Self-care, what does it mean to you?

I am notoriously known for taking on way too much and not taking any time for self-care. How can I? I have way too many things to get done and not enough hours in the day. My family and friends have encouraged me to take time to myself, in order to take care of myself. I was encouraged to fill my proverbial cup.

The truth is, I have been struggling to write this blog post for a long time because I was under the impression I needed to do something for self-care that seemed obvious. I thought I needed to take a break from my family and go out by myself or with friends. I thought I needed to go get my nails done, get a massage, have a glass of wine. I thought I needed to take time away from all the things I’ve taken on. And that stressed me out! I would, in fact, become more overwhelmed and burnt out by even thinking of planning something like this.

Recently, upon some self reflection, I realized my needs are different, because I’m an individual. So what do I need to fill my cup? What is my self-care? I have a few things.

Sitting outside with my family in the evenings, while my kids play, is powerful! It really helps me to center myself and find a new sense of being. This actually comes in varying forms. It can be in our neighborhood, watching all the neighbor kids play together and socializing with the adults. It can be with family, watching our kids interact with those they love the most. It can be camping, just our little family, connecting with nature and leaving our phones behind.

Another form of self-care I really need daily, is the relaxing time after the kids go to bed. This is time with my husband, laying in bed, watching TV. I don’t need hours of time, just a little time. You could say I’m a home-body. I do value being in our quiet place, enjoying this house we have made our home.

And the last thing. The piece of self-care that should have been a no-brainer, it is so obvious! Writing. I’ve said it before, I started blogging for me; because I love to write. Writing is a big outlet for me. And I am blessed to be able to have this.

I am glad I didn’t finish this blog post months ago like I’d originally intended. When trying to write about self-care, it felt forced. Do as I say, not as I do, was my slogan.

Instead, I encourage you to do as I did. Take time to self-reflect. What truly fills you back up with energy, motivation and intention? What reconnects you with all you love, giving your family, your children, the best pieces of you?

It can be anything! Anything that makes you feel whole. It can be big or small; take little time or a bunch of time. It can be a daily, weekly, or monthly thing.

And the thing that’s most powerful; it can change! We all have different seasons in our lives that require different things from us. Just because you need a certain type of self care in your life now, doesn’t mean it’ll be the thing you need a month or year from now. I used to love time out getting a pedicure, but in this season of my life, it’s just not the thing. And just because going to concerts isn’t where I want to be right now, doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future.

It’s time for you to know your journey is your own. Don’t let society tell you what you need to do for your own self-care. Instead, I implore you to look within. Then move forward with intention, and incorporate the thing(s) that really replenish you. You will thank yourself for it, and so will your family.

Moms – we all have the same title, so why do we focus on the differences?

I talked to a stay-at-home mom recently about how many working mom kudos she has seen recently. As you can imagine, for someone who is a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), this can be disheartening. Her frustration was with the labels, and a desire for all to be seen as equal.

A SAHM is one position that can quantify the number of hours worked. It works out to be something like 24 hours a day, seven days a week (insert sarcastic expression here), all in the same role. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s for someone who is willing to always be immersed in their role, to always be available, be present. For the mom who is willing to forgo all breaks, and is expected to be refreshed, relaxed, always available to others, and very clean and prompt.

The role of a SAHM is intense, to say the least. And sometimes these wonderful ladies need recognition or reassurance. But when it is needed, it is often scarce. These ladies also include those who are depressed and anxious, but too afraid to reach out and get support because they don’t want to cause stress for others. They don’t want to ask for help because they may feel less accomplished and undeserving of the assistance they need.

If you are one of my readers, you know I do not get the pleasure of staying at home with my children, though my heart may have different aspirations. I work full time, and have a side gig. I am also always trying to find the ability to be present for my family, though things can get in the way.

As one of the many working moms, I feel lost at times. I know that my work is important, and that my children need the financial support that my work provides. But I also feel like I miss out on so much when I am gone, and always wonder if I am doing enough to foster their growth and development. Trying to navigate the balance of everything can be debilitating. It can be wrought with depression and anxiety. And the working mom may feel as though seeking help would be selfish because it would take time away from the family, and that others are more deserving of her time and energy.

Do you see a correlation here? All moms feel the pressure to fit into a certain mold. All feel undeserving of gratitude and recognition, yet are so grossly under appreciated. I’m pretty sure all moms are engrained to believe self care and personal time are sacrificed the moment we become a mom. And it is truly unacceptable, yet so understandable, that so many moms, no matter what path they are on, do not feel comfortable with reaching out when feeling depressed or anxious.

All moms are moms. It does not matter if you are a SAHM by choice or by fault. It does not matter if you are a working mom by choice or by fault. What does matter is that you are a mom. A mom that loves her child/children. A mom that will do anything for them. A mom that wants to do everything but often cannot. A tired mom. A hard working mom. A mom!

It’s time we stop comparing ourselves with others. It’s way past time we stop comparing other moms. We are all different, and yet all the same. We all have something unique to offer to the story we call motherhood.

And, if you are feeling blue, and struggling to find yourself because you have buried yourself so deep in others needs, reach out. If your needs are to talk to someone else, take a walk alone, get a pedicure, or take a bath, do it! If you have fallen into a depression or anxiety, please seek professional help immediately; not only for yourself, but for your family. You can only be your best when you take care of yourself. As the flight attendant always says, “Put on your oxygen mask before helping others around you.”

Letting go: Grieving and finding peace

I dreamt my grandmother’s soul came down to earth and pulled my soul into the heavens. We traveled together through the clouds and memories we had. When we reached the end of our memories, she released my soul back to my body on earth. And I felt great joy in letting her leave this world because she was at peace and ready to move on.

Words cannot quite describe the sensation this dream gave me. The relief that she was ready. And the peace I would need to let her go.

Almost six weeks ago I learned my Grandma Erma’s cancer had relapsed. They had given her only a couple weeks, a couple weeks prior. So I got to work planning for my trip, with three children and my mom, to see her. I am glad I got to see her one more time, though I left the visit with unresolved thoughts and feelings. I wanted more time, and I felt upset we had so many missed opportunities.

Time, as always, was not in our favor, as we needed to return home. And with so much physical distance between us, there was no more time to fix the emotional distance that had been created over the last thirteen years since my grandpa, her husband, had died.

I tried to think positively. I had finally gotten to take all three of my children to see her. She had joy in watching them play, and in seeing me be the mom she knew I could be. She seemed peaceful herself; accepting that she did not have much time left. And we both took ownership of the time we had lost with each other, and focused on all the memories from my childhood.

Unfortunately, I still felt sad. Sad that I hadn’t sent more cards. Sad I hadn’t made more effort to try to close the gap between the invisible, but very real, distance my grandfather’s death created. I felt hurt she couldn’t recall the letters I had sent. And I struggled to accept she may have just forgotten. I wanted to be angry at her family (my mom’s step-siblings) for not helping her connect with us more. Confused that we consider them as her family and not ours, even after so many years of commonality. Grandma Erma had always been my grandma, and had been an integral part of my mother’s life since she was a teenager. And yet, there was so much separation. So much loss.

The night I had my dream, I woke up promptly at 3:18am to nurse B. I sat there, feeling complete. At peace. And I knew Grandma Erma had passed. I told my mom about the dream when the daytime came, and she knew I knew. We waited to hear the news, without any good connection to those who had been with her during her last days on earth. And last night, a week after she passed, we got the news.

It’s strange how grieving can be so different from one griever to another, and yet more so from one loss to the next.

For me, I did not feel sad Grandma Erma had passed. However strange it may sound to others, the dream I had was definitely a gift from her. From the angel she had become, to find the peace I needed. My only regret, not getting a photo with her on our last visit. So my young children could cherish a photo memory in the future. This was so different from the loss I experienced when my grandpa, her husband, died. Thirteen and a half years later I still grieve his death. But perhaps now they are together again, I will find a way to move past the loss that has effected me for so long.

For my mom, there’s hurt, frustration and profound loss. Her healing process will be different than mine, and that’s hard to see.

In this moment, all of us have been reminded how precious life is, and how we spend our time. My compassionate cousin expressed how she valued me and my mom, and wanted us to know her love. It was a beautiful note in an otherwise heartbreaking email. I believe all of us will move forward with more purpose. I know I’ll hold our children a little closer, and connect more with those I don’t get to see often.

And I will share my love, because in the end, that is what I want people to remember.

When maternity leave has to end, can I find peace?

The day has come for my last maternity leave to end. The desire to stay home with our children has always been a fleeting thought, as I was ready to make more strides in my career. This time, however, the pull to stay home haunts me.

To be clear, I love my job! I have wanted to teach in higher education for quite some time, and this will be my second year teaching full time. I love to teach and I love going to work. Somehow the maternal side gets me though, now having three children.

We are not immune to time. Our oldest, J, is now in kindergarten six hours a day, five days a week. We keep trying to figure out where the time went. I keep trying to process how we have a kindergartener, and why his baby and toddler years seem like a distant blur.

Last night at the dinner table my husband told our 2 1/2 year old daughter, “I’m going to miss when you have grown out of this phase.” Our spunky, attitude driven, independent toddler is two going on twenty. She is so full of personality and love, and has some amazing quirks that make us smile immensely.

And now B, our youngest, is almost six months old. I got to spend so much more time at home this maternity leave, now that I work at a school where I get summers off. The time was so valuable with our three children. And yet, it went by so fast! And now B is ready to be sitting up, and soon eating solids and crawling. And I don’t want to miss any of it.

But it is time for me to go back to work. To the career I chose. The career I love.

A good friend who I used to have the pleasure to work with, and who has wisdom from raising her own babies, told me shortly after B was born that I should stay home. She said we should talk, and she would tell me all the reasons why I should. That was when B was a newborn, and I still knew I belonged back at work. Now however, her words run through my head daily. I like work, and I love teaching. I need to work to help support our family. But I want to be at home more than anything!

I have no doubt that our amazing sitter has all the care covered. She will give our children valuable knowledge, and a great deal of fun. I am not worried about leaving Benjamin and him developing separation anxiety. I do not have separation anxiety either. My desire to be home does not stem from stress. Rather, it stems from a desire to slow time, to be present more, and to be with these little loves during such a formidable part of their lives.

In the end, my return to work is inevitable. Though I now place a higher value on my time away from home, and am supporting a strong negotiation for increasing nurse faculty wages. In time I will fall back into my role at the college, and be reminded why I love my career.

I also have been trying to focus on what I do have. I am blessed to have weekends, holidays and summers with our family and to be home with the kids. I am so lucky to have a husband who is excellent at practicing presence. And I have been given the gift of awareness, so I can continue to try to learn presence myself, and make as many memories as I can.

The little moments, the little successes, are worth celebrating

Today I am celebrating! Not because it’s Labor Day, though it is definitely something to celebrate. Today I celebrate because of the little success that is this weekend.

My hubby and I booked this weekend at our campground well in advance, just like several other weekends this summer. The others, aside from one trip when B was about a month old, were all cancelled. B wasn’t safe to travel.

Now though, B is doing great! His breathing difficulties and failure to thrive a distant memory. So we packed up our family and headed out camping for the three day weekend.

To clarify, when I say camping, I mean glamping. We have a wonderful trailer equipped with all we need, or rather, want; including a television the kids can watch DVDs on. And our campground is supreme, with easy-to-park spots, a pool, and a playground.

With all these modern-day conveniences, and amenities, you’d think camping with our family would be easy. Nope! That is not the fact. It is quite complicated to manage camping with a 5 year old, 2 1/2 year old and nearly 5 month old. Often camping, or glamping, is a major stressor. I am usually so ready to go home by the end of the weekend.

But today, two, nearly three nights in, I celebrate. This weekend has actually been relaxing! (This is where I high-five whoever is within up-top range.) Sure, there have been plenty of challenges, but we overcame them. And I’m not anxiously waiting to leave tomorrow morning.

Perhaps it was the trip to Oregon the kids and I made without my hubby a couple weeks back. Or maybe our continued work to stay calm with our kids and focus on the present. And maybe even more, getting away from the needs of life and work that await us at home.

Regardless, this weekend has been fun! These trips are what we hold near and dear. The moments we will never forget, and will always cherish. Complete with taking the training wheels off J’s bicycle!

I’m sure at this point I sound like an over zealous writer, keen on using all the cliche statements she can think of. But at this moment, they are true, and someone out there needs to hear them.

It is okay if this time there are more bad moments than good. You will remember the good. You are still making memories. And you will learn from this, making the next trip, the next adventure, better.

You can take time away from all your responsibilities. They will be there when you get back. At this moment, the most important thing is time. Time to be with your family, with your spouse, and to relax in the present.

Make memories with your family, because time does go by fast (even though, on occasion, it can seem to move at a snails pace). A little time to nurture your family will strengthen your bonds immensely.

And if you aren’t celebrating tonight. If you are counting down the seconds until you are back in your routine. Until the kids are back in school. That is okay! Believe me, it happens to everyone!

You got this! I promise. Even if it seems like you don’t, like you are failing, and all is a struggle. You got this! Keep it up, and celebrate the little moments, the little successes. Because let’s be honest, they are all worth celebrating!

Why the difference between a mom and a dad is so crucial

One weekend morning, like many before, I found myself becoming frustrated with the seemingly nonchalant behavior of my husband. Frustrated because of the lack of awareness and support for getting our day started. I compared how him and I were different in my head, adding to my frustration.

If my husband showered first, I’d encourage the kids to jump in with him quickly while I changed and dressed their baby brother. Then I’d be back to get the two kiddos out of the shower, dried off, the youngest diapered, both dressed, teeth brushed, hair combed, and downstairs for breakfast. All while my husband finished getting ready. Me being the only person left to look like I just rolled out of bed, and therefore, holding the family up.

But if I showered first, like this particular morning, the roles would not reverse. I’d shower with our daughter and be the one to get her in and out, dried, diapered, dressed, etc. I’d only be partially dressed and nowhere near ready for the day, all while my husband laid in bed with our oldest. I’d then move on to get our oldest dressed and ready for the day, my husband now sitting in our room with the baby. Next, I’d come to get the baby ready and my husband would then get up to shower and be ready for the day. A similar ending with me being the only person not ready to seize the day.

On this morning I’d had enough. I was going to let all my frustration and opinions on the matter out. I’d done so good at holding it all inside before. This time I planned to speak my mind!

My frustrations carried like a chip on my shoulder, I stepped into our bedroom ready to fight, but stopped short of delivering the first proverbial blow. There I saw my husband, lying on our bed with our oldest, watching train videos and talking about trains. I saw a dad taking one-on-one time with our oldest, and building on their already solid relationship.

My husband was not being lazy. He was not ignoring the help I needed to get our family ready and out the door. He was creating memories. He was taking time to be present.

There is a big difference between moms and dads. And, if your household is anything like mine, it can feel like the mom takes on all the tasks. Why? Because women are wired to do this! We are multitaskers to the core! And personally, I am not good at centering myself in the moment. My husband, however, is.

While I see all the things that need to be done, and the best ways to make these tasks seamless, my husband sees the needs of our children in a different way. Not what they need physically, but rather what they need emotionally. I guess you could say we take care of different needs in our family, and with that we create a well rounded home.

I’m not sure if he’s consciously aware of what he’s doing. But I can say, taking the ten minutes to watch train videos with J helps to center the 5 year old, and give him the ability to take on the day in a more positive light. As cliche would have it, you have to water the seed in order for it to grow. This is exactly what my husband is doing!

In an ever changing world, where presence and living in the moment is so few and far between, it can seem like those who do slow down are simply lazy. How absurd is that? And yet, I fall into this category of people who assume laziness. I am wired to take on many tasks at a time, and struggle with slowing down. Naturally, I slip into the assumption that those who are not like me, a.k.a. my husband, are not doing their part. But I couldn’t be more wrong.

My husband has a gift. A gift of being present. Of acknowledging, that amongst all that needs to be done, there is always time to put the phone down, stop working on the dishes, and play with the kids. And despite how he may feel inside, he does not condemn me for being different than him. He simply takes the time with our kids, and subtly encourages my presence.

They say opposites attract. Perhaps it’s true. And what a blessing! If our family needs fine detailing and a well planned schedule, I’m the lady for the job. If the kids need to sit and play or put a puzzle together, my husband is hired! We each bring important pieces, and together we create a well rounded, and balanced home.

Next time you feel like your partner doesn’t get it, and isn’t doing what you expect, just take a minute. Look at the bigger picture. Because the likely reality is that he or she is doing exactly what is right. It just may not be what you envisioned. In fact, it may be better!

The woes of traveling alone with children

Traveling with children . . . Well, I’d say it’s much like the saying, “Can’t live with ’em; can’t live without ’em”. Traveling when you have children is something, we, as parents want to do. We want to share our love of travel, family, and places with our children. We march into planning as though it’ll be all cupcakes and rainbows. Truth is, the rainbow will never show, causing massive meltdowns, and the cupcakes you bought for a good finish to the day will go untouched by children who do not need/ nor have earned such a treat.

My husband and I don’t get to travel often. Like most of the working world, we are limited in the amount of vacation time we have, and are even more limited on funds for such trips. We do however, try to have fun little trips as often as we can, and we do bring our children. We camp when we can (when I can muster the energy to move our house to our trailer and prepare for close quarters where nobody gets any sleep). We travel to Oregon (a state away) where my family is, so we can visit and create memories. And when we are lucky we have big trips. Those coveted trips where you take an airplane to a magical place where those rainbows and cupcakes are all supposed to fall into perfect harmony with your family’s expectations.

One thing I haven’t done is travel with the kids alone, when my husband cannot come along. The thought of such an endeavor seems terrifying . . . exhausting . . . challenging . . . lonely without any alone time. I never traveled alone when we just had J, or when it was J and A. So why, with three now, do I find myself on a road trip without my husband?

Long story short, I was blessed with 5 grandmothers. My dad had a mom and step-mom (both who have sadly already passed away), my mom has a mom and step-mom, and my step-mom has a mom. That equals five grandmothers, and a very lucky grandchild. Unfortunately one of my grandmothers is in the last chapter of her life (my mom’s step-mom), so I needed to go see her, and take my three beautiful children so she could see them too. Turns out, we also had a family reunion of sorts scheduled with my mom’s family and my Grammie (my mom’s mom) same weekend. Family called, and we answered!

Honestly, I don’t know how others do it. Those who have lost their partner, separated, or have always been single parents, have so much courage and strength! And those who do have a partner, but must travel with their kids alone, are also impressively strong and capable.

I don’t think I am one of these capable parents. But, when you need to be someplace, and your husband is kicking butt and making money to support your family, you go. And you try to find the humor in the adventure later.

The four day trip was jam packed with emotions and signs of upheaval. I’d love to say it was all smooth sailing. That everything fell into place as planned. But I’d be lying. Things were perfect; for about 20 minutes.

i made potty, lunch and nursing break arrangements by utilizing my sister-in-law’s hospitality. Of course, J had to “poop” about 20 minutes after we left the house. He could “wait” for a bit, but then “couldn’t wait”. So we got to a place where I felt comfortable enough getting everyone out of the car and into a bathroom. Never mind A and B had both just fallen asleep. What can I say? The boy likes to say poop; but he did not actually have to poop. Four month old B did have to though, and had a blow out when we got back to the car, all over me and my seat . . .

Our trip down took all day. Thankfully my sister was at our first night’s stop, greeting us with dinner and a fresh face for the kids to see. Sisters are these amazing beings that can alter our brain chemistry and give us a calm amongst stress, simply by giving us an understanding look. And oh man, I needed it!

The next three days were jam packed with agenda items. Visit Grandma and try to add some fun and a meal or two into the day for the kids. Get settled at our vacation rental. FaceTime Daddy, because everyone missed him and many tears fell wanting to see him. Try to let the kids re-stabilize themselves Saturday, and make a day just for them. Yay!!! for Uncle Matty! Then back in the car the next day to go to our next event, the family reunion.

There was little rest, and even less sleep. The kids stayed up until 10pm every night. That’s three hours past their normal bedtime! I was lucky enough to get a small portion of the bed J did not need. All were restless and uncomfortable, and baby B wanted to nurse every couple hours.

Food was a completely different story. First, tight budget over here! So we packed supplies and bought minimally what we needed. I chose to enter into a restart program with whole foods and no sugar before knowing about this trip, so I challenged us even more with my specific food needs.

My mom, a great help, was with us for three of the days. But she was out of her normal because she recently had knee surgery and was limited.

Who goes to the coast with kids and doesn’t take them to the beach? Me! My mom couldn’t navigate the sand with her full leg brace and crutch. There was absolutely no way I could manage three children on the beach on my own. My kids would no doubt run in opposite directions! So I tortured them by taking them to a look out where we could admire the surf and sand.

The drive home was more challenging than the drive down. It went from a 5 hour drive to a 7 hour drive with all the stops we had to make. But it was well worth it for the goal of being home. I wanted to be home so bad! To see my husband, and let the kids slip back into their routines.

But, for those of you who have ever traveled with young children, you know it didn’t end when we got home. You see, after young children travel it takes them a while to get back into their normal routines. Everything is the end of the world! They missed Daddy so much, but now they refused to listen to him. They throw fits. They yell and scream at each other, and at us. Oh boy!

So will I ever travel with the kids alone again? You bet I will! I am a teacher with summers off. We must make the most out of it, even if my hubby cannot always come along. But you better believe I have a renewed love and appreciation for all he does! (The house was so clean when we got home!)

If you are wondering whether you can travel with your kiddos; of course you can! Just prepare yourself well, and know, everything that can go wrong likely will. But aren’t the best memories made outside of best laid plans?

Giving our daughters more

The question at hand: Do I love my mom bod?

And the truth: No.

No, I do not. And even more of the truth, I’ve never loved my body. Even as a 5’5″ tall, 120 pound physically fit teenager, I cringed and found more things to hate than to love.

And why not? I was taught to self-loath, not to self-love.

Don’t get me wrong, my parents are inspiring, loving, supportive parents. They (my mom, step-mom, and dad) have always wanted me to thrive. There was no conscious decision to make me fall out of love with my body.

The problem is, the damaging self-talk and appearance comments did not start with my parents. They started generations before that.

Recently I was talking to my mom about my memories of her telling me to “suck it in” throughout my childhood. She immediately apologized, explaining her mom always told her the same. My Grammie has always been very traditional in her beliefs of how girls and women should act. And she was, and is not, alone. She came from an entire generation of tradition, and what it meant to be lady-like. I was sharing this memory with my mom because I wanted to thank her for helping me develop a strong core that is important to my health. My mom however, knew it stemmed from expectations of what a girl should look like, not from expectations of developing good posture.

I watched my step-mom (my bonus mom who has always been there) try every fad diet known to man. Something that’s important to share; she has always been beautiful to me, and has never been overweight. But she believed she was. She still does.

My mom took a different approach to maintaining appearances and losing weight. She would drink a very large Diet Pepsi during the day, and skip meals. If she was stressed, or if there was a new situation in life, she would not eat at all. Sometimes days. Sometimes weeks. And, just like my step-mom, my mother never was, and still isn’t, overweight. She does not see her beauty as I do.

So naturally, growing up I learned that skinny was good, and skinnier was better. That no matter what I looked like, it was only a work in progress, destined to be more.

In high school I would stop eating for days and sometimes weeks at a time so I could get into a pair of size 5 jeans. I knew it was unhealthy, so I hid it from everyone. I made excuses to why I didn’t want to eat when we had the occasional family dinner.

Now that I’m an adult, and a mom of three, currently four months postpartum, I look in the mirror and see little I am happy with. I have spent a lot of time discussing the feelings of body appearance with my sister and sister-in-law. I spend even more time complaining to my husband about how inadequate I feel. I drive him crazy because I laugh or make comments under my breath every time he gives me a compliment.

Recently my sister-in-law and I have spent more time talking about our two year old daughters though, and how we want them to grow up.

How can we make sure they always love themselves? How do we make sure they love the way they look, no matter what? And how do we teach them to lift others up?

For starters, we realize we need to change the way we raise them. While there are many things I learned from my parents that I will carry with me, I will not carry this. No joking about being too wide to fit through the door. No comments about what our children are eating. No hidden context that will lead to them feeling bad about themselves. No comparisons to others that’ll make them feel less than adequate.

Next, we will do our best to protect them from others. People can be hateful and make negative comments. They can pick apart all that is beautiful in a person, until all self-love is gone. My sister-in-law experienced this growing up, with her self-image depleted not by her immediate family, but others. So we make sure to protect our children and their beautiful little souls by surrounding them with those who are positive and scarcely seeing those who are negative. Even at such a young age it is important because they absorb everything and are developing their foundations.

We will encourage them to love themselves and love one another. My niece will look at herself in the mirror and say, “I cute!” What an empowering statement! We teach them to love themselves by giving positive affirmations about their appearance and personality. We teach them to love each other by giving others comments of admiration.

Finally, while it’ll take a lot of work and effort, we need to show them that we love our own bodies, despite what we may be feeling inside. And who knows, maybe someday we will start to actually believe it. I don’t want my children to grow up seeing me unhappy with my appearance, because it’ll teach them to feel the same.

Self-love needs to be taught through a wholistic approach. We do not want our children to become self-important and believe they alone are perfect while others are faulty. We want to develop a solid foundation of love for themselves and love for others, so they can go out into the world and see all the beauty that truly exists.

And what we can do for ourselves? Continue to talk about this stigma. For so many of us, the self-loathing is something so engrained, from something so deep and foundational. We owe it to ourselves to dig it up! And begin the healing process so we can truly love ourselves, inside and out.

Our bodies do amazing things, and our outer appearance is how we show the world all we have accomplished internally. I have stretch marks and extra tissue around my belly, arms and thighs. I got these features because I carried and birthed three children that have grown my ability to love far beyond what I thought was possible. My double chin, something I inherited from my father’s side of the family, as well as my dry sense of humor and ability to laugh off the hard stuff. The scars on my knee remind me of the weak knees I inherited from my mom, and the inherited strength to push past the weakness and do what I thought I could not.

We should be proud of our mama bodies! Whether we birthed our children, adopted them, or joined their family through marriage. We care for our children more than we can care for ourselves. We may forego mani-pedis and go a bit too long between hair appointments. The gym may be a distant day dream. But what we do have is our children. Those amazing little beings who love us unconditionally, no matter what we look like. And with that, we can find our self-love!

Parenting through the fear

There is no other fear like the fear a parent experiences when their child is in danger. In fact, this fear is driven so deep into a parent’s being that it leads to nightmares, daytime visions, and anxieties that push us to do things we swore we would never do. We resort to child safety locks, baby gates, furniture bumpers, remodeling our homes to prevent accidental injuries, even stickers identifying the presence of our little humans in our cars. But we cannot predict everything . . .

The first time I experienced super-mom powers driven by fear, was when my oldest, J, was about two years old. Just like your children, mine follow me into the bathroom every chance they get. At this time J was an only child. And my potty break was oddly not accompanied by a toddler. If it weren’t such a terrifying experience, I would find this next statement laughable. At the moment I was going to the bathroom, J learned how to unlock the front door. He already knew how to open the door, and the deadbolt was our only safeguard. I remember calling his name, because he didn’t follow me to the bathroom, and because he was quiet. Quiet is never good. I had this sense that something was wrong, and skipped washing my hands (a big deal for an obsessive, germ fearing nurse). I moved quickly, my instincts leading me to the front door, which stood wide open. My heart stopped, raced, and dropped to my stomach, all in the same moment. I screamed his name with such panic and purpose that my voice was unrecognizable to me. I moved with a precision and speed I’d never experienced before, straight out the door and into the front yard. All the while running through all the scenarios of what would happen next.

Would he be down the road? In a neighbor’s yard? Hit by a car? Wandering about to never be found again?

And just as quickly as my panic started, it ended. J was there, in the front yard. I broke down and sobbed, letting out all the tension and energy that filled me in the moment of fight or flight. I hugged J so tight, then mustered up the ability to be stern and tell him he could not go outside on his own.

I can relate now, to my parents. And the moments when they seemed panicked, relieved, sad, and yet, were capable of discipling us. What an incredible mix of emotions that are nearly impossible to interpret or understand; until you experience these emotions yourself.

I’ve caught J when running in front of a car in the parking lot. I’ve run around looking for his sister, A, because she was hiding in her closet quiet as a mouse. I’ve cringed as they have both fallen and scraped their knees. Jumped into action when they have tumbled down the stairs. Held pressure on a bleeding wound after falling face first into a coffee table, wall corner, or fireplace ledge.

And then came baby B. As you may recall in my previous post, When writing gets hard. . . And other matters of life, I talked about the anxiety I was experiencing over his upcoming surgery. The benefits outweighed the risks. But I had so much fear!

What if something goes wrong during surgery? What if they knick his throat and he needs to be intubated and put in the ICU? What if they find cancer? What if he’s allergic to anesthesia and dies on the table?

There were so many what if‘s! Needless to say, I barely slept the night before. In fact, the only reason I got any was because I was so exhausted from the anxiety driven lack of sleep the prior two nights.

We got up early on the day of his surgery. B was awake, and happy as could be as my husband drove the three of us the 35 miles to the children’s hospital. My husband and I tried drinking coffee, both of us ending up feeling nauseous instead of energized.

There was some confusion on where to check in as it was a Saturday, and the hospital did not typically perform scheduled surgeries on a weekend. Amongst the confusion we met another couple with their young daughter who would also be having surgery. We found some comfort in meeting them and knowing we were not alone.

When it was time to take B back to get prepped for his surgery, the nerves got worse, and the nausea morphed into something more than just coffee induced. He was placed in an adorable little gown, and different people from the team came in to assess him and answer our questions. The questions we could recall, that is.

I sat there holding B, trying not to let too many tears fall. Resisting the urge to sob. Avoiding eye contact with my husband because his eyes were red from fighting back his own tears. Fighting back the desire to rush to the bathroom, because I didn’t want to miss those last minutes for an upset stomach. My husband and I took turns holding B, trying to smile with him. He was so happy and content in our arms.

And then the nurse and anesthesiologist were ready. They told us to say our goodbyes. I knew the goodbyes were for us because baby B couldn’t understand. When I handed him to the nurse I quickly led my husband out of the room to the hall that led back to the waiting room. I could not stand there and watch him be carried away towards the operating suite. I definitely couldn’t be around anyone but my husband anymore. Then I sobbed. Big messy tears, with no resolution. No ability to know whether or not he would be okay. Just fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of relinquishing control. Fear of not knowing if we made the right choice. Fear of loss.

As a parent, the deepest, darkest feeling is the fear of loss. The only thing that exceeds the fear, is loss itself. A feeling no parent wants to experience, yet too many have. The fear alone is a horrible feeling, one that can creep up at any time and remind us that we don’t have control. That, at any moment, we could lose the humans that are our entire world.

The next hour was so very long. It wasn’t all sobbing. I composed myself, and we focused on the positive. He was in good hands. The entire facility only cares for children, so the experience and knowledge was definitely there. He needed this surgery. He was going to eat and breathe better when it was done. He is a force to be reckoned with and could make it through anything.

We reached out to all the friends and family that were waiting to be updated and let them know he went into surgery. And they tried to keep us distracted with other matters of life. My husband and I talked about our kids. We talked to the nice couple we met upon arrival. We tried to eat some croissants. And for a brief time the nerves were not as bad as the moment we said goodbye.

But as the hour approached its end, the nerves came back worse than ever. I feared the unknown so much more.

Where was B? How are things going? Why haven’t they told us he’s done with surgery yet? Did something go wrong? What’s taking so long?

Finally our pager went off and we were placed in a cubicle to wait for the surgeon to come out. We had expected this, a part of the what to expect information we were given. Still, waiting there for ten more minutes, I felt my stomach was so tangled it would never be free of knots again. You know the feeling you get when someone breaks your heart? The unforgettable heartache, and how it manifests in your stomach? How you feel like it will never end? These moments felt like this, but ten times worse. I kept saying positive things out loud, but kept picturing so many negative outcomes.

When the surgeon came out and told us B was doing well, the flood of relief was so amazing. Our smiles returned. Our fears subsided. He explained how badly B needed the procedure. That, because of his recessed chin and therefore a shift in his anatomy, he would have been nearly impossible to intubate before the procedure. The fear of not knowing if we made the right decision vanished. We were so relieved we made the choice to have surgery, and even more relieved we didn’t try to wait any longer.

B was a trooper. He had pain, and a bit of recovery from the anesthesia. But he managed well, on only Tylenol, IV fluids, sleep and nursing. We were both so thankful to be there, and be so lucky. He didn’t need anything too major, and he will likely recover with no memory of the struggles he had.

Fear is something we cannot avoid. It is human-nature. It’s engrained in us to fear the unknown. As parents, we take it to a whole new level. Fear can help protect us from things. Can help us protect our unknowing children from danger. But it is also our job to not let fear destroy us. We have to learn to accept what we do not know. To let our children live and experience life just as we did. Otherwise fear will destroy us and our children.

Remember, you are strong! And you are not alone! This, raising children thing we are doing, is scary. But we can do it!

Prequel to this post: When writing gets hard . . . And other matters of life

When writing gets hard – and other matters of life

Writing . . . I love it. But writing doesn’t always come easily. I tend to be humerus in all life matters, including my writing. So when it comes to the hard stuff, I find myself becoming a recluse from all I love.

And what has turned me into a recluse this time, you ask? Well, where do I begin?

Anxiety I suppose, is what pulled me down this time. And with the anxiety came some postpartum blues. I like to say blues, because I do not have a diagnosis of postpartum depression, nor do I want it.* And, I’m not always blue. Only when the anxiety gets bad. But the anxiety and the blues really pull me down, and I stop doing all the little projects I love. I need all my energy to be a momma and wife, and be as present as I can with family.

The anxiety this time though, was brought on by something unlike anything I have ever experienced. Something I needed to find control over, but didn’t know how. I still don’t really know how. And, I’m still trying to find my place in it. My sanity. My strength. So despite the urge to remain a recluse, I’m pushing myself to get back out there. To write. Because hiding is not doing me any good.

We have three children. Our youngest son, B, is now 3 1/2 months old. So young, and yet, he feels like he’s always been ours. He is so special, so unique.

He was our surprise pregnancy, and a big surprise at that! The surprise pregnancy that defied the odds, because I don’t get pregnant easily (needing medical intervention for our second) and because he was created from an ovulation that occurred around day 29 (for those who don’t know much about a woman’s cycle, a traditional cycle is 28 days long with ovulation, the part of the cycle that creates baby, on day 14; and the further out the ovulation, the less likely an egg will be healthy enough to create life). His presence definitely shocked us, but his will was to be here in our lives. And I thank God he is!

When B was born, we had some struggle with breastfeeding. He lost a borderline acceptable amount of weight after he was born, and took exactly two weeks to gain it back. Just reaching the marks for what is expected of a newborn. I had so much pain with breastfeeding though, and thought I was doing something wrong. Naturally, I also blamed myself for poor milk production and decided this contributed to his barely-meeting-the-mark weight gain.

I finally reached out to lactation consultants for help, and discovered Mr. B actually had some things holding him back. He had a recessed chin, as well as a tongue tie and lip tie. We spent a good amount of time working on these things, to improve latch, and improve feeding. I was also given tasks to complete to improve milk supply and decrease the pain I was having from breastfeeding. All the while, I kept getting concerned questions and comments from members of our healthcare teams about his noisy breathing. At my follow up appointments my doctor and the nurses asked me if he “normally breathes like that”. B’s primary care doctor asked if he ever turned cyanotic (blue, pale, purple). The lactation consultants asked me if he had been diagnosed with laryngomalacia, for which I replied, he had not (and I truthfully didn’t even know what that was).

Folks, I’m a RN, with a masters degree in nursing education. All of my education, it seems, did not prepare me for any of this! I do not specialize in pediatrics. I do not know much about lactation. All I knew was: I’m a mom, trying to breastfeed, and I have a baby who is noisy all the time and struggles with nursing.

We did all the mouth work for Mr. B to make his latch better. We did massages, and followed nursing techniques. We continued to follow up with lactation. B’s weight percentile continued to decrease. We got referred to a nurse practitioner who specializes in lactation. She released his upper lip tie and tongue tie, which improved his mobility. His latch improved slightly.

But B’s weight gain continued to be slow, and he continued to drop on his weight percentiles. His doctor became concerned. And we revisited his noisy breathing. We discussed his inability to stay latched while nursing, or when given a bottle. And his choking while eating, along with his need to pause to catch his breath. So she referred B to the children’s hospital in our area to see an Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose Throat doctor).

After a long week of waiting for a referral to go through, I got B in to see the specialist. A resident doctor and med student came in to evaluate him, then left to consult with the specialist we were scheduled to see. A nurse came in shortly after and asked us to follow her into a larger room, where the Otolaryngologist met us. He scoped B to assess his airway for laryngomalacia. This means, he took a tiny camera, on a bendy tube the size of a spaghetti noodle, and went up B’s nose and down his throat to look at the tissue around his voice box. B, in fact, did have laryngomalacia. This is basically extra tissue that closes near the voice box that creates noisy breathing. When it is bad enough, it can cause difficulty in breathing and/or difficulty eating and poor weight gain. The specialist explained that 90% of babies who have this do not need any intervention, but 10% who have difficulty breathing or poor weight gain end up needing surgery. The specialist and I decided to continue to monitor B for another month and reassess. I was informed to call and return sooner if things got worse.

I was relieved. I never want any of my children to have surgery. Ever. While the procedure may be simple, he is a tiny human. And anesthesia is scary!

My husband and I talked about whether we should move forward with surgery. We talked about our fears, the benefits and the risks. We learned this medical condition gets worse between 3-6 months, not better. And, like a great dad and amazing husband he is, he helped me accept the inevitable. B would need to have surgery.

About the same time we saw the Otolaryngologist, B did start working harder when breathing. He had been retracting under his ribs for about two weeks, something I attributed that to his skinny little body from poor weight gain. Now though, he was pulling in the center of his chest, between his ribs. And the pulling kept getting worse. He also started flaring his nostrils. Then he started doing the thing that really unnerved me; he would appear to be taking two or three breaths but would not pull in any air. And this continued to be a more frequent occurrence. I can tell you though, with much relief, that he still gets good oxygen saturation (monitored by our little Owlet** – an at home pulse oximeter) and he has not turned blue!

Despite our positives, the breathing became a concern. And when he was at his primary doctor’s office for a weight check, she showed concern for his breathing too. She felt like intervention (surgery) was now necessary.

So we canceled our summer camping trip to Canada. And we called the Otolaryngology clinic to get B back in sooner than scheduled. We were able to get him in the day after we called. And suddenly I was signing consents for surgery, and setting a surgery date for seven days out.

And that leaves me where I’m at now. Laying in bed, listening to B snore, and peaking at him every time he pauses. Waiting. Feeling anxious about the surgery that will take place Saturday. Three more sleeps, as we would tell our oldest child.

The anxiety over his weight gain, and all we have done to help support him, has been difficult to say the least. The added anxiety of his breathing difficulties has made it worse.

The surgery should help him a lot, though he will still struggle with his latch. But surgery, even with benefits outweighing the risks, seems so frightening. And I still wonder, are we making the right choice? Will he be safe?

I have so many questions. And I feel like there’s so little I have actual control over. I am learning to trust, be positive, pray, and rely on others. I am remembering we are not alone. We feel the love there is for us.

So I write. Because things are not always perfect. Things are not always humorous. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s really hard. But life continues, and it is truly what you make it.

* Postpartum Depression is real, and should not be ignored. If you think you may have the baby blues or postpartum depression, please reach out to your healthcare provider.

** The Owlet is an at home baby monitor. It is a great product to use in conjunction with safe baby sleeping practices.