Five Minute Friday: Sing

Zephaniah 3:17

The Lord your God in your midst

The Mighty One, will save;

He will rejoice over you with gladness,

He will quiet you with his love,

He will rejoice over you with singing.

Sometimes, when you are in a different stage of life, you can read or hear something for a second time and it has a totally different meaning from the first time.  I have always loved this verse, but now that I am a momma, I see it through different eyes.  When I was young and single, this verse gave me comfort that the Lord loved me and would fill me with peace no matter what was going on around me.  I imagined sitting in His lap while he sang over me, and a wave of calm and joy filled my soul.

Now that I am a momma, I sing to my baby girl all the time.  She’s now learned to clap and so we sing and clap and laugh together multiple times throughout the day.  But when I hold her in my arms with her head on my shoulder, and that sweet breath of hers heats my neck, I sing over her. And I am filled with joy that I get to hold my precious child, that she stops squirming, and she rests in me.  This must be how the Heavenly Father feels about us.

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Five Minute Friday: Enough

This week’s Five Minute Friday word is Enough.

In our lives, we constantly battle with “Am I enough?”  As a single, I would wish that some boy would notice me or like me.  A few times, I was told by some boy that if it weren’t for someone else, he’d be dating me.  Now, if that isn’t a total jerk thing to say, but at the time, I was so desperate for love, that I actually bought it as a compliment.  But it would leave me hollow, wondering what those other girls had that I didn’t.  Why wasn’t I enough for that boy?

As a new mother, figuring out how to juggle feedings every two hours, diaper changes, managing to get something on the table for dinner and not running out of clean underwear, and still having some semblance of a relationship with my husband absolutely left me feeling like I could never be enough.  If I allowed too much quality time with my baby, my husband would feel left out.  If I spent too much time with my husband, my new-momma guilt would rush in.

But we ARE ENOUGH.  We are all we are meant to be to the people who love us whole heartedly and know our worth.FiveMinFri

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Five Minute Friday: Define

This week’s Five Minute Friday word is Define.

I think I’ve always struggled to define who I am.  The word define to me means identity.  I remember as a kid in elementary school, and at the beginning of each school year, I had to write one interesting fact about myself.  At that time, my most interesting fact was that I was 25% French, 25% Hispanic, 25% Irish, and 25% Swedish.  We all want an identity.  Something to cling to in order to present ourselves and say, “This is who I am.”  In college, I was so unsure of myself that I was like a chameleon, absorbing the most fun and interesting personalities of my friends and taking them on as my own.  And that got exhausting.  After I moved away for my first job, I had the opportunity to start over.  Completely new faces to either embrace or ignore me.  Gradually, I realized that my own personality was all I needed.  I am enough because God created me.  Others do not define me, but the Great I AM defines me.  FiveMinFri

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Real life on purpose

A few months ago I started becoming less than content with my life.  It starts with scrolling frenetically through Facebook, reading everyone’s posts about great vacations they’re on, new babies, new relationships, who’s selling what, down to angry political rants and shocking headlines and videos of things nobody wants to see, but you can’t take your eyes away because of morbid curiosity.  Emotions take a roller coaster ride ranging from happy tears to jealousy to anger to frustration to nostalgia to horror.  I shut off my phone feeling sick and anxious over what I can’t control, and then angry with myself for wasting so much precious time focusing on what other people have written.  I’m left feeling torn for wanting to shut down my account so that I simply cut out that temptation, but wanting to keep it alive so that I can keep in touch with my family and friends from afar.  Why do I allow myself to get so sucked in?  I put so much pressure on myself to be more creative, to write more, to read more, to sew more, to bake more, and sell more simply to present it to the world and say, “Look what I did!”

We all want a purpose.  We all want affirmation that our lives mean something to someone.  Yet social media IS NOT going to give that to us.  We will never have meaning and contentment without real human interaction.  I found a fantastic quote out of a really unlikely source.  A few weeks ago, my husband and I were watching something on tv, and a bizarre commercial came on.  A robot was speaking about creating food for people because she loved us.  I was both intrigued and confused.  The commercial was for a meal replacement powder called Soylent.  So, I googled it, and came across an article in The Hustle from September 8, 2015 titled “Soylent: What Happened When I Went 30 Days Without Food.”  The author, Josh Helton, went surprisingly philosophical after Day 22 when he realized that meal times were when he connected with his wife.  He had stopped making meals and eating real food with his wife during this experiment, and their relationship suffered.  This paragraph really hit me as truth:

So much of our culture pressures us to live a life of legend. I’ve felt it myself time and time again. I want to be remembered. But by whom? I think our underlying motivation for our ceaseless work effort is to be remembered for something great, but typically it’s centered on being great to people we aren’t that close to. In my opinion, what matters in the end is not if we are famous to the world but with our families.

As a stay at home momma now for over ten months, I do start getting restless and wonder what more I can do with my life.  I want to write a book (or five).  I want to open a bakery.  I want to make clothes.  I want to be as creative as Joanna Gaines.  I want to become a physician’s assistant and work in oncology.  I want to be a speaker like Beth Moore.  I want to draw and paint.  I become so overwhelmed by how much I want to accomplish that I don’t know where to start and then nothing gets done.  Getting sucked into watching what others are doing is both counter-productive and deflating.  It’s so easy to talk yourself out of doing something because you feel like someone else can do it better.  This irrational jealousy of other peoples’ talents and/or good fortune robs us of our own creativity and joy.  Those dreams and gifts bubbling up inside you are meant to be used.  These gifts WILL be recognized.  Most likely not with the populous at large, but with the people in your life that actually matter.  Trust that each season of life has a purpose, and the platform you have currently is enough.  Right now, my purpose is to raise our baby girl in a home full of peace, love, and joy and to use my gifts and talents for my family and friends with whom we are physically sharing life.

I wish I could say I feel completely content with where I am now.  I know my identity is found in the arms of my Father, and not based on what I do.  That I am His child and His love is deeper than any love I can fathom.   We are on this earth for the singular purpose of being God’s love incarnate, the light in this world.  We don’t have to be everything to everyone.  We just have to be physically and emotionally present for the people in our lives.  As in the story of the little boy on the beach making a difference in the life of each starfish he throws back into the ocean, I need to take my focus off of what I’m not accomplishing or who I’m not impressing, and focus on the people in front of me, live and in person.

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Fear and Strangers

Often, we don’t know we are in a dark cloud until we come out of it and are able to look back.  Fifteen years ago, I was on Accutaine for my cystic acne.  It was the only thing that cleared up my skin at the time, after trying dozens of useless topical creams.  I was told that I may experience symptoms of depression and or fatigue while on the medication.  I didn’t notice any changes in me while I was it, but after I ended the treatment, I couldn’t believe how much energy I had.  I felt like I could have run forever- and I did run my one and only half marathon afterwards.  Clearly, I had been sapped of my energy for those several months, but didn’t realize it until I got my energy back.

Eight months ago, I gave birth to my baby girl.  I KNEW I was in a dark cloud.  The fog of fear rolled in thick like bales of cotton.  It was almost paralyzing.  I didn’t want to leave the house, but we had to get groceries.  If it weren’t for my husband and a dear friend and mother of three, I probably would have become an agoraphobe.  How could I trust my tiny girl in that humongous carseat on I-95 among the crazy impatient Connecticut drivers?  Road trips and excursions longer than two hours meant we’d have to stop somewhere so I could nurse her, and that made me anxious to have to feed her in the car or have to find a somewhat secluded area if we were out and about.  If she napped longer than an hour, I’d sneak upstairs to check to make sure her chest was still rising and falling.  Bath time was not relaxing for me between getting the water temperature perfect, keeping her upright, wrestling her slippery little body out of the tub and into a towel, drying her sufficiently enough so that she didn’t scream from the cold air blast when exiting the bathroom, and ensuring that the post-bath “baby massage” time was something we both could find relaxing.  I constantly worried whether I was nursing her enough or too much, and whether cluster feedings were normal.  If she slept longer than 4 hours at night, I’d wake up in a panic that she was starving and I’d kick myself for not waking up to feed her.

Despite my fears, she has grown over these last eight months.  We’ve become more social.   I’ve been blessed with a few more momma friends.  People that would never have spoken to me before I had her, now stop me just to see this ginger-haired baby with the big blue eyes and long lashes.  Right after Halloween, Noelle and I were at the closest drug store near us, although the check-out line is notoriously long.  We got in line, and Noelle was in her stroller facing me.  There were two people ahead of us, and three ladies behind us.  I felt a presence at my back, and I realized that the lady behind me was leaning in for a closer look at Noelle.  The lady had a stuffed Snoopy wearing a purple witch hat in her hand, and was dancing him around to Noelle’s giggly delight.  Those giggles made her and the other two lades behind her laugh and break the tension of waiting in line.  After I got to the register and was paying for my purchases, the lady who was behind me stopped me before I walked outside.  “Can I give your baby this Snoopy?” she asked with pleading eyes.  “She has just made my day, and I would love to give this to her,” she said now between happy tears.  “Of course, thank you so much,” I replied.  Noelle excitedly snatched the Snoopy from her hands and thanked her with a big toothless grin.  I wanted to hug her, but I was battling a nasty sinus funk.  I wonder what was going on in her life.  Did she have kids and grandchildren who lived far away?  Every time I go back to that store, I hope I see her again.  I’m reminded with every day that passes, Noelle is a gift.  Before we leave the house for a walk or an errand or a swim class, I want to remember to pray and ask that we have the opportunity to meet someone new.  I am so blessed to call Noelle my daughter, and to witness the joy she spreads.  The Lord didn’t give her to us for own enjoyment.  He gave her to us to spread His love and His joy.  We aren’t called to live in fear nor to live apart from others.  Fear can make us hide away and push others out, and that is exactly the antithesis of what the cure is.

Two months ago, my friend who is the mother of three looked at me and told me that I seem better and back to my former state of calm and sense of humor.  The statement took me by surprise.  I guess I didn’t realize how long it took for me to come out of that dark cloud.  And when it starts to roll in again, that’s when I know it’s time for Noelle and I to get outside and go talk to strangers.

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Critical Times

Last month, when I brought my two-month-old baby girl to her doctor’s appointment, I knew she was going to have a few shots to kick-start her immunizations. Thankfully, my sister Erin was in town so she was able to come with me. Mike texted me while he was at work and asked when the appointment was scheduled, and I told him 11am. To my surprise, he walked in while we were still in the waiting room. We met with a pediatrician who reminded us of George McFly from Back to the Future; the George McFly of the past who was insecure and wanted to fold in on himself whenever he was around Biff or Elaine. A slight man, I thought he was going to fall off his stool he was trying so hard to make himself even smaller while he spoke to us. Regardless, Noelle gave him lots of smiles as he listened to her heart and checked her eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. After he left us, a nurse came in with a tray of three needles and one medicine dropper. Mike held Noelle while she willingly lapped up the sweetened liquid vaccine. Then she inhaled and nearly choked, not coughing enough to my satisfaction that it was cleared from her lungs. We then had to lay her down on the exam paper-covered table for the three injections. I’m not sure if the nurse was so slow and talked between each injection because our three sets of eyes made her nervous, but I couldn’t even watch. One needle at a time was stuck into my baby’s chubby thighs while she screamed. I wanted to yank her up off the table, so she (we) wouldn’t have to endure any more. My sister looked at me with a “Hurry up, Lady!” look and finally the nurse dispensed the last needle. I picked up my screaming baby and then lost it. I couldn’t stop crying, even after comforting hugs from both Mike and my sister. It was so traumatic seeing Noelle purposely have pain inflicted on her, even though I absolutely know it was for her benefit. She quieted down almost immediately once I had her in my arms to feed, but I still streamed tears. For the next few days, I was hypersensitive to my wounded little cub. She was more clingy and fussy, and to be honest, so was I.

Now at three months old, Noelle is smiling in response to us, but still doesn’t quite get the novelty of Daddy play. She’ll often cry after soaring over Mike’s head, much to his disappointment she doesn’t yet want to be “Daddy’s hat,” or “Superbaby.” When she is too broken for him to console, he hands her over “to see Momma,” and passes her off to me.  Almost immediately, she stops crying. I know it hurts his feelings, but I’m maybe just a little bit pleased, and then immediately chide myself. She needs her daddy just as much as she needs her momma. Even though she may not realize it yet, she is so lucky to have Mike as her daddy. It’s so easy to critique rather than encourage. Why do I need to check after he changes her, to make sure the diaper’s ruffles are out? Why must I hover while he gives her a bath, and cringe when he dumps water over her head? She is perfectly content. Why do I have to stick my wrist in the water he has prepared for her bath to check the temperature? Why do I need to argue about which is the best method of determining whether she has a fever? The biggest reason is probably because I’m hypercritical of myself. I prepared for motherhood with all of the What to Expect books, Baby Wise, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, and several books on what is going on with baby each week. A few books contradict each other, which makes me sit in frustration wondering how and when and IF I should put my baby on a feed-wake-sleep schedule or simply feed at will. If she sleeps through the night, should I worry she isn’t napping enough during the day? Bumpers inside the crib are a suffocation hazard, but isn’t it also hazardous for her to knock her head on one of the poles or get a limb stuck? Do I put her in a sleep sack for nap time? How many baths a week should she have? Are massages really helpful, even though they don’t seem to calm her down? If she needs a “bedtime routine,” is putting on her jammies enough? Am I inhibiting her bone growth by only giving her the Vitamin D drops when I remember, which may only be two or three times a week?

It’s so easy to fall into the trap in thinking I’m failing her as a mother. Some days if she cries more than smiles, I feel utterly defeated. She’s growing, learning, eating, and sleeping (at least at night) all really well, so I guess I’m not failing. I just wish I could hear from her that we are both doing okay. She can’t talk yet to tell me, so I’ll settle for those belly giggles as she falls asleep on her way to Neverland.

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A few weeks ago, I walked down to the beach at the end of our neighborhood with my baby girl strapped to me in the baby carrier.  As I crossed the road near the pool, an elderly lady with a cane was walking in my direction.  After I said hello, she asked if I was carrying a baby.  I confirmed I was carrying my baby girl, and the lady eagerly asked if she could see.  I unsnapped the shade from over her Noelle’s head to reveal her angelic sleeping face.  The lady inhaled sharply with adoration and touched her hand to mine.  “What a miracle,” she exclaimed, and then asked how old. She was five weeks to the day.  I barely could believe that much time had already passed when the words escaped my lips.  Still holding on to my hand, she said, “Enjoy every minute.  They grow up so fast.”  She told me that her children were all grown.  She and her husband moved into this neighborhood 25 years ago after their kids left home.  Her husband is 93 years old and still lives with her in their beachfront condo.  Home hospice comes every day to turn him in bed.  Her liquid blue eyes glistened as she said she wouldn’t have him anywhere else but home.  “Time is something else,” she said as we parted ways.

Nearly seven weeks have passed since I picked up my mom from the airport while I was still timing my contractions.  They were five to six minutes apart and lasting about a minute each, but I could still talk through them when I drove to pick her up.  Fortunately, the airport was just 15 minutes away.  We walked to the same beach at the end of my neighborhood.  It was a gorgeous sunny day, and a bunch of teenagers had taken over the beach, so Mom and I walked over to the rocks and admired the passing boats and family of geese.  The proud parents had ten fuzzy goslings in tow. By the time we got back home, I could no longer speak through my contractions. My baby was on her way. We called Mike and told him we were heading to the hospital.

Mike met us at the entrance with a big grin on his face. A nervous valet brought me a wheelchair when I gingerly exited the car with my swollen belly and pain-cringed face. I was admitted to the hospital at 5:30pm.  Before I was wheeled upstairs into the labor room, I experienced a kicker of a contraction in the lobby, so I stood with my eyes closed in order to breathe through it.  Once that round of pain ceased, I opened my eyes to reveal a circle of people around me.  Mike and my mom were behind me, and a group of about five or six strangers including a Catholic priest waiting to check in watched the whole event.  As I settled into my wheelchair to get taken upstairs, the priest said wide-eyed, “God bless you,” as I passed him.  I thanked him and exclaimed that I didn’t know I had an audience!

A few hours of labor passed while I used laughing gas to handle the pain.  The mask had to be held by me alone, and I had to exhale into the mask as well, which allowed me to count through each inhalation and exhalation.  However, around 11pm, the contractions got so intense and after being checked two different times stuck at 6cm, I got discouraged.  Seeing my face fall, my OB said he thought the laughing gas had run its course.  “If you want an epidural, the time is now,” he advised.  By then, the ripples of pain were searing through me and were almost more than I could bear.  Despite me being adamantly opposed to having an epidural throughout my entire pregnancy, I consented.  I was so desperate for the pain to stop. As soon as I said yes to the epidural, my laughing gas was wheeled away.  I started to panic and lost my breathing rhythm.  The anesthesiology resident had to go through the list of risks before they could begin the process of inserting the epidural. “I understand. Just do it and make the pain stop!” I impatiently told her. My amazing nurse held my shoulders and put her forehead against mine as the needle was inserted. I had to remain still even while waves of pain ripped through me. Finally the epidural was placed and everyone in the room watched me, waiting for me to finally be calm as the next round of contractions loomed. No relief came. The epidural didn’t work. “What? Why didn’t the list of risks include that the stupid thing may not work?” I angrily thought as I gripped Mike’s hands. He reminded me to breathe and told me I was squeezing his hands too aggressively, so I gripped the bed rails instead. Shortly afterwards, the pain moved from my lower abdomen to my hamstrings and my glutes. I was ready to push and it was midnight. No wonder the epidural didn’t work. Baby Girl was coming too quickly for it to take effect. My mom and Mike were on my left side, my nurse and the med student were on my left, and the OB was in front of me. Once I knew a contraction was starting, everyone took their places, pulling my knees and feet towards me. The med student counted to ten while I held my breath and pushed each time. It was an incredible team. At 12:43am on June 2, my baby arrived on her due date, calmly holding the umbilical cord by her face that had loosely wrapped around her neck. Her tiny clammy body was placed on my bare chest and she nuzzled my neck with her dark blue eyes wide open. I couldn’t believe she had a head full of hair and that it was the color of a shiny new penny. “She’s so beautiful,” I said in awe through tears. I didn’t even feel the OB doc sewing me back together. Perhaps the epidural wasn’t completely useless.

Since that night, my body has slowly been putting itself back together. For the first week, I had night sweats. I couldn’t figure out why I’d wake up in the middle of the night totally soaked! For several weeks, I thought I’d torn something in my hip. I could barely put any weight on my left leg to walk, and even had MRIs to check. I limped and walked like I was a hundred years old. My sit bones were bruised and unless I sat in the recliner, it hurt to be seated. At night, breastfeeding in bed was so painful because I had to sit up. Coughing and sneezing were out of the question. Instead of feeling like I had to pass wind, I felt like I had to pass a brick. Why didn’t anyone tell me that the pain doesn’t end at delivery? I now realize it’s because not everyone experiences these fun perks. Pain and the sequillae of childbirth are absolutely unique to each woman. Now that I’m nearly seven weeks out, I’m almost feeling normal again. At times during these past several weeks, I didn’t think I’d ever walk or sit again without pain.

All along, time keeps going. As much as we want it to slow down sometimes or speed up, it is constant. The memory of how my baby came into this world will always remain, although each and every detail will become cloudy. I know the memory of the pain I felt will altogether disappear. Why else would people have more than one child? Every morning I get so excited to look at my baby girl and see that she’s somehow changed. She’s getting bigger, her legs and cheeks are getting chubbier, she really sees me, and purposely smiles at me. Such are the rewards of time and even pain.

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