Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Settling In

I've debated for weeks about posting this or keeping it to myself. I don't want to come across as not loving being a momma, knowing it all, or it being an advice post... because I love being a momma, and everyone is different, every baby is different, and every recovery is different! But here I am. Maybe someone can relate or be comforted? Brace yourself, it may seem random and jumbled. 

I keep thinking about the experience of bringing life into the world. And I realize now just how loaded that phrase is. Because it's more than just bringing life into the world. You continue to bring life to that little one's world. You love, nurture, teach, and give everything you can. It's an amazing new territory. One that I've desired since I held my first babydoll. But, as I grew older, one that I knew wouldn't always be easy. 

There's the physical part. My body feels and appears foreign. Little things I didn't even think about change! Every muscle in my body felt like they were cooked spaghetti noodles for weeks, I was hit with a new level of tired and exhaustion that I didn't know was physically possible, and I hurt. (And I still feel weird.) But somehow, by the grace of Jesus, I just went into momma-bear-mode. Her birth week, I slept a total of 6 hours in 5 days. The fourth day, our first night home, she nursed every hour for almost 30 minutes, because my milk hadn't come in yet. I look back and can't believe I functioned. All the grace.

Speaking of sleep. Thankfully, it's been decent! (Praise Jesus for a Rock N Play!) Early on she pretty much put herself on a schedule that we just try and stay consistent with (or hello, melt down!). She normally goes to bed at 7:00 pm, wakes up once in the night (after her 11:00 pm "dream feeding") now around 5:30 am, then goes back down and sleeps until 8:00 am! She's slept through the night 10 times. (She woke up really hungry those first 4 times though, and it's not consistent, so I don't think she's quite ready for that yet! And we're not pushing it right now!) She only fights her last afternoon nap (she usually ends up sleeping on me for that one), and goes down easily for her 9:00 am morning nap! She still has her "off days" (who doesn't!?), and some days can feel completely off. But if anything, we know it can change in a heart-beat, so we're thankful for her current love of nighttime sleep and will be flexible for if/when that may change! 

There's the emotional part... not recognizing myself, balancing hormones, loving my husband, and loving and caring for our new little life- all at the same time is a lot at first. And I expected those hard things, but what I didn't expect was having to process "outside" life while processing becoming a mother. It should have been obvious, but I just didn't. So, my dad's cancer diagnosis and health has been difficult to say the least. It's still a daily reality I'm trying to lay at the feet of Jesus. But it's hard. So. Hard. 

And strictly speaking of motherhood, for me, the hardest part has been nursing. Especially those first few weeks. It consumed me. (And still does sometimes!) I really could write an entire post about it. And I see why people can't and don't do it! After my milk came in that Friday, I was engorged for 4 days and thought I had developed mastitis. I went from being scared she was getting too little, to being scared she was getting too much from fast let-downs (gagging and projectile throwing up). And then she developed reflux at 3 weeks and would nurse for 2 minutes, then scream in pain. I literally felt lonely and like I was already failing as a mother. (Um, Satan's lies paired with all those hormones.) It got better though. It got easier. (She's continuing to gain weight and she's happy!) It was just the transition time for us...and day by day my learning to manage the unknowns. (But ultimately, you have to do what is best and works for you and your little one...fed is best!) For us, it's still working...

Just know it's hard sometimes. I still wonder what in the world I'm doing. "Is she eating too little?", "how is 3 minutes enough time?", "How is 5 minutes enough time?", "Just one side? Don't all babies eat from both!?", "Why would she milk strike? She's going to starve! Somethings wrong!", "What does green poop mean?", "Is she hiccuping too long?!" You should see my google search history. Or not. Because it's ridiculous! But I've learned (and have been reminded by my rock of a sister (former L&D nurse) & Mom, so many other Mommas, and people close to me) to just breathe, take her cues, use my instinct and commonsense, seek help if I need to, and pray! That has helped more than anything! 

I would also add remembering to ask Kyle for help. Communicating. It's so easy for me to go into "do-it-myself mode". So much so, one evening during the first month, he came home to me after I had been sobbing at her changing table during one of her melt-downs. He had even text me earlier as he always does, to see how things were going. And I simply told myself I could handle it and didn't tell him I needed him. Clearly. So obviously, I struggled sometimes with not verbalizing what I needed. And to be brutally honest, sometimes I wouldn't ask, because I thought I could do it better. Lies. Pure lies. He is just as important. And just as capable! He's my partner. He's her daddy.

Daddy to the rescue during one of her random and few nursing strikes! 

Okay, this is my only nugget of advice; asking for help is huge. And that goes for everything in life! [Your physical, spiritual, emotional health, and overall wellbeing is vital.]

In the midst of it all, so many countless blessings and so much generosity has come from our community of loved ones, near and far!  

Coming home was exciting and scary at the same time! Praise Jesus our mothers agreed in advance to come and help for the first two weeks. We came home to our Moms taking turns staying and helping us with literally everything- it was the best decision ever. We had hot meals. (Most of them family-style at the table!) Laundry done. House cleaned. And even cuddles with Caroline while Kyle and I were reminded to take care of ourselves (although, no arms were twisted into that, I can tell you for sure)! We were even given the opportunity to take a quick dinner-date when she was 3 weeks old! Their help kept us sane. (And taking a daily shower...showers made me feel like a brand new momma that could conquer anything!)

And Dooley adjusted to his big brother role seamlessly! He was a little rough with his kisses and sweet nose-nudging at first, but he quickly softened his approach! And instantly became her best friend and guard. He is right beside her every time she nurses (except the middle of the night feeding...he loves his sleep!), and he's the first at the door when she wakes up from her naps. Oh, how we love him. [Expect a post full of pictures I've documented of them soon!]

Photo by Teia Fuller
His first reaction to her nursing! 
And he's continued to do the same thing! 
My lap (and heart) is always full!

Our home was simply full of joy. Family and friends came to meet her (With our permission, of course!), and our SIL took beautiful pictures only 2 days after we were home!

She also came again with kids in tow that following Friday for a day with me & Caroline, so I wouldn't have to be alone during my Dad's cancer surgery, but came anyway after it was canceled!  

(Y'all, I don't know how people do it without family & friends.)

Marmi & Gramps
Mimi & Pops
Aunt Maicie & Uncle Jason (and cousin Eloise)

Uncle James
Sweet cousins... Abram, Jackson, & Emery
Aunt Teia
Uncle Jason

In addition to our home being full, our bellies were too. Our church family provided meals spread out every few days over 2 months after our moms left, which was a huge help! Eating was really the last thing on our minds those first few weeks. We truly can't thank them enough! 

(We also had sweet packages sent to us from friends and family! We have been so overwhelmed with love!)

Things have started to settle in. (Although, sometimes I still can't believe my dream of being a momma has come true!) I've conquered driving alone, grocery shopping (even Costco!), the doctor, the aquarium, and driving to Cookeville with her! And Kyle's been an amazing daddy. He comes home, kisses me, and jumps right into his role of husband and daddy after a long day at the office. I can't describe the amount of love I have for him while watching their nightly routine for her bedtime! Heart. Puddle.

The "it's felt like she's been a part of us forever" is here. The love I have for her little life is beyond compare. Every time I look at her I melt. I could kiss those chunky cheeks off. I miss her when she sleeps. I think everything she does is cute. Her eyes pierce me and makes my heart feel like it could explode. I want to protect her from everything bad and cuddle her forever. She's just growing and changing so fast! (A little too fast for my liking!) And she makes every ounce of hard worth it. 

But I'm still physically healing. Still mostly wearing maternity and blousey clothes (yes, comfort...). Still balancing my emotions. Still being conscientious of loving Kyle well. Still processing family stuff. Still accepting my body changes. Still learning to function with interrupted sleep. Still just figuring out this momma thing. (Not all in that order.) And I'll always be figuring it out!

So that's what I'm settling into...not a "normal or perfect" motherhood, but an "unknown and flexible" motherhood! Daily asking, "what does Jesus want motherhood to look like for me?" "How do I love my family well?"

A gospel-centered motherhood.

Please know that Kyle and I can't thank everyone enough for helping us transition into parenthood, and continuing to walk alongside us while raising our sweet girl. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

For His Good

When you hear cancer hits [yet again] you cringe and your heart breaks. But when it hits your family, a family that was still mending old wounds, your heart breaks in a way that you didn't know was possible. It's a break from a new wound that your 4 year old self just wants to put a bandaid on and fix, but can't...

Memorial Day began my Dad's journey with stage 4 kidney cancer. There's been bumps, twists, and turns causing delay after delay for treatment. And his pain has been difficult to even dull down. But, his heart and peace in Jesus hasn't dulled one bit. 

I can't lie; sadness, anger, and questioning has selfishly been filling my heart, as of late, especially when I focus on all that Satan has robbed our family of, but in the midst of that, Jesus' sovereign hands are still working. 

They were working when our family was broken. 

They were working when chains were broken.

They were working when decisions were made. 

They were working when baptismal waters washed over. 

And we have hope and a promise that they are always working! 

So today. Today he goes in for a biopsy to hopefully start treatment. Will you pray with me? Pray for my Dad, pray for my family, and pray for his doctors.  

He is working, friends. He is working for good. Whatever that good may be. And we have hope!

"And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." [Romans 8:28] 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Fuller Birth- Caroline's Story

I can't believe today marks three weeks since Caroline arrived! Her birth was prayed over endlessly after seeing the positive test last October 16th. And I'm so thankful for how it went! How amazing it is to look back and see God's hand in every single detail (Even the painful and uncertain ones!):

 From the most amazing nurses, Doctor, and hospital, my sister basically being my doula (She seriously needs to be a midwife!) and photographer,...

Kyle's never-ending encouragement, messages, and immediate love and care for our daughter, our family being present (my brother, Dad, BIL, SIL, and extended family in spirit),...

Pitocin beginning at 9:00 am and not being horrific, 12 hours of labor (some of it was back-labor too), a smooth epidural after 3 cm, quickly jumping to 3 1/2 cm right after, then going from 4 1/2 to 9 1/2 cm in an hour, 38 minutes of pushing (We were shocked!), no heart-rate drops, our healthy girl being placed on my chest at 11:18 pm,...

to being so well cared for after the messy, whirlwind that birth is! (We brought the nurses candy, but after everything, I think we should've brought them plane tickets to the Bahamas!)

We couldn't have imagined a more wonderful birth with our Caroline. I could talk about our story all day, but I think pictures say more than I ever could.

Psalm 121 was my mantra throughout the day & night. 

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

  He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
 Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
 The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

  The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.

 The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.

The most amazing birthing team ever! Kerri, you will always be treasured! (Not pictured, Chelsea, Bridget, & many more.)

There is absolutely nothing like that look...

The day after... after no sleep and a much needed shower, we had our first family pictures & her tiny, sweet features were documented.  


How wonderful are your works, oh Lord!