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what i’m most looking forward to.

dear sweet baby boy in your Mama’s belly,

here’s what i can’t wait for, dear child.

meeting you for the first time, feeling my heart expand in size over and over and over again, bigger than i ever thought it could go, Grinch style. and finally putting to rest that plaguing, annoying, i-know-it’s-wrong-but-can’t-shake-it feeling of, will i have enough love to go around?

i know that i will. once your eyes meet mine, i know that God will make more than enough room for you in this heart of mine.

Daddy-Mama-L-Birth

seeing him be a Daddy to a newborn all over again. seeing him hold you, swaddled, like a football, just like he held your big brother – so tender, so close – just so – tightly enough to allow the freedom to twitch and tingle and turn and wiggle, like newborns do – just like sand in the palm of his hand.

Daddy-L-Hearing-Test

seeing this one be a big brother. i know that he will feel protective of his toys, his books {and, let’s be honest, his Mama}, and that he’ll endure bouts of jealously when we care for you, the little guy who will join our world this winter, but oh, i know that there will be tender moments, loving moments, moments in which the world slows, and the glittering light of the sunshine, ever reluctant in the chill of December, touches the snow, creating glimmers as it flies and sparkles.

Lionel - Baseball - Summer 2014

it’s in those moments that i’ll know – that this, yes, this slowing-and-quickening of heartbeats, of time, of life, this life – it was never in my plans, but it was always in my dreams.

xoxo, Mama

a {rare} poem – mama’s owies.

Mama’s Owies
By Sara Gillis

I left a layer of skin
A sample from each arm
In the sand at Tut Hill Park

I went first
On the worn yellow slide
To show him it wasn’t scary
But it was

He saw my body splail
As my fingers gripped the sand
Stiffening myself to display a smile
When Mama crocodile tears threatened to fall instead

As I climbed atop the play set
Where his eager eyes were tracking mine
My face markedly grim, but concealed with a grin
I said, “Lionel’s turn?”
“No,” he said, without his usual crinkle in his eyes.

“That’s okay,” I replied.
I paused, just for a beat,
Before I spoke.
“Mama got two owies.”

His face wrinkled with concern
At the sight of my pathetic little wounds
One near each elbow, a matching pair.

And like I always do for him,
For the pretend ones and the real ones and every one in between,

His little lips brushed against my Mama owies
And he smiled.
“All better, Mama?”

My heart weakened
At the sound of his little voice,
His newly-minted two-year-old innocence slipping away by the second.

“Yes baby, thank you,” I choked out
As I pulled him in close, breathing in his sweet smell of apple juice, baby sweat and the lotion I’ve smoothed onto his body his whole life.

As his pudgy arms encircled my neck,
I wanted to bare them all,
All of my Mama owies,
From the scar that stretches across my abdomen,
Marking his arrival,
To the silly little bumps where his head meets mine a little too hard.

Because I know he’d make them all better.
He always does.

Instead, he toddled off
Across a bridge
To the steering wheel perched atop the structure.
He vroom, vroom, vroomed
As I, his Mama, watched,
Owies ceaselessly forming and healing in my heart.

When Bad News Turns Into a Good Thing.

{A note from Sara: It’s no secret to many people in our lives that we’re eager to welcome another child into our family. Lionel has blessed us immensely, and we anticipate the moment when we become parents for the second time. Like many couples, our efforts to bring another child into our world have not yet been realized, which is frustrating and confusing and difficult to endure at times, particularly because our efforts to try for Lionel were so quickly rewarded. While we haven’t been trying long – we’re going into month no. 5 – it feels like an eternity at times, particularly for me (Sara). In response to a particularly difficult month of trying, Jord wrote the post below. We’re sharing this here in hopes that Jord’s optimism sparks hope in some of you – and in us as well.}

Newborn-Lionel

As I reflect on the times that I call my life, I get a second (and sometimes a third, fourth, fifth, even a hundredth) look at the events that have occurred. Some days, these reflections are a real burden on myself and certainly on my wife, as I will, at times, rise on my soapbox and talk myself, my wife, or whomever into the fact that we could have done something else, something better, something sooner.

I’m learning, particularly within the past few years, that the roller coaster of life is not the type that is breaking records or that has a high thrill rating, even though we may believe it to be so, particularly when we’re feeling at our lowest of lows or our highest emotions. Instead, I’m learning that life’s amusement park ride is actually more of a mild kiddie roller coaster that does go up and down, fast and slow, and has tiny bouts of anticipation, anxiety and thrill. In other words – the ride is very mild.

To each of us, individually, however, this kiddie-coaster is all we know, and as we endure yet another sharp turn or a slightly bigger drop, everything seems excruciatingly (or excitingly) immense and difficult to handle. In short, it is not easy to ride our own roller coaster all the time.

I think that sometimes we get bored or dissatisfied with our own ride, that we see other people’s rides and we want to have what they have (What?! They turn left when I turn right? I need to turn left!). Sometimes we get on this path where we think we want to turn left, and then God forces us to turn right, or perhaps not turn at all. We’ve gone left before, and we’ve enjoyed that process and want to feel that again, but this time, things don’t work out, and so for another period of time, we’re headed in the opposite direction of where we want to be going. Despite our best efforts, our greatest wants, and perhaps even our most passionate prayers, we’re forced in a direction that we would not have picked if the situation were anywhere close to “ideal.”

Perhaps, as a lesson, we get pushed into these directions to get the second chance to appreciate what we perhaps missed the first time(s) we rode this roller coaster. Perhaps we missed some of those times because we were busy, or because we were doing it for the first time and couldn’t possibly understand the beauty of what we had, of that first experience. In other words, I’m learning to love what I have, to be patient for what I want, and to tell myself that “it’s going to be okay” when things don’t go my way.

Even if regret stings and hurts when you reflect on what you don’t have right now, be it a material thing, another child, a fancy car or a feeling of security, remind yourself that even though you could have done something more or appreciated something more, when the time is right, things will happen as they should happen. Life’s little happenings are rarely ever perfect, rarely ever timely, but in that, perhaps life actually is perfect and timely. Who knows what lays ahead in our lives – nobody can really know. But with a little faith, it’s possible to know that things will come together soon enough.

And now, a letter to my wife:

Sara,

This post started as a post about me and quickly turned into a note that I meant for you. I know that it truly is hard for you when it feels like failure each time you get that painful reminder that our second child, our second pregnancy is not here yet. Sometimes these short months of waiting and wishing for another child become a blessing of reminders to reflect on the incredible journey we’ve been on with Lionel for the past 21 months since he’s arrived. May the reminders of those blessings never end, no matter how much they can hurt from time to time. I have faith that eventually, you and I will have our greatest dreams realized.

Love,
Jordan

On Weaning.

My journey of breastfeeding L has been emotional and eye-opening. It’s an experience that’s made me cry out of frustration, weep with gratitude, and, of course, take for granted many a time, but it’s only now, when our boy is fully weaned (yes, that’s right – as of August 31, 2013, our breastfeeding relationship has come to a close) that I am able to realize just how sweet the journey has been.

L-Mama-Newborn

As I wrote in my letter to L when he was just five months old, it was – and still is, looking back on the nearly sixteen months of breastfeeding – an immense responsibility to provide wholly and completely for another person’s every nutritional need. In the beginning, I couldn’t have been more overwhelmed by the idea of nursing L every two hours (every three hours, when we were lucky). But it worked – we worked on it every day.

I’ll never forget that first feeding, dear boy. You and I had just met, and after a long and arduous birth experience, you were finally in my arms, and as I pulled you close to nurse for the very first time, I was astounded that you knew exactly what to do. As I fumbled and worried and repositioned countless times, you were patient with me, ever confident that you and I, you and your mama, would figure out this complex thing together. You taught me that for us, breastfeeding was not complex at all – it was so simple. You’re hungry, I provide – that’s all it ever was.

You tolerated my fumbles with the nursing cover when we were in public – oh, how I laugh at myself now when I think of how modest I was in the beginning. I’ll never forget nursing you as your Daddy and I walked you through the local corn maze, without a single hesitation, without a single thought that, perhaps, we should find a stopping place so that I could feed you. You were always cool with nursing on the go, and so I learned to be, too.

L-Nursing

At times throughout our breastfeeding relationship, I would pump milk for your Daddy, your grandparents, or others to feed you, so that I could get some rest, or have some time to myself. For instance, when you were just three months old, Mama began taking a class at school. Your Daddy would watch you for the fifty minutes that I was in class, and I always tried to leave behind a bottle with a few ounces of milk in it. Pumping was always a challenge for me – I hated using my manual pump, and I hated to sacrifice nursing time with you, but it was so important – for you and for me – to allow others to meet your needs, too. You took a bottle like a champion, L, but you always made it clear that you preferred your Mama to any old bottle.

It wasn’t long after we introduced cow’s milk around the one-year mark that you gradually lost interest in nursing throughout the day. You and I would typically only nurse before bed and once or twice during the night, when you woke up for Mama snuggles. But after a month or two of that, Mama felt that you didn’t need to nurse during the night, especially since you were transitioning so well from our bed to your crib, once we moved into our new home. For the past few weeks, we’ve only been sharing a nursing session before bed, and it’s been quickly growing shorter and shorter as each night passes.

Weaning happened by accident, dear boy. Mama went upstairs on the evening of August 31 to shower after a long day in the hot garage, and when I came back to put you to bed, you and your Daddy were already rocking away in your room – and you were sound asleep. We laid you down in your crib, and I was sure that you would wake up in twenty minutes, thirty minutes, an hour, to nurse – but you didn’t. You didn’t wake until nearly sunrise, sweet boy, and Mama bravely took that as a sign that you, honey bear, were ready to wean, even though I wasn’t quite ready to end that time with you. Letting you take the lead was so, so emotional for me, sweet L, but it’s something that I know that I’ll have to do each and every day, over and over again, as you grow, for I know that you need to make your own path.

Since that final day, there have been a few nights where you’ve been rather clingy and upset when I try to put you to bed without our usual nursing session, but most nights, you’re happy to just cuddle with Mama as we rock-a-bye. I’ve loved our new bedtime routine – reading you books and encouraging you to sip on your whole milk from a sippee cup before bed. It’s a new kind of relationship that you and I are developing – one that’s marked by story time, rock-a-bye cuddles, and sing-songs, instead of nursing.

Looking back on the past nearly fifteen months of breastfeeding, I feel so blessed to have had a wonderful experience with you, sweet L. From the first moment that your green eyes met mine, I fell in love, and each moment with you, nursing and not, has been a precious gift. You are my beloved honey bear boy, and I’ll always treasure the opportunity and the responsibility of providing for you in such a special way.

{Top photo by Creative Kindling}

Big Girl Job Eve.

{written on Sunday night, August 11}

As I nursed my son tonight from the corner of his new (and freshly painted) bedroom in our first home, I gave L a pep talk about this week, which is a big one for our little family.

“Mama starts her big girl job tomorrow, Sweet Boy,” I said to him as he nursed. “And you start daycare full-time tomorrow. And that might make you a little nervous or scared, Sweet Boy, but I promise that everything will be alright. You see, God loves us so, so much that he’s provided a wonderful place for you to go to daycare and a wonderful place for Mama to go to work. These places are full of good and caring people, and I just know that you and I will both make so many new friends, and that we will both enjoy going on these new adventures. Even though you may feel a little nervous without Mama, everyone’s going to love to see you walk (yes, that’s right – as soon as our boy stepped foot into our new home, his feet were a-walking – crawling is rare now), and hear you talk. You’re going to love seeing all of the little boys and girls, and doing fun projects, and eating fun things.”

L-Pool

“And guess what?” I said. “You and Mama will be apart for only eight hours, and then we’ll get to be together again! I just know that the days will go so quickly, even though we might miss each other at first. I know that I will miss you, little boy, but I feel so happy that God has provided us with these new adventures.”

* *

That pep talk was more for my benefit than for L’s – I’m sure of it. I know that daycare will be a complete and utter blast for him, after he adjusts – he loves watching little kids play and walk and talk, and I can tell that he’s ready and excited for some more social interaction.

But me? Well, on the eve of starting my big girl job, I’m feeling rather emotional, unsurprisingly. I’m lying here in bed, listening to my family sleep so soundly, and I’m thinking about the past fourteen months. The days that I’ve gotten to wake up to my baby boy’s smiles. The fourteen months that I’ve fed him, changed him, dressed him, entertained him – sure, with help from Jord and from other family members and friends – but largely on my own. It was always L and I during the day, facing the world together. Our days operated like a boy walking along his newspaper route – the same thing every day, but different encounters, different adventures, different variations to the routine, each and every day.

L-Mama

There were naps (oh, the naps – how I will miss the shared naps, the snuggles, the way that his little breaths brushed against my arm as I held him tightly), there were snacks, there were walks in BOB the stroller with Wyatt the dog. There were open-mouth kisses and spontaneous hugs, moos and bow wow wows, walking practice and big boy crawls, and many, many difficult moments that challenged my patience, but never, not once, the depth of my love for L, or the inestimable appreciation I felt for the opportunity to be a mama, his mama, full time.

I’ll never forget those fourteen months, and I know that even as I begin this new adventure tomorrow that I’ll be a little bit heartsick for my days with my Sweet Boy. And I think that’s okay – to feel heartsick, vulnerable, emotional, even as I gear up for what I hope will be a fulfilling teaching career.

What I will say is this: while I can’t wait for the first drawings, paintings or pictures to hang on my fridge, I will feel an eensy bit sad that I wasn’t there to witness the artistic process myself. But that’s part of life, and part of God’s plan for our lives, at least for now. And I feel so blessed to have had fourteen wonderful, challenging, sweet and tender months with my boy, however bittersweet it is to let them go now.

Have you ever felt a bit emotional on the cusp of a new adventure? Are my feelings typical for a mama who is at the end of “maternity leave” or daily life with her baby/babies? Please share in the comments.

{Updates to come on our first home – I promise!}