Too Much

I woke up yesterday and felt like I was drowning.

It was a slow descent of sorts.

The water had been pouring down my head for awhile. Sometimes it was just a trickle and then other times a downpour. But the water had begun to collect around my ankles until one day it reached my knees then rose above my waist and was now sitting right below my chin. It could be days or mere seconds before it overtook me. It all depended on the weather.

And I could feel exactly how close I was to choking.

When my husband got home from work he could sense it too. I felt physically and emotionally done. I wasn’t angry or irrational with the children if anything I was extremely calm and understanding, but I felt distant. Like my spirit was gone and my body was just going through the motions. Do homework. Make dinner. Clean dishes. Bath bodies. Done. Done. And done. But my tank was empty and I felt immobile.

I think I spent the first 9-10 months of Lu’s first year just waking up and getting through the day. It was a survivalists approach. Don’t think too hard about all the things you can’t do or aren’t doing just do what’s right in front of you. And it worked. We survived! But it was hard. And hard can be good. It stretches us and teaches us and molds us into more capable human beings. But hard can also be very very exhausting.

It wasn’t until I stopped nursing that I realized the contrast in who I was and how I felt. How tired, how drained, and how absent I had been from the normal me.

And it’s not like our home was all doom and gloom and depressing. Or that my children felt neglected or ignored. Or that I was rocking in a dark corner every night unable to function. Most days looked good and most weekends were filled with joy and love and fun. But that’s part of who I am. That’s how I handle hard things. That’s how I carry on. That’s how I get through it. Because if I stop and think about it too long I start to feel the weight of it all and doubt begins to grow.

You can’t do this Melissa. You’re failing Melissa. You’re not giving enough Melissa.

And I don’t believe in these voices even when they hang around for a few days, tapping me on the shoulder, trying to point out all the bad things.

The last two months of not nursing have reminded me of who I am when I’m at full capacity. But I think this is why I started to drown. Instead of accepting that the me I was during Lu’s first year was me operating at full capacity for the demands presented to me I told myself that was me just surviving. Instead of seeing everything I was doing and rejoicing in accepting the day given to me, no matter how simple it looked, I told myself things like it’s going to get better. This is only temporary. It’s just a season.

And those are all true, but it doesn’t really help. Everything is temporary and seasons are continuous. Easy seasons don’t stay forever and hard seasons will always return. It’s called Life. But I feel like I cheated Lu out of a better me because I was so focused on what was next. Because her first year was hard. Because Eliana started a full day of T-K and daily pickup was sometimes impossible. Because illness ran amuck in our house for months. Endless months. Because my sister moved away. Because potty training. Because my husband was gone for weeks. Because my Dad got sick.

Because. Because. Because.

I have a problem with letting myself grieve. When I see others grieve I grieve with them. When I see myself grieve I feel weak. My life is so wonderful you guys. It’s magnificent and beautiful and perfect in our own way and so full. Full of everything I’ve ever imagined and more. My own little fairytale with a pair of converse instead of glass slippers. I love it.

And so I hate complaining because I hate complainers. But grieving is so very different than complaining. I need to let myself feel this more. I need to let my emotions play their course. I need to let it go. I need to be free of the burden that grief is weak.

I am a naturally joyful, highly optimistic, overly positive person. I don’t need to work at doing those things. They just happen. But I need to work at being sad. I need to let myself sit down and cry more often over all the things that weigh me down that I can’t change that won’t ever change and that burden the small part of my heart that I allow to carry the dark and heavy stuff. Because when I do it, when I allow myself to let it wash over me instead of puddle up at my feet until it sloshes against my chin threatening to drown me I don’t feel weak. I feel human. I feel closer to my life. Closer to others. Closer to God.

So I’m sitting down and figuring out what’s important. To me and to my household. I’m throwing all of these dumb misplaced expectations into the trash and starting over. I feel like the world has told me that as a Stay At Home Mom I should have the time and energy to cook a huge meal every night. And I listened. First, because I love cooking. Second, because everyone else said it was important.

I’d like to confess that I’m no longer cooking anything complicated on a school night. I’m saving that for weekends. Why? Because it seriously sucks up two hours of my time. The process of prepping, cooking, serving, then cleaning, and putting away. I hate it. In the writing world we call this “Killing your darlings”. It means that me must get rid of our most precious and self indulgent passages for the greater good of our literary work.

So I’m getting rid of cooking for the greater good of my children. Because I’m realizing that the time my husband and I get with them together, as a whole family, is now so precious with Eliana in school. Our influence has been dwindled down to a single hour before bed. That’s how she’ll absorb and view family 5 nights a week. And I don’t want to spend it cleaning vegetables and roasting chicken.

I want to spend it on the couch, in a big giant pile of books and games and music and love. I want to spend it asking questions and then listening to their answers. I want to spend it investing in them. Pouring into them. And loving them.

This hour has become so precious in our house. How we end the day. Not stressed, or rushing around trying to finish up homework or clean up a million little messes so we can throw them in their beds and close the door to only let out a sigh of relief and exhaustion. And then go focus on the laundry.

I hate it. It’s TOO MUCH you guys. TOO DAMN MUCH. I want more for them and for me and for our hearts. I’d venture to say that 99% of the stuff you’re stressing over as being important counts for nothing if you don’t have time to just be together and love on each other.

So I’m yanking my hand back. I’m putting it on my heart and I’m saying, “NO, THIS IS WHAT’S IMPORTANT.”

To feel. To live. And to accept each day as it’s given to me regardless of what it looks like. To love my children more and cook less. To grieve. To worry less about them eating vegetables and focus more on how they feel about themselves. To make messes. To read more books and watch less tv. To dance.

To have it all. With each day. Even when the seasons are hard.

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Mothering from the ground up

We are all screwing up.
Every single one of us.

Even the moms on Instagram with five kids in fashionably coordinated outfits with a million+ followers who make homemade granola and have succulent wall gardens hanging in their kitchen.

They are screwing up too. I promise.

If I reflect back on all the ways I screwed it up with Eliana it almost makes me want to vomit. I had no clue you guys. No clue what I was doing. None of us do.

My biggest mistake was loving her but not doing things in love. I didn’t discipline in love. I set extremely high and sometimes harsh expectations for her and when she failed or disappointed me all I showed her was frustration. It was extremely unfair of me and exhausting for the both of us. She is a natural people pleaser just like me and I was slowly teaching her that I could never be pleased. I was slowly breaking her spirit.

And then I had Roma. Oh, Roma. God bless that child and her spirit. She changed me. Continue reading “Mothering from the ground up”

Pain Collectors

“That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.”
– John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

We all have it. Sometimes it’s public. Sometimes it’s private. Some people deny it. Others shine it. One day you give. The other receive. Pain lives on the edges of our picture frames and in the crevices of our dusty bookshelves. It’s old, it’s new, it’s a moment, it’s forever.

Pain is inevitable.

It isn’t something that graciously passes some people by while eviscerating everyone else. Sure there are varying levels and varying situations, but pain is pain. No matter the trigger behind it. Let me repeat: pain is pain.  

 
The internet can be such a wonderful tool. It has so many useful purposes, outlets, and connections. It can bring complete strangers together and form incredible bonds of friendship based solely on the mutual love of reading. It can raise support for children fighting cancer. It can help a family devastated by a natural disaster. It can heal.

But it can also kill. And it doesn’t kill quietly. It rages war.

I’m very cautious in using the internet to share the really delicate parts of me. The ones that need to be handled with care because I’m afraid of being shut down. I share them with the people I know and trust in the flesh who will love on me and remind me that whatever I’m going through is important. It’s important because I’m important. And it doesn’t need to be compared to someone else’s pain. Because pain is pain. 

But some of us have a problem with collecting it.

We go through something tragic, something monumental and it changes us. Pain changes us. And that’s ok. Change is good. Pain can ultimately be good. It grows us. Shapes up. And usually allows us to understand the pain of others with a greater sense of intimacy and delicacy.

But somewhere, in all of that tragedy, we’ve started to collect our pain–a row of gold statues that we shine, dust, rearrange so they are just perfect, and stare at for hours on end. We place our pain on the best shelf, with the best view, so everyone can see it. But not because we want you to journey with us through our pain but because we want to say,

“Mine. Mine. Mine. My collection is bigger and better and more painful than your own.”

And it’s not. The only real truth about pain is that it’s different. Yes, there might be a distinct level of minor pain vs major pain when we talk about the physical body, but I’m not trying to compare a paper cut to brain surgery. I’m talking about life pain. The whole of our days. The sum of our years. The pain we carry in our souls–emotional, yes– but it can be physical, too.

I was reading a blog post the other day by a dear friend of mine who is finally seeing the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Months and months of pain that have finally led her to a new journey of restoration. I ventured into the comments section to read about the women who had been encouraged by what she wrote and to be filled with their hope. And that’s when I found a pain collector.

Now, I don’t believe this person meant any harm in her comment. I truly believe she too just wants her pain to be acknowledged. For someone to come alongside her and hold her. Validate her. Tell her, “Yes, yes. I hear you. This is hard stuff. This is painful. I’ll help you.” But the delivery of that pain translated into–my pain is worse than yours.

The situation looked like this… A woman was lamenting about the struggle she’s had in mothering–trying to keep her head above water while being surrounded by her ocean of littles. And then came a response comment from another woman… Try being a single parent. It doesn’t get harder than doing it on your own.

Do you see where I am going with this? That mother of littles can’t try being a single mother. She isn’t one. All she knows is that her days are hard according to what she’s accustomed to handling. You know who steps in after that single mom comment if we keep collecting our pain instead of learning from it?

The mom with no kids.
The mom with infertility.
The mom who isn’t a mom, but prays, wishes, and dreams about it every single moment of her existence.

And then you know who steps in after the mom with no kids? The single woman in her thirties who is home alone on a Friday night because she’s tired of the bar scene. She’s tired of e-harmony never panning out. She’s tired of putting herself out there to only discover she can’t find someone to share her forever with. She’s tired, but her exhaustion isn’t from a house full of kids and a husband who is disgruntled from work. So is her pain any less valuable? Is her loneliness any less important?

We’ve all collected our own pain. We’ve all made these comments where we try and one up someone’s situation because we think our own is worse. And it’s not. No matter the situation your pain is not worse than someone else’s. It’s just different. Pain is pain.

We need to start thinking before we speak. Question our words and the intentions behind them before assuming that what we’ve got going on is more painful than someone else. If pain demands to be felt than it also demands to be processed. Everyone deserves to feel what they are going through and to share that with those they love.

We need to stop collecting the pain and start learning from it. Pain is constant. Allow the world around you to feel it. Allow yourself to feel it. And in that process help each other to heal. Don’t slap the pain of someone else with your own.

An adult who loses a parent should be loved upon and allowed to grieve as if still a child.
A mother of one should be supported in her trials as much as the mother of five.
A child with a drunk father should be fretted upon as the child with none.

Pain is pain. And all pain demands to be felt.

 

One or two or ten

I’ve had the opportunity of spending more time than usual with my sister-in-law this past week/weekend and it was a good reminder of those early mom days. The ones where you are constantly analyzing everything, googling everything, researching everything, questioning everything.  The stress-of-experiencing-motherhood-for-the-first-time-everything.

And as I watched her and talked with her and sort of mulled through a lot of this “everything” with her again, I’m reminded of how much easier it is for me now. Even with two under my roof and a third to arrive in six weeks. I wouldn’t go back to those first days. Ever.

I could see the fear and anxiety in her eyes and the pressure she feels to do everything as best as possible. To breastfeed as long as possible. To hold him as much as possible (even when you don’t want to). To lose all the weight as quickly as possible. To get to that point where life was before–carefree, enjoyable, easy. And she’s at that stage, that raw vulnerability, where there is nothing I can say to calm her fears. She has to experience it all on her own. She has to ride the waves and face the storm so that when it finally does go away she will believe in herself. Believe in the process. And believe that yes it does in fact get better … over time.

The only thing I can do is hold her baby when she’s tired. Listen to her. Hug her. And love her. Encourage her through it all and remind her that she is doing a wonderful job. That feeling completely outside yourself is normal. That exhaustion can make you think and feel horrible things to the most adorable, sweet smelling, cuddly human on the planet. It can also make you feel like stabbing your husband when he’s snoring at 3am and you’ve been up five times in the last hour.

And I feel like seasoned mothers should be more supportive. We should be chanting… “You are normal. This is normal. It’s going to be ok. Maybe not today. Or tomorrow, but eventually.” There is no magical fairy dust to make you love every minute of your life when you are embarking on one of the most challenging jobs in the history of ever. Every day will bring something new. And every day you will find yourself questioning, wondering, and stressing. No mother is spared these experiences. No mother has it easier than another. We all have it. It’s just packaged differently.
I do not expect people to feel sorry for me because I must trapeze the world with my children in tow. I do not get huffy when a mother of one tells me how tired she is. I do not respond to that mother with any comments similar to, “HA! You should try having two and being pregnant.” That is not what she needs to hear. This isn’t a game of checks and balances. We are not trying to one up the other so that we may have more to complain about. All of my children have been a choice. A willing choice. And a blessing to boot. I do not feel a sense of martyrdom because of this choice. Especially when so many women spend their nights crying over what they will never have–a child of their own.

Whether you have one, two, or ten it’s all hard. It’s all a crazy system of chaos according to what you are used to handling. And it’s all important. We are optimistic that we will want four, but we take each child at a time. We adjust. We reassess. And we decide what’s best for us according to our life at that time. I wish moms would think about this before they respond with the, “Just wait…” comments. Or before they analyze an exhausted mom of a newborn and counter with how much more exhausted they will be with a toddler. Or question the choice behind having only one when they have five. Or are living in trench full of teenagers and want to discredit the hard work of changing diapers.

We are not cave men. We do not need to grunt and pound our chests over how much we’ve accomplished. We are women. Powerful and graceful. Fierce and kind. Protective and loving. Whether we know each other personally or not we are all a part of the same village. Whether we’ve birthed our children or adopted them it doesn’t change our hearts ownership of them. We are all mothers.

Mothers.

Not Judgers. Not Haters. Not enemies. Mothers.

Always remember that we are on the same team. No matter what colors we wear. And that no one is doing it perfectly. But we are all doing it right when love is involved.

An abundance of daughters

In the last two weeks I’ve had over a dozen run-ins with complete strangers who have raised all Triogirls. Some with four. Most with three. All without boys.

I know my situation makes me aware of these things more than normal and I know the natural curiosity of people is to ask what our third is, but the point wasn’t the commonality (although it made us strangers feel connected in a unique way) the point was the encouragement.

In all these occurrences not one single person complained, passed down the double-edged warnings, or gave me a congratulatory eye-roll. You know the one that says–I’m smiling for you, but laughing internally once they all start their periods.

And I’m not saying girls are harder than boys. Or less valued or wanted. I don’t believe in any of those statements. I have no opinion on the difficulty of raising boys and I may never have one. I’m saying there is something unique about a family that is all one either way. There is an obvious concentration of maleness and femaleness that intrinsically sets a different mood for that household. Not that we don’t have toy cars, watch ninja turtles, or enjoy wrestling over here, because we totally do. But even putting that aside, if my husband and I only get the opportunity of raising girls it will mold and shape who we are and what we do for the next 25 years in a special way.

The beauty of all these run-ins though was the comments and feedback and support I got from them. The one today particularly struck a cord with me. He was a father of about 60-70 years and was watching me grab coffee while I waited for an oil change. Roma sat on my left hip, her hair a wild array of curls, and her face covered in a chalky white substance from the candy necklace that the teller at the bank gave her twenty minutes before. She looked like an adorable hot mess. And she was handing out giant, gap-toothed smiles to anyone who was breathing. I’m so proud of that kid and she’s not even two.
Continue reading “An abundance of daughters”

We haven’t failed

I’ve always written from a perspective of truth and naked honesty. I don’t try and sugar coat things or only present the side of our reality that looks like rainbows and unicorns. I hope this allows you to find my life relatable and to give you hope that whatever you’re going through you are never alone. Because really we never are even when we feel absolutely and positively abandoned.

We are two weeks away from finding out the gender of our third child and I feel the need to prepare you and us about what may or may not unfold. You see, we have two girls. Two human beings who are sunshine from head to toe, who make us smile even when they make us angry, and who we could never ever part with. They both intrinsically add an important element to the dynamics of our family and we wouldn’t change anything about them. Nothing. Even when they are at their worst we still want them.

My husband and I have spent countless hours mulling over the different possibilities and what it means if it’s a girl and what it means if it’s a boy. The emotional response to both and the constant nagging that we shouldn’t even be discussing this because we should just be happy we can have kids. And we should just want them to be healthy. And, yes, all of that is true. But, most people have preferences one way or another. And the honest truth is that yes, we are hopeful for a boy. My husband more so than me, but I’d be absolutely selfish to be praying that I wouldn’t want that for him. The possibility of raising a son and all of the joy that would entail. And I want it too. To see my husband in mini form and to see how our daughters respond to having a brother.

But, I feel the need to make something very clear. As much as we would love a son, having a girl doesn’t mean we have failed. Having a third girl will be no less joyous for us than the addition of our first son. And yet this heaviness remains between us that people will be sad for us. That having three girls isn’t something people would wish on another human being. I get jokes about buying tampons in bulk and surviving the teenagers years etc. And I laugh and I smile because I don’t want to make the truthful comments inside my heart that will offend them or make them feel awkward.

Our value isn’t found in our gender. Our value is found in simply being human–a creation of God. Which means that a family comprised of all sons or all daughters is not more or less valued than one who has both and vice versa.

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”  – Genesis 1:27

I don’t want to get into a war over gender or our different roles or equality or religion for that matter. I simply want you (our family and friends and loved ones across the world) to be onboard with us. To celebrate with us in the addition of this life. Regardless of the child’s gender, this life is wanted. This life is valued. And this life will be loved with every square inch of our hearts. Whether male or female this child will serve an important role in our family and the world.

Yes, we will experience a loss of sorts from not having a boy. My husband maybe more than me. And I accept those emotions. I think they are natural and a distinct part of being a human. It’s okay for us to want a boy. But it will not lessen our love or our happiness from our third daughter. If we didn’t want a third girl, guess what–we wouldn’t have gotten pregnant. It’s that simple.

So, my question to you is this…
Will you celebrate with us?
Will you partake in the joy of this life regardless of their gender?
Will you accept that we haven’t failed if we get three girls?

Because we are. We are ready to celebrate. We are ready to partake in the joy of this life. And we adamantly profess that we haven’t failed. We’ve merely perfected the art of making girls.

Be joyful with us!

Moments

My grandmother has buried two children. The first, my Uncle Ricky, when he was just a baby passed away from SIDS. No rhyme or reason. The second, my Aunt Tammy, passed away on Mother’s Day which was also her fiftieth birthday from an autoimmune disease. I’ve never asked my Grandma which was more painful. I’d venture to say there was an equal form of hell present in each situation. And where having children causes your heart to multiply in size, the loss of a child causes permanent removal. A hole in your heart–bloody, gaping, seeping, never healing.

Of course, this is all speculation being that I haven’t ever lost a child of my own. And I don’t plan on it. That’s the sick concept of losing a child. Death is certain. For all of us. No matter how much money you have or how healthy you live we will all die. There’s no argument. But, logically, death comes with an order of expectations. Children should and are expected to outlive their parents. Unfortunately, we live in a world of infinite possibilities–not for just riches and fame and decadence, but for pain, anger, and brokeness. This is reality.

For everyone.

I hosted a baby shower a few months ago for a close girlfriend of mine and during an intimate portion of the festivities we all shared little bits of advice and or encouragement for her. When it got to me I felt compelled to be honest. Honesty veiled with a bit of morbid truth. And this is what I said:

There will be moments where you will regret your decision to have children. Moments where you will question your sanity in the chaos. Moments where you will say, “WHY THE %^&(! DID I DO THIS TO MYSELF?” But the beauty of motherhood is that these are moments. Some moments may last a few seconds, others a few days, and if you’re unfortunate enough to experience postpartum depression, then potentially months of moments. But, like all moments, they fade and as your children grow your love for them does as well. And when you are in the heat of these moments, when you find yourself awake every hour with a puking child, or in a bathroom of steam trying to heal croup or up at 3am with a teething, crying, fussy, inconsolable mess–I want you to stop. I want you to stop stressing, stop the anger, stop the fear, and the frustration of not sleeping and remember this:

Your child is alive. Breathing. Beating. Screaming. Alive. And even though it’s hard, even though it’s exhausting, even though you want to throw in the towel and quit–they will live to see another day and so will you.

There are no guarantees in life. No matter your status or position we have no guarantee that we will get another moment. Another hug. Kiss. Smile. Or its opposite. Another chance to calm a screaming child. Soothe a teething baby. Reason with an emotional teenager.

It’s all a gamble.

And yet we allow ourselves to be burdened, torn down, and emotionally overwhelmed with the moments. The moments that are out of our control and can only be resolved with the quiet allowance and assurance that time will pass. That you will get from one moment to the next and hope that so many of the moments will be filled with love, peace, joy, grace, and freedom. Freedom from the overwhelming sense of all these burdens that encompass life in general.

But I want you to think about the parents who have had the insurmountable task of burying a child. Think about that hole in their heart. The bloody, gaping, seeping, never healing wound that they will now have to accept and ask yourself which you would prefer: The moments or the hole?

Find joy, my friends. Even when it seems lost, continue searching. And to everyone who has lost a child, my heart goes out to you. You will carry a burden far greater than I could ever imagine. A burden only God Himself could understand.