Six Week Reflections

I gave birth to our youngest daughter, who I will refer to on this blog as Itsy, exactly 6 weeks ago, on July 30, 2014. She came two weeks before my due date, induced because of her size (5 lbs, 0.2 oz). There’s a whole story to her birth, but I will save that for another time.

As I was thinking about this week’s blog post (during one of our middle of the night feedings), I had this overwhelming desire to do some sort of list. I’ve never been one to ignore my writing desires, so here are my 10 things I’ve learned in Itsy’s first 6 weeks of life:

10. While you should, in fact, say no to drugs, I said yes to the epidural and, from the moment that nice anesthesiologist administered it, I knew it was the right decision. Suddenly, I felt a cool sensation and all the pain just went away, it was like I was relaxing on the beach on a breezy summer day, only I was in the hospital in the Labor & Delivery rooms experiencing regular contractions. So, kind of like the beach, but not so much.

9. I learned why drugs are bad the next day when I started itching all over like a druggie going through rehab. We had visitors and all i wanted to do was tear off my clothes and roll around on sandpaper or anything that would make that itching stop.

8. The Game Show Network plays the same shows (and repeats episodes) between 2 and 6 am, in case you cared.

7. Lactation consultants manhandle your baby when they show you how to latch on, but they should come with a warning that says “don’t try this at home, or anywhere else for that matter.” You ever try to football hold a 5lb baby while nursing? I thought I was either squeezing her soft spot or she would slip through the opening in the hospital bed and end up on the floor. I will stick to cradle hold, thank you.

6. They send you home with the tiniest creature you’ve ever known, and they figure you know what you’re doing. Either that or they’re laughing as you walk away saying, “Poor kid.” Some days I’m still amazed they let me keep her.

5. Itsy may be little, but she has tons of personality. From the beginning, she made it known she knows what she does and does not want. You ever see a baby a couple days old purse her lips together when she was full? Amazing.

4. Google is simultaneously your friend and your enemy. You find yourself looking up everything about caring for your child, and with every search, you discover you’re doing it wrong, oh but wait, Dr. Sears says you’re doing it right, but, ummm, who is this famous Dr. Sears?

3. The best advice comes from other mothers who have been there, done that. Especially the ones that have done it recently or are currently in the same boat as you.

2. In spite of my pre-baby 8 solid hours of sleep requirement, I can, in fact, function off of anywhere from 3 to 7 hours of sleep. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. Do they allow naps at work?

1. Being a mother is one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Even when Itsy has her “party all night” days/nights, she gives me this smile while looking into my eyes and it all becomes worth it. Until she poops in the tub during bath time. ūüėČ

Any lessons from the trenches you want to share? Share them in the comments below!

I Opened My Eyes and Saw You

I have many titles/roles in my life: ¬†wife, sister, daughter, friend, “boss,” employee, etc. etc. ¬†One of the most rewarding roles and titles I have is that of simply “Mommy.” ¬†There are so many things rolled into that. ¬†You are parent, disciplinarian, confidant, friend, protector and so many more things to your children. ¬†My role is particularly special, because I am really 2nd Mommy. ¬†My girls I love as my own, though I did not birth them and do not see them every single day. But every summer, I get to spend extra time with them, and that is very special to me.

For the past two weeks, our youngest, Miss Lady, has been with us. ¬†It’s been hectic: ¬†balancing camp drop off and pick up schedules with work and after-work responsibilities; ensuring dinner was ready at a decent hour and creating some semblance of a schedule so things weren’t chaotic in the mornings. ¬†Whew, I’m exhausted thinking about it. ¬†Even so, this summer was probably one of my favorites with Miss Lady.

About a month or so ago, I started a new bedtime routine with Miss Lady. ¬†I would say her prayers with her (well, listen while she said her prayers), tuck her in, and then she and I would just talk for about 10-15 minutes. ¬†Nothing major, I always ask the same questions: ¬†“What was your favorite part of today? ¬†What was your least favorite part of the day? What are you looking forward to tomorrow?” ¬†At first, she would answer the questions then I would kiss her goodnight and that would be that. ¬†It was a nice way to wind down the day and she would go right off to sleep. ¬†It set the stage for a restful night’s sleep. ¬†Then, over the past two weeks, something cool happened.

Our bedtime routine evolved from being questions I asked to her asking me bunches of questions and just being a conversation between mother and daughter. ¬†Miss Lady started asking about my day, and some of my life experiences. ¬†And I began to see the world through her eyes. ¬†She wonders what college will be like, and will she be ready for college. ¬†She is curious what our house is like when she isn’t there, what kinds of things Daddy and I do when she isn’t there, and is it boring or fun? ¬†She cares deeply about family, and whether people are happy or sad, tired or work too hard. ¬†She reminds me of me, because when I am working late, she always says “Don’t work too hard, Mommy.” ¬†Those are words I’ve spoken many times to both my mom and dad, and I know that they are genuine and heartfelt.

When it was time for Miss Lady to go back to her mom and stepdad, I was a little sad. And on Sunday, when I was leaving for church, I felt like something was missing. ¬†I didn’t have to fight to wake her up and get her going, or make sure she’d put on lotion and lip gloss (she is a very girly little girl). ¬†And while those things can be draining to any parent, I missed them. ¬†I miss that little voice in the house, her huge smile and giant hugs; the joy and laughter that she brings into our home and family.

Parenting is both enjoyable and draining. ¬†But there are few things more rewarding than being a parent. ¬†I’m thankful for my girls, and for the opportunity to spend some time with my baby girl the past couple of weeks. ¬†She turns 8 tomorrow, and it’s a little bittersweet. ¬†No more car seat (under VA laws), which means she’s really a big girl now. ¬†But she’ll always be my baby girl, and I’ll always be her Mommy. ¬†And I am grateful for those special moments we share, when everything slows down, and it’s just the two of us, talking and learning. ¬†It is in those moments that I see Miss Lady and the young lady she is growing into, and I am grateful and proud that God blessed me with the privilege of knowing and raising her.

A Change is Gonna Come

About a year and a half ago, I bought some wall decals for my youngest daughter’s room (Miss Lady).¬† She was five at the time, and very into the Disney Princesses and Tinkerbell.¬† So one day, while strolling through Target, I saw both Fairy wall decals and Princess wall decals on sale, and picked them up.¬† The next time she came over for her weekend with us, I showed her the decals and she selected the fairies to put on the wall.

You have to understand, Miss Lady is a girl’s girl.¬† She loves pink, princesses, dresses and dolls.¬† Her room is “Bunny Nose Pink” (gotta love those fancy paint color names), and, while she has it setup with all her toys and photos, it was missing that special touch that told us all it was her room.¬† Clearly the pink wasn’t enough of a statement for me.¬† When she saw the wall decals, she was elated and immediately selected the Disney fairy decals.¬† There were like 50 stickers in this packet (I should’ve read it more carefully), some small, some large.¬† We literally spent an hour placing each and every sticker, no matter how big or small, around her room.¬† Admittedly, when it was done, it was just what she needed to complete the look of her room.¬† She thought it was, “Awesome!”

Now, Miss Lady turned 7 last month (I know, she’s growing up before my very eyes).¬† I’ve been trying for the past few months to get her to take down the fairy decals and put up the princesses.¬† But whenever I asked (and I didn’t ask very often), she would say, “No, I’m not ready yet, Momma.¬† Maybe when I’m 8.”¬† So I let it go.¬† The last time I asked was in May after we returned from Disney.¬† After all that time with the Princesses, I just knew she would be ready for the fairy decals to come down.¬† But, no, she wanted to wait until she was 8.

Understand, I didn’t ask about the decals because I was tired of looking at them.¬† That really is her room and her space, so, unless she is there, I don’t spend much time in her room (our girls don’t live with us, for those who are looking confused right now).¬† But I knew that she had outgrown the fairies and moved on to the next thing, as evidenced in the things she chose to play with and liked to do.¬† So I wanted to support that in her living environment as well.¬† Growth is good.¬† At the same time, you have to know when to use a gentle nudge, and when to step back.¬† So after I nudged, I stepped back.¬† And a funny thing happened.

I was coming out of my bedroom on Saturday, and was met at the door by Miss Lady.¬† “Momma,” she said to me, with that look that told me she wanted something.¬† “Miss Lady,” was my reply.¬† “Momma, I want to take down my fairies and put up my princess stickers.”¬† I smiled to her and said, “But I thought you wanted to wait until you were 8.”¬† “Yes, but I changed my mind.¬† I’m ready now.”¬† I just smiled and said okay, and off we went to her room to work on our new project:¬† taking down the old stickers and putting up the new ones.

An hour later, all of our work was done (and the paint on the walls remained perfectly in tact . .. those decals are GREAT!).¬† As I walked out of Miss Lady’s room, I looked back at her.¬† She was staring at the walls and spinning and laughing, which is what she does when she’s REALLY happy.¬†The next day, I asked Miss Lady about her “new” room, and if she liked it.¬† Her response?¬† “I love it, it’s awesome, but I kinda miss my old stickers too.”

I thought about the process of her changing her mind about the stickers.¬† ¬†I gave her a gentle nudge, but didn’t push hard when she felt she wasn’t ready.¬† And yet, she was ready, which I knew all along, and when she finally realized it, the change was made.¬†¬† But even after the change was made, she still missed, just a little bit, what she’d left behind.¬† How often does God, through the Holy Spirit, give us a gentle nudge to make a change or adjustment?¬† And how often do we push back on it, feeling that we’re not quite ready, even though we know inherently that He knows all and is doing what is best for us.¬† But eventually, God works on our hearts, and we walk the path we’re supposed to be on.¬† And even then, we may look back longingly at the past, but we must realize that the past is behind us, and we have to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling (Philippians 3:14).

What lies ahead of you?¬† Has God been speaking to you about doing something that makes you nervous or apprehensive; feeling that you aren’t quite ready?¬† Why are you waiting?¬† Just as parents do with their children, He knows best, and we must trust God and walk the path that He has set before us.¬† So step out of your comfort zone, there are better things ahead of you.

It’s Not About You

I was actually going to write about a different topic today, but, as usual, the Lord gave me another idea and, well, He was the one who gave me the idea to actually do the entire blogging thing, so who am I to fight it?

If you follow me on Twitter, then you have seen my posts over the past several weeks asking for prayers for a little girl named Mireya.  Mireya is the 4 year old daughter of some friends of ours who are also members of our church family.  She has been diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia, and has been in and out of the hospital for several weeks.  This week, she is scheduled to have a bone marrow transplant.

Now, to know Mireya and her family is to love them. They are absolutely wonderful people! ¬†And at first, I remember thinking, “oh no, she’s sick.” ¬†But it is hard to grasp how serious a condition is when you’re looking in from the outside. ¬†As I sat with Venus, Mireya’s mom, one day, I began to understand just how serious her condition was, and how much of a miracle it was to have a bone marrow donor (Mireya’s 6 year old brother, Jalen) identified and ready in just a couple weeks.

Our church held corporate prayer where all we did was pray for Mireya and her family (#TeamBolton). ¬†During that prayer, the Holy Spirit brought to my remembrance the situation we endured with our son, Caleb. ¬†To be clear, the parallel was just to remind me that, as parents, particularly parents who stand on the Word of God, we don’t always share all the details of our kids’ lives, particularly when there are very serious health challenges. ¬†We don’t want to relive the words a doctor has spoken, we want to stand on God’s promises that we prosper and be in health. ¬†And in that moment, I began to understand what Venus and Quentin must be going through.

How often do we hear about someone having a serious challenge, whether it be health or otherwise, and we feel bad for them, but we don’t think much more of it? ¬†Do you put yourself in their shoes? ¬†This life, it’s not about you. ¬†It’s about helping others, serving one another, and making sure we are all our best. ¬†So maybe you’re needed to sit in the hospital with a family while their child goes through surgery, or help with medical bills, or simply fast and pray. ¬†Whatever it is, don’t just say, “I’m sorry to hear that” or “You’ll be in my prayers,” (and never pray). ¬†DO SOMETHING! ¬†Why? ¬†Because it’s not about you.

Letter to My Daughters

To my dearest girls,

I wanted to take some time to write you this letter. ¬†It was 4 years ago this month that you came into my life. ¬†You were only 2 and 9 at the time, and I didn’t realize that you would become a permanent part of my life just 15 months later.

I did not birth you. ¬†You each have a mother who loves you dearly. ¬†I did, however, choose you. ¬†When Daddy asked me to marry him, I didn’t just say yes to him. ¬†I said yes to both of you as well, to the opportunity to be a second mother to you, to love you and cherish you every day of my life. ¬†I said yes to being there for the good times and the bad. ¬†And I have never looked back.

I love you both so much. ¬†You are my baby girls. ¬†I look at you and see limitless possibilities for you. ¬†You are amazing young girls, and will grow up to be amazing women. ¬†There is so much greatness in you, I can’t even begin to accurately explain all that I see. ¬†It is clich√©, but your best and brightest days are truly ahead.

My pledge and commitment to you is to be the best parent I can be. ¬†You are both truly blessed; you have a mom and dad that love you unconditionally and a stepmother and stepfather that love you unconditionally. ¬†You have the benefit of having two sets of parents who love you, and I pray that you get to experience the benefit of that every day of your life. ¬†Not a day goes by that I don’t think about you, pray for you, miss you and continue to love you. ¬†I often wonder how you’re doing when you’re not with us; if you’re having a good day or a bad day; if you’re happy or sad; and if you think of us the way we think of you.

I know sometimes I can be hard on you. ¬†It is only to help you grow. ¬†But I hope you also enjoy the many good days that we have. ¬†The fun times, playing, dancing, or just talking. ¬†There is nothing sweeter than to hear your voices in the house, even when you’re driving me up a wall fighting with each other :-). ¬†I want to see you reach your full potential. ¬†Daddy and I have already been successful in our lives, and continue to drive for greater success. ¬†But even with all we do, ¬†we want to see you reach those levels and higher. ¬†We want to see you grow and develop into all that God has for you; and trust me when I tell you there is a lot He put in you from before you were even born. ¬†It is our job, as your parents, to help guide you down the path to discover that purpose for yourself.

I want to thank you for allowing me to be a part of your lives.  Thank you for loving me unconditionally, for reminding me not to take myself too seriously, and for being the wonderful, amazing young girls that you are.  I look forward to every day with you, to watching you grow up and to being there every step of the way.

With all my love, today and always,

Mom/2nd Mommy/Rasheeda

Up in the Air

Last week, we went on vacation with friends. ¬†We took a great trip to Orlando, Florida, home of the place where dreams come true. ¬†Yep, Walt Disney World! ¬†(SN: ¬†I’m a big kid and TOTALLY geeked out on this trip). ¬†But, that’s not the purpose of today’s blog.

My 6-year-old daughter joined us for the this trip, and it was her first time on a plane. ¬†Now, I have traveled quite a bit, and have a routine down for the airport. ¬†I have a travel wallet (a nice, leather one, not one of those vinyl, zip up wallets) in which I carry every frequent traveler card (yes, I am a member of them all), my trip itinerary, rental car reservation, boarding pass, passport (for photo id), etc. ¬†I keep it in a strategic location in my carry on so that I don’t have to fumble for it. ¬†I also have a specific location for my quart sized bag, which is not a Ziploc bag, but a durable, plastic like one that I bought from Target. ¬†I know exactly where everything is in my carry on, and I even pack my luggage in a very specific way to ensure that I remain under the 50 lb weight limit. ¬†I don’t get in security lines where I see a lot of small children or people who look like they’ve never traveled before. ¬†By the time I get to the line, I know exactly how many containers I need to place my shoes, laptop, purse, quart sized bag and other items that go on the conveyor belt. ¬†I am, by my own standards, a professional traveler.

Well, clearly on this trip, I had to learn to give up my professional traveler status for my daughter. ¬†Now, I had everything organized and packed properly. ¬†I had both my ID and my husband’s ID paired with our boarding passes, and my daughter’s boarding pass ready to go for the TSA agent. ¬†Her carry on bag was her doll baby carrier/backpack that carried her doll, the doll’s change of clothes (3 outfits), a small stuffed animal and her headphones for the tv on the plane (yay for JetBlue). ¬†So I was ready.

Once we got cleanly through security, though, her excitement boiled over. ¬†She couldn’t wait to see the plane, and was very proud of her wings, given to her by the gate agent. ¬†I’d shown her a video of the plane a couple of weeks before, so she knew what to expect. ¬†But as she sat on the plane behind us, with her buddy, Jalen, I smiled as I listened to her excitement about everything. ¬†They were trying to find Nickelodeon on the tv, trying to look out the window, and were amazed at how it was storming on the ground but sunny when we got above the clouds. ¬†They were fascinated to see the moon and the sun and wanted to know when snacks would come.

Their excitement reminded me to, once again, take time to smell the roses. ¬†As a business traveler, it is easy to settle into your routine; to get to your seat as quickly as possible and turn on the tv or, in my case most days, nod off. ¬†You know the polite things to say to the flight attendants, to thank them when you deplane, to stick to your space and not spread into your seatmate’s space. ¬†But how often do we look out of the window in excitement or amazement at the true miracle of being able to fly through the air on a HEAVY plane? ¬†How often do we appreciate that is around us?

I always learn so much from my baby girl, and this time was no different. ¬†When I get on another plane in a few weeks, I will remember to enjoy the experience, and I smile as I remember how much she enjoyed her first plane ride. ¬†In her words, “It was AWE-SOME!!!”

I Just Can’t . . .

Anyone who has ever experienced a devastating loss knows that there is nothing more debilitating, more heartwrenching, and more painful. ¬†I don’t mean losing a game if you’re an athlete, or losing your keys and being locked out of the house. ¬†I’m talking about a great loss; the loss of a parent, a sibling, a spouse, a best friend or, in my case, a child. ¬†I mean the type of loss that feels like someone just punched you in the gut and knocked every bit of air out of you; the kind that hurts so much you’re not convinced that you can fall asleep at night, or worse, that you will wake up the next morning.

I’ve been there. ¬†The night after we found out our son, Caleb, had gone home to be with the Lord, I remember going upstairs to get into the bed. ¬†My heart hurt so much, I didn’t know if I would be able to fall asleep that night. ¬†Even more difficult, I wasn’t convinced I would wake up the next morning. ¬†I got into the bed and prayed one prayer: ¬†“Lord, please let me go to sleep tonight, and let me wake up in the morning. ¬†And Lord, please give me peace.”

I know what you’re thinking: ¬†“Not Rasheeda. ¬†The one who has great faith, who trusts God in everything. ¬†Proverbs 3:5-6 is her favorite scripture, after all.” ¬†Well, you see, that’s the thing about life. ¬†Sometimes you get dealt with a dose of reality that causes you to sink or swim. ¬†I wasn’t sinking, but I didn’t feel like I was swimming, either. ¬†I was just there. ¬†I didn’t know how to explain what I was feeling, though. ¬†I just knew that, well, “I just can’t.”

“I just can’t” meant so many things to me. ¬†I just can’t talk about it. ¬†I just can’t explain how I feel. ¬†I just can’t get out of bed today. ¬†I just can’t leave the house. ¬†I just can’t stop crying. ¬†I just can’t be around people. ¬†I just can’t talk to anyone, even if it’s small talk. I. JUST. CAN’T.

Can’t was never in my vocabulary. ¬†Philippians 4:13 tells me that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ¬†What do you mean you can’t? ¬†You can, and you will. ¬†You have to. ¬†Right?

Eventually. ¬†But in that moment, for that period of time, I couldn’t. ¬†And I learned that it was okay. ¬†It was okay to be weak. ¬†It was okay to hurt. ¬†It was okay to feel like everyone around you was either pregnant or just had a baby. ¬†It was even okay to be upset that a teenager was having a healthy child, but you didn’t. ¬†Your child was gone. ¬†It was okay to be angry, disappointed and all around upset. ¬†And it was okay to allow yourself to work through those emotions.

But you know what else I learned? ¬†I learned that, eventually, I would stop saying, “I just can’t.” ¬†I learned to name my emotions. ¬†I learned to share my story. ¬†I learned that, in my greatest moments of pain and weakness, I did not lose faith; in fact, I gained it, because I had just enough presence of mind to call out the simplest prayer and ask God to help me. ¬†And He did.

Since that time, my prayer in times of loss either for myself or others is always the same: ¬†May God strengthen you, encourage you and give you peace that passes all understanding. ¬†May He carry you until you’re strong enough to stand, may He hold you until you’re strong enough to walk, and may He be beside you when you’re strong enough to run again.

Even when we “just can’t,” God can. ¬†And He will.