Real life

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There were so many things I wanted to do this Easter season.
Crafts with the kids, Easter bunny visits, decorating, reading books about Easter.
None of them got done.
None.

I don’t even have an Easter basket for Olivia.  Daddy is working Sunday, Mommy is working Monday, so maybe Tuesday morning when Mommy comes home, we can do Easter baskets.  Fortunately, my kids are young enough still that they don’t know it falls on Sunday.

My facebook is filled with moms who have done Easter crafts with their kids, pictures of coloring pages and decorated baskets and crosses that my children’s peers have done in preschool and day care.  I can’t wait for tomorrow, when my facebook feed becomes littered with children dresses in new clothes, proudly displaying their easter candy before heading off to church.
We won’t be going to church tomorrow.  I had no time to get new clothes, and Olivia is teething and has a runny nose–and my husband is on a 33 hour shift.

And I start to judge myself. 
To feel bad because I just don’t have the time or energy to put into decorating and crafts; my energy is sucked away by children and the black hole of laundry/dishes/grocery shopping.  
Oh, and work–you know, those 24 hour shifts I work with minimal sleep, so I come home the next day and crash, and by the time I’ve had enough sleep, done errands and some quick housecleaning, it’s time to head back to work–those shifts.

I have to tell myself to stop.  My kids are 2 and ten months, they don’t know and don’t care whether or not they are doing some elaborate Easter craft–they would rather just eat the crayons and paste each other with glue, anyway.  They will get Easter baskets, but on a morning when both parents are home to see their delighted faces.  Olivia is ten months, she is just going to grow out of a fancy dress in a week anyway, and Josh would much rather roll around in the mud than wear a suit and tie. 
My kids are happy and perfectly content, my husband doesn’t think they are missing out on anything–it’s just me.
It’s only me.

And I have to stop judging my reflection by somebody else’s mirror.

My life doesn’t look like anyone else’s.  Their life doesn’t look like mine.  Maybe they have more time, maybe they aren’t up all night, every night, between work and a teething baby.  Maybe they have older kids to help them.  Maybe their husband is home every night and weekend.  Maybe they just have better time management skills than I do.

Or, just maybe, Facebook and PInterest are their highlight reel, and we don’t see the dishes stacked in the corner and the laundry in baskets.  Maybe we are comparing our rehearsal to their finished product.

So for today, I’m going to stop.  I’m going to take my happy and cheerful kids to an Easter Egg hunt, then come back and clean while they take naps.  Maybe later tonight we can dye Easter eggs, maybe we will just get baths and go to bed.
It doesn’t matter.  This is  my real life, and even if it will never look like anyone else’s, it is perfect for us.

 

Infertility

Infertility.
Strange for a Mommy blog.  Even stranger for a Mommy who writes about having two kids in three years of marriage.

Eleven years ago, I sat in a doctor’s office and listened as he told me that I would probably never have children, or if I did, that they would be hard-won through fertility treatments.Ten months ago, after two children conceived through those drugs, the same doctor told me that while I could, potentially, conceive again, my uterus was badly damaged and another baby would result in a high risk pregnancy and preterm c-section.  No fertility doctor in their right mind would ever again accept me as a patient and prescribe the drugs I needed to conceive.

In other words, I was once again a member of an elite group…women who want children and can’t have them.

Secondary infertility is a funny thing.  We feel that we can’t call ourselves infertile, since we’ve proven that we can, after all, have babies.  We are stuck between the women who are suffering from primary infertility and women who seem to be able to get pregnant whenever they feel like it.  We love our children dearly, but yet wonder what the next one would have looked like.  Would she have had blond hair like her brother, brown eyes like her sister?  Whenever we dare to mention it, someone, inevitably, tells us that we should feel blessed–after all, we were able to have one or two or three children when so many women can have none.
(And if we, too, suffered primary infertility, that particular sentence levels a heavy blow, because it brings back all the sleepless, painful nights when we wondered through tears if it would ever be our turn for a baby)

And I am blessed.
And it is still okay to grieve what won’t be.
To feel a pang of sadness when those around you seem to get pregnant by just thinking about it, when you are surrounded by babies who aren’t yours.
It’s still okay to blink back tears when your son asks you for a baby brother, and you whisper to him, “You will have to talk to God about that.”
It’s okay to wonder if your next child would have had your son’s blue eyes, your daughter’s brown hair.
It’s okay to ask someone else to come box up the baby clothes you will never use again.

The truth is, we’re in pretty good company, we-who-can’t-have-babies.  The Bible is filled with women who were barren and then, miraculously, had a child–and then, at least for some, could not have any more.  Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, Samson’s mother, Elizabeth.  Women who begged God for a child, women who desperately wanted to feel that baby stir in them.  Women who hurt over infertility.
And yet they were women who were part of a plan, women who had faith, even when God appeared to be saying no, even when they did not understand the purpose of their heartbreak.

If the Bible is to be believed, then God has a habit of using infertile women to do and to bear great things.  Perhaps it is miraculous conception of many children, perhaps it is the birth of only one or two, maybe it is–in the cases of Deborah, Priscilla, and Dorcas, whom scholars believe to have had no children–to serve God in ways other than motherhood.

None of this, of course, helps when you want to see two lines on a pregnancy test and don’t.  The knowledge that God has great things for you doesn’t lessen the pain when desires are dashed.  You can know God and trust God, and still hurt.

Hannah did.
Hannah begged God for a child so desperately the priest thought she was drunk or crazy or both.  And, when other Christians find out that you are struggling with infertility, they will tell you this story, and tell you the words of Eli the priest to Hannah–may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.

And yet we forget the first words Eli spoke to Hannah after he finally understood her request.
Go in peace.
Even when it hurts.
Go in peace.
When you don’t understand why.
Go in peace.
When you wonder if God hears your request.
Go in peace.

And here is what I love–Hannah got up, and left.  She ate.
And then she worshiped.
Not knowing whether or not her request would be granted, Hannah knew that God had heard her prayer–and that was enough.  Hannah was at peace, and she worshiped.
Still hurt.
Still wondering.
Still unsure,
Hannah worshiped God.

I would love one more baby. Or two, or three, or four.
But that won’t happen.  They tell me one more baby would be safe, but that the fertility treatments and hormones associated with them wouldn’t be.  Unless we have a miracle, there are no more babies here.
And even when I wonder, and even when it hurts, there is peace.
And, like Hannah, still I worship.

Reality in a swimsuit

I am fat.

Not in an I-eat-a-dozen-twinkies-a-day-and-can’t-move fat, but in an I-had-fertility-treatments-and-two-kids-in-two-years kind of chunky.  I think my BMI is like 26, which the WII fit cheerily informs me is “overweight.”

Nonetheless, my two-year-old son has recently discovered the joys of swimming, and desperately, desperately wanted Mommy to go swimming with him.  This involved swimsuit shopping, and, worse, swimsuit wearing.  It has been a long, long time since Mommy wore a swimsuit.

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I  looked longingly at the gigantic swimsuits with skirts and coverups.  I even tried one on, but in the end, I went with a simple, modern but modest tankini.   With no coverup.  And then I wore it, in public, just me and my cellulite and my tankini.

Why?

Because I have a daughter.
I have a daughter who is going to be told by the world that she needs to act a certain way, look a certain way, dress a certain way in order to be loved and valued.  This world is going to tell my daughter that being thin is the most important thing, that she must look like the bodies on the big screen in order to be wanted or desirable.

And because I have a son.  I have a little boy who is going to be given a distorted view of women by the media.  I have a son who is going to grow up surrounded by images that look nothing like a real woman; a son who is going to be told by movies and advertising and Swimsuit Illustrated that women are objects to gawk at and drool over.

And as their mother, I am here to tell them no. The world is wrong.

Real women have stretch marks on their thighs and bellies from where we expanded with a growing life.  Real women have boobs that sag because we nourished that life for weeks and months and maybe even years.  Real women have messed up hair and dark lines under our eyes from sleepless nights spent rocking and cuddling and soothing that baby.  Real women aren’t six foot and a hundred pounds because we know that is not a healthy weight.

Real women are maybe a little chunky and have cellulite and stretch marks and pimples and no personal makeup artist.
And they are still valued. Still loved.  Still desireable.

I want my children to know this.  I want them to know that women are much, much more than a number on a scale or a certain size of jeans.  I want them to look at me, in my tankini, in a body scarred from fertility treatments, pregnancies and c-sections, and know that they are loved.  That they are more important than the size six that I used to be.  I want them to see what a real woman is.

And that is why I don’t wear cover ups or obsess over how I look in that tankini-that-is-not-a-six.  Because I want my son to grow up and love a woman because she is funny and smart and loves him back; because I want my daughter to grow up and know that her beauty and value is not dependent on a number.
I want my children to be real, and in this world gone mad, it is my job to show them what real is.

Grocery carts and stinky feet

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There are two grocery stores in town.  One is smaller, compact, and has grocery carts with two kids seats, complete with steering wheels.  The other is a super Walmart.  Needless to say, I prefer the former.

But sometimes there are things that are only sold at Walmart, and sometimes–most times–Daddy isn’t home to watch the kids, so off the three of us go.

I have learned one thing about grocery shopping with two small children: always park as close to the cart corral as possible.  By the time I have gotten Olivia out of the car and strapped into the front of the grocery cart, Josh will be unbuckling himself and trying to crawl into the front seat of the car, asking, “Mommy? I drive? I drive, Mommy?”
“You can’t drive,” I say, plucking him out and putting him in the large section of the cart, right where they tell you not to put kids.  “And this is Walmart, it doesn’t have the driving shopping carts for you.”
“NOOOOO!!!” Josh yells.  “I NEED DRIVING SHOPPING CARTS!”
“No temper tantrums,” I sigh.  Usually, I tell him that we will leave immediately if he has a tantrum, but today that would mean cold cereal for supper. 
“I NEED DRIVING SHOPPING CART!”
“They don’t have them here, and Livie needs socks, so you’re going to have to suck it up and deal with it.”
“NO MOMMY! I JUST NEED THE DRIVING SHOPPING CART!”
By now, we are inside Walmart, and the greeter is looking at me strange. I know, I know.
Back in 1927, no kids ever threw temper tantrums.  Maybe that is because they didn’t have driving shopping carts then.

I hurry past before she can tell me that my son is yelling.
“Joshua Robert,” I hiss. “Stop it right now.  We don’t have driving shopping carts, we can’t get them, and you need to behave.”
“NOOOO!!!! I HATE THIS!”
“You are disappointing Mommy,” I say, “I thought you could be good.”
“NO!!! I CAN’T BE GOOD!!! I NO BEHAVE!!!!”
“I see that,” I say. 
I never do this. I swear this is the only time this has ever happened.

“Josh, stop throwing a temper tantrum, right now, or you will not get any M&Ms.”

Josh considers this for a second. “Dey have M&Ms?”
“Yes, and you can get some, if you behave while we are here.”

The lady walking behind me looks at me. “You know,” she says, “You shouldn’t do that. Bribery doesn’t work.”
My daughter is pulling off her sock and stuffing it in her mouth.  I pull it out and put it back on her foot while I think about this. 
“Thank you,” I say, “I will certainly consider that once we get home.”
“And M&Ms will spoil his dinner,” she continues.
“Well, they might be his dinner tonight,” I answer.  I look around. “Don’t you have your own children somewhere to raise?”

Have I mentioned I am not always a very nice person?

The Annoying Lady walked off in a huff, and I turned to my son.
“Listen to me,” I say. “I know you like the driving shopping carts.  Mommy likes the driving shopping carts, too, but right now we can’t have them.  You can have some M&Ms when we’re done, but only if you behave while we are here. Deal?”

Josh nods.  He doesn’t get candy very often, and clearly the offer of candy is worth more than joy of throwing a tantrum in the store.

“Okay.  We have four things to get: vegetable oil, hamburger meat, socks for Olivia, and buns.  Can you help Mommy remember all that?”

“Five things, Mommy,” Josh says helpfully. “We need M&Ms.”
“Right, and M&Ms.”

We pause by the hamburger buns and I hand him a package.  “Hold these, okay?” 
Josh nods.  He swings them over his head for a moment.
“Mommy,” he says.
“What?”
“Can I have M&Ms if I hit Livie with the buns?”
“Is that behaving?”
“No,” Josh says.
“Well, then, no, you can’t. So don’t hit Olivia with the bag.”

Josh holds the hamburger buns in both hands, eyes his sister, and sits back down.
“I hate behaving,” he mumbles.
“Three more things, Josh,” I sigh. “And then we will go home.”
He eyes me warily.  I hate shopping as much as he does, so I don’t know why he thinks I would extend it.

I pull the cart over the meat section and look at the hamburger.  I’m looking at dates, trying to find the freshest one.  Another lady comes over and looks at Livie.
“What a cute little girl,” she says. “How old is she?”
“Nine months,” I say.
“How precious,” she sighs.  Out of the corner of my eye, I see Josh taking off his shoes and socks.
“Hey,” he says to the lady, sticking his feet out of the top of the cart. “Hey. SMELL MY STINKY FEET!”
“Joshua! Put your socks and shoes back on!” The lady smiles, her smile not quite reaching her eyes, and hurries away.

I am going to have a mental breakdown, right here in Walmart.

“But Mommy,” Josh says. “She wanted to smell my stinky feet.”
Nobody wants to smell your stinky feet. Now stop it and sit down! What do you not understand about behaving?”

My little boy’s blue eyes fill with tears.  He is such a literal little boy, I have to tell him explicitly what not to do, and I have never, not once, told him not to stick his bare feet in stranger’s faces and ask them to smell his stinky feet.
“I being have, Mommy,” he whimpers.  “I thought she wanted to smell my stinky feet.”
“I know,” I sigh, kissing his little face.  “Mommy is overtired, and you are overtired, and we will go home and cuddle in just a minute.  But, sweetie, most people don’t want to smell your stinky feet, okay?”
I put his socks and shoes back on.  “It’s okay. You didn’t know.  You are being good.”
“I love hamburgers, Mommy.”
“I know. Let’s hurry and get done so we can go home and eat them.”

We hurry through the rest of the store, Josh sitting quietly in the cart.
He got his M&Ms.
Daddy got hamburgers.

Mommy got two aspirin.

And we all lived happily ever after.

 

Grace for the journey

I want a Saturday.
I want a day to sleep in, watch television, eat pancakes.  I want a day to do what I want to do.

Instead, I have a nine-month-old who is wide awake at 7 am.  I have at least six loads of laundry to do, another sink of dishes to wash, a two-year-old that needs a bath…which reminds me, the bathrooms really need to be scrubbed.  I then need to run to Walmart to buy a pair of stockings for tonight–my sisters are dancing in a ballet that I’m attending.  Or at least I’m attending part of it, because I will have to leave to drive an hour to work, where I will be until eight tomorrow morning.
And then I will come home and do it all over again.

Oh, and did I mention my husband is on a thirty three hour shift starting this morning?

Moms don’t get Saturdays or vacations or holidays.  We get laundry and dishes and a baby that wants to be held all day long and a toddler who follows after us, leaving chaos in his wake.
And it can get so tiring.  The never ending to-do list that seems to be on an endless loop of repeating can become so wearying if we let it.  Especially when our husbands work away or work long hours and all those mothering tasks fall solely on our shoulders.  It can easily become overwhelming.

So I start at the beginning.  I do one thing–a load of laundry–and move onto the next, not letting my mind wander to what else needs to be done.  When the two-year-old desperately needs some attention, I mentally put the list aside.  I can come back to it, I can do it later. When the baby needs some cuddling, I put it aside again and pick her up.  I stop letting the list rule my life and overwhelm me as it so easily could.

I probably won’t get everything done today that I need to.  But this season of life, this season with small children, is a season of grace.  Grace given to exhausted, weary, overwhelmed me–grace that says, it’s okay to fail here.  It’s okay if those dishes stay in the sink.  It’s okay if the upstairs bathroom doesn’t get scrubbed.
It’s okay if the little ones need cuddling instead of chores getting done.

This motherhood stuff–it’s not a race, it’s a journey.  We’ll all get to the end at one point or another, far more haggard and worn out than when we started.
And for that journey, I wish you grace.

This is linked at http://www.hopeforthewearymom.com.  I couldn’t nab the button, but this is a great site for encouragement when you need it most.

 

A thousand paths

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I packed the kids up today and drove ninety minutes to visit my sister, who is currently attending my alma mater.   She actually is an RA on the same floor I lived on ten years ago this semester, her room just around the corner and down the hall from my old room.  I stood there today, with my children, looking at the door to my old dorm room. 

“Look,” I said, “There is where Mommy used to live.”
“Oh,” Joshua replied. “Can we go get hot dogs now?”

My son hangs around my neck as I type this, lost in memories of college.  I was headed to law school, but my advisor recommended that I work a few years as I would stand a better chance of acceptance then.

  I never went to law school, never finished graduate school, never even worked a job that required a degree.  In the eyes of the college I graduated from, I am most certainly a failure.  They pride themselves on their high acceptance rate into graduate and professional school, they tell all prospective students about the large percentage of students who go on to high profile, well paying careers.   My beat up, 1998 Chevy Lumina looked strange in the parking lot today next to the current students’ late model cars.

I tell myself it is okay to have chosen a  low paying, low status, dead end career.  And it is.

You see, I met my husband because of my job. Had I not decided to totally change gears and go to paramedic school,  there would be no Joshua climbing up my back right now, no Olivia whining in the living room because she wants a bottle and to go to bed.  My apartment in the other life would be clean; no toys scattered across the living room or board game pieces piled high on top of my desk.  I would have a wonderful career that I’m sure I would love.

But not love as much as the sticky fingers running through my hair, the little voice yelling, “Come on, Mommy! Let’s play a game!” 

There are a thousand roads we can walk down, a million paths we can choose.  And perhaps more than one is right, and more than one road will lead to happiness. 
But only one could lead me here, and for that one choice so many years ago and the hundreds of choices that led up to it, I am everlastingly grateful.

To-do list failures

The word for today is…tired.
Very, very, bone chilling, mind numbingly tired.

My husband and I went away for three days, and before that I had worked two days in a row, so I came home to mountains of laundry to wash, dry, fold and put away, dishes still in the sink, dishes on the kitchen table, and toys piled high all over the living room floor. 
I spent four straight hours today on housework, and it still feels like absolutely nothing got done.  There are still toys all over the living room floor, and now they are all over the playroom floor too, because while I was cleaning the kitchen my children decided to redump all their toy boxes.   There is still laundry to do, even though I washed three loads and folded five loads, because we were so behind.  And the upstairs looks even worse than it did this morning, because my husband tore out the hallway ceiling, scattering debris all over(he cleaned up most of it, but it will take weeks before it looks decent).

And if we want to start talking about failures today, I ate three cookies and two pieces of bread.  Did I mention I’m on a low-carb diet?

So instead, tonight, I’m not focusing on the failures of today or the things that didn’t get done, all of which are many.

Instead, today, I:

Wrote a weeks’ worth of menus
Grocery shopped, complete with two little kids
Folded and put away all the clean clothes in my bedroom
Put clean sheets on my bed
PIcked up all the dirty clothes on my floor and put them in hampers
Made my family a good dinner
Built a house out of couch cushions with my son
Changed a whole lot of diapers
Washed two little faces a bunch of times
Kept my son from choking his baby sister
Broke up six fights
Snuggled this sweet one Image

There will always be a thousand things I didn’t do.  I’m a mom, which alone makes it impossible to do everything that needs to be done.
But I can’t concentrate on that.
I can only focus on what I can do, and remember that I am only one person who simply needs to prioritize that to-do list–and perhaps, right now, in this stage of life, couch cushion forts come before clean floors.