Lukie Turns One

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Tomorrow, my baby turns one.  I cant really wrap my head around that, because, it seems, that he was just born.  I know thats something everyone says, but its exceptionally true this time.   I feel like Im just coming out from under that new baby fog and now he’s so grown!

I love watching him grow.  Every day there is something new that we make him do over and over a hundred times, because we all just think this baby hung the moon.  But, with every new milestone met, there is a hint of sadness, knowing that its the last first, for this family.

I have 4 beautiful children.  They are my world.  Thats the problem.  I have no idea how to be without a baby on my hip.  For as long as I can remember, there was always a baby.  It started when my youngest brother was born.  I was 9, almost 10, and he was mine.  I know now, how crazy I drove my mother trying to be his mama, because I now have a little mama of my own.  As he grew, there were church kids and neighbor kids to fill my arms.  And then there was our Eva.  If I could go back in time, I would go back to when she was tiny and I would relive every one of those moments and commit them to memory much better than I managed to.  I would tell myself to go ahead and feel how good motherhood felt, even though it seemed my world was crashing around me.  My parents divorce, trying to figure out married life, trying to get careers started, buying and renovating a house.  We had so much on our plates.  By the time Levi came, we were established.  Motherhood seemed second nature.  Transition was easy.  But, as we dealt with his health issues, he developed a big resentment towards me.  “Mama makes hurts” he would say.  Now things with Emma were all around easy.  She was a delightful baby.  Always happy as long as she could cuddle.  Darren and I were both working and working too much.  Adjusting to three kids was intense.  By the time she was 4 months old, I knew I wanted to be home with her, with all of the kids.  I felt like, I got it right with her.  Things were so fluid.  I nursed her until she was almost 2.  We co-slept.  So in tune.  We were a unit.  And then back surgery and POTS threatened to take away my mobility.  I spend a good portion of her second year on the couch.

You could say, that there are things I wish I could change about each childs first year.  You cant go back in time, you can only move forward.

And then the miscarriages.  I knew that if there were another child, I knew, I wanted things to be so different.  I wanted life to be slower, more intentional.  I wanted to sink into the sweet newborn smell and really take it all in. I wanted to be so present in every moment.  Loss has a way of changing you completely so that you understand, so well, the things that actually matter.

When I found out I was pregnant with Lukas, I was so afraid.  I was afraid to get attached.  Afraid to plan.  Afraid to feel really.  I was in a sort of denial for most of the pregnancy.  I was just not sure my heart could handle losing him.  I wanted to embrace the pregnancy.  I wanted to  experience it all fully, but I just couldnt let myself.  I had hoped, through his birth, that I could find healing of sorts.  I wanted an all natural, empowering birth.  Nothing about it went as I had envisioned it.  That first look and first latch, I had dreampt of it for months.  I dreamed about how I would hold him and just love him so big because he was here.  Instead, I shook, too weak to hold him myself for some time.  Then there were after birth complications and pain.  And the babymoon I had dreamed of, coming home, well, that never happened either.  Instead, we were thrust into life as a family of 6, with a dad that wasnt present because when harvest comes, the farmer must go, ready or not.  None of it, none of it went like i had planned.

And through it I learned, that thats life.  I learned that being able to roll with the ups and downs of life was crucial to being able to actually enjoy it.  I realized that I had a choice to be miserable because nothing was going my way, or to make the best out of what I had. I had a perfect example of how to do that in my Lukas.  Ive never seen a baby as relaxed as he was.  Content to go here or there any time.  Content to be handled by this sibling and lugged around by that one. Content to just be held and be.

He and I, we quickly molded.  Our connection is strong.  Its so good.  He has healed my soul in ways I cant even put into words.  He has shown me, that I am enough.  Im not a perfect mother, but I am perfect for him.  To see those eyes look into mine, and feel his soft hands running up and down my arms while he nurses.  Its simply what feels like home.  Its not that I love him more than the other kids.  Of course I love them all so completely.  Its just that, I love him so much deeper than I knew how to love before.  Realizing that I couldnt take the gift of a child for granted, realizing that every pregnancy wasnt promised, realizing that my health wasnt guaranteed, all of these things have given me a new appreciation and understanding of just how precious his little life is.

I know, that Lukas will be the last child.  Its not what I want.  I want to continue living on this baby high.  I want to continue to have somewhere and someone else to put my focus on.  I want to continue to exist in this identity, the identity of a baby mom.  I have no idea how to function without a baby.  I want to continue to sit on this baby induced high.  I want another chance to perfect this thing called motherhood.  The days ahead are uncharted.  Its frightening.  Frightening, because I have no idea what Im doing.  Ive had 4 chances at being a baby mama, and I finally feel like I have it sort of figured out.

What it basically boils down to, is that im feeling like a child being pulled out a a candy store.  I know whats here is good.  I finally even know what candy I like best, and I dont want to leave!  But its time, its time to leave.  Change is frightening, because its unknown.  Its so easy to remain in your comfort zone, but remaining there, doesnt allow for growth.

So here is to the next stage.  The days of nursing and baby wearing and co sleeping and sloppy kisses and kissing boo boo’s, they arent gone, but they are numbered.  The days of being needed to tie shoes and button shirts are counted.  The last Ulrich is entering toddlerhood.  He’s growing up, whether his mama likes it or not.  And as he grows, Ill have to grow too and we will discover this new stage together.  ❤

Happy birthday, Lukas Abram Ulrich.  You complete us with your laid back personality and love to cuddle; with your ability to make us all laugh and your ornery attitude.  We love you so much!

To the working and pumping mom, I salute you!

I made it through the first two days.  **giant sigh of relief**

Monday, I was up at 4:30am.  I do much better with a 4:30am bedtime instead of wake time.  Ive grown a whole new respect for my husband who does this every day.  Mornings are not for the weak.  I probably sounds ridiculous, its not the first time I have ever gotten up early, but its the first time Ive done it since the POTS became so severe.  I was really worried that I wouldnt be able to do it.  The showering and rushing.  Showering is the hardest thing most POTsies do.  But I did it.  And by nothing short of answered prayers and the grace of God, I managed to keep my heart rate under 150 and did not pass out!  Other than being long and painstakingly boring, Monday was uneventful.  Lukas took less milk than he probably should have, but he took the bottle and also ate some food!!  He really hasnt shown much interest in solids at all up tot his point, so I was excited to hear this.  I was so worried he wouldnt take the bottle well, since He’s never really used one.  I came home, helped cook dinner, worked in the garden, made birthday brownies and celebrated my big boys birthday, put the kids to bed, did my other motherly duties and crashed.  HARD.

Tuesday morning was a bit rougher.  Thankfully, I didnt have to get up quite so early.  Lukas woke when I got up, so I had to get ready with a baby in tow.  You know you are winning mother-ship when you can nurse and blow dry your hair at the same time. Or put on mascara with a grabby 9 month old on your hip.  As soon as Lukas saw grandma come in the house, he knew mom was leaving and he started screaming.  Screaming like I have never heard him scream before.  I grabbed my stuff and ran out the door as fast as I could before he got too upset.  I could still hear him screaming, from outside, as I got in the car to leave.  I realized, later that morning when I went to pump, that in my haste I had only grabbed my pump, but no parts.  Cool.

So, Its my first day at a brand new department.  I have no pump.  Im wearing an unlined, underwire bra.  All I can say is THANK JESUS, I had a jacket to cover up my unfortunate lumpy and  drippy chest.  I spent my entire day silently praying that no babies would cry within a 5 mile radius of me. I knew the waterworks would certainly ensue.  I made it though the day, uncomfortable, but dicreet…at least I hope no one realized how ridiculously tight my shirt was when I left…until I came home and saw my baby and immediately leaked about 100 ounces all over everything and everyone.   I spent last night with my baby and my heat pack fighting off a clogged duct.  Why do I even own an underwire bra?!  Cursed thing.

Im sure about half the people reading this are wondering why in the world I would share these details with anyone.  Welp, this is real life.  This is what its like to be a working, pumping mother.  A mother does not stop being mom just because she leaves her children in someone else’s care.  She just adds another hat onto her already full hat rack.  Ive been a working mom and Ive been a stay at home mom, and both are very differently so hard and both definitely have their own set of perks. But perhaps, the most challenging of both, for me, has been being a working and pumping mom.

In theory, working and pumping is no big deal.  Every few hours, you sneak away for a quiet 15 minutes alone, pump a little while you peruse Facebook and then carry on with your day.  Some days, its exactly like that.  But many days, Its worrying when you can take a break, trying to type over your flanges while you pump, coming back to 15 voicemails that accumulated while you were away.  Its forgetting pump parts at home and dealing with leaks and clogs.  Its forgetting that the dress you wore today offers no access except to take it off, so you sit in that freezing office in just your underpants, hoping and praying no one walks in.  Its worrying you wont make enough or scrambling to find something to store the milk in when you pump too much.  Its scheduling and planning every pump and feed to maintain that perfect balance between your baby needs and your body’s needs and your jobs needs.

Im no stranger to pumping at work.  Ive done it through three kids already.  One might say Im an old pro!  But, truth is, even though Im experienced, its still hard.  When I get home after a long day, I dont want to wash bottles and pump parts.  I dont want to take inventory to make sure all I need is in the bag.  I dont want to get up 30 minutes early to get in a pump before I leave.  I get tired of counting ounces in the freezer and calculating how much milk baby needs for the day.  Im lucky that all of my kids have adjusted flawlessly from breast to bottle.  Many moms dont have that luxury and deal with bottle preference and nursing aversions.  Truth is, pumping goes smoothly for me compared to so many.  Im able to pump enough, Im able to feed without difficulty when I get home.  I know so many work so hard and struggle so hard to make sure their babies are nourished while they are away.

This is all short term for me.  In a few short weeks, Ill pack that darn pump up once again, hopeful to never see it again!  But, to all of you long term working and pumping moms, I salute you!  I want you to know that your sacrifice is amazing!  Juggling babys needs, your own and your jobs needs deserves promotion to super hero status.  I resonate with you, in the dog days of pumping, when you are sitting naked in the office, cold and teary eyed because you are missing your sweet little ones first coos or first steps.  Ive felt that feeling of accomplishment when you pump six extra ounces for the day and Ive felt that feeling of panic when you come up six ounces short.  When your co workers snarl at you because you get six “leisurely”  breaks a day, you smile back with pride, knowing you are doing what is best for your baby.  When your boss asks for the 100th time if you are close to weaning, I hope you feel strong and empowered to tell him just how it will be.  When you are walking around work with that wet stain on your chest, or spill spot on your pants, I salute you.  Every pumping mom takes that walk of shame at some point.  When you spend your entire lunch break pumping only to spill it, my heart goes out to you.  When you forget your pump bag in the car Friday night and find a whole days work spoiled on Monday, I cry with you.  I rejoice with you, at the end of the day, coming home and throwing that soggy, milk stained bra on the floor.  There truly is no better feeling!!

No matter what your pumping journey looks like, you, my fellow pumping mama, are awesome.  Whether its half and ounce or twenty ounces, you made that for your baby and that is an accomplishment.  Here is my salute to you.  May your pumping days be productive, your milk never spilled, your pump bag fully stocked and your shirt always dry!  Pump on, my fellow milk making, working mama’s!