Jamesy is Turning Two

At this time two years ago, I was laboring in the car while Vince diligently did his Sunday duty and cleaned the school where I’d just put in my last day two days before. We went home shortly after, I got in the bath (which, incidentally, sped my labor up), and Vince packed my hospital bag. Four and a half hours later, after roughly thirteen hours of labor, a panicked ride to an unplanned hospital, and so much support from Vince and mom, James, my sweet, perfect, strong boy, was born.

He’s two, guys. HE’S TWO. How did that happen? Shouldn’t I still be holding him in my arms, swaddled, pressed up against me all the time? Shouldn’t I still be willingly attached to my breast pump and holding him high on my chest every two hours? Shouldn’t he still need me every second of the day?

James. Is. Two.

I’m sure every mom feels this way, but I’m so incredibly proud of the little boy he’s becoming. Some people often refer to him as wild, or get a look in their eye that says, “Boy, that kid’s a handful,” but I love every single second of his energy, his exploratory nature, his energetic and joyful spirit. I love that he’s stubborn, that he’s independent, that he wants to explore the world around him and see what it will do. He may seem wild and rough, but let me assure you, he’s absolutely perfect.

It’s weird knowing that somehow I’ve managed to keep a child alive, a whole human, for two years. It’s weird, and empowering, and still a little terrifying. I titled James’s first birthday blog “My Joyfully Full, Utterly Broken Heart,” and that blog title rings true for this one as well. As I put my son to bed tonight, my heart felt joyfully, completely full, but it also felt utterly, completely broken. Why? Because as much as I love every new day with him, every new word, every new skill, every laugh, I mourn the loss of the baby that he’s growing away from. I understand a little more each day why my mom still calls my brother and me her babies. James, whether he’s two or twenty or a hundred, will always, always, be my baby.

At two-years-old, James loves to dance, he loves to run, he loves to laugh. He’s hard headed (where does he get that, I wonder? Definitely not me…), independent, and so incredibly smart. He has energy for days and loves to “help” however he can. He loves his dada, and he loves his mama. In general, he just loves.

I look forward to the next year, watching him mature from two to three, but already I’m mourning the loss of one–the loss of the year that held his first steps, so many first words, so many firsts in general.

To my son, my sweet angel, my lively, lovely little boy, Happy Birthday. I love you with my whole entire heart, and will love you more each and every day from now until forever.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

Being a Mom is Hard

Being a mom is hard.

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again. And it’s not just hard in the ways you’d think. Sure, it’s hard not getting enough sleep and constantly picking up after someone else and getting snot and vomit and urine and who-knows-what-else on you. But there are other things that are also hard. SO hard. And until you’re a parent, you can’t really understand how hard those other things can be.

Like how to feed your baby. This doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult. I mean, as long as you’re getting your baby the proper nutrition (ie: enough breast milk or formula and then later, enough baby food or soft foods and whole milk) it shouldn’t make being a mom hard, right? Wrong.

Feeding my baby has been a source of pain for me since I realize that breastfeeding just wasn’t going to happen for us. I wanted to breastfeed. I wanted it SO BADLY. But because of a long series of things–uncooperative nipples, an undiagnosed tongue and lip tie, no real breastfeeding support in the area, doctors and nurses who didn’t have time to help as much as a new mom needs, and a baby who was rapidly losing weight–I didn’t get to have that relationship with my son. Instead, I chose to use a breast pump and pump for as long as my body would produce milk, which ended up being just at six months, and feed my son with a bottle–first breast milk, then formula, and now whole milk.

This shouldn’t be a big deal. I should be able to look at this, at the fact that I have fed my son and given him the nutrition he needs for over thirteen months now. But do you know what I see in all of that? I failed my son because I couldn’t breastfeed him until he was ready to stop. That’s what I see. That’s what I feel.

There’s an ache deep in my belly that still yearns to have that relationship with him every time I see a mom breastfeeding her baby. Every time I see an article on Facebook about why breast is best, or see other moms (and dads) talking about how awful formula is for your baby, guilt eats me up. Even now, seven months after my supply dried up, a year after I finally realized that pumping was best for James and for me, I mourn–truly, deeply mourn–not being able to breastfeed James. I still battle my mommy guilt and have to talk myself down from just sitting and crying and wallowing in these feelings, even though I know I’ve done all I could to take care of my baby. I still remember the looks I used to get in public places every time I put a bottle in James’s mouth–looks that said you’re a screw up, you could do this better, you should be ashamed.

Being a mom is hard. And the only people who can understand just how hard it is are other moms, but we still judge each other. We think we know what’s best for other mothers, other families. We think that just because we really connect with a parenting style or choice that it has to be the right one for everyone. But we can’t know what other families, other moms, other kids go through. Maybe a mother is breastfeeding because it’s cheaper. Maybe she’s bottle feeding because her baby was adopted. Maybe she did every single thing she could to breastfeed, and for any number of reasons, just couldn’t. There are a million situations with a million maybes out there…

We can’t know other moms’ stories, other families’ plot lines. All we can do is band together, really truly be a tribe of mothers instead of a group of moms who sometimes get along and sometimes judge the hell out of each other. We need to support each other, try and understand where other moms are coming from and try not to cast judgement. We need to stop assuming that the way we’re parenting is the absolute, one hundred percent best way to parent, need to stop trying to “fix” other moms. We need to support each other, love each other, be shoulders for each other to cry on, and love each other.

Being a mom is hard, but having mom friends who get you, who listen to you, who are just there for you (even if you don’t parent the same way or feed your child the same way or whatever) makes it so much easier, so much better.

1098001_10101867255851484_322315206864695988_n

On Being a Writer and a Mommy

Before I had James, I was working on the first draft of a novel. It wouldn’t be the first novel manuscript I’d completed, but it was going to be the first that wasn’t absolutely ridiculous. I started it before conception, and as soon as I announced my pregnancy, all my mom-writer friends said, “Finish your book before the baby is born!”

Honestly, I thought they were being overly cautious, but I did finish the rough draft pre-baby! I felt so accomplished. And because of the type of writer I am, I didn’t plan on revising for a few months (I can’t revise without some distance). So, I waited. I had James. I didn’t sleep. I pumped for the baby (for more info on that lovely period of my life, click here). I ate whenever I was hungry, which was often. I cuddled my newborn. I cried. But I didn’t write, or revise, or even think about my story.

Until one day, I did. Months and months after the rough draft was done and my son was born, I decided it was time to polish the very rough story I had churned out. So I did. In stolen moments while James slept or played, in moments when I could have been doing laundry or sweeping, I revised.

It was a small revision and I knocked it out relatively quickly, but man, did it take it out of me! Suddenly, I couldn’t just sit down for twenty minutes or two hours and write. I had to make sure the baby was OK, dry, fed, happy, and then I might get five or ten minutes in broken intervals. But, I did it! I revised (sort of), and I got through every page of my manuscript.

Well, as any writer knows, one revision is just the beginning of the beginning. So, I started a second revision–this one to be more in depth, more brutal, than the last. Only now my baby (who was immobile the last time around) is a toddler, and he is into E V E R Y T H I N G. If I thought it was hard to steal a minute before, now it’s nearly impossible. Nap time is mostly off limits, because I have an online job with Signature HealthCARE that I have to cram in there (oh, and showering every now and again is kind of nice). I could work on it after James is in bed, but that’s really the only time my husband and I have to talk without being interrupted every few seconds by sweet (and sometimes not-s0-sweet) toddler sounds. I could get up early, but…sleep!

So, how does one be a good mother, which I really hope I am, and still pursue her writing, her art? How does one maintain her identity in a sea of diapers and dried bits of food and tantrums and spoiled milk stains? By getting creative. While he eats, I sit with my computer open, and between giving him handfuls of cereal or torn up bits of veggies and chicken or spoonfuls of yogurt, I revise a few sentences. If I have to go to the bathroom, the laptop goes, too. If he’s playing happily for a few minutes in the floor, the laptop is out and the fingers fly until I have to get up to make sure he doesn’t pull the TV down on his head.

I may not have the time I once did–I used to stay up until three or four in the morning, writing until my fingers ached joyfully–but having to fight for the time to work on what I’m passionate about somehow makes it more real, more substantial.

So, mommas and mommas-to-be, don’t give up on what you love. Whether it’s writing, playing music, something super athletic and amazing, painting, other arts and crafts, whatever, you can find time for it, even if that time looks nothing like it did before. Be an amazing mommy and still maintain that beautiful, unique identity! If I can do it, even in bits and pieces, anyone can.

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 4.11.29 PM

When Moms Give Advice

When I was pregnant, I got all sorts of advice from other moms–some solicited, some not. A lot of that advice was wonderful! And some of it made me cry and cry. Then, after I had my son, I got MORE advice with the same stats–I asked for some, I got some I didn’t ask for, some was great, some made me feel like the worst mom in the world.

Because of this, I always said I would never give another mom advice unless she asked me, and then I would try to take into account her situation and not just force upon her the “truth” of my own situation, as if my experience in motherhood was the ultimate experience that everyone else needed to live by.

So, naturally, before I even realize what I’m doing, I start handing out advice left and right. “When James was a baby this REALLY worked. You should try it.” “When I was pregnant, the ONLY thing that worked was this. You should do this. Can I help you get started?”I was that mom all of a sudden. Yikes.

Once I realized what I was doing, I reigned myself in. I’m happy to say that now I limit my mommy/baby/wifey advice to the people who either ask me directly, or who happen to get stuck in a conversation with me where those topics are relevant.

But, here and now, I have a piece of advice I need to share with ALL moms, but to give that advice, I need to tell a story first:

The other day, I walked out of the living room to go get something, and left James playing in his play pen. I come back, and he’s holding my coffee cup–which was on a table that should have been far enough away from him–and it’s empty (don’t worry, the coffee had been cold for a while). I take the cup from him and look to where it was sitting, and there’s a huge puddle of coffee in the floor. Very calmly, I go to get towels and cleaner to clean it up. As I’m cleaning, James tries to climb the wall of his pen. Afraid he’ll fall, I go to grab him, only to fall myself, causing the pen wall to fall and a huge piece to snap off. I yelped and James started to cry, so I pick him up to comfort him, only to discover that he’s had a blow out (for those of you who aren’t parents, that means poopy diaper explosion). I take him into his room, clean him up, and put him in his crib so I can fix the play pen and clean up the coffee. I got back into the living room, and as I’m crossing the room, I step on a hair clip of mine and it shatters, pieces going everywhere (not to mention my foot didn’t feel great). So here I am, smelling faintly of baby poop and stale coffee, with hundreds of plastic shards all around, mixed in with my toddler’s toys, with a play pen that needs to be fixed. And all I could do was laugh for a minute, push my hair out of my eyes, and get to it.

So, what’s the moral here? What’s the advice that I really need to share with all the mommies who read this?

Love your babies, hold on tight, do your best, and always expect the unexpected. 

No matter what you do, there will be someone out there who thinks you’re 100% right, and another person who thinks you’re 100% wrong. Breastfeed, bottle feed, rock to sleep, sleep train, purees, mashes, baby led weaning–someone is going to agree with you on your choices and someone else is going to tell you that you’re doing it all wrong. So what do you do? Ignore them. Do what’s best for you baby. Research things you aren’t sure about. Talk to your pediatrician. Talk to your mom, your grandmas, your aunts, your female cousins, your friends who’ve had kids. Talk to your husband or partner. But at the end of the day, when you’re standing there overseeing the huge mess that you’re baby has contributed to, smelling a little funky with food (or something else) on your shirt, and a smile on your baby’s face because he’s spending time with you, know that you’re doing a great job. We mommies are a tribe of warrior women who raise babies and learn to solve all problems. We should come together in person, online, in spirit, and support each other in our decisions. If you’re a mommy who loves her babies, then you, my friend, are a freaking super hero.

10421967_10101860064562884_611384357621177993_n
As a bonus, here’s a totally irrelevant photo of my baby chowing down on a lemon!

My Joyfully Full, Utterly Broken Heart

Nearly every night before I go to bed, I sneak into my son’s bedroom and shine light on him to watch his sweet breaths for a moment. The panicky part of my mom brain does it to make sure he’s OK, that’s he’s alive and well, and the calm part of my mom brain does it just because I want to see him a moment more before I close my own eyes for the night. And while this little ritual is special to me every night, tonight it was very emotional for me, because when I wake in the morning, my baby will be a whole entire year old.

How can I describe what this feels like? Before James was born, I was terrified and excited. After he was born, I fell in love with this tiny human, and somehow managed to fall more and more and more in love with him every minute of every day. And now, I have this wellspring of love and memories inside me, and my heart is full and broken all at once.

Already I miss his sweet baby coos; I miss the feel of his swaddled newborn body as I struggled to stay awake and hold him; I miss his sweet little face and head shape before his surgery; I miss his first time rolling over, his first crawl, his first steps; I miss being in labor and the feeling–both physically and emotionally–the split second after he entered this world and they laid him on my chest.

And yet, I love my toddler (it’s even hard to type the word!). I love the way he walks to me, the way he flings his body toward me when I’m close enough with biggest smiles and sweetest laughs, the way he pulls at my legs and lifts his arms toward me, knowing I’ll scoop him up. I love how he buries his face into my shoulder and sighs. I love how he trusts that if I’m there, he can’t fall. I love the way he throws his arms up when I say, “How big are you? So big!” I love the sound of his voice as he says, “Dada.” I love this sweet toddler phase, even if he’s into everything and so sweetly wild.

So my heart is so joyfully full of how amazing my baby is and how amazing this life is with him, and it’s so utterly broken by the parts of motherhood that are gone forever with him.

I’m so grateful for my son. I’m so grateful that I get to be his mom. I’m so grateful for the last year, and I’m so looking forward to the next. But for the first time in my life, I understand the times my mommy and daddy have said that no matter how old I get, and no matter how far away I live, I will always be their baby, because James will ALWAYS be my baby. As he starts to talk, to walk, to go to school, to drive, to get married and have his own children, he will forever be my sweet baby who was born so very early on a Monday morning, who barely cried at all–until they took him away to weigh him–and who from the very start stared up at me with the biggest, most amazing blue eyes as if to say, “Hi mommy, we’re in this together now.”

James born
Moments after James was born.
James before 1
Moments after James was born.

A Recap of 2015: The Year of Jamesy

Every year, I expect magical, amazing, wonderful things to happen, and most years I look back and think, “That was pretty good.” But this past year, magical, amazing, wonderful things DID happen. So, here’s a quick recap of my 2015.

~I started the year with three of my favorite people (and two of my favorite dogs), 31-32 weeks pregnant (though if you ask me, I think I was a little further along).

~On February 22nd, Vince told the baby boy in my belly he was ready for him TWO WHOLE WEEKS EARLY. On February 23rd, after 13 hours of labor and 30 minutes of pushing, we met our sweet James Gordon.

~James  captured the hearts of his Grandman, Jamma, Mammaw, Uncle Joey, and Aunt Tiffy pretty quickly.

~I watched my husband grow into a father, and I fell even more in love with this handsome goofball man.

~I tried my hand at photography, and while I’m not great, I was happy to be able to shoot my friend Casey’s wedding (SO SCARY!), do some headshots for my neighbor and friend Victoria (and her sweet Carson), and take some pregnancy announcement photos for my friend Sarah!

~Over the course of the year, we had lots of family pictures taken! I don’t have them all yet, but thank you to my sister-in-law, Tiffany, my friend, Hannah, my brother, Joey, and my friend, Jessica for all the lovely photos you took of us!

~When James was 7 months old, after months of my mom pushing our doctor (my mom is like a superhero!), we found out James needed a cranial vault remodeling (click HERE to read all about that experience). He’s done SO well since then, but it was so stressful and scary at the time.

~We got to see James and his six cousins with their great grandfather, my Papa Cardona. Four generations! Photos by my cousin Amanda and her husband Jayson (Jayson Mullen Photography).

~But the biggest thing for me this year has been the journey of not only learning who I am now that I’ve had a baby, but becoming a mother in every sense of the word. That’s the most magical, wonderful, amazing thing so far this year, is getting to know this little boy and getting to know myself.

 

This year has been amazing. The best one to date! What about you? Tell me about your 2015!

James’s Surgery Update #1

I thought I’d have all this time after James’s surgery to write blogs and keep everyone updated on how he was doing, since surely he would be quieter and more subdued after his big event. However, I haven’t had time because James has been doing SO wonderfully since the day we got home!

As I said in my last post, we got to leave the hospital a whole day early. The doctor sent us home with Oxycodone (a very, very low dose) and Tylenol for pain management. I foresaw having to hold my son as he hurt, counting the seconds until his next pain med. I thought I’d have a baby who only wanted to be held and who only wanted to cuddle, because he felt so bad. But from the day we got home, this kid was ready to roll!

The first week of recovery, he had to sleep propped up on a wedge. This was the only thing that seemed to irritate him. He didn’t sleep well, because he couldn’t roll over, and he would wake up every hour or so, but a week after surgery we met with Dr. Liau, and he said James was doing so well, we didn’t need the wedge anymore! He also stopped needed pain meds shortly after that, so I was able to slowly wean him from the narcotic so he didn’t suffer any withdrawals.

Since he’s been sleeping flat, he’s back to our same wild, sweet, loud, weird, loving boy. Unless he’s sleeping, he constantly wants to be moving. He buzzes his lips, rolls r’s with his tongue, growls like a bear (or a zombie–the zombaby), screams, laughs, babbles, and fake-coughs for attention. Aside from a head that’s a slightly different shape, and a cool zig-zag scar (that’s healing beautifully) across his scalp, you’d never know he underwent major surgery less than a month ago.

Tomorrow, James turns 9 months old. On this day last month, just before his 8 month milestone, I was terrified, because I knew that in less than a week, my baby would have to go through something so scary and so difficult, and to be honest, I was really afraid he might die. I didn’t voice that before the surgery, but it swirled around my brain every day. I was scared something unforeseen would happen and he would have brain damage, or contract some other disease or illness from a blood transfusion, or any number of wild, crazy things. And now I’m sitting here, typing this, while he rolls around in his walker, chasing our cats, buzzing his lips and talking up a storm.

So many of you prayed for us, thought about us, sent us good thoughts and energy, and I will, for the rest of my life, be grateful. I’m so grateful for all of you, for James’s doctors and nurses and everyone who dealt with him at Kentucky Children’s Hospital. So thank you all, again. Thank God for my son’s rapid recovery and relative health! This is all more than I ever could have hoped for when I found out he needed this surgery. Life is good.

Here are two photos of James before his surgery. The first is from just over a month before surgery; the second is from a couple of days before surgery:

IMG_0207IMG_0208

Here are two photos of James after his surgery. The first is from the day after we came home (5 days post-op); the second is from two days ago (just under a month post-op):

IMG_0209IMG_0210