the lies we believe

I see it everywhere nowadays. The same message, in a variety of different wordings. The same reassurances made to women again and again. The message: it’s ok if you feel like you don’t have it all together. It’s ok to cry about a bad day. It’s ok to write off today as a failure, you’ll do better tomorrow. It’s ok to just serve the kids ice cream tonight, you’re not a bad mom. “You’ve got this, mama!”

I used to wonder what was wrong with me. Why is it that I feel like I have it “all together”? Why do I never, ever feel the need to cry about a bad day (not to say I never cry, although…)? Why do I never feel that a day was a failure? Why have I never, ever served my kids ice cream because I just couldn’t get a dinner on the table (I’ll admit I’ve done cereal when in my first trimester, though). Why do I never feel like I’m a bad mom? Apparently women the world over are feeling every day that they are bad moms. Why do they feel that, and why do I not?

Is it because I’m arrogant?

No, I have decided it is not.

I think a large part of it is due to my decision to be 100% mom. My husband and I decided together that I would be 100% a mother. Yes, I work from home a little bit, but I don’t have a career. I chose not to have a career, because I wanted a family (because WE wanted a family).

That’s the lie, you see. The lie we’ve been told is that you can “do it all” – you can have your career and your family, too, and somehow you can give both of these things your all, which would mean that you have 200% of yourself to give. The math nerd in me is so irritated by this.

It’s a lie. It is SUCH a lie.

No wonder women need the constant affirmation that they’re doing great and they “got this.” They don’t! They’re being torn apart by our culture, which is telling them they can be a great, present, mom who is focused on raising her kids and being there for them and kissing their boo-boos while ALSO being a focused, ambitious, driven career woman who is climbing the ladder and deserves to be CEO.

It’s absolutely ludicrous.

And let’s just be clear here: it’s not that dratted patriarchy that’s screaming this lie at us. It’s feminism. Patriarchy, back in the 50s before the dawn of women who no longer wanted doors held open for them or men paying for dinner (thanks, feminism! I just love having to open my own doors and pay for my own meals! what a giant leap for womankind! Thank goodness I found a man who still believes in chivalry!), was more than happy for us to stay home while the men went to their long, laborious jobs and brought home the metaphorical [kosher] bacon for us all to eat and enjoy.

If you could just step back and think about it objectively, rationally, logically, you would see. You would agree. It’s just so obvious.

If your career is important, and it’s important to you to advance and climb that corporate ladder, than you are putting your heart and soul into it. You’re getting there early, maybe. You’re making yourself valuable. You’re not wasting your company’s time by surfing your social media when you should be working. You’re using all the minutes in your work day to bring value to yourself and value to your company.

If your family is important, and it’s important to you that your children advance in life, school, and work, than you are putting your heart and soul into them. You’re getting up early. You’re making yourself valuable to them (maintaining your value, actually). You’re not wasting those precious moments that are so fleeting by surfing your social media when you should be pausing to admire your daughter’s artwork or helping your son build a lego airplane. You’re using all the minutes in your day to give to your children the love they deserve. The mom they deserve.

This post has been on my mind for a while because I see people and I know people who are truly struggling with this guilt they feel, that they aren’t really “there” for their kid(s), that they can’t be present for the special moments (“can’t” being their word, not mine). They feel guilty about it, but our culture is telling them they shouldn’t. Our culture is telling them they should feel amazing, like they’ve reached some kind of pinnacle – I have a career AND I’m a mom! I’m so amazing! I’m “doing it all!” But the reality, which hits them like a ton of bricks once they actually have a baby, is that if they’re honest with themselves, they know that they really aren’t there. The little baby they have fallen in love with, and who has fallen in love with them, will get to know his nanny, his grandmother, or his daycare workers a lot better than his own mother, simply because he’ll spend way more time with them. The daycare worker will watch him take his first steps and say his first word, unless he happens to time it on a weekend.

I don’t want to put down the moms out there who genuinely need to work because there isn’t another option. But really, there so often is.

I wanted to be a mom for a while before our son came along. And now that I am a mom, a mom of three, I can tell you that it takes all of you. It saps all your energy, time, creativity, patience, and brain cells. That’s because I am giving it my all. ALL my energy. ALL my time. ALL my creativity. Quite frankly, and without bragging, I think this makes me a really great mom. But don’t try to tell me that I could be working an eight-hour day at some office job and still be the mom that I am right now. It’s simply not possible.

Jim Elliot said, “Wherever you are, be all there.” I really feel like that is something our culture (or, feminism, mostly) is pressuring women not to do. You can be two places at once, they say. You can be Supermom AND you can be in line for a promotion at work. The reality is that when you try to divide yourself like that, one of those things is going to suffer. And, unfortunately, I see on my social media and even with some people I know – the thing that suffers is the kids. Somehow, they reason to themselves that they need to work, they need to do this job, probably because they feel like no one could quite do the job as wonderfully as they can. But what’s the truth? The kids, being their mom…THAT’S the job that no one can do as wonderfully as they can. That’s the position they hold in which they are absolutely irreplaceable. But because our culture has wrapped up a woman’s value in what it says on her business card, she feels like she can outsource the momming, because no one can run a company like she can.

You have to choose. For me, it’s an easy choice. Raising a child, making sure they always know they are loved, teaching them how to live godly, successful lives, helping them find their place in the world – what could possibly be more fulfilling and important than that? By shaping their little minds and hearts, I touch the future. No other job could compare.

the sad days

We’re just about to finish three weeks of the saddest days of the year. We do this every year – traditionally, in Judaism, there are three weeks, flanked by two fast days, during which we are sad.

I find that there is really no corollary in Christianity. Catholics have Lent, but even that is not exactly what we’re doing here. In general, I get the impression from my Christian friends that they don’t really believe in sadness. I think they feel that a Christian should never be sad. “The joy of the L-rd is my strength” and “I’m in-right, outright, upright, down-right, happy all the time”, etc.

But surely we all agree that for everything there is a season. You know – a time to plant, a time to pluck; a time to weep, a time to laugh; a time to mourn, a time to dance. I’m sure I read that somewhere.

So this is kind of a time for mourning. A lot of sad things happened in Jewish history (and world history) during these three weeks on the Jewish calendar. So we set aside some time, and some joy, and we kind of emphasize the sad, rather than the happy.

Question for you: what would you remove from your life (or add to your life) to decrease your joy? We’re not talking about being miserable. Just not being our happiest selves.

Here are some things we do to help our kids feel the sadness. These are not all traditional things from Judaism, although some of them are.

  • We don’t listen to music. This is a big deal for my kids, who have Steve Green’s Hide ‘Em In Your Heart on repeat in the car! We’ve had the car radio/cd turned off for all three weeks!
  • We don’t watch TV or movies. We are big fans of Aleph Beta and the little movies they make about the Torah portion every week, and we do watch a few of those on Shabbat, but otherwise we don’t watch anything. This is not a big deal for the kids, because we don’t really let them watch anything anyway, but Joshua and I do enjoy relaxing with a show in the evening, so instead of doing that, we read. We get through a LOT of books in the three weeks. Usually, we pick one book that is more thought-provoking (like Rabbi David Fohrman‘s The Beast That Crouches At the Door or Jordan Peterson‘s 12 Rules For Life, for example) and read it aloud to one another in the evenings, in addition to reading lighter fare privately. This year, instead, we signed up for Unit 1 of Rabbi Daniel Lapin‘s course Scrolling Through Scripture, and we completed all 20 lessons by watching one every evening before diving into our own books. It was exceptional! I look forward to Unit 2! The point is, we try to use this time to grow, and sometimes that even spills over into the time after the three weeks – sometimes we try to keep reading to ourselves or together, to keep growing and keep learning, and not just veg out in front of the screen (although it is so much easier, isn’t it?)
  • We don’t drink hard alcohol. Obviously not a biggie for the kids, but we do have a Cocktail Monday tradition over here, and it is pretty sad to skip that after a rough start to the week!

The last nine days of the three weeks are supposed to be even sadder. How do we make it more sad?

  • We don’t drink wine. In addition to cutting out the hard alcohol, we stop drinking wine for the nine days, as well. This is also when we normally do our annual liver cleanse, which happens to be ten days long, so it’s pretty perfect! This year, because I’m nursing, Joshua did it be himself, but it still makes us all sad because he has to get off coffee for the cleanse and foggy Joshua is not the most fun. 😉
  • We don’t bathe for pleasure. And by that we mean, we don’t swim or use our water table or splash pad. My sister points out that the nine days are almost always the hottest, driest days of the year, when all you want to do is find the nearest pool, and of course we don’t swim during this time. It’s very, very sad.
  • We don’t eat red meat. This actually goes hand-in-hand with the liver cleanse, which is why it’s a great time to just go ahead and do the cleanse. We don’t eat a ton of red meat anyway, but there is definitely a difference between choosing not to buy it and not permitting yourself to eat it for a certain period of time.

So that’s not an exhaustive list, but those are some of the things we do. This year, we added an art journal my sister and her husband put together, with a little drawing/coloring project for each day. While it did not augment our sadness, because it was so much fun, the little educational paragraphs they included for each day were a great way to teach my kids a little more about what we’re doing and why. We kept up with it, and we are all set to do the last page tomorrow, which is the last day of these three weeks, and also a fast day. In fact, it’s the saddest day of the year. It’s the culmination of everything we’ve been doing for the last three weeks.

We like to make a big deal at the end of that day. First of all, we have waffles for dinner, which is a much-requested favorite for the kids. Then, we watch scenes from the International Space Station on our big screen while we play music – whatever the kids have been missing. (Simone has already asked for Chanukah songs, and Richard has requested Michael Buble). Maybe when they’re older, this will be a time to watch a family movie, but right now, the space station is actually a huge hit with them! We will probably have cookies or something to make us really, really happy. 😉 Maybe a dance party.

And they’ll know (and we’ll know) that the sad days are finally over!!

“You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O L-rd my G-d, I will give thanks to you forever!” – Psalm 30:11-12, ESV

it’s good to be back

I’m baaaaaaaaack!! For those of you who actually noticed I hadn’t written anything on this blog for quite a while – thanks for reading. 🙂 Here’s what happened: I got locked out. Or something! My blog account went a little haywire and I couldn’t get into it for a really long time! But somehow, now, it’s working again. So yay! Here I am after over a year of silence!

Since my last post, on February 3, 2020, which detailed my son’s potty training story, a lot has happened.

First, there was COVID. I refuse to let this blog be about COVID, so we’ll skip that.

Next, I found out I was pregnant with Baby #3! I found out two days before my 31st birthday that we were expecting another baby. Amazingly enough, I was able to convince my risk-averse, surprise-hating, advance-planning, all-information-needed husband that this would be a fun time to NOT find out if the baby was a boy or girl, because we already have a boy and a girl, so we already have all the stuff we could possibly need! We did one ultrasound to see if the baby had scrambled insides like Joshua or normal insides like me – once again, very normal. We walked out of the ultrasound, and Joshua said to me, “I think I saw something in there. I think I know what it is.” With kind of a sinking feeling, I said, “Me too.” We looked at one another and I said “boy” at the same time he said “girl” and it was like, whew!! I guess we didn’t really see anything because we still have no idea!

Our son turned 3 in August. He is such a delight! And a HUGE helper.

We celebrated our 8th anniversary in October with a staycation, and it was so much fun, especially with that thing we’re not talking about still going on, and most of North Carolina operating in limited capacities. I think we might do another staycation this October, because of our new baby, who will only be eight months old (old enough that I could do one night away, but I wouldn’t want to be too far).

Our daughter turned 2 in January, and woke up the morning of her birthday with a stomach bug, and had that going on all day on her birthday. It was so sad. She is able to communicate pretty well at this point, and she had picked out all the fun food to have for her special day, and we had to postpone it all because she wasn’t keeping anything down. It was truly awful. It is so hard to see your kids sick! We had to cancel and push events with family for her birthday, and I basically spent the whole day holding her, which is unusual because she can’t normally sit still for more than 30 seconds. It was sweet, but sad.

About a month later, I gave birth at home to our second beautiful boy! Yes, it was a boy! He was a Valentine’s Day baby (although we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, so it doesn’t really matter to us), and we named him Henry Solomon, which is in honor of my grandfather.

Last October and this February, two of my sisters also had babies! Morgan had Rachel on my parent’s anniversary, October 8, and Christine had Violet nine days before Henry was born. So he will always have two little buddies who are almost exactly the same age! It is so fun to have cousins here and close. What an huge blessing it is to have family!

Since then, life has, of course, been centered around the new baby. It’s kind of hard to go back to square one, with the newborn feedings and the sleepless nights and infant cries. So worth it, but hard. My two older kids are almost the same height right now (because Simone is absolutely enormous – she is the size of a four-year-old!), and people constantly ask me if they are twins. Simone can talk, Richard can talk, they are both potty-trained (mostly), and they can both do almost everything the other can. So it was a big change to have a tiny little helpless newborn when it feels like I have two very independent and self-sufficient three-year-olds right now. I wonder when it will stop feeling like The Two Big Kids and The Baby, and just be The Three Kids.

Anyway! I think that catches us up pretty well! Again, thanks for reading! Hopefully I’ll be posting on here a little more often. I have many thoughts. 😉

oh poop

A month ago, we potty-trained Richard (all except the night). If you’re not wanting to read the ins and outs of that adventure, walk away now! My poor brother-in-law came for dinner the other night and all Joshua and I could talk about was our son and his bathroom habits. It is an all-consuming subject right now.

I had potty-training on my radar, because Richard is turning three this year and I wanted to be ready. I was feeling kind of stressed about this, because I felt like I didn’t have a plan and I didn’t know how to do it.

My son is a genius. A prodigy. He is superverbal and super smart and has whole children’s books memorized. He is so bright. I’m ridiculously proud of him. I will say this, after a month of potty training: this does not come easily to Richard. Physicality is not his strong suit. That’s ok, it doesn’t mean anything I said above does not apply anymore. It just means that he wasn’t a rockstar when it came to putting his pee in the potty (and I mean that in the sense that the book I read described what a rockstar might look like, a child who perhaps “gets it” in the course of a week or three days. Richard IS a rockstar in that he is almost completely potty trained before 2.5 years old).

I used the Oh Crap potty training method/book, by Jamie Glowacki, and I really liked that approach. I ordered her book on a recommendation from my friend Rachel, who used it with her daughter. I remember the day the book came, and I started paging through it, and I noticed one of the first chapters was about when to start. Ah! I thought. When to start! Exactly what I need to know. I flipped over and read a few paragraphs of that chapter and stopped cold when it said, “Unequivocally, the easiest time to train a child is between 20 and 30 months.”

WAIT. WHAT?

I quickly did the math. This was in mid-December, so Richard was just shy of 28 months. The window was closing! I panicked and ended up reading the rest of the book in a matter of hours over the next two days. Everything she says in the book made sense to me, including her no-nonsense method. I do think that if you have discipline already built in to your life and your children are not allowed to throw tantrums or scream at you or tell you NO, one of her key reasons for potty-training as early as this is not necessarily valid (children may tend to be more resistant the older they get).

The method uses phases, or blocks, to help get a child from absolutely clueless that anything is happening to “Mommy, I have to go potty.” The first block, the child is naked. The second block, you add clothes. The third and beyond are going places and doing normal life as you integrate the potty.

We set a date. January 3. Joshua took the day off from work, not really to help with the potty-training per se, but to keep Simone. Interestingly, the book doesn’t mention at all what to do with a younger sibling during this very rigorous time of watching your naked child like a hawk to whisk them to the potty at the first signs of pee (probably because not very many people have a younger child by 20-30 months). Joshua took care of Simone, I kept an eye on Richard.

That was a very hard day. My adrenaline was up, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to help Richard do this. The first four or five times he peed, it was all over the floor, and none in the potty. The first time it happened, I remember feeling like such a loser. I couldn’t believe that after watching my son non-stop for two hours, he had just made a river all over the floor and not one drop went in that stupid little potty we got (quick tip: pee hitting the floor is absolutely silent. Who knew?!). And then the next. And then the next. And then, somehow, we got some in. And then our cautious son got so excited about dumping his pee into the big potty and flushing it down that he wanted to sit on his little potty for hours so he wouldn’t miss his chance!

Fast forward a week and a half, and I have actually gone to the grocery store. I have visited friends. Richard is having less accidents, as long as I stay on top of him. BUT. No poop. No poop in that little potty. And that is because we separated the nighttime/naptime training (totally valid, according to the book), and so of course he is dropping that package in those comfortable diapers. Why not? Why would we do the scary thing and poop on the potty?

Then we had a time or two of, “Oh no, Mommy, I have some poop!” Meaning, there is poop in my pants. That was a lot of fun.

And I said to Joshua, this child will never poop in that potty as long as he is wearing diapers at night and nap. Richard so loves consistency and he hates change and he doesn’t like doing things that are new, different, or hard for him. Joshua and I decided, fine. We’ll be patient, we are in no rush. He is going in the potty during the day and he is doing great, and it doesn’t matter if he hasn’t pooped in that little potty yet.

One day, I had Simone on my lap feeding her a messy snack at the table. Richard said in alarm, “Oh no, Mommy, I have some poop!” And I said, calmly, “Did it already come out?” And he said, “No!” So I said, “Go go go, sweetheart! Get to the potty! Don’t forget to push down your pants!”

Off he went to the bathroom, and I could see him sitting there (in the dark, because of course he can’t reach the light switch yet). I finished feeding Simone quickly, and then popped in on Richard to see if he was done “pooping”. To my SHOCK, he was *actually* pooping. And that was that! He put it in the potty all by himself, there was no drama, and we were over that hurdle!

The next day, he went twice more in the potty! That evening, my husband and I popped some bubbly and toasted to the insane and incredible fact that our little Richard, who is just barely 29 months old, is peeing in the potty like a pro, and pooping on his own, even better.

All in all, this was not easy. I think, though, that a big contributor to that is that my little boy is very resistant to doing things on his own, and would much rather have me do them for him. And that’s the thing, right? This is something I really can’t do for him. It’s his responsibility – he needs to do it on his own. It’s up to him. Over the course of this month, I have seen this gradually dawn on him.

I’m so proud of Richard. He is doing great with this, and I just have to keep reminding myself: be patient. We’re still cleaning up a giant poopy diaper every morning (yes, even on the days and the days after we get poop in the potty…), but I don’t feel the need to crack down on that. We dropped the naptime diaper after about three weeks of training, and he woke up wet two or three times, and then started getting up to pee by himself when he woke up from his nap. (insert *high five*)

We went to Costco on Sunday and got what we agreed will be our last big box of 150 diapers for him. Sometime in that stretch, we’re doing nighttime training. It might be when we finish the box, it might be because Richard starts doing it on his own (please please please!), it might be because we are ready to do it and we know he is too. We’ll see.

So, was that enough poop and pee talk for you? No? Not yet? Wait until I tell you about going to the mall with a newly-potty-trained little boy…

the story of simone

WARNING: another long birth story post below. Again, if birth stories are not your thing, stop now!

I feel like I could quote the birth story post I did on Richard almost exactly. “I gave birth at 12:30am this morning. Wait, no, that’s not right. I gave birth at 12:30am a year ago tomorrow morning.” I feel the same sense of shock that it has been a year already since my gorgeous, long, lean daughter joined us in person.

I wrote out her birth story shortly after I had her, but here I am, finally posting it. Her birth (spoiler alert) was much shorter than Richard’s, but the story is almost as long because of all the details I wanted to remember. I have cut it down for public consumption, just a bit. Enjoy. 🙂

Obviously I went into the labor experience wondering if it would be a repeat of Richard’s, which, I have to say, would have been extremely difficult to do again. It was just so long. I kept telling myself that this time around I already knew I could do that if I had to, so no worries (but I really didn’t want to).

I had picked January 16 as my guess date, although January 9 was my due date. Just thought it wouldn’t do to focus in on January 9 when my family typically runs late. I was in no rush – my pregnancies so far have been easy and mostly comfortable, and Joshua and I are fans of big babies, so the longer she wanted to cook, the better. January 9 came and went, as I suspected. On Monday morning, January 14, I woke up and lost my mucus plug (ew! TMI! Yay!). I had not seen that happen with Richard, so it was a new and exciting thing for me. However, birth can happen as little as 24 hours after that or as late as two weeks. So really it means nothing if you are past 40 weeks and waiting around for labor. Obviously you will probably go into labor in the next two weeks if you’re at 40+. <sigh> But!! That evening, when Joshua got home, I told him, “I think I’m having some contractions!!!!”

I said “I think” because I had (kind of stupidly) gone online to remind myself (?) what “real” contractions feel like, and whatever website had said that “real” contractions will be up in your belly, not down in your hips. But the contractions I was feeling were definitely down in my hips, but they were getting a bit uncomfortable, and I remembered from Richard’s birth that it was when the Braxton Hicks started hurting that I felt my labor had truly started. But anyway, the contractions I was feeling that evening were very sporadic and only the tiniest bit uncomfortable. Definitely early early labor, if that.

We spent an enjoyable evening with Richard, wondering if it would be the last as a family of three. We had arranged with Joshua’s parents that they would keep him for the birth, but we felt no need to call them to come get him at that point. Things might be just starting, and his bedtime was so close, we knew we could just pop him in the crib and he would sleep through the whole thing if anything happened that night.

I texted my midwife, who suggested a hot shower and early to bed. Which is exactly what I did.

I was so excited to realize that my contractions were definitely getting more intense – still nothing crazy, though – but most importantly, I was not having back labor! When a contraction ended, it actually ended! This was mind-blowing to me. So different from Richard’s labor.

I lay in bed and tried to sleep between contractions, which were getting closer together. Around 11:00pm, they had gotten down to about 8 minutes apart and were getting uncomfortable enough that I couldn’t lay still in bed through them anymore, I really needed to move through them. I texted my midwife again and told her that, and she said she was on her way over.

Cue enormous excitement – could it possibly happen this quickly!?!?!??!?!?! Could we be meeting our baby girl tonight!?

The minute – quite literally – that my midwife stepped through our front door, my contractions dialed way back and basically stopped. They started coming about every half hour or 45 minutes, they weren’t super strong, and I knew we wouldn’t be seeing our baby that night. After chatting with our midwife for an hour or so, we offered our guest room, which she accepted, and Joshua and I went back upstairs and camped out on the floor in front of our big screen and turned on Friends on Netflix and let it play, endlessly going from one show to another. We both dozed underneath blankets, half-watching and laughing, and every now and then I would pop up into all fours and get through a contraction.

Around 6:00am on Tuesday, January 15, after getting snatches of a few hours of sleep throughout the night, we went downstairs to gameplan with our midwife. My contractions were almost completely gone. She suggested Joshua work from home, to take pressure off of me that he might be taking a day off from work but I’m not really in labor. We went ahead and had my in-laws come get Richard, because when I did have a contraction, it was pretty intense, and I really needed to focus to get through it, and I hadn’t had a ton of sleep, so keeping up with a toddler would be a bit taxing. I felt really torn saying goodbye to him that morning, though, because with the contractions at a standstill, I really had no idea when things would pick back up, and how long everything would end up taking. What if it was just like Richard’s birth, and we didn’t have the baby until Thursday or Friday?? I would be missing my sweet boy! We would have to go visit him at the Spurlock’s house!

But not having Richard home made the day very easy. I took a two-hour nap in the late morning to catch up on some sleep, occasionally waking up to get through a contraction. I couldn’t believe how awesome it was to be able to sleep in between contractions! Baruch HaShem!

In the afternoon, Joshua drove me over to Morgan’s house, where we had arranged a little mini-shower for my cousin, Sarah, who was getting married in late March. I had thought I might have to miss the event, but no! It was such a pleasant time and, again, it took my mind off the contractions and the waiting and the feeling of non-progression.

When I got back, Joshua and I ran out and picked up an early dinner, which we ate in our bonus room while again watching Friends. Shortly after that, I started pacing to help me with the contractions, and shortly after that, Joshua started timing them on his app. By around 8:15pm (on Tuesday, January 15), they were getting down to 8, then 7, then 6 minutes apart, and lasting for at least a minute each. They were pretty intense.

I texted my midwife, and she said, “Do you want me to come?”

And I thought, well, I want you to come if you think you should come! But I don’t want to make you sit in my house all night again! But then I thought, I would really like to know where I’m at here, because I think that would tell me if I am going to have to do this again tomorrow night and maybe the night after that, like with Richard.

So I texted back, “Yes. I would like you to check me.”

And so she came, arrived around 9:30pm, checked me, and said, “Yep, you’re right about 10 centimeters.”

And I was like YAY!!!!!! This is IT! We’re HERE! It’s HAPPENING!!!! We will meet our baby girl TONIGHT!

So the next thing that would probably happen, and which we were kind of waiting for as I got through contractions, was my water breaking.

After two more hours, it hadn’t happened yet, although the contractions were very strong and we had tried multiple positions. We tried holding up my belly through contractions, to help position the baby to get down there. We also tried me laying on the bed through five contractions – torture. I was getting through contractions ok by basically constantly moving. Walking and pacing and swaying – I had been on my feet for hours at this point, because I really couldn’t sit down, because standing back up would produce a contraction so strong I could barely take it. Lying still on my back through five, torturous contractions was so hard! I held onto Joshua’s hand and squeezed as hard as I could during the contractions. Why does that help? I think it’s a mind game.

It was getting close to midnight, and I had tried the birth stool and I had tried pushing a little, but I was having a hard time connecting to the pushes. With Richard, I felt so connected. I knew where to push, and I was pushing HARD. It took two-and-a-half hours, but I had good, strong, productive pushes through all of that, even after no sleep for like three days! I just couldn’t seem to get there with Simone.

I got back in the shower for the third or fourth time that night, to see if the water would help with the pain. I was starting to feel like the walls were closing in on me, and the contractions were coming so close together and lasting so long and hurting so bad – it felt like there was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide from them anymore. It felt like I had been successfully dancing around and through contractions all night, but now they had caught up to me and I couldn’t do it anymore. I tried pushing a bit in the shower, but when I felt that weird feeling of my insides starting to turn inside-out with the extreme-ness of the push, I realized I was pulling back a little, I was stopping myself and holding myself back. I realized I had a mental block there that I needed to get rid of.

When I got out of the shower, the midwives asked if I wanted to try getting on all fours, which I was happy to do. Joshua ran down to make me a smoothie, because I was getting really shaky and was almost out of energy. As a contraction started, I pushed past my mental block and really let myself go and pushed as hard as I could. SPLASH, my water broke.

I was so relieved.

Joshua reappeared with my smoothie, and I took a few sips. I felt another contraction starting, and I pushed hard. I could feel the baby traveling down the birth canal, right to the very edge, and at the end of the push, I felt her slip back in a little. And I thought, OH NO YOU DON’T. And with the next contraction, out she came, in one, fell swoop, along with a tremendous spray of amniotic fluid that barely missed one of the midwives. I heard our baby start to cry before I even finished pushing – one of the most amazing, welcome sounds!!

They helped me sit up, and there she was, our tiny, perfect human. I thought, she is much smaller than Richard was! And I took that slimy, beautiful girl, all wrapped in a towel and covered in cheese, and held her for the first time, and relished every moment, because this time I got to really enjoy it, I got to *be there* for it, like I wasn’t really with Richard.

We hadn’t seen her since our 17-week ultrasound, so I have to say we were wondering what she would look like. I took one look at her and thought, oh of course. She looked familiar. She looked like Richard. And I thought, I guess this is what our kids look like.

As it turns out, Simone was just one ounce lighter than Richard, and actually a quarter-inch longer!

Joshua told me the next day that he saw her and immediately knew her name was Simone. Our midwife heard her start crying (loudly) and said, “She’s telling it like it is!”, which is exactly how my mom is, so Joshua thought it would be perfect for her middle name to be Allyn.

And I couldn’t agree more.

No birth is easy – that’s for sure. But this birth was definitely a better experience overall than Richard’s was. The way I think about it, this birth was more of a mental game, while his was more of a physical one (with the length and the back labor). Going into labor on Monday night and having the baby on Tuesday night (pretty much)? PLUS basically not having any labor on Tuesday during the day? That’s a pretty great birth story in my book.

happy birthday to me – thirty years of julianna

It’s Thursday evening, June 6, and I am turning thirty tomorrow!

I’m very excited.

I know, some people are birthday people and some people aren’t. Some people really celebrate the years that pass, some people don’t. Some people are excited, some people are depressed. I think it’s obvious which category I’m in.

One of the reasons is that I am so very happy and content where I am in my life. It’s difficult to feel this way (I know from personal experience) when you feel like you’re falling behind your peers in some important life milestone (such as having children). But I think it’s most important that wherever you are, you be all there (a quote from Jim Elliot). My husband and I really embraced that in 2015, when two out of my three sisters PLUS my sister-in-law and over a dozen other friends produced babies, but I did not. We traveled as much as we possibly could, because there was nothing stopping us (like a tiny infant). We drank cocktails and did wine tastings. We stayed up super late and slept in. We had a lot of fun. And we talked about what if we never have kids?

Anyway, all I’m saying is when your birthday rolls around, you can choose to look at it through the lens of disappointment with where you are and where you think you should be or your friends think you should be, OR you can look at it and say, hey – I guess there is where I’m supposed to be right now and let’s make the most of it.

That’s what I’m doing.

I have to say, it’s much easier this year with my awesome husband and TWO beautiful children! I am overwhelmed!

So what does thirty mean to me? Well, it feels young, actually. Maybe I thought this age would start feeling older, but it really doesn’t to me.

Because I had my first child at 28, I know that my thirties will be full of parenting. My two kids are very close in age, so they are going to hit a lot of things either at the same time or right on each other’s heels. It will be a wild ride of a decade, and who knows if G-d will decide to throw in any more little blessings along the way? 🙂

In addition to parenting, I will also start homeschooling my kids in my thirties. I was a little trepidatious about that, to be honest, but as the time quickly approaches, I find that G-d continues to give me measure upon measure of calm. I can do this.

My thirties will also hold my ten-year anniversary! That feels like quite the milestone! We had originally thought we might plan a big trip, but with a five-year-old and a four-year-old, thinking we might wait on that a bit.

I will still be blissfully in my mid-thirties when my husband hits forty, and THAT feels like it’s getting up there (sorry, Joshua). It’s not, but the number just sounds older. Anyway, I’ll spend the remainder of my thirties keeping him young. 😉 So will the kids.

If I were to count my blessings, name them one by one (and I very nearly did here in this post, because I’m a numbers geek), I would bore you. Not only that, but you would think I sounded boastful. You would probably also think that I’m hiding the underbelly of my life from you and not being totally honest, because it all sounds too good to be true and there must be SOMETHING I’m hiding that’s bad in my life.

Spoiler: there’s not.

G-d has blessed me so abundantly these past thirty years. Joshua and I constantly ask each other, “How did we merit this?” My cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life thus far, and surely they always will.

a letter to my firstborn

My dear, darling Richard –

I want you to know that I am so proud of you. I am so proud of how you’ve handled having a little sister when you are still pretty small yourself. I watched you love and accept her immediately, and beam when she enters the room. I heard you say her name in your own special dialect, and it is so sweet to my ears.

And now, as we’re approaching her two-month “birthday”, I am seeing you start to have some trouble. I see how upset you get when I am feeding Simone and you want to be held or helped. I hear you say, “Ma”, and point to the spot on the floor where you would like me to sit and play with you when I need to stand or walk around with Simone. I watch you have a complete meltdown before your nap or bedtime, which is a new phenomenon for you, and one I can only connect to Simone. Maybe you think it’s not “fair” that she gets to go to bed after you, when you’re older. You’re only eighteen months old, but it wouldn’t surprise me if you’re picking up on that even now.

It’s totally understandable. You probably feel like I love you less, because I have to give you less attention than I did. Sweetheart, that just isn’t true. You are too young to understand it right now, to recognize that when love is divided, it multiplies. You may feel like I love you less, but Richard, I love you more.

I hope you will grow to love Simone so much that you will accept what a very good thing G-d gave us in her, and that your life and mine would not be complete without her in them, but you may never fully realize that, like a parent would. That’s ok. Trust me – as you always have – that a sibling is a great thing. A built-in friend, a sidekick, a confidante.

My heart breaks for you, because I see how hard this transition is for you. We thought, over the past two months, that it was easy, because you made it look easy. I guess it must have finally dawned on you that Simone is here to stay. It is so hard for me to watch you go through this, but this is a good thing, son. This is good growth. There are so many things we face in life that we might not like, or we might think are not fair or right or good, but when we mature and look back, we see what great things they really were. Having a sister is definitely one of those things. In fact, it’s nothing but good.

I am confident that all of this is just a phase, but it’s a phase that I see is difficult for you, if not long-lasting. And I wish that you were old enough to understand all the words I’m writing here, to express to me clearly what you’re feeling and help me help you through it. But this is the way that it is, and it’s ok. Just know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I am always here, always watching, always loving you. You are my First, my sweet boy, my One and Only Richard.

With all the love in my heart,

Mommy

the story of richard

WARNING: extremely long post following. read at your own convenience and interest!

I gave birth at 12:30am this morning.

Wait, no, that’s not right.

I gave birth at 12:30am a year ago today.

But in some ways, it kind of feels like it was this morning (without the pain and exhaustion and needy adorable newborn, of course).

It’s my son’s first birthday! Richard Ezekiel is turning one today – a whole beautiful year has passed since he officially entered our lives in his entirety. I never took the opportunity to write up his birth story, so I’m doing it now. Prepare for a long post (you don’t have to read it – birth stories are for some people and not others).

It started on Saturday, August 19. That’s when I started having my first, sporadic, just-slightly-uncomfortable contractions. I don’t really count that as being in labor, but it was the beginning of the story for us. We spent the afternoon swimming in my parents’ pool, which was a great way to a) reduce the gravitational pull on my hips and b) to see if my comfort was greater in water, so that I would know if I should have gotten a birth pool.

(It was not. I felt the same in and out of the water.)

That evening, Saturday evening, the contractions started coming a little closer together, but more importantly, the back labor started. I don’t know what it’s like for other people, but for me, back labor meant that a contraction would come, and it would be slightly uncomfortable, and then it would subside, but my back would be hurting, and that pain would not go away. So while contraction pain comes in waves and, up until the end of labor, gives you a break in between, my back labor would not really let up.

Anyway, so it was bedtime on Saturday night, and I couldn’t get to sleep. Neither, as it turned out, could Joshua. We laid there, and then we looked at one another and said, “Let’s have this baby tonight!”

We sprang into action. We put on the plastic sheet cover and the set of yucky birth sheets we had picked out for the occasion. We got stuff set up for the midwives to use to birth our baby. Then we went and walked our neighborhood circle and used the contraction-timing app on Joshua’s phone to time the contractions. They were getting closer together, and we were waiting for that sweet spot, the one where you call the midwife: 4-5 minutes apart, 1 minute long. After a few rounds of the sidewalk, we were there. This is it!

I texted my midwife, but there was no response (at this point it was 11:00/11:30pm, so that’s really not surprising). I asked Joshua to call her (I hate the phone). He actually got her!

And what did she say?

If I had been thinking about it, I would have already known. She said to go to bed and try to get some rest. Early labor can last a while.

Deflated, we went back to our plastic-coated bed and laid down and tried to sleep.

Sleep did not really come for me. I couldn’t get comfortable. It was early in the morning when we were both awake and decided to get up. Amazingly, my contractions kind of petered out and disappeared.

Word to the wise: sleep. I should have taken a nap right then and there, but what can I say? By this point, the adrenaline was going, the THIS IS IT was in full force. I did not sleep Sunday morning. …Next time!

Sunday morning, we went to brunch at Luna’s Living Kitchen. We had lined up a fun brunch for that day in case the baby hadn’t come yet. He had not. So off we went, and then we went to the mall and walked around and Joshua bought a tie for our son’s bris ceremony.

That afternoon, the contractions came back. Still somewhat sporadic, nothing too bad. There was lots of walking around and birth balls and trying to get into positions that would keep the contractions going.

Sunday night, things got intense. Joshua had fallen asleep (exhausted, poor thing), but I could not sleep. The back pain was killing me, and the contractions were coming faster and harder. I rocked on my hands and knees in our prepared nursery, getting through them. I didn’t wake Joshua up, because I knew he would be more helpful the next day (and who knows? Night?) if he got some sleep. Plus, I could sense that there was still a good bit of time between the contractions, even though they were more intense. I took a hot shower for a change of pace and to see if the water drumming on my back would give me some relief.

Monday morning (early – every morning was early), Joshua informed his boss that he would be going ahead and starting his paternity leave. Funny, I had been kind of worried that I would get it wrong and call Joshua home from work one day and it would be a false alarm, like you see in the movies all the time. Somehow I knew this was really it. This was definitely labor. We were going to have this baby at some point. Soon. Hopefully.

My midwife checked in later that morning, and suggested a visit to the chiropractor. Miraculously, she was able to fit me in, and we went for an adjustment that afternoon. She asked me to lay on my stomach, propped up with pillows – I thought she was crazy. She adjusted me, and for the next ten minutes, laying there on my enormous stomach, I was in no pain. It was glorious. It was amazing. I could have / wanted to stay there forever.

Instead, we walked the mall again, but the contractions didn’t pick up or anything. It was kind of frustrating. They were there, about every 6-7 minutes, but not strong enough to be the call-the-midwife kind and not weak enough to let me rest. Plus, as always, throughout this entire story – my back was killing me.

Cool factoid: it was that afternoon, Monday afternoon, August 21, that was that really awesome solar eclipse that was total in somewhere really close like Columbia SC, and almost total here in Charlotte NC. Joshua had prepared everything and we went out and “watched” it together that afternoon. It’s a really fun memory, even though it was hard to stand there for even those few minutes because of my back pain. I’m so glad we did it, and it was neat how G-d worked it out so we could watch it together, because normally Joshua would have been at work.

That evening, our midwife checked in to see how we were doing, and encouraged me to keep trying to rest and eat and drink a lot. She said if the birth didn’t happen tonight, come down and see her the next afternoon.

At this point, I hadn’t slept in about three days, and my back had basically never stopped hurting, so…Monday night was sounding really good! But also, it felt like it definitely wasn’t going to happen.

Monday night was shockingly similar to Sunday night. The contractions kicked in strong and intense almost as soon as I was in bed. Again, I went into our nursery and sat in the rocking chair, covered in blankets, waiting for each contraction. When it started, I would get on my hands and knees and rock my way through it. Then I would clamber back into the chair and rock and wait and do it all over again. My body was shaking so badly at this point – why? Possibly just exhaustion? I wasn’t cold, I wasn’t hot, but I couldn’t stop the shakes. I had heard that happens to a lot of women, but the stories I had heard were all after birth, not during labor.

Anyway, Joshua joined me and timed the contractions for hours. He got some sleep during the night, but most of it we were laboring together. It’s amazing what the presence of another person can do. It’s not like Joshua could do anything to help or make me feel better or take away the pain, but just having him there was better than not. Plus, at some point he put his fingers on either side of my head, on my temples, and gently went in circles during a contraction, and it was crazy how much better it felt. His hands were so cool and my head was so hot. He did that a lot throughout the rest of the labor.

My midwife had told me that a lot of women find relief in the tub.

Ew.

The tub.

Really, really hate bathtubs and baths. I avoid them if at all possible. I find them incredibly uncomfortable and gross. This is one of the reasons I decided not to go with the birth pool / bathtub birth.

Early Tuesday morning, she suggested it again, and I was desperate enough to fill it up and get in.

And there was some relief.

In fact, I slept on and off for a few minutes at a time for about two hours on Tuesday morning, in our bathtub. Our bathtub leaks ever so slightly, so I left the hot water running at a trickle, and the bath stayed full and hot the entire two hours, which was nothing short of a miracle.

I finally got some rest.

However, I very clearly realized that there was no way I was going to be able to get out of the tub, get in our car, and travel down to Rock Hill (an hour away) to see our midwife! I would not be able to sit still for that long! These contractions were getting too hard and coming too quickly to do that.

So Joshua texted her. He told her, in his nice way, that he really didn’t think I could make it down there.

She said, how about I send one of my helpers up to check on things?

And we said, yes please.

I told Joshua I was going to ask her to check me. At this point, I really needed to know what was going on.

“If she says I’m at like 2 or 3 centimeters, I’m done,” I told him. “We’ll need to go to the hospital.”

“If we go to the hospital,” he said doubtfully, “They will almost certainly do a C-section.”

(Something we very much wanted to avoid, obviously.)

“FINE.” I said. “I can’t do another night like the last two nights and I need to sleep. Cut the baby out.”

So later that morning, said helper arrived. She took a look and felt around my belly – yes, the baby is way down there, he’s in position, but who knows how long this could take? It could be hours, days even.

“Would you like me to check you?” she asked sweetly.

“Yes, I would love that.”

She did.

NINE CENTIMETERS.

NINE!!!!!!

I was so elated and relieved I could barely stand it.

Nine! The end is in sight! We can do this! We can make it!

She texted our midwife with an update and told her she should go ahead and come.

It was early afternoon on Tuesday when we had the midwife and her helper there, and the contractions were pretty strong and pretty regular, and doing squat.

All afternoon, nothing happened.

Finally, in the early evening, the birthing team went to get some dinner, and shortly afterward, my water broke. Finally finally finally. It came out and (TMI!!!) it was gross and brownish green. Apparently meconium in there. Gross.

And nothing happened.

Still pretty regular, pretty strong contractions, but nothing happening.

WHERE IS THE BABY.

WHY IS HE NOT HERE YET.

Joshua spoke with our midwife, and she told him frankly that I might just be too exhausted, and we might have to transfer to the hospital so I could get an epidural or something and get some rest, and then my body would kick things up and I could push this guy out. Sometimes, she said, all a woman needs is a saline drip to replace some of the fluid and salt she has lost over a long labor, and that does the trick.

So Joshua hauled me down (sweetly!) to the kitchen and had me eat the leftover sushi we had picked up the day before that I hadn’t really wanted to eat (who likes to eat when they’re in pain?). We doused it in tamari and I ate as many bites as my protesting body would let me, and then, at 9:30, mid-bite, the contractions clicked on again like clockwork.

They were the strongest, most intense contractions I had felt so far. It was crazy and kind of horrifying but also super exciting that things were moving again.

Soon after that, they set me up on the birth stool, where I stayed for the remainder of the birth. I started pushing.

And pushing.

And pushing.

I couldn’t feel anything down there, so I kept asking, “Do you see him yet?” and “How much further does he need to come?”

It was an epic moment when they finally said they could see the head.

And then the head was right there, ready to come out, and then it was coming out, and then we all saw that Richard had decided to put his giant fist up by his head, so his enormous head and meaty fist both needed to come out at the same time (!) (!) (!).

And then the head was halfway out, and then out dribbled the rest of the body, so quickly, so smoothly and wetly, like chicken in a can.

And it was over.

And the pain stopped.

They handed me my squawking infant, and I was afraid I would drop him, it felt like there wasn’t an ounce of strength left in my body.

They helped me up onto our bed, which must have been a lot of work for them, because I found that in the 2.5 hours of pushing, my legs had gone completely to sleep and were totally numb.

I delivered the placenta, which was more work than I thought it would be, and then I was laying in bed and Joshua was holding our precious baby boy, and my eyes were closing. I could barely keep myself awake (actually couldn’t, most of the time) through the various checks and tests they did with me and the baby.

After a bath and nursing for the first time and cleaning everything up, the midwives left and Joshua and I went to bed with our sweet baby right there with us for the first time.

And I slept three-and-a-half hours and felt like a million dollars in the morning.

So the way I count it, I would say early labor started sometimes Sunday afternoon/evening, and then Richard finally decided to come out on Wednesday morning at 12:30am. It was quite the marathon! I can’t even believe I can type this up without trepidation as I sit here with my 20-week bump and think about laboring through the next one. And the reason for that is that if I could do this – this looooooong Richard birth – I can do anything.

But all the same, I hope our baby girl decides to make a faster entrance into the world. 😉

do i want to know i’m a terrible person?

There has been a blog post percolating in the back of my mind for some time now. It really comes down to a question:

Do we really want to know what people think about us?

The black-and-white, radically honest side of me says yes! Of course I do! Honesty is the best policy. Plus, I’ve got a pretty thick skin. I can handle whatever people have to say about me (but really, most people don’t say nasty things). Living in the South, where a lot of people tend to hide what they truly think, it’s always fascinated me to get into people’s minds and hear their real thoughts.

But.

The other side of me says, if someone has some really caustic, nasty, hurtful things to say about me, what good is it for me to know? Something like that could mean the end of our relationship (if there was one)…but if they are saying these things, was there really one to begin with?

I should backpedal just a bit to say that I’ve had a few people speak to me face-to-face or write me a personal note to criticize my behavior or my words, and I have taken that as constructive criticism and tried to change my behavior or words (if I agreed with them…which I usually did). This post is more about the people who decide to tell someone else all about how horrible I am, or put it out there on social media “anonymously” (with no names) for all their friends to see and agree with (because they know exactly what they’re saying). But of course they don’t tell me.

Oh – this hasn’t happened to you? It’s just me? Huh.

For some reason, people do seem to have a love/hate relationship with my family. Those who like us [appear to] really, really like us. They cannot understand how some people might not. Those who do not like us really do not like us. I don’t think hate is too strong a word. Why is this? What is it about me? And now, as a parent myself, I am imagining what my parents might have gone through, seeing their children go through those formative years with few or no friends, being ignored, excluded, talked about (but never to our faces, of course). I would be hurting for my son, my precious baby, who is such a light and blessing to so many – how could anyone not like him? But being genetically related to me, and my family, deep down I am afraid he might find himself in the same boat one day. I remember telling my mom about something nasty someone had posted about me, and she said I really should just get off of social media – just shut it down and not have to see this stuff. And, thinking about Richard, I understand the desire to protect me from the acid out there, to protect me from the burn, the hurt.

That’s what brought about this post: do we delete our accounts and never know that someone said something mean, or do we want to know what was said so we know where we truly stand with people?

I like to know the truth. But maybe, sometimes, it’s better not to?

a letter to my aunt

My beloved aunt :

I know you haven’t been gone even a week yet, and we didn’t even have plans to see each other anytime soon, but now that I know I’ll never see you again, it’s one of the only things I wish.

I took some time this morning to scroll through your Facebook page, and your friends from your library have written sweet messages to tell you goodbye and what you meant to them. You touched so many lives.

My heart is broken that you left without saying goodbye. I had no idea that the last time I saw you would be the last time I saw you. I was so pregnant then, and we were all hoping my baby would come while you were here, but he didn’t. And that means that, after all the generous gifts with which you showered him, you never got to meet Richard, who brings such sunshine and happiness into so many lives. It makes me so sad that he will never know you.

You were such a thoughtful, caring person. You always remembered birthdays, anniversaries, life events of all kinds. Even though you clearly had a full and busy life of your own, you always made it clear you cared about mine, too. That’s something I’ve always wanted to emulate.

Last time you came down – and I’m sorry you always had to come down and we never went up. I regret that so much – we had lunch together and the longest conversation one-on-one we’ve ever had. It felt different, like we weren’t just aunt and niece anymore, like maybe we were actually friends, woman to woman. It made me so happy.

Thank you for giving me that sweet memory. Thank you for taking the time to do that with me, even though I know you probably couldn’t taste the salad you were eating. I feel so guilty about not keeping in touch more, about not sending you more pictures or notes to tell you how much I appreciated everything you did and said, about not emailing or messaging to ask how you were doing more often. I thought we would have more time.

I was so excited you were moving down here and would be closer to us! I will miss that now, so much.

I don’t understand why this happened, and maybe I never will.

You were so loved, and I hope you knew that. I should have told you more often.

 

May the L-rd remember the soul of my aunt, who has gone on to her world. May her soul be bound in the Bond of Life, together with the righteous men and women in the Garden of Eden.