A daily...meh, weekly dose of babies, reality, and love.
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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

i could parent in my sleep.

I posted this picture earlier today on instagram and everyone said, oh my gosh that is so sweet. And it is, obviously, mind-meltingly wonderful. 

This is the real story of why they were both in our bed this morning. 

Alright, listen. I'm going to share something horrifying. In fact, when I told this story to my sisters this morning, I swore they were the only people who would ever hear it. But perhaps there is someone out there who needs to know that they are not, in fact, the worst person ever at their job. Because I'm 3 weeks into this new job as a mom of two babies, and let me tell you:

I am the worst. Not you. Me. So rest easy.

Let's start by recognizing the fact that I am tired. If you don't have a newborn at home, or  live with small children, I'm not sure how to describe the particular strain of exhaustion that I am currently operating under. I could tell you that my left eye has a permanent twitch, like tiny seizures from my eyelid trying to close on its own volition. I could tell you that I had a wicked case of mastitis this weekend, during which I may have actually died for a few hours on Sunday afternoon. I can't be sure because I don't recall any scenes from my short journey towards death, like golden streets or the face of God or anything. Which is really too bad, because that could have been a very lucrative book deal. I would have called it, "The Horney Side Of Heaven." I would have made millions.

Anyways, I'm tired. I guess I didn't realize how tired I actually am, until last night. I woke up around 4:00 a.m. to a squirming baby who wanted fed. I set him on the bed and got ready to change his diaper before he nursed. Sam got up to use the bathroom, and after he flipped on the light, I reached down for the stack of diapers beside my bed. I wasn't quite lucid at this point, and did not register the fact that Clara was asleep on the floor. Not quite on the floor, though, because the top half of her body lay across the baby's bouncy chair. Her hands were clasped sweetly under her cheek and her knees were tucked under the chair, like she was praying. I gasped out a what in the heck?  Clara sleeps in her crib, in her nursery, and I had no idea how she got into our room. She can't climb out of her crib; she can barely climb off our kitchen chairs. I turned to my husband, who was washing his hands in the bathroom.

"Sam. Did you bring her in here?"
He looked to where I was gesturing, at our toddler folded in half on the floor beside our bed.
"What in the world...No. I didn't bring her in, you must have. Why did you put her in the bunny chair?"
I shook my head.

"I didn't...I mean, I don't remember bringing her in here. Like, at all."

I remembered her crying for me at some point, because she is getting her molars and sometimes wakes up in pain. I remembered rocking her in the nursery. And that was it. That's where my memory stopped. How did she get in our room? Why was she asleep in the baby's bouncy chair? How long had she been there? Sam stepped out of the bathroom and scooped her up off the floor, staring at me sort of accusingly.

"You have no idea how this happened?"

I turned back to the baby to finish changing his diaper/to avoid Sam's incredulous gaze. He settled Clara onto his side of the bed, her head sharing his pillow, I can only assume out of guilt and as a small protective measure against my sleepwalking parenting decisions. He went out to get a drink or something while I started nursing, and then came back a moment later.

"Why is there a dresser drawer on the couch?"

I bit my lip.

"Are you serious? There's a drawer on the couch?"

Yes. There was. Not the contents of a drawer, mind you. No. A drawer full of swaddle blankets and tiny hats, pulled off its track and set down on the couch. This means two things:

1. At some point in the middle of the night, I either left my daughter somewhere in my house to find her way to our bedroom floor, or I thought she was the newborn and set her down in his bouncy chair to sleep.

2. I pulled an entire drawer out of the nursery dresser and carried it to the living room to leave on the couch.

Somewhere, someday, I hope someone reads this post and then shuts their laptop with a satisfied sigh, knowing deep in their heart that while they might be bad at life, I am worse.

Also, please don't call child protective services. I will take a nap today, honest.

Monday, January 27, 2014

oh black plague of doom! (a thankful game.)

I feel like I'm in a dream - sort of a nightmare - where classes start at Boise State next week and I've forgotten to sign up for anything. In this dream, the semester will commence without me and I will wake up next week in a panic, frantic over my mistake, with no books, no syllabus, no fresh pencils to call my own.

It's not a nightmare. I'm done with school. I've finished. Graduated. No need to attend class, no need to do homework. It's a relief to be done, and just in the nick of time, because I have two small people depending on me for their survival. It's a job I do not take lightly, and it's a job I've been waiting to take on full-time ever since Clara was born, and it's a job that is at once warm and wonderful and engulfing and foreign. I'm home with these two kids of mine, and more than that, we are HOME. For another 6-8 weeks, we are very, very, home.

Baby Sam can't see any other kids or go out in public until the worst of flu and RSV season has passed. And in order for that to help prevent any illness, Clara must follow the same restrictions. This directive seemed over the top, honestly, when the NICU doctors issued it, but then our family doctor said the same thing, and then all my nurse friends and other parents of preemies confirmed the neccessity of staying home. Sam wasn't a preemie, obviously, but he was born the size of a 33 week baby, so we have to follow the same rules for those kids. So, here we are. Me and the babies. At home.

All. The. Time.

Truth be told, I wouldn't be so down if it were just me and the baby at home. I tried to get pregnant in April on purpose, because I wanted a winter baby. I wanted a reason to stay home in my pajamas and hold a newborn, without feeling the guilt of skipping out on BBQ's or swim parties or any other warm weather gatherings. So really, this is a perfect situation: except for Clara. Gees. My guilt reaches new levels when she stands by the front door holding her mittens and asking, for 30 minutes straight, to "go bye bye mama? outside, mama." Then she wanders around our small house, listless and lonely while I nurse her little brother. What toddler misery! The worst might be the way she lights up whenever one of her aunts walks in to visit, like it's family day in juvie or something.

You know how people sometimes say things like, "that was a hard year" or "that was a difficult season in our marriage," or just speak generally about a long period in their life that sucked a fat one? I think I might be there. I'm not sure. But I think when I look back on this last year; when I think of Jimmy dying, when I remember this stressful pregnancy and finishing school and Sam working out of town so often,  and then these few weeks I'm spending cooped up at home, I will say to some uninterested young person, "That was a hard year."

And then I'll say,

"But we got through it. By the grace of God, we woke up each day. We cried a lot. We laughed too. We gathered up our community and we leaned on their strong arms and loving hands, thankful for the help and embarrassed at our extreme needs, all the same time. We learned to find light in every darkness that fell. It was a hard year, but we were thankful for each crappy day that we had together."

At this point, the young person (perhaps one of my own apathetic children) will nod and blink twice, which will turn their eyeball phone (iball, probably) back on and allow them to watch holographic television while pretending to listen to me, because young people don't know good advice from their own backsides, am I right?

I hope you're in a great year. I hope you are in an abundant season of life, full and sweet, purposeful and productive. But if you're not, or you're just suspicious that you're not, then join me in a thankful game. Because there's always something: there is always SOMETHING to be thankful for. If ever you're tempted to feel sorry for yourself or wallow in the murky waters of your own pity, like I often am, here's a game I find very helpful. Make a list of the things you are anxious or mad or annoyed about. Then right beside those things, write a reason to be thankful for them. A little perspective never hurt anyone, I think we can all agree with that?

I'll go first, and this is mostly with shallow stuff, because goodness knows you don't need any deeper peeks into my complicated and frightening psyche.

kind of crappy stuff vs. opportunities to be thankful

  • Being stuck at home.

 I missed being at home all of last year, because we ran around like crazy between school and work. I am thankful to be in my own house, which is cozy and warm and full of things that make me glad.

  • The possibility of our vulnerable baby getting really sick.

 We live a few minutes away from the only children's hospital in our state. We have really good health insurance. If our baby gets sick, we will be able to pay for his care at the best facility available. I am so thankful for modern medicine, and for our health insurance.

  • Missing school and a learning environment with other grown ups.

 I do not have to stay up late writing any papers or reading any horrible student stories and poetry. Amen and amen.

  • Clara missing out on fun days with my friends, sisters, and their kids.

 She will never remember this blip in time. And I have amazing friends who are willing to come chase after my 17 month old and play 'grocery store' with her, or sit in my house and hold my son so I can take Clara outside to run around. For the love, you guys, I have such amazing girlfriends. I am so thankful.

  • The inversion. The constant heavy gray skies.

 I will be all the more thankful for bright days when the sun finally shines again.

  • Sam working long hours or being out of town. 

 I just graduated from college debt-free. We will be able to cover insanely expensive NICU bills when they arrive. These are both possible because Sam has a good job for a big company that gives us incredible insurance coverage. I am so thankful for his job. Yeah, his schedule can be hard to deal with, but he is employed and God provides for our family. I am thankful.

There's my thankful game. It really does help, even on the darkest days. It does not dismiss the difficulty of whatever journey you are currently on, but it does clear the air a little bit when life feels oppressive.

I'm praying abundant seasons come soon, but in the meanwhile, I am smiling with thanks for just about a million different gifts of grace.
Happy Tuesday, guys.
Oh wait, it's still Monday?

Cut me some slack.

oh, that face.

he's a snuggler. pretty much all i've ever asked for. 

her favorite toy: her 'phone'

my kids normally do not wear onesies with any sayings on them (#clothessnob)
but I made an exception for this one because it says
 "I run with the big guys." ok, buddy. ok. 


Monday, January 13, 2014

you earned that crazy.

Last week at this time, Sam and I laid in bed, not sleeping, wondering what the next day held for us. We woke up at 3:45 a.m. on Tuesday and I was in labor by 6:00, and I didn't go back to sleep until very early Thursday morning. I gave birth to our healthy son, wrapped him in my arms and placed delighted kisses on his impossibly small and perfect face. The cut off weight for taking your baby upstairs with you instead of sending him with the NICU nurses is 2,000 grams. Do you know how much our son weighed?

2,000.025 grams.

It was a miracle. We rejoiced and laughed and settled into our room, relieved beyond relief to have our baby Samuel with us. Except then he started failing blood sugar tests, and he wasn't looking great, and his cry was getting weaker, and then in the middle of the night we followed a pack of nurses to the floor for sick babies and made the longest, most devastating walk of all my life back up to our hospital room. Alone. It was silent. No mewing of a hungry newborn, no diaper to be changed, no rolling crib in the corner. We were on the maternity floor with no baby to call our own, and I cried and cried and cried, empty arms shaking and heart on the verge of falling through my body. We didn't know if anything was wrong with our boy, we didn't know when he'd come back to us, and I didn't know how I could have followed the nurse's advice to 'go get some rest' and left my brand new baby alone with an IV in his foot and no family in sight. I changed out of my labor gown, pulled on a pair of sweats and my boots and blearily stumbled to the elevators. I rode down six floors and walked the long hall towards the son I had barely met.

This was the start of a long week, which followed many other long weeks, which added up to an exhausting and worrisome pregnancy. We are home now, and our baby Sam is sleeping on his daddy's chest while I drink tea and write this post, and my thankfulness could not be any more extensive. We rode on the wings of a million prayers from all over the world during those blurry days, and I'll write more about the whole birth story later, because I want you know how God used your prayers to provide for us.
But for now, I wanted to share this picture.

 I texted this to my disgustingly pretty friend Cassidy along with this note.
"I kept asking Sam to take a picture of me and the baby, and making him retake it because I looked 'crazy' or 'old' or 'tired.' Finally after 10 tries I was like, wait- is this just how I look now?"

Cassidy quickly wrote this back to me.

"Haha! You look amazing! And proud, and old, and crazy, and tired. Because you have lived a good, difficult, worthwhile life. You've earned all those adjectives. Your boy is beautiful and totally yours, by the way. Putting up a fight. That's your style, girl."

I thought a lot about that text from Cass. The truth is, I can't believe what I see when I look in the mirror right now. I can see it reflected in the concern of my mother's eyes when we Skype, and in the tight hugs my sisters give me when they come by to visit. I know how I look. I know I've aged a lot in the last nine months.

But you know what?
I've earned this look. The bags under my eyes. The pallor of my skin. My swollen face. My unkempt hair. They are souvenirs from this journey. I have a beautiful, healthy son with a strong heartbeat and skinny legs. I have a little girl who is in love with her brother, and a husband who proved over and over last week what kind of a man he truly is, in every circumstance. So yes, I look old and tired. I know these days will soon pass and I will shower, put on my makeup, and look a little more like myself. But there is something in us, I think, that changes when life gets hard. Some shine that is worn away. It is the nature of all things difficult -worry, disappointment, grief, pain- to rub away at the proud and slick side of our self-confidence.

Thank goodness.

Because imagine, for just a minute, a world full of shiny people. No knicks. No dings. No soft spots or tender scars or worn-in grooves. Just hard, sharp, unbroken people.

Sounds like a dangerous place to fall into, doesn't it?

It is these times, these years, that make us more true to who we are made to be. My true self is a rounded out and worn away version of my old self, a new woman made stronger by grace, not weaker by pride. It is the days when our job is hard, when money is tight, when our families are strained, when our children push our limits, when school seems impossible, when we lose the ones we love...when the future is most uncertain and we are simply tired...these are the days that break us down.

These are the days that wear away our corners, that take files to our edges and scrape, scrape, scrape until we hurt. Until we change. And with a deep sigh, we gently blow away the shavings of our pride, piled beneath our worn away exteriors.

And we are softer.
At peace.

I know I'm a mess. I cry every day and I'm still climbing out of the hole that has been my last few months. But I wear this crazed look with a heart of gratitude. Because my crazy means I've lived a worthwhile life. It means I am growing in grace. It means I am putting up a fight. It means God is working away at my sharp edges and He is making me better, whole, more me than I have ever been before. 

Here's to a world with a little less shine and a lot more love. Cheers from me and this guy-

Samuel Iradell Horney V
January 7, 2014
4 lbs. 7 oz.
18 inches
Of Pure Joy

Monday, January 6, 2014

The heart of God is the heart of a mother. (this may be blasphemy, i'm not a scholar.)

I've been absent from my blog lately because things with this pregnancy have been complicated, and I have not wanted to write about it. But I couldn't write about other stuff and pretend everything was cool and easy (that seemed kind of cheap) so I just avoided this space altogether. So, here's a quick recap of what's been going on in the Horney house:

-I graduated from college with my BA in English/Writing Emphasis. That felt pretty good. More on that milestone later.
-Clara turned 16 months old, says about 40 different words, and makes us laugh all day.
-Sam has been home for two weeks straight and it has been almost complete heaven (with a few fights thrown in just to keep things even.)
-Clara is in a SERIOUS Mama phase and does not stray from my side whenever possible. She carries her toys from room to room and plays at my feet. Like, literally, on my feet. If I have to go to the bathroom, she waits outside the door. If Sam takes her out to the car before I'm ready to leave, she cries until I buckle myself into the front seat. The last two nights, she would not fall asleep until we were laying in my bed, cheek to cheek, holding hands. This would all be endearing and sweet if I weren't about to have a new baby and rock her world...we think she senses the change that is coming, and is reacting to our nerves. It's been a weird and exhausting few weeks.
-We're having a baby on Tuesday.

Yeah, Tuesday. I'm not due yet, I'm 37 weeks today, but our little guy is not having an easy time in the womb. I've been getting ultrasounds every week for a month, and every two weeks for a month before that, charting his growth and wondering what is going on in there. At first he was only measuring a little bit behind, which we were expecting. Clara was born past her due date and only weighed 5 lbs. 8 oz, so we figured we would have another little baby. But then he started getting further and further behind, to the point that he is now measuring 4-6 weeks behind the size he should be. This is, of course, terrifying, but beyond the normal mother response of fear that there is something wrong with my son, I have also really struggled with allowing my doctor to do what he thinks is best.

Doesn't it seem counter-intuitive that you would induce a baby who isn't very big? Shouldn't you just leave those babies alone, let them grow at their own tiny pace and stay in the womb as long as possible? This is what I've always thought. When people had babies early because it looked like they were going to be small, I thought it was foolish. The womb is always best, I said, and induction is an unnecessary medical intervention. Just leave the poor kids alone!

And really, truly, up until even this very moment, I have fought the idea that I would be induced early (or at all). I told myself I would not have this baby until he was good and ready, and would simply refuse an induction. Refuse, I tell you. This is my body and my son and I would decide what's best.

Then on Monday, we had an ultrasound with a technician who we hadn't seen before. She squeezed the warm goopy lube onto my belly and began the slow rolling of the monitor to chart our son's size. Sam and I were chatting, pointing out the features of our baby's face, laughing at the spikes of hair on his head, when the tech turned towards us with an alarmed look.
"We're here to measure the baby's size, right?" She squinted a little as she asked us with concern. I told her yes.
"And...you know...I mean, you've seen him recently? You know how small he is?" She nodded her head towards the screen, the black and white image of our baby now frozen up on the wall.
"Yes, we know. He's really small, that's why we're here to check on him." I smiled, trying to reassure her that we knew what was going on. She continued her measurement check with a horrified look on her face.
"He is very behind. Very far behind. I know your doctor will talk more with you about this, but I just think you need to be prepared to have your baby sooner rather than later." Her voice was serious, but kind. I felt like I was in elementary school again, hearing bad news about a test from my teacher. We told her thank you and met with our doctor, and decided that as soon as I hit 37 weeks (which is sort of a golden number for babies in terms of lung development) we needed to induce labor and get our guy out, to give him the nourishment that he clearly isn't getting in utero.

I had fought hard against this very moment, for a lot of reasons. First, because I honestly think that most babies are better off staying inside their mothers for as long as possible. I was determined to not evict my own son simply because he looked small, especially because I already had a small baby. Clearly, we just make elves. What I didn't understand was that the real fear is not that these babies will come out small. It's that their hearts might stop beating. They are fighting so hard to get fed that eventually it might become too much, and that will be that.

Second, I am prideful. I do not want to have a tiny baby. I do not want to deal with the NICU. I do not want to have trouble nursing because I am having him so early, or be away from Clara even one SECOND longer than I have to already. I want my body to be a beacon of health, to provide for my kids without problem or complication. I am a good mom. And I had the most blissful months of my life after Clara was born. I want that experience again, I want a big chubby kid who loves me and laps up my milk with gusto and who looks cute in newborn clothes, not weird and alien in preemie sizes. This tiny person somehow translates to failure on my part, and to giving in when maybe I should have fought harder to leave him in my belly for 3 more weeks.

Third, I am scared to be induced so gosh darn early. I was induced with Clara, but I was a few days past due and already in early labor. It was a fast 7 hours and then she came rolling out in 3 pushes, and we took her home a few days later. This induction for my son is terrifying. What if it doesn't work? What if my body rebels? What if my baby won't come out and I have to get a C-section? What if it does work, and he comes out, and then they wisk him away because there is something terribly wrong? Or what if he comes out and weighs 8 lbs. and we did all of this for nothing??

Which leads us to why I haven't been writing about all of this. Because I feel crazy. I feel hormonal. I feel panicked and silly and dramatic for worrying at all, and I don't want people to know what goes on in this anxious head of mine.

But it was the worried face of that ultrasound tech that convinced me to leave myself out of this equation. Something is happening to my baby. Perhaps he is just small. Perhaps we just have too much information, and he would be born the same size as Clara was in a few more weeks. But for whatever reason, he is not getting fed what he needs. I have to swallow my pride and my fear, I have to trust my doctor, I have to trust the signs my son is sending us, and I have to give birth before I am ready.

But guess what?
This isn't about me anymore.
Or maybe - no, definitely - it never was about me.
Here's what I'm thinking about tonight, instead of sleeping. Becoming a mother is the closest a human being ever comes to understanding God.

I'm not saying dads don't have the same love or attachment to their children that moms do, or that God doesn't show up in the relationships that kids have with their dads. He does. I know that Sam loves Clara like I do and that she will know God's love through her daddy. 

But a father cannot give birth.
He cannot participate in the most grand and elegant and deeply primal of all human experiences.

And I believe, too, that mothers on both sides of the adoption spectrum have this same capacity to know God in ways a man could never understand. Because a mom who carried a child for nine months and then handed him off to another woman? She knows true love. And a mom who opens her heart and her home to a child that her body did not produce- a mom who ached for the phone call that gave her this new life? She knows true love. 

A mother's capacity for sacrifice and fierce devotion is the closest this world can come to seeing the face of God. His love and truth are reflected in the labor room, in the late night tears, in the swift rush and deep still pools of a mother's loving heart.

And for me, in this cold winter season of worry and angst over both of my children, as I prepare to welcome a son into my arms and pray for his safe arrival, I am understanding a tiny bit more of the heart of my Father. Because for Him, loving me has never been about pride. Or fear. Or worry. He has loved me and loved me and loved me in every way possible since before I was a pocket of cells multiplying inside my own mother. He has given up everything; he gave me the life of his beloved son; because he loves me. Simple as that. He created me. He labored over me. He loves me because I am me. Nothing more. Nothing less.

The heart of a mother, you know what I mean? 

So, I will have my baby this week. I will pray he is bigger than we think, that he arrives safely, and that we know how to best care for him. I will be thankful for modern techonology, for a doctor who knows what he is doing and who loves the Lord and our family. I will be thankful for health insurance. I will be thankful for a warm home to raise my babies. I will be thankful for my strong body. I will be thankful for my beautiful son, for every second I have had with him already, and for all of the seconds that are yet to come.

I will be a mother. Every moment of every day, I will be a mother. Gladly. With fervor. With thanks. With humility. With one hand on my heart and one hand raised to heaven, I will rejoice to be a mother.