo of this moment.


Or this one.


Or this one.


Time is going to pass anyway. 


I can't slow it down. I can't stop it. I can't do anything about it.


 I can't afford to miss another thing.



One hour of "Mama, look!"

One hour of "I did it, Mama!"

One hour of "Mama, come with us!"

One hour of normal.

One hour of time we will never get back.



the one about letting it go

This will be the 5th Halloween I have experienced as a mama, and the anxiety I feel each year to think of "the perfect costume" for my children borders on…well, ridiculous.

Right around this time in September, I begin scouring Pinterest for clever, ironic, funny, or just plain cute ways to dress my children up to go beg the neighbors for candy they won't really ever get to eat. 

It was easier when Noelle was younger. She would wear whatever I asked her to wear, and I didn't have another child to try and "pair" her with. When Charlotte came along, I had visions of perfectly matched and "theme-y" Halloween costumes, like Dorothy and Toto or Cookies and Milk or this…


Last year, Noelle told me she wanted to be Ariel. I began to labor over her costume, buying tulle to craft into a tail and a red wig. I wanted to make Charlotte a charming mini-Ursula. A week before Halloween, Noelle decided she didn't want to be Ariel, so she ended up wearing a cut up pink t-shirt and bandana, proclaiming herself to be Izzy, the girl pirate on Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Charlotte was a cat.

"We will do better next year," I thought.

I recently asked Noelle what she would like to be for Halloween this year. Imagine my horror when she said, "Anna from Frozen!"

My mind immediately flashed to 300 other little girls wearing the same costume around the neighborhood. I love Frozen, too, but I was hoping we could go the more creative-kitschy route.

"Really? Anna?"

"YES! I can't wait to dress up like her for Halloween!" She was so excited.

I knew from last year's experience not to assume that she wouldn't change her mind…so I held onto some hope that the next time I asked, she would have a different answer.

I have since asked her the same question at least a half a dozen times, and she has remained constant.

ANNA IT IS.

Well, if my child wants to be one of a billion Annas on Halloween, I will at least make sure her costume is one of a kind.

So I started searching online for patterns and sales and coupons to fabric stores. I was going to make her the prettiest Anna costume there ever was….

…until I slapped myself upside my own head.

Seriously, Ashley? You are 32 weeks into a high risk pregnancy. The baby could come at any point, and the last thing you need to be doing is slaving away over an Anna costume for love of everything holy. With your luck, the thing will be still in pieces on the floor when your water breaks all over it, and you'll ruin the dress AND your child's Halloween FOREVER!

So, I re-routed and found this very nice replica for less money than the fabric would have been had I made it myself.

JCPenney Anna Costume


This beauty will be at our door in a few days, and I won't have to worry about working my fingers to the bone on a costume she may eventually refuse to put on the night of Halloween.

Halloween shouldn't be about competing with other parents to see who put the most time and energy into a costume. It should simply be about letting kids have a little bit of fun while they dress up as something special…and then eating all their candy after they go to bed.

You might assume Charlotte is going as Olaf or Sven or Elsa to complete the "theme."

Nope.

She will be a ladybug. A store-bought-with-a-coupon ladybug.

They may be the only Anna-Ladybug pair out there, and that's as original as it's gonna get this year.

the one about the hospital bag

Oh. Em. Gee.

I am a hot mess.

One day, I'm all "Yeah, my life has taken a turn toward Suckville but I'm ownin' it and taking it in stride."

The next day (or minute, or hour), I'm crying into my pillow, blathering on about how everything is so unfair and my hair is ugly.

Most days, I try to stay somewhere in between of those two extremes, but…hormones.

So, my point is that I have been wanting to get back to blogging like the good ol' days, which I will lovingly refer to as P.C. (pre-cervix). These A.C. (after cervix) days have been downright depressing, and I'm sorry.

This blog is called Heart of the Mama for a reason, and this mama's heart has been all over the place for the past several weeks. I wish I could say my moodiness will only get better from here, but ((laughs hysterically)).

So for now, I'm in a good spot, so I am going to do a whole post that doesn't even mention my shrinking, bitchy cervix! There…I said cervix for the last time this post! All done with cervix talk (sowwy).

Since I am now 31 weeks pregnant (WAHOO!), I do have my hospital bag packed and ready to go. My best friend had a baby a few months ago, and I harped on her for weeks prior to her delivery to get her bag packed because at any of her regular OB appointments, they could say, "Well, we need to send you over to Labor and Delivery," and I knew she'd want to be prepared.

Did she listen to the seasoned Veteran mother friend? Nope. She did not.

And she was sent over to L&D unexpectedly, a few weeks shy of her due date, with nothing packed in her bag. Her husband was left to do the dirty work, and although I am sure he did the best he could…let's just say that husbands have horrible ideas when it comes to choosing things for their wives to wear.

I'm thinking if I left it up to Luke to pack my hospital bag for me, he would probably throw in some athletic socks, a semi-formal dress (that fit 2 babies ago), a pair of his basketball shorts, and a strapless bra.

There's no way I was going to risk that happening, so a couple weeks ago, I started gathering items that I thought were necessary.

There may be some things on my list that you don't feel are necessary, and that is A-OK with me. I'm just giving advice based on my experiences with my past two deliveries.

I have a rather large travel bag that I like to use, and it is plenty large enough for my things, my husband's things, and a couple little items for our baby. If you don't have a bag large enough, feel free to divide the items up appropriately. I just like to have as few things to keep track of as possible…i.e. I don't even carry a purse.

My List of Hospital Bag Essentials

1. Travel toiletries. These are important because, well, the hospital ain't the Ritz Carlton. They don't have wax paper-wrapped soaps and spa samples in the tub. Bring your own stuff so that the first shower feels extra nice. I recommend the travel size toiletries so that you aren't lugging so many large bottles in your bag, and so that if when you leave them at the hospital, it isn't a big deal. Buy an extra toothbrush and toothpaste for you and your husband so you have it in your bag and ready to go.

2. Slippers or flip flops. I kind of hate wearing socks, and walking around barefoot in a hospital room is probably not the best idea, so slippers or flip flops would be very helpful.

3. Clothing. I truly believe you should feel as good as you can following the birth of your child. You will no doubt have tons of visitors, and I always felt so much better when I was out of my hospital gown and in something I could, you know, stand up in without people seeing my butt. I recommend bringing 1-2 pairs of stretchy, black yoga pants or leggings, 1-2 nursing tank tops or loose-fitting shirts, and a light weight wrap sweater/robe that goes long enough to cover your rear-end (more on that later).

I think the yoga pants/leggings are self-explainatory. You want things that are stretchy and comfortable. I hate to break it to you, but you will most likely still look very pregnant immediately following childbirth. Those kinds of "I lost all of my baby weight instantly" miracles only happen in Hollywood and that small corner of your Facebook for your "friends" you secretly hate.

Nursing tank tops are great, but if you aren't comfortable in those, I would look into those long, drapey, loose t-shirts. I emphasize loose and drapey because, if you are breast feeding, you need to be able to easily nurse a baby without having to hike your shirt up over your head. If you read my childbirth post, you already know that someone very well could open your shirt and slip your baby inside through the neck hole, so a loose-neck shirt will allow this to happen easily.

I also emphasize long because you want something to cover your butt. You will basically be wearing a diaper following childbirth comprised of a puppy training pad, an ice pack, and medicated gauze out the wazoo (literally). This amount of bulk is quite obvious from the back, and it can make you feel a bit uncomfortable when you get up to walk around if everyone can stare at it. A long shirt will help this to be less obvious.

This is also where the light weight wrap, sweater or robe can help. Not only does this help to cover you up a little more, but it also covers the junk in the trunk.

You will want to bring a nursing bra, or at least a sports bra, if you're not going to wear the nursing tank tops.

You do not need to bring your own underwear. Really. I had a girl in my childbirth class ask if she "had" to wear the sexy mesh underwear they give you following childbirth. The nurse leading the class laughed in her face and basically said that if she insisted on wearing her own underwear, to go ahead and try, but that it is better if you just give in and wear the mesh boy shorts. Don't be one of those people. You're not better than the rest of us. Mesh underwear for life for the win!

4. Nursing supplies. If you have a breast pump already, I recommend bringing it so you can learn how to use it and get help from a nurse if you're a little intimidated. They have pumps at the hospital, but bringing the one you will use at home is nice. You can just keep it in your car and then if you decide you'd like to have it brought in so you can use it, it's there.

Also, do not forget the nipple cream. You laugh now, but you will need it, and sending your hubby out to buy nipple cream is probably a bad idea. Who knows what kind of store he will end up in.

I am not a huge fan of the flamboyant nursing covers, but I love the Aden + Anais large muslin blankets because they double as a swaddle blanket and a nursing cover. Either way, I would bring something to cover you while nursing, especially if you're a first-time mom and you are worried about being exposed. Remember, lots of people will be in and out at all hours, and I always like to have a blanket there in case I am nursing and someone drops in to say hi.

5. Make-up and hair items. You don't have to dress up for Prom, but I am a make-up wearer, and after I was able to take a shower, I felt so much better with a little make-up on. With people taking pictures and coming to visit, I wanted to feel good about myself. Just mascara and lipgloss helped a bunch. The same goes for hair items-- I didn't bring a bunch of stuff, but I at least had a headband and a few bobby pins to get my hair back and mildly presentable. If you don't think this will be important to you, that is totally fine! (but don't get pissed later when you say, "Why didn't anyone TELL me my hair looked like that!?")

6. Technology and entertainment items. If you're staying 2-3 days in the hospital, it will get a little boring from time to time. I woke up the next day after my 2nd daughter was born and was ready to go Target. We ended up signing out early because I was itching to get back into civilization. Whether you stay the full time or not, you will probably want some sort of light entertainment like a book, magazine, iPad, or a laptop. Make sure you have all the chargers for your phones and other electronics! Maybe your hospital room will be fancy and you can bring DVDs. I would definitely check first.

When we had Charlotte, the Mother-Baby recovery rooms were all full, so we were placed on the pediatrics floor. When we asked about movies (they only had VHS), they gave us a list of what they had on the floor. Let's just say that our options were any Disney movie created prior to 1998. So….we wished we at least had our iPad. Or pencils to stick in our eyes.

Also, don't forget your camera (charged and ready with a memory card)! So many women groan at this thought because they can't fathom taking pictures right after (or even during) childbirth, but this is like a wedding. You can't redo it. Even your 2nd, 3rd, or 4th childbirths will not feel like your first. Take pictures, please! Even if you don't show them to anyone-- please take pictures of you with your baby, your husband with your baby, the three of you together. You don't want to regret this later.

7. Snacks for after childbirth. You can't eat during labor. This sucks. So bring a couple of treats you can eat in your room after the birth. I had my 2nd child at 9:30 p.m. There wasn't any food being delivered at that hour, and I was awake nearly all night while we waited to be put in a recovery room and doing those initial feedings. I was hungry! So, snacks are good! But if your husband tries to eat while you're in labor can't eat, so help me, God…!

If you don't have snacks, at least bring a couple of bucks worth of change for vending machines.

8. Husband clothes & toiletries. Remember that guy? He will need at least 1-2 changes of clothes, too. Hopefully he can use some of your same toiletries so you don't have to bring too much stuff with you. I never wanted my husband to leave me while at the hospital, even if it was just to run home and shower or change clothes, so bringing this along helps to avoid that if at all possible.

9. Childbirth aides. If you are planning to use some sort of a back massager or special therapeutic birthing rock that emits natural pain medication and/or vagina healing powers, make sure you bring that.

10. 1-2 outfits for baby. They have basic onesies at the hospital, but if you want your baby to be in his/her own clothes from the get-go, make sure you bring some along-- but don't go crazy. You're not there for very long. A lot of people bring special going home outfits. I love the long-sleeve newborn gowns. The long sleeves fold over to make mittens to keep him/her from scratching the face, and the gowns are handy because you don't have to mess with snaps in the middle of the night.

If you're having a girl, a cute little hat or bow is fun, but keep in mind that lot of the time, the baby's head is way too small to wear those and the bow can take over her head! Check for headbands/hats that are made specifically for newborn babies.

11. Swaddle blanket. The hospital will give you the universal hospital baby blanket, but I don't think you're supposed to take those home, and they aren't that cute. Bring a cute swaddle blanket or the one you have chosen to be the baby's blanket.

12. Pacifier. Our hospital is pretty strict on pacifiers and won't give them out, so if you want your baby to take one or at least try to take one, bring your own just in case. I'm going to bring a couple extra this time to sell on the black market to the moms who forgot to bring one.

13. Items for siblings. If you have older children who will be visiting, you may want to throw in a couple of coloring books/crayons, a few of their favorite books, the cool Big Sister shirt you bought on Etsy, or a game you can play together. These items may be best to placed in a separate bag and left with whoever is caring for your kids while you are in the hospital…but either way, make sure you think about them and their needs!

You do not need to bring diapers or wipes! The hospital will take care of these for you, and enjoy the freebies while they last. You also don't need to bring bath items for the baby. They will have all that stuff there for you to use (and take home).

Now, my pregnancy has been particularly stressful, so I plan to sneak in a few items such as booze, lots of donuts (for when the diabeetus goes away), and I may even take up smoking cigarettes (just kidding…lighten up a little).

I'm hoping I won't need my bag for at least another 4-5 weeks, but at least I'm prepared if something crazy happens. And why would I think anything crazy would happen in this pregnancy? Oh wait...





the one about small potatoes

I have gestational diabetes (pronounced diabeeeeetus).

And a shortened cervix.

And threatened preterm labor.

And I am on modified bed rest.

And, unfortunately, I was involved in a car accident yesterday, which means that I also have a beautiful black minivan with a lot of damage done to it.

And a shoulder with air bag abrasions.

And a forearm with bruises from the steering wheel.

I feel like I have been hit by a bus. Which is funny (kind of, not really) because I really was hit by a bus.

Yes, the girls were with me.

Yes, they are OK.

Yes, after an ultrasound and blood tests and several hours of monitoring, Baby Shiloh is OK.

Yes, I am OK.

Yes, this is the longest pregnancy in the history of all pregnancies.

But I am not here to talk about the accident. I am trying to erase it from my mind completely. I am not here to talk about my short cervix or bed rest.

I am here to talk about how much I love food…especially potatoes. By looking at me, you can tell I have never met a potato I didn't like. Loaded, baked, fried, julienned, sliced, diced, crispy, fluffy, mashed, creamy, chunky, in soup, or shredded. I. Luh. Potatoes.

However, because I have the sweet blood, my potato intake has had to substantially lower. In fact, I haven't had a potato of any kind in an entire week since I started monitoring my blood sugar.

You're impressed I haven't killed anyone. I can tell.

It's not that you can't have potatoes when you have gestational diabetes/diabeetus, but the portion size has to be so small that, to me, it isn't worth it to eat them at all. I have no self control, so I cannot be expected to eat only half a small order of french fries or exactly 14 potato chips or whatever the ridiculous serving size is.

It is simply easier and better if I don't attempt to eat potatoes at all.

When I met with the nutritionist last week, she happily explained to me that I could have a 4" baked potato.

I didn't know 4" baked potatoes existed. The ones I buy at the store have got to be at least 7-8" long. So, of course, I would have to cut it in half and act like I was so satisfied with that, most likely eating it with a baby fork so as to make it lost longer. Not worth it.

Suffice it to say that food has been on my mind constantly. I have been fantasizing about the meal I would have upon Shiloh's delivery. I have obsessively looked up nutrition information for all of my favorite restaurants to see what I could get away with eating. I have found blogs and sites devoted to low-carb copycat recipes for things like desserts and Starbucks drinks…because my regular drink at Starbucks contains more carbs than I am allowed in my entire dinner. So there's that.

I have thrown quite the pity party for myself…gotten jealous of the pictures people post of their food on Facebook (which is a problem in and of itself), cried when I couldn't just eat what I was craving at the moment, and wanted to strangle Luke when he returned home from a birthday party and went on and on and on about how good the food was.

Clearly, I need therapy. Or wine. But since I am pregnant and have diabeetus, wine is out.

Before about 1 p.m. yesterday, I thought my life was over because of food.

But to think that my daughters, my unborn child, or I could have been seriously hurt as a result of that accident yesterday…it's truly (yet another) lesson in perspective.

I told Luke this morning that I feel this pregnancy has been one giant test. A test of my strength. A test of my faith. A test of my sanity. A test of my priorities. A test of my willpower. In all of these areas, I have struggled throughout my life. I've made mountains out of mole hills. I've turned away from my faith instead of toward it. I've given in and given up too many times to count.

But this pregnancy isn't letting me give up…and after each hurdle I have had to jump, I have learned something new about myself.

Yesterday, I learned that there is so much more to life than sugary, carby food. I will get through the dietary restrictions and soon enough, I will have a blissful reunion with carbs.

Of course, I have always known this. But now I will never forget it.

Family. Safety. Health.

Everything else is small potatoes.



the one about when it rains

It is certainly crazy how quickly things can change.

A little over 2 weeks ago, I was returning home from a trip to Nashville with my female in-laws. My husband had just treated to me to an amazing night at a Sara Bareilles concert in Cincinnati. I had just consumed the most incredible pork BBQ sandwich I had ever tasted.

I had no idea I would soon be dealing with advanced cervical shortening, threatened preterm labor, modified bed rest, and now gestational diabetes. Yep…the results are in. Failed.

I had no idea that my calendar would soon be filled with weekly ultrasounds, weekly non-stress tests, and now meetings with a nutritionist and diabetes educator.

I cancelled over ten photo sessions and won't be teaching my preschool class until January.

I, the mother who resigned from her full-time position to stay home with her children, have had to take them to daycare everyday because I cannot keep up with their needs, wants, and demands when I am home alone with them.

I have experienced the guilt of "taking it easy" and "getting off my feet" because it feels completely unnatural to not be interacting with my children in the ways I am used to…to not be cooking every meal (or any meal)…to not be running from point A to point B to back to point A and so on and so forth.

My head has been spinning, and I would be lying if I said I was taking it all in stride. I have broken down. I have cried puddles of tears. I have lost my temper out of frustration. I have questioned why this was happening as if surely someone else was more deserving of this situation than me.

But I think there comes a point when you just get tired of feeling sorry for yourself. It feels gross and like a massive waste of time and energy. And right now, I can't afford to waste neither time nor energy.

There's a popular saying, "When it rains, it pours." My, haven't I felt the meaning of those words lately.

But I also know that when it rains, all kinds of good things happen.

Like…the grass turns greener.

Flowers can grow.

And the ground softens.

We get free car washes.

I love the smell of rain.

And who doesn't love the sound as it hits the rooftop and windows?

We have been completely overwhelmed by the generosity of our friends and family throughout this ordeal. From encouraging Facebook comments and messages to texts and phone calls…and meal deliveries and taking our girls out so that they could have some fun and I could get some rest…and the prayers. It has all been a tremendous blessing born from a pretty miserable and frightening situation.

Each passing day is a victory. Each passing week is a triumph.

And sometimes, each passing hour calls for a celebration.

But I am OK.

Bring on the rain.

the one about when it's complicated

I'm sorry. If I sound a little bitter, it could be because my cervix is still being a little shit and is now HALF a centimeter long, AND I found out that I failed my one-hour glucose test (which I passed in my prior two pregnancies) so I now have another date with the nasty diabeetus drink and a three-hour stay in the hospital lab's waiting room. The joy. 

You know how on Facebook, you can change your Relationship Status to say, "It's Complicated?"

Maybe ol' Mark Zuckerberg could add a line to say Pregnancy Status, and you could choose from a few options:

It's Awesome

It Sucks, but I'm Just a Whiner

It's Complicated

I just want to tell everyone who asks me how I am doing, how I am feeling, when I am due, how far along I am, etc, etc, etc…It's Complicated.

And believe me, I know that "complicated" doesn't mean horrible. I know that it could be worse…it could always be worse. I know that "complicated" doesn't mean the end of the world. I know that I have to take things one day at a time, but ifIhearIhavetotakethingsonedayatatimeagainIwillscreambecausedon'twealreadyknowthatdaysonlycomeoneatatimeanyway?

What complicated does mean is that I don't have a straight-forward answer for how I am feeling. I am all the feels. In the span of 15 minutes, I feel fine, stressed, frustrated, sad, peaceful, hopeful, and pissed off. But I am sure you don't want to hear about all that, so I will just tell you it's complicated.

Complicated means fighting every possible urge to be jealous of every seemingly smooth and flawless pregnancy you see in your News Feed. I have almost quit on Facebook 3,472 times over the past 10 days, but then I realized I wouldn't have anything to keep me company during the day whilst on the bed  of rest. For real life friends that I actually care about, I'm certainly happy your pregnancies are going well, but I can't help but be sad and do the whole Nancy Kerrigan "WHY me? WHY?" thing. Repeatedly.

Speaking of that, complicated is lonely. And the worst part is that people are actually trying to help me and going out of their way to let me know I am not alone, but the days feel empty and hollow and lonely anyway. It's difficult to explain and thus, complicated. When you are the person who thrives on the socialization that even especially Target provides, being stuck inside your house for an entire day feels extremely isolating and torturous.

Complicated is the excitement of bringing a new baby into the world mixed with the fear of having her too early. I have been dragging my feet on getting anything ready because it feels like that would be encouraging her to come early.

Complicated is the desire for more children but realizing that the risk of getting pregnant again and chancing this same scenario feels selfish and dangerous. It is hard not to jump to that conclusion at this point, but I would never knowingly put another unborn child at risk of being born prematurely, nor would I want to cause such an inconvenience for my family if I were to become sidelined again. It's a lot to think about, and, unfortunately, I have a lot of time to think.

Believe me, I know I have complained more in the above paragraphs than a man with the sniffles, which makes me want to punch myself (which is also complicated). So the one thing I will say that has been a positive of this entire situation is I am in awe of the generosity and sweetness of our friends and family. From watching our children to bringing us meals to just listening quietly while I leak verbal diarrhea by the cup-full…we truly have a great support system.

But at the end of the day, this pregnancy is still complicated. My feelings are complicated.

And my cervix is an asshole...which is really, really complicated.





the one about Shiloh

This post involves using the word cervix. If you don't like the word cervix, please consider this a fair warning to head to Fox News or ESPN or just scratch your eyeballs out and try to forget it ever happened.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

I have actually been pregnant four times. It's kind of weird to think about. I lost my first baby at about 10 weeks due to a miscarriage. I am not going to candy-coat it. It sucked, and changed my perception of pregnancy and childbirth forever. It was nearly 6 years ago now, and I am in a much better place, but my heart will always hurt for the baby I never got to see or hold.

I went on to have two very successful pregnancies and subsequent deliveries. I have always loved being pregnant. I have never had morning sickness (don't hate), I didn't swell up like the Michelin man until right before delivery with my first, and I could always keep up my usual level of activity with no complications. I'd read or hear about people having issues, and I would always thank my lucky stars.

Little did I know when I was pregnant with Noelle that my body in fact was an alien creature and I did have something weird going on. At 38 weeks pregnant, my cervix (had to just jump right in with it) was dilated to 7 cm without me having any contractions whatsoever. My OB couldn't really believe it and said in her years of practice, I was the first person to present with this weird phenomenon without one single contraction that I was aware of.

If I could, I would have pat my cervix on the back or given it a high five. Yay, Cervix! You are freaking awesome! I am already 70% finished with your ass. Just burn off the other 3 cm and give me my baby. I was a Zumba addict at that time, going to 2-3 classes per week and loving every second. I was certain my intense hip gyrations and frequent pineapple smoothies were to blame/praise for my Super Cervix Status.

I ended up having to be induced because my doctor was crazy scared I was going to deliver along the side of the road (I was commuting from Indianapolis to Muncie for work). She basically told me to take it easy, and then 2 days later, I was induced and Noelle was born (after 4 hours of pushing-- I like to throw that in there).

Fast forward about 2 1/2 years later, and I was pregnant with Charlotte. We were living in Muncie, so no more commuting for work, but I kept my same OB in Indianapolis so that my husband's colleagues weren't witness to my nanny business while I was trying to have a baby. A girl needs some modesty and anonymity, right?

Well, at about 33 weeks, I had this feeling that Charlotte was going to drop straight out of me. No contractions, but I was too scared to even go to the bathroom because I knew I would be the perfect candidate for one of those shows like, "I had my baby in the toilet." I mean, I wouldn't mind being famous, but not for that. Geez.

So I went to the doctor and forced the nurse practitioner to check and see what the heck was going on down there. As it turned out, I was 3 cm dilated already at 33 weeks. This raised some red flags, and they hooked me up to the contraction monitor for observation. After an hour of monitoring with no contractions, they determined that I was a true freak of nature and sent me on my way. Super Cervix was at it again, but it was a little too early to get excited.

The weeks passed on without event, and, sure enough, at my 38 week appointment, I was 7 cm dilated again. I still hadn't had any contractions, so kept trucking along at school, all the while peeing my pants every single time I sneezed (such an awesome side-effect of pregnancy). We had Grandparents' Day on a Friday, and I was set to be induced that following Monday. I expected to have my baby in my arms by Monday afternoon.

That Saturday night, I felt what reminded me of little tiny gnomes inside my nether regions, using ice picks and other tiny tools to poke their way out of my cervix. It was such a strange, yet hilarious visual, that it kept me up all night, all the while thinking, "This is weird." Still, no contractions.

I spent all of Sunday lazing around and mentally preparing for my induction and, quite honestly, straightening my hair because I wanted to look good throughout the induction process. Sue me, OK? By Sunday night, I was feeling some pretty nasty back pain, but no contractions.

It's just that this back pain was coming at steady intervals of about a minute part. No big deal.

Actually, big, giant, damn deal.

By about 8:45 that night, it hit me that I was experiencing that lovely "back labor" phenomenon, and that the baby was going to be born very soon. In between bouts of panic and pure terror, Luke and I made the decision that a trip to Indianapolis would not be happening, as I probably really would deliver along the side of the road. I called my parents to come stay with Noelle at 9 p.m. Luke threw towels in the car just in case, and Charlotte was born at 9:25. The end.

And Luke's colleagues totally saw my nanny business.

So now that you have that information, I will tell you about this third pregnancy of mine. Not as flawless as the other two, but not bad. I've had more aches and pains. I've had more ultrasounds, some elective, some not. I've had to take it "easier" throughout these 25 weeks. However, I have still attended  step aerobics pretty regularly, chased my two girls around, and walked around Target approximately 3,742 times without incident.

OK, I shouldn't say without incident. I did have to be given 2 liters of IV fluids at 20 weeks because I had some pesky, regular contractions for about 6 hours after a strenuous day of zoo-walking in 90 degree heat. But I will slap my own wrist for that one. I have also had very intermittent, at times regular, contractions since then…but nothing to get too concerned about.

Because of my super fast delivery with Charlotte, we now use a Muncie doctor who just happens to work in the same office as my husband. I lost all of my modesty and anonymity during Charlotte's delivery anyway, so I decided to play it safe and keep it local. Because having a baby in a toilet would probably better than having it in my husband's new Suburu along I-69.

We started monitoring for incompetent cervix at about 14 weeks with internal ultrasounds at our hospital's perinatal specialist. The first thing he said upon shaking my hand was "You have a beautiful cervix."

High five, Cervix. You're magical!

Everything was measuring normal at the following 18 week ultrasound. Still holding strong and given over-achiever status.

However, at our most recent, 25 week, ultrasound, the air was let out of the room when the ultrasound technician said with a stern face, "Where did your cervix go…?"

It had shortened from 4 cm to just barely over 1 cm. If you look at ONE measly little centimeter on a ruler, you will see that that is all that is keeping my sweet baby inside of me. When people write gross things on Facebook during labor such as "I am 75% effaced," well…that's me. Right now. 25 weeks.

Over-achiever alright.

But no one is congratulating me on this. It's actually pretty serious.

You know how I know? Because my husband is a doctor, and he doesn't worry about things. In fact, I have told everyone who will listen about all the times he has under-reacted to my health ailments. Like…when he told me to gargle salt water when I really had developed pneumonia and barely had O2 saturation levels over 90%. Or when I was writhing in the emergency room 3 days before Christmas with abdominal pain, doped up on dilaudid, and he thought they should just release me and we could "manage it at home." Ended up having an appendectomy which revealed a ruptured ovarian cyst. No big deal. No big deal at all.

So basically, he does not give in to every little ache and pain because he knows that most of the time, it is nothing. It's all normal. But if you would have heard the sighs and seen the head shakes come out of him, you would know that this was the real deal.

My cervix had gone and done it now. No high five, Sir (my cervix is a male-- coincidence? I think not). I kind of want to smack the shit out of you.

All I wanted to know was what does this mean and what do we do about it? Well, it is a humbling experience when the perinatal guru says "I can nearly guarantee you won't make it to 36 weeks." OK, I can handle, like, 35.5 weeks.

But what if I had her at 28 weeks? Or 30 weeks? She's viable, of course, but what kind of complications are we looking at? What kind of implications on her future does this present?

Or worse…what if I had her this week? My mind just kept racing through all the different scenarios. All I could think about was delivering a tiny, helpless, premie baby who may have difficulty breathing on her own…or functioning later in life.

It's a scary, sad, anxious situation to be in.

And let me make this clear. I am scared for her. I am sad for her. I am anxious for her. I will do whatever I have to do to get her as close to full-term as possible. I am determined to do it. I see no reason why I can't have her at 37 or 38 weeks like my other two.

So, we have started steroid shots for her lung development. Do you know they stick that needle in your ass? Just checking.

We also are starting some other medications to prevent preterm labor. Since I have already had contractions, I am not eligible for a cerclage (i.e. sewing up my cervix) according to perinatal guru.

And of course I have been told to be on bed rest. After I glared at perinatal guru for 3.7 seconds, he said, "Bed rest, not bed ridden," as all I could think of was "How will I take care of my girls while staying 'relaxed' and 'rested.' " And how fair was this to either of them? One thing I know for sure is that I won't be able to be the same Mama to them for the next (hopefully) 12 weeks. It is difficult to say over and over again, "Mama can't chase you." "You can't come up and sit on Mama's belly." "I can't pick you up." "Wait until Papa gets home to go outside and play."

Obviously, step aerobics class is out. Unnecessary trips to Indianapolis or even just walking around stores alone are out. I cancelled all my photography clients for August and September because I'm pretty sure running after toddlers, playing "Scare the crap out of Ashley" for a smile, and crawling around in the grass for the perfect shot, in summer heat, is frowned upon while on "bed rest." Basically, when I can, I should be "resting." I cannot and will not take the risk of doing something frivolous and silly and then sending myself into preterm labor.

My biggest priority is her. And we have named her Shiloh.

We haven't kept her name a secret. If you have asked me, I have told you. But this is her public name debut. It means tranquil. It's a town mentioned in the Old Testament. And the teacher in me recalls it as my favorite novel to read with my 4th graders. It's a story of perseverance and pride and growing up and realizing the world isn't fair. It's a story of standing up for what you believe in and risking everything to help someone (in that case, an abused dog) in need.

The Battle of Shiloh was also a major battle of the Civil War.

I think it fits her perfectly.

And my, is she perfect. She's measuring right on track. She moves like crazy and has a strong heart. We have every intention of having a very healthy baby.

Shiloh.

She's going to be such a wonderful addition to our family…no matter when she comes or how she comes or what we have to do to get her here.

I'm ready to fight for her and stand up for her and persevere through the toughest situations, if it comes to that, for my sweet Shiloh.

So now that you know her name, could you pray for her? Could you picture her as a fully-grown, healthy baby?

No matter the battle we will have to conquer to bring her safely into this world, it will be so worth it.

But damn you, Cervix. Damn you.