Tag Archives: motherhood

My Self — Myself

Mr. B and I were talking last night after Little Miss and Mister Mister went to sleep. We don’t spend a lot of time talking talking. I mean, we talk, but we don’t talk like we used to — you know, before kids, when we used to have time to sit and discuss the big things like dreams and wishes and goals and … well … life.

So, last night we did that. And it was nice. We talked about our life and the chapter we’re in right now and how life is with two (three) kids. And it was a great conversation that ended with some tears, as B.I.G. conversations sometimes do. (My tears, of course, it’s always my tears.)

They weren’t sad tears. They weren’t happy tears. They weren’t mad tears. They were … contemplative … tears, I suppose.

Because as we were talking, I shared with Mr. B how hard things are some days. It is hard balancing it all: work, family, friends, “self-care,” home, responsibilities. Mostly, it’s hard because I feel like I haven’t been myself since before I was pregnant with Penelope Joy.

I really, truly love the chapter of our story we’re living right now. But, if you think about it, I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding since January of 2013. There was a 3-month break between Penelope Joy’s death and when I got pregnant with Dottie Lou. But that was filled with fresh, terrible grief. And now, some days I’m left feeling like my body, myself, has not really been my own for four-and-a-half years.

Now, please don’t get me wrong: I love being a mom (way more than I thought I could). I love being a wife. I love every choice and sacrifice I’ve made that has brought me to where I am right now. I look back with no regrets, and I look forward with no doubts. But, man, this chapter can be hard.

Sitting here, staring at the screen and listening to myself type, I don’t really have a solution — or know if I really need a “solution.” I don’t have any deep thoughts about it. Actually, I don’t really know the point of this post, other than both kids are sleeping and I haven’t really made time to write for a really long time. And, for me, writing is one of the first steps to feeling like myself again — to feeling like I belong to me.

Now, please enjoy this picture of my family or, as Dottie Lou says, “all the silly monkeys.”

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The Light Through the Cracks

I’m not a naturally optimistic person. My natural reaction is to think about the what-ifs and the worst case scenario. It takes a lot of work for me to look on the bright side of things — and it’s taken me a lot of practice.

I actually have Penelope Joy to thank for teaching me the most important lessons about optimism. I could have been destroyed by what happened to her — by what happened to us. I could have easily said: “See? I told you something bad would happen. I knew my what-if worries were reliable.”

Instead, though, I knew her life needed to matter. I knew that living in the negative parts of her story, of our story, would let too much dark in. It could have destroyed me, it could have destroyed my marriage. And, I’ll tell you what, looking at all of the wonderful about her short little life has made all the difference. It has allowed her light to shine on — breaking through any bit of darkness that makes its way in. Even when I get sad — which happens a lot this time of year — it’s a sadness haloed with light.

Penelope Joy

And that’s what keeps me working toward seeing the light in the darkness. It typically gets easier and easier — and, most of the time, I’m able to find the positive in a situation. Sometimes, like recently, though, things start to slide back to their natural resting state.

Usually, I don’t see it happening. It just … happens. This time Mr. B pointed it out, noting that my reactions to things have been more negative than positive, that I’m just not myself. My gut reaction was to be cranky about him saying that — but I realized it wasn’t judgy or mean-spirited. It was a loving husband noticing something very important about his wife: something was wrong.

What it was, I don’t know. I’m guessing it was a combination of a lot of things: Work is crazy-busy this time of year; I miss my Up North Family; Wink has been keeping me up, and I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in a few weeks; it’s an emotional time of year; I don’t have (don’t make) a lot of me time … Like I said, probably a combination of things.

So, here I sit, in the middle of a reset. Resetting my mind. Resetting my focus. And rediscovering positivity — even when the easy option is to settle in with the reactions that come more naturally to me. After all, there are countless wonderful, positive things happening in my life — and they deserve the focus light and attention. They deserve the light.

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Does this mean that everything is going to make me happy? That I won’t have cranky days or get annoyed now and again? That I won’t ever have a negative reaction to something? That I won’t just need to have a big ol’ cry some day(s)? Absolutely not. Because I am a work in progress. And, mainly, because that’s not how life is. Life is meant to be lived and experienced — to its full emotional capacity.

But, taking a positive outlook on life in general and reacting positively to the people and things around me is going to go a lot further in making my world a better, more positive place. I also believe that what I put into the universe is what’s going to come back to me. Sometimes it just takes a little reminder and a slight nudge from someone who loves me to remind me of what I already know.

Plus, I think our world can use as many positive vibes as possible right now. So that’s what I’ll be sending trying to send out into the world whenever I can. Because there is light in the darkness. Because #lovewins.

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A Golden Child and Some (Irrational) Anxiety

Tonight, just as we were settling into our bedtime routine, Dottie was overtaken by fits of laughter. Serious, uncontrollable, gut-busting laughter. Brought on by the word … “seriously.” And, as laughter took over her small body, it busted out of her and right into me. There we were, snuggled into the rocking chair, unable to control our laughter. At bedtime.

Mr. B wasn’t too pleased — I could tell. But, he couldn’t be mad, either. Because … seriously … that laugh!

dotties-laugh

Dottie is just coming to life these days. Her personality constantly has us laughing and shaking our heads. Every day is a wild, wonderful adventure with Dottie around. I laugh more now than I ever have. And I’m constantly left standing in awe at this beautiful, spirited soul who, for some reason, the universe chose to entrust to us.

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Don’t get me wrong, it’s not 100 percent laughter 100 percent of the time. I mean, there are those times that she looks at us and we just know we’re in trouble.

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But, seriously (ha! ha! ha!), I have no idea what I did to deserve this child, but I’m so glad I get to be her mom. She fills our world with so much love, laughter and joy. Every time I think I couldn’t possibly love her more, my heart grows … and grows … and grows. She is everything good this world needs — she is golden.

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I am so excited to welcome Wink to the world and introduce him/her to Dottie. She’s going to be the most amazing big sister and such a wonderful friend and confidant and role model. I couldn’t have written a better big sister for Wink.

While I know Dottie’s going to be an amazing big sister — and I can’t wait to see Mr. B with his newborn child again — if I were being completely honest, I’d tell you that there are days I worry that I’m not a good enough mom to have two kids at home (plus one who lives in my heart). I worry that I’m … simply … not … enough. How can I give as much to Wink as I’ve been able to give to Dottie? How can I give to Dottie what she’ll need while caring for a newborn?  How can I love big enough?

Now, I know that if I really spend any time at all (even a second) thinking about it, I’d have no reason to doubt what an amazing, love-filled adventure lies ahead of us. I mean, loving big — every day — is what the B family does best. Plus, when I thought I couldn’t possibly love someone as much as I loved Penelope Joy, Dottie arrived. And my heart grew with plenty of room for both of them (with even a little lot of room for a certain rescue pup).

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But knowing something and knowing something are two very different things.

I suppose this happens to all moms — all parents — when they add baby #2 or #3 or … #6 (in my parents’ case) to their families. And, please don’t get me wrong: I am beyond thrilled to have another baby and cannot wait to live this next chapter of our story. But to say there’s no anxiety would be to deny part of my experience, part of my story.

So … now that that’s out of my system, I wanted to also share that we heard baby Wink’s heartbeat last week. There were tears. And smiles. And more tears. I guess there’s not much more to say about it. (Squee!!)

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On Assignment

Timehop tells me it’s been eight years this year since I graduated from my master’s program. That means it’s been eight years since I’ve had homework.

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And, yet, here I sit: on assignment.

I’m writing this because my therapist told me to. Well, he didn’t specifically say what to write. And he didn’t tell me to write a blog post. He simply said, “write.”

“I don’t care what you write. Just take an hour, by yourself, and write. It might be hard, and you might not write anything. But you need to get back into it.” 

So, at 11 a.m. today, Mr. B — my ever-supportive (sometimes annoyingly so) husband — kicked me out of the house and told me not to come back until I had an uninterrupted hour of time. And, apparently, he wasn’t willing to include drive-time in that hour, either.

My first session with J was on Monday. I’ve done therapy before — twice, actually — for a couple of different seasons in my life. But it was never anything that I thought was particularly life-changing. And it never lasted. After just one session with J, I think I know the reason: I hadn’t met the right therapist yet.

After just an hour with J, he’s pretty well figured me out — well, at least figured out how my mind operates and how I need to do things. At the end of the get-to-know-you, why-did-you-call-me session, he asked me what I would need to have accomplished at the end of our time together (whether it’s two months or six months or a year …) to know it’s been a success. Together we set three very measurable, very realistic goals.

And from those goals came my weekly “homework” assignments. This week’s? Make time for myself to write.

It’s not that I don’t want to write. I actually really, really do. And I miss snuggling up with my computer, the romantic glow of the screen keeping me company while I drink green tea and type whatever words happen to be at the top of my mind that morning … or noon … or night. It’s just that I’ve been struggling to make it a priority.

You guys are probably pretty sick of all of my blog posts about trying to make time for myself, about filling my cup before I can fill the cups of others. But it’s all I’ve got right now. This is the season I’m in. And as I sit here writing, listening to the buzz of the coffee shop around me, I’m beginning to think I know why it’s so hard for me — or at least part of the reason.

I don’t want to miss a thing with Dottie Lou. Not a single thing. No mom does; no dad does. Unfortunately, it’s the nature of the world for working parents — whether they have to work or they choose to work, or both. For me, I think there’s even more to it than that.

I’m still carrying with me the grief of all of the experiences we missed with Penelope Joy, and the fear of missing out on one of Dottie’s milestones keeps me as close to her as possible whenever it’s in my control. There are days I still cry when I drop her off at daycare — even though I know she’s loved and welcomed as one of their own children. There are nights I cry to Mr. B because I miss Dottie so much during the day.

While Dottie goes in and out of stages of separation anxiety — when all she wants is me — I’m experiencing separation anxiety of my own. It’s hard enough to leave her during the day while I work, but to take extra time alone in the evenings and on the weekend is really difficult. And the thought of leaving her overnight causes me pretty bad anxiety — even if I want to go on the trip. Because every time I think about the possibility of missing something with Dottie, the wounds of Penelope Joy’s loss feel so fresh.

As J and I settle in to our relationship, I’m certain we’ll be working on these — and so many other — issues associated with Penelope Joy’s and my dad’s deaths. The grief? It will always be there. Because that’s how grief works — it’s a constant (sometimes gentle, sometimes not) reminder that we have loved; that we have lost. But I need to find ways to deal with Grief’s friends, Anxiety and Fear.

Writing helps.

catharsis

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Happy Six Months, Dottie Lou!

Today we celebrate Dottie’s sixth monthiversary! As cliché as it sounds, time has flown past. (I suppose it’s cliché for a reason!) I honestly can’t believe my little Smooshy is six months old already. It honestly seems like just last week that we were bringing her home from the hospital and living in our own little bubble of new-parenthood wonder and worry.

Dottie Lou Newborn

She is such a joy and treasure. I know every parent says that — and every parent is right — but I can’t even think of a single “yeah, but” of “if only” to that statement. Watching her explore and discover this world has reminded me about all of the beauty there really is. Beauty that I think we all take for granted. She has reminded me to take some time and appreciate the simple things — like how silly Piper looks when she’s running in circles and how soft Annie Cat’s hair is and how tickly the grass is on my bare feet.

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She’s forever changed my relationship with Mr. B, too. In only the best ways. What Penelope Joy taught us about strength and parenthood and love, Dottie Lou enriches and strengthens. She continues to show us how to walk — every day — in love. Even when we’re exhausted and overwhelmed, we are able to come home and find respite in each other’s arms and a smile on Dottie Lou’s face. She reminds us what is truly important: each other.

And watching Mr. B be a dad has made my heart grow two … three … four sizes. His relationship with Dottie Lou is one of such deep, warm love that it’s nothing I could ever describe. (Though, I know it — because I had it with my dad, too.) When I watch him look at her, and her at him, I am overwhelmed with such joy and love and … pride. “These are my people,” I think.

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It’s a pretty amazing thing, knowing that a little person can have such a big impact on your world. I am so very proud to be Dottie Lou’s mom. When I see that sparkle in her eyes when she sees me come into a room and when she reaches for me when I walk past her and when she grins at me from across the room? It is then that I know that I’m doing just fine — even amid the doubt and guilt that comes with juggling all the things that need to be juggled when you’re a mom. That smile, that sparkle remind me that I am enough.

And, as quick as they were, these past six months have been eye-opening and life-altering. She is a special baby, this rainbow baby of ours.

Dottie Lou Six month

All photo by The People Picture Co. in Grand Rapids. If you’re ever in need of a photographer, I couldn’t recommend them enough.

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Forgetting to Remember

Mr. B and I went shopping last week. And something happened. Something sorta big, I guess. We — for a split second — forgot to remember about Penelope Joy. About her existence and about her death.

We were shopping with Dottie Lou at one of my favorite places. And Mr. B picked up this super cute mug that he thought would be perfect for his mom. It said “Grandma. Est. 2015.” I agreed, and we started to take it off the shelf. And then, my eyes started welling up seconds later as I realized what we’d done.

You see, Grandma B was not made a grandma in 2015. She was made a grandma in 2013 — when Penelope Joy was born.

The Day She was Born

It’s actually been happening a lot lately. Well, not us forgetting so much. More like life going forward. As time goes on, we get further and further away from Penelope Joy. We’ve done our first “official” family photo shoot without Penelope Joy. And, I certainly felt the hole. I feel it every time I look at the pictures. And I have a feeling I always will — no matter how big our family grows.

Family Photo

And, as our life gets busier, our days seemingly get shorter. And there is definitely less focusing on the past and more living in the now. Life with Dottie Lou is a whirlwind — there really is no other way to explain it. She’s a lively, joyful, curious child. And she keeps us on our toes every second.

Curious Dottie

Smiley Dottie

She makes my heart leap for joy every morning when I wake up and every time I see her after a long day apart. To be honest, I was not remotely prepared for how much I could love this child. Every day she teaches me about hope and love, wonder and joy. She also teaches me about strength — because momming is so very hard. Being a mother — actually getting to BE a mother — is more than I could have ever imagined.

When I think about that statement, though, it does make me sad. Because I feel like Penelope Joy made me a mother, too. And I don’t ever want to take that for granted. And I don’t ever want to forget — not for a single second — that I am the mom I am today because of Penelope Joy. In so many ways she taught me what “Mom” means — and in ways, I suppose, that Dottie Lou will (hopefully) never make me a mother.

Penelope Joy made me a mom, and she’ll always have a special place in my heart as my first-born. And Dottie Lou? She continues to show me the way. She teaches me about the best parts of myself and, some days, the worst parts of myself. Both of my girls has contributed so much to my story — to what makes me, me.

I’ll probably always get sad when I realize that I’ve forgotten to remember Penelope Joy — even though it’s just for a fleeting second. While she’ll always live in my heart and define so much of who I am and how I live my life, life does move forward. The earth keeps spinning. Because, as Mr. B said, “that’s how it’s supposed to be.”

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A Mother’s Day Sandwich

It’s Wednesday. And we’re sandwiched right in between two special days: International Bereaved Mother’s Day and Mother’s Day. International Bereaved Mother’s Day was started in 2010 and now falls on the first Sunday in May. Mother’s Day, as you (hopefully) know, falls on the second Sunday of May. So … this is the way it will always be — a sandwich week. And, so far this year, it’s been a pretty emotional one. I’ve been feeling the loss of Penelope Joy so much lately. But, at the same time, have been finding so much joy in Dottie Lou. Every time I think I couldn’t love her more or be more in awe of her, I wake up and it’s a new day and there’s a fresh stock of brand-new love and admiration for her.

It’s fitting, I suppose, that this week is sandwiched between two days that are somewhat definitive for me. I’m grieving our loss of Penelope Joy — I’ll always be grieving it. But I’m celebrating — both her life and Dottie Lou’s. And I celebrate both of them for making me a mother — and for teaching me so much about life and what really, truly matters.

Penelope Joy made me a mother.

Penelope Joy made me a mother.

As Dottie Lou continues to hit milestones (she’s rolling over!!) and celebrate special days, I’m reminded of the milestones and celebrations we’ll never get to celebrate with Penelope Joy. While there’s a fleeting moment of sadness (OK, some days it may stick around a little longer than others), I try so hard not to live in the sadness of missed milestones and, instead, live in today’s celebrations. Because to focus on the sadness of the “what ifs” and the “why nots” is to completely miss the gift we have in Dottie Lou.

Dottie Lou teaches me how  to be a better mother — and a better person.

Dottie Lou teaches me how to be a better mother — and a better person.

I’ve said it a dozen times before — had Penelope Joy not lived and died, we would not have Dottie Lou. That doesn’t mean that I don’t miss Penelope Joy. Because I do, and my heart hurts every time I think about her. It just means that I can’t wish her back and this is our story. And Dottie Lou is here.

So, Mr. B and I celebrate every milestone and rejoice with every new expression Dottie Lou gives us — even her pout pout face. And I share way too many photos. And I talk about Dottie Lou way too much.

Yes, I’ll always be sandwiched between grieving and rejoicing. But I can choose how I live and which one of those I allow to take root and grow.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk of sandwiches has me hungry.

While we'll never have a complete family photo with both of our girls, we will always carry them both in our hearts. Always and forever.

While we’ll never have a complete family photo with both of our girls, we will always carry them both in our hearts. Always and forever.

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