It Takes a Village

As I write this my parents are driving back to Saskatchewan after a 4 day visit.  They came for Ezekiel’s birthday, which happened to coincide with two very hard weeks.  It’s made me realize just how hard this motherhood thing is when we try and do it alone.

I’m a naturally independent person, I pride myself on my ability to do a variety of things on my own.  I enjoy being alone, I enjoy challenging myself and I enjoy looking back and saying “I did that.”  Be it finishing school while working several jobs, buying a car, getting a job, building something for our backyard, planting a garden or working on a house project.  I rarely ever ask for help and that is a huge downfall.  Now that I’m mothering two little beautiful humans I’m realizing just how big of a downfall it really is.

A couple weeks ago both Ezekiel and Eden ended up getting sick, and Eden was/is cutting some teeth at the same time.  So, besides going to a few essential appointments we were quarantined to our home.  I don’t often mind being quarantined to the house but it makes for long days and lots of isolation and too much of that just messes with my head and heart.  Once they were starting to feel better (aside from Eden’s teeth) I thought we were in the clear, but I ended up getting really sick and losing my voice over the Remembrance Day long weekend.  At the same time as being sick I had to plan and prepare for my parents visit as well as Ezekiel’s birthday party.  I was a bit overwhelmed to say the least and honestly feeling awful.  Also, this week Eden has decided that she’s no longer satisfied with sitting and playing, she wants to go, go, go, go but can’t actually get anywhere on her own.  This results in a lot of screaming and a lot of me holding her and trying to appease her which means I get next to nothing done while she is awake.  Sleeping at night is a challenge with teething and such a big developmental milestone so we are all exhausted.

Enter my parents arrival, they swooped in and allowed me to relax.  They cooked meals, folded laundry, did the dishes, played a million games with Ezekiel and tried their very best to get Eden to not be a permanent attachment to my body (they succeeded for the most part!).  Instead of running around trying to do it all I allowed myself to sit, drink copious amounts of coffee and knit many projects (I finished three items and got another half done!) Of course my husband also is a rock of support but with working part time and stressing himself into his own illness over his last class at school, this past week he couldn’t be a lot of help either.

Honestly, I’m surprised at just how hard I have found adjusting to two children.  In some ways it’s not hard at all and it’s all kinds of wonderful.  In other ways – especially when there’s a lack of sleep and sickness – it’s the hardest thing ever.  I’m surprised at how defeated I can allow myself to feel, I retreat into myself and become introspective trying to solve the problem of how hard this really is.  I look at the situation and try and figure out how I can survive and still get it all done.

You know what the solution is?

Ask for and ACCEPT help. Not only that but BUILD your village.  Invest into people around you, offer help when you can, lend an ear when you can’t and ask for help when you need it.  We are all on this journey together, just trying to survive but also trying to be the best we can for these little humans that rely on us.

Would I have survived without my parents being here?

Yes.

BUT

It would have been a million times harder than it was.

I’m not saying I’m really good at being in a village – in fact I think I actually suck at it but I’m trying harder each day.  It’s essential, not only for our own well being but also for the benefit of our children.  So today, whatever challenges you are facing find someone you can trust and rely on and allow them to help you.  If you’re not in a time of challenges I bet you know someone who is – reach out to them, offer help because this life takes a village, a great big village.

Rest First


When I imagined this maternity leave I had ideas that it would be similar to my last maternity leave.  My first maternity leave I ended up focusing on being healthy, and it was the first time I had felt healthy since high school.  It was like a body reset and I learned a lot about myself and my health that year.  I’ve mentioned several times that when I went back to work I really lost that feeling of being healthy due to stress and all that comes with that.  When I dreamt of this maternity leave I dreamt of losing all the weight by the 6 month mark.  I dreamt of loving being in the kitchen and inventing good healthy food.  I dreamt of walking every day and being super active and busy.

However, this maternity leave has been so much different.  I still have 15 pounds of weight to lose to get to pre-pregnancy weight and 15 more to lose to get to my ideal weight.  I can count on two hands how many walks I’ve been on in the last 3-4 months and my husband can attest that I’m not cooking like I used to.

Reflecting on how different these past six months are compared to what I thought they would be it’s easy to think I let myself down, that I didn’t motivate myself enough, that I was lazy.  All these thoughts try their hardest to creep in and bring me down but the truth is that I’ve been listening to my body and I’ve been honouring what it’s telling me.

REST

I’m giving myself time to rest and heal and that’s looking a lot different than I thought.  Honestly I thought that healing would mean exercising and building physical strength but my body has been showing me that healing first starts with resting.  This last week I’ve been feeling a rhythm start to our days, my body has been allowing for that to happen.  Up until recently I had no idea what I would be waking up to – would it be an Ashley full of energy or an Ashley unable to move much at all.  The past couple weeks my energy has been fairly consistent – even with Eden having VERY unpredictable nights.  So I can see how beneficial it’s been to listen to my body, to go to bed early, to stay home when I needed to, to relax when I was feeling run down.  With each passing week and month I gain a little bit more endurance and strength to just get a little bit more done each day.  Of course having a baby that is growing and maturing also helps with this but I can also feel the change in my body.  In August I barely had the ability to clean my whole house one day and be up moving a lot the next.  I couldn’t stand for longer than an hour doing things in the kitchen because my body just hurt all over and didn’t have the endurance.  This past month I’ve been up the majority of days canning, cleaning and just keeping busy and my body feels pretty good! Not awesome, but not awful and that’s a happy medium that I gladly welcome after a couple years of feeling terrible.

One thing I’ve been incorporating that last couple months is taking Sundays off.  That means that mentally I allow myself the space to not have a list of to-do’s.  If I wake up and have some energy to do a couple things I will, but I put zero pressure on myself to accomplish anything.  I sleep in an extra hour or two (which means up at 6 or 7 instead of 5), I rarely clean anything, I don’t do laundry, and my husband usually does the cooking.  This allows me to read a few more books to Ezekiel, to sit on the floor a little more with Eden, to write and read a bit more and maybe even spend some time on a hobby – which, with the changing of the weather means knitting!

Lots of lessons have been learned this year and resting is definitely one of the biggest.

Do you force yourself to rest? Is it hard or do you welcome it with arms wide open?

Practicing Positive


Good Friday Morning!

We’ve had quite the night and morning!

My non-cuddly baby has decided over the course of yesterday and today that she must be touching me at all times to be sleeping.  Last night she had to be cuddled up to me just so or she would wake up screaming.  This morning she wouldn’t settled to sleep in her crib and had to be on me at all times.  I just got her settled in the crib by putting her on her tummy – which is so unlike her because she normally hates her tummy.  Anyways, I woke up this morning an hour later than usual with my neck so sore and my head pounding (all fixed with a bit of oils!). I came downstairs to find my coffee machine had malfunctioned (AKA I didn’t put the pot under it just perfectly) so the coffee grounds were in the coffee and everywhere around it and it had spilled all over the coffee bar. My to-do lists this week haven’t been getting done so today it’s one huge long list that won’t get done yet again.

A couple weeks ago today would have totally been a write off in my mind. It would have made me irritable and impatient therefore ruining my kids days as well.  I would have moped around doing things here and there but not completing any of it and all the while grumbling and using a tone of voice that makes me cringe every time I use it.  I would have internally been screaming about the injustice of it all. A couple weeks ago today would have been the worst day ever (exaggeration much?), but I’ve been trying really hard to be intentional with my thought processes.  I’ve been acknowledging the negatives – yes the day has started out on the wrong foot, yes it’s not how I would have liked it to start.  After quickly acknowledging the crap I replace it with all the good – and there is a lot of good to be seen if only you take some time to look.

Todays list of good includes things like getting all the cuddle time in after thinking I’d never be able to cuddle my baby again.  Ezekiel is being amazing, playing quietly and entertaining himself while I have been trying to calm a fussy baby.  He’s using words like “delighted” (“I was delighted to clean up that mess I made by accident” – that’s an actual quote! Who is this kid??) and making my heart melt several times a day.  We had to cancel our plans today which sucks but it also gives me a big chunk of time to be productive and get some things done (water plants, clean the front closet, do dishes, fold laundry, make tomato sauce, clean floors …..).  Cancelled plans also means I get some time to cuddle without worrying about getting out the door, relax in my PJ’s all day, bake some muffins, put some effort into supper tonight (seriously lacking in that department lately).

I’ve found that practicing gratitude by focusing on the good instead of the bad has completely changed my day to day life.  It’s made me a much more patient mother and wife.  It’s helped me to breathe deep and embrace the moments of the day.  It’s helped me to think more clearly, dream a little more and understand that there is so much beauty in the imperfections of our days.  I’ve slowed down internally, my mind doesn’t race about all the things I want to accomplish and by slowing down internally I actually find I become more productive.  By focusing on the positives I’ve learned to stop and watch when Ezekiel says “Hey mom! Look at this!” and by stopping and watching I am acknowledging him as a person, as someone who is proud of what they’ve accomplished and I think that’s crucial to empowering the next generation.  I no longer glance for half a second and say “that’s great,” instead I put the dishes down look him in the eye and say, “Wow! You are really getting good at…..” I’ve noticed that this small change has made him less dependent on me and more independent when he’s playing.  Practicing gratitude has changed not only my day but the days of my little people as well and it’s shown me the impact of my actions on those around me.

I’m not going to lie, this is a difficult practice to implement consistently.  It’s so much easier to allow the negative to envelope me but the reward of this practice is unbelievable.  So today as you go about your day and the negative tries to invade your thoughts and actions I urge you to acknowledge them, let them go and replace them with positive thoughts.  I promise you that by practicing this you will not only change your day to day life but you will impact every person you come in contact with and little by little people’s lives will change around you.

Motherhood – The Secret To Success


Every morning I wake up between 5 and 530.

Yep it’s early but when I wake up (sometimes by my own internal clock and others by my babies hungry cries) I look forward to going down the stairs, pouring my hot cup of coffee, making my bowl of yogurt and granola and sitting on the couch with the fire going in silence and most importantly – alone.

I need that time, desperately need that time.  It doesn’t matter how many times I had to wake up in the night to give the baby her soother or feed her (typically it’s only twice but sometimes 3 or 4 times).  It doesn’t matter how tired I am, replacing that morning ritual with more sleep inevitably leads to my patience only lasting until 8 am instead of 6 pm.

It’s amazing to me how much I need that time in the morning.  That start to my day is the cornerstone of my sanity as a mother.

Sure there’s the odd day every so often, maybe once a month or once every 6 weeks, that the kids wake up abnormally early (6 am instead of 7 or 8) and I miss out on my morning time but we make it through those days.  I do a lot of deep breathing, a lot of reviewing my thoughts before they become words, maybe we watch an extra episode of a favourite show or maybe we just go out and have some fun instead of the doing the housework that was on the agenda.  Regardless, when the day is done so am I and I pray for more time the next morning to refill my introverted gas tank.

I often get asked how I do so many things, how am I so motivated?

This is my secret – I make sure I have some time alone, to recharge, to reflect, to journal, to read, to write, to listen, to pray, to meditate.  I start the day by setting my intentions and I end the day by reviewing how it went and what I can do better tomorrow.

Some people don’t thrive like this, they don’t crave an orderly, organized, routined environment, that helps them accomplish tasks at home.  Those people have different secrets to their motherhood successes and their successes are usually much different than mine.  Usually they are out on adventures, doing crafts, running errands and looking perfect while doing it.

The truth is they look at me and wish they could accomplish more at home and I look at them and wish I could provide more carefree adventures for my children (and look good doing it).

The other truth is even if both of us were granted our wishes we would feel no less fulfilled or happy, in fact we would probably feel frazzled and very unsatisfied.

Still more truth: though our lives look different we are both amazing mothers doing the best we can. 

The secret to every mothers success?

Mothering from the deepest parts of who we are and being true to that person, forgetting about every voice that tries to push us down and make us feel guilty for who we are or what we don’t accomplish that day.  Our success lies in the ability to understand that we are who we are and we were created to be the mother of these tiny little miracles.

Who I am…

IMG_1522

On July 13 I made a decision to take a social media break – at the time I only had Instagram.  It seemed like a decision made abruptly to those around me, but in truth it was a decision I had been contemplating for weeks if not months.  I didn’t plan to delete my Instagram app on July 13 but I had come to a place physically, mentally, and spiritually that I had had enough.  Enough of what? I actually wasn’t sure and for the past two months I couldn’t put my finger on it.  I knew that I felt God pulling me towards this break, to take time to focus my energies elsewhere (more on Him perhaps?).  So early in the morning in the midst of scrolling Instagram I exited out of the app and deleted it in the same breath.  Right after doing it I was in a bit of disbelief – did I really just do that?! Then the next thought – now what?

Well the summer went on, I did more soul searching, praying, reading, listening and honestly I felt no answers.  The first week and a bit I really missed it but after that life just went on and I barely thought about it.  Every so often I’d do a quick soul check and pray about getting it back but I never felt released to do so and I was perfectly OK with that.

Then a few weeks ago I decided to get Facebook back – if you know me you know this was a huge decision for me.  I’ve made my strong dislike for Facebook known, but it’s time to start getting rid of some baby gear and clothes and so I decided to get Facebook purely for the buy and sell groups and Varagesale.  I didn’t add any friends but several people found me, and slowly my friends list grew.  Then I joined a few Young Living groups and began to love them! Last night after a lot of debate and deliberation with myself I decided I would add all the people I knew that popped up on my suggested friends list.  I had this sudden urge to connect.  Similarly, today I re-downloaded Instagram and felt such a peace about it. Up until today I hadn’t fully known why I felt so strongly about deleting Instagram and although I had tried a few times to write about it and sort through my thoughts I never felt released to do that either.

Today though I finally feel like I have some clarity, and I feel released to write again.

At the time I didn’t realize how I was feeling – isolated, lonely, lost, trapped, no energy, lack of motivation.  I’m reluctant to say I was depressed – maybe it’s pride but truly I don’t feel as though I was truly depressed, I just lacked insight and that was bothering me and manifesting in depressive symptoms.  When I deleted the app I felt as though I had very little community that was true and real and I didn’t want to replace true community with false community.  Here’s where it gets good – today I had this amazing realization that ALL community is REAL community.  Online or in physical form – community is community, people are people.

I spent the last two months bouncing between trying to grasp physical community in full force – planning something several days of the week and being utterly exhausted from overbooking us and dealing with a baby that needed to catch up on sleep.  So one week I was a social butterfly, the next week I was a hermit.  Today I realized that I just needed to accept the place in life that I am and stop pitying myself and wishing I was in a different place. It took me deleting Instagram for me to be able to do that.  Now that I have it’s time to embrace all of who I am:

A mom of two – one being a baby that needs ample amounts of sleep.

A self proclaimed homebody.

A woman recovering from the most exhausting and taxing 2 years of life physically, mentally and emotionally.

A wife needing to connect and stay connected to her husband in a new season of life.

A friend who desires connection in all forms and desires to give that same connection back.

A beloved daughter of the King and member of His Kingdom.

I seriously feel so much more at peace, with who I am, where I am, and the communities I belong to.

What are you being challenged with?

 

 

Post Partum Body

Hi Friends.

Posts are few and far between around here (what’s new right?).  I was hoping to have a bit more consistency on my year (plus 4 months) off but it turns out that having a newborn in the spring makes life pretty crazy.  If I’m not holding, rocking, or feeding the baby, then I’m probably playing with a toddler in the yard and/or doing yard work and planting the garden, and if I’m still not doing that, then most likely I’m cleaning the house or sleeping.  So – life, it’s a bit hectic right now but I wouldn’t change a thing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my postpartum body and I figured I’d write out a few thoughts.  This is a hot topic for anyone who’s been pregnant, is currently pregnant or thinking about/trying to get pregnant.  Some people will tell you while you’re pregnant that you should eat clean and stay fit no matter what.  Others will tell you to take it easy and eat what you want, don’t stress.  Then you have the baby and you begin to notice everyone else who has had a baby recently and the age old game of comparison begins.  On top of that you have people giving advice – don’t worry about your body, just enjoy your baby OR you should be working out 6 weeks after having your baby GET YOUR BODY BACK!

It’s an exhausting mind game and one that I wish I could say I didn’t participate in – but I do.  Still, I think there’s some validity to entering into the conversation.  I want to  break it down to solid truths for myself and by writing it out I hope that you can glean some truths for you as well, not only if you are a postpartum momma (regardless of how long it’s been!) but also if you are just a person that struggles with this topic in general.

Here’s the facts for us birth momma’s:

  1. You grew a human.
  2. That human changed you as a person – physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.
  3. You will quite literally never be the same again.

Think about it – you nourished a rapidly growing person for 40 weeks (give or take some weeks), and if you are breastfeeding you are continuing to be the only source of nutrition for that person.

INCREDIBLE. MIRACULOUS. AWE-SOME. MIND-BLOWING.

I’ll never ever ever stop believing that being able to give life to another human is less than this.  I truly think it’s a sacrifice worth giving and if it wasn’t possibly life threatening for me I would hands down want to do it again.

Here’s some more truth:

Growing a human is HARD.  Even if you had the most amazing pregnancy ever, your body had to work unbelievably hard to do that.

When I think back on my pregnancy I know I’ll never forget the crazy amount of hard that it was and because of that I want nothing more than to HONOUR my body.

The truth is that to honour my body I must nourish it, move it and treat it with respect.  I must listen intently to what it is saying.  I must take time each day to understand what it needs that day and also understand that it’s needs are going to change each day.

 To honour my body I must work towards my healthiest self – physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.

Will that take me down a road of weight loss? Truthfully, I hope so but it’s no longer my goal. My goal is health and your goal should be health as well.

Not a size zero? No one cares and neither should you!

Be confident and radiant in who you are right now in this moment.  Take steps towards a healthy you and eventually the number on the scale isn’t going to matter to you anymore.

As you nourished your child (and maybe still do) honour your body by nourishing it as well.  How can you give something to another person that you don’t possess yourself? If you are unhealthy physically, mentally, spiritually or emotionally then how can you expect to nourish healthy human beings? Even if you didn’t grow a human and even if you aren’t breastfeeding, you are still nourishing those around you by what you give.  Are you giving the best of you?  If you aren’t giving the best to yourself then I would argue that it’s not possible to give the best to those around you.

More than anything I need to focus on me so that what I pour out to those around me (especially my children) is healthy and nourishing for them.

Here’s some practical ways I’m putting this into practice:

  1. Eating mostly whole “real” foods and very little processed food
  2. Listening to my body when it tells me that gluten is bad (even when I desperately want a pastry)
  3. Engaging in a hobby (hello garden!)
  4. Making time each day for me (hello early mornings!)
  5. Praying
  6. Allowing myself to feel all the feels and be honest about feeling them
  7. Being realistic about my to-do lists (bye bye spring cleaning wishes)
  8. Talking to people frequently and being intentional in relationships

I had a much different post planned out in my head when I started this, but as is the case so often I let my hands do the talking for my brain and it’s usually exactly what I needed to hear.

So here’s to letting go of postpartum body expectations and to embracing a healthy new me.  Here’s to letting go of the numbers.  Here’s to honouring my body so that I can honour those around me.

 

Letting go…

I am now 23 weeks pregnant and some things have changed for the better.  All of my physical ailments are still present and mostly worse – so no good change there.  I was reflecting this morning how much this pregnancy has humbled me.  My fantasy for my second pregnancy before becoming pregnant was that I would be a beacon of health, that I would be in tip top shape and sail through a second pregnancy.  However, this pregnancy has been the exact opposite.  I went into it still not healthy from my months of health issues that were happening this past year (that are still not figured out).  My first trimester consisted of constant nausea and exhaustion resulting in me sleeping the majority of my free time away.  My joint pain started extremely early at 8 weeks and has only progressed and worsened, resulting in me being unable to do much in terms of physical activity.  Simple tasks like laundry, house cleaning, grocery shopping or errand running bring on types of pain I didn’t know existed.

So, this pregnancy is not what I had imagined, yet it is teaching me and pulling me in ways that I really needed.  I am learning that despite what I think I am not an island to my own.  I cannot possibly do everything by myself, I truly need a village.  I have had to ask for help and accept my limitations so much and so early on.  I have to rely on my husband to do things like take out the garbage and carry the laundry up and down the stairs.  He’s had to make and clean up meals far more than he’s used to.  I have had to ask for help from all of my physicians – suggestions on how to just live with a little bit of quality of life (and they have been excellent).  I have had to sit down with my manager numerous times and ask for modifications in my work – schedule and duties and she has done it willingly and with so much grace and understanding.  I have had to lean on God like I haven’t had to in so long (this is really good for me).  When someone is over and they ask if they can help I am eager to pass off tasks instead of decline and do it myself.  I have had to settle for “good enough” instead of “perfect” when it comes to my house cleanliness.

So no, this pregnancy is so very far from what I desired and dreamt about but it is absolutely everything I need in my life right now.  It’s so easy for me to get wrapped up in accomplishing everything alone, I’m an independent person through and through.  This year has been a full year of struggling with my health and it’s taken this pregnancy for me to let go of the guilt and disappointment of it all.  Of my health plummeting and with it my weight increasing and activity decreasing, of not being able to accomplish everything I want to each day because of pain and exhaustion, of struggling financially because I can’t work over full time like I did in 2015.  I’m letting it all go and embracing the community of people that surrounds me that desires to help me.

We all need a community to lean on and I’m so very thankful for mine.