Monday, March 18, 2013

Is This Your First Time?

If you're a mom, you've been there. Whether you gained your baby through childbirth or adoption, there was a time when you had a bag packed and sitting by the door, an anticipatory car seat installed in a mini-van, and a crib all freshly made awaiting a tiny tot.

I am by no means a veteran mom. After all, I'm still raising mine. However, I am done with my childbearing stage. Done with the newborn stage. My youngest will toddle soon, and the rest, as you know, is history.

I LOVE seeing first time mommies prepare. I love looking back on my own expectancy with my first baby and remembering the excitement that you only feel that first time. I also love the look on their faces when they talk about how much longer it is until they hold their miracle in their arms. It's a look of both fatigue and rejuvenation-- of both dread and excitement-- of emotion and expectation that you only possess that first time around.

It's been many moons since my bag was packed for that first labor and delivery. A long time since I felt that initial gasp. Many sleepless nights since the car seat was filled the first time. But you know what? It's as fresh on my mind as it was almost a decade ago. And the lessons just keep on coming.

There's alot of expectant mommies around me right now. So many births to look forward to. So many sweet faces to see for the first time soon. So many miracles to celebrate. I can't wait to watch their lives unfold-- both the child and the mommy who is born that day, too. So, to all you soon-to-be-moms-for-the-first-time, here's a little advice from my heart to yours. (And all you other BTDT moms, feel free to add your advice on here or on this link when it's posted on Facebook!)

1- You will never feel this way again. Yes, you'll feel JUST as excited the second or tenth time around. But this is your FIRST time. And you'll never ever feel the excitement over the great unknown you're about to enter ever again. Soak up the innocence and naivety of this moment. It's precious and it will soon be over.

2- You will feel a wave of panic you've never felt when you hear the doctor/midwife/nurse say, "You're ready." It's ok. The panic will pass and you'll survive.

3- You will pack the bag with every little thing you think you'll need. You'll have the cutest nursery in the world for baby to come home to. You'll have every bell, whistle, and accessory known to man. But you'll soon figure out you have NO IDEA what you're doing. It's ok.

4- You're about to learn the literal meaning of "love hurts."

5- Your body will never feel the same way ever again, even when you lose the baby weight and get back down to three pounds smaller than before you birthed. And you won't really be able to figure out what the heck is different. You'll weigh the same or less than before you conceived but your clothes will never fit the same way again. File this mystery with where missing socks go, who killed JFK, and what the heck it is about a sign saying paint is wet that makes us want to touch it.

6- You will cry for no reason after that baby gets here. And you will suddenly understand why people go so over the edge about their opinions on vaccines, gun control, and helmet laws.

7- You'll second guess yourself for a couple of weeks-- is she too cold? Is she hungry? Is she in pain? But trust me. Soon, you'll hear her say, "EH," and you'll know-- oh, she has an ear infection in her left ear and she wants Goldfish crackers. Just. By. That. Sound.

8- Rarely anything is as scary as it seems. This includes the first fever of 104, poop that oozes out of his onesie, and the terrible barking cough.

9- You will soon hear people say, "I'm tired," after working a long week of work, and you'll fight the urge to laugh uncontrollably and punch them in the face at the same time. Because you know what you do when you're a mom and you're "tired"? You keep going. And you drink coffee. Or Monster.

10- You will get why people take their kids to Target in their pajamas and with their faces crusted with baby food and dried milk.

11- Your husband is capable of WAY more than you give him credit for. Trust him. Rely on him. Use him. And thank him. Oh, and don't feel the LEAST bit guilty for leaving Little Sunshine with him for a day or an evening out. Or two.

12- You will not scar your child by letting him stay at Grandmas or Aunt Helen's for a night. He won't forget who you are. And trust me. There will come a day when you'll HOPE he forgets you're his mom- like when he acts like scorpions are attacking him in Publix because you said he can't have a cookie.

13- He/she won't be perfect. And no matter what you dress him/her in for the day, chances are the outfit will be forever destroyed by vomit, a juice spill, or pizza grease. So, enjoy it the first time he wears it because it may be the only time.

14- Things can be replaced. This includes but is not limited to: carpet with red punch poured on it, couches bearing purple handdrawn dinosaurs, purses that bottles get spilled in and you didn't know until it was soured and/or moldy, and cell phones dropped in toilets. And yes, your perfect newborn will grow to be a toddler who WILL do one of the above.

15- You'll feel like you're treading water and drowning at least three times in the first month. We all survived. And you will, too.

16- You'll say, "What's wrong?" alot to your baby. And he won't answer. Sucks.

17- You'll rejoice because your 3 week old slept all night. She may even do it until she's 3 months old. But wait for it. She will change the game up. I promise. Sorry to bear bad news. But just expect it. Again-- sucks.

18- The first time she does sleep all night, you will awaken from your own sleep by the sun peeking in your window and you will totally freak with panic and run like the speed of light into her room to make sure she's breathing. She will be. And you'll rejoice at the major victory of a good night's sleep by calling every one you know and making it your Facebook status.

19- You'll also desperately need a nap by noon.

20- You'll soon understand why Redbox and Netflix were created... For parents of babies. Because all your non-parenting friends will be over there like, "Heyyyy, we just saw Twilight part 10 in the theatre," and you'll be like, "Heyyyyy, I watched part 3 on DVD from Redbox last night because going to the movies would require a sitter who can speak colic, the strength for me to shower before 4 pm, and timing the movie to be home in time to do my favorite thing in the world--- PUMP!"

21- You just THINK you liked date night before a baby. Muahahahaha! That was called "Every day it's possible." Now, date nights are revered, looked forward to, and treated like the Holy Grail of your month. Suck the life out of each one of them.

22- You'll check your phone every 3.2 minutes on date night to make sure the sitter hasn't 911'd you and your phone failed. I promise you won't even look at it by the time child 2 comes around. You may even put it on silent.

23- Remember all those time you said, "When I have kids, I will..." or "MY kids aren't gonna be allowed to..."??? Yeaaaaah. Whatever.

24- You'll start liking your mom a whole lot more and will often BEG for her forgiveness for your own childhood debacles.

25- You'll feel like Mother's Day was created just for you. And you will beam with pride from sun up to sun down that first Mother's Day. (You'll be awake for both).

And the most important one--
26- You'll wash. Pack. Plan. Read. Theorize. Anticipate. Imagine. Study. Learn. Prepare. Organize. Paint. Create. All to get ready for his arrival. You won't be ready. You won't have thought of it all. There isn't a birth plan or an expert on the globe to mentally, physically, emotionally, or spiritually prep you for the trek you're embarking on. So just go with it. Let the chips fall where they may. Ask for wisdom from God, your mom, your sister, and your own heart. 99% of the time, you'll figure out what to do.

And that other 1%? That part is what makes life so interesting.

Congratulations, Momma. Enjoy the ride!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Check up on a Check list.

It's not that I've learned it all. It's just that the older my daughter gets, the more I remember hard and/or valuable lessons I've learned along the way. Ones I wish I could peel her little hard head open and pour into her so she wouldn't have to bleed or cry or hurt to learn. I mean, I'm not saying I would wrap her in bubble wrap if I could. But I might be saying I would poke holes in the wrap in just the right places for her mouth and nose to be able to breathe. Is there something wrong with that?

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. That's what I know for sure. And lessons will be learned our whole lives. Some by the humility of taking advice from those around us with a few more miles on their odometer. Some by sheer ignorant decision making. And some by being so freaking hard headed, we wouldn't need a helmet in the NFL.

Every once in a while, I like to re-evaluate the lessons I want to teach my kids. I do this to keep my focus. But I also do this to remind myself that it's ok for our kids to hurt every once in a while. Because like it or not, sometimes pain is a sign of life. And sometimes pain is the only teacher we will listen to. Today, here's some lessons I have on my heart for Abi still to learn.

1- You won't be good at every thing you try to do, nor every thing you WANT to do. And you'll need people of brutal honesty to tell you that you suck at it so you won't look like a dingbat and waste valuable time and energy trying to make something fit that doesn't. Lucky for you, I'll tell you the truth. So call your mom alot.

2- Sometimes people are mean and you won't ever know why. But if you ask God to let you see with His eyes, He will show you the parts you need to see so you won't want to punch them in the face quite so badly.

3- Boys are not all bad. Some of them are terrible. And my job, along with your sweet daddy's, is to help you look past a boy's eyes and into his character. You are royalty. And you won't be allowed to associate with anything or anyone less than royalty. The end and you're welcome.

4- The other day when you ran into that boy in church and he dropped all his stuff on the ground, I saw the look on your face when you knelt down to help him pick it up immediately. And I saw you pat him on the shoulder, silently apologizing when yall stood back up. And in that moment, my heart almost burst with pride at the innate kindness inside you.

5- You're beautiful. You won't always feel beautiful. You'll feel fat, or ugly, or awkward, or undesirable. And to be honest, some days the mirror just doesn't lie. But emotions DO lie. Remain beautiful in your heart and you'll feel beautiful whether you have PMS or are having a skinny day.

6- Great marriages don't just happen. You don't fall in love and remain magically connected because you're "soul mates." Great marriages are a steady work of progress and alot of apologizing and changing. Fairy tales are sweet. But you don't live in a tower, have birds that sing to you, or own a pair of glass slippers. Your daddy isn't a king, your mom doesn't own a magic wand, and there is no handsome man living in the woods outside our home waiting to give you a rose as you walk through with your pet rabbit that talks. You'll meet a guy, you'll like him, he will like you, and real life will begin. And it won't be beautiful always. But it will end with a happily ever after if you follow the examples we have surrounded you with.

7- You will learn to make biscuits the way I make them, the way your Gia makes them, the way your great-grandma makes them, and her mom, and so on..., or you'll never get a driver's license. This is not negotiable.

8- Alot of your friends' moms will be more "progressively minded" than your mom. Your mom will always be the homemaker, the cook, the cleaner, the clothes shopper, the menu manager, the referee, the nurse, and the counselor of your home. And your mom is training you to be just as old school as she is.

9- Be quick to apologize. When you're wrong. Not when you're trying to just make peace. You're wise-- you're not a doormat.

10- You can't fathom this right now, but you will be best friends with your brother one day. The two of you will laugh at me behind my back and recount stories of my epic fails and epic embarrassments. He will need you. And you will need him. And no one on this planet will love you the way he does. Being kind to him now equals a foundation that a seismic earthquake cannot destroy.

11- You will cry alot in your life. Sometimes it won't make sense to anyone, even you, as to why you're crying. Go ahead and cry anyway. Like, boo-hoo and ruin your makeup if you need to. You'll be stronger for it and you can always put makeup back on.

12- Some things are not ok in the generic form. Like: Coca-Cola, toilet paper, permanent markers, and friends. Choose friends that are anything but generic. Because you become like who you hang around. And my dear, generic is not in one cell of your DNA. Stay name brand. You're the real deal.

13- I know you love people. You share your daddy's heart. But sometimes, you will just need to unplug from people and get them the heck out of your head. There's beauty in being alone. Alone is where you learn most about yourself.

14- Always leave a place in better condition than it was in when you arrived there. Or I will find you. And it won't be good.

15- If I ever have to show up somewhere (even if you're 30) and remind you of who you are and WHOSE you are, it won't be good.

16- If you have doubts about his character, he's not the one.

17- If you'd be embarrassed for your Paw to find you there, the answer is no.

18- Settle now in your little heart in these innocent days that some body parts are best left unseen (by everyone but one man). Make guys guess about you. Showing them everything before they deserve it is just sad. Be a woman of mystery. Make him earn every piece of your heart. And every piece of your body.

19- Standing at a ridiculous angle in front of a bathroom stall and sticking your butt out in ways normal people do not stand in every day life to get a picture to post on Facebook is not an option for you. You're showing your pretty face in a photo. Not your butt, your cleavage, or your legs. You're not a contortionist, so please stand straight. And if I ever see a toilet in the background, it won't be good. Be classy, for Heaven's sake.

20- We will continue to push you, demand excellence from you, expect kindness and manners from you, set firm boundaries for you, and make tough choices for you. We will not be friends with you, and will not treat you as the adult you are not.

21- You will know how to change a tire, check your oil, mow a yard, and use a tool box so that you will be capable until you find the man who will do that stuff for you.

22- You won't be able to dress like a hoochie until you're old enough to choose to do so yourself. And hopefully by then, we will have shown you how ridiculous it would be to do so.

23- All the little things I make you go back and re-do, like putting your shoes IN the basket instead of next to it, putting your bowl IN the sink instead of near it, and putting the couch cushions back in place instead of NEAR the couch are teaching you much more than housekeeping. I promise.

24- Sometimes, your heart will break so hard, you swear you'll never find all the slivers and pieces again. But you will. And even your darkest hour only has 60 minutes in it.

25- Love is hard to come by. If it's easy for you to say "I love you" to a boy, it's not love. It should make you so nervous, you swear you'll faint the minute it leaves your mouth. Because love is risky. It's sacred. And it's not found every day.

26- Sometimes, going to bed is like hitting the restart button because the day sucked so bad. Sometimes, a midday nap is the same thing.

27- I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever stop believing in you. Even if you begged me to stop. Or spit in my face. Or turned your back on me. Or turned your back on Him. Or ran away from me as far as you could possibly run. My belief in you is based on the fact that I carried you, I bore you, and I see in you what you won't see in yourself for many years from now. I don't love you because I have to. I love you because you're as much a part of me as the breath in my lungs right this second. And you'll hate me, you'll avoid me, you'll wish anyone else on the planet was your mom but me. But I'm her. And you're mine. And if I could go back and choose to do one thing differently leading up to your conception, I would leave every single piece untouched. Because I needed you. And I will never stop loving you with a ferocious love that cares not if you love me back. I'm the most furious hurricane in your life, little mama. And you will never get a break from me.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pro-life. No apologies.

As I often do, I'll start this blog with a few disclaimers.

1- I am pro-life. Like, 100%, unwavering, completely and totally in every circumstance, pro-life.
2- I am not opening this up for debate, nor am I looking for you to tell me why I am close-minded or idealistic by being so staunchly pro-life.
3- I do not judge people who have had abortions, nor do I judge people who are pro-choice. Judging means that I put myself in a place to think I am better than you and gives me the governing power to decipher why you believe what you believe. Your beliefs are between you and God, and I do not give myself the false power that comes with thinking I am better than you, more righteous than you, or a better parent than you because I chose life for my babies.

4- I am fed up with hypocrisy.

Today, my fire all started with this article. This is not a debate on surrogacy, nor will I weigh in my personal thoughts or feelings on the topic of surrogacy. What I WILL weigh in on is this.

Shame, shame, shame on us. We've now put a price tag on a human life. And it was a measly $10,000.

You know what? I'm sick of hearing that this kind of "thought" is the government's doing. The fact that we are now stepping over into a Hitler style era of "Survival of the Fittest" is not a Democratic Party problem. It's not a legislative problem. It's not a Supreme Court problem. Not a school system problem. The "problem," my friends, is that WE, the PEOPLE have failed to see the value of a human life. The "problem" is that we have put ourselves in a place of God-likeness and have given ourselves the power to pass or fail a human's existence based off of what we see. Let's not forget that a people once gave a man power to decide the fate of human lives, and 6 million people who didn't meet his stamp of approval were annihilated.

The "problem" is that we have failed at morality. And it starts at home.

I am clearly a mother. The moment sperm met egg in my womb, I became a mother. And my moral obligation to my children was mandated as more than just the obvious charge to carry those babies to term and give them their right to live. My moral obligation also was mandated to be to teach them valuable and critical life lessons from infancy. Back to the fact that I am fed up with hypocrisy.

I am fed up with a hypocritical society that tells me a cat's life or the life of HER unborn "babies" are more protected than the life of a child who was diagnosed with Down's Syndrome in the womb. I am fed up with the word "fetus", plain and simple. I'm a person, always been a person, and will forever be known as a PERSON. Not a fetus. (Oh, but I get it. Saying, "Let's terminate the fetus" sounds a heck of a alot easier to swallow than, "Let's slaughter your unborn baby.") I am fed up with hypocrisy that grants more privileges, rights, and freedoms to predators who commit heinous crimes against children than actual children themselves. I am fed up with hypocrisy that lends more praise to the beauty of a tree than the beauty of a child born with no limbs or a cleft palate. I am fed up with hypocrisy that justifies two convictions of vehicular manslaughter to a drunk driver that kills a mother and her unborn child, yet would protect her rights to destroy the child if she were on her way to an abortion clinic to "get rid of it". I am fed up with hypocrisy that screams and chants equal rights for all races, genders, and sexual orientations yet remains mutely quiet when it is asked to speak up for a child who literally has no rights at all and is given no right to be born.

Clearly, I am old school. I still believe in keeping my babies with me until kindergarten as much as possible. I love the thought of the man being the primary breadwinner and the wife taking care of the home. I think men should do yard work and house maintenance and women should keep her family fed, clean, and laughing. I understand alot of my peers don't feel this way, and I can't tell you how OK I am with that. In fact, as much as I disagree with today's gender neutral roles in our families (if God wanted our roles the same, we would have been created sexually neutral), I "get" why today's roles are the way they are. But moms, dads... there are some truths that transcend time. There are issues of morality, justice, and righteousness that matter not what decade we find ourselves in, and that should not be held subject to our economic or cultural climates, but should in fact turn the tide for the economy and the culture. What about THOSE things? What have we taught our children about the sanctity of LIFE? What have we taught them about human DIGNITY and WORTH? What about the principles of speaking up, and speaking LOUDLY when injustice is being done? What about being the voice of the victims and the powerless? What about speaking kindly about other people in front of our children, so they see we value the lives of even those we don't get along with?

I know, I know, I know. There are the arguments that it's unfair to bring a child into extreme poverty. The arguments that rape took a mother's power from her and she shouldn't have to bear a child who is a by-product of that crime. The arguments that say a child born with little brain function and no legs will have a terrible quality of life and shouldn't have to live one day of it. The arguments that say, "It's easy for you to advocate life when your children are healthy and your marriage is healthy and you haven't had to live one day of my story." The arguments that sometimes abortion is an act of mercy for all involved. If there's one thing ministry has taught me in the last twenty years, it's that someone, somewhere has lived a story very similar to yours and has overcome the odds. I can show you several parents who were advised to abort after an ultrasound showed grave danger for the baby, the mother, or both. I can let them tell you themselves how eternally grateful they are for the precious lives they were entrusted with-- how every burden they've borne with those special little ones have only deepened their love for them and for their Creator. I can show you a mom who was told to abort her baby girl because of a very dangerous birth situation that could kill them both. That girl is a teenager who is more than well today. A single mom who is so happy that her special needs child who was conceived in rape has stood as a testimony to her of the goodness of a merciful God.

Here's what all of them have taught me.

Life isn't convenient. It isn't always planned, isn't always orderly. Sometimes it hurts so bad you don't think you'll be able to take another breath, and then the very next breath could offer laughter from your toes. Sometimes you map out your life only to turn around and see you had it upside down the whole time. Children have a way of ripping the carpet out from under your feet and making you fall flat on your rear end. Then they spit up on you, blow a diaper out, get an ear infection, and change up their sleep habits a few times while you're down on that floor. Sometimes, they aren't born with all the parts we hoped they'd have. Sometimes their faces don't look like we hoped and their brains don't function like we planned. Sometimes they have to fight for their lives through machines and tubes and wires.

They shouldn't have to fight for their lives before air even touches their faces.

It's a sad world when a mother's wishes can supercede a child's needs. When she can decide whether or not it's "convenient" to bring her child forth.

And what does it say about us when we opt out because we aren't satisfied with the "quality" of the life we've created? My warning to you is this. Before you discount the life of a baby who will be born with a facial disfigurement or a brain impairment, you better be sure the powers that be are happy with your eye color and ethnicity. After all. History does repeat itself. In fact, it already has.

Eight times over since 1973.