family, motherhood

48 People Came to My Daughter’s 1st Birthday Party. Here is What I Learned.

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The week leading up to my daughter’s 1st birthday party was like preparing to go to battle. I had planned something party-related to do every single evening.

  1. Order balloons? Check.
  2. Order Chick-fil-A catering? Check.
  3. Order cake from Costco? Check.
  4. Go to the grocery store and buy pumpkins? Check. (Bonus check for spending an hour sorting through moldy pumpkins to find 25 that were mold-free.)
  5. Draw and paint poster boards of a cow and pig for a “feed the cow” and “feed the pig” cornhole game? Check.
  6. Draw and paint a John Deere tractor on a poster for Pin the Wheel on the Tractor (that wouldn’t even be played). Check.

And on and on it went.

During this process, I knew that I was going too far. But I had a picture in my mind of what I wanted my daughter’s birthday party to look like and would stop at nothing to make that picture a reality.

Bless my own heart.

Why did I work so hard and stay up late night after night to throw the perfect 1st birthday party? After all, my kid is one year old. She won’t remember it. Other kids at the party won’t remember it.

I’ll be honest. I wanted the pictures.

Pictures like this:

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And this:

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Oh, and this:

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I worked myself until the party almost wasn’t fun anymore to make these picture-perfect moments happen.

By the time our 48 guests arrived, I had a killer headache that almost ruined the party for me. Thank goodness my wonderful mother practically carries a CVS pharmacy in her purse. She was able to supply me with medicine, but the first hour of the party was tainted by nearly dizzying stress-induced pain in my temple.

Mamas. There has to be a better way. 

We’re doing too much. I didn’t have to invite our whole church to the party. I didn’t have to label each item of food with witty farm-themed names. I didn’t have to spend a lot of money (don’t ask me to add it all up) on pumpkin patch decorations. I didn’t have to do any of it, really.

But I felt like I did. 

For months leading up to my daughter’s birthday, friends and family members said that they couldn’t wait to see what I would come up with for her 1st birthday party. They knew my tendency to go all out and had high expectations.

Based on past experiences, I understand why they would think that. I truly do. But maybe we should all lower our expectations a little. After all, I have a child now. She requires a lot of time and energy, and there is only so much left for extras like party prep.

It comes down to this: there is too much pressure on moms today to be perfect. Pinterest perfect. We need to tone it down. Otherwise, we get tired, stressed, anxious, and generally become worse versions of ourselves.

That is not what our children or spouses deserve. After all, they probably didn’t ask us to do any of it in the first place.

My daughter’s birthday party ended up being a blast. She loved being in the spotlight and I don’t regret gifting her the experience.

But maybe, just maybe, it should have been pared down to the essentials. No guest would have missed the cute food labels because they wouldn’t have known about them at all. 

Stop worrying about doing less than what others expect of you. Start focusing on what your sweet babies need from you. I suspect that your littles would rather have your undivided attention than a Pinterest perfect birthday party anyway.

family

Emmanuella’s First Birthday: What I Want to Remember about the Past 12 Months

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Today has been marked on my calendar for a year. My baby is one. One! On October 24, 2017 at 10:15 am, Emmanuella Joy Dedrick came into the world and forever changed my life. Now 12 months have passed and I have a spunky, active toddler in my life who is learning to walk (5 steps so far!) and is happiest when she is destroying something.

In a way, the year has whizzed by; it seems that she simply can’t be a year old already. But at the same time, I can’t imagine life without my daughter. It seems so long ago, like she has always been a piece of my heart. From that perspective, of course she’s a year old.

Regardless of how long or short it feels, this past year has been the best I have ever experienced. 

 

Here are some things from this year I want to hang onto forever: 

  • Emmanuella falling asleep on my chest as a newborn. It’s a rare occurrence if she falls asleep in our laps today. And I never know when will be the last time, so I soak up every one.
  • Dustin dancing her to sleep every night for months.
  • How often we watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy during my maternity leave. Dustin and I would watch and Emmanuella would have her hour of PURPLE crying.
  • The way that Emmanuella adores attention. This past Sunday in church, she stood up, leaned on the pew, and waved and said, “Hi!” to everyone behind her. We have no sign of stranger danger or shyness.
  • How delighted I feel when she says “Mama.” “Dada” is far more common, so each time is a thrill.
  • Those perfect baby giggles. Right now she thinks it’s the funniest thing ever if I pretend to eat her food.
  • That yummy baby smell Emmanuella has after bath time.
  • What flawless baby skin feels like.
  • The struggle of making it through our hip dysplasia journey but how much strength we gained along the way.
  • How fun it is to go to the grocery store with a baby riding in the cart.
  • How strangers come up to me and tell me that my baby has my eyes.
  • The precious rolls Emmanuella has on her arms and legs. You just want to eat them up!
  • All of the firsts we’ve experienced this year: big ones like the first Christmas and first steps, and little ones like the first time in a swing or in the pool. Everything is new and exciting.
  • People who ask, “Is she like this all the time?” as she smiles at everyone she meets. Yes, she really is. Emmanuella is the most easygoing baby in the world.
  • The fun places we’ve gone: many Flying Squirrels baseball games, an Orioles game, Busch Gardens Christmas Town, the National Zoo, camping, the pumpkin patch… this girl doesn’t slow us down. She just makes going places all the more fun.
  • How Dustin and Emmanuella go outside to wave every morning when I leave for work and are waiting on the porch when I come home.
  • All I’ve learned about God’s perfect timing and love for us. Emmanuella is our perfect gift from God and I am so grateful.

October 24 is going to be a special day in our house for the rest of our lives. We celebrate our dramatic, beautiful, happy-go-lucky Emmanuella and remember the day she was born – 7 pounds, 8.3 ounces of perfection. She has changed and grown so much since that day, but no matter how big she gets, the love I have for my daughter grows along with her.

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Photo courtesy: Missy Brown Photography

 

marriage

The Number 1 Lesson I’ve Learned after 6 Years of Marriage

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Six years.

One baby.

Three homes.

Hundreds of long conversations.

Thousands of kisses.

Millions of laughs.

Numerous fights.

Many tears.

Some things are hard to count.

Dustin and I got married young. He was 23. I was 22, and had graduated college just four months earlier.

I often wonder if we did it the right way. It has become much more common to wait a few years to wed. According to these statistics, the average age for women to get married in the US was 27.4 years in 2017. For men it was 29.5 years. (If this was true for Dustin, he wouldn’t even be married yet.)

Instead, here we are at 28 and 29 celebrating another year where we managed to work through our problems together without killing the other person. And y’all, it ain’t easy.

Getting married so young meant we had to learn how to “adult” together. We had to learn how to manage finances, navigate the job market, and organize a household together.

Learning these skills together was valuable in a sense–we each had a partner by our side to help us through the process. In another way, learning life skills together means everything, everything requires compromise. You don’t get to choose your way on anything because every decision affects the both of you.

For us, getting married young was right. It was also incredibly difficult. 

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Looking back on the six years we’ve been married, I smile at the many high points Dustin and I have experienced together (like bringing our precious daughter into the world)… and I regret the moments when I have allowed arguments to spin out of control and said hurtful things that I couldn’t take back.

Praise God for grace and forgiveness. 

This is the number one lesson I’ve learned in marriage: 

Marriage is awesome. You get to spend every day with someone you love and who makes you happy. It’s also hard. Why? Because early on you find out that marriage requires sacrificing a lot.

You cannot be selfish in marriage. A successful marriage requires you to put aside your needs for the needs of the other person. This is not always fun to do. In fact, sometimes it really sucks.

But here is why it works: your spouse will do the same for you.

Remember what Jesus said in Luke 9:23: “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me.”

In the same way that being a Christian means rejecting your sinful desires and following Christ, being a good husband or wife means denying yourself and focusing on your spouse. When both husband and wife follow this model of putting the other’s needs first, both people feel appreciated, valued, and loved.

And one bonus tip: it’s way easier to follow this method if both spouses are pursuing Christ first and foremost in their lives.

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Dustin and I have done this right and we’ve done this wrong over the years. We’ve seen the difference this makes in our marriage and we want to shout it from the rooftops: being equally yoked is a good start but it’s not enough.

We were always equally yoked. We had been Christians for many years before we married, or even met. But Christianity cannot be passive. 

When we actively pursue the Lord in our daily lives, we grow closer to one another. It’s a beautiful side effect of our faith, and something that I believe God intended all along when he created marriage.

I am so grateful for the six years that Dustin and I have shared together. We’ve each grown personally and we’ve grown as a couple. And yet, I know that we have a lot of learning to do as the years continue to pass.

If there’s one thing that sums up six years of marriage it’s this: we’ve had our surprises (*cough* Emmanuella *cough*).

The unexpected, both good and bad, has cropped up over the years. It’s been a journey getting this far. But I know for sure that there is no partner I’d rather have by my side through it all than Dustin.

Let’s celebrate all that we’ve shared so far and look to the future.

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family, motherhood, pregnancy

8 Reasons Why a Scheduled C-Section is Not the End of the World

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When my OB/GYN laid out the possibilities for the delivery of my breech baby, I was devastated. A planned C-section was the safest option. And absolutely not what I wanted.

I had my plan. Visions of calmly laboring in the tub while soothing music played in the background had danced in my head for months. I wanted the room to be dimly lit and relaxing with Christmas lights aglow. I did not want my baby to come into this world in an OR.

I originally thought a scheduled C-section was the end of the world. I broke down and cried and felt all the hormonal emotions when I found out that my dream of laboring in that hospital tub with Christmas lights all around me would not become a reality.

But much to my surprise, I became the loudest cheerleader for C-sections after experiencing my own. Here’s why:

1. No Labor

I have a low pain tolerance. In fact, I found pregnancy itself painful. But what is more pain than general pregnancy discomfort? Contractions. Or so I’ve heard. The worst that I had to deal with were mild Braxton Hicks contractions. But childbirth has a reputation for being painful for good reason. And with a planned C-section, you get to avoid that.

2. No Tearing

When a baby arrives via a Cesarean incision, that means there will be no vaginal tearing. My daughter didn’t take the usual “path” and that was A-okay. Why? It turns out that she was born with a head in the 99th percentile for circumference. There would have been tearing if she had taken the usual way out. Personally, I’m glad she didn’t.

3. Recovery is (Sometimes) a Snap.

Of course, all recoveries are different because all women are different and have gone through different pregnancies. But with a little help from the pain meds I received at the hospital, I felt ready to be active again after about a week. I ran a 8K race just five weeks postpartum. Family members regularly told me that I should slow down, but I was listening to my body. I felt fine, almost completely normal. And I have a little scar below my belly button to thank for that.

4. You Get to Plan Everything

Type A mamas rejoice! Knowing exactly when you will have your baby means that you can plan ahead. This means you can have your house clean, your hospital bag fully packed, dog-sitters arranged, and even know the schedule of who is visiting the new baby the first few weeks. This was a huge benefit for me personally. Once we knew when the finish line was coming, all the arrangements could be made with a firm timeline. No more waiting and wondering.

5. No Rush to the Hospital

It’s a surreal feeling to park in the hospital parking deck knowing that you will leave with a baby, but not being at all in a hurry. I casually walked inside and even had time for photos along the way. It’s stress free. There were certainly no worries of having the baby in the car on the ride to the hospital when I wasn’t in labor.

6. Relaxed Atmosphere in Surgery

This is not the case for all planned Cesareans, but in many cases the surgery will be fairly routine. My OB/GYN chatted throughout the process, keeping me relaxed and at ease. In my experience, the explanation of a C-section sounds much scarier than it actually is.

7. It’s Faster

I have friends who suffered through labor for days and pushed for hours. But the C-section process took about an hour from getting a spinal at the start to being sewn up and wheeled back to the recovery room with a sleepy, pink newborn in my arms. After nine long months of waiting, it’s like you get an express lane for a baby. No harm in that.

8. The Result is the Same.

This is the main point: at the end, you still have a baby. On October 24, 2017, I became a mother. And on that day, I learned it doesn’t matter how your baby enters the world. What matters are the moments to come.

A C-section isn’t the end of the world. It’s the start of a little life who becomes your whole world.

family, fatherhood

A Thank You Note to Daddy

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Every so often, I like to tease Dustin about the fact that he wasn’t ready for kids when I got pregnant with Emmanuella (it’s not a secret that she was a surprise). Why do I tease him? Because he is an incredibly devoted father and simply obsessed with our baby girl. Now he likes to claim that I am the one who wasn’t ready – ha!

Emmanuella is one lucky little girl to have Dustin as her daddy. For the past seven and a half months, I have had the privilege of watching him be loving, sweet, silly, and generous with our daughter. He is so involved with every aspect of fatherhood; Dustin was made to be a dad.

Our daughter can’t yet express gratitude, but if she could, she would thank her daddy for so selflessly doing the following things:

  1. Thank you daddy for all the diaper changes. When we were in the hospital and mama wasn’t allowed to get out of bed, you stepped right up and changed my diaper. You had never done that before, but learned how to do it just for me. And you’ve done it a LOT since.
  2. Thank you for dancing with me. It was really fun when you used to dance with me until I fell asleep. Now that I’m older, I don’t fall asleep that easily, but I still love to dance with you (and always will).
  3. Thank you playing with me. My new favorite game is knocking over the block towers you build for me. And you even get in my baby pool with me. You’re silly and I like it!
  4. Thank you for staying home with me while you work. It has been a lot of fun to roll and crawl around the room while you are at the computer doing your job. I know that you have a lot of work to do, and so I try not to be needy while you do it. But I know you’ll always stop to feed me a bottle whenever I want.
  5. Speaking of bottles, thank you for washing them all the time. You’ve washed them (and the breast pump parts) a lot more often than mama has, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed.
  6. Thank you for treating mama so nicely. You help her out with all kinds of things. I usually want to eat right after you and mama do, and you always clear the table and start the dishes so she can nurse me.
  7. Thank you for being patient with me. When I was brand new, I was still learning what the world was. I had never seen anything like it before and it was a little scary. Sometimes I cried for no good reason, usually during Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. You like those shows, but you never got upset if you couldn’t hear them over me.
  8. Thank you for being a good role model. I like to watch and learn from you; you have a lot to teach me.
  9. Thank you for being there to put me to bed every night. I always look forward to my goodnight kiss.
  10. Thank you for loving me every day. I’m usually good, but some days I’m fussy, and you love me just the same. And I love you too.

Happy first Father’s Day, Daddy! Thank you for being mine!

motherhood

What I Want for My First Mother’s Day

me-and-ellaSunday will mark my first Mother’s Day. Six months ago Emmanuella made me a mama and I will be forever grateful. For 197 days, I’ve spent my time feeding her, changing her, rocking her, and trying to outnumber her cries by her giggles. They have been the most joyous days of my life.

In a way, I still feel undeserving of Mother’s Day. My sweet angel is nearly always content. Strangers ask me, “Is she ALWAYS like this?” when she shows off by smiling her most gigantic open-mouthed smile at everyone she meets. I respond, “Most of the time.” And it’s true. I’ve been blessed with an easygoing child.

But whether I deserve it or not, this is a holiday in celebration of me (and all mamas). And so, here is my first Mother’s Day wish list:

  1. I want Emmanuella’s happy days to overshadow the few in between that are sad.
  2. I want to provide for the needs of my child.
  3. I want to teach Emmanuella to care for others first.
  4. I want her to know that a relationship with Jesus is the most important relationship in her life.
  5. I want my daughter to one day marry a man with a heart like her daddy’s.
  6. I want my baby to have a solid foundation of faith to fall back on when hard days come.
  7. I want Emmanuella to enjoy a healthy life.
  8. I want her to have strong bonds with friends and family.
  9. I want my daughter to never fear the consequences of doing the right thing.
  10. I want her to see the best in people.
  11. I want Emmanuella to grow up to be a woman of integrity.
  12. I want her to be known for her kindness.
  13. I want my baby to see the value of learning new things.
  14. I want my daughter to know that making mistakes is okay; we can learn valuable lessons from them.
  15. Overall, I want Emmanuella to always feel loved and cared for.

That is my greatest Mother’s Day wish of all.

 

motherhood

11 Things I Didn’t Expect about Maternity Leave

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I’ve now been back to work longer than I was on maternity leave (have been for awhile actually). Those 10.5 perfect weeks of baby bonding time seem so far away now. It was a whirlwind of not knowing what I didn’t know. Through my sleep-deprived fog, I wished for time to stand still. It didn’t.

Looking back, those days were filled with joy, tears, laughter, frustration, and many situations our hospital baby classes didn’t cover (though I would recommend those helpful classes to everyone – our sincerest thanks to Brenda!).

Here are 11 things that I didn’t expect about maternity leave:

1. For the first month, you will live in practically one spot. 

Give or take a month anyway. It was a month for me. From the day we brought Emmanuella home from the hospital (October 27) to Thanksgiving, my designated spot was parked on the left side of our couch in the living room. I didn’t plan to live my entire existence in this spot, and yet stayed there, day after day, (mostly) all day long. Or it at least felt like that. The reason? You’ll want to be somewhere super comfortable. Since my baby breastfed every 2 hours, I wanted to be in the most comfy breastfeeding seat. Emmanuella is almost six months old and I STILL hangout here (I am not afraid to ask you to move if you’re in this spot either).

2. You won’t feel like you get anything done. 

Except you are. You are keeping a human alive, which is kind of a big deal. It just doesn’t feel like much. Most of the time newborns are asleep (if you’re lucky like I was), so it’s a lot of watching the baby to make sure she’s breathing. And when she wakes up, you breastfeed, change her, and let her sleep again. This cycle repeats itself over and over, and slowly you get more little glimpses of awake time and personality.

I slowly figured out that in between feedings, I could do ONE thing. Whether that be to wash a single load of laundry (but definitely not have time to dry it, fold it, or put it away), put dishes in the dishwasher, or take a shower, I could only choose one. So I had to choose wisely. I’m still eternally thankful to the many people who brought us food in those early days. I NEVER had to cook. #blessed

3. Your hormones will still be out of whack.

While I never dealt with full-blown PPD (a very serious matter – and mamas if you are, PLEASE get help), my hormones were still crazy. It was a constant roller-coaster ride of sweet baby bliss and I’m-so-exhausted-can-I-please-just-cry?. It takes time for your hormones to level out, but they will. It’s a slow process that can only be aided by time.

4. There are a lot of doctor appointments.

I had no idea that my calendar would be so FULL! Now, admittedly, we did have extra appointments for Emmanuella’s hip dysplasia treatment. But it seemed like we were constantly going to the pediatrician, orthopedic pediatrician, or hospital for hip ultrasounds. But even without the extra ortho visits, we went to see our good friend and pediatrician Dr. Ted a lot (and she was healthy)!

5. Sometimes you’ll spend an entire day paying bills.

This is perhaps the number one thing I was not anticipating. There was one day in particular that I spent 8 HOURS paying bills. Again, we had more bills than average due to extra appointments, harness and brace fittings, and ultrasounds, but I just wasn’t expecting the sheer multitude of bills. Why every single thing seems to be billed separately is beyond me.

6. Coordinating visits is hard.

Everyone wants to see a new baby. Of course they do. But my goodness does it take a lot of thought and effort to make sure everyone gets the baby time that they want (and you want them to have). This is made harder if family is coming from out of town and will need to stay at your house to visit, as was our case. Thankfully, our families were very flexible and understanding that everyone could not come at once. Dustin and I even decided that we would take four whole days to be with Emmanuella by ourselves before having any visitors (except for those blessed people who brought us food). Our immediate families visited in the hospital, and then left so we could have our parent bonding time. It was a beautiful time that I look back on with fondness and so much gratitude.

7. By the time you’ve figured things out, it’s over.

Emmanuella was an incredibly easy newborn but we were still first time parents with a lot to learn. Adjusting to life as a family of three was incredible and full of joy, but not without its challenges. I had to learn how to function on little sleep. Emmanuella and I were still getting to know each other. I didn’t know what each little cry or expression meant yet. We were both learning to breastfeed which came easily at first… until it didn’t and we were both crying. Ten and a half weeks in, I finally felt like I had the whole mom thing down. And it was over. There was no time to bask in the glory of this huge success.

8. You’ll get jealous of other countries.

I was a big fan of baby forums, especially a What to Expect group of moms that all had babies in October 2017. These moms hailed from all over, including foreign countries. When we US mamas started talking about going back to work, the Canadians and Australians started chiming in with sympathy. I haven’t looked thoroughly into the maternity leave laws in these countries, but many mentioned that they would be spending 6-12 months with their babies… paid. Sigh. I made sure not to research that further because my jealousy would not be becoming.

9. Life might be easier than you expected…

In our case, we had the world’s happiest baby. Emmanuella is easygoing, and has been since birth. She’s happy to eat, happy to sleep, happy to play, happy to cuddle… you name it and she’ll go along with it. I don’t know how we were blessed with this angel-child, but we were and I’ll take it.

Other parents had warned us about how difficult it would be, how the the incessant crying would drive us to the edge of our sanity and how sleep deprivation would make us crazy, but that wasn’t our experience at all. I adored the newborn stage. If I could guarantee that all my babies were as easy as Emmanuella, I would have four. (Note: Some babies are really difficult because babies are unique individuals with different temperaments. I do not mean to say that being a mama is a piece of cake because, y’all, #momminainteasy. It’s just that in my case, my expectations if this life being SO HARD were not the reality.)

10. …But sometimes it might feel like just a small task is so much.

Yes, I had an easy newborn. But I still remember feeling overwhelmed sometimes. The first couple weeks I felt like I had SO MUCH to do… and I really didn’t at all. The thought of even taking a half hour to go on a walk seemed like a daunting task that I didn’t have time for (mostly because of that every two hour feeding schedule we were on). And I still had to find time to shower. And “sleep when the baby sleeps” (I was really bad at that). And every other little thing that I thought I had to do. I now realize I was putting too much pressure on myself. Basically my only priority should have been keeping my baby content and loved.

11. You’ll miss it more than you can ever imagine.

Tomorrow, my baby will be six months old. I don’t know how half a year has passed so quickly, but she didn’t stay a newborn long. I now have a giggling chatterbox who rolls all over the place and steals the hearts of everyone she meets. While I miss those sweet newborn days, I will still love my precious Emmanuella Joy no matter what age she is. Being her mama is the greatest blessing I could ever receive.

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Photo courtesy: Marshall Arts Photography