A New Normal and 31 Days Of…

We are finding our new normal around here – as normal as can be found in our current circumstances. Harper Adeline Hahn joined our family on September 18th, the littlest peanut of my brood at 7lbs 10oz and 20 inches long.

She’s been a really great baby so far (knock on wood, fingers and toes crossed and all that jazz) She’s up at night with normal newborn needs but never participates in MOTNP (Middle of the Night Parties) which is lovely. She sleeps most of the day and cries when she’s hungry or needs a diaper change or if she’s ticked off at being disturbed.

Her brothers love her, even Declan who still gives me looks of betrayal from time to time when I’m holding her but he’s coming around. I caught him singing “Harper, I love you. Harper, I love you” last night at bedtime. Sweetest ever.

It still is surreal to have a baby girl in the house. Sometimes I find myself calling her sweet boy or buddy just because I am SO used to boys! Ha!

It’s amazing how in love you can fall with someone you just laid eyes on. I think my favorite part of motherhood is when these tiny, helpless, wrinkly creatures join your family one day as if they’ve always been there and your heart just feels like exploding all the time from the exhaustion and amazement and joy of it all. Motherhood is hard, like a holy kind of hard, but it is the best part of my life and my children are the best thing about me.

It is impossible to look at Harper and not wonder what her sister, Lilia, might have looked like had she been able to join our family. And of course there are so many conflicting emotions there – because without Lilia, there would be no Declan and no Harper. It is a strange place to be, both missing and mourning a child you never met but feeling so grateful for the ones that came after. It is a beautiful and reassuring thing to know we will meet her one day. Harper was born 3 years and one week after I laid on the table in the ultrasound room and they couldn’t find Lilia’s heartbeat – and I love that there is a little redemption that has come in the month of September. 
I can’t wait to see how Harper grows and changes, to see little pieces of her personality shine through and to watch her interact with her brothers. I think we’ll keep her.
Love you sweet Harper!

I’ve also decided to join in on the 31 Days of Writing Challenge and will be {hopefully} posting every day in October about bravery – specifically pertaining to the She’s Brave Conference that’s coming up in 2016. I want to dive more into this topic and why we use it so much with our Nourish community. I hope you’ll follow along!

9 Tips for 9 Months

I’m now in single digit countdown mode when it comes to weeks left of this pregnancy. Kind of crazy to think I’ll hit 33 weeks in a matter of days. In some ways it feels like this pregnancy has flown by – this past 8ish months has been so insanely busy and hard and I’ve been chasing after 2 other little ones – most of it has flown by in a blur.

I’m at the ‘so close yet still so far’ part so with pregnancy still pretty fresh on my mind, here are my 9 Tips for 9 Months, in no particular order:

9. Move!

This is the hardest one for me because I generally feel so bad my first trimester and I don’t get into great habits while pregnant, but even a short walk around your neighborhood will help. Staying active, even in little ways, can actually help with morning sickness, weight gain and labor and delivery. {Then again, I am chasing a couple little boys around all day long and I’m still gaining weight like a champion…}

8. Crackers & Water!

Keep crackers in your bedside table, especially for that first trimester. I have been really fortunate to never suffer extreme morning sickness with any of my children. I am always extremely nauseous and queasy and dry heave constantly for about the first 16-18 weeks, but I never really throw up. However, first thing in the morning I HAVE to have something in my stomach or I’ll be dry heaving for hours. Grabbing a couple crackers and having some water before getting out of bed really helped.

7. Advice

You’ll get lots of unsolicited advice (like mine!) from all kinds of people when you’re pregnant.

Everyone from strangers at the grocery store to Great Aunt Henrietta will want to tell you how their pregnancy and delivery went. Absorb about 25% of it, and let the other 75% roll off your back. Some of what happened to them may very well happen to you, but most of it won’t so try not to overthink advice! One that I dread hearing is “Enjoy it now, it’ll be over too soon” I have a 14 year old so I think I can say with a little authority – it’s ok not to enjoy throwing up or feeling like death or waddling like a penguin. There are many things that you may find enjoyable about pregnancy, but let’s be real – a lot of it is NOT enjoyable! Thankfully things like hearing his or her heartbeat for the first time, getting those first glimpses of your precious little on a sonogram screen and holding your child for the first time completely and totally make up for all the months of discomfort.

6. Nutrition

If I’m being completely honest, I find that I’m MORE in tune to healthy eating when I am NOT pregnant than when I am. It takes focus and motivation for me to make sure I stay on top of it when I’m pregnant. I’m usually exhausted and nauseous and will go for whatever is easy, quick and doesn’t make me want to gag. If this sounds like you, don’t beat yourself up. Do the best you can and try to remember your prenatal daily. On top of that, I really like to incorporate a great green smoothie into my daily diet. It’s a fantastic way to get nutrients in all at once and sometimes a smoothie was all that sounded good. Some women can’t stomach a lot of greens during pregnancy, so trial and error will help you discover what kinds of healthy things you can use in a smoothie. {This is my favorite green smoothie recipe of all time, and you can follow my Smoothie Love board on Pinterest for more ideas}

5. Pictures

I was pregnant with my first child at 21 years old. I hated my pregnant body, felt ugly, huge and self conscious. I think I have just one picture from that pregnancy – one someone snapped at a baby shower without my knowledge. With my next 2 children, I decided to get over myself and get maternity photographs taken (Helps to have an amazing brother in law who happens to be a professional photographer). I’m really glad I did it – Yes, I always struggle with my self esteem while pregnant but it has been fun to look back and see how my body changed. It’s really pretty amazing! 
THERE’S A TINY PERSON IN THERE!! 

4. Plan & Un Plan

It’s always good to have a birth plan in place. As women, we should feel empowered to decide how our birth story will go. Talk to your doctor, your friends, read about other people’s experiences and educate yourself on the birthing process. You have way more ability to make choices than you might realize. At the same time, every single birth is different and some things you won’t be able to prepare for so keep an open mind and try not to get too upset if your labor and delivery isn’t going according to the plan. Make a plan, but also plan to scrap if it your body decides to do something different. My sister recently had her third child – she’d had two normal vaginal deliveries with her first two children but ended up in a c-section with her third. He was in the brow presentation, and after 18 hours of laboring they needed to do a caesarean to keep him (and her!) safe. Those third babies are supposed to be easy! You just never know…

3. Care

Going along with Tip #4, pick a great care provider that YOU relate to and are comfortable with. It’s great to get opinions and recommendations but ultimately it’s you and your provider for your entire pregnancy so you want to be with someone you trust to take care of you and respect your plan for the birthing process. That way, if something changes, you’ll feel better knowing he or she probably did everything they could to make your wishes happen. Don’t worry about hurting feelings either – if you don’t click with the first provider you see, ask to see someone else. This is about YOU feeling comfortable enough to entrust yourself and your unborn child to someone else. Do what feels right for you.

2. Un Medicate

You’ll want to try to be as medication free as possible throughout your pregnancy. At one of your first appointments, you’ll probably be given a list of what you can and can’t take. Always talk to your provider if you have any questions or concerns. Taking medications certainly isn’t banned, and some of them will be absolutely necessary – just make sure to run them by your provider and call the office if you ever have any questions. And stay up to date on current issues regarding safety for certain medications. The medication Zofran, a popular choice in the past to alleviate severe nausea and vomiting, is currently under scrutiny for some adverse side effects on unborn babies.

1. Slack

Yes. Slack. As in cut yourself some. Pregnancy is HARD. Really hard. It’s emotional, it’s scary, it’s exhausting, exciting, intimidating, amazing and a million other things rolled into a roller coaster 9 months. Make the best choices you can and don’t beat yourself up if you do something you didn’t know you weren’t supposed to, if you can’t get out of bed to shower for 4 days or if you gain too much weight. Just make good choices when you can, stay in touch with your provider so they can monitor your health consistently and tell yourself ‘this too shall pass’ (Sorry, some cheesy cliches ARE true!) It took you 40 weeks to grow that tiny human, it’ll take you just as long (and probably more) to get back to feeling like yourself again. Try to remember you have just done something truly amazing and don’t freak out if it takes you awhile to feel like you again.

xoxo
Miranda

Every Morning

(Do you know what it’s like to try to keep a toddler from playing in the toilet and licking the bathroom floor of a pediatrician’s office while trying to get a 4 year old to pee in a cup for a urine sample??)

Yesterday was…a day.
It started out ok, but by bedtime everything had gone rapidly downhill. The kids were ridiculously overtired and thrown off by a messed up schedule and I had the bright idea (desperate idea, really) to start bedtime early. 
They had an early dinner, in the bath by 5:30 and bedtime routine started at 6:15. Declan fell asleep quickly and I found Beckett in my bed, watching TV. “Can you watch tv with me, Mommy?” 

So I sat next to him and did a little work while we watched (what else) Peppa Pig. Just as I was about to start his little bedtime routine, Declan woke up.

I won’t go into the details because they don’t matter but it was basically whack a mole for the next 2.5 hours. They couldn’t settle. I had been up since 5:30 that morning, no one had napped, I was so physically and mentally exhausted (pregnancy insomnia is the worst) that I couldn’t decide if I felt like throwing up or crying or heck, maybe both.

The kids cried, I cried, I raised my voice, they raised their voices…

It wasn’t pretty, ok?

By 9:30 – FOUR hours after their bath, I was finally eating for the first time since 10am and sitting alone for the first time since 5:30am and I’m not sure I did much beside stare at the wall in a daze.

I hate when nights play out like that. I go to bed feeling guilty about my lack of patience and about anger being one of the last emotions felt in the house before everyone falls asleep.

This morning, Declan woke up at 5:30 as he always does and we’ve been hanging out in my bed, sharing a Larabar and snuggles. I think he’s forgiven me for my impatience and exhaustion last night because he’s giggly and chatty and happy.

I’m glad that after the darkness falls – and some nights are really dark – the sun always rises, a new day begins and we can all try again. Thankful that no matter what, His mercies are new every morning. And these stubborn, high maintenance littles of mine might push me right to the very brink of absolute mental breakdown mode some nights but their smiles and hugs every morning teach me so much about unconditional love and forgiveness.

To the Woman who Feels Like an Outsider on Mother’s Day

Ah, Mother’s Day weekend…

        You and I are somehow foes again.

My Facebook news feed is already exploding with the pictures that used to drive me insane with jealousy. For 10 years my job as a mother went mostly unrecognized…or at least it wasn’t recognized the way I wanted it to be. I wanted a doting husband who would shower me with flowers and breakfast in bed or make reservations for brunch. I wanted someone to tell me to sleep in late and not worry about anything else. I wanted someone to send me off on a girls weekend, or maybe a day at the spa. But single motherhood and I were together for 10 long years.

And then I got married and Mother’s Day was much more fun for a few years.

But then, I lost a baby and became familiar with International Bereaved Mother’s Day – the Sunday before ‘normal’ Mother’s Day.

A few years later, I sit here with a marriage that is broken and once again feeling acutely aware that there is nothing ‘normal’ about this Mother’s Day. I have been dreading this weekend – and I know there are many more of you out there that feel the same.

You, who are estranged from your own mothers or have lost mothers. You, who desire to be a mother but cannot conceive. You, who are struggling with secondary infertility. You, the mother who has children far from home or who are not speaking to you. You, who have lost babies or children. You, who are hoping to adopt but have children caught up in the bureaucracy of the adoption process. You, who are fulfilling the role of both Mother and Father. You, who long for a family of your own but haven’t found someone to be your partner in life. You, with the husband or partner who always forgets to recognize you on this day.

I know there are many who feel the same feelings I feel about tomorrow. Loneliness, sadness, bitterness, regret, anger, disappointment, longing…

My thoughts and prayers are truly with you. I am not just saying that. I will spend this week fervently praying for those of you with broken hearts as you head into tomorrow. I know what a hard obstacle some of these holiday weekends can be for so many of us. I cannot speak to all of the above categories because I haven’t experienced many of them. But I can speak to those of us facing Mother’s Day alone, with no one to tell us to sleep in and bring us breakfast in bed.

There are articles floating around about how not to be disappointed with what you do or don’t receive on Mother’s Day. There are articles telling us what Mother’s DO want for Mother’s Day. Every opinion or thought about how to celebrate Mother’s Day right and well for your situation is out there.

I steeled myself for sad feelings to overwhelm me this weekend but I sat out on my back deck this morning and watched my children play in the backyard and I felt at peace.

My beautiful children who trust and love me enough to call me Mommy…the children who depend on me to care for them, love them, provide for them, be a safe place for them…it’s really what Mother’s Day is all about. What an honor it is to be their Mother. What a privilege to have these amazing little people in my life.

Logan, my eldest – the one who made me a Mommy for the very first time. I am watching you grow into a man. You are my right hand in so many ways. You are always willing to help me around the house or with your younger brothers. You are such a loving sibling who has taken on the role of big brother better than I could have ever imagined. I am so proud of you.

Beckett, my almost 4 year old. You came into this world 9 days later than you were supposed to but you have been such a joy ever since. A calm baby who seemed content to just watch the world around you, you have morphed into a curious preschooler with an appetite for learning that is hard to quench. You have questions about everything. Although you can be stubborn and strong willed, you have a joy that is hard to contain. One Volume Beckett is what I call you – always loud and the most extroverted child I’ve ever known with THE most infectious cackle laugh to boot. I am so proud of you.

Declan, my toddler. You have tipped me upside down since the day you were born. You have made me question and doubt everything I ever thought I knew about being a parent. You are so bright, so much quicker to pick up things than your older brothers ever were! You learn fast, and you want to do everything just like a big boy. You love music and I have so much fun listening to you sing and watching you dance. Yours has not been an easy ride so far, and I am so proud of you.

Lilia and Harper – my two girls I have not yet met. Lilia, I know I will meet you someday and I think of you often. My first daughter, your name means ‘what belongs to me belongs to God’ and though you were never born you have left a mark on this family and on my heart that will never be erased.  I am so proud of you. Harper, you are growing inside of me and have been one of my most active babies! It is amazing to feel you moving and getting bigger and I am trying to cherish these moments with you in the midst of the chaos. You will be born into circumstances I am still unsure of, but I know you will be a blessing. I am so proud of you.

While I can’t say that I wouldn’t love to be able to sleep in tomorrow and have someone shower me with flowers – I CAN say that I know someday, I will be able to sleep in again. Those tiny voices that wake me up with the sunrise will be gone from my home and I will be celebrating Mother’s Day with a phone call.

It’s easy to feel that your Mother’s Day celebration should look like everyone else’s, but I have begun to realize that if I expect my life to look like the lives of others I am forever disappointed. My life is my own, it belongs to me and it is a beautiful story being woven together by the Creator of the Universe. It’s painful and messy at times, but it’s also full of joy and laughter and toddlers and preschoolers and teenage boys.

Tomorrow I will wake up and go about my day like it is any other day. But I will remind myself that my race isn’t yet finished. Keeping my gaze focused on eternity, I know my moment of rest and celebration will be glorious and rewarding.

For all of you struggling this Mother’s Day I leave you with Philippians 3:13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead” We can all find hope in that, right?

Sinking

Back in 2007 (ish) I first heard the song How He Loves. (If you’ve ever felt really, really angry with God, you should totally check out that link by the way) It was during this song that I prayed to receive Christ for the first time.  I was moved to tears by the lyrics, by the imagery, and by this verse in particular – 



How beautiful a concept is that?  

Todd and I try to make it a priority to see the ocean once a year, and I am never more in awe of God’s creation as I am when I stare out at the ocean.  The vastness, the expansiveness, the beauty of it  – it’s magnificent and inspiring and awesome.  

Hearing that verse, and imagining God’s grace in that way was – and still is – an incredibly powerful way for me to view Him.  To know that He is a God that offers all encompassing love, all encompassing forgiveness, all encompassing compassion.
English theologian Richard Sibbes once said, “There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.”

Don’t you just love that?

It’s easy to keep score.  In our own lives, in the lives of others – to pull out that invisible little checklist we all secretly keep in our heads.  To record a black mark when we screw up, when our friends screw up, when people we trust screw up.  And if you’ve been immersed in a religion or culture that pushes works as a value over grace, that’s a hard habit or thought process to get past.  

But the truth is we ARE all sinners, each and every one of us.  And the even greater truth is that God knows us intimately and He still offers each one of us that all encompassing, as big as the ocean kind of grace, love and forgiveness.  

One of the things I love most about being a parent is the real life glimpse I get into what God’s love must be like.  

I’ve held, nursed & cared for 3 newborns in my life and here’s what I know.  Babies need their mothers. There is something primal about a newborn’s need to be held close by a mother.  In the last 10 days of Declan’s life, I have observed – again – how he is most easily calmed simply by me stopping what I am doing to nurse him, tuck him inside my shirt for a little skin to skin time, or wear him in a wrap close to my chest.  

In Isaiah 49:15 it says:

       “Can a woman forget her nursing child
           And have no compassion on the son of her womb?
           Even these may forget, but <span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(A)”>I will not forget you.

16           Behold, I have <span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(B)”>inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
          Your <span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(C)”>walls are continually before Me.”

I love the imagery in this verse – how God compares His love to that of a mother and then takes it a step further by explaining that even if a mother’s love fails her child, His love will not. His love never fails, He will never forget us and He will never give up on us.  

How powerful is that?  How incredible a promise to consider.  It’s hard for me even comprehend that, because the love I feel for my own children is a crazy big kind of love and God’s love is bigger.

There aren’t many times in life that ‘sinking’ could be thought of as a positive.  If you’re sinking, it’s usually a bad thing.  But sinking into God’s grace, into His love can offer you peace and rest.  It can and should calm your fears, your uncertainty and your guilt.  Sink into it and embrace it.  Offer it to those around you.

And remember the promise that God has given you – He knows you more intimately than a nursing mother knows her child and He has inscribed you on the palms of His hands.  He will not forget you.  

  




World Changer

My mom posted this video to Facebook.  It’s worth a few minutes of your day if you’re a woman, know women, have a daughter, a mother, a sister…

But if ain’t nobody got time for that – there’s a part in the video where he talks about strong and courageous women in the bible.

He says,  “Esther, Ruth, Martha, Mary – These women changed the world forever.  And inside of each and every one of you is a woman with that same power, and that same strength, and that same world changing capability and your responsibility is to find that woman and to set that woman free.”

I stopped for a second to consider what it means to be a world changer.

After all, these days, I’m a woman who can barely make it through the day with her emotions intact.  I’m huge and pregnant, tired and sore, achy and exhausted from 9 months of tossing and turning and 3 weeks of a toddler who is on sleep strike.

And it’s more than that.  Since the day Todd & I got married, behind every nook and cranny, around every corner of our lives I feel like one or both of us have been putting out fires. Ministry, a blended family, raising children, unexpected pregnancy, pregnancy loss, pregnancy after loss, financial stress, personal tragedy, family tragedy – at times I feel like life will not let up.  Like God will not let up.  I know pretty much anyone reading right now can identify.  We are no different than you.  Ever hear about spiritual warfare?  Some days I feel like Satan has an arrow pointed directly at us.

With all that going on – how can I be a world changer?

And then I remembered two stories – I remembered two moments in my life where I felt God speaking directly to me.

I’m not the kind of person who has those types ‘interactions’ with God.  I have faith and I work on my relationship with Him – but I’m not having experiences where I HEAR him very often.  So these have stuck with me.  The first involves sitting in a church service and God whispering something to me that told me I was to marry Todd.  It’s personal and it’s not a story I share often but I knew Todd would be my husband from pretty early on in our dating relationship.  It actually even involves one of those world changing women from the bible that was mentioned earlier.

The other time was one night, not long after we’d gotten married.  Like I said – we’ve had a rocky go of it.  The beginning was tough.  I never believed in a fairy tale romance or wedding or life – I’m not that kind of girl – but I was not expecting the battle to be raging from the moment we said “I do”.  And no lie – family tragedy occurred the night before our wedding.  So one night, I remember lying in bed crying out to God for relief, for understanding, wanting to know why.  (You guys see I do this a lot, right?)

I was confused.

He told me marrying Todd was the right thing to do.  So why were things so hard for us right from day one?

I have since learned that very rarely is doing the right thing the easy thing.

But on that night, God made something very clear to me about marriage.  Anyone reading this that has been married for a long time will probably already know it.  But it was a revelation of sorts to me.

He told me that marriage was not designed to make me happy.  Marriage was given to us because it’s one of the most perfect ways to learn to become like Jesus.  My job as a wife and mother would be to mirror Jesus in my day to day dealings with my husband and with my children.  To view these precious gifts from God the way that He does.  Unconditionally loving, patient, understanding, and unbelievably filled with grace.

CS Lewis said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you”

This has been a challenge that I have remembered OFTEN in my marriage.  To look across the dinner table at the faces that join me there and see them just like Jesus does.

I promise I haven’t gotten off on a tangent here.  What I’m trying to say is – that right now, in this season of life – my ability to be a world changer happens right here, in my home.  It happens at the dinner table, in the car with my kids, in late night conversations with my husband.  It starts with hugs and kisses and smiles and reassurance that these people who share my life are loved by me, imperfections and all.

Am I perfect at this?  No.  Am I even good at it?  Probably not.  No one ever said being like Jesus was easy.  And it’s not.  But it IS something I remember often and try to put into practice as much as possible.  To change MY world – the little world inside my four walls – as best I can.  And as a result, these people that I pour into on a daily basis can take that outside these four walls and start a domino effect that just might change the world.

So if being a ‘world changer’ overwhelms you, start with a spouse.  A child.  A friend.  Pour into them, see them as Jesus would.  Change your heart and it WILL change the world.