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Friday, June 9, 2017

For When You're No Longer Pregnant

He's seven pounds, 11 ounces, Mom.

The cheery nurse smiled a wide, 9:30 a.m. grin. And her words struck me. First, with pride and an unveiled layer of understanding: my son has gained a whole pound since we left the hospital.

This is why I stumble to his basinet at two o'clock for a feeding. This is why I squirm under a cover up when there is company, or when my husband and I are brave enough to shuffle into the world outside our city condo. This is why I change my outfit at least three times before we leave the house.

I am, at this time, meant to help him grow. 

And it works. It powerfully works. 

The second?

"Did she just call me Mom?"

There are a few things in the world that will change your life instantly.

Watching the screen on piece of plastic you bought half-panicked, half-hoping at the grocery store fizzle into good news is one of them.

The moment you have your child in your arms and you're no longer pregnant is another.

Everything changes. Everything. From your clothing styles (maneuvering pre-pregnancy clothes to nursing appropriate pieces), to your favorite tracking apps on your phone,  and, bless it, no longer having to run to the restroom every 25 minutes. (For the record, I would like to tell everyone who told me to "sleep while I can" that I am sleeping more now postpartum than I did the last 10 weeks of my pregnancy). 

Forty weeks go by. Forty weeks. You become the very literal definition of navel-gazer, watching your belly, your appetite, your hormones and annoyances with the outer world grow.

Everyone can see the changes happening to your body. Everyone knows: you're about to have baby.

And then it happens in a flash. A decision. A prod (or four) with an epidural needle. An incision. A muffled cry. No longer pregnant. Forever-longer a mother.

Though the change was instant, the realization seeps into your every day.

It happens at the grocery store when patrons no longer give you too-long side stares or let you pass through them in the line. The world doesn't know you're three weeks post c-section, and that's why you're walking a little more tenderly.

Seven pounds, 11 ounces, Mom.

It happens when you return to the hospital the night after you come home from having the baby. It happens in an embarrassing bout of anxiety and high blood pressure. Your first time away from your boys. Completely unprepared to nourish your child while you're gone for three of the longest hours of your life, just a half-hearted can of formula tucked away in the cabinets. Unused bottles still pristine in their Amazon Prime boxes. 

11 ounces, Mom.

It happens when you forget to bring a pie to your mother-in-law's house for dinner. One that you strategically placed by the door that you breezed right past in the flurry of buckling the car seat and tucking those tiny feet into a pair of still-too-big socks for the fortieth time.

It happens when you relay the forgotten pie anecdote to your brother in law who simply puts his arm around you, laughs and welcomes you to "the club."

It happens as I write this post on my phone while diffusing my wet curls, wondering if I'm doing either well: my hair frizzy, already tired from fighting the summer's humidity, my words misspelled.


It happens in the moments beyond the gushing and starry eyes. It's packed with tangled, type-A thoughts: if I feed him now, will we make it through a two-hour church service? Will he need a diaper change at grandma's (heavens, yes)? Will he let our visitors hold him (most of the time)? Will he notice if I set him down in his basinet for the night (yes)? Will I wake up wake up frantically searching the sheets of our bed, convinced I was holding him in my sleep to find him safely tucked away in the corner? 

 All of this happened both in an instant and slowly. Like how you step into the ocean – you still get wet but you have to wade a little bit to get deep.

And that's how, I'm finding, you come into motherhood. Loving those seven pounds 11 ounces both all at once and bit by bit.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

To the Man Who Made Me a Momma

You're doing a great job, Daddy.

The past week and a half of our son's life have been both slow and fast. Slow in the sense that maternity leave is an adjustment for this task-oriented extrovert. Fast in the sense that no matter how much time there is in the stretch of a summer day, there never seems to be enough of it.

Through the past few days I've fielded a lot of questions from momma friends. [1]"How are your hormones?" [2]"Are you healing okay from your c-section?" [3]"How's breastfeeding going?"

And I'm happy to report: [1]they're there, [2]feeling great, [3]and very well.

But then I look at you. The man who made me a Momma. The man who is quick to grab me a water bottle, blanket, take the baby, burp the baby, change the diaper, and be a strong shoulder to rest my head on when those feedings seem to grow suspiciously closer and closer together.

You were there the moment we knew we were pregnant. You were there through the 40-week stretch. The changes, the growth, the wonder, the fear.

You were there in the hospital through two rounds of inductions. Helping me unhook myself from monitor after monitor to walk around the room, to wash my face or brush my teeth.

You kissed me when it appeared to us all that a C-section was inevitable. You waited patiently outside of the operating room in your white zip-up suit while they prodded me four times with the epidural needle.

And then you were there. By my side. Holding my hand. Listening to my jokes (which I'm sure were hilarious). You didn't even laugh a me when I asked, "Is that my baby?" when I finally heard a cry coming from the other end of the room.

Then promptly fell asleep. 

Friends from far and wide have welcomed me into the motherhood clan, and I'm thankful. Especially for the ones who read my fly by night texts that are peppered with heightened emotion and, yes, that ever-promised lack of sleep (albeit, still more than I got when I was pregnant), and don't blink an eye.

Our community has rallied, too. These wonderful people didn't want us to go one night having to make dinner for ourselves the first month into parenthood. I'm thankful and honored. It's been so nice not to have to think about feeding ourselves in the midst of learning how to keep another human being alive.

A lot of people see me: 

They throw showers and send bouquets and cards. A lot of people see the baby: they send onesies and knit caps.

But I'm not sure that you get the kudos you deserve through this season. And I want you to know that I see you. I see you with more clarity than I ever have. I see the tired in your cloudy blue eyes. I see the smile in the midst of a diaper change.

I see you putting forth so much more effort than what a new dad ought to do. 

No, you didn't carry a human in your tummy. But you carried me, my emotions, my fears. You prayed when I couldn't.

No, strangers don't stop you and ask you deeply personal questions about your body, or ask to touch your belly. But you entered this arena full to the brim with excitement. All enthusiasm. Fully committed, fully in love.

I became a momma week-by-week, inch-by-inch. Doctors appointments and meetings with my company's human resources department. I woke up every day thinking about motherhood. What it could mean, what it would make our lives look like.

You became a father in a flash. Within minutes in that operating room. What a change. What a topsy turvy season to cannon ball into.

You're doing it. You're doing fatherhood well and without a complaint.

And our lives: mine and our new little rascal's, are all the better for it.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

On Being a People Who Pay Attention

We were talking about the homeless population in downtown Norfolk, Virginia.

There's a group of 12 of us or so that meet in a dim city house that belongs to our church. The hardwood floors smell like a bookstore, and the couches are plush with history of countless Sunday school lessons and Bible studies.

That night was the end-cap of a very rough week, pregnancy wise. So often I forget that there is more to growing a baby than measuring your bump and making sure you don't eat soft cheeses or drink too much caffeine for nine months straight.

It's spiritual and overwhelmingly empowering on its best days. At its most challenging, it has a complete clutch on your emotions and the lens you see the world through.

That night our small group discussion leader was talking about his wife. How bold she had been on a missions trip to California, where they spent a good portion of their time on Skid Row.

The bad place. The place just adjacent to the lives of the rich and famous.

The place where so many are left abandoned because their addictions or circumstances are too far outside their control. The place where everyone wants to be, but no one wants to go.

We talked about our own city. What we were doing to take notice of the people around us.

I was slumped against my husband on the other side of the room, feeling my baby kick and wanting him so badly to be a man of action. Someone who shares, who is patient and kind, and does the right thing.

So often I don't. Not really. 

So often I mean to do something. So often I'm at the store and think about buying an extra box of granola bars and water bottles to store in my car. But I'm in a hurry. I'm budgeting. Always pushing off my intentions for later, later, later.

Next thing you know, you're pregnant. And you realize you've lived in a city you love with all of your heart for three years without really noticing the hurt around you.

And you start to cry.

There are those of us who are bold, the people who don't glaze over the hard and uncomfortable. Who notice to hurt on Skid Row, sure, but who hear the hurt in our coworker's sigh, or who pick up on the desperation of a friends, "I need to talk to someone about this," text.

People who notice.

I have a great number of those people in my life. Those who not only take notice, but work to make it better. Who pray and have the actions to accompany their faith in a whirling duet. And to me, it sounds so beautiful because it's so rare to hear.

I know this, because after group that evening these people in my life crossed the room. They held my hand and wrapped their arms around my shoulders. They let me talk through my emotions – the parts of my walk that I could explain, and the other parts. The parts that were overwhelm, joy, worry, doubt, certainty, stubbornness.

Changing the world starts right there.

I'm learning that it's not those who seek attention who make the world better, it's those who pay attention.

Because my friends could've chocked up my reaction to simple hormones, and predicted that my story would echo the same one I've spun over the last eight months.

But they didn't ignore it. They took notice and did their best to comfort the crying pregnant woman in the corner of the room.

And if they noticed me. The one who tries to have it all together, who's at times too stubborn to let her vulnerability show, who else do they notice?

Who else do they reach out and show love to? Because the people in their lives, the friends, family members and total strangers that they serve, are made better by their presence. By their actions. By their noticing.

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