Memory Loss, Burp Cloths, and Measuring Up: 3 Things Learned in Month 2

In keeping with my goal of writing down some thoughts on what I am learning each new month of mommyhood, here are 3 new things from month number 2 (if you missed my post from month 1, you can check that out here!):

1. Smiles induce memory loss.

More specifically, my baby’s smiles. There have been so many times that I’ve been completely benoutsideexasperated by Benjamin, and all he has to do is flash that gummy grin of his and I suddenly can’t remember why I was so frustrated. Whether it’s a blow out, incessant crying, baby insomnia, or a constant need to be held and cuddled – something about those little smiles is completely disarming, and suddenly all is forgiven. I’m thinking that God probably designed it that way for a reason.

2. Burp cloths – you cannot have too many. 

You know you’ve “arrived” into the mommy-world when you can literally find a burp cloth within arms length at pretty much any location throughout the house. I’m wondering how I ever functioned without them. Granted, I wasn’t living with a constantly drooling and/or spitting up baby before, but they’re just so darn convenient and useful I feel like I’ve been missing out all my life.

Prior to Ben getting here, I received at least 50 burp cloths at baby showers. I remember thinking – This is kind of excessive. I mean really, how many of these do I actually need…?

The answer? ALL OF THEM.

My personal favorites are the Gerber cloth diapers. They absorb right up and get the job done.

3. The state of my checklist does not determine my worth. 

I’ve found that some days I get to the end of the day and feel like I have either accomplished absolutely nothing or I have halfway done about ten different things. I wake up in the morning with this idea of what I’ll complete, and when the items on my list are not checked off at the end of the day, I end up feeling like a failure.

I hate the feeling when Matt gets home and asks, “What did you do today?” and my mind draws a complete blank. I immediately attempt to dredge up memories of the previous 9 hours. I mean, I was busy the entire day – I barely sat down – but what do I have to show for it besides a shirt with stains all over the shoulders, well-intentioned but unfinished projects, and a slightly frazzled disposition? And don’t even get me started on the frustration that comes when working friends are already asking questions like, “So…what do you do all day?” or “So, how are you liking staying home and just hanging out?”

It can be easy in those moments to get defensive or to feel the need to justify everything I do or don’t do in a day. I want to prove that I did something valuable and/or noteworthy. When you get down to it, it’s a works-based mentality: the belief that the quantity and quality of what I accomplish in a day directly correlates to my validation and worth as a person.

The funny thing is, my entire worldview revolves around the concept that my standing before God depends not on what I do, but on what Christ has already done for me. So if that’s the case, then shouldn’t this worldview affect how I approach my every day moments?

Hey, I’m a work in progress.

I know the title of this blog says “things learned,” but let’s be honest, this is one that I’ll be learning every day for the rest of my life.

My desire is that, when the end of each day comes, I would not brandish my to-do list as my personal megaphone to prove to the world that “Hey, I did something worthy of acknowledgement and validation today!” Instead, I hope to lift up my hands to my heavenly Father and sincerely and humbly say, “I gave You my best; everything I did, I did for You, and not for men.”

Because ultimately, I’m not working to earn the approval of others, or even to earn the approval of God. Everything I do should be a loving act of worship – a response to the grace shown to me by my God.

And just as a sidenote to anyone who may be second guessing a decision to be a SAHM –

Choosing to work full-time rearing, teaching, loving, and caring for your children ( and all the other unsung responsibilities included) is an incredibly valuable, noteworthy, and honorable thing – one that doesn’t need to be justified.

Don’t let anyone – including yourself – tell you any different.

Here’s to finding joy in the unfinished checklist – one gummy grin at a time.

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Thoughts from a New Mom: When the Poop Overfloweth

It had been an incredibly long and endless day.

So around 10 am, Ben and I decided to venture out of the house. I recoiled from the sunlight like an overrated vampire, and hauled Ben’s 10 lb self plus all his many accessories into the car. The kid was sleeping like a – well – a baby.

Perfect, I thought to myself diabolically. I should have a good hour to get some errands done and to walk aimlessly in my mental fog.

Target was my location of choice. After unloading and assembling Ben’s chariot and gathering all his items, I rolled through the automatic doors, feeling pretty snazzy. Heck, I thought, I might even get me a soda and meander through the not-maternity section of clothing.

I leaned down to pull back the stroller cover only to be met with –

Two wide-open eyes staring back at me. Did I imagine it, or was there a smirk on Ben’s face?

Going to enjoy some down time, eh? It’s cute how naive you are, it really is, the smirk seemed to say.

I smiled nervously at Ben.

“Hey Dude,” I heard myself say. “Just going for a walk, let’s go back to sleep, Buddy.”

I immediately got rolling, praying silently that the motion would send Ben right back into sweet oblivion.

Ben continued to stare at me, unblinking.

And then slowly, oh so slowly, his angelic little face began to wrinkle. And then it began to redden.

And then other people in Target started to turn and look, because Ben decided now was the time to exercise his lungs to their fullest capacity.

The kid quickly became inconsolable, and I assumed he must be hungry. Of course, every newborn wants their food yesterday, so I tried to think about how I could feed the guy and still stay out.

Does Target have a nursing room? Yeah right. How about the bathroom? Pass. I’ll just go into my car… That gas light has been on for at least 15 miles – crap.

I quickly decided to just go home, since we were only a few minutes away. Every woman I passed on the way out made comments such as, “Aww, listen to that sweet little cry, how precious!”

Absolutely adorable, I thought, and quickly rushed towards the automatic doors.

I loaded Ben into the car and wrestled his stroller into the trunk, grumbling to myself about how I’d spent about 30 minutes just getting to the store and only about 30 seconds inside it. Ben continued to holler, and I mindlessly spoke soothing words to him, doing my best to mask the fact that I was super irritated.

We got home and I fed Ben, who still seemed kind of cranky. While burping him, I noticed how much he seemed to be concentrating. And then, a stinky smell.

“Someone pooped his diaper!” I said in a sing-song voice. Ben glanced up at me, his eyes full of knowing.

It suddenly dawned on me that my hand – the one on his back – felt very….moist. I looked down at his brown onesie and – wait – this onesie wasn’t brown before…

Ben’s entire back was oozing with a nice brown/yellow substance. He looked at me, pride in his eyes, and I looked at him, wonder in mine.

I’ll save you all the details – but just to give you an idea of the sheer volume of substance in his diaper, I had to eventually cut his onesie off of him. I might have been disgusted if I wasn’t also so awestruck.

(Fun fact – the necks of onesies are actually made so that you can slip them over your baby’s shoulders and down off his body without going over his head and smothering his face with poop from major blowouts. Unfortunately, Google told me this too late. Oh well, it’s funnier the way it happened – it’ll be a good story to share at Ben’s wedding or something).

Anyway, about 10 wipes, 1 soaked burp cloth, 1 destroyed changing pad, 1 shredded onesie, and 1 bath later, Ben was finally clean, dry, and relaxing contentedly in his bouncer. Ben went through the whole ordeal lying on his back happily, looking at me periodically with an amused grin on his face.

I thought back to the moments at Target and to my irritation. My annoyance was now quickly dissolving as I looked at the smiling, chubby kiddo cooing next to me. Ben had no idea about my frustration – if he did he was obviously very forgiving.

I suddenly felt very humbled by the fact that this tiny human life depended so much on me – to keep him fed, to make sure he’s dry and clean, to comfort him when he’s overwhelmed, and to make him feel secure and loved.boba

At the end of the day, a blown trip to Target doesn’t amount to a whole lot. In fact, if I had to choose between shopping at Target or being rewarded with a huge smile from my son after cleaning a blowout, well…I’d choose Ben every time.

God has blessed me with this unique season of life; my prayer for myself – and all new mothers – is that I would not allow frustration and irritation to creep in and steal the joy from this temporary time.

I once wrote about how marriage has revealed in me a selfishness and self-love that I didn’t know existed. Well, being a brand new mom has revealed a whole new level of each of those.

Praise God that he can and does do good things in the midst of our weaknesses. I pray that I and others would not miss the gift of where we are today because we are so focused on what we could be doing, where we could be, and why we’re not there.

Here’s to dying to self, one poop-filled diaper at a time.

Thoughts from a New Mom: 3 Things Learned in Month 1

One of my goals for this year was to write at least one blog each month. February came and went and, well, I’ve already failed regarding that particular goal. But I’d like to think that I get a “pass” on February, since I got kind of busy having a baby and all. ben1

Anyway, here it is, at the end of March, and I find myself sitting here typing with an almost 5-week old asleep on my chest. The last weeks have been a whirlwind; sometimes the last month just seems like one long, sleep-deprived day. Showers have become quite precious to me. And who needs to fix their hair when you can just wear a hat pretty much every day? And who wants to watch March Madness when I can go to sleep at 8:30? (For only about 2.5 hours, of course).

When our new son, Benjamin Elliot, hit 1 month, I looked back and saw a few things that stuck out to me that seemed really important. Hopefully each day, month, and year of his life, I’ll learn a bit more. But here are three things that, I hope, might be helpful to any soon-to-be moms out there:

1. Rest. No really. 

Everyone says it, but – good grief – it’s so hard to do. If you’re a list-maker and a doer, you will probably find it hard to slow down, even though you know you should. But seriously, no matter how you give birth – whether naturally, with an epidural, a c-section, out in the woods – your body needs to recover. Evidently giving birth is the equivalent of a 50 mile walk (I’d probably say “sprint” actually). So it’s definitely ok to put your feet up – I mean, you walked 50 miles straight for crying out loud. Don’t feel guilty for taking naps, and don’t feel like you have to get a hundred things done. Which leads me to #2:

2. Enjoy your baby. 

This seems like a given, but it’s easy to get distracted by other things. Like laundry, where you’ll get your next meal, who’s visiting when, and what color poop you should be seeing today. I also found myself stressing out about whether Matt and I were doing everything right. Am I feeding him often enough? Am I feeding him the right way? Should he already be in his crib? Which soothing method should I be using for this? Why do I keep getting sprayed in the face during diaper changes?ben2

It’s easy to get stressed out by these things, and I found myself worrying a lot those first few weeks – and doing  a ridiculous amount of Googling to find out things like whether or not Ben’s poop was the right shade of green for the day.

Do yourself a favor: find friends and family who can help with meals, laundry, and cleaning, and take time to just sit and enjoy baby. Stare at him, play with him, take pictures of him – just enjoy him. Don’t spend more time looking at Google search results than you do at your offspring. Google and laundry and food will always be there – but your baby is only a newborn for a short time. I can’t believe how much our little guy has already changed – and he’s only been here 1 month!

3. Write things down. 

Grab a notepad or journal or something and jot down the little moments that you want to remember. First smile. First projectile. First blowout. You don’t have to write a book, maybe just a sentence or a few key words. This past month is already kind of hazy to me, what with all the sleepless nights – so I know I’ll need those little notes to remember sweet moments. My sister and her husband actually wrote down funny things they said after becoming parents that they never would have said before. (For example: “Be right back, I’m going to go take a picture of this poop.”) This is a great way to store memories, and may also be a funny encouragement to read through on the rough days.DSC_0124

I hope each month to share things I learn about being a new mom. Of course, everyone’s experience is different, so I hope it’s not perceived as unsolicited advice – good grief, I’m only one month into this, so what do I know. But hopefully it’ll be an encouragement to someone.

I’d love to hear from other moms – what did you learn in those first days? What helped you adjust the most, or what do you wish that you’d known or done differently? Feel free to comment and share – maybe together we can all help each other learn about this weird thing called mommy-hood.

Here’s to keeping new humans alive, one day at a time.

Wow, I Can’t Believe You Said That: 4 Things You Should Never Say to a Preggo

I am thoroughly convinced that I will always be pregnant. I will always and forever carry around a basketball-sized lump under my shirt. I will never again know what my feet look like while standing up. It will forever take an act of congress for me to roll over in bed at night. I will always have a tiny little foot weaseling its way in between my ribs. I will never again know the goodness of feta cheese, and I will never see my wonderful old skinny jeans again.tgivingpic

Ok, so maybe all of that is an exaggeration. In fact, it’s entirely possible that in a matter of 3 or 4 weeks, I will cease to be pregnant and begin being a full-time mom (!!??). I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, which both terrifies and excites me.

But even though I am so close to the end, the feelings of endlessness still remain. All you preggos out there know what I’m talking about – in fact, you could probably add a thousand more things to my list. But let me add just one more thing that feels like it will never, ever end: the never-ending comments of friends and complete strangers alike.

Yes, you know what I’m talking about. Words that would be rendered completely inappropriate in any other social situation suddenly become acceptable if you’re saying them to a pregnant woman. No one would dare make comments about my derriere to my face – but pop a baby in my belly, and suddenly my buttocks is up for all kinds of conversation.

So, in an attempt to help all of you who are searching for the right words to say to that preggo in your life, here are 4 things that you can go ahead and put on your list of things to NEVER say:

1. “Wow, you look really tired.”
Newsflash: If a woman looks tired, she probably already knows it. And it’s probably because (get ready) she is really tired. Perhaps even exhausted. There’s something kind of draining about a little dude mooching off of you 24/7, so it’s bound to show on the face of a mother-to-be at some point. As a matter of fact, I’ve never known any woman (including myself) who has appreciated when someone pointed out that she was tired – pregnant or not.

ultrasound2. “Wow, you’re only how far along? You can’t possibly get much bigger, can you?”
I really shouldn’t have to explain this one – but personal experience tells me that I do. Every pregnancy is different, so it’s possible that one woman you meet might look differently than another women you’ve seen at the same stage of pregnancy. I guarantee you that whoever you say this to is already quite aware of her size and most likely has been or will be self-conscious about it at some point, or will even struggle with comparing herself to others. Implying that a woman is abnormally larger than her gestational age isn’t particularly helpful – so just nix comments like that.

3. “Wow, your face is getting so fat, you poor thing.”
Nope, I’m not making this one up. If you’re looking for a sure-fire way to bring a pregnant woman to tears, go ahead and say this to her. Seriously, what better way to tear a woman down and make her more self-conscious than she already is? I mean, the woman is only having her body completely taken over by a tiny, growing human being – you definitely can’t risk having her feel confident or beautiful. That would just be silly. How dare a woman gain weight in any place other than her belly – if she does, she immediately deserves your pity. So definitely make sure that you add the “poor thing” at the end – it’ll be the icing on the cake.

4. “Wow…is this because you’re pregnant?”
Another variation of this one might be, “It’s because she’s pregnant,” or, “Don’t worry, she’s just being pregnant.” There’s nothing more demeaning or frustrating than having your personal opinions, preferences, or thoughts completely disregarded all because you are pregnant. For example: If a pregnant woman is getting frustrated while she’s experiencing bad customer service, it can’t be because of the bad customer service – it has to be because she’s pregnant. Every emotion expressed is blamed on the hormones and is therefore rendered meaningless. Pregnancy isn’t a condition or sickness, so don’t treat it like one. 

My motivation for writing this is two-fold: Part of me hopes that someone will read butternutit and actually take these suggestions to heart. Pregnancy is a weird and wonderful thing – it’s constantly bouncing back and forth between feeling elated, proud, and honored to be carrying a life within you, and also coming to grips with, essentially, an entirely new body and learning how to live with and accept the new changes and decisions that lie ahead.

When your love for the life inside of you is growing as fast as your belly and you’re only just beginning to understand the sacrifices that are in the near future, it can be quite deflating when others choose to make comments to you about the superficial things.

The other motivator is to identify and be able to laugh at the ridiculous things people say to women who are “great with child.” People mean well, and you eventually just have to let these comments roll off your back. It is really quite comical to me how all mental filters seem to completely disappear when a pregnant woman is spotted. There’s something about a round belly that makes everyone feel like they are your best friend. People who, under “normal” circumstances, would never give you a second glance suddenly smile warmly at you and want to know all about your pregnancy. Honestly, I think I could be a serial killer and still have strangers bend over backwards for me because of my belly.

I’d be lying if I said that the comments of some people haven’t brought me to tears in the past 8 months. But I’d also be lying If I said that I didn’t enjoy the inquiries about how my little dude is doing or appreciate the kind, encouraging words of others.

christmasAt the end of the day, I know that most people genuinely have no ill-intentions with their words, and that there is just something about a pregnant woman that occasionally renders people senseless. The miracle of  how a new life is formed, grown, and introduced into the world is just so astonishing that we all feel compelled to commentate on it – and sometimes we do that by stating the obvious or saying slightly inconsiderate things.

So if you see a pregnant lady and just can’t keep yourself from speaking up, go ahead and bypass any comments about her size or hormones and just let her know that she looks awesome – I guarantee you’ll make her day.

Why Social Media has Ruined My Life

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So I exaggerated – social media hasn’t ruined my life. And this isn’t a post lamenting the evils of social media. But it’s a thought that popped through my head today as I was attempting to spend a few moments with God.

I was sitting on our screened-in porch – something I don’t do enough – and began bringing to mind the laundry list of things I for which I needed to pray: my husband, family, job, future plans, friends…the list never ends. But before I began, I happened to glance to my right at our white wooden porch swing. The sun was setting and, in that moment, was filtering through the screened porch in a beautiful way. The view was overwhelmingly calming. It just seemed right. Peaceful. A gorgeous and temporary moment.

So naturally, I ran inside to grab the iPad so I could take a picture. This would be such a cute picture to post! I thought. I snapped the picture, mentally running through witty captions I could place with it (yeah, embarrassing…). I then settled back into my chair in order to continue enjoying the view and to get back to my list of prayer items.

That’s when I realized the moment was gone.

The sun had already set further, so that the light no longer streamed through the screened porch. It was still a pretty and peaceful view…but not the one that had originally made me stop and stare. You missed it, I said to myself.

I was struck by how quickly the moment had passed. I immediately began to hear quiet whispers in my heart, pointing out to me that this was not the only moment I had missed.

Moments from the weekend began flashing through my mind…

Working in the yard. Watching my husband faithfully mow the lawn. Making curtains for our bathroom. Sleeping in. Picking up a pizza just because. Talking with friends. Seeing Matt look at me like he’s always looked at me. Talking about the future. And a hundred other moments that, I realized, I probably didn’t completely enjoy. Appreciate. Relish.

Because those are often the same moments in which I am preoccupied with to do lists, fears, expectations, doubts, and insecurities. And I realized that, just as my temporary preoccupation with a social media picture distracted me from drinking in a unique moment, so also my other daily distractions can steal from the still, quiet, and priceless moments of each day.

As this realization dawned on me, familiar words drifted through my mind.

Be still, and know that I am God.

And then it hit me – how many times had I allowed the stuff of life to steal my moments with my Heavenly Father?

Worries and cares of this life will always exist. But the individual moments that give value to life are fleeting and should be enjoyed and guarded. And that includes my moments with the Creator.

So yeah, social media didn’t actually ruin my life. But I was reminded tonight to not let it – or other distractions – keep me from living in and experiencing moments that are gifts from God.

Don’t let the little moments slip away.

Be still.

Another Perspective on A ‘Positive Abortion Story’

Recently, a video of a young woman’s abortion procedure has received a lot of attention. This woman said that she wanted to share her story with others and prove that abortion could be a “positive experience.” The video follows her into the procedure and focuses on her face most of the time. She smiles, giggles, and hums during the procedure, continually pointing out how lucky she is and how much support she has. “You guys are my heroes,” she tells the doctors. All the while upbeat music is playing in the background.abortion

The last few seconds of the video she talks about the experience:

“I don’t feel like a bad person. I don’t feel sad. I feel in awe of the fact that I can make a baby. I can make a life. I knew that what I was gonna do was right, because it was right for me and no one else.”

This young woman has received a ton of feedback – both positive and negative. When I saw the video and read her story, the question that kept popping into my mind was, “What is the biblical response to this situation?”  Apparently Emily Letts has received lots of hate mail and even death threats from people claiming that what she did was wrong. Others have responded very positively, arguing that Emily is right in stating that no one should feel guilty for having an abortion. It was right for her, and she shouldn’t have to feel any remorse.

This story has caused varying emotional responses to rise in people. But the thing about emotions is that they can’t always be trusted. Feelings are subjective and can be relative. In situations like this, we need to know what is true, regardless of feeling. So I went to God’s Word and this is what I found:

1. Sin leads us to suppress the Truth. Romans 1:18: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.”  In other words, certain truths are self-evident. God has revealed himself to us in a variety of ways – one of those being through the miracle of life. We are made in his image.

This verse also says that, because of sin, men tend to suppress these self-evident truths. (Suppress: to withhold, to put an end to, to do away with). So it is possible for man to silence truth or pretend it does not exist for the sake of continuing in a desirable path that is not honoring to God (that’s a nice way of saying ‘sin’).

2. We are without excuse. Proverbs 24:11-12: “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ dos not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?”

The thing about abortion is that people aren’t really claiming ignorance anymore. Not too many people are saying, “But I didn’t KNOW that it was a life. I didn’t realize.” The unsettling thing about this video is that this woman acknowledged that there was a life inside of her. In fact, she says that she is “in awe” of the fact that she was able to get pregnant. So her claim isn’t so much ignorance as it is convenience. “What’s right for me.”

This verse – and many others throughout the Bible, including the above passage in Romans – are very clear: we are without excuse.  We can blame our actions on convenience, ignorance, ‘what’s right for me,’ our upbringing, and a thousand other things. But it ultimately comes to the same thing – we have no excuses before God.

3. God will not be mocked. This young woman’s argument is that abortion should be a guilt-free thing. You shouldn’t feel bad for doing what’s right for you at any given time. In moments like these, it can be tempting to follow that logic. We might think, hmm…well, she doesn’t feel bad or guilty…and it doesn’t look like she’s suffering any negative consequences…so what’s the big deal?  

God doesn’t leave sin unpunished forever. The fact of the matter is that one day we will all stand before God and have to give an account for everything we’ve done (2 Cor 5:10; Rom 14:12; 1 Cor 3:10-15). Those who stand covered by the righteousness of Christ will experience the forgiveness of those sins and will enter into an eternity with Christ. The same cannot be said for those who do not know God. God is patient with us (2 Pet 3:9,10) – we don’t always experience consequences of what we do immediately. But His word promises that we will experience them – either in this life or the next. It is not for us to decide what is right or wrong – that is God’s role. He is God and we are not.

4. Where sin runs deep, His grace is more. I’ll end by saying what this post is not: it is not a verbal attack on a woman or an attack on anyone who has ever had an abortion. It is not an attempt to change people’s minds on the issue of abortion – God is the only one who can change minds and hearts. Rather, it is the expression of a desire that truth be known: that life is precious and should be guarded, not belittled and devalued for the sake of convenience or ‘choice.’

The Bible calls sin ‘sin’ and doesn’t apologize for it. Sin is ugly and is something God hates. But the Bible doesn’t just call us out for our sin – it offers a solution in the form of Jesus Christ. The book of Romans says that “where sin increased, grace increased all the more…” (5:20). In other words, nothing we do, no matter how great or small, will ever be ‘too much’ for God. He has overcome the power of sin through Christ’s death on the cross. Nothing can separate us from that. He can heal the deepest wounds and make beautiful things out of our ugliness.

My heart hurts for those who have felt the pain of a past abortion. Rather than trying to suppress, bury, or deny the guilt, my prayer is that those affected by ANY past sin – no matter what it is – would lay it at the feet of Christ, accept His forgiveness, and begin pursuing a life that is pleasing to Him. Christ alone can remove our guilt and give us freedom.

I have never experienced an abortion, but I have known the pain of sin – and I know, with all my heart, that Christ can make all things new.

2 Corinthians 7:10: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret…”

God our Healer, He has overcome.