The Good Work

Last night I sat hunched in the far corner of my couch, head low, shoulders shaking, tears just flowing. Mind you, I find myself especially emotionally vulnerable when I’m sick, so the head cold I have probably just added to everything. Even so.

Shawn came over and sat gently next to me on the couch while I blubbered about feeling like a subpar mom; about the pressure I feel and to have all green, clean, eco friendly products throughout our home and to serve only organic food, ever, all while maintaining our meager budget; about the shame I feel when I look in the mirror and see my soft overweight body, tired eyes and unstyled hair; about how I miss our nice, big house in Oregon and how our tiny apartment makes me feel claustrophobic; about how I’ll never be able to do anything because I can’t do it all.

I was falling apart because I was convinced I was falling short. Shawn offered hugs and encouragement and listening ears and I just sort of shrugged off my meltdown and went to bed without really giving it much more thought. (I was also in a complete Nyquil daze.)

As Emily P. Freeman says in Simply Tuesday, “Maybe your small house with your small people has somehow convinced you that you are too small to matter.”

Yes, on the nose, Emily. That’s exactly how I was feeling.

Trying to grow and rebrand my blog, along with some other creative projects, has kept me glued to my phone lately. Inviting friends to “like” my page, tweeting, posting snapshots; all in hopes of being acknowledged, of being heard, of being seen, of being someone who matters.

Emily also writes, “We’ve been tricked into believing that higher up and further on equals impact and importance.”

I’ve told Shawn over and over again how I feel like such a failure. He keeps reminding me that as long as I’m trying, I’m not failing. Yes, well, those words tend to go in one ear and out the other with me.

This morning, I woke up before the rest of my family. I made some tea to soothe my sore throat, emptied the dishwasher, started a load of laundry, got Nora up and made her breakfast. The rest of my day didn’t look much different. I worked on a project, put away the clean laundry, started the dishwasher, made lunch for Nora. All seemingly routine tasks; nothing terribly glamorous or sparkly.

It wasn’t until I was on the floor, crawling around and making growly noises at my daughter in exchange for toothy grins and belly laughs, that I realized; she doesn’t think I’m a subpar mom. I matter to her. When my husband kisses me and tells me I’m beautiful and that he loves me, I realize; he’s not ashamed of my soft overweight body, tired eyes and unstyled hair.

My website, writing, creative projects, etc. are important to me, yes. But are they important for the right reasons? I started this blog because I wanted to write about things that people could relate to, with hopes that even one person might feel just a little less isolated in their circumstances, feelings, or situation.

I don’t want to live a life so caught up in being heard and getting ahead that I lose sight of my real treasure, my people.

To quote Simply Tuesday one last time, “Let’s take back moments that are lovely even if they are imperfect, words that are powerful even if only one person hears them.”

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Intentions

I know, I know, everyone is sharing their goals and objectives for the new year. I considered just skipping over this post. But after thinking about it for a bit, I realized that while it seems we are inundated with articles and posts about 2016 goals, I still often find myself inspired by the aspirations of others.

So in the spirit of inspiration, I thought I’d briefly share my own.

Intentions for 2016:

  • Finances. Shawn and I are working very hard to pull ourselves out of a very sticky, very discouraging financial situation. Our intention for this year is to have the majority of our debt paid off and at the very least, manageable and under control. We will continue to be purposed and thoughtful with our spending; where we spend, how we spend, what we spend on.
  • Fewer Things, More Adventures! We have already simplified much of our life by purging our home of excess, moving into a smaller living space, etc. We want to use our valuable resources (time, energy, money) to experience new places, new people, new adventures as a family, rather than to accumulate more stuff.
  • Grow Stronger, Be Cleaner. Most people have some version of “healthier me” goal for each new year. And while I definitely agree that the pursuit of health is important, I wanted to give myself targets that are more attainable for my lifestyle. So rather than saying something like “I’M GOING TO LOSE FIFTY POUNDS BY MARCH!”, my intention for my own health is to grow stronger and be cleaner. I will continue to work hard in my yoga practice to build a stronger body and to do my best to fuel my system with foods that will nourish and not harm.
  • Steadfastness. I want to be more steadfast as wife and a mom. I want to be strong for my husband and daughter; gracious, kind, loving and supportive. I want to lengthen my fuse and deepen my patience.
  • Creative Endeavors. I have some really fun and exciting things lined up in my creative life for 2016! I’ll be able to elaborate more on that over the next couple of months. I want my passion to bleed into my projects and inspiration to seep through the cracks (because there will be cracks, no perfection here). I’d also like to become more creative in my kitchen. I cook for my family almost every day, and I tend to get into food ruts. So this year I plan to research fun and healthy recipes, new cooking techniques, and experiment with new ingredients.
  • Eat One Piece of Dark Chocolate Everyday: This one pretty much speaks for itself.

And lastly, my greatest intention for this year:

  • ALL THE GRACE. Have you noticed that I have used the word intention rather than goal in this article? I feel that intentions allow for so much more grace than the strictness often associated with goals. I want my life to overflow with grace. Grace for my friends, grace for my family, grace for acquaintances, grace for Utah drivers, and truthfully, mostly, grace for myself. The only way I will be able to make any progress in any of the intentions listed above is if I approach each one, each day, with an abundance of grace. I will fail at some point. I will lose my cool with Nora. I will skip a yoga practice. I will ignore my responsibilities. I will eat ice cream. This is where grace is strongest, this is where it shines brightest; the days when I am weak, the days when I am discouraged, the days when all I can do is cry, the days when I am just so human. Grace will rescue me.

I want to note that these goals and plans aren’t things I intend to keep confined to the year twenty sixteen. Oh no, these are things I want to implement, beginning in the year twenty sixteen and carry out throughout my life. These aren’t just monthly, weekly or daily goals. These are life ambitions.

End of My Rope

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.”

Matthew 5:3a, MSG

This is my "she won't quit fussing and I'm trying not to have a meltdown" face.

This is my “she won’t quit fussing and I’m trying not to have a meltdown” face.

The end of my rope. Yep. You could say that. I’m so far down my rope that I’ve slipped off the end and am careening towards certain death like Hans Gruber plunging from the 30th floor of Nakatomi Plaza. Or at least that’s how I feel these days. And I’ll admit, it hasn’t felt very “blessed”, not yet anyways.

I’m free falling in the dark. I feel like a shell; empty, useless, heavy…and sad. I often feel so sad. I don’t feel like myself. I don’t feel purpose. I don’t have goals. I don’t want goals. I want to sleep, that’s what I want.

Sleep and Whole Foods Jolly Beans. And wine. Damn you, Whole30.

Fracking Whole30. Ugh. Shawn and I are on Day 8 and so far all I’ve had is coffee and water. That’s super against the rules, and I should’ve eaten two meals today already. But, I’m throwing a small fit.

Food…certain foods (think Ben and Jerry’s, Chinese take out, Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips and Digiorno Stuffed Crust Supreme Pizza) have always been my greatest comfort. They’re always there for me, whether I’m happy, sad, lonely, angsty, or just snacky. It’s not easy explaining an emotional addiction to food to people who’ve never struggled with it. They think I’m being dramatic, or weak willed. So yeah, I’m angry, annoyed, what have you, that I’ve committed myself to this challenge during such a tumultuous time in my personal life. I appreciate the encouragement that “the cravings will pass”, “it’ll get better”, but for fuck’s sake, LET ME FEEL MY FEELINGS.

It’s so difficult having Nora. Not because of the tasks that are required of me (i.e. diaper changes, feedings, baths, attempting to soothe her fussiness, etc), but because I still have yet to land on that bond with her. Shawn’s there. He’s found it. I’m so grateful for that. He is so crazy about our daughter, and she is the luckiest girl for that.

But I’m just not there yet. For me, the good still doesn’t outweigh the bad. Of course then there’s the crushing guilt that follows those feelings. I suppose I’m probably not supposed to say all these things out loud, but if I don’t, how will anyone else know they aren’t alone?

My marriage is getting the shit kicked out of it right now. Never has there been such a distance between Shawn and me. We’re both exhausted to our very souls, both dealing with our own anxiety and depression demons. He is really trying to recover our bond. I’ve found it nearly impossible to reciprocate that effort.

I sent a letter to my dad a few weeks back, trying to explain my hurts while not placing any blame, and expressing hope for a reconciliation. The response was devastating. “I’m not doing this on her terms”. He told my sister, who had to tell me. Bless her, she’s been such a light to me lately.

I’ve started seeing a therapist. She’s wonderful. I can’t believe I haven’t been going to therapy for years already! She told me that I’m in the middle of a huge storm of grief, following a chain of losses these last five years. I can’t tell you how helpful it was to finally realize what I’ve been feeling all this time. Grief. Sure.

I added yoga back into my weekly routine after getting the all clear from my doctor last month. It’s been phenomenal. Although I’d been out of practice for several months, somehow, I felt stronger. I felt strength coming from the inside of myself, manifesting in my time on the mat. I’ve developed a distaste for vulnerability in certain areas of my life. (Clearly not in this one because I’m spewing all my personal matters to the internet.) But when I am in practice, I welcome that vulnerability. I welcome that brokenness and those cracks because it allows some healing to sneak through.

I’ve never experienced a season in life quite this one. It’s hard. It’s painful. It’s ugly. It’s (feeling) hopeless. But you know what else I think it is? Or what I think it will be when all is said and done?

Empowering. Strengthening. Nourishing. Maybe that’s where the blessings lay. Maybe that’s where the hope is being kept, stored up like treasure just waiting to be discovered and devoured.

So I’ve let go of the end of this slippery rope and while I’m tumbling into what feels like oblivion, I will summon all the effort I can to trust that Jesus has weaved an impenetrable safety net waiting to empower, strengthen, and nourish me.

Group Hug!

You guys are amazing. Seriously, wonderful.

I’ve been pretty open about my experiences as a new mom. I shared this post a week after Nora was born and earlier this week I let my heart bleed a little with this Instagram post, that I also shared on Facebook. I have to say, I was completely blown away with the response I got from sharing all the feelings, hormones and emotions that have downright tortured me these past six weeks.

I’ve heard from single women, married women, women without children, new moms, experienced moms, single moms, moms of one, moms of multiples, old friends, new friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and even old high school classmates.

I’ve received helpful suggestions, a listening ear, a shoulder to lean on, gifts, letters, cards, texts, phone calls, cups of coffee, impromptu lunch dates, facebook messages and care packages. Did I mention how amazing and wonderful you all are?

I have to say that the most special responses I’ve received, however, have been thank yous. Thank yous upon thank yous. So many of you have reached out and expressed appreciation for my openness and honesty about these struggles because it helped you feel less alone and isolated in your own struggles.

Your kind words and thoughtful gifts are so wonderful but they are icing on the cake. If my rants and raves and word vomit aka “sharing” can help even just one sweet soul to feel less alone, I’ll keep it up until my dying day because we belong to each other.

I love you all and I’m calling for a group hug! As my dear Glennon says, sister on!

A huge thank you from this weary momma. I'm smiling because she's asleep. Also the leopard print onesie. Also the neck rolls.

A huge thank you from this weary momma. I’m smiling because she’s asleep. Also the leopard print onesie. Also the neck rolls.

Nora: A Week in Review

One week ago today (tonight, really), our sweet baby girl finally made her appearance. In some ways I can’t believe a week has passed since that moment, and in other ways this last week has felt like a year. This week has been such a life changing whirlwind and I thought I’d share a brief summation of Nora’s birth story, along with some of my thoughts and feelings over this past first week of motherhood.

The Birth Story:

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Nora grew significantly in my belly over the last four weeks of my pregnancy; so much so that at my last OB appointment, after consulting with doctors and a physicians assistant, we decided it was best that I be induced in the few days left before my due date. I’d sincerely hoped to avoid a c-section with the induction, but I was aware that the chance of a c-section was still great, considering the baby’s size and the fact that my body was 39.4 weeks along and showing no signs of labor. So, the induction was scheduled for Saturday, February 7th at 7:30 am. Shawn and I spent the night before finishing our packing, some cleaning, and trying to relax and enjoy our last night together, just the two of us. At 5:30 Saturday morning, I received a call from the birthing center informing me that my induction would be pushed back to sometime later that day due to the high volume of patients currently waiting to be discharged. So, we waited. That felt like the longest day of my life. Little did I know what was in store for me in the coming days.

Finally, around 2:15 Saturday afternoon, I received a call from the on call doctor, letting me know we were welcome to come check in at that point, but knowing my desire to avoid a c-section, he discussed with me once more that an induction wouldn’t necessarily decrease my chances of a c-section, and he just wanted me to be aware. After a conversation filled with tears and fear with Shawn, and going over everything the doctors had told me, we decided to continue with the induction, knowing it could still very well lead to a c-section. Considering the odds were so high that Nora would be born via c-section regardless, but that I still wanted the opportunity to try and deliver her myself, we finalized our decision with the doctor and made our way to the birthing center.

We checked in, were given a new birthing suite, which was fantastic, and settled in while we waited for the doctor to see us. He discussed everything with us once more just to be thorough, and then the nurse took over. Around 4:30 pm, I was checked and given a dose of medication to get things started. Slow to start, I was in early labor until around midnight, and after being given a second dose of medication, active labor began. I was in active labor all day Sunday, my water broken by the doctor around 10:00 am when the really painful contractions began, and then the epidural administered around 11:20 am. I spent the next few hours with dead legs and the inability to keep anything down, which was extra miserable considering I hadn’t eaten in at least 24 hours.  I labored until 6:00 pm when I was checked and told I was finally complete and could begin pushing. A mix of incredible exhaustion, anxiety and the lingering woosiness from the epidural caused me to become sick again, while I was trying to deliver. After two long hours of crying, throwing up and exhaustive pushing, Nora still showed no signs of coming. It was then that the doctors felt that a c-section was at this point very necessary. Through hot tears, I looked at Shawn, shook my head yes, and they went off to prepare the OR for me. I was given a second epidural and wheeled into the OR around 9:45pm. The whole day had been difficult, to say the least, but this part was without a doubt the most traumatic for me.

For my fellow Mad Men enthusiasts, the next 45 minutes felt like the episode where Betty gives birth and is swarmed by a nauseating dream like state. I was so sick, I kept throwing up throughout the surgery, I couldn’t hold back any tears. I was so anxious and scared, I felt so alone and all I wanted was to go home and be with my cat. At 10:11, our girl was delivered and Shawn was with the doctors as they cleaned her, cut her cord, and collected her stats. She was a whopping 9 lbs 1 oz and 21 inches long. When they brought her to me, I didn’t even want to look. I was so miserable and scared and sick and all I wanted was to be out of that damn operating room. Shawn was so comforting to me and eased me enough for me to be able to enjoy looking at our girl for the first time.

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Finally I was wheeled back to our room for recovery, where I found some of our dear friends waiting with gifts and hugs and the support that I so desperately needed at that time. We spent the next 72 hours at the birthing center while I recovered and we tried to wrap our heads and hearts around caring for this sweet babe. We were released on Wednesday, February 11th and the three of us went home to be a family.

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The First Week:

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Having a baby is hard. I don’t think  people talk enough about that. I’ve felt overwhelming guilt at times throughout this past week for things I shouldn’t feel guilty for. I’ve spent every night since she was born in tears. I’ve felt annoyed with her for needing me. I’ve been so frustrated that I have had moments where I couldn’t look at her, let alone hold her. I’ve passed her off to Shawn because I’ve been so overwhelmed with anxiety, doubt, fear, utter exhaustion. My body is so sore from trying to deliver her only to be given major surgery. My eyes are so tired from sleeping an average of two hours per night since her birth. My soul is weary from feelings of sadness over the loss of my old life. My ego is bruised from the belly that now hangs over my c-section scar. This isn’t to say I don’t love my baby or that I hate being a mother. This is to say that having a baby is fucking hard. And that’s okay. We can do hard things.

At the end of these long, long days, I have a beautiful, healthy daughter and a brave, strong husband who has yet to tire of being a rock for us. This first week has been challenging, to put it extremely lightly. But the rewards will come. The sleep will happen, the anxiety will wear off, the fear will surely dissipate.

I didn’t write this post because I wanted to be a downer. I wrote this to be honest, and to offer some encouragement to any other moms out there who feel like it’s not okay to feel their feelings, no matter how dark they may seem.

My daughter’s full name is Eleanor Lee McEntyre. Eleanor means “Shining Light” and Lee means “Healer”. Despite the rocky beginning, this sweet girl is going to help me heal, and bring a light into these dark moments. I’m so humbled and grateful to be hers.

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Life Savers:

I wanted to include a short list of some items that I have fallen in love with or have proven to be such a help and comfort to me during this last week.

Josie Maran Lavender Calming Mist (similar) – I spritz myself with this once in the morning and once in the evenings to promote some sense of calm as I prepare to tackle the day and as I try to find some rest at night.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset4moms rockaRoo – Shawn and I put Nora in this when she’s napping and we don’t want to put her in her crib, or when we both need to be doing something and want to keep her close. She absolutely loves it and it keeps her so soothed and comfortable.

Little Hip Squeaks Every Mess Cloth – Perfect for cleaning up little spills or spit ups.

 Maxi Cosi Mico AP Infant Car Seat – Shawn says this car seat is magic, and I have to agree. Nora is instantly cozy and calm in this and it makes car rides so enjoyable.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetStay and Co. Organic Blanket in Oatmeal Stripe – This is the softest, most comfortable baby blanket I have ever experienced. It’s lightweight organic cotton, incredibly soft, and perfect for keeping Nora warm without overheating her. I also adore this romper we got from Stay and Co. as well. I almost never take her out of it.

Ollie Swaddle – THIS SWADDLE IS A GAME CHANGER. I’m obsessed with the Ollie. It is so light-weight and cool, and the velcro is a total lifesaver for us. We swaddle Nora in this every night and she sleeps so soundly. I highly recommend this swaddle!

Nora’s Nursery

I want to start off by saying that our little family has been extremely blessed during this whole process. Creating this space for Nora was something so dear to my heart and I had such a specific vision for how I wanted it to look and feel, and for particular items I dreamed of having for her. I knew that not everything would be feasible and I also wanted to be responsible with our budget, knowing some of my wish list items just didn’t fit. However, through gifts from friends, generous help from Shawn’s dad, gift cards, baby showers and more, the Lord provided time and again all the things I had my heart set on for my sweet girl. I even won a few Instagram giveaways over these past nine months, including a gift card to Anthropologie AND an absolutely incredible prize package that included very generous gift cards from Oilo StudioStay and Co. and Hello Apparel, along with clothing from Hello Apparel, gifts from Little Giraffe and something that was at the very top of my wish list; the Breeze Play Yard from 4moms! It’s been so special to feel such thoughtfulness from our friends and family as we prepare for Nora’s arrival and to feel like the Lord has taken such care of us already.

We’ve finally gotten all the pieces of our sweet little nursery puzzle in place and so I thought it would be fun to take you all on a little tour of my new favorite room in our house, and to share a little bit about some of my favorite pieces and products. I asked Shawn to help me take some not so iPhone photos and he kindly obliged. So, here we go!

 

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A note about the wooden statue we have sitting atop Shawn’s Calvin and Hobbes Collection — My mom brought this hand carved wooden statue back from Indonesia when she traveled there in high school as part of a foreign exchange program. My uncle recently found it in my grandpa’s garage and was kind enough to have it shipped to me. It ties in so well with the adventurous feel we wanted to weave into Nora’s nursery as well as being such a special item, carrying my mom with it.

Crib, Amazon // Garland, The Land of Nod // Chair, World Market  // Side Table, Target // Throw, Pottery Barn // Changing Pad Cover, The Land of Nod // Changing Pad Topper, Oilo Studio // Edison Bulb Cloche Lamp, World Market // Every Mess Cloths, Little Hip Squeaks

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Dandelion Crinkle Plush Toy, Amazon // Basket, TJ Maxx // Gray Throw, Pottery Barn // White Chenille Blanket, Little Giraffe // Lion Plush Toy, Little Giraffe // Chambray Elephant, Restoration Hardware // Little Golden Books, World Market // Madeline Books, Amazon // Elephant and Cat Prints, Pinterest // Watercolor and Dalmatian Art Prints, Stay and Co. // Frames, Target // Travel the World Calendar, Anthropologie // Plants, Bulbs, Seeds Wall Hanging, Tres Joie // Mirror, Vintage, Gift from a Friend // Courage and Elephant Prints, Pinterest

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This piece is something I made with an old frame that I spray painted antique gold, and craft paper that I cut into leaves and hot glued together. I needed something for this empty space between the crib and the chair corners, so with some inspiration from Pinterest and The Nesting Place, this little beauty was born.

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Freesia Pillow, Oilo Studio // Love You More Pillow, A sweet little local shop in downtown Bend // Crib Sheet, Oilo Studio // Mini Bow Headbands, Bumbelou

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Ceramic Elephant, Vintage, Gift from a Friend // Solly Baby Wrap, Solly Baby // Scrabble Letters, Gift from a Friend // Faux Hydrangea Plant, Target

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Last but not least is this special little corner in our changing station. I found these gems in a box of old photos that my grandpa sent me this summer. That is indeed my dear mom in the top photo, snuggling up to yours truly when I was probably only a year old. I thought it would be neat to see how similar or different Nora looks compared to me as she grows.

Framed Cork Board, Marshall’s // Ceramic Owl, TJ Maxx, spray painted

*Not pictured: 4moms rockaRoo, 4moms Breeze, 4moms Infant Tub, Skip Hop Duo Diaper Bag, Skip Hop Activity Gym, Dr. Brown’s Nursing Pillow, Maxi Cosi Infant Car Seat and of course a closet full of the CUTEST baby girl wardrobe you ever did see.

And there you have it! I love this sweet nursery and I greatly anticipate the late nights, messy diapers, sweet baby giggles and gurgles, playing dress up, etc. that I will share with my girl in this very room. I’m so grateful for everything, not just the “stuff”, but this whole new little life that will light up our lives.