The Many Meanings of Mom

I remember when they laid her on my chest, and we met eyes. The exact same shade of blue clashed one with the other, and all I could think was…Finally.

Finally she was here. After three hours of pushing, after 28.5 hours of labor, after two weeks of Braxton Hicks, after ten some odd months of pregnancy, after two years of marriage, after the countless before when I wished and prayed for this moment, after ten years of knowing my first would be a girl. There she was in all her pink chubby glory. And she was perfect.

But ( isn’t there always a “but”) I didn’t feel like a mom in that moment. This surprised me. I kept waiting for the word to sink in during what seemed an endless pregnancy, but it just didn’t seem to fit.

Mom was..well…MY mom, and how could I ever be that? Mom was constance, consistency, unconditional love, and grace beyond my reckoning. Where could I even begin to come close to my heart’s own definition. It was intimidating to say the least.

I thought the bond of breastfeeding would make the word settle into its place finally. It was beautiful and easy for us. She knew just what to do and, oddly, so did I. We clung to each other when all else seemed foreign in that busy haze as midwives, nurses, and family bustled around us. It was too much noise and light and even smell after everything that had just happened. This moment called for solemnity and reverence even. We found our own way with each other. It was incredible, but I still didn’t feel like mom. I found myself panicking.

She slept then, and I found myself alone. I watched her wrinkled brow and fitful breathing. She hadn’t quite gotten used to this new world, and I hadn’t quite gotten used to having her in it.

The next few weeks after were a beautiful blur of sleeping and eating for the both of us. I forgot my own name, much less my panic over becoming a mother. I simply did what needed to be done. The strangest part of it was that I can’t remember complaining or even being emotional. My world revolved around a baby girl, and I thought of little else but her survival and comfort.

Months passed much the same way. She smiled, cried, laughed, and cooed. She started interacting and playing. She sat up, started waving, started solids, and transitioned to the crib. I couldn’t tell you what day she did any one of those things. It simply happened one day and was normal the next.

That’s how becoming a mom is. It’s not in one moment when you read that positive test, or when they say “It’s a girl!”, or even when they pass a baby into your arms. The word sneaks up on you in an evolution of time and self.

I don’t know when I became a mom. I just AM one. I’m not my mother or anything like her. I’m just me as mommy. Mommy means the one who wakes her up and puts her to bed, the one who feeds her and cleans the mess up after, the one who plays and makes her laugh out loud, the one who holds her skin to skin when the tears won’t stop.

“Mother is god in the eyes of a child.” No truer statement have I ever heard. I’m her world, and she is mine. We have been since day one:  the day I started to learn the meaning of Mom.

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Mommy Matters: The Top 10 Ways We Ignore Our Bodies

It was a few days ago when I confessed to some fellow moms that I was running on empty. The tears had begun, and I let them flow unabated. A good cry never hurt anyone anyway. But with them came the niggling guilt:

How could I feel this way when I had a beautiful, funny, intelligent, healthy baby? How could I sense any neglect or distance when I was married to the man I loved? The questions accused with no answers. Realization came slowly, achingly after a few days of pensiveness and intentional self awareness. It was something of a blow when I realized how much better I felt when I listened.

I’ve never been a good listener. I hate it. I like talking. I like writing. I like answering. Listening seems so passive, when in reality it’s much more work than responding. I had no one to blame for my sense of neglect except me.

My body (and yours too) gives me clear signals every day on what I need. So, why have I habitually ignored myself?

There’s always one more thing to get done before I eat a bite, or run to the bathroom, or even scratch an itch. However, I think this line of thought is not only ignorant but harmful.

So, without further ado, here is my list of the top ten ways we ignore our bodies:

  1. Not going to the bathroom. This one really gets to me. Do we think so little of ourselves that we can’t even take time to fulfill our most basic needs? I remember how impossible this seemingly small task seemed in the newborn stage, and it really hasn’t improved much. My daughter always has one more need before I can make my way to the bathroom, and sometimes I just forego it to avoid a tantrum while she has to wait.
  2. Not drinking. I think most people probably don’t get the water intake they need in a day, but really how much better would I feel if I just had 8 glasses of water? This one seems so simple, but when I feel thirsty I just push the desire a bit until I have a spare minute. It never seems to come.
  3. Not eating. I am the most guilty of this one. I often eat one meal a day, and that’s once Daddy enters the door. It’s simply easier to make my way around the kitchen and eat a meal without the baby’s constant need for attention.
  4. Not sleeping. The most consistent advice I received during my pregnancy was to sleep when the baby slept. I totally ignored this. It seemed impossible. Those snippets of “naps” were the only time I could get anything done! Little has changed in 8 months. Alice’s naps are my time to work, to write, to clean, to shower, etc. Before bed at night is usually my brief window of time with my husband. Between late nights and early mornings, sleep is a fleeting memory.
  5. Not dating. My husband and I keep saying we’re going to devote one day a week for “date night.” This may seem like the opposite of spontaneity and romance, but for us every moment has to be intentionally planned in order to make anything happen. However, one meeting or Bible study or family get together seems to get in the way.
  6. Not having sex. See above.
  7. Not crying. Some of us have trained ourselves to NOT cry…How messed up is this? Why is this shameful? Why do we apologize when we shed some tears? “I promised myself I wouldn’t cry!” I think this one makes me the most angry. Tears are a useful important tool to find release and to give someone (even yourself) a visual for an intangible feeling.
  8. Not laughing. If you haven’t laughed in a 24 hour period, there’s a red flag there. If nothing seems funny or joyful, maybe you need to intentionally name off the joys in your day even if they seem trivial. I’ll literally look at pictures or videos of my baby daily if I feel I haven’t smiled enough that day. It has never not worked.
  9. Not scratching/stretching/yawning/etc. When you have your hands full of diapers bags, blankies, loveys, sippies, pacies, it’s hard to even find a moment to scratch an itch. This one is just absurd. Pass the baby off for one flipping second and scratch your leg, or adjust your sock, or just not feel 30 lbs of baby on you.
  10. Not applying essential oils. I notice the mornings I seem more rushed and I forget to apply Stress Away or Joy, I am a moody mess. A few seconds and two drops make a HUGE difference in my day.

So, can anyone relate? What are the ways that you ignore your body? We are worth so much more than we give ourselves. Self love begins in the little things. If you’re like me and you’ve given into ignoring the most base of necessities for yourself, begin by listening to the little signals. Eat when you’re hungry. Go when you gotta go. And remember, Mommy matters.

Mommy’s Sad: Parenting with Mental Illness

It was the third day of being sick. My baby couldn’t for the life of her understand why I wouldn’t hold her. My mother was physically worn out from taking care of a screaming baby, and my husband was at his wit’s end. The dishes were piled so high you couldn’t tell we had a sink anymore. The laundry looked like a modern art exhibit that was spreading from one corner of the bedroom. The trash can was more for looks than use apparently as garbage began to pile up beside and around the can rather than in it.

A bomb had gone off in our little home. Mommy was sick.

Today, I feel not so sick. Daddy is off at work. The baby is having sweet dreams as she naps. The house is looking somewhat recognizable. Mommy is well again. All is well in our little world.

Still, I can’t help but think how many days I’ve seemed well on the outside while inside I feel empty. It’s so much easier in one sense to be physically unwell as opposed to mentally unwell. I got all the help I needed in those days. There were no expectations for me other than to take care of myself. There was an outpouring of tangible support and well wishes.

I can so easily contrast that to the countless days I once again feel depressed for “no reason” or the moment by moment anxiety I feel that doesn’t even rest while I sleep. On those days, I still have to be Mommy. There’s no break, despite the urgent need for one.

Parenting is hard enough in itself. Parenting with a mental illness is excruciating at times.

It’s not something I like to talk about. I don’t want to seem like I’m complaining after all. I love my life. I love my daughter. I have no regrets in the life I’ve chosen. The logical part of me is affronted: “So what’s the problem?!” 

There is no problem. There never has been. Mommy is sick. I have clinical depression and anxiety. Circumstance simply has nothing to do with it.

I dread having this conversation with my little one some day. I dread the confusion I’ll see in her little eyes, and I’ll dread even more the understanding I’ll see there in time.

I have found a new way to cope along with writing and antidepressants. I’ve found a few oils that ease the anxiety and uplift me. I’m choosing to wean myself off antidepressants in favor of essential oils like Lavender and Joy, and I’m excitied about the results so far.

But no oil can deal with the sense of shame I feel. I have everything I’ve ever wanted, and I still have depression. Even I don’t fully grasp that clinical depression is a mental ILLNESS and not a personal weakness.

Hopefully, the more we talk about it, the less shame we’ll feel. There’s beauty in our collective vulnerability.

Crunchy Mom Controversy

(“These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. I am not a trained healthcare professional and these statements are not intended to diagnose or treat disease. If you have questions about specific diseases consult a healthcare professional.”)

For those of you that don’t know, “crunchy mom” is a term used to describe a parenting style leaning toward attachment parenting (exclusively breast feeding, baby wearing, co-sleeping, cloth diapering, etc.) I’ve only just discovered a term that describes my style a bit better:  “chewy mom.” This parenting style leans toward more “natural” approaches, but isn’t solidly committed to ALL things crunchy moms are avidly passionate about.

For crunchy moms and “chewy” moms and moms who choose not to be labeled at all, we’re pretty used to defending our parenting styles or ignoring criticism all together.

But it’s there.

I, for one, am pro-intentional parenting. I pick and choose from attachment parenting and positive parenting philosophies, but there are some things that eight years of child care have simply taught me work.

One thing I’ve learned in my years of researching everything from home birth to time-out is you can find research to back up pretty much anything you want to. There’s research FOR and AGAINST almost anything, and it’s all pretty convincing if you’ve a mind to be convinced. I’ve found you simply have to come to the most logical conclusion you can, and do what works for you and your family.

I’ve noticed as essential oils become more and more popular, there’s a lot of information out there about essential oil safety. It’s interesting, isn’t it? You can create a controversy about almost anything.

Essential oils have been around for millennia, and somehow they’re only now on a steady rise for use in the Western world as a legitimate alternative. In all actuality, since they predate modern medicine, they’re one of the originating treatments and not an alternative at all.

Because essential oils are so potent, they are very effective, but they also should be handled with care. As with anything, everyone reacts differently to the oils. Pregnant and nursing moms as well as children should be especially careful. Using a carrier oil, such as coconut or olive oil, dilutes the oils and also help to carry the more expensive oils further along.

There are specific oils that are not recommended for pregnant and nursing women specifically for reasons varying from inducing labor to dropping milk supply. However, these oils can be used to produce just those effects if so desired.

Personally, my thoughts are, pregnant and nursing mothers are exposed to environmental toxins, cleaning supplies, numerous tests and medications, and usually don’t bat an eye. All of the above can and often do cross the placenta impacting the fetus. I would think that essential oils would be much less of a concern in comparison.

I personally have used Young Living Essential Oils successfully during pregnancy, labor, delivery, postpartum, for breast feeding, weaning, and on my baby girl. I feel a lot safer testing certain oils out sparingly first, and I use a carrier oil for my baby. Young Living’s Seed to Seal Guarantee gives me full security in using their essential oils during these special times. (See video here –> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toCDNZ4W5_M)

Part of my parenting style is limiting and even eliminating synthetic chemical and environmental impact on my daughter, and Young Living’s Essential Oils help me do that. Here’s to all the crunchy, chewy, gooey, intentional mommies out there! ; )

“Me Time” for Mommy

As I was rushing out the door heading to my Young Living Business meeting, I felt a buzz. There’s always something exhilarating leaving the house without the baby.

No diaper bag.

No lovey.

No super heavy (seriously how is she that heavy?!) baby.

I felt an overwhelming sense of power, and it was heady. I hadn’t been out of the house in what felt like years, though in reality it was only a couple of days. I was running late, but I didn’t even care which is very uncharacteristic for me. I was tasting freedom, and it tasted good, people.

The following is a list of things I was able to accomplish sans baby:

1) I had an uninterrupted conversation that came to a timely conclusion.

2) I ate a HOT meal all the way through without grabbing little hands out of it! AND I DIDN’T HAVE TO SHARE!!! Buhahahaha!

3) I was able to make a swift entry and exit into the car without forcing a bucking  bronco of a baby into a carseat.

4) I was able to listen to WHATEVER I wanted on the radio! : o

5)  I was able to listen, learn, and retain information for over an hour without leaving the room to quiet a fussy baby.

I realize it may seem kind of pathetic, but for me? This was vacation!

Yesterday, my team and I were able to go back and remember why we were pursuing the business side of Young Living in the first place, and it struck a chord for me. This night was why I chose to pursue YL business. This night and so many moments like it. Even now as I’m writing while the baby naps, I feel so much more me than just “Mommy.”

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE being Mommy! It’s literally my dream come true, but I was ill prepared for the shift in identity giving birth would bring. Being apart of a team again, writing, working, all these things remind me of Brooke buried deep down inside of there. The one who couldn’t go a day without writing. The one who loves knowledge. The one who’s hungry to learn and to teach.

Beyond the laundry and the lists, the diapers and the dishes, is a part of me that has nothing to with my daughter. I want her to know that. Identity isn’t so concrete for most. It’s hazy and messy. It’s a series of not quite so subtle transitions that never clearly form. I hope Alice always knows that no one else makes you who you are.

Bottom line. I’m still me even though I’m Mommy. Young Living helps me to remind myself of that.

How You Doing, Mama?

“Benjamin, you have to sit down now.”

“NO!”

“Benji…I’ll give you a piece of candy if you sit down!”

“NO!”

There before me in the Target checkout line was a struggling mom with her ambitious two-year-old just trying to finish ONE errand without a meltdown. At one time, I would have scoffed at her blatant bribing and lack of discipline. Now, I only felt empathy. She turned to apologize because she was holding up the line, and all I told her was that I understood.

That’s it.That’s all I said. “I understand,” but she grasped my simple words like they were a lifeline! She immediately went into a lengthy breathless explanation of her day, her life, her children. I could tell she was frazzled right off, but I also sensed her loneliness, her sense of isolation…

I stood there and listened to her far longer than I should have. I was trying to finish errands of my own. Alice, my daughter, was getting restless, and I had to finish some chores before the hubby got home. She had her own to-do list, and she was late picking up her oldest from school. Still, we stood there and dished out our present frustrations with as much haste as we could before one or both children whined to leave.

When we did finally say our goodbyes and part ways, her face stayed in my mind. It really hit me how lonely motherhood is some days. We long for community badly , and yet we don’t know how to balance it with our children’s idiosyncrasies and lengthy to-dos.

One of my mommy friends shared her small victory with me:  she made it out of the house twice with her newborn! Huzzah! Only a new mother could understand the exhilaration and anxiety that accompanies such a seemingly small task. The initial isolation of motherhood can become a habit if left untouched. Building community in any context is challenging to say the least, but I find it harder as a mom.

So, I ask you, Mommy, how are you doing? Not how little Jr. is, but how are you? Go to that La Leche Meeting. Try that new small group at your church for moms. Meet up with that person you’ve been trying to get together with. Do it. Even if it’s hard. Even if your kid melts down or freaks out or embarrasses you.

I promise I will too. We’re in this together.

Marital Discourse and the Almighty Dollar

My husband and I have one of those love languages that people can spot right away.

We bicker.

A lot.

This is our primary way of communicating, and, in our defense, it IS a way of communicating. Having one partner who can’t quite spit it out bound for life with another partner who can’t seem to shut it…Well, you really fight to communicate at all. Any communication for us is a success!

That being said, we know the fine line between light banter and heavy argument. One of our heavy arguments is…

(Drumroll please)

MONEY!

We’ve been a one income family with one car for quite some time so that I can stay home with our daughter. We’re no stranger to sacrificing wants for needs. We don’t have a tv, cable, Netflix, etc. We don’t buy name brands. We eat at home. Blah blah blah. We don’t buy anything that isn’t necessary. You get the idea.

So, I thought that it would take some convincing to get my husband to agree to buy the Young Living Essential Oils Starter Kit. Although, it was really a bargain, we really didn’t have that kind of margin.

Ding! Ding! Ding! Let the fight begin!

Primed as I was for a good old fashioned war or words, it didn’t take much to sway my beloved. What we would eventually save in prescriptions, doctor’s bills, sleep aids, cold medicine, coffee, etc would be astronomical! Not to mention, I would pay ANY amount for the way Joy essential oil makes my daughter’s mood improve.

It was simple. We’re going to dish out money to prevent and combat unwelcome symptoms either way. Why not save money using something MORE effective with NO side effects?

…cricket…cricket… I rest my case!

So, we lived to pick another battle for another day. After all, there’s always making up to look forward to…