The Joyful Mundane of the Little Years

I’ve always wanted to be a mom. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve imagined having lots of kids. I even had a stroller w/ twin baby dolls that I got as a gift one year.  I remember pretending to have them run up to me when I *came home from work* saying “Mommy!! You’re home!” 

I’d scoop the dolls up and give them hugs and kisses after being away from them for a full day of pretend work. I loved it. I felt so loved and needed. I couldn’t wait to have my own kids to love me like that someday. (I actually rediscovered this stroller and dolls at my parents’ house recently and now my kiddos have it to play with).

The last 25ish years truly flew by since those days I imagined being a mom. But here I am…a mom, with two kids actually. Two kids ages two and under. My toddler does run to me when I get home from work saying “Mama!!” while my baby gives me the biggest grin and motions her arms up for me to pick her up. It’s the sweetest thing and really does make me feel loved.

Getting to this point in motherhood definitely wasn’t an easy route, but after having our first son, I knew we would eventually have more kids…someday. Or so I thought. 

It was Sunday. Easter Sunday. Just one month after the world had shut down due to COVID. Instead of traveling like we normally do for holidays, we were just at home – my husband, 8 month old, and I. We watched Easter service online and I was planning to make us a nice fried chicken meal but the thought of raw chicken sizzling in oil made me want to vomit. That was alarming since I love me some home cooked food. So, just to be sure, I peed on the stick and golly gee, we got two pink lines, once again. What?? I could not believe it. No joke, my husband was literally googling “chance of false positive pregnancy test”. 

Now if you’re reading this and you’re thinking, “ugh, here’s another story about how this girl just got pregnant so easily and I’m struggling over here” or “I don’t want to hear about this, this isn’t going to be helpful…” I hear you. I see you. Hear me out, please. This isn’t a story to boast or discourage, but hopefully one of hope, solidarity, and ultimately — joy. We too, had a somewhat rocky road to having children. An ectopic pregnancy and months of waiting led us to our first baby boy. We were definitely shocked to find ourselves pregnant once again so quickly. 

Once it settled in that we were indeed pregnant, with a baby girl actually, we started to get excited. We had friends that had kids close together and they ensured us that yes, even though it was hard, it was so much fun and that the two of them would be the best of friends. Okay okay, we can do this.

Fast forward a few months. Our baby girl surprised us by coming a few weeks early. All was good, everyone was healthy – for the most part. 

One of the first pictures we have of these two together. An almost 16 month old and a 3 day old 🙂 

Unfortunately, here we began a scary period of a possible cancer diagnosis, another season of severe postpartum depression and anxiety, and two heart surgeries. (Yea, it was a lot. Stay tuned for future blog posts). 

Turns out, I didn’t have cancer. I got through the depression. I stopped having intrusive/anxious thoughts regarding my kids and my health. I healed physically from the surgeries. I was finally able to care for my two kids on my own, without the help of my mom, mother-in-law, or husband. I wish I could tell you that this all got better overnight, but it definitely wasn’t immediate. Healing took time. Time working through a whole lot of things with a counselor, psychiatrist, and many other medical specialists. 

So, here I am now. Two kids – a newly turned 2 year old and a 10 month old. 

This. Life. Is. Busy. I cannot tell you how many times people have told me, “You better enjoy it now, they’re not always going to be this little.” I just nod and smile and try to hide the spit up on the shoulder of my shirt. 

I know I need to enjoy it, I really do. I know that they will be grown up in the blink of an eye. But how can I enjoy it when I constantly feel touched out and constantly needed? I’ve discovered over the last few years that I need alone time to recharge and you’re hardly alone when you’re a mom. Sometimes you can’t even go to the bathroom alone – you know what I mean, mamas. 

Motherhood is more than a full time job (that doesn’t include you moms who work outside the home along with being a mom). Breaks are far and few in between. I hear it all the time – *self-care* is important, but when am I supposed to do that when my baby is crying for “ah mama” most of the day? I already try to get things done during naptime or after bedtime, so when am I supposed to find time for myself? And what if you’re a single mom with limited help around you? That’s also incredibly difficult.  

I absolutely love and adore these kids of ours. These ages are so much fun and they bring so much joy to my life with their sweet giggles and cozy snuggles. But dang, it’s HARD. No one told that little girl with those baby dolls about the toddler that cries if you don’t let him screw on the lid on his milk cup by himself (I DO IT!). They don’t tell you about the baby who needs to constantly be held to prevent a red-faced snotty-nosed cry fest. Or the toddler who purposely pushes over his baby sister who is newly sitting up by herself. 

No one tells you that your husband will be a high school coach which leaves you solo parenting for 3 nights in a row and all day on Saturday. And who knew you’d be spending $100 every time you go to Costco, merely to restock on diapers (in two sizes) and wipes.

And they definitely don’t tell you how messy motherhood can be. The crumbs on the floor, the spilled coffee (you guessed it, by the toddler), the piles of dirty AND clean laundry that you can never get caught up on, the sink full of bottles and sippy cups. The spit-up and vomit and poop (you know it’s true). The random rocks and dirt you find everywhere (seriously, so many rocks). 

I didn’t know that it would be this way. Everyone tells you that being a mom is absolutely wonderful and amazing and it’s the best years of your life so you better enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong, it is. But it’s also really hard. And it’s hard in every season. Whether you have two young kiddos like I do, you just lost your baby to a miscarriage, you have 3-4+ kiddos of various ages,  you have a teenager or two, or you just sent your last baby off to college, we all have challenges in motherhood. 

Challenges in motherhood are difficult no matter what they look like and no matter the stage we are in. Try not to get caught up in the cute outfits, smiling faces, and pumpkin patch pictures you see on Instagram. Beneath those cutesy pictures is a mom who argued with her toddler for 20 minutes on whether he could wear his rain boots with no socks even though it isn’t raining (I’ve stopped fighting him on this one, by the way). 

I’m learning to say “yes” more in this motherhood journey, including to these boots.

I was recently listening to a podcast by some of my favorite moms – Laura Wifler and Emily Jensen from the ministry called Risen Motherhood. One thing they said really caught my attention and has stuck with me. Laura says, “When you are scrubbing dishes, you are living out the redemption story: how Christ’s work on the cross has made you clean as you make these dishes clean.” 

It may sound far-fetched, but it’s so true. We may not be necessarily thinking about doing God’s work everytime we wipe up spilled milk, yes I know. Laura in this podcast also says, God gives us the task to care for His creation – He told us that all the way back in Genesis. Okay, so we’re not taking care of big ole creatures and beautiful gardens, but these dirty dishes, laundry, and little humans are a job in itself. 

And that’s just it. He calls us to take care of our kids and our homes in whatever season we are in. It may seem like mundane work – and it is – but it is so much more than that. We can have joy in all of this seemingly monotonous work because God has created us and put us in this season of motherhood for specific reasons. He is the ultimate organizer of His creation and our lives and He calls us to do the same with our lives, our work, and our families. (Laura Wifler & Emily Jensen, Risen Motherhood Podcast, Episode 7, 2017). 

Woh. Despite all the crumbs, dirt, rocks, spit-up, and poop you encounter in motherhood, Jesus has faced even worse in our sins. And he took all that muck to the cross. To DIE for us and to SAVE us. So as we’re cleaning up yet another mess or picking up toys for the umpeenth time, we can think of Christ and how he graciously washes our slates clean day after day so that we can LIVE in His love. Especially as mothers. What a gift He’s given us to live out his perfect love in our daily lives with our husbands, kids, friends, coworkers, and everyone we come into contact with. 

Never realized I’d be paying attention to what carts have two seats in the front instead of just one (Costco and Aldi for the win!)

Practical Tips to *Thriving* (not just surviving) Motherhood

(I fully understand that I’m a mere 2 years in, so I have a lot of learning to do. But these are some things I’ve found to be helpful in the first few years of motherhood)

  • Community: 
    • Surround yourself with other moms to support you, pray for you, and encourage you. It is helpful if these moms are going through the same season of motherhood as you, but it’s also beneficial to have mom friends who’ve already gone through the seasons you’re about to go through or will eventually go through. From dropping a nap, to sickness and cold remedies, constipation, and starting school, walking through motherhood with other moms alongside you can be so uplifting. And call your own mom. She raised you and you turned out to be pretty great. 🙂 
  • Self-Care 
    • Take. Those. Breaks. It’s so important to take time to be YOU. Not just Judah and Ava’s mom. Find things that bring you joy outside of being a mom and prioritize time to do them. Ask your husband to spend a few hours with the kids, hire a babysitter, ask a friend to watch them for a bit. Whatever you have to do. Don’t forget that you are you before you are this child’s mother. You will be a better wife, mom, and human if you fill your own cup before you try to fill others’. 
  • Marriage
    • Spend time with just your husband, no kids. Go on dates, if you can. Prioritize your marriage so that you can demonstrate to your kids what a healthy relationship between a man and a woman looks like. Talk about parenting tactics, goals, and make sure you’re on the same page. You’re a team when it comes to raising your kids.
  • Prioritize your relationship with God
    • Be in the Word. Read scripture. Pray with your kids. Talk with God. God knows your heart and He desires to lead you along this journey of motherhood. I’m 100% guilty for getting frustrated with the mundane tasks of daily life. However, when we take a moment in the morning to set our eyes upon the Lord, everyone’s day goes a little better. 

You’re doing an amazing job, mama. Keep it up 🙂

Helpful Links

RM Ep. 07: Dirt, Dishes, & Diapers: Coping with the Never Ending Mess

The Shirt That Just Didn’t Quite Fit

The Shirt That Just Didn’t Quite Fit

It was a monumental conversation with a friend that I look up to. A conversation that I probably wouldn’t have had if it wasn’t for this shirt. My husband had ordered a shirt to coach in and it just didn’t quite fit right for his liking. It had one simple fleur-de-li on it (the school logo), so we brainstormed who else it may fit and could use it for coaching or teaching. We came up with one of his colleagues. I told him that I would text his wife a picture to see if he would be interested. She said that he would take it. Now my husband could have easily taken the shirt with him to school to give it to his colleague, but for some reason (now I know it was God), I told him that I would make arrangements with his wife to get it to him. Sounds kind of like a round-a-bout way, but God knew what he was doing. His wife texted me back and said she could stop by and get the shirt and asked if she could stay to chat. I agreed and I told her I would have the coffee on Wednesday at 10 a.m. She knew that I had been dealing with some stuff and I agreed that it would be nice to chat.

You’re probably wondering why you’re reading a blog post about a silly ole shirt and why it matters so much. To give you the full understanding of what this conversation did for me, you’ll need the back story. This is a story of one of the darkest places I’ve ever been in my life. It’s a story of how God has demonstrated redemption and has shown me His grace. It’s about how he takes darkness and turns it into light. It’s a rough story. Not one I’m proud of. One that I never in a million years thought I would be sharing on social media. But it’s one that I’m sharing so that others know they are not alone. And so they can see that God works even through the roughest of circumstances.

I gave birth to our sweet baby boy on August 5th, 2019. My water broke when my feet hit the floor at 5:00 that morning. Our sweet Judah Thomas entered the world at 12:58 p.m. after a relatively quick labor and an hour of pushing. They laid him on my chest and I remember feeling so in love. They then took him away because he wasn’t crying as much as they wanted him to be. We were told he probably swallowed a lot of fluid and they needed to look him over a little better. In the meantime, I began hearing words of “her uterus is limp” and “we need to stop the bleeding”. After a baby is born, the uterus is supposed to contract to get back to normal size and constrict the blood vessels to prevent bleeding. However, I basically began bleeding out. I suddenly felt terrified. I remember saying “Is my baby okay?!” and “Am I okay?!” all at the same time. After what felt like a very long time (although it was only a few minutes, maybe just a few seconds), my doctor was able to get my bleeding under control and Judah was laid back onto my chest. They said that he looked great and they would continue to monitor him. I was told that they were able to use internal and external massage on me (ouch!) to stop the bleeding that was occuring. They would check my levels the next day to see if I needed a transfusion, but I should be okay.

A few moments after they laid Judah onto my chest for the second time.

The next few hours / days were spent getting to know our sweet boy. He was perfect. More than we had ever been able to dream of. Breastfeeding was hard and overwhelming and painful, but I felt positive that we would get it figured out. I was sore from giving birth, but I knew that would soon ease. Despite these minor discomforts, we were just happy. Happy to finally have this little human in our arms after 9 months of dreaming of what he would be like. Happy to show him off to our families and on social media. Happy. Everything was good. Or so I thought. Everything seemed to be going well and I didn’t realize how much I was truly struggling inside. 

This is my story of postpartum depression and anxiety. Yikes. Actually saying those words is still hard. It’s hard to share on a platform like this, but it’s one that needs to be heard. I don’t know who else out there may be dealing with something similar, but I want you to know you’re not alone.

Postpartum depression and anxiety is something I never thought I would deal with to the degree I did. It was something I thought I was prepared to deal with because I have had “anxiety and depression” in the past. I had done all the right things to prevent it –  seeing a counselor and reading all the books and following all the instagram accounts. But it hit me like a rock falling out of the sky. And I guess that’s how it works. I’ve learned that sometimes you’re depressed and you don’t realize it. And that’s totally what happened to me.

Looking back now, I think I dealt with postpartum anxiety right after Judah was born, and I definitely didn’t realize it. He was born on a Monday and we brought him home on Wednesday. Everything seemed to be going fine. We took him in for a 5 day checkup on Friday. We found out he had lost a whole pound. It’s normal for babies to lose weight after they are born, but they are not supposed to lose more than 10% of their body weight and Judah had lost 12%. The nurse practitioner didn’t seem too concerned, but we did need to get this boy gaining weight. She gave us this little syringe device to be able to supplement our feedings. She told me that I needed to start pumping after every feed to get my supply up. She gave me recipes for oatmeal cookies to increase supply and told me where to buy brewer’s yeast. We were to begin “triple feeding” –  nursing, pumping, and then supplementing (yes, it is as exhausting as it sounds). We were to continue waking Judah every 3 hours at night to make sure he was getting everything he needed. 

My husband/sister helping me supplement feeds with a syringe. This syringe also had a little tube that we could slip into his mouth that would allow us to supplement while he was on the breast.

That weekend (and the next 3 weeks) was rough. It was exhausting, physically and emotionally. And it wasn’t at all what I thought the newborn life was going to be like. I had visions of me snuggling my newborn baby with my hot cup of coffee and my breakfast burrito (that I had meal prepped before baby was born) sitting on our comfy couch in my cute nursing tank and robe that matched baby’s swaddle. Instead I was attaching a tiny human to my breasts with an improper latch which led to tremendous pain every single time he nursed. Then I would hand him off to my husband or mom or sister (praise Jesus they were there!!) to give him extra milk while I hooked myself up to my pump for the next 20 minutes. Every. Three. Hours. And in the newborn world, you count their feeds from start to start. Which means that I would begin a feed at 2 a.m. which sometimes lasted 40 minutes, and then pump for 20 minutes, which put me at 3 a.m. and then go back to sleep only to have to wake up again in TWO hours. We did that faithfully around the clock for 3 weeks and it was rough. I was exhausted. I was constantly worried that he wasn’t getting enough. I was constantly worried that I wasn’t pumping enough. I was so worried that I wasn’t adequate for him. I was refusing to give him formula for supplementation. My sister graciously offered me some of her breastmilk (she happened to be nursing her 7 month old at the same time and had an abundance of milk – shoutout Britt – you are amazing), and I felt “weird” using it. Because I should be able to provide for my baby on my own, right?? I shouldn’t have to use anything except for each and every little drop that my body produced, right?? WRONG. If you’re reading this, please know that it’s OKAY to supplement. It’s OKAY to use donated breast milk or formula. FED is best, no matter how you do it. The amount of milk you pump in a setting does NOT have anything to do with your worth or your ability to provide for your baby. All the things I told myself I wouldn’t let bother me before I was a mom, I was totally struggling with as a mom. 

Those first few weeks were rough, but then things got better. Judah finally made it back to birth weight and we were able to let him sleep for longer stretches at night and get more rest ourselves. I no longer had to pump or give him a bottle after every single feed. He started to seem happier after feeds. I started to feel better physically. It was all good. I was finally feeling more like a human. I spent the rest of my maternity leave loving on my baby. Looking back, I know I didn’t truly heal from all of the trauma from Judah’s birth and those first few weeks. I sort of just took that experience and shoved it deep down. Because I didn’t want to have any negative feelings towards my sweet baby. I didn’t want to let myself feel the feelings of inadequacy. I was his mom and I wanted to be enough for him. So I just ignored those feelings and moved on. And it did seem like all was good. I felt like I was good. But I most definitely wasn’t. And it didn’t hit me again until I went back to work. 

I returned to work full time as a physical therapist 12 ½ weeks after Judah was born. I was excited to get back to work and to have a routine. I was nervous about leaving Judah but I felt good about it. I fully trusted the daycare providers we would leave him with and it would be nice to have adult conversations again. But what I didn’t realize was that there was a storm on the horizon. Between leaving my baby at daycare, pumping, getting back into the swing of things at work, pumping, worrying about him gaining weight (still), pumping, worrying about him when he got his first cold, pumping, etc., etc., etc., it was what I have been referring to as the perfect storm. I soon realized I was just going through the motions. I was in a fog. I woke up one Saturday morning and told my husband that something was horribly wrong with me and that he needed to take me to the hospital. I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I felt so out of it. I had numbness and tingling in my arms and legs. I had a headache and I was dizzy. I had intermittent heart palpitations and shortness of breath. And I realized I had been feeling this way for a few weeks. I was convinced that I must have a brain tumor or something was physically wrong with me because depression and anxiety could most definitely not make you feel this bad. Well, I’m here to tell you that it totally can. I did not realize that I was depressed. One of my psychiatrists referred to it being like a frog in a boiling pot of water. If you put a frog in a boiling pot of water, it will immediately jump out. If you put a frog in a cold pot of water and then slowly bring it to a boil, the frog doesn’t realize the gradual change and will just sit and be content until it boils and dies.

I thought that all the mom worries I was having were normal. But these were not normal. I became obsessive about these worries. These worries soon led me to a very dark place. Despite the continued worries about Judah gaining weight and getting enough, I was now having worries that something horrible was going to happen to him. I even had worries that I would accidentally drop him or hurt him. I now know that this was just the anxiety (and the devil) overtaking me, but at the time I was so incredibly scared that something bad was going to happen. Anxiety and depression can present itself in many ways, but this is the biggest way it affected me. Looking from the outside, it would appear that I would have had no reason to be struggling. I had an amazing husband and sweet new baby, a warm home to live in, and a good job. I’ve since learned that anxiety and depression do not discriminate. Satan uses it on whoever and whenever he wants to. 

But, this is not the end of the story. Praise Jesus. Over that weekend, my husband and I both realized that something was most definitely wrong – I was struggling with severe postpartum depression. We both called into work on Monday and he took me to my OBGYN. She was incredibly amazing and supportive. She increased my medication dose, got me set up with a psychiatrist for medication management, encouraged me to continue counseling weekly, and took me out of the workplace for 4 weeks while we worked on getting the right medication dosage. She even gave me her cell phone number and told me to call her if I needed anything. She hugged me and I felt a small sense of relief – I was finally getting help getting out of this pit I was deep into. 

Over the next 5 weeks, I spent time recovering and healing from this disease. It took more counseling, conversations with loved ones, and two more medication changes. Finally after beginning a 2nd medication, I began to feel more like myself. I began to smile for real again and motivation slowly came back. I returned to work and felt passionate about my career and my patients. I distinctly remember driving home from work one evening and noticing that the houses, trees, grass, and lights down our street suddenly seemed more crisp and clear than they ever had. That was because I had been living in a literal brain fog for the last few months. 

So the shirt. Remember the shirt that I talked about at the beginning? Oh yea, how does that fit into this story? Well, let’s just say I can confidently say I am glad I went through this hard time. Wait, what? Yes, I am glad it happened. It was horrible and I don’t ever want to go through it again, but I can honestly say that God knew what he was doing. See, now that I am on the other side I can see why I went through it. It was in this conversation with this friend of mine that made me realize why I went through it. The shirt didn’t quite fit my husband so we decided to give it to my friend’s husband so she came to pick it up. It was in this conversation with this friend over coffee and tears on a Wednesday morning that God showed me why this happened in my life. I filled her in on my struggle over the past month and mentioned that through it all I felt so alone. 

Yes, I had people that knew what was going on and reaching out to me to ask me how I was doing, but I still felt alone. I felt alone because I had a hard time asking people for help. I didn’t have a group of moms to lean on, even though I had a plethora of numbers of moms to text in my phone and lots of people checking in. I was so grateful for everyone that did reach out to me, but I didn’t have a weekly physical space to bring up my struggles. It was in this conversation that God solidified my desire to create a space like this. My sister-in-law had been encouraging me to find a group like this for months and in this moment I realized that there is such a need for it in this area. 

And now that I had returned to work part time, I would have time to create such a space. And it turns out that this is a group that my friend here had realized was needed as well. I texted a few moms in town and they too agreed that they had felt this same need. So that is what we did. Weekly. On Thursday mornings. Moms in all seasons are meeting over coffee, the Word, conversation, muffins, and kiddos running around. Because mamas, just as my favorite podcast moms Laura Wifler and Emily Jensen say, “Motherhood is hard. One second we think we’re doing a good enough job and the next we feel like the worst mom on the planet. Which is why we need the refreshing truth of the gospel to be repeated over and over, giving us hope in the everyday moments” (Jensen and Wifler, Risen Motherhood). And we need the support of other moms to walk through life with. It was in this moment that I realized that I went through something this hard so that I can hopefully be there when other women around me are going through something similar. 

Some of the babies at Mom’s group – Judah (6 months), Esther ( 4 months) and Grayson ( 2 months)

And it wasn’t just the solidifying conversation that morning, it was also the verses that my sweet friend happened to read that morning that really opened my eyes to what God was trying to tell me. I’ll leave you with the verses, Philippians 2:12-13, in a few different versions, because the words are all so beautiful and true. I’ve added emphasis for the situation at hand.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” – ESV

“My beloved ones, just like you’ve always listened to everything I’ve taught you in the past, I’m asking you now to keep following my instructions as though I were right there with you. Now you must continue to make this new life fully manifested as you live in the holy awe of God—which brings you trembling into his presence. God will continually revitalize you, implanting within you the passion to do what pleases him.” – The Passion Translation

“For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure. – Amplified Bible

*I do want to take a moment to thank each and every one of you that reached out to me and did things for me during this rough season. I am so grateful that God placed each of you in my life when I needed it most. I’m most thankful for my sweet husband who held my hand, wiped my tears, and reminded me of the hope of the gospel every single step of the way.

**If you’re in the Concordia, MO area and want to be involved in this group, contact me for details at 402-806-2918.

***List of resources that I’ve found helpful in my journey: