My Pregnancy: Faint Lines + Unprepared Love

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It was a Sunday morning when I first found out I had a tiny human growing inside of me.

We had recently moved into our new condo, and decided to have some friends over that previous Saturday night to celebrate. By celebrate, I mean drink a sh*t ton of red wine. (Cut me some slack, mom-shamers: I had no idea my eggo was preggo!) Naturally, I woke up with a bit of a hangover, and decided to go to the grocery store to grab some stuff to make brunch.

While I was there, I got a mean case of heartburn. This may be normal for some, but it wasn't for me. I very rarely get heartburn. (I know, hard to believe, especially since my blood type is most likely "S" for salsa.) Suddenly, a quote from the movie Juno popped into my thoughts:

"..if it is any consolation, I have heartburn that is radiating in my knee caps and I haven't taken a dump since like Wednesday.." 

I laughed to myself and tossed in the cheapest pregnancy test I could find. Ironically, I set it right next to my mimosa ingredients that I was SO sure I would be indulging in later.

EL-OH-EL.

I got home, unloaded the groceries, and did the thing with the pee and the stick without any concern. Three minutes of maternal marinating passed by and - MY GOOD GOD - there it was: The tiniest, faintest line. I mean, FAINT. Like, dust off the binoculars you convinced yourself you would totally use on all the "nature hikes" you planned on taking in your New Year resolution list three years ago type of faint. I took a picture and sent it to my sister for a second opinion.

Me: This is a negative, right?

Sister: Umm pretty sure that's a positive!

Me: But the line is BARELY there!

Sister: A line is a line, sister. You're PREGO! 

Me: wide-eyed emoji face

I set my phone down, walked into the living room where my husband was watching TV, held up the pee stick and said:

"Hey. This thing says I'm pregnant, but don't get excited because it's probably wrong."

He simply smiled (pretty smugly now that I think back on it) and said: "OK."

No surprise cupcakes or balloons filled with plastic fetuses once popped or dogs wearing t-shirts announcing they're going to get a sibling - nothing elaborate in this story. Hear me out: There is nothing wrong with all of that (I took a Pinterest-y pregnancy photo later on), to each their own as far as I'm concerned. I just think it's important to share my less than enchanting announcement to my husband because, well, there is A LOT of pressure on moms to make EVERY step of their pregnancy storybook-worthy. This part of mine wasn't. Some are. Both have beauty to be found in them.

I then proceeded to walk out the door, drive to the nearest pharmacy, head down the "Baby and Period Stuff" aisle, and buy about 14 pregnancy tests. Every time, the line seemed to become darker. My sister was right: I was going to be a MOM.

Listen, it's not that I wasn't excited - I really was! I was simply shocked.

Matthew and I had not been using any type of real protection for almost THREE YEARS prior to our marriage. Every time we had sex, we relied on the good ol' "pull & pray" method and, although my husband liked to boast that he just had "incredible timing", deep down we were both worried that we'd never be able to get pregnant. Almost every mom that I told about our contraceptive "method", would laugh and tell me that that's how they ended up with all 19 of their children. (Okay, maybe it was like 3, but when you have 0, three sounds like 19.) To put it bluntly: I was pretty convinced motherhood was not in my future, and I had been silently preparing for the heartbreak that would ensue.

At this point, when we found out I was for sure pregnant, we had only been married for two and a half months. Basically, there had been a lot less "pulling" and a whole lot more praying during that time period. It was hard for me to believe that I could become pregnant so quickly. I felt an immediate wave of relief, followed by a sea of guilt. I thought of all the women that craved this moment, and here I was in it. I was worried I didn't deserve it, that I didn't have to fight hard enough for it. What if I wasn't a "good" mom? And how do you know if you are truly made for this motherhood gig? I was scared. I was anxious. I was stepping into a stage of life that was unknown.

How do you prepare for such a thing? In hindsight, I've realized this: You don't.

I don't care how many mommy books or blogs you read or videos you watch or specialists you consult or years you have babysat or nannied or been an aunt or God Mother, nothing - I mean NOTHING - can prepare you for the great weight that comes with holding a baby in your trembling arms for the first time. Whether that baby grew inside of you, or held a temporary home in the body of another, there is no preparing any parent for the feeling that YOUR arms are the same arms they will always associate as their first and forever home.

I am by no means discouraging the reading or classes or heavy breathing or consulting - do whatever it is that eases your growing heart! I simply want to note that you should also prepare for being completely and utterly UNPREPARED. 

I began to realize this to be true when I heard that tiny beating heart for the first time. My God, is there a more beautiful sound?

It wasn't the outburst of emotion that surprised me when I first heard it - I knew my hormones were the captains of this growing ship! It was the strength that came with the living bass resonating inside of me. It was the compassion that consumed me. It was the great and immediate longing for someone that I had never met.

How can you ever be prepared for the day you see a face that you have been hopelessly in love with for so long? 

I don't believe there is an answer to that question. And that is the beauty of being a new mom. It is the realization that we will never have all of the answers, but knowing we will always have the arms that first comforted them. And, most of the time, that's all any of us really need. A safe place to land. A loving hand to hold. A faint, but very real, line that will always lead us home.

Writing Yourself a Love Letter is Hard but You Should Do It Anyway

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This shouldn't be this hard, you know.

Sitting down to say a few nice things about myself, to myself, should come a bit more naturally. But it is easier than it used to be, that's for sure. And it's my job to continue to practice self-love through self-care to make sure that it only gets easier from this point on. I'm working on it - every damn day.

This Love Letter is to me, from me.  I am going to do my best to praise where I see progress in my life and encourage the areas that still need some work. I am going to challenge myself to speak in the same way I would to a dear friend in need of an uplifting and honest conversation. After all, isn't that the way we should've learned to do it in the first place?

In this case, it will always be better to be late to start than to never begin...


Dear Charlotte,

I want you to know that I SEE YOU.

I think it's important to start out with that because I know you feel so alone. You feel this way more often than you should. I see you when you can't sleep at night, when your dreams have become too loud to ignore. I see you reaching for that pad of paper to quickly jot down your next BIG idea, you know, the one that is finally going to get you where you've always wanted to be.

I also see you in the morning when you pick up that paper and shake your head. I see you tear it out and crumble it up. I see you lose your grip on faith. I see that magical light of possibility fade from your tired eyes. 

Please, pick up that beautiful piece of your dreams.

Your ideas will never belong in a wastebasket. Not every idea is gold, but they will still help you learn to shine. Your thoughts can be redirected, your vision can be recreated, and your faith is ALWAYS waiting to be resurrected. DO NOT GIVE UP - I beg you. That stage, that book, those relationships and conversations - all of those things that you daydream about in your car and in the shower and in the kitchen - they are SO close. Keep writing. Keep sharing. I know it's hard, and sometimes it is upsetting, but it is for a purpose. A purpose so much greater than a bruised ego. Keep offering the hurting + shameful parts of your heart, it is healing it every time you do.

I see you, Charlotte.

I want you to know that I HEAR YOU.

Being a new mom is so hard. I hear you cry when no one is around. I hear your doubts and your fears that you just might mess this whole motherhood thing up. I hear the long groans when he wakes in the middle of the night. I hear your tired footsteps trudge down the hallway to his room. I hear the sighs of frustration when you don't have the answer. I hear it, and I hurt for you.

Do you want to know what else I've heard?

I've heard the baby belly laughs coming from the living room floor that only his Mama can get out of him. I've heard the ridiculous noises you make just to see him smile. I've heard the choo-choo sounds and the airplane engines that encourage the nourishment of your baby boy. I hear you humming sweet songs to soothe him after painful shots. I hear the anxious jangling of the "we're gonna be late again" car keys, the stuffing of the diaper bag, the sloshing of a bottle being washed, the rolling of dirty diapers, the kisses on the forehead, the sound of you singing to him while you cook - I hear that same long prayer you send over his crib each night. I hear the divine protection you pray over him. I hear the dreams you have for him.

Keep doing your best. Keep showing up to be the best mom you know how to be. He's not asking for more than that - he already thinks you're the best mom in the world because you are HIS and he is YOURS. He doesn't just hear it when you whisper "I love you", he feels it. Keep whispering it, keep delivering it in hugs and long rocks in the chair, keep shouting it across the room - you will never be able to say it enough and he will never regret hearing it.

I hear you, Charlotte.

I want you to know that I AM SORRY.

This apology is for your body. I'm sorry for shaming it. I'm sorry for starving it. I'm sorry for cutting it. I'm sorry for tracing the scars that birthing your child left behind in vain. I'm sorry for wishing them away so desperately. I'm sorry for letting it be touched by hands that never deserved to know it so intimately. I'm sorry for exposing it. I'm sorry for hiding it. I'm sorry for blaming it. I'm sorry for the impossible pressures I have placed upon it again and again and again. 

Please know this: I'm grateful you are still fighting to love your body despite the "flaws". I am grateful you are not giving up on relearning your way around your new body. I am grateful you are searching for lasting ways to love it for what it is, how far it has carried you, and - most importantly - what it has given you. The greatest love you have and will ever know was given to you by the same body that has endured so much hate.

I am sorry, Charlotte.

I want you to now that I LOVE YOU.

Wow. We have braved a long battle to mean those words. And I do. I FINALLY mean it. I love you when you are mean. I love you when you are afraid. I love you when you are mean because you are afraid. I love you when you are wrong. I love you when you have embarrassed yourself. I love you when you failed. I love you when you don't think you are pretty. I love you when you don't think you have enough money. I love you when you make the same mistakes over and over again. My love is no longer reserved for the highlight reel, my love can be found behind the curtains. My love runs deep for your all of your brokenness.

I am not the only one, you know.

God loves you. Your husband loves you. Your son loves you. Your mom and dad love you. Your sister loves you. Your brothers love you. Your Best Friend loves you. Your Grandma, your aunts, your cousins, your coworkers - they love you. I bet there are even some people that you've never met that have love waiting for you. When your love is scarce, reach out for theirs. Tap into their love for you. It does not make you conceited or boastful - it makes you human. And there is no shame in that.

Don't lose this newfound self-love. When you take it for granted, fight to get it back. This is the love you never stop battling to attain. This is the love that you seek until your days no longer allow you to continue. This is one of the most important kinds of love you can ever ask to receive. Owning it will help you show love more freely. It will help you love others more intensely. THIS LOVE is contagious. THIS LOVE can create real change. Give it whole-heartedly, and give it often. Not just to others, but to yourself.

Charlotte, I believe in you.

All OUR Love,

                       Me

Love Yourself Yesterday: The Dust of Life Never Settles

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It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I was four months postpartum, and I had a long drive ahead of me.

Typically, the idea of driving on the other side of town to visit my sister-in-law in the hospital is not something to which I would've been looking forward. Don't get me wrong - I certainly wished the circumstances for the visit were much better. However, as a new mama, I was ready to grab at any chunk of peaceful alone time whenever and wherever I could find it.

I kissed my husband and my son goodbye, and settled into the driver's seat of my Mom-Mobile preparing for some much-needed ZONING OUT on the open road. After a few feel-good songs had past, I remembered my sister had recommended I listened to a certain podcast.

Oh my gosh, Charlotte, seriously. You are going to LOVE IT. Her story will never leave you - especially as a new mom. It CHANGED me!

If there is anyone that knows my taste in books, film, or anything of creative nature, it's my sister. I searched for the title and pressed play. I LIVE for touching life moment and stories. I figured this one would be a good one, for sure, although I could not have predicted how much of an understatement using the word "good" to describe it would be.

The podcast is called Sounds Good and it is hosted by a brilliantly creative man named Branden Harvey. His guest on the show that week was a woman I had previously never heard of named Natalie Norton. 

Have you ever read a book or a blog or watched a video or heard a song and fell in love with it instantly just to find out that they have been writing or singing or acting for a quite some time before you've discovered them and all of the sudden you feel like you've been totally missing out on something magical this entire time and why why WHY hadn't you discovered them sooner?

Yeah. That's pretty much how I felt about Natalie after just a few minutes of listening to her precious little gifts of hard-earned wisdom.

It was also only after a few minutes of hearing her compassionate voice on the podcast that an unwelcome guest decided to join in on my illuminating drive: TRAFFIC.

I mean serious traffic. Like, the busiest freeway during the busiest time of year on one of the prettiest days shut down going both ways forcing a bajillion cars onto crappy side streets kind of traffic. So much for my all new moms needs some peace and quiet time. UGGGH.

I looked up at the Simpson-esque, perfectly-puffed clouds and groaned, "Why, God? WHY today??"

No answer. I guess the universe had a little more on its plate that day besides my first world traffic jam problem - go figure. So, I tried my best to focus back on Natalie's words:

"I'm not going to shy away from owning how exceptional I am .. I don't want others to shy away from that either, and I don't think I am more exceptional than anyone else .. what I've learned through my experience and working hard to be the best I can be, is that if I can become exceptional then ALL of us can .. And maybe it's not so much about becoming exceptional as it is about recognizing that we already are."

YES, YES, YES - ALL OF THE YESES! This was exactly what I needed to be hearing right now. Her words are going to salvage this crappy drive! As I was thinking this to myself, a big ol' semi truck decided to wedge his big ol' nose into MY lane blocking ME from getting where I needed to be.

UM, EXCUSE ME MR. RUDE SEMI TRUCK MAN! DON'T YOU KNOW THAT I AM A NEW MOM TRYING TO HAVE A HEARTFELT MOMENT AND GET SOME MUCH-NEEDED PEACE AND FREAKING QUIET?? MOVE. YOUR. ASS. 

I said all of this by laying on my horn, of course, followed by a pretty illegal pass over two very yellow lines. I know, I know. It was a jerk move. As always, karma was chillin' on the other side just waiting to sign my paycheck.

As soon as I pulled around the truck, a steady line of traffic was headed my way. I swerved to the side of the road, barely missing a truck that would have definitely won in my impromptu game of chicken. I pulled into a vacant factory parking lot, put my mom-mobile in park, and sobbed like the baby that waited for me at home.

These were tears of anger. I wasn't mad at the semi truck man anymore. No, I was mad at God for not giving me the peaceful drive I thought I deserved. And soon after that I was mad at myself for being mad at God and for thinking that I deserved anything more than anyone else. Then I was mad that I was mad. It was a vicious, postpartum hormonal cycle. 

Then I heard:

"Would you like me to rock him for awhile?"

The podcast had not stopped playing and THESE WORDS, THAT SENTENCE - you guys, it stopped me right in my self-wallowing tracks. (Seriously, if you listen to the podcast and you get to that sentence and your cheeks are not being taken over by hot, salty tears, then I'm not sure you are even human!)

My tears of anger quickly cooled into rivers of compassion and the deepest empathy. They changed all because of the POWER that was in her WORDS. More than power, it was grace.

GRACE. Pure and undeniable grace boomed through the speakers of my car. And it broke me, then put me back together again and again and again.

Natalie's baby boy took his last breaths in her arms. I won't even attempt to summarize the details because, my God, only his momma can give that story even a whisper of justice.

Her words continued:

"..I had this newfound understanding of what love had the capacity to look like in others .. the way that me showing up for others could bless them and vice versa .. we can't wait around for opportunities to show love, we have to create opportunities .."

Despite going through one of the most horrific experiences a mother (or father or anyone) can endure, this incredibly resilient woman was still out there chasing her dreams, sharing her story, and SHOWING UP for life!

"Don't waste your life away waiting for the dust to settle before you get out there and live your dreams .. If you are not willing to give up your dream for your (many) excuses, then you need to figure out a way to show up for that dream here and now."

She was right. SO right. The dust of life is never going to settle.

If SHE was able to do it, then what sorry excuse did I have? I have no tragedies to hide behind. I had no truly valid reasons for quitting my writing and putting my dreams on hold. And if I can't go after them now when the air of life is clear, then what in the world kind of chance do I have of making them a reality when life's unavoidable dust storms hit?

The podcasts ended just a few moments before I pulled into the visitor parking lot. I sat in my car for awhile longer because I realized my sister was right: This story was never going to leave me. Natalie's perseverance and unique determination to see the good in life and others was not ever going to get too far from my mind much less my heart. 

Her story lifted a veil and fed me a heavy dose of perspective. No matter how afraid we are, no matter how much it hurts, no matter how much it stings, we owe it to each other to share our stories. Because WORDS have the power to heal and we are ALL wounded in one way or another, so why not repair each other?

Natalie's words were so powerful that they healed wounds I had forgot were bleeding. The creative life that had kept me so vibrant before was slowly slipping away and I was too preoccupied with senseless daily frustrations like slow semi-trucks to notice. 

I looked up at the sky as I walked through the parking lot and said a silent prayer: 

I get it now. I see why I needed to be stuck in a lane long enough for the right words to hit that creative vein. It hit - It hit HARD - and I'm ready to let my own story flow again. Please, just give me a little time, a whole lot of grace, and a little less traffic. 

Amen.

Follow Natalie here:Natalie Norton

Listen to the Podcast here: Sounds Good with Branden Harvey - Sticking Around for the Miracle