birthday photo

Yesterday, I turned 35. I used to make a huge deal about my day, but somewhere along the line, I stopped feeling that special birthday buzz. Not sure if it was the February weather in Chicago that diminished the sparkle or if it was just adulthood. This year, I made a point of making a bigger deal out of it, for the first time since my 30th. In the last several days, I’ve had dinners with friends, brunch with more friends, spa time and date night with the hubs. Actually, he was the one who helped me to stop feeling guilty about taking time for myself this year.

I’ve been making a conscious decision to stop feeling guilty about a lot of things lately, as you may have noticed from a few previous posts. In honor of my birthday, I am taking the opportunity to make another change.

I am going to be kind to myself.

There are lots of ways that we can be less than lovely to ourselves with our internal monologue. I usually tend to pick on the fact that I am not always usually the fully put together version of myself that I want everyone to think I am. I know this is completely ridiculous. Life is short and there is a lot of unkindness in the world, so why am I wasting time, even if it’s only 30 seconds, being unkind to myself? Enough. I am going to hold myself accountable by putting it out there.

Baby Weight. Looking at myself during pregnancy, I had so much respect for my body and what it was doing. Why do I feel disdain for that same body after my babies are born? Those 10ish extra pounds are still with me a year later… I need to remember that they are there because I grew life and then continued breastfeeding each of my little guys for over a year. {Anyone else have a body that doesn’t abide by the adage that breastfeeding is the best way to lose baby weight?!} It’s frustrating that most of my clothes don’t fit at the moment, but I don’t need to hate on myself because of it.

My C-Section Scar. That scar is a symbol of a baby who was born safely. I couldn’t look at it for several weeks afterwards and when I finally did, I felt straight up maimed over the next few months. I’m used to it now, but I definitely need to work on feeling respectful toward that scar. I should respect it as a part of me and something that facilitated the safe arrival of my youngest, in the same way that I respected my pregnancies.

Perfection. I’ve been followed by feelings of inadequacy since I was a kid – early elementary school. As an adult, I put an extreme amount of pressure on myself to be perfect, as a way of compensating. I didn’t have the perfect childhood or adolescence, but who does… other than my husband, The Beave?? I sometimes I feel like I need to make up for those insecurities by having a photo-ready existence. The reality is that things are usually far from photo-ready and that is OKAY.

I’ve said for a while that I think it’s important to be authentic, in the spirit of following your heart and your gut, to live a meaningful life. But how can you really have authenticity if you aren’t embracing the things that make you you, but instead striving for something unrealistic? So, I need to stop being critical of myself and replace that criticism with the same kindness and love that I extend to the people around me. I need to cut myself some slack. I need to respect my scars.

reflections, lessons & appreciation

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NYE Essentials: party hats and noisemakers (including one rather cute noisemaker)

Tonight is New Years Eve and I love this holiday even more, now that I have a legit excuse to stay in my sweatpants and watch the ball drop with a glass of wine on my couch. We’re having friends over with their 3 kiddos, plus our 2 boys, brings us to 5 kids, age 6 and under. So let’s be honest, this party will probably end around 9pm and I’ll be in bed asleep on the couch well before midnight. As I’m setting out the party hats, bubbly, noise makers and glitter (not sure what I’m going to do with the glitter just yet, but glitter is always a good idea, right?), I can’t help but reflect on where we were last year at this time. The very important lesson I learned is that as parents, it is on us to advocate for our children.

It was a year ago that I was at our pediatrician’s office for the 3rd time in as many days. Henry picked up a nasty cold, we believe, from one of the many kiddos at our big family Christmas gathering, and then passed that cold onto everyone in our house, including 5-week-old Graham. I did everything I could to keep them separated in hopes that baby G wouldn’t get sick, but it happened anyway and I was scared. His breathing was labored and he was super congested. Our pediatrician told us Henry and Graham both had really bad colds, so we just needed to let it run its course. I wanted to know what I should be looking for – specific symptoms or signs that would indicate the cold had turned into something more serious in this tiny newborn. Every time I called or brought G in, I was made to feel like I was this overreacting crazy parent who just needed to go home and calm down.

On January 2nd, I pushed my way into yet another appointment with our pediatrician and this time my fears were confirmed. We needed to go to the ER for testing. I asked if we could of to the hospital that was just 15 minutes further away, because they are better equipped to handle children, especially babies. Our doctor assured us that it would be fine and that he just needed to have a few tests done and it would be faster to have them processed in the ER than in his office.

My husband and I didn’t feel any sense of urgency. Just a few tests. But once we got to the ER, we realized that it was a much more serious situation. His pulse-ox was alarmingly low and he needed help fast. What happened next was serious of moments when we should have spoken up and advocated for our child. We should have said “No, this is not acceptable. Stop.” But neither of us did because we were out of our element and afraid. We were doing what we were told, by people who knew better.

The group of young nurses attempting to get an IV into a tiny baby was clearly some kind of practice session. I had to leave the room after they asked my husband to help hold him down. After 20 minutes of failed attempts, they finally called in a specialist, who got it in the first try. It was then confirmed that he needed to be admitted and this hospital didn’t feel like they could offer him the best care, so they were sending us to the hospital we wanted to go to in the first place. After several hours, our baby was being loaded onto an ambulance. The whole thing seemed wrong – they put a 5-week-old on an adult stretcher, with 5 point harness adapter for a toddler. His head was completely unstable and the straps of the harness were up around his neck. We gave some pushback, but we were told we had no choice. They did allow me to take baby blankets from our diaper bag and roll them up to secure all around his little body and head (and to use as a barrier between his neck and the strangulation hazard that they called a harness).

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Our ambulance experience

With the sirens in the background, the EMT proceeded to talk to me about the weather and the inconvenience of having to drive to his cousin’s wedding that weekend. I’m sorry – WHAT? Not a time for small talk. We arrived at the other hospital and the nurses in the PICU immediately asked questions about why this baby was transferred in such a manner and why he had adult leads (that left big welts) instead of the appropriate pediatric leads. The direct quote from the EMT to the nurse was, “Well, we weren’t really set up to handle a baby this small.” The nurse later explained to me that babies of G’s age are supposed to have a specialized team with specialized equipment for their ambulance transfers.

The next 5 days/4 nights at the hospital were grueling, but we have a perfectly healthy one year old today, so I can’t complain. I still feel angry about the whole experience, though. The hospital where G was admitted took absolutely excellent care of him, but I’m angry at myself for not insisting that we go there in the first place. I’m frustrated that my attempt to be a proactive parent was not met receptively by our pediatrician. I’m disappointed that the simple test for RSV wasn’t done on Henry, knowing that it was going around in our area, and then we would have known 5 days earlier what we were dealing with. I don’t doubt that we would have landed in the hospital regardless, but had I trusted my gut, getting there would likely have been a considerably less traumatic experience.

So, a year later I am beyond thankful that we have two healthy children and that all is well. However, that experience was nothing short of a nightmare at the time. Even if it means that you are labeled as an overbearing parent (I’m sure there is a red flag next to my name in the pediatrician’s system!), I strongly feel that we must value our intuition and be advocates for our children. Going into 2016, I look back on these lessons with a renewed sense of respect for my instincts and confidence that when faced with another such moment, I will speak up and not take a back seat when it comes to my children.

Cheers to health, happiness and love in spades in the New Year! xoxo