Monthly Archives: September 2012

Motherhood, Definitely Different Than Expected

One of the blogs I read today is encouraging more writing by using “writing prompts.”  Basically a writer puts forth a topic or phrase to write about.  Today’s was “Different Than Expected.”  I thought I’d give it a shot.  If you’re interested in getting “writing prompts” yourself or would like to read more postings of “Different Than Expected,” check out: http://www.ellenstumbo.com/different-than-expected/

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Common advice when one heads towards marriage is to explore your expectations about marriage, being a spouse, and having a spouse.  Ryan and I did so in premarital counseling and both felt that we had pretty similar expectations back then.  We’ve continued to check in with each other re: expectations and knowing what each other expects and having realistic expectations has done a lot for the ongoing health of our marriage. 

I was blown away, though, when I became a mother.  I hadn’t been as intentional at exploring my expectations around motherhood like I did about marriage.  And on top of that, I had an unusual birth, delivery, and first few years of motherhood.  There have been ways that motherhood has lived up to and exceeded my expectations, but other ways where reality and my expectations were miles apart.  Some of my expectations were unconscious ones, bumped into consciousness by circumstances.  I’ve had to identify, adapt, and grieve some of the things I expected about motherhood. 

·         I always thought I’d feel an instant connection or bond with my baby when I was pregnant with him or her, but I didn’t.  The concept of a being growing in me was too abstract.  The only times I felt a true connection or attachment was when Evan would move, but since he didn’t do that often, I didn’t feel super connected.  After he was born, I also unconsciously put up an emotional wall about being Evan’s mom until we knew he was going to make it.  I only realized I had done that when the wall came down.  I know it was a defense mechanism, but I still have guilt and shame about it to this day.
·         I always thought I’d cry with joy when my first child was born.  I didn’t.  I was too stunned and in shock from the emergency c-section.  I did cry when Makenna was born, but it was more tears of relief that everything was alright with her than tears of joy.
·         I always thought I’d be able to hold my baby and delight in his or her ten fingers and ten toes.  That wasn’t to be.  Evan was handed to me briefly, stiffly and tightly wrapped up into the shape of a log, and then whisked away to the NICU.  I also didn’t get to hold Makenna very long because they were concerned about fluid in her lungs.
·         I always thought I’d be a beaming mom taking my baby home from the hospital.  Instead I was terrified and filled with dread because my baby was under three pounds and cried all the time.  I had no clue how I’d care for such a tiny, delicate, and vocal baby.
·         I always thought I’d breastfeed for a year with each of my children.  I had to pump for Evan and that didn’t last as long as I wanted, and, with Makenna, I had to stop after just a few months for health reasons. 
·         I always thought that my children would be deemed at least “average,” instead my first hasn’t been on the percentile charts for height and weight and was frequently deemed “behind” when it came to developmental skills.  Despite me treasuring him for who he was, other peoples’ expectations and assessments of my child were another layer to work through and manage. 
·         I always thought I’d stay home with my children, instead I was a full-time working mom for the first two years of my son’s life. 
·         I always thought being home with my children would be work, but also full of laughter, creative activities, and unscheduled time.  My life as a stay-at-home mom thus far has been pretty regimented–scheduled around Evan’s eating schedule, surgeries, and doctor appointments.
All that to say that motherhood has been nothing like I expected.  I have learned a lot about
myself as I process through my expectations—some met, some unmet, some formerly
unknown, and some exceeded.  Some expectations I’ve grieved, others I have changed, and
some I’ve been defensive about (a side of me that’s not very pretty I must say).  Having to face all
of my expectations and the emotions related to them has revealed a lot about who I am, what I
believe, what I want, and what’s important to me. 

Shakespeare says, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”  I’ve been pondering that statement for a few weeks now.  It makes it sound like expectations are a bad thing.  Are they?  Being a counselor, I’ve seen many a person stop hoping because then they couldn’t be disappointed.  It was a way they defended their heart so they couldn’t get hurt again.  It makes sense, but it’s a sad state to live in.  It depresses me to even think about it.  I think part of being a passionate, vibrant person of faith is to hope, to dream, to expect, to anticipate.  Will all our expectations be fulfilled?   No.  Is it wrong to have them?  No.  Is it smart to have our expectations grounded in reality?  Definitely.  But no one can rightly identify exactly what to expect in life to avoid disappointment.  We expect health and get sick.  We expect loving, long-lasting relationships, but conflict happens and you can’t force people to remain in your life if they don’t want to.  Tragedy, loss, pain is all part of the human condition.  Life is hard.  

What do I want to teach my children about expectations? 

I want them to know that the most important thing is not whether we have them or not, but how we handle it when our expectations aren’t met.  Are we okay with facing and grieving what we feel we’ve “lost”?  Are we willing to adjust our expectations?  Will we stop hoping and dreaming and grow bitter, or will we embrace the journey that has been given to us…the peaks and the valleys.  

I don’t regret my past expectations even if they have caused some heartache and I refuse to temper my current expectations.  I want to live big.  I want to love fully.  I want to expect great things.  And despite the above expectations not coming to fruition, being a mother has still exceeded my wildest dreams! 

 

Under My Umbrella…ella….ella….

Evan can entertain himself for hours in our backyard.  He loves playing with the water in his sand/water table, draining the water into buckets and then pouring it back into the table, “making juice” by pouring water into empty juice jugs, playing with funnels, and lots of other activities that involve water.  Evan also loves sitting up on our hill.  His latest activity on the hill is playing with his umbrella (from his sand/water table). 

It was so fun watching him go up the hill and down the hill, open the umbrella, close the umbrella. He has such a fascination with figuring out how everything works! 
What a reminder from the young to delight in the smaller things of life!
 

Oh The Places You’ll Go!

“Out there things can happen, and frequently do, to people as brainy and footsy as you.

 

And when things start to happen, don’t worry, don’t stew.

Just go right along, you’ll start happening too!”

Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

 

In March, Evan was around 24 pounds.  He is now closing in on 27 pounds!



In March, a nutritionist told us to aim for 1300 calories a day.  Now Evan’s eating almost 1500 calories a day!



In March, we started expecting Evan to chew and swallow a few bites of solids at each meal. Now he’s able to tolerate chunkier purees, is chewing and swallowing some crunchy foods, and on occasion, eats some soft solids well.


What a difference six months makes!


I am blown away as I reflect on this progress because I didn’t really think that these past six months would amount to much when it came to Evan’s weight gain and eating skills. Despite being committed to our goal of helping Evan gain weight and take steps towards eating like a three year old should, I really didn’t know whether we’d see significant progress without our feeding therapist (who went on maternity leave). I felt like we’d do the best we could but we’d basically be in a “holding pattern,” waiting for the real work to happen when she returned.


Well, she’s returned! And we are so blessed to be working with her again. She brings so much insight, so many good ideas, and so much love for Evan. And for me, she is a source of encouragement and helps me feel less alone in this struggle to get Evan to where he needs to be. Since she’s been back, she’s also verbalized, in very specific terms, the progress she’s seen in Evan’s eating skills….things I couldn’t see because I was too close to the situation.


Having a child with eating issues can make a parent feel very powerless, alone, and misunderstood.  Not many people truly understand the lengths one must go to get a child to eat who won’t (or can’t) eat, especially doing it day in and day out, and striving to remain consistent and positive.   It is honestly the hardest part of me staying home with the kids, but at the same time, I know that it is one of the reasons I’m supposed to be home with Evan and Makenna right now.  All that to say, having someone who truly “gets it” celebrate our progress with us felt really good.  And Evan glows when we praise his increased amounts and strengthened skills.  He is truly proud of what he’s accomplishing.  He plans on growing to be as big and strong as his soon-to-be uncle Doug (who, for those who don’t know, is about 6’7 or so!) and connects eating well with getting there.  : ) 

It was also a good reminder about how committing to a certain habit or discipline for months can really pay off, even if in the midst of it all, it doesn’t seem like anything is happening.  Evan, you have accomplished so much this past year…going from 19 pounds to 27 pounds, confronting so many new experiences that were very difficult for you.  If you can do this, nothing can stop you!  So, my boy, I’m so excited to see what you, our family, and our beloved feeding therapist will accomplish in the next six months!  You’ve done an awesome job not only in the past six months, but this whole past year.  To quote Dr. Seuss…

 

“And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

So…
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!”

Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

On The Inside Looking Out

The other day, Evan was in the backyard helping Dad with end of the summer cleaning.  He had a blast using the shop vac on the deck.  When Makenna woke up from her nap, she was fascinated by the activity out back.

She could not take her eyes off the men in her life!  It was adorable.  She just stood there, for fifteen or twenty minutes, watching.  Next year she can be out there in the mix, helping out!

 

DIY Personalized Magnets

When Ryan and I were first married, my sister, Shannon, gave me a really sweet gift.  She had made personalized magnets that said “Elyse Loves Ryan.”  Every time I saw those magnets, I felt both treasured by my sister but also thankful for the husband I had been given.

Well, now my sister is getting married.  One of the gifts I want to give her at this special time is the very thing that she had given me that touched my heart all those years ago: personalized magnets! 

This was fun and easy to do and can be done for any special occasion or for no special occasion at all.  It can be for yourself or for someone special in your life.

First you’ll need:    

1.)  Circle magnets

2.)  Glass stones (flat, the larger the better–I’ve heard these can be found at local dollar stores)

3.)  Glue (I used Elmers)
4.)  Scissors
5.)  Sayings or even pictures that mean something to the person you’re creating them for (for
Shannon, I had their wedding invitation to use—the purple/white branches you see in the
photo–and “insider information” about their relationship like terms of endearment, etc. due to
planning bridal shower games for her)
STEP ONE: First create the sayings or chose the pictures (on paper, not photos—I’m not sure
how the photos would survive the glue—if anyone tries, let me know if it works) you’ll use.  I
used Microsoft Word to type up the sayings I wanted to use.  I had fun experimenting with
different fonts.  I did have to alter a few after I had printed them out because they were too
large for the glass stones.
STEP TWO: Cut out your sayings or pictures to the size of the glass stones you are using. 
STEP THREE: Place a layer of glue on the back of the glass stone.  Then lay the glass stone (glue
side down) on the saying or picture you’re using.  Line it up so you it looks the way you want it to
look and let it dry (I let them dry overnight).
STEP FOUR: Trim any paper that sticks out bigger than the glass stone.
STEP FIVE: Glue the magnet to the back (it will be attached to the paper of the saying or
picture). 
I had extra magnets and glass stones so I made some magnets for our family too.  They are
phrases that are special to Ryan and I and to our kids.  They make me smile every time I’m by
the fridge!