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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

On Confessing My White Privilege

I grew up in rural Mechanicsville, Virginia. Just outside of Richmond: the former capitol of the Civl War's Confederacy.

There's a high school in my county named for Robert E. Lee and Jeff Davis. Their mascot? The Confederates.

It's a small town known for an iconic windmill and its tomato exports. Lots of open space. Lots of cows and horses. A place of safety and assurance. A place where lot of people who look, act, talk and dress just like me.

Where the crime reports in the local paper are Jay Leno-level comical. Where you can submit pictures of you reading it in cities faraway and they'll print it.

I remember learning about the Civil Rights movement in that small town, in my second-grade class with my teacher, Mrs. Valleys. We watched humans, humans with real souls, real dreams, real talents and gifts, get bludgeoned with sticks like animals. We watched them tumble over from the force of a fire hose. The same water pressurized and sprayed to defeat literal fire was used to defeat the force of the fire in sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers.

It was unreal to me. It made my young stomach turn over and over. It made me ashamed. It made me feel guilty. To the point where one night at church there was an older man standing behind me in line waiting for dinner. His skin was a different color than mine. I knew him because I was friends with his daughter.

I bashfully asked him if he'd like to get in line in front of me.

His brow furrowed and he spoke from the back of his throat. "Why?"

I still remember how my cheeks flushed bright red from his tone. I was embarrassed: it was because I was just learning about my skin-toned safety net. No one in my family ever had to worry about being bludgeoned with a stick or shot over with a hose. His did.

My elementary school logic told me the least I could do was let him cut in front of me in the dinner line.

Those fuzzy black and white images from my second grade class are burned into my brain. Perhaps because I was so struck with the pure meanness of it all.

"But this was a very, very long time ago," I assured myself in that classroom with a white teacher and my white best friends. "People aren't actually like that anymore. No one here ACTUALLY feels that way. No one would ever judge someone based on the color of their skin."

And because I didn't see anyone drinking out of a separate water fountain or having to use a separate bathroom I carried that false narrative with me until, honestly, graduate school. I dated a boy (the nicest word I can manage to call him) who, (aside from repeatedly assaulting me physically and emotionally) used the N-word repeatedly.

Much worse, he believed in all of the ideals behind the word. He had an incredibly high opinion of himself. Worshiped himself. Used the Bible as a weapon to put himself ahead.

I couldn't believe it: a real-life bigot. Someone who actually thought he was better. Because he was white.

When I confronted him about his (twisted) beliefs he shrugged me off. Called me naive. I have no idea where he is in his life or what he's doing now. All I know is that he was in school to study counseling and I shudder to think of what sort of backwards guidance he's giving vulnerable clients now.

When I learned this about him, my eyes blossomed like the day they were in the second grade. These people exist. They're real. Disguised in clean-cut khakis and collared shirts. In policies. In historical figures we choose to exalt.

My privilege was to learn about racism second-hand. My privilege was never asking the question, "is it because I'm white?" My privilege was being so far removed from hatred that I could believe that it wasn't real. My privilege was to never feel threatened because of my appearance.

My privilege was to, by default and DNA, grow up on the wrong side of history.

The first step to changing is admitting you have a problem. But these privileges are not just my problem. They're my generation's problem. And the one before ours. And theirs. And theirs. And theirs.

Charlottesville. Virginia. United States of America: open, open, open your eyes. It's real. It's here. It's among us. Always has been. 

The images I've seen in the news lately haven't been fuzzy. Or black and white. Or in a second-grade classroom. They're crisp. They're in high definition. They're now and they're everywhere.





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Monday, August 7, 2017

Somewhere Only We Know

My sweet boy.

How can I express to you what these last few months have meant to me?You likely won't remember the 11 p.m., 1:30 a.m., 3:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. feedings of the first few weeks of your precious little life.

How when you cried it both broke my heart and made me laugh. Because your little world was falling apart. And you needed me. You needed us to be together.

But I will.

In the beginning, it seemed like this whole being-your-mom-thing was a lot easier when I was pregnant with you. When I knew exactly where you were at all times. When I knew you were eating enough. You came with me wherever I went without the clicks and snaps of a car seat or stroller. I could track your progress on my favorite pregnancy apps.

That time together we had was a place that only you and I will ever know – and I'll remember it always – but for all the hard work you are, I wouldn't turn back. I would only press forward. Because watching you grow is a joy. It's a gift. And it's full of the best surprises.

You likely won't remember how you didn't like to be put down.
How the only way to calm you down when you were crying was to pull you close to me and stroke your soft, chubby cheeks. How you looked up at me like I was your whole world when I fed you.

But I will.

You likely won't remember how my arms felt so much stronger with you in them. How I felt I could tear down a wall if something tried to hurt you. How keenly aware I became of smokers, loud noises, bumps on the highway or the sidewalk when we were out with the stroller.

You likely won't remember how your eyes followed me when daddy held you. How if I got up and walked away you looked at me like, "where do you think you're going, mom?" So cute.

You likely won't remember the first time you smiled at me when I came back into the room. How your face lit up in a way I'd never seen. This, after hours and hours and days and days of studying you and only you. Your habits. Your breaths. Your movement. The way you concentrate your tiny hands like they're the most fascinating things in the world (they are definitely in the top ten for me).

But I will.

You likely won't remember the first time I leave for the office, trying to convince myself to swallow down the lump in my throat. To put on red lipstick, hold my head high, carry in my breast pump and deal with it.

But I will.

You'll likely never know that I cried at my desk. Or that the hours seemed so slow compared to the ones I spent with you. Or that the choices your daddy and I are making right now are logically best for the family – but emotionally? They're the hardest. Most gut-wrenching.

But I will.

Because nothing absorbs me like you do, my sweet boy.You'll never know the woman I was before you came along. Boy, was she a whacky one.

Before she met you, she assumed that when it was time for her to return to work she'd find herself again. That this time together would be happy, fun, at at times awkward and hard. But that when it was time, she'd feel ready. She'd come charging in, ready to show the world what she was made of.

But your presence in my life unspooled me then wrung me up again. This time with you tucked in close to me.That's what motherhood does to a person. It makes you want to go back, back, back. To these places that only we know.

I'll forever come back to this place. Our first home together. The spot in the couch that is worn where I nursed you. Our very first 12 weeks together as a family. The place where you learned to roll over, hold up your own head, take baths (with a lot of help, of course).

And where I learned how to wrap myself in the identity of motherhood.

Where I learned that we can't really keep our children tucked safely in places only we know. We have to raise them up so they'll know more, do better, do wiser, incredible things.

But we'll remember the places only we know as we move forward. As quickly as everyone says time goes. I'll keep these memories, I'll keep this joy tucked into me.

I will.












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Friday, August 4, 2017

Summer 2017 Fabulous Finds


It's such a cliche. But honestly, where does the time go?


A year ago this month my husband and I discovered that we were pregnant. Now our little squirmy-worm is laying on his play mat beside me as I write this, looking up at an orange fish and having a one-sided conversation with it.

Cutest. Kid. Ever.

Since he's come to live with us, so much of my life and preferences have been overruled by diaper brands, wipes, burp rags and squeezing in some running time around the city (what I affectionately call my "postpart-run").

I put off a post like this because for the last few months I've been nothing short of completely irrelevant. (For real, the only news I gleaned was from what was parodied on SNL.)

Still, there are a few bits of my life that aren't completely baby proof. But I did throw in a few of my favorite mama essentials. Because, who knows?

What I'm Wearing

Here's what I wasn't anticipating after having a kid: hardly any of the clothing I own is nursing/pumping appropriate. At work and in my day-to-day pre-baby, I leaned toward wearing a lot of dresses that zip up the back. I spent a small fortune clothing myself in maternity wear. If I'd had the presence of mind I would've concentrated my money efforts on tops that would work after my little fellah came.

Que sera. Now I have to shop. Which happens to be one of my spiritual giftings.

For nursing, I tend to lean toward comfortable, soft, flowy tops and t-shirts. I am obsessed with all things Camp Light Apparel. I forgot how I stumbled upon them, though looking back it was probably through Instagram. I saw their "Grace Upon Grace" shirt in pink and I had to have it. 

Then they released this pullover and this coffee tumbler, and what can I say? They just hopped into my cart and now they're on the way to my house where I'm anxiously awaiting a happy mail day. 

I've also never stopped wearing this hat from All Good Things Co. since I bought it. And it just so happens as I write this that they're having a sale on all of their clothing items. You're so welcome.

My pet peeve is overly loud Christianese t-shirts. To me, they're just...corny. Why would I wear something Jesus-y when my soul is supposed to reflect Christ? Ya know? 

But these messages as just subtle and stylish enough. And if someone asked me what the slogan on my hat meant that would open up the potential for a conversation about my faith. I'd rather share my story than let my clothing speak for me. Just a preference.

And now: lipstick. Y'all. I have found the one my soul loves. 

The matte to end all mattes.

I've tried a multitude of stains, glosses, mattes and lipsticks through the years. While I love the color of so many of them, none of them felt great on my lips. But. This. Matte. It's staying power is pretty strong (in spite of my chronic lip-licking habit), the color's great and it feels awesome. I don't think I'm turning back ever.

What I'm Listening To 


Lara Casey's latest book Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life on audiobook, and I've really been enjoying it. She is such a breath of fresh, intentional air. I've been an admirer of hers from afar on Instagram over the last few months.

What I'm Reading

Should be titled: books that have changed my life and perspective.

Chasing Slow

I resisted this book so hard. Because the world didn't need another voice about saying no and self care. We get it. Women don't take care of themselves. Let's move on, shall we?

But this book is a treasure. Erin Loechner's writing style is smooth and smart. And hilarious. I ate up every word. It's my recommendation of the year.


The Magic of Motherhood


This book is the embodiment of "ah, I'm not alone." It's a collection of essays from moms. And it's really been such an encouragement. The author also has a podcast that I've been enjoying. They're smart, engaging, heart-wrenching stories.

Work. Pump. Repeat.


Another piece of hysterical literature for my breast-feeding mama's out there. So much anxiety as of late has centered on what my body can do for my baby: will it be enough?

This book has helped me understand that I'm not the first mom to return to work after having a baby. And I won't be the last. One of the best parts of motherhood is the community of fun, engaging, rock-star mamas it brings together. This read has been a delight.

What I'm Learning

That life, for all of its ups and downs is meant to be savored.

I thought that this season was something that I had to rise above. To keep ahead of. To outrun. I told myself that I was only allowed to concern myself with the day ahead and not get absorbed by the future.

But the truth is, if you don't think about the future, at least a little bit, while a baby is screaming in your face, you will lose yourself.

The baby will eventually stop crying. The baby will eventually start sleeping through the night. The baby will eventually start giving you more and more time in between feedings.

I'm learning to balance looking ahead while enjoying the spectacularity and wonders of the now. A lesson for life, I think.




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Monday, July 31, 2017

Searching for Soulful – Part One


Anyone else feel like they're walking through life in a daze? 

Looking forward to big events only to have them grow smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror? Or constantly flying from one season to the next like a trapeze artist? Letting go of one season to zip on to the next?

For so long, I've complained that my life has lacked focus. Not so much that I feel like I should be pouring my energy into achieving my goals, but that I'm just not fully paying attention. There should be more to life than laundry, cleaning, careers and appointments and Netflix subscriptions, shouldn't there?

There should be more to life than the physical. There should be more to life than entertaining yourself to death.

Years ago (maybe half a decade ago?) it seemed easier to live in the bevel of appreciation and purposefulness when I journaled every day. Pen to page. Left hand characteristically smudged with blue ink. 

I'll be honest, there is very little time for journaling these days. And I know that's a trite excuse: you get done the things that you make time for.

What I miss about journaling is the discipline of taking the time to remember the day you've lived. The good. The bad. The frustrating. The joyous.

Mostly, finding meaning, finding soulfulness, in the every day is what I miss about it.

The best thing about being a writer is deriving meaning out of an otherwise normal day. But if you can't remember the normal days, you're left with a sense of cloudiness. Like you're living whole life full-on in those moments before you have your morning coffee.

Perish the thought.

This series is an attempt to practice the art of being aware. Of having the discipline to not live a life in a swarm of distractions. As cliche as it sounds, enjoying the moment. Actually, forget enjoying it. I'd settle for simply being aware of the moment.

I'm on the search for soulful, and I hope you'll join me.


taking a seat

For all of the health benefits of breastfeeding (for mother and baby), there is a downfall for the extravert I wasn't aware of: isolation.

Don't get me wrong. I know my rights as a woman. I know I have the right to feed my child when and where I want. Covered. Uncovered. And I fully support women who do. 

Doesn't mean I'm comfortable with it, just yet. Further, it doesn't mean I expect others to be either.

One night last week I was with a group of friends at a dinner party when my little one began to get fussy. Like clockwork, it was time for a feeding. I excused myself to the next room, grabbed my wrap from the diaper bag, fighting back hot tears.

Yes, I was feeling a smidgen sorry for myself. I already felt so out of touch. Like the whole world is a part of an inside joke that I'm not in on.

Here I was, finally gaining my way back into the world, though still feeling like a sense of normalcy was torturously out of reach. As I began to focus on my little one, I pushed the feelings down.

This is motherhood, I thought. This is, in its own way, a tiny sacrifice.

Then a friend of mine left the dinner table and came to sit with me.

I don't remember what we talked about. But I remember her taking the purposeful walk to join me. To ask me about my week. To be in the quiet with muffled laughs and chatter playing in the next room.

Soulfulness is in the friendships that see and sense you.


folding laundry 


The clothes were still warm from the dryer.


I sat cross-legged on the floor and caught a glimpse of the time on my phone.


11:30 p.m. And with a potential 2:30 a.m. wake-up call to feed a restless two-month old, I should've been in bed.


My husband came into the room and could tell – maybe by the way my head hung over the laundry pile, or maybe he's just gotten the hang of the whole hormone-thing – that something wasn't quite right.


"What's wrong?" he asked, sitting down with me on the floor, beginning to fold the stack of clothes in front of us.


Then I confessed how I was fearful of returning to work after three months. I told him how I was dreading not being with our little one every day.


Fold.


How I didn't want to leave my heart behind and get swallowed up by expectations.


Stack.


Fearful because this would bring about change. Real change.


Sort.


The world wasn't stopping for our baby anymore. It's almost time to reintegrate. And I was scared. This wouldn't be like folding laundry. With compartments and order. This would be a much bigger mess.


I told him how I was anxious about stepping into a new role, all-the-while raising a kid. It seems, as of late, that everything is heightened. The stakes are higher.


"I'm just worried. Worried that I won't be enough here at home or the office. All I know is that our little one is worth it."


"Do you think you're worth it?" he said. The shadow of the hallway light painted clarity across his face.


Am I worth it? Am I worth grace? Am I worth a few slip ups and uncertainties? Am I worth permission to make mistakes? To still learn? To recover? To grow?


"You've been saying the last few years how you want to grow. How you want to nurture," he said. "Maybe this is it."


Soulfulness is being seen, known and encouraged.




running in the rain

Norfolk, Virginia is slated grey.

I grab my lime green rain jacket and lace up my hot pink running shoes before I head out the door.

Pounding my feet on the ground gives me a task with a start and end time. A mini-goal to achieve. Something to point at when I come to the end of the day. Something that warrants an "I did that."
Apart from the rain, the run is business as usual, tracing the same city loop I have for the last few months. Past the museum, over the bridge, past the cute cafe...


I lost myself in a podcast until I was interrupted by a sudden splash of cold water on my left foot. I looked down to see that the road had flooded.


I should've anticipated it. This part of the road floods all the time. Our city sits below sea level, after all. They're always talking about how it's sinking.


As it stood, I couldn't do my usual route. I had to turn back and wiggle my way through a neighborhood. Though I knew where I was, it was disorienting. Foreign. This wasn't going how I planned. I couldn't auto-pilot this run. I had to pay attention.



I had to follow a different route.

Soulfulness is pressing on when the world doesn't bend to our plans.
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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The 4 Words Every New Mama Needs to Hear

Parenthood doesn't come with a driver's test. Or a job application.

A few months back, before the pregnancy, before the baby, basically a lifetime ago, a coworker and I had a sort of dumbfounded realization about parenthood:

"Anyone can do it," we laughed.

Anyone.

It takes a license to drive a car. A degree and four years of education at an acclaimed university (most of the time) to get a career.

But having a kid? It's not really something you need to ask permission for. Or get a degree in.

And if I'm being honest, throughout the first few weeks of motherhood, I wish that there were.

I didn't want anyone to tell me how it was going to be. The stubbornness in my heart and body prefers to fall and make mistakes and discoveries on my own.

But I found myself clinging back to those glory K-12 days. The days of supervision. The days of checks, balances and hand-holding.

The days of someone sitting closely and watching. Someone who knows the authoritative ins-and-outs. Someone to say with conviction: you're doing it right. You make the mark. Level one parenting achieved.

I have been blessed in so many ways. Countless ways. And lately, I've unturned another blessing in my life, having a community of new mothers. At work. At church. From college. From high school. You name it.

And between us we pass a phrase that has become catch-all balm for all the anxieties that creep into our thoughts, either by complete surprise during a late-night feeding or one we've seen coming toward us for weeks:


"You got this, mama."

It's a phrase, I'm learning, like a call and response. A code for, "I don't have the answers, but I'm here. I'm rooting for you. You're not alone."

It's used in a lot of contexts.

I'm burning out on breastfeeding.

You got this, mama.

My kid cries every day from three to seven p.m.

You got this, mama.

I've lost 20 pounds in an unhealthy way, because there never seems to be enough time to nourish my body in its most basic form.

You got this, mama.

My child has been in the NICU for days and all I want to do is hold him.

You got this, mama.

I feel guilty putting my kid down.

You got this, mama.

I'm deathly afraid I won't be able to provide nourishment for my child while I'm at work.

You got this, mama.

It's sort of like saying "bless you" after a sneeze. Or "I'll pray for you" after someone shares a difficult truth about their lives. Except it's so much more. I don't think it would be at all hyperbolic to name it for what it is – a battle cry for the fed-up, the run-down, nervous and incredibly joyful women we've watched ourselves become.

Growing week-by-week in a similar fashion to how we measure our children, into this strange, contradictory, topsy-turvy world of motherhood.

So, for those new mamas, like myself – or for anyone, really, towing the line of "I don't think I can do this anymore" – let me be among the people in your life to tell you that you can. You absolutely can.

You.

Got. 

This.
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Monday, July 17, 2017

I Waited for You, My Darling

It was just a few months ago when your mother stood in what was to be your bedroom.

Through the dim light of a floor lamp that belonged to her in college, she planned out your space. The anchor decals on the wall. The framed pictures and prints she'd purchased from her friend's Etsy shop.

She was a force in her second trimester. Painting furniture, building your crib, taping off edges and rolling slate colored paint on your walls.

She was all business, pouring energy into her prep-work while she had it. She folded your clean laundry - all your clothes that will last you your first year - with the same focus she brought to her two years of graduate studies. 

She prayed sometimes, although she always felt she ought to do that more. She prayed that you'd be joyful, honest, loving and above all, a good human. More so that she would have the strength and character to raise such human.

But most of the time she fought through her impatience.

Get here already, little one.

When she met you in the hospital (after two rounds of failed inductions, "get here already, little one," indeed) her love for you looked a lot like those initial preparations: focus, drive, with a goal to be an A-plus student in the mommy department.

Pen to the pamphlets the nurses gave her about breastfeeding and your general growth milestones to be on the lookout for.

She studied your eating and sleeping habits around the clock. By the dim light of our heart monitors. Pumping in between in the early morning hours, marking the date, time and amount of breast milk with the precision of a NASA employee.

She didn't know love could look like that. It was a head-over-heels love at times. But mostly with the love that comes with really, really wanting to keep something so precious, so new, alive and happy.

After all, we waited for you, my darling.

Two months have passed.

And it struck your mother straight in her core when she walked into your nursery this morning: you're really here. Your nursery is done. Your clothes are organized by month and season.

You, the squirming, curious, loud, hilarious two-month-old, are really here. Live. In color. And better than what we could have imagined. More than what we could've hoped to wait for.

Maybe it's true what they say. Maybe true love waits after all, just not in the way we were taught. 

Maybe it has nothing to do with sex or temptation on prom night. Maybe it has to do with hoping for the future. Hoping for what's to come.

Maybe it should be reserved for the bits of life that are absolutely worth the wait. 

For our darlings. 

For you

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Time, Space and a Whole Lot of Grace

It happened when we were first married.

This creepy, crawling feeling that this was all so simple. Too simple. Am I doing this right? Am I wifing correctly?

And what does it mean to be a wife? A partner? Does it mean pouring his cup of coffee before I pour my own, even if he doesn't know? Does it mean letting him rule the Netflix subscription? Or deciding together if we have enough money in the account to justify another road trip or a Stitch Fix to spruce up my professional wardrobe?


Does it mean changing my name? Taking an afternoon to tackle the DMV and Social Security? Does it mean morning routines and rituals – praying together before I leave the house in the morning? A hug? A kiss? Always goodnight?


It meant all of that, sure. And I'm still learning what it means, admittedly. There's the groceries, the bills, the careers that don't always align. The give and take. And bless it, the coffee every morning. But there's more.


For so long I wanted someone to sit beside me. To watch and observe. To affirm me in this new season of sharing a life with another person.


Now we're two years into forever together with a brand-new tiny human in tow.



And in the hospital I felt the same crawly feeling.


Only this time the stakes seemed so much higher. There I was, wrestling with a squirmy baby, aches and sleeplessness, fluorescent lights and a cruel need to close myself in the room and cry.


Meanwhile foddered with loose-leaf instructions on how to keep said squirmy baby alive.


No pressure.


So often these last few weeks I've longed for a supervisor of sorts. 


Not a doula, or a lactation consultant, per se. But just another person to sit quietly and observe 24/7. To say, "well done, stupendous burping method, A-plus" or "kudos to you on that particularly thorough wipe-job."

Or just, you know, what you're doing is passable. You're hitting the marks.


While there are books, podcasts, and methodologies so numerous they begin to contradict each other, what I'm learning is that there is no one right way to mother. Just like there isn't one right way to be someone's wife.


There is no formula for perfection. No way to be correct. No milestones to achieve. No levels to unlock. No report cards to send home to your parents.


I remind myself of this the days where everything seems out of sorts. On days where – thank God – there is no report card. Because if there were, it would only be a blinding representation of how much I was getting wrong.


But there is time. There is space. And there is a whole lot of grace as I learn and weave through the uncomfortable bits of being a mom.


I'm thankful for this at the start of every day.












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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.

Mom.

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.
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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.

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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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