The Secret to Finding Your Village

A new friendship for Zoey.

The Tribe… The village…

If you are a woman, I know you have heard these terms. There has been talk about how we need to bring back the village. Apparently, the village has died. Which sucks because as it turns out women need other women, and mothers need other mothers. We need, in our very immediate circles, people who we know have not just our backs but the the backs of our children.

But more than that, the truth is that we need people outside of our circles to be willing to help, too. Because many hands make light work, especially when talking about children.

There was once a time when children could roam the town, discover nature’s delights, go down to the river (so to speak) and be totally fine. Parents used to set boundary rules (“stay in the neighborhood,” “don’t leave our street”) and let their kids live. Of course, some kids fell victim to tragedy but many didn’t.

How? The village.

People helped out, people stepped in. People weren’t afraid of hurting each other’s feelings by parenting someone else’s kid in their absence.

Studies have shown that while neighborhoods have gotten safer, parents have become more fearful of letting their children just be kids. Rather than leaning in to the statistics though, we have decided to build our walls higher. Both physically and emotionally. That’s definitely me.

I can hardly let my kids play outside in our fenced in back yard without imagining awful scenarios. I marvel at my neighbors who are able to set those boundary rules and not fall over from anxiety. And I know those parents exist, cause while I sit bench-side at the park or basketball courts eyes locked on my kids just waiting for the next injury… their kids are there too, sans adult. And doing just fine I might add.

There are times though. Certain situations call for an adults eyes and ears and since I am there anyway, I step in if warranted (which is seriously so rare).

Why? Because the village.

I believe that the village worked because people weren’t so offended by others parenting their children. They welcomed it, they insisted on it. Parents worried less because they knew other adults had their eyes open.

Something happened when we started hiding behind our cell phones. While the world suddenly became accessible to us via the internet, our real life communities inevitably grew smaller. We stopped being village members and started being lone wolfs.

Enter the: “stop judging other moms” trope. Also the “we don’t want your unsolicited advice” shtick.

This might be an unpopular opinion… but I call bullshit.

If we want the village back, we have to be okay with hearing the opinions of others. We have to stop thinking that anyone who offers advice is inherently against us. Seriously… what the hell kind of sense does that make? When someone reaches out and gives their advice why is our instinct to get annoyed?

In the tribe, when one woman sees another struggle with her newborn she doesn’t just swallow her words and mind her own business. She takes the baby and says “here, try it this way.” She doesn’t leave the new mother to figure it out on her own.

Women aren’t supposed to be doing womanhood alone.

Mothers aren’t supposed to mother alone.

I believe that. So I give unsolicited advice. If you are my friend you know this to be true. I will blatantly tell you what I have tried, what has or hasn’t worked for me, and sometimes even what I think your planned actions will yield you. Not because I think I’m right, but because I give a shit. Because I care about you, and because I believe I am part of your village. I want you to succeed. I want you to feel less stressed and more confident, so I share what works for me, not because I think it will work for you, but in hopes that it can.

If you want a village, you can’t keep ignoring the wisdom of other women. You can’t keep thinking your mom, sister, friend with (more) kids/experience just doesn’t get it or is out to get you.

But most importantly… you can not keep swallowing your own wisdom just because you’re scared of coming across as “judgmental.”

We are so scared to hurt other people’s feelings that sometimes we keep our mouths shut on really important topics. We want to come across as nice, but we forget that nice isn’t always kind.

So tell your friend about pace feeding, tell your cousin their child’s chest clip is too low, tell your brother to turn his babies car seat back around. Tell your neighbor their kid was being mean at the park. Step IN when you see a child doing something they really shouldn’t be. Yes, even if their parent is right there.

Give the advice. Open up your can of wisdom. Because without it, we all struggle, some of us make big mistakes, and it’s not always necessary.

What is necessary is community, trust, and true friendship. And it has become so clear to me that if you want that… if you want the village, you’ll have to open your ears, heart, and mouth.

If you are desperate to find your village… You’ll have to start being a village member.

Motherhood is a shit show.

At least, that’s what they say.

Can I be really transparent? Sometimes parenting is a struggle. Sometimes it is hard to figure out the right way to respond to that particular child in that unique situation- because I’m not a child psychiatrist… because I’m not a childhood development expert… because I’m not a fortune teller (enter those intrusive “how will this effect them as adults” thoughts).

Parenting my kids is hard because no one else knows my kids the way I do. Aside from themselves, I know them best, and I’m just getting to know them! Bet that’s true for you too, huh?

Throw in the power struggles, the attitudes, the boundary pushing… Throw in that sometimes the adults have their own things going on. Sometimes we are struggling with inner demons so large that it feels impossible to take care of others.

Throw in marital struggles, the addictions to numbing behaviors like shopping or wine or our phones, the “lack of personal time,” the endless chores…

Yep. You have a shit show on your hands.

But here’s the truth: I love it. So much. I know that probably makes some people want to gag, and scream at me to kick rocks. I know, because it’s annoying when someone tells you to enjoy something that is clearly emotionally (and maybe even sometimes physically) demanding. I get that.

But honestly? I think you can find something to be challenging, and still appreciate it.

I do find it to be hard and exhausting to be in this role, but I love it.

I find it hard, but I don’t find it impossible.

I find it hard, but I don’t find it to be hopeless.

It’s hard, and I’m okay with that. Why? Because it’s one of the most important things I will do. It’s my “sphere of influence.” The little people in my world, they are the ones I will influence the most. Ever.

I’m okay with this being a difficult task, because it should be. And I am tired of people out there making it seem like happy moms are happy because their kids are great… maybe they just have better coping mechanisms, and better strategies for diffusing situations. Maybe instead of looking at her and judging her for having it all together, you should lean over and ask her specifically how she would handle a situation you are struggling with.

I’m also tired of people making it seem like the mom who is a “hot mess” isn’t happy and doesn’t have happy kids! Maybe she just doesn’t tie her emotional well being in with appearances. Maybe instead of judging her for not having a clean house or for not “trying,” you should lean over and ask her for her opinion and insight as well.

What it boils down to is this: I know that this chapter, while filled with its trials and tribulations… while chock full of second guessing myself… while riddled with moments of self doubt and confusion… is also brimming with the most joyful moments of my existence.

And I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of feeling guilty for leaning into my joy. I’m going to make it my mission to silence that little voice inside that says being happy is for suckers. You know what I’m talking about… the voice that tells you that if you are happy something bad will happen to you? Yeah. That one.

Bad things are going to happen. Parenthood will always be hard, because life is hard. But we can handle it. (And if we can’t, we can be brave enough to ask for help and lean on those who can lift us up.)

So i’m going to employ every tactic I know to remember that now is now, and I’m not only blessed to be here, but also to have what I have.

I’m going to give myself permission to love being a mother. Like, really love it. Love it so much that I enjoy it despite its lack of curb appeal.

And if you have been waiting for someone to give you permission, well hey sister, you just got it.

How to be a Good Friend to Your Friend with Kids

Recently on my personal Facebook I reposted something regarding a feeling new mothers (and fathers) often feel both during pregnancy and after their child is born. Loneliness. It seems that for some of us, adding a baby into their friendships unexpectedly ends up creating a rift.

Of course, in the beginning, new parents often need and want their space. It’s when the baby is out of that newborn phase that we start to feel ready to socialize again… only to find that the opportunities are scarce.

It’s an unforeseen circumstance, which makes it worse.

After I posted the meme, I watched the reactions on both my own Facebook and those on the pages of people who also shared it. People definitely felt some type of way.

It was clear that even if you were someone with great friends, you still felt lonely at some point. And this particular brand of lonely was a type that only parents can relate to. I started to wonder… are there expectations we hold for our friends after we start a family?

As unfair as it is, the answer is very clearly yes. But what are they?

The following list is not meant to shame or judge anyone, and I hope that it doesn’t. Instead it is meant to provide insight, and be helpful. No one here is a mind reader (if you are, hit me up, I’d be willing to pay you for your services)… so transparency is all we have when it comes to navigating our separate but equally difficult life journeys.

Personally, the moments where I have experienced loneliness during motherhood have been real, and so hard. But they were mostly because I didn’t have local friends that I trusted to lean on, not because the long distance friends I do have failed me.

So to be frank, I am lucky, I know what the rules are, because I know what my friends have excelled at when the opportunity presented themselves.

Without further ado, here are six ways you can continue to be a good friend after your friend has kids.

1. Play with the kids!

This first one pertains exclusively to when your friends child is over the age of one or maybe even two… Please don’t walk into the home of a friend with an infant and assume that baby will even want anything to do with you.

But listen, if you are going to go visit your friend at their home it is imperative that you are fully ready to channel your inner child! I know you just want to have a good conversation with your pal. You miss hanging out together, and you kind of just want to spend time together. We want that too, but we don’t live in that reality anymore.

Our reality is this: as soon as you walk into our front door our kids are going to either glue themselves to our sides, or they are going to pounce… on you! If you’re not willing to get down on the ground with our kids, we will notice this. And it’ll be filed away in our handy dandy mental cabinet that reads: People We Should Not Invite Over.

I know that seems harsh but the other side of this is that if you come over and you play, like really actually play with our kids you will earn an invaluable kind of adoration from us. We will trust you. And the bonus is that the more you come around the more likely it is that the kids will get bored of you and not jump on you (so much) and then we will be able to have a real conversation!

2. Invite us even when you think we won’t go.

We know we can’t go to certain events, and to be real unless it’s your wedding or something super important, it’ll sometimes be hard to convince ourselves to leave our little ones behind.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to be invited.

We don’t have FOMO (fear of missing out), but we definitely have FOBF (fear of being forgotten). I just made that up. But I know it’s a real thing because I have felt it. It stings a little to realize your friend didn’t even consider to invite you to something they invited everyone else to. And even more so when you have a sneaky suspicion you didn’t get the invite because you are a parent. You aren’t doing us, or our friendship, any favors by leaving us out or deciding for us. So please, for the love of all things, invite us and let us decide if it’s doable. We might surprise you!

3. Be flexible with us.

This is important. If you have a friend who is a parent, and you decide to go for it and invite them out for a meal or day out and about… please please be flexible. Asking us to be at a fancy brunch spot that is 30 minutes away, at 8:45am? Not realistic for us.

Unless you’re willing to accept us showing up late or having to leave early, consider adjusting meet up times. The best method of practice is to just ask us what times work for us, and then reconfirm that day (or the day before) if the time still works.

In a perfect world we could commit to a certain time and stick to it, and trust me, we want to. It’s embarrassing to always feel like the shit show. And to be honest, most of the parents I know are usually very willing to stress themselves out in an attempt to not let people down by being late all the time.

But truthfully all the stress takes the fun out of it, and kids have a way of being predictably unpredictable. So if you want to be our hero, be that friend who tells us not to apologize for needing a little extra time. Be that friend who doesn’t crack jokes about us being late all the time. Be that friend who asks us if 10:30 would work better.

4. Scout out places we can bring our kids.

Family friendly. Those words just give me a special kind of warm and fuzzy. These are the kinds of places that make our heart soar and if you help us broaden our horizons to a new place that our child can enjoy too, you’ll be our hero.

There’s nothing worse than showing up to a place where your kids have no place. These days, the world is becoming more and more kid friendly and it’s a beautiful thing for those of us with little kids. A nice Italian restaurant close by to my house has a play structure on some turf by the patio. Another place has an entire outside seating area where people can play games and listen to live music, and it’s enclosed. places like these are a God send.

So while you’re out, keep your eyes open for us, and then next time you wanna hang out explicitly state that you have seen plenty of kids and parents enjoying themselves at this super cool place. We won’t pass up an opportunity to see you, outside of our home, in a place that works for our kids too. Unless its at 8:30am.

5. Have something in mind.

So, here’s the thing. If you hit us up and say you want to hang out but leave the where and when up to us… you might not get much of a result. Here’s why: All day long we are thinking thoughts that feel really big. Like: do my kids know I love them? Am I going to accidentally kill one of my kids classmates because I sent a pb&j? Are they going to the bathroom while they’re at school? Will they wake up over and over again tonight? Will this cough they have ever go away?

This gig is 24/7 and challenging. It’s a lot. Adding in having to plan something, even something as simple as a coffee date, can feel daunting for some of us. The best thing to do is have a general idea of what you want to do, and where. Yes, we need your flexibility. No, we don’t need to have total control over every aspect. Just a general outline of what you have in mind and times that work for you will help us figure out something that works for us. Team work makes the dream work y’all.

6. Show up.

This is the one I didn’t want to admit is important, but the more I thought about it the more I realized how important it really is. If we invite you to do something with us, and it isn’t really something you would normally do (say: go to the beach, or go to a trampoline park) try to show up.

If we invite you into our world, it’s because we want you in our world. We aren’t expecting you to go out there and play with the kids, we are likely hoping you will be our side kick so we don’t have to sit there alone feigning interest in our kids fiftieth jump.

Alright, this next part is going to hurt a little. If we invite you to our baby shower or our child’s birthday party, and you don’t plan on being there it is crucial that you let us know. Don’t just opt out and hope we won’t notice. If you can’t make it, we get it. If you don’t want to go, that’s okay too. But choosing to just not show, when we clearly would like for you to celebrate with us, well… it hurts our feelings, a lot. Not showing up and not saying anything at all, to us, reads as you not caring about our kids and (unfortunately) us. The same way it would hurt your feelings if we just didn’t show up to something important to you.

BONUS TIP: TEXT DON’T CALL

Sometimes, when we enter new phases of life, we find that what is ahead of us is actually better than what we left behind. This is essentially true of parenthood. But it doesn’t make losing out on our friends any easier.

If you have a friendship that is feeling the strain, it is time to wave the white flag and adjust to the shifting needs. Being the friend that does this will create a new level of love to be shared, that I can promise you.

How My Third Baby Changed Me.

After an evening of non stop fussing, I ease up on the frequency of the rhythm of my rocking and glance, no… minimally peek at my new baby. As soon as I do, her eyes flutter open. And the rocking continues. I dance this way with her for a solid thirty minutes.

After getting her to accept bed time, I go to check on her older sisters. As soon as I walk in the room my oldest one stirs, as though she feels my presence. The younger one coughs. I freeze.

This is my normal with them.

I have come to realize that even as they get older, we are connected to each other intrinsically. My oldest often asks me how I always know where she is hiding, “I’m your mom, I just do,” I tell her.

I know when they’re sad. I know when they’re hungry. I know when they need to tell me something. And I always, always, know these things much sooner than they do.

This is motherhood. It’s coming to know someone even better than you know yourself at times. It’s finding a new sense of love, and purpose. One that is directly related to being “mother.”

It’s learning that outside of this, not much else matters (I mean that with so much love).

Having our third baby, I knew I was seasoned enough to move through the newborn phase with at least a little confidence in myself. I know, for sure, that babies truly do revolve around eating, diapers, naps, and cuddles. The caveat is that sometimes you’re not going to see results from the cuddles…your arm might get stuck in a certain position, or you might find that you’re standing up bouncing on the balls of your feet for a solid 30 minutes because that is what keeps baby happy.

But I digress.

What I did not expect, was that this baby would break open my heart in a completely new and unexpected way.

Hear me right: I LOVE my older two girls and walking into motherhood as their mom has been one of my favorite things in this life.

But this time around has been something special.

I’m finding that making time to just soak up the here and now has become increasingly important to me as I’m getting older, although it’s so much easier said than done.

With all of the distractions that life throws at you, feeling what you’re feeling right when you’re feeling it, well… it takes practice and intention.

There’s no better time to practice it, and no better chapter in ones life than when adding a new family member.

When I first started making the mental journey to be more present with myself it was to feel more joy. But as it turns out, being more present actually opened the door for me to be more honest with myself about when I was not feeling joy or happiness.

The dynamic in our home has shifted dramatically since adding our third child, and with that comes growing pains. This is something I expected and have made sure to remind myself of as often as possible.

I truly love the little people my daughters are growing into, but having a “fresh slate” opened my eyes. I have found myself looking back at our journey this far with a different sense of criticism. I looked back and found a bit more wasted time than I expected.

I don’t want to waste any time not noticing the light in baby girls eyes. Because although it sticks around for some years, there comes a day where she will come home with a tiny dash of something else and it damn near breaks your heart.

I refuse to waste time holding resentments over tiny things like changing diapers and who sleeps more or less between my husband and I. Instead, I look at each diaper change as an opportunity to make my baby smile and laugh. Each time I wake up to feed her is a private moment where the outside world fades away and it’s just us two for a few minutes.

I don’t waste time in overthinking whether I am holding her too much, or spoiling her by picking her up when she wants me to, because I know from experience that teaching children how to love is one of the most important parts of this entire gig.

I don’t waste my time trying to put off my self care. Instead, I eat when I’m hungry, and rest when I’m tired. I ask for help in the moment I need it. And for the love of God, I don’t clean when I don’t want to.

Six years ago I was unable to take responsibility for what I wanted or needed, and I would secretly hold anger towards my husband each time he didn’t read my mind. This time, I know only I am in control of me. And while my husband and I joke that we live in each other’s minds, I know he can only know exactly what I need from him if I tell him.

Long ago, I heard the quote “you make time for the things that matter, you make excuses for the things that don’t.”

I believe that, fully. And have decided to treat my interactions and moments with these girls like they matter as deeply as they do.

So when I say having my third baby broke my heart open, it doesn’t mean that she is the “favorite.” It means that she is the one that made me realize that while it’s okay to be human and to feel frustration, stress, or worry. It’s not okay to live there and forget that these moments are fleeting.

The time I get to spend being a mama to three little girls, with all of its imperfections and messiness is still the most precious time of my life.

A time I cannot take for granted.

Knowing this and taking responsibility for it is priceless.

A Letter to My Friends

The following is an open letter to the friends who have loved me no matter the distance, whether that distance is emotional or physical.

Dear friend,

I don’t say it enough, but thank you. Thank you for sticking by my side through it all.

The past ten years have been a hell of a learning curve for me and sometimes I wake up and can’t believe I’m actually entering my thirties. Some days I wake up and have to remind myself that I have big responsibilities. Way, way bigger than the ones I had when we met.

Having to pick up and move often can be harder than I let on. Each time I find myself in a new place I simultaneously find myself closing a chapter. It’s hard because I am not the same me I was when I first started this military spouse journey. To be honest, I’m not even the same person I was the last time we moved.

And yet… You are still a constant.

Whether our friendship is relatively new, is based through social media and text, or is aging nicely like a fine wine: I am blessed by you.

Even if I don’t always call (or pick up when you call)… you are on my heart.

I think about you, I try to make sure I check in on you, sometimes that doesn’t happen as often as I want. Sometimes time zones, distance, and being a wife and mom gets in my way.

But I still pray for you, and I know you pray for me too.

Friend, the love we share is invaluable to me. It calms my fears about the world my daughters will walk into. I know you’ll be there however you can be when I have two teenagers and a preteen. (Please, don’t leave me, if only for this reason right here!)

Knowing you quells my anxieties about what would happen to them if I die earlier than the age of one hundred and five. As unlikely as that is.

I know in my absence you would be there for them. The same way you are for me.

I want you to know that there’s a spot on my couch that was made just for you.

During the tough, frustrating, or even the downright absurd and amazing moments I always wish I could snap my fingers and you’d pop up, right there. Just for ten minutes so no one in your world ends up missing you the way I do, though.

I know being friends with me isn’t always a walk in the park.

I know what I lack.

I know what you’re looking past.

Thank you for loving me like that.

Thank you for hyping me up about the choices I’ve made and the paths I have followed.

Thank you for never comparing me to your other friends.

Thank you for accepting me as I am.

Thank you for being you.

Love always,

Me.

The life I Chose.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had it insinuated to me how lucky I am to be able to be stay at home mom. And it’s true, I feel like I hit the jackpot when it comes to that.

But really, the reason I am a stay at home mom is more out of necessity than anything. We can’t afford for me not to be. This sense of stability is necessary for us during this chapter of our lives.

People will say “You knew what you were signing up for when you chose a man in the military.” To be fair, we chose each other and that happened way before any visit to the recruiters office “for shits and giggles” with his friends happened.

I didn’t stop him though. Who am I to tell someone not to follow their heart? Who am I to not follow my own heart when he asked me to marry him at the ripe old age of twenty one?

If we’re talking truths I guess it’s also true that we could have waited. I think I remember some whispers from the older people in our lives saying “what’s the rush?”

Young love, you know?

Before I knew it there was a baby on my hip and one in my belly as I walked across the stage to accept my degree. And to be honest, after busting my ass to get there, I didn’t care that it wasn’t the way I pictured it would be.

Still, I had it all mapped out, how I would work and pursue my masters. How I would become a therapist with a home office. How I might go on to do some really deep and meaningful research – even though I really hated every Research and Development class I was forced to take.

The plans were there, in my minds eye. But then we moved. And he deployed. And we moved. And moved again. And it never felt right.

I’m almost there now. That place where I let myself dream about having a career. It almost does feel right. Almost, but not quite.

And I think that’s gotta be okay, because I chose this life. I didn’t know what came with it when I chose it. I didn’t know I would miss every time my younger brother comes home from being overseas.

I would miss the birth of my sisters first baby.

I would miss the opportunity to help plan one of my friends weddings, and miss the opportunity to see another one get married altogether.

I would miss the opportunity to be there for one of my other friends as she came face to face with her worst nightmare.

I would miss being home to spend time with my parents, and that would mean the same for my children.

No play time with cousins, or friends who might as well be cousins.

No Sunday dinners at their grandparents house.

No career as a marriage and family therapist.

I don’t get to know what’s coming or when.

I don’t get to have the late nights with a close friend speaking and spilling the secrets and desires of our hearts.

When it comes down to it, I hate that we have to miss out, I hate that we have to miss people and that we forfeit bonds we dreamed of cultivating for our children.

But I also am so deeply thankful for this life I chose.

It’s tough, and sometimes comes with the type of anxiety that you just can’t prepare for. It comes with worries, distance, and sadness. Not everyone makes it out with their relationship in tact.

This life truly isn’t for everyone, I get that now. But I feel a certain sense of pride for thriving in it.

I don’t talk to my favorite people every day, but I am blessed to have favorite people.

I don’t get to buy a forever home, but I get to make new memories in a new town every few years.

I don’t get to make plans, but I get to dream of a million possibilities. That’s got to be worth something.

In fact, I think it’s turning out to be worth everything.

My Final Birth Story.

Two weeks ago, we finally welcomed our third baby into the world.

My entire pregnancy I left a pregnancy test on the bathroom counter. In the beginning, I was in such a state of shock that I kind of needed it there to remind me “girl, this is NOT punk’d.” But as time went on it served as a sweet little nudge every morning, helping me to bring the little life growing in me to the center of my daily experience.

A few nights before we found ourselves in the hospital delivering our sweet girl, my husband walked out of the bathroom and asked if I noticed the pregnancy test. I hadn’t looked at it since the morning, so I had no idea that during the course of the day the test had turned blank. “Maybe it’s a sign tonight’s the night” he joked. It wasn’t. By the time I reached my 40 weeks appointment I had spent a full week dealing with excruciating pelvic pain, contractions that would keep me up until 2 or 3am, and of course the ever popular “you’re STILL pregnant?!” comments in the girls school drop off lines.

On the day of our final appointment, we ended up waiting for the doctor for over an hour past our appointment time. “Another lesson in patience” I said. When he finally came in he got straight to the point and asked if I wanted him to check my cervix and do a membrane sweep. (For those who don’t know what that is: a membrane sweep is when the doctor or midwife uses a finger to reach your cervix and makes a circular or sweeping motion- this helps separate the bag of water from the uterus and naturally releases hormones that often times gets labor moving).

Doing a membrane sweep would be our last ditch effort in getting the baby to come on their own, since our appointment that day was also the one where we set our induction date. And considering this was the thing that had helped me go into labor with my other two… Why not?

“Oh, wow! You’re already at 4 cm!” – there are few times you want to hear your doctor say “oh wow” in any capacity, but hearing the sentence that followed was like a tiny miracle. All of those labor games my body had been playing proved to be worth it in that moment. He did the sweep, told us that we should expect to deliver within 24 hours, set our induction date for the following Sunday just in case, and sent us on our way.

As we left the doctors office and dropped our soon to be middle child off at preschool I was already starting to feel a little crampy. By the time 3pm hit, I was picking my kids up from school and had already sent a text to my husband that I wanted to pick him up from work.

I wasn’t in full blown labor, but I worried that my water might break with any of the next strong contractions and once that happens I typically have minutes before it’s time for me to start pushing. I didn’t want to be alone with the girls pushing a baby out in the bathroom waiting for paramedics and my husband to make it to the house.

As soon as he got in the car he looked at me and said “oh yeah. You’re definitely having her today. You smell different.” I laughed and asked if he was joking. “No, I’m serious.” I marveled at the idea of my husband being able to consciously remember how I smell when I am about to birth one of his children.

Turns out, it wasn’t until about 2am, a full 15 hours after my doctors appointment, that I would find myself standing in the shower feeling that urge to head into the hospital, but not being completely sure. Just like with my second born, my contractions never came at a regular pace, but I could tell by the strength of them that it might be better to be at the hospital than to not be. After about four of those intense contractions during my 20 minute shower I knew.

I got out of the shower, woke up the guy, who started to get the girls up and ready. Yep. You read that right. Our girls went with us. Which made the car ride infinitely more entertaining: instead of simply wallowing in my pain, I had two chatty Cathy’s distracting me (mildly) as they went nuts over the way the city looked at night, and the fact that there were no cars on the road with us.

This is where things start getting a little blurry thanks to the power of the drugs I was given via IV.

I can remember getting to the hospital, going into the triage room with my family and the nurses. I can remember feeling completely disappointed when they told me I was dilated to 5cm. A doctor came in and got my consent for emergency care, and then they admitted me and moved me to a labor room. By this point I had been laboring for what felt like forever, I hadn’t slept, and I was tired. Hearing I was only halfway there was not what I expected, and I wondered how much longer we had to go. So when they asked me what I wanted to do for the pain, instead of saying “nothing” like I had for my past two, I asked what my options outside of an epidural were. I just wanted to be able to relax even if just a little bit.

Just as a side note: I did not expect myself to go this route. When creating my birth plan I had hoped to spend my time laboring in the water, but for whatever reason when we actually got to the hospital I didn’t even remember to ask them to set up the tub. The strength of the contractions were so much worse than what I experienced in my other two births. Or at least they were worse than I remembered. So when we got there all I knew, for sure, was that we wanted their dad to deliver the baby and announce the sex, and that I didn’t want an epidural (no shade to those who live for that particular method). I also knew that I didn’t want to stay in that amount of pain. I wanted a happy medium, and luckily that’s what I got.

One of the nurses told me that they had something that would take the edge off and allow me to rest. It wouldn’t take the pain away, but it would “make me feel a little drunk” and help me to “not care so much.” Perfect.

Unfortunately for me I’m a hard stick so getting an IV going was more of a hassle than we bargained for. About three nurses, two blown veins, and 30 minutes later I finally was on my way to as close to drunk as a pregnant chick could get. The drug did exactly what the nurse described. I was very aware of my contractions and would wake up for each one, but once they passed I would knock out (according to my husband I would sleep so hard that I was actually snoring).

Edited to add: While I don’t remember all of the details of what occurred after the drugs hit, I do remember this: my husbands eyes meeting mine the moment I opened them for each contraction. His hand being a steady source of comfort, always in mine, and his voice telling me I was doing so good. I couldn’t have made it through any of it, without him.

As I rode the highs and lows between my naps, our girls sat on the couch and played on their tablets. Suddenly, during one of the contractions I felt the baby kick and experienced what felt like I was peeing.

“I think I’m peeing on myself” I said to my husband. He looked under the sheet and said he couldn’t tell and asked what I wanted him to do. I told him to get a nurse. When she came in and looked she too gave me the “I honestly can’t tell” bit, and asked if I wanted her to get the doctor to check if my water had broken. With my second birth I could remember a feeling of such intense relief when my water broke that I genuinely wasn’t convinced that’s what had happened. “Well if your water didn’t break do you want the doctor to break it for you?”

“I’m down.”

Before all of that though, she wanted me to try to go pee in the bathroom. As soon as I stood up I could feel the baby drop down. Still, I walked into the bathroom, sat on the toilet for a contraction and got up when I got the undeniable urge to push. I made my way back to the bed, and sometime in the next few contractions I remember the doctor checking me, telling me my water had broken and that I was 10 cm dilated. She asked if I wanted to do a “practice push” to which I agreed. They counted me down and I pushed.

“Okay… That was definitely not a practice push. You’re ready to go!”

This is where I completely blacked out. But according to my husband, at 5:30am, only two hours after being admitted to the hospital, I pushed our beautiful daughter out into his arms in a matter of 20 minutes.

“Another girl, babe!”

Another perfect and (already) sassy little girl. But this time a seemingly perfect mix of her parents, with her mom’s dark hair and her dad’s blue eyes. We couldn’t be more proud to have her be our last baby.

On the day she was born.

On 10/10 our girl was born at 5:30am, weighing 7lbs 6oz, 20 inches long.

Five Questions to Stop Asking Pregnant Women

I truly hesitated to write this one, because I know so many people will read this and think “Um, I ask that all the time- is she talking about me?!” To that I say… well… yeah, but also no. What I’m about to dive into is so common that I can guarantee you that this post is not directed at any one particular person.

I pinky promise that if you asked me these questions during my pregnancy I don’t hold it against you… but I also promise that you were one of many who did, which is why I am here, writing this.

It’s pretty common to hear that there are some questions women kind of wish people would stop asking in general. I’m sure you’ve heard a few of these (like: when will you have babies?) talked about in viral blog posts and spoken on by celebrities. But it dawned on me that it’s not often that I have heard women talk about what they wish people would stop asking them while they are pregnant.

I will gladly speak on that for the women out there too polite to say otherwise. So let’s get into it, shall we?

Question 1: Do you want a certain gender?

The problem: This question is either stated plainly or said in jest. Example: “I bet you’re hoping for a boy/girl!!! Daddy/Mommy needs a boy/girl so they can *enter absurd gender norm here* together.” Even if a woman does have a preference, there is often a lot of guilt in that. Will I make my baby feel unloved if I say I want one thing and don’t get it? Will my baby carry that into life with them? It sounds bonkers but we tend to think differently while pregnant. Mostly we all just want to be able to carry our child to term, and to have a safe delivery in which both come out alive. Boy or girl matters little.

The solution: Instead of asking what they hope for, you could simply wait to find out what they are having and then congratulate them with no insinuations about why one sex would be better than the other.

Question 2: When is your due date? Variation: how many weeks are you?

The problem: If you have asked this once or twice, have no fear! You’re safe! We understand that you might need some reminding in the beginning. BUT. Once you find yourself asking for the third or fourth time, you can bet that momma is as annoyed with you as you are with yourself. Can I tell you what it feels like? It feels like you don’t care enough to remember. That’s the ugly truth of it, and I know that I’m not the only woman who has felt that.

The solution: My best advice here is as soon as your friend tells you she’s pregnant, either force her due month into your memory OR write that sucker down in your planner.

Question 3: Are you going to try again for a boy/girl?

The problem: Personally, I know we are so fortunate that neither my husband nor myself have experienced any struggles in our fertility. But I know so many couples who struggle with conceiving, and couples who have lost multiple children to miscarriage, both early and late stage. I know couples who have brought children into this world incredibly early. All of those things are emotionally traumatic in nature, so it’s important to tread lightly because you might not even know about any of that. Even if someone has had healthy pregnancies followed by healthy deliveries and children… when you ask whether or not there are plans on trying again- especially for a certain gender- you diminish the value of the experiences already had, and the children who already exist. I feel so grateful to have the children I have, and have never felt like anything was missing because they were or weren’t a certain gender.

The solution: Express how excited you are for this pregnancy and to see how this new little one fits into the family. Questions about if they will try again can be left at the door.

Question 4: How are you feeling?

The problem: we answer it at minimum 5 times a day. If you ask this question every once in a while, you’re probably okay… but if you ask it every day (or every time you talk to them), not so much. It’s just super repetitive for the mother to be, and honestly? It can be another guilt inducing question. Most of the time we are unnecessarily carrying the weight of portraying our pregnancy as this or that. If we feel crappy, it kind of feels crappy to say that because it feels like we aren’t being thankful. If we feel good, we feel bad that pregnancy isn’t as good for everyone else.

Caveat: it is possible for this question to become more acceptable during the last month of pregnancy.

The solution: if you know momma is dealing with some of the harsher side effects of pregnancy, take note of that that and ask specifically how that’s been. If you genuinely can’t think of anything else to ask her, inviting her to tell you “everything” is a good way to invite her to talk about how she is feeling if she wants to.

Question 5: Just one? (As in: is there just one baby in there?)

The problem: you would think this is obviously an off limits question but you would be surprised. Personally, I think I got it about five times this pregnancy. And each time I had to reel my inner b*tch back in. I think one time I actually said “yeah it’s just one, this is just what chubby girls look like when pregnant.” Yikes.

The solution: If you can’t figure out a sneaky way to ask, then I’m sorry but you just have to suck it up and wonder forever. Keep in mind it’s never polite to comment on anyone’s body, but especially not while they are creating a baby (or two). Duh, right?

As always, if you have a friend or family member who is pregnant, take these suggestions with a grain of salt. My point truly is to err on the side of intentionality. Putting some effort into having a conversation that asks the pregnant woman thought provoking questions is worth the effort. Also keep in mind, yes she is pregnant, but she also has a life outside of that, and might be interested in talking about other things like what she thought of next seasons Bachelor pick, or how things are going with some other new development in her life.

And if you can’t think of anything else to talk about with a pregnant woman, just tell them that they look beautiful and you can’t wait to see them take this experience head on.

Those kinds of words never get old.

What My Unexpected Pregnancy Taught Me.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it before I got pregnant… but I know that there are many women who know what I’m talking about.

We think we are done with pregnancy and babies in general until one day we wake up and, oh shit, we are totally not done.

What. The. Heck.

Enter: baby fever.

The funny thing about baby fever is it can strike at any time. I’ve known women who are single, women who are above and below the “recommended” age, and women who are struggling with different life events or even illnesses, all find themselves struck by it.

If you’ve ever had baby fever you know that once it starts it can be relentless. It can bring out all the feels, and drive you to the brink of your sanity if you’re not careful with it. Whether your feelings are good, bad, or ugly depends on the day. What triggers it and where it comes from is even more of a mystery.

Apparently there is no rhyme or reason to when or why it starts.

Before I got pregnant this time around, I had somehow managed to talk myself out of that desire. I ventured into baby fever and came out on the other side a woman who had seemingly done what many could never imagine doing… I had found a way to beat the beast that is baby fever, or so I thought.

The truth turned out to be that even though I didn’t expect myself to get pregnant again, there actually was still something deep in me that wanted to be rediscovered, maybe discovered for the first time even.

I’ve been pondering about this a lot. And what I have realized is baby fever for me runs so much deeper than the need or want to cuddle a baby. Of course, that’s part of it. Babies are the beautiful end result, and are truly so yummy. But I have come to see how my baby fever had so much to do with the desire to feel at home in my body again. I needed another pregnancy at this very point in my life to center me, to validate my beliefs about certain aspects of life, and help me see just how much I really do love and cherish this body I am in.

When you find yourself pregnant you realize that your body can ache and hurt in places you didn’t know existed… like the space where your lady bits and your inner thigh meet. You realize that your emotions are not always in your control. You find yourself inching closer to super human powers. You can taste every seasoning. Your senses grow, your body grows, and so does your sense of self.

I have realized that our bodies can do this incredible thing without any real input from us. I have found myself able to tap into your intuition so much easier than before – saying yes or no isn’t such a life changing event! Now? I am able to say what I want or don’t want without any hesitation:

Yes, I want to eat that.

No, I don’t want to go to that event.

Yes, I want to go visit so and so.

No, I don’t feel like spending the day doing the laundry.

I have come to find that I really do have boundaries and limits, and have stopped worrying about how I will look or seem by honoring them. My ability to be truly honest with others also increased ten fold. When I start feeling upset, I just say it (or at least my face does). When my limits are tested, I call it.

“Living your truth” has moved from trendy phrase to standard mode of operation during these days of pregnancy. I am completely me, big body and all. And completely unashamed of that.

Along with this, I have seen how there were aspect of my beliefs about life itself that I was beginning to lose sight of. The importance of living in the now and enjoying life as it is becomes glaringly obvious to me while pregnant. Yes, life will be so good once baby arrives, but right now is so good too. Right now deserves for me to slow down and love my kids and husband too. Just because!

In my core I believe that most of what life hands us, good or bad, also brings with it an opportunity to learn. Experiences are laced with opportunity for growth, and when you ignore that you begin to tread a dangerous line. Right before I got pregnant I started to feel like what I am doing isn’t enough. Being a stay at home mom began to feel like a cop out, and I wondered if I needed to be doing more, if I was wasting my “God given” gifts somehow. Now I feel like God wants me to see for myself that supporting my family in this way is far from any negative spin I was tempted to put on it.

On top of all of this… I needed to be reminded that giving birth, no matter how it’s done, creates a sense of confidence like nothing else in the world. Not only does a woman’s body build another human from scratch, but it brings it out into the world. And then (if that woman is able and chooses to) their body has the ability to further sustain a baby, any baby, through breast milk. Is there anything more confidence boosting than all of this?

For me, the answer is no. I feel now more than ever that my body deserves to be loved and valued by me. Not because it makes babies, but because every day it walks me through this life without me having to force it. Intuition, self awareness, and the ability to love my body isn’t meant to be reserved for pregnancy only. It’s the way. It’s deserved by me, inherently,

As this childbearing part of my life comes to a close, I needed to be reminded of that once more. And by writing it all down, I hope to be able to cling to it for all of my years to come.

If We Have A Boy

“If we have a boy…”

It’s the phrase I have found floating around my head through out this final pregnancy. Sometimes, it’s been related to how we would lose out on the hand me down clothing situation that I have grown so accustomed to (don’t worry Zoey, one day we’ll start buying you your own clothes). There have been times where the phrase was related to my deep concern that I know zero about being a “boy mom” in general. And there have been other times where the phrase has been said during conversations about what the future would look like for a little brother of the two little girls we already know and love.

In some ways I feel like I already know what it would be like to have a son as the youngest sibling since me and my little sister spent years loving (and torturing) our brother who was also third in line. There was never a shortage of wrestling or arguments over who was better at certain things. Sometimes we damn near killed each other with our antics, but so many of my memories of us growing up together revolve around side splitting laughter and really good (yet embarrassing) times that we all shared. I have zero doubt my two girls will do their mama proud and follow suit with all the sibling fun and love, either way.

Lately though, “if we have a boy” has morphed into thoughts about the true reality of raising a son. And I’m not talking about how boys are “gross,” “messy,” or “rambunctious.”

From the moment my first daughter was born, I felt like I was meant to be the mother of daughters. The first time around, I swore I was having a boy. When I found out there was a little girl growing in there, I was terrified. Immediately, the thought of how nuanced girlhood and womanhood is starting to make me panic. I would pray at night “God, please give me a miracle, give me a boy.” I didn’t want to be a girl mom. I wanted what I thought would be the easier of the two.

But then she was born and it felt so right that I was hooked. I didn’t crave a boy the second time around. I never wanted “to have both” or felt that having a boy would complete myself or my husband in some way. Instead, I began to crave a big group of sisters. Kardashian style, if you will. I love having a sister, and now that I had one girl, I knew I wanted that experience for my daughter too.

Aside from that, I began to realize that I loved the idea of being a part of the generation of parents that will raise the girls who will continue to shatter the worst stereotypes. We get to raise girls who are less likely to judge themselves based on superficial limits. Girls who will instead continue to lift up their communities and do amazing, world changing work. If you ask me, right now is one of the best times to be a girl mom.

But. There’s always that chance that we will welcome a little boy into our family (maybe not an extremely high chance, but a chance!) And lately I have realized, it would make me happy to be a mother to a son right now too. I would be honored to do that work.

Right now in our country it is becoming clear that when it comes to truly lifting up our boys and men, we are struggling. In my opinion a huge part of that stems directly from the way our boys have been raised to view and handle their emotions, more specifically anger. If you think I’m wrong, just turn on the news!

There is no disputing the fact that men are more likely to commit violent acts… and that fact is directly related to the cultural norms that we push on our sons. It takes me all of five seconds to come up with at least ten real life examples of men being unable to deal with their emotions. Stories of men killing their families, killing their classmates or workmates… being “unable to control themselves” in situations where they clearly need to.

We have spent decades pushing men into a box that continues to prove itself toxic. It’s in the way we tell them to “man up” when they are feeling scared, it’s in the way we use words related to female anatomy to cut them down, it’s in the way that at a certain point in a boys life we make it clear that physical contact is only for laughs or sexual pleasure.

That last one really gets to me. Truly, it hurts me to think about the way that some boys grow up and find themselves inclined to think that simply hugging their friends and family will make them seem cowardly. I never had that pressure put on me as a girl, I never told my mom not to hug or kiss me in front of my friends. But standing in the elementary school courtyard during the week… I watch little boys push their moms away, or have them stand a bit away from them, day in and day out, and it breaks my heart a little.

I look around and I see it plain as day… we ask our boys and men to experience pain (physical or emotional) and we expect them to do so without complaining, and especially without physical reassurance, even if it’s just a hand on a shoulder. To put this in perspective: I can remember the way that every single important woman in my personal life has comforted me with a hug or reassuring touch when I was upset, or a time when I comforted them. I can remember a time of displayed affection with each one of them. And for the most part, as a woman, I have zero qualms about the way it would be received if I were to comfort anyone in that way when they are upset. I don’t think the same could be said if I were a man.

When I was in college I can remember learning about how powerful touch is. Did you know that hugs are actually good for our immune systems? Did you know that touch is one of our first senses to develop, and is argued to be one of the most important? (Think: skin to skin with newborns). This is something that has been studied extensively. People and animals who are raised without enough touch, or with negative touch, deal with higher levels of stress and mental illness. Yet, we live in a society where the norm has been to continue encouraging men to suck it up if they are upset. It’s best to ignore your human instinct, and keep it inside so people know you’re strong, right?

It’s stuff like this, that makes me excited for the opportunity to have a son. The notion of changing the way we look at physical affection for boys and men is alluring, but it goes further than that. I know now that I wouldn’t mind being able to raise one of the young sons of America who loves and accepts all people. One who isn’t terrified to feel his sadness, and who knows that his anger is just a feeling and not an excuse to cause destruction or death. A boy who knows that a girl’s body does not exist for his pleasure, and instead knows how to respect and honor the girls and women around him. The fact that we often hear how “all men are trash” in some ways comforts me when it comes to the thought of having a son. I can honestly say I know I have a husband who is far from trash. I have a husband who would help me raise a son who would be both a protector and an advocate.

Of course, we can never truly know who our children will grow up to be. We can never know what lessons our children will choose to carry with them. But I truly do believe that nothing is as important as the years we spend parenting our children, this is divine work in my opinion.

And I know that if I had a boy, while it would shock me, it would still be one of the greatest journeys of my life.