Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Gestures of Romance You Won't Find at a Royal Wedding

Because of the inconveniently early hours my offspring keep I was awake in time to watch the Royal Wedding as it aired live this past Saturday. Only I forgot that it was happening, so I didn't see it. By the time I remembered to tune in the nuptials were complete and the new Duke and Duchess were negotiating a sixteen foot train into a horse-drawn carriage. I spent a few minutes watching the live coverage of the two "love birds" parading through the throngs of well-wishers before caving to the demands of my children for some Peppa Pig. (Also British, so still fitting for the day.)

But before I clicked over to Peppa I was struck by a few pieces of commentary offered by the news anchors. That this was a "fairy tale come to life." That you could "see the love in their faces." And, what a "true gesture of romance" it was that Prince Harry actually handpicked some of the flowers in his beloved's bouquet.

I love a good royal wedding. I loved William and Kate's, and loved this one as well. I definitely checked in with the Instagram account of the Royal Family throughout the day. I loved the fashions and formalities of the occasion. I loved seeing my feeds fill up with everyone's wedding pictures in honor of the occasion, and even posted a couple pictures from my own wedding.


After all, we should be celebrating marriage.

My only concern is, if we hold up a royal wedding as the standard of true love and romance, we're likely to end up disappointed when our own middle-class, Midwestern marriages seem to pale in romantic comparison.

After all, I don't know that meeting at a bakery counts as a "fairy tale come to life." And if you were to drop in at our house on a given day I'm not sure you would see the same looks of smitten admiration on my husband's and my faces as Harry and Megan were wearing on their wedding day. And I don't mean to throw anyone under the bus, but it's been a while since I've been given flowers, much less flowers hand picked from a castle garden.

Does that mean the romance in our marriage is dead? No! Far from it! But it has taken on a different appearance over the last 9 years. I don't require the same gallant displays of affection that characterized our dating, engaged, and newlywed years. My husband has found other ways of showing me that he loves me and cares about me. Theses things probably seem boring to the outsider, but to me they are a sign that I am deeply known and loved.

Every night my husband packs Johnny's lunch for school the next day and gets the coffee ready in the coffee maker. He happily does these things because he knows that after a long day of preparing three meals, doing multiple loads of dishes, and repeatedly wiping counters and sweeping the floor, I just can't be in the kitchen for one more minute. And it means the world to me.

We quickly realized after having kids that one of the truest gestures of romance we could make to each other is letting the other sleep in in the morning. In the past we would take turns on the weekends getting up with the kids. But throughout this pregnancy Alex has gotten up with them nearly every morning, allowing me to get a couple extra hours of much needed sleep.

We're just as happy to have some ice cream at home after our kids go to bed as we would be to get dressed up and go out on a fancy date.

Remember the coffee that Alex prepares and programs every night? Every morning he brings a cup of it upstairs for me before I'm out of bed and we have a time of morning prayer together.

Deciding to turn off the TV and just sit and talk. Taking turns changing diapers and fielding tantrums. Texting each other during the day just to check in. Telling me I look beautiful when I know I look like a hot mess. These are gestures of romance that don't require a horse drawn carriage.

All this doesn't mean we shouldn't make time to go out together, or that there's no need to ever give a gift, or write a special note. But it does mean that at the end of a day that was by all appearances perfectly mundane, we know that we've got something really good going here. It's these hundreds of little "true gestures of romance" that show that we are in this for the long haul.

It's easy to be in love when life is idyllic. But what about when it's not? What about when life is monotonous, when work hours are long, when kids are difficult, when appliances are breaking down? What about when crisis strikes, health problems, job transitions, financial difficulties? All marriages will go through these things, but I would argue that's when the real "true gestures of romance" get to shine.

I hope that some day Megan gets the stomach flu and that Prince Harry can hold her hair back for her while she vomits into the toilet. That's a "true gesture of romance" that she will never forget.

Monday, April 23, 2018

My Maternity Must-Haves

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make a purchase, I get a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. 

27 weeks of pregnancy down, 13 weeks to go. So basically an eternity. I really don't like being pregnant. Please don't misinterpret that statement. I'm wildly excited about this baby, I just wish someone would knock me out for 9 months and then I would wake up with a baby in my arms. But I guess that approach to pregnancy wouldn't really work for the rest of my family. So while there is no avoiding 9 months of sickness, fatigue, pain, heartburn, and crazy hormones, at least there are some things that can help make those 9 months more tolerable. Here of some of my favorite maternity items this time around.

1. This Black Pencil Skirt is super comfortable and looks super put together. Now that we've finally made it to warmer weather you can bet I will be wearing it nearly every day with a t-shirt.

2. Epsom Salts. I love these all the time, and I especially love them while pregnant. This pregnancy I've had some restless leg syndrome, which, if you've never had it, is So Annoying!! It's like the top half of my body wants to sleep and the bottom half of my body wants to run laps around the house. An epsom salts bath at the end of the day paired with a magnesium supplement has worked wonders for my sleep.

3. Maternity/Nursing shirt that covers my tush. Maternity jeans are so not my jam this time around. It's leggings (which I will get to in a moment) all day every day, and so long shirts are essential.

4. Pregnancy Pillow. Alex got me this pillow while I was pregnant with Trixie.  It' takes up half of the bed, but it makes sleeping with a giant tum so much more comfortable. I highly recommend it.

5. Maternity Spanx. For underneath dresses and skirts, because everyone can use a little help, right?

6. The best lip balm ever. I get intensely dry lips while during winter and while pregnant, so being  pregnant during the winter basically means I have two strips of sandpaper on my face. I first got this lip balm in an Ipsy bag. I love it so much I've restocked on Amazon twice so far.

7. Special Occasion Dress. Because there's usually at least one special occasion during a pregnancy. I wore this dress to a wedding we went to in New York this winter. It was so flattering, I loved wearing it. Just don't forget the maternity Spanx!



8. Belly Oil. I am so past the point of preventing stretch marks, which is the reason many people use belly oil. For me, it's all about comfort. Oil works so much better than lotion when it comes to soothing dry, itchy skin. And if I can prevent a few new stretch marks from popping up, that's ok too!

9. Good Maternity Leggings. Like I already mention, I just can't with the maternity jeans. So until it's warm enough to wear dresses everyday, you will find me in leggings. I've been on the hunt for a good pair of leggings that are thick, not see through at all, go over the belly, and look somewhat presentable. These are by far the best I've found. I've worn them almost everyday since January. I am wearing them as I type this blog post.

That's all for now friends! I hope this helps any fellow preggos out there. Tune in next time for my top pregnancy food cravings!

Just kidding.

I think.....

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

the hospital tour

You never realize how deep the desire to be known and understood is until your find yourself with a group of people who know and understand absolutely nothing about about you.

A 2 year-old Johnny walking by the entrance to the NICU where he spent his first of life.

That was me this past weekend as I went to tour the hospital where baby number 3 will most likely be born this summer. For a variety of different reasons it won't work out for me to deliver at either of the hospitals where my other two children were born. So, I spent my Saturday afternoon with a group a strangers walking through hospital wings and peering into delivery rooms.  

As we waited for the tour to start I felt on edge, not because I'm uneasy about delivering this third baby, but because I didn't want the people around me to think that this is my first baby. "No, no" I wanted to say, "I've done this before. I have two kids already, they're at home with my husband. I'm married. See my ring? It's nap time so they all stayed home. But since this is my third it's not super important for my husband to come along. We know what we're doing."

The tour began, and each step along the way brought up memories and experiences that reminded me of all the profound ways becoming a mother has changed me. And it bothered me that no one else knew these things about me. At each turn I felt compelled to blurt out something personal about myself.

We entered a spacious room with a giant free standing tub. Water birth. My daughter was born in the water and it was a wonderful experience. My main objective in attending the hospital tour was to scope out the water birth accommodations. As I listened attentively to everything the tour guide was saying about water births, I noticed some other members of our group eyeing the tub suspiciously, others glazing over as the information was being presented to them. I wanted to shout out to them, "it's not weird, this is not a joke. I did this and it was amazing!"


The tour guide talked about what kinds of things you might do if your labor goes on a while and you're at the hospital for more than just a day or two. 

"That was me with my first" I wanted to say. "I was in labor with him for 50 hours. And yes, it was terrible." 

Next she covered the infant screening that takes place in the hospital. She spent several minutes explaining the hearing test, telling us not to worry if our baby fails the hearing test. "Many babies fail that first test because they still have amniotic fluid in their ears. It can take several days to drain out. You'll just repeat the test with your pediatrician and everything will be fine."

"Unless your baby is one of the less than 1% of kids born with hearing loss in the US, like my son. Then he or she will have to have more comprehensive testing done and be fitting with hearings aids as soon as possible. And then you'll have regular audiology appointments to monitor their hearing, and you'll want to find a good speech therapist, and you may want to consider learning sign language too....."

The tour ended with a walk by the entrance to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, which shares a floor with Labor and Delivery, and which is the very same NICU my son was transferred to when he was one day old. 

It's been almost 5 years since my baby was taken to the NICU, but of all the sorrows in my life that one feels freshest and stings the hardest. 

The tour guide talked calmly about the close proximity of  Labor and Delivery to the NICU, and if in the unlikely event that your baby will need to go there, it is very easy to come visit him or her. 

"But you have no idea what it's like to hobble down these hallways with fresh stitches in your body and legs still unsteady from the trauma of delivery"

She explained the layout of the private NICU rooms and mentioned the fold out couch available to parents who want to stay with their babies after they themselves have been discharged.

"Sure, it's a private room. But nothing feels more public than carrying your pads and peri-bottle to the unit's shared bathrooms every time you need to need to relieve yourself."

Hopefully you never need to go inside the NICU, she said, but it's nice to know it's there if you do.

"But if you do, it's ok to be upset, it's ok to cry and to feel like your world as falling apart, because it's really really hard. It might be the worst thing you ever go through. And you might not ever get over it. And that's ok too." 


But I didn't say any of those things. I just blinked quickly at the floor. Then we headed back to the lobby where the tour began, without anyone ever knowing all those things I had gone through, with them probably assuming I was a first time parent, just like everyone else.

And that's when I realized I was doing the very thing I didn't want done to me - making assumptions.

Since the start of the hospital tour I had been making assumptions about every other person in the group - first time parent, inexperienced, naive, uninformed, too natural, not natural enough - even though I knew nothing about them, or their experiences. 

And how could I?  We can't see experiences, we can only learn about them through increased intimacy over time. 

It's ok that I didn't share my life's story with my hospital tour group. And it was probably best for my ego that I didn't. But the experience was a good reminder to me that you can't possibly begin to scratch the surface of a person at first glance. I could no more know what scars and memories those other people brought with them to the hospital that day than they could know mine. We are, each of us, incredibly complex, that is a part of the beauty of humanity. Each person I encounter deserves not my judgement, but the dignity of my compassion and understanding. Who knows what I would find out about them if I could take the time to scratch the surface.
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