Tuesday, July 23, 2013


The word of the day {week, month, year} seems to be 'baby'. With each passing week of 2013, the number of expectant/new mommies I know {or know of--because only in my imagination is the Duchess one of my 'friends'} grows right along with the cute little baby bumps that pop up in my FB and IG newsfeeds.  Of course today, I was glued to the screen as the newest little royal made his first official public appearance.  For reasons unexplained,I found myself captivated by the spectacle that is the British Royal Family {of course, I also found myself hating admiring the Duchess of Cambridge for looking so.freaking.good. after having just birthed a future king.  expletive.}

Recently one of my dearest sweet friends became a mom for the very first time.  Her sweet little bundle is a very welcome gift for all of us who have been on a state-side version of a 'Royal Baby Watch'.  With the blessing{?} of social media and technology, I have been able to connect with my dear friend and see a few photos of the tiny little love.

Seeing a sweet little baby, bundled in a flannel hospital swaddling blanket and little knit hat triggered overwhelming feelings of nostalgia, to the times when each of my little babies were placed in my arms for the first time.  Especially the first time.  That first-born baby, your ticket to the realm of mommyhood, the tiniest of people for whom you would lay down your life.  If you could capture time in a bottle, along with all of its thoughts and feelings and aromas and energies; that bottle would stand at the forefront of my collection. It would be proudly displayed on a little pedestal with its own little light illuminating it, so as to identify it as the moment when life as I had known it lost all meaning only to be replaced with something much bigger than I had ever envisioned.

I contacted my friend a few days ago; one of those 'how's-it-going-I-know-you're-busy-but-I'm-thinking-of-you' kind of contact.  A moment to tell her how her sweet baby had me looking back over pictures of my own sweet babies.  Along with my words,  I sent her this picture:

Raegan Harper...just hours old
I took this around 3:00 am the night that Raegan was born.  {the nurse apologized that she ran out of pink bows.  To which I asked, "do you use blue bows on boys?".}  Shortly before I took this picture, Raegan was wide awake, attempting to focus on my face as she took in my familiar voice and began forming a connection.  I had finished feeding her, but she didn't want to sleep {ohh....little did I know what I had coming down the pike!}.  So, we 'chatted'.  I told her about her family, shared little stories and secrets.  I took in her perfectly tiny features, inhaled the aroma of freshly bathed newborn, and admired her head full of hair {she was a Rapunzel in comparison to my older two!}.  It was pretty safe to say, a connection was made and I was swept off my feet, totally in love with this precious doll.

Even though I was no longer considered a 'new mom' by the time Raegan came into our lives, there's just something about those tiny little squishes when they're wrapped up in their long-sleeved, side-snap tees and hospital blankets.  I told my friend that this picture encapsulated one of those moments I will absolutely cherish forever.  I was exhausted from a long labor, anxious to have Gavin and Brynn meet her the next day, and overwhelmed with emotion at the reality of having three kids.  But it didn't matter.  I was making a memory that I'll be able share with my youngest baby girl some day.
During the exchange of messages with my friend, the word 'breakable' came up.  Thinking about those early days of newborn babyhood, breakable is definitely a word that I would use to describe it.  Those initial days when they're so insanely small and helpless.  When you worry about every little movement and adjustment as your dress them or secure them into their carriers.  When you cautiously wash their tiny heads, ever so gently scrubbing their 'soft spot' so as not to injure the still-fusing skull bones {was that just me?  I was so, so afraid I'd make a permanent indentation in their heads if my thumb pressed too hard}.

I thought about that word, breakable.  I know the context of the word was such that a newborn baby is incredibly tiny and vulnerable; but as a mom of an extremely curious toddler, a dance and tumbling obsessed kindergartner, and a boy {that word alone should suffice}, I realize that 'breakable' is something that is going to follow them through life.

Human beings are a fragile species.  Yes, the medical world is an infinite source of advancements and breakthroughs and cures for all kinds of ailments that just a few decades ago would have resulted in a far more dismal outcome.  But that's the physical part.  It's the paint on the shutters, the curtains hanging in the family room, and even the new plumbing you installed in the bathroom.  'Fixable' aspects of a person that will repair something that's broken or malfunctioning.  Sometimes the repairs needed are far too great in comparison to the malfunctioning parts; but from that, amazing medical breakthroughs can be made.

Yes, the physical aspect of a human is breakable, but {often times} fixable.  But what about the aspects you can't see?  The character.  The morality.  The psyche.  The heart and soul of a human being.  Those aspects are more breakable than an arm or hip or pancreas.

My dear friend mentioned that the single piece of advice she's heard one time too many is to 'cherish this time because they grow up so fast'.  I'm probably guilty of writing this on the card for her shower, and I know I'm definitely guilty of telling other mommies-to-be and new moms those same words.  Thinking about it, I feel silly for saying such an obvious statement.  I don't know of many moms who aren't going to cherish the moments, who would simply wish time away.

The fact of the matter is this.  There is never.ever.ever. enough time.  The time you need to enjoy your newborn is filled with the busyness of taking care of a newborn.  This is not to say that taking care of a newborn isn't enjoyable, because it is {most of the time}.  I'm just saying that it's easy to become lost in the 'work' of it and exhaustion from it, and lose sight of the impact of it.

I've found that the same thing holds true for every age of kids {granted my personal experience is only up to age 7, but I'm inferring that it stays this way throughout the rest of childhood}.  Too often I find myself focusing on the time needed for the physical part of taking care of children.  Cleaning messy faces, brushing snarled curls, applying sunscreen, cleaning up {nonstop} toy explosions, chasing toddlers, scrubbing crayon from every God-forsaken surface.  Couple all that with the demanding and whining and bickering and tattling, {while not a physical activity} and you've got a recipe for wearing a mom down to the very core of her being.

Over time, a less-than-balanced mom {ahem, me} begins to wither and wilt and lose the ability to do what it is that earns her feelings of warm fuzzies as she lay down to sleep at night; feelings that she has done the best job she can as a mom during that day.  A less-than-balanced mom begins to doubt herself and use a hurtful voice when talking to herself {and often times, when talking to her kids as well}.  She begins a spiral into a space from which she feels the energy needed to escape far exceeds her abilities to do so. She wilts further.

Each morning begins with the intention of practicing patience and kindness and all of the virtues and values she tells her kids to exhibit each time they're doing just the opposite.  But then life happens.  Breakfast table bickers and spills and demands for a specific color bowl wear away at the thin shell of sanity that mom was able to begin to rebuild during her restless and fitful sleep.  The shell cracks further as the morning progresses.  Chores and errands and even fun activities like swimming become daunting and despised simply because the physical and mental strength required to get through to the finish line proves to be too great.  By the end of the day, mom's shell of sanity has been wiped away along with the umpteenth spill, and what's left behind is simply the shell of a person.  A person who knows that the reason the kids aren't speaking kindly to one another is not because they haven't been told, but because they haven't heard kind words.  Their psyche and morality and character are being impacted.  Not by the big and messy and scary 'outside' world that we parents so desperately try to keep them sheltered from.  From the mommy who is supposed to keep them safe and protected and happy and busy and healthy and loved.

Don't get me wrong.  My kids aren't in physical danger.  They're not unhealthy.  They're not being left alone or neglected, fending for themselves.  They're just not getting the best of me.  The eyes with which I'm viewing their world right now have compounded my guilt for not being able to escape this space.  To the outside world, even to my husband, the kids are happily going through life, content and enjoying the comforts with which we've been blessed.  To me, I worry they're walking on eggshells.  Tip-toeing around to avoid being on the recipient end of an audible sigh, a frustrated huff, a shout of disgust, or a declaration of exhaustion.  I focus heavily on my guilt and regret and even humiliation for every time I revealed my brokenness in such a way that they hung their heads in disappointment and walked away.  The times when I collapse onto the couch after finally tucking the last of them into bed and instantly begin to recount all the times I've failed my kids that day.  The frustrations, the dismissive tone, the blatant annoyance with a particular situation {the likes of which are usually not that life-altering}.  I wince when I think of the ways in which my own brokenness has begun to break them.  I wilt further.

There are times when my energy is revived long enough to re-establish a connection with the kids; we play a game, read book, bake some muffins.  I feel a little mending taking place.  The breaks in my heart sport a neat little bandage, sealing up a crack.  But instead of staying firmly in place, allowing time to heal the wound, I allow something to rip the bandage away, revealing the tender spot where the cracks have been trying to heal; increasing my susceptibility to breaking further, which in turn breaks my kids further, which in turn breaks me further.  The spiral won't stop.  I can't seem to find the exit for this ride, or just 'snap out of it'. I need help.  Beyond my own reading {the likes of which have been ravenous}.  But man, is it scary.

Maybe that's why I've been a crappy blogger.  Words and sentences and posts run through my head at an alarming rate.  The sleepless nights and lack of desire to do very much have provided me ample time with which to write.  But the fear.  The vulnerability of showing up, laying the broken pieces out on display and saying "Hi.  Somewhere in this messy, jagged, crackled pile of pieces--I exist.  I just can't seem to find them all by myself.  Can you help me?".  That declaration is such a hard thing.  The fear associated with it grabs hold, restraining your forward progress.  It makes you feel guilt{or guiltier}, feel susceptible to scrutiny and judgement {which adds to the fear}, it makes you feel scared.

But it's in that vulnerability, that susceptibility, that openness...that I will eventually find the strength I need to climb out of the spiral, to stop wilting and start flourishing, to reach a point when my kids see my brokenness as a way in which to gain strength, not to feel disappointment.

So for those mommies-to-be, new mommies, and mommies with years of experience, my advice is no longer 'cherish every moment'.  My advice is this: Know when to ask for help. {and I'm not just talking "help me figure out which carrier is best--invaluable advice, absolutely, but that's not what I'm referring to}.  Don't just know when to ask, actually ask.  Put fear aside, set your vulnerabilities at the door, and {this one is tricky, especially for someone like me} let go of the fact that people will judge.  Let them judge.  They'll make subjective judgements that they're 'better/stronger/more capable', or wonder how it is that you could possibly feel like you do when your life is 'so good'.  Go ahead.  Let them.  Know that you aren't worse or weak or less capable; and that even though your life is 'good', you're still human and you're still allowed to have brokenness.  Just be able to recognize that point when your brokenness starts to break down your capacity to enjoy and to thrive in this beautifully messy and crazy world.

In all the reading I've done; in all the the wise words and beautifully crafted paragraphs and pages of some of my favorite authors, I find solace in this:
"Owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.  Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky, but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy--the experiences that make us the most vulnerable.  Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light" ~Brene Brown 
On the road to mending the brokenness...

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