Just a quick update.

IMG_0636.jpgI never take time to update when things are good.  Its not that I’m not grateful, its just that writing is how I process hard things.  When things are good, I don’t feel so inspired to take time to write it all out.  But, I know so many have partnered with us in prayer and I feel an update is in order.

The new jobs are so great.  Darren is home on the weekends.  Every.  Single. Weekend.  That alone has us over the moon.  The stability of a predictable and dependable pay check is pretty great too.  He is enjoying the work and the new friends he has made.  He has really been blessed with several strong Christian men on his crew that continuously build him up.  My job definitely has its crazy and unpredictable moments, but overall, the workload is light and we are figuring out how to maintain a normal life despite the unpredictability of being “on call”.  The financial security that these new jobs has offered is so incredibly freeing.  I was never discontent with our financial situation.  We have always had food to eat and a roof over our heads.  We have never gone without a necessity.  That being said, living in a constant state of not quite enough is stressful.  The last three months, there has been money left over after paying the bills.  No strategizing how we were going to make it stretch.  We aren’t wealthy by any means, but there is enough.  Enough is a very good feeling.

Enough has allowed us to afford some much needed things we had been putting off for months.  Its allowed us freedom to invest time in others by way of having them for a meal or taking them out for a meal.  Being able to take care of ourselves well, allows us to invest in other more fully.  Its so rewarding.

We have a plan to be debt free in a year.  That may be a lofty goal.  It may take us just a bit over a year as we needed a few months to get back on our feet, but we have a solid plan and its so exciting!  Just last month I paid off three medical bills we had been paying on for several years.  THREE!!  The debt snowball is rolling!!  We are working hard to find balance between allowing ourselves a little room to breathe, and building a financially secure state.

We are purging our belongings striving for a more minimalistic state of living.  Too much stuff leads to unnecessary stress.  Getting rid of the excess has been so freeing!  We hope to redecorate the house over time.  New pain, less clutter.  Ah…the thought of it just brings me so much calm.

Health wise, Levi and I are in a sort of holding pattern.  Due to our previous financial crunch, we put things on a bit of a hold.  Now that we again have health insurance, we have to get back to work.  I will be scheduling Levi’s urology appointment with Lurie’s.  For myself, I have chosen to delay further diagnostics to focus on self care.  Eating better, sleeping better, further reducing stress.  Eating has become really difficult.  Its not that I don’t want to eat, but I have no hunger (or thirst most of the time).   Eating causes nausea and an increased heart rate  which makes the passing out more likely.  The doctor thinks this may be due to some mineral deficiencies.  Ive lost quite a bit of weight so I’m really working hard to maintain and focus on eating well.  But at the same time, I don’t want diet to become a fixation.  Again balance isn’t easy.  Hopefully, some new supplements will fix me right up!  I’m getting very mixed advice from my local docs and having real trouble finding someone to step up and help me manage my care.  Its likely another trip to Cleveland will be in my future.  I’m just wanting to plan this trip well, making sure I see the right people and know what questions to ask.  Id also like to take Levi with me to see genetics to get the EDS3 diagnosis official for him.

Overall, we are just in a really good place.  There is so much excitement in starting new.  So much potential.  It feels like Darren and I are really starting to build the life WE want.  Filling it with things and people so intentionally.  We are discovering a sense of self and that’s empowering.  We hope that you will continue to pray Gods direction over our lives.  Specifically, it is our prayer that God will continue to provide us with ways to serve those around us and that we will be receptive to those opportunities.  We want to live intentionally in all things!

Lukie Turns One

garagesale-1309

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!

Thy Will

I’m so confused
I know I heard you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words

Thy will be done

I know you’re good
But this don’t feel good right now
And I know you think
Of things I could never think about
It’s hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that you’re God
And I am not
So

Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done

I know you see me
I know you hear me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness you have in store
I know you hear me
I know you see me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Good news you have in store

So, thy will be done

Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done

I know you see me
I know you hear me, Lord

Have you ever had a song that just pinged your soul? Stops you in your tracks, takes your breath away kind of moment?  Hillary Scott wrote it about a miscarriage she experienced.  Having experienced that myself, the first time I heard the song, I listened through sweet tears of agreement.  It sums up how I feel and felt so perfectly.  Ive enjoyed hearing it every time, like a new layer of healing is peeled away.

These last two years have been so intense.  Hard and beautiful and blessed and horrible all at once.  Its been so much to process and think through and attempt to understand and learn how to embrace.  Its been mountain tops of goodness and valleys of pain. There have been so many times where I have found myself on my knees giving back my desire for complete control to the Lord.  But, like any human, there are those corners of my heart that I dont give up so easily.

Since he first became sick at 12 months, Levi has been a very special burden.  I have known since that first fever, there was something just not quite normal about this child.  Doctors repeatedly tell us he is “fine”.  He is just a little outside of normal in many areas.  Ive always known they were missing something.  On the outside, he is a vibrant and healthy child.  He runs and plays in the mud like any other 5 year old boy.  On the outside, he looks fine.  But, if you know him well, you know there are many subtle things, like his inability to fight off a common childhood sickness without medical intervention,  or urinary incontinence, or the frequent unexplained ulcers on his face, that make him complicated.  Having the Ehlers Danlos diagnosis helps explain so much of these abnormalities, maybe even all of them.  But, without an Ehlers literate pediatric doctor, the detective work has been completely up to myself.  Always reading and researching and fighting to connect the dots.  Im exhausted.  Many days I feel like I cant take one more step on this journey.  We have made some huge strides in the last six months with diet and supplements and tongue tie revision.  Huge steps.  I rejoice in every win.  But still, there are big issues, like the incontinence, that simply cant be ignored any longer.

After seeing the new urologist last week, I was so excited to have a doctor that I feel will listen and fight with me.  Hallelujah!!!  But then, not having insurance for another month means waiting even longer for answers.  That means more medical bills on our already taxed budget.  Im afraid of what those answers may be.  There will very likely be some form of surgery, either to remove whatever is blocking the bladder from emptying or, on the spine or brain, if the problem is neurological, like we fear.  My heart breaks over needing to put my little Levi through anything else.  He’s done enough!  He’s been through enough!  I just cant.  Cant feel it, cant think about it.  Cant go on.  But, thats not an option is it?  I have to go on.  Go on pushing and fighting for answers and direction.  Go on driving to doctors here and there and running tests on this and that.  I have to push on until there are solid and clear answers.  I want to be able to hold my boy and not worry and fret and wonder.  I want to be able to rejoice in him playing and laughing and not wonder about what is going on in his body.    I need to allow myself to look past the problem, and see the boy.  Relinquishing that control completely, is a daily battle I fight with the Lord.  I want to hand him over and to understand that Levi is God’s son, not mine.  God has a plan for him.  He is not mine to control.  I try.  I speak the words and I try to own them.  I know the truth in my heart.  My human nature still fights for control, despite.

We were driving to Bloomington for what seems the 30th time in the last week, and I was thinking and mulling over everything as I drove. This song came on the radio.  At first I became teary eyed thinking about Hillary and her love for her unborn and understanding exactly how she felt.  And I listened, for probably the first time, to the words entirely. I was thinking to myself how well this could apply to other areas of my life.  My mind turned to Levi.  And then, from the back seat, I hear my Levi belting out the words with all of his might.  Singing, in that hoarse and raspy voice:

“Thy will be done.  They will be done.”

I had to pull the van over.  I sat there, on the side of the road, sobbing as he sang.  I cant tell you in words what happened exactly.  I felt a lightning bolt in my soul.  I couldnt breathe.  The tears flowed from a spot in my heart, so deep.  The Lord used that moment to break me.  Break me right in half.  Its as if this song is exactly my prayer for Levi and he used my sweet boy to answer me so clearly.  His plans are for him.  Goodness he has in store.  Ok Lord, I hear you.  Thy will, not mine.

I know you’re good
But this don’t feel good right now
And I know you think
Of things I could never think about
It’s hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that you’re God
And I am not
So

Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done

I wish I had the satisfaction of knowing that there is a happily ever after coming.  I wish I knew that all will be resolved and well in just a short time.  I wish I knew that the resolution wasnt major surgery.  I dont know that.  All I know, is that I have to keep pressing forward and remembering that even though I cant understand why I, and Levi, need to be broken for the fulfillment of Gods perfect plan, His plan is bigger than I can see. His plan is good.  He loves Levi more than I can.  He loves him eternally.  No matter the outcome, it is good.  I choose to have faith  in that.

Thank you Lord, for using a simple song to speak to me so clearly.  I hear you.  Thy will be done.

Two steps forward, three steps back

The stress lately…its eating me alive.  Being at work two days a week seems trivial, but when you have been home for the last year, its a difficult adjustment.  Going to work this time of year, makes it exceptionally hard.  The garden is overflowing and needs weeding and picking and the food I pick cant actually sit on the counter forever.  The corn needs to be picked and cleaned and put away for the year.  The applesauce to be made.  Then peaches and green beans.  The kids want to go to the pool and to the park and I need to catch up on adult things.  I want to spend every minute of the last of our summer soaking them up.  Finding balance is difficult.  Im so glad this is short term.

Monday, I was working hard to get caught up on all of the adult things I had been putting off, like paying bills and making phone calls.  It was about 11am and I was still in my nightgown.  The dog was being needy.  Whenever I dont feel well or he doesnt, he sits on my feet.  He attempts to have a seat even when Im trying to walk.  He had been doing this all morning.  I was feeling a bit under the weather so I figured that was the reason.  He kept going to the door and whining.  I thought he needed to go out.  I told Eva to open the door for him and let him out and I would get my shoes and go out with him.  As soon as she opened the door, he took off.  Down the street and into the corn field.  Gus is a runner.  He runs often and has a history of running far.  He always comes home.  It was hot, I knew he wouldnt be gone long.  I started walking down the road after him calling.  No sign of him.  I was in my jammies, so I decided to get dressed before looking further.  I noticed on my walk back that the cat was in the tree, where she often goes when scared, but didnt think much of it at the time.  I went in the house, threw on some clothes and got in the van and drove to the neighbors looking for the dog.  Again, no sign of him.  I couldnt really leave the kids alone, so I drove back down the road and parked the van, knowing he would come back eventually.  By the time I was in the door, he was back.  We opened the front door to let him in and I heard Eva gasp.  “He’s bleeding!!”  Now, Eva has a long history of being ridiculously dramatic.  I was expecting a small scratch.  My jaw hit the floor when I saw gaping holes.

I brought him in and put him in the tub to rinse him off.  The bleeding basically stopped.  I saw at least three puncture wounds and they were deep.  I knew the fact that they werent bleeding was not a good thing.  I called my brother in law and asked him to come over to help with the kids so I could better assess the damage.  Gus started hyperventilating.  The more I tried to rinse and see where he was hurt, the more worked up he got.  I knew if i persisted he was going to pass out.  I decided to take him to the vet.  I knew he was hurt worse than I could see, when he couldnt jump into the van to leave.  He loves van rides.  Normally, as soon as I get to Bloomington city limits, he is going nuts.  Whining and barking and trying to see.  This time, silence.  I kept talking to the back of the van wondering if he was still alive.  I was so relieved when we got to the vet that he lifted his head to greet me.  But no barking, no vigorous pulling or frantic sniffing.  he just laid there limp in my arms.  I knew it was bad.  The vet whisked him away immediately and told me to go home, he would call when he could sedate him and assess the full damage.

At 5pm, we went back to pick him up.   Now, I love Gus, he was my first pet and has always been my baby, but Im not one to get overly sensitive about pets.  He’s “just a dog” but when they brought him out to me on that stretcher and I saw how hurt he really was, I turned to a ball of blubbering mush.  Three bites, six areas of wounds, each area with several open puncture wounds.  Most of his coat was shaved to reveal over 40 staples, 6 drains, too many stitches to count.  He literally was lucky to be alive.

As I recounted the happenings of the day, I started putting pieces together.  Last week something tried to get a chicken.  Chicken made it, but she’s mostly naked.  Feathers all over the yard.  The cat has been very edgy and skittish the last few days.  Gus hasnt run away in months.  That day, he gave no regard to my calls and took off with intention.  He knew something was out there and he went after it.  He was sitting on my feet to protect me!  Cue the guilt.  I had been so mad at him for running and interrupting my day.  I didnt really need him, my little 30 lb puggle, to take on the coyote hidden in the corn, but he did.  Dogs can really teach us big lessons.  No matter how I ignore him or get frustrated with him, he is loyal to a fault.  So many big lessons there.  He’s just a dumb dog, but he loves me and us, despite anything.  So much so, that he will stupidly try to pick a fight he wont win.

Bringing puppy home was an ordeal.  The kids were so upset by looking at his wounds.  He was still very groggy from anesthesia and nippy and growly.  I discussed with the kids that the meds may make him very grumpy and to just let him be this evening.  When we got home, he was all nuzzled under the back seat of the van.  I couldnt wake him enough to get him out.  So, we sat in the van with him for 30 minutes waiting for Darren to get home.  He couldnt come at him from behind because he would bite and there was no great way to grab him without causing pain.  He couldnt get to him from the front without taking out all 4 car seats and moving the seats all over the van.  What an ordeal!  We carried him in the house and put him in his bed in the kitchen.  He laid there limp and groggy all night.  The next morning, I had to go to work, so left the kids and the dog with my grandma.  I had no idea how ruffled the kids were by the  whole ordeal until I got home.  Grandma said the kids were afraid of Gus being anywhere near them.  Afraid to get bit.  Afraid to hurt him.  Afraid of him in his cone.  Afraid he would get blood on them.  She pretty much held the kids all day.  Poor Grandma.  Im sure she was more than ready to go home!

Things have calmed down a bit now, except with Emma.  Poor girl is simply terrified of everything now.  Every noise and shadow has her on high alert.  Gus went back tot he vet since he hasnt eaten since Monday.  We had to be gone several hours today, so thought it best to leave him in the care of the vet so he could get his pain medicine on time and they could monitor his need for hydration.  Tomorrow he will go back to surgery to remove the drain and close those holes.  Im so happy for this.  The purpose of the drains is to keep the wound bleeding and healing appropriately.  But keeping the dog off of my carpet isnt an easy feat!

In the midst of all of this, we learned that due to Darren’s job change, our medical insurance ran out.  We had been attempting to sort this all out since he quit his job, but have been getting the run around.  We have the option of COBRA, but its very very expensive.  Levi was supposed to see urology at Lurie’s Childrens Hospital today.  We have waited months to get a referral and an appointment.  So we went and we paid for the visit out of pocket…all $320 of it.  OUCH.  But it was worth it.

The doctor took a very good history of the incontinence issues that have been developing over the last two years.  He was very concerned at the lack of work up our previous urologist did.  He was concerned specifically that he had been potty trained and has lost ability over time.  He noted some abnormalities on the VCUG from 4 years ago that the previous uro had thought was not significant.  He disagrees, and actually feels its a very significant finding and likely related to the Ehlers Danlos diagnosis.  We know, based on his physical exam and the “pee log” we kept over the last week, that he isnt emptying his bladder.  So, the objective is to determine if this is because something is blocking the urine from leaving the bladder or if there is a neurological issue.  It seems most prudent to move from a least invasive procedure to most invasive if needed.  So he ordered some simple non invasive tests to rule out obstruction.  But, here we are without insurance.  UGH.  So, do we purchase COBRA and do the tests now, with our previous policy where the deductible is met, or do we wait until September when the new insurance with the high deductible starts.  Either scenario leaves us with a huge out of pocket expense.  I also havent done the stress test or brain MRI I need.  So, the total cost is something to consider.

Just this morning, I was working on writing us a new budget, now that Darren and I have started our new jobs.  I had a plan to have us debt free in a year.  Key point there is HAD.  The amount of money we have paid out in medical bills in the last 5 years is astronomical.  Im very thankful for insurance.  Very.  But, I wish it truly made medical care affordable.  So, in the last week, my dog has had very expensive emergency surgery.  We have self paid a specialist and the eye doctor for three of us.  I paid off one medical bill and im fixing to acquire several more.   Im trying not to complain and be thankful that we do have access to care and well paying jobs.  I fully understand these are “first world” problems.  I know there are many, many with more financial barriers than what we have.  But, Im frustrated.  I want to get answers for Levi and for myself.  I want to get past all of this.  I want to be able to move on.  I want to find financial stability.  Seems you can have one or the other.  Answers or income.  Not both.

Sometimes you just have days when the weight of the world gets heavy and you just need to vent.  I need a minute to breathe and regroup and refocus and those moments are few and far between in a mom’s world.  Hence, why Im typing this at 1am instead of sleeping.  I know all of this will work out in time.  I know me worrying wont help a bit of it.  I know.  I know. Being patient has never been something I was good at.  I suppose God will keep giving me opportunities until I figure it out.

Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

 

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!

 

All The Feels

All the feels are getting to me today.  This has been a big month.  Im on overload.

Darren started his new job and its been great.  But its also required quite a bit of change here at home for things to run as smoothly as possible.  Being responsible for cooking dinner while managing 4 littles is a tad chaotic….ok, its borderline insanity.  Eva turned 7.  Seven!!!  How in the world is she 7?!  She is basically grown.  I kid, but really, she is so self sufficient.  She really is a tiny grown up in so many ways.  Levi is turning 5.  He’s no longer a toddler.  He is a little man.  He is testing those independence waters a little more every day.  I love to watch him.  I worried a long time he would never be independent.  But there he goes!  Lukas turned 9 months.  On my 29th birthday.  Very close to when our first angel baby would have been celebrating their first birthday.  For some reason, this all just felt so significant and beautiful and somber.  Lukie has healed my heart in ways I dont even have words to begin to explain.

Tomorrow I start my new job.  Getting through this hiring process has been a bit of a disorganized nightmare.  Very disorganized.  I had to call them, twice, to find out if I was even hired.  I accepted the job before I knew how much it paid, because no one seemed to have that information.  Then, I have had to make several calls to get requirements for orientation nailed down.  Finally, last Friday, I called again.  I was told to be at hospital orientation on Monday and to come Tuesday to the home health office for unit orientation.  They were to call me if there was any additional time needed.  Ok,cool.  Two days.  Two days away from the kids.  I can do that.  I started pumping ferociously to stock up enough milk for Lukas while Im away.  Any other time, that wouldnt be such a huge deal, but he’s been sick, and therefore, nursing constantly.  So sneaking in a productive pump has been a delicate balancing act.  I worked for months to decrease my supply to a manageable level.  Pumping now, and risking a possible increase seems like a scary prospect.  Monday night I get a call from the manager.  They are now requesting that I come to the Home Health office in Peoria 5 days a week from 8am to 430pm for a month.  EVERY DAY FOR A MONTH!!!  Uh…nope.  Cue full on anxiety attack.  No childcare, no milk, not ready, ahhhhhh!!!  So, once I regained composure, I called them back and advised them, that because I was not made aware of this requirement until 7 days before hand, even though I accepted the job in May, I would not be able to accommodate that.  Thankfully, they understood and we compromised on two days a week for a month.  Whew.

So, that should be all fine and dandy.  But, its not.  Emotionally, needing to be away two days a week is taking its toll.  Thats two days a week of my summer with Eva Im going to miss out on.  Thats two days a week that Im going to need to be away from Lukas.  It sounds so trivial when I type it out, but for reasons I cant fully explain, my heart feels its anything but trivial.  Lukas is my last baby.  I have been so blessed to be able to be the constant in his life.  our days arent rushed.  There is no required schedule.  Its just us, fluidly doing life as a connected pair.  This is a luxury I didnt have with the other kids.  I wasnt emotionally prepared to have to sacrifice a second of us.  You get to be “us” with your baby for such a very short time.  In the grand scheme of things its no big deal.  It truly isnt.  Thats eight days.  Eight days I get to go and do grown up things while my babies are cared for by loving family members.  Its all going to be fine; probably good for all of us.  But at the same time, its just not fine.  I wish I would have known in May.  I would have had time to adjust to the idea.  But who am I kidding, it probably wouldnt have made a difference.

Monday is also Levi’s 5th birthday.  I promised myself I wasnt going to miss any more birthdays.  I hate that I cant be with him on his birthday.  He wont care, he will be with grandma and she will make him pancakes and all will be well in his world.  Pancakes and grandma are two of his favorite things.  But, my heart is breaking over it.  *I* want to make him pancakes.  I want to celebrate his day with him.  I want to bear hug him when he wakes up and sing happy birthday. Me.  The whole purpose of a work at home job is to not have to miss out.  I promised myself I wouldn’t miss any more birthdays.

The kids are anxious.  They hate the idea of me going back to work.  They dont understand that this wont require me to leave them after this month.  All they know is they want me here.  I never thought working weekends was an issue for them.  I was here all week and they had daddy all weekend.  But, when I told Eva I took another job, before I could even explain what that entailed, she was in tears.  “I dont want you to have to work, Mama.  I want you home.  Please dont go.”  The little ones act like once I leave, Im never coming back.  All the memories of all the mornings I peeled clingy babies off to go to work against my will come flooding back.  I promised myself those days were over.  Knowing Lukas has been sick makes leaving even harder.

I realize that you cant just start a job.  There has to be some training.  I knew there would be some time away needed.  My brain gets it.  Its my heart that cant get with the program.  I realize that this job is going to be a tremendous help to my husband and our family.  I know this is a necessary step to a better future.  I know.  Im glad to do it.  Im even excited to do it.  I miss being a nurse terribly.  But, at the same time, Im selfishly grieving going back to work.  Even if the going is only for a very, very short time.  After this month, Ill be working from home and I will be here…and probably wishing I could go in the office for some peace and quiet!

Change is hard.  Even when change is good and necessary.

We are going to celebrate Levi’s birthday today.  Lukie is doing quite a bit better with the breathing treatments.  I have pumped enough milk to cover these first two days.  Its all going to be ok.  But I still may shed a few tears between now and tomorrow night.  I just love my babies so much it hurts sometimes.

Isnt motherhood the most conflicting state?  You beg and beg for a second to yourself and then when the times comes, you grieve the second lost.  Its no wonder we moms are half nuts.  Our hearts and our brains have no idea how to communicate!

So if you think of me tomorrow…blubbering in a pumping room missing my babies…say a quick prayer for me to get my act together!

Coffee with a side of grace

Its 6am and I finally got everyone asleep….from last night!  Its nights like this that leave me to question our decision to have 4 kids 6 and under.  “Who’s idea was this?!” I half jokingly ask my husband. Of course, he responds with “Im pretty sure it was yours” as he yawns and starts the coffee pot.  This stage of life is hard.  Its teething and diapers and dinner struggles and not being able to go more than two minutes without someone needing me.  Its physically and mentally and emotionally exhausting.  So much work and so little immediate reward.

No one slept last night.  The three year old had an ear ache and was in our room every half hour or so.  The baby had a stuffy, snotty nose and cried most of the night because he couldnt suck his fingers – his usual way to self soothe.  One child wet the bed.  One child woke us up to let us know it was still dark out; wondering if it was the middle of the night, or if the sun forgot to come up.  At one point, my husband took Emma back to her bed and never came back to our room.  I figured he went to the couch to catch some sleep since he had to be up early for work.  But, when his alarm went off at 430am, I went to find him, and there he was, asleep, while still sitting on the side of Emma’s bed.  You know you are exhausted when you can sleep sitting up!

Its 6am and I already have over 1000 steps in according to my fitbit.  I must have walked a mile or more pacing the bedroom floor bouncing the baby.  My app says I slept one hour and 15 minutes.  Im tired.  So. Dog. Tired.  The kids will be up in an hour.  They will want breakfast.  I promised them I would make banana muffins last night.  There will be pee sheets to launder.  The garden needs my attention before the rain comes.  The sink is full of dishes.  There are bills that need to be paid and appointments that need to be made.  The diaper count is getting low, which means a trip to town is in order.  Which means lugging 4 kids through Target.  The baby will decide that he needs to nurse as soon as we get in the checkout line.  Emma will need to pee, as soon as I start putting items on the belt, even though she declined the need right before we got in line.  We will check out and go potty and feed the baby and right when I have all of the groceries loaded and everyone buckled in their car seats, Levi will need to poop. Then, we will need lunch out, because they will starve to death if they dont get fed right at noon.  Its a variation of the same, every time we leave the house.  They are good kids,  actually very well behaved, but there are 4 of them and one of me. Being in public is just exhausting.  And if the thunder comes, like the weatherman says it will, I can guarantee, my afternoon will be spent telling 4 kids over and over that they are safe and they dont have to be afraid; Ill tell them over and over and over while they all crowd in my lap.  Dinner will be late because they wont let me out of their sight to go and cook it.  Just thinking about it all makes me even more tired.

They tell me Im going to miss this.  Deep down, I know they are right.  But, in this moment, I cant help but dream of the day when I can make that Target run, alone, latte in hand, with no time constraints. Right now, I dream of uninterrupted sleep and conversation.  Right now, I just want to shower without someone barging in demanding a sandwich.  I want to be able to leave home and not worry about if the baby has enough milk.  I want to eat a meal without having to stop to wipe someones rear.  I’d like to remember, what its like to sleep next to my husband.  This day will come, some day I wont be so needed.

Its 7 am and I hear pitter patter feet coming down the stairs.  I sigh, because its time.  That sigh is tired and ragged, but when I see that messy haired, finger sucking, blankie holding little turd…that same little turkey that had me up half the night, I smile.  I love her; so much its hurts me.  I love this time in my life.  Its hard.  Its so stinking hard.  But, Its also the most fulfilling and blessed and full of joy.  I swoop her up in my arms and take a long, deep smell of her hair.  I think to myself ‘I wish these days would never end”.  Isnt motherhood the most confused state?  The same mom that was just yearning for quiet days to come, in now relishing in the very thing she wants to escape from.

Today, I will need a whole lot of coffee and Jesus to make it through.  Im going to admit that Im tired and give myself some grace.  Im thinking an afternoon full of too much TV and chicken nuggets for dinner.  Im going to allow myself not to get caught up in the guilt of not savoring every single moment.  Thats not realistic.  Some days, motherhood is just plain hard.  Its ok to admit that.  Some days, the best thing I can do, for my family, is admit that Im only human and take a break.  So here’s to coffee, grace, blanket forts, too many movies and finger foods for dinner in the living room…and hopefully an early bed time for all.