4 Lessons in 4 Years of Marriage

Four years ago today I married my very best friend.  And I know that is a cliché that is easy to type up and sounds nice and cute, but I truly mean it.  Before we even started dating or got engaged or got married or had a beautiful baby boy, he was first just a good friend.  He was my favorite person to spend hours at coffee shops with. My favorite person to carpool with to church. I am so thankful that before any of the love began to form, that God was knitting a friendship between our hearts that was built on His perfect love.  This bond built on our shared love of good coffee, running, God, and poetry began in coffee shops as friends. It began with carpooling to church. It began with editing each other’s poems for Maclay’s class. 

Marriage is beautiful, but it also is a lot of hard work.  It takes intentionality, dedication, sacrifice, and humility.   And becoming parents only makes it harder. In a lot of ways, becoming parents has brought us closer than we ever have been, but I would be absolutely not telling the truth if I were to say it was all roses the entire first year with Hudson.  In those early days with Hudson, I was not myself. I cried, yelled, and fought. It wasn’t Lance I was mad at it, but he was the one that was right there to take it. The truth is when you both are living on very minimal sleep and most of your time is dedicated to nursing and worrying about your little one, your marriage will likely take a back seat.  I am thankful that pretty early on in Hudson’s life, we realized that we needed to be even more intentional about putting our marriage first in this particular season. That is where the phrase: I love you more than Hudson, less than God; was born. I am no marriage expert, but I would have to think that part of the reason certain marriages end after all the kids have moved out is because the loves got reordered.  Somewhere along the way the love for the child outweighed the love for the spouse. And through this reordering, love for God, also seemed to fall in ranking. As I type this, I am praying right now, that the loves in my heart can stay in order. I pray to first and foremost, love God the most. Then, Lance. And then, sweet Hudson Boy and any other future children we may have. 

Even though we are just a few years in, these past years have taught me a lot.  Again, our marriage is by no means perfect, but I am proud of who we are becoming and this team we have become.  I look forward to (God Willing) the many, many years ahead and the lessons that will come with it. I would love to be still writing this blog in 46 years and be able to share a “50 lessons in 50 Years of Marriage” post, but for now we are at 4.  So here are my four major lessons I have learned in our first four years of marriage:

 

1. Prioritize Time Together

It was our three year anniversary that we began a new Friday tradition of sharing our rose, bud, and thorn of the week.  While it has not always been on Friday, we have been very consistent with carving out this weekly time and for us, it has been incredibly helpful.  As life continues to get more full and busy, it is essential to have a time every week where we can hit pause and stop and talk about the good, the hopeful, and the hard.  I feel so thankful that we started this weekly rhythm because while it’s sad to admit, I think if we didn’t start this, I would have missed out on knowing the heart of my husband.  I would have missed out on knowing how the small things that happened that week, like a day at the beach, was the rose of his entire week. I would have missed out on knowing why he came home so tired and the true reason we seemed to keep fighting.  I would have missed out on knowing his dreams, ambitions and hopes. While I am sure some of this stuff would have come up over dinners or outings, I don’t think it would have been as clear. It would have been paired with Hudson throwing food everywhere or with other people and noises and distractions. If you don’t intentionally set a weekly and monthly time for just the two of you, it is likely not going to happen.  Just like all good things, it takes planning and prioritizing.

2. Be Clear with Expectations 

It was just a few months after our first anniversary that we had one of our major fights that revolved around cheap wine.  My parents had given Lance and I a pizza cooking lesson. I was really excited for this date and had all these expectations of how the evening would go in my head.  In this cooking lesson you were able to bring your own bottle of wine to sip on as you flipped pizzas in the air and knotted garlic knots. I asked Lance to pick up a bottle of wine for us at Trader Joe’s for us to bring.  I didn’t tell him about any of the expectations I had. I didn’t tell him type or price tag or that I was expecting something a little bit nicer than normal. I just said wine and like the good husband Lance is, he did just that. He bought wine: 2 buck chuck.  Absolutely nothing wrong with 2 buck chuck, but it was not in line with my expectations for that night. To me, that pizza lesson was a special night for us and I wanted something a bit more special. I also was much more immature back then and cared about how people would perceive us if we brought cheap wine to a fancy cooking lesson.  It’s sad, but this wine fiasco made me cry and fight with him basically the entire day leading up to the lesson. I can still remember showing up to the kitchen with red rings around my eyes from crying all day. Thinking back, this feels so small and stupid, but I think if a lot of us our honest, the bulk of our fights are over the small and stupid.  If I had just clearly told Lance, my expectations I had for the wine he bought, none of the 2 buck chuck drama would have occurred. Sometimes all it takes is being incredibly clear. Can you please pick up a bottle of wine that is in-between the 15-30 dollar mark, preferably a Cabernet and if it has a cute label that made you think of me, that would also be a nice touch.  Be clear.  He can’t read your mind. 

3. Cheer Each Other On

One of the many reasons I love the sport of cross-country is because it is such a team sport.  I love how the 5th runner is just as important as the first. I also love that you can set goals for the whole team, but you also have your own individual goals of place and time.  I think in a lot of ways, a good marriage functions like a cross-country team. As a team, Lance and I have a lot of major, shared goals: kids, travel, home, running. Individually, we also have our own goals.  We have our own passions and career goals. This is so important and healthy! When Lance started his first company, I wish I could say I was the most supportive wife, but unfortunately I was not. I was resentful that he got to pursue his passion, while I was left dealing with the stressful job of teaching and was knee deep in essays to grade and behavior issues.  I did not do a very good job at cheering him on. And I regret this. Part of the reason I struggled to fully cheer on my husband was because I was fully consumed with work and was not pursuing any of my own passions. Currently, our marriage feels super healthy and I think that is largely to do with the fact that we both are pursuing our passions outside of work. Not only do we each have our own side projects we are working on, we also just wrapped up training for a marathon together.  This shared goal of completing our first marathon and qualifying for Boston definitely brought us closer together. As I mentioned in my last post on the marathon, it was an amazing feeling to literally be cheering each other on as we passed each other on the bridge.

4. Pray Together (Even When You Don’t Feel Like It) 

They say you shouldn’t go to sleep mad at each other.  I can see the benefit in this, but to be fully honest, sometimes sleep is what is needed for us to resolve an argument the next morning.  We have found that when we do try to resolve something before bed, it often just becomes worse. For us, the phrase that makes more sense is don’t go to sleep without praying together.  Lance prays aloud for us every single night. We have done this from the very beginning of our marriage. The key here is to do this regardless of how you are feeling. If it was up to me and my heart, there would have been many nights where praying together would not have happened due to my own pride and selfishness.  When I am mad, my gut reaction is to turn my back and disengage. When I am mad, praying together is the last thing I want to do. The Lord knew what He was doing when he gave me Lance as a husband. Lance has this amazing ability to do the right thing even when his emotions tell him otherwise. Even on the nights when I turn my back and give him the silent treatment, he flips me over, takes my hand out of my firm angry, arm cross and prays for us.  How thankful I am for a husband that ignores my stubbornness and still is persistent in prayer.  

Happy 4 years, LMC! I am so thankful for our marriage and this beautiful life we are building together.  

On Kindness

“I can’t believe you are running in the bike lane,” she grumbled to me as I flew past her. I can’t believe, I am faster than you on a bike, I wanted to say, along with a few other mean things that would of surely just caused a more righteous anger on her part. I wanted to explain to her I was running a workout. I wanted to tell her I was currently struggling to keep up my pace and could really use some words of encouragement. I wanted to tell her that I did this all the time and I am always careful, cautious, and respectful. I wanted to question her and ask why I couldn’t be on bike path when I was clearly going a faster pace than her on the bike. I mostly wanted to shake my head and say why are you so angry? But instead of all this, I smiled, I waved, and I laughed.

The thing with kindness is that it is not always the easier choice, but I have found it is always the right one. It is the one that actually holds the power to change, transform, and teach. It would of been so easy for me to yell back at this unreasonable lady that in many ways was out of line with making that type of comment; however, that would of done nothing. It would only justify in her mind that I deserved to be reprimanded. Kindness is untouchable. She was angry and rude, and I gave her back laughter. There is nothing she can do with that. It stops the situation in its tracks. The truth is, my tongue cannot always be trusted. It is enslaved to sin and pride. If I allowed myself to speak, it would have been mean and unkind, I guarantee it. So I kept silent and I laughed and smiled. I then preceded to go down to the strand that is designated for bikes and runners. The funny thing is that she followed me and passed me as I recovered and got ready for my last set: 2 minutes, all out pace. As I began this final set, she was about 100 meters ahead. I was no longer racing the clock, I was chasing her down. Before this little encounter, I was dying, ready to be done with this painful workout, but thanks to this lady, I found a new gear. I sprinted. I flew. I felt unstoppable. And I passed her. I wanted to again say so many things, like, I can’t believe your riding so slow, but again I looked at her and smiled and then kept running.

Kindness is always better. It is always the more powerful sword. The fact is not everyone is going to like you. Not everyone likes a fast girl. Not everyone will understand you. Let’s just be real honest, would that lady have made the comment if I was running that fast, but was a man? I’m not sure, but part of me wonders if she would have. I think maybe not. This makes me sad. I long to be the gal that doesn’t shake her finger, but instead cheers, claps, encourages with loads and loads of kindness. As that lady looked at me and said, “I can’t believe…” I truly thought she was going to say, “I can’t believe how fast you are going! Way to go!”. Kindness is simply not always on the forefront of our lips. It does not always come naturally. It is far easier to critique, question, put down. Especially in those moments where we feel threatened.

Kindness can be even more difficult in those moments where we feel wronged. I have recently been delving into the enneagram. Like nonstop listening and learning about all nine of the numbers. I go back and forth on which number I am, but I am pretty sure I am a 2. The helper. A large part of me didn’t want to be this number. I am not that good. I am selfish, lazy, and not always willing to serve. However, twos are most often associated with people-pleasing. And this rings so true to my heart. I am a people-pleaser and I often am enslaved to both the applause and criticism people serve me up. The weight I give people in my life is becoming incredibly problematic. The reason I bring this up is because I started this paragraph by saying kindness is especially hard to give when we feel wronged. I think this is true for most humans, but as a two this feels especially challenging for me. I put such high expectations on people that when I feel failed by them, it is so easy for me to hold grudges and keep a score in my head. I am working on this. The Bible is super clear on how we are supposed to love regardless of how we are treated.

“Love your enemy, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” -Luke 6:27-28

This is kindness. This is love. This does not come naturally to me. The thing with kindness is that I can’t do it in my own strength. Even my attempts at kindness have underlying motives: to be perceived in a certain way, to be loved by others. The only way I can even come close to living out those verses in Luke is if I ask for the Holy Spirit’s help. It is beyond humbling to realize that even being truly nice to the people in my life is something I can’t do on my own. Oh how I need the Lord’s help. Oh how I need His Grace.

So back to the lady on the bike. Thank you for reminding me the power in not saying a thing. Thank you for reminding me that even my attempts at kindness are not pure. And ultimately thank you for getting me to run harder than I thought I could.

6 More Lessons in the First Year of Motherhood

Happy 1st Birthday to our sweet Hudson Boy! I cannot believe a whole year has gone by! These past couple days I have been very sentimental as I have thought back to what we were doing exactly a year ago. We were waiting. And waiting and waiting. We went into the hospital Wednesday evening after my water broke. We literally walked up to the check-in counter, and I was crying. I felt so overwhelmed and nervous and no one seemed to care that I literally was standing in a puddle of amniotic fluid! Was this normal? I was expecting to be rushed to a hospital bed. I was expecting urgency. This is important people. I am about to have a baby! But, it was quite the opposite. No rushing, no urgency. Just me, crying, as I stood in a puddle. After eventually being situated into our room, the real waiting began. Like 43 hours of waiting. Those long hours were filled with pocking and prodding, lots of jello and bone broth, prayers, and an epidural that finally allowed for sleep. There were some anxious moments in those hours, especially when we were getting close to the second day of waiting and Hudson’s heart rate began to drop. I can still hear the nurse’s voice when she shakily said my name. My heart has never dropped so low. She delivered the news that I needed a C-section in the most heart-stopping, terrifying way. I literally thought the worst case scenario was happening the way she looked at me and said my name. I could handle a C-section. At that point, it didn’t even matter. Did we type it up into our neat and tidy birth plan? Nope, but most of what we had in there didn’t happen. The C was the least of my worries, all I wanted was my Hudson Boy. Finally, Friday at 4:11 pm, Hudson was born. And let me tell you, our world shifted in the best possible way. As I type this, I literally am crying because when I think about this moment it truly brings me to my knees in thankfulness to God. What a good, good Father. I remember lying numb in that OR just praying. I remember hearing his first cries and the warmth of my own tears flowing down my face. It no longer mattered that things didn’t go as planned or that my tummy will forever have a scar, none of it mattered because our sweet boy was finally here.

I tell this story because as I wrote about when Hudson turned 6-months, one of my first lessons was learning to be okay when things do not go as planned. You can read those first 6 lessons here. This lesson is only more true now. I am daily reminded that I am not the one in control. While this is a really hard lesson for someone like me that has a heart gripped to control and self-reliance, I am beginning, emphasis on beginning here, to not only let go of control, but develop the ability to laugh when things don’t go the way we planned. I immediately think about the Proverbs 31 woman.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.

-Proverbs 31:25

Before becoming a mother, I read that verse and thought it sounded nice, but it didn’t fully sink in or connect with me. It makes so much more sense to me now. I picture her house being a mess, her toddler throwing a tantrum, her clothes stained in spit up; and despite it all, I picture her laughing with a confidence and peace that can only be explained through the presence of the Holy Spirit. I am not there yet, but I desire to be and I do believe the Lord is continuing to do a work in my heart to eventually get me to this point. While I am not there, I think back to the way I handled situations in the first few months. My heart rate probably stayed at 110 all day long. The littlest peep or cry from Hudson put me into a downward spiral. Man, was I gripped by an anxiety I have never felt before. There was definitely not a lot of laughing happening, but there certainly were a lot of tears and fear. Just yesterday, in Costco, as we were shopping for food for his birthday party, I was reminded of the work the Lord is doing within me. Hudson spilled half of his water all over himself and on the floor beneath the cart. His pants were soaked and he slowly began to get more fussy as he wanted to be out of that cart. Kelli 9-months ago would have lost it! She would of panicked and made up lies about how the cashier probably thinks I am not a very good mom. But instead, it didn’t affect me. Wet pants? Who cares, we will change it when we get home. A little fussing? Who cares, babies make noise. A bit of a mess on the floor? A casual sorry will be enough. It will be okay. The world is not ending. This may seem like a small thing to you, but let me tell you, this is huge. This confidence, this growth, it amazes me. So, if you were anything like me and are currently in those early months where everything is new and scary and anxiety-inducing, I really hope these words can encourage you. It is incredible what the Lord can do in a year. Hold on. It gets better.

Okay that was a lot, but I think all of that is important. Here are 6 more lessons I have learned as mother to sweet Hudson.

1. Don’t Sweat the Small Things

As I have already alluded to, the small things, like water spilled everywhere and crying, do not grip me in the same way they used to. One of the biggest lessons I have learned in this past year is to let go of all the little things. I will drive myself crazy if I try to control everything: naps, floors, attitudes. There are so many things that could go wrong in life, a little sand eaten by Hudson or a spill in a restaurant, are minor concerns. The world will keep spinning. I will still be a good mother.

2. Time Goes Quickly

It is easy to eagerly look ahead and think I can’t wait until fill-in-the-blank. I can’t wait until he doesn’t wake up multiple times in a night. I can’t wait until he can crawl and walk. I can’t wait until he can talk. I can’t wait until he eats solid foods. And the list goes on. Those are all exciting milestones and it is easy to dream about the next stage where things seem easier, but I have learned that things change so quickly and it is so much better to be present and grateful in the season you are in. Things are already moving way too fast. I would love to go back to myself a year ago and tell her: “These next few months are going to be hard, but stay in it, soak it up, watch him sleep as often as you can, and it will get better.” I had too many days where I dreamed of easier times, when I wish I had just accepted the season for what it was.

3. Trust Instincts

I had a lot of my doubts in the first few months. I questioned everything I did. I was too easily swayed by the opinions and advice of others. I would watch one YouTube video and implement one strategy and the next day I would read something completely opposite and try that instead. Early on, external factors were the driving force behind how I mothered. For example, if we were out and Hudson was crying and someone would say “oh, he must be hungry!” I would immediately feel this pressure to nurse him, even though, deep down, I knew hunger wasn’t the issue. I just fed him. My internal mother instinct knew his needs, but I didn’t trust it yet. Now I do, and we are both so much happier because of it.

4. Breastfeeding Can Become a Dear Friend

My relationship with breastfeeding over the course of this year has changed drastically. I used to hate it. I know hate is a strong word, but I really did. I dreaded every couple hours when it was time to nurse again. It felt like rejection and failure all in one. It felt incredibly weird and uncomfortable to me. I am a slow learner. Change is hard for me, it takes me a while to adjust and learn. Those first few months I could not even fathom the possibility of making it to a year of breastfeeding. But here I am, a year later, unsure if I want to give it up quite yet. While I would not gush about it in the same way others have talked about it, it has become part of who I am. It is like sleeping, breathing, running. It is how I start and end my days. While it used to feel weird and uncomfortable, it now only feels natural and familiar. Side note here: while I was able and chose to exclusively breastfeed, this is not for everyone, nor is it always possible for everyone. Fed is always best. This is another thing I really wish I could tell myself a year ago. I was so hard on myself. Every night was a meltdown. I wish I could have told myself that it would be okay. That I would make it, but I also wish I could tell myself breastfeeding is not the goal. I put way too much emphasis on it, and that created a lot of stress for the both of us. Just like any relationship, it can’t be forced. Take it slow. Trust the process. And you might break up and move on, or you might just find a dear, reliable friend.

5. Don’t Compare

It’s the thief of joy. It really is. You will find so much joy especially in those early months if you just focus on your baby and family. I really wish I deleted Instagram in this season. It was more harmful than helpful. My heart could not handle it. Your baby is different. You are different. Don’t compare.

6. Let God Take Over

Let the Lord enter your sleepless nights. Let him enter with you at the grocery store. Let him enter when you don’t have the energy or the words or wisdom. He can fill in all the holes, all the areas of weakness. Let Him takeover. Give him the reigns. Say Lord I can’t do this on my own. Help me! And He will.

Learning to Let Go as Mothers

Happy one day before Mother’s Day! Last Mother’s Day, people wished me a Happy Mother’s Day, and I thought it was very kind, but I felt like I didn’t fully deserve it. I did not feel like I was technically a mother yet. I hadn’t done the hard work of changing diapers, drying tears, losing sleep. But, of everything I have learned in this past year of motherhood, it is the fact that what makes a mom has nothing to do with those things. Yes, diapers, crying (both baby and mom), and little sleep is part of the job description; however, it is not what makes a mom. It is love that makes a mom. Before all the sleepless nights, the never-ending nursing sessions, and the massive diaper bag that has replaced my cute, little black Kate Spade; I was actually already a mom. I had the belly and love to prove it. This has been probably one of my greatest lessons I have learned so far. Especially in those first couple months, I felt so overwhelmed and unsure with my new title as mom. I felt completely inadequate. I felt like a fraud. Who am I to mother this child? I have no idea what I am doing! Simple things like taking the car seat in and out of the car was a struggle for me. Even holding him, I felt awkward and unsure. I lacked all confidence. I would sit at home, terrified to leave the house with him by myself.

Back then, I thought I had to prove to others (and myself) that I was a good mom. I thought my title of mother was based on what I did. Thankfully, just like my identity in Christ, it is based on nothing that I do. It is based on love. It is not even my own love because even that falters. It is a perfect love, the love of God. I am almost a year in to this whole motherhood thing, and of everything I have learned, one thing that I am even more certain of is my great need for a Savior. Motherhood has revealed within me a heart that is selfish and insecure. It has been made very clear that I cannot do this alone. It also has been made very clear that I am not in control. This past year has been full of letting go. Letting go of expectations. Letting go of my tight grip of control. And letting go of what other people think about me. I do these three things better on certain days, and have days where I hold on to everything. But I am learning to let go and this letting go is making all the difference. I am becoming such a better mom the more that I have learned to let go. Things are just not going to be perfect. The spoon will be dropped a thousand times. He will refuse to sleep. He will cry during the wedding vows. I need to let it go. I wrote a previous post about some of the specifics I have learned in the first 6 months of motherhood. You can read that post here. While I broke it down into more specific lessons, much of what I wrote revolves around letting go. It is letting go of the things I simply cannot control and learning to lean in to the one thing that actually makes me a mother: love. This whole letting go thing is not a passive excuse to not care. It is not an “oh well” mindset. It is actually quite the opposite. It is active and intentional. When I choose to let go of the things out of my control, I pray. I ask God to enter. I hand it over. I admit my lack, my need, my limits.

So mama, if you are feeling tired, overwhelmed, and uncertain in your mom abilities, I hope these words can act as encouragement. It certainly can feel overwhelming, but if you can break it down more simply to loving and letting go, I think you will ultimately find so much greater joy.

To all the mothers, thank you for everything you do. It is so much and it really matters. Enjoy your day and if possible let go of a few things and ask God to enter and take over. This might just change everything for you. Special thanks to my amazing mother that has set such a beautiful example of what it looks like to be a mother that sacrifices and loves so well.

Letter to My 15-Year Old Self

Yesterday was my 25th birthday.  I am officially a quarter of a century.  I have entered the mid-twenties.  For some reason this year feels significant to me.  I think back to 10 years ago and I am proud of who I am becoming and the family Lance and I have started.  I also hopefully think ahead 10 years to the future and I have so many goals and dreams as to where I would like to be at 35.  In honor of 25 years, I wrote a letter to both my past and future self.  Here is the first letter:

Dear 15-year-old self,

Hi Kelli Sugimoto, this is Kelli Capel writing to you.  In 10 years, a lot is going to change for you.  You will get married, you will have a baby, you will come to truly know Christ.  These are the big ones, but your next ten years will be filled with little moments, little decisions that will change everything.  You are going to feel lost at times and uncertain that you are making the right decisions, but I just wanted to reassure you that you are.  Even the mistakes, led you to the life I am currently living and it really is a beautiful one.  It is so full with family, friends, the sweetest little boy and a man that loves you.  I know what you are dreaming about right now and I am pleased to tell you some of those dreams will happen in just a few short years.

Right now you are probably just in the midst of figuring out that you really love to run.  It is your freshmen year and I know you have no idea what running will become.  You are entering a chapter where running will be everything.  It is going to teach you a lot.  It is going to build within you a determination and a strength you did not even know you were capable of.  It is also going to test you.  It is going to wake you up and make you realize you are much more than just a runner.  It will show that running is a good thing, but it is not the thing.  It will get you places and open doors and give you things.  This is a lot of vagueness, all to say this: keep running, keep chasing dreams, keep getting better, keep putting in the miles and the minutes, keep believing you can.  Running will begin as the everything and it will end as really nothing, but I am learning right now that it will come back to be something really beautiful again; just with a different look.

Along with running, you are also forming some very important friendships.  Some of those friends, you are going to lose touch with and that is okay, but some, specifically a couple, will be your two best friends, 10 years later and beyond.  Enjoy your time with them now.  Things will change very quickly.  Definitely not for the worst, but it will be different.  You will all live in different states and your time together will be limited.  Soak up your time with them now.  These girls will stand by you at your wedding, they will be there for your baby shower, they will drive to see you in Arizona.  They will love you in the good and the hard.  They will be true friends through and through.

As with your friends, spend as much possible time with your family.  As strange as this may sound, you only have about 3 more years of living at home.  You only have 6 more years of being unmarried.  In three years, it will be different.  In six, entirely changed.  Your time at your family home is limited.  Appreciate it as much as you can now.  Thank your mom more for always helping pack lunches and making breakfasts and loving you so well.  Thank your dad more for all his support and believing in you always.  Spend more time with your sister.  Tell her more often all the amazing strong qualities you see in her.  Give more cuddles to your dog, Jack, he will pass in just a couple years. Go and visit grandma as often as you can.  When she tells you to “run along now” stay longer.  Treasure this season with your family.

I know now you are not even really thinking about dating or boys, but just remember the real man will come in the form of a very good friend. He is more than you are even dreaming about.  Therefore, do not take the different heart breaks too seriously.  As dramatic as they feel at the time, God has something infinitely better planned for you.  All the disappointments are one step closer to finding the life He has intended for you.  I don’t want to tell you who your husband will be (some things are better left as surprises), but trust me when I tell you that he is perfect for you.  He will be the man that helps point you back to the cross.  Through your friendship, you will be reintroduced to church and find out what it means to truly be in relationship with Jesus.  Reality LA will be an important church and community for you in the coming years.  I know right now you go to church, but I am so excited for you to fully see what it looks like and feels like to have a personal relationship with God.

Remember how you always dreamed about being a teacher and a mom?  These dreams comes true.  Teaching will be hard at times, but by the time you leave for the next dream to happen, you will have a heart so much fuller than when you began.  You will come to find that you learned more as a teacher than you ever had as a student.  You will realize that teaching is not always about the deliverance of content as it is about the example of love and kindness you can set for your students.  It turns out this is what they will really remember about you; not the proper placement of a semi-colon.

You will leave the classroom for a bit and enter your next dream.  Motherhood.  Your baby boy is more precious than you can even imagine.  He has your nose and his father’s eyes. Even in just the first few months, he is going to teach you a lot about sacrifice, patience, and love.  There is not much else I can tell you on this, considering I am just a few months in, but I am sure my future self will have some good lessons to prepare you for.

I want to leave you with these final words.  You have so much to look forward to.  There is amazing and beautiful things ahead.  A common thread you will be faced with is lack of confidence in your abilities.  Whenever you are in those places of doubt whether it be on the line of a race, in a classroom of students, up late with a sleepless baby; remember that God made you ready for each of these different seasons.  You were made for this.  Don’t ever forget that.

Love,

25-year-old self

 

 

6 Lessons in the First 6 Months of Motherhood

Two Saturdays ago Hudson turned 6 months!  I really cannot believe he is already half a year.  These past 6 months have been filled with so much joy, but to be fully honest, these past few months have also been a real challenge.  Motherhood has already been so much harder than I was expecting; however, it also has been even more beautiful that I ever could have dreamed up.  The Lord has been doing some major heart work within me through this early part of motherhood and I wanted to list out the six biggest lessons He has taught me so far.

6 lessons learned by a new mother in her first 6 months postpartum

1. Plan for the Unexpected

Lance and I are big planners.  We plan mostly everything.  We plan out our meals each week.  We plan out vacations.  We plan out when we will workout. We plan things out.  We like it.  I think mostly because it gives us a sense of control.  So, when we started hearing about the importance of making a birth plan, we made one.  We had it nicely laid out in a Google Doc and made multiple copies to give our parents, the doctor, and the nurses.

 Even though everyone kept telling me to not be too attached to my plan, I could not help but think that my birth would at least mostly go with the plan that was neatly typed up.  Sure, there might be a couple things that would or would not happen, but all the major things like a vaginal birth, that would have to happen.  C-section was definitely a word that we did not type up, but that ended up being our reality.  

After nearly 40 hours and Hudson’s heart rate dropping, I had to have a C.  This was my first reality check that they were right.  You cannot be too attached to your plans.  Delivering Hudson in an OR was not how I pictured it.  I was picturing using all the lamaze breathing I learned in class.  I was picturing breathing in the lavender essential oils lofting out of the diffuser we brought.  I was picturing pushing and laboring and sweating.  Instead I was cut open.  This of course was not the plan.  

I was initially disappointed about it.  This was my very first taste of motherhood and it was not what I expected, not what I imagined.  But, in the whole scheme of things, it did not matter.  Hudson was born healthy.  He was beautiful.  And while he was delivered by C-section, I will forever remember the very moment I heard him cry.  I have never felt so much joy and relief.  The C was the first lesson.  Then, came breastfeeding.

2. Breastfeeding Is Not Always Natural

I also had a picture of what nursing Hudson for the first time would be like.  I wasn’t necessarily picturing rainbows and butterflies but I was picturing a special moment where he actually latched on and wanted milk.  This did not happen for me.  And I felt like the biggest failure.  Just about an hour into motherhood and the one thing that I am actually supposed to do for my newborn baby, I can’t.  I was not expecting to feel like a failing mom within just an hour.  

Nursing was not what I expected.  

Our story with it was really challenging and stressful and time consuming.  I would spend at least an hour per feeding trying to get him to nurse and usually we both ended in tears.  While all of this is behind us and now I really do treasure the moments of nursing, it was definitely not always like this.  While I heard it would be hard, I also heard story after story about how beautiful and wonderful it is.  It was not wonderful for me.  It was painful.  

Physically, I was engorged which was way more painful than I had ever heard it would be.  I literally had lumps in my arms pits that were clogged milk ducts.  I could barely lie on my side.  It was that painful.  

Emotionally, I have never felt so rejected.  This baby that I loved so deeply, would become so frantic when I tried to nurse him. It was more than just him not latching, to me it seemed like he did not want me. He screamed and turned his head.  While looking back, I know there were so many factors that caused this reaction, but at the time I could not help but feel rejected and like a failure.  

I also was very much unprepared for how demanding and draining breastfeeding would be for the first couple months.  I did not even go to a breastfeeding class because I assumed it would come naturally.  That was my first mistake.  Besides the actual breastfeeding itself, there are so many rules when it comes to storing milk, pumping schedules, re-heating milk.  You can’t microwave the milk, you can’t shake it, you can’t give your baby the same bottle that they drank from earlier.  This might seem obvious to some but I literally had no idea.  

I unfortunately let the dark cloud of breastfeeding fully take over the first few weeks home with our little Hudson.  I wish I did not do this.  I was fully consumed with the mission of figuring out this nursing thing that I missed some of those tender first moments.  My days were good if I was able to actually nurse Hudson and they were bad when I was plugged into my pump for the entire day.

 All this to say, breastfeeding is hard.  And it is wonderful.  But it is especially hard those first few weeks.  If I could change anything about this particular part of my experience, it would be to fill those weeks with so much more grace.  Grace when I had to give him another bottle of pumped milk. Grace when I had to use a nipple shield for literally 4 months.  Grace when I felt like I should be like all those other moms that seem to be able to nurse their babies with such ease.  

I was so hard on myself, but the Lord was so tender with me.  Around 3 and a half months, I was reaching a breaking point.  Up to this point, I still could only nurse with a nipple shield. I never thought I could hate a tiny piece of silicon more than I hated that shield. I was embarrassed and so tired of feeling like I needed a crutch.  In my prayers one morning, I very specifically asked the Lord to allow me to not need this anymore. Two weeks later, after 4 months of needing this shield, Hudson no longer needed it.  The Lord was so tender and kind to me in the way he answered this prayer.  I really wish I was more reliant on His ever-sufficient grace much earlier than 4 months.

3. Allow Others to Help

For some reason, the moment we got home with Hudson, I felt like I needed to jump right into being the perfect stay at home mom. I also felt like I had to do everything on my own.  I kept telling myself that Lance will be leaving for work soon, so I needed to get used to doing things on my own.  Within the first couple weeks, I was already doing things like holding carseats and lifting them from the car to the stroller.  I just had major surgery and my hormones were going crazy, but still I felt like I needed to hold it all together.

 I was worrying about so much those initial first couple weeks when I really should have just been resting and soaking in the time with sweet Hudson.  I really wish I leaned more into the help I was offered. I wish I took more naps.  I wish I asked for even more dinners made.  It is okay to get help. It is especially okay when you just had a baby.  I really wish I enjoyed this season more where people were willing and happy to serve our family.  Instead of feel like a burden or super needy, I wish I just reveled in the help.  

The other major lesson in here is that it is okay if one day the only thing that gets done is feeding and loving over a baby.  I would and still feel like a failure when it feels like I did not produce any measurable outcomes except a happy baby (depending on the day) and maybe some folded laundry.  This is more of a lesson I am still in the process of learning, but I am working on being okay with this.  Certain days the house will be a mess, dinner will only be half made, Hudson will not be napping, and it will be okay.  I simply cannot do it all and I need help.  

I am so thankful for friends bringing over meals, all our family spending so much time with us at the house, and especially my mom and sister coming over nearly every morning so I could leave the house or just rest.  I am also thankful for medical help like the advice and guidance I received from doctors and lactation consultants.

 I am one that really hates asking for help.  The perfect example is when I try to buckle the back of the ergo carrier.  I don’t know how some people make it look so easy.  I still struggle with this, but my own stubbornness prevents me from just asking for help.  This results in just looking silly for a few minutes with both arms behind my back when I could have just gotten the help I needed immediately.  But is this not how we live?  We choose to look like fools frantically scrambling to do it for ourselves rather than humbly admit our need.  Well here I am, finally admitting that I need help. Please help!

4. The Newborn Season is Fleeting

It is amazing what a month brings.  I think this is one piece of wisdom I wish someone had more directly spoken to me.  Those first two months were real hard.  Like melting down on bathroom floor hard. It was two months filled with emotional waves, uncertainty and deep anxiety. I was struggling to feel happy and myself.  I was not fully myself.  While those first two months were some of the very hardest, I am amazed how quickly things did get better.

 The amount of growth and development babies go through is amazing.  From two months to four months, Hudson had become so much more predictable, attentive, and happy.  It was four months in that I could feel some of the heaviness lift.  The anxiety was slowly beginning to fade.  I was beginning to feel so much more confident with this new role as mom.  

Those first four months, I would look out into the world and see all these moms doing all the things and I felt like I was no where close to getting to that point.  I would see moms out with the stroller and the dog and I was amazed.  I was so nervous to walk by myself with an 80-pound golden that is overly excited and a baby.  Now, I don’t think twice about it and love getting out of the house with Nala and Hudson.  I am pretty certain that the person I was in July would not even recognize the mom that I have become within just a few short months.  I did not know this in July and I think this would have made all the difference. It felt like July would be the picture of what our entire year would look like, but it turns out that November and December look nothing like July and August.

5. Getting Outside is Essential 

 Within just a week, I put a pressure on myself that I had to go out and do things with Hudson.  I wish we didn’t go out as much early on.  I think in ways I was not fully ready.  While early on, I felt an eagerness to go out into the world, I am finding as the months go on and as I become even more tired, I am more inclined to just stay inside.  However, I am learning how important and helpful it can be to just go.  To leave the house even on the days where you don’t fully want to.  Sometimes, it is those days that getting out of the house can be the most beneficial.  

Especially recently, I can’t even think of a time where we went out and I regretted it.  It usually is the opposite.  I come back home with new perspective, new connection, and new energy.  I am learning that it can be really easy to convince yourself that you should not go, that you should just stay home.  I have been there.  The voices of doubt start to creep in.  I am already late.  Hudson just spit up all over himself.  He is screaming crying as I put him in his carseat.  It is often in these moments, where I wonder is it worth it?  From my experience so far, it almost always is worth it.  Even if it is the smallest outing, it can really change the day to get out.  I have let the what if’s control my day.  What if Hudson cries the whole time?  What if people think I’m a bad mom?  What if I can’t get him into the carrier properly?  These questions and doubts would prevent and sometimes still do prevent me from just going out, living, and being okay if things did not go perfectly.  

I am learning, there have been very few times that I have gone out and it was a perfect experience.  Usually something happened.  He had a blowout.  He refused to sit in stroller.  He cried in yoga class.  I think of each of those situations and if I let the what if rule my decision and chose to stay inside instead, I would have been missing out.  I would have missed out on that beautiful run we had together on the strand.  I would have missed the connection with a great friend.  I would have missed seeing the way he smiled when him and all the other babies danced with their moms at the end of class.  Things will happen when you go out.  Some good and some not so good, but without going, you are potentially missing out on something really beautiful.

6. You Were Made for This

There have definitely been those days where I wondered am I really cut out for this?  I wondered if that tugging on my heart to be a mom was accurate.  Did I hear God wrong?  Is this my calling?  But even on those days of doubt, I am daily reminded that I am made for this.  The Lord has perfectly equipped me to be mother to Hudson.  I am made for motherhood because I am made by Him.  He has crafted my heart in such a way that has prepared me for both the joys and challenges of being a mom.  I am thankful for those quiet moments alone with Hudson.  The way he looks at me right before he falls asleep.  The way he sleeps in my arms as I rock him in the glider. It is these little moments, these quiet ones that show me there is no place I would rather be than right here with him.

So if you also are experiencing these days of doubting and questioning your role as mom, remember this simple truth: you were made for this, mama.