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Monday, February 2, 2015

Mom of the Month - Elizabeth Johnson

I'm so honored every month to find these amazing, hard working moms to feature on the blog as Mom of the Month. I LOVE that other moms join me in congratulating them and making them feel special. I know every mom deserves recognition, I'm happy to feature at least one per month. 

This month's Mom of the Month Elizabeth Johnson is nothing short of Super Mom. She has been through SO much, things that most of us would not imagine ever surviving… and yet she stays positive and real. She shares things she's working to improve, her challenges as a mother, as well as what helps get her through the tough days. She has many reasons to smile. She seems like an amazingly strong mother to me. 

Thank you, Elizabeth Johnson, for sharing your stories with us. 
I am in awe of all you have gone through and how you've stayed so strong. Your angel babies are certainly smiling down on you. :) 

All images from Elizabeth Johnson
  • 1. Describe your children in 3-5 words. How did you choose their names? Sawyer James – Smart, Active, Silly, Sensitive. His middle name is for my grandfather who passed away when I was 6 months pregnant. Liam Thomas – Sassy, Spunky, Smart, Hilarious. His Middle name is for my husband’s favorite uncle who passed away when he was young. Adeline Mary – (This is our angel girl and Liam’s twin sister) Beautiful, loved, missed Her middle name is for my mother-in-law and also happens to be my middle name. Myles William – Sweet, Chubby, Smiley, Snugly My husband is a Jr. (William Arthur) and has wanted a 3rd through all of the pregnancies so that is where Myles gets his middle name from. That was as close to a 3rd as he could get me! We also have two extra children in our house that we love and count among our own. We took guardianship of our niece, Brittany, almost 3 years ago. In August she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Alannah. Brittany- Smart, Resilient, Strong, Driven. Alannah – Adorable, Opinionated, Spirited, Curious  
    2. How old are your children? How did you tell people you were expecting a baby? Sawyer will be 6 in March, Liam will be 3 in May and Myles is 3 months. We never really did anything special to announce our pregnancies. We told our close family and friends almost immediately and waited on a big public announcement until after the first trimester, of even later in the case of Myles.
    When we found out we were pregnant with Sawyer it was not a big surprise to anyone who knew us well. It had been in the plans for quite a while , though our timing was not the best as it happened right in the middle of construction on our addition. We were thrilled to tell everyone the good news, though we didn't do anything particularly spectacular to spread the news.  
    Liam and Addy were a planned pregnancy that most of our family was aware was in the works. Once again however, our timing landed us right in the middle of construction as we finished up the addition that we started when pregnant with Sawyer.  
    When we found out that we were having twins though, my favorite way to announce it was simply to hand the person the ultrasound and wait for them to see the two little babies. The look on their face was always satisfying!
    When we found out we were pregnant with Myles we were only 2 months past a miscarriage at 15 weeks, had just found out that Brittany was pregnant and were in no way ready to have another child. We waited quite a long time to announce the pregnancy publicly and longer than in previous pregnancies to tell our immediate family. My dad was the last one we told in my family and we were not entirely sure what his reaction would be. I was due right around his birthday so I sent Sawyer with the ultrasound picture in an envelope and told him to tell Papa that it was a birthday present. I figured, no way could he shoot that adorable little messenger! Once over the initial shock, he was of course very happy to have another grand-baby to love. 3. How would you describe your pregnancies? How was delivery, birth and labor for you? I have been pregnant a grand total of 4 times, and all of them were so amazingly different! Sawyer’s pregnancy was just about textbook. I found out I was pregnant in the doctor’s office after two negative home pregnancy tests. There were no complications or concerns, though I did not realize how lucky we were at the time. His delivery was fairly textbook as well. My water broke in the afternoon, on our first wedding anniversary in fact, and we headed to the hospital. We were kept overnight and had our first anniversary dinner in the hospital cafeteria. I did not progress at all over night and was induced in the morning. I had a pretty amazing reaction to the induction and wound up with contractions every minute at 4cm and an epidural! He was born vaginally after only about 6 hours of labor, weighing in a 8lbs, 9 oz. It still amazes me how ingrained his birth is in my mind, right down to the very first instant I saw his little face.  
    Liam and Adeline’s pregnancy was so incredibly different from Sawyer’s. There were of course two of them and at our 13 week ultrasound they found that Adeline’s kidneys measured larger than they should have. We were referred to a maternal fetal medicine specialist and followed closely. They had no real answers as to why her kidneys were so large, though by our 20 week ultrasound, they were the size of a 3 month old’s. The thing I remember most vividly about that pregnancy was the way that they would move and set each other off. Liam was breech and Addy vertex, so they would get kicking in both directions at the same time. It was pretty intense! Their birth was the most amazing experience of my life, bar none. I began having contractions around midnight, called my sister to come stay with Sawyer and grabbed my hospital bag. By the time we were ready to leave I was in full blown labor. When we arrived at the hospital I was 8cm dilated. I remember being tag teamed into a johnnie while a nurse started an IV and the midwife checked my cervix. I was then wheeled to the OR where what seemed like 15 people were waiting. The anesthesiologist was nowhere to be found and at 10 cm I just wanted to meet my babies. In just a couple of pushes Adeline was born and placed on my chest. She was the tiniest thing I have ever seen at 4lbs, 4 oz. She cried, though did not “pink up” like she should have and was whisked away to the side of the OR to by tended to. Just under an hour later, Liam was born breech and in his amniotic sac. It ruptured just as I was pushing out his head and I laughed, much to the amusement of the midwife and OB delivering. Liam was placed on my chest and weighed in at just 5 lbs, 11 oz. He was quickly whisked off to the nursery to be tended to with his sister.  
    Hours after they were born I was wheeled to the nursery to see them. Adeline was quite obviously struggling and they were both transferred to Maine Med. Seven hours after Liam was born I walked, on my own steam, out of the hospital, rode the hour and a half to Maine Med and walked into the NICU to be with my babies, where we said good bye to Adeline only a day later. Whenever I feel like I can’t do something, I return to that moment in my mind and I know that I am secretly superwoman.
    My third pregnancy unfortunately does not have a happy ending. It was an incredibly difficult pregnancy from the beginning, with severe sickness and exhaustion, such that I could not complete my 1 hour commute without a nap on the side of the road. I felt as though something was off from the beginning and began having severe cramping and bleeding at 15 weeks. After almost a week of being unable to keep anything down and having horrible cramping and spotting, my water broke. I went to the doctor but was sent home as there were no signs, other than a very slow heartbeat that anything was wrong. I miscarried at home and was taken to the hospital to have a D&C. We were far enough along to tell that it was a baby boy. Sawyer decided that his name should be Charlie and, since he was 4 and learning about rhyming, his middle name, of course, should be Marley. It puts a smile on my face every time I think of that particular example of pure sibling love, though I do wish that we could have met our little Charlie Marley in earnest.

    Myles’ pregnancy was by far the hardest, physically and emotionally. He was a large baby and I had a significant amount of scaring from Charlie’s miscarriage. I had horrible contractions from 6 months on, terrible muscle and skin stretching pain and was admitted to the hospital several times. Aside from the physical struggle, this pregnancy was the single most terrifying and exhausting thing I have ever done, in my entire life. I was certain that we would loose another child, and just as certain that I could not survive that. To top it off, my due date was October 15th, International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day and I knew I could not handle being pregnant on that day. Two days before my due date I went for an OB appointment. Much to my delight, I had scheduled it with the midwife who delivered the twins and basically provided all of my postpartum care over the phone while I was in the NICU. She and I decided to plan an induction for the following day. We sent Sawyer and Liam off to my parents the following day, which is a normal occurance for a Tuesday. We headed to the hospital and I was induced around 11. The labor was smooth and uneventful, thankfully and I had an epidural at about 8 cm. He was born less than an hour later at a whopping 9lbs 10oz. I think the thing that sticks with me the most about Myles’ birth is the intense feeling of relief that washed over me when they placed a living, breathing, healthy baby on my chest. I am envious of all new moms who never expect anything different, and hope, from the bottom of my heart, that none of the mothers I know ever have to experience the dread that came before I heard that first cry.
    4. Describe yourself as a mom in A3-5 words Strong, Creative, Caring, Work-in-progress
    5. What type of mom do you hope your children think you were someday when they're old enough to tell you? I hope that they think that I am a caring and understanding mom and I hope they feel that I have helped them become strong and independent people.
    6. What things have you done as a mom that you're most proud of? I am incredibly proud to have come through all that we have been through in the past 3 years with a little style and grace. After losing two children, taking in a teenager and parenting a teen mother, we have 5 beautiful, happy, healthy, well adjusted children in our home. That is no small feat no matter the circumstances! I love that we are able to keep Adeline’s memory alive in our family and that Sawyer and Liam speak frequently of their sister.

    7. What have been the most difficult parts to being a mom?
    For me, one of the most difficult things is patience! I am constantly trying to step back and find a better response for the frustrations of parenthood. I also think that, having just had a child start school and parenting a new mother, one of the hardest parts is letting go and letting them make mistakes. It takes every ounce of my self control not to jump in every time Brittany is having a hard time with the baby or when Sawyer tells me about a kid teasing him on the playground. There is, of course a time for these things, but I know that most of the time the best thing I can do for them is give them the tools and support to figure it out for themselves.
    8. What is your favorite baby/child product(s) that makes your mom job easier? My wrap! I was given a Rhapsody Wrap (similar to the Moby) when pregnant with the twins and is has been absolutely indispensable! I could carry my teeny little preemie in it when he was just home from the hospital and carried him in it whenever we were out until he was almost 2. It also doubles as a blanket, nursing cover, burp cloth, or whatever else I happened to forget to put in the diaper bag that day. I was so excited to pull it out when Myles was born and I think I will have a hard time letting it go after our last baby has outgrown it!
    9. What advice about being a mom would you give to a brand new mother? Parent from your heart and do what you feel is right for you and your child. No matter which side you choose, particularly on the hot button issues, there will always be someone on the other side telling you why you are wrong. Do what is right for you, take the advice that you feel works for you and don’t feel bad about throwing out the rest.
    10. What is a typical day like for you? Typically, our day starts super early. We have a couple of early risers who are usually up by 5:30, 6 at the latest. My husband gets up with Sawyer and Liam and lets me sleep in with Myles, as I am nursing and generally get up with him several times a night. Bill gets the boys breakfast and then gets himself ready for work. He wakes me up just before he leaves and I get up, change Myles and we go downstairs. There is mass craziness as Sawyer gets himself ready for school, Liam and Myles play, Brittany gets herself and Alannah ready for school and I make coffee, lunches and get myself ready for work.  
    We are so blessed to have in home care for Liam and Myles. She arrives by 8:15 and Sawyer and I leave for the day. Though he prefers the bus, I have been bringing him directly to school on my way to work as it is much too cold these days to drag the baby to the bus stop. I drop Sawyer off at school and head to work. This summer I took a new job with CDS York County and am blessed to be working in my town and the surrounding area. I am occasionally able to pop home on days that I am on the road to nurse Myles or put Liam down for his afternoon nap.
    I am generally home between 3:30 and 5, depending on the day. Brittany is usually home before me and the sitter has gotten Sawyer off the bus. The sitter leaves when I get home and once again mass craziness ensues. Luckily, Myles had chosen this to be a nap time recently so Sawyer and Liam play while I unwind, run laundry and start dinner. Bill is usually home around 6 and we all eat dinner together as a family. 
    After dinner time, the big boys brush teeth, get on jammies and read books with Daddy while I clean up the kitchen and change and nurse Myles. Myles and I go in to say goodnight to big brothers and then he goes into his co-sleeper. He is just starting to become a good sleeper so this part is pretty dependent on his mood. I usually try to pick up or fold laundry and turn on a “mommy show” while he sleeps and will sometimes (OK, usually) have a glass of wine.

    11. What 5 things would you like to do with your kids someday, if anything were possible and money no object? If money were no option I would like to - If money were no option the thing I would love to do most with my kids is stay home! I keep telling my husband to win the lottery already so I can be a stay at home mom! -Travel the country with them and teach them all about our history and the different cultures that make up our country. - Foster and/or adopt a child. I think that our family has a lot of love to give and it would be an amazing experience for us and our kids, though I would wait until they are much older.. - Take them to Disney. This one is really more for my husband but, come on, who wouldn't love Disney right?
    12. What are your New Year's resolutions this year, especially in regard to being a parent? My major resolutions are to get a better handle on our finances so that we can start to create a nest egg and to yell/lose my patience less. These are both pretty tall orders but I think 2015 has what it takes!
    13. Tell us a time where you felt like you failed at parenting... but then realized you truly had not failed, things worked out fine. Oy, just one? Pretty much every major decision I have made over the past 5 years has felt like a potential failure at first. There have been a couple of major mommy melt downs that I am not proud of but out of those rose some of my proudest moments. From major things like handling a grieving child or deciding to take in a teenager, to little things like forgetting sneakers on gym day or forgetting to turn in the fundraiser packet and costing my 5 year old the “awesome” prize, there have been so many that I literally cannot think of a good example.  
    In the end though, my goal at the end of every day is to be a better mom the next day.
    14. What makes you a strong mom? I have been through every parent’s worst nightmare and still find something to love about each day. Although Adeline did not stay with us long, she is the reason I am who I am today, no question. Her life and death showed me a side of the world and of people that I could never have dreamed of. She taught me to cherish everything and to strive to be the person and mother than I would want her to see me be. The world has thrown so much at us over the past few years and that I am still standing is one of my proudest accomplishments.  

    15. Anything else you want to add? I would like to add that none of this would be possible without my amazing husband. He is truly my partner in everything, my soul mate and best friend. We have been through so many things that could easily have torn us apart and instead they just made us stronger. There is no way that I could be the mother that received this nomination without him by my side.

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