February 27, 2014

Not a First Time Parent

As I've gotten into a somewhat comfortable groove having two children at home, I've reflected back on how parenting this time is so much different than it was last time.

The main difference has been a comfort and a confidence I have in tending to an infant that I didn't have initially with Finn. When Finn was born we were second time parents, but not really. I felt like a mother for the second time, but really I felt like a parent for the first. And that was hard. I was much more emotionally fragile after Finn was born than I was after Mary was born. While still in the hospital with him, realizing that breastfeeding wasn't coming naturally and that he was struggling to latch, I was struggling not to feel like a failure for it. The  nurses and lactation consultants were all up in my business, but not in a tender and supportive way. In a - let me grab your boob, constantly weigh your baby, freak you out about weight loss, etc - sort of a way.  The on call pediatrician once said, "since he's your first baby" and through my tears I snapped back, "he's not my first baby, he's just the first I've breastfed." And while it wasn't malicious and she probably didn't know our history, her comment stung and made me feel like a first time mom when I wanted desperately not to feel that way. I had already felt like I failed to bring Cale safely into the world and now I wasn't doing a good job providing for the child I was lucky enough to bring home.

It took a couple weeks and many tears shed, but we eventually got the hang of breastfeeding. I remember Miles rubbing my back as I pleaded with Finn to latch on and then winced in pain when he did, both of us crying and frazzled. This time, Mary took to nursing well right away. I think in part because she was better at latching, but largely because I knew what I was doing this time around and wasn't stressed. That comfort with nursing was a huge confidence booster. There were still a lot of painful winces, but, physical discomforts aside, our experience with nursing was much more pleasant from the get go.

Our hospital experience was better with her as well. We only had to stay the night she was born and were released the next evening. Mary met all the criteria the pediatrician had for discharge at 24 hours - she was nursing well, she was a girl, and we were not first time parents. Being validated as someone who had done this all before felt so good. Even though we hadn't done it before with Finn, it was just hard to be reminded of that fact. This time, there was no need for such reminders because we definitely were not first time parents.

Just as nursing was easier, the same went for our initial care for Mary. Sure, we were gentle with our little newborn babe, but diaper changes went quicker, giving a bath was no biggie, long sleeved onesies were easier to put on (I remember with Finn I worried I was going to hurt him if I pulled too hard to get his little arms through his shirt). It was as if we quickly fell back into the groove of things because we had done it all once before. And that helped put me at ease - something that just took longer with Finley.

Having two kids definitely has its own challenges. Tending to them when they both need something, ensuring that Finn gets enough attention and it's not all directed at the baby, ensuring that Mary gets the snuggles and cuddles that Finn got as a newborn, and the biggest challenge - getting out the door! Loading kids in a car, with all necessary gear, should be an Olympic sport!

The questions and the assumptions about our family dynamic still remain difficult. The few times I've gone out with just Mary I've been asked if she's my first. Sometimes I've said, "no, my third." and sometimes I just say, "her two and a half year old brother is at home," but of course that response always has a tinge of guilt associated with it. While still tender, those questions were almost easier to answer when I was pregnant. Because Cale absolutely can and should be included when I talk about my pregnancies. And while he should be included when I talk about my kids, it's also harder because pregnancy was all I got with him. So when asked how many kids I have, I still struggle to find the right thing to say. I suspect I always will.

But ten weeks in to having two kids at home and I'm still so grateful to not be a first time parent. I'll forever miss the experiences I never got to have with Cale, but am so grateful that I had them with Finn that he taught me how to be a parent to a living baby. I'm so grateful that this time I can not only feel like a mother for the third time, but a parent as well.


February 20, 2014

Missing Daren, Three Years Later

Three years ago today my brother-in-law Daren was killed by and IED while leading Soldiers on patrol in southern Afghanistan. He was the goofiest, happiest, and most genuine person you ever could meet.

A lot has happened in three years since his passing, and yet it doesn't at all feel like three years. It still feels like I could just pick up the phone and hear his voice. I wish I could. I wish he was here to meet Finley and Mary. The only child of ours that Daren has gotten to know is the one we never got to know. I firmly believe, and am comforted at the thought, that Daren is with Cale and has been looking out for him. It makes me ache for them both all the more, but I'm thankful they have one another now. 

The other day Finn pointed to a picture of Daren and said, "dats Daren Hidalgo" and then spelled Daren (he is enjoying spelling 'Finley Daren' lately). I'm excited that Finn is nearing an age where he can learn more about Daren and eventually grasp the importance of his middle name. I was five months pregnant with him when Daren was killed. After Daren's possessions were sent home, his mom found, and sent us, a card that he had purchased while in Afghanistan and never mailed. It was a congratulations card for a baby boy. He may have been a clown a lot of the time, but Daren was one hell of a thoughtful guy.

I haven't broadcasted this information, but Miles is deployed again. I'm sure it's especially somber for him today, to be back where he was when Daren was killed. I wish we could be with him today as we remember his brother, but I will spend part of the day with his other brother Jared and his family, as well as Daren's best friend Phil who lives near us and has become a good friend over the last couple years. We'll probably exchange stories and laughter, a few tears, and hugs and forever miss our beloved and wonderful Daren.

Here is the tribute and remembrance video for Daren. If you haven't seen it before, please take a few minutes to watch and help us remember him.

February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day, 2014

I seem to enjoy subjecting the kids to photo sessions fairly often. It started earlier this week when I wanted to take a few cute pictures to make into Valentine's Day cards. I saw this idea on Pinterest and had to copy it. Miles gives me a hard time about subjecting Finn to photo shoots with his shirt off, but hey at least he's got pants on this year. The last two years he didn't even have that! (2012, 2013)

My friend Jodi sent Mary an adorable little dress, so naturally I had to take a bunch of pictures of her in it, even caught a smile:

Then earlier today the kids were dressed in cute valentines day apparel, so of course I had to snap a few pictures:

 We really going to do this again, mom?

Miles isn't able to be with us this Valentine's Day, so we make sure to send him some love as well:

Hoping everyone had a Valentine's Day that made them smile:

February 9, 2014

Motherhood is so Glamorous

So this happened this morning:

All that from my baby who normally doesn't spit up much at all. I guess she's an all or nothing kind of gal. But . . .totally worth it to catch this sweet smile. I think someone was pretty proud of herself.

Yes, Finn is wearing two different kinds of pajamas. He leaked through his nighttime diaper and his shirt, not his pants, got wet. So instead of putting him in clothes, I just changed his pajama top. 

Mary and I, on the other hand, had to get dressed for the day. Happy Sunday!


February 3, 2014

Mary's Birth Video by our Friend Neely

Long Post. But one of my favorites I've ever shared. Earlier today our friend Neely shared a video she put together of the images from Mary's arrival. But I wanted to share a little (long) background first.

In the spring of 2010 when I was pregnant with Cale I decided that I wanted to get some maternity pictures taken. Miles was deployed and I thought it would make for a nice Father's Day gift. Cale was due only a couple weeks after Father's Day and Miles was coming home early from his deployment to be there for the birth (he ended up arriving the day before Cale was born). So I looked up some photographers in the area, found one who was available, contacted her, set a date, and when that date arrived I drove out to the local park where we agreed to meet. And then I drove around. And around. And around. No photographer was there. She stood me up. I called twice, left a message and never heard back from her. I re-checked my email to ensure I had the right time and location (I did), emailed her, and hoped that everything was ok and assumed I would hear back that she either forgot or would tell me something came up and reschedule. But I never heard back from her. Eventually I saw she updated photos from another session on her website so I knew everything was fine - she just had the worst business etiquette ever. Who stands up a pregnant woman whose husband is deployed?! Fortunately I hadn't paid anything yet, but I was left to find someone new on a now shorter timeline.

And while I was initially annoyed that I had to find another photographer, it ended up being a huge blessing. I found Ker-Fox Photography just through googling local photographers, loved their website and pictures and contacted them to see if they could do a session, explaining that my husband was deployed and I wanted to have some maternity pictures taken since this was our first child and he wouldn't be home until close to the birth. I got a quick response back from Neely, who has since become a very dear friend. She and her husband came out to capture some images of my pregnancy with Cale and to this day they are some of my most cherished possessions.

When Cale died I asked my sister Kate to contact Neely as we had also planned on doing a newborn session with her (and I certainly wasn't much for talking on the phone those first few weeks). Never having a client experience a loss like ours, she was devastated for us. Out of the goodness of her heart, she put together a beautiful album of some of the pictures from my maternity session.

Fast forward many months later, I contacted Neely to let her know I was pregnant again. I wanted her to be the one to capture images of my pregnancy, but also asked if she would be willing to be there for the birth and capture Finn's arrival. At the time of delivery, Neely was newly pregnant with their daughter Finley (she not only takes great pictures, but has good taste in names too). She was happy to be there as she had never shot a birth before, and she wrote a beautiful blog post about it here.

In June of 2011 we literally saw Neely every week for a photo session. First maternity, then delivery, newborn, and at the end of the month she came out (again out of the goodness of her heart) to document the balloon release we did for Cale's first birthday. It was special and fitting that she was there with us, as we celebrated the boy who brought us together:

When we moved from Georgia I was sad knowing that I would never find a photographer quite like Neely. Several months ago I was texting with her and catching up. I told her that we were expecting again and while it shouldn't surprise me, I was beyond thrilled when she suggested flying out to capture the birth. And she did. She flew all the way to Texas from Georgia. Left her little Finley and her husband for nearly a week to come out and once again, capture some of the most tender and important moments of our family's story. Oh, and at the time of Mary's birth, Neely shared with me that she is expecting again. Just as she was when Finn was born. Another little connection I think is so special.

But the connection that I love the most is that Neely has not only taken amazing pictures and helped us preserve our most cherished memories, but she is part of all three of our children's stories. Neely's goal when taking pictures is to tell a story. Her God given talent has enabled her to do that beautifully for us, as she has done for all her clients, but I wanted to share the story behind all these powerful images, and why they are so very special.

I not only gained a friend in Neely, but I found someone who has meant so much to our family over the last three and a half years. I'll never be able to thank her for the gifts she's given us, but will always be profoundly grateful for them. Her latest work, this video of Mary's arrival (which she shares in this touching blog), brings me to tears every time I watch it.

I watched the video today with Finn and when Mary cries, he said "Mary sad?" "No baby, Mary was just born, she was crying for the first time." He replied, "Mary's awake."

Yes, honey. And someday you will realize how profound that statement is.

If I ever meet the photographer who stood me up, I need to thank her.


February 1, 2014

30 By 30 Round Up

I will be 30 next week and there are a few outstanding goals I have on my list of things to do before I turn 30. The ones I did not get around to doing are:

3. Attend a yoga class
7. Read 30 books (Almost done)
14. Sleep out under the stars
18. Finish a scrapbook (Works in progress)
23. Take a cooking/baking class of some sort

I am a little annoyed that I will not accomplish all 30 before I'm 30, but do plan to accomplish them when I'm 30. So that counts for something, right? Unless anyone has any suggestions of a few things I can knock out in the next few days?? I did change some of the ones I had originally written down. I originally thought about going vegetarian for a month, but after sticking to a primarily Paleo diet for a month, I realize I didn't have much rationale or desire to be a vegetarian for thirty days. I also originally had read War and Peace and haha, that got changed pretty early on. In fact, I still have four more books to read! I'm giving myself an extension though February. Any suggestions for super quick reads?

Another one I didn't accomplish is the cooking class but I've started DVRing cooking shows so that's sort of the same thing. Except not at all, but I'll pretend it is. And while I didn't specify, it was Cale 's scrapbook I was hoping to finish, though I have a few to choose from.  But I did start and am up-to-date with Mary's album and have stared on Finn's.

I put doing a cleanse of some sort on the list and while originally was thinking along the lines of a diet/food cleanse, I didn't want to do that while pregnant nor do I want to now while breastfeeding. But I'm going to look at "cleanse" in a different manner and count my financial fast as a cleanse as it sort of has been. Tomorrow is the last day, so I'll share how that went sometime next week.

There are several goals I did accomplish, but didn't blog about. One was to find a playgroup for Finn. I don't really know what I was thinking, or expecting, with that one at the time, but I never really found (or looked for) a stereotypical playgroup. Instead we attend music and story time at the library on a very inconsistent manner, and go to the gym consistently. I'm going to count going to the gym as accomplishing this goal as Finn really got a lot out of it. And we will keep going up until we move. One of the neatest things when looking at these pictures, is realizing how much he has grown and developed in the last year. He has gotten so brave and adventurous. And while he has always loved to run, climb, and jump, it's neat to see him explore his own boundaries. I feel like he has a really good balance of being fearless, but also cautious. The last picture is from a few days ago when Finn wanted to swing on the rope swing for the first time. He had a blast until he realized he didn't know how to get off and was a little hesitant to just let go. But knowing him, he will be back at it next week.

So, any last minute suggestions of things I should accomplish before I'm 30? I'd like to add "get a full nights sleep," but that's as likely to happen as me reading War and Peace.