Describe your journey into motherhood…
My journey into motherhood was interesting! I got pregnant quickly with my son during our last hurrah trip prior to having children. We were gone for 18 days, 3 states, Disney World, DC, and NYC. It was a total carefree adventure, and that vibe probably helped the pregnancy take quickly. At our 19 week ultrasound we found out we were having a boy! We named him that day, went out to lunch, and shopped for maternity clothes together. It was a beautiful day.
The following morning-during my shake a belly workout- I got a call that changed my life forever. There was something wrong with our baby’s small heart, and we needed to come in for a more detailed ultrasound. I was floored. I honestly did not think that I would have a baby with birth defects, let alone life threatening ones. I mean, I am a dietitian, and I had just completed an Olympic distance triathlon 2 months prior to getting pregnant. It literally had not occurred to me that we wouldn’t produce a healthy baby, nor that the “halfway point” ultrasound would reveal any news other than the gender. I miss that naivety.
Although his diagnosis wouldn’t happen for months to come it was confirmed he had a few heart defects; we were offered termination, amniocentesis, and support. Termination wasn’t an option for us, we believed in science as well as a higher power.
We have an amazing family who was there for us every step of the way. Over a St. Patrick’s lunch with my mom and sister I got the call that the amnio results were normal. He was genetically normal, which was a big relief. It wouldn’t have changed any of our decisions but it felt like our boy was spared other hardships.
It was a really interesting second half of the pregnancy. I would alternate between really happy and really sad. When I would get stressed or down I would remind myself that stress was the only thing in my control. So there was that. I also had routine echocardiograms at pediatric cardiology which was so odd. The appointments were at pediatric cardiology and we would show up without a baby on the outside, and a bunch of kids in the waiting room. At the time I felt like I was the odd one out. I should have focused more on the aspect that there were heart kids there, being loud and thriving! I would lay there during the echocardiogram and just breathe, holding tears back, and hoping that his heart was performing well. It was a high emotional time, but also good to know that he was doing so well on the inside. We were prepped well that it was likely that he wouldn’t do well on the outside. It really put my “morning sickness” or other pregnancy complaints in check- not knowing for certain how my baby was going to deal with life on the outside.
Labor was long and almost relaxing in a totally exhaustive way. I progressed so slowly, and pitocin was used for over 12 hours. My body finally took over after a mind blowing hot shower with the monitors off as well. He was born 5 hours after the pitocin had been turned off, totaling around 24 hours of labor, taking 12 hours to get from 5 centimeters to 10. He finally came out, I was able to hold him on my chest for a quick hold and he was whisked off with my husband. He made it.
His health status was touch and go. 11 days after birth he was life-flighted to a pediatric hospital 3 hours away with pediatric cardiology surgery options. I was having a rough time healing with all the walking that we were doing, as San Francisco is a bit hilly. We lived at Ronald McDonald for the duration of his hospital stay which was 42 days. He had an open heart surgery at a month old and we were home 2 weeks later, off of oxygen, but with a feeding tube. Home 7 weeks later!
That was my initiation into motherhood.
It was crazy beautiful.
3 years later I had a healthy and HUGE baby girl (9 lbs 6 ounces to be exact!) whose name means prayerful. She has healed my heart so much, so many things I missed out on with my son I was able to have with her. I had a much shorter (unmedicated) birth of about 6 hours of hard stuff, and a transition that I almost missed by blinking! During her labor I was pushing sideways with my legs spread and my water broke, spurting across the room nailing 3 people about 6 feet away. It was awesome! She has followed a developmentally normal path which has been a gas to witness. She also is a beautiful eater, loving all foods like I do, which has been so different than her brother.
These years of motherhood have been filled with tears, trials, 2 more heart surgeries, laughs, pancake mornings, home days, vacations, snuggles, camping trips, and a strong family unit that we are so blessed to have. My firstborn does not have the odds going for him, but he has proven time and time again that he is stronger, that he can rally and pull through. He is my daily reminder that life is short. My second has healed the holes in my heart. I am not free of worry-my heart drops to the floor every time the school calls- but I live a very full, happy life with my children and husband, knowing that we are the lucky ones.
What has been your biggest challenge as a mother? My biggest challenge is letting go. It is the hardest thing to trust other people with your child, as you know you are the best thing for them. My son’s health issues makes it even more challenging to let go, and he’s even doing really well now. I also have some normal not normal germ phobias that are really hard to let go of after years of fearing pneumonias and flus for my heart warrior. The sleep deprivation was also off the charts for years. That was so challenging to maintain homeostasis in all areas with such a deficit from the zzz’s department. Thankfully that is improving and I’m slowly adding minutes of sleep to the empty tank.
What has come naturally to you as a mother? Having fun with my children outdoors. We spend at least an hour daily outside on our property and it is the most effortless time we spend together. We turn over logs looking for worms to feed to our chickens, race cars down the driveway, and tend the garden.
What advice can you give to a new mother: Keep breastfeeding; if you really want to do it you will do it. Only a very small percentage of women actually can’t breastfeed or make enough milk. A newborn’s stomach is the size of a cherry. A week old’s is the size of an apricot, and a month’s old is the size of an egg (or 2.5-4 oz). You are making enough! It will get easier each day.
Also, the sleep deprivation can be life changing. Forever. Or at least for 5 years. Seriously.
What is your favorite thing to do with your children and why? Outdoor play (see above), and also I wrote a whole blog on reading with my kids, click here to read it.
Describe yourself in three words and expand? chef- I can’t stay out of the kitchen. I can’t keep up with myself most of the time. I have a love for preparing food, especially healthy foods. My coursework in college sealed my love for food, growing, and knowing where food originates. I am committed to striving for sustainable eating and living, which is a constant. Through the winter that means treasuring my homegrown eggs and herbs, and through the summer it means growing my own produce. friend- I’m not sure when my social skills bloomed growing up but I always want to be a friend. It is something deeply rooted in me, maybe being a middle child? My closest circle is made up of friends I’ve had over half my life. mom– I do love to “bubble wrap” those I love. I love to protect those I love, and be there for others. It gives me energy. With my children there is this love that is so pure, I believe all moms have it of course! It’s the best thing I’ve ever done, becoming a mom.
How do you love to spend your time when you get your break from the kiddos? I really love to just be in the now. Not thinking about what I am going to cook or wear next, or if there are enough bananas in the house… Running a home successfully means always being one step ahead of yourself. Having groceries in the home, meals planned, laundry in the wash, etc.. A true break is not thinking about those details! When I am away, sometimes I don’t even want to hear other kids! It sounds horrible but sometimes it is true. I love to do things that aren’t possible with them like a steep hard hike, a trail run, a yoga class or massage, or a romantic dinner date with my husband, with a glass of zinfandel.