Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Mommy Club

When I first started telling people that I was pregnant, I remember a friend telling me, "Welcome to the Mommy Club!"

Love this little guy for making me a Mommy

I thought this was strange.  I mean, really, a club where the only commonality is the fact that you have managed to pro-create?  What would I really have in common with millions of women?

But as I have been fully initiated into this club with the birth of my son, I have come to find that this is a real life club.  We don't have fancy name badges, t-shirts or a pithy slogan, but it is an exclusive club nonetheless.  There is no secret handshake, although there are many knowing glances exchanged.  Knowing glances that communicate, "I've been there, I can empathize."

I have come to depend on this sorority-of-sorts.  I'm quick to ask for advice, and quick to give it when someone asks.  There's a camaraderie that exists between people who have walked in your shoes, or at least shoes that are similar.  There's comfort in the knowledge that so many others have blazed the trails ahead of you.  I pull from their strength and courage, and share my own with those behind me.  I encourage other mothers to do the same.

I think it is so important to have a mommy support group.  Whether it is phone calls across the continent, or a neighborhood Mom and me group, we all have those moments when our world seems too big and we seem too small and we need someone to push us through those last few hours of the day.

Something about physically birthing another human being has made me feel so empowered as a woman.  Even my running has improved, because I know what my body is capable of.  It's simply amazing to me how much change a woman's body goes through in preparation for labor and delivery, and everything (almost) goes back to normal.  

Let this be an encouragement for us women to stick together.  Shame on me for ever judging another woman or mother.  My hope for my generation of women is that we can link arms together, rather than scrambling to climb on another's shoulders for our own advancement.  We are charged with raising the next generation.  This is not a job to be taken lightly and we need all the encouragement we can get!  Let's commit to fighting the crimes against our sex: trafficking, child labor, women's rights, gender equality.  Let's stand together for the advancement of our children and give our sons and daughters role models they can be proud of!

My parting thought is this...Let our resounding cry be "Eshet Chayil," which means "woman of valor!"  I know I have frequently felt bogged down by the idea of trying to be the Proverbs 31 woman.  I mean, who has the time to do all of those things?  If this is you, I encourage you to read A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans.  You can find a brief clip of her book and Jen Hatmaker's comments here.  

Eshet Chayil!!

Monday, October 21, 2013

3 months old!

This past weekend marked my sweet little man turning 3 months old!  

I know you probably get tired of hearing this, but I am constantly amazed at how quickly time flies!  I had the opportunity to hold an 8 day old several days ago, and I was amazed at how tiny it was.  I really cannot remember him being that small, even though he was.

The transition from month 2 to month 3 has brought so many fun, new things!  Henry is really discovering his mouth.  He can smile, laugh, and is constantly cooing and babbling.  He is almost constantly moving his mouth in some way, whether he is sucking on his bottom lip, sucking on his hand, or sticking out his tongue.  About 1 week ago, he transitioned from sucking on his whole fist to just sucking on his thumb.  We haven't really encouraged the use of a pacifier, since he doesn't really like it, but he has really taken to his thumb.  He has really figured out how to self-soothe with his thumb, which has led to better nap times and longer sleep at night, which I can't argue with.  He is also so much more interactive.  He definitely knows his Mommy and Daddy!  He will let anyone hold him, but he will look for us across a room.  He also has gained better control of his body.  He can hold his head up when he is on his tummy, and can sit with very little assistance.  He can put most of his weight on his legs when standing, as long as we are holding him, of course.  

Such a handsome little man.

We had a very busy weekend, and Henry was a trooper.  Our church has a program called Big Night Out, where they offer childcare and encourage young married couples to go out for a date night.  We were happy to take advantage of this service, and were so excited to get to go out to dinner with some friends and enjoy adult conversation without having to constantly check on the baby...very liberating :)

Saturday morning, we had our first follow up missions event from our Houston 1:8 site this summer.  I never got around to writing a post about Houston 1:8, since Henry came one short week later.  Houston 1:8 is a mission trip of sorts that our church sponsors.  There are around 15 different sites around the city.  The idea is for people to volunteer after work for the week and get involved in the community.  JP and I have coordinated a site for the past 3 years.  We have actually had 3 different sites in 3 years, but this past year we served at a site called Sunblossom Mountain apartments.  The majority of the people residing in this apartment complex are international refugees, mostly coming from central/East Asia.  This is such a unique opportunity to reach internationals since they are literally in our backyard.  We had a VBS program of sorts for the young kids, and separate programs for the teenage boys and girls.  We also were able to reach a small group of women through arts and crafts.  We had an evangelism and prayer team that walked around the complex and tried to engage other adults in conversations about their various religious backgrounds and speak to them about Jesus.  This is one of my favorite things about our church, which is why we pour so much of our time into this event.  This is also why we decided to go ahead and continue coordinating the event even though we knew I would be 37 weeks pregnant.  The Lord provides, what can I say?

Our team

To make a very long story short, due to the success of the event, we felt like there was an amazing opportunity to set up ongoing ministry at this complex.  We had our first event this past Saturday, where we joined forces with the apartment and Houston Police Department to speak out against domestic abuse and provide food and community for the residents.  Again, the event was a huge success and opened doors for us to continue our ministry there.  It was also Henry's first official "mission trip" since being out of the womb.

Some of the kids waiting for food

Saturday night we had some friends over to watch the Bears dominate in football!  They ended up winning 71-7 and are now #5 in the Coach's Poll and #6 in the AP poll.  Sic 'em Bears!  

Sunday morning we got up and went to church, then had lunch with some friends and their 1 year old, Annabelle.  Although she is a little older, maybe when he grows a little we can fix a little arranged marriage between them...whaddya say Liz?

Henry wore this little number to church to commemorate the Bears' victory

Sunday evening, we went to the park for Henry's 3 month pictures.  We got some good family shots as well that you will probably see in our Christmas card.  Henry was such a trooper!  He was very tired, and his schedule was a little off, but we managed to get some smiles from him :)  So excited to see how they turn out!

So cute and matching...not planned at all :)
(photo courtesy of Grace Hill Photography)
We love you, sweet Henry, and are so excited to see what the next month brings!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Dear Daddies of newborns...

(This may or may not also be a brag-about-my-husband post)

Ok Dads, let's huddle up for a minute and talk about this.

In the first few days that we came home from the hospital, I think it's safe to say that we had no concept of how to be prepared for a newborn.  In all reality, I don't think you can be, you just roll with the punches.  I think JP really struggled with the fact that he did not have a big part to play.  Every man envisions being best buddies with their little guys...you know, hunting, fishing, throwing a football, playing catch.  But these are all things that take quite a few years to develop.  Especially in the first year of life, the burden is almost all on Mama.

Let's set some expectations here.

First of all, know that there is a limited amount you can contribute.  Unless baby is exclusively formula-fed, only Mama can satisfy those frequent hunger cries.

Second, baby has been hearing Mom's heartbeat and voice constantly for almost 10 months.  Baby recognizes Mom more than he recognizes you.  Sorry...that's just the way it is.  I know JP was frustrated at first because it took him much longer than it took me to calm Henry down when he was fussy.

Lastly, you will drop the ball...fumble the ball...or royally screw up and throw a pick six.  (Note to self: don't unplug the deep freezer with all of the pumped breast milk...not that that happened to us or anything, just saying...)  Keep your head up...as much as Mom may scream at you for doing it wrong, deep down, she loves you in a completely new way for bring her a little bundle of joy.

To sum this all up:

Expect to feel completely replaceable.

Here's the thing, though....

Only you are Daddy, and you are NOT replaceable.  You will forever hold a special part of your little one's heart that can be filled only by you.  You have arguably the biggest job of their little lives.  You are their earthly representation of what a father is, which will forever frame their idea of who their HEAVENLY Father is.  Those are some huge shoes to fill.  Think about it.

Look for ways that you can be involved.  JP did a wonderful job at this.  There were three main things that hubby OWNED when we came home from the hospital.

1.  He cleans the bottles and my breast-pump parts.  This may sound trivial, but washing those little intricate pieces every day is very tedious.  When he went back to work, he would wake up extra early to go downstairs and wash parts so that they were clean and dry when I got up with Henry.  Yay hubby!

2.  When he is home, he does 95% of the diaper changing.  JP changes diapers like a BOSS!  Since he still can't help with the feeding, this is their special time together...sounds weird, I know, but I swear they both enjoy it.  It's also a nice break for me.  Win, win, win.

3.  He is in charge of keeping me hydrated.  If you think you know what it feels like to be thirsty, just wait until you're breastfeeding.  Oh man...I think I go through 4-5 Liters of water a day.  LITERS, y'all!  I stole was given the humongous water jug to take home from the hospital, and every time I sit down to feed, JP fills it up with ice water for me.  Again, this sounds silly, but it is so helpful and oh so important.

These are just a few suggestions on ways you can go all-in and help your wife while also bonding with your little one.  Whatever jobs you find to do will be so appreciated by both Mom and kiddo.  I think these little jobs also give you  more confidence that you can handle your precious little newbie.

That's all I've got.  BREAK!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Back to work.

Nothing about this journey of motherhood has been what I expected.

Tuesday October 8th was my first shift back at work since July 20th.  It was the day that had been looming on the horizon; one that I both welcomed and dreaded.  I think anytime you circle a date on your calendar, you inevitably start a mental time clock counting down to its arrival.

Prior to Henry's arrival, I planned on taking 8 weeks of maternity leave.  This, in theory, was an adequate amount of time for me to initiate and maintain the maternal bond between mother and son.  Then July 20th happened.  Out came Henry, two weeks early, and 8 weeks turned into 10 weeks.  Then, because I work shift-work, I wasn't scheduled until October 8th, which made 11 weeks total.  11 weeks.  As in, almost 3 months.  As in a 1/4 of a year.  If you had asked me pre-Henry if I saw myself staying at home for 11 weeks, I would have answered with a resounding, "No way!"  I thought I would be clamoring to get out of the house and back to work.

I thought staying home would be hard.  I imagined that I would have so much time on my hands that I would be desperately bored.  Let's get real here.  In my line of work, I get paid for my productivity.  A person in the billing department can easily figure out exactly how profitable I am.  Looking back over the last 11 weeks, I can't think of very much that I "accomplished," but somehow each day was completely full.  Full of what, you ask?  Feeding, burping, diaper changes...those are the quantifiable things.  The rest of my day was filled with loving on my son.  Others tout motherhood as a thank-less job, but I see gratitude in my Henry's big blue eyes.  The seemingly menial tasks of being a mommy make Henry feel loved and secure, which will shape him into a confident and loving man.  That is thanks enough.  The love of my son fills a part of my heart that I never knew was empty.

After Henry, I thought going back to work would be harder.  I imagined a traumatic tear-filled goodbye, with the nanny prying my child out of my hands.  That was not the case.  In truth, I missed my job, I missed my co-workers.  I missed using my education that I have made countless sacrifices for.  I loved my job before Henry, and I love it just as equally now.  My job is not thank-less.  While there are certainly annoying aspects to my job, it is also incredibly fulfilling.  My job fills a part of my heart that is separate from my family.  Being at work is resting in the knowledge that I am using my God-given talent to help others.

I don't regret my decision to be a working mom.  Working in the ER makes me appreciate life and cherish every moment with my son.  Being a mommy gives me compassion and empathy, which makes me a better PA.  Each role fuels the other.  I pray that as Henry grows, he will see a mom that he loves and respects.  I hope that this love and respect comforts him in those moments of his life that I will inevitably miss.  I hope that this love and respect will teach him what to look for in a wife and mother of his own children.

Am I sad to leave him?  Of course.
Do I worry that I will miss integral parts of his life?  All the time.

But all mommies have fears.  All mommies are plagued with nightmares of not being there.  All mommies second-guess the decisions they make that will shape their children forever.  We would not be good mommies if we didn't worry.

I'm not saying I'll never change my mind.  But for now, I find comfort in the fact that I am where I belong.