Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Mommy Wars, or Why Stay-At-Home Moms are Silent

I grew up with a brilliant, strong woman for a mother who had left off scaling the career ladder to be a stay-at-home mom to my sisters and I.  We were encouraged to do the same someday, and I came into adulthood and motherhood (by no fault of my mother’s…just my own convictions) staunchly believing that being a full-time stay-at-home mom was the best way for a mom who actually wanted to mother her kids and be a godly mother.

Actually being a mom changes things.

Since entering the world of motherhood, I’ve met moms from near and far and from all walks of life.  If I’ve learned anything, it’s we can’t put godly motherhood in a box.  It doesn’t look the same for every mom.  I have friends who are working moms who are doing exactly what God has called them to do. 

I’ve also come to realize that most moms are self-conscious about their own chosen path.  Working moms, in particular, complain that they don’t feel comfortable around stay-at-home moms…that they feel judged for working and still pursuing careers.

Working Moms, let me let you in on a little secret…stay-at-home moms feel judged too.  They’ve heard the whispers about how they’re lazy, or must be bored just sitting home all day, or are just lucky that their husband’s bring in the big bucks.  And each whisper stings deep.   

Many stay-at-home moms struggle with feelings of inadequacy.  They watch their working mom friends juggle a career, kids, and a home with seemingly flawless ease.  The old argument that you’d be paying someone to watch your kids while you work anyway (and, therefore, being a stay-at-home mom is a real job) only serves to fuel their feelings of worthlessness.  They want to be seen as more than a glorified baby sitter.  They want to feel like they are doing something important and worthwhile…but some days they’re honestly lucky to get out of sweatpants or fold a load of laundryTheir hard-working men march off each day to bring home a little to put in their bank account, and they meanwhile only seem to drain it. 

They listen to their working mom friends talk about all the awesome things they’re doing and accomplishing at work.  They listen to talk of grand, important things and a kind of busyness that makes the bottoms they wiped and the PB&J sandwiches they made seem insignificant and mundane.  

And so, they keep silent.  What, really, can they say?  “Oh, you saved a patient’s life today or taught a room full of third grader’s math?  I picked up blocks and cleaned up cracker crumbs.  My main struggle today was getting my son down for his nap, and I cried when my husband called and said he’d have to work late tonight.” 

The truth, however, is that a stay-at-home mom’s job is just as important as a working mom’s…it’s just different.  Take it from someone who’s been both a SAHM and a working mom…you feel just as exhausted, drained, and sucked dry after a day at home with your children as you do after a day at the office dealing with people and papers and money.  Yet, there can also be just as much joy, just as many accomplishments, and just as much self-worth.  What truly matters is that your day was spent right where God wants YOU to be, doing the things that He’s called YOU to do.

We are all moms, but we are also all unique.  The way we mother and live our lives should be unique as well.  We need to stop criticizing one another’s choices and instead encourage each other on the path God has led us each on specifically.  We won’t always understand each other or agree, and that’s okay.  It’s okay to be different from one another.  What’s not okay is to demean someone else for being different from you in order to build yourself up and make yourself feel better about your choices. 

Ladies, being a mother is stinking hard work.  We all have those days that we lock ourselves in the bathroom knowing that we’ll have a nervous breakdown if we hear that nasally, whiny, “MOM!!!” one. more. time.  Being a mom is tough enough without having to deal with the constant critiques and judgments from other moms.  Lets stop arguing about whose path is better, and start encouraging and supporting each other instead.  Lets stop focusing on our differences and start embracing the similar experiences we share as mothers.  Lets stop the mommy wars and start building each other up. 

Working mom, stay-at-home mom…what does it matter really?  What matters is that we are all women trying to navigate the unknown waters of motherhood. Better we do it together than all alone.   

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Seasons of the Mundane

The newborn season of motherhood is full of seemingly mundane busyness.  Whether you're a stay-at-home mom, or just on maternity leave, it often seems like all you do all day is feed the baby, change dirty diapers, and attempt to go to the bathroom (mostly unsuccessfully).  In reality, that's probably all you are doing.

Pretty much my entire day yesterday consisted of nursing a baby who was obviously going through a growth spurt, and taking a potty-training toddler to the bathroom while the baby screamed bloody murder.  Supper came in the form of a crockpot freezer meal hastily eaten in front of the tv while my husband held the baby.  On days like yesterday, it's easy to look in the mirror and wonder what happened to all your dreams and goals.  Wasn't it just a few short weeks ago that you were more than just a sleep-deprived, milk-producing, diaper-changing machine?  

This isn't my first rodeo.  I know from experience that all too soon this newborn phase will pass.  In the blink of an eye that tiny screaming newborn will be the potty-training toddler proudly announcing every time she toots, far too busy to happily snuggle with Mama all day.  Even still, I have to fight off negative thoughts:  I'm not getting anything done all day.  I've abandoned the other passions and ministries God has called me to.  I've lost who I am in this whole business of being a mother.  All lies meant to distract me from the glorious, fleeting things God has called me to in the here and now.

Each time I take that toddler to the bathroom, I'm taking one more baby step in the process of molding and shaping him into the man God is calling him to be.  Each time I feed that baby, I'm providing her with the nourishment she needs to grow and one day fulfill the wonderful things God has in store for her.  Each time my husband holds her as I eat, I watch him fall more in love with her, becoming the daddy that she needs.  Each time I apologize to the toddler for snapping at him for kissing the baby too roughly, I see a little more clearly God's heart towards us...and see Him using this season to shape me into the woman He wants me to be.

No season of life is ever mundane or meaningless...it only seems that way on the surface.  


Monday, November 3, 2014

Shaming the Breastfeeding Challenged

I'm going to be real honest: breastfeeding and I have a love-hate relationship.  As much as I loved nursing my son and am very pro-breastfeeding, I don't believe that breastfeeding is always the best way.  There are way too many moms out there (me included) that are made to feel like less of a mother for either struggling with breastfeeding, not enjoying it, or choosing not to breastfeed altogether.

This was circulating recently, and it was awesome, but I think that some women forget that there are other reasons besides health ones that can prevent moms from being able to nurse their babies.  For some, the stress of nursing is just not worth it.  For others, breastfeeding is a struggle and at some point the benefits of fighting for it don't outweigh the physical and emotional exhaustion.  For still others, their supply, their physical attributes, or their baby's mouth keeps them from being able to breastfeed.  

I've not really shared this here before, but I really struggled nursing Miles in the beginning.  I had dreams of effortlessly nursing my newborn in what would be a completely natural and incredibly bonding experience.  Unfortunately, a combo of issues between me and him made latching impossible.  For several months, the only way I could get him latched was with a shield.  Even then, it was a struggle.  There was a lot of screaming and frustration.  Finally, though, he got the hang of it and became a pro.  Breastfeeding became a beautiful, peaceful thing, and I loved it.  I couldn't understand how anyone who could breastfeed would choose not to.  I was terribly proud of myself for sticking with it and persevering.

When Nora was born, I prepared myself for another struggle.  To my surprise, only minutes after she arrived she latched right on.  She was such a good little nurser that she wanted to nurse constantly.  My poor husband had to go to Walmart at 5 am to get a pacifier and give me a break.  I was in proud Mommy heaven.

Then engorgement struck.  Terrible, painful engorgement that I wasn't able to get to go down for several days.  Suddenly my nursing champ couldn't latch.  After a sleepless night of trying unsuccessfully to get her to nurse, and her not getting more than a few drops of milk, we gave in and gave her a bottle of pumped milk.  One bottle.  That's all it took for my nursing pro to decide that nursing was simply too much work.

My dreams of easily nursing my newborn whenever and wherever crumbled into a heap.  I can't even begin to describe to you how hard it is to have your own child screaming in rejection of you, in favor of a cold, artificial substitute.  Meanwhile, all you can think of are the many, many friends whose baby's latch right on and never have any trouble nursing.  You know it's not true, but you can't help but feel like a failure.

You see, I know from experience that not being able to "Exclusively Breastfeed" (or "EBF", as it's known in the cyber world), whether by choice or necessity, is never easy.  Something deep down whispers that you are less of a woman.  After all, women have been doing it for thousands of years so why can't you? 

Then there's the judgement from other moms, especially those that don't know the pain it is to struggle to nurse your little one.  Whether imagined or not, you feel the stares when you pull out that bottle.  You hesitate before posting that cute anecdote about your child on Facebook because it includes the world "bottle", and you know what certain moms will think.  You cringe inside when that mom who doesn't understand the whole situation gives you advice on what will help with your "problem".  You skip over that article someone shared for the millionth time about how much better breastfeeding is, implying that your kid will be less healthy, smart, and developed than those lucky kids who nursed until they were 2.

Mamas, if you've struggled with breastfeeding or have had to give up on it altogether for whatever reason, take heart.  You are not less of a mama, and your child will not lack because of it.  My grandma likes to remind people that all of her three amazingly smart, high-IQ, beautiful children (which include an orthodontist and a PhD psychologist) were, in fact, formula babies, as were my sister and I.  If you can breastfeed, that's wonderful, but breastfeeding alone will not dictate the future and health of your children.  What's far more important is for our children to have a mentally stable mama who loves them with all of her heart.

To those of you to whom nursing comes easily, think twice before passing judgement.  If you haven't struggled with breastfeeding, you can't fully understand the struggle of those who have.  Make the choice to support other mothers, whether they breastfeed of bottle feed.  What is best for one family and one child will not be best for another family and another child.  We need to embrace one another and the unique paths that we are all on.  Remember that breastfeeding your children does not make you a better mother than the woman who bottle feeds.  

***   

Nora is almost three weeks old now, and she's had more bottles than I can count.  I'm producing more than enough milk, so it's all been mama's milk, but it's still not my preference or my choice.  Pumping often enough to produce enough milk for your little one is exhausting (especially when that includes pumping in the middle of the night after already having fed your baby a bottle).  There have definitely been days that I've wondered how long we'll make it before switching to formula.  Being a busy wife and mama makes exclusively pumping for the next year impossible.  I had to come to terms with the fact that, should she not return to breastfeeding, my sweet Nora might end up on formula...and I had to be okay with that.

Thankfully, taking it one day at a time has worked.  By the grace of God (because it's certainly nothing I've done), my sweet Nora has suddenly decided that she really does like nursing after all.  It's 3 in the afternoon and she hasn't had one bottle all day.  Yet, I know that that could change in a heartbeat, and that's perfectly fine.  My worth and value as her mother is not tied up in my ability to feed her the "natural way".  Instead, it's found in the love and devotion I have for her, whether she's fed formula in a bottle or right at my chest.  




Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Nora's Birth Story

Fair warning: Due to the nature of the topic, this post is a little more TMI than I usually write.  

My entire pregnancy with our sweet Nora was anything but ordinary. It shouldn't come as any surprise, then, that her actual birth followed suit. Even two weeks later, I'm still trying to process the chain of events that brought my sweet girl into this world.

As I've shared before, I was hospitalized at 35 weeks with preterm labor and put on strict bed rest. During that time, my contractions never lessened, and I expected Baby Girl to come at any moment. But she didn't.

When I hit the magical number of 37 weeks and was allowed off of bed rest, I thought that getting up and walking around would do the trick. Despite intense, consistent contractions, Baby Girl still stayed put.

At my 38 week checkup (a Wednesday), I had an ultrasound done because I had started measuring even further ahead than I had before (as in, 4+ weeks ahead). The ultrasound showed a high level of amniotic fluid, enough that the nurse practitioner was concerned. Baby Girl was not engaged and was basically swimming around inside of me. She could turn breech or, even worse, my water breaking could cause the cord to prolapse. I was told to come in the next Monday (when I was 39 weeks exactly), and they'd check my fluid levels again.

On Monday, Baby Girl was still very healthy and active, but my fluid levels were still rising.   I really, really wanted to give birth naturally and go into labor on my own. Yet, after almost 4 weeks of prodromal labor, I hadn't progressed (I had been sitting at 3 cm dilated that entire time). My OBGYN and I sat down and had a very frank discussion about my options. Normally, she encouraged women to wait to go into labor naturally. In her professional opinion, however, she didn't think Baby Girl was coming on her own, or at least not for awhile. She felt that my high fluid levels were the reason that the contractions I was having weren't going anywhere. They just weren't effective at bringing Baby down because there was so much fluid. With the risks associated with my rising fluid levels, she encouraged me to schedule an induction. The risk of cord prolapse was still there even in an induction in a hospital, but at least then emergency help would be there. If my water broke at home, I was 45+ minutes from the hospital, and could find myself in a potentially dangerous situation.  Andy and I prayed about it, and decided to go ahead with the induction.  I was told to come in to be induced that Wednesday (October 15th) at 5 am. I would be 39 weeks, 2 days at that point.

The next two days, I still prayed that I would go into labor naturally. Oddly enough, however, the contractions that had been so consistent for the past 4 weeks, all but went away. So, at 5 am that Wednesday morning we marched into the hospital. They checked me and I was still 3 cm dilated. No surprise there.

At 6:30 am they started me on a low Pitocin drip. For the next 4 hours they steadily increased it, to almost no avail. I was having contractions, but they were very inconsistent, and I almost couldn't feel them. Andy and I watched TV and I prayed that something would start happening soon. Finally, at 10:45 am, my doctor came in and checked me. I was barely a 4. The news, while unsurprising based on the contractions I was having, was discouraging. My doctor had originally planned to break my water, but Baby Girl's head was still so high up that she didn't feel it was safe to do so. She suggested I get an epidural to see if it would relax anything, and then to try some different positions and things to bring baby down. I didn't have an epidural with my son, and I was hoping to at least hold out as long as possible with this baby, but I reluctantly agreed. The anesthesiologist came in and I found myself regretting the decision during the whole process. I wasn't even feeling these contractions, for goodness sake...why was I getting an epidural???

While the anesthesiologist was wrapping up, Baby Girl's heartbeat dropped during two separate contractions.  The nurse had me move into different positions, but both times her heartbeat didn't go up until the contractions stopped.  The anesthesiologist (who was still in the room), suggested that perhaps I was dilating more.  The nurse checked me, and I was now at a 5.  Progress, at least!  Baby's heartbeat didn't drop again, so I was left alone lying on my back.  The intention was to sit me up in an hour and see if we could do anything to get Baby engaged.

As soon as the nurse and anesthesiologist left (about 11:45), I started actually feeling the contractions more.  I texted my mom and update and my husband and I joked about singing "Let It Go" during labor.  Within minutes, the contractions started getting more intense, and I wasn't able to text anymore.  I had to get on my left side and focus to get through the contractions.  The epidural didn't seem to be helping much.  My feet were numb, but my pelvis was most definitely not.

At 12:09 I had my husband text my mom that the contractions were getting a lot worse.  A few minutes later we decided to call the nurse and see if they could figure out something with the epidural.  Ten minutes later, the nurse still hadn't shown up.  I felt a pop, a gush of fluid, and sudden, excruciating pain.

This time when we called the nurse, me shouting in the background brought her pretty quickly.  My husband told her I thought my water had broken.  She said she'd check me and slowly moved about getting things (obviously doubtful, since she had left me not too long ago).  My husband repeated it two more times and finally started to check.  The poor, young nurse's eyes got as big as an owl's and she quickly called for another nurse (apparently it was a lot of fluid, and my amniotic sac was half hanging out).  The other nurse came in, took one look at me, and said I was a 10, that the baby had dark hair, and that they needed to get the doctor and a table immediately.

I meanwhile was in the most excruciating pain I've ever experienced.  My first epidural-free labor was a cake-walk compared to this.  It felt like my entire pelvis was splitting open, and I had to yell and get onto my hands and knees just to get through each contraction.  I told my husband that he needed to get the doctor and have them cut the baby out, because I couldn't do this.  I as much told the nurses the same.

While the first nurse tried to get ahold of my doctor, the other nurse turned me onto my side.  I listened as they tried to find a doctor.  My doctor was in a c-section and couldn't get out, and her partner didn't answer.  Finally they reached another doctor who had just left and she said she'd be there in 5 minutes.  I told the nurse that I didn't want to wait and that she needed to just get the baby out.  She assured me that she could deliver the baby if she needed to.  I heard her tell my husband that if I opened my legs the baby would be born.

We waited the 5 minutes for the doctor, but my body was pushing on its own.  I wouldn't be able to make it much longer.  Meanwhile, the nurse was helping to stretch the baby's head out.

Finally, the doctor arrived, put on gloves and sat down in front of me.  I opened my legs, gave two little pushes, and there at my feet lay my beautiful, perfect baby girl.  They hadn't even had time to put up a sheet or drop the bed.  I could have caught her, had I had the presence of mind of Kourtney Kardashian.  I watched as she gave her first little scream and they handed her into my arms, healthy as can be.  The time was 12:57 pm...just over an hour after the nurse had said I was dilated to a 5.


We are so thankful for our sweet little Nora Jane.  Her birth was one of the hardest things I've ever gone through, but holding her for the first time was more than worth it.  






       


    

Friday, October 17, 2014

She's Here!!!


I'm pleased to announce that Baby Girl Baker finally made her grand entrance into this world!

Nora Jane Baker was born 10/15/14 at 1:56 PM after a very crazy and intense birth.  8 lb, 1 oz.  20.5" long.  Healthy as can be!  Hopefully I'll have the chance to write out her birth story.  Until then, I'm home with my sweet little family, adjusting to life as a family of four.






Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Before Baby Bucket List


Well, here I am at 38 weeks, 1 day and still no baby.  After all the trouble we had with preterm labor, a hospital stay, and a week and a half of bed rest, we were definitely expecting Baby Girl sometime last week.  So far, she's still hanging out in there.

After my doctor'a appointment this past Thursday, my husband and I decided to make a little bucket list of sorts of things to do before the baby is born.  While we may be in a time of waiting, we know it's for a reason, and we don't want to waste it.

We've been adding to and adjusting the list as the days have gone on, depending on our mood.  Here are a few of the things we've done in the past five days:

*Watched Fiddler on the Roof with Miles  while Andy worked on his Jeep.


*Andy made some progress on his Jeep.  

*Got donuts for breakfast...definite treat right there!

*We took a drive on a road I'd been wanting to go on forever...with our bags in the car just in case. ;)

*Extended that drive on another road that I just love driving on. (I so wish I'd got pictures!)

*Ate dinner at a restaurant that holds a lot of memories for Andy as a child.

*Made it to church for the first time in weeks.

*Took Miles to a local pumpkin patch that opened up this year.  He loved it...and we did too.





*Went to a movie...technically we only made it to a movie at church (they were showing God's Not Dead), but it was still nice!

*Had dinner with friends after the movie.  

I've also just been soaking up as much time with my boys (especially the soon-to-be big brother) as possible.  I'm having to go extra slow, but Miles and I have been enjoying going to the park, playing at home, and taking afternoon naps.  Andy and I have been enjoying getting to watch "Big People" movies and shows before bed at night.  

The introvert in me is also definitely coming out.  Before Miles was born, I didn't really want to do too much except settle in at home and "nest".  I know several people thought something was wrong, but it wasn't.  It's just how I prepare for everything that's about to happen!

So, if I seem aloof or distant in the next few days or weeks until Baby Girl comes, don't worry.  I'm not depressed and it's not you...it's just me and my introverted self. ;)

Anyway, a few other things we've talked about doing before baby comes are:

*Getting ice cream

*Maybe going to an actual movie theatre. ;)

*One last Jeep ride

*Concert at the Ozark Folk Center

*Smores on the back deck

*Work on the garden

*Drive down to the creek

*Tommy Q and rootbeer floats (for those of you who know what we ate the night before Miles made his swift arrival ;) )



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Ugly Truth

Feeling so out-of-control of everything the past few weeks has really brought to light some secrets buried deep in my heart.  Dark, ugly secretsLike, how prideful I am as a pregnant woman.

I see this picture I posted on my Instagram feed some months back and cringe.  The heart of it was so braggy…so self-centered. 


You see, secretly, I felt that the easiness of my first pregnancy was all due to me.  I ate good, tried to stay active, and purposed to stay positive through it all.  My feet barely swelled, heartburn was non-existent, and I delivered a healthy baby boy at 40 weeks, 1 day with no Pitocin, no epidural, and a less than 10 hour labor.  Motherhood ended up being far more challenging than I expected, but I loved it and eventually thrived as a stay-at-home mom.

Then I became pregnant with Baby #2.  I expected nothing less than the easy pregnancy I’d had before.  I planned on staying healthy and active, keeping up my garden, being an amazing mother to my toddler, and babywearing until the very end, when I’d go in and deliver another healthy baby with a short, easy labor.  I would be even more prepared this time.  I knew what to expect.  This wasn’t my first rodeo.

As the weeks of my pregnancy went on, I found myself slowly losing more-and-more of the “control” I thought I had.  First, one of the ventricles in Baby Girl’s brain was slightly enlarged (which, thankfully, resolved itself).  Then, excessive contractions and cramping almost landed me in the hospital at 25 weeks.  I found myself having to go much slower than with my first pregnancy.  We had to turn down outings with friends, for fear that the heat and walking would be too much for me.  I tried to pace myself, but still found myself pushing…perhaps too much.  Heartburn and breathlessness plagued me incessantly. 

Still, I had some control. I was going to be ready.  I had lists made of what all needed to be done before baby came.  They included everything from deep cleaning the house to making freezer meals to packing everyone’s bags to being stocked up on paper plates. 

Every shred of control was lost when I found myself hospitalized with preterm labor at 35 weeks, 3 days.  I was sent home to face the daunting challenge of strict bedrest for the next week and half.  All of my best laid plans went down the tubes.  At night, I’d hear my son crying for me and just ache, knowing that I could not go to him…that someone else would have to.  I found my independent self having to rely on others just to bring me water, change my son’s diaper, or find the extra box of cereal in the kitchen.  I had time to think…and I thought a lot.

I thought about how prideful I had been.  I thought about how nothing, as it turns out, had ever been in my control…nothing was due to my superior actions as a pregnant woman.  This had been a hard pregnancy, with unexpected twists and turns, and it was okay to admit that.  It was okay to embrace that, knowing that nothing I had experienced this go around made me less or more of a woman or a mother.

Right now, my baby carriers are collecting dust, my garden lays fallow, and my son is having to learn that Mama can only do so much today.  At 37 weeks, 2 days, I wait in limbo…waiting for the arrival of my so very wanted baby girl.  I no longer have any expectations of what her birth will be like.  At this point, my once decidedly-pro-natural-childbirth self would even welcome a C-section, if it meant that I would have my little girl in my arms at last and that this pregnancy and everything that comes with it would be over. 

Today, I know that I’m not “Super Pregnant Mommy”.  Today, I feel very out-of-control.  Today,  I know that that’s perfectly okay.