When my husband and I started trying to have our first child, I had dreams of being the best mom in the entire world to our imaginary little bundle of joy. I’d take him or her on play dates, the baby would never cry, and we would just be one big happy family. Or so I thought.
Then, after two-and-a-half years of trying for our highly anticipated, much wanted firstborn baby, I gave birth to the most beautiful little boy I’d ever laid eyes on. He was perfect—six pounds, 15 ounces; 20 inches long; a head full of dark hair with his daddy’s eyes and my nose. I had to have a C-section because he’d stayed breech the entire time, so I only got to see him for a brief moment before he was whisked away to the nursery with his daddy in tow.
From the moment I was wheeled into the room where I’d spend the next few days, things went downhill fast. My nurses weren’t right on top of my pain meds so I felt like a train had hit me because of the debilitating pain from my procedure. I wasn’t able to hold my son very much that first day. Between being sick from the meds, being exhausted, in horrible pain, and visitors coming and going I felt robbed of those first moments with him.
That first night my husband and I got a taste of what our life would be like for the foreseeable future. Our precious, sweet little baby boy started crying and he literally didn’t stop for the next four hours. It continued when we got home and all of the elders in our family diagnosed him with colic. That’s when the crying started. Not from him, but from me. I’d cry for no reason. Sure, my life had changed but this was what I had wanted for so long—to be a mom. The weeks following were filled with no sleep, fights with my husband and a little baby who cried all of the time. All of the time. Only parents who have had a baby with colic, real colic, will understand the hell I am talking about.
I felt hopeless, lost and like a failure as a mom. On top of trying to find a way to calm my ever-crying baby, I was sinking deeper and deeper into a depression like I had never known before. It happened gradually and suddenly at the same time. Within two weeks of my son’s birth I lost 25 pounds. All of my baby weight, 9 months of weight gain to grow that tiny human—gone! Sure, it sounds good to some, but it is not healthy to lose that much weight in that amount of time.
It didn’t take long for those closest to me to realize I was dealing with postpartum depression and a bad case of it.
I struggled to bond with my new son. I didn’t have awful thoughts of harming him that sometimes accompanies postpartum depression, but I honestly wanted nothing to do with him. I knew deep down that I loved him, but my mind and heart could not come together. I had thoughts of suicide or running away and never coming back. It was horrible. It was only compounded by the fact that my son continued to suffer from colic. His pediatrician offered little help other than, “Sometimes these things happen and we aren’t sure why.” My husband’s depression matched mine and our marriage was circling the toilet bowl in what should have been our happiest of times. We were constantly at each other’s throats because of the depression, the colic, the exhaustion and the back seat our marriage had taken since our baby arrived.
That’s when an unlikely angel save my life.
Seeing how much we were struggling with life as new parents, my husband’s mother came to the rescue. She came to stay with us. She got up early every morning to relieve me of the night shift, and sent me up to bed. She did the laundry, made us dinner, fed the baby, and sent my husband and me out for dinner and a movie. It was Valentine’s Day, I remember having no appetite while trying to eat my burger at the restaurant. But, I did appreciate the time out of the house with my husband.
My husband was a full-time college student at the time, so when he left for his classes in the morning I was left at home with the baby and his mom kept me company most days. She and I hadn’t had the best relationship in the past. We were friendly with each other, but had very different views on life and what was best for her son. But, maybe because I had provided her with her highly desired first grandchild, things shifted between us. We bonded over him. She talked to me. She just listened as I vented and told her how I felt. She relayed her own struggles with depression after her own son was born. She understood. She made me feel better about it. But, most of all, she showed me it was OK to ask for help. She showed me patience and grace. She took care of all three of us when we needed it most.
Having her there gave me the time I needed to conquer my postpartum depression and adjust to my new life as a mom. She took some of the burden off of our shoulders. She seemed to know when we wanted her to step in and when we needed the time with the just the three of us. She was rooting for us and helping us.
I know some will say that I was weak and what kind of mother was I to have another woman take care of my baby? But, I was taking care of my baby. I was there, every day, doing everything I could to help him and when he wasn’t with me, he was being taken care of by his daddy or his grandma, who both loved him more than anything else. Unless you’ve suffered the emotional and physical rollercoaster that is PPD or you’ve had to live the nightmare that is a colicky baby I ask you to please understand why I accepted the help.
Eventually, with the help of those around me and my doctor, I came out of the fog that was my depression and became the mom I always knew I would be. My son continued to struggle with colic right up until nine months and was eventually diagnosed with autism. The two may have been linked but there’s no real way of knowing. But, to this day, even when she drives me bonkers by giving my boys too much sugar and giving unsolicited advice, I will say until my dying day that my mother-in-law saved my life. I’m not 100 percent sure if I mean that metaphorically or literally. Probably a bit of both.
It just goes to show you never know where help might come from. You never know when you will need it or really how to ask for it. You may have a hard time accepting it at first, but take that extended hand. When you are drowning, grab hold of that life preserver and hang on for dear life until you are back in safe waters. Mine came from someone I hardly expected, but boy, I’m sure glad it did.
Originally published on Her View From Home
Dear Rainbow Baby,
I remember the day I found out you were here. I held my breath as I walked back into the bathroom, after the standard three-minute wait, and gazed at the white stick on the countertop. There were two blue lines and I had never felt so beyond excited and so amazingly scared at one time. You see, rainbow baby, you were very much wanted and needed more than you will ever know. Your momma’s heart had been broken not just once, but two times in the year prior to that test.
Your dad and I both decided not to tell anyone about your existence inside of my belly until after our first doctor’s appointment. So for those first 12 weeks, we bit our tongues and said secret prayers to God that you would stay here indefinitely, that we’d get to meet you on the other side of pregnancy.
With each person we told, I felt like I was giving away chances at your survival. I know that sounds crazy, but to me, letting others know about you was a big risk and putting it out into the world scared the hell out of me. Only a few select people were told about you until we got the results of our genetic testing back.
I’ll never forget the day the doctor called me and told me that everything looked really good and that you were a boy—which totally took me by surprise because I would have bet a large amount of money on you having been a girl.
With each passing month, I continued to pray and hope I would get to meet you. I religiously listened to your heartbeat on the fetal Doppler machine your nana had bought for me nearly two years prior, when I was pregnant with your first angel sibling. Nearly every night, I searched for your heartbeat, and when I found it I swear I would listen to it for over an hour. The beating of your heart was like music to my ears and I didn’t want to stop listening.
As you started to kick and I could feel you move, my worries lightened a little but not much. At every doctor’s appointment I was so scared they would have some kind of bad news to tell me. The anxiety affected my pregnancy and I was not able to enjoy it the way I had with your older brother.
And then, just like that, two days before your scheduled arrival via C-section, my water broke in the doorway of the upstairs backroom and phone calls were made to your daddy at work and both grandmas and we were on our way. You didn’t arrive until six hours later, because I had decided to eat an early dinner that afternoon and we had to wait to deliver you until it was out of my system. However, because of you, I got to feel real labor pains and the chaos of rushing to the hospital to have a baby. It might sound like I’m complaining, but I’m grateful for that now because I never got to experience that with your brother.
At 10:30 P.M. on a cold January night, we heard your seagull-like cry for the first time. Everyone in the operating room giggled at the sound of it. Not two minutes later, your daddy placed you on my bare chest and a huge wave of relief washed over my scared soul and I was in love once again.
I immediately thought how much you looked like your dad and noticed your quiet, calm demeanor.
As I got to know you over the next couple of days in the hospital, I appreciated the fact that you were such an easygoing baby, a stark contrast to your brother as a newborn. I offered up a quick thank you to God for sending me one of these “easy” babies I had heard so much about.
In the months following, as we curled up in the easy chair together in the middle of the night, I fell even more in love. We had our hard days, where we were both crying and tired but it was so much easier this time around as you didn’t have colic like your big brother did.
Today, at nearly a year old, I couldn’t imagine my life without you. I know that in order for you to exist I had to endure the pain of becoming a mom to two angels. Although my heart will always wonder who they would have been and why they could not stay here, I will always be grateful that I have you.
You are the surprise of my life. You are everything my heart wanted and my soul needed. The second I saw you I knew my family was complete. You continue to heal old wounds that have scarred me inside and out.
You are such a happy, beautiful little boy and sometimes when I look at you, I don’t know where you came from. From your blue-green eyes and strawberry hair in a family of brunettes and brown-eyed people, to your contagious smile and constant curiosity, you blow me away.
Always remember how much you are loved. Always remember how much you were needed. Always remember that you and your brother (and my two angels) are the lights of my life.
I love you always my Rainbow Baby,
Originally published on Her View From Home
I loved Christmas as a kid. The second Halloween was over, I’d get my list ready for Santa and craft and hang homemade decorations on my bedroom window. Putting up our tree was one of the highlights of my year. Christmas mornings at our house were magical. We woke up extra early because my dad usually had to work on Christmas, but that was fine because I was always awake all night anyway. Then, we’d go to my grandparents and do it all over again. It was all about family, friends and the joy of the season.
And then I became an adult and started to see the holiday in a different light.
I started to notice the insane commercialism that drives people to spend more and more, some beyond their means. I started to feel the expectations for me to purchase gifts for everyone from my kid’s bus driver to my boss. Let’s not forget how crazy people are around this time of year—every weekend after Halloween makes going to the local department store for a few necessities like a scene from The Walking Dead—complete chaos. Don’t even get me started on people who put up their trees before the snow even starts to fly!
Needless to say, I’ve become jaded about the holiday. While I still love the idea of Christmas and what it is supposed to stand for, the version that modern day culture celebrates is too much for me. I’m a real-life female version of the Grinch—the one at the beginning of the movie.
But now, I’m also a mom. I want my kids to experience the magic of Christmas like I did as a kid, but that’s hard when I’m more Grinch than Santa. So, here are some ways I’m going to try to get into the spirit this holiday season that you might find helpful, too:
Don’t try to keep up. Forget about what your friend is buying her kids or who has already done their layaway weeks ago. Shop and spend at a rate and speed that’s right for you and your family. If you can afford the expensive electronic for your husband, then buy it for him. If you can’t, then think of something else I’m sure he’ll love just as much. Keep in mind that while it is wonderful to give presents to those important people in your life, it is not worth struggling the rest of year to go all out.
Try to remember why we celebrate. You might be religious, you might not be; either way December is a big month for celebrating for many faiths. We all worship and see the world in our own unique ways, which is absolutely wonderful and is part of what makes this big, wide world so amazing, but there is an undeniable feeling in the air this time of year regardless of what you believe. Many people are happier, kinder, and more generous toward their fellow man during the holiday season, so try to be a part of that energy. Try to remember why you celebrate, whether it’s just a family tradition or celebrating the birth of Jesus, hone in on that and use it as your basis for celebrating.
See the holiday through a child’s eyes. Remember those magical Christmas mornings I mentioned above? Those are what I will remember when the holiday grumps start to creep in. I will remember my mom catching me before I came out of my bedroom door so I didn’t see my dad putting the presents under the tree from Santa. I will remember my grandmother’s giant Christmas tree and the pride she took in hanging the stockings with all of her grandchildren’s names on them. I’ll remember looking up at the sky on Christmas Eve and looking for the big guy in the sky. That is what I will focus on—that feeling of wonder, the same wonder that I now see in my own children’s eyes.
Do something good for humankind. I know a lot of people only volunteer around this time of year, but isn’t it better than not at all? Help out at a community meal, take your kids to visit a nursing home, or simply donate a toy to a child in need. Do something that’s good for your soul. Yes, it’d be better to do this all year long, but if you are struggling to get through this time of year this one will make you smile. It feels darn good to do something nice for someone else with no expectation of them reciprocating.
Keep in mind it won’t last forever. Arguably most people would say the season lasts from the first day of November until mid-January. Yes, that’s over two months, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that long. Most of us are so busy attending holiday parties, shopping, volunteering and whatnot that time really can just fly by. If this isn’t your favorite time of year, just keep that in mind. It really will be over before you know it!
Some people adore this time of year. My mom, for one, starts playing Christmas music at the beginning of November, and sometimes I am curious how I came out of her body. Although I may be more of a Halloween gal, I can still see the positives of the holiday season and I want my boys to see me enjoying it as much as my parents did when I was a kid. I want them to have awesome Christmas memories that they will hopefully pass down to their own kids someday. For them, I can take off my Mrs. Grinch mask and put on my Mrs. Claus one instead.
Originally published on Her View From Home
I saw it again the other day: a friend on Facebook found out the sex of her baby at her 20-week sonogram. She was expecting a baby girl. I was excited for her and I know this particular friend didn’t care about whether she had a boy or a girl because she and her husband had been trying to get pregnant for quite some time. As I went to tell her how excited I was for her to be welcoming a daughter later in the summer I saw the other comments:
“Oh my goodness how exciting! Girls are the most precious!”
“A daddy’s girl! Those boys better stay away!”
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen comments like this. And it certainly wasn’t the first time I rolled my eyes on the other side of the computer screen and thought to myself, “Why are daughters often considered more ‘precious’ than sons?”
I know, I know–you could say that I don’t have place for an argument here because I’m a mother of only boys. So, I guess I don’t get to comment on the dynamics of what it is like to have a daughter. But how are my sons any less precious than your daughters?
The word precious literally means, “Of great value; not to be wasted or treated carelessly.” Synonyms for precious include beloved, dearest, darling, treasured and valued.
The short answer: sons are precious, too.
My sons are treasured and valued. They are sweet and innocent. They are my children and with that comes my unwavering instinct to protect them (yes, even from the girls that will eventually come around). They are my babies. They are the loves of my life, and just because they were born male doesn’t mean they are any less precious than your baby girl.
I know there is an age-old debate on gender roles and expectations that are automatically assigned to our children from birth, such as the unwritten rule that little girls need to be protected more than boys. That is not my point here. My point is that when someone says, “Girls are the most precious,” it makes the person hearing it assume that if girls are the most precious, then boys must be the less desired of the two.
That’s not to say little girls are not treasures in their own right. They are everything pink, purple, bows, ribbons, curls, and pig tails–and seriously just as adorable. I may not have a daughter of my own, but I have a niece and friends with little girls I just love to love up on. And some of them are little tomboys who love to play in the dirt and ride ATVs, too.
I just don’t get why history has always told mothers who are carrying or giving birth to girls that they will have to protect, cherish, and honor those girls more than if they were carrying sons. (And don’t get me started on things that are said to fathers about to have daughters . . . I mean there are songs written about fathers waiting on the front porch for their daughters to return home from dates with their boyfriends. It’s ridiculous!)
My sons are going to date one day, too. They are going to have others break their hearts, be subjected to bullies, and are also at risk to child predators. Our boys need protection just as much as our girls. As their mom, I’m going to do everything in my power to keep them safe and prevent them from being hurt by anyone. And yes, I will be staying up late to wait for each of them to return home from their first dates.
So please, next time you have a friend who announces she is expecting a daughter, please keep in mind that we boy moms are happy for her, too–but that our sons are not any less precious than that sweet baby girl. Our sons are the best gifts we have ever been given and even when they are adults towering over us, they will still be our baby boys.
Try to remember that we longed for these little guys and that for some us they are our little miracles. And though we would have been happy having daughters, we are just as happy and grateful to have sons.
Originally published on Her View From Home
On November 11, our nation’s veterans will be offered deals, discounts, and free meals at local restaurants. There will be memorial ceremonies, celebratory dinners and an extra day off for some. It’s the one day of the year that Americans take a minute to stop and say “thanks” to those who have served our country.
But what most Americans don’t think about is how life is for our nation’s vets and their families the other 363 days out of the year (because let’s not forget that most people think Memorial Day is a day to thank veterans who are still alive as well . . . but that’s a story for another day).
I am not one of these people. My finger is on the pulse of America’s veteran community. I am the wife of an Army veteran (who is now a Veteran’s Service Officer), the granddaughter of two WWII vets, a niece to a Vietnam vet, and a friend to many others who have served.
So for me, Veterans Day is perhaps something entirely different than it is for those who have no ties to the veteran community. I’m not saying someone without a veteran in his or her life don’t deserve to celebrate or honor the holiday; however, I carry a different perspective on the holiday than most.
To me, Veterans Day is something we should be celebrating not just one day per year, but every day of the year.
We should be helping our homeless vets find housing all of the time. We should be offering them job training and hot meals every day of the week. We should be reaching out to the vets in our communities to offer them rides to doctor’s appointments or to pick up their medicine for them at the pharmacy.
We should all be helping our veterans with the mental health issues that they battle, not just on Veterans Day, but every single day of their lives. We should always be cognizant of the alarming suicide rates among veterans and putting programs and resources together to help prevent the loss of 22 of our veterans per day. More than one day per year we should be extending a helping hand to our veterans who are contemplating becoming a part of this growing statistic.
We should be looking out for the families of our veterans, too. We should look out for the young widow with two children under the age of five who just lost her husband and now has no income, no home, and no partner. We should be extending a helping hand to the elderly woman down the street who lost her son in Vietnam and has no grandchildren to come cut her lawn in the summers. We should be taking our daughter’s young friend with us dress shopping for the school dance, because as much as she’d like her mom to take her, she is currently serving overseas and won’t be able to do so.
I know all of these things because I’ve lived through many of them myself. I’ve seen friends lose their husbands to war and suicide and have nobody there to help them pick up the pieces. I’ve seen members of my family who are veterans struggle to find work for years after returning home. I’ve seen families break apart because the stress of deployment and the aftermath that follows that destroys the relationship of the parents beyond repair. I’ve seen how much PTSD and TBI can change a person into someone you don’t recognize.
For those of you who have no idea what it is like to either be a veteran, be married to one, or be the best friend of one, please understand that your free meal, your oil change discount, or your 50% off coupon are appreciated, but there is so much more that you could be doing for our veterans during other times of the year.
Most will stop to say “thank you” on November 11, but the very next day, go on with their lives.
I will attend the local Veterans Day ceremony at our veteran’s park in town. Then I will probably go out to eat with my husband at one of the many places he can get a free meal that day. But then, we’ll come home to our two young boys and we will continue our daily lives. He won’t stop being a veteran at midnight the day after Veterans Day.
The mother of a soldier I knew won’t be having her son come through her door magically at midnight.
That couple I know from up the street won’t fall back in love and get remarried and raise their son together when the clock strikes 12:00.
And my husband will never see the pieces of his soul he had to leave in Iraq and Afghanistan in order to make it back alive. They are gone. They will never return.
Not even on Veterans Day.
Originally published on Her View From Home
I saw you today, mama. You had pulled into the neighbor’s driveway and were yelling at your kids to hurry up and get inside because you were already late for the party. I watched you as you scrambled out of the driver’s side door and grabbed the present from the trunk of your car. You were at my neighbor’s house for what appeared to be a birthday party of some sort. I watched you as you straightened your pants and ran your fingers through your hair like a comb. You looked flustered. Even from a distance, I could see it. You were scrambling. You were obviously late. As you walked up the steps behind your children, who were already ringing the doorbell, I saw it. You stiffened your back and put on a smile as my neighbor opened her door to greet you and your kids. Then you were gone into the confines of the house, probably smiling through some kind of secret pain or uncomfortableness that you couldn’t let show in this social setting.
You know what, mama? It’s ok.
It’s ok that you felt the need to pretend – to plaster that smile, straighten your back, to ready yourself before entering that house. You needed that moment. I get it. I’ve been there.
I don’t know the dynamics of the friendship or social connection you have with my neighbors. Maybe your kids are friends with theirs, maybe you are co-workers or your husbands play golf together, I have no idea. But, for whatever reason, you needed a minute before you went into that house to gain your composure first. And I’m here to tell you that’s absolutely fine.
Moms are expected to have it all together. We’re expected to know what time the bus drops off the kids, how much medicine to give, who has appointments when, to memorize grocery lists and field trips dates. Then we’re expected to work – either in or out of the home. Not to mention our duties as a wife, daughter, sister or friend. And we’re expected to do it all while looking and acting perfect all of the time.
It’s a lot.
The weight that we bear as not only mothers, but women is enormous. Societal roles and expectations on us are quite high and also insane. Sometimes it can all be overwhelming. Often it is.
None of us are perfect. You should know that, mama. You should know that no matter what was on your mind that day as you walked up my neighbor’s pathway, that it didn’t matter what you looked like, how your kids were acting that day or what you were going to talk to the other parents about at the party.
All that matters is that you were there, with your kids at the party. You had gone through the trouble of buying the birthday boy/girl a present. Who knew if they’d like it? But you had put the effort in. I’m sure it was appreciated by my neighbors and hopefully their child.
In a world full of birthday parties and playdates, I hope you know that some of us other moms see you. We see the effort you are putting in. We see the tiredness behind your eyes and the sweat upon your brow from carrying that baby all day. We know because we’re right there with you – making sure it all gets done so our families can have the best life possible. We know you bought your husband his favorite turkey at the deli so he’d have food for his lunch tomorrow. Or that you bought the strawberry Pop-Tarts for your son’s snack at school because another flavor is not an option. Heck, we even know you walked the extra 20 feet to the pet aisle to buy the cats their favorite soft cat food.
You look out for your family.
We all know this because we are you. We moms are all in this together. Granted, there are some that like to poke fun or belittle others. To make them feel insignificant because they don’t feed their kids entirely organic or whatever the latest trend is. Those aren’t the kind of moms I’m talking about.
I’m talking about the moms like you and me. The ones that have good days and bad days. The ones that skip shaving our legs for more days in a row than we care to admit because the baby is up from his nap too soon. The mom that eats the crusts off the baby’s toast because he won’t eat that part. The ones that just want to sit and watch an episode of “This is Us” for one hour alone each week. The ones that both love and hate play dates. The ones that sometimes miss the days before motherhood, but at the same time couldn’t live in a world without our kids. Those ones. That’s who we are. You are too.
Just know that you are seen. Whether it is the mom across the street observing you from a distance or the mom with a screaming baby in the grocery store – we are all in this together. Solidarity in this wonderful journey called motherhood.
Originally published on Her View From Home