Dear Emelia

I can’t believe this day is here – today you are one year old.

When you were in my belly, I wondered what you would be like. I wondered what color eyes you’d have, how big you would be when you were born, and what your voice would sound like. I wondered if you’d be quiet and thoughtful like me or loud and outgoing like your daddy. Most of all, I wondered what it would be like to be your momma.

I didn’t know what true love was until I met your daddy. I never wanted us to be apart. I wondered if anyone else in the world had what we had – if anyone felt as happy and safe as I did. This past year you gave me the gift of motherhood – an adventure that stretches me every day. You have taught me what real selfless, unconditional love is. Each day I let go of my selfish tendencies and tend to your needs. Thank you for giving me a reason to become a better me.

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You’re still so little and new to the world, but I look up to you. You’re adventurous, resilient, fearless and fun-loving even in the midst of experiencing some of your first life challenges, like learning how to self-soothe when you’re in your crib and I’m not with you, or getting through the pain of a double ear infection and teething!

Baby girl, in this world, you may not always feel happy or successful, because its portrayal of what it means to live a fulfilling life is so incredibly skewed. Sometimes you may feel overwhelmed or sad or scared. Don’t worry, sweetheart. We have a God who is bigger than our deepest heartaches and our worst pain. He sacrificed Himself for us so that we may live. Life doesn’t end here. He gives us a chance to live with Him forever. I know it’s confusing, but I will do my best to teach you about Him, because it’s the most important story I will tell you. It’s a true story, and I will tell it over and over again.

From the moment I found out I was pregnant with you, I began to pray the same prayer every day. That my deep love for you would be a reflection of Christ’s love. I hope you will always feel loved because my love for you is boundless, wholehearted, and unreserved, but I know it is a mere star in the sky of unconditional, patient, kind, and eternal love your Heavenly Father has for you.

Thank you for making your daddy and I smile each day. You love to dance to Michael Jackson and your favorite toys are your books and stuffed animals. We love your messy kisses and warm cuddles. Your first word was “uh oh” and you have begun pointing at things, waiting for us to name them for you so you can try to sound them out. You are going to be walking any day now. We love watching you grow and thrive!

Every morning I wake and am amazed and thankful that I get to be your momma. I will never leave you!

With lots of love,

Mommy

The Now is Where I Will Always Be

In Rhode Island, the church we served at blessed us with an opportunity to live in a parsonage. They cleaned it up and remodeled it for us. It was the most charming house I’d ever seen. It was in a quiet neighborhood, at the end of a cul de sac, and just perfect for us. My favorite room in the house was the mud room. It was a step down from the kitchen. It had windows into the living room and kitchen and doors leading to both the front and the back of the house. One of the walls had the back of the fireplace, bricks lined up floor to ceiling. I claimed it. I put my desk in front of the large window that faced the front yard and driveway, and it’s where I wrote my short stories for my thesis.

During the long winters, I would take breaks from my writing and stare out the window, cursing the cold. I was anxious to see the sun and feel warm again. The cold took a toll on my body, and I spent a lot of time curled up on the couch in pain. I wished the winter away. I was impatient. I distinctly remember sitting at my desk one afternoon and getting a glimpse of the sun for the first time in months the first winter we spent in that house. I looked up from my computer and saw the outline of leaves on the paved driveway. There were specks of gold fluttering on the ground, and I jumped out of my seat and ran outside. Finally. It was all coming to an end. There was an end in sight. Spring was on its way. I spent the next few months taking breaks from my stories to take walks. I’d take my shoes off and walk up and down our driveway barefoot while Mike watered the vegetable garden nearby. But as the summers would start to end, and I’d see the first leaves change colors and fall to the ground, I would become eager to see the first snow. I’d wish the summer away. I’d hold onto the hope that soon enough, I’d see the first snowflake float from the sky and get lost in the strange and peaceful quiet the white blanket of snow would bring. I was always anxious for the next season, impatient with time.

Just yesterday I found myself rushing outside barefoot. I paced around the pool, enjoying the warmth permeating my feet. I guess it’s how I get my thoughts together long enough to get something decent down on paper. Long enough to hold onto the ounce of sanity I still have left. As a mom, I find myself being impatient with time and eager for the next season of life. I go back and forth between being content and savoring moments and wishing the time away. There are days I want to freeze time. I am more intentional. I ignore the dishes in the sink and the laundry that’s piling high. I spend a lot of time playing with my daughter. Then there are days I constantly check the time. I make sure to change her diaper just moments before 9 a.m. so she can be asleep and then up from her nap in time for a snack and take nap number two exactly at 1 p.m.. On those days, when I try to shove time along, it seems to linger. I try to fill our day to get to our 5:30 p.m. bath time faster. On those days, especially if she’s fussy, I even cheat a little and bathe her at 5:23 p.m., because, you know, it’s close enough. I check my watch while I’m nursing her and it’s 5:49 p.m. instead of 6:00 p.m., and I get a little anxious because we are a bit off our schedule.

But she has a way of shaking me out of my trance. She hides behind the couch and pops out with a huge smile, waiting for me to pay peekaboo. She grabs my face and gives me a dozen kisses. She smiles at me between bites of lunch.

And in those moments, time stands still.

I forget whether it’s time to nurse or time for her nap. I forget which game is best to develop her motor skills for her specific age. I stop thinking about the large cup of coffee I will consume during her nap. I stop yearning for quiet alone time. I simply revel.  I soak up the love, the calm, the enjoyment of being with this little girl who is growing up fast.

I realize that I am indeed speeding up time. I’m doing it by filling my days with busyness, by checking my watch too often, by focusing on doing it all right and feeling guilty when I mess up. When it’s cold I long for the comfort of warmth, and when it’s warm I long for the magic of snow. But in the midst of motherhood, even on the hard days, I pause and remind myself that the one thing I should be longing for is the now, because it is where I will always be. The now is constant and present and tangible. The now is what matters because the attitude I permeate and the moments I cherish will create the memories I can hold onto later, when I realize this time as a mom of this young girl has moved into the past.

Treading Water

The words “I’m not ready” march through my brain every time I come to this place. This place that is familiar but has become a bit foreign. I don’t know if I can count the number of times I have sat in this chair in my home office and began to type, but then deleted my words and walked away. I have kept going back and forth in my head, and still doing so now as I type, about whether or not I should write. See, I have this problem. Whenever I write, I write the truth. It’s usually a good thing. It’s especially good for my fiction. Believe it or not, fiction isn’t about lying, per se. If I wrote about what I didn’t know, I would be a liar. A fake.

What makes me come back to this place and share my heart is a realization that maybe, just maybe, my writing is helping others. I have received so many emails from other moms, eager to share their birth stories and their struggles as mommas, telling me that my honesty about my experiences as a new mom helps them pull through. It helps them feel less lonely. And I’m completely humbled. I want you wonderful mothers to know that your emails and messages have helped me tremendously. I have come to learn that motherhood, though always full and loud and busy, is a lonely business. It’s an all-consuming job. So hearing from you has helped me keep my chin up on the hard days.

Because of you I am here and willing to be honest.

I feel like I’m drowning in motherhood.

And it’s not a feeling of losing myself or having trouble finding pleasure in my new role. I think I’m just tired, emotionally. I started planning Emelia’s first birthday, and as much as 4.3.14 was one of the best days of my life, it was also one that shook me. I put it away, and now the trauma is stuck in my brain. It won’t budge. And the emotional hurdles that I’m having to jump over lately have made it difficult to pull through the days that Emi is needy or sick. When she cries, I cry. I cry because I don’t always feel like I’m cut out for this. I feel guilty about everything. What if I’m not doing a good job? What if she can sense that I’m emotionally unstable? I feel selfish, because thinking about her birthday makes me feel excited but also scared and anxious and angry. I feel like a horrible mother. I’m trying to cling to the party planning. I’m planning out every detail. Maybe it’s because I feel like if I put on a great party for her, I can hide.

This past week might have been the hardest week I’ve had as a mother. Emelia had a double ear infection and I was quite weepy. One morning as I walked around and around the dining room table while she screamed and squirmed, fighting sleep, in pain despite the pain medication I gave her, I began to cry. I asked God why he would give me a child if I couldn’t even handle a sick day. Emi stopped crying and stared into my eyes. She slowly lifted her hands to my face and patted my cheek and lips. We both calmed down and it’s when I realized that God does indeed give us more than we can handle, but it’s what makes us turn to and cling to Him. And that’s the meaning of joy – finding strength and peace in my Heavenly Father. Nothing else in the world makes me feel as content.

So I hold onto the strength that my God continues to give me. I keep telling myself that it’s okay to be hurting after such a traumatic event. It’s okay to be angry when I look at pictures taken at the hospital on the day that Emelia was born and realize I don’t remember much of it because of the shock and the strong medication I was on. It’s okay to want a re-do. It’s okay to finally let myself feel what I would’ve felt immediately after surgery and during my first few months with my newborn if I had let myself.

I’m choosing to let myself go there emotionally. It’s hard, but it’s necessary. I think it will be a long journey to full recovery, but I want to fight to be the best momma and wife I can be.

Motherhood is especially hard right now, but the overwhelming love I have for my little girl keeps me moving, treading water, keeping my head above the surface and my eyes on Jesus.

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2014, I Love You

2015. I just can’t believe it. I can’t believe I can now say I had a baby LAST YEAR.

With Emelia crawling, pulling herself up and walking along the couch, and teething happening all at once, I’ve been busy. At this stage, motherhood is both a physical and emotional challenge. On days like today when she boycotts naps and fusses when she’s normally always happy, I have to remind myself that even if I’m not 100% sure about what’s bothering her, even if I’m exhausted, I am enough. I’m her momma, and I’m enough. Others will try to comfort her, but she wants me, because I’m her momma, and I’m enough. I’m doing it right, because I’m being her mom. I’m doing it right because I love her.

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This week we celebrated Emelia’s 9 month birthday with the family in New Jersey. It’s been a blast catching up with everyone. It’s nice to have so much help with Emi. Someone is always ready to feed her, put her to sleep, change her diaper, and I am loving watching her interact with her cousins. It brings back memories of me interacting with my own cousins growing up. Growing up with my cousins made my childhood special and even a bit magical. Our make believe games were probably what sparked my passion for reading and writing fiction. Although my relationships with my cousins have changed and we’ve grown apart, I will cherish the memories and I hope the distance between Emi and her cousins in NJ won’t prevent her from building relationships with them. I could sit and watch them play and giggle for hours. It’s so precious.

The last time we were visiting family here, I was quite pregnant. It was just before the preterm labor kicked in. It was rather peaceful. I remember being here and wondering what life would be like once my baby was born. I think my hand was on my belly constantly, trying to savor the mystery of being kicked by my own child who grew and thrived in my womb.

All night on December 31st, I felt a bit uneasy and wondered what we were celebrating.  The topic of conversation revolved around New Year resolutions, looking forward to the year ahead, and starting over, but all I could think about was how much I wanted to hold onto 2014. About how much I loved 2014.

On the first day of 2015, I woke up feeling nostalgic. So I made a list. I made a list of my favorite moments of 2014:

Telling Mgo we were expecting

Hearing Emelia’s heartbeat for the first time

Spending time with my mom while on bed rest

Watching my parents and sister meet Emelia for the first time hours after she was born

Putting Emelia to sleep in her Pack ‘n Play for the first time in our bedroom the day we brought her home from the hospital

Yellow Birdie Co going live

Seeing Emelia smile for the first time

Hugging Mgo seconds before 2015, both of us getting a little emotional as we realized what a scary, wonderful year we’d just had

2014, I love you.

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Giveaway – Handmade Gold Cowl

As promised, I am hosting my first Giveaway, celebrating 100 Likes!

I am giving away one of my handmade knit cowls. It’s knit in a lacy pattern, in the color “gold.” This is my favorite color this season! It is part of the collection of infinity cowls that will be available for purchase in my upcoming Etsy shop! This will be a random draw and if your name is chosen, I will ship it directly to you!

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Here’s how to enter:
1. “Like” Ode to Story’s Facebook page or follow me on Instagram @odetostory. (If you do both, you have a higher chance of getting chosen!)
2. Share a direct link of your favorite post from my blog on your own Facebook wall or Instagram feed by visiting http://www.odetostory.com (direct link is in the left sidebar). Be sure to click on the title of your favorite post and copy and paste the link. To enter on Facebook, post the link on your personal Facebook wall and tag Ode to Story. For Instagram, take a screen shot of your favorite post and post it on your picture feed, tagging @odetostory and using the hashtag #odetostory.

That’s it! You have 48 hours to enter! I will announce the winner on Friday.

I Got My Onion

This morning I realized that I didn’t have anything to cook with. Mgo usually stops at the store on his way home if I need anything. But today I was in the mood for an adventure. I needed an onion for my lentil soup. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. So I decided to take Emi on an adventure. We took a trip to Trader Joe’s.

Believe it or not, this was the first time I took her to the grocery store. As a first-time nursing mom, outings with a newborn were stressful for a long time. When we first had her around, we would have to time things just right. I would nurse her, and then it would be a mad dash out the door. Diapers? Check. Nursing cover? Check. Blankets? Check. Pacifiers? Check. Diapers. Check again. And we would have an hour or two before she needed to be fed again. It was crazy, but once in a while, we would do it. Sometimes, I just needed to get out. It was cabin fever. It was an excuse to change out of our pajamas.

The first time I went out with her on my own, I believe it was something along the lines of packing up the diaper bag, strapping her in her car seat, going through a Starbucks drive-thru, and coming home. I was so proud of myself when I got home. Success!

Today I fumbled with my keys, put the shopping cart cover on backwards, fixed it, forgot my list in the trunk, then slowly rolled the cart through the double doors, making sure she wasn’t bobbing all over the place. I went toward the produce section and completely blanked on why I even came here. Do we really need anything? What was I going to make tonight? Oh yes. An onion! I proceeded to fill my cart with things I normally don’t buy, and now know I don’t need. As I surmised a bottle of ranch dressing, a woman casually strolled by.

How adorable, she said.

Thank you, I said.

She’s cute, so be careful, she continued.

Be careful?

Yeah, someone might snatch her away, she said with a straight face.

I smiled and mumbled a thank you. Then I rushed away awkwardly because my legs suddenly felt like jell-o. I started sweating profusely. I mean, really? REALLY?

We perused the aisles, and she was mesmerized by all the colors and sounds. I tried to get her attention, but she barely heard me. She was too busy taking it all in. So I watched her, and I really didn’t buy much. I even almost forgot my onion.

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While I loaded her and the groceries in the car, a homeless man came around with his own cart. He kept pushing for some change or food or help. I wasn’t really sure, because I was busy trying to juggle it all – I wasn’t used to doing this with a baby in tow. And when I finally got us in the car and turned on the ignition, the man bumped my car with his cart, upset that I wasn’t paying attention to him. Kinda scary. Kinda crazy. I kinda almost cried.

But I did it. I took Emelia to the grocery store all by myself. I got my onion. It was fun. It was kind of empowering.

So what if we ended up ordering take out tonight?

A Note to my Pregnant Self

I see you sitting there, filled with equal parts excitement and distress. Parents and non-parents alike are all repeating a mantra as soon as they see you and your large belly, a slogan that has been shared so many times, it’s become custom to recite it to all mothers-to-be. And because you’re you, you smile and listen patiently. And because you’re you, you are skeptical and nervous, because the speech always ends with them repeating that it will take a long time for you to feel like yourself again. You sometimes feel like a fugitive because you are running away from all the warnings hurled at you. In here, in this place of in-between, you begin to wonder what feeling like yourself actually means and what it will be like to not feel like yourself.

But now that your daughter is half a year old, I can tell you from experience that motherhood won’t make you stop feeling like you.

Because what makes you you now is the ability to gracefully accept change. I know you. You get bored when life stays the same for too long. But it never does stay the same. For anyone. So take a breath. And listen.

Remember that time you met a boy and were afraid he’d ruin your plans? You were afraid that falling in love and getting married would fast forward your life to mundane. You weren’t ready for stable or safe. You wanted adventure. But you ended up taking on the role of wife and pastor’s wife even though it felt like stepping off the cliff of independence and falling into what you always thought you’d run away from. You thought you left your dreams of traveling and writing a book behind. Now you’re married and are doing both.

Before you married that man, you told him you didn’t want kids. Then the desire to have a baby creeped in, and as much as you wanted to push it away, it took over, like your daily cravings for chocolate ice cream topped with sour patch kids and a side of ginger ale. It was as if the love you had for your husband was too much to bear. You were bursting. And the only way to tame it was to become parents with him.

And you stared at your positive pregnancy test and wondered if this was it. If this was what was going to scare you off. The you that you held so tightly onto. If it would change your life so much that you’d spend the rest of it searching for the pieces of you that you lost along the way.

That because of all this you would be a horrible mother.

Every time you feel a kick and wonder if you’ll resent her. I remember.

I can tell you that what you will lose and miss most is sleep. You will lose the luxury of privacy. You will lose the ability to keep your house tidy and organized. You may never eat a full meal without an interruption again. Time will no longer exist. You will lose the ability to worry about yourself.

But now, six months into motherhood, you’re more you than you’ve ever been. Every day, you watch Emelia discover something new about herself and about the world. And in this way, you are rediscovering yourself. You are finding that there’s things about you that you never new existed. You never bothered to recognize them. Your little girl exhibits things that are oh so familiar.

Photo Credit: Mike Mekredijian
Photo Credit: Mike Mekredijian

You are learning that you are stronger than you thought you were. You just never had an opportunity to showcase your resilience. You will be pushed to be brave for the sole purpose of protecting your family. You will smile just hours after you face one of the darkest moments of your life. What will bring out the you in you is pure vulnerability and extreme love for a child. For your daughter.

Go ahead. Let your tears fall. I know you don’t want anyone to see, but know that soon your daughter will be watching and learning. And your tears will be a sign that you exist, that you have a heart that’s ever-changing, remaining the you that you have always been, and always will be.

In just a few short months, motherhood will force you to be more you than you’ve ever been. A you that’s just a bit more tired, suddenly ready to go to bed before 9 p.m. You have upped your coffee intake and are buzzing with caffeine, which leads you to be more productive than ever. You are knitting cowls and making homemade candles. Yeah. I know. It doesn’t sound like you, but it is you. You used to be a homebody, but now you get excited about the mere prospect of getting some Target fresh air, roaming through the baby aisles with confidence, and lingering in the candy aisle.

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You are now living life intentionally. Every moment is a learning experience for Emi and for you. You already see so much of you in her, and now you know that you will always be you. The ever-changing, ever-adapting you. And you will hope that she will be content with the parts of you that are a part of her.

So take heart and go take a nap. Rest easy. Six months into motherhood, you are still feeling like you. And somehow, you know you always will.