Kiss Your Miracle

motherhood after infertility

Criticism June 30, 2009

Filed under: Motherhood — Linnea @ 10:16 am

I’ll never forget the day during my pregnancy when we found out our baby was a girl. Of course we would have been happy with a boy too, but when the ultrasound tech told us we were having a daughter, I was thrilled. I remember how fun it was to start calling the baby “she” instead of “it,” to start talking about names, imagining what she’d look like. I went shopping that afternoon, and bought a few girly baby outfits just for fun. But as the weeks passed I began to think more about having a daughter, and the unique responsibility of trying to raise our little girl to be sensitive and sweet, but also confident in her identity as a child of God.

We’re all aware that girls in our culture face intense pressure to be beautiful and well-liked, and I started wondering what I could do as a mom to help my daughter feel secure in her own skin. I don’t think sheltering her completely from the outside world is the way to go (as appealing as it sometimes sounds), and that means she’ll be exposed at least somewhat to our looks-obsessed media. Most girls want to be pretty and I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with that. But I’d love to somehow expand her concept of beauty beyond the specific look of a magazine cover. I don’t want her to waste time feeling inadequate because she’s not perfect. But sometimes that feels like a lofty goal. I’m her mom, but I’m still just one voice. I thought about it many times during the pregnancy: how much can I realistically do?

And then one day this thought came to me clearly: stop criticizing yourself. At first it seemed strange. Shouldn’t I focus on not criticizing my daughter? But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. When I’m around someone who’s always saying she needs to lose a few pounds, I start to feel self-conscious in front of her. Especially if she’s smaller than I am. And if I spoke up about it, she would probably say, “Oh, I’m not talking about you. I just mean for me.” But I’ve gotten the message. Weight is very important to this person. And I already struggle with that idea enough on my own; I don’t need anyone to emphasize it to me. But before I make myself sound too innocent, let me confess that I’ve been on the other side of that conversation too. How many times have I been the one to make a negative comment? But lately I’ve been more aware of the women I know who never cut themselves down. Just being around them is a relief. I can focus on the relationship itself without analyzing how I look that day. And that’s how I want my daughter to feel around me – that I’m a person she can be herself with.

So near the end of my pregnancy I decided that I would train myself to keep my mouth shut about my physical appearance, and I’ve tried to stick to that. I have to admit, it hasn’t been easy. Next week we’re flying north to be with my extended family for the fourth of July. We’ll be at my parents’ house near Lake Michigan, which means lots of beach time and bathing suits. The other day I took Sky shopping with me and oh my word, it was hard not to verbalize the stuff in my head! My brain was shouting negative things with every new suit I tried on. I wanted to comment on my ultra-white skin, my post-baby belly, and how unfair it is that cellulite is cute on babies but not on grown women. But when I looked at Sky, smiling innocently at our reflection in the fitting room mirror, I held my tongue. She isn’t really talking beyond “mamma” and “daddy” yet, but I know she’s already listening. And I want to get in the habit now of emphasizing the things that matter, not what will fade away.


Firsts June 28, 2009

Filed under: Motherhood — Linnea @ 6:02 pm

Today I bought Sky her first toothbrush. She has a total of four teeth so far plus a few on the way, and it occurred to me the other day that we should probably be doing something to clean them. When I handed it to her she quickly put it in her mouth, like she does with just about everything, and began to chew on it. And as I sat there watching her, it struck me how grown up she looked, standing in her bathroom wearing shorts and a tank top, brushing (well, sort of) her teeth. For a minute she looked more like a little girl than a baby.

toothbrush sky (1 of 1)

I’ve never been one to feel wistful over how fast Sky is growing. When I see pictures of her as a newborn I don’t get nostalgic for those days at all. I actually have a hard time remembering much about that time beyond the sleepless nights, breastfeeding problems, and extensive crying sessions (for Sky and for me). Sky was restless and frustrated as a tiny baby. But with every milestone and every new skill she’s learned, she’s grown more content. I love that I have memories from Sky’s newborn days; I just wouldn’t want to relive them. Even now when I’m overwhelmed by sleeping issues or the crazy mess at mealtimes, I’m comforted by the idea that one day she’ll put herself to bed. And down the road when she gets the floor dirty, I’ll just hand her the broom.

Still, I have to admit that I had a moment when I watched Sky with the toothbrush. The thought occurred to me that this is one first out of many. She has yet to experience her first birthday, her first ponytail, her first sleepover, her first love. And as much as I like to watch her learn new things and grow, it’s a bit unnerving to think about how quickly time rolls along, regardless of how we feel about it. I suddenly found myself thinking about the clichés all of us young moms hear whenever we’re in the grocery store with a fussy baby. Without fail someone will advise me to “Enjoy these days! They go so fast!” – which seems irrational when I can’t even pick out a box of cereal because my child is being so demanding. What’s enjoyable about that? But I guess most clichés begin with the truth. Even the most frustrating days do have happy moments when I’m willing to stop and look for them.

I think what I want the most is to simply appreciate my little girl in whatever stage she’s experiencing. Not to wish her younger (which isn’t a major temptation for me so far) and not to wish her older (definitely where my mind tends to go). Just to love her for who she is right now, aware that the future has no guarantees, grateful for each day we have together.


Party June 26, 2009

Filed under: Motherhood — Linnea @ 12:38 pm

Wednesday was my birthday and I woke up that morning thinking about my childhood. My mom always made a big deal over our birthdays. Even though she has seven children, she managed to make an elaborate baby book for each one of us, and our particular book would always be sitting out on the kitchen table first thing that morning. Then she’d make French toast or pancakes for breakfast, put a few together in a stack, and load it up with candles. We’d all sing and my mom would take an excessive amount of pictures. By the time the birthday kid actually blew the candles out, the pancakes were usually coated with wax. But we still did that same little ritual for every kid, every year.

Sky’s first birthday is coming up next month and I’m ridiculously excited. My mother-in-law brought over a little cake pan for me so I can bake a separate miniature cake, just for Sky to destroy. We’ve already talked about who we’ll invite and possible themes. (I want to do a princess party, but Ad’s not so into that. “Do we really want to encourage that kind of thinking?” he says.) Obviously, at age one Sky won’t even be aware of what’s happening. The day could slip by unnoticed and she wouldn’t care at all. But even though she’s young, I want to start teaching her that her family loves her and we’re happy she’s one of us.

And I’ll be honest. The party’s not just for Sky. Becoming parents has been a major adjustment. This past year has been harder than we anticipated. So for her birthday I feel like we, her mom and dad, deserve a party too. Is this how all new parents feel? I guess it’s a small thing – surviving year one. I can’t even think about all that the coming years might hold or I’ll be completely overwhelmed. All I know is that right now, one year feels like a substantial accomplishment. So on July 22nd we’ll be celebrating at our house.


Priorities June 22, 2009

Filed under: Infertility,Motherhood,Skylar Grace — Linnea @ 6:20 pm

Sky, like many babies, is exasperating a great deal of the time. At eleven months old, she has a strong will and a mind of her own. She doesn’t like to be fed; she wants to do it herself. And she usually lets me know she’s done eating by wiping her high chair tray clean with one dramatic sweep of her arm. During bath time, it doesn’t matter how many times I sit her down in the tub, she continually gets back on her feet. She’s also stuck in the taking-apart stage. Our books spend more time on the floor than the shelves. Will she ever get to the putting-back stage?

But then Sky will do something like discover an old hat under our bed. And when I put it on her and take her over to the mirror, she’s so taken with her reflection that she stares transfixed and then gives herself a round of applause. So that inspires us to try other head-wear. Like the bloomers from her new sundress. And then I have to get the camera. Soon a half hour floats by, but I’m unconcerned with all the messes I haven’t yet cleaned up.

I’m writing this on Father’s Day. One year ago I was hugely pregnant. But two years ago I wasn’t sure if motherhood was in my future at all. If my former self could see me now she’d probably say, “Are you kidding? You finally have a kid and you spend half your time irritated because she’s messy when she eats and throws books on the floor?” And for a minute my current self would want to argue and say, “You have no idea how hard it is to be a mom, how exhausting it can be, how sometimes even getting this child to do the simplest things, like eat or sleep, feels almost impossible.” But even as I formulate those words in my brain, I catch myself and stop, wrapped up in the memory of my life before Skylar. “Who cares how clean the house is?” my former self would continue. “Why do you spend so much time sweeping the floor anyway? Spend more time sitting in front of the mirror with your little girl – your little girl – trying on stupid hats and laughing with her.”

Obviously, I never would have chosen infertility for myself. But I’m grateful now that it’ll always be a part of me, fixing my perspective, speaking up when I forget that I’m living an answered prayer.

Hat Sky (2 of 2)Hat Sky (1 of 2)


Release June 16, 2009

Filed under: Faith,Motherhood — Linnea @ 11:59 am

I gave up my teaching position yesterday. My principal was wonderful about it, gracious and understanding, even though he now has to find a replacement for me. But I walked out of the school feeling funny. I can no longer say I teach there. I am officially jobless.

On the drive to school, practicality surged to the front of my brain and my head filled with questions. Is it wise to let go of a sure thing, a career with about as much job security as a person could hope for these days? What will we do if Adam, who works in the troubled home building industry, loses his job? What about all of my mom friends who say work is fulfilling and satisfying, that they like contributing to their families financially? But I managed to push my doubts aside and have the conversation I’d planned, trying not to think about it all too much.

It wasn’t until I got home and saw little Sky, clapping in delight to see me (clapping is her newest skill), that I suddenly felt good about our decision. I let out the breath I’d been holding and scooped her up in my arms. I do want to contribute financially, but not if it means teaching full-time. To be completely honest, I never found teaching all that fulfilling or satisfying in the first place. There were things about it that I liked, but it doesn’t compare to being with Sky. Yes, there are days when I count the minutes till Adam gets home. But overall, I’m living the life I always wanted. I feel strange when I’m away from my little girl. I like the way we hang out in our pajamas half the day, the way things are flexible and low key. I like not missing out on the small, every day things in her life. When I go into her room to get her up from a nap, I always open the door slowly so I can be sure to see her face when she spots me. Then I walk over to the edge of her crib, look down into her sleepy-smiley face and say, “Are you really my baby girl?”

I don’t believe the working mom issue is a moral, right or wrong decision. I know that if I chose to go back to school, God would be with me. He would give me the energy to teach and an attachment to my students. He would give me the grace to handle life as a working mom, as he has to so many of my friends, and he would give me the ability to make the best of it. But it’s not what I want to do. If I went ahead with it anyway, my motive would mainly be fear – fear that we’d struggle too much financially or that I might regret the decision later. It’s a risk to let the job go when I don’t have anything else lined up yet. But instead of focusing on the what-ifs, I want to let the situation motivate me to be persistent in searching for a better job, something I can do part-time, something that earns a little money without sacrificing what’s valuable to me: days at home with my miracle baby.


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