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.

Journeying Into Womanhood Part Two

*Hi! If this is your first time reading my thoughts it is worth noting that this particular post is a continuation of a previous post! While probably not completely necessary, I recommend going back to THIS post before continuing*

So. If as woman, we need each other, if we truly need the tribe, then why do we go to such great lengths to compete?

Have you ever stopped to wonder: what do we win by having the nice bag, big house, new car, huge diamond? Does the brand name clothes, fresh mani pedi, perfectly kept hair really say anything about who you are deep inside? Seriously, think about it. Every single one of those things are status symbols. And I’m not so sure that chasing these things does our souls any true good, aside from the way our hairdressers really are underpaid therapists, and nail salons are platforms for our beloved girls day. My point is this… It’s worth digging deep, right here right now, and asking yourself who the heck you’re trying to impress?

These are the thoughts that hit me like a ton of bricks those few years ago. Why would it make me feel crappy to not have a big house or two cars? Why was I letting the joy and accomplishments of my friends secretly resonate with me as a failure on my end? Especially when the reality was that I had so much to celebrate? I soon realized how toxic my desires were, and I had to cut the chord between them and my happiness. I had to see that I was good and loveable just as I was right then. Not as I could or might be.

*Disclaimer: having or desiring material things does not, in my opinion, automatically mean that you are disillusioned or that you need to feel guilty for your accomplishments. It’s just important to me to realize that having these things is not the end all be all. And definitely does not inherently make anyone a better woman.

Sisterhood

Here’s what I think. Sisterhood is everything. And your sisters aren’t just connected to you by blood, they are every single woman you cross life paths with. Whether it be for years, or for minutes. Forgetting this doesn’t benefit any of us. Remembering it allows for healing and real change.

Remembering it allows you to walk down to the mailbox or go to Target without that fear we all know we have: what if I see someone I know. Remembering it frees you from the way your mind spirals when your girlfriend asks you to do something you definitely don’t want to do (alternatively it allows you to happily say yes when you truly want to). Remembering it broadens your world in a way that is unmistakable.

Even if you wholeheartedly disagree with almost every part of a certain woman, you can recognize something in her. If you can’t, you probably need to look again.

We are all so incredibly different and none of us will ever walk the same path, but we still have this huge thing in common. It’s our womanhood. When you allow yourself to look past the differences in our paths, when you look past the imperfections… when you look at another woman and see her as someone who is like you even when she’s not, you will you find yourself able to become a “tribe” member, inherently. You will realize that not one of us is living in a fairy tale. You will find yourself unable to judge other women for the things that make them human, and especially things that are related to their body type or style. Because you can see how the “perfect woman” is a standard that certainly no woman created.

Coming to terms with inherent sisterhood has allowed for me to hold less ill will toward women who have hurt me in one way or another, or who I have grown apart from. While we may no longer have the connection we once had, or maybe one of us needed to create a boundary for whatever reason, there’s no need to be mad or hold negativity regarding them because like me, they are just doing their best on the path laid in front of them.

Collective Truth

Our attempts to be the perfect version of ourselves in order to fit in is truthfully just an ideal that’s been allowed to live for much too long. And personally, I’m over all of that. There’s still so much to unpack and reassess when it comes to my womanhood, but I know for sure, without a doubt that I believe in women. I’ve seen the way they can overcome abusive relationships and turn around and help other women out of similar situations. I have watched them find sobriety and spend their days at a women’s homeless shelter to pray over the women there. I have seen them fight for their lives against diseases, and go on to provide support and comfort to others who walk that path after them. I have seen them look into their pasts and instead of drowning in the sorrow, they become warriors who will stop at nothing to change the narrative that was their life. I have seen them be cast aside by the very men who made vows about life and death, and find themselves finally able to do the things that set their heart on fire. This is what we are capable of, this is the truth of women.

I’ve had them offer me their bags, hold the door, offer me their seat once they notice the roundness of my belly. I’ve had them tell me I’m doing great, when they notice that familiar look cross my face. I’ve had them encourage me when I express doubt about my competence, about my mothering, about my abilities to express myself as a writer.

In a lot of those instances the very women who, in those moments, leveled with me as a sister, they were strangers to me. That is why I believe in women. And it’s exactly why I find seeing women hate their bodies and belittle themselves for being human, particularly excruciating – we are so much more than that!

It’s because of other women that I find myself inspired every day to do the work of really getting to know myself. It’s because of this that I have faith in my mothering at all. Because I believe in the true ways of women, so I am able to believe in myself.

And friends, I hope that you do too.

Journeying Into Womanhood

When did you become a woman? It’s common across many cultures to link our first menstruation with womanhood. Some cultures consider the crossover to happen around our 15/16 birthday. For some it’s when they move out of their parents home. And for others they feel that sense of metamorphosis (okay that’s the biggest word I’ll ever use here) when they get married, buy a house, or have a baby. But when did you feel it?

Identity

For me, it was honestly none of those. To be completely transparent, I didn’t start connecting to the identity of “woman” or conceptualizing the value of that identity until somewhere between 23 and 25. Before that I still connected more with girl (even after I had a child). Before 25-ish, I was still in a mindset of worrying how I appeared to others. I was strung out on the thought of growing up and what it meant to do so. I held on to beliefs I had about myself, who I was supposed to be, and my “role” like they were life or death. Some of those stories were true, some not so much. Some are still revealing themselves (go figure, the older I get the more deeply rooted they are). Stories revolving around what a good or bad woman looks like. Stories about how I should relate to the women around me. It’s often hard and confusing because we have to deal with the way we saw the women growing up treating each other, the way we saw men treat those women, the way society as a whole treats women, and the way we have been treated as a woman. But in digging through those stories I found myself beginning to truly walk into my own womanhood.

It’s one thing to own your identity, but it’s another to even know what that identity is at all. Part of allowing myself to know who I am, had a lot to do with discovering what I felt about women in general. Did I really think that I needed to shrink my size, or grow my hair, to be beautiful? Did I really think that I needed to have a career to be a good role model for my children? Did I really believe that anything outside of my character was directly correlated to my womanhood?

Magic

What I have discovered is this: I believe that women have the capability to be magic, even in our worst moments. I believe this because it is often during our hard moments where we get the nudge we need to step it up. It is in those moments that we get to see that we are worthy of love even when we “mess up.” Somehow, despite our failures, we still manage to spread warmth and nurture those who are around us. Somehow, despite our internal battles, we still manage to be the safe space. I have been making an effort to no longer allow myself to feel guilt over things I cannot change or control, but when those feelings surface anyway (hey, I’m still human) I look at what it could really mean. Do I feel guilty because I could do better? Or do I feel guilty for not being or thinking like everyone else? For “messing up”? There’s a huge difference there, right? Because the truth is that I’m not less of a woman when I mess up or find myself doing things differently.

I think we have spent a lot of time- I’m talking hundreds of years – being way too hard on ourselves. We all know that nearly every facet of being a woman is double edged. Our sexuality (or lack thereof), our parenting style, our career goals, who we marry, how we get married, where we live, what we do or don’t eat, the clothes we wear, how or if we exercise… the list goes on and on. And if you don’t fall in line with the ideal that you identify most with, you’re kicked out of the club or denied entry all together. But by who? Other women? Or by you? Could it be possible that when you don’t fall in line, you are actually stepping right into your own magic?

Tribehood

I also believe that women thrive together, but we have been led to believe that we are in competition. Realizing this was a huge part of owning my particular version of womanhood. Looking back I can see so many times that I favored competition over authenticity. I deeply believe we raise girls to compete for marriage, and male attention… but on top of that we have begun to teach them to compete for female attention.

What I mean is that many of us walk through spaces wanting to be seen in a certain way by the women around us. We either want their adoration, or we just want them to see us as a woman who belongs. We want them to see us as a certain kind of wife, a “fun” mom, a loving sister or daughter, a loyal friend, a good woman. We want to be seen as one of them.

This is why we hide our failures, or as is the trend these days -broadcast them widely. We want to be seen. Not only do we want it, but I truly think that we need it. And I think our need for that is both intuitive and instinctual. I think today’s obsession with competition is simply a twisted way that many of us try to find our tribe, or try to convince ourselves we don’t need one (these are the “I don’t get along with other women” or “I’m not like other women”- women). If you look back in our history as a species you can find incredible amounts of evidence of the ways in which women gravitated toward each other. “The tribe” was so much more than a catch phrase, or a way to sell something, it was an actual way of life. Women helping women day in and day out to do what needed to be done. Women just being there for each other for the sake of it.

As social media pushes us further into isolation, you can see the pushback… from women. About once a week I see women post something like “in need of friends!” in the local military wives Facebook group I’m part of. In the breastfeeding group it looks like “I love my baby and husband but I feel so lonely, is this normal?” (Hint: yes, but no). And if you follow literally any multi level marketing ladies, you’ll hear them say something like “the products are great but it’s the WOMEN I love.” It’s the women. We need each other. More than we need coffee. More than we need a clean house. More than we need a vacation.

*This post is a two part post. Part 2 will be available next week.

8 Things That Change in Your Relationship AFTER Kids

With another little life joining our family soon I have found myself looking back. Back at all those tender sweet moments that you get to experience when you have a newborn to snuggle. Back at the prideful moment of introducing this new tiny person to people you love. Back at the awe of childbirth (and the pain and straight up terror that we endure as we straddle the line of this world and the next). Back at the exhaustion of those first few months. And back at the way you find yourself in your rawest form, and at the way that adding to your family flips the dynamics on its head.

I’m sure you’ve heard that having children changes things. And it’s true. While it changes your heart, soul, and body… it also shifts the way you relate to the people around you. And if you happen to be part of a duo when you become a parent… well… yeah, things change.

I will say the first time is definitely the hardest, but honestly it’s pretty likely that you will experience these things each time you have a baby. The following is a list of the things you can expect to change, the good, and the bad… and how to deal.

The Bathroom is Now a Hideout

You might as well hear it right out of the gate. Your bathroom will actually become your new sanctuary. If there is no man cave for dad, and no reading nook for mom then congratulations… you both get to share this new found oasis. Bathroom breaks suddenly last a minimum of 20 minutes. That shower you’ve been neglecting for the past 5 days… you may find yourself shedding a couple of tears during the hour you spend in there because it feels so good. Unless you’re hiding or showering while no one else is home… if you do that, you’ll just have anxiety attacks due to what I call “phantom crying” which is basically when you swear your kids are crying, but they end up being totally fine.

How to Deal: Take care of that oasis. Hire help to have it deep cleaned (this is my plan this time around) or clean it yourself as often as needed so that the space is enjoyable… candles, soft towels, and comfy rugs. Treat it like the retreat it is. Got room for a mini fridge in there? I honestly would support having one stocked with some water, mini wine’s, and sweet treats.

Physical Intimacy Is Put on Hold

You may be thinking that people blow this one out of proportion. I hate to say it, but they don’t. When you hear that your friends with kids aren’t hitting the sack as much as they used to, you may feel sorry for them. How can they live like that? Well. There’s a time and place for all things.

Truth is… When you have just added a baby, it takes time for your body to even desire anything other than rest and nutrients. The good new is that eventually, things level out. But during those first few years of growing your family you’ll find that sleep often wins over knockin’ boots. And the times it doesn’t is only because someone is babysitting… or you’re doing it with mild anxiety attacks because AHEM phantom crying happens during this too.

How to Deal: Have patience with yourself… and your partner. This phase shouldn’t last forever, but if it starts to feel like it is lasting longer than you hoped, communication is key. The phantom crying may not fade, but one day you’ll find that you are ready, totally ready, for intimacy again, I promise.

All You Talk About Is the Kids

I’m sure you have noticed the way in which people with children tend to flood your social media feeds with ALL. THINGS. CHILDREN. Myself included. Once you have a child in your life, you tend to find yourself consumed by their every little move. When they’re born, you literally find yourself excited by their bowel movements (this is true, ask any parent). The first year of their little lives is stuffed with “firsts” – actually, every year is filled with firsts. So it’s no surprise that in the same way your social media presence takes a sharp turn in kidsville, so does your relationship. I’ve heard of couples having to actually make a rule saying that when they have date nights, they cannot bring up their children. If you don’t have kids you’re probably scoffing right now at the entire premise of it… but seriously, kids have a way of eating up all of your extra brain space.

How to Deal: Think back to the old you. What were you into? Try to find those common interests that you shared with your partner and bring them back to life. If those things truly do not peak your interest anymore, start watching Game of Thrones together (or Grey’s Anatomy if that’s more your style), and voila – you have something that ISN’T your kid to talk about. You’re welcome.

You Turn Into a Rude Version of Yourself

We all know manners are viewed as one of the most important things we teach our children and yet… you can still end up not having a firm grasp on yours. This is because while those first few months after adding a new member to your family are filled with a few very excruciatingly simple things (feed the kids, wash the kids, potty the kids) – you still might find yourself in a bit of a fog. And with that, you might find yourself a bit snappy. The question “how was your day?” may suddenly send you over the edge. You’ll have moments where even the voice inside of your head asks you why you’re being such a brat.

How to Deal: Most of the times I have found myself being sassy or even down right rude, what I really needed was to ask for help. When it comes to parenting we often think that we know best, and we may start to feel that way toward our partner too. It’s wrong, and it’s limiting. You need to be able to depend on each other and speaking up when you need help is the best way to foster that.

You Will See Your Partner in a New Light

This could go either way. You’ll either see your partner (or the co parent) level up… or not. If they rise to the occasion there is a good chance you will actually find yourself falling deeper in love with them, or at least finding a deeper sense of respect that you may not have had before. Parenting is one of those things that does tend to bring out the best and worst parts of us (some of us find that we are a little more selfish than we expected, or maybe we don’t handle stress as easily as we thought)… and so sometimes a person doesn’t rise to the occasion the way we hope. This can be emotionally shattering, to say the least. But realizing this can be a great way for you to step into your own power, and many times people find themselves able to finally walk away from a toxic situation, inspired to find a partner able to provide consistency and love to not only themselves but also their children.

How to Deal: If you find yourself looking at your partner with big ol heart eyes, you better say it! That moment when your partner is rocking your baby to sleep, or teaching your big kid a new skill… those are the moments that need to be spoken on, because just like you, your partner could be feeling so many different emotions, and what appears easy could be anything but. So let them know how much joy seeing them be a good parent brings you!

If you happen to find that you are underwhelmed by what you’re seeing… I think it’s important to say something in those moments too. No one is a mind reader. It’s not your job to parent your children AND your children’s other parent… but it is your job to advocate for your child. Find a way to have the conversation in as civilized of a manner as possible, state your expectations and your boundaries. If they can’t meet them, it may be time to consider other alternatives (like counseling, or legal advice).

You Think More About the Future

When you have a child placed into your arms and life, all of a sudden your future plans start to shift. You both used to live day to day, making sure you had enough for rent, brunch, and booze. You saved your pennies for vacation getaways, and hardly ever thought about how good your medical insurance actually was. But now you’re consumed by thoughts of “what if’s.” The things that could happen in the future keep you awake. Things like living wills, life insurance, and college tuition start to be real factors.

How to Deal: Stay calm and save on! Truthfully, I come from the school of thought that the kids will be alright and that what it boils down to is teaching them what you can while you’re still around to do it. But life insurance is always a good idea.

You Experience True Joy

I bet you both thought you were happy, just the two of you, right? You were! You totally were. Another school of thought I totally connect with is that not everyone is meant to be a parent. Some of us have genetic factors to consider, some of us have deeply rooted beliefs about overpopulation, and some of us flat out just don’t have the desire to do it. If that’s you, you’ll receive no judgment from me because I don’t think having kids is the end all be all.

But if you do choose to be a breeder, like me, I can almost guarantee that you will look back and say something like “I can’t believe I ever lived without this level of happiness.” Parenting is so hard, even harder if you have a child that isn’t “perfect” – but still their smiles, their innocence, and the laughter they bring you both is on another level. Before kids I couldn’t imagine actually laying my life down on the line for anyone, but now I would gladly do it, for a child (not just my own!) You’ll find that the love you have for your little ones is greater than the love you have for your partner, because it’s different. It’s instinctual. If you asked your partner, they would probably say the same. It’s the kid over you, every time.

How to Deal: This is part of the magic of parenthood, in my opinion. Finding something that brings such a special kind of love into your life is one of the most amazing experiences this world can offer. There’s no need to allow yourself to be consumed with jealousy or resentment. Instead, allow yourself to bask in the truth that your children are well loved by both of you, and that their best interest will be looked after even in your absence.

Seeing Your Partner Makes Your Day

Here is my favorite thing about bringing a child into your dynamic. All of a sudden, what was once a commonplace moment of your day: seeing each other at the end of your day. Is the best part of your day. When the kids are tiny, this is the moment you get to catch a break, take that shower, or just have some much needed conversation where you don’t use your baby voice. When the kids are older you get to revel in this moment, because you will see how excited they are to see your partner, and it’s everything.

How to deal: This is another one of those things that needs to be spoken on. If you know that you’re sitting there watching the clock waiting for your missing puzzle piece, then do your best to make that known, often. And try not to let the excitement of possible alone time turn you into that rude person we talked about before!

So there you have it! These are the things that I have found change since my husband and I started bringing children into our little world. Although, there’s probably way more… what did I miss?

Addressing the “Highlight Reel”

I often see people talking about how insanely annoying it is that others only share what they consider “the highlight reel,” meaning they only ever share the good stuff in their life, and that leads to others feeling down about their life not measuring up. I definitely do believe that we have a comparison problem, particularly with the generation I am a part of. What I’m not sure about is that asking others to not share their happy moments is the solution.

Here’s what is true, for me, at least.

I spent years and years not allowing myself to be content, and thus found myself not feeling true happiness. I would look around me and feel some envy, some sadness, and I found that it was hard for me to just be there in the moment of my own reality. When I first became a mom, I struggled greatly with letting go of who I thought I was, who I thought I wanted to become, and the fact that I felt lonely as hell in motherhood and adulthood. Being in a committed relationship, getting married, having kids, living a quiet mostly sober life… for me, started pretty early. Everyone around me was doing the complete opposite.

Truthfully, it wasn’t that I had no one to talk to, it’s just that explaining the loneliness of motherhood and the pressure of adulthood is only something that a person can understand when they do it. It’s like explaining the pain of childbirth. It hurts – but it’s awesome. That’s what motherhood and adulthood and all of the other growing up shit we all have to do is like. It is dual natured. And because it’s so confusing to put into words, especially if no one else can help you find them, it took me some time to realize that things were hard because they were hard, but also because I refused to stop making them so hard.

But one day, probably around the time our second babe was born, I realized how much I was letting the hardness of life cause me to become disillusioned and distant from who I ultimately wanted to be, rather than letting it help me grow. I found that somewhere along the way I had stopped believing that I really deserved my happiness. I can vividly remember writing in a journal how sometimes I felt like none of my life was actually supposed to be mine.

All of a sudden, in the blink of an eye I realized that I had everything to be happy and thankful for, and that my kids deserved for me to get my shit together and to stop pushing blame outside of myself. What they deserved was for me to start being right there with them. I realized that my sole job in life (for right now) was just that.

What I really wanted was to be happy in the small quiet moments. I wanted that happiness to come from within. I wanted to commit myself to contentment (which is something I know many people don’t want to feel- but I really just want to be happy with what I have and where I am no matter what) and I wanted to commit myself to finding and seeing the beauty that is freely given on this journey that is life. Bad things happen all the time, they will happen to me, and to you, but there are still beautiful things happening too. I wanted that to be my story.

I also knew I had to actively do something to change. This was big for me because it was during a time when I was parenting alone a lot, and knew I would need to be strong for the next year (when I would parent alone for an entire year straight). I knew I needed to learn to not let loneliness and sadness take me from my children.

So I started reframing. I started opening my heart and my throat. I started writing more, because I truly cannot let something go until I say it or write it (it’s just how I operate as a human). If something was objectively pretty, I made myself see it. I went back and made myself read up on childhood development (something I am still obsessed with) and stopped allowing myself to feel drained by the needs of my children, so that way when they were “out of control” I could stay in control and be what they needed; their mom. But I also did the work in confronting my true feelings, I started actually telling my husband when I was in a mood, when I needed a break, when I desperately needed quiet or for him to just do x,y,z for me. I stopped believing he could read my mind. (Dear everyone, NO ONE can read your mind.)

Does it shock you that I didn’t always do those things? The me I am now has been such a work in progress friends. I used to be the queen of walls, the queen of never crying or showing my emotion openly, the queen of never asking for help. Opening my mouth and saying what I wanted and needed in the moment I wanted or needed it started way more recently than I would care to admit, if I’m keeping it real. I was on this earth for years and years before I realized I was being too strong (stubborn, actually) for no reason.

None of this happened over night. All of it is STILL a work in progress.

I’m not perfect, and I’m still not *her* – the woman I want to be, quite yet. But I have learned to let go of those things that made it so hard for me to allow real life happiness to flourish. I have learned that guilt is a sign I need to do better or apologize, not constantly reprimand myself for something that makes me human like raising my voice with my children. I have learned that sadness is a sign that I need to be honest about how I really feel. I have learned that loneliness, for me, is often times very rooted in insecurity. The more I allow myself to see and feel those things, the happier I became. And so now, even if I do have a bad day or moment, they are no longer magnified or thought of as defining. Because I know they pass and and that ultimately they don’t matter, unless I make them. Instead, what I have decided to magnify are the things that pass but DO matter, regardless.

I’m not over here having only good moments, I’m just over here forcing myself to take note of the moments. The ones that will flash before me in my final moments; and I just know that not a single one of those quickly flashing moments will be: that one time I yelled at my kids for taking too long to get dressed. Or one of the times I was crying and panicked during my first post partum experience. Or the time I smacked my child’s hand as a reaction to them hitting me. It’ll more likely be that time that I peed on myself laughing at my tiny petite little daughter letting out a fart that would rival a mans. Or one of the many times I saw my children connect and comfort each other. Or the way their faces light up when they’ve been separated from one of their parents, even when it’s only been an hour.

I want others to know that I don’t share good or happy things because they are the only things I experience. I still struggle with anxious thoughts. I still go through life dealing with doubt and fear, and constantly attempting to re-wire my brain so that I’m not stuck in falsehoods. I definitely still struggle with feeling comfortable with allowing my voice to be a voice that is heard.

It’s just that now I have accepted these parts of myself, and have decided to share the happy stuff too, because I worked really hard to feel it, and because I want to spread those moments of happiness as far as I can, for anyone else who needs a little joy.

And because one day I won’t be here, and my kids won’t get to see what I see as it flashes, but they WILL be able to go back and hopefully look at this blog, or my social media accounts, and they’ll see me. The real me, who was truly happy with what she had.