F Street

On the corner of F street he sits in his chair

with safe shit all around him in crisp autumn air

An empty box from an empty purchase

complete with receipts to reaffirm it was worth it

Every toy from his child who has long been grown, to remind him of days he was less alone

Every tool for that thing he’s been meaning to mend, when he finds how and where and what’s been broken

Maximum capacity in complete isolation

His drug of choice is accumulation

No room for love with no where to hide

The house on F street is fully occupied

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Modern Medicine

We started with an ache for what could be,

built ourselves like vessels to carry healing

We forced the lines and fed the dream

erected a home for palliating

At war with the god we knew

and the ones we were becoming

We fashioned a science out of caring

And a business out of compassion

Made miracles truth or daring

Found an opposite reaction

We were never meant to place

A price tag on this thing

We fell numb in the cold, deep water below

The ships sank from mistakes all our own

We blurred the lines and bled the truth

Tore down the shelter meant to soothe

At peace with the devil we knew

And the one we were becoming

But we still feel the ache

For the ones who are broken

Our dream is still vivid

Our arms are still open

One miracle for a million that could have been

That’s the paradox of modern medicine

Our First Year

I am the mom of a one year old. I said that sentence out loud just now, because reading it felt insane. If I’m being honest, for the first few months I would think to my self, “If we can just make it to a year then…” Then he will be walking and communicating… then things will be easier…But I think what I really craved was the…then my baby will be less of a stranger. There is so much time spent planning, rehearsing, decorating, cleaning, singing, and talking to your belly, feeling those crazy movements, staring at ultrasounds, that you think you will immediately know and understand your baby. But learning your baby is an adventure that takes a long time (probably a lifetime). So here’s the beginning of our life time (mine as a mother and my sweet baby’s) and a few things I’ve learned.

As someone who can’t even eat the same meal two days in a row, routines are not really my thing…but babies LOVE routines. And unless you plan on holding them at all times of the day for the first 3 years of their life, you will also learn to love routines. A baby’s world is a little bit overwhelming, something about sensory and development overload and their brain doubling in size the first year. They CRAVE some sort of structure. The first year I really learned to listen to my mommy inclinations. Although it’s completely necessary to go outside the routine lines at times, there will MORE times when the holy spirit/inner voice/mommy senses tell you STOP. SLOW DOWN. STAY HOME. Your baby needs their routine. Be obedient to your mommy senses.

Give extra grace to your spouse. As a woman…who birthed a baby…and was its sole source of nutrition for many months…it was really easy to fall into the mindset of thinking this life change was only happening to me. Your spouse is also going through a HUGE transition, and he showed up a little late to the party aka is having to play catch up for all those months of bonding he missed while baby was in your belly. In some aspects the transition is even harder on them. Some dads will catch up the first day, but I’d argue for most it takes a little longer. Remind yourself they are not the enemy. James has said to me, “Sarah, you HAVE to stop thinking I’m against you,” at times when the stress levels and emotions have been high. There is nothing more valuable than being and staying on each other’s team, because children be CRAY. Your spouse is your lifeline not your roadblock. It’s hard to keep that adult quality time especially in the newborn stage. What worked for us was going on walks almost daily. Of course date night is amazing, but it’s not always achievable in the beginning. Whatever the case may be, make the time to reconnect and realize you both are in this together.

Wake up before your baby.

Yes, I know this is brutal and difficult when all you want is 5 more minutes of sleep. I am notorious for being completely irrational without enough sleep, but waking up before your baby is a game. changer. I have a better version of myself to offer my child and my husband if I’ve accomplished some sort of meaningful task before the day starts. There is something radical and transformative about waking up on your own terms vs. waking up to the sound of your baby.

My last revelation is to go slow. It’s slightly embarrassing how often I wanted the next developmental phase to start, and I am positive when I am 100 years old, (obviously I’m going to live that long) I will look back at these baby moments as probably the happiest time in my life. So sit down and watch your child eat, sleep, play. The world will happen all around you, but the first few years of your child’s life are the most magical thing to ever grace your existence. Don’t miss it.

Our first year has been a blur of breastfeeding, bottles, baby wearing, five little monkeys, moon river singing, long family walks, sleep training, night weaning, diapers, teething, learning, and bonding. And although I feel so much more comfortable in these Mom shoes, I know that I have so much more to learn about my favorite little mess maker. 🖤

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The Youngest Child

beautiful blurred background casual family
 

There are quite a few vivid memories I have from childhood of reporting back a play-by-play of all things good, bad, and ugly done by my brothers that day. Whether I was crying about some menial trauma they inflicted or divulging all the rules they broke, I was a classic tattle-tale. Even worse, I was an extremely practiced, theatrical victim…and the baby of the family…and the only girl. Put all those together and you have a recipe for someone who well into adulthood can still find herself playing the victim more than she would like to admit. Any other youngest children have that problem? Babies of the family, where you at? I’m very curious how much my “youngest child complex” affects my interactions with others.

Birth order is a really fascinating subject, that I only have anecdotal evidence to offer theories on…but I’d love to hear other people’s ideas and stories. For example, all of my easiest relationships are with “the oldests” in their families. My husband is an oldest…my mom is an oldest…two of my best friends are “oldests”.  My friendships and relationships with other “babies of the family,” while no less rewarding and valuable, are always a bit more of a challenge to maintain.

Also, how will my children’s birth order influence my relationship with them? I’m already positive, no other child we make will ever experience the level of fully devoted time and attention V receives from us, ha.

Click below for more about what your birth order says about you:

Birth order and personality

Alfred Adler

Birth order and job success

Youth

We wonder if our lives will neatly summarize into a series of likes and shares

All the filtered photos left behind to remind people we’re there

We pay stars on big screens to feel what we can’t

Dramatize the day to day and remove happenstance

We will bloom in our youth or wither in the pursuit

Sold out information for reputations and I am unaware

Of what to think and how to feel when It breaks beyond repair

I lean into the comfortable of not taking the chance

Romanticize the yesteryears and forget to learn the dance

I will wither in my youth or bloom in the pursuit

The easiest hardest thing

You’re ascending Mount Everest, but 75% of the way a sherpa is carrying you on his back and keeping you warm with a heated blanket…the other 25% of the time you’re bleeding, alone, scared, and uncomfortable. It’s the easiest, hardest thing, and this is what breastfeeding feels like.

Whether pumping milk in the stall of a bathroom, backseat of a car, closet, cubicle, listening to the whooshing sound until it becomes your theme song and you’ve made up raps in your head to go along…Or whether someone is making a comment about your baby’s noises while they nurse, “sounds like they’re getting their own thanksgiving dinner.” OR whether someone is giving you weird looks at the restaurant or praising you like you’re Mother Theresa. It’s an adventure.

As my adventure is coming to an end, I wanted to share about my personal experience…but I have some beef with breastfeeding… Here goes…Mom shaming is the worst, and even when moms don’t do it verbally or outwardly, the stigma around formula feeding is tangible. It’s like murky water you can feel through every mom blog/social media group/conversation. Can I just say breastfeeding is great…but it is not going to get your kid through college or end world hunger or even make them a decent human being. There are SO MANY other far more important things you can give your children than breast milk…like an encouraging word, or listening to them, or spending quality time with them throughout their lives. These studies that say breast milk is the end all to every childhood problem often don’t factor in that the percentages of long-term breastfed babies are much higher in middle-class, white women. So are these babies reaping benefits solely because they’re breastfed, or because they’re born into privilege? Just a thought. I’m not saying “breast isn’t best”, but I think it becomes this strange idol for many moms…and then there’s some people who almost become a martyr for the cause (I say this, because I felt this creep up at times). Being a breastfeeding mom does not equate sainthood, being a good mom does. Okay rant over…

I had heard that breastfeeding was difficult, but I thought it would be because of chapped nipples and not being able to eat/drink whatever I wanted. I quickly learned those were not my problems, and discovered a whole other host of reasons breastfeeding is a TRIP, man. So first I’m going to complain about all the parts that surprisingly sucked…puns intended.

Pumping. Pumping is such an amazing invention, but nothing makes you feel more like a 4 legged utter than being hooked up to two plastic funnels for endless eternities.

Clogs. HOLY COW these things were terrible. No one told me sometimes I’d have a random tennis ball sized rock in my boob that I’d have to work out! What helped me the most with these was water, rest, and not worrying so much about them. They WILL pass, I promise. I also took sunflower lecithin supplements, but pretty sure they only worked via placebo effect. Once your body finally gets used to your work schedule or nursing schedule they stop popping up as often.

Supply and demand. And lastly, the worrying about “is my baby getting enough milk?!” This was a major stressor for me, and I let it overwhelm me too often. Just relax mamas! If you have enough wet and poopy diapers, chances are everything is on track! It is rare to not be able to supply enough when you’re nursing on demand.

And then there are the parts that are amazing and make it the easiest thing and the sweetest thing…

Comfort. The best part about breastfeeding is obviously this sweet little baby snuggled up, so content and excited about milk. There is NO easier way to soothe a baby. Honestly, I’ve always been a “there there” type of person with a side hug and a pat pat when it comes to comforting people…and I still feel a lack of confidence in soothing V in ways other than nursing. Do I rock faster or slower…bounce higher…pat more…? Breastfeeding moms have this SO easy.

Convenience. I didn’t know how hard my husband and mother/mother-in-law had it watching V while I was at work until I babysat for my niece a couple times. Let me tell you, holding a crying/hungry baby while trying to warm up a bottle of milk is WAY more difficult than just popping a boob out and giving your baby instant gratification. I have mad respect for bottle feeding moms, dads, and caretakers. While breastfeeding, so much time is gained not having to clean and sterilize bottles and warm milk.

Cost. Breastfeeding is FREE guys. Even a nice breast pump is covered by insurance these days, and there are so many ways to get free parts. Ask for a manual pump in the hospital and pumping supplies, and chances are they’ll send you home with one.

There’s also the calorie burning thing, but that is a blessing and a curse. YES you are burning up to 500 calories a day, but you are also hungrier than a cow. So I totally understand why some women lose weight and some women gain weight in the process.

All of this to say, no matter how you feed and nurture your baby, you are amazing and your baby will look back and not remember a single thing about it…because they were a baby. Unless you breastfeed until they’re 6 and end up on a sensational youtube video with millions of views.

NEWBORNS…aka did that three months of my life really just happen?

I’m writing this mostly to document and remember the crazy, amazing, exhilarating, exhausting, beautiful thing that is becoming a mother and having a newborn. I’ve been a mom all of five seconds here, so don’t expect any earth-shaking advice…but maybe there’s someone out there who can identify with my experience.

I always thought motherhood would come naturally to me. I’ve absolutely adored children from a very young age. I begged my parents to give me a younger sibling, and was truly mad at them and God when it didn’t happen. My first jobs consisted of babysitting and working in kids church, and at gatherings of family friends, I instantly became the fill-in caretaker and entertainer for any children present. I was a natural, or so I thought. None of that prepared me for motherhood…not even close.

Post traumatic panic from labor disorder… self diagnosed…For a long time after V was born, I would close my eyes and relive the scary moment where the nurses couldn’t find his heart rate and instantly start crying. James would reassure me our baby was here and healthy and perfect, and he’d pray for me to have peace, but it was days before I was able to sleep at all. Between the sleep deprivation and hormones, there were a lot of tears. More than once I gave my husband the baby for a few minutes and went outside legit wondering if I was cut out for this. When sleep came, it was interrupted by my sweet, hungry baby, who cried…a LOT. Am I the only one who didn’t know newborns only sleep for like two hours at a time tops? Yes? Okay cool.

On top of that…breastfeeding…holy cow, I wrote a whole separate post on that, because it is a doozy all on its own.

I remember thinking, “I need a village.” I fantasized about living in some non-western culture and soliciting assistance from every woman nearby. I felt I needed 20 more hands on deck, because it was so so hard. But those first few weeks were like a purification by fire, with each day I was losing the layers of my “perfect” little self-gratifying life and learning what it really meant to be selfless. I never knew how selfish I was, before I became a mother.

Motherhood is active humbling around the clock, learning to deny creature comforts at the call of something greater, and this requires strength from someone greater.

My biggest revelation as a mother was how inadequate my own strength was. I had to draw strength from somewhere outside myself, because my capabilities were frail. My capacity to sacrifice was unpracticed and weak. My potential to give love unconditionally was lacking. I think the hardest part was/is that I am hardwired to problem solve and correct things. I like to see immediate results. Newborns don’t have rule books, solutions, or even consistent evidence that what you’re doing is working. I have learned and am learning daily how little I am in control, and how much I need wisdom and strength beyond what I can produce on my own. Letting go and letting God.

There was a very real feeling that this baby was a complete stranger, and I had no idea who he was or if he even liked me. I know that’s a shallow and absurd statement, but it was so true for me. Those first three months of motherhood were the hardest of my life, but there’s this insane part of me looking back that yearns for them and adores them. It was the collision of my old ego with a new purpose, and it broke me in all the right ways.

My best friends during the first three months:

People: Having a friend come bring you a meal, or someone come help you clean or do your dishes or just hold your baby while you go pee is a dream come true for a new mama. So ladies and gents out there, if you know a new mama… bring them a hot meal for goodness sake. Do their laundry, clean their kitchen, walk their dog. Be their village.

Netflix: Moms…you will need a good series to watch during those late night feeding or nursing sessions. I watched ALL of The Office and Parks and Rec…So sorry V, Michael Scott’s colloquialisms will forever be your introduction to planet earth.

Podcasts: It was helpful to just play something that stimulated me and passed the time while walking the hall with the baby during those “witching hours,” where nothing would soothe him except for walking around. My favorites were: Precious Little Sleep, Serial, Radiolab, More Perfect, Revisionist History, The Liturgist Podcast, LifeChurch, and Ted Talks

V’s best friends during the first three months:

The Swing: This thing is a LIFE SAVER. Many times V would fall asleep within a couple minutes of swinging, and those hands free moments are so valuable. Front ways, side ways, get you a swing that can do both, because babies are picky.

https://www.target.com/p/graco-174-duetconnect-174-lx-with-multi-direction-baby-swing-asher/-/A-51456653

Velcro Swaddles: Most babies love being swaddled, but mine could wriggle out of the regular swaddles very easily. I used these Halo velcro swaddles, but there are tons of options. They are safe, secure, and super easy to put on.

https://www.target.com/p/halo-174-sleepsack-174-100-cotton-swaddle-wrap-twine-print-nb/-/A-52086277

Baby Wearing: V is ALWAYS content being worn. I don’t know that it matters so much which wrap or baby carrier, babies just love being close to you at all times. So find a wrap you like and try it out with a doll or something before you purchase it.

One funny thing I remember is when other people would be holding V and he would start crying, people would instantly hand him back to me, and I would just think to myself, “Well I don’t know what to do either.”

The best advice I received was to “Be a good animal.” It’s easy to get caught up in wanting life to get back to normal or wanting to be productive, get your body back, accomplish tasks you did before. But this stage is really just the time to get in touch with your inner mammal and react to your instincts. Feed your baby, rest, cuddle, heal… repeat.

For all of you in the newborn stage, I promise you will make it, and those creatures transform from little strangers in your house to your biggest contribution to the world. This work is the.most.important.work. you will ever do, so do it with all that you have.