Tag Archives: motherhood

Talking the Talk

When you have two toddlers, it’s hard to find time to talk — really, really talk — with your partner. I mean, Mr. B and I talk. We talk about our days. We talk about our budget. We talk about our weekend plans. But we don’t really talk about The Big Stuff. You know, the stuff we used to talk about pre-kids. Or, really, pre-marriage.

There’s a special kind of conversation that takes place when you’re in the first chapter of a relationship — The Big Stuff. Hopes. Fears. Dreams. Goals. These kinds of conversations are the stuff relationships and new love are made from. The results of these conversations are, to a certain extent, the reason you fall in love with someone.

At least, that’s how it worked for me.

Mr. B and I used to have the most fantastic conversations. Some of this was due to the way we fell in love with each other — online, through late-night conversations via text, chat, email and, sometimes, even phone calls. Working opposite shifts and living in different cities made conversation a crucial building block in our relationship. Looking at us now, I’m certain you’d never believe we once stayed up until 4 a.m. just walking the streets talking. (Shocking, I know! I mean, just yesterday we called it a night and went to bed at 9:30 after I woke up to the sound of Mr. B snoring on the couch next to me.)

Want further proof we used to young and fun once — staying up until all hours, playing dress up and just being plain silly?

All this to say that Mr. B and I have been talking lately — about more than what’s for dinner. But, to be honest, we do talk about that a lot. And breakfast, too. Because breakfast is really important.

Communication can be tough — marriage can be tough. And I think Mr. B and I have had to work at it harder in the last six months than we ever have. (It certainly doesn’t help that I’ve been dealing with mental health issues of my own.) So much about our life together has been about the kids — what’s going on with them, what they’re currently getting into in the other room, what they need — that, not only have we neglected ourselves as individuals, we’ve neglected ourselves as a couple.

We’re working hard to change that. And part of that is talking more. Real, purposeful talking — setting aside time to actually have a conversation with each other that can’t be interrupted by a needy kid (or one who’s so stinkin’ cute we have to drop everything we’re doing and just marvel at our little creation).

Some of the conversations are ugly — because no matter how much I try to work on my emotional intelligence, all of my feelings look like tears. And some of the conversations are really, really beautiful — how life-giving is it to have someone open his soul wide up and share his biggest, pie-in-the-skyiest dream with you?

We talk about how we can do better as partners, as parents. We talk about where we want to be in five weeks, five months and five years. We talk about our next chapter, our next home. We talk about reindeer and children’s books and coffee and hammocks. We talk about what our future together looks like — and what our future as individuals looks like. And, yes, of course we talk about our kids.

As we spend more time talking — and making real conversation a priority — we’re getting better at it. We’re rediscovering that warm feeling we had in the beginning when we were connecting on a different plane. Communication is starting to flow more smoothly and happen more spontaneously. But, like everything, it’s definitely taking practice and a little patience as we dust the rust off.

I can already tell that things between us are starting to click a little better. We’re reconnecting to the “we” we used to be — with the addition of at least one fun new topic to add to our conversations:

The kids

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An Admission — and a Soapbox

I feel like I should start this post by admitting some things about myself — true confessions style. So, here goes:

  • I am a do-it-myself, charge-on-through kinda gal, and I hate asking for help.
  • I have a terrible fear of failure, of disappointing people and of not being “enough” — whatever that even means.
  • I talk a really good game when it comes to “happiness is an inside job” and “choose joy,” but some days I struggle to see the glass half full and recognize all the good I have in my life.

Now that that’s out of the bag, let me get into the real reason for randomly interrupting your social media and blog scrolling today: depression and anxiety.

The other day I shared a post I saw on someone’s social feed: “In my deepest darkest post-partum depression, I would have personally never called a phone number. If John or my doctor never reached out, I would have never even known. It really can be a lonely hole. Watch the people you love and don’t be afraid to speak up.” (Source)

When I shared that — and commented my agreement, it didn’t mean I think suicide call lines are a bad idea — they are so important, and we should have even more resources like this available. What it meant to me was, I personally wouldn’t have called a phone number. On my saddest, darkest of days, I would not have picked up a phone to dial a number to talk to a stranger about what I was feeling. Because … (see bulleted list at the top of this post).

If Mr. B hadn’t talked to me in loving but honest terms about what he was seeing (“You just don’t seem happy anymore.”) or my therapist didn’t encourage me to share my real feelings even though they made me feel like a failure as a mother or my friend didn’t call me to make sure everything was OK when she saw me struggling, I probably never would have even considered post-partum depression (and anxiety) as what was going on with me. I mean, after all, it was several months after Little Man was born — how could it possibly be post-partum depression?

Even now, after writing this post in my head 1,000 times over the last few months, it feels weird to see it in black-and-white. It still feels like I’m going to be judged for it, like it reveals something nasty about my true nature, like there’s something wrong with me. Like maybe, just maybe, I’m not a good mom or wife because some days I feel completely overwhelmed trying to do it all. And, damn it, shouldn’t I just be happy because I get to hold my living, breathing, thriving, beautiful children when so many other moms — myself included — had to bury theirs? Maybe I’m not feeling as hashtag-blessed as I should be?

When Mr. B first started talking to me about it, I admitted that there had been a couple of times I thought to myself “I could just get in the van and drive away from all of this.” I never got as far as trying to figure out where I might go — although a nice, comfy bed and eight hours of sleep may have been at the top of the list. And, no, I didn’t really want to leave my kids or my husband — I honestly, truly love them and the life we’ve built together. It was the cloud of depression talking; it wasn’t me.

So, why am I sharing this? Why now, when I’m starting to feel happier and healthier (at least emotionally) than I have in some time?

#blessedIt’s because we have got to do something about the stigma attached to mental health in this country. I shouldn’t feel like sharing this puts at risk everything I’ve worked so hard my entire life to have — no one should. I want to build a home — a world — for my children where their emotional, physical and spiritual health are all considered important. I want them to feel confident and comfortable enough to admit when they’re struggling. And if the first step to that is admitting that some days I stumble and other days I fall, then that’s what this is.

This is my admission. It is not a call for help or sympathy (although a little empathy always goes a long way), as I’m finding the help that works for me. We all struggle and we all need help sometimes. So check in on your people every now and again. And, for crying out loud, remember to be kind — it’s the most important thing.

(Here’s some more info about post-partum depression in easy-to-ready and -understand terms.)

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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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