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2 Years a Mom

4 Dec

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I’m sorry I called you a little devil this morning on Facebook. It’s just that it was early and I’d been up half the night “sleeping” with you because, from what I could tell by your unintelligible whining, you were thirsty. Oh, the woes of a two year old. Also, when I wrote that post this morning, I hadn’t had any coffee yet and I was feeling vulnerable and stripped down. The truth is, being your mom these days requires copious amounts of caffeine and until said caffeine is clocked in (and occasionally working overtime) I cannot be held responsible for the names I call you. Let’s just say “little devil” isn’t the worst that you’ve been called in my un-caffeinated state. But I digress. What I meant to say was HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

I can’t believe you’re TWO (as you love to remind me, both with your ceaseless chattering and that whole “terrible” thing that accompanies the infamous twos). Despite those terrible moments, which are pretty much constant few and far between, you are a ticklish, giggly, race-car driving, puppy-wrangling kid who loves his daddy, candy, Lightning McQueen and roaring at strangers. How one little person can bring me so much frustration and even more abundant joy, I just can’t comprehend. I can put you in time out and twelve seconds later be lunging at you to assault you with kisses and raspberries. It’s positively bipolar, this motherhood thing. And being your mom is ALWAYS my ultimate joy.

I can’t believe how much you’ve changed in the last year. I didn’t really notice until I looked at this year in review while I made you a birthday video last night. And even after spending some 8 hours on this silly video (because I’m not even as smart as the average golden retriever, which means everything takes me much too long), I still sat back and sobbed while watching it. You are my sweet pea – the apple of my eye. And baby, you’re my best little friend. I wish I could ask you to stop growing up, but it’s just too daggum fun growing up with you to stop it.

Speaking of which, you’re not the only one growing up. I look back at the mom I was two years ago and I think “Who let me have a baby!?” She was immature, clueless, lacking in confidence, uptight and spent far too much time calculating what was best for you according to the books instead of just getting to know the real you and going with the flow. Spoiler alert: since then, I haven’t gotten that much better as a mom, but I HAVE evolved because of having you in my life. There aren’t just parts of me that are defined by being your mom, because since you came into my life, my whole being has been transformed. I am 100% you and Knox’s mommy, and everything I do, I do it as your mommy – even when we aren’t together, you never leave me. That’s a pretty powerful hold you have on me, little man. Of course, I feel comfortable writing that down, because you won’t actually read it for many, many years. Until then, you will never hear me say that you have such a strong hold on me because WE SHANT FORGET WHO IS THE BOSS AROUND HERE! But I WILL tell you I love you until your ears catch fire. Because until those ears catch fire from hearing how much your mama loves you, I haven’t said it enough times.

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Happy birthday you little snot rocket*. Mama loves you.

 

*Guess it’s time for more coffee… the name-calling has returned.

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Two Hands

24 Nov

I wish I was more faithful about my morning quiet time. It’s in these quiet moments that I hear God speak to me, new truths that are nothing more than gentle whispers in the dimness of the morning when it’s just me and (occasionally) a hungry baby.

You only have two hands.

That’s all I heard. It just so happens I was trying to feed my baby with my chin when I heard it, so I could catch up on the newsfeed from the previous night, and look into my friends’ lives through the lens of their Instagram history. My precious baby. Just 8 weeks old. The one whom I grieved over when I was told I could no longer breast feed him; an intimate connection I mourned when it was taken from me. And I was feeding him with my chin because there were other things I wanted to do with my hands at the same time.

So I hear this quiet nudging this morning, and I put down my phone, and the strangest thing happened. I noticed my baby for the first time all morning. He’s so beautiful. I noticed that his face is filling out and he no longer has that “newborn” look to him. He stared me straight in my eyes and I wondered, how long have you been looking at me and waiting for me to look back? Then when I readjusted my two hands to hold him more peacefully and tenderly instead of more conveniently, he did the most marvelous thing: he reached that little, immature and uncontrolled hand up and he held my hand that was feeding him. So even though my revelation wasn’t monumental this morning, it was the most relevant and poignant command I’ve heard in a long time.

I only gave you two hands. Because they are enough.

Your elbow does not exist for you to carry more than you can handle. Slow down – I have not asked you to carry more than you can handle, if you would only listen to me.

Your bluetooth device does not exist for you to carry on a conversation while you are distracted with other things. Be present. Honor the person on the phone by giving them your undivided attention instead of minimizing their worth by multitasking.

And your chin should not be feeding your baby. “If you pour yourself out to the hungry, then your light will rise in the darkness” Isaiah 58:10.

Be present. Be involved. Be focused. Be controlled. Do what you can with what God gave you, but don’t abuse your power. You can do many great things with God’s provision or you can do more things to a lower standard. You choose.

“Lazy hands make a poor man, but diligent hands bring wealth” Proverbs 10:4

 

 

The Whole Story

24 Oct

For three months, I’ve been treated for gestational hypertension. Same rodeo as the last time, it seemed. High blood pressure, early induction… I knew this drill.

On September 26th, my induction began. Two and a half weeks early. Just right in my book.

I had a tense labor with moments of fear and uneasiness that seemed looming and everlasting while in the moment. When they told me that I wasn’t dilating, my mind darted to the fear that an emergency c-section would become imminent. When they told me that the baby was under stress because of a lack of amniotic fluid, the same thoughts flooded my brain. When the baby’s heart rate decelerated when it should have accelerated, my own heart raced. Fear. Helplessness. Paranoia.

In the end, God delivered a beautiful baby boy to us. Our Knox Jeffrey.

Knox (55 of 90)

 

 

The pain in my neck started one week after Knox was born. It was an aching, throbbing pain that wouldn’t subside with any amount of medicine, heat, massage or change of position. It was debilitating at times. I would have to turn my entire body 90 degrees just to see anything to my left or right. My doctor prescribed muscle relaxers… certainly this was pain I was experiencing was a result of  breast feeding, posture, postpartum weight distribution, carrying a toddler, etc.  But the muscle relaxers failed to work. The pain meds failed to work.

After two weeks of nonstop pain accompanied by the still-high blood pressure, the first emergency happened. It was Tuesday morning, October 15th, and Navy woke up at 6am crying. His early morning distress woke me up, and as I sat up to go get him, I realized I was suddenly dizzy and nauseous. Barely making my way to the bathroom, I began to get sick. The room was spinning. Every time I tried to sit up, I would vomit. Still spinning. Our bathroom shares a wall with Navy’s bedroom and as I cried and screamed for Stockton, all I could hear in response was my sweet Navy on the other side of the wall. “Mommy? MOMMY!”

Realizing my condition was far beyond anything that either of us could or should attempt to control ourselves, Stockton called 911. Within a few short minutes, the ambulance was there. Still spinning. Still vomitting. Still crying. Still scared.

The emergency room was prepared for me and I was immediately given a high dose of blood pressure medicine, after noting that my blood pressure was well above safe and normal levels. The pressure dropped and my dizziness subsided. A CT scan revealed nothing to be concerned about so by 4pm I was sent home with a new blood pressure prescription and some pain medication for the hangover-like headache I was experiencing.

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday were as “back to normal” as they could be. New fears had presented themselves, and I could feel depression creeping up on me. Then Sunday came.

While getting ready for church, the neck pain was suddenly explosive. It flared up like a firecracker and then it found its way down my left arm. The tingling came next. Then nothing. Numbness. I began to cry again, terrified of what all this meant. Stockton joined me on the edge of the bed, immediately taking my blood pressure and asking about any other symptoms. My main symptom…. fear. These are the symptoms that women experience when having a heart attack… right?? Or was it a stroke? Or was it nothing and I’m just paranoid… No, I think it’s something. I just can’t ignore it. No, I don’t think I need an ambulance. Let’s just go.

We dropped Navy off at Kaley’s and reluctantly texted my parents about our second visit to the ER in 4 days time. My mom and Maddie were due to depart for Florida for Maddie’s fall break in just a few hours. I hated to tell them I was hospital bound. What if I’m just crying wolf? Maybe my arm doesn’t feel that numb. I’m probably imagining it. My neck is just sore from breast feeding. Although, it does hurt to the touch now…

We sat in the hospital – Stockton, Knox, Dad, Mom and me – and waited for answers. Even hypotheses. Anything.

An MRI revealed the reason for my neck pain. A vertebral artery dissection (damage to one of the arteries leading to my brain, causing blockages and clotting). The MRI also showed something else… “some spots that we just can’t explain away since you’re just 25” said my doctor. Some spots that he and the attending neurologist would later tell me was a stroke.

A stroke. A stroke. At 25? But…

A good doctor knows how to treat patients well. A great doctor knows when to defer to someone with even better qualifications, expertise, equipment and resources. My doctor at Memorial hospital did exactly that and within a few hours I was in the back of yet another ambulance, this time on my way to Loyola University. But this time I couldn’t bring my newborn baby. Little did I know that the last time I would ever be able to cradle and nurse my sweet Knox was in the emergency room of Memorial Hospital, connected to IV’s and EKG wires with only a dingy curtain separating us from the rest of the ER. There was nothing ceremonial or touching about our last moments bonding through breast feeding.  And for that, I will always carry a bit of sadness.

I arrived at the Loyola University Medical Center sometime in the middle of the night and was taken straight to the neuro ICU. Surrounded by critical head injuries. Brain tumors. Critical strokes. Comas. This was the company I was keeping. How did I end up here, in the same unit as these people who can’t speak? Who can’t move their arms? Who have not opened their eyes in a month? 

The testing began the following day. MRA of my head and neck, confirming that I indeed had the vertebral artery dissection, but instead of just one artery having the damage, BOTH of mine were damaged. Bilateral Vertebral Artery Dissection was my new diagnosis. But why? As it turns out, most patients who have BOTH arteries dissected means there is an underlying condition… that these dissections were no coincidence. A common disorder in this case would be FMD (fibromuscular dysplasia), a disorder of the blood vessels throughout the body indicated by irregularity of most vessels. An MRA of my chest and abdomen, however, revealed no such diagnosis. No FMD. No explanation for these dissected vertebral arteries.  I know I should be thankful that I don’t have a condition or disorder that I will deal with for the rest of my life, but God, I’ve been praying for clarity! I’ve asked countless others to pray for clarity! I didn’t pray for a miracle or for all of this to just disappear. I just want the peace that comes with a diagnosis so that I can have answers! Something that will help me going forward. CLARITY, GOD, I ASKED FOR CLARITY AND I DON’T HAVE IT.

The doctors from Loyola are awaiting imaging from Memorial Hospital to try to see what the Memorial doctors saw… the aforementioned, inexplicable stroke. Because that’s another thing they didn’t catch on the MRA from Loyola…. they saw no indication of the “stroke” that the neurologist sent me to Loyola for in the first place. Again, I know I should be grateful for the absence of a stroke – and don’t get me wrong, I AM – but where is the consistency?? One doctor says stroke, another says no stroke? How can I be sure? What was it that they saw at Memorial, if not a stroke?

I was discharged from Loyola on Wednesday on many medications, among which are drugs that prohibit me from breast feeding my son. My heart was broken, and I continue to feel the very physical and emotional side effects of no longer nursing my baby. My newborn baby. I nursed Navy 7 months.  I wanted to nurse Knox for a year! I have been stripped of this gift… this beautiful, precious, miraculous ability to feed my son and keep him connected to me even though he is no longer in my womb. YOU STOLE SOMETHING FROM ME. This should be MY decision to make, but you’ve left me no choice.

I’m home now. Being treated for the blood clots which have formed in my neck and the dissections which are causing my pain. Waiting for time to heal what has been broken inside me. I’ll return to Loyola in 3 months for a follow up. But I’m still left without answers. Why did this happen? No one knows. Will it happen again? You can’t say “always” or “never” in medicine, but I am expected to be at low risk for a recurrence. But if that’s the case, why did it happen in the first place? What is my prognosis for the future? To be determined. 

I am thankful for my health. I’m thankful that they deemed me stable enough to come home. I’m thankful for my husband who stood beside me through all of this and witnessed his bride in the most emergent and scary situations either of us have ever endured. I’m thankful for my sons. I’m thankful that in this modern world, Knox can survive and thrive on formula. I’m thankful for my parents and my sisters, who gave up their vacation to Florida without giving it a second thought and took such amazing care of my kids, dog and home while we were gone. Many people made sacrifices for me… this week wasn’t only hard on me, it was hard on all of us. I’m thankful for a God that became human and understands physical pain and hardship. I’m thankful for all of the people who have prayed for me and continue to pray for me. I have much to be thankful for. I’m also thankful that my God understands my sadness and that it may take me a while to come to terms with all that has happened in the last several weeks.

Today I turned 26. Wasn’t quite the birthday anyone dreams of, but it was a birthday nonetheless, and a day to celebrate life. And I got to celebrate by being home with my loved ones. A birthday wish come true.

One of my hats

22 Oct

I’m reminded today (as I OFTEN am) of how much life changes when you have a little one. Things that used to be important, really aren’t all that important anymore. I will turn 25 in two days, and you know what? I really don’t care. It’s like, the least big deal of all time. Especially because my baby is sick. It’s the most heartbreaking thing to see your child crying all day (no really… all. day.) from discomfort; looking up at you with these eyes that just say “Mom, what’s wrong? Make it stop!” And if I could, I would. I just wish I could.

Saturday night I was suddenly and violently afflicted with The Flu (dun-dun-DUUNNN!!!!) and hoooo boy, it was a doozie. So much that Stockton (wisely) spent the night in the guest bedroom (wrapped in a sleeping bag, Godlovehim) so that I could thrash and wince and get up 20 (at least) times without disturbing him, or him, me. It was officially the worst night ever, and I don’t hesitate to say that it was worse than giving birth to Navy. And I didn’t have the WORST delivery ever, but it certainly wasn’t a cakewalk. At least that had a very happy ending.

So the rest of the weekend was spent mostly with my head in the toilet while Stockton played Mr. Mom and slowly watch Navy deteriorate from his own bout of The Everlovin’ Relentless Flu. That poor little bug. By the end of the day, Stockton looked like he’d been beaten by a shovel and he kept reiterating how sad it is to watch your child get sick and not know what’s happening to them or why. And really, nothing you can do to stop it.

Today, Stockton had to go to work and luckily, I was “well” enough to manage Navy here by myself. But that poor sweet boy spent the entire day either sleeping or moaning and groaning, nearly inconsolable during all of his waking hours. So by the end of the day, it was me looking like I’d been beaten by a shovel (and feeling similarly).

Over the last 48 hours, while I sat there sick as a dog, I kept wanting to pray that the Lord would rid me of this sickness, restore my health and help me to “feel better” but then I felt too guilty to pray for that!! It’s just the FLU after all. I kept thinking about all of the people who have cancer and spend days, weeks, months just as sick as dogs because of their chemo drugs and the disease that their body harbors.

Then today, as I was praying for Navy (because I do not feel too guilty to pray for others, just myself) I also prayed for the babies who are terminally ill, or who are fighting unknown diseases, and who are possibly suffering from the treatments that ravage their little bodies. I prayed for their mommies (and daddies) who hold their crying babies every single day and do everything they can to comfort their children when there is really nothing that can be done. It’s defeating (and again, my kid just has the flu). It’s heartbreaking. But it’s what you do when you’re a mom. You just don’t have a choice in the matter.

As I was holding Navy this evening, I kept thinking about what a hard weekend it’s been.  I don’t often say things are “hard” because I think it’s kind of a ridiculous description. However, this weekend and the flu that came with it was just… exhausting. Ravaging. It took everything out of us all and its work, I’m afraid, isn’t quite over. So even though my job as a mom doesn’t involve balancing budgets, solving complex problems, dealing with employee issues, or making sure my business is profitable, it is indeed frickin’ hard. You can’t even be sick by yourself. It’s all about your baby. It’s all about your family. They need you even when you are at your worst (and I’ve confirmed now that there are definitely no sick days when you work this job). It’s all a part of wearing many hats, right? It’s also the stuff that people take for granted. That people minimize. That people who are “too cool” and “above” the simplicity of mommyhood downplay and find irritating and uncouth. And that’s ok. I know what I’ve got, and even when what I’ve got is a sick little baby who cries for his mommy to take away his ickies all day, I’ll take it. I’ll wear my hat even when it’s covered in puke. That’s what mommies do.

Easily amused (and I do mean me, not them)

28 Jun

The end of an era

27 Jun

“The Orange Tree is symbolic of generosity for it’s far reaching branches and plentiful fruit.”

 

How many times in the last 4 years did I say that exact quote, which I learned from you? Mom, you have adopted, embodied and fulfilled the purpose of the Orange Tree better than any ACTUAL orange tree I’ve ever seen.

You have adopted a spirit of generosity that has always been a spiritual gift of yours, emphasized even more through your pursuit of creating a warm and inviting place for people to reach within themselves to discover their own generosity.

You embodied what it means to be generous time and time again as you constantly sought to take the high road and show others love, patience, and Christ-like forgiveness (even when there may have been an easier alternative). You were generous by not only sharing your talents with our entire community, but you were generous with your employees, many of whom have been permanently shaped by your love and leadership.  There are a lucky few who can say they have had the privilege of working with and for the amazing artist, leader, and friend that you allowed yourself to be, and as one of them, I can confidently say that I am forever shaped by your influence as my boss (forget the fact I’m lucky enough to also have you as my MOM!).

You fulfilled your mission at Orange Tree, and successfully accomplished a lifelong dream.  What began over 30 years ago in “My Favorite Things”, just a small seed of ambition to someday open and own your own gift gallery, has become a building block of our community. You shared your mission and your passion for local commerce and helped ignite a fire in the lives of thousands (THOUSANDS, Mom!) of people to support their local economy and support the handmade artisan community around the country. You know that awesome feeling you get every time someone places a wholesale order from you? That feeling that you are growing as an artist and you are leaving your mark on another store, another store owner, and hundreds of consumers around the country? Through your dedication as a buyer to purchase handmade items from American artisans, you allowed countless other artists to feel that very same electrifying thrill of sharing their craft with others. You helped countless artists support their families. You gave countless artists the chance to make a career out of their dreams, just as you had made a career out of yours (and continue to grow that career through your own wholesale business).

I feel so privileged to have been your employee, your apprentice, and at times, your partner in business.  You know that if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be doing anything near what I’m doing today. And whether my little venture in my basement ever becomes anything remains to be seen, but the important fact is that you sparked in me a passion to create beautiful things because I always saw my mom creating beautiful things. I believe with everything in me that God has given each of us a special gift, and it has been my ambition over the last 4 (or 24) years to follow your lead, and cut a path in a wilderness where there is much resistance, but where the path is adorned with beauty not seen on the path of least resistance.

I can’t thank you enough for all of the things you’ve done for me, and for all the ways you’ve shined your light in my life, and in the lives of so, so many. You are a revolutionary woman, a woman with passion, ambition, dedication and a dream that cannot be contained by any framework other than your own. And so, as this chapter closes, I want to congratulate you and wish you the best of luck and all the success in the world as you embark 100% on your next venture. You’re my #1 role model, and I hope that someday my kids look up to my just half as much as I look up to you. I’ll follow your example and do my best to make that happen.

I love you, OrangeMama. Onto the next chapter. Thanks for keeping me along for the ride. Xoxoxo.