baby

A Moment, 17 Years in the Making

Seventeen years ago I was forced to go to church camp…not just any church camp but choir camp. My family and I had just moved back to Michigan from Pennsylvania and this was going to be a “great way to meet people.” At 13 years old, I was less than impressed by the prospect of going to a nerdy bible camp where we had to sing all day, every day. I can’t carry a tune and had no interest in learning but my mother forced me to go.
And (long before today) I was so grateful.
When I timidly stepped into the musty, dingy cabin with my turquoise sleeping bag under my arm a bright bubbly blonde interrupted my 13 year old angst-y thoughts.
“Hi! I’m Amy!” She said. She was a magical ray of sunshine in that dark, dreary cabin.
And that is how I met one of my oldest friends. We survived middle school and high school together having an occasional class together , we grew up in the church choir room together, four more years of choir camp, and then we went our separate ways to college. But we still had our chats on the dock of Walnut Lake, cinnamon toast from Einstein’s, we traveled around the world separately, we both got married back at home and then we both moved away.
After fifteen years of friendship, I got the most wonderful news! After a long road, she and her husband were expecting twins. I was thrilled and deeply saddened at the same time. This was the time that Matt and I had been trying for over a year. We had decided not to share our news or lack of news with anyone to try and avoid undue stress. But when I found out that she was pregnant, I knew she could be someone to reach out to. She talked me off many levels of ledges and our friendship grew in a completely different direction.
A few months later, we were pregnant too! We literally grew out together during this time. We were 700 miles apart but it was as though we were sitting on the dock sharing our stories, thoughts, and worries along the way.
Last week, we spent time together. In person. With our children. We drank coffee and cinnamon toast and traded stories of how wonderful a blessing our children have been to us. And conversely how awful and lonely mother hood can be. How messy. How grumpy. How exhausting.
Our kids played near each other, stole each other’s food, and drank out of each other’s sippy cups and we watched the three of them in awe. She reaffirmed my parenting style and I told her how beautiful her children were. We reminisced. We laughed. I cried.
Big sappy tears: Tears of happiness; to finally have a friend who understands without judgment. Tears of sorrow; for knowing our visit was going too fast. And tears of joy because how lucky am I to have had a friend for seventeen years for many seasons of life? How blessed. How magical.

the six of us

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Waiting for Cameron

I’ve been thinking about this post for a long time now but was never sure how to start it…. So tonight, one the eve of my son’s first birthday, I thought I would just dive in.

Someone once told me, they had a hard time getting pregnant with their second child, “it took three months,” she said. Three months!? Really? I was twelve months deep and still no baby. I had been poked and prodded, medicated, charted and still nothing but heartbreak. To have compassion for this woman was beyond my realm of possibility. Or was it?

I realized that we are in a society of instant gratification, when we want something, we get it. When we want a baby, we want one immediately (or at least 9 months from that decision). So no matter how long it took you to get pregnant, whether it’s three months or three years, it’s heartbreaking month after month to discover you are not.

It took us fourteen months to get pregnant with Cameron and we needed a lot of prayer and a few milligrams of science to get us there. When my cousin was pregnant with her third baby, she connected with the Michael Buble song, “Just Haven’t Met You Yet.” And it became their song. When I got pregnant with Cam, our song was, “1,000 Years,” by Christina Perri.

The song is melancholy and lovely and for me describes my love and relationship with Cam from the day I got pregnant, to his birth, to his first birthday and beyond. And while, I love this song, I can’t sing it without a lump rising in my throat and a tear falling down my cheek. I didn’t know I was capable of such a love. I sang (or tried to sing) this song to him when he was readmitted to the hospital five days after he was born to treat his jaundice, I sang it to him when we danced in his room, I sang it to him on my last night of maternity leave and I sing it to him now when he has trouble getting to sleep.

When they placed him on my chest, after one power outage, one viewing of the Wizard of Oz, one Tiger’s game, one epidural, two tums, lots of ice chips and 23.5 hours of labor, the lyrics came to me. “I have died every day waiting for you, darling don’t be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years.”

I couldn’t believe my prayers were answered. Every devastating month waiting to get pregnant, I had the hope in the back of my mind that God was just waiting for the perfect time to send the perfect baby and in that moment, when I held him for the first time and heard Matt whisper in disbelief, “It’s a boy,” I knew I was right.

So, happy birthday, Cam. You have taught us what unconditional love looks like, what patience looks like and you have taught us that sleep is mostly overrated and something we can do without, more often than not. You are kind, you are loving, you have amazing hair, you make us laugh, you love to eat everything, even carpet fuzzies, and I can’t imagine our lives any other way. You were so worth the wait.

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Happy Birthday, love bug.

“A Thousand Years”

 

Heart beats fast
Colors and promises
How to be brave?
How can I love when I’m afraid to fall?
But watching you stand alone,
All of my doubt suddenly goes away somehow.

One step closer

[Chorus:]
I have died every day waiting for you
Darling, don’t be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

Time stands still
Beauty in all she is
I will be brave
I will not let anything take away
What’s standing in front of me
Every breath
Every hour has come to this

One step closer

[Chorus:]
I have died every day waiting for you
Darling, don’t be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

And all along I believed I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me
I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

One step closer
One step closer

[Chorus:]
I have died every day waiting for you
Darling don’t be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

And all along I believed I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me
I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

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Categories: baby, birth, family, infants, newborns, parenting, pregnancy, singing | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

My Kind of Holiday

Christmas is my kind of holiday. I have always loved Christmas. But who hasn’t? I guess it’s more appropriate to say, I am passionate about Christmas. I love the Christmas story – the basis for my faith, I love our Michigan Christmases which are usually white, I love time with family, I love wrapping gifts – though my wrapping skills pale in comparison to Matt’s, and I love working… wait.

Let’s back up. I started my career in retail as a happy accident. My first year, I was appalled at the length of the season (I was so over Christmas by the time it came), the overindulgence of gift buying and consumerism, the mean spirited-ness of busy shoppers, and loss of the true meaning of Christmas.

I felt like Charlie Brown. “Isn’t there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?!” He shouts it with desperation, with anxiety, with intensity. He feels like Christmas has slipped out of reach.

But last year in my work life, things were different. I chose to see the joy in each work day, knowing that somehow, someday I could and would make someone’s holiday different.  Exceptional. Amazing. I might find the perfect toy for a new baby, new jammies for an adopted family, the perfect gadget for that hard-to-shop for person, maybe with a smile and a quick conversation, I could make someone’s day.  Maybe I could help create an experience for our guests that would make their holiday brighter, more cheerful. Now that’s my kind of holiday.

Inevitably, we will all experience the stress and frustrations that the holidays can bring but I know that Christmas is about so much more than shopping – which is sometimes difficult to understand or see working in retail.

Cameron has changed my life in many ways  and Christmas is no exception. As I sit here, he is peacefully sleeping in his swing, my Pandora is set to my lullaby Christmas station, (our first) snow is whipping around the yard, dusting my evergreens with the most beautiful powdered sugar coating and I am savoring a peppermint mocha, I picked up on my way out of “the office”.

In my line of work, Christmas comes early – we all know that somehow Christmas comes earlier and earlier, year after year but this year I realized that, that just means we get to enjoy the season that much longer.  And with a baby who seems to grow and change at every blink of my eye, I will capture the longevity of the season.

Why not take a little more time to enjoy time with family, gazing at the swirling snow, warming up by the fireplace, listening to Christmas carols, reflecting on the gift that Christmas is. Why not put our babies in funny Santa hats and Christmas jammies and snuggle them throughout November and December? Why not enjoy the peace that Christmas brings a little longer? Why not sip our peppermint mochas a little more frequently and perhaps start our holiday movie viewings a little early? Why not get out the Christmas towels, read the Christmas books and maybe dig into some Christmas cookies?

cameron claus

Why not? What’s not to love about Christmas? They very first Christmas changed a lot of lives right? And I think it’s safe to say, that if we take the time to enjoy the Christmas season which exists long before the music starts playing and the wreaths go up and exists long after the tree is on the curb and the lights are down –  Christmas might just change us too. Now, that is my kind of holiday.

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For Me, For Next Time.

I will enjoy the last weeks of my pregnancy and I will try to enjoy the anticipation.
 
I will make sure I have all my bathroom necessities in all bathrooms.

I will not attempt to do dishes or clean for, at the bare minimum of, four weeks.

I will not feel bad about that.

I will ask the doctors how to take care of me. At the hospital – all the information given to me was how to care for this precious little baby. That came more naturally to me than I expected – but how to take care of my traumatized body was something I wasn’t prepared for.

I will make freezer meals, have paper plates and lots of snacks.

Water bottles will be at every nursing station.

I will realize what I’ve just done – given birth – and celebrate the miracle of life as well as the strength, energy and courage that it took to get that baby out. I will remind myself that I am a warrior.

I will not be afraid to take the baby into public or outside or in the car nor be afraid to bath the babe.

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I will ask for help.

I will not feel guilty for taking naps when we have company.

I will remind myself that I am beautiful whether I’m dressed with makeup or in my pajamas and a disheveled ponytail.

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I will not do laundry for the aforementioned four week period – at least.

I will not even think about working out, restricting calories or shedding excess baby weight I’m ready, emotionally and physically.

I know I will cry – and I will not apologize for any of it. It happens.

I will put away clothes with maternity tags.

I will stock up our DVR with my guilty pleasure shows like Full House, Gilmore Girls and Friends (even though I’ve seen them all more than a few times).

I will try to understand that needing a break from my baby doesn’t make me a bad mom and doesn’t mean I don’t love him. It means I need a moment to myself, to sleep, eat, shower, brush my teeth and regroup.

I will enjoy my pajamas.

I will shower every day.

I will call my girlfriends when I’m ready.

I will make play dates when I’m ready.

I will sleep, cry and remember to laugh because all too soon I will be back to work and he or she will be growing out of newborn onesies.

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Categories: baby, birth, family, friendship, infants, newborns, parenting, pregnancy | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Our First Swim

Last night we had our first swim. It has been in the nineties here with ninety percent humidity and needless to say, it’s hot! Cam does pretty well with the heat but we try and limit our time outside and maximize our time in the AC.
Fourteen years ago – I started babysitting for a family from my church. Tim and Laura had one daughter, Julia, who was almost one in addition to a 10 year old daughter, Ashley and a 12 year old son, Josh. We slowly became very close and they became a second family to me. They had Kaylee a few years later and I instantly fell in love with her as I did with the rest of their family.

kaylee and julia

 

They cheered me on when I graduated from high school, supported me when I studied abroad, Ashley stood up in my wedding and when Cameron was born, they visited us in the hospital.
Last night, Cameron and I stopped by for a visit with Tim and Laura.
Again – it must be said – it was hot. The journey from the car, up their driveway to their front door had me covered in sweat. Lucky for me, they have a pool. I changed into my swimsuit and jumped in the pool. As I swam from one end to another – it was unbelievable that I was living this moment. Fourteen years ago I was changing diapers, rocking the girls to sleep and never imagined that Laura would be changing my son’s diaper and rocking him to sleep.
After Cameron’s nap, Laura brought him outside and we dipped his chubby little toes into the water. Tim took him for a lap in the shallow end and then I finished off his swim dipping him up to his shoulders.

swim

He looked relaxed, content. Eyes closed, arms out. He looked the way we felt. I think we all reveled in the moment, reflecting on our friendship, thankful for our past and looking forward to our future.

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My Newborn

My mom was in the hospital,  where Cam was born, recovering from her second hip surgery. I went to visit, bringing coffee and snacks. We chatted for a while and then she had to go to physical therapy.

When I had Cameron, I stayed in my room the whole time, never venturing past the threshold of my privacy curtain. So, after I left my mom’s room I wanted to go see the nursery floor. I pressed the button to the sixth floor and I was surprised at my emotions. I felt a longing for being back, secluded from the world with only my husband and my son by my side.

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I walked out of the elevator doors and followed the signs to the nursery. I peaked in windows, expecting to see a bunch of tiny infants, wrapped in their white blankets, sleeping in rows.  But there were no babies in there. They must have all been with their mommas. It was kind of disappointing – like the magic was gone. And then I saw one small newborn being wheeled through the nursery. He was so tiny.

Was Cameron that small eight weeks ago?

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Everyone tells you to cherish every moment because it goes by fast. Too fast. That is so easy to say in hindsight but in the wee hours of the morning, I caught myself saying things like, “It will be easier when he sleeps through the night.”

When he pees on me, when I am not fast enough changing his diaper, I think, “It will be so much better when he is potty trained.”

When he is screaming for no apparent reason, I think, “I can’t wait until he can just tell me what he wants.”

We have these moments on a daily basis but I try to alter my way of thinking. I know our midnight dates will be gone too soon. I know that capturing his undivided attention on the changing table will turn to squirmy battles and I know that sometimes he cries just because he wants his momma.

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I know those moments are fleeting.

So for now, I will embrace each late night feeding, kiss each tear away and hold my baby boy while he still wants to be held.

stocking cao

 

*The photos in this post were taken by Jen Priester of Jen Preister Photography. She is incredibly talented and has as much love and kindness for newborns as their mothers. She was patient and knew how to soothe Cam when he got cranky. If you are in the Detroit area and are looking for a photographer. She is the best. I am now, more than ever, so grateful that she was able to capture the smallness, the newness and sleepiness in his newborn photos.

 

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Choir Camp in the Nursery

It’s amazing that ten years ago while in college, I could stay up until two a.m. without blinking a sleepy eye. Today, while I’m usually awake at 2 a.m. it is preceded by a few hours of sleep. When I creep into Cameron’s room to change his diaper and nurse him, I try and keep the mood quiet, dreamlike so he will drift back into a sleepy slumber.

Most nights I am successful.

Every so often, he will require a little more effort on my part. If I put him back in his crib before he is ready, he lets me know, usually about the time I make my way back to my room and crawl under the covers. It doesn’t matter if I wait in his nursery to ensure he is soundly sleeping for 30 seconds or ten minutes. He knows when I get back to my room and snuggle under the blankets and just as I sigh with relief for my impending three hour nap, he murmurs a bit and then lets out his angry cry, “momma, I was not done cuddling you yet, come back.”

cam mad

So I dart back to the nursery, so Matt can keep sleeping (and yes, I’m tired but I realize the need for momma snuggles is fleeting). I pick up my sad little boy and put him up on my shoulder to comfort him. I inhale his lavender shampoo and kiss his hairy head. Some nights we rock, some nights we dance. But all nights are accompanied by my loving, quiet singing, albeit out of tune. I don’t think he minds though.

What songs come to mind in the wee hours? Matt claims the only songs he can recall in the middle of the night when he brain is clouded with exhaustion are inappropriate rap songs. One night I overheard him on the monitor singing Sublime, “ What I Got” editing the lyrics for our young audience. (To be fair – he can also be overheard making up his own love songs to our son when he draws a blank).

I, however, go back to the songs that always brought me comfort. Church songs, hymns, campfire tunes, Vacation Bible School ditties. I like to know all the words to the songs I choose and since those songs are shorter and have been in my life for more than two decades, I know them all by heart.

I open with the song, “Sing, sing it out loud.” It’s the song that most Choir Camp campfires began with and seems like the perfect opener to my early morning set. I usually follow with any song in a foreign language because it takes more effort and ensures that I will not drift back to sleep in the middle of the chorus. “Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos’” – the Zulu song that translates – We are marching in the light of God and “Alabaré, Alabaré, Alabaré A mi Señor” – Spanish for “We will praise the Lord” and my favorite” Ki mu nki maa nyi, Bu li mun tu al in a en sii go, Om ut ima gwo gu ku lung ‘aa mye, Bu li mun tu al in a en sii go”– the Lugandan song, “Everybody has a Seed to Sow.”

It’s been almost eleven years since I’ve been a choir camper but the songs are etched in my memories as if I were just singing them yesterday in my hot pink Choir Camp tee shirt, jeans, flip flops and French braids. It’s amazing to be able to sing these songs to my son and at the same time recalling the incredible friendships and memories from the five years I was a camper and three as a counselor.

And while his nursery smells of the pink Johnson and Johnson baby lotion and A&D ointment, not well water, bug spray and campfires. And the paint that covers the walls is a fresh gray and turquoise and not musty wood covered in cobwebs. And the floor is soft, white, plush carpet not gritty, sandy, cement that inevitably ends up at the end of your sleeping bag. Somehow – despite all that- sometimes at 2 a.m. I am transported back to a cabin at Camp Lael.

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I wonder if Cameron will love singing as much as I do. I wonder what his summer memories will be made of. I wonder if he thinks his momma sings off key and sometimes messes up the words.

Probably not.

For now, I am content knowing that his early morning feedings are accompanied by the songs that comfort me and by the songs that tell Bible stories that will help him to grow into a man of God.

Sing, sing it out loud
Sing it so everyone can hear,
Let it begin it’s ringing in every listening ear right now
Lifting our praise unto the one who brought us here
Lifting our hearts to Jesus whose name we gladly sing!

Categories: baby, camp, family, newborns, parenting, singing, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Our Oompa Loompa

On Sunday, Cameron was five days old and my milk finally came in but he refused to eat. I felt like a had two gallons of milk attached to my chest and he just couldn’t latch. After each feeding, we were both soaked with milk, frustrated and one or both of us were usually in tears.

Even though we were told that infants have tiny tummies and don’t need to eat a lot, I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was unintentionally starving my baby.

I couldn’t wait until our pediatrician’s appointment the next day.

We got there and weighed him. He had lost a half a pound over the weekend and my little babe looked like an oompa loompa, he was tiny, lethargic and a sad shade of orange. The doctor asked about feeding him and I was so grateful for my husband because I couldn’t speak through my sobs.

Our doctor was incredibly kind and compassionate. He offered him two ounces of formula to see if he was capable of eating. He ate it in about five minutes – which was a very good sign.

We were then sent to get blood drawn to check his bilirubin levels. He told us to go home, feed every two hours and wait for his phone call to get our results.

The phone rang about five minutes after we got home. Cameron needed to be admitted to the hospital, bilirubin and sodium levels were too high. I was only five days postpartum, operating on very little sleep and couldn’t control my tears, I was sobbing in the backseat holding on to tiny orange fingers, while Matt drove us to the hospital.

We were admitted right away and shown to a room with an incubator, a twin bed and a pullout couch. It was going to be a long night. Cue the tears. Again.

They took the babe’s vitals, got him an IV, hooked him up to heart monitors, put on his baby sunglasses and laid him in his incubator on his billi light.
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To see my tiny son hooked up to wires was beyond terrifying. My mind kept envisioning the worst even though every nurse reassured me that this was so common and he was going to be better in the morning.

How do you cope when your perfect baby is sick? What do you do when there is nothing you can do? I felt so helpless. I felt so sad. Melancholy, miserable, depressed. Only five days old and he had captured our hearts and became our world. The thought of losing him, heavy on our minds, was unbearable.

So we fought for him and alongside him. We prayed for him, for the nurses and doctors. We prayed for strength for each other. Matt and I held each other on the twin bed, trying our best to comfort each other.

Our instructions were to feed him every two hours –either formula or breastmilk. I had my heart set on nursing my baby and was afraid that if we gave him bottles he would never be able to nurse. But he needed to eat. I learned how to pump and were able to give him breastmilk bottles every two hours.

We settled in for a long night. We set alarms. I pumped and fed him. I pumped and Matt fed him. Repeat. We alternated guiding the tubes and cords out of the incubator so we could hold and comfort our baby boy while he ate.

They did another blood draw to recheck his levels. Nurses were in and out constantly checking, updating his chart, noting his feedings.

At 7 the next morning our pediatrician came in and was very happy with the progress over night. Cam was getting hydrated, fed and started having wet diapers and normal poop. I never thought I would be so happy to hear the words “normal poop.”

He set up an appointment with a lactation consultant for me that afternoon. She was patient and understanding. She taught me how to nurse and how to make sure he latched correctly. She brought her sensitive baby scale and we weighed him before he ate and after and it appeared that he was getting about 3 ounces from nursing. This time, they were happy tears.

I was finally nursing my son and bonding with him in a way I had dreamed about even before we got pregnant.

We were discharged that afternoon. We drove home and I had the confidence knowing that we, as family were going to be okay.

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A Shift in Defining Extraordinary

Our first photo as a family of three :)

Our first photo as a family of three 🙂

While the majority of my experiences on this blog have been about my experiences traveling – they all have one other thing in common – all of these experiences – whether good or bad – have been in some way, big or small, extraordinary.
When I first began writing – I swore I would remain true to my “roots of writing” and stick to travel topics and never become a “mommy blogger.”

And then I became a mom.

I had to take a hiatus from blog posting and just journal until I came to grips with the fact that I wanted to continue to write and share my stories. So while I may not be traveling as much with an infant, I am still on a journey and would love the opportunity to share my moments and days as I continue to seek something extraordinary.

All of a sudden I was a member of this group, this sorority, this incredibly exclusive club that I didn’t even know existed until a few days after giving birth to my son. After nearly 23 hours of labor, I was exhausted, overwhelmed and so weepy. What gave me strength in my first bleary eyed days of being a mother, were my voicemails, texts, facebook messages and emails from my best girlfriends and friends who I hadn’t seen in years just checking in. All notes were personal but all asked me the same question: how are you doing? And all offered the same kindness: if you need anything, I’m here for you.

You can read 100 books. A million blogs and countless message boards and still not know everything you need to know about caring for an infant or caring for yourself as your body has experienced something extraordinary? Yes. But also traumatic.
Being a member of this group has helped me adjust to life with my amazing son and am appreciative of all the other mommas checking in on me and I hope that in the future, I can be that compassionate and caring for other new moms. So to you, other moms in the club, thank you. And to those who will be moms, just know that we, as group, are here for you.

More to come on my life with a newborn as we journey through life together.

Categories: baby, birth, family, newborns, parenting, travel | 2 Comments

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