The silent scream that slapped me into now

A two year old almost drowned… right in front of me, today.

She wasn’t my own; nor was I looking after her. But she was still right in front of me- in my direct line of eyesight.

I could have- should have– seen it. I could have- should have– caught it. But I didn’t….

Her mom did, thankfully in time.

As her mother gasped, I looked down. I could see her there, sitting under the water, paralyzed and unable to move. Her eyes were bug-eyed wide and open- staring back at me.

They had a desperate plea about them, silently screaming “Help me. Do you see me?!”

But I didn’t.

I had no idea a child was drowning right in front of me- less than a foot away.

I’ve held this notion for a while now – that we hear danger and accidents as they happen. That if anything should happen to my daughter, I’d be aware of it, because I’d hear it.

But today proved otherwise. 

It happened in an instance- in silence and I was completely unaware.

So was her mother, for a time.

I couldn’t shake the thought all day. I tried not to personalize the experience – to make it about me– but the whole thing spoke clear:

Kailey, wake up. Be alert. Things happen in an instant and if you’re not paying attention – if you’re distracted by your phone or even your thoughts- you’ll miss it.

All love begins with the act of paying attention. Stay here. Remain in the present moment.

I’ve watched social experiment videos, where people stage child abductions … many times, right in front of their parents eyes. I’ve read blog posts about children who drown or run into traffic… many times, right in front of their parents eyes.

And I’ve judged.

I’ve made sweeping assumptions about what kind of parents they were or how they were choosing to spent their time, rather than watching their children. [insert exaggerated huffing sounds of disapproval]

Then today, I was that person! 

I wasn’t on my phone. I wasn’t even having a conversation. There was no multi-tasking happening! I was sitting quietly on a pool step, observing my thoughts, when I failed to see a child drowning- right in front of my eyes.

It was far too easy and quick.

Evil may have had it’s way with her, but praise God, it didn’t. Her mom caught it in time. She is safe and very much OK.

But the fact remains: her story could have ended differently- perhaps, in just a few more seconds.

I’m one week into a four week sabbatical – a break from all work – plus, a digital detox. And so far, I’ve realized how often I’m tempted to pick up my phone; to numb out and distract. Without my phone, I see too, how tempting it is to numb out and distract- to instead, choose my day dreams and my thoughts, rather than my present moment… especially when I’m angry, worried, in shame or simply bored with what’s in front of me.

Time and again I’ve caught myself.

This present moment thing is harder than I thought!

But I want it- I want to make a habit of it….not only for joy’s sake, but for prevention’s sake, as today taught me.

It’s not my responsibility to save every child. I also can’t protect my own from everything. But it is my job to be responsible – to do what I can, to hedge her from protection. And that includes being present: not just with my hands. Not just with my eyes, but with my thoughts and my attention.

My intention, this present moment. 

Lord, Help me.

 

 

Pregnant and filled with worry | My Pregnancy and Birth Story

When I found out I was pregnant I was ecstatic – over joyed to be exact. But shortly after the initial high wore off I become worried, then anxious, then scared and sometimes terrified.

Was I going to miscarry? When should I tell people we’re expecting? How should I do it? What will people think? Is my husband as excited as me? Oh Gosh, what’s life going to look like? 

Am I going to be a good mom? How will I know what to do? Will I ever feel ready or like I have it all together? Wait. What’s going to happen with my work? How will I manage a business and a baby? When do I take mat leave? When do I start getting the house ready?!?!?

And on and on and on and on.

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I felt like the perfect storm of caffeine and adrenaline. And in my worst moments, like a crazy person content to walk down every terrible rabbit trail.

Fear and nerves consumed far too many days.

One of my biggest struggles was the fact that past 12 weeks, I could no longer walk more than a few minutes at a time, let alone run or workout. For a woman who’s struggled with body image issues and disordered eating for most of her life, this was breeding grounds for the devil to taunt me with thoughts of passing on my issues to my baby.

Measuring consistently small in the tummy and the funny looks from others when I told them how far along I was, didn’t help much either.

I battled thoughts of thinking it was my fault and that surely I was doing something wrong. Great… already I’m a bad mother! 

Then come 28 weeks, I woke up to blood. Baby was safe, but from that day forward we’d endure weekly ultrasounds to check on baby’s safety and discover each week something else “was wrong.”

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Did they know what? No. Could they give me anything more than guesses? No. It simply didn’t seem fair.

At 36 weeks, my water broke and we rushed quickly to the hospital. (Because they didn’t know what was wrong, I was advised to come as soon as possible.)

Everything possible raced through my mind and as I quietly clutched to my birthing plan, I had a sneaking suspicious nothing was going to go “just right.”

And boy, was I right. 

Within one hour, they found the root of every problem they’d discovered along the way. And only one small thing had kept them from seeing it… Blood work. They’d never drawn it!

Why? Because they didn’t ask me if I’d had headaches (which I had) or experienced dizzy spells (again, yes. Many times over). But I’m not the doctor and I didn’t think it anything other than dehydration, anxiety or low blood sugar. Go figure. 

[Friends, please take the initiative and tell your doctor every symptom you’re experiencing even if it seems perfectly normal. In pregnancy, even the smallest things can be indicators of something much bigger.]

Again, all I heard was, “my fault.”

We were rushed into critical care, assigned one to one nursing and was informed I had undiagnosed pre-eclampsia. They summoned me to labour in bed and informed me I was allowed no food or water, period, until this nightmare was all over.

 I was at risk of seizures or bleeding out and the baby’s heart rate was rather low. In the nicest and calmest way possible, they shared that they needed to get baby out for both of our safety.

I don’t think at the time I quite understood the severity of my situation and I applaud my medical professionals for that. They did nothing but make me feel safe and secure, when in reality there was much at risk.

They graciously humoured me while I persisted in having a natural delivery until the very last minute. It wasn’t more than mere minutes after receiving my epidural [24 hours in] that they told me my baby was in critical condition and they rushed me in for an emergency C-section. 

I woke up almost 10 hours later, completely drowsy with minimal recollection of anything. I had no idea my daughter was in the NICU and was as fragile as a china doll. And that’s exactly what she looked like.

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While lengthy, she was as petite as could be with no fat to hold her heat [initially she couldn’t be out of an incubator for more than 10 minutes at a time] and features that looked far from human – almost angelic. They insisted there had to be a cause; that while in gestational age she was near-term, her body was not. And so began the gamut of tests to determine yet another “problem” without an answer. 

While our daughter got passed from the NICU to paediatrics, I had my own issues to look after. My pre-eclampsia was’t getting better; ironically worse.

While I see now that it was a gift being in the hospital while my daughter was [as oppose to being discharged and having to drive back each day to be and feed her] at the time it did nothing but feed into my “bad mommy” guilt.

The baby nurses wanted me to be there around the clock to look after and feed my daughter, while my nurses insisted I stay in bed and recover or I’d never make it home to begin mothering. I felt pulled in opposing directions and shamed by the people that were supposed to be helping me.

Don’t get me wrong, my nurses were amazing and diligently advocated for both me and my baby, but I felt crushed by expectations that had me failing before I could begin. 

Are we starting to see a pattern here?

At every turn in my pregnancy and delivery journey there were no answers or rule books to follow. I had zero control and nowhere to place my trust in other than God…

and even that wavered on a minute by minute basis. It looked more akin to half-hearted “Jesus” pleas beneath my breath than anything “holy” or “good Christian like!” I couldn’t remember scripture for the life of me nor could I muster the energy to read my bible. I didn’t want to talk to people, ignoring the 85 text messages from people I love.

One week later, we all left the hospital with strict orders for my [painfully slow] recovery. And despite thinking the worst was behind me, I quickly realized it was only the beginning. From the marathon of labour, I entered the bootcamp of mommy hood, which I affectionately refer to as my “dark days.”

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I see now that my pregnancy was the beginning of a slow unraveling – of learning to surrender control to God one itty bitty step at a time.

And when people ask me how I managed? How I got through it with faith that’s strengthened, I can say only this: 

By the Grace of God. 

Because honestly, I did nothing. 

Sure, I guilted myself into praying. I tried to force myself to read my bible. I used breathing exercising when I was anxious and I tried to get outside everyday. I took lots of social media breaks but the sad truth is, underneath it all, I was still striving; still trying in my own strength to “keep things together” – to save myself! 

It wasn’t until I left the hospital that my faith was truly tested and every thing I knew about being a “good christian woman” shattered in a million pieces.

I went from being someone who studied diligently the bible each day to not opening it for weeks. From a woman who prided herself on prayer, to barely mustering more than single worded pleas. To keeping every sabbath holy and attending church faithfully, to disappearing from congregation until our daughter was six months old. We stopped going to small group and I hid from everyone I knew. I screamed at my husband, pushed him away and wrestled daily with this woman I hardly recognized in the mirror.

I was angry and hopeless and the only place that felt safe was alone with Jesus.

To everyone around me it looked like my world was falling apart but the truth was it was finally falling into place.

Jesus was at work refining me, stripping away the masks that were keeping me from being seen- and seeing him properly!

In those raw and vulnerable weeks of darkness, I sensed God’s presence like never before. I sensed his nearness, his forgiveness, his gentleness and most overwhelmingly, his love for me.

For the first time in my entire life, I was doing absolutely nothing and God was still delighted in me.

…completely unearned and entirely underserved.

And like a light bulb switch suddenly flipped, I believed with unwavering faith, that He actually likes me and thinks highly of me, even when I mess up or do absolutely nothing for him; even when I’m a big fat heap of ugly on the floor, who can’t get her emotional crap together!

When I least deserved his compassion, his mercy and his comfort, He lavished it upon me. He became my friend, my father and my saviour.

God took the chains of religion that I was waving high, broke them, shattered them, and taught me who He really is.

And my head knowledge of faith being about relationship, not religion, became heart knowledge for the vary first time!

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When it comes to changes in my life since Eden-Elle was born, I could seriously write a novel. Nothing looks the same, including my eyes, my heart and even my head. But I can sum it up like this:

Everyones pregnancy journey looks different. Everyones labour and parenting does too. But one thing stays the same:

Motherhood changes us in ways we can’t prepare for.

Our world topples when we hold that baby in our arms and suddenly, our priorities fall into place. Our eyes are opened, unveiled as if for the first time, to what truly matter most in this world.

 

And friend, I believe God will do this for you too.

It does’t matter what your journey looks like, how messy or unsure you feel, lean in to Jesus and he will meet you were you’re at.

 

Photo Credit: Yinger Wong (Maternity), Christine Pineaar (New Born), Wakefield Productions (Final Headshot)

 

12 ways to help women in grief or after bringing home baby

You might be asking why I chose grief and postpartum (bringing home baby) in the same post. Because for me, they were one in the same and I’m guessing I’m not alone.

And it was in this season that I learnt to accept help (reluctantly) but gracefully from the people I loved most. While difficult for me to embrace my weakness, I see now that it was my vulnerability and willingness to let others carry me, that make both my heart and theirs feel whole, connected and loved.

So if you know someone who may be grieving or perhaps has just arrived home with baby, here are a few ways to show them you care, courtesy of those who loved me well in my own season.

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12 ways to help women in grief or after bringing home baby

 

1. Deliver their favourite treat

For me that was a grande caramel macchiato from Starbucks with an oat bar. For her it may be something else. But a little dose of treat-a-cheer goes a long way at bringing a smile!

 

2. Take the dog out to go pee or for a walk

For some, Simple things like taking the dog outside can became an overwhelming ordeal, especially if they live in an apartment. It’s far more than just opening the door in your PJ’s! It’s an exercise in getting yourself dresses, possibly a baby and presentable enough to not scare people on your way down.
Quite honestly, there were days when I completely forgot about the needs of said animal until halfway through the day. My own needs were screaming louder and realizing my own forgetfulness made me feel nothing short of a failure and bad person. Help a woman out!

 

3. Have someone else answer the door

If you’re planning to drop things off, make arrangements for someone else to collect the goods. Better yet, leave them on the porch, giving them a heads up once it’s done and you’ve departed.

Some days, the thought of even hello was paralyzingly for me, let alone the thought of making small talk or having to muster up the energy to show my true appreciation.

 

4. Pick up and Drop off the laundry

My bet is that the laundry basket is bursting and everyone would appreciate a clean pair of underwear! She’s probably worn her favourite pair of pjs or loungewear for far too many days in a now and would love to continue without smelling!
So grab those clothes and do a couple loads for them! If possible, take them to your house and drop them off clean along with a special treat. See number 1!

 

5. Grocery shop but ask someone else for a list

In the midst of new seasons and grief, simple things can become overwhelming, even paralyzing at the thought. Not to mention that food is likely last on her radar at the moment.
If you know what they like, grab some groceries when you’re at the store next. If not, ask someone who would know whats needed, other than her.

 

6. Send encouraging texts and scripture – let them know you’re praying for them

When you’re knee deep in fear and isolated at home, you can easily slip into despair, doubt and hopelessness. Reach out with a word of encouragement, perhaps from your own encouragement. Let them know they’re not alone and you’ve got them in your thoughts.

 

7. Make your visit a work party

If you’d like to drop by and visit, plan to help out a little. Don’t ask; look around and just start doing something around the house. Vacuum, dishes, clean the bathroom! Heck my mother-in-law took to reorganizing my kitchen drawers with new racks and organization systems.

 

8. Deliver meals – freezer meals

Better yet, have them put out a cooler on the porch to collect them without any need to make small talk.

 

9. Share your experience so they know they’re not alone

I think grief and change surprises us. Even if we’ve seen others go through it, it’s a whole other ballgame when you’re in it yourself. The darkness can feel all consuming and the voices taunt telling you there’s some wrong with you!
And in the after math of pregnancy and giving birth, your hormones are running wild! Yes you’ve seen it in the movies and witnessed pregnancy hormones be the bait of endless jokes, but you feel “crazy” when you’re in it! No amount of ratiouslizing or fact can make the habit seem sane, even for a season. Let her know she’s not alone by sharing your personal experience. Give her space to laugh and be angry about how’s she’s feeling, assuring her it’ll pass and she’ll feel normal again soon.

 

10. Give them permission to just be and not acknowledge you or your efforts

There will come a day when they will, but right now, their life feels all consuming. You can bet your bottom dollar you’re making a difference, they may just not know how much until later!

 

11. Take the kids so they can enjoy a leisurely bath or shower

It’s the small things, people, like taking a shower without rushing or enjoying a hot bubble bath in quiet. So, if they’re comfortable with you watching their wee ones offer in persistence or just show up and run the water.

 

12. Commit to short and sweet

Last and most certainly not least; possibly the most important! If you say you’re coming for a quick visit, make it one! And don’t wait for them to [politely] kick you out the door.
For me, that equated to a 45 minute max before I was antsy to see them leave. If you want to stay longer, make yourself busy. See number 7.

BONUS

After publishing this post, I listened to an amazing podcast on God Centred Mom, where a woman battling stage 4 cancer shared ways people have blessed her socks off. A few things she suggested that I thought were worth adding:

 

13. Give her a foot rub

Or a back rub or whatever else might feel amazing!

 

14. Offer up whatever you’re good at and enjoy

Like decorating? Offer to set up their christmas tree or wrap gifts. Good at graphics? Design birthday or holiday cards. Perhaps write in them or address the envelopes and mail them for her. Like to organize? Tackle a project in the house for spring cleaning. Sell somethings on craigslist. Deliver parcels to the post office. No thing is too small!

 

15. Be specific – include your plans

It’s way easier to accept help when people are specific. “Hey, I’m going to target. Need anything?” streamlines the thought process much easier than, “I’m running errands. Can I pick something up for you?” Knowing you’re already heading there can make her feel less like an inconvenience.

 

16. If you offer, be prepared to help.

If you say no once, she’ll likely never ask you for help again because let’s face it, we all hate rejection. It takes courage to ask for help! So, if you reach out and offer to help, be prepared to make it work. If your schedule is not so flexible, or your uncomfortable with something they may ask, then be specific with what you’d like to help with.

 

And finally, remember…

Being there for people and helping sometimes requires sacrifice on our end. It’s not always convenient and flexible with our schedules.

 

Have you yourself experienced a hard season? Remember the mommy boot camp of bringing home baby? Share your ideas in the comment below!

Dear New Mommy in the Trenches

Dear New Mommy in the trenches.

I love you. Oh how I love you and know where you’re at.

I know how you’re so overwhelmed you don’t know where to start and how you’re knee deep in unchartered waters, hardly recognizing the woman in the mirror.

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But here’s the thing…

You’re not crazy and the array of emotions that seem never ending and uncontrollable are completely normal! Any normal person will feel insane with sleep deprivation and would hardly care about anything other than catching the next wink and making it through another day of  feed, play, sleep, repeat. And don’t panic when you can’t connect with any of the things that used to make you happy. This too shall pass!

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Yes, we all judged. We made assumptions and determined not to do this or that. But hear me when I lovingly say, we’ve all eaten crow and are humbled as we do everything we quietly scolded others for. We too dreamed of what kind of mom we’d be, but truth be told, you’ll likely throw every caution to the wind and be the mom you swore you’d never be.

Let go of expectations …of yourself and of your precious bundle; just ride the wave of everyday. Let come what may and let them guide the way. There’s no right way to hold them, to feed them or to soothe them. So don’t compare. You know your child best and your mommy instinct will kick in soon enough, if it hasn’t already! You’ll find it right there before you, the minute you tear up all the handbooks and burn your expectations. When you love the “don’ts” and revel in your weakness.

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You can cross check every mommy blog and harbour every opinion. But in the end its just you and them that need to be united. So stop googling long enough to be still for a moment, take note of your child, and ask yourself “what do I think they need?”  It’s like riding a bike. Sure you’ll get it wrong a few times, but after a while, you’ll start learning their cues and sounds, seeking a “Mommy well done!”

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Go ahead. Pat yourself on the back when you’ve found somewhat of a routine or identified the resemblance of a pattern, but don’t hold yourself hostage to it or get frustrated when the next day it dissipated. Because just when you think you’ve “got it” they’ll change, grow or have a fussy day. This doesn’t make you a bad mom! This too, is normal and there will come a time, when the change starts to slow down. For the time being, just lap it up… all of it. Every morsel of newness and unknown. Because hidden in the overwhelm and tiredness is beauty and joy so all consuming..

Hold them. Cuddle them. Rock them to sleep. Sleep with them. Don’t train them. Do whatever makes your mommy heart soar! This too, won’t break them and in mere weeks they’ll change their likes, yet again and by that time they may be too big to just lay on you. Plus, next time [if there is a next time] you’ll have a little running around, to steal your focus and sacred still moments. So saviour it, memorize it; every way their frame hugs your curvature.

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Savour the moments they’re awake. Play, laugh and study their every feature. This time is never wasted and soon they’ll be the minutes that pull you through. So sit, lay and lounge for hours. Know intimately lazy pajamma days that roll one into the other! Never again will you be able to do this, with zero expectations of you but to soak in your baby and harbour in your heart these new feelings of love, so overwhelming. And when those feelings of inadequacy creep in, tell them to stuff it where the sun dont shine.

advice for new moms

Its true. Little things will replace big things and accomplishments will consist of showers and days of no shed tears. But celebrate every first, regardless of how trivial or silly your old self would have scoffed at!

Take help. All the help you can get. From meals, to housework, to dog walks, feedings and everything in between. And don’t forget to take time for yourself. Ask someone to watch wee one so you can take a bath or enjoy a few extra ZZZ.

Eat, enjoy and thank your mommy body. Wear those scars and squishy spots with honour for they gave you lifes best gift. And as you look out the window and long to be “back at it,” know that day is coming and you’ll feel more grateful to be active and outdoors then ever before!

advice for new moms

You may feel disconnected in your marriage, even forget what you used to do and talk about for hours. You may long to return home just when you’ve been given the chance to date solo and wonder when those old feelings will return. But your marriage isn’t over and your flame isn’t broken. Time with soothe you back to a place where you’ll discover a new man, you’re even more in love with than before.

It may seem dark some days-  as if you’ll never feel like yourself again, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. There will come a day not so far away, just when you can’t take another day, that things will change. Your heart will shift and suddenly hope will bring forth light. In the mean time, hold onto the love, the smiles and the precious moments in between.

advice for new moms

And hold onto God, talk to him often and thought out the day, even if it’s mumbles or single pleaded prayers for help. Don’t feel guilty or scrutinize yourself if your faith looks different right now! No matter what they say or how they look at you, you are not back sliding! This new season will look different and you will crave things you may not have for years or cling to beasts you banished years ago, but it doesn’t make you a bad person. God is gentle with new mothers and he is SO PROUD of how you’re doing! Just think: the way you feel about your bundle of joy, he feels JUST THAT for you. I bet more!

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So when you feel all alone and like you’re the only one experiencing this chaos, imagine me right beside you whispering these words.. grabbing your hand, looking you in the eye and telling you joy comes in the morning.

Love you my friend and praying for strength, rest, recovery and love all consuming!