Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Journey into Motherhood: Reframing our Experiences

For any moms out there whose pregnancy, birthing, or postpartum experiences were anything but the ideal, this post is for you.  But, if you are the Mom who had it all- a glowing pregnancy, a quick and natural delivery, and an easy-as-pie recovery with an easily breastfeeding baby, please still read on.  I want to discuss what it might mean to re-frame how we talk about the journey that is new motherhood.  

I don't know if it's media, or if it's social media or what it is, but we certainly idealize the transition of a woman into motherhood.  There's the beautiful baby showers, the cute baby clothes, the incredible family photos... there is certainly some kind of pressure to have the best experience.  And I am no less guilty of perpetuating this false idea by the images I post and the experiences I share.

Thing is, most of us will most definitely experience something other than that image. Maybe it's that every day of pregnancy we are living in a cloud of nausea that we cannot escape from.   Maybe they found 'something' on the ultrasound and you're living with the anxiety and fear of the child's safety instead of enjoying the pregnancy. Maybe you're like me and there are risks involved with your pregnancy that need you to be monitored closely.  For me- I need to have daily injections that bruise and burn my belly.  

Maybe the delivery was agonizing, terrible, and just shy of horrific.  Maybe your baby was rushed to the NICU and you spent the first weeks of motherhood in un-washed clothes, taking vigil by your little one's side instead of walking your baby in a stroller with a latte in hand.  

Or maybe you're like me and you tried two times to have a natural delivery, only to have to go through the trauma of a long labor and emergency C-section both times.  Maybe you're like many women I know and breastfeeding was so challenging, painful, and emotionally draining that you just couldn't do it anymore and felt ashamed because you couldn't breastfeed your child and had to use formula.

The list could go on.  

Thing is, I wonder sometimes if we are truly idealizing the least important aspects instead of being in awe of the journey through it ALL no matter what all the details really look like.  So what if I had a C-section?  So what if your child was formula fed?  So what if you gained 40 more pounds than they said you should? Does any of this make us less able to mother?  Why do we judge ourselves so harshly?  Or each other? I was so distraught over my own disappointments that it set me up to be the least confident and most insecure new Mom- hurtling me straight for despair and disillusionment. Confidence should not be won or lost because of situations we could hardly control.  

This is just not how it should be.  

I think about my impending decision this time around.  The big question remains "will I try for a V-bac again, or will I just have a pre-booked C-section."  And again I'm left to cycle through the emotions of my last two traumatic labors.  I'm sad, devastated, and confused about how I could do so many things 'right' but end up with the same outcome. I feel like I just couldn't cut it as a woman because I couldn't just 'try harder' and do what my body's supposedly 'made to do.'  I certainly experienced great joy and relief in the birth of both my children, but I feel kind of robbed from the fullness of that joy because I was too busy mourning the loss of an experience I didn't have.  I feel fresh sorrow when I try to relate to women who seem to 'have it all' and I am left to wonder why my experiences were so challenging.  

The challenges didn't end with the delivery.  My incisions weren't healing properly and the recovery from the C-sections were very hard physically.  I went on to develop thyroid complications both times leading to incredible insomnia, anxiety and postpartum depression (both times).  It takes me a solid 8 months before I start to bounce back.

But the real tragedy, I'm beginning to believe, is that none of this should be a tragedy at all.  Maybe the problem right from the beginning is that I never expected hardship like that, when I should have.  I believed the lie that transitioning to motherhood is all Anne Geddes, smiles, and cuddles.   I believed that it would be 'picture-perfect' and that the majority of women have it pretty good, and so would I.  I mean look at hollywood?  All these beautiful people with beautiful children and beautifully easy lives.  And then there's facebook...

But I'm here to de-bunk the myth.  

Not to strike fear, not to remove the joy and profound wonder that is becoming a Mom, but to let other Moms know- we have got to start creating an accurate picture of what the transition to new motherhood is really like to new Moms.  Maybe the focus should be less on the highs in our experiences and more on the incredible journey of it all.

I would love to have a natural delivery. However, so many obstetrician's tell me that it's not a good idea to try, considering the events leading up to my two C-sections were so incredibly similar.  Part of me wants to believe that it will be different this time, that if I just try and breathe better, and be stronger, it will happen for me and I will get to join the ranks of 'normal' Moms.  Then I'll get to be in the cool 'vaginal delivery' club.  

But the other part of me is realizing that it's okay to understand that my body may not be capable of delivering babies.  It's okay to choose what might be the 'safer' route.  It's okay to be thankful that I was able to live and that my child was able to live - many women around the world in my same predicament would not have been so fortunate. And you know, it's okay that my story was rocked with hardship, that my journey into motherhood was fraught with incredible toil, poetic moments of beauty, and that my endurance could only be born of great difficulties.  It's okay.

I don't need to be ashamed, or consider myself 'less than.'  I don't need to cover up the story of my labors and say with a look of shame in my eyes "I had a C-section."  You don't need to hang your head low and say "he was formula fed."  We can stand tall and say that we braved many storms on our journeys into motherhood.  It wasn't easy.  It still isn't. But we're not giving up, we are loving our children through wastelands and jungles, and we are toiling and being changed by the worthiest of causes.

Can we start celebrating the joys AND hardships of new motherhood and stop idealizing the peak experiences?   Can we stop judging ourselves by what we couldn't do, and start rejoicing in what we could do?  Can we stop judging each other and instead learn to listen and be inspired by how every mother is sacrificing, enduring, and journeying through their own unique challenges?  Let's journey together instead of 'pinning' the best stuff and discarding the rest.

I hope one day we can show off our scars and war wounds as proof of a battle that we fought hard in.  "Look at this C-section scar?  See this Goiter I sport under my neck?  See the lines of worry in my forehead and the permanent bags under my eyes?  It was all part of my becoming stronger, it was all part of me fighting for my children with blood, sweat, and tears.  It was all proof that Mothers are not mothers because we have children, but because we choose to love them and raise them."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Church with Kids

Okay.  Does attending Church seem frustrating to any other mother with young kids out there?  Don't get me wrong, I love my Church.  I want to hear God's Word.  I want to participate in Worship, I want to be part of community.  Except, well, I can't.  With a 3.5 year old and a 1.5 year old, I can't quite remember when or if I've sat through a whole service.

It all begins with the babies.  They need to nurse, or they are crying, or they need to sleep.  So you're either hiding in the nursery to feed them, pacing in the lobby trying to get them to go to sleep, or you're shushing them and burping them, praying that they won't vomit on you in your seats.  Happily, you move out of that initial phase only to hit the morning nap stage.  Their nap always coincides with the service in some way. You have to sneak in late, sneak out early, or carry them strapped on all service while your back aches. 

Finally, they seem to be getting out of the napping stage only to need to transition to being in the nursery. And that takes weeks, or months.  Leaving them for greater increments in the nursery but inevitably having to rescue the nursery workers from their screaming and crying. It's a horrible but necessary transition.  Then, yay!  You think you're home free!  Enjoying a service- yes!  Oh, wait.  Then they are teething and won't go back.  Or the usual nursery worker isn't there so they won't go in.  Or you've been away for two weeks so they won't go back in.  

They finally seem to love the nursery but they're booted out to Sunday school and it's a whole new world of transition.  Meanwhile, they're also potting training so you have to stop in now and again to make sure they pee on the potty and not in their pants.

Enter baby #2.  And you're back at square one.

Then there's the stress of getting everyone out of the house in clothes that are in some semblance of cleanliness.  Showing up without spit-up on, or syrup smudges on your own clothes gets you bonus points. And of course, there's the inevitable starvation and fatigue that results from Church so that you go screaming out the front doors as soon as Church is over and you can't really connect with anyone anyways because your children are in full on melt down.  Need.  Food.  Now.

And is it just me, or does it seem that every time your child goes into Sunday school or the nursery, they come out with some new viral or infectious disease that you have to deal with for the next week until you do it all again?

I love my Church, I love all that they do for kids.  But one of these days I think I'm just gonna show up in pajamas and whatever state we are really in during the morning.  Or maybe J and I should just take turns going to a service in the morning.  Or maybe we should just wait until their all past the age of 5 and in the meantime just listen to the sermons online.

Anyone else feel like this sometimes?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The queasy pits

I forgot.  I mean, I completely neglected to remember that early pregnancy nausea is the pits.  I am literally hanging on by a thread, constantly wanting to hurl.  What is with the female brain?  How does one so conveniently not recall such challenging physical hardship? I even wrote down how nauseous I was with the previous two pregnancies but somehow I looked past it, "wouldn't it be nice to add to our family...?" Meanwhile, I am the walking dead.  I'm tired as soon as I'm vertical, I'm practically sleep-walking.  Then there's the need to eat constantly, trying to fight off the despair of the constant queasies.  

And of course, the needs of our current family march onwards.  Make dinner (gag).  Clean out the fridge (gag).  Stay in the bathroom for 10 minutes while two children stink up the place (gag).  I have to run in and out of the kitchen so that I don't, heaven forbid, get a good whiff of the dirty dishes in the dishwasher or the garbage can.  I was even found discarding perfectly good Tupperware into the trash because the mere thought of cleaning out the week old food in there and washing the dishes was enough to push me right over the edge.

This is insanity!

Take, for instance, a recent trip to Walmart   We were in desperate need of shoes for Silas as his have all literally fallen apart at the seams.  We also needed to buy some undies for Toby who has decided that this is the perfect time for potty training.  The boys had got a little rambunctious in the grocery cart and had careened into each other and were both screaming, Jason and I got separated, each with one screaming child, and somehow managed to stay totally lost from each other for a good 10 minutes.  What was I doing that whole time?  Literally hanging onto random merchandise stands with my head between my arms trying not to throw up.  I had to drag my sorry behind back and forth through the aisles, without resting Toby on my belly too long as the pressure alone made me sick, mentally screaming "I can't go on!"

Yes, my friends, when I'm pregnant I'm a real peach.  It really agrees with me.  I am a perfectly sane, beautiful, and glowing pregnant lady.  Meanwhile, I haven't showered because staying upright for a full 5 minutes sounds overwhelming and my house is a mess of crumbs and laundry.  Don't even ask me about shift work.  It's. Not. Going. Well. So, other pregnant Moms- I'm a haggard shell of the real Shannon right alongside you.  We'll get through it.  And don't expect high things from me world, I have little to bring other than the occasional groan, and dry heave.

[A serious aside: for those women out there who are longing to be a  Mom, or those who have lost a  child, or who desperately wish they could have a family of their own, please don't see this post as insensitive.  I bet each one of you would give your two good legs to feel nauseous because of being pregnant - forgive me for my above complaints.  I am deeply grateful for God's generosity towards us and I do imagine what it would be like to not even be given the chance.  I can't imagine the struggle you must face in reading a post like mine. I'm praying for peace in your circumstance, patience in your waiting, and for renewed hope.]

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Fall News

I couldn't tell anyone for awhile so I actually wrote this post a few months ago and it's been tucked away as a draft since then.  

You guessed it.
That's right.
Uh huh.
This is going to happen.

We will be a family of 5.

As soon as I found out, I was simultaneously full of joy and then scared and in shock.  Even though we had been hoping to get pregnant, I was still in dis-belief.  I took multiple pregnancy tests.  Yup, still two lines.  Te actual weight of reality took time to sink in.  We're really doing this!  Seriously?  Is this happening?  Or wait, it's already done.  We'll need a van!  Oh.  We'll need a van. We definitely need the boys to sleep in the same room.  I have to start finishing things (oxymoron).  That quilt?  I gotta get wicked fast stitching fingers.  I have to talk to the doctor.  Right.  I will need to have injections daily again. Ummm, k.

Breathe.  Stop. Making. Lists.

We are blessed, we are in wonder, we are back in the seat of being vulnerable.  A new life.  Will my patience increase or will I go crazy?  Given my last blog post, I'm not sure. Will my capacity expand to meet the demands or will I be torn into 100 million pieces? What if the child is a girl, will I spoil her?  What if it's a boy, will my house literally fall apart at the seams from the running and jumping?  What if this child has a disability, what if I have a stroke in pregnancy, oh my goodness, did I take my folic acid....?

Vulnerable.  Completely in awe, slightly terrified, and so full of a sense of right-ness that our family is continuing to grow. Five feels right.  (For now).  Five is us.   My heart is still thinking and dreaming of adoption, and that might yet come.  But in the meantime, we will love, we will learn, we will cry, we will accept and we will praise God for all He brings.

"Every good and perfect gift comes down from God in heaven."  James.
Due March.

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