Saturday, June 14, 2014

Becoming a Father: A Wife's Perspective

With our oldest having just turned 5 and Father's Day coming up tomorrow, I felt inspired to reflect on the wonderful gift that it's been to watch my husband become and grow as a father.

It's sort of a funny thing, the way life works. My husband and I began dating between our Junior and Senior years of high school. While the feelings of lust and infatuation often lead to daydreams of happily-ever-afters, I think it's fair to say that no seventeen-year-old truly and adequately imagines a life beyond drive-in dates, love notes left in lockers, and the ever-pressing dilemma of studying for the big Calculus test or snuggling with your cutie.
At 17, my husband never wanted to get married and definitely never wanted kids. Yeah, he was one of those. lol. At 17, I dreamed of us being together forever. I assumed the white veil and the bouncing baby would come at some point, though the idea of it always seemed kind of like that distant 4th cousin you have that acts on Broadway. You know it exists. It's there somewhere, way in the distance, and one day it'd be cool to cross paths.

Eventually, those ideas became more real. Our life together grew and blossomed into something I don't think either one of us could have imagined or predicted. We walked down the aisle at 19 and 20 and within two months from that day, that boy I knew with the newly acquired title of "Husband" was off to serve his country in the United States Navy.
By that point, I was a bit older. You know, 20 years old. Completely ancient. I was in a rush to start our family. I assumed my PCOS would make it a long, difficult journey and it was one I was anxious to embark on. I'm not sure my husband would have said the same. We were just beginning such an incredible endeavor with the military life, we were going to be out on our own and "living the dream". The world was our oyster and I don't think a screaming, pooping, sleep-depriving pearl was what he had in mind. But, we both knew we wanted a family. Again, eventually. But we had no idea when that day would come.

We spent 4 months apart from each other and at that point it seemed like forever. Now, 4 months seems like nothing. You grow immensely and realize your strength as a military couple. But that's another day, another blog.
On August 28th, 2008, I joined my husband in Great Lakes, IL and our "married life" truly began.
On September 7th, 2008, I got pregnant with our first son.

Because of my PCOS and some wacky cycles, I had no idea what my body was doing. I knew I felt "off" but it could have been anything. I tested, and it was negative, and so I went on thinking that my period would come any time. On my 21st birthday, I chose to test again. Big fat blue plus sign. I remember tears streaming down my face. Happy tears. It was my birthday..and the first one I spent away from home. I got phone calls from my friends, my family, my mom. I was screaming inside but I wanted my husband to be the first to know so I held it in.
6pm, he comes home. I'm waiting on the bed with the positive test. For 12 1/2 hours I'd kept the biggest secret of my life. I was ready to burst. He walks in the room "Happy birthday, baby. I'm sorry we can't do anything. I'm so upset that I can't take you out, but you know money is so tight right now. Duty was awful, as usual."
"Can we talk for a sec?"
"Maybe in a minute. I need to take a shower and unwind."
"Just a second. Listen, I know you're upset about not having any money, but I'm okay, I promise. We don't need to do anything big for my birthday. It'll be memorable regardless..."
"I doubt that."
"Hey, sometimes we think things are supposed to go one way and they go another. And sometimes the second way is a better way, after all. God only gives you the things you  can handle.."
"I know, I know. I'm going to go shower and maybe I'll feel more like talking after."
"Robin, seriously. We can talk in a minute. I'm just really stressed out.."

Okay, this wasn't going how I expected. But I'd waited long enough. Another 20 minutes would seem like an eternity. I blurted it out..
"We're having a baby."
And then something happened that I wasn't ready for. My husband literally jumped for joy. His entire expression changed. He ran to me, hugged me, kissed me, looked at the test with shining eyes. "We're having a baby!!!" he screamed at the top of his lungs. "Woohoo!!!"
And it was true. We were having a baby and our lives were changing. Our lives would be forever changed.

On June 3, 2009, Xander Wesley Lunsford came into this world. He put up a fight and this mama was exhausted but he was glorious. He was precious and perfect and amazing.
I remember my husbands expressions changing over the course of labor and delivery. Disbelief, confusion, fear, encouragement, excitement, pure joy. Tears of happiness filled his eyes as he looked at his baby boy. It was a beautiful moment, forever etched in my heart.

From that moment on, life was an entirely different creature than it had been before. Our time was not our own. There was someone else, far more important than we two, to think about. Every decision was made in the interest of that boy. 
I remember the great things: my husband enjoying dressing our baby in the silliest of outfits, the times when Xander would giggle and then Robert would giggle and then I would giggle and we'd all be in a full-on laughing fit before we knew it, the moments when Robert would come up behind me while I was nursing or rocking the baby and just stare at us in amazement. 
I remember the bad times: my husband pacing the floor while bouncing a screaming baby.."I don't know how to help him", he'd say in desperation. I remember the sleepless nights. The exhaustion and stress induced arguments between us. The fear that we were doing everything "right" but somehow we were messing it all up. 

Over time, I watched my husband totally get the hang of the "dad thing". I hated seeing the heartache in his eyes every time he had to leave us. He missed first words, first steps, and birthdays. But he would always jump right in the second he got home. 
We loved being parents so much that we thought, hey, let's do this thing again! When Xander was about 15 months we started trying for baby #2. We were excited to find out I was pregnant just a couple months later, but we felt the truest form of heartbreak when we lost that baby. It's a phone call I'll never forget. My husband had gone underway that morning. He called to check on me, as he knew I'd been feeling bad and experiencing some concerning symptoms. I heard his voice crack on the phone when I uttered those words. It was so difficult and I knew that more than anything, he longed to be home with me and Xander in that moment. 
After that underway, we decided to try again right away. We had a limited amount of time  before he would be leaving again, for his second official deployment. My doc gave the go ahead, and a mere 3 weeks after we experienced our loss, we were pregnant again. 

On New Years Eve, 2010, I excused myself into a hotel bathroom for just a minute. It was too soon to test. It was too late in the day to test. But I just felt I needed to. "I just want to make sure I'm not before I have a drink tonight.", I told Robert. A dear friend of ours, Jenifer, was there with us while we awaited the arrival of some of our other friends. I walked out of the bathroom and they both looked at me. "Still waiting. Gotta wait 3 minutes."
So we did. We talked about how excited we were for all of us to be back together and spending the holiday together, save Jenifer's husband, Ryan, who was deployed at the time. "I wish Rybo was here", I said. She and Robert kept talking and I walked back into the bathroom to check the test, expecting to immediately toss it in the trash and go on about our night. 
"Oh my gosh." I said. Kind of quiet but audible. They both turned to me, silent..waiting. "It's a yes! It's a yes! It says pregnant right on it!!" I yelled. We all jumped up and down together. And we totally took a mirror selfie of ourselves with a positive pregnancy test and confetti blowers. 

On September 8, 2011, just under two months after my husband returned from deployment, Archer Reichen Lunsford was born. That morning my husband was taking the advancement exam at work and--he wasn't allowed to miss it. I was scheduled to be induced at 7. He breezed through the exam and got to the hospital at 9. I hadn't even been seen yet. "Sorry about you having to rush.", I said. "Of course I rushed. I wasn't going to miss our son being born because of some Navy bs." He wasn't even close to missing it. Archie came at 6:02pm. But my hubby was there through it all. He failed the exam, though. I think he'd say it was worth it. 

We spent the next year and then some in familial bliss. We were all together. Of course, we had our bumps in the road, but things were really good. My husband was so happy with his two little boys. I loved seeing them grow into funny, active, charismatic little people. Mini versions of their Daddy. I could see how much he loved being with them. We'd spend afternoons at the park, watching our big run and climb and our little, early bloomer, trying to keep up. We'd have dance parties in the living room. Robert bought a bike trailer and took the boys on rides around the neighborhood. I think he loved that as much as they did. 

In February of 2013, my husband left for deployment #3. It was by far the most difficult of deployments we'd seen. He was leaving an extra loved one behind this time. He had been home for over a year, aside from a few underways, and we'd gotten into a routine of being a family of four. Now we were being torn apart again, for the longest time we'd had to be--hopefully for the last time, but that was no comfort. 
After 9 long months, my husband returned. Our boys had grown up so much. A lot changes in 9 months when you're a child. My husband had already missed nearly half of Xander's life. And that 9 months alone was a 3rd of Archer's days spent on the Earth up to that point. 

Now, looking back, it seems like such a short period of time. It drug on, but the time passes so fast when you're looking back on how your babies have grown. I couldn't imagine being in my husband's shoes--having to sail away for huge chunks of their lives. Having to see milestones through emails and pictures. Having to ask yourself "What is my son like these days?". 
But my husband did it with strength. He did it with grace, with commitment, with dedication. I thank him for that, and I know someday our sons will too.

Tomorrow will be my husbands 6th Father's Day. It will be only the 2nd one that he's been able to spend with his kids. I know it's just another day of the year and I hope he feels loved and appreciated every other day, as well. But tomorrow is a special day. It's a day for my sons and I to look at him and say "Thank you for being an amazing father." 
So, Babe, thank you. Thank you for finding so much joy in teaching our sons new things. Thank you for getting down on the floor and playing Hot Wheels and building Lego dragons. Thank you for spending hours watching Disney movies and for having coloring contests. Thank you for being here, even when you've had to be away. Thank you for taking training wheels off of bikes and then putting them back on again. Thank you for filling pools, for setting up tents, for spending countless Christmas Eve's piecing together the most complicated of play sets. Thank you for apologizing when you lose your patience. Thank you for being my savior on some of the longest, most challenging days of my life as a mother. Thank you for loving, for caring, and for spending time. Thank you for growing..for becoming not only a man and a husband, but a daddy. A million times, thank you. We love you. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Up in the air..

I stumbled upon an article today {here} that seemed to have been written by me. Aside from the whole Puerto Rican bit, and the mentioning divorce, I could have written that myself.

Everything else was spot on.
If you know me, you know I want another child. If you've known me for a long time, you've known that fact about me for a long time and you've known that it has not faltered over the years. Ever since I was old enough to name and play with my baby dolls, I wanted at least 3 children. In my fantasy, they were a set of boy and girl twins and one other boy..maybe even another girl, too. But of course, your fantasies rarely come true and you often find that your reality is even better.

I've got two amazing, wonderful, handsome, intelligent, healthy boys. And I thank God for them. And I cherish them. And I realize how much of a blessing they are. I try with all my might not to take them for granted. I want them to know they are precious to me, they are irreplaceable to me, they complete me.

But, I still want another. I'm often caught off guard by how many people believe that my wanting another equates my not appreciating the ones I have. I do appreciate them. I appreciate everything about them--that is one reason I so long to have more.
If I would have had children and realized it wasn't all it was cracked up to be--maybe I saw that my lifelong dream was silly and it left me feeling regretful--I wouldn't have wanted to continue building a family. But it was quite the opposite. Although I realized raising children was much harder than I could have ever expected and much more demanding than I could have ever prepared for, I also realized it was much more rewarding and sweet than I could have ever dreamed.

My boys are the most important things in my life. I have other loves and I enjoy other things. I never want to say that my life has no meaning outside of my children, because that indicates that without children life can have no meaning. And that is not true. But what is true is that when these tiny humans invade your world, they become the most meaningful thing in it.
And I want more of that.

I love my children with my entire heart, and if I never had another, I would continue to believe I've been blessed beyond measure. But there is a part inside of me that longs for, aches for, another baby.
Each time my oldest enters into a new phase of life (he'll be starting Kindergarten this fall..say it isn't so!), I feel a bitter-sweetness that is indescribable. Here he is, growing before me, and try as I might I cannot slow time down. He's reached the age where the moments of his life that were spent toddling and learning basic human functions are outnumbered by the times that were spent running, climbing, and carrying on intelligent conversations. His baby days are long gone.
And then, you have the times when my youngest meets certain milestones. And in addition to a feeling of bitter-sweetness, I feel a sense of shear panic rise inside of me. "Is this it?" I ask myself.

Not too long ago, we moved our littlest man into bunk beds with his brother. The crib was taken down and stored in the garage, until I could bring myself to sell it (which btw, hasn't happened yet). Shortly thereafter, I was going through the boys' closet and moving summer clothes into their dresser when my mom stopped me and said "And what about this drawer full of crib sheets? You don't have any use for them anymore."
Tears. Tears welling up in my eyes as I thought about the fact that those old, worn-out, sometimes discolored crib sheets were no longer needed.
At this age with Xander, we already knew we were expecting another baby. I kept every article of clothing, every sheet, every blanket, every bottle.
Now, there's a very good chance that those things will not be used again in this household. And it tears me completely apart.

I've been trying to convince my husband to have another child since Archer was born. "Just one more..down the road.." I'd say. But he's held firm to his decision to be finished at two. And there seems to be no budging in sight.
This last summer, knowing we had a big move ahead of us, I finally gave in and sold the baby items we'd been storing in the garage. It was a little bit freeing to say goodbye to that swing--the one bought for us by dear friends, used for both of the boys. The one that they both spent acid-refluxy nights sleeping in. The one that cast stars on our bedroom wall at 3am. The one that eventually needed to be pushed to get it to start up, after years of use. It was freeing simply because it was a placeholder for another baby that may or may never come. And every time I looked at it, I wondered.
We let go of the bouncer, the high chair, and about 10 totes of baby clothes. I stuffed all my just can't part with stuff into one tote and that tote made the trip with us. It's now sitting in the garage, calling me to go look through it with tears in my eyes but I just can't.

The problem with freeing myself from those place holders is that I have two little reminders of my adoration for motherhood right here with me, every day. Like I said, every new milestone that is met, every cute little "I love Mommy" shirt that is grown out of, these things beg the question for me: is this it?

Contrary to what this blog may make you think, I don't really want another baby right now. I just want one someday. Maybe in a year or two, or even three. I just want the promise that we'll try again. I just want the comfort that these toddler days are not my last.
As my boys grow, they will do amazing things. And I vow to enjoy every single stage of their lives. I know that even when they are 14 and 16, my heart is going to ache a little bit that next year, I'll never have a 14 year old again. Even if I have four more kids, I know that those days will come.
I am just not ready for them yet.
I am not ready to give up or give in. I am not ready to throw in the towel. I am not ready to say "this is it."

My husband is by no means a bad guy. He wants the best for this family and he has his own vision of what that is. He is an amazing father. He loves our boys, he plays with them on their level, he dreams of their bright futures. And I respect him, as much as I want his mind to change. I realize that he has his reasons for being done, and I realize that as much as I want him to "come over to my side", he is wishing the same of me.
It breaks my heart that we're in this limbo. Of course, I want us to be on the same page. But I'm not ready to concede and neither is he. So we continue to go back and forth, we continue to talk, we continue to wait for the other.

No one knows when the wait will end. People say when you're done you "just know". Our problem is that he knows and I don't. And like the woman stated in the article above, it is a bad situation because there has to be a "yes" or "no" answer. Someone is the winner and someone is the loser. And who that is is yet to be determined.

The thought of having another child overwhelms him. It makes him anxious. It worries him. It causes him strife.
The thought of not having another evokes the same things within me.

I cannot stand the thought of me having had my last trip to labor and delivery 2.5 years ago. I cannot stand the thought of the newborn smell having drifted away from my nostrils, never to return again. I cannot stand the thought of not having the ability to nourish another life with my own body ever again. I want another baby, but I also want another child. I want the toddles again. I want the first day of school again. I want more field trips, more first dates, more weddings, more grandkids. I want it all.

When do I decide that these wants are irrelevant? When do I decide to let them go, to give them up, and to move on?
I don't know. All I know is that it isn't now. I'm not ready yet. It remains up in the air.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I miss you.

This morning I heard a radio segment about a girl who called in saying how she felt overwhelmed and upset. She had moved away from home, and when she moved back she felt like all her friends had moved on and she didn't have the connections with them that she longed for. The radio hosts were quite mean, and basically told her to grow up. "You should be so busy going to college and taking care of your own business that you don't even have time for those friendships, anyway.", they told her. "You're sadly mistaken if you think that the friends you have at 20 will be the same friends you have at 30, so it doesn't matter anyway."

I thought to myself, maybe I'm just odd. Maybe I'm the exception. I had a discussion in one of my social networking groups recently that brought this to my attention, as well. The question was "Is your husband your best friend?" Most people answered yes. Now, I love my husband a great deal, obviously. And we have a great time together. But my husband holds a different position than friend. Husbands and wives have a different relationship than friends have, in my opinion. And while I can do the things with him I do with my friends, I still need my friends in my life. They fulfill a part of me that others don't. Just as my family fulfills a part, my husband fulfills a part, my sons fulfill a part, etc.
I realized in talking to most of the people who said that yes, their husband was their best friend and that honestly, they talk to other friends but they don't feel they need them, that I was the odd-ball. I'm 26 years old and my closest friends are ones that I've had since I was very young. One of which, I've had since I was 5 years old. And most of the others came along during middle school. I feel like I do need them. Of course, I've met other friends in adulthood and some of them have become very dear to me, as well, especially my brothers and sisters in Christ who have shown me such true love and important lessons. And I do need these people. I need them because they remind me of who I really am.

I love being a mother. I love being a wife. But those titles come with expectations. There is much pressure to do and to achieve. The relationships rely on certain expectations being met. I can't say to my kids "I need to just do me for a minute." That's not possible, not acceptable. If I have a rough day, it's hard to tell my husband "I just really wanted to sit here and just veg out today.." because that means that the functioning of our household got put on hold--things weren't cleaned, dinner wasn't planned, more work was made for him.
I have a certain expectation to remain strong in my household. I have an important position and everyone relies on me in some way. I understand how much of a blessing that is, but it also comes with a price. I love to serve my kids and my husband, but I can often get caught up in that and forget about the things that are just "Robin things".

I rely on my friendships to remind me.
If I want to turn on Erykah Badu and dance around for hours, my friends get that. They'll do that. They won't ask questions or be waiting for something else to happen.
If I want to watch Ax Men for 2 hours..not because it's a good show..but because it's just so easy to laugh friends are fine with that. We do that. And they don't get upset that we talk the whole way through it. That's part of the fun.
If I want to drive around, and yell at people that are out in their yards..even if all I yell is the exact thing they are already doing (Yeah, you mow that grass! Walk that dog!), and it brings me an illogical amount of joy lol, my friends do that. They yell things like "Geneva Convention!" and "You're fake bald!" and we laugh at the looks we get until our sides hurt.
No one expects anything from me but to just simply be me. I don't have to look a certain way, I don't have to be making plans or fixing things or explaining myself.
I'm just Robin. And Robin is all that's needed in that moment. It's refreshing.

I often think about how I miss the days before my life became such a blur. I'm not at all saying I take these things for granted--my husband, his military career, our children..they are all blessings to me and I couldn't imagine my life without them. But that doesn't mean I don't miss the way things once were..when I actually saw my friends more than once a year. Or when I made it to my family functions and celebrated everyone's birthdays. When I had the time to do the things that brought me pleasure--like singing, and writing, and scrapbooking, and watching late night talkshows.
I try to make time for those things in my life now, but it's next to impossible. I want to write, but I don't have the time. Between the boys and school work and house work, it's just not there. Pumping out a quick blog like this is about all I can count on. I don't have the time or the focus to organize my thoughts for much of anything else. I want to sing, and I make time for it when I'm cleaning around the house..but there are always distractions. There is always a chaotic backdrop to my voice. There is no silent intimacy in which I can communicate my deepest fears, deepest which I can connect my heart strings with God's. I want to laugh with my family and friends, to goof-off, to let my guard down and just "be". But they are all hundreds of miles their own lives..being everything for everyone around them, just as I am doing here.

Maybe I do need to grow up. Maybe this attachment of myself to other people is unhealthy or unnatural. I expect them to hold onto a piece of me that I often leave behind, so that when we are together, they can give that piece back to me, little by little. And perhaps, I'm asking too much.
But, that's just the way I am. I thought maybe I'd get used to the way things are now. I thought maybe I'd "grow up" and "move on" and I'd find that I didn't need those pieces to be held onto or replaced anymore because I'd discover how to nourish them and protect them alone. But that hasn't happened yet and I don't foresee it happening any time soon.
Here in this life I'm living--full of love, full of happiness, full of blessings and rewards, full of laughs with my husband, kisses from my children, pride in my educational accomplishments, experiences that I never thought I'd get the chance to experience...
There is still a heavy emptiness that hangs around me. There is still an image of my closest friends, and a piece of my true self with them, somewhere off in the distance. I reach out and I try to grab a hold, and even if only my fingertips rest there, I will not let go.

I miss you, friends. I miss the well-rounded feeling that you provide me. I miss the belly-laughs, I miss the shoulders to cry on, I miss the complete acceptance that I feel around you. I miss myself..the carefree person that you allow me to be.

Monday, February 10, 2014

I am not disgusting.

Before hopping in the shower this afternoon, I looked in the mirror and my first thought, surprisingly, was "I am not disgusting."

There are many things I've been called in my life regarding my weight: pathetic, lazy, gross, repulsive...but the D word, disgusting, is the one that tends to stick in my brain the most.
It's the one I conjure up when I'm slipping on my swim suit to head to the beach. It's the one I repeat to myself when I am meeting new people, when I'm shopping for new clothes, and pretty much every single time I eat anything.
And it's the word I usually use to describe myself, in my own mind, when I look at my body in the mirror. But today I said to myself it's not true.

I decided to look at my body for what it truly is, beyond what may be seen with the naked eye. I looked at the parts that I usually look at with disdain and I thought about what they represented for me, as an a living, breathing human being.
My "huge hips"...they may be wide, but they aided me in delivering two healthy baby boys. They are perfect for slinging a toddler on or pulling my 4 year old's head into when he's scared or sad.
My breasts may not be as perky as they once were but they have provided nutrition for two sweet, tender lives.
My stomach is covered in stretch marks but those are my constant reminders of housing my sons, of my body making room for theirs.

My body holds a brain..a very intelligent one that has helped me through countless years of education and will lead me to obtaining my second college degree this year.
It's a creative that enjoys expressing itself through writing, one that loves to learn, one that remembers all the sweet details of my childhood, my friend's birthdays, my loved ones' most precious moments.
My body houses a voice that led me to discover my very first true love and passion--music, particularly singing.
My body houses a heart that in the literal sense keeps me alive every day to enjoy my life's many blessings. In the figurative sense, it loves deeply, it cares strongly, and it embraces thoroughly.

My body is much more than can be slipped into a size 18 jeans. My body is mine and it is not disgusting. It is quite the opposite.

My body also struggles to overcome the effects of a disease, PCOS. This disease makes gaining weight very easy and losing weight extremely hard, due to insulin resistance and hormonal imbalances.

But I am not trying to make excuses for being overweight or to even say that I couldn't stand to lose some weight for my health. I could. And I should. And I will.
It may take a lot of effort; I know it does because I've done it before. I also know that in order to make the changes I need to make, I have to believe that I am worth the hard work. I have to believe that this struggle is worthwhile and that I have the power and the strength to succeed.
That comes with believing that I am valuable.

To put it simply...
I am overweight, but I am not disgusting.
No matter my size, I have something to offer and I am beautiful both inwardly and outwardly.
From this day forward, I refuse to allow myself or anyone else to shame me into believing I am the D word. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Attitude Adjustment

"You need an attitude adjustment."
If I had a dollar for every time my mom uttered that phrase in my presence, I probably wouldn't need to worry about paying off student loans as much as I do.
As a child or teenager, I didn't put much stock into that statement. It was just one of the things my mom would say that meant we weren't currently on her good side. It didn't hold any weight. Now, as a mom, I can definitely say that my boys need an attitude adjustment from time to time and I probably will catch myself saying so to them in the same hopes that my mother said it to me.

But are there times when that statement rings true for me as well? Yes, I think so. And I think now is one of those times.

Lately I've been feeling really down. It comes from a lot of things, both big and small "issues" in my life at the moment. And I've always been the kind of person to make light of any kind of struggles I'm facing. I'm always the type to say "Everything is okay" when asked, even when things aren't okay at the moment. I guess it's because I know that things will be okay. And I know that things could be much worse. I'm known for being a happy-go-lucky and positive person and I'd like to continue to be known for that. Because I believe I am that person. Even when times are a bit tough.

But, given that I tend to keep my problems to myself, I can often start to dwell on them and let them overtake me. This leads to a change in behavior on my part and that comes as a surprise to anyone around me.
The other day I was just going about my business and my mom stopped to ask me if everything was okay. "Yeah, everything is fine" I responded. Then she said something I wasn't ready for: "Well, you seem a little on edge."

Me? On edge? No, that's not how I want to be. I'm not on edge. I'm patient, happy, positive Robin. I'm fun. Right?
Wrong. I stopped to think about what could make her think that I was on edge and realized that, well, I'd been on edge.
I'd been snapping easily at the boys. I'd lost motivation to do things around the house or run the errands I needed to run. I was becoming easily annoyed and argumentative with my husband. I didn't really want to be bothered by anyone and the tension in my household was high.

Some of my behavior is due in part to some hormonal issues I'm dealing with and hopefully those will be cleared up soon. But some of it is just plain and simply a bad attitude.

I've been in a place of feeling sorry for myself these last few weeks and I guess I wasn't hiding it as well as I thought. It was becoming apparent to those around me that something was under my skin. And honestly, I hadn't even realized that something was bothering me enough to change me until I looked at it from the outside in.

It's okay to feel the way I do about certain things. And I guess maybe trying to hide them only makes it worse.
 I'm sad that I've left my church, my friends, my normal life of the last 5 years. I'm anxious about starting over, learning this new place, meeting new people.
Having to meet new people and make new friends always reminds me of how much I miss my old friends. It always leaves me nostalgic and wishing for a time that we're all in each others' daily lives. And it always leaves me breathless knowing that a time such as that may never happen again. 
Like I said above, I've been dealing with some hormonal stuff and that's made me feel pretty bleh a lot of days. I'm also really struggling with my weight and while I could write and entire book about the way that affects my life, I'll just sum it up here by saying that it's scary and overwhelming to know you have every reason to change something, to know that you want and need to change something, but then to continue to fail to do so each time you try. It's draining.
My marriage isn't perfect. We're still very much in love, but we've hit some rough patches readjusting to life with each other every day and while it's good for the most part, working out the kinks can be tiring.
The boys are both in difficult, demanding, all-consuming stages right now and when patience is already running thin, that can be disastrous.
Even though my little ones run me ragged, somehow my heart aches for another baby. I don't want to accept or believe that the season of newborn cuddles is past. I can't bear to imagine an empty womb from here on out, an empty crib, an empty place on my chest that a baby fits so perfectly. And while I know we don't know what the future holds--my husband could change his mind and I suppose so could I--it's the unknown that bothers me. 
And so I've felt like I have a lot to complain about. I've felt bitter and sad and angry.
And although I know that I'm blessed, I've allowed myself to think more about the hardships.

I need to practice an attitude of gratitude.
My life is not perfect. There are fears and tears and clenched fists and "just make it through one more day"s. There are times when I feel like I'm failing as a mother, as a wife, as a friend. There are nights that I lie awake wracking my brain for solutions to problems that I can't even explain.
And yet, I am blessed. I am blessed beyond measure. I am blessed and even if nothing else in my life ever goes right again, I have been blessed. I have much to be thankful for. And I am grateful.
So why do I let myself forget that? Why do I spend more time crying out to God for help, or even admittedly avoiding him than I do pouring out my heart in thanks?

I may miss my friends, but at least I've been blessed with people that are so easy to miss. I may argue with my husband or feel defeated sometimes but I know I'm loved and I have a partner all my life. I may be at my wits end and in tears some days with my boys, but they are mine and they love me and there is no greater gift than them. I may long for another baby, but I've been lucky to carry and deliver two healthy children and nurse them and cradle them as they grew. I may be overwhelmed with school work but I am free to have an education and free to pursue any career I choose.
And I have been given the simple things--I am living and breathing. I am writing this from the comfort of my warm home..using my nice laptop and high speed internet. Last night I had dinner and this morning I had breakfast and this afternoon I'll have lunch. I sent my little man off to school this morning and I, too, grew up going to school. I graduated. I got married. I moved into a place of my own.
So often we mistake life's grandest treasures for the mundane or the guaranteed. And they are neither. And some people aren't lucky enough to experience the things we expect to experience each and every day of our lives.

Starting today I'm going to try to remember that. I'm still going to allow myself to feel upset, sad, or let down, but I'm not going to allow those things to build up until they change my demeanor or leave me "on edge". That is not the person I want to be. I want to be a person with an attitude of gratitude. It's time for an attitude adjustment.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Modern Warfare: How Social Media Turned Motherhood Into An Epic Battle Royale

Picture it: June 3rd, 2009. The day my life began.
Not really. I had a meaningful life long before I had my first son. But motherhood was definitely a new and uncharted part of life for me. One filled with wonderment, grandeur, and of course the occasional (when the occasion comes more often than not) "failure". Part of motherhood [and by motherhood, you can assume I mean parenthood in general, although I will use the term motherhood because I am a mother, not a father], perhaps the biggest part, is being faced with decisions and realizing that you are making them for another human being. I don't know about others, but before actually lacing up my mommy shoes, I never really thought about that. Every single decision I have made from that point on affects not only me, but my children. And many of those decisions are solely geared toward their well-being, and theirs' alone.

From the moment they come into this world: Do you vaccinate? Do you breastfeed or formula feed? If you breastfeed, do you pump too? If you formula feed, what brand? Do you rock them to sleep or put them down awake? Do you let them use a paci to comfort themselves or do you see it as unnecessary or even possibly a hindrance to your breastfeeding? Will you use a stroller or will you always wear your baby? Will baby always be held or will you "hand them off" to a swing or bouncer? If you have a boy, will you circumcise? If you have a girl, will you pierce her ears? When will you introduce solids? Will you cosleep? Will you put baby in his or her crib right away? What if it takes baby too long to sleep through the night? Will you sleep train? Use CIO? How long is too long before they STTN, anyway? Will you push your baby to learn new things like crawling or walking or talking or will you sit back and let it come on its own? Will you use a carrier or convertible car seat? And when will you turn that car seat forward facing? Will you take your child to church, involve them in your faith or will you teach them to feel it out on their own? Will you spank, use time out, just try to reason with them? Will you homeschool or send your child to public school? Will they go to school with organic packed lunches or will they eat what the school serves? Will you give your child an allowance? Make them work for it? What about when they turn 16? Do Mom and Dad buy their first car or should the child buy his/her own?
You will be making decisions for your child from the moment they are born until they are well into adulthood.

Before becoming a mom, I would think about these things from time to time and think "No big deal, we'll cross that bridge when we get there." And sure, there were some that I immediately answered "No way." or "Of course."
I knew all of these decisions would be of some importance in my children's lives. I probably didn't realize of how much importance.
But what I definitely didn't realize was how important my decisions would be to nearly every other mother I know. Now, keep in mind I said "nearly". I just want to point that out before I continue.

When I was a child, I remember overhearing my mom talk with her friends about my brother and I. Occasionally she'd seek parenting advice from one of her close friends, a church lady or my grandmother and aunts. Honestly, though, I think my mom's philosophy was this: Love them, feed them, clothe them, show pride in them, discipline the wrong, praise the good, and wing the rest.
Were there times she made the wrong decisions? Of course. But I don't recall many specifics. And I also don't recall anyone ever saying to her, face to face, "Oh no. You can't do that. You can't spank your kids. That causes brain damage." Or "You really had your son circumcised? You know that's inhumane, right?" Or "That's really sad that you had a C-section with your second. That's like you didn't even give birth to her."

Yet, I see these things on a daily basis now. Let that sink in. Daily I see mothers being constantly and obsessively criticized for the way they raise their children.
It has become so easy. Moms everywhere are using their fingers and keys as deadly weapons on the battlefield of Facebook. Or Twitter. Or Instagram. And every other social media site you can think of.

Why is this okay?
Sure, it's great that you are able to offer instant advice for mothers who are struggling with some of those tough decisions. But more often than not, that advice is really just pokes and prods, meant to be hurtful, aimed at frail women seeking some kind of support during some of the hardest days of their lives.

And what's worse is that we've all been there. As a mom, in this technologically fueled environment we live in, we have all gone to our respective outlets and vented our frustrations about a baby that's been up every 25 minutes for the last 7 hours. We've all posted that article that seems to state just what we were thinking about vaccinations, or circumcision, or sleep sacks, or whatever. And we've all posted that celebration status about breastfeeding for a year now or having a baby that walks at 8 months or rear-facing for 3 years or potty training at 18 months.
And it's all fine. But when you posted that you needed help choosing a formula, you never dreamed someone would actually comment "None. Breast is best." And you never dreamed that comment would lead to several other people discussing how giving formula is mistreating your baby and you should be ashamed. And how your child would be getting the nutrition he or she deserves if you would just have had the gutso to stick it out. When you posted that article that talks about how vaccines save lives you never thought someone would accuse you of poisoning your baby. When you posted that your baby was trying her first green bean and loving it, you never dreamed someone would give you a lecture about how solids aren't good for your child before 8 months or even necessary before a year..that is if you were breastfeeding like the mother you should be.
And 'round and 'round we go. And we get our feelings hurt, so we have to retaliate. Or at least, we have to defend. And that can get messy. And goodness, does that get tiring.

You know what standard I want to live up to? I want to teach my kids to love God, to love others, and I want to provide them with food, shelter, and education. I want to do those things the way that my husband and I have decided to do them. And if we're happy and our kids are happy and healthy, then I want that to be that. The end.
When I reach out for help, I want just that. I don't want to be shot down or told how I'm wrong.
Newsflash--we're all wrong. Isn't there always room for improvement? I can't be perfect and I can't do every thing the best way. I try, but I know that there are going to be times that it just doesn't work.
And those are the times when I, as a mother surrounded by other mothers, need support. Not criticism.

Seriously, to all fellow mommies out there. To the the TTCers..sit your weapons down and walk away. Motherhood is a hectic, tender, and sometimes very fragile state we're in. It's hard enough making the big decisions for the lives that you took on the responsibility of bringing up. It's even harder when those decisions are being scrutinized by everyone around you.
So, I leave you all with this:

The only battle that should take place in your state of motherhood is the battle between your own will and the will of your tiny, courageous, world-changer. Not between you and all other mothers.
You are doing just fine and your children can survive, can thrive, in many different circumstances and situations. Our children are going to make up the world's population one day and they will be thankful that they are all unique.

So, step back. Step down. Disarm.