Writing exercise 1

I wrote this 10 days ago, but am just now getting around to posting it. I’m not proud to say that I haven’t kept up as well as I would have liked to with this writing challenge, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep trying to write, even when I don’t feel like it.

 

Today I’m supposed to write but I don’t know what I’m supposed to write about.

I usually wait for inspiration to strike, but I committed to a 30-day writing challenge and this is day 1. So I’m sitting here and I’m going to write.

I could write about how today is the sixteenth anniversary of 9/11. The tragic day will never be forgotten by any of us but it was easier for some of us to live this day as if it were just another Monday. We have doctor appointments and Target runs and loved ones still in our lives who have not been prematurely yanked away from us just because they went to work one day. It is not fair. Life is not fair.

I could write about how my house is a massive wreck right now and I can’t work up the drive to get it cleaned because I just want to take one second and relax now that the kids are in bed. Did I say one second? I meant 40 minutes. I could write about how having kids means your house is always a wreck and how do you deal with it mentally and how do you keep your patience and how do you find time to play with your kids when your house is always a wreck? You are somehow always cleaning up and it is somehow still always a wreck. It’s not fair.

I could write about how the fact that it’s New York Fashion Week awakens something inside of me, this little bit of my soul that has somehow always been invigorated by and slightly obsessed with fashion. I could write about how part of me dreams I could be in the fashion industry and how the sensible part of me knows that it is a vicious, unrelenting whirlwind of a world that would be easy to get sucked into and lose what is really important. I could write about how I’m a little jealous of the way those people live, one party after another, champagne flowing, posing for street photographers at every turn. I could write about how strange it seems to me to watch these people doing these things on the very day that others are visiting memorials and shedding tears for spouses and mothers and children lost sixteen years ago, while still others are reeling from a massive hurricane or wondering if they have a home to go back to. It’s not that life shouldn’t continue as normal, it’s just that it does. Life is not fair.

I could write about how we are all dealt some lot in life and how even when you look at other people’s “lots” and think you wish you had what they had, they might be struggling with something they don’t tell you and that something is a thing you wouldn’t ever want to deal with. Their life could look exactly perfect and they could be struggling with marital issues or never being able to please their parents or an eating disorder or severe depression. You just don’t know. So you remember that life isn’t fair, and that is just how life is. You might as well stop fighting it and accept what you have been dealt with as much grace and thankfulness as you can muster. Because I think that is where life begins.

Today I’m supposed to write and there is too much to say.

childhood’s magic

This summer has been peppered with nostalgia. It’s one of my favorite things about being a mom: as my children experience things, I get to relive days that were simple, innocent, full of a special kind of awe and beauty.

Just today I caught a whiff of the humid summer air, in between rains on a very wet day, and was transported back (you know that whooshing style movie flashback) to my grandparents’ farm in the country, the air still and silent around me. I see Queen Anne’s lace dotting the borders of fields, and hear the gurgling creek, and remember the big backyard of the farmhouse that backed up to bins and sheds and simultaneously held both a sense of adventure and peace. I was reminded of my Grandma. And of being a kid, surrounded by siblings with not a care in the world.

Childhood is so vivid.

The sound of morning doves takes me back to our big green front porch on a hot summer morning, the day ahead full of potential. The glow of fireflies puts me back in my childhood bed, in front of the window on the second floor, counting the blinking bugs instead of going to sleep. The taste of sweet peas brings me back to our backyard garden, where we would just stand there in the dirt, bugs buzzing around us, and eat the peas straight from the plant.

I was thinking about why childhood tends to be so clear like this, and here’s what I concluded: the memories are sharp because the life is simple. When you don’t have to worry about bills to pay, meals to plan, deadlines to make, laundry to do, all you have to focus on is what’s in front of you. And what’s in front of you as a child is a world of wonder and a day full of play. All your needs are taken care of. There’s beauty in this. The complete trust a child has in his parents’ ability to look out for him enables him to truly enjoy his life.

The other afternoon I watched Simona sit at the dining room table as the afternoon sun streamed in through the windows. She was narrating an imaginary story, as she usually is, completely happy and oblivious to anything else but her game. I was struck by the thought that she is exactly where she is and nowhere else. She is not thinking about her to-do list and if she can somehow multi-task as she sits there. She’s not wishing she could be doing something else. She is perfectly happy to be a kid at home on a Thursday afternoon in the summer.

But somehow adulthood can get a bit cloudy. Maybe it doesn’t hold the vividness and clarity of childhood because we have become bogged down with duty, too busy to notice simple beauty, too jaded to be carefree. We have stuff to do. We don’t have time to just be.

The other day my mom came over to watch the girls, and as she came through the door, greeted by little footsteps and voices, she said, “Ah, it’s so nice to step into the world of a child.” And I had this moment where I felt kind of guilty because so often I just don’t think about it like that. I think about parenting, adulting, when I’m going to get my next break. I don’t put myself in my kids’ shoes very much. Selfish mom award, right over here. 

Being an adult is hard, and mothering is certainly no exception to that. I have lots of ‘bad’ days where I don’t think I have what it takes to do this intimidating, wonderful task that is raising a child. I try to balance it all—I do the dishes while listening to the story Simona is so intently trying to tell me, I squeeze in a load of laundry while the girls are playing in the basement, I play ‘tag’ with them in the house while actually picking up things to put away as I run by them. 

But lately I’ve found that my best times are the ones where i actually do step “into” childhood with my girls. I put down my phone. I get out of the “what’s next” mindset and banish the mental to-do list. I do nothing else but whatever simple thing they are doing. We watch two ants try to carry a dead beetle away. I wait as Helen bends down to play with the rubber in the sidewalk crack. I sit and watch Simona act out her “character movie” for the 37th time. This is a really hard thing to practice and I don’t it nearly as often as I should, because I’m a mom and therefore my brain is hardwired for multi-tasking, but I want to keep trying. 

Naturally there are always going to be essential things that need to get done for the health and happiness of your family (you can’t ignore laundry and grocery shopping and cleaning forever), and your children need you to do those things probably almost as much as they need you to spend time with them (though they may or may not realize it). I’m only here to remind myself (oh, and you too, if you’re reading) to try to see childhood again for what it is. To not forget it’s simplicity and how the small things are actually the big things. To once in awhile stop trying to avoid or clean up the mess and get right into it.

teaching children

Disclaimer: My husband is an extremely wonderful parent and teaches our children in a beautiful way, and I sincerely thank God for him all the time because I feel like anything that is good or that will be good about my kids comes from him, but for purposes of this article I am talking about my parenting skills alone.

I was at the pediatrician with the girls the other day and had some sort of sickening realization: I’m responsible for teaching my kids, like, a BUNCH of stuff.

Potty training alone was (is) terrifying. I was like, “man, if I don’t do this, no one will,” and that thought, for the baby of a family, is scary and new. But then realizing that I’m solely in charge of teaching them the basics of life, like how to clean up after themselves, wash their hands properly, get dressed, do chores, be a polite human being, that sort of thing…it’s a lot to think about. And I’m not even into the teen years when you actually have to coach them on big life decisions and things like HOW TO DRIVE. I’m in the little stuff. What is wrong with me?

So this realization at the doctor’s office came because he was asking me if Simona is recognizing any letters and I was like, uh, wait…SHOULD SHE BE? IS THIS SOMETHING I’M SUPPOSED TO DO? CAN I PHONE A FRIEND? I’LL GET MY SISTER TO DO IT. 

That’s not actually what I said. What I said was, “well…we’re still working on that,” or something similarly ambiguous. Then we rushed home and cracked the preschool workbook and I told her we ain’t moving from this spot until she identifies an “A.” 

Kidding, kind of. But we did restart home “school” with a vengeance, which basically means 10-15 minutes of working on letters and stuff before she gets to watch her tablet. Bribery, I tell you. I’m really painting a great picture of myself as a mom, aren’t I?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I’m the youngest of five kids. Okay that’s not the secret. The secret is that I never much cared for watching children. Some people call it babysitting, I think, but given a choice between that and housecleaning, I would choose the cleaning job every time. Kids terrified me. They still do, sometimes, but less so. But I think it had to be because it was never my responsibility to take care of someone younger than myself. I was the youngest, the baby that was being watched. I only had to worry about my needs, or something like that. 

So growing up, I had this sense that things would just be taken care of. Usually by someone other than myself. If there was something that needed to be planned, or fixed, I was confident that a sister or brother would do it. So flash forward to being a mom, and I’m looking around for someone else to do the dirty work, and realizing that hey it’s pretty much up to me. Cue personal growth (hopefully). 

I forgot to mention that after our little doctor visit, I googled “when should kids be able to identify letters?” and it said somewhere between age 3 and 4 and I was like “phew, we have 2 months to learn THE ENTIRE ALPHABET.” But then I was reading on some message board (not usually a good idea) and there were all these moms saying that their kids could identify all 26 letters at age 23 months, along with the 6 bonus letters that aren’t in the alphabet, and that they focused on teaching letters every day, along with shapes and colors, and so on and so on, until I stuck my head inside a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and cried chocolate tears. 

Once upon a time I dreamily thought I’d homeschool my children. I mean, my mom did it for the five of us, and it seemed easy enough (HA!). Besides, public school seems so scary these days. I like to feel a little bit in control (bigger HA).  And homeschool gives you and your kids such freedom to learn at your own pace and in your own way, I mean…ideal, right?

But now I realize in a new way how amazing my mom is. Like, next level amazing. And I know that, barring a miracle, I likely will not be homeschooling my children. I don’t think I have the patience or the demeanor (or the selflessness?) for it.

The other thing that kept coming up on that message board was the saying that “every kid is different” and that they learn at their own pace, and each one has a different learning style, etc. Which is somewhat comforting. I guess I just need to find out how Simona learns best. I mean, maybe she is way more advanced in other areas and she just doesn’t have space in her brain to think about regular learning. She is too busy living in “character land”, with her eight imaginary friends, one of whom she is married to, and they have a child together named Bono. I’m not kidding.

Maybe I need to crack down. 

Maybe I need to make her focus when I’m trying to teach her. She always starts drawing a picture on the side, or coming up with a story while I’m trying to cement a letter in her brain. But she’s three. Should she be focusing on book learning, or should she just be learning as she plays? I mean, she already knows so much and I haven’t sat down with her to “educate” her. I’ve just played with her. Isn’t that childhood though? Children are learning constantly, whether or not we realize it, whether or not we try to teach them. 

Simona is amazing. Sure, maybe she doesn’t know her alphabet yet, but she has a stellar imagination, and she’s sweet and loving and funny and loves to dance. Plus, she’s an expert on YouTube videos. If you ever want to know how to paint a My Little Pony into a Cinderella Princess, she could pretend to tell you how. Simona’s brain is completely unique, astoundingly different even from that of her sister. Helen might know letters by age 2. Who knows? It would be a miracle, because she gets even less one-on-one playtime than her sister did. (I used to do some really cool activities with Simona, make projects and crafts and forts…and with poor Helen it’s like ‘here, hope you can figure out this jigsaw by yourself while I insert this coffee IV into my arm and clean the kitchen.’) But that’s just the beautiful thing about all of us being made differently. 

So maybe I’m behind on this whole ‘teaching’ thing. Maybe I’m too lazy or selfish. But I’m going to keep trying—trying to teach her the ‘basics’, trying to enjoy her for exactly who she is, trying not to make her feel ‘less than’ if she hasn’t figured something out yet, trying to recognize the amazing potential that she has in this world and get her to do the same. 

mom guilt

I feel like I end every day with a lot of guilt (and, consequently, usually a large glass of wine).  

I raised my voice too much (something I thought I’d never do.)
I lost my patience.
I let them watch too much TV (something else I thought I wouldn’t do).
I didn’t get them outside enough (or at all).
I didn’t teach them enough.
I taught them too much. (JUST KIDDING about that one.)
I didn’t pay enough attention to them because I was trying to get other things done.
OR
I didn’t get enough things done because I was with them all day. 

See? I can’t win. Either way, and no matter what I do, there’s guilt to be felt if I let myself feel it. It’s nonsensical. Why do I do this to myself every day? I know that it’s wrong.

There’s not even time for me to feel guilty about my eating choices anymore. It’s just whatever I can stuff in my mouth is OKAY. I forgive myself for that, I guess. Maybe I shouldn’t, but that’s a topic for another time: self-care. Moving on. 

I’m just not that nice sometimes. Okay? You heard it here first. Sometimes when Simona makes an honest mistake, and says, so apologetically, “I’m sorry, mommy”, before I even react at all, I wonder if it’s because she thinks (or has experienced that) I’ll react negatively. And I kick myself. Am I that mean? I want to maintain a household where it’s okay to make mistakes, because, hello, I make enough for all of us.

I feel like I spend half the time making mistakes and the other half trying hard to be overly fun and nice to make up for my shortcomings. It’s a vicious and frustrating cycle. I feel like I’m a bad example to my girls. Children learn from example, right? Our voices become their inner voices, right? I don’t want their inner voices to speak to them through gritted teeth. I want those voices to be kind to them, gentle with their mistakes, encouraging them to try again. We need a world where people have inner voices that don’t constantly berate and condemn.

But don’t we all do this to ourselves every day? Aren’t we, as mothers, supposed to be the most amazing people in the world, and yet we are the ones knocking ourselves down the most? If there is a mom out there who doesn’t experience this guilt, I would love to meet her. I’m not saying that in a snarky way. I’m saying maybe I could learn something from her. Maybe she has learned what we all need to learn—that we can’t do it all. We’re human. We can forgive ourselves and we can try again tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that. Because mistakes are how we learn.

You know what else I end every day with? Besides a messy house? Grace. Forgiveness. It’s there if I can remember to take hold of it. I just forget sometimes that it’s so readily available to me. And if I would just add gratitude to that list too, maybe there wouldn’t be room for guilt. Maybe I can instead look back on the day and see the laughter, the growth (in all of us), the fullness of this life. It’s certainly not an empty life, and I think that is something to be thankful for. That, and the fact that tomorrow is a new beginning.

oversharing (and irony)

We live in a world of over-sharing. I realize that this is coming from a girl who has a personal blog and therefore may not be qualified to talk on this, but hear me out. Because I am also writing this article to myself.

Your hamburger makes it’s way onto Facebook before it makes it’s way into your mouth. You’ve posted more baby pictures of your child than you’ve actually seen of yourself (guilty). And everyone knows what kind of night you had last night. Shouldn’t have that last martini. Hashtag SoMuchFunTho.

Why do we do this? This question has been addressed by many, and it’s a complicated answer, but I think it has a lot to do with validation. If your life looks good from the outside (or the internet), and people see it, then your life must be pretty good, right? What is it about “likes” that makes us tick? Why do we need people to see what we’re doing in order to have a good time doing it? Could we try enjoying our life just for what it is…our maybe-not-so-glamourous, but beautiful, imperfect life that is ours to live?

Too often I see people hanging out together, at a restaurant or bar, or anywhere really, and rather than talking to each other, they’re looking at screens. I always thought it an ironic possibility that if they weren’t physically with the person they were with, maybe they would actually be communicating with that person on a screen from a distance. But since they are physically together, they are texting someone else, or telling the world that they are hanging out with so-and-so.

I try not to, but I’ve definitely been guilty of looking at my phone instead of the person I’m with, and I often feel a pang of guilt, but not more so than I do when I’m with my daughter. Sometimes I think she wonders why her mother is looking at this little screen, and I feel the worst when I can tell she just wants me to pay attention to her. I worry that I’ll look back and feel I missed some of her precious baby moments in favor of an online life that doesn’t really matter in the long run.

Why is it so hard to be exactly and fully where we are at that moment?  Be with your friends, and enjoy them for who they are. Look at that beautiful sky, and appreciate it because God made it for you to appreciate. In trying to document our life, we end up missing out on some of it. We miss the nuances – the sway of the trees, the old couple walking hand-in-hand, our baby girl discovering how squishy cheese can be. And yet sometimes we miss the big things too. And sometimes, worst case scenario, accidents happen because phones were watched instead of surroundings.

That article you’re reading can wait (unless it’s this one, of course). That funny video will be there later. Your followers likely won’t be on the edge of their seats wondering what you’re up to. (Unless you have super devoted followers, which I don’t, so maybe I’d think differently if I did. Who knows?)

So why, when something good or something bad happens to us, do we feel the need to tell the world about it? The other thing, I think, is that we just want to be known. We want to feel like we matter in the big picture, and this is more easily attainable than it’s ever been, thanks to social media and blogs. Everyone wants their corner of the internet (forgive me for using that phrase), and online fame is seemingly only a few hundred followers away. We sometimes put forth better, or even different version of ourselves because we think it will help us gain that following.

Thing is, you do matter. Your life matters and counts for a lot, followers or no followers. You’re worth much more than “likes” on the internet. You don’t need to try to be something you’re not. You were made to be a specific, special human that no one else can be. To quote the inimitable Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed, “Find out who you are and try not to be afraid of it.” Social media can be great for connecting or staying in touch with friends, but too often it hogs our time, or crushes our spirits, or gets in the way of our actual lives and true passions.

So in closing, I leave you with three questions to ask before that next post. (Once again, myself included.)

1. What am I trying to accomplish with this post?

2. Will this make someone feel bad about themselves or left out?

3. Will I regret this post later?

That’s it. Thanks for being you, and for reading this.

the early months / depression

Depression is a funny thing. And by funny, I mean really not funny.

Because when you’re in it, it feels so real. It is real. You feel like life is so hopeless and you lose your motivation to do anything. You lose your enjoyment of the small joys in life (and the big joys too, I guess). You don’t care about what food you eat, or if you see your friends, or what TV show you watch…if you even want to watch TV. You just don’t want to do anything, but you have to, because a tiny human is depending on you.

And by you, I mean me. Let’s just cut to the chase here. We all knew that’s who I was talking about.

I experienced a dose of postpartum depression. It could have been much worse, but it was there. There were moments when I would catch a glimpse of my former self, brief periods of happiness when I was out with friends or, let’s be honest, having a glass or two of wine. But most of the time I just slogged through life, just making it through each day, only to do it all again the next day – and that in itself was daunting.

The thing is, that though depression is real, oftentimes the things you’re depressed about aren’t real. Your life can be beautiful, you can have a beautiful baby girl and a loving husband, supportive friends and family, all your needs met, and you can’t even appreciate it. (Whoops, I’m doing it again. I mean me.) Life can feel hopeless when it’s really not. It’s very crippling.

I remember when Simona was somewhere around 4 or 5 months, and I was still having bouts of crying  and some of those same feelings of hopelessness. I thought, how can this still be postpartum stuff? Doesn’t that go away within the first couple months?

I guess not. I think it can last even longer than I struggled with it, which was about 5 months or so. Maybe even 6. I still have my days, even now at 9 months. But maybe that’s not related…maybe those are my own issues. Who knows? I have problems.

We considered getting help, but I felt embarrassed and like something was wrong with me, and didn’t want to share my feelings with a doctor. I felt like I should surely be able to conquer this…to just snap out of it. But as Joseph kindly phrased, “If your leg was broken, you wouldn’t feel embarrassed about going to the doctor. This is a real thing.”

Depression is real, but it isn’t really you. It may feel like you, it may feel like your new reality, but it isn’t. I remember a particularly bad night, feeling like there was no light at the end of the tunnel, and Joseph telling me, “I know you’re in there somewhere.” That was hope in itself to me, because he was recognizing and letting me know that this wasn’t truly who I was.

I’m so thankful for my loving and supportive husband. Without him, I think I would have just been curled up in a corner somewhere, crying, with Simona somewhere nearby, crying too because her mom is a nutcase. Joseph was patient with me, and kind, as he always is. And so was God. And my mom. And now I feel like I’m making an Oscar acceptance speech. I’d also like to thank chocolate.

It’s a little odd writing these things now, especially since I feel pretty much like myself again. But I think it’s important to be honest and to share what I went through, just to prove, as Joseph kept (keeps?) telling me, that it will get better. You may be in a really dark phase, but it will pass. That’s just a fact of life. You’ll probably even get to learn from and it and grow too, or something like that.

the early months / napping

It was a rough first few months.

The ever-growing dark circles under my eyes could’ve told you that though. No amount of concealer could hide the lost hours of sleep and countless crying spells. I even have a really good concealer…at least according to the lady at Ulta. I wonder if she has kids. I wonder if I had mentioned motherhood if she would have said, “Oh, we have something for that,” and led me to a secret back room with Magic Makeup for Moms. Made by elves.

Anyway, it was a trying time, in many ways. I had(have) a good baby though. A beautiful, healthy, happy girl with a strong taste for short naps. She’s 7 months old now, and still, the majority of her naps are 45 minutes long. That’s how it’s always been. I think she may be starting to grow out of it now. We’ll see. We’ll hope and we’ll see.

I fought it for a long time. I tried everything I could think of to make her naps longer. Was she up too long? Put her down earlier. Up too short? Keep her up longer. Not stimulated enough? Take her on walks, dance for her, make her lift weights.

I read so much about it that I finally just gave up reading about it. It’s too tiring. You can find anything you want to find out if you look it up on the internets. You’ll find arguments from both camps on any subject and you can basically just pick what you want to do anyway.

The other thing about researching everything is that every baby is different. You can find a bunch of info, but no other baby is your baby. So your baby isn’t doing x, y and z yet? That’s okay. Nobody else can tell you exactly what works for him or her. Parenting is so much trial and error. You figure out what you can and can’t do, and you survive. There will always be babies and parents that are doing “better” in your eyes, and there will always be someone with a more difficult situation than yours.

So I just accepted the short naps. It took months, but I accepted them. That’s just Simona’s way. And I can’t necessarily change it. But I can change my outlook.

So I learned to become a fierce multi-tasker. Silver lining, people. Those 45 minutes sure fly by though, when you’re trying to do laundry/respond to emails/clean up the kitchen/take a shower/watch Price is Right.

I’m also learning that these times take patience. A baby is not a machine, as my husband likes to remind me. You can do everything ‘right’ and your baby still doesn’t respond as you’d hoped. Babies are constantly changing and growing and adapting. Just when you think you figured something out they change again. This is both frustrating and beautiful. You wouldn’t want your baby to always remain a baby (or would you?). So if you’re in a rough patch, just keep going. It will pass. Your baby will learn and grow, and you will too, in the process. That’s the bonus. Or maybe…that’s the purpose.

playtime

Have you ever watched a baby play?

Simona (provided she’s in a good mood) can play with one toy for like 20-30 minutes. She stares at it, chews on it, shakes it, finds the tag (she’s obsessed with tags) and sucks on it. Some of her favorite toys are the simplest things, like a polka-dot burp cloth or an empty wrapper. In fact, sometimes when I’m moving her to the next activity, I feel bad because I worry I’ll transfer my poor attention span to her when she was perfectly happy where she was.

The other day as I changed her diaper and she played with her little Pooh bear, I looked at her to see her grinning at the thing with a smile bigger than I think I’ve ever smiled about anything. She shrieked in delight as she moved him to her mouth to suck on his eyes. Poor Pooh.

But it’s so amazing to me that we’re born like that, finding so much joy in the simplest things. Simona doesn’t need to be facebooking while she eats lunch and watches TV and paints her nails. Where did this hyper-multi-tasking come in? It makes me sad that I have a hard time doing one thing at a time, and really focusing on it.

The simplest things in life are truly the best things. A home-cooked meal with good friends, a long walk on a summer evening, a good book and a cup of tea…these are the things that really enrich us. As much as social media “scratches an itch”, it’s like this compulsion that doesn’t usually make us feel better anyway, but it’s hard to stop.

I want to take a lesson from the babies of the world: focus on one thing at a time, and truly enjoy that thing. Be present in the moment and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Obsess over the tag on your little blue elephant toy or stare out the window at nothing. Just don’t pee your pants.


motivational monday

Yesterday was kind of a blah day.

(And you thought this was motivational monday…)

We were all tired, one of us was jet-lagged, the other one kind of depressed, and the smallest one a tad bit grumpy (still cute though). A frustrating trip to get breakfast and some snippy words about a work project were the icing on the cake at my pity party, and I was left feeling disconnected from my husband and questioning my decisions as a mother.

I felt better after a nap and after we reconnected over Portillos for dinner, and as Joseph retired early for the night, I stumbled upon this article that was just perfect. It starts by suggesting that you have more bad days than good ones. Sounds encouraging, right? It really is. Take a look! If we never had bad days, could we fully appreciate the good ones?

a birth story – part 2

If you haven’t yet, I suggest reading part 1 first. (P.S. The wedding was the 24th, I had said it was the 26th.)

That night after the wedding, I felt my first mild contractions. They weren’t bad and were pretty far apart, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy about feeling pain. I didn’t even wake my husband, cause I didn’t want to keep him up if this wasn’t the real thing. And sure enough, come Sunday morning, they had stopped. Joseph and I decided to head home that morning though, just in case, rather than hanging out for the day with family in Madison. As we drove South on the expressway, I once again tried to will contractions to happen. I’ve discovered that doesn’t work.

We hung out together all day Sunday, just the two of us relaxing and trying to not think too much about the pressure we felt to have that baby before 8PM on Monday.* We were still up around midnight (normal for us at the time) when I felt more contractions. This time stronger, and closer together. Joseph whipped out the stopwatch (or smartphone, whatever) and began the timing. We took a walk outside, excited through the pain. I was having contractions of about a minute each, five minutes apart, for an hour when we called the doctor. That’s when they say you should call (the 5/1/1 rule), but I didn’t think it was that bad yet.

When the doctor found out the situation he told Joseph to take me in right away. What? Already? I had wanted to labor mostly at home, but…doctor’s orders. So we grabbed our bag and went, calling Joseph’s sister and my mom (our chosen labor helpers) as we whirled away.

As I sat in triage (where they measure you and ask you a bunch of personal questions), Joseph’s sister came and marveled at the fact that I was still talking and even smiling sometimes, as every time she’d been in that room she wasn’t able to answer any questions. I started to think, ‘hey, maybe I’m gonna be one of those lucky ladies who breezes through labor!’ That’s when they told me I was only like 2 centimeters dilated or something ridiculous like that, and they couldn’t admit me yet. I could either hang out around there or go home. I chose home.

We got home around 3AM and I had a few more contractions along with a snack and we decided to try to get some sleep. That was a silly idea because literally as I crawled into bed my water broke.

Again we made the calls, but this time I was able to labor at home for a few hours with the help of Joseph’s sister (what a champ). I ended up going to the hospital around 7AM when it got pretty bad. Since I had already gone to triage earlier that morning, I got to skip it and was whisked away to a room. That was nice, because at this point I could see how Joseph’s sister hadn’t been able to talk during her time in triage. I could also see that I was not going to be one of those aforementioned lucky ladies.**

I labored at the hospital for 6 hours (for a total of 13) before our sweet girl was born. It was kind of crazy how fast the time went even though it was so painful. You’d think it would go slow, but I think since my contractions were pretty close together the whole time I didn’t have much of a chance to clock-watch. Another crazy thing is that it’s hard to remember what the pain was even like and how terrible it must have been. I remember saying, right after she was born, “No wonder women forget labor pain. You’d have to in order to ever want to do that again.” But now it’s all getting foggy. I do remember yelling out a couple times and worrying about scaring or disturbing other mommies down the hall.***

I pushed for an hour (I didn’t have one of those movie-perfect two push deliveries) before she came. And then it was over, and the doctor was holding her and announcing, “It’s a boy!” Seriously, he said that. We were all shocked because they had told us girl the whole time. The shock lasted about 2 seconds before he corrected himself. “No, it’s a girl!” We’re still not sure if he was messing with us or if the cord was hanging just so.***

There she was, a perfect little bundle, and it was the most surreal thing. She was dark-haired and quiet. I couldn’t believe that the little human the doctor was holding had been in my tummy that whole time. It’s hard to explain. My first thoughts were relief and disbelief and my second ones were something about fingers and toes. But she was here, and beautiful.

Simona Myla was born at 1PM on August 26th, exactly 7 hours before I was supposed to be induced.**** And she waited until after the wedding, from which she had a window of 48 hours to make her appearance on her own. So I got to be at, and fully appreciate, my brother’s wedding. I had thought I wanted her out before then so I could bring her, but now I see that I would have been very preoccupied and tired, had I even made it there at all. (My expectations about what having a newborn was like were very skewed, but that’s another story for another time.) The timing really could not have been better. God’s plan is always perfect and always better than what we can dream up, and I remind myself of this story when I’m doubting or worrying or all caught up the way that I think things should go. I’m very thankful. The end (or the beginning).

And 6 months later:

 

*Looking back on it, maybe we should have spent all day sleeping, but how were we to know that our we had already had our last night of good sleep for quite a long, long time?

**While I wasn’t one of the rare women who breeze through labor with hardly a whimper, I feel very fortunate to have the labor story I did. I am not in any way complaining about how it happened, because I know that some women experience much worse and that mine was fairly average.

***Yeah, even in labor I’m a people pleaser.

****He is an excellent doctor. Really. No lie.

*****I know that not all induced labors are really that bad, and that there are women who have had good experiences with it. Unfortunately though, the stories that you hear, or at least the ones that stick with you, tend to be the negative ones.