What I didn’t expect

Now that I’m approaching thirty and responsible for multiple humans, one dog, and several plants, I’m starting to contemplate the details of the days as they pass. When I was younger, I didn’t worry too much about that. I just lived and wondered about the future incessantly. 

Would I get married? To whom? When would I meet him? What would he look like? Would I make the right decision? 

Would we have kids? What would our kids look like? Would they have my eyes? Or my unruly hair? That would be cute on a toddler, so I hope so. What would their personalities be like? Would they be sensitive and slightly flighty like me? Or serious and staid (but still spontaneous) like my future husband hopefully would be (he is)? Would I be okay if I couldn’t have kids? Yes, I’d decided. It would be fine. Maybe I’d be disappointed. At least I’ll be able to get as many dogs as I want when I run my own life.

Now that I know at least partial answers to all of these questions, I don’t wonder as much about the future. I consider the younger version of myself fondly. She had so much to learn. She was sweet and young and idyllic. Now, I consider the choices I’ve made that led me here. And the choices I haven’t made. Those, we’ll call grace.

I didn’t exactly choose to start a family when we did, but I call that grace too. Because here we are, parents, and I am caring for babies. Sweet, hilarious, soft, spunky, good-natured, stubborn, feisty, little people. I didn’t expect the depth of it.

I didn’t know that I’d know a bit about their personalities before I even birthed them. I didn’t know that I would feel more empowered than broken after ushering new life into the world. I didn’t know that I would hold their downy little heads to my cheek as tears of gratitude escaped–thank you, God, for giving me what I didn’t know I wanted. I didn’t know that my heart would suddenly be full to overflowing with love that couldn’t be contained. I didn’t expect that so quickly after meeting these tiny new souls, I’d realize that this love could break me right open.

Now, instead of learning something academically new each day, I am learning my limits. Of stress, of exhaustion, of love (there isn’t one of these, apparently). I didn’t expect this. And I am so, so grateful.

But it is the hard kind of gratitude that takes so much work. And I am working. I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked in my life, and I don’t even have a job outside of this house and these people. I’m always either on duty or on call (over every single night, in a row) and some days it just feels like too much. Today, it feels like too much. 

So what do we do? When it’s exhausting and back-breaking and there’s no end in sight? But you also don’t want it to end because it’s the most fulfilling thing you’ve done? 

This tension, I didn’t expect.


Here’s what’s been happening these days:

The bump has grown.  We’re at the 33 week mark and the baby is apparently the size of a pineapple.  How delightful is that?  Also, how frightening to think of a baby with a pineapple stem on its head…anyway…


Also evidenced in this photo is the fact that I’m really into bandanas these days.  I have to resist the urge to wear some form of head scarf every single day.  Or should I stop resisting and just do it?  I don’t know how fashion rules work.

The baby is coming in approx. 2 months, if my due date is to be believed and the amount of ridiculousness that accompanies that truth is, well, ridiculous.

I’m trying to not to obsess/freak out about the fact that there’s a major life change headed our way, and just live life.  So, I’ve been keeping busy and reading a lot and just trying to think things through.  I have never been so nervous for anything in my life as I am awaiting this baby’s arrival.  I guess because there is so much unknown to accompany first children, but it’s happening. I don’t know that there’s any way to be ready. 

the hard, good work

I’ve been keeping late hours the past few weeks, partially because I’ve always had night-owlish tendencies, and partially because this part of pregnancy includes insomnia. So here I sit, in a dim room after everything else is quiet, ginger tea nearby (this pregnancy also includes so much nausea). I’ve snuggled and comforted a sick, tired toddler girl today, after snuggling and comforting a few times during the night last night. I’ve wiped so many tears in the past 24 hours, including a few of my own: liquid exhaustion.

I even managed to feed my family with what I scraped together around the house, after grocery trips were postponed because of the day’s events. I have worked hard today. And my body continues to work hard, long after I am ready to rest, building another small human, whose tears will bring me running to dry and to comfort, sometimes in the middle of the night.

But that is how this goes–these people are the best, hardest kind of work. All people are. We require a lot, beginning with our mamas, before we’re born. It’s something about motherhood I just was not prepared for until I experienced it–the depth of the physical work required to care for another human. My insides have roiled, I’ve lost so much sleep, my body aches, and that’s all before the hard part begins, when I am literally broken to give life anew, and then the sleeplessness continues.

Those are the specifics of my work. But mine is not the only kind of work, and any kind can be hard. All of our people require hard work from us to love them well. I’m learning to more graciously take up this role as I pour myself out for mine.

Whether you’re birthing and raising babies, navigating tension with coworkers, caring for ailing parents, caring for your ailing self, or lifting up friends, there is hard work to be done with our people. But you and I are hard workers.

Making Humans

Our son, Cort Oliver, was born on March 6. Three months have passed already since he was born, but I haven’t written any of it down until now. I’ve been in a total, sleep-deprived, love-struck haze since. 

Growing a human being in your body is exhausting, nauseating, literally back-breaking. At times during my pregnancy with Cort, especially at the end, I was so weary that I just wept at the end of the day (also, hormones).

Then, after you grow another person, you have to give birth–break yourself open to make way for new life. It’s simultaneously so beautiful and awful and terrifying. You welcome your baby into the world, already an exhausted mess, and then you only get to sleep in three-hour increments (if you’re lucky) for the foreseeable future.

Add to that the fact that we’re lucky enough to be doing this for the second time, which means there is already one toddler at home. No more sleeping while the baby sleeps like I did when my daughter was born. 

So we try to figure out how to teach a two-year-old not to be horrible and it does have to be taught. I’m completely exhausted and my patience has worn thin. Am I really going to argue with a tiny human again about why we say please and don’t hit and need to share? How many times will I drag a miniature, screaming terrorist from the library (we just love books)? 

It’s no wonder that I’m beside myself.

Yet, I wake up for 3 am feedings and hold this tiny new life close to me. I press my face against the top of Cort’s fuzzy baby head and will all of my love to pour out over him. He is so small and soft and sweet and I am undone. I can’t hold it all in my heart, my love for these tiny people and the man who helps me raise them.

Yet, the pitter-pat of tiny feet and a bouncing, curly little bedhead  greets me each morning, with “Hi Mommy. I swept well.” Is this the girl who grew from our love ? A walking, talking, considerate, wonderful,  hilarious, independent little firecracker of a person?

I carry it all in tension–the contradiction of being ridiculously happy and ridiculously exhausted, longing for the days when they will be older and things will be easier, but also wanting it to last forever, missing their little years almost as they happen. 

And through it all, I am learning. First of all–that I have so much to learn. And also that I am both weaker and stronger than I ever knew. That I cannot do this on my own. That my husband is so much more than the man I chose to marry–that his patience and strength and kindness run even deeper than I knew. That we will be grateful one day that we’ve put in the hard work of making humans.


My baby nephew died yesterday.

He spent his whole life here on earth in a hospital.

His parents got to hold him only once in the first several weeks of his life.

He lived for 2 months and 19 days.

We have hope, that in heaven we’ll get the chance to properly get to know each other. But we have to wait until then. I don’t really get to know you who you are in this life, Theo.

But, in the short time that I did know you, I loved you deeply and you taught me quite a bit about pain–about dignity and faith and hope in the face of horrifying circumstances. You reminded me how to pray and refocused me on what matters. Sometimes, it can be easy to forget. I can’t ever thank you enough for teaching me those things.

I will miss you every day, until I see you again, warrior baby.


Aunt Michelle

more tiny humans

Ailey swinging

On a Friday in June–some of the best kinds of Fridays are in June–we found out that I am pregnant again.  Then, I promptly vomited, as if, now that it was official, I officially had symptoms.

This baby, unlike Ailey, is not a surprise.  Ailey is almost two, and though we were completely unprepared for her to make her grand entry into our family when she did, we’ve always wanted to have our kids be close in age.  Built-in play-mates and learning to share by necessity and all of the things that come with close siblings sound like a dream.

So, here we are, actually doing the family thing, even if we feel like imposters, technically too inexperienced for the gig.  I’m still waiting for Some Authority Figure to sternly demand that I present the mom license that I don’t have.  But, they don’t give you a license when you have a baby, and this time next year, we’ll have two tiny people in our family.

There is often a lot of talk about being ready for babies and if there’s anything I’ve learned about building a family, it’s that “ready” is such an inadequate description of the situation.  I don’t know if part of it is because we didn’t actively decide to start when we did, or that I’ve always made really impulsive decisions, but being ready is kind of a myth.  There are so many things that you just adjust as you go–make room in the budget here, give up a thing or two there or promise myself I’ll sleep at nap time and mourn the loss of sleeping in while I sleepily smile at the toddler whom arrived in our bedroom at 6 am.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that motherhood has taught me so much about the realities of life and what little of it that I can actually control.  I’m grateful that our family is growing and that I think I’m actually maturing along with that growth.  But not too much…  ;)

what to do about the brokenness

A little refugee boy’s body washed up on the shore. He and his mother and brother all drowned, attempting to make it from Turkey to Europe. Three years is all that he got on this earth.

My tiny baby nephew was born three weeks ago, a month early, with respiratory complications. He’s been in the NICU since, on a ventilator, then on bypass, fighting day after day. He’s stable right now. His parents have been able to hold him once each.

I hear the news and cry. I think of my family members, arms and hearts aching to hold their new little one, but instead they hold exhaustion and worry. I think of that refugee family’s loved ones, mourning for two little boys and their mother, in the midst of being displaced from their home, wandering.

What do we do with it? All of this brokenness?

I want to look away. Cuddle my own daughter closer, try to push the images of that little boy, so close to her size,    who never had a chance.

But I won’t look away anymore. I won’t avoid seeing the pain so that I can see another episode on Netflix instead. I will see and I will know. I don’t know what, practically, I’ll do then, but I will know. And that seems like a good place to start.