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Sunday, July 17, 2016

being a YES mom

This summer I've realized how big my kids are getting. It's not just that they are 6 1/2 and 4 years old, with one heading into first grade and the other having one last year of preschool before Kindergarten! It's also that I'm pregnant with our third baby and remembering how it wasn't too long ago that I was pregnant with these two big kids, and my, how time flies.

I find myself wanting to soak it all up. I want to remember everything about our time together right now. 

I recall these feelings as I was pregnant with my second baby and wanting to spend every second with my first, making sure he knew how loved he was and giving him my undivided attention for a little longer before things changed. Partly this summer that's how I feel, wanting my two littles to know that I'm so in love with them, even if I'll be a little distracted and busier this fall when baby #3 arrives.

I have started saying YES more as a result. Not in the pushover, let them do what they want kinda way. No, I still have limits, boundaries and rules, for sure. But in this other way that I haven't realized I'd done in a while. In the way of saying yes with a smile, because, well, what they are asking is so darn cute or simple that if I stop and smell the roses of the busy Mom Day I will see they are just being kids and it's totally OK to savor these moments - even if it makes me more tired or busier or takes me away from my To Do List. 

When he asked to finish his snack on the deck while working on his - whatever that thing is - I wanted to say "No, we eat at the deck or indoor table so we don't get all messy stuff in our food and it's easier for me to clean up that way and then I know you'll actually stop to eat the snack I know you need before you act out." But I said "Sure!" And he loved it. The smile on his face was so genuinely like "wow I have the best Mom ever," I couldn't pass it up. And it was fine. He finished those carrots and we had a mess on our hands, but whatever it took like two minutes to clean up.

When she asked me to go searching for shells and rocks and crabs with her, I'd been sitting in my comfy beach chair, finally in a position that worked for my aching pregnant back, not wanting to move for a solid few moments. I wanted to drink water and eat a snack myself before they came asking for more food. I wanted to stretch out my legs and just be for a minute. Parenting is tiring. I wanted a second. But I said "Absolutely, let's go!" because she was smiling ear to ear when I did and grabbed my hand to say, "Mommy, let's find some treasures today!" I already did... in my sweet daughter.

When he asked if he could take some pictures off my camera, I wanted to say "Um, don't think so, you are clumsy and busy and moving at the fast pace of lightning, you'll surely drop it overboard the boat and I'll lose all the pictures!" But I said "Sure, if you're safe and careful. Let me help you." And he took cool pictures of his sister and of me and the bright white clouds. And my camera survived.

When they wanted me to stop and help them with cartwheels, holding their feet in the air, I was so exhausted and wanted to say "No, work together." But I said yes and helped them and they actually thanked me without me prompting them to do so.

When he begged me five times to go into the splashing kids area at the water park, all I wanted was to sit because we'd had a difficult busy morning packing up for the water park and nobody listening to me. My back was aching, I was hungry and crabby. I just wanted to say "Go, run along, play, I brought you here to play, let me sit a moment!" But after the fifth beg, I realized he was about to give up asking me, and walk away feeling disappointed. I didn't want that. So I got up, waddled into the kiddie area of the water park, and splashed around like some weird fish animal, and my son was ecstatic, telling me to "Watch this, Mom! Check this out! Look, Mom!"

And I couldn't be happier. And it took about 10 minutes of my time, and my back survived and my mood improved. It was a win-win. Aren't we always looking for those win-win moments in parenting when it seems days are long and it's just so hard sometimes? Win-win works for me.

Here's the thing. They are going to stop asking us to help, play, listen, be there, connect. They aren't going to do this forever. The moments are going to slip through our fingertips like the sand in the sandbox that drives us crazy when it arrives on our clean kitchen floors. 

I realized this last winter when my son begged me every night for a "Once Upon a Time Story, pleeeeease Mom." He wanted me to make up silly stories to help him fall asleep. Stories about pirates and ships and dragons and Army men and dump trucks and tractors.

I'd oblige for days on end, and then I got tired of it some nights, especially those long nights when I'd been flying solo with my husband working and I just wanted a break after my own long day working. Especially those nights when they'd fought in the bath tub and didn't listen when I said to clean up after dinner or to put away their clothes on the floor. Especially those nights when I had zero patience left and was feeling the yelling urge rising up inside my chest. I just wanted to say "Um NO, not tonight. I need a break. Just go to sleep." And so I did, several times. And each time I said no to his story request, he looked defeated, sad, disappointed. And then I noticed he didn't ask me a few days in a row and then it was a week of not asking me. And then I realized he was not going to ask because he'd learned that I wasn't going to say yes, so why bother? And we were in jeopardy of losing a great moment that we loved sharing at night if I didn't say yes soon.

There are a thousand requests from our kids in a day, aren't there? Some are annoying. Some are exhausting. Some are normal but we just don't have enough money or time to give in. They want more snacks (especially summer right?!). They want more toys in the store when we're "just running in real quick." They want more bed time stories, a snack in the night or to climb in our beds. We can't possibly say yes every time, because we don't have the stamina and we don't want our kids to be spoiled - and rules are GOOD things, really. 

But there are many things during the day that they are asking us with their sweet little curious inquisitive creative eyes that are harmless, that are helping them grow into these great little people who will someday be independent of us, far too soon than we want to admit. These things like "Help me build a sand castle, please, Mommy?" and "Can you hold me up so I can do a hand stand?" and "Won't you play outside with me, too, instead of doing dishes?" or "Can I have some kitchen bowls to make mud soup today?" There are more of these moments in a day than we even remember, I'm sure, because we're so busy. They're harmless though, simple, easy to fulfill if we stop to find patience for them every now and then.

If we can acknowledge those moments, say yes, not every time, but frequently enough that they know they can keep asking us things, we're going to gain more than we lose. We're going to make them happy, and we're going to smile and feel proud of what we're doing raising these littles. The smile of surprise on their faces when we say "Sure, yes, let's do that," is priceless. 

That's why we don't do it every time, because it's good for them to play solo and with siblings. But when we oblige and pretend we're kids again, even just for a couple of minutes, it is such a delight to them - and I promise it'll be to you, too. 

Be a little more of a YES mom. I've heard this term before, not sure where I found it, but I'm using it a little differently here. 

Say yes more to your children. They are only little once. We won't get this time back. And on those moments when you say no, it's OK, don't feel guilty. Just make sure there are yesses in there along the way to help you both feel happier and more connected. 

We will miss these little requests when they're off to college and out of our homes and rarely calling us or answering our questions with "Fine" and "Nothing." Let's be there now, while we can, while they're ours and here for a while longer. Just say yes. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Mom of the Month - Kate Smith

Congratulations to our July Mom of the Month Kate Smith! Such a hard working super star mother! Her boys are her world - yet she finds time for herself daily, too, something I REALLY admire and think all moms need to strive to do for themselves in order to be those strong mommas they want to be for their kiddos. She has great advice for new moms also.

Thanks for sharing, Kate!

Images shared from Kate Smith

1. Describe your children in 3-5 words. How did you choose their names? 
Lucas is kind, gentle, thoughtful, intelligent, and introverted. Maddox is goofy, cunning, sharp, thoughtful, and fun. My husband and I always loved the name Lucas, even when we were just dating. We named Maddox Maddox by default. We couldn't decide on a name throughout the entire pregnancy, but Maddox was always thrown in the mix. I thought I'd have an epiphany when he was born and know for sure his name. I didn't. Instead, since he was kinda sorta Maddox the whole time so I thought, well, I can't name him anything else.
2. How old are your children? How did you tell people you were expecting a baby?
Lucas is 8, Maddox is 6. I honestly don't remember when or how we told family I was pregnant. I can only remember that during my first pregnancy, which ended in a miscarriage. My family was sitting around the dinner table eating lasagne and I asked if anyone knew if ricotta cheese was pasteurized. Questions ensued. Two days later, I lost the baby.
3. How would you describe your pregnancies? How was delivery, birth and labor for you? 
My pregnancies were very different. I only carried to 34 weeks with Lucas. My water broke at work at 11:30, started full blown contractions and he was delivered via emergency c section at 2:07pm. He was a strong 7lb premie thankfully, but my blood pressure rose toward the end and even after I gave birth. He wanted out!  Maddox was a breeze. I walked into the hospital for a planned c section. As they were hooking me up, I started having contractions. I walked into the delivery room and a half hour later he was born.

4. Describe yourself as a mom in 3-5 words. 
As a mom, I think I'm loving, present, engaging, and my kids would say I'm weird.
5. What type of mom do you hope your children think you were someday when they're old enough to tell you? 
I hope my kids will think that I gave them all the love and support they needed. And that I didn't yell at them too much.
6. What things have you done as a mom that you're most proud of? 

As a whole, I'm proud to be a mom. Becoming one is so scary and so life changing, it's not for the faint of heart. I was terrified of becoming pregnant, terrified of needles, terrified of what labor would be like, and terrified I'd be a horrible mother.  I'm proud I faced all my fears, put my faith in God and faith in my husband, and did it anyway. Best. Decision. Ever.

7. What have been the most difficult parts to being a mom? 
The most difficult part of being a mom is the worry and the wonder. Am I raising him right? Are my choices for him the best they can be? How much will this screw my kids up? Do they have enough freedom? Or perhaps too much? Will this laid back summer filled with too much screen time make them forever irritable and I unsocialized? Do they drink enough Milk and eat enough veggies? Will playing with nerf guns turn them into serial killers? And the worst part is, within all this worry, there is no guarantee. You have to have faith in what you're doing and hope it all works out. That's scary.

8. What is your favorite baby/child product(s) that makes your mom job easier? 
My most favorite baby product that was a life saver for me was the nipple medicine dispenser. We had lots of ear infections the first year and this was a game changer. My favorite product now? I'd have to say llbean backpacks. Those things take a licking year after year.

9. What advice about being a mom would you give to a brand new mother? 

The best advice I can give a new mom is to breathe. Just breathe. Everything will be ok. You got this. You have mommy instincts you can rely on. 

And most importantly, if you wonder if you should call a dr about your baby, just do it. It will make you feel better and that's what the nurses are there for. I cannot tell you how many times I worried and wondered and I should have just called.
10. What is a typical day like for you? 
My typical day starts around 6am. Boys are no doubt up, too. I make my husband breakfast and lunch and send him off. Get the kids breakfast and at camp by 8:30. I work part time in the morning, and try to fit in a walk/run then too. I grab the kids at noon, eat lunch, and then it's chore time until my husband comes home. I make dinner, relax until boys bed time. I usually stay up too late to get my junk tv time in. Just for me. And my wine.
11. What 5 things would you like to do with your kids someday, if anything were possible and money no object? 
5 things I'd like to do with my kids. Good question. Top of the list, I'd like to bring them to college on their first day. And then watch them graduate. I'd like to take family vacations when they are adults. We take them now, but want the tradition to continue. I'd like to take my oldest to an nba or mlb game and explore the culinary world with my youngest.
12. What are your favorite things about fall that you're looking forward to? Best moments of summer? 
I love the fall. It's the best time of year. I love the air and the warm colors. This year we are getting our family photos updated, very much looking forward to that. This summer we are taking a few vacations and seeing lots of family. Eating plenty of lobster and chowder and of course beach days are always on the to do list.

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. 
When my oldest was about 1, I got into a yelling match with my dad, which was very unlike me but it had to be done. As I was screaming, I was holding my son. The argument ended with me taking my son and leaving. I felt so horrible that he was just witness to this. With the screaming and bad energy. It was awful. He saw me crying and in a way not even I had seen myself with my dad. I felt so bad. 7 years later, I guess you could say it was ok. He doesn't remember a thing, it hasn't happened since, I learned a lesson, and become a better parent because of it. And, my dad and I are great.
14. What makes you a strong mom? 

I think resilience makes me strong. I'm not perfect and know it. But I strive on the daily to do my best, to try harder, and to start fresh each day.
15. Anything else you want to add?
These little guys are amazing. I cannot imagine my life without them.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

the loss of an angel - a story of stillbirth by Elizabeth Dean

I am grateful to Elizabeth Dean for sharing her heartbreaking story of losing her son at just 23 weeks along. She has gone through something no mother should ever have to survive. And yet, she considers herself stronger because of it and even a better mother to her now twin boys. I admire her courage to share her experience in hopes of helping others realize they are not alone.

My good friend experienced a stillbirth baby recently and I am at a loss for words on how to support her. I hope that this piece not only helps moms who have gone through this, but also those who have friends going through it and how to support them as they grieve.

Thank you, Elizabeth. Your angel baby is smiling down on you today and always.

Images shared from Elizabeth Dean

1. When did you deliver your stillborn baby? How far along were you?  
I delivered on June 29th 2014. I was induced at 23 weeks and 2 days 

2. What do you remember about that day, leading up to finding out that your baby had passed? 
I remember making my boyfriend call the hospital to see what time they wanted us to come in so I could be induced to deliver. When they told him as soon as we could I broke down because I was not ready. I had found out 2 days prior that my baby had passed and I wanted to wait as long as possible to keep him inside of me. I remember going to the hospital around 9a and my body would not stop shaking. I was not crying I was too nervous to cry. The nurse was concerned I was showing no emotion and my mom told her that I'm one to keep it in as much as I can. My legs trembled so much you could see them shaking. In my head I kept asking how much is this going to hurt since I never gave birth before, I wondered what he looked like, would I hold him, when would I be able to go home, how would I feel afterwards.. So many questions kept running through my mind I felt like I wasn't really present.

3. What do you recall about that day as you delivered your baby, realizing your baby had died? What feelings did you experience?  
I had 2 days prior knowing he had died.. 

I never cried so much in my life during those days. I was sad, scared, angry, confused, nervous how I would cope after he was delivered and I went home without him. I remember refusing to get an epidural because I wanted to feel the real pain of giving birth. I felt like some how I caused him to die. 

4. What were some things that helped you through this difficult time? What did others say or do that really helped you feel stronger and supported? 
My boyfriend was by my side the entire time and just reassured me he was there for me and he was hurting too. My parents and brothers stopped their lives to be there for me. They all came to the hospital before I delivered to let me know they were thinking of me. My mom was in the room along with my boyfriend when I delivered him and just having them there was comforting. 

People can't say much during this kind of situation but just being present helps. My family encouraged me to eat, talk, cry, laugh, just kept me busy before and afterwards. 

5. What did not help you during this time? What do you wish others had realized or done differently when trying to support you?
Seeing pregnant women did not help. For a long time after seeing or hearing about pregnancy made me cry. I was pregnant with 2 of my other friends and one of them had an early on miscarriage, I had a stillbirth, and my other friend stayed pregnant. It was hard to talk to the pregnant friend for a while. Eventually I was able to but during her pregnancy we didn't talk much about her actual pregnancy. I honestly can't complain about how I was supported. My family was amazing and still to this day recognize Kieran's birth. 

6. Did you find any supportive resources like Web sites, books, doctors, etc. that comforted you during this time? 
I read a few online websites about losing a child. I also spoke to a woman I know who had 2 stillbirths. I think talking to woman who has gone through similar experiences helps to know you're not alone and someone actually understands what it is like.

7. Do you know the reason why your baby was born stillborn? How do you feel about what happened? 
At 22 weeks we found out in an ultrasound that there were many complications and most likely we would lose Kieran during pregnancy or shortly after he was born. We chose to keep going with the pregnancy and see what happens. A week later I knew he had passed and we went to the hospital to confirm it. 2 days later I delivered him. We ended up getting an autopsy done so we would know for sure what was wrong since before they couldn't tell us. 

It ended up being amniotic band syndrome which means there was a rupture in the sac which allows fibrous string to attach onto the fetus and cause damage. As the fetus grows the bands constrict growth. When we found out that this is sure a rare thing I was relieved to know I could have more children and this would not be passed out. I also felt sadness that my baby boy had to go through this and hoped he did not feel pain when this was going on. 

8. How did this experience make you a stronger mother? 
It made me stronger because even though I was sacred, I was given the choice to terminate or carry out my pregnancy, I decided I will always give my kids a fighting chance at any cost. I will never take the time I have with them for granted and love them unconditionally.

9. What may you have learned from this experience? 

I learned that things are out of our control and I truly believe things happen for a reason. I think God has a plan for us all and it won't always be easy but some people are meant to go through things that others are not. 

10. What were some of your hardest moments, things you could not do for a while, such  as see pregnant women or attend baby showers or talk about your baby? 
My hardest moment was holding my baby and only seeing his feet because my doctor told me it would be best for me not to look at all of him since he wasn't fully developed. Leaving the hospital and going home without my baby was also hard and seeing the things I had already bought for him. My milk came in that was painful and hard and a reminder that I had no baby to feed for several days until I dried up. Seeing pregnant women was hard or hearing people talk about new babies.

11. How do you honor your baby now? Did you do anything to remember your little one? Are there things that help you on the anniversary of the baby's birth or death? 
We have Kieran's ashes in a Irish keep sake on my dresser along with pictures of his feet and a little angel statue we bought. We also framed his foot prints with a poem that's hanging in our living room. My mom planted a bush of blue hydrangeas in her yard that bloom every year in June when he was born. I went with my dad and we both got tattoos in his honor. This is only the second year of his birth, last year we released balloons and this year we will do the same. Once our twins get bigger we will involve them and see if they want to do something special. 

12. What have you learned about stillborn situations in general? 
I learned that they are not talked about often. 

13. What is your advice to someone who has gone through this experience? What is helpful when grieving this loss? What do you wish someone had shared with you? 

My advice is to just cry and grieve the loss as long as you want. No one can tell you if and when it will get easier. Everyone handles loss differently and the loss of a child is something you will never truly get over. I find being with family is helpful and seeing all of the keepsakes we have around the house. I wish someone forced me to go to therapy.

14. You have since had babies again. How was your pregnancy? How did you know it was time to try again and move forward with your family? What was difficult during that pregnancy? What helped ease any fears you may have had? 
Once we found out the results of the autopsy we started trying right away. We knew as long as what happened was not due to genetics we would try again soon and in October I was pregnant. At 6 weeks pregnant we found out I was having twins! It was a shock and doesn't run in either of our families. I was terrified for many reasons but mostly because twins is considered a high risk pregnancy and I had a chance of losing one or both now. Every doctors appointment was difficult because I was worried I would be told bad news. I held my breath every time we listened to the heartbeats. Once we reached 20 weeks and found out the sexes I felt better. The specialist did an extensive ultrasound and said everything looked perfect on both boys. 

15. How is your life now? Are there moments that are tougher than others, and how do you manage? 
My life has its ups and downs just like anyone else. I was blessed with twin boys who recently turned 1. They keep me busy and I love being their mom. I think about Kieran every single day. When driving alone for long periods is my toughest time and I always replay my delivery and just cry. I've thought about starting therapy soon because I think I have some PTSD from the whole experience and maybe there are better ways to manage than just crying about it all.

16. Anything else you want to share? 

Just that I am sorry for anyone who has lost a child. It is such a tragic thing no one should ever have to go through. Some days will be better than others but know that you are not alone.