have you guys seen those memes? the ones with two photos of the same man side by side, but in one photo they’re dressed to the nines, and in the other they’re all nerdy and/or casual? i believe the meme started with this:
i love this meme. i love it so much. and i believe that i’ve got a man who can indeed “do both”.
in the last week, i’ve watched Mister Man put the finishing touches on the fence in our backyard that he built with his own two hands, then come inside and play “chase me dad!” with our daughter for an hour. i’ve watched him go to work to earn a living for our family, then come home and make dinner for us while i’m busy with one baby nursing and the other trying to sit on my lap at the same time.
he is tough and he is gentle. he can work with tools and comfort a baby with those same two hands. he is equally comfortable at a dive bar on friday night or at church on sunday.
there’s nothing like having a baby with someone to bring out their best and worst characteristics. after having a second one with Mister Man, i can say that this baby daddy of mine is pretty much the perfect man. he would tell you otherwise, because that’s just the kind of guy he is, but it’s the honest to goodness truth. i don’t tell him enough, but i can’t imagine anyone else i’d rather be married to or raise kids with.
so i guess what i’m trying to say after all that is this: make sure that when you make your decisions about life partners or baby daddies, that you get you a man who can do both.
if you’ve been around the last few years (year one, year two, year three), you’ll remember that Mister Man and i celebrate our anniversary with the traditional gift rules. year four is fruit/flowers.
i think i understand why the gift for the 4th anniversary is fruit and flowers. the 4th year flies by. the 4th year is full of life and work and family and sometimes even pregnancies and lost babies and crazy toddlers. the 4th year feels heavy and light at the same time, full of both newness and familiarity.
and so the flowers and fruit – sweet and fresh – they are a tender and quiet reminder that living life produces beautiful things all on its own. we need that reminder, don’t we? because not every anniversary feels momentous for its own sake. because sometimes life keeps you from seeing your growth, but even so, that life is a gift in and of itself. growth happens whether you’re paying attention or not, and if you’re lucky, you get to grow with someone who produces beautiful fruit and flowers that make you smile down to your very soul.
I’m lucky to get to grow with this guy. Mister Man is everything that i never knew i needed in a husband, a friend, a partner and a co-parent to our children. i don’t know how he does it, but with each year that passes he somehow manages to become more self-giving and hardworking. here i am just trying to keep it together, and he makes sure that our family is thriving. and he does it all with a smile (well, mostly…there’s an appropriate amount of sass mixed in there too!).
going from just the two of us living in an apartment together in 2012, to owning a house, to raising our sweet Amelia, to going through losses, to expecting our baby zee – that’s a lot of growth for any couple to handle. and the sad reality is that many can’t handle it. many marriages crumble when life gets a little crazy. but we are here still loving each other more than we did on our wedding day four years ago, through many prayers, endless conversations, and the grace of God.
if the last two years of marriage with a kid has been any indication, year five is going to fly by with two of them. and that’s okay, because we’ll be flying through it together. hopefully able to take a step back once in a while and appreciate as much of it as we can.
Mister Man: thanks for always cooking dinner with me, for being the best dad and husband in the world, for putting up with my snoogle, and for making this life of ours so much fun to live. i hope that i make you laugh as much as you make me laugh, and i hope that i am loving you half as well as you’re loving me.
i heard the thud of ceramic on wood first. a dull ‘thwack’ on the floor of my daughter’s room. then i heard the silence before the, “uh oh. i didn’t think that could break.”
i fought every instinct in my tired body to not rush in and immediately start pointing fingers and scolding. i fought it because my first instinct was to berate my husband for giving my daughter yet another breakable belonging of mine (they’re always mine, you know?). just a few weeks before she had thrown a porcelain dish from my trip to morocco on the hallway floor. it shattered it just enough to not be able to glue it back together. so all i wanted to do was huff and puff and act like a spoiled teenager.
once i had confirmed that everyone was physically okay, i asked what happened, and he said, “i thought she’d like the angel, but then she just let go of it. i thought it was made of wood so it wouldn’t matter, but then the arms broke off.” there it was, sitting in two pieces, a clean break of the arms of the angel. it was a fixable break, but for some reason it made me so angry that i let my spoiled teenager come through for just a moment, a split second. “i guess i can never have anything special in this house ever again, because nobody seems to care about it.”
and in that split second of losing my patience, i had hurt someone’s feelings, created tension in my marriage, and caused myself to become the bad guy in a situation that didn’t need one.
patience is a tender thing. it develops slowly, and unless you give it lots of attention, it won’t grow to be very strong. it’s a virtue, a gift of the holy spirit, and it happens to be the one that i lack the most. i never knew i didn’t have the gift of patience until i had a child, because it had never been tested on such a regular, unending basis. i could be patient for big things, here and there. but the little things, the minutiae of everyday, i simply was not able to tolerate being patient for those things.
and then i had a baby. and my whole life became focused on the minutiae. getting dressed. eating. sleeping. getting from one place to another. and most of the time, those little things were out of my control. patience, it would seem, is the only way everyone gets out of early childhood (and marriage with young children) alive. what to do when you don’t have it? how do you have a happy marriage and a happy child if you won’t be patient with them?
after the angel broke, my husband showed me what grace and patience looks like. he fixed the angel and left it, along with a love note on our kitchen counter for me to find. he showed me what it is to be eternally patient, and be an example of God’s continuous patience for us, his children. it made me take a step back and realize that things happen everyday that are either fixable or not. there is no in between, no compromise, and so what’s the point of losing your patience over whether it is or isn’t fixable. my reaction won’t change anything, so why not show love and patience in every situation, whatever the outcome? why not live in God’s likeness, like He meant for us to do?
life happens in the little things, so that’s where we need to show the most patience. and that, i realized, is my challenge in this life. my challenge is to find ways to be patient with those around me, to figure out how to bite my tongue longer, to stay calm during situations that deserve a little patience, no matter how much that pushes against my own nature. my flawed, impatient nature.
if you struggle with patience, just know that i am there with you in the struggle. and if i, with all that i am lacking in patience, can manage to get even the tiniest bit better, you can surely get there too. and it will be so worth it in the end.
hey mamas! did you laugh at the title of this post? i thought maybe you would. because obviously the word comfortable should be in big, giant quotation marks. it’s wishful thinking to say that you can make your ENTIRE pregnancy comfortable (although mine was pretty awesome), so this is about doing what you can to make it “as comfortable as possible”.
1) get a pregnancy/body pillow
i’ve written about my snooglebefore, but it bears repeating: i don’t care if you think you will be able to sleep the same during pregnancy as before, a pregnancy pillow is worth investing in. before getting pregnant, i was able to sleep through anything. i was so sure that this would carry over into pregnancy, or at least keep me sleeping better until later in the pregnancy. and then right away in the first trimester, i just found that i wasn’t sleeping as well as i used to.
so i went straight to amazon and bought that snoogle, and haven’t looked back since. it props your back up if you have to sleep on your side, it supports your knees, and it keeps all of you propped up (including belly) when you get further into your third trimester. sleep is so important when you’re pregnant, so try to find any way you can to get it while you can.
2) figure out how you’re going to stay active
i can’t tell you how much i hated when people told me how important it was to stay active because of how much faster i would “bounce back” after having the baby. okay, seriously, shut up. that might be a great motivator for a lot of people, but for me, i don’t care how i look, so the bounce back reason just made me mad because it sounds so selfish.
what i will preach until i’m blue in the face is how important it is to stay active for the purpose of keeping your body strong throughout the whole pregnancy and ready for delivering your baby. your body works so hard during your whole pregnancy and is shifting around so much, that without some conditioning you’re going to feel it happening more and earlier. i made it to 35 weeks completely ache-free, and i credit that entirely to the fact that i stayed active by doing prenatal workout dvds, walking and stretching. i KNOW that i would have been in more pain sooner had i not been diligent with staying active. it doesn’t matter what you do, but figure out what’s going to work for you!
3) make a plan for if you get really uncomfortable
as i said above, i made it to 35 weeks ache-free, but when my muscles went, oh boy they went good. between 35 and 36 weeks, my left hip got some sort of crazy muscle spasm/knot, and walking became a real issue. as in, i was limping everywhere if i had to walk. not waddling, i was limping because of the physical pain i was in. and that was tough for me, because up to that point, i had felt so strong. so i decided that i need to try to do something about it.
the first step was ordering a backpack to replace my work bag, to even out the weight of carrying everything on one side. the next step was making a visit to the chiropractor to make sure everything was aligning correctly, because early on in the pregnancy i had decided that was going to be my way of treating any discomfort i felt over the next 9 months. for you it might be acupuncture or a chiropractor, prenatal massage or regular pedicures. it doesn’t matter what it is for you, but have a plan in place before you need it.
4) invest in epsom salts/heating pads/ice packs
epsom salt baths are the best things in the whole wide world if you’re feeling a little sore or achy. heating pads and ice packs (especially at night) are a close second and third. knowing that there are things you can do to make yourself more comfortable is such a comfort in itself. sometimes it seems silly to be doing all the self-care, especially if you feel like you are in strong warrior mama mode and like you should be invincible, but it is so important. invest in the things that will bring you physical comfort, and invest in the time it takes to do those things for yourself.
5) put your feet up – literally
until my eight month of pregnancy, i had always thought of the phrase, “relax and put your feet up” as more of a metaphor. and then i started to get swollen feet, and started to literally put my feet up. and that was a life-changer, let me tell you! it’s such a good way to alleviate a sore back, sore hips, sore thighs, and the swollen feet (especially in the summer!). for swollen feet, i also highly recommend drawing the letters of the alphabet with your feet a couple times a day to increase circulation and decrease the swelling a bit.
6) be okay with slowing down
if you’re anything like me, this will be the hardest thing for you to do. i wanted to be able to keep cooking dinner every night, and doing the dishes, and helping with my share around the house, and i had to listen to my body and my husband and ease up a little bit. because for the last month of pregnancy i couldn’t keep going at the speed that i had been able to go at the rest of the pregnancy. and to get my brain around that fact took some doing. but it was such a good decision, and it was okay. of course it was okay! because the world will keep on turning even if you can’t do as much.
7) don’t complain
this might make some people annoyed with me, but i believe that if you focus on what’s unpleasant in the process of pregnancy, then you are in for a long nine months my friend. i had a great pregnancy, but there are going to be discomforts along the way for everyone, in some way or another. and that’s normal. so the fact is, we might as well focus on the good and ignore the bad, because focusing on the bad just brings it right in front of you at all times and that’s not going to help in any way. but focusing on the good, that will help you get your perspective in the right place, and it will make your experience so much more pleasant than the alternative.
8) have a husband who is amazing in every way
this is the one thing that i can’t give you by recommendation or advice. you have to be lucky enough to have a husband like mine, who will help you and take care of you and tell you it’s okay that you don’t feel great all the time. my husband has continued to amaze me time and again with his ability to take on more than his share, and his willingness to make sure i’m feeling the best i can feel. there is no substitute for the wonderful support of your partner in the journey, there just isn’t. (if you don’t have that in a husband, find it in a partner or a friend or a family member. find someone to take care of you, because it will change your whole experience.)
i hope this is helpful and gives some good ideas to any mamas out there who might be desperate for ONE new idea on how to take care of themselves when this journey gets tough.
when Mister Man and i took our wedding vows, we promised to take care of each other through everything with the words, “in sickness and in health”. well, i said those words, the priest may have forgotten to tell MM to say them (oops!), but we’ve already established that there is no loophole for him, and that’s another story altogether.
we meant those vows, and even if sickness comes to us, we will be there for each other and will stick it out as husband and wife. but it’s a whole heck of a lot easier to keep the “in health” part of that vow, isn’t it? so we have promised each other that we will do everything in our power to keep ourselves healthy as long as possible.
Mister Man is the person who keeps me healthy. he encourages me to get to the gym after work, and knowing that he is counting on me to meet him there keeps me from going home and sitting my butt on the couch. i am lucky enough that he loves to cook with me, so eating healthy at home feels like a date night instead of a chore. when i act like the night owl i am and stay up too late, he gets on my case to get more sleep.
some of our best conversations happen on long walks around our neighborhood. we can walk and talk forever, and all of a sudden an hour and a half has passed and we have a plan for our next project, or an agreement about our next big life event.
but for me, health does not exist solely in and of the body. i need to be mentally and spiritually healthy as well, because otherwise i’m just partly healthy, not totally healthy. and what’s the point of that? Mister Man gets it. he gets that for me, going to church every week is something i need to be healthy, and he participates and believes in that with me. he gets that sometimes we need a burrito bowl at chipotle or a burger at the local bar, along with a beer or two (none for me right now, boo!), because eating healthy at home 100% of the time will drive a person crazy. there is a balance in our lives that makes as much of a difference in our health as our gym membership.
now that we’re having a baby, our health has taken on an even more important role in our lives, because there’s a tiny human joining this world soon who is going to be dependent on us for a very long time. and that means we need to stay healthy for a very long time. we both want to be around to see our child go to school and have a family of their own and to be grandparents.
we know that we can’t control our health 100% of the time, because unexpected, unavoidable things happen. but for the parts we can control, i know that Mister Man will be there to keep me on top of my game, just like i’ll be there for him.
the American Recall Center asked me to share who keeps me healthy as part of their “Who Keeps You Healthy?” campaign. the American Recall Center is “a brand new site devoted to providing health and wellness news in simple, straightforward terms. their ultimate goal is to help their readers take complete charge of their health by being fully informed.”