When Love Isn’t Enough

All we need is love, right?

Love is the axis of human existence.  Love is strength, it is weakness, it is security & vulnerability. Love brings peace, it’s started wars; it drives good people to sin & sinners to repent. Love is wild, unpredictable, incredible, undeniable.

A life well-loved is a life well-lived; or so the saying goes.

But sometimes, love blindsides us and holds us captive in a way we aren’t prepared for.  Our world turns upside-down and right-side up all at once, leaving us fumbling for a life raft – a little blurry eyed, short of breath & paralyzed by fear.  At least, that’s how motherhood started for me.

The childless version of me didn’t think I had a love deficiency – life was going exactly according to my script: impressive degree, blossoming career, a dreamy husband who loved me unconditionally, and certainly, no shortage of confidence (Insert eye roll, here).

When my dream-of-a-husband and I welcomed our first baby, we’d already spent nine [mostly] blissful years together. We’d experienced so much life hand-in-hand that I was sure we were prepared for our next milestone: cozy pink blankets and sweet squishy snuggles with a daughter that was half him, and half me.  It sounded….romantic. 

I expected an instant bond with her; the kind that everyone talks about when they hold their newborn baby. I expected everyone to come out of the woodwork and smother us with affection.  I expected that we would be the center of everyone’s universe. I expected to feel complete and never look back.

But…reality.

A few hours into active labor is when the fear first settled in and took up semi-permanent residence.  My body, convulsing with pain, wasn’t following my script at all.  I fought every  stage with every ounce of my being. I remember thinking to myself (or maybe screaming – it’s a blur) “I can’t do this, I can’t.  Someone end it for me, I’m done.”   

Thirty-one hours, Pitocin, oxygen, & two-and-a-half hours of pushing later, I held my daughter for the first time. I felt…. exhausted. overwhelmed. terrified.

Of course, I fell instantly in love with my daughter – I had an unparalleled urge to protect & defend her – but she felt like a stranger in my arms. A stranger who had just ravaged by body & stollen my previous life. So naturally, when love didn’t feel like enough, I was sure she’d been born to the worst mother in the world, and I was only minutes into the journey.

The abrupt transition from doted-on expectant-mother into the selfless world of life with a newborn left me dizzy and insecure – constantly grasping for assurance. But as days turned to weeks, and the novelty of her newness wore off, everyone else returned to their normal lives.

How, I wondered, can the Earth still be spinning on her axis when my whole world is upside-down?

Day after day, I faced a slew of unmet expectations & even more unexpected challenges. There were the hormones that made me burst into tears without warning (that lasted for months). I had a baby that didn’t sleep, and 102 people giving me conflicting advice (and judgement) on how to get some rest.  I lived in fear that my husband would lose interest in the new (but certainly not improved) version of me. I wondered if I’d still be taken seriously in my career when I returned from maternity leave. But mostly, I was crippled by a furious new love that left me open, raw & exposed – like watching my heart beat outside of my body.

Control – the thing that had always kept me pushing onward with confidence – had suddenly been stripped from my world. I could’t ensure that my baby would continue to breath through the night.  I couldn’t protect her from illness or discomfort. I knew that someday, someone would break her heart, and that my friends, nearly broke me.

So in place of control, I focused on faith. 

Faith in my own strength & resilience, faith in my marriage, faith that sleep would return, and faith that it would all be provided by a good & loving God, who has a master plan that I contribute to, but don’t control.

In faith, there is peace; but it’s an ongoing journey. 

When my second daughter arrived last year, she was met by a much more confident mother (Albeit, MUCH more exhausted). With her arrival, I found the courage to leave my job(s), volunteer commitments, and other organized groups – It was like handing in a resignation letter to my former life:

Thank you for all the opportunities & relationships you’ve provided, overcommitted self, but I’m no longer satisfied by trying to impress perfect strangers. My resume isn’t reflective of my heart, so effective immediately, I’m going to completely and unapologetically commit myself to my family.

And believe me, that did take courage.

Now, everyday I spend at home, I’m reminded that patience doesn’t come naturally to me, but it certainly is a virtue. I’m practicing patience with myself, patience with my kids, and patience to adapt to all of life’s unmet expectations.  I pray daily for God to give me the tools I need to meet toddler frustration with tender hugs, and irrational fits with composed explanations; love is only felt by others when it’s supported by calm clarity. 

To have love, grounded in faith, upheld by courage & lived out in patiencethat is where I’m finding my ‘enough’. 

xxx, MamaFulch

Philippians 4:6-7  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Your Body on a Cross-Country Flight – WITH KIDS

I get restless staying in the same place for too long.  I need to explore, eat great food, hear new languages & lounge on exotic beaches. I need to travel.

We made a conscience decision to have kids before pets because, well, when was the last time you saw a “no babies, please” sign in a shop window or a hotel brochure?

Never.

It’s generally acceptable to take tiny humans into civilized establishments. And so, I had big expectations for the trajectory of my travel career – even during mommyhood.

With that, each of my children completed their first round-trip flight before hitting the two-month mark.  And since then, they’ve flown (on average) once every 8 weeks – sometimes more. I should have flying with kids down to a science….

So, on the heels of our recent summer vacation, I feel inspired to discourage all the parents out there. This is: your body on a cross-country flight – WITH KIDS…  😉

Airport Bound: Optimistic. You’ve downloaded all of their favorite shows, packed crowd-pleasing snacks, books and ‘new toys they’ve never seen before’.  It’s only 6 hours…. Maybe they’ll sleep the whole time… You grab a second cup of coffee, just in case.

Hour 0: You get the jitters.  It could be the caffein, or it could be because you’ve taken your toddler to the airplane bathroom – twice – and the plane hasn’t even left the gate. As other passengers board, they look into your row, then down at their seat assignment. If they’re sitting far, far away, they give an encouraging smile. If they’re doomed to sit nearby, they go pale. So do you.

Hour 1: Calm comes over you. Wheels up. iPads on. The baby is nursing, and therefore, quiet. Yep, It’s going to be okay. Only 5 hours and 12 minutes until arrival (not that you’re counting), and you packed hours worth of toys, games, shows & snacks. You’ve got this!!

Hour 2: Panic. You don’t got this! Any other day you’d have to pry your toddler away from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, but today, she wants nothing to do with TV – or civility.  She starts body luging off of her seat, whining as her tiny form crumples to the floor.  Nothing in her backpack is amusing. Meanwhile, the baby has awoken from her 20 minute milk-coma. Your arm is still asleep and you have to pee sooo bad – really regretting that second cup of coffee right now.  Four more hours…

Hour 3: Hot Flashes & Cold sweats.  You’ve hit survival mode. You managed to use the bathroom while holding the baby and trying not to let your toddler sit on the wet floor (you failed). And now, you’re looking for ways to keep your circus contained to a 6’x2’ cell (ahem, I mean row) for three more hours. Beads of sweat form. Your mind goes blank. Four people in three seats for six hours – you’re not sure how this is legal.

Hour 4: You’ve lost all sense of time. You check the time and are excited to see that touchdown is in an hour and a half – you’re feeling like a rockstar mom & your heart flutters. When you look again, you realize that your AppleWatch changed time zones over Nebraska, and you actually have upwards of 2 hours to go. All hope is lost. You return to pacing the aisle while one child sprints ahead of you (throwing elbows) and the baby screams & flails about in your arms. Is time moving backward?

Hour 5: Hope Returns. You’ve broken the 2 hour barrier (for real this time) – a glimmer of hope, immediately eradicated by claustrophobia.  This airplane is the hottest, stickiest place you’ve been since you spent a summer in Florida without AC.  Hair sticks to the back of your neck as little hands paw at your face and chest, vying for attention. The guy in front of you opens hours-old curry… you choke back vomit.

Hour 6: Disbelief.  You are in disbelief that you’ve survived until the final hour, and that neither kid has taken a measurable nap. Emotions run high, mayhem is looming.  You develop an anxious knee bounce (at least the baby seems to like it) and hold your breath, waiting for the captain to mumble “Ladies & Gentleman, we’ve begun our initial descent”.  Will the moment ever come?

Landing:  Euphoria. You imagine this is what it feels like to finish an Iron Man race – endorphins flood your body. You scramble to collect your things and your offspring, only to realize that your daughter’s eyes have just closed. A tear rolls down your cheek. Sadness? Elation? You’re not sure.

At Baggage Claim: Exhausted & Starving. Your AppleWatch says you burned more calories ‘sitting’ on a plane all day than you do by completing your 10,000 steps. All you’ve eaten is 80 calories worth of airplane pretzels – oh, and two cups of coffee. You vow to stay home for the rest of your life.

1 Month Post-Flight: You experience travel amnesia and decide that a family trip to the Bahamas is just what the doctor ordered.

Happy Travels!

xxx,

MamaFulch

Proverbs 14:29:   Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.

Stop Telling Me to Enjoy This Stage

Sometimes, after it rains, the smell of the air transports me to a sweet, sticky summer night in the Midwest. I can almost taste the smoldering of a charcoal grill, and feel freshly cut grass under my bare feet. I close my eyes and still see fireflies dancing, and a deck full of faces that I miss. Every. Single. Day. It makes me happy to think about where I come from, but also to think about where I’m going. 

As a self-proclaimed nostalgic, nearly every season of my life holds some sort of sentimental value. I’ve got some really great rose colored glasses, too. Smells, flavors, sounds, songs… They all have the ability to take me back to a time when life was a little simpler, more fun & just a bit sweeter.

So, I know it’s inevitable that as my kids grow up, I’m going to cry a million gallons of tears over just how perfect life was when they were little. Perfect cherub faces and tiny fingers wrapped around mine; our problems no bigger than spilt Cheerios in the backseat.  I will completely overlook the things that make my friends recall these years as “the dark ages”, and my husband to lovingly refer to this season as “the suck” (sorry for outing you, Honey).

The crying, constant boogers, spit-up, potty accidents (we’re talking poop on the carpet), foot stomping fist pounding temper tantrums, middle of the night vomit clean-up, sleep schedules to keep, total lack of privacy, no showers, no dates and NO sleep will be a distant memory, and I’ll recall only the sweetness (of which there really is plenty).

Wherever we go, that sweetness garners a wealth of attention from older folks, and they always leave me with the same words: “Enjoy them”.

Those words hit me square in the gut – every time.

I’m trying. I’m trying so hard to enjoy them that I’m nearly driving myself mad. Heaven forbid I give up just one minute with them – a minute that in ten, fifteen, twenty years…. I would kill to have back.

I’d trade almost anything for a full night of sleep right now, but then I remember that my baby won’t always need me so completely. So I shuffle down the hall to cherish her at 4:00 am, when the rest of the world is sleeping. 

My back aches from holding, bending, rocking, lifting – but someday they’ll be too big for any of it – so I try never to turn down the opportunity. 

And convincing a toddler to go to sleep each night is like negotiating an international peace treaty, but then I realize she won’t always need to be tucked into bed, and I re-read the same fairy book for a third time in a row.

I spend my days so deep in the trenches that I often forget to come up for air. And although a clean house and peaceful evening alone sound luxurious, I’m painfully aware that those things are coming.

So please don’t remind me.

I know that people mean well – their wisdom is all to say “be present” – but raising toddlers is hard.  I’d rather be told about the great times still ahead of us, like birthday parties, family vacations, graduations & weddings – the moments in a mom’s life where her work pays some dividends; moments that I hope to enjoy through the clear lenses of well rested eyes.

“Enjoy them”, feels like some sort of sad ending – like the best days of my life are upon me and quickly fading.  My heart knows that God has so much more in store for us than I can imagine, but I still can’t help but hold on just a little too tight to what will inevitably slip away. 

So, next time you see me with a baby on my hip and a toddler pulling everything off the store shelves, and if you feel inclined to make a comment, just smile sympathetically and tell me that life only gets better, sweeter, and more beautiful with time.

xxx,

MamaFulch

Philippians 3:13-14:  13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.