Monday, December 2, 2013

I played my best for Him

I have never really liked the Christmas song "The Little Drummer Boy." Really, the only thing I could think of when I heard it was Dwight humming the song because he knew it was Angela's favorite (see here, if you have no idea what I'm talking about).

Anyway, it just never was one of my favorites, I felt no attachment to it. But then today, this link was floating around Facebook and I clicked on it. At first, I opened the video, pressed play, and then went to another window to work on something else. I slowly found myself more and more distracted from what I was doing, and more intent on listening to the song, and eventually I clicked back to watch the video and the people performing.

This was the first time this song ever struck me as beautiful. And it wasn't just that these were talented a capella artists either; it was the lyrics. Their music made me focus on the words.

This song tells the story of a little boy who is told to go see the newborn king. "Bring your finest gifts!" they tell him. "To honor the babe."

I imagine the drop in his stomach as he hears about and sees others' gifts they are bringing to lay before the king. He is poor, and has no money with which to purchase a gift for this king. He only has one thing to offer. And yet - and here is the beautiful part to me - he goes anyway. He goes to seek the King, knowing that his gift in no way compares to what everyone else is bringing.

He shows up and in all humility and grace and pure love, he gives the one thing he can:

Shall I play for you?

He doesn't have much, and what he does have is meek and lowly, but he "played his best for Him." The little boy gave his all.

And after Christ had heard him play, as Mary, Joseph, and the animals stood round and listened too, Christ lifted His eyes and smiled at that poor little boy. He accepted His gift with gratitude.

Today, this thought touched me. I may not have much to offer Christ this holiday season, but I have my talents. I have my heart - and if I can only be humble enough to play my best for Him, and un-distract myself from the glitter and the glow of everyone else's big, shiny, perhaps expensive gifts, then maybe He will smile upon me, as well.

I love this time of year. Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Finding out I was pregnant

This post was originally written when I was 8 weeks along. I wrote a few posts back in the very early weeks of pregnancy that were honest and raw and real and kind of depressing - I wasn't very excited about being pregnant, even though it was all done on purpose, and I struggled to be cheerful through the sickness (still sick, still trying to be cheerful). This post may also run along those same lines. I'll share some of those things I wrote now because I want to be real about what I've felt during this pregnancy. I am sure some people come along and read my blog and read me for what I really am: A whiney, ungrateful twit who doesn't deserve the blessings I've been given. But really, I am working on it. And in the mean time, it helps me to share. Maybe it helps others when I share, too. Who knows? So, without further ado, here is how I found out I was pregnant.

I hadn't had many symptoms that hinted to me I was pregnant. In fact, I was pretty positive that we were not pregnant this month. I knew (or at least I thought I did) when I had ovulated and I also knew we had not been lucky in love on that particular day. There were a few minor things that happened that made me stop and think, "Hmm...what if?" but all of them could have been explained away by something other than pregnancy. For example, I found an old sippy cup of milk and a chunk of it slipped out of the straw, still in straw-form, and I absolutely gagged all over the sink. Now, I'll admit that's pretty disgusting, but I had always thought I had better gag reflexes than that, under normal circumstances. Another thing was - I kept waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, when I never ever ever do that. But hey, I was just glad I didn't wet the bed this time like I did last time. Also, I had cramps. I was tired, I was cranky, I had really bad pain in my tail bone -- but all of these things are also symptoms of Period Doom, too, so I really honestly didn't think anything of it.

I tested the day my period was due. I set the test down on the sink and watched as the first line appeared - the one that said the test wasn't faulty. Then I watched as the liquid seeped over the rest of the test, clearing a bright white patch in its wake. I shrugged my shoulders and tossed that test in the trash. I wasn't really affected by it, as I had been expecting it. At this point, I started thinking, "Well, maybe we need to wait a little longer. I really don't want a middle-of-the-summer baby, and I really don't want to be sick during our trip to Hawaii. This is good. We will aim for 2 1/2 to 3 years apart instead of 2 years apart." I called Adam, told him I wasn't pregnant, and went about my day. I was happy with my new decision to put off trying for a little longer, even though we hadn't been trying for very long.

Later that afternoon, I went to the bathroom again. Unbutton, pull down, turn aro --- what. the. junk is that?
I did a double take, whipped around and snatched that test out of the garbage, pulling my pants back up with one hand.
I stared and stared.


It was faint, but it was there.
A second pink line. 

My first thought, when my hand hit my mouth and my eyes got big, my very first reaction to the news?

Oh shi*

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry to others reading this who pray and pray for a second pink line. I'm sorry to others reading this who are offended, regardless of their own ability to get pregnant. I'm sorry to myself that I still haven't kicked my occasional swearing habit and that a curse word is an automatic response and I'm sorry to my baby. I'm sorry that those were the first words out of my mouth after finding out I actually was pregnant.

The next 30 minutes weren't much better. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. I held that stick and sunk to the floor and cried with my head on my knees and just kept asking myself, "How am I going to do this?" and "What was I thinking?"
I cried harder when Axton came in the bathroom, thinking about how much I love him and knowing I would love this next baby just as much, despite how difficult it was going to be. I cried in amazement, knowing I had LIFE in me. I cried because I had done it again and the first time hadn't just been a lucky fluke. I cried because I knew it was a miracle, and how could I - me, of all people, be the recipient of a miracle for a second time?

I didn't tell Adam that night because technically you're not supposed to trust a pregnancy test after 10 minutes. So I waited until he went to bed and I tested again. The line came quicker this time, and was just a shade darker. I left it out on the sink with a note that said, "I guess I was wrong" for Adam to find in the morning.


A second post I wrote, on how this pregnancy has been very different from my first one already (it's a mix of past-tense and present tense, sorry for the confusion):

I knew it was going to be different, even before I got pregnant. 

I remember one sunny summer day, I was jogging with Axton, thinking about how I wanted my next pregnancy to be different. I wanted to continue to exercise, I wanted to eat healthier, I wasn't going to have interventions during labor (no induction via breast pumps, water-breaking, or otherwise). As I ran, I told myself it was going to be different, mentally, too. I wasn't going to let the first-trimester-blues bring me down. I was going to BEAT IT, damn it, and I was going to win. I wasn't going to succumb to my tiredness and my ickiness, eating everything in sight (but only if it sounded good) and being lazy on the couch all day. I had an inkling that it would also be different because this time I would be carrying a girl - and when I thought about that, I got all choked up and knew I had to be a better me to show my daughter what kind of a woman she needed to be to make it in this world. I wanted her to be different from me - better than me, stronger than me, kinder than me.....but she wouldn't be those things if I didn't first show her how. 

And then I got pregnant and immediately it was different. My reaction to finding out was different. Different from last time, and different from what I thought it would be. My sickness was different.....oh, was it different. With Axton, I would be sick in the morning, throw up, and then find some relief in the evenings. I had strong aversions to specific foods, and strong cravings for other foods. And then it was gone by 13 weeks. This time around, I don't throw up and I can never guess what is going to set me gagging, but the nausea is constant and strong and neverending, regardless of what I eat. The only sure thing about it is, it gets worse when I don't eat. So I eat, whether or not it sounds good. And guess what? I'm 14 weeks now and only minor improvements have occurred. I am still crossing my fingers relief is coming.

Mentally, it has been different, too. I lacked the excitement, the drive I had the first time around. When I told one of my sisters-in-law about me being pregnant, she texted me the next day and said that she was checking on me because I had sounded bummed when we chatted the night before. It made me so sad and so mad at myself that when sharing such exciting news with my family, I couldn't even muster up a happy voice! What is my problem?

I'm a lot more emotional and cranky and paranoid. Up until about a week ago, I kept worrying everyday that I was going to find blood in my pants - I'm sure I worried about miscarriage the first time, too, but I have recently had close friends go through miscarriages and other difficult pregnancies and losses so it really hit me strong this time. The worst part? What I feared about having a miscarriage the most was the fact that I would  have gone through a few measly weeks of feeling sick and have nothing to show for it, and will eventually have to do it all over again. And also that, if I did have a miscarriage, I would carry heavy guilt and think that it was my own fault because I wasn't happy to be pregnant, and that I had somehow caused it to happen.

Do you see how selfish I am?

 I want to keep running, and have done so a few times, but I feel like I am taking another selfish risk in doing so. That I am putting my baby in harm's way just so I don't gain as much weight. (Though I also find it extremely hard to want to go running when heavy breathing makes me gag) I haven't been as faithful in taking prenatal vitamins. I don't sleep as much as I want to because I don't have time to. I feel sorry for Axton whose Mommy will soon be not everything she used to be to him because she can't handle it all - especially after the baby does come.

I told my mom that if she came out to help me with Axton after the baby is born, that I would just end up missing Axton the whole time, and that it would make me sad that he was sad because he wasn't spending as much time with Mommy. She didn't understand and laughed at me, thinking that I was somehow saying he wouldn't want to spend time with Grandma, which wasn't what I meant at all. I meant that my relationship with him will have to change, and that change scares me and makes me sad.

I had a few newborn shoots this week and I was so excited to go to them. I thought for sure that seeing these fresh new little people would push all these negative feelings about being pregnant aside, and make way for excitement and joy for this little one. I was horrified that it did nothing of the sort. In fact, it may have made it worse. I liked the babies just fine when I was holding them and posing them and sure they were adorable, but when I got back out to the car and was alone again and thought about that being me in 7 1/2 just scared me even more. I saw, with my own eyes right before me, how hard a newborn was, and the memories floated back to me. The painful first 3 weeks of nursing, the constant crying, the continuous diaper changes, the bags under my eyes, the sore body and emotions running high.

Now that I'm in the second trimester and miscarrying is less likely, now I have started to be paranoid about preterm labor. I saw a video floating around on the net of a tiny little guy, born at just 25 weeks, and I cried during the whole video. Then I hopped in the shower and cried and begged God not to have that be my burden - not just because it is scary not knowing if a baby that tiny will make it or not, but also because, and this is what I begged, "Please don't make me choose between my first baby and my second baby. Please don't make me split my time that much - to leave Axton so I can go see the other one. Don't make that my life for months. I could not bear to be ripped in half like that." And for the rest of the day, I would cry whenever I was alone, which happened to be the drive in between every single photo shoot I had that day. So I had a lot of alone time.

But then, you'll never guess what happened. You won't guess because if another woman told me what I'm about to tell you, I wouldn't believe her. I would nod my head and smile while she told me, but inside my head I'd be screaming, "Nope, don't believe you. You may think that's what happened, but really, you're wrong."

But it did happen to me, and it's not just what I think happened, it really did happen. So....believe me.

I felt that baby move.

I felt that peach-sized little tumble of a jumble inside me tickle my uterus. It was light and airy and kind of eery, and it most certainly was not gas (trust me, I've felt plenty of that lately and that wasn't it). It was different and it tickled and I felt it while lying alone in bed one night, quiet and peaceful and thinking. Of course, I cried.

I am getting more and more excited. I was sad that it took me awhile to be excited, but then I talked to one of my best friends - one that recently went through a horrific (is it okay that I use that word to describe this?) miscarriage. I was nervous to tell her, of all people, how I was honestly feeling about it all. I didn't want to offend, I didn't want to appear ungrateful. But she was understanding and told me that there was a reason we are giving 9 months to prepare for a baby - and it's not all just physical reasons. It's also so we can mentally and emotionally be ready. She told me that it was okay, what I was feeling, and that it ("it" being my excitement) would come. Then yesterday a friend wrote a comment on my post that said, "It took a lot longer for me to allow myself to be happy when I found I was pregnant the second time." Her words brought me comfort, too, knowing I was not alone. Knowing how wonderful and genuine and loving of a mother she is, and knowing she felt similar things. It made me feel less bad about myself. I also liked the she used the words "allow myself to be happy." I can give myself permission to be happy. I can give myself permission to ignore the comments I am not looking forward to, the ones that tell me I shouldn't be showing as much as I am for only being X amount of weeks. I can allow myself a chance to honestly evaluate my feelings and then find a way to change them.

If it's a girl, we already have a name picked out, and her daddy is already wrapped around her finger. And if it's a boy, and I get another little Axton only different and completely himself, well.... I'll be over-the-moon. Because awhile back I reminded myself that someday Axton will not let me kiss him on the mouth, or hold his hand across the street, or rock him before bedtime - he already doesn't let me snuggle with him anymore. And immediately the only thing I could think of was, I need to do this. I need to keep going. I need this second child. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Alright, alright.... I'll tell you.

I'm pregnant.

And though I'm not ready to share the news with the world of Facebook just yet (so if you post anything on there I will probably delete it - you've been warned), I thought it would be a good, healthy step for me to at least share with my blogging friends.

Every time I came online to post something on here, I would get scared and back down. I would say, No I should wait until I'm in the 2nd trimester. Or I should wait until we find out the gender! Or I should wait until after the wedding I have booked. (And then I booked a birth session and I thought, I should definitely wait until after that) (though those things are in February and March, and by then I will be ginormous anyway).

It started to bug me, and I wondered why I wasn't willing to share the news with my friends who would be happy and excited for me, why I wasn't willing to admit that I am going to have another baby.

I figured it out, though, and that's why I'm overcoming it by sharing the news. I am afraid to admit that change is coming. I know the more people that know, the more the reality sinks in, and reality scares me. But I have to admit it:  my life isn't the same anymore.

I purposely told myself I wanted to carry on as normal - I was going to book as many sessions as I could, and I wasn't going to let this pregnancy slow me down. I've been extremely nauseous and of course absurdly tired, but still I kept going. I didn't want to have to change myself and my life. I didn't want to announce anything for fear my clients would see and think, "Oh she is going to be 6 months pregnant when she shoots our wedding. She is ill-equipped for the job. Just what was she thinking?" As I said above, I just booked a birth session, for which I am over-the-moon stoked about, and the only thing I can think about is, "I can't let them know I am pregnant before then. Let them just figure it out when they see me the day of their child's birth, by then it will be too late for them to change their mind."

This time last pregnancy, I had already packed away my regular clothes and was proudly sporting maternity gear, baggy as they were. Yet this pregnancy, I am clinging to my jeans and trying my hardest to cover any bump that may be appearing. This time, I don't want people to know.

And that bothers me.

So I'm telling you.

I am due the first week in June.

I am excited, I am. But I think, just maybe, I am also terrified.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Living frugally

Apparently I am not capable of multi-tasking. I cannot run a photography business and maintain a non-exciting, personal blog at the same time. All of my free time lately has been going into shooting and editing, and especially now that it is "holiday season" I have been even more busy.

I want to share a personal portion of our lives, something that has changed the way we've been living the last 6 weeks or so. It's in regards to finances. I feel the need to preface this post with a statement of acknowledgment. When I say we've been "poor" lately, I use the term lightly. We are utterly spoiled in comparison to a vast majority of the world: we have heat, we have clothes, and yes, we have food. We even have internet and two cell phones. We have a car we bought new, a home we are renting, and a job. We have health insurance and shoes, and a huge comfy couch I am sitting on while doing so.


(And this is a good 'but,' so don't take it the wrong way)

- We double-jammy our son at night because while we do have heat, we don't keep it up very high and only turn it on when necessary.
- We have clothes, but not once in the past 3 years of marriage have I paid full price for a piece of clothing. The majority of my clothes come from thrift stores, and when they come from Target, they come from the 70% off rack. I haven't gone shopping for clothes in months.
- We have internet, but it is the slowest package available and does not include cable. We don't even own a tv. We don't have a Netflix or Hulu account, and the only time we watch movies is the occassional Redbox rental.
- We have two phones, but up until last July we only had one. One phone shared between Adam and I. Now we have two, but neither of them are smart phones and neither have internet capabilities. They both are Wal-Mart, pay-as-you-go, non-contract cell phones.
- Our car may be new, but it's the only one we've got. When I need to go somewhere with Axton, I have to wake up at 6am and take Adam to work to do so.
- The couch in our living room came from last year's tax refunds. The couch before that one? A torn-up love seat we bought from Salvation Army. It was shedding leather all over the floor everytime we sat down on it. I had to vaccuum in front of it every day. And it would only fit one of us comfortably; there was no snuggling going on with that couch. No other piece of furniture in our home was bought brand new besides that couch. The bed frame we sleep on? Adam built it. Our computer desk? Adam built it. Our kitchen table? We bought second-hand and Adam refinished it. Our bookshelves and nightstands? Given to us or found in the dumpster.

These are all daily decisions that we have made together throughout our marriage. We strive to live a frugal life, making smart decisions that add up to less stress and savings.

Before we had Axton and I was nannying, most of the money I earned went into savings. We wanted a small cushion for "rainy days," as prophets and most other financial gurus will tell you do to do. But slowly, since I stopped working, we have nibbled into that cushion from time to time. Here a little, there a little, not putting much back into it. When we moved from our apartments to our current condo, little costs kept popping up and the move ended up being much more expensive than we anticipated. On top of that, the security deposit was GINORMOUS compared to our last apartment's deposit. We continued in faith, knowing we were moving to an area we were supposed to be in.

Our tickets to Hawaii were bought with the last of our savings. "We will replenish it right away! We will be okay."

And that's when the furlough hit.

I now understand the fear and the stress that comes with not knowing if you will be able to pay rent that month or not.

I started getting used to not turning lights on when I walked into a room. If it was daytime, no lights were turned on. If it was nighttime, we used a flashlight. During the random intense heat spell in September, we didn't turn our AC on and I ended up getting so hot I got ill. We didn't eat out and we didn't travel anywhere that wasn't necessary.

Our dear friends and family all told us we could borrow money if we needed to. I never thought I would be in that situation - what an eye-opener! To have my best friend from high school - in college, about to graduate, tell me she would loan me her savings, intended to get her started with life, if I needed it. I was shocked. And, 100 percent humbled. If they didn't offer us money, then friends who knew of our situation invited us over for dinner so we didn't have to use our limited resources that night.

In the past six weeks we have only gone grocery shopping for the bare minimums. And by that I mean, we haven't bought fresh fruit or produce, besides a couple bunches of bananas and 2 heads of lettuce.

Did you read that? In the past 6 WEEKS, the only fresh produce we have bought are bananas and lettuce. I am dying for the days of last summer - the days we had a fridge full of strawberries and blueberries and raspberries, green peppers and zucchini, spinach and baby carrots.

The only grocery shopping we have done in the past 6 weeks was for the daily necessities you run out of most often: milk and eggs and butter. We have been making homemade bread and homemade tortillas. We have been using every last canned item in our cupboards and are depleting the last of our frozen chicken breasts and ground beef in our deep freezer. I have learned to get creative with our meals. If we didn't have it on hand, I would either substitute something else or make it myself -- or do without.

I miss cheese.

Last week I had a friend over and I was absolutely mortified when I realized it was lunch time and I had.....not much to offer her. I fixed up the last of our head of lettuce and offered her a salad. She said she could help me chop up vegetables for the salad and I had to swallow my pride and say, "Actually, it's just lettuce. I'm sorry, that's all we have." We had just finished our last tortilla so I couldn't even offer her canned refried beans slabbed on some flour and lard. I had an apple someone had given to us because I mentioned I hadn't had apples in so long I was starting to crave them (I never crave apples), so I cut that up and placed it on the table. Axton saw her son eating a jar of baby food and asked for some. I searched our cabinets and pulled out the only baby food we had left: the prunes we bought six months ago when he was constipated.

My friend was gracious and acted kind and unaffected, but I finally just said, "Things are a little tight for us right now. I'm so sorry I don't have more to offer you."

Again, I was so humbled. To look a friend in the eye and admit that we don't have money to go grocery shopping.

And I know......I know what you may be thinking because I've been thinking it everyday for the past few months as things have gotten tighter and tighter: We are still so much more blessed than so many others. Even if things had been worse, we would have had parents and siblings help us. We never would have had to go hungry - though we might not be eating the food we want to eat or dream of eating, we are still eating. I might not have new clothes, but still I am clothed. 

In the LDS church, we can be given special blessings that warn us of trials or challenges, guide us personally, name particular talents or blessings we may be given - these are called patriarchal blessings. We hold them sacred and generally don't share them with the public; I re-read mine often, especially during times of trial. My patriarchal blessing mentions twice that, throughout my life, my physical needs/financial needs will be taken care of, and that I will not want. I have always taken those words seriously, and in times past, they have given me confidence and comfort. Whenever Adam would worry about finances I would not be affected, I had, perhaps, an almost arrogant attitude about it, an over-confidence.

But still, even after going through this and being humbled, still my physical needs have been met. I have not wanted in the ways that others want. My health and safety have never been compromised. My comfort, indeed, has, but I also know that that is part of life.

It's been, and still is, a wonderful learning process. It's good to not have everything you want. It's good to worry a little, to be humbled and to admit and accept help. I hope this post doesn't come across as 'holier-than-thou' or Look at me, look how frugal I am! In fact, it's meant to be the opposite. It's meant to be grateful and thankful and amaze-ful at the goodness of God and the absolute goodness of trials and tests, to be stretched thin, to be vulnerable, to need and to ask. I do not think this experience will be wasted; I have a feeling there will come a time when someone else will need to hear me say, I know how it feels. I've been there, too. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

From the ground up

Two posts ago, I mentioned a comment I had made to Adam in a moment of frustration. I had said to him, in reference to my brain turning into mush these days:

Do you realize that I sit at home and, from the ground up, teach a human being how to live life? I started with a child who knew nothing and I have to teach him everything. Do you know what that does to my brain?

Since I thought those thoughts and wrote those words, I've been trying to think about them in a different light. That day, I was focusing on the fact that the most conversation I get in a typical day consists of baby sign language, songs, numbers, colors, and the alphabet (which means, WATCH OUT once you get me alone with an adult. I will. TALK. YOUR. HAIR. OFF.). That day I was focusing on the fact that I don't make hard decisions, I don't talk about fancy things like politics and finance, or art and literature. I don't wake up at the same time every day and I typically don't go to bed until after 11pm. I don't have a car to drive fun places, and I can't afford a gym membership that offers free babysitting. I don't bring in a substantial amount of money, and the money I do bring in goes right back into my photography business (especially when I have a habit of losing and/or breaking things). I can't remember diddly squat, I'm constantly losing my keys (though J promises me it's endearing. She's nice like that), and I'm not 'using my degree' I worked so hard for. That's what I was focusing on. 

But what if I stopped thinking about the negatives, and started seeing just how beautiful it really is to be the person who raises a human being. 

Today the sun was shining through our kitchen window in just the right way. You know what I mean, when the rays are visible and maybe you pull out a kleenex and you can see all the little dust floating down that ray of sunshine? Well, today I was taking off my socks and snapped them in the air (gross image. Poor Axton), and little flecks of lint started to dance in the orange glow. Axton's eyes got big and round, and his mouth made an "O", his lips curling over his teeth. He spread his hands out and tried to touch the dancing little white dots (I know, try not to think about the fact that they were from my dirty socks, it makes my story prettier).  I sat there and watched him marvel at seeing this tiny phenomenon for the first time - something I've seen countless times in my life. I've seen it so many times, I failed to recognize that, despite it's common occurrence, it is still magical. 

Not too long ago, we were sitting in his bedroom playing with toys and a fly came buzzing past him. Axton's eyes snapped open and he says, "Where'd it go?" his hands out in the 'questioning mode'

I pretended to look around for it, really dramatic and worried. Then I snatched out my hands really fast, and said, "There it is!" and pretended to catch it.

Oh boy did Axton think that was funny. He started laughing, and his face turned bright red and I lost the sound of his laughter. Then he stopped short and said again, "Where'd it go?" So I reenacted my fly-catching sequence and this time he started laughing so hard he started to tip backwards. It was like slow motion, he just kept falling. I swear he was defying gravity and the bounciness of his laughter was keeping him afloat parallel to the floor for longer than possible, but eventually he did tip right over. He was laughing so hard, he fell over folks!!! He actually fell over. When was the last time I laughed that hard, at something so silly and innocent? Man, I must be a good actor, but either way it made me feel fantastic. 

Sometimes I make that boy give his mama a kiss 50 times a day. Most of the time, he is still happy to do it, too! Anyone else would have said, "Okay, you're done lady!" after 3 kisses. But not him.

Raising Axton 'from the ground up' means I get to live the goodness and the sweetness of this life all over again. It's almost like I get a second chance at life  - a second chance to notice things I missed - or have long forgotten since becoming an 'adult.' I already said it once, but there is no better word for it: Childhood is magical. And I get to see a tiny portion of it through my son's eyes everyday.

And that, my friends, is a true gift from God.

And you know what, I do make hard decisions. I have a feeling, too, that those decisions will only get harder as Axton gets older and is faced with even more serious things, like friends, school, church, liiiiife in general.

When I stop and really think about it, I can honestly say there is nothing else I'd rather be doing than raising this little boy from the ground up. I know I pretend to feel sorry for myself occasionally, but the truth is, I am sorry to mothers who cannot do the same thing. I am sorry to mothers who have to drop their kids off with someone else and miss a lot of amazing things that their child learns. I realize me staying home with Axton is a complete luxury, and I do realize I am blessed to be able to do it.

I remember, back before I had Axton, reading someone's blog that talked about the first time their kid went to nursery. They said that it was the first time their child had really been left with someone they didn't know. I didn't understand that - I thought, "Well then, this will be good for them, right?" And now, here I am, years later, and I am in the same boat. I haven't left Axton with someone he doesn't know. Ever. And in less than two months, he, too, will be going into nursery. I worry for him because I've seen the way he acts in group settings and it's not too pleasant (which surprises me a bit, and I'm hoping it's just a phase). And while yes, I do think 'it will be good for him,' in whatever way that's still hard.

I have never questioned the goodness of people's hearts like I do when I think about leaving Axton in nursery.

Can you believe that? These are church-going people who have been called by the Lord to serve in the nursery and yet I still worry. Will they be kind to my son? Will the other kids pick on him? And if they do, will the teachers notice and stick up for him? Will he learn bad habits? I can't even imagine what it would be like if I had to work and I had to leave him at a daycare. I think I would have to be medicated for anxiety. Like, seriously. And I am not even going to think about the day he goes to kindergarten. It chokes my throat up just thinking about it.

This is a round-about way of trying to remind myself that "from the ground up" is EXPONENTIALLY important (yes caps-lock was necessary). It may turn my brain into mush in some areas, and I'll never have my old body back, but it has turned my heart into gold. Pure, liquid gold. So undeniably vulnerable and attached to this little boy. It has strengthened my spirit times a million, it has forever changed the way I see women. I have more respect for women I knew in high school because I know they are moms now and I know what they have gone through. It makes me connected to the universe, and, somehow, ironically, even though he has my heart walking around in his body, I am now more whole because of him.

Love this good takes work this hard - God knows it, I know it, and I'll bet you know it, too.

See photos of my little obsession here

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Meeting Kyle*

Yesterday was slummy. It was downright discouraging and depressing, what with my camera breaking and ipod-losing and the job confusing... At one point in the afternoon, I looked out my window and saw a beautiful almost-fall day was about to slip through my fingers. So I decided to take Axton and Kaleo out for a walk. We live at the end of a cul-de-sac and so our roads stay pretty quiet; I usually let Axton dictate the direction of our walk. Today he went up the street, instead of toward the park. Today he saw the lady who lives at the corner, the one (of many) we haven't met yet. Today she waved and gave a smile and commented on his big blue eyes. She said, "Our dog is a barker, too, it's okay," when I apologized for Kaleo's loudness. Axton kept waving and waving so she came over to say hi and to pet Kaleo.

Finally she said, "I'm waiting for my son to come home. The bus is almost here." She paused, and then smiled again at Axton. "His name is Kyle."

We didn't say anything else for a few minutes. Then the woman turned back and called to her husband in the house. "Honey! He's here!" Her voice had an urgency to it and I guessed that perhaps her son was a kindergartner, and they were new School Parents.

A man came whizzing out of the house, his hands fumbling with an energy drink, car keys, a wallet. He jogged to meet up with his wife, who was already at the corner. Their quickness captured my attention, and even though she was gone, and even though it was probably rude, I stayed to watch their reunion. Axton, too, was still, his eyes caught on the action.

And then I saw the bus.

That's when I knew.

The bus stopped, and nothing happened for an abnormally long amount of time. Their child did not bound down the stairs, leaping into Daddy's arms. He did not high five his neighbor or say bye to the bus driver. Instead, I caught glimpses of him through the window, lead by an adult down the aisle. When he got to the top of the stairs, his dad reached up and picked him up.

The boy looked back at us, Axton and I, saw us watching him, over his dad's shoulder. He had the same big blue eyes as my boy did, and similar wispy blonde hair.

But, unlike Axton, he also had slanting eyes, a flattened nose bridge, a small mouth. Unlike Axton, this boy had down syndrome.

I had to fight the tears....I had to whisper for forgiveness. For my ingratitude, at my shallowness and hollowness.

The family walked towards their van, parked across the street from us. I leaned down to Axton and asked, "Can you say hi?" But Axton did not. I think he knew this boy was different.
So instead,I  said hi.
"Hi Kyle! You've got big blue eyes just like my boy!"
Kyle's dad set him down on the sidewalk next to us, and Kaleo stopped barking (luckily, he really likes kids) to sniff Kyle's hands.
"Kyle, you sure are a styling young man! Look at that cute outfit you have on! Axton," I tried again. "Can you say hi to Kyle?" But still he didn't.
Kyle pet the dog a few times, and then Mom said, "Ready to go out to eat?"
So I took the hint and told them to have a good night. "We're on our way to meet Daddy."

As we continued down the side walk, it wasn't long before Dad's car met up with us and the three of us - Axton, Kaleo, and I - hopped into the front seat with Dad, as he drove us the 50 yards back to the house (we don't make it too far on walks). I told Adam, "We met the family on the corner. They have a son, too."
"Oh yeah?" Adam said, pulling into the driveway and shutting off the car.
"He has down syndrome." I said, the motor's silence thickening as I did.
We both paused for a minute, two parents of a lively, healthy child. What a different life, what a different challenge it would be if he were not who he were.

I can't fathom the stress and the worry that that mother will live with for the rest of her/Kyle's life. It is a vastly different stress and worry that I will have. No one can say one is better or worse or harder or easier. We are both mothers and we share that life-clenching determination to do what is best for our child.

Regardless, I've been humbled. My path could have been different. The Lord loves us. He knows us. He knows what challenges we can handle, what to put in our path to shape us to be the kind of person He would want us to be. He is good.

I hope we see more of Kyle around - I could use more of his light in my life.

*Kyle is not really his name. He real name is much cuter and fitting for this boy but I felt I should not share it on here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Hard Day

It's been awhile since I've posted - I've been busy with my boys, our move, my photography business, church, summer, fun things, not fun things, and so on. But today has been a hard one, and since misery loves company or something like that, I felt inspired to write a blog post. Also, I'm lacking motivation to edit photos that need to be edited and so instead I came over here, to my lonely little blog that was in need of some attention.

God has funny timing, and it's one of those days where I just want to cry. I cannot tell you how many times in the past little while where "coincidences" have been rubbed in our faces. We've had a job in another location offered to us the day we signed a year-long-lease in our new place in Maryland. We've had phone calls coming in within minutes of finding out news, telling us to 'go the other way,' 'choose the other path.' We've had contradicting advice left and right - from above and from below. We are spent. We are done. We give up. We will just be a blob of life in our current location until we are shoved in another direction.

I know I'm being cryptic - and it's mostly because I'm too lazy to spell out the entire story, and not because I care if anyone knows. Basically, Adam is looking for another job. Has been since the beginning of the year, and now we are still (endlessly) trying to decide if he should stay government, go contractor, stay Maryland, go out West, or go Foreign. And all FIVE of those options have, at one point or another in the past 6 months, been near-possibilities that we started to prepare for, only to have all of them fail.

You would think that would mean we are just meant to stay where we are, right? I mean, apparently it does, for the time being. Except for the fact that our least favorite option keeps coming back and giving us another chance at it (kind of). Ha, it's hard to explain when you haven't been following along the whole time.

Anyway, on to more misery. We also just started going to our new ward. The first week was hard, quieter and lonelier than you would hope a Christian church to be. Every week since then has gotten better, but it's still an adjustment.

This past month I have stood someone up for a breakfast date I forgot about, lost my ipod, spent a lonely week without Adam while he traveled to Utah for a funeral, accidentally spilled the beans about someone else's secret (I am usually so good about that! What is wrong with me?), broke my camera, and not gotten pregnant. We've spent too much money on moving, having two rents to pay for a month, getting new tires, flying Adam to Utah, and lots of other things.

I mean, I don't even have my head.screwed.on. The other night Adam was looking for my phone and his keys and they were both in my possession last and I couldn't find either one of them and Axton needed to go to bed and I was cranky and this was also the day we found out I had lost the ipod (as a sidenote, I was way less upset about losing that device than I was about the simple fact that I lost it. I was just so aggravated with myself for being 'so careless! So clueless!' and I was just angry at myself. It did not feel good). So when I told Adam I didn't know where either of those items were, he threw his hands up in the air and said, "I can't keep up with you! I  give up!" I said, "K." and stormed off to give Axton a bath. When Axton was in bed, I came back out, picked up my stupid diaper bag, tipped it over onto the couch, and shook everything out of it. Angrily. Crumbs flew everywhere. Crumbs and wrappers and pens and cards and garbage and cheerios and chunks of granola bar, all over the couch. Not to mention my phone --- tumbled out of it. I picked it up and threw it at Adam and then walked into our bedroom to read a book.

Later I said to him, "Do you think I would be like this if I had a 9 to 5 job and spent time with adults all day? Do you realize that I sit at home and, from the ground up, teach a human being how to live life? I started with a child who knew nothing and I have to teach him everything. Do you know what that does to my brain? .....I can't have you "giving up" on me."

Anyway, so we hugged and sorrys and love yous and good feelings and blah blah blah but man! It's just been a rough one. A real douzy. Then today, while I was doing a session with someone, I totally broke my camera. Oh I am still pissed/sick about it. I have an appointment with some geeky guys to look at it because I don't even know what happened.

So you haven't heard from me in 6 weeks and this is what you get! Welcome back to my life! Really though, life is good. It's actually great. I'm generally happy but we do have hard times, and that's when we lean on the Lord. If you haven't seen already, I've started a 365 project where I take a photo everyday for a year. I did a similar project with my best friend a couple years ago, and we made it six months into it. There are some real gems from that project, if you want to check it out:

I will try to be better about blogging again! I just need to learn to balance my photog stuff, because that's really what's been sucking up all my time lately. Until then!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

NYC with a One-Year-Old

So like, forever ago we went to New York City. Adam had a work conference, which left me alone with my one-year-old to explore the streets of New York. I was a little terrified at first, especially to ride the metro with all our crap, the giant stroller, and Axton, but we made it work....we walked a lot, we ate a lot, and we saw a lot. 

My top suggestions for NYC with kids:
1) Central Park - We could have spent all day here. There are huge water fountains that Axton got soaked in, playgrounds, paths, a Zoo, kids running around everywhere. It's the best.
2) NYC Public Library - it's practically a museum in there! They have art and other exhibits, as well as the original Pooh and friends and a baby story time every week.
3) American Museum of Natural History - we spent all day there, and there was tons of stuff for kids of all ages to see and do.
4) Empire State Building - depending on the age of your kids, they may or may not like this. Axton was kind of cranky while we were up there but we were still glad we did it.
5) Washington Square Park - It was fun to go to a different area of Manhattan. The park was filled with vendors and had a musical/festival feel to it. Plus, Axton loved getting wet once again in their fountains.
6) The High Line - We ran out of time and were not actually able to make it to this park, but I have heard great things about it and it sounds awesome.

The train ride up was about 3 hours long, and Axton did great. We kept him occupied with food, walks up and down the aisle, and babbling with strangers who would listen. There was that one time I had to change his diaper and since the tiny train bathroom didn't have anywhere to put him, I changed him standing up and he ended up peeing all over the floor and my foot....but that's just typical life with Axton.

Adam's work paid for the hotel and our train ride up. We stayed at the New Yorker, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants easy access to everything. It was directly across the street from the Penn Station and just a block away from the Empire State Building. Our room was tiny but it had a great view and a pretty good continental breakfast (though, no they do not have a pool and yes I did have the naivete to ask!)

We got to Penn Station around noon on a Monday, and it was pouring out. We dashed to the hotel, only to learn our room wasn't ready yet. Adam's conference was already starting, so I was thrust into single-parenthood-in-NYC fast. We waited in the lobby until a room was available for us.

After unloading our stuff in our room, I started out small with our adventures and we darted across the street for our first New Yorker Pizza. My favorite was the margarita pizza, with fresh tomatoes.

On Tuesday I met up with Sara, a friend of mine from BYUH. She had an internship with Random House Publishing (I know, soooo cool) and so has spent a lot of time in NYC. I was still too nervous to ride the metro by myself, so I ended up walking all the way from our hotel, through Central Park, and then to the Metropolitan Art Museum, where we were meeting Sara. Good thing we love Central Park so much - we walked past the skating rink that's in the movie Serendipity, we almost went to the Zoo but decided we didn't have enough time, and we found a large playground that we would come back to later.

Sara let us in on a little secret: The admission price at the museum is just a "suggested" amount; you can actually pay as little or as much as you want. I paid $5, Sara paid $1. We walked around the Met and mostly just chatted and tried to keep Axton occupied.

We decided that an art museum was not the best place to have my hooligan child, who wanted to run around and scream and touch everything (he got yelled at for touching the rope that was five feet away from a canvas) so we didn't stay too long. I would have loved to stay there longer, but it just wasn't happening with this kid. However, we did go to the roof and it was a must. 

It was at this point that I realized I had not packed diapers with me (....wha da freak, dude? I've been doing this for over a year now and I still forget to pack diapers? Yep, that'd be me). Luckily there is a Duane Reade (a drugstore) on almost every street.

We hit up Steak & Shake for lunch. It was a lot like The Shake Shack, which Adam and I both loved the last time we were in NYC. It was cheaper and the burger was delicious, though I do prefer Shake Shack's shakes over Steak & Shake's. Sara had to leave a bit earlier than expected, so I followed her to the metro station and she helped me figure out where I needed to go. I still preferred walking but at least I felt capable of using the metro if necessary.

We met up with Adam and went to B&H Photo. I was in camera heaven. I wanted to touch everything. It was beautiful. I talked to a few employees and got some lens/equipment advice and slipped on my own drool on the way out. We walked the streets around our hotel that night, just looking for a place to eat and enjoying the atmosphere.

We ended up ate at BRGR....yet another burger joint. The food was good, but I was so grossed out by the end of that night that I didn't want to touch another hamburger for a very long time (and hey, I haven't since then thanks to my July month of Veganism!)

On Wednesday, Axton and I did a lot of walking again. We hit up the NYC Library (FYI: There are two buildings labelled NYC Library on google maps. One of them is super lame and probably not the one you were thinking me, I went there first. But keep walking and you'll shortly find the one you want).

Axton really loved the giant Clifford and the original Pooh friends, but mostly he was running around being destructive again so we didn't stay too long. From there we walked to Grand Central Station (which wasn't very exciting, but I imagine I would have enjoyed it if I had a tour guide telling me cool things about it).

We also hit up the Rockefeller Center, the NBC store, and Magnolia's Bakery. I had seen the bakery featured on a tv show raving about their food but lemme tell ya, I was not impressed. Axton and I got their cheesecake and a cupcake, and neither one of them were that exciting. I much prefer Cheesecake Factory and DC Cupcakes.

That night with Adam we went to the Empire State Building, one of Adam's two requests for the trip. We went around 6pm, and the lines weren't too bad. We were up there before sunset and when we came out the lines were much longer.

For dinner, we had take-out from Lucy's, a Mexican restaurant across the street from our hotel. It was pretty tasty and decently priced.

The next day it was pouring outside, and since I wanted to go to the American Museum of Natural History, a mile-long walk, I decided I'd better brave the metro all by myself. I was feeling pretty good about myself until I was sitting on the train and watched my stop fly right past me. With each station passing by me, I started to get more and more nervous. When the crap was this train going to stop? I was at the very north end of Manhattan by the time the train stopped....I got off and realized I had gotten on an 'express' train that, though it was headed in the right direction, did not stop until its final destination. So I squared my shoulders and got right back on the next train heading back where I came from. This time it did stop when I needed it to.....but once I got off I realized I was stuck down in the dingy dark abyss that is the metro station. There was no elevators! Axton was asleep in the stroller, and the stroller was stuffed to the brim with snacks, diapers, water, and every other baby-related item you can possibly think of. So for the third time, I got on another metro, thinking I could just go one stop down and walk back to the museum. But alas, I was met with the same fate: no elevators, Axton still asleep. I sighed, knowing I couldn't just stay down there forever, and started to unbuckle Axton from the stroller. Then, a big burly guy walked past me. Without thinking, I called out to him. "Do you think you could help me?" I asked. He stopped, turned around, looked at my desperate face and sticky situation, and without hesitation said yes. I grabbed one side and he grabbed the other and together we walked up two flights of stairs - it was still pouring out and he got soaked just as I did, but he was kind and I was grateful. This was not the first nor the last time I had been treated with genuine kindness in New York. Another time, someone saw me walking with Axton in the rain and walked next to me with his umbrella until we got where we were going. Someone else walked me through the metro station until I found the train I needed. No one was rude or too busy to help. 

Also, I learned that the Metro map that is posted all over the station and the trains has a list of all the stops and which ones are handicap-friendly. Just a heads up to anyone planning on going to NYC with a stroller....

Finally we made it to the Natural History Museum, and we spent all day there. Both Axton and I loved it. Again, I only paid $5 to get in - this only allowed me to see their permanent exhibits but that was plenty for us. My favorite exhibit was their Earth and Space Center, a giant globe in the center of the museum that showed a film inside.

In the late afternoon, the sun finally came out and it heated up quite a bit. Axton and I walked through Central Park again (since we weren't about to repeat our earlier incident in the metro station) and we found some kiddy water fountains - Axton got soaking wet and I ended up stripping him down to his diaper. 

We met up with Adam and hit up his 2nd request for this trip: Washington Square Park. This is the archway from the movie August Rush. 

The park had a really relaxed, friendly atmosphere and Axton just had to get soaking wet for the second time that day (and, once again, I had run out of diapers which meant he had to sit in a giant pad of water the whole ride back to the hotel. He was fairly decent about it, at least).

Next we hit up the 9/11 Memorial. The memorial didn't take much time, but we really enjoyed it. It really is a special tribute and I definitely teared up (no surprise there). I would recommend it to anyone.


Finally, we ended the evening at Angelo's Pizza, recommended to us by my friend Sara for the best New York pizza she's had. And good heavens was it delicious. I would have loved to have gone back the next day and ordered something else from them - maybe a giant bowl of pasta - but since we only had the one taste-test we went for a simple, pepperoni pizza. So. Good. So good. If you get the chance, go. Just do it. 

Our last day in New York City was short - we were catching an afternoon train home. We went back to B&H Photo so I could trade in a lens, got some lunch to take on the way home, and headed out. 


Friday, July 12, 2013


I felt the need to tell you, oh blogging world and friends, that I'm feeling better.

Thank you for "listening," for sending me warm thoughts, and especially thank you to those that left comments. I appreciate so much your insights and encouragement. It really does mean so much.

My last post was the result of months of questions, not just about children, but also about our current living situation. We've been going back and forth about Adam's job, him possibly relocating. We made plans for one thing, and they got yanked out from under our feet and we've been crawling around on our hands and knees since then trying to find our footing again. Trying to find our place, where we're needed, where we'll be happy. I don't do well with uncertainty, with not knowing what's next. I'm a planner; it's what I do. The gray, middle area scares me, and that's what I've been swimming in since the beginning of this year. My last post was like a pin to the balloon - a verbal explosion of some of the pressure we've been feeling.

I called up a BFF after writing that post and she said, "It's so hard to blog about those kinds of things because the minute after you write them and publish them, you already feel different. That was just a snapshot of how you were feeling right then." And that's true - as soon as I wrote it all out and got it off my chest I felt a little better already. Just throwing it all into the universe seemed to free up my brain a little bit.

This friend also reminded me that I had gone through a very similar phase before we decided to get pregnant the first time around - a period of grayness, of confusion. I had completely forgotten about that. I looked up an old blog post of mine, just to compare. Here's what I read:

I had such a bad attitude ... and just didn't know where I was supposed to be. I was experiencing a major  "stupor of thought" --- a post-college depression, if you will. What was going to make me happy? Getting a new job? Going to graduate school? Certainly I wasn't ready for a baby....was I?

I was seriously depressed. I got up every day at 5:30 in the morning, went to a job I didn't like, and was exhausted when I came home at 5:30 at night. I didn't have energy or time to make dinner, take care of the house, or be a good friend or wife to my husband.

I was quite shocked to realize that that was exactly what I had been feeling like lately. All those questions, a bad attitude, a constant stupor of thought. Feelings that honestly went away once I made the decision to get pregnant.

This time, though, it was two major things - well, two major people and the things they said to me - that have helped me see a bit more clearly.

The first one was Adam. We talked about all the things I've been afraid of, my hopes and my hesitations; he not only validated them all, but made me feel better about every single one. And then he looked me in the eye and said, softly, "I want another baby. I know it's you that has to do it for us - I can't do this - and I don't even know what all you do have to go through, but I will be by your side every step of the way. I will go through this with you as much as I can."

Now, outside of that moment, I can stop and I can say, "Yeah sure you want another baby. You sleep through the night while I struggle with back pain and a huge belly, while I breastfeed and comfort. Then you go to work all day and associate with professionals and come home to excited Axton for a few hours and then put him to bed. You have no idea what another baby will mean for me." (And, later, I did say those things to him).

But in that moment? Him looking me in the eyes and asking me to do something for him, something he really wanted, something that he couldn't do for himself - well, honestly, I was reminded of the Savior. Just as we cannot save ourselves, just as we had to ask Jesus Christ to suffer, to bleed from every pore, to be crucified for our sins - I was reminded that I am doing God's work. That I would be doing something for this world, for my husband, for this waiting soul, that no one else can do. I have to sacrifice a lot to make it happen, but it's been asked of me. By Adam, and by God. (And isn't it wonderful that it's been asked of me, not forced on me? Isn't agency and the gift to choose beautiful?)

I have always told Adam, during our periods of transition, "I just wish God would tell us where to go, rather than us trying to decide between here or there. If God would just say, I need you to go to X, then I would. Happily." But God, so far, hasn't done that too often with us - He's given us our choice, and redirected us only when necessary. I decided I needed to be real with God - I got down on my knees and said an out-loud prayer - something I hadn't done in quite some time. I poured it all out to Him, even though I knew He already knew.

I just talked, and He just listened.


Until I asked the question. I only asked him one question, and I asked it straight out. And, in return, He answered me straight out. His answer was just one single word that clouded all my other thoughts. I tried to beat it away, tried to ask again just in case He had said the wrong word on accident but again this word came back, and I resigned. I said, Okay. 

And as soon as I accepted, I was filled with just a glimmer of excitement. Of hope... Of Courage.

It's going to be really hard - but [eventually] I'm going to do it anyway.

And I think there's power in that, in doing something despite being afraid of it. Isn't that the definition of courage? I remember asking another friend, who is currently pregnant with her second boy, if she was scared. She told me, "I was at first, but now I feel up to the challenge." I've been thinking about those words a lot lately, how this is a chance for me to gear up and face things head on - to rise up to the challenge and come out conqueror. To prove to myself - over and over and over again - that I can do hard things. I can have a baby at a birth center, with no medication. I can run 13.1 miles in 2 hours and seven miles....and one day in the future, I can have another baby. I can do hard things.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

On when to get pregnant again, being angry with God, and finding a Heavenly Mother. And way too many questions.

This is an extremely personal post, and, as these thoughts have been going on for months now, it's taken me awhile to actually decide to share them with anyone. I emailed a friend about it, and I finally sat Adam down and told him how seriously this all was bothering me, and just allowing myself the chance to talk it out has helped. Now I'm ready to be open about it.

Around Axton's 9 month mark I started to get that tiny little inkling of a thought.....I've got to do this all over again. That is also when Axton started sleeping through the night consistently and I think I was still paranoid about my sleep and didn't want to think about the fact that I'd have to give it up again one day. Adam also brought up the subject of baby number two around this time. All of his siblings are 2-3 years apart and are very close, and he wants that for our family as well. I do, too, but I'm struggling so much with this.

After that I went through a phase where I would ask every mother - whether I knew them or not - if they liked the age gap between their kids. How hard it was, what they enjoyed about that I think about it, that's a silly thing to do because it's so personal and is different with every child/sibling/parent combination, but I just was aching to find answers. I've prayed about it, I've searched the scriptures, I've pondered it, and still I am changing my mind every single day. Do it this month, do it in 6 months, do it never (so he'll be an only child! Is that such a bad thing?). I even got up my courage one night and told Adam, "Okay, let's do this!" and last minute backed out and said, "Actually, nope. Not yet."

There are so many emotions and fears and questions I have, and all of them lead to another and they all intertwine and affect each other and me and him and God and who is right and will I be punished or blessings withheld?

I have a hard time because being pregnant is hard. It's tiring and sore and it goes on forever. And then I have to go through labor again, and I swear I must have a bit of PTSD on that or something because I have anxiety just thinking about it. And I have to push that baby out of me again and it's going to be hard - especially because I will go natural again. Maybe you're thinking, "Oh  please. Just get the drugs and shut up. It's not that bad." But, I know me and I know I will have guilt if I do things that way, and I don't want to deal with guilt, either - it's no better. Plus, it's just not a route that I want to take. I don't feel good about it, so I have to deal with another route. And, drugs or not, at the end of the day I will still have a brand new baby to take care of, raging hormones and feelings of loneliness and inadequacies. I will still have leaking boobs and chapped nipples, I will have tired, saggy eyes and a tired, saggy body. And on top of it all, I will have also have Axton to take care of - something I did not have the last time around.

I have a hard time wanting to get pregnant again because I want to do other things, like pursue photography and writing, without having to plan around 3 months of sickness, the last 8 weeks of watermelon mode, and then 3 months postpartum trying to figure it all out again. Sure, these are all selfish reasons but is it so wrong to be selfish? You have to think of yourself sometimes, don't you?

I have a hard time because I'm legitimately afraid of the love. I see how much and how deeply I love my one child and I fear what double that love will feel like - because to love is to risk losing. And I don't know how I would survive if ever I lost this love.

Thinking all these things has gotten me into a major pity mode, and I've started to question why God made things the way He did. Why do women have the 'harder' lot? Why do we have to go through this in order for the population to continue? Why does it have to be so difficult? And once you get me thinking on that, then my brain runs wild - Why is sex designed the way it is? Why does it have to be so intrusive on women? [Sidenote: Adam and I have a very mutually-beneficial and respectful sex life; this is not a commentary on the way he treats me in bed, but just a general feminist running list of questions]. Why are women not granted the respect they so honestly deserve in this world?

.......And I search and I search and my mind keeps returning to Her. A Heavenly Mother. If families on Earth are patterned after families in Heaven, then I know She is there, I know she exists. But why is she never spoken of? Why am I not encouraged to have a relationship with Her? I casually brought this up with Adam one night, not letting on how much it was bothering me, and his reply was : "Seek Her out."

So I did. In the scriptures, hymns, and conference talks. Yes, yes, I know that one hymn that mentions it. But really? Is that all? brought up ONE talk from President Hinckley that says the words "Heavenly Mother." And do you know what he says in that talk?

However, in light of the instruction we have received from the Lord Himself, I regard it as inappropriate for anyone in the Church to pray to our Mother in Heaven.

He goes on to explain that in the scriptures we have always been taught to pray unto the Father, as Christ taught us how. And that "the fact that we do not pray to our Mother in Heaven in no way belittles or denigrates her."

I guess I understand what he's trying to say. But it doesn't bring peace to my mind or answers to my questions. I'm not trying to shake anyone's faith or to condemn the words of a prophet - I don't want to be angry about this or towards God. But occasionally I am. This topic is really hard for me to share, and the reason I hesitated so much to even blog about this. Probably mostly because I feel guilty for questioning something my gospel teaches. But that's not fair, either! God gave us brains to ask and question so why do I feel bad? It's not often that I have these kinds of feelings and I don't like the confusion I feel and the fact that my heart does not line up with what my gospel teaches. I've always felt that our relationship with God is extremely personal, and that you can receive personal revelation from Him so that your life choices line up with you, the church, and His will for you.

....But right now I'm not feeling any of that. I continue to struggle with not having a desire to get pregnant again. I want Axton to have siblings because I have hopes that this would bring him happiness. I want Axton and his siblings to be close in age because my brother and I are four years apart and we hardly ever talk. And I question if this is because of lifestyle differences or is it really the four years?

I feel like there is this stigma in our Church that the more kids you have the happier you will be, because they bring blessings with them. But will I, personally, be happier if I have four kids or than if I only had two? And if that is true, where is the line? Will we become exponentially happier with each child we bear? I don't believe that to be true, there has to be  a line somewhere. But if it is true, how is that fair? And how can we know where that line is to begin with?

I'm struggling to reconcile what I want with the guilt of feelings of selfishness, with trying to know and understand "God's will" for me. When we pray we often say, If it be thy will. But isn't that why we are given free agency? Will I not be blessed if I somehow, perhaps even accidentally, go forward without it lining up with God's will for me? Again I ask, how is that fair?

Some people have said, "You will know when the time is right." I don't believe you. Because right now I don't know - so does that mean it's not the right time?

The bottom line on when to have kids I think will end up being this: I will never again feel prepared, just as I did not feel prepared for the first one. However, it's worse this time around because I do know what it all will be like. I have not forgotten the pain and I never will. I hope, in my heart, that one day a desire will return. But I fear it will just be one of those things that the guilt will become too much, and then I will shrug my shoulders and say, What the hell, let's get this over with. And that kind of makes me sad but I don't know what else to do about it.

Guilt, guilt, guilt. So much guilt. These can't be feelings from my loving Heavenly Father, can they?

Anyone else ever have similar thoughts and fears? On any topic or question I've asked? Getting pregnant again when you know how hard it is? Searching for a Heavenly Mother only to be discouraged from doing so? Any insights would be great - or even just knowing I'm not alone.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What I learned from breastfeeding another human being for 13 months

I said that to Adam last night:

"Can you believe I fed another human being? Like, with my body. My own body made his food. For 13 months? And, like, the first 8 months his entire diet consisted of calories that I made?"

I kept saying it, in circles, trying to wrap my head around the concept.

"How did I do that? How do women's bodies do that?" Again and again.

He shrugged his shoulders. "I have no idea. It's so crazy, though!"

The past two weeks I've been trying to get my right breast to dry up (TMI? Seriously? You know this blog is always TMI, right?). The left one didn't have a problem at all - I had been producing much more milk on my right side for a few months now, but I didn't think it would take two whole weeks. I read a lot of blogs that said by the time they were down to one or two nursing sessions a day, it wasn't hard to completely wean off - that they were dried up within a few days. Not me - not righty, anyway. That milk is holding on for dear life. About a week after stopping nursing, I felt hard lumps and when I applied pressure, liquid would seep out. I tried it (gross, I know. But again - you should know this about me by now) and it was no longer sweet, but salty and well, kind of sour tasting. Huh. Weird.

I kept kind of hoping that Axton would be one of those kids that would "wean himself" - and I realize that had I waited long enough, maybe he would have. But I also felt if I let him decide he'd still be nursing when he was two and there is nothing wrong with that but it just wasn't what I wanted. I just felt...I don't know, like it was time. To stop. To selfishly give my body entirely back to myself. To enjoy an undetermined space and time of just "me" before I get pregnant again.

The last night of breastfeeding Axton, I, of course, forced myself to have this thought, forced myself to feel every word in this sentence, to make sure I was really ready for it: Tonight is the last night you will ever put this child to your breast.

I thought it and felt it and rolled the words around in my brain, I tasted them in my mouth and twirled them with my tongue, and then I swallowed them and forced their way into my heart. And you know what I heard?

I felt a small part of me say: "Oh, sad."
A smaller part of me said: "Hallelujah."
But mostly I just said, "Okay."

It just was. I was so pleasantly surprised that this wasn't going to be an emotional thing for me - I think it was a combination of many things - slowly eliminating nursing sessions over the past 3 months,  as well as learning/realizing breastfeeding is not the only way to bond with your child.

We've been starting to think about when we want to have baby number two (and that dilemma is a whole separate post), but just thinking about having a newborn all over again sends me into a near-anxiety attack. I feel like I will be brand new all over again with the next one. I reread my journal from a few months ago, and read back to when he was first born. At one point I made a list of things I learned about breastfeeding and I wanted to share some of them, as well as add a few more I've learned since then.

1. I will say it again: Breastfeeding is not the only way to bond with your child. Yes, breastmilk is the best thing you can feed your child. There is no denying that - it's a scientific, proven fact. BUT. Having been a breastfeeding mother made me learn there is nothing wrong with not breastfeeding. There is not even a tiny drop of judgement in me for women who do not breastfeed - formula-fed babies are still healthy, happy, strong, etc. In fact, I sometimes found myself jealous of mothers who chose to formula feed - mostly because they can be away from their child for more than 4 hours without their boobs getting rock hard, or because Dad can do a night feeding. Nursing Axton was of course a special time for us to bond - but I also found many other moments with him to be just as special. If I wanted to bond with Axton, I made it happen - with or without my breast, it was beautiful and meaningful.

2. Breastfeeding hurts. I had no idea how painful it was going to be for my  nipples to acclimate to getting sucked on for hours a day. Those first few weeks were like being tortured. Even after just one day, I remember giving my mom the stink eye every time she would say, "Okay, honey. He's ready for you. Time to feed him." I always felt like I just nursed him, and now it was time to whip out the shredded, mangled mess of my nipples to get torn up some more. My nipples bled! They cracked! They burned! I would find myself gripping onto Axton's tiny body for the first 30 seconds while I scrunched up my eyes and face until the pain would subside. Finally, I talked to my sisters-in-law and found out my next lesson --

3. Lanolin will be your best friend. I didn't even know what that stuff was at first, until I googled "Best Nipple Cream." From then on, I put that stuff on constantly - before I nursed, immediately after I nursed, and in-between nursing. Good thing it's safe for infants to consume because I'm sure Axton got a hefty amount of that the first month. It cleared up my bleeding and scabbing and after a few months I didn't need it anymore.

4. You're gonna wanna wear that bra at night. I remember shopping at Target for nursing bras while I was still pregnant and seeing a lot of "Night" versions. I remember thinking, "Psh, I hate wearing bras at night. That's not gonna happen." So I'm sure you can imagine (or maybe you can't) what happened the first night after my milk came in and I wasn't wearing a nursing bra....that's right, I woke up in a sticky, sloppy, wet mess of my own milk. "What the...?" Oh yeah, from then on I wore a nighttime nursing bra to bed - with two cotton pads shoved in each side to prevent that from happening again.

5. Breastfeeding makes you sweat like an overweight horse galloping through a desert in 150 degree weather. While wearing 8 blankets and 16 pairs of socks. And a scarf and hat. Holy Moly I was stinky and sweaty those first three months. No wonder I hardly wore any clothing! It was May, I was still 40 pounds overweight, I was constantly skin-to-skin with this tiny bundle of heat, I was burning over 500 calories a day producing gallons and gallons of milk (not really gallons but it sure felt like it). You know what my very first outing on my own, without baby, was? Going to Walgreens to get extra-strength deodorant. Because the stuff I had wasn't cutting it. I tried a few different kinds, but my favorite is Arm & Hammer Natural Deodorant - no aluminum so no risk to baby!

6. Some women can tell when their milk lets down. Some can't. I can. It's weird. I couldn't tell at first, probably because my milk always seemed to be on "blast the entire atmosphere" mode during the first few months. But after things started to regulate and calm down, and it would take a minute or two for my milk to let down, I could totally feel the sensation. It felt all tingly down my entire breast and to my nipple. It was pressure, too, so not necessarily painful but perhaps uncomfortable.

7. Breastmilk tastes funny. It kinda made me gag the first time I tried my own breastmilk, more from the thought of it than the taste of it. The only way I can describe it is a sweet, almost earthy taste. Maybe I'm just imagining the "earthiness" of it because it came from my body and is therefore the most organic substance possible....either way, it's strange to consume your own bodily fluids (says the girl who encapsulated her placenta).

8. Breastmilk changes from morning to night, and as baby gets older. The design of women and their ability to make such an amazing substance seriously astonishes me. I was reading a book about breastfeeding (or, more likely, it was probably an infographic on Pinterest, but I can't find it if it was), anyway it talked about how milk produced in the morning contains hormones and substances that wake an invigorate baby, while milk produced at night was supposed to help calm baby. And as your baby gets older, your body adapts and makes milk to support their changing needs. It's a tailored diet, specifically for your baby. Nature is so incredible. God is smart.

9. Oxytocin. It's kind of a big deal. I learned a lot about oxytocin when I started reading about breastfeeding. Oxytocin is a hormone that is released during orgasm, when your nipples are stimulated, when you nurse, and during and after childbirth. So, if you remember from my birth story, they put me on a breast pump when my contractions slowed down. That's because nipple stimulation releases oxytocin, which in turn helps your uterus contract. Thus, it is a form of induction. This is also why breastfeeding helps your uterus to shrink back to it's normal size after delivery - the hormone encourages uterine contractions. Also, if you google "What is pitocin?", the online dictionary defines it as....oxytocin. I figured this out when I was at the hospital photographing a birth, and they put the mother on pitocin. I looked at the bag that held the liquid and it was labelled Oxytocin. It totally clicked in my head then - your body naturally produces the hormones necessary for labor, and when an induction is necessary, doctors a synthetic version of that hormone (not quite as nifty as the real deal, but it does get the job done. Usually.)

10. Breastfeeding can help you lose weight. But it can also make you hold onto your weight. So breastfeeding burns tons of calories, right? Like, tons. You may think you're just sitting there on your couch, snuggling your baby, but really your body is in overdrive pumping out the liquids. This means you probably build up quite the appetite, and should be taking in more calories than normal to keep up with it all. This is part of the reason why a lot of women lose weight so quickly after delivering - their bodies are using up more calories than they are taking in. However, on the flip side, some women say they cannot lose the last 5 or 10 pounds until after they stop breastfeeding - I've read this is a survival tactic; so in case of "famine" or other life-threatening situations you still have stored fat to continue on. Interesting, yes?

11. Pressure stops the flow. Man is it awkward when you can feel your boobs starting to leak in public. Even when I thought I was "past that phase" it still continued to happen to me. You gotta carry those stupid nursing pads with you everywhere you go - for at least the first 6 months! Even after things calm down, it can still surprise you. But I did learn that applying pressure helps stop the flow of milk. So if ever I was in public and felt the all-too-familiar tingle, I would simply cross my arms over my chest and secretly apply pressure to the nipple. That would often do the trick, or at least slow it down a bit.

12. I finally learned the lying down position. It is a rare thing when I find a breastfeeding photo that I really like. I don't have anything against them, or anything, I just haven't found many that I particularly love. But today I came across this one, and I think it's the most beautiful one I've seen. (From here)

I just love how she is holding his hand - I remember when my mom was here for the first two days after Axton was born and she told me to do that - to hold Axton's hand just like that to help create that bond. However, I didn't start trying the lying down position until he was probably 4 months or so. I don't know why, I just never figured it out or no one ever told me about it. But it became my favorite position to nurse in during the night (because I could lie down. Duh).

13. It gets easier. Breastfeeding is really not an easy thing. It may be a "natural" thing, but it doesn't come naturally, if that makes sense. It's instinctual, but it still takes some practice, for both momma and baby. And once you both get the hang of it, once your nipples toughen up and your boobs calm down, once you get over nursing in public and have a few bags of pumped milk in the freezer, then really it's quite simple. And it's free!

14. Skin-to-skin. When baby is first born, and while he is still tiny and you both are still getting the hang of things, you will probably nurse skin to skin a lot (meaning baby and you are topless). At least, I know I did. However, as Axton got older and didn't go through as many outfits a day (meaning, 2 outfits a day instead of 5), and as I got braver and ventured out of my house more often, then we nursed skin-to-skin much less often. By the time he was 6 months, we hardly ever did. However, I did make it a point to still do it occasionally - just because this is the only time in his life that I could, would want to, that would be acceptable/appropriate/whatever to do that, to be that intimately close to my son. He's getting older now and the window to do this with him is such a short fraction of his life - so from time to time I would take a bath with him, and then I would wrap us both up in the same towel and we would nurse naked together. For those of you who aren't moms, you might think that's weird. For those of you who are moms, I bet you know what I'm talking about (if you are a mom and you still think it's weird then I say, Meh. To each their own). Having those last few precious skin-to-skin moments with my son were so special and I'm glad I made time for that occasionally before we stopped nursing, because it won't ever happen again now that we are done.

I've heard a lot of women say that, with breastfeeding, you either LOVE it or you HATE it. I disagree. I neither LOVED it nor HATED it (at least not 100% of the time for either one). I think once Axton started eating other foods, too, it helped out a bit, because then I wasn't nursing 24/7. But I can honestly say that overall I enjoyed nursing, and I'm glad I did it. Like I said above, breastfeeding is certainly not the only way you can bond with your child, but it is a major way to do it (any way you feed your child is going to be a bonding experience). I do have some beautiful memories of Axton nursing - the way his hand would sleepily wave and tickle across my chest, find the ends of my then-long hair, and trace his fingers through it. Or when he would stop sucking just to stare at me, my breast still in his mouth. I would smile at him and we would be like teenagers, lost in love and in that moment, obsessed with each other and completely oblivious to the rest of the world.