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Motherhood, Parenthood, Pregnancy

What I’ve Learned from my First Year of Motherhood

I always wanted to be a mom, for as long as I can remember.  Maybe it was because my mom was a mother of 4 (and she was pretty awesome at it!) or maybe it was just something built into my DNA.  If there was a baby doll, I was taking care of it; if there was a doll house, I was playing “house.”  When I was a teenager, I would daydream about my life one day: living in a cute, little house with Matthew-loud, full of love, and full of babies.

After Matthew and I had been married for about a year and a half, I started getting baby fever.  I began asking him month after month, Hey babe, do you want a baby?  Hey, don’t you think a baby would be soooo cute?!  ha!  It was pretty funny the stuff I came up with to try to convince him to want a baby.  But I patiently (okay, maybe impatiently) waited until he was ready.  And one day, he just decided he was ready, and we weren’t together at the time because he was working, and he told me in a text.  I actually love that he did because now I have this memory to keep forever.

I remember the feeling of elation and pure excitement I felt in this moment knowing we were going to grow our nest.  And 2 months later, we got those 2 pink lines!

 

When Avary came into this world, life changed in an instant.  I cried the moment they laid her on my chest.  This baby, this little person-designed by God-was nurtured by my body and came from me and my husband.  I love that Avary is a tangible representation of the love Matthew and I share.  How incredible!  She is our love wrapped up in her sweet little self.

I think motherhood has taught me more about myself than any other experience I’ve had in life.  It has shown me that I am way stronger than I ever thought I was.  Going through the tiring work of growing a human being, to the exhausting work of labor and delivery, to the long and sleepless nights with a newborn, motherhood has shown me that I have strength and endurance!

Motherhood has taught me about sacrifice.  Giving up my body again after pregnancy to commit to breastfeeding was a true sacrifice.  Becoming a stay-at-home mom, many times I have to sacrifice the things I want for the things we need.  Motherhood has transformed my way of thinking.  Instead of a self-centered way of thinking, being a mom has shown me that I can make someone else #1 and that it is okay.

Motherhood has shown me that life is messy ( ^) and imperfect and doesn’t always go they way we think it should.  That in the midst of endless days and sleepless nights, poopy diapers, constant spit-up, colic, reflux, nose-sucking, sleep training, babywearing, breastfeeding, nap-skipping, tantrum-throwing days, we can rest in the fact that our job-as “Mom”-has meaning and value beyond the ‘every day.’  We are not just “babysitting” tiny humans; we are raising world-changers!  The love, time, and attention we pour into our little ones all day long is shaping their minds.  The values we instill are shaping their hearts.  The struggle of motherhood-trying to find a spare moment to go to the bathroom alone, microwaving your coffee 3 times because it went cold before you could drink it, going Hulk-crazy on the dog for barking during naptime-that’s life.  I’ve learned that I can let the upsets confuse me, frustrate me, and derail my whole day or I can just go with the flow, laugh at the madness, and embrace the crazy mess.

I recognized the truth in the statement ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ because friends, IT DOES!  Motherhood was not meant to go at alone.  You need support.  I learned that when I tried to do everything on my own and hold myself to an unrealistic, Tumblr-type standard of perfection, I failed miserably.  And, I made myself miserable in the process.  Reach out and reach up!  Until I started reaching out to my husband, my mom, my sisters, my friends, other moms, the online community and looking to God for help and guidance, I was drowning in my role as a mother.  I’ve since learned to surround myself with a #tribe and not do this motherhood thing alone.

What I learned from my first year of motherhood is that love at first sight does exist. . .  The love that I have for my little girl is beyond anything I expected.  The moment I laid eyes on her, I felt like I knew her all my life and I loved her instantly.  She holds my heart in her hands.  I am so thankful that God entrusted her to me, that she made me a mama, and that I get to experience life with her.  She is forever my heart-changer, my mini-me, and my baby. . .

I love you, Avary Layne.

 

Motherhood

The Truth About Being a SAHM

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I want to preface this post by saying that this was very hard for me to write.  I feel so vulnerable sharing these thoughts with you all, but I felt compelled to share them; in hopes that one of you mamas realizes that you are not alone in your thinking, you are not a bad mom and that what you feel is normal.

While I was pregnant with our baby girl, Avary, I knew that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom.  I was working as a childcare provider at the time, and–while I loved my job–I didn’t want to care for someone else’s child while missing out on my own.  I always wanted to be a mom, for as long as I could remember.  I fantasized about all the amazing things I would get to do as a stay-at-home mom–dress the baby in the most adorable clothes (that would somehow never get dirty), breastfeed the baby peacefully, clean the house, get a workout in with the baby, take the dog for a walk with the baby, do the laundry, go shopping with the baby; oh, and start all those cute DIY projects I pinned from Pinterest, bake delicious pies and cookies like the Pioneer Woman, and have a scrumptious dinner waiting for my husband when he got home every night.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that I truly thought I would be able to accomplish all of these things as a stay-at-home mom because I thought I would have so much “extra time.” Well, and, all those mama Instagram feeds I stalked showed women with their perfectly dressed children playing or sleeping peacefully on their white furniture, while the mom-in full glam makeup and spit-up-less clothes-was knitting, or doing something so gloriously homemaker-ish.  Soon after being a SAHM, I realized that all these things were not a reality for me.  But what I am beginning to realize is that what I see on Instagram and on blogs is not the reality of someone’s 24/7 life, but just snippets–just a tiny glimpse of their everyday life.  Just like a new movie puts out previews–showing all the best scenes–you have to remember that social media is much the same.  It is so easy for us moms to get sucked into this vicious cycle of comparisons-whether it be to other SAHM’s, WAHM’s or working moms-vying for the title of whose job is “the hardest” or “the easiest.”  Instead of being united in motherhood, united in the understanding that being a mama is one of life’s hardest roles, we feel discontent because we want to be like ‘that mom.’  When the truth is, you are the very best mom your babies need.

Being a stay-at-home mom is hard.  It is the hardest thing I have ever done.  And it is a full-time job.  Except with this job, you don’t punch in or out, and you don’t get a lunch break.  This is a 24/7 job.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my baby girl, but I have days where I get burnt out. . . Sometimes I get jealous of working moms who get to leave the house and actually have adult conversations/interactions during the day; because, what no one tells you about being a SAHM is how lonely it can be.  It can be so lonely and isolating.  Because of my husband’s job, I spend 48-72 hours alone with Avary.  On these days, I don’t get a break at all.  I feed her, change her, entertain her, play with her, love on her teach her, bathe her,  put her to bed.  I do it all, and it is exhausting some day.  I would feel such a huge sense of mommy-guilt on these days when I would find myself thinking, ‘I just want a break!  I just want 5 minutes to myself!’  But the truth is, we all feel that way sometimes!  We all need a break sometimes.  I never realized how big of an investment motherhood was going to be.  I say an investment; because, for (at least) 18 years of your child’s life, your job is to invest in them.  Our job, as mothers, is to pour everything ounce of ourselves into our children to nurture them, teach them, motivate them, and raise them to be independent, inspired seekers of truth and followers of God.  Wow, what a monumental task!  So, when put in perspective, it’s OK to get burnt out.  To be able to pour yourself into your children, you have to nurture yourself by filling up on God’s truths, by setting aside alone time, by getting out of the house with the girls so you can adult for a little bit!

When you feel lonely and isolated and the only ‘person’ you have talked to all day is a 6 month old or a toddler, call a friend!  Talk on the phone, take a walk, go to the park and talk to another mommy, set up a mommy/baby playdate, go to storytelling at the library, Facetime your mama or your husband, read the Word. . .  I’ve found that I have to intentionally create moments that I am engaged with something or someone to combat the loneliness.

When you feel inadequate and “less-than,” when you’re covered in spit-up or your toddler’s lunch, when you still have on the yoga pants and sweatpants you wore to bed, when you’re having a “family potty party” because you have to go but the kids are always in tow, when you don’t think you can sing one more nursery rhyme or listen to “Let It Go” again, when you’re tired of nursing, feeding, changing, wiping, playing, entertaining, and-parenting. . . Remember that to those precious little faces, you are more than enough!  To them, you are superwoman!

We all have good days and bad days, that’s life.  But try to focus on the good ones.  Some days, I feel so tired of nursing and just want my boobs to myself!  But usually Avary will look up at me and smile a big grin with milk trickling down her mouth, and I feel so grateful that I even get to feed her!  Some days, I feel so discouraged that Avary won’t sleep, but then I feel so lucky that she still wants me to rock her to sleep.  Some days, I get jealous and discontent that my house is my “cubicle,” but then I remember the countless women who would give anything to be in my shoes, and I feel blessed.

Don’t let being a SAHM isolate you or depress you or minimize you or discourage you.  Your job and role as a mother will have a lasting impact, and it truly matters.  My desire is to embrace this season of motherhood to the fullest-with all its flaws and shortcomings; because, it’s just that-a season, that is so fleeting and will be gone before I know it.

No, being a stay-at-home is not at all what I thought it was going to be.  It’s long and taxing and tiring, emotionally-draining and physically-exhausting, but oh so very sweet.  The truth about being a stay-at-home mom is that you’ll love it, and you’ll hate it.  And you won’t want to change a single thing.

sean (1)

 

 

Encouragement

Invest in YOU

Hi lovely friends!

I’m not sure who is reading this–maybe someone who knows me, maybe someone I have never met, or maybe someone who accidentally stumbled upon my page.  To anyone who is reading this, though, I wanted to take this time to just be real with you and to share what is on my heart.  This post may be a compilation of jumbled thoughts-so I apologize in advance-but I felt impressed to share it.

I started this blog as a creative avenue of expressing myself, as a way to capture the fleeting moments of motherhood with my baby girl, as a way to encourage myself to live a little more-soaking in ordinary moments, but also experiencing big ones.  I started this blog because I wanted to share encouragement on marriage, my experiences on motherhood, my perspective on being a military wife, the spiritual things that move me and inspire me.

I want this blog to be refreshingly honest, encouraging and inspiring to all of you who read it.  After starting, I haven’t uploaded posts consistently.  I was having trouble figuring out what I wanted to write about.  Words generally come pretty easy to me, so I was really frustrated with this writer’s block.  I took some time to examine myself, and what was in my head and heart.  Life changes so drastically after you have a baby and in a way that you really cannot prepare for.  In the midst of gaining the new identity of ‘Mom,’ I definitely lost my identity as ‘Faith.’

Things that I had time for before I had a baby, were not so easy to do after having a baby.  I’ve realized that if I want to be productive and truly get things done, I have to plan out my day.  I have to be intentional with my time and create a list of priorities.  Avary has and always will be my priority, but in those first several months, I was neglecting myself.  I stopped reading my Bible, I didn’t pray consistently, I didn’t write or journal anymore. . . I had stopped taking time to just be quiet, reflect, think. . . If I took spare moments away from Avary, I felt a sense of guilt.  I thought, ‘I’m a stay-at-home mom, I’m home all day with my baby.  I’m so lucky.  I shouldn’t need to take a break.’  But that thought cannot be farther from the truth.  Being a stay-at-home mom is no less a job than the one my husband leaves home to do.  Not to mention, it is a 24/7 job.  I did need time to myself.

So within these last few weeks, I have recognized the importance of making time for myself.  Even if it just a few minutes here and there.  When I take time for myself-when I fuel my heart and my mind-I have so much more to give.  I am not only a better mom, but a better wife and a better person.  I am prioritizing time with God, first, because without that, I am a mess.  Taking time to read a devotion, read my Bible, and journal my thoughts is where I will find clarity, strength to make it through baby-filled days, and inspiration to write here to all of you. . .

This morning I started writing in a new journal I picked up from Marshalls, (guys, I have a serious journal-fetish problem!  I find a cute one and I have to buy it!  And Marshalls never lets me down) and it had a Bible verse on the top of the page and it was Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”  I’ve heard that verse a million times, but I was sure that God wanted me to see that verse today and was speaking hope and truth into me.  God placed a passion and a desire inside my heart to share my life in a blog, and I believe he has great plans for me and my future!

I say all that to let you know that I’m going to take you along this journey with me.  I want to be honest, genuine and authentic with all of you, and if that means baring my heart, that’s what I’ll do.

I just want to encourage you that if you are in a place where you feel like you are pouring all of yourself into something or someone or someone(s), take a step back.  Remember to invest in yourself so you have the energy and strength and grace and love to invest in others.  And don’t forget that God has big plans for you, too!

sean (1)

Uncategorized

Newborn Essentials

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*This post contains affiliate links.  This means that if you choose to use these links, I may get a small commission for connecting you to the source.  I only share links to products I love and use, and that I believe will benefit you.  Thanks for supporting my little growing nest.*

Before having Avary, I watched so many YouTube videos and read so many blogs trying to figure out what I would need for my baby girl when we brought her home.  What can I say, I like to be prepared!  And let’s be real, buying baby stuff is oh so fun!  So I decided to compile a list of my own essentials for the newborn phase.  These are just the things that I found myself using quite a bit in those first couple of weeks.  Check back on the blog, because I will be doing a series of Favorites each month for what I am loving for Avary!

Bringing home a new baby can be a little overwhelming, but these products made my life so much easier!

Boppy pillow.  A boppy pillow was definitely one of my must-haves for the newborn phase!  Since I breastfed Avary, the boppy really did come in handy for nursing sessions to help prop her up so she was more on my level to latch her.  Also, when Avary was really little, she didn’t like to lay down flat so I would use the boppy for naptimes.  I know this isn’t recommended, but it worked for us and helped her feel safe and enclosed.  Now that she is older, the boppy is great for tummy time, as well as around her body when she is sitting up.  Definitely a necessity for me!  You can find the adorable cover shown in the picture on Etsy at Iviebaby.

Gripe water.  I don’t know if this is common for all babies, but Avary was so gassy as a newborn.  She hiccuped all the time and had a gassy belly, too.  The Mommy’s Bliss gripe water worked like magic!  If she got hiccups, I could just give her a squirt of that and they would be gone.  I also loved that it was safe, natural, and made of organic products.

Skip Hop diaper bag.  Probably one of my favorite newborn essentials was my diaper bag!  When I was looking for one, I knew I wanted one that was attractive, stylish and didn’t “look” like a diaper bag.  I love the Skip Hop products and when I saw their Chelsea downtown chic satchel in black, I had to have it.  It is made of a sturdy, wipeable material with faux leather and gold accents.  Honestly, it looks like a high-end bag.  I can fit everything I need for Avary and me in all the compartments, while not being big and bulky.

Aden + Anais swaddle blankets.  I originally purchased these organic swaddle blankets thinking I was actually going to swaddle Avary up in them, but I could never quite get the swaddling thing down!  Instead, I found these to be great for using as burp rags–because you can fold them several times over and they are thick, soft, and absorbent.  I also love using these for covering Avary up if we go on a walk in the stroller but it is still hot out.  The muslin is so breathable that I know she won’t get hot but it still blocks the sun and wind from hitting her.  These blankets have also become one of Avary’s favorite comfort items.  I don’t know if it is the feel of them, but she loves holding onto them when she gets sleepy.

Soothie pacifiers.  I was definitely that parent who said, “I am not giving my baby a pacifier for at least the whole first month of her life!”  But then, as we were getting ready to leave the hospital, Avary just kept crying and crying and rooting around–even though I had just been breastfeeding her.  I knew she just wanted to suck on something, and I felt terrible letting her cry the whole way home.  So I stuck a pacifier in her mouth and she was so happy!  She is not a big fan of her pacifier now, and only takes it right when she is falling asleep and then spits it out.

Halo sleep sacks.  As I said above, I never really got the hang of swaddling the baby with blankets, so we ended up using the Halo sleep sacks.  The newborn size sacks fit until she was about 3 months old.  I loved that her little legs were covered and the velrco made it so easy to get a perfect fit!  Avary loved being swaddled, but we just transitioned her to being unswaddled since she was rolling over.  Now, we still use the Halo sacks as her blanket and just keep her arms out.  I definitely think Avary feels safe and comfortable in her sleep sacks, and it signals bedtime.

Arm’s Reach Mini co-sleeper.  Mamas, I cannot tell you how much of a life-saver, sleep-giver, sanity-saver this co-sleeper was!  Before I had Avary, I researched pack n plays, bassinets, and co-sleepers to figure out what I would want her to sleep in when she was in our room.  I loved the idea of the Arm’s reach because it attaches securely right next to your bed and it keeps the baby right on your level so you can see them.  It made me feel like she was right next to me in the bed, but was safe in her own space.  Also, I got so much more sleep having her right there; I didn’t have to get out of bed, I just could reach over, pick her up, nurse her, and fall right back asleep.  LOVE LOVE LOVE our co-sleeper!

Moses basket.  When Avary was in that newborn phase where she slept nearly all day long, I wanted something I could put her in and move around the house with me.  I didn’t want to mess with moving vibrating seats or swings, so I would swaddle her up and lay her in her Moses basket.  It was the perfect mobile sleeping station, and she just looked oh so cute swaddled up in a basket!  The beautiful basket pictured is from Plum + Sparrow, a company that is part of the Fair Trade Federation, who gives back to the Africans who make these baskets (link is above, EIGHT).

Moby wrap.  Ever wonder how mamas can wash dishes, do laundry, vacuum, or get anything done around the house with a newborn??  They babywear!  I am a big advocate of babywearing; I love it, Avary loves it, and I think it is great for her development!  In those early days, I had Avary in the Moby wrap at least 10 times a day.  I loved cuddling her and snuggling her, but sometimes my arms would get tired or I needed to get something done, so I wrapped her up in the Moby and she would fall fast asleep.  Trust me, Mamas, you definitely want some kind of wrap, sling, or carrier for your little newborn–it will give you so much more freedom, and you can keep your babe close!

These were my essentials for when Avary was a newborn.  I know this list is subjective, and it just depends on your baby, but I hope it helps you new, expecting mamas when you are trying to figure out what you need.  Leave a comment below letting everyone know what your favorite newborn essentials were!