All the Feels

So it’s not news to me, with the fifth kid, that Year Two comes with big doses of alllll the emotions, but apparently this year that means not just for said child but also for this particular mama.

I mean, I’ve probably cried during at least half of our kiddo birthday celebrations throughout the years, but something feels a little different when it comes to Wilson’s second birthday. I think it’s safe to say that 1) Sweet Girl has always done things different from Day One, and 2) even at two years out, I’m still reliving those early, different, difficult NICU days that consumed us for the first three weeks of her earth-side journey.24819275_10103621685305583_55478072_o

At the start of the month when Baby Girl (y’all, honestly. How will I ever stop calling her The Baby?!) was sick, my mom kindly took TJ to preK for me and I sat for three hours with my butt in the rocking chair and Wilson in my arms. The house was much (MUCH) quieter than the hospital ever was, but for some reason, my brain hopped back there lickity split to the days of no other kids around and just a baby in my arms that we desperately wanted to be better so we could in fact go home. I didn’t get all teary-eyed that day, but today? On img_59162nd Birthday Eve (can you tell we’ve been practicing showing off her new age)? Oh, goodness. I got super weepy thinking about the shock and challenge of all that and the emotional roller coaster it took our whole family on post-delivery.

And now, in what literally feels like no time at all, we’re here, at the stage of so much personality and so much activity. And did I mention SO much talking? Wilson is the perfect little magpie which is super cute and entertaining until someone says something you wish they hadn’t and then you have to try to divert really quickly until she finds some other word or phrase to latch on to instead.

Two of her favorite phrases are: “Pick-a-up” and “Supa-high” which refers respectively to wanting to be in my arms/on my hip and wanting to be in her toddler swing where yes indeed, she does want you to push her freakishly high and quick (which scares her mother on the daily but she loves it and squawks at you if you don’t comply, so yeah. Good Luck.)

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I am guessing that as we roll through the actual birthday and the coming weeks, there are going to be plenty more moments of big feels. There’s not as much shift happening in our family as we’ve always had in the past when a kid turns two, but processing that she is our last to do so is a big change all on its own and worthy of some feels.

And even though, or maybe especially because, I know time will just keep flying by, I will make note to enjoy all those moments she wants to be held and all the new Toddlerisms she teaches us because no matter how much I sometimes flash back, we thankfully, blessedly keep moving forward as a family.

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Words on Words

Today was a first. Even though I’ve been writing the words upon words here for over eight years now, today was the first time that they resulted in me getting up in front a group and giving voice all by myself to the same experiences that I share with you all here.

Y’all, that is a great honor and a terrifying thing to have done! But I did it, so now I can – in true form – write to you about it.

To explain: it’s been a few years since I’ve been a regular at MOPS because of preK schedules and having new babies and just life. But it’s still a special group to my heart because when I started attending it, also over eight years ago, I met some amazing people, many of whom are still good, good friends. So when that same group (now called Moms of Hastings; check ’em out here if you are interested in joining a local mama group) reached out early this fall to ask if I’d like to come speak to them about body image and postpartum and the basic challenges of motherhood, I said (to myself): “that sounds scary and also right up my alley” and to them: “Yes!”

Today was that yes come to life and while I won’t share the whole transcript of my (sorry ladies, a little rambly) talk, I do want to share the gist as well as the experience with you.

After the initial ask, I made some notes and wrote out some ideas weeks and weeks ago and then promptly set it all aside until just last week when I picked up my notes and flushed it out into a longer piece. Then I realized I needed to make it way longer to be the correct amount of time, so I kept reworking and managed to practice it a couple times. img_5750But then yesterday (spoiler alert: you may not know this about me, but I have always been a stellar student who is also a giant procrastinator) when I should have been practicing all the live-long day, Wilson got sick and wanted nothing more than to be in my arms the entire three hours Trumy was at preK. Somewhere in that experience is an upcoming post about NICU flashbacks, I promise.

So, I didn’t get to run through as many times as I maybe would have liked, but I felt pretty solid on my three main points which were as follows, and yes, I really did stand up and give an entire talk about words:

  1. Talk therapy saved me. I didn’t say those exact words this morning but that’s the gist of it, folks. Having access to a trained professional who listens to, guides, challenges, and helps me? Hands down the best form of self care I know. Plus she got me to the yoga and we all know what a role that’s played in my life.
  2. The words you use and surround yourself with matter. And yes, I did quote Daniel Tiger’s “Use your words” song because Wilson is obsessed with him and this blog is already named for a different PBS show, so how could I not?
  3. Challenge yourself (obscure reference here: Go Doane!) to quit belittling your body in passing conversations and don’t join in or feed the flame when others do the same. I’m not asking people to stuff their feelings or desires for change in their bodies, but I think if we could change the culture of shared body shaming, we’d all be a lot happier and healthier no matter what our metrics are.

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For the most part I think it went pretty well but gosh darn it, I thought for once I’d be able to get up in front of a group and speak about my life and NOT cry, but, nope. That streak continues.

But really, I know that’s OK because the part that got me was by far the hardest part to talk about which is that I have a condition that I will most likely always have to work against in my life/in my brain – body dysmorphia. And I don’t know how many speaking engagements I’d have to do before I’d be able to say “I have a mental condition that I work with and through every day of my life that impacts both me and my family depending on how I am managing it” and not cry. To quote Lizzo completely out of context, “that’s the human in me.” And that’s fine. I learned today, however, that when you are the only speaker instead of a member of a panel, and you get all sniffly, it’s a lot harder to stop and collect yourself/blow your dang nose while everyone in the room is watching you. You know, the important things you don’t think about until they are happening. In front of a group. 😉

Scary as it was to get up and do that this morning (and hard as it was to leave a sad, still img_5756sick Wilson at home to go do it), I’m glad I was asked and I’m glad I did, because the more we give voice to our struggles, the easier it gets to carry our individual loads because then they aren’t just ours to bear. To share one direct quote from this morning with you:

If sharing my stories has taught me anything, it is that real beauty in relationship with self, others, and spirit comes when we can speak truthfully to our imperfections and our successes and love our way through it all the same.

 

Deviation

When I was in college, I spent a semester in Africa traveling and logging many, many miles – from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania all the way to Cape Town, South Africa to be exact. Along that journey, we encountered many literal roadblocks, but one memory that will always stick with me is of coming upon road construction in which the sign read “Deviation” instead of “Detour.” It felt like such an excellent word choice because sometimes when your path goes off the rails against your control, the whole experience does feel a bit deviant.

Case in point? Home reno. We’ve spent this entire summer on a deviation thanks to the driveway and the roof/exterior of the house. In fact, come Tuesday, the roof and metal wrapping and sealing and wood replacement and all that jazz  shit will hit the one month mark on all its own. Like most aspects of life, there are multiple reasons for this, which I’d be more than happy to explain in a private message or in-person conversation, but I’m pretty sure we can all agree that that is just too long, especially when for at least half of that time, a giant trailer has been parked in my driveway and big old machines and tools have been stored in my garage. This means we can’t clean up the yard and just let the kids out to play, must less the sanity-losing that goes into such a drawn out process.

img_5220I was so at the end of my rope with the not-finishing/not-moving of things yesterday that I loaded up the baby in the double jogger stroller and pushed her a mile to the YMCA to pick up Trumy from Prek and then pushed them both the mile back, in a mad dash attempt to walk it out, but even all that in the hot midday sun barely burned off my mad and crazy.

Then, miraculously, enough of the stuff got done by sundown last night that the trailer and the tools disappeared, leaving us with the possibility of starting Operation Garage Clean Up. ‘Cuz, did y’all know that when your structure has three layers of shingles on it, but no plywood under those layers, and all that gets scraped off, it leaves a giant freaking mess all over everything underneath it? Neither did I, but it might just be the worst mess to date of this reno and that is freaking saying something.

So this afternoon, after we survived (and even enjoyed) our first Soccer Saturday with img_5253three kids playing and us coaching two of the teams in a Triple Header Extravaganza, we set to work on getting everything out of the garage (so it all could be cleaned) so we could clean the actual garage (so we could then put everything back in it).

I got out there first and noticed pretty quickly that it wasn’t just shingle and tar-dust coating everything but also like real chunks of splintered wood and even old nails and staples and all kinds of crap. When Ben came out to join me, I warned him and told him I was trying to sweep it all up so we could get rid of it safely because popped tires and poked feet have been my biggest fears for the last four weeks.

And with good reason, because not ten minutes in to my husband helping me, he somehow flipped a nail up with his Keen that caught the back of his heal and, you guessed it, ended up sending him to get a tetanus shot instead of cleaning with me. Ironically, the last one he had was in 2008 when we traveled with a Doane alumni trip to Africa.

img_5257So yes, deviations in many forms continue to crop up in the process, and with one more room left to go in the basement, we’re still not back on the road of just living in our house in peace and quiet (y’all know that it’s rarely quiet here, right? That’s just a metaphor or pipe dream or something.) which after 10 months of this feels like a foreign concept indeed. I know we’ll get back to that path eventually, but after how much more deviation is a big old guessing game.

Double Digits (and A DAY)

I really, really meant for this post to be all about Harrison and hitting the incredible, amazing, how the heck did we get here so fast, huge milestone of turning Double Digits, but then today happened and my brain is too tired to write two posts, so here I am, combining the tale of my two Bookends into one rambly offering. img_4548

So, the brain fog.

We’re on Day Four of being on the road with our kids and my family and sleeping hasn’t been great while we’ve been away, so even before the craziness of last night came, I was tired and a little foggy. We’ve been making the rounds to different locations and family times in SoDak, which has been good, but you know travel and kids is just hard and trying to keep some semblance of normalcy is hard, too. When you add in sickness, though, everything gets instantly more insane.

Honestly, in our ten years of being parents, I don’t know that we’ve ever encountered a kid sick like this while away from home. And by this, I mean a vomiting baby (who is also celebrating a milestone of 20 months TODAY) who woke us* up at 3AM and kept us hopping until noon when we decided to take a leap and get her checked at local convenient care because her inability to keep down fluids was starting to concern all of us.

*Harrison was one of her roommates last night and he is totally the one who took charge and came to tell Ben and I that the baby was sick, so there’s one point about him in his birthday post: he is a kick ass big brother.

Some Zofran and fever meds, a nap, and a couple hours later and we had a totally different baby on our hands; thank goodness, too,  because she was in rough shape up until that point.

But poor Harrison. We just did not get to spend the same time, energy, or focus on his birthday like we would have had we not had such a nasty distraction for the day.

img_4568Fortunately we still got to do some of the stuff he loves like have Pizza Hut (fact number two about our ten-yr-old) for lunch and two servings of ice cream cake for dessert. He also got to watch a bit extra Zebra Gamer (fact N.3) while we dealt with stuff, and I definitely didn’t hear him complaining about that.

Tacos for supper (#4) and a bit more TV before bed (#5 which is truly a rarity) helped, too. So did getting to go get some lake time and play time (#6) img_4564with his healthy sibs (Dear Lord, please let the rest of the them ALL stay healthy!) and extended family, even though the biting flies were out of their ever-lovin’ minds both times we got near the lake.

Although we haven’t had much read time today, that’s still a highlight in his world (#7) and on this trip, and he’s also had some quality Lego building (#8) as of late, too.

Above all else, he’s still my super smart, super clever, super amazing first born (#9) who is always there to catch a gaffe or insert an observation or a question, and I remain in awe of his big brain on the daily.

And now, just like that, he’s 10. 10! For a whole decade, we’ve been lucky enough to call him ours, and I cannot wait to see where his big brain and his equally big heart (fact #10 about him) take him in the next ten years. If he has any say about it, the answer will be Finland, to work for Angry Birds Land, but that’s Fact No.11, so clearly I’m getting ahead of myself. 😉

Happy Birthday, HD! It may not have been the day we had planned, but you’ve taught us from the very beginning to just roll with it, and we’re so glad you were able to do the same today.

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End of an Era

All the signs have been there for some time now, but oh my goodness, it appears that the actual END has arrived.

After 9.5 years of nursing babies around the clock (there are less than a handful of months in that time span when I wasn’t pregnant, nursing, or both), I’m done. Wilson is apparently, officially over it and my Boppy (OK, Boppies) are ready for retirement.

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In some ways, this breaks my heart.

I weened some of my others because I knew I wanted to get pregnant again, but I would have gladly let Wilson go the distance for as long as she wanted; so even though this is pretty average for a nursing stint for one of my babies, it still feels too soon. How we are already to this point?

In other ways, I know this is perfectly fine.

She’s walking, she’s eating, she’s following her growth charts, and she’s totally typical in all the best ways possible when you consider where we started those 15.5 months ago. These are all amazing, normal things, and this no-more-boob bit is just a natural step in the process of her getting bigger and more independent, which, you know – is the ultimate goal of this parenting gig.

But you guys. A decade is a long time to go between being a solo person in charge of and responsible for only their own body. And while I’m sure I’ll figure it out quickly enough, I legit don’t even know how to be a mom who is not growing or feeding another human being at the same time as the mom-ing and the adulting and the existing.

I guess a lot of it will feel like freedom but enjoying that is going to take some time, as I’m already missing the sweet, sequestered moments with just me and the baby in a rocking chair, doing our thing.

 

ONEderful Wilson

I have been fully anticipating this first birthday of the last baby to be surrounded by ALL the feels. It probably still will be. But here, on the eve of the eve of her turning one, that also happens to be just before Thanksgiving, I find that what I feel most right now is grateful.

The last year has flown by, as they seem to do faster and faster as we age. It has also been a flurry of activity with a house and heart (and van and calendar) full of beautiful children, so it is really no surprise that I blinked and now my baby is turning one. The time warp began, I suppose, during her first three weeks of life at the NICU, when it felt like we lived an entire lifetime on another planet in those 22 days, but now, all these months later, I have finally gained an ounce of perspective and can see it for the blip that so many friends reassured me it would eventually be.

Oh, I am still going to cry on Wilson’s first birthday. Don’t you worry about that. But instead of reliving the trauma and stress of those first, hard weeks, I think the waterworks will be based more in gratitude that we got to survive them and come home with a healthy baby who has made it to the year mark and now has glorious words like “typical” ascribed to her.

Of course to us, she is everything, and I can’t imagine our family without her. I think it is safe to say the rest of the children agree, as they all take such joy in being around her. I mean, she’s clearly been LT’s favorite person in the whole universe since the very beginning, and lately Truman has started calling her “my baby” in conversation, so good luck to those two in figuring out who is her No.1 fan (it’s Lincoln). Raegan loves on her baby sister all the time and has the best-ever baby-talking-to-voice that cracks me up when I hear it because that must be how we coo at WA all the time. And HD has a stellar theory that he’d love to share with you sometime about how babies make everyone happier (he’s not wrong), because Wilson does indeed brighten every day with her snuggles, smiles, and silly sounds.

Many of those snuggles still come directly on my right hip where she still mostly clings when out in public or around non-immediate family. But she also loves to crawl really fast all over our house and she super loves when I get down on the floor with her so she can crawl up, bump into me, spin around, and flop back against my torso in order to lounge belly-up and check out the world (no wonder we’ve started calling her “Puppy” – we totally need to stop doing that, though!). And just like she did in her first three weeks, Wilson has used this entire year to show us that we really don’t know all that much about babies because she has time and time and time again proved that she’s going to do her own thing, in her own way, in her own time.

So here is who Wilson is at One:

She is the baby of head butting and thumb sucking. She clears the entire shelf of board books in less than 10 seconds and then sits in the pile of books playing with them (apple, tree, *ahem*). She wears PJs pretty much 24/7 because she has to be in and out of the van eleventy-billion times each day to get the Bigs to their various schools and footies work better than socks to keep her feet warm. She pulls up next to furniture and is currently flirting with the idea of standing up from her little chair/the middle of nowhere (look out world!). She empties kitchen drawers like a boss and she speed crawls to be next to my speaker so she can sway and bounce and clap to the music I have playing throughout the day (yes, she loves Nahko. I mean, c’mon!). She tucks her head into my shoulder when people try to talk to her and when I sing her a lullaby before naps/bed. She has more hair/curls than any of our others at this age (even Baby HD). She pulls a head-tilt-and-smile charm move that you would swear we taught her but I swear we did not (unless Truman did; that seems plausible).

Even though I will probably spend the next few days reliving the early days of her life to some extent, I plan to stay grounded in the present as much as possible because to be at this incredible milestone with this incredible baby is such a blessing. I give thanks for her every time I get to snuggle her (so, a lot of time each day) and I will continue to do so for all our days.

She is (almost) one. She is full of wonder. She is wonderful. She is, forever, Wonder Wilson.

Dear Wilson

The thought went through my head today at Wilson’s 9 Month well check, and not for the first time, that I am afraid that I am going to be old pile of hot mess come her first birthday. I mean, wouldn’t the first birthday of the last baby be enough to reduce anyone to mush status pretty easily? As it is, with our Wonder girl, I find myself of course celebrating her each passing month, but even now, at 3/4 of the way to 1, there’s still a bit of lamenting happening, too. It’s like I haven’t escaped the trauma of the unexpected, life-saving surgery and NICU stay yet.

Actually, I know I haven’t.

One way I know? When I hear or smell anything that reminds me of the hospital, I get panicky. We’re not talking PTSD here, but still. The smell of hospital brand/grade sanitizer? Yep, that does it. The beeping of a vitals machine as it attempts to take blood pressure and pulse? Oh, wow. That REALLY does it. I flat out wanted to drop kick the little roll-y vitals cart thing at the doctor’s office today because it instantly threw me back into all those times I was trying to hold Wilson in the NICU and the machines kept going off (thankfully not because she was in actual distress but because the little pads don’t stick worth a darn), making it next to impossible to snuggle and feed my baby the way I wanted, longed, wished so badly to do.

Here’s the other way I know I haven’t moved past the trauma of it all: I haven’t mourned the loss of my brand new newborn expectations that I had for her and I, for all of us. And clearly I need to do exactly that. So, here goes…

Dear Wilson,

Sweet, sweet, surprise Baby Girl. When I think back to your birth, it is hands down one of the happiest moments of my life. I had experience under my belt, your daddy at my side, and all the nurses and I were smiling and laughing; and even though of course labor is intense, I cannot think of any other way to describe your labor and birth than joyFULL. In hindsight, I am so glad we did not know what was coming next because I think it would have changed your birth dramatically, and my love, you came into this world in the happiest way possible. What I’m still trying to wrap my head and heart around nine months later is how we had to fight in the days and weeks to come to get back not just to happy but to home.

You were, of course, amazing. Strong, blowing through doctor’s expectations that first week, charming everyone with your sweet face and incredible story (and WONDERful nickname). Everyone surrounding you – doctors, nurses, family, friends, prayer warriors – they were amazing, too. Your dad and I? We flew by the seat of our pants and did our best to rock a previously unimaginable situation that ultimately was so short, so swift, but at the time felt like trying to cross a canyon five miles wide and ten miles deep on foot. That being said, I have never been, for one second, frustrated with you over your first three weeks of life. And perhaps that is why I haven’t found a way to direct my feelings or move past them yet because there is literally no one and no thing that can take the blame for what happened. It just did. And thank the heavens above, we still got to keep you anyway.

What I do feel sad about, mad about, down right cheated about, is not getting to have a typical newborn experience with you. By Baby No. 5 you kind of have a sense for how these things go, but Sweetness, you showed us we knew very little beyond how to love you and hold on for the ride of our lives. I wanted to be at home, curled up in my own bed, nursing you and napping next to your bassinet, and having your siblings loving on us all the time, and your dad home from school for a handful of days, and not too many visitors, and just time to do our thing and start the work of figuring out Life as Seven. Instead we got none of that and my every comfort level and heart string was pushed and stretched tight enough to physically hurt. It still hurts now, sometimes, to the point that I have watched other women welcome babies in the time since your birth and been pissed and judgmental about everything they are out and about doing, only to realize I don’t give a flying flip what they are doing – it’s just that I didn’t get to choose what you and I got to do for 22 days.

22 days.

Doesn’t seem so long when I look at that number now. As you grow, I’m sure it will get even smaller. And of course I know that others have faced far worse, far longer, far less happy in the end. But that doesn’t change the fact that I have yet to meet a mama who would trade to have our birth experience, either. I can’t make it a comparison game, but I can mourn for the 22 days that we didn’t get to call ours alone, that went so far off the plan, they rewrote all the rules. Wilson Ann, you will always be worth it. Never ever doubt that. I am sorry I couldn’t make your first 22 days smoother and less scary (for all of us). But you’ve had my heart from the start. You’ll have it forever.

With All the Love,

Mama

P.S. This is you at 9 months. Total, pure sweetness. img_1297