More than Just a Mommy

Everywhere I go I am surrounded by the fact that I am a mom.  Whether I am with Riley, trip over a toy that starts singing nursery rhymes, plan hangouts with friends around nap schedules or have the monitor by my side while hanging out with my husband at the end of the day, this role is inescapable.  Not that I want to escape it.  I love these reminders!  I love seeing Riley’s little outfits in the clean laundry pile along with mine and Jordan’s.  I love seeing teeny little purple and zebra print sunglasses next to our “grown up” sunglasses in the tray in our car.  I love the reminder that this adorable, sweet-spirited little person is a part of our life and I am thankful for the constant realization that I am not just an individual but part of a family of 3 :).  But often it is too easy to forget that I am more than just a Mommy.  Every now and then I will meet up with a friend sans baby and come home refreshed by the realization that I am a person!  I have thoughts, ideas, passions, and hobbies that are not related to having a child.  There are things that were true about me before having a baby that are still true about me today; they just get buried beneath nursing, changing diapers, making funny faces or noises, and incessant reading about infants and child rearing.

Today my husband has given me a “day off” from mommy world!  Of course reality means that I still have to stop by the apartment a time or two to feed Riley, but other than that I have a day to myself!  My plans for this day include:

  • coffee and breakfast at Brueggar’s where I will spend a couple of hours meeting with God, reading and writing
  • getting an aromatherapy massage at a spa
  • indulging in magazines and books at Barnes & Noble
  • maybe a little shopping or pool time 🙂
  • definitely a jacuzzi bath & a glass of wine at the end of the day!

I even decided to forgo my normal daily attire of gym clothes (now whether or not that means I actually go to the gym everyday… well, let’s just not worry about that.) and put on something cute and trendy!  I feel great already!

Sometimes I wonder if  they way we engage in “mom world” doesn’t help with this need to be a person outside of motherhood duties.  Jordan pointed out an interesting observation recently: he noticed that there seems to be this mom culture where mom’s are constantly reading about parenthood.  Parenting books, articles, and blog obsessions seem to take up any margin in a mom’s day.  How is it that we feel like we have no time to ourselves, and yet we have somehow found the time to read the 17th book on infant sleep or toddler discipline, 5 articles that someone had a link to on their facebook status, and 10 blogs that we follow and check daily?  When I say “we” I mostly have myself in mind.  I am totally “that” mom.  And I’m not sure I noticed it until my husband was loving and gracious enough to point it out.  It is good to be informed as a mother, but is it really healthy to be this informed and read this much about it?  First of all, over-reading about these things can tend to make a mother more insecure an more confused than she was to begin with. Second of all, is it not just continuing to feed this (perhaps subconscious) idea that our identity is in being a mother?

Jordan had a great suggestion of cycling through different subject matter that I read about.  For example: after each parenting book I read (I’m about to finish “Gospel-Powered Parenting”), I would then read a book about God, then maybe a book about marriage, then a book about some important issue before I read another parenting book.  If I want to read online articles, I should try checking out news websites, the Gospel Coalition, the Persecuted Church website, or something else interesting that has nothing to do with parenting before just constantly going to my default cyber mommy world.  I recognize the irony in blogging about how mom’s should do less blog reading :).  But I’m not saying blogs are bad, they can be really good for us!  Some blogs (Like the “Parenting Illustrated with Crappy Pictures” blog- if you haven’t heard of it, definitely check it out) make me laugh my face off, and laughing is so good for the soul! Others help me to keep up with friends, and still others challenge and encourage me in edifying ways.  Reading books and articles about parenting are good for us too! I am not suggesting that they are bad. What I’m saying is that it can be easy to get sucked into only reading things about motherhood, and this can cause us to find our identity in motherhood, idolize motherhood, feel pressured or insecure, and perhaps eventually even become resentful because we feel so consumed by mommy world that we suffocate.  We need to work on growing and developing as a whole person, not just as a mom.  The Bible says that our relationship with God should always be first, our relationship with our spouse second (if married), and our children third.  It’s easy to forget that I am a child of God and a wife of Jordan before I am a mother of Riley. I want to be able to learn something spiritually and connect with the Lord without just thinking about how to apply it to parenting.  I want to be able to go on a date with Jordan and talk about something other than Riley or the most recent parenting philosophy I’ve read about.  I want to dress myself cute and not just my daughter.  I want to have a prayer life that intercedes for the world, not just Riley.  I want my daughter to see that I am a woman who is desperately in love with her God, head over heels for her husband, knowledgeable of the world around her, compassionate for those in need, and a sinner who makes mistakes but always humbly falls into the grace of God.  I don’t want her to see a woman who is obsessed with her child, lets her run the family, has no time with her husband (or easily gets frustrated with him), is ignorant of the world around her, has no hobbies on her own, and has lost herself somewhere along the path of parenthood.  Motherhood is a selfless and sacrificial job for sure!  But I’m starting to think that letting “Mommy World” rule our lives is lazy more than it is lovingly sacrificial.  I also think we can be selfless in motherhood while still maintaining a healthy self.  I am going to try to figure out what that looks like. Do any of you more experienced moms out there have any advice or ways you’ve learned to do this?

Mommy Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Unfortunately, the hard way seems to be the way that I learn everything.  Sometimes I wonder if God gave me a bit of stubbornness for His own entertainment :).  On the bright side, when I do learn a lesson, I really LEARN it.  So I thought I would share with you all, especially expecting mothers, some of the things I learned the hard way in pregnancy and motherhood:

  • When suffering with baby brain, ALWAYS check and make sure that you are wearing pants before leaving the house…
  • When your doctor tells you to eat nutritiously during your pregnancy and try to get some exercise, actually do it.  Unless you want to gain 55 lbs.  You will want to hit your doctor in the face and say something like, “Are you carrying a human in your body? Oh you’re not?  Well ok then.  Shut it.”  You will also want to allow yourself to eat things like pizza and Chipotle for every meal followed up by warm brownie and ice cream deliciousness.  By all means, allow yourself to enjoy pregnancy cravings- that may be the only fun part of pregnancy!  But also know this, 55 lbs does not just melt away after baby.
  • While pregnant, SLEEP!  All the time, any time, whenever you can.  You will feel more tired than normal, give into that!  Once you have the baby, it’s all over (sleep that is).  Or if you’re like me, at the end of your 3rd trimester it’s over.  And think, once you get pregnant with baby #2 (should you have the desire or ability to do so), you will not be able to do this since you have another child.  So in your first pregnancy, SLEEP SLEEP SLEEP! You are not being lazy.  You are being smart.
  • Enjoy as much “you” time as you can before baby comes.  Go to a movie by yourself, read at a coffee shop, go on dates with your significant other, and hang out with your girls!  Once baby is here, those times are much more difficult to make happen.  Live it up! Do all the things you love doing 🙂
  • Make sure you know how to work the car seat, adjust the straps, etc. before going to the hospital.  Otherwise, you may be in the hospital parking lot for what feels like hours not knowing what to do and the hospital has a policy that they cannot help with car seats for liability reasons. Then you’re left questioning why God would ever let someone as incompetent as yourself ever be responsible for this little life in your hands…
  • Also make sure you have your bassinet/sleeping place for your baby is set up before you return from the hospital. Or that you at least know how to assemble it. Otherwise, once again, you will be left questioning your parenting abilities and may or may not have a massive meltdown.  And your husband may or may not wonder what the heck he has gotten himself into when both his wife and his baby are inconsolable (at the same time).
  • When going to the grocery store or Target, be sure to park beside the Cart Return!  Or at least as close to one as possible
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your friends without children if you can hangout at your place, be flexible with the meeting time, or meet somewhere in the middle.  Unless you think you’ll enjoy waking up your infant, driving 25+ minutes away having them fall asleep in the car 10 minutes before you arrive (which wakes them up), having a grumpy infant at the restaurant, leaving for another 25+ minute drive home where once again your infant falls asleep right before getting home, having to wake them up again, and then having a miserable remainder of your day.  It’s not worth it. And friends are a lot more understanding then you may give them credit for.  People understand that your life has changed (or they should, at least), so you don’t have to act like it hasn’t.
  • When going shopping, do not bring your baby in a baby carrier unless it’s a short trip. You may end up having to use the bathroom.  Talk about an awkward situation.  Can’t put your baby on the bathroom floor… don’t want to, eh hem, use the bathroom with your baby attached to you… see the dilemma?  Yea… learned that one yesterday.
  • Always make sure you have everything needed to make coffee (Filters, coffee, creamer, splenda, etc)!  Trust me, you do not want to wake up at 6am after having been up throughout the night to find out that you are not able to make a cup pot of coffee.
  • Don’t read 238909348 parenting books.  You’ll only become 238909348 times more confused.  But do buy “Baby 411.”  It has an index for things like, “my baby seems to be pooping a lot, is this normal?”
  • Be confident in yourself.  Sure you’ll make some mistakes, it’s impossible to be a perfect parent.  But God designed you to be who you are, and He chose you to be this baby’s mother.  Be yourself and concern yourself more with how to point your child to God and His grace more than about how to “do things right.”

Other moms out there, what would you add to the list?  Please comment below 🙂

You Got it Bad

Have you ever been so tired that nothing else in the world sounds better then sleep (besides Heaven. And I’m pretty sure we’ll be well rested in Heaven.)?  And by nothing else sounds better, this is what I mean: If I was given the opportunity to go to a fabulous all inclusive resort in the Bahamas for a week next week but the catch was that I would be getting as little sleep as I have been this past week OR I could choose to stay in Chapel Hill and get lots of sleep, I would choose Chapel Hill.

That’s when you know you’ve got it bad.

As a matter of fact, in my altered state of exhaustion I re-wrote the lyrics to Usher’s “You Got it Bad” in my head :).  Here it goes:

You got you got it bad
When you’re on the phone
hang up
snorin, eyes rolled back

You got it you got it bad
When if you miss an hour without coffee
your whole day’s a drag

You know you got it bad
when you’re out with someone
but sleepin through the night
is all you think about

You got it bad
when you’re out in the sun
day dreamin bout your bed
that’s how you know you got it bad

When you say that you need it
and you really know
everything that used to matter
just don’t matter no more
Like money or my clothes
(you can have it all back)
pillows, covers, sound machine
(that’s what I want)
Sleep, I’m fortunate to have you at all
I want you to know
I really adore you
All you mommas who know what’s goin on
look at your bed and help me sing my song, tell it
“I need you, yes I do.
I’m gonna sing it til my face turns blue”
Tell your baby,
“you need sleep, please sleep deep.
Through the whole night please don’t make a peep.”

Why am I blogging when I am this tired? I do not know, I cannot account for my actions when I am in this state.  But to all of my fellow sleep deprived mommas out there, cheers to you!  May much coffee, wine, and nap time be ever within your reach!

The Whole Post Baby Weight Loss Thing

Ok so I had told myself that I was absolutely NOT going to blog about post-baby weight, ever.  That would just be annoying, right?  I thought so. But it has been on my mind a lot lately and I figured, this blog is supposed to be about “my journey through pregnancy, motherhood, and all it entails.”  Well, this is part of what it entails so I’m just going to be real about some things I’ve been struggling with/learning/thinking about lately.

A couple weeks after I had Riley, I felt GREAT! I mean, I even felt attractive.  Squishy tummy?  Psshh, please.  That is still waaaaay better than how huge I was at the end of my pregnancy!  Once the swelling went down, I was feeling GOOD.  A couple months after I had Riley?  I wasn’t feeling as great as I did in the beginning, but I was surprised at how much the post-baby weight was not bothering me.  But it really wasn’t.  I thought, “Hey I just had a baby a few months ago, this is totally normal.” No big deal.  Now, 6 months after I had Riley?  I’m feeling the opposite of great.

Disclaimer: I am not writing this post to complain about baby weight.  I have several friends that have struggled with infertility and I know that they would take the extra weight in a heartbeat if it meant having a baby.   I know it must be so painful and frustrating for them to hear women complain about “baby weight.”  It is good for me to keep that in mind, and it constantly challenges and convicts my heart and my attitude.  I wish I were holy enough for that fact in itself to be enough to keep my perspective straight.  Unfortunately, I’m a bit of a self-centered sinner (yea right, a “bit”…) and that means I just can’t get my stuff straight on my own, if you know what I mean.  But God has been teaching me a lot through this lately, so I hope to be honest and real with you all with what I am learning.

Here’s the deal: 5 of my friends who have had babies in the past year or so lost all of their baby weight by the time their baby was 6 months old.  So I just assumed this was normal!  I thought for sure I would be back to my pre-baby weight by 6 months.  Well, here we are.  Riley will be 6 months old next week and I am nowhere near my pre-baby weight.  As a matter of fact, if it weren’t for the lose fitting tops and dresses I wear, you might ask me when I’m due.  In coming to the realization that I’m not going to be 120 lbs. anytime soon, I started really struggling with my weight.  Granted, my doctors told me that it would be good to gain between 20-30 lbs during pregnancy and I instead gained 55 lbs.  At this point I’ve lost almost 40 lbs, so had my body followed their guidelines, it’s likely I would be back to pre-baby weight.  But 17/18ish lbs feels like a lot when you’re only 5’1” (short people, are you with me?).  55 lbs is a loooong road down, my friends.  Maybe I was a bit too lenient with myself in my food choices.  Perhaps I should have exercised more. Or maybe it is just genetic.  But WHY THE _____ DOES IT MATTER!??!  I have a beautiful, sweet spirited little girl and a husband who constantly affirms me.  More than that, I have a God who designed me, loves me, and has claimed me as His own.

Here I am, comparing myself to other women once again.  Want to get real honest?  I confessed to my husband a little while ago that I secretly want to lose weight faster than all the other women around me who have had babies recently, and I want people to look at me and think, “wow, she just had a baby?! You couldn’t tell, she looks amazing!”  I even had images in my head of being at Rockbridge (InterVarsity’s summer camp where we will be in a week) and everyone being amazed at how good I looked. Think that’s sick?  I look at women around me who have had babies, measure myself against them, and get discouraged if I feel like they’re “ahead” of me in this weight loss game (see this post to read more about the “Insecurity Games”).  If you thought I was a really good person up until this point, I’m sorry to take the scales off your eyes. This is what my heart is really like.

But the truth of the matter is people are not going to be amazed, likely don’t give a rats tail about how much weight I’ve lost anyway,  and I could still pass for a few months pregnant.  And I have not been OK with this fact lately.  As I was thinking about the above confession I made to my husband one day, this crazy thought wiggled it’s way into my mind: What if God is deliberately keeping me from losing this leftover baby weight, because He wants to teach me something?  Obviously my heart is being ugly, and I know that God cares more about the appearance of my heart than my outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7).  So what if He were not to allow me to lose that weight because if I did, I would puff up with conceit, arrogance and judgment? Although my body would be in better shape, my heart would be in worse shape.  This was a very humbling thought.

Fast forward a few weeks after that thought, I decided it was time for the “Crackdown Smackdown.”  I had been exercising by going on long 1 hour+ walks with Riley and doing some ab and arm work.  But this was time to get serious.  I was going to start running and doing pilates 5 days a week.  And as soon as I decided that, I got sick.  For 2 weeks.  I would try but couldn’t even go on a 10 minute walk, my body was so weak.  Just as soon as I started feeling better, it was time to finish packing and move to Chapel Hill, which took up every ounce of returned energy my body had mustered in it’s recovery.  So my new plan was: Get everything unpacked immediately, so the Crackdown Smackdown can start early this week.  Well the only “down” I’ve been doing is sitting or laying, as I am once again sick.  This time it’s asthma related, so I really can’t workout unless I’m fond of asthma attacks (I’ve learned from experience).  Yesterday I was feeling discouraged and as I walked across the street to Bruegger’s Bagels I told God, “I just don’t get it.  I really want to get back into shape, but I feel like some force is coming against me and not allowing me to do so.  It’s been almost a MONTH that I have not been able to workout now!”  Yea well, that “force” is a person and He has a Name.  Yahweh.  I realized this when I sat down with my half diet, half regular coke (or as one friend calls it “half chemicals, half cocaine”).  I opened my bible and journal to learn from the book of 1 Timothy.   Wouldn’t you know that this little verse is in there, “…train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it hold promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”  Well… OK, fine.  I get it.  I realized this: God cares about bodily training, it is good.  It is a good thing for me to take care of myself through exercise.  And there are times in my life where I want excuses not to workout when what I really need is discipline to do it.  But this is not one of those times.  This is one of those times where I am so attached to the idea of working out in order to achieve and control a specific image, that I get frustrated and angry if it’s taken away from me.  Bodily training is of some value, but godliness is of value in every way!  And this is the training God knows I really need right now.  Godliness is not competing with other women, not mentally and verbally tearing my appearance down, and not wanting people to worship me.  Basically, it is not what I’m doing.  And God my Father loves me SO much, that He wants what is best for me.  He is willing to withhold fitness from me in order to train my heart and make it more fit.  Just like any type of training, training in godliness is hard.  It is hard to just be in the body that I am right now with my squishy tummy.  It’s hard to continue to wear maternity clothes when my adorable, tiny little pre-preg ones are staring me in the face.  But it is training my heart to become more like my Savior, who “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7).

During this time of training, may my prayer be John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  I pray that when people look at my life they would not admire how attractive I am or how wonderful, but would admire my Savior who lives within me.
Ouch, my spiritual “muscles” are already sore from this training 😉