Tuesday, February 26, 2013

bookending my pregnancy with the stomach flu

No, internet world and blogging friends: I have not yet had the baby.
This is a good thing.

You see, I was sitting in church on Sunday morning asking the Lord for the baby to come that day.  There was no rush really, other than I was and am completely uncomfortable and would like to be on the road to recovery and discovering a new-normal with two little girls.  But I just have to say: sometimes, I am so glad that God does not answer my prayers the way I want Him to.

Monday morning, we all woke up feeling sick.  I mean: really, really sick.

In fact, as I attempted to roll myself out of bed to attend to Gwen's beckoning cries, I realized: OH. NO.  I remember this feeling all-too-well.

At the end of my first trimester, the three of us came down with almost exactly the same bug.

I have nothing profound to say or write.  We are still in recovery mode (although Gwendolyn somehow is recovering a LOT faster than we are -- where do little kids get SO MUCH energy?), and so I'll just leave it at this: I am thankful "Birdie" did not decide to arrive yet, and I would appreciate having a few more days to recover and regain my strength before labor.

I am also extremely thankful for my church family, and that I have people I can call up and ask for supplies (read: Gatorade, saltines, apple juice, white rice, soup).  We absolutely needed these things to help us along but there was no way for us to get out.  Ohhh I am so thankful!

But I am also so tired.  So I'm going back to bed.

The end.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

38 weeks and counting (down)

Here is an admittedly awful shot of something I wore this week.
Long, oversized, blue sweater: thrifted, floral top: Old Navy, green pants: Kohls

...but the top is certainly purty, don't you think?
I'm trying to wear brighter-ish colors since it's so drab outside.
So I'm actually re-purposing all my summer maternity-wear from the last pregnancy.
The secret is to find some spiffy non-maternity sweaters that you can button halfway, like this:


(I know this photo is from an older post, but I swear I wore it this week!)
Yellow sweater with big buttons that my daughter adores: my mom's closet - J. Crew, floral top: Old Navy

And just to prove I'm still diggin' the pixie cut...

(But seriously -- does my hair grow FAST!)

My ballerina also wore something special...

People probably think I dress her up like this on purpose, but seriously, she goes into her drawers and picks out a tutu almost every day.  Granted, I try to pair it nicely with some leggings and t-shirts, but the inspiration comes from her brain.
Owl t-shirt: borrowed from her friend Zoey, neon tutu: Circo -gifted from Lauren!, purple leggings: a specialty shop in Williamsburg VA

38 weeks and counting (down)
Dudes, this baby is getting big.
And by that I mean -- I am getting super uncomfortable.

Now don't get me wrong -- I am still trusting in the Lord's timing for this baby's arrival, and I am remembering that babies born closer to their due date are more successful at breastfeeding, but when I have to do some sort of crazy-ninja-pregnancy-move to get out of bed for the hundredth time at night, then I think, "C'mooooooonnnnnnnn baby!  We're ready!!"

I feel myself releasing any remaining anxiety of her arrival.

"Okay, God.  I'm ready when you are.  I'm ready when she is."

But praying that prayer makes me a wee bit antsy for her to come... yesterday.

Anyways, here's what's current with this pregnancy...

Listening to... How Emptiness Sings by Christa Wells
Exercising by... Warming up on the bike, then weights with modified burpees/pushups/planks, then walking/jogging intermittently (trying to make this happen 3X a week)
Preparing for labor with... Evening Primrose Oil and Red Raspberry Leaf tea
Relishing... The last weeks of being alone with my daughter, and taking advantage of her current kick of sleeping in each morning
Relaxing by... Reading blogs (especially baby and breastfeeding blogs), watching movies/TV (Elliott and I currently intrigued by House of Cards on Netflix and also currently very thankful that season 3 of Downton Abbey came to its end.  I don't know how the show could possibly get any worse... and no, not because of the ending of season 3, but because of the writing.  It's just plain awful.)
Cooking... Lots of soup, wraps, sandwiches, eggs, and ready-cut veggies
Accepting... Lots of help from everyone :)
Thankful... For my doula!!  What a Godsend she is!
Waiting... For those contractions!!!

  • What are you currently doing these days?
  • How do you recommend remaining patient in the last couple weeks of pregnancy?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

psalm 26: afraid to pray the "test my heart" prayers

You know how you can read the Psalms and just feel great?

Sometimes it seems that the Psalms are just an easy read.  "I want to feel connected to God today, so I'll find something warm and squishy in the Psalms..."

I admit I fall temptation to this sentiment quite often.  But really, if we stop to consider what a lot of the Psalms are saying, there are many challenging verses with which to contend.

For instance, I came across this verse the other day...

"...I have walked in my integrity,
and I have trusted the Lord without wavering.
Prove me, O Lord, and try me;
test my heart and my mind."
Psalm 26:1-2

At first glance -- sure, whatever -- maybe I'd just breeze through the verse.  But something struck me -- a question lodged itself in my brain and made me wonder: Could I pray these same words that the psalmist prayed?  "Test my heart?"  "Prove me?"  "Try me?"  "I've trusted the Lord without wavering?"

I've known many-a-person who's said, "I prayed for patience," and then ended up having to go through some terrible ordeal.  I've asked God to prepare me for things only to battle with severe anxiety or depression.  I know the sorts of answers the "test my heart" prayer elicits, and I'm not sure I ever want to pray those prayers any more.  They scare me.

But then I read on...

"For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
and I walk in your faithfulness."
v. 3

The psalmist is able to say, "test me," and "prove me," because he credits the Lord with the ability to do so.  He can see clearly that he walks not in his own faithfulness but in God's faithfulness.  It's not because of himself that he is able to stand firm, but because of God's steadfast nature.

"But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity;
redeem me, and be gracious to me."
v. 11

Walking in my integrity doesn't mean that I will necessarily do all the right things all of the time, but it does mean offering myself to the Lord in everything I do.  It does mean praying He will redeem me and every situation.

It means that -- as always -- I can't do it alone.  
I can't be tested and proven faithful.  
I can't walk in integrity.  
I can't do all the right things.

I can't -- at least, not on my own.

But with God as my foundation -- with God's faithfulness surrounding my life -- with His steadfastness living inside me -- I can.

"My foot stands on level ground."
v. 12 

I can be tested and proven faithful...
I can walk in integrity...
I can be covered in the redemption of Christ and bring glory to the Lord...
...when I remember it's not my own faithfulness I'm depending on...
...when I acknowledge that God is more powerful than I am...
...when I stand on level ground.

Image by dontcallmeikke on flickr.
  • What Psalm has challenged you?
  • In what ways have you seen God's faithfulness surpass your own ability to be faithful?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Guest Post: How to Prepare for Baby (#2!)

Today I am so excited to introduce to you my blogger friend Sarah.  She's a twenty-something mom, wife, and Jesus-lover, and she blogs where they all come together at Mommy Notes.  She's got a wicked sense of humor and a beautiful writing style, so you should all start following her blog.

We have kids around the same age and are both pregnant with our second.  With that in mind, we thought we'd swap posts and give everyone some advice about how to get ready for the second baby.  Please take a moment to visit my guest post over at her blog here

A few weeks ago, I sat down to make a Preparing for Baby #2 list. It was short; something about freezing a few meals and buying a pink sheet for the cradle. This weekend, it occurred to me that my baby girl's due date is two months away. Do you know how fast two months goes by? My list just got a little more serious. Here's how I'm preparing for D-Day:

My heart.
I neglected my walk with Christ last time, but this time, I'm determined not to make the same mistake. As part of my Siesta Scripture Memory Challenge, I've picked Psalm 139:13-18 to etch on my heart over the next two months:

These are words the Lord's given me to whisper over my daughter, but they're also words He's given me for my own soul. Motherhood is hard. My hope is that, by inscribing these words of identity on my heart now, I can find some stable footing when depression looms, exhaustion hijacks my emotional sanity, or I start to unravel into anger.

Practically speaking...
When my son was a newborn, I spent a ridiculous amount of time watching TV to keep myself awake while he nursed. This time around, we are cable and local channel free, and more to the point, I have a toddler. I figure his antics will keep me awake during the day, but at night, for those marathon nursing sessions, I'll need some help. I have a Nook, and I love it, but there's not room in my budget for books right now. Enter: the local library. Somehow, through some ridiculously complicated process, I can check out books, for free. And that's my goal--to figure out how to stock up on some good (FREE!) reads.

The other "practical" item on my list is the Marpac Dohm-DS Dual Speed Sound Conditioner. Our 20mo/old is a light sleeper, and I've got a baby who's about to share a room with him. The price tag is a bit steep, but I have a feeling I'd be happy to forgo even a few meals if it would mean one or both of my children sleeping for any given length of time.

My body (not quite a wonderland).
This post and this post are where I'm starting my post-partum healing medicine cabinet. I love homeopathy, but the idea of taking a few carefully chosen remedies post-partum never occurred to me till well after the fact with my last pregnancy. I'm excited about being more intentional about healing this time! 

I've got Lindsay Brin's Postnatal Bootcamp ready to go. I spent way too much time frustrated with my post-baby pooch last time, so I'm going to be proactive. If I don't work out, I can't complain. Right? Right.(Riiiiiiiiight)

My family.
Isn't this Skip Hop Little Kid Backpack precious? I don't want to forget my little guy! I think he would have a B-L-S-T with this little pack, filled with some fun dollar store toys. Maybe a cute Big Brother gift for the hospital? My other two big goals for my toddler are to teach him how to stay by my side when we're in public (possible? hopefully...), and we're gonna try our hand at some Duggar-style blanket time

 This is really what we'll be doing over the next two months--lots and lots and LOTS of playing! 

The meals that won't get frozen...
Honestly, I don't think I'll be freezing a lot of actual meals. Casseroles and soups lend themselves best to the freezer, but since we're not big casserole/soup people, my plan is to have a lot of pre-cooked basics and pre-assembled ingredients that are easy to throw into the crockpot during the day, or simple enough that my non-cooking husband can make it happen on the stove after work. Here are a few of my ideas (I'll be posting more later!):

1. Ingredients bagged and prepped for Slow-Cooker Chicken Tagine and Slow-Cooker Wild Rice with Chicken and Sugar Snap Peas (I use whole frozen chicken breasts for both, and I also plan to have lots of crock pot liners handy!)
2. Several frozen lasagnas
3. A cut or two of pork for slow-cooker pulled pork w/ some hamburger buns in the freezer, too (I just throw a big 'ol piece of pork in the crockpot, pour our favorite BBQ sauce on top, and cook for several hours. VERY NICE.)
4. Cookies, bread, and waffles, baked and frozen.

This list is by no means exhaustive or realistic (TWO lasagnas in the freezer? Snort.), but it's a start, and hopefully it helps you if you're anywhere close to this season of life. I am always looking for more ideas, though, so tell me...what's on your list? 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

abundant peace at 37 weeks

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. 
I do not give to you as the world gives. 
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
John 14:27

My pregnancy with Gwendolyn was marked by high anxiety.

It started even before I became pregnant, persisted throughout the pregnancy, and lasted until the very end (and then carried over into motherhood).  Although God was doing His best to break me of clinging to anxiety, I didn't know how to let go.  I tried, but I also clung on tight.  Overall, what I came away with was the knowledge that I had an incredible anxiety problem.

I'm not going to lie and say it's all gone now.  Certainly, God has done His work in breaking me of deep habits in the past, but anxiety still persists.  It is in my life when I'm expected to talk to someone I don't know very well.  It is in my life when I am afraid to drive somewhere new.  It is in my life when I refuse to go anywhere crowded.  It is in my life in that there are certain things I am either unable to do, or that cause me great fear when I have to go through with them.

But here's the victory I want to share.

My pregnancy with "Birdie" has been marked by deep peace.

There are many things that can go wrong in pregnancy and delivery.  And yes, I have some hopes attached to labor.  But ultimately, I am just at peace.  I trust the Lord to know what's best.  I trust His timing.  I am not afraid of the unknown.

When I was 37 weeks pregnant with Gwen, I was frantic about going into labor AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.  It probably was exacerbated by the looming "induction date."  I did as many (safe) things as I could think of to induce my labor naturally.  I begged the Lord.  I asked others to beg the Lord.  So what ended up happening was a last month of pregnancy absolutely fraught with frantic energy, anxiety, and discontentment.  

I am 37 weeks pregnant with Birdie.  I don't care when I go into labor or when I don't.  Even if I have to have an induction at 41 or 42 weeks, so be it.  Labor is out of my control.  There's nothing I can do but accept whatever comes whenever she decides to come.  

God has given me peace.
  • When have you experienced such peace in your life?
  • What has God been pressing on your heart lately?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

WIWW/WNW: the pixie cut plunge

...because seriously, what mama has time to do her hair in the morning?...

If you've been reading for a while, you might remember a number of months ago I was debating whether or not to chop all my hair off, and then I decided against it.

This is the last picture I have of my longer hair.
Obviously, I had just made a turkey, it being Thanksgiving and all.

Well, as the pregnancy wore on, my hair got thicker and thicker.  I have weird hair.  It looks like it's easy-to-manage -- and yes, ultimately, I can make it do whatever I want, but it takes effort.  And lots of blow-drying or flat-ironing or curl-ironing or what-have-you.  As it got thicker and thicker, I was just spending wasting way too much time on it.

And here's another thing you should know about my personality: I simply detest wasting time.  I am all about efficiency.  Day after day, I was realizing that my hair was anything but efficient.  It was driving me crazy.

So what did I decide to do?  Yup.  I cut (most of) it all off the first week of December.  It wasn't too dramatic, but it was the shortest I had ever had it.

What I loved the most about the cut was that I could literally wash-and-go.  I didn't have to even brush it unless I felt like it.  It was amazing.  It felt like freedom.

My only issue?  My hair grew so fast, and I spent the last two months wishing I had just chopped it all off -- Anny-Hathaway style, ya know?

So last week I went to my hair stylist (whom I trust with EVERYTHING -- I mean, seriously, she could try any cut on me and it would look good) and said, "Chop it off!"  She wanted to make sure I was absolutely sure (apparently she had dealt with impulsive pregnant ladies before who had asked for pixie-cuts only to call her up the next day screaming at her).  I promised her I was ready.

In reality, there was a pit in my stomach as she cut it shorter and shorter.  It was such a dramatic difference to me, and it takes a little getting used to, but ultimately: I love it.

It takes literally no time to do.  
I have found my official efficient mommy-friendly haircut.

And the bonus?
I don't need conditioner.
I only need a smidgen of shampoo.
Showers are shorter.
No electricity is used on drying or styling.
So the verdict: a pixie cut is environmentally friendly!  Hurray!

  • Have you ever made a dramatic change in your life in order to save time?

Monday, February 11, 2013

to my pixie: celebrating the life of my little girl

Dear Gwendolyn -- my little Pixie,

A lot of time has been and will be spent preparing and caring for Baby Sister -- our little Birdie, as we like to call her.  And while you have been so good about learning about how to care for babies and being patient with mommy's breakdowns (and have happily accepted all those snuggles in bed watching ballerinas on Netflix), I know that this time is passing quickly.  I don't want you to think I have forgotten to rejoice every day in everything you are.  You are my joy, and I do not want to forget the many ways you express your personality.  And let me assure you: you certainly have a lot of personality.

So, my dearest Gwendolyn, these are just a few of the millions of things that I am enjoying in you right now at 19 1/2 months old.
  • The way you have developed your own funny little laugh, and how you "tell us jokes" and laugh about them.  Honestly, we have no idea what you're saying, but you make us laugh anyways.  You have the greatest sense of humor, little girl.
  • Your obsession (and yes, it is obsessive) with ballerinas, tutus, The Nutcracker, and dancing.  And the way you want to share your joy of dancing with me, with daddy, and with whomever you see on Skype.
  • Your musical giftedness -- the way you pick up on almost any song you hear the first time around (even if we're just in the grocery store), the way you sing your favorite songs, and the way you make up your own songs with a resounding, repeatable chorus of, "Bagel!  Bagel!  Bagel!"
  •  The immense love you have for babies -- real and fake and imaginary -- and the understanding I see in your eyes about your own Baby Sister.  You melt me every time you kiss, rub, and hug my belly.  
  • Your responsibility.  It astounds me to see how you want to put everything in its place -- from the baby gate to your plates.  The way you listen to us and respond.  The way you want to take care of all babies everywhere.
  • Your joy for prayer and reading the Bible.
  • The way you sleep at nights -- and have slept at nights since we weaned you off of night feedings.  It's heavenly, dear girl.  You may be a light napper, but once you're down for the night, you're down.  It is a glorious gift.
  • Your own blossoming language that we get to decipher every day!
  • Your knack for sign language, and making up your own signs in order to communicate.
  • Your beautiful eyes -- the way they shine when you see us and the way they ask questions when learning new things.
And my darling daughter, you must know that at night when you are sound asleep, your daddy and I cannot help ourselves: we spend countless minutes and hours giggling and awing over you and what joy it is to be your parents.

We are always celebrating you.

Your Mommy.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

to my birdie: celebrating the life of my baby-to-be

She's waving hello!

Dear Birdie,

Today in church I felt you dancing to the music and suddenly was overcome by the intense desire to hold you -- not in my belly but in my arms.  I turned to your father and said, "I just want to hold my baby," and he smiled, held me close, and said, "I can't wait to meet her."

And it's about that time when we just have no idea when you will arrive.  It's surreal to acknowledge the fact that within the next month, you will actually be with us -- you, the little baby we barely knew when we found out about your existence on June 21, your Big Sister's first birthday.

But you have made your existence known.  And although we still do not know what you will look like or how you will grow, we have been getting to know your personality -- with each kick and roll and bizarre food craving. 

These are some things that we are celebrating -- in getting to know you and in preparing our lives for your arrival and in wondering who you will someday be.
  • The way you poke me and constantly move as if to say, "I know you've already got a life but don't forget that I am already a part of it!"
  • The way you poke daddy back when he's trying to find you.
  • Your taste in foods that are oh-so-different than Gwendolyn's.
  • The way we are praying for you every day -- thanking the Lord for your life and asking that He bless you and Gwenny with a solid, beautiful, sister relationship.
  •  The unknown -- yes, we are celebrating the unknown -- in what you will be like, in who you will look like, and in a million other ways.
  • Waiting expectantly for that glorious moment when we finally see you, and wondering if you will stare back at us with the familiar-Gwendolyn eyes or with eyes all your own.
  • Remembering the first time I saw your little body inside me -- and the way you took my breath away as you wiggled around with all your limbs and fingers and toes perfectly in place.
  • Excited that you will meet a sister who already adores you and is ready to smother you in love.
  • Changing our rooms around to make room for you, and every day looking around the house and realizing, "This is for Birdie."
  • Readying myself to cuddle and sleep next to a little baby.
  • Getting your clothes ready, and choking up at the thought that soon your little newborn body will fill them.
  • Looking forward to the day when we think, "What was life like without her?" and barely remembering the answer.
We are ready for you, little girl -- as much as we can be.  I am sure you will interrupt our lives in unexpected-yet-glorious ways, and I cannot wait to find out how.

Your Mommy

Thursday, February 7, 2013

fasting from doing: how rest is changing my life

It was day two of my self-imposed "Take Care of Myself" month.
Elliott was out at a church meeting, and Gwendolyn had long gone to sleep.
For the first time since I can remember, I was at true peace.

Nothing says, "Peace," like drinking tea from a pretty teacup, am I right?

Typically when Elliott is out late, I take it as an opportunity to fit some stuff in -- usually meaning chores.  I half-attempted to pack my hospital bag, which ended promptly after merely picking out a swaddling blanket and an outfit for the baby.  Then I did 30 minutes of weight-lifting before finally settling down on to the yoga mat to just sit, breathe, and welcome God's presence.

As I sat there -- waiting for God to speak, or not -- a song from my high school days rolled like a lullaby into my mind.

O gaze of love so melt my pride
That I may in Your house but kneel.

It felt like ions since I had listened to Hymn by Jars of Clay, and yet there was the chorus dancing through my head, and I thought: yes.  Yes, my pride is being melted.  Yes, kneeling is enough.

And then I realized just how much two days of rest had transformed me.

Fasting from "Doing"
We Christians talk a bit about fasting -- usually from food or certain types of food, sometimes (increasingly) from technology, perhaps occasionally from vanity.  I am fasting from doing.

I didn't realize this when I set out to rest for the month.  All I knew was: I am in a fragile state, I have a daughter to love, and I seriously just need a break.  Through two days, it has become apparent to me that I have made "doing" an idol for a very long time. 

Productivity has been a god to me.

Perhaps this is surprising -- perhaps not -- but this is the first time in my life that I have taken a break.  Even when I'm on vacation, I set myself on a schedule, wanting to fit the most in that short little week (I will seriously just add "Rest" to my list as if it were, "Go for a Hike," and, "Go to Museum").  So this is my first encounter with true rest.  I am amazed -- astounded, really -- by the peace and joy I've been given -- and that both are carried through to the end of the day.

No Room for Guilt
And so that song from Jars of Clay came into my mind and I couldn't shake myself of the poignancy.

...so melt my pride...
...of doing, of "having it all together," of perfectionism, of productivity...

...that I may in Your house but kneel...
...because kneeling is enough...

Unconsciously, I have always thought that being in God's house meant doing and serving constantly.  Consciously, I have always thought that doing everything to the utmost of my ability -- of being hyper-productive with every second of every day -- was what pleased the Lord.  Certainly, there is some truth to both of these thoughts.  But there is also truth in this: sometimes, we must "but kneel."  And that's it.  If we're so gung-ho about doing (like I usually am), then we might miss the whisper of God that is sometimes encouraging us to rest.

And there's always the guilt factor, at least for me.  When I have tried resting in the past, I have always felt supremely guilty.  This guilt has kept me from ever enjoying rest -- either in the form of days off, an afternoon off, or even a half hour break.  Guilt crowds this space so much so that doing anything "enjoyable" is just stressful for me.  Whether it's watching a great period drama, or reading a book or blog post, or just sitting down for a few minutes -- I feel burdened by guilt.  "I could be using this time so much more wisely..."

Whenever I have "time to myself," I immediately come up with a list, that looks something like this:
  • 8 am - 8:45 am: Exercise
  • 8:45 - 9 am: Shower
  • 9 - 9:45 am: Sweep and Mop the House
  • 9:45 - 10:15 am: Quiet Time
  • 10:15 - 11:15 am: Work
  • etc., etc.
I have never just let a day into my life and thought, "What do I want to do -- in this moment?"  I always come in to every day with preconceived notions of what "should" get done, and then I make a point of doing it.

Nothing is necessarily wrong with this in and of itself, but for me it has become idolized.  That's why it's wrong for me -- to do it every single day for my entire life.  No wonder I am high-stress and prone to anxiety attacks.  No wonder I am always in a rush -- constantly trying to fit in the next thing.

As for the familiar guilt, yes-- I feel it creeping stealthily into my brain.  But right now, I am able to command it away.  Guilt has no place here.  It is not of the Lord.

What About Those Pesky Chores?
Okay, so a SAHM (who works a little on the side doing some editing/writing for a business) still has to get certain things done.  People need to eat.  We can't live in filth.  My assignments need to be completed.  So in a month of rest -- when the world still rolls along -- how do those chores get done, exactly?

In joy.  

Somehow, even though I am spending every spare moment sitting down and doing whatever I want, the chores are still getting done.  Every night, the sink is empty (except, um... tonight because I chose to write this post instead).  Our clothes are put away.  We have dinner.  The floor has even been swept!  And tasks I have been avoiding for months have slowly been getting done (like cleaning out our storage/laundry room).  With the influx of resting, I have been given strength to do these things with joy and peace abounding inside me.

And Gwendolyn has started helping too.  In the last week, she has started to genuinely enjoy "helping" me.  We fold laundry together, and by that I mean that I fold and Gwendolyn stuffs dish towels into her dresser.  We sweep the house together, and by that I mean I sweep and Gwendolyn follows behind smacking the floor with her mini-broom.  We wash dishes together, and by that I mean that I wash dishes and Gwendolyn empties out our silverware drawer into the drying rack.  It's not perfect, but it's God's grace that suddenly, Gwen has taken to "helping Mommy" with every little task.

Moving Forward
So how does this change things for the future?

I mentioned to Elliott all that I've been experiencing and the freedom that I've been given and I said something like, "I know this can't last forever, but maybe I'll need to do this rest thing more often."  He (wisely) pointed out that I should be doing it in bits and pieces every week so that by the time it's my "day off" (moms don't really get those though), I won't be so exhausted that all I can do is watch Netflix.

I've decided it's a matter of gauging day-by-day and hour-by-hour what I feel like doing, and what I am able to do.  I will no longer live as a slave to my lists.  Instead, they will be a guide, but if I need to nap with the girls or watch Charles Dickens' Bleak House for the umpteenth time, then that's what I'll do -- knowing that God's got me, and sometimes I just need to kneel.
  • Have you ever experienced similar transformation through a spiritual discipline?
  • How have you worked rest into your daily life?

Monday, February 4, 2013

the last month of pregnancy aka "take care of myself" month

Alright, friends.  Here's the real deal.

I am an emotional mess.
My body can no longer handle simple chores like mopping/sweeping (ouch!).
Sleeping at night is elusive (hello crazy-wacky dreams!).
I am gripped by a terrible fear about having this baby ("Oh no God - I can't, I just can't have this baby!")

And I'm an emotional mess -- did I mention that?

So I'm doing what everyone in my life always tells me to do.
I'm going easy on myself.
I'm taking a break.  At least, as much as I am able to do.

Look!  I didn't even get up to take this picture.  Yay!
Also - you'll notice the bright colors, I hope.  All my winter maternity clothes are super muted so I'm trying to counteract my moodiness by wearing bright colors, which means pairing my summer maternity clothes with non-maternity sweaters.

The dishes will be in the sink until I have energy to do them.
The floors will be dirty until someone wants to come over and help (because seriously - I just can't do it any more).
The laundry will remain in piles until Elliott and I can fold it together while watching a show.

And as for me?  I'm spending every moment possible:
  • Writing (this includes commenting on blogs!)
  • Reading (I am re-reading Les Mis for the third time! - Haven't read it since HS.)
  • Watching TV shows and movies (now accepting suggestions for good movies on Netflix!)
  • Napping (when Gwendolyn lets me!)
When Gwendolyn is awake, I'm going to keep on in my efforts to have her play by herself while I'm in the room.  We will visit the library, read books, take baths, and yes -- we will indulge in more TV than usual (I'm a big fan of Blue's Clues over Sesame Street -- slower-paced and predictable, as well as watching ballets and other dancing videos).  I dislike "using" TV, but as long as I interact with Gwen while we watch the shows together, I think I can just let it go for this month (and maybe the month after baby comes and no one is around to help me?  Maybe?).

And here's the bottom line:  I just have to.  There's no other reasonable choice right now.  Yesterday, as Gwen woke up from a nap too early, we cried together.  And I mean - I hyperventilated-cried-sobbed-was-a-complete-mess for a long while.  That's just not good -- for me, for Gwen, or for Elliott. 

So I'm taking care of me this month in order to take care of everyone else.

And if you're a friend in real-time-life, please know:
  • I am having a hard time holding conversations -- like, it takes me a lot of effort.  So if I shirk away from seeing you or talking to you, it's not you -- it's me. 
  • Hanging out in general will take so much emotional and physical energy, and I'm not sure how I will be up for it.  
  • If you want to spend quality time with me, maybe just hold out until well after the baby is born and I'm back to a stable place.  
  • You are always welcome to come over and watch Gwen or clean something, as long as  you know I will mostly likely be in my bed watching that TV show you recommended.
  • Have you ever had to enact a "Take Care of Myself" month or day?  What did that mean?
  • How have others helped you take care of yourself?
  • Do you struggle with being "hard" on yourself, like me?  How do you combat that tendency?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

let's talk about this pregnancy, shall we?

Right now:  I am a couple days shy of 36 weeks.

Realization:  This is getting real.

What's been difficult about this pregnancy:  Extreme lower back pain, extreme exhaustion (I've had to take an afternoon nap basically from day one until now -- probably a result of watching a toddler on top of being pregnant), and intense emotions.  The emotions thing is the worst -- at least with the back pain and exhaustion, I know just to lie down and rest.  With being emotional, I just can't think straight and end up sobbing or moping.  No fun.

What's been great about this pregnancy:  Not worrying so much about the weight, and really feeling released from my body image issues.  Sure, I feel big and all, but I'm able to let it go instead of obsessing over it.  Also, I've just been more relaxed in general about this pregnancy -- a lot more trusting in the Lord and His plans and timing, instead of frantically trying to control everything.

My guilty pleasure:  Sweets.  I'm usually a really healthy person, but this pregnancy, I've definitely been wanting (and having) gluten-free goodies, ice cream, and gummi-bears.  It's SO weird that I want these things, but it's been nice to enjoy them (in moderation). 

My healthy-food craving:  I was much healthier with Gwen (the girl always wanted cabbage for some reason), but this baby is not-so-healthy.  That being said, I cannot get enough grapefruit and pineapple.

Exercising: It was happening consistently up until about week 30, when I really messed up my back somehow.  So that's when I had to stop going to bootcamp (whimper).  I had envisioned I would be there until the day I gave birth, but the last time I tried, I had to leave immediately.  My back just won't have it, and I would end up modifying SO much of the workout that it wasn't very helpful any more.  I've still been going to the gym at least three days a week, with an extra day of working out at home (prenatal pilates or a long walk).  Also: my gym just started spinning classes.  The last time I had a spinning class was when I was 34 weeks along with Gwen, so I went this past week and it was AWESOME.  I'm happy to be there, and back with some bootcamp people who are taking the class (and the teacher!  She's my inspiration and a friend and totally gets me geared up in the mornings).  Exercising helps keep my emotions in check too -- I feel almost 100% better on the days I exercise.

Right after The Color Run in Philly at 6 weeks pregnant.
(I can't believe I've been pregnant for so long!)

Preparations:  I have most of the stuff in the house, but really haven't gone through everything to make sure it's all in place.  I'm also not sure if I'm prepared to have a newborn in cold weather.  Gwenny was born in the summer so it was much easier to dress her.  My happiest preparation: I put together a little mobile for Gwen and her sister to go above the changing table.  It's already helped Gwen calm down during diaper changes.

My friend Jocelyn made the animals/mushrooms as a Christmas present.  They are meant to be ornaments, but I took one look at them and said, "Oh no.  THESE are going to be out ALL year round!"  The branch was from our yard, and Gwendolyn helped me find it.

Procrastinating on:  Packing my hospital bag.  I don't know why it feels like SUCH a big task to me, but I have a rock in my stomach every time I think about it.  Also - I am totally not on top of my birth plan this time.  I keep thinking I'm going to forget something so I'm afraid of "completing" it.

Terrified about: Having two kids.  Last time, I was a little terrified of being a mother in general.  This time, I'm just like -- whoa, wait: TWO KIDS?  How do people DO it?  I am afraid that Gwendolyn will not get naps any more because she's a super light sleeper when she naps.  This means that I will not get any naps either.  Two kids.  Whoa.

Excited about: Meeting this new baby.  She has SUCH a personality -- so much poking and twisting and moving.  I thought Gwen was a mover, but this one is non-stop.  I told Elliott every time I eat something, it's like popcorn going off in my tummy -- except the popcorn is bony limbs and little hands and feet.  I'm also excited for Gwendolyn to have a sister.  In case you didn't know, she is SUPER into babies.  All she does is play pretend with baby dolls, and all she wants is a baby of her own.

Pensive about: The transition from three to four.  We have a very comfortable groove together.  It will be interesting to throw another little one into the mix.  I can't even wrap my brain around it.

Thankful for: An uneventful pregnancy, and the midwives who are SO chill about everything.  By this time in the pregnancy with Gwen, I was already scheduled for an induction.  I think I'm even measuring small again this time, but it's not drastic and it's just how I carry my babies, so the midwives are soooooo chill about everything.  I am also thankful for my doula who is helping me feel prepared.  AND for a husband who understands what I need even more than I do (ie. lots of rest).

One more thing: 

 I just wanted to give a shout-out to some of my favorite bloggers who are also pregnant!

Megan at Sorta Crunchy (twin boys!)
Sarah at Mommy Notes

Congratulations to everyone!  It's been awesome going on this journey with you.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

comparing myself to others: I always come up short

It's hard not to compare myself to others.
Especially others in the church.
My church, in particular.

I go to a church that is marked by an amazing sense of community and family -- a church where people will repeatedly sacrifice for the good of others.  It is the norm for many people to go above and beyond to help each other out -- to serve -- to give.

Image by Calotype46 on flickr

And so when I hear pleas for help with something and again, I have to say no, I feel... like a failure.  Or even more than that -- like a sinner.  Like I am sinning against the Lord.  I also feel like something must be wrong with me.  I would like to be a blessing to others but in my efforts to protect and preserve myself, I feel burdened by inadequacy. 

The thing is, I spent most of my life saying, "Yes," to almost anything.  As we became more and more involved in the church, I realized that saying, "Yes," all the time was incredibly unhealthy -- for me and my family.  For whatever reason, every, "Yes," said was another thing to cause me anxiety or exhaustion, and I lived life in a lot of stress.

So I started saying, "No."  In fact, I say, "No," to almost anything.  Almost is key here -- I have done a few things for VBS, the Christmas show, and occasionally sing a Sunday morning song -- but that's all I can do.

All around me, I see people doing so much more than I am doing -- for their community, family, and church.  And these aren't just super healthy people, but people who have greater ailments than pregnancy-induced-exhaustion.  But a big part of me has learned my limits over the years, and in order to stay sane, collected, and peaceful for my family, I have to put as little as possible on my plate.  That's how I operate.  However, I can't shake the sense that perhaps this is a character flaw.  Why is it I require so much downtime -- so much retreat?

Some would say having this knowledge of myself is wisdom, but there's always another side to every coin, right?

The other side to the coin is that I struggle with deep-rooted selfishness.  Now before you say we all do, I mean -- it is hard for me to be giving/generous and it is hard for me to put people above tasks.  I generally have always put myself first.  Now being a mom has sort of turned this on its head (parenting is all about service and selflessness, don't you think?) but because I know that this selfishness is a habitual thing in my life, I am concerned.  It's such a fine line between being good to myself for the sake of others and being good to myself for the sake of... well, myself.

How can I even begin to know the difference?
  • Have you ever felt this way?  
  • How do you resist the urge to compare yourself to others?
  • How do you know the line between taking care of yourself and being selfish? 
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