mothering

Because the Sh*t Will (Eventually) Hit the Fan

I'm so worn out by the way we do motherhood. 

And I'm realizing that there should've been a tenth chapter in my book (I already published). 

If I could go back, I would call it "Embracing One Another".

jordan-whitt-142396.jpg

 

You see, there's this huge burden on my heart lately. An old elementary school friend of mine has been in the hospital for the entirety of 2017. With her son. Who has only ever known hospital walls. 

And this son of hers, precious, beautiful, perfect child, has an extremely rare form of epilepsy that could, honestly, be terminal for this little guy. 

And yet, all around me, I see mothers go about bashing and critiquing and correcting and chastising and beating one another down. 

Oh, not so much in person, but "cowardly-style", behind our thumbs and screens. 

(There's probably some of you that are still hung up over my almost use of the "s" word in my title. Some "hypocrite Christian she is".)

We're cruel. We're brutal. We're about making sure that everyone knows that this motherhood thing can't be done any better than the way we're doing it. 

(I should know. I used to be one of them. But with experience, comes wisdom.)

And then this world has women, mothers that are literally going through hell on earth, and they'd do just about anything to get out of it. 

We seem to be so consumed about one-upping those Pinterest Darlings, that we forget that we are all human beings, with real trials, and challenges, and, yes, even feelings. 

There aren't any "safe spaces" for motherhood. (Although, a lot of you may say that Target counts).

Because aren't we all trying here? 

Isn't this gig hard enough? 

I mean, maybe we aren't trying our best all of the time. Maybe, in fact, we are barely ever trying our best. I know I don't.

Maybe our best is just in the trying. And maybe that mother that feels completely guilty for not being as blog-worthy as the next mom, just needs you to say to her that it's just right. She's doing motherhood just right. 

The sh*t always will hit the fan. It just will. There's an endless supply, if you haven't noticed yet. (Story of your life, eh?)

And maybe the walls are covered in the room you're standing in. Maybe you feel like you're the only one that can clean this mess up, but in reality, it's too much for one person. 

We need to be cleaning one another's walls. Lifting each other up. Embracing one another. Showing up and doing. Encouraging. Loving. Being. Looking. 

Looking for opportunities to pray for, come alongside, give breaks, love on, and listen to other mothers. 

Just think of one thing. 

Just one. 

And do it. Words. Deeds. Living and Breathing together. 

Because it's all hard. It's so hard by itself. Life adds the extra. 

So, be the extra-takers. 

Love, ae.

Turning the page to motherhood.

"At the very heart of the gospel is sacrifice, and there is perhaps no occupation in the world so intrinsically sacrificial as motherhood. Motherhood is a wonderful opportunity to live the gospel." -Desiring God

This past Friday was my last day working outside our home. It was a surreal and bittersweet moment when I said my final goodbyes and watched the doors close to the school building.

Ever since I was 17 years old I held a job of some sort. My first job was a Hershey Park ride operator. My day consisted of counting grumpy tourists, checking seat belts and pushing a button. I can confidently state it was not a dream job. From there I worked at Salvation Army Thrift Store, where my love of thrifting became more of an obsession. Next, my job as a teacher at a local daycare, where I found my calling as a teacher.  Sprinkle in 2 barista jobs and a photography side job during college to pay for books and school and finally to make the resumé complete, was my last job as a special education instructional assistant in a multiple disabilities classroom.  

My before and after school classroom at the daycare. (beginning of the year)

My before and after school classroom at the daycare. (beginning of the year)

Nanny life.

Nanny life.

My first day at Lynchburg City Schools

My first day at Lynchburg City Schools

Leading up to my maternity leave, I felt a sense of anxiety and uneasiness. I sometimes wondered, "What am I getting myself into?" "Who am I going to talk to every day?" " Am I going to be bored out of my mind?" "Ill have no co-workers or friends"  "Who am I going to help, now?" "How am I going to be influential to the people around me?" "What does a stay at home mom do all day?"

It was in those scary moments that I realized being a mom is a calling in life. It's stepping into a new role, a different career. 

"Jesus said that those who live for themselves will actually have an unfulfilling life, but those who lose their lives for His sake will really experience life."

Being a mom does not mean I no longer have a mission field. It does not mean that I will have no friends.  It certainly doesn't mean I will not have anyone to help. Instead, it is a chance to every day show the love of Christ to my child(ren). A chance to gain new mom friendships. A chance to raise them in the love and truth of the gospel. A chance to sacrifice daily for another human being and show them the love of Jesus in my daily life.

My worth and life is not defined by my jobs I've held or the amount of money I've made in the past 8 years of my life. My life's calling is to love Christ, love others, and to reach out and share the gospel. What an amazing platform motherhood provides to tangibly do this every day. 

 I don't have my daughter here with me now, but I know for sure that motherhood is full of sacrifice; it is full of exciting, scary and draining moments. I have so much more to learn about being a mom. I'm a newbie in this area, but whether you have been a mom for 30+ years or are in the first trimester of your pregnancy, remember the beauty and the calling that the Lord has blessed you with as a mother. Be encouraged today that your role is important and valued!

 

 

What I've Learned from Six Years of Breastfeeding

Our only NICU baby, Baby A. Talk about a stretching experience. I definitely understand pumping mama's. Such a difficult time. By God's grace, I got to nurse her until her first birthday, at which she weaned herself. 

Our only NICU baby, Baby A. Talk about a stretching experience. I definitely understand pumping mama's. Such a difficult time. By God's grace, I got to nurse her until her first birthday, at which she weaned herself. 

When I add up the total months that I've been nursing my children, the number reaches 68 months and counting. The way it's currently going, I have every expectation on reaching month 72 by this May. 

 

Thats almost six total years of just nursing.

We tried nursing as much as we could, but I could only be with her about three hours a day so most of her feeds were through the gavage tube or bottles of breastmilk. 

We tried nursing as much as we could, but I could only be with her about three hours a day so most of her feeds were through the gavage tube or bottles of breastmilk. 

 

Some of you may think I'm crazy. And some of you may find that number laughable, because to you, that's child's play. You may have passed me up long ago.

 

We all have our own journeys. Whether you tried for one minute, one week, one month, or not at all, we all have something to offer up in our choice to attempt and succeed at breastfeeding. 

 

My second-born, Baby C, 2008. I nursed him for 12 months until he weaned himself. 

My second-born, Baby C, 2008. I nursed him for 12 months until he weaned himself. 

Heres what I've learned over the course of my experience:

 

Breastfeeding is natural, but no mother is "naturally" good at it.

 

I recall being a timid, scared-outta-my-mind first-time mom back in November 2006. I was one of those that just mind-numbingly listened to all of the "expert" advice. At first. 

I remember letting the nurses take my baby away whenever they willed, I remember trying to get as much sleep as I could and not worrying too much about his lack of will to nurse. I was self-conscious, confused, and frustrated by midnight, three hours after his birth. 

I didn't know what "lactation" was, so when a woman in pink scrubs kept invading my room every few hours and had her way with me by grabbing my breasts and "assisting" the process, I was about to give up before I even really got going. 

I let the nurses "supplement" my little man because, clearly, I wasn't enough for him and he was ravaging at less than 24 hrs. old. (Not true, by the way.) 

I came home and was completely in shock at day four post-partum and the engorgement of the century. I was crying in pain. I was begging for relief. Anything!! The baby wouldn't wake up. He wouldn't latch. The nipple shield was too slippery. My breast pump was the cheapest piece of crap ever and broke within a week. I was sending my husband out for cabbage, warm/cold compresses you could stick in your bra, nursing bras, lanolin cream, ibuprofen, and taking hot showers to just let them leak while the water ran on them. It was miserable. 

My Baby E. She's our youngest and is still going strong at 18 months old now. She has been the worst biter, the worst cluster feeder, the most clingy, snuggly baby of them all. I see her stopping nursing....never.

My Baby E. She's our youngest and is still going strong at 18 months old now. She has been the worst biter, the worst cluster feeder, the most clingy, snuggly baby of them all. I see her stopping nursing....never.

After two weeks of that drama, I was donesies. Seriously, d.o.n.e. My mother came over after dark one night and just encouraged me. She said, "Alicia, you can do this. Don't give up yet, you've got this." 

And, I never gave up. I owe my whole breastfeeding journey to both her and my husband. But, it did NOT come naturally. Not even close. 

 

My first baby, Baby H, 2006. We struggled our way through those first three months: he with colic and me with post-partum depression, but we made it, and he nursed like a champ until his first birthday. He was my only that I didn't self-wean. You live, you learn. 

My first baby, Baby H, 2006. We struggled our way through those first three months: he with colic and me with post-partum depression, but we made it, and he nursed like a champ until his first birthday. He was my only that I didn't self-wean. You live, you learn. 

You love it, until you hate it, and then love it again.

 

We all go through that phase where once your confidence begins to build, you think, "eh, this isn't so bad! No bottles, no measuring, no trekking to the kitchen every two hours, it's warm, soft, and cuddly..."

 

But then, the cluster feeding begins. You know, those feeds that literally overlap one another?! The feeds where little peanut doses off after a good 30-45 minute session and you go to remove yourself from baby just.for.a.second and BAM!!! Awake. Screams ensue. You don't know whether to take that run to the bathroom you've waited hours for, grab that half eaten, stale peanut butter sandwich from two hours ago, or just assume the position again.

 

Then, after a day or two of just being a milk bank, you begin to question EVERYTHING:

"Will this never end?"

"If I feed him anymore, he'll get a belly ache, but if I don't feed him, he'll scream and get a belly ache, but if I keep feeding him, he'll throw up all over me, but if I don't, I'll never sleep again!!!!!....."

"Someone please just let me die now."

But then, eventually, things return to normal, for at least a little while, until it happens again....but, for now, you love nursing. Until....

 

Our fourth nursling, Baby O, 2012. She nursed the second longest at 14 months, and then one day, she just continuously pushed me away and wiggled down, and that was that. 

Our fourth nursling, Baby O, 2012. She nursed the second longest at 14 months, and then one day, she just continuously pushed me away and wiggled down, and that was that. 

....teething....

Bless you mama of a teething one. Bless you.

I should've been counting the number of times over the years I had to say "NO BITE!"....cause there's literally nothing worse. Nothing!!! When that freshly-spouted baby-sharp tooth comes chomping down as hard as it can completely unexpectedly, it leaves you reeling. And then, you just make it worse by yelling or shrieking, which makes them scared, which, in turn, makes them clamp down harder.

 

This is how our days usually went with Baby O. Tough life. 

This is how our days usually went with Baby O. Tough life. 

Nothing's sweeter than a snuggly, sleepy nursling lying at your side

It's true. It's the greatest part of motherhood to just naturally match your breathing to your baby's as your tummies rise and fall in unison. It's relaxing, it's sweet, it's so convenient to just smell and see all of them as they feel the most content with you. And in those moments, it's hard to wish it to end. 

 

It's complete sacrifice.

 

I cannot stress enough how important it is for a nursing mama to take care of herself. Years and years of pregnancy and nursing will wear you out completely. I'm not going to tell you to get more sleep, because, let's be honest...that's just a ridiculously frustrating comment. But I will tell you to eat right and well, and drink, drink, drink!!!!!

 

You are going to be the only one who can night wake and feed, you're the only one that can nourish and supply this rapidly growing child with enough sustenance to thrive. You simply cannot effectively do that when you're constantly running on E. 

 

If there's one thing I'm real proud of and have never regretted, it's nursing my babies. All glory to God for the ability to do so. And a huge thank you to my very supportive husband. 

 

What has breastfeeding taught you? Please share your stories with us in the comments!